Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Mid-Season Sampling

I’ll be honest, and admit that this run-down of new shows was meant to see the light of day at least 2 weeks ago, and that going into their 3rd/4th week some of these shows may not be as shiny and new as they were.  But, they’re definitely still worth talking about, and if you haven’t started watching them yet, here’s letting you know whether it’s even worth it.

Sundays, 8/7c on NBC

As Mo mentioned, it looks as if this delightful show is swiftly becoming one of our new favorites.  Now I know the minute most of you see the words “alternate reality”, your logical brain—along with any speck of interest—shuts off, as does mine.  But if you give it a chance, this “alternate reality” doesn’t bug as much as you might think.  So, in case you haven’t heard, Kings is a modern-day take on the biblical story of King David.  It takes place in the Kingdom of Gilboa, with its capital at Shiloh—more than strangely similar to a modern-day New York City—locked in an embittered war with the Kingdom of Gath, and reigned over by the charismatic King Silas Benjamin and his royal family (socialite Queen Rose, beautiful Princess Michelle, and ambitious, outwardly womanizing but secretly gay Prince Jack).  So besides the royal family, the story follows Captain David Shepherd (Biblical David tended the family’s sheep, wink wink) a soldier formerly on the front lines, but after a bold show of bravery, brought to court to serve as military liaison to the Royal Press Office (and unofficially, the love interest to the Princess). The script is sharp, the cast incredible, and the story promising.  Here’s hoping this one sticks around for good.  Catch the first four episodes here (or here if you prefer Hulu).  Believe me, it’s worth it.

Mondays, 10/9c on ABC

I generally harbor low expectations for most new shows, especially those with any sort of law enforcement storyline.  The cop show format has been done and redone so many times, they’ve all begun to look the same.  On the surface, Castle seems so as well.  It begins with Richard Castle, a famous and successful mystery novelist, enlisted by the NYPD to consult on the case of a copy-cat murderer pulling ideas from the pages of his books.  So you’re thinking, how are they gonna keep this ruse up?  The answer is, Castle (who recently killed off the main character from his moneymaking Storm series) decides to create a new character, based on (our leading lady) detective Kate Beckett, so he decides to shadow her to gather fodder.  Essentially, the show follows the same ol’ character pattern of a by-the-book uptight detective paired with a quirky, rule-breaking one (which in this case, isn’t actually a cop, but whatever) with enough auxiliary characters to keep things interesting, but whom we know very little about.  But the concept of a famous (and markedly overconfident) author, who with his celebrity influence and popularity can open doors closed even to the police force, as well as Nathan Fillion’s charming portrayal of Rick Castle make this worth a second look. Watch the first four episodes here, and keep an eye out for real-life novelists James Patterson and Steven J. Cannell, who make a brief appearance in the premiere.

Better Off Ted
Wednesdays, 8:30/7:30c on ABC

This series, from the creators of Arrested Development, is a new situational comedy about big-business ethics (or the lack thereof)—with the added oddity and quirkiness (and Portia de Rossi) that made AD so great.  It follows Ted Crisp, the head of R&D at a multinational corporation called Veridian Dynamics.  They develop seemingly impossible—and not always morally acceptable—products like beef without cows, and weaponized pumpkins. Unfortunately, the premiere of Better of Ted plays much like an inside joke that nobody’s let you in on.  It’s almost as if they began in the middle of the season of the show, expecting one to find the characters’ individual quirks charming and understand the relationships between them.  I really wanted to like this one, especially because the word on the internets is that it’s “original” and “has potential”, but it just didn’t do it for me.  But I have to admit, original is right, and it’s very possible that it might grow on me eventually, as well as improve over the season, so we shall see.  You can check it out here, and judge for yourself.  And this spot-on review from Variety (that’s much more articulate, and…better than mine.)

In the Motherhood
Thursdays, 8/7c on ABC

On the surface, an entire show about mothers and children—drama, comedy or otherwise—seems like it might only appeal to a certain demographic (i.e. mothers).   Such was my thought, assuming this web series adaptation would consist of endless un-funny jokes about diaper genies and mini-vans.  But good news, it’s more than just mom-friendly, and as an added plus, actually kinda funny.  Megan Mullally is possibly the best part of this show, in her element as the older, scheming, wise-cracking Rosemary (and in a character role rather than playing her vanilla-self on a talk show, thank goodness), and Rachel Harris is brilliant in a small, but hilarious role as Jane’s (Cheryl Hines) boss.  So if you can stand a half-hour of Cheryl Hines, as I mostly can, these two (along with Horatio Sans as the manny) definitely make it worth watching.  Check out the first two episodes of the ABC series here, and the webisodes here.

Tuesdays, 10/9c on ABC

Again, mostly low expectations of this one, despite the fact that I adore Bobby Cannavale, and that the casting directors have pulled four actors from shows I’ve previously watched, that were cancelled (Sarah Paulson of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Rick Gomez of What About Brian, Camille Guaty of Las Vegas, and Cannavale from Will & Grace) to create this sort of cast-offs hybrid.  The concept (resurrected from an unsuccessful 1998 series of the same name, and basic concept) may seem a bit bizarre/sappy:  a man believing himself to be Cupid, the God of Love himself, comes to earth in order to bring 100 couples together before being allowed back to Mount Olympus. He runs in to a few hitches, one being the general cynicism about love in present-day New York, and specifically, a psychiatrist (and leader of a singles support group about relationships), Dr. Claire McCrae who’s convinced the Cupid complex is all in his head, and is plenty cynical about love herself.  In all, however, Cupid turned out to be quite charming, and delightfully entertaining.  And its infectious positivism is a welcome reprieve from the scores of depressing dramas and mindless reality shows populating our small screens.  See the first episode here.

So overall, my low expectations have mostly resulted in pleasant surprises thus far.  There’s no telling whether we have any nine-season-classic potential on our hands, but this mid-season pack is shaping up to be a whole lot better than usual.
Coming Soon:
The Tudors, returning (Showtime) – April 5th
In Treatment, returning (HBO) – April 5th
Surviving Suburbia (ABC) – April 6th
Rescue Me, returning (FX) – April 7th
The Unusuals (ABC) – April 8th
Parks and Recreation (NBC) – April 9th
Southland (NBC) – April 9th
Harper’s Island (CBS) – April 9th
Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire (Comedy Central) – April 9th
State of the Union (Showtime) – April 12th
Prison Break, returning (FOX) – April 17th
Sit Down, Shut Up (FOX) – April 19th
Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC) – April 20th

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