Barbara Kopple captures the ambiguous side of life as a Yankee fan.
I really wish ESPN had scheduled tonight's "30 for 30" entry, Barbara Kopple's "The House of Steinbrenner," for virtually any other week of the baseball season. I have so much to say about this one, and absolutely no time to say it in the midst of Premiere Week hell, so let me see if I can sum up my thoughts quickly, after the jump...
The club auditions new members, and the new football coach causes headaches for Sue and Mr. Schue
In a less cuckoo-bananas week, I might actually do a write-up on the "Glee" season premiere, which introduced a bunch of new characters (I quite liked Dot Jones as the new football coach), set up new stakes/tensions for the characters, had a bunch of songs, and opened with a very meta sequence in which Ryan Murphy essentially used Kurt to dismiss all criticism of the first season. But I have to do some writing triage here, and frankly there are shows I care about a lot more that I'd rather spend the time on something else.
Still, I saw the premiere, and as I've said before, I often find the response to "Glee" more interesting than the show itself, so I'll open up the floor for y'all to discuss what you thought of it, and perhaps when the rest of my schedule slows down within a few weeks, I'll check back in on how the new year is going.
Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow in a mediocre Bruckheimer legal procedural
If it had even a token regular police presence, it would be easy to re-dub ABC's "The Whole Truth" (which debuts Wednesday at 10 p.m.) as "Law & Order: ADD." This is a criminal law show that doesn't have much of an attention span, and one that suspects that you don't, either.
Premiere cops biggest HBO debut ratings in six years
HBO has given a speedy renewal to "Boardwalk Empire" after Sunday's premiere was the pay channel's biggest in six years.
"All the ingredients aligned for this one, from Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson’s initial pitch, to Martin Scorsese’s enormous contributions as director and executive producer, to the genius of Terry Winter and the expertise of Tim Van Patten, to a stellar cast led by Steve Buscemi,” HBO president Michael Lombardo said in a statement. “The response from the media and our viewers has been nothing short of amazing.”
Sunday's premiere (you can read my review of it here) drew 4.8 million viewers at 9, and if you add in the 10:15 and 11:30 p.m. airings, the number goes up to 7.1 million.
Either way you choose to count it, that's in the neighborhood that HBO's current flagship "True Blood" gets, and is the most-watched HBO premiere since "Deadwood" back in 2004, when that show had "The Sopranos" as its lead-in.
As I've said before, with "Boardwalk Empire," HBO threw a lot of money at the problem that was its post-"Sopranos" malaise. Sometimes, when you throw a lot of money at a problem you just waste money (see most of the Dan Snyder-era Redskins). Sometimes, though (see the 2009 Yankees), it pays off, both creatively and commercially, which it clearly has here.
On surviving being a media punching bag, and why he should have listened to brother John's advice more
Jim Belushi wrote me an e-mail once.
It was about two years ago, and Belushi's ABC sitcom "According to Jim" was going into its 8th season. Rather than go the expected route and write a screed about how the show's continued existence was an affront to all that's good and decent about America, I instead took a more statistical approach. I listed some of the all-time classic sitcoms that had had shorter runs (it ran more seasons than "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and made more episodes than "Seinfeld"). Then I listed some of the shows (some good, some bad) that "Jim" had aired against and outlasted, including "Frasier," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Veronica Mars" and "Father of the Pride." Then I listed a bunch of comedies (including "Arrested Development" and "Undeclared") that debuted around the same time or shortly after "Jim" without lasting nearly as long.
"Jim Belushi," I wrote, "I'm sorry I ever doubted you and your mighty, mighty Buddha belly. I have faith that your show will outlast everything else on television. It will outlast me, and my children, and my children's children. 'According to Jim' is eternal."
And Belushi wrote me a brief note to thank me for not doing the knee-jerk thing of just using his show as a punching bag, which every critic in the country did throughout its 182-episode run.
The thing about Belushi is that he's a much better actor than he gets credit for, mainly because he's picked (or been given) awful material for much of his career. It's easy to think of him as the guy from "According to Jim" or "Mr. Destiny," but when given good material ("Salvador," "About Last Night...," his recent small role in "The Ghost Writer"), he rises to it. He obviously never made the impact on "Saturday Night Live" that his late brother John did, but he also came in at the worst possible time: a year at the tail end of the Eddie Murphy-dominated period, then a year where outgoing producer Dick Ebersol brought in ringers like Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest who dominated the airtime. And then Lorne Michaels came back and got rid of everyone, so he never had a chance to really prove himself there.
And Belushi is the main reason I enjoyed the pilot for CBS' "The Defenders," which debuts Wednesday at 10. As a shameless Vegas defense attorney, Belushi is likable, convincing when he wants you to take this clown seriously, funny when he doesn't. Like most CBS dramas, it's not reinventing the wheel, but it's effective for what it sets out to be, and Belushi is a huge part of that.
So when I sat down after "The Defenders" panel at press tour to talk with Belushi about the role, and his career, and lessons learned from his John, I of course opened up by mentioning that e-mail. He thanked me again, and said, "That was so nice, because - man! - people were just dumping on us." We'll let the transcript take it from there...
On brownies, Muppets and The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
The "Community" season 1 DVD came out today, and is worth a purchase both for the episodes themselves (I would not want to go through life without the ability to watch "Modern Warfare" at a moment's notice) and for the copious bonus features. With a cast this naturally funny, the outtakes are of course hilarious, there are commentaries on every episode, and there are a couple of amusing featurettes featuring creator Dan Harmon (one with him demonstrating how NBC has compromised his creative vision of Brita, and one where he meets with each castmember to do end-of-season evaluations).
And I'm taking the occasion of the DVD's release to post one of my two remaining "Community" interviews from the summer, with Yvette Nicole Brown. (If you missed the earlier ones, there's the Donald Glover/Danny Pudi video, Alison Brie, Dan Harmon and directors Joe and Anthony Russo. So Brown after the jump, and I look forward to talking about the terrific season premiere with you after it airs Thursday night at 8.
J.J. Abrams' pleasant but unremarkable new spy series
On paper, the idea of NBC’s new spy drama “Undercovers” (which debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m.) sounds fantastic: producer JJ Abrams takes all of the elements that worked best on his old show “Alias” (spy missions in glamorous locales, sexual chemistry between two very attractive leads) and ditches the stuff that was so often frustrating (the convoluted mythology, Jennifer Garner drowning in her own angst).
In reality, “Undercovers” is disappointing. There’s potential there for a fun show, but when Abrams is co-writing (with Josh Reims) and directing - a combination that in the past has produced two all-time great pilot episodes in “Alias” and “Lost” - you expect more than potential.
What did everybody think of the cop show remake?
What did everybody think of the latest Bruckheimer crime series?
I didn't review NBC's "Chase" unless you count a three-line blurb in my fall TV preview. (Fienberg, on the other hand, wrote a proper review, because he's dedicated/masochistic.) But since I'm doing these open posts for all the new network shows, might as well give viewers of the "Chase" pilot a chance to offer up their thoughts. Did anybody watch? If so, was there something there to make you want to watch it again next week?
What did everybody think of the romantic comedy pilot?