If it's crap ... We'll tell you
There are a few new shows in the pipeline to keep us occupied during the dog days, so strap yourselves in, grab the remote and hum that classic Beach Boys tune, Channel–Surfing U.S.A.
”100 Questions” (NBC, Thursdays 8:30PM, premiered May 27th)
The high concept TV show, be it a comedy or a drama have dominated the airwaves for the past decade or so now. From shows like “Lost” and “Prison Break” to “How I Met Your Mother” and “My Name Is Earl,” networks have been serving up series that either hook you from the beginning, never letting go and forcing you to watch every episode. NBC's latest high concept comedy is somewhere in the middle of that extreme gamut. While the show won't be water cooler discussion it also won't leave a bad taste in your mouth either.
Set in New York City, British transplant, Charlotte Payne (Sophie Winkleman heads to a 'scientific dating service,' to find her perfect mate. She begins with question 1–"Why did you come here?" Most television shows get to their 100th episode during their fourth or fifth season, so we might be in for the long haul. So far the only real standout when it comes to getting a chuckle is Charlotte's friend, Wayne (David Walton), a good looking loser who can seemingly pick up any girl with any line, who apparently also has the hots for Ms. Payne. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the cast doesn’t have their moments. Rounding out the cast are Jill (Collette Wolfe), Leslie (Smith Cho), Mike Poole (Christopher Moynihan, also the show's creator), and Andrew (Michael Benjamin Washington), who represents the dating service questioning Charlotte. With traditional sitcoms slowly dying out in favor of more stylized one–camera setups, I have high hopes for "100 Questions," and 4 episodes in, as charming as the "Yankee Bitch" is, the show about her is hit or miss. Hopefully it finds its footing fast, for
the show's own sake, and the struggling Peacock Network's.
The show's got a fairly bad theme song, but the remaining 21 minutes and 30 seconds are pretty good (the cast of "100 Questions," from left-Collette Wolfe, David Walton, Sophie Winkleman, Christopher Moynihan, and Smith Cho)
”Persons Unknown (NBC, Mondays 10PM, premiered June 7th)
Speaking of high concept, it doesn't get much higher than “Person's Unknown.” Produced by Fox Television, and sold to NBC, the series revolves around 6 strangers; all abducted for reasons unbeknownst to them, and are now held captive in a ghost town. Think, “Saw” meets “Silent Hill,” without the horror. Again, high concept shows like this–if they don't immediately grab you, you're not going to be watching for long, I know I won't no matter how cool it is to see Alan Ruck try to be a badass.
The ominous watcher of "Person's Unknown"
”Rubicon” (AMC, Sundays 9PM, Pilot episode available for free download on iTunes)
What do you get when you cross a shadowy government organization with “The DaVinci Code?” You get what should be AMC's third bonofide hit show in four years, an impressive feat for any network, but when you only have three original shows on your network, it's just phenomenal. The show is about a multi–leveled conspiracy about a fourth branch of our government that has secretly plotted out every event in our history.
Working on finding out the truth is a Think Tank that is charged with finding all kinds of codes and patterns much too complex to explain in detail here, but when the characters explain it, it'll make perfect sense. James Badge Dale plays Will Travers (Dale is no stranger to political intrigue, losing his hand to season 3 of “24”). By the end of the Pilot, he accepts the job as head of this outfit. He takes the gig to be able to keep digging into who murdered his father–in–law, the previous boss of the Think Tank.
James Badge Dale searches for answers in the old-school styled mystery thriller, "Rubicon."
”The Big C” (Showtime, premieres August 16th at 10:30PM)
If you're a hit show on Showtime, you're either an eccentric, hedonistic male with a dark side (Dexter Morgan, Hank Moody), or irrational, hedonistic women who can't help themselves from doing wrong (Nancy Botwin). For the network's newest show, it looks like that dynamic could be shaken up albeit just slightly. Laura Linney,
once described as the smart movie fan's sexpot, takes on the role of Cathy–a suburban housewife whose been diagnosed with Cancer. This show definitely wins the award for best cast out of these summer shows. Helping Linney cope with her diagnosis are Oliver Platt, Idris Elba, and Gabourey Sidibe.
Is Laura Linney's time almost up, or just beginning, find out when "The Big C' begins
”Hot in Cleveland” (TV Land Prime, Wednesdays 10PM debuted June 16)
The casting of Betty White and the untimely death of Rue McClanahan inadvertently sealed TV Land's first
original sitcom's fate as "the New Golden Girls." I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the sitcom is filmed in front of a live audience. Here's the pitch: two middle–aged milphs and Wendie Malick are Los Angeles natives who have grown too old for city. Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli, who seemingly hasn't aged much from her "One Day at a Time" days) is a writer with college–aged kids and a recent divorcee. Looking for love, she hops on a plane to Paris. Joining her, are Jane Leeves' (you may know her from "Fraiser," but she'll always be "Seinfeld's" virgin to me) Joy Scroggs, a beautician to the stars; and Malick's Victoria Chase (Malick is playing a slightly different version of Nina from the underrated "Just Shoot Me"), an aging actress.
The plane crashes in Cleveland instead and the girls are amazed that men in Cleveland find women their own age attractive. After a night of passion with one of them, Melanie decides to move to Drew Carey's hometown. The caretaker of her new home is Elka Ostrovsky (White), a tough and gruff woman in the vein of Estelle Getty's Sophia. Two shows in and "Cleveland," looks to have already dropped about half of its ready–made fans of Betty White audience. The main problem is that the traditionally filmed sitcom is just too "sitcomy." The jokes feel forced and the only lines of dialogue that are worse than some of the punchlines, are their set–ups. It also doesn't help that the studio audience is apparently laughing at things are not funny at all and aren't meant to be. But the show does have Betty White, not to mention the still–yummy Ms. Bertinelli, Jane Leeves' hysterical angry banter with White, and the very capable Malick. Give these ladies a shot, the capable cast actually have all gotten better with age, and maybe "Hot in Cleveland," can too.
The ladies are set to set Cleveland ablaze (from left, Jane Leeves, Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, and Wendie Malick)
”Memphis Beat” (TNT, Tuesdays 10PM, premiered June 22)
Jason Lee (sans "My Name is Earl" mustache + ginormous sideburns) plays Elvis loving, Memphis Detective Dwight Hendricks. “Memphis” co–stars DJ Qualls, as a cop who idolizes Hendricks; Celia Weston as Dwight's mom; Sam Hennings as his partner and Alfre Woodward as his sassy new boss. I thought TNT “knew drama.” This show looks more like a comedy. But with Jason Lee starring in the George Clooney produced show, not to mention an old–school Blues and Gospel soundtrack, the dramatic comedy might be a winner. The first episode featured Detective Hendricks looking into the abuse of the former “Voice of Memphis,” Dotty Collins, and established that this could be a very different detective show. Unfortunately "could be" is the key term. It's hard to judge any series based on just one episode, but after the pilot, the only engaging thing about the show is Lee–who will need every bit of his cocksure charm to carry this series.
Defending the city of Blues and hopefully saving "Memphis Beat." Jason Lee as Dwight Hendricks.
CONFESSIONS FROM THE COUCH
–I am not the E.B. that Will Travers is searching for in the premiere of Rubicon.
–With two characters on TV both named Will (“Rubicon” and “Glee”), and both sporting oddly–coiffed curly hairdos, I think TV is not–so–subliminally telling us guys that the Kramer meets Jew-fro look will net us a slew of women. That and having the name Will.
–I’d like to think that I am a somewhat smart man, so I still find Laura Linney somewhat attractive. Maybe if I were a little smarter, I'd find her a little more attractive. She still happens to be one of the best female actresses of the past decade.
–I will watch anything with Jason Lee. So yes, I'm already hopeful he can carry "Memphis Beat."