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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Six Shows With High Expectations From Me This Fall

The Fall season has arrived and my DVR is asking for leniency. “Mercy is for the weak,” I tell it. I do not plan my recording schedule to be merciful. But I have been trying to be nice to my DVR. I managed to clear out all but three episodes of Castle from last season, all Glee episodes, and I am working on Bones and Chuck from last season. That leaves me with about 11% free space on my DVR for the upcoming onslaught of shows. I spend waaay too much time watching Sprout (three year old involved) and flipping through classic movies that I have seen 400 hundred times to knock back the rest of my DVR recordings but I blame my wife who was the reason why I haven’t been able to watch these shows because she watches them too. She’s been too caught up in her books and would rather do that. Pffft, books. Who wants to read? Kidding. I’m glad she’s reading. At least one of us is culturally advanced.

So, as my DVR does some cardio to keep up with the cavalcade of shows I want to watch, I am looking for some specific expectations from new and returning shows. Here’s six I’m keeping an eye on this season.

I have managed to trim the fat from shows I watched last season to this season. Gone are Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. 2010 has a been bit of a down year for me personally and the last thing I need is a hospital drama where people constantly die. But that’s not say I won’t pick up some new shows in a balancing act of comedy and drama.

The only true comedies I’m going to peek in on are Mike & Molly and Shit My Dad Says. (I don't have time to substitute symbols when we all know what it means.) Mike & Molly stars a Pittsburgh native, Billy Gardell, who is finally getting the exposure he deserves as a comedic actor, and that’s really the only reason I’m going to watch it. Shit My Dad Says should be a hoot just because it’s Shatner and I love Shatner. Other than a cursory glance at these two, I am keeping my eyes on two new shows.

Based on a comic book about a zombie apocalypse Walking Dead promises to be what I have hoped for in a long time. After reading the Zombie Survival Guide I was convinced that there needed to be a serialized zombie story. One that moves along at the same pace as LOST and offers a chance to build up a lot of character back story. Granted, the real draw here is the zombies but seeing how society will function, or more in this case dysfunction, after a complete breakdown of the world we know is more of a selling point to me. Sometimes, the bad guys aren’t always the dead ones.

The expectations for this show are simple. I want to see great storytelling along the lines of Stephen King and Team LOST. I want to see some dead walking around and realistic looking dead. I’m kind of hoping for the Romero zombies vs. the Zack Snyder / Danny Boyle zombies. Shuffling zombies can be scarier when you find yourself surrounded then if you are constantly on the run. Seeing as how AMC has been knocking it out of the park with shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, Walking Dead should be pretty good to go.

I confess, I’ve never watched the original series with Jack Lord. My experience with pre 80s television goes as far back as Lost in Space, The Monkees, and M*A*S*H with the first two in reruns. I have done what I can to become familiar with the classics like Wild Wild West and other shows but never got the chance to see Hawaii Five-O. Now, there was a series about six years ago called Hawaii, with Michael Biehn and Eric Balfour that, I felt, was cancelled before its time, and I felt it was a great mix of a procedural drama with some comedy and great locations. That’s usually how it works. I really like a show and it gets cancelled. The fact that Hawaii Five-0 is on CBS and not NBC gives me some hope but it really wreaks havoc on my recording as it is on at the same time as Castle on ABC.

Having the main character be the son of Jack Lord’s character is almost a stretch, though Alex O’Loughlin and I are roughly the same age and my father is almost 70. Jack Lord would have been almost 90 if he were still alive and that is a big stretch considering that there is also a sister McGarrett who is played by Taryn Manning, a 31 year old singer / actress. While I would have made Steve McGarrett, Sr. his grandfather, not his father.

I have no opinion, either way, on Alex O’Loughlin, (though, I hated that Moonlight was Angel Lite) I will give the show a go simply because I like having Daniel Dae Kim on television and would like to see Scott Caan on a weekly show. He’s got some comic timing chops stemming from roles in Varsity Blues, Gone in Sixty Seconds, and the Ocean’s trilogy. As long as he uses that wit and the humor doesn’t feel scripted, all will be fine… and speaking of fine, Grace Park as Kona is a good move.

The first season was a bit of a hit and miss effort for me. I am a diehard fan of the original miniseries and to some extent the regular series, though it became rather silly towards the end. So far, I am willing to go another with the update even though the special effects are pretty atrocious. Considering this is ABC and 2010, I expect better than cheesy green screen backgrounds on the ships. LOST set the bar for the special effects expectations and the ones I’ve seen on V last season were on par with the original miniseries.

My hope is that the renewal will give them a chance to really delve into the background of the V’s origins and intentions as well as give the resistance a chance to build out the ranks some. I still don’t know where Scott Wolf’s ageless journalist, Chad Decker, stands in the battle but I’d like to see him grow the character more than a one dimensional puppy. I’d also like to see them grow Morena Baccarin’s hair because she’s very beautiful but this short hair look with that pouty lip makes her look sickly. Rumor has it that Jane Badler is coming on as Anna’s mother, Diana.  This is a true nod to the original miniseries and a check in the win column for me. It would even cooler if they could get Marc Singer to guest as Elizabeth Mitchell’s father and have him be named Mike after his character from the original miniseries.

Season two could be the deciding factor in this series. Look what happened to Heroes in season two and they had a strong first season. V needs a strong sophomore year to ensure the invasion continues into 2011.

When this show debuted in 2005 it caught the tail wind of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fan base. It didn’t hurt that the creative team behind the show was made up of some great talent from Team Whedon and The X-Files so they understand the nature of the beasts they deal with on the show week in and week out. It’s a shame they lost Kim Manners in Season 4 due to her death from cancer. She was extremely talented as a director and producer. That being said, Supernatural kind of hit a big ceiling at the end of the fifth season, which was supposed to be the last one. I mean where do you go after you’ve released the Devil from his cell, you take out The Four Horseman, and you have Angels and Demons all gunning for the Winchester’s as the apocalypse approaches? Back to the beginning, that’s where.

With Bobby walking tall again and Castiel back to his angelic and extremely hilarious self, the chance to go back and do the monster hunting that made the first season awesome is a great direction. With Mitch Pileggi back as Grandpa Winchester this season looks to not be the last, either. Let’s hope. I do have some expectations.

I want to see more self contained episodes pulling on urban legends and folklore monsters. I want to see Dean Winchester continue to be the wisecracking, sarcastic, demon hunter that has made him a great pop culture observer that he has become in the last two seasons. The spoof on Twilight this year ought to be a riot for the writers of Dean’s dialogue. I am want to hear more classic rock music in the Impala. Having music from bands such as Styx, CCR, Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult and AC/DC is such a big part of what I like about the show. There was a lack of that in this past season. So, more please. Also, don’t cheap out on the effects. This show has pushed the envelope on gore and acceptable violence. Don’t back down on it.  It makes you one of the scarier shows out there. Lastly, can someone please find a way to resurrect John Winchester for at least one episode? If Dean and Sam can die a thousand times over and come back, the least you could do is have Jeffery Dean Morgan pop in for a storyline involving his father in law. After all, the biggest head fake of the show has been that John Winchester was not a lifelong demon hunter. He married into the business.

Season one ended on an even note. New Directions did not place at Regionals but were given another year to prove themselves. The one thing that can keep this show fresh is its constant awareness of pop culture trends while paying respects to classics. The first season saw a tribute to Journey and Madonna as well as Lady Gaga. Don’t stop believing in that formula. The other thing that works well is the arrangements of those songs. The duet of "Poker Face" by Lea Michele and Idina Menzel actually made me like Lady Gaga for that one moment and the mash ups they do on this show are kick ass. But, deep down the real glue of glee is the sinister Sue Sylvester. But a lot can go wrong in season two and realize that there is a shelf life for this show. It’s set in high school and no one wants to be Saved By The Bell College Years or The New Class. Finding replacements for this cast will be hard.

As far as expectations go, I want to see the same kind of musicality as season one. I am looking forward to the Rocky Horror numbers and love that Emma Pillsbury is doing "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me." That ought to be hilarious. They need to do some more Billy Joel and find an excuse to do some Jason Mraz. I’d also like to see April Rhodes come back and have a run in with Shelby Corcoran so that we can have a Wick’d moment. The Britney Spears episode makes me want to cringe but giving second banana Heather Morris a chance to shine as Brittany is a great idea. Also, keep Sue in the mix. The season finale as well as other stand out episodes solidified Jane Lynch’s deserving of that Emmy she won and I don’t want to see her soften up or change direction.

Family Guy is such an easy show to hate and love. On one hand it is a pop culture blitzkrieg and you have to be really on top of your game to get some of the references, but during the roast of David Hasselhoff, Seth McFarlane got nailed dead to rights over his continual mooching off of shows like South Park and The Simpsons. The fact that it was coming from second rate comics doesn’t sting much but the devil is in the details. I watch it because I enjoy the humor and the constant need for really awful humor to balance out all that high brow, hoity toity culture I get on a regular basis. It’s all about moderation, folks.

I don’t hold a lot of expectations for Family Guy because I’d rather not be disappointed. I will say that I am expecting a kick ass season finale, titled "It’s a Trap", which can only mean one thing. Return of the Jedi gets the Family Guy treatment. In the last parody episode we got to see Ernie The Chicken as Boba Fett, genius move there. With Jedi, the traditional route would be to have Peter, as Han Solo, bump the rocket pack on Chicken Fett, sending him flying into the Sarlacc pit. However, in true Family Guy Fashion there should be a long drawn out fight scene between the two of them, lasting several minutes and ending with Chicken Fett falling into the Sarlacc pit, complete with Chicken Wilhelm Scream sound effects. That would be sticking to the format of Family Guy episodes. Also, I was wondering if they would go with Meg being cast as Jabba, the Rancor Monster or the personification of the Sarlacc and it looks to be Sarlacc according to WIkipedia. Looks like Joe Swanson will be Jabba, according to IMDB. Scouring the rest of IMDB’s cast listing I see Rush Limbaugh as the voice of the Rancor and Arianna Huffington as an Ewok. It seems likely that they will at least make an effort to joke about the removal of Darth Stewie’s helmet, which will reveal… Stewie. I assume he will look like he normally does which is akin to how Sebastion Shaw looked when Luke Skywalker pulled off Darth Vader’s helmet. Then at the celebration, when Luke goes off to see Yoda, Obi-Wan and Anakin as ghosts, they ought to make a joke about Lucas replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christiensen. Can’t wait to see that one. I can only imagine if they were to go after the prequel trilogies but I kind of hope they don’t.

I will probably see a reduction in my free time as well as the death rattle of my DVR in the near future so who knows what I will get a chance to watch in the upcoming weeks. I’ll keep y’all posted.

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