Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg
Julianna Margulies is good enough that 'The Good Wife' could be a hit if it's steered properly
It should be said up-front that as Julianna Margulies legal dramas go, CBS' "The Good Wife" marks a much more appealing comeback vehicle that FOX's short-lived, gloomy "Canterbury's Law."
There are three or four different shows bubbling beneath the surface of "The Good Wife." Curiously, the show's creators -- Robert and Michelle King -- seem to be interested in the versions of the series that interest me least. That leaves me acknowledging the potential of "The Good Wife," but not likely to commit to a long prolonged viewership myself.
Given that CBS has scheduled "The Good Wife" following two sure-to-be-popular hours of "NCIS" and given the chance that other viewers may like the direction the writers are taking more than I do, Margulies' new series has a fair chance of success.
Christian Slater toplines ABC's gloomy attempt to capitalize on Jerry Bruckheimer's magic
CBS has carved out a niche as the network of ultra-advanced professional crime fighters. From "NCIS" to "CSI" to "Criminal Minds," CBS investigators are highly trained and have excess to the best technology legitimate agencies can provide.
It's too early for it actually to be a trend yet, but ABC may find its mission as the home of amateur crimefighters, of scrappy volunteer autodidactics, minds not yet jaded by years of bureaucracy and legal loopholes.
Who you gonna trust?
ABC has a qualified success (i.e. it can't sustain an audience without "Dancing with the Stars," but lots of people like it) in "Castle," featuring Nathan Fillion as an author who proves to NYPD's Finest that all of their honed methods and experience can't compare to his imagination and snark.
Up next, and bringing ABC within one of a full-blown trend, is "The Forgotten." Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Danny Cannon ("CSI: Nearly All of 'Em"), "The Forgotten" focuses on the men and women of The Forgotten Network, a citizen-run victims' rights organization that works to identify John and Jane Does, giving names and therefore dignity to unfortunate souls who would otherwise be... you guessed it... forgotten.
As a follow-up series, I look forward to ABC doing a drama focusing on defense attorneys who file appeals to free clients incarcerated due to less-than-Kosher legwork by all of these amateur grunts.
So how well does "The Forgotten" work? Is it another Bruckheimer hit, or does he save his good stuff for CBS?
Review after the break...
Andre Braugher helps bring out Hugh Laurie's best in the two-hour 'Broken'
As Jon Cryer learned on Sunday night, sometimes the secret to earning an Emmy is just patience. You get on the nomination rolls, you wait until Jeremy Piven alienates himself to the entertainment community and then -- BAM! -- you swoop in and suddenly you're no longer "Ducky" for life, you're "Emmy winner Jon Cryer, former portrayer of Ducky."
Hugh Laurie clearly can't follow that exact path. He was never Ducky. He has, however, been an Emmy bridesmaid on four occasions, losing at least twice to James Spader, which has to hurt. So Laurie has been biding his time and I feel confident, after watching the "House" two-hour premiere, that this will be the episode that gets him up on the podium next year.
It's not like Laurie hasn't had big-time showcase episodes in the past. He's been shot. He's had brain injuries. He's gone on-and-off of drugs. The "House" premiere, titled "Broken," offers a little bit of everything, a buffet of Emmy moments, if you will.
But how is the episode itself? It's very good. Even if it feels like a amalgamation of a dozen lunatic asylum dramas -- "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" being so obvious an influence it hardly bears mentioning -- it's "Broken" is so well performed there's no reason to complain.
[Review after the break...]
We discuss working around pregnancies, why fans hate Stella and what happiness will mean for Ted
The fourth season of CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" was filled with challenges.
Both of the show's leading ladies, Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan, were pregnant and spent the spring hiding behind counters, carrying basketballs or entirely absent for tenuously plotted reasons [What *was* that joke Barney told Lily?]. Meanwhile, the show's main character Ted (Josh Radnor) was having an on-and-off relationship with a woman (Stella) played by an actress (Sarah Chalke) from another show ("Scrubs"), forcing an atypical piece of storytelling to work around her schedule. Jason Segel was becoming a movie star. Neil Patrick Harris was becoming a media-conquering supernova (maybe a minor overstatement, but NPH has been everywhere).
The payoff for all of those struggles and challenges? Only the show's first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Season Five premieres on Monday, Sept. 21 and order has been restored. Smulders and Hannigan are both back and spending time with Barney and Marshall. Ted is starting a new career as a college professor and Future Ted has already hinted at the whereabout of his Future Wife and "How I Met Your Mother" would never tease us about her identity without a payoff. Right?
I caught up with "How I Met Your Mother" co-creator Carter Bays last month at the Television Critics Association press tour and we discussed Season Four's accommodations, teasing the audience and what Happy Ted will mean for Season Five.
[Interview after the break...]
How will Neil Patrick Harris do? Will '30 Rock' and Mad Men' repeat? Follow along with us...
7:58 p.m. ET Welcome, dear friends, to HitFix's live Emmy blog. If you've read my Emmy Predictions, you know that I plan on being surprised by nearly everything that happens on Sunday (Sept. 17) night, so follow along and comment appropriately...
8:00 p.m. To heck with "60 Minutes," CBS is determined to start this sucker on time, beginning with a snarky tribute to television, the Emmys and the red carpet.
Like penicillin on an infection, Jenna Elfman attacks the comedy in her new CBS sitcom
Whether it succeeds or fails, appreciation of CBS' new comedy "Accidentally on Purpose" is certain to be a referendum on star Jenna Elfman. I'm not referring to aspects of her personal and spiritual life that inevitable arise in comment sections whenever she's mentioned. I'm talking bare bones: Do you think Jenna Elfman is funny?
My answer to that question is that I loved the first half of the first season of "Dharma & Greg." Well, maybe "loved" is too strong a word, but Elfman's flighty, free-spirited Dharma was a wholly original character and Elfman gave her an unfamiliar and effective set of mannerisms.
Elfman has subsequent given the same set of mannerisms to every character she's played, whether or not they had anything to do with the character in question, so fatigue set in long ago.
"Accidentally on Purpose" is all about Elfmam, who scarcely misses a shot, much less a scene and, for reasons best known to pilot director Pamela Fryman, Elfman has been allowed to indulge her every hammy instinct. That's why if you love Jenna Elfman, you're probably going to love "Accidentally on Purpose."
If you don't? Monday (Sept. 21) night's premiere, after "How I Met Your Mother" on CBS, will be the perfect time to switch your DVR over to watch the two-hour "House" premiere sans commercials.
Me? I recommend the latter.
[Review of "Accidentally on Purpose" after the break...]
Get past the pilot and Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis star in a witty anti-mystery
Remember that existential comedy-mystery about self-aware, self-absorbed hipsters that you requested?
HBO's "Bored to Death" premieres on Sunday, Sept. 20 and if you embrace its quirky, dead-pan, hyper-verbose sensibility, you may find yourself enjoying one of the fall's best new shows.
As great as my appreciation for "Bored to Death" may be, though, it comes with one rather major caveat: The pilot episode isn't very good. The tone, the characters and the pacing of creator Jonathan Ames' world just weren't locked in properly in the beginning and it's actually amazing that HBO executives were able to see past that pilot and order a series.
I'm pleased they did, because the second and third episodes are an oddball treat, a pleasing showcase for star Jason Schwartzman and co-stars Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis.
[Full review after the break.]
One of these new releases is recommended for the whole family. The other stars Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston.
While my intrepid colleagues Greg Ellwood and Drew McWeeny were up in Toronto seeing dozens of movies, partying with the stars and not visiting members of my extended family, I was back in Los Angeles, which meant that in addition to bobbing for apples in the fall TV barrel, I also covered movie junkets for two of this week's major new releases.
I've already done interview features from "Love Happens" and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," but are the movies in question any good?
The answer is "Heck, no!" and "Surprisingly, yes!"
[Brief-ish reviews after the break. Not capsules, per se, but also not epic full-length Fien Print reviews. ]
The spring launch wasn't very good, but NBC's Amy Poehler comedy has found the laughter
When "Parks and Recreation" premiered on NBC last spring, I didn't review it, which is unusual for me. But little about the disappointed ambivalence I felt for the show inspired me to shoot off 1000 words that could be boiled down to "Talented people deserve more funny." I could have tightened it even further with a one-word review now recognized in some dictionaries: "Meh."
I kept watching both because of its proximity to shows I preferred and because Sepinwall kept insisting it was funny (it wasn't) through til the finale which, for the first time, offered hope in laughter form.
I've seen the first two episodes of the "Parks and Recreation" second season -- premiering at 8:30 tonight on NBC -- and now seems like a decent time to actually review it, since it's suddenly a pretty good show.
Also premiering on Thursday? "The Office." It was already a pretty good show. It still is.
[Reviews of both comedy returns after the break...]
Joel McHale and Chevy Chase lead the cast of one of the fall's best new shows
When it comes to NBC's "Community," I have a proverbial bee in my proverbial bonnet...
So the premise of the show goes like this: A slimy lawyer (Joel McHale) is disbarred when is college degree is ruled invalid. He goes back to community college, thinking it will just be another con his silver tongue will help him perpetrate. At one point, the man he expects to help him cheat his way back into the courtroom, a community college instructor, asks if he plans to do this for the next four years.
It's here that I start thinking: It's great for him to go back to community college, but that won't earn him his bachelor's degree, no matter how long he stays, whether it's four years or eight. In fact, depending on how much money he saved in his previous career, he probably won't want to spend much time at community college at all before getting his associate's degree and finding a good online program to finish things off.
Since most comedies aspire to a longer shelf-life than two seasons and since most of the show's supporting characters probably aren't going to follow our hero after he finishes off at the CC, I start wondering how "Community" plans to play with time or reality should it have a five or six season run. It just doesn't make sense!!!
That's a convoluted way of saying this: When I watched the pilots for FOX's "Brothers" and ABC's "Hank," I struggled with logical inconsistencies and tried to think of ways to get the shows off of my TV forever after 22 minutes. When I watched the "Community" pilot, I struggled with logical inconsistencies, but only because I was hoping to secure the show's long-term future. See? My OCD is a compliment.
"Community" slides into NBC's Thursday comedy block and, in terms of quality, it looks like a logical heir to "The Office" and "30 Rock." It's also certainly one of the best new shows of the season.
[Review for "Community," which premieres on Thursday, Sept. 17, after the break...]