Wednesday, January 20, 2021

TV: Can anything be worse than fall 2020?

Fall 2020 will go down as the worst for primetime TV ever.  A hundred and one excuses were provided -- mainly the coronvirus pandemic -- and they were all weak and self-serving.




NEXT was the worst of the worst and it's worth noting that ROTTEN TOMATOES showed the Water Cooler Set was behind it.  They're not behind shows that star women -- they're never behind shows that star women -- but they got on board with this garbage.  It could have been an interesting series.  Could have been.  But it made the mistake of wrongly assuming a thriller/action show needed to star a 58-year-old man (John Slattery) and that it needed him to play a character that no one could care for.  Add in the turgid nature of the show, the always-over-the-top storylines and the 'plotting' that showed no care taken to set up anything from one episode to the next but instead just make it up as you go along and you were left with a hugely expensive flop.  

Kim Cattrall starred in FOX's other flop last fall, FILTHY RICH.  Kim did a great job in the role and the series got higher ratings than NEXT.  But even strong performances from Kim and Steve Harris couldn't save the show.  What could have? 

Corey Cott shirtless might have helped.  By the time the show was cancelled and burning off episodes, he finally took his shirt off.  The hairy chest added depth to the baby-face and the so-so performance.  For a few moments, his character Eric finally seemed like he might be a man and not an 11-year-old boy.  The show really needed some young men but it didn't have one.  Benjamin Levy Aguilar played Antonio who was a single father though he never seemed interested in women or sex and was such a mama's boy you wondered how he ever found time away from Mommy (Alanna Ubach) long enough to get to second base, let alone have sex.  The third limp dick was Mark L. Young as Jason who is really Mark.  As Jason, he flirts with Jason's sister and you might be grossed out by that were it not for the fact that it's so very clear, from an acting standpoint, that Mark L. Young wouldn't know what to do with an erection if he somehow managed to sport wood in the first place. 

Note to FOX, little boys led around by plot twists and paired with sexy and competent actresses do not make for desirable, they make for awkward and impossible to believe.  Long before we found out Eric was addicted to online porn and long before we saw him start an affair (in one fully clothed scene after another, by the way), we'd assumed that his inability to come across as an adult and as a sexual creature meant that Eric was deep in the closet and we waited for the man who would come along and wake the sleeping beauty the hell up.

There was so much garbage.  And it didn't have to be that way.

TRICKSTER, for example, just started airing last week on THE CW.  It's got a strong cast led by Joel Oulette who looks like Dean Cain back in the day, it's got a strong premise and it looks different than most American shows.  That's in part because it's a Canadian TV series.  Which goes to the fact that ABC, CBS, THE CW, FOX and NBC could have all been raiding from any of Australia's TV networks*, CBC, BBC and ITV to provide English language programming that was new to most in the US.  THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES, for example, could have easily been placed on any US network.

Well . . . maybe not any network.  Probably not NBC.  Certainly not after NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ripped off THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES by stealing a skit that they'd aired two months prior.  But other than NBC, it could have aired on any network in the US.

When they did go trolling outside the country, US networks appeared determined to find the worst offerings available which is how THE CW ended up with DEVILS.  Who was going to watch this show -- with or without Patrick Dempsey in the lead?  The answer was no one -- not even in Italy where the show was made and where the highest rated episode got .64 million viewers.  In a country of sixty million, the show couldn't even turn out a million viewers for any episode.  NBC has more success with Canada's CTV series TRANSPLANT -- a little more, not much.  They also grabbed, from Canada's GTN, NURSES which has done a little better. 

The only US production to hit with viewers was David E. Kelley's BIG SKY which started airing on ABC last November.  

Again, there's never been a more disappointing fall season.  And, yes, we are aware that NBC elected to air two -- only two, "Roanoke" and "Katarina Rostova: Conclusion" -- episodes of THE BLACKLIST during this time.

As 2020 drew to a close, the general consensus was that 2021 had to be better -- it had to be.  Actually? It could be worse.  It could be.  We'd like to think 2021 will be better for American television but it might not be.


HBO appears eager to let everyone down.  Saturday nights? Since June 6, 1992 -- barring a sporting event, concert or something similar -- that's when HBO airs a new movie -- debuts one for the network.  It can be an original HBO film or it can be a theatrical release that is airing on television for the first time.  Did you miss they're offering Saturday night?  








A 17-year-old film.  Is HBO trying to be TCM now?  


Where's the new movie?


Don't think it was over on HBO MAX because it wasn't.   

Let's look at the TV series offerings.


CALL YOUR MOTHER finally debuted on ABC last week.  The sitcom stars a woman -- so you know The Water Cooler Set attacked it.  Krya Sedgwick makes a strong lead.  The program's biggest problem?  Sherri Shepherd.  Sherri's not giving a bad performance.  She's always an asset in a sitcom. But in her brief appearance in the pilot, she made you wish that Krya's Jean wasn't leaving her life in Iowa to move to Los Angeles.  No one in LA registers as strongly -- or as favorably -- as does Sherri's Sharon.  That said, Joey Bragg, Rachel Sennott, Austin Crute, Emma Caymares and Patrick Brammall do deliver and could end up creating very strong characters.  This is a sitcom.  No sitcom is ever the same as its first episode.  They feel their way along in the first few episodes.  Which is how you get Megan Mullally testing voices for Karen Walker when WILL & GRACE first aired.  It's how you get a glimmer of what Ted Baxter will become -- only a glimmer -- on the first episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  None of the cast is misfiring so there's a good chance that, four or five episodes down the line, the characters may really register.

The characters are already registering on FOX's CALL ME KAT.  Well . . . most of them.  Mayin Bialik stars as Kat who runs a cat cafe in her follow up to THE BIG BANG THEORY.  She's steady and sure and the jokes land.  Supporting cast members Leslie Jordan (Beverly Leslie on WILL & GRACE), Kyla Pratt, Julian Grant, Vanessa Lachey and, especially, Cheyenne Jackson really deliver.  There's a name we omitted.  

Swoosie Kurtz.  Swoosie's been delivering in one role after another for years -- the films WILDCATS, DANGEROUS LIASONS, CRUEL INTENTIONS, AGAINST ALL ODDS, REALITY BITES; the TV shows LOVE SIDNEY, SISTERS, MIKE & MOLLY and MAN WITH A PLAN.  Hell, she's been delivering since she did a spot on THE DONNA REED SHOW.  But she's not delivering here.  If Swoosie can't deliver as Sheila, the problem's with the role, not the actress.  Is there a reason that Kat's mother has to be in every episode?  We're not remembering that on THE BIG BANG THEORY where Sheldon and Leonard's mothers visited from time to time but weren't on every episode.

Swoosie and Mayin have a good chemistry but Sheila flounders with every other character.  (By herself, speaking to a knick-knack, Swoosie really delivered as Sheila.)  The writers put her in situations with the other characters -- Phil, Randi, Max, etc -- but no one's thought out a relationship with any of these characters.  Does Sheila like them?  Do they like Sheila?  It really seems like the creative team stopped working on Sheila the minute Swoosie was cast and figured she'd be able to pull off whatever.  

They're right that Swoosie can pull off a great deal, she's a wonderful actress, but she can't create out of nothing, they have to give her something to work with.  She'll shine it, she'll perfect it, she'll make it seem real and honest -- but you have to give it to her in the script.

Hopefully, the writers will work on Sheila.  

Debra Jo Rupp is not as talented as Swoosie Kurtz but Debra is very talented -- as her acting on FRIENDS, SEINFELD and THAT 70S SHOW attests.  Her acting can't save WANDAVISION.  Maybe nothing can?

It's a garbage show offered by DISNEY+.  Long teased and finally delivered -- over a year late -- it's tired, dull and about as funny as a four-year-old attempting to tell a half-remembered knock-knock joke.  This is a thought piece passed off as entertainment.

What if Scarlet Witch Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) of the Avengers films had their own TV show?  So far, so good.  But even though the fans want to see them in an action TV series -- the sort MARVEL used to do so well on NETFLIX with JESSICA JONES, DAREDEVIL, etc -- the 'thinkers' decided it would be funny and new if they sent up 50s TV, "Let's make one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe a dutiful little housewife!''  If the thought seems tired and boring, please grasp MAD MAGAZINE did that to Wonder Woman in 1954 -- it wasn't funny then, just misogynist and that's how this garbage plays today.  Apparently, the 'geniuses' behind this garbage missed the fact that POWERLESS and the fact that NBC cancelled that 'sitcom' about superheroes two months after it started airing.

Equally true, there's no chemistry at all between Wanda and Vision -- Laverne and Shirley had more sexual chemistry than these two do.  Paul's playing a robot so that can be excused somewhat . . . up and until you try to make them into the Stones on THE DONNA REED SHOW.  (Despite trying to steal the opening of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, neither Paul nor Elizabeth has the charm to be Dick Van Dyke or Mary Tyler Moore.)  It's dull, it's boring, it's uninspired and it is misogynist -- as were the Avengers films that Elizabeth Olsen appeared in where Wanda was repeatedly pushed to the side despite her being more powerful than Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Hulk, etc.  

At the end of the first two episodes, we learn that a threat is about to emerge.  We'd say the scarier notion was that WANDAVISION might think they'd achieved with the tired episode of the boss comes to dinner and the tired episode of the characters do a variety show for charity and next work on a younger family member joins the show.  These were paint by numbers, tired episodes one had already seen on BEWITCHED, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, GET SMART, HAPPY DAYS, etc.

"Ava and C.I., you allow that CALL YOUR MOTHER and CALL ME KAT can get better but not WANDAVISION!"

You're right.  WANDAVISION is a mini-series.  That's it.  They should have delivered from episode one.  This is a mini-series.  Not only should they have delivered from episode one, the twist at the end of episode two means that the show was wasted with the first two episodes.  This should have been an action series.  It also needed to include women behind the scenes -- women, not tokens.  One female producer with the other five -- five! -- being men?  That's a token.  All the episodes are directed by a man.  In 2019, they wanted so much credit for CAPTAIN MARVEL being a film with a female lead and for it being co-directed by a woman.  Two years later and they celebrate misogyny both on the screen and off.


While HBO can't deliver a new movie a week, NETFLIX is promising to do just that throughout 2021.  It's already delivered the best show of January.


A weekend ago, we worked hard to get two features completed by Sunday afternoon with the hope that the edition would publish quicker as a result (it didn't):




We were dead tired but also hungry.  So we made a snack and surfed around while we talked.  We ended up on NETFLIX and saw LUBIN.  We figured we'd watch one episode.

Dead tired, we watched every episode, one right after the other.  The show is that addictive and that good.  Omar Sy holds your attention and if you ever enjoyed ABC's REVENGE, you will love LUBIN.

Believe it or not, right now, the best hope for TV in 2021 is the streaming service NETFLIX.




* Australia's ABC alone could have provided US networks with episodes of HARROW, MYSTERY ROAD, TOTAL CONTROL and FRAYED -- all of which stood a good chance of striking a chord with US audiences. 


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