Fall TV Reviews: 'Mom,' 'Hostages' & 'The Blacklist'
Hey everybody, as you know I am still in the hospital. Infections are tricky things, and we're just working to get this one under control.
I'll be fine, but for now — and even after I'm home — I'm going to be at half-speed, at best, for a while. With the TV season officially beginning tonight, this is not an ideal time for that, but what can you do? I'll be writing fewer reviews, what I do write will often be shorter than normal, etc.
As it happens, this is a pretty weak season in terms of new shows, so I have no problem cutting bait on long reviews (or reviews of any kind) of most of the newbies. When I have time or energy, I'll put together posts like this one with very quick hits on what's debuting that night, just so you have some sense of my initial thoughts. If I stick with a rookie, maybe down the road I'll do something longer. (And some shows, like "SHIELD," will get the fuller treatment up-front.) There may be shows that are just skipped altogether, maybe a lot, depending on how I feel as the week moves on.
Three premieres tonight, with a sitcom and two dramas. In order:
"Mom" (9:30 p.m., CBS): The Chuck Lorre factory's latest, in which Anna Farris is a recovering alcoholic single mom who blames all her failings on her own recovering alcoholic single mom, played by Allison Janney. There are a couple of scenes in the middle of the pilot (at an AA meeting and then when the two leads go to a coffee shop after) that have a realness and a humanity to them in spots that evoke some of Lorre's better work on "Roseanne" and "Grace Under Fire." But the pilot feels like 17 shows all crammed together into one — including a lot of wacky antics at the restaurant where Farris works with Nate Corddry and French Stewart, plus Matt Jones (Badger from "Breaking Bad") as her stoner ex — that I want to wait to see what it settles down into, or if it'll continue to be all over the place. Grade: C+
"Hostages" (10 p.m., CBS): Boy, did I hate this. It's CBS' attempt to do "24," with a 15-episode season where FBI agent Dylan McDermott takes surgeon Toni Collette and her family prisoner so she'll murder the President during an operation. The characters wander a spectrum from boring to irritating (guess which end the two teenage kids wind up on?), and the situation already feels unsustainable by the end of the first episode. I do not care what happens to any of these people, so why do I want to watch them stuck in this claustrophobic tension dealing with contrived situations that will prolong it over a season? I would say it misunderstands exactly what it is that people like in serialized cable dramas, but then I think of the ratings for "Under the Dome" and "The Following," and wonder if CBS might not have a hit on its hands despite the terrible writing. Grade: D
"The Blacklist" (10 p.m., NBC): James Spader is "concierge of crime" Red Reddington, the elusive, all-knowing master facilitator of global crime and terror; one day, for mysterious reasons, Red turns himself into the FBI and offers to help them catch 100 bad guys of his choosing, but only so long as he works through rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). It's a pretty shameless "Silence of the Lambs" rip-off — one scene in the pilot beat-for-beat copies the "quid pro quo, Clarice" scene where Lecter gets Clarice to talk about her childhood — but also a fun character for Spader to play, and the writers know what to have their leading man do and say. I can let some derivative writing go if a show has a clear understanding of what it is, and, more importantly, has a thing it does very well. Do I need to see another episode of this? Probably not. Will I watch it more just to enjoy Spader and see if Red's motivation is the thing everyone has been assuming since the trailer was released? Absolutely. Grade: B-
No time to put together individual talkback posts for each, so feel free to comment here after they've aired tonight.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org