"Parks and Recreation" is back for its third season (finally!). Yesterday, I offered both an interview with star Amy Poehler and a general review of the seven episodes I've seen. Now I have some specific thoughts on the season premiere, coming up just as soon as I have one of those shirts that looks wet all the time...
Season 3 gets off to a busy, funny start
Malcolm Jamal-Warner guests as Shirley's ex, while Chang wants into the study group
"Community" is back for new episodes in the new year, and I have a review of tonight's episode coming up just as soon as I give you a gym bag full of nickels...
What did everybody think of the sitcom's real debut?
When I reviewed NBC's "Perfect Couples" last month, tonight's pilot episode was one of the two I had seen. It wasn't great, or maybe even good, but I have to admit to laughing at a number of things Mary Elizabeth Ellis did, particularly in and around Game Night. Those of you who watched the December preview didn't seem impressed, but I thought this episode was better than that one (and the other episode I saw, set to air Feb. 3, is better than this one).
I probably don't have enough time or interest to work the show into the rotation in its current state, but given that this was the real premiere tonight, I'm curious what everyone thought of this one.
On guest star Malcolm Jamal-Warner, and Shirley and Abed's relationship
After a few weeks in reruns, "Community" is, like the rest of NBC's new Thursday sitcom lineup, back with a new episode tonight, guest-starring Malcolm Jamal-Warner from "The Cosby Show" as Shirley's oft-discussed ex-husband. So when I was trying to navigate NBC's overpacked press tour party last week, I made sure to talk to Yvette Nicole Brown about getting to work with Theo from "The Cosby Show." And as luck would have it, she was hanging around with co-star Danny Pudi, who had his own Theo memories to share.
(FYI, one of my questions gives away one joke from tonight's episode, so if you don't wanna know, don't click. But if you do read, you'll see that the question inspires Pudy to drop some amusing "Cosby Show" knowledge.)
Last week's pre-empted episode is sweet but not overwhelmingly funny
A quick review of last night's "Cougar Town" coming up just as soon as I throw on a nice Cuban suit...
Boring cases, boring supporting characters and no real separation from regular law shows
Early in the pilot of the new USA series "Fairly Legal" (which debuts tonight at 10), a judge (played by the estimable Gerald McRaney) explains what it is that the show's heroine, Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi) does for a living.
"A mediator is kind of a referee in a game with no rules - except those agreed to by the parties involved," he says, at the start of a monologue listing the sorts of disputes that Kate has mediated over the years.
As I watched the speech, it seemed quite helpful - not to learn what a mediator does (I already knew), but to get an idea of how the "Fairly Legal" creative team were attempting to separate their show, and heroine, from the average legal drama. (Also, if you need someone to deliver bald exposition, might as well have it be Major Dad.)
But as it turned out over the three episodes USA sent out for review (the pilot, a mid-season episode, and the first season finale), what Kate does only occasionally matches up with the judge's speech, and none of her cases are interesting enough to distinguish "Fairly Legal" from the abundance of law shows on TV.
TV's best comedy is on its game in episodes shot last spring
The belated third season premiere of TV's best comedy, "Parks and Recreation" (Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on NBC) opens with Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope facing a huge challenge. The government of Pawnee, Indiana has been shut down for months due to a budget crisis, and when she's finally allowed to return to work, it's without enough money to do anything. So Leslie, who never met a "no" she couldn't turn into at least an "I'll think about it," brings the parks department together and suggests a "go big or go home" project: one that will either save the department or cost everyone their job. And under ridiculous pressure and tight deadlines, Leslie and company begin doing some of their most impressive work ever.
That storyline plays out as a metaphor for how the early part of this season was made. When Poehler became pregnant again last winter - and when everyone assumed "Parks and Rec" would be back on the air in the fall - the cast and crew agreed to stay in production after the second season had wrapped, making enough episodes to air during the period when Poehler would be on maternity leave. (Click here for my interview with Poehler, which is worth it just for her explanation of how she knows Adam Scott.)
The writers bust on the actors, and the actors bust on each other
Of all the delights of ABC's "Cougar Town," the most surprising one may be Josh Hopkins as Grayson, the emotionally closed-off boyfriend of Courteney Cox's Jules. I'd seen everyone else on the show be funny at one point or another, and the big eureka moment of the show's first season was when creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel realized that they should just provide opportunities for them all to be funny together.
Hopkins, though, I mainly knew from straight dramatic roles on shows like "New York Undercover" and "Swingtown." (His IMDb lists some comedic shows, but I either never saw them, like "Pepper Dennis," or had stopped watching by the time he turned up, like on "Ally McBeal.") But he's been a ton of fun, whether playing goofy songs on his acoustic guitar, dancing to Enya in acid-washed jeans or squirming as other characters make fun of his "tiny eyes."
So when the TV critics made a field trip to the "Cougar Town" set last week, I made sure to chat with Hopkins for a few minutes about the agony and ecstasy of having your personal traits turned into jokes on the show, and about getting typecast based on the last thing you do in this business.
Is the show investing too much time in the Haddie/Alex storyline?
A quick review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I negotiate for both popcorn and candy...
On the long hiatus, Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, and Ron Effing Swanson
Amy Poehler couldn't be more excited to reintroduce America to Leslie Knope.
Leslie, the optimistic, super-competent civil servant heroine of NBC's "Parks and Recreation," has been in limbo since May, after NBC execs decided to hold the show for mid-season. (And this was after the cast and crew stayed in production after last season was finished so they would have episodes to air in the fall while Poehler was on maternity leave.) But the show is coming back on Thursday night at 9:30, in the best timeslot NBC has (after "The Office"), and Poehler is pumped for viewers to see these new episodes - not just because they're among the best stretches the show has had, but because so few people saw the show last season when (after a shaky first season) it established itself as TV's best comedy.
I'll post my review later today (UPDATE: here it is), but here's a transcript of my recent interview with Poehler, who spoke about her joy at having the show back on the air, about new co-stars Rob Lowe and Adam Scott (who appeared in the last two episodes of last season), about the joy of working alongside Nick Offerman as Ron Effing Swanson, and more.