You can be mean about Hollywood, but you have to be better than this to do it
Showtime's new inside-Hollywood satire "Episodes" (Sunday at 9:30 p.m.) - about a pair of English sitcom writers (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) who have a nightmarish experience adapting their show for American TV - comes from a place of absolute, naked contempt for the television business. And even though that business has made its creators David Crane (co-creator of "Friends") and Jeffrey Klarik (former "Mad About You" writer and Crane's domestic partner as well as his current writing partner) a whole lot of money, that's fine. Some of the best satire comes from a place of intense anger.
But when you're attacking a big, fat target like the superficial, duplicitous nature of Hollywood, and being so relentless and bitter about it, you need to be much, much, much funnier than "Episodes" is. You need to be "The Larry Sanders Show" funny, or "Extras" season two funny. "Episodes" isn't even as funny as Crane and Klarik's last collaboration, the exceedingly mediocre short-lived CBS comedy "The Class" - and that's even considering that the new show features Crane's old "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc delivering a terrific performance as an exaggerated version of himself.
OWN Q&A session features marathon filibuster
"So how does this work?" Oprah Winfrey asked the critics as she took the stage for a Q&A about OWN, the new Oprah Winfrey Network she launched under the Discovery cable umbrella.
You can understand Oprah's confusion. Throughout her 25 years on the national stage, she's spent much more time asking questions than answering them. And though she's appeared at press tour on occasion, it's usually been to promote movies or miniseries she produced, and where there were lots of other panelists fielding questions right along with her.
But this was Oprah alone on stage for 50 minutes - a very strange, long-winded 50 minutes in which seven reporters got to ask questions, and in which the third reporter's question elicited an answer that the TCA historians in the room estimate was the longest in press tour history.
Press Tour: Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant bring the funny for 'An Idiot Abroad'
Beer + satellite delay + Brits = comedy
Under optimal circumstances, Karl Pilkington provides plenty of fodder for his friends/colleagues/tormentors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to mock him about. But when you put the two creators of "The Office" in a room with their round-headed kickball of a podcast partner, hand them all tall glasses of beer and tell them to answer questions via a long satellite delay, well... then you have A Very Special Episode in the ongoing comic saga that is the three men's friendship.
Sincerity a plus, leading man David Lyons a minus
The superhero genre is so old, and the superhero movies and TV shows it spawned only slightly less old, that almost every live-action version these days has to be billed as a modernized, or even post-modern, spin on the familiar. No tights! No codenames! What does it really mean to have powers?
NBC's "Heroes" was so eager to distance itself from the tropes of the genre that it wouldn't even let its characters say the word "powers," preferring to use the term "abilities," as if that would somehow make indestructible cheerleaders and telepathic cops seem more palatable to the sort of people who don't ordinarily go for this stuff.
NBC's new superhero show, "The Cape" (which sneak previews Sunday at 9 p.m. before airing Mondays at 9 starting on January 17), doesn't feel the least bit embarrassed about any of the usual trappings. It's not post-modern, or even modern. It is proudly, almost defiantly old-fashioned. It's the sort of show where no one in the fictional Palm City is the least bit confused about why they're being menaced by a masked villain who calls himself Chess. It's the sort of show where the hero, having been trained by one of the world's greatest escape artists, is bound in chains by a bad guy, thrown into the ocean and asked to make like Houdini (or the '60s Batman) and free himself from the diabolical death trap.
I admire that about "The Cape." It is what it says it is, and finds no shame in that.
I just wish it was a better show.
What did everybody think of the cul-de-sac crew's latest outing?
I'm on the verge of starting press tour, so no time for a proper review of tonight's "Cougar Town," but I thought it offered more loosey-goosey fun from the cul de sac crew, particularly in Travis' failed attempt to keep Kirsten from becoming part of the cul-de-sac crew, Bobby's pre-meddling take on current events, and pretty much everything Laurie did.
What did everybody else think?
What did everybody think of the new episode?
I'm on the verge of heading to press tour, so no time for a proper "Modern Family" review, but outside of a goofy James Marsden guest performance and Luke's method of motivating first Gloria and then Haley, this one didn't really work for me, with the Phil/Claire/Jamie Gertz(*) story in particular packed with wacky sitcom misunderstandings.
(*) I haven't seen Gertz in anything in a while, but her performance here felt like she was channeling her Muffy Tepperman character from "Square Pegs" 30 years later.
What did everybody else think?
The Bravermans have to all play the bad guy as the show returns in the new year
As I mentioned earlier today, I'm scrambling to get ready for the TV critics' press tour, so no time for a proper take on last night's "Parenthood," in which most of the Bravermans had to accept that sometimes being a parent means being the bad guy. Of the plots, I'm still struggling to stay interested in Jason Katims' latest age-inappropriate teenage girl romance, and while Crosby taking responsibility with Jabbar was a nice piece of growth for him (since he seemed to go from 0 to 60 on the parenting scale awfully easily), it was still a story about a little boy who won't clean his room, and thankfully didn't take up too much time. The most affecting wound up being Julia and Joel's struggle with teaching Sydney about death, as it's not only a complicated question but another chance for Sam Jaeger's sneaky campaign to become the most likable person on the show.
Also, Katims continues his quest to smuggle the cast of "Friday Night Lights" in, ala Johnny Cash, one piece at a time, continues with Jeff Rosick (who's played Buddy Garrity Jr. in this final season) playing one of Drew's friends.
What did everybody else think?
It's TCA time again, which means things switch up on the blog for a bit
It's almost Elvis' birthday, boys and girls, and that means it's time for the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Sunny Pasadena. If you don't know what press tour is, I did a long explanation once upon a time at The Star-Ledger, but the short version is that it's 11 straight days (sometimes more, sometimes less, this time 11) of press conferences, interviews and other working press events in which the broadcast networks, cable and PBS try to promote their upcoming shows that will air in winter, spring and even early summer. It is an all-day, all-night affair that's been dubbed "Death March with Cocktails," and it's going to keep me and Fienberg very, very busy over the next week-plus, particularly since there are so many shows debuting or returning during the tour.
What did everybody think of the season two premiere?
The "V" season two premiere just finished airing. I offered up my thoughts yesterday, and Dan gave his this afternoon. Now it's your turn. What did you think of the show's return from the long hiatus? Was Anna's method of dealing with the captains exciting enough to counterbalance the continued use of Tyler? How did you feel Bret Harrison fit in? Etc.
A storytelling gimmick and a surprise ending highlight a contentious episode