Greetings, readers and viewers out there in TV and film-dom. Well, the election is finally over—what a wild ride that was; special post on that in the new year—and the fall season of shows is slowly but surely creeping to its dramatic winter finale before the holidays take over and make goo of all of our brains and bellies. Since September premiere week what seemed like eons ago, we have taken a journey through some pretty crazy TVland-scape. Surprisingly, much of the new stuff we’ve seen has stuck around for longer than a few fleeting weeks, keeping with the trend of the last few years to give shows a longer chance to gather an audience, or let the shows run their short-order course of between 10-13 episodes, before replacing them in the new year. But I didn’t get to watch or review everything and share my vaulted opinion, which I know you clearly need in your life. So, let’s begin with one of the new shows that I did happen to watch, Pure Genius.
CBS’s Pure Genius takes groundbreaking concepts and mixes them with so-so plotting and characters. Yes, I gave you my judgment on the show before explaining what the show is about. Let’s backtrack and explore the show. Pure Genius is a fictionalized possibility of a very real future or even present. In it, a young tech billionaire opens what he names Bunkerhill, a hospital/institute positioned on the cutting edge of medical science and technology. With his billion-dollar backing, coupled with his I-know-everything-because-I’m-a-rich-genius attitude, he seeks to revolutionize the healthcare industry by thinking outside the box and combining his technological abilities with the genius of his doctors in order to save every patient, cure the incurable and do the impossible—think Dean Munsch’s hospital/clinic C.U.R.E institute on season two of Scream Queens, only way cooler looking.
The billionaire, or James Bell, is supposed to be a mix of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, but doesn’t always hit that mark of visionary, instead, falling flat as regular rich A-hole. He has a crush on his head female doctor, Dr. Zoe Beckett, but can’t break from his socially awkward nerd-cocoon to actually connect with her on a personal level. His new hire, Dr. Walter Wallace, is an old dog with old tricks and knowledge that is supposed to keep not only the team but Bell grounded. He’s like Yoda in that he’s not the one doing the original training (Bell isn’t a doctor) but does have sound advice about how to use the force. He’s also a renegade, but a conservative renegade in that he doesn’t fully commit to Bell’s technological revolution—he’s seen too much tech come and go without saving many more lives than previously. While he does accept many of the newfangled inventions, he argues and has friction with Bell, believing it is human interaction which makes healthcare effective.
Overall, I give Pure Genius a C+. It is average, it folds right into the rest of CBS’s programming, and, while having a young cast, doesn’t have many names that stick out to the average viewer. It also does nothing to dispel my theory about there being too many geniuses on TV right now. Not only is everybody on practically every show based either in New York or LA... or Miami, but they are all world-class, best-in-the-country geniuses at what they do. This sucks the tension from shows like these where they are nothing more than a medical procedural/case-of-the-week show. After finishing each episode, was I looking forward to seeing the next? Eh!
On to more shows that I haven’t had the time to check out or felt the need to watch. Note that because I haven’t really taken the time to watch these shows, each one of my “reviews” should be taken with a big grain of salt. Really, this is more of me telling you why I didn’t find the time to watch these shows. Oh, and pretty much all of them are on CBS.
To start: Kevin Can Wait. Indeed, he can. CBS’s Kevin Can Wait did not in any way, shape or form look appealing to me in its advertisements. Starring Kevin James, the ads mainly played off the fact that he once had a successful show on CBS entitled The King of Queens. While I admired the commitment to showing blue-collar Americans being funny in their lives as opposed to the upper-middle class and work comedies that dominated through the late aughts and early tens, I was never a fan of King of Queens. It was just an OK show to me, similar to a slew of 90s comedies like Grace Under Fire and the Jeff Foxworthy Show—not all that great, but not all that bad.
So when Kevin James made his triumphant return to TV with virtually the same show—a family man with a very hot wife, albeit a better job this time around, I shrugged my shoulders, looked across the landscape of TV I had already committed to, looked at all of my own work projects, and realized just like that black woman who escaped that house fire a few years back did: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” But if you’re looking for a nice multi-cam family sitcom that is a callback to the 90s and 70s family sitcoms, then you might like Kevin Can Wait, and maybe you can make time for it.
Practically the same review goes for Matt LeBlanc’s new show Man with a Plan. Friends has long been over and we’ve all gestated our grief about that, not to mention that we still have the countless re-runs on every network channel and TBS to keep us warm if ever our own smelly cat runs away or we find ourselves on a break with our significant other (read: human I keep around solely for my amusement), but the failure of Joey, the short-lived spin-off still lingers heavy in my mind. Using Joey as the star, the additions of his sister and, I believe her kid (or maybe that was one of his friend’s kids) took an adult comedy and spun it into a family sitcom with disastrous effects. At the time, Matt didn’t seem cued-up for such a transition and it showed.
When his new family sitcom Man with a Plan was advertised, I tried dismissing that bad memory in favor of giving him a new shot. Alas, while I did get over the ill-fated Joey, I couldn’t bring myself to get excited for LeBlanc’s new comedy. It is not that it looks bad, but that it simply looks generic. There doesn’t seem to be anything new about it, and it doesn’t even have a cute little spin to it. Similar to Last Man Standing, it looks as though you could pluck it from today’s airwaves, put it in the 90s, and have nothing about it change, and it might even get lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong, I get that comedy is comedy and funny is funny, and that people often don’t need new and fancy to love a show, but with shows like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family having dominated the airwaves, having something so regular come along doesn’t make me jump at wanting to spend half an hour each week watching it. Marketing School 101: Sometimes you need a new package for an old product. This is an old product with the same packaging it’s always had.
But again, if you find those kinds of family comedies or CBS shows to your liking, then I say go for it. Unlike the Seinfeld cast, the cast of Friends have all gone on to prove that they can thrive at life beyond the show, and even if you’ve never seen LeBlanc’s other series Episodes, you can be sure that he’s still got plenty of acting and comedy in his blood.
We continue forward to CBS’s The Great Indoors, starring Joel McHale. A workplace comedy similar to Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing on ABC, this sees McHale working at an outdoors’ store dominated by younger workers. I didn’t watch this show for many reasons. For one, dear God I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much complaining about one generation as I have with Millennials. It’s almost as if older generations literally have no ideas or anything left to do but complain about Millennials. They’re not even complaining about Generation Z, the teenagers currently filling our high schools, no-no! It’s all on Millennials as if they were the ones to ruin the world. And yet, for the last 24 years (and counting with Trump, not that Hillary would have been any different) the world has been run by Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers have greenlit remakes for literally every film and TV show that they themselves held dear during their childhood and teenage years in the 70s and 80s (there’s actually a Breakfast Club remake in the works. Seriously! Seriously! SMDH), but I digress.
The show centers around McHale working in a non-office office filled with Millennials where he is the “oldhead” who is wiser and more experienced. Essentially, while they may have some book-brains, everyone he is working with is an idiot in his mind because of their youth. Even taking out the possibility of offensiveness, and forgetting the fact that as the population ages, the treatment of Millennials now could only lead to more ageism a few years down the road, the show seems too much like a watered-down version of a mix between Last Man Standing and Community. The reason why Community was canceled, I think, is because of the superiority complex built into the show. I had talked to some viewers of the show when it was still on and they were not die-hard fanatics, but so-so fans (the kind that keeps a show going for longer than three seasons), and they said that they never felt that McHale’s—and to a lesser extent, Chase’s—character grew to realize that he was an equal to everybody else. Where it started out as funny, it got to feel more like a bully laughing at the peons beneath him.
The Great Indoors has a similar feel to it from the commercials alone. Again, this will appeal to a great many Americans I’m sure, but I just don’t have the patience for something like that right now. I’d rather watch Two Broke Girls or Big Bang Theory or Speechless. But if you hate those stupid Millennials or if you are a hipster Millennial that doesn’t think you fall into that category that is constantly mocked, then, by all means, give this a try.
Jumping from CBS to USA, we take a look at Shooter. I know that of this list, Shooter probably has had the latest fall premiere, really of all the new shows I can think of off the top of my head that aren’t holiday-themed. While I know that it just recently premiered and only has one or two episodes under its belt, I will say that I didn’t tune in to the premiere and can’t currently see myself peeking in to give this the three episode grace period I’m used to. Why? Frankly, I don’t have much reason not to, but there are some minor misgivings I can point to.
First, I know that this is based on the Mark Wahlberg movie of the same name. For those who didn’t see the movie or haven’t seen adverts for the show, an ex-US military sniper is accused of shooting someone he didn’t (I think it is supposed to be a high-ranking government official), has this false and treasonous accusation turn his life upside-down, and goes on the run to solve the crime like only he can—using all of his military and gun skills to shoot through, kill, intimidate and unmake anyone unlucky enough to come in his way or be related to the crime in question. Also, I vaguely remember Wahlberg being very hurt in the film and having to also deal with his health, as the people framing him for this shooting are also trying to kill him to make it seem like he was a suicidal, homicidal, PTSD-sufferer who became a zealot and snapped. I say vaguely because of my first misgiving with the show.
I didn’t much care for the movie. I know all movie stars can be hit and miss throughout their careers, but, for me, Wahlberg is the most polarizing star from one film to the next. Pair him with another great in their own right like Will Ferrell in The Other Guys or Daddy’s home, or Matt Damon and Leo in The Departed, or Denzel in 2 Guns, or even The Rock in Pain and Gain, and he is phenomenal. (As an aside, I only now realize that out of all the movies I’ve liked Wahlberg in, the majority of them are comedies, with the exception of The Departed, Invincible, and Four Brothers). Practically everything else he is in feels substandard, run-of-the-mill filmmaking that could just as easily have been a straight-to-DVD release (some of it not squarely on him but the director/producers), or he finds himself in a film where he is swallowed up by far superior actors. Date Night, The Lovely Bones, We Own The Night, The Perfect Storm, that dreadful Planet of the Apes remake, Contraband, Broken City, and Shooter are all films that I saw once and don’t care to see again. I felt like he was swallowed up by the other great performances in The Fighter, so... yeah. As another aside, I only now realize just how many Wahlberg films I’ve seen. My god, I’ve seen a lot of his films. Hmph?
Shooter, to me, was similar to the many Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Steven Seagull, Mel Gibson straight-to-DVD films that have come out in the last few years. Yeah, if you’re a fan of any of them, go and check their IMDb page, and discover well over a dozen films you probably never knew came out because they couldn’t get a theater to show them and had no marketing budget. I always thought the idea behind Shooter to be nice for film but a little pedestrian for TV. It’s another mystery but at least this time it has a regular guy rather than a world-class genius.
Then there is the fact that Ryan Phillippe is starring as the titular character. No, I am not a Ryan hater. I actually like him and thoroughly enjoyed what he did on Secrets and Lies, which is partly the reason why I didn’t want to watch this show. As much as I’m sure many people enjoy anthology series that currently dominate the airwaves, I still like the old-fashioned season-after-season-builds-upon-the-same-characters theme for most shows. I wanted Secrets and Lies to continue in the same story the second season, mainly to see what would happen to Phillippe’s character after confessing to a murder his daughter committed. While we continue on with the detective, we get a rather unsatisfying conclusion to that story with a reference about how his character died in jail before they figured out who the real murderer was. I wanted him back on that show.
And finally: I simply don’t have the time. As stated, I do have a heck of a workload and, for the first time in a few years, am procrastinating on getting anything done as I struggle with plans for the future. Also, I already have a ton of shows that I watch regularly while having ditched other older shows; a DVR half-filled with movies that I haven’t watched dating back since April; and a life out in the real world. Adding yet another hourlong drama to the mix when I’m not enthralled with the concept hardly seems feasible at this time. So, something has to suffer, unfortunately, that happens to be some of the late-season premieres. Sorry, but if they want more people to tune in to a show, don’t premiere it in November when people are gearing up for the holidays and most of them already have their viewing patterns set. That won’t be a problem for every viewer, and fanatics who have been looking forward to this show for some time will catch it, but then again they were always the ones that would watch it anyway. Maybe you are a fan of Ryan Phillippe or think the concept sounds interesting, or remember the movie and enjoyed it. If so, then feel free to check it out on the USA network.
Also, I feel I have to give at least a note on FOX’s attempt at remaking the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. Once every seven or eight years or so, I will take a look at Rocky Horror around Halloween time. While I enjoy it, it is not appointment viewing for me by any means, nor a tradition. Rocky Horror holds that strange place in my viewing conscience where I must be in the right mood at the right time of year and even on the right day sometimes to enjoy its zaniness, and I suspect that I’m not the only one who feels that way. It is the type of story that is made fun of because it is supposed to be made fun of and came out of an era in which things were still changing but a story like this could still be considered counter or subculture. Here is where this new rendition of Rocky went wrong.
The first mistake here was actually in casting Laverne Cox to play Frankenfurter. Initially, when hearing of this casting I applauded it as I thought she could recreate the role for a new generation. But as I waited patiently throughout all of 2016, I slowly began to realize the tragic mistake they made in casting her. This has nothing to do with her acting ability but is totally about her gender and sexuality. Rocky Horror came from a time in which it was fun both for the squares like Janet and Brad in real life to treat the different and bizarre people-groups like entertainment vessels. While this sounds every bit like bullying, the film put this into perspective to say that this underlying culture was in on the joke. Therefore, in its own unique way, the film made it a safe space for both members of the White Bread Rally and the Alternative lifestyle groups to laugh, find some understanding and get along with each other if only for a short time. The ridiculousness of Rocky Horror’s caricatures of straights, gays, transgenders, and bisexuals allowed viewers to leave the film saying, “Well, nobody’s really that ridiculous on either side of the aisle. Everybody’s really just a person.” Somehow, I felt that sentiment vanished when placing an actual transwoman in the role.
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but Laverne has some very large breasts which, regardless of the rest of her anatomy, when fully clothed, puts her firmly into the camp of having a womanly figure. Where Tim Curry (and many other actors who have done the stage play for years) bring some androgyny to the role so that the character feels like a mocking send-up of what we think a transvestite or transsexual would look like. Here, Laverne just looks like a buxom woman, and not even like an over-the-top drag queen that could possibly lend some humor to the character. That, coupled with the fact that half the audience knows she’s a real transwoman makes the whole situation uncomfortable to laugh at again. Every time I started to laugh, I was quickly reminded of the real struggle and fight that transpeople endure to be treated as the gender they want, and how Laverne is the very embodiment of that struggle and partial triumph. In that way, it felt akin to a Trans Minstrel show—a sentiment made all the more prevalent by having the black Laverne dancing and singing for our viewing pleasure. It was a Transperson acting over-the-top Trans to prove that “Yessa, Massa, I am a weird alien creature that you should be a-frighted of.” It just didn’t feel right.
Also, with the exception of Riff Raff and Tim Curry as the narrator, I found most of the performances silly in a not-good way. Nothing came together as it should have and the story was lost in all of it. Ultimately, I half-felt like they were trying to make the film sexy, which ain’t Rocky and ain’t neva gon be Rocky Horror. Laverne looked too glam for the role and so did Milian and Justice, along with the movie theater usher. Where the original made fun of both sexual oppression and freedom, Rocky seemed to almost take it too seriously and tell us, “No, this IS sexy, see?” rather than entertain us with a wild and silly play on Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein.
So, to sum it up, some of the shows I watched this new season were pretty good, while others were so-so and I thought one was really bad. Sadly, I’ll probably never see some of the shows I mentioned above, unless they are good enough to make it into syndication years from now and I catch them in the six or seven o’clock hour as I play the TV in the background while making dinner—Hey, that is how I watched most of Everybody Loves Raymond. Until then, I haven’t the time nor energy to care. In fact, as I write this and lazily research the shows on this list (I just don’t put forth the effort with stuff I’m not about to watch; almost didn’t watch and review American Housewife and only now regret that I did), I realize that I incorrectly explained Joel McHale’s show The Great Indoors. It is a regular office comedy where he used to be a field reporter/journalist for outdoorsy magazines, now he is working for a new hip magazine. Nothing to do with sports apparel or outdoor stores. Sorry. Yawnnn! Gosh, E!, why did you have to abruptly cancel The Soup last year? Oh well.
What do you think? Have you seen any of the shows I mentioned on this list? Or The new Rocky Horror Picture Show, for that matter? What do you think of them? Are any your new favorite jam, or do they all fall in the dud category? And are those all the shows or did I miss some that even I don’t know about? I will say that I will earmark Shooter as the only one that I’ll potentially watch in the future only because Shantel Vansenten is in it and I've been wanting her to get some lead actress shine for a while, but some of my commitments would have to diminish. Anyway, let me know what you think and are watching (and loving) in the comments below.
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Until next time, “Uh... Uh... No bueno?”
‘No, that’s definitely no bueno.’
P.S. Dear goodness, out of all the Mark Wahlberg films I’ve seen, I can’t remember practically a signal line of dialogue from his characters, save from that wimpy line about fake money being ‘no bueno’ from the terrible film Contraband? That doesn’t bode well. Seriously, why have I seen so many Mark Wahlberg movies? I’ve seen practically his entire filmography and had no clue. Here’s a challenge for you: pick a star who you don’t think you’ve seen very many movies of and actually go see how many movies of theirs that you have seen. I thought I had seen a dozen Wahlberg movies, tops! I’ve actually seen 30 of his movies and he is only credited with 46 acting roles, three of which aren’t even out yet. Oh my goodness! Am I a Mark Wahlberg super-fan? Ahh! This P.S. has gone on for too long and it’s totally freaking me out. I’ll come up with a better sign-off next time.Amazon
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