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  • Great Cast but Mr. Sunshine is Mostly Cloudy

    February 11th, 2011

    By Danny Manus (the TV Whore)

    This week I watched the premiere of two new comedies on ABC. Matthew Perry and Allison Janney’s “Mr. Sunshine,” and the relationship comedy with the oddest title ever, “Traffic Light.” First up – Mr. Sunshine.

    How can a comedy with favorite “Friends” star Matthew Perry, the insanely talented and watchable Emmy Award winner Allison Janney, the hilarious Andrea Anders (Joey, Better Off Ted), and the affable Nate Torrence (Studio 60) that’s directed by Tommy Schlamme (West Wing) go wrong?

    I don’t know…but it did.  Badly. And here’s the awful part…I don’t care. I’m going to keep watching.

    I take that back – I know why it doesn’t work. It’s just a really, really bad concept and setting. Matthew Perry’s character, a 40 year old island of a man who doesn’t remember people’s names and doesn’t care about anyone but himself (in other words – ME in 10 years) and runs a rundown stadium. It’s just not a very interesting set up or location. There are only so many concert jokes or sporting event jokes available.

    His relationship with Andrea Anders character is sweet and we get it – they are going to try to be friends for a while but eventually wind up together. And she is so pitch-perfect funny, it’s hard not to like her. I do appreciate the odd incestuous Hollywood connection that she used to play Matt LeBlanc’s friend/love interest on “Joey” and now she’s traded him in for a different “Friend.”

    My friend pointed out that Matthew Perry can’t act if his hands are in his pants. He has to constantly be moving his hands. I watched every single episode of Friends probably 10 times over, but I never noticed it…until now. His gesticulations make what he’s saying funnier and help his comic timing, but man is it distracting now for some reason. I’ve never seen someone use their hands as actual punctuation marks – but he does.

    James Lesure – I don’t get him. I didn’t like his smarmy too-cool-for-the-room shtick on Vegas and I don’t really like it here, especially since it’s a much less cool room he’s in. And Nate Torrence – I feel like I’m just as funny (and fat) and therefore could have played this role and probably better.

    But allow me to take a moment to kiss the feet of Allison Janney, one of my favorite actresses. And as a West Wing superfanatic, and someone who has followed her career even before West Wing (and most certainly after), it’s nice to see her on TV again. And she does play this over-the-top, in-her-own-reality character of Crystal with reckless abandon and clueless perfection. But I’m not sure for how long that character will continue to seem funny even with her wide-eyed, sharp-tongued portrayal.

    Allison Janney guest starred on an episode of Studio 60 with Matthew Perry (and he guested on several episodes of West Wing) and they had great chemistry on both shows. And I would normally have killed to see them together again, especially on a sitcom. And their relationship in Sunshine seems to be the most interesting of all, but I don’t think it’s enough to keep the show fresh and funny for more than a few weeks. There was only one good laugh in this pilot – and that came from Janney’s character launching a child at an ax-wielding clown. A physical gag to say the least, but her reaction made it work. But other than that…it was pretty bad.

    But as I said, I will stick with it. Why? Because actors like Perry, Janney and Anders deserve our support and have made us laugh enough that we owe it to them to give them a shot. Plus, I really do feel like Matthew Perry’s character might be a foreshadowing of my life to come (minus the elephants and clowns), so is suppose I should keep watching to see how I turn out.

    Overall Grade: C – (would be a D without the cast)

  • Respecting The Chicago Code

    February 11th, 2011

    By Danny Manus (the TV Whore)

    Shawn Ryan, creator of one of the best cop shows of all time, “The Shield,” is back with a new network cop show set in Chicago, aptly named “The Chicago Code.”  Though originally titled “Ride-Along,” it’s clear why the change was made. This new cop drama is very much about the code that police, criminals and politicians in Chicago live by and how they all seem to intersect.

    It follows Det. Jarek Wysocki (played by the powerful Jason Clarke) and the new Police Superintendent (the almost pitch-perfect Jennifer Beals) as they try to bring down the man who seemingly runs their city (the deliciously evil Delroy Lindo).

    Now let me say this – I loved The Shield. I loved it a lot. And I’ve met Shawn Ryan and he’s a great guy. And not only am I a sucker for cop shows, but I am a huge fan of Jennifer Beals, who I think is such an underrated actress and who was one of my main reasons for watching The L Word all those years (other than the naked girl-on-girl action and Kathryn Moenning – but that’s another story). So, this was easily the most anticipated show of the year for me.

    And I know a show is good and has promise when the morning after it premieres, my mother, my best friend in NY and my best friend in LA all text me to tell me how much they loved it. That’s never happened…ever.

    And here’s the thing – if I had never watched The Shield, like my parents hadn’t, and I just came into this show without any preconceived notions or expectations – I’d probably think it was the best new drama of the year. But since I had…I was just SLIGHTLY disappointed. I know – it’s a network show. And the brilliant Ryan didn’t WANT to write another disturbingly gritty, all hand-held camera shot show. And he doesn’t have the luxury of the colorful language he was able to use on FX. So, taking those things into consideration, I thought the show was great. It pulled me in, it made me interested, and it makes me want to keep watching. But…it’s not The Shield.

    Beals has this fantastic Chicago accent that she must have worked really hard on, and I appreciate that. And I do love a girl in uniform. From Shield’s Catherine Dent to Third Watch’s Molly Price to Homicide’s Melissa Leo – I’ve always loved female cop roles. And I think Jennifer Beals’ Superintendent Colvin has the potential to be the next great one.

    Clarke has this hardened exterior that he’s perfected on some other great shows and really gets to show it off nicely here.  His new partner, the fresh-faced but all-business Caleb Evers (played by Friday Night Lights star Matt Lauria), is a strong supporting character, though all the other supporting players will hopefully be better defined in the next few episodes.

    And it’s going to be interesting watching their take-down of Delroy Lindo’s character play out, though you have to wonder how long it could take. If it takes all 13 episodes of the first season, does that mean the show gets a new villain for the second season (assuming there will be one – and there will be)?

    The storyline I’m not convinced of yet is Det. Wysocki’s affair with his ex-wife when he has a girlfriend, and the whole niece/uncle connection he has with another young officer…not totally on board yet. But his friendship and former partnership with Beals’ character is what’s driving the ship for me

    The pilot was strong and had a fresh, exciting feel to it mixed with just a bit of emotion at the end. I am definitely looking forward to episode number two. Frankly, I’m just happy that there’s finally a good combo-show with House on Monday nights so I never have to watch The Bachelor ever, ever again, since that was the only other thing on besides Two and a Half Men (no thanks) and The Cape (definitely no thanks).  So, good for Fox for finding a cop show that stands out amongst the rest and feels both serial and procedural at the same time. Tune in Monday night on Fox at 9pm and judge for yourself.

    Overall Grade: B+ (with definite A potential)

  • The Best Love Story on TV

    February 11th, 2011

    By Danny Manus (the TV Whore)

    Television is home to some of the greatest love stories ever told – past and present couples that define and defy love to create moments that audiences hold dear for eternity.

    Lucy and Ricky, Sam and Diane, Ross and Rachel, Carrie and Big, Homer and Marge, Jim and Pam, Dan and Roseanne, Al and Peggy, Will and Grace, Luke and Laura, Mulder and Scully, Meredith and McDreamy…

    But for my money, my favorite love story CURRENTLY on television is the budding romance between Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic’s work and sparring partners on CASTLE, one of the most enjoyable shows on ABC.  Producers planted this tiny little seed in the first episode of how Katic’s Beckett may have this secret hang-up for Castle’s books, but she played it really straight with him the first season,  not letting on (to him) at all, which led to some great banter and the feeling like it would take 4-5 years for them to get together.

    But this season, after some very personal and moving episodes (especially the search for Beckett’s mother’s killer), their relationship has turned more personal – more connected. Their walls seem to have come down very quickly. Their across-the-room glances and hidden smiles aren’t so hidden anymore. Their eyes meet now. They thank each other, they hug. And as of a couple weeks ago, they had their first kiss…and it was hot.

    Sure, it was disguised by a case and an undercover ploy, but it satisfied audiences goading for them to finally connect physically in some way

    The other difference is that instead of it going unsaid, their actual love and attraction for each other has been brought up and discussed by tons of other characters on the show, so it has been brought to the forefront. We know she’s the only reason he’s still at the precinct and we know she doesn’t mind having him there. But they still have a great working relationship and that great Moonlighting-style banter that keeps the show going.

    It doesn’t hurt that Fillion is incredibly charming and disarming. He’s written as funny and smart with just the perfect amount of bumbling and perhaps just a tad too much cheese. Katic is written as a smart, sexy take-control type – very Alpha Woman – but she has a huge heart and a clear soft spot. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s insanely beautiful – easily one of the 3 best looking women in television.

    And the show itself, though formulaic and procedural, is still original and literate and fun. While I think it’s weird that Beckett seems to boss around all the other detectives in her squad like she’s in charge, it still seems to work and I like how the supporting players get their moments to shine in comedy and drama. And in case you don’t care about the cops, the cases or Castle himself, the stunning 18-year old red-head Molly Quinn, who plays Castle’s teen daughter, is enough reason to watch. Even though her dialogue is the most unauthentic and saccharine cheesy of any character, she’s so ridiculously hot that it doesn’t matter.

    So, if you’re looking for comedy, drama, and the best love story currently on TV, storm the Castle 10pm Mondays on ABC.

  • TV Review: SKINS – Scripted Kiddie Porn Comes to MTV

    January 20th, 2011

    I had seen the ads everywhere. The commercials filled with quick cuts and flashy lights and the print ads filled with layered teenage bodies all ready for a good time. And in the season premiere of this UK remake on MTV, Skins proves one thing…if you’re young teenager isn’t snorting coke, smoking weed, ditching school, partying hard, ignoring their parents, getting into fights, talking in abbreviated Juno-speak, and fucking everything that moves like they’re Charlie fucking Sheen…apparently, they should be. Because then they will be cool.

    Now I’ve never seen the UK version of Skins, but from what I hear, it’s much better than the US version (not a shocker). And surprisingly, the US version has cut out the gay character – because teenagers giving tons of head and taking it in the ass is fine – unless it’s two teenage dudes.  

    And I know this review makes me a bit hypocritical, as I used to rally around the fact that TV doesn’t desensitize or influence kids that badly…but I was wrong. And now, at age 30, I wonder what my teenage years would have been like if there were things like this on TV. There was “Real World” and shows like that when I was a teen – but that was adults doing adult things (or at least college kids). Let’s call Skins what it really is – scripted Kiddie Porn.

    It takes those Abercrombie and Fitch ads…and puts words into the models mouths.  In case boys and pedophiles didn’t have enough material to masturbate to…thank God for Skins.

    On the technical side, the directing is nicely done without too much frenetic movement. And the acting itself is OK. The first episode featured the character Tony, played by James Newman, 18, who apparently was a boxer who just happened to show up at the auditions. If this kid is a nice guy in real life, then he’s a great actor, because he plays a douchebag with utter conviction.  The other actors are all OK, and I look forward to seeing more from the girl who plays Tea…who is a lesbian…and crazy hot.

    That’s the other problem with this show…since the actors actually ARE teenagers (not like in my day where the 90210 stars were actually 26) – I kind of feel bad watching them makeout and writhe against each other and wear clothes that some strippers wouldn’t be caught in. And yet part of me likes it. And that’s the whole point of the show…

    The show is completely glorifying teen sex, drugs, parental negligence, and illegal behavior. I’m far from a prude – the opposite actually – but how many shows can MTV put on that glorifies the WORST in teen behavior?

    From Jersey Shore to TEEN MOMS (the downfall of society) to My Sweet 16 to now Skins – how are teens supposed to TRY to do the right thing or TRY to do well in school or TRY to resist peer pressure when every single show targeted at them is about anything but? They are all about getting laid, getting high, and how stupid and disconnected their parents are…well DUH.

    When I was a teen (and it really wasn’t THAT long ago), if a 16 year old chick got pregnant – guess what – she was a stupid WHORE who was driven to the clinic. She wasn’t a fucking reality star. Maybe – just MAYBE – if networks like MTV and even ABC Family to a degree would stop making all the really bad behavior seem like such a good idea, teen girls might stop whoring themselves out on webcams and teen boys would stop killing themselves over being gay. It’s not THE reason these things happen certainly, but it can’t help.

    And going back to the 90210 comparison – that show dealt with similar topics like teen suicide, teen pregnancy, sex in high school, cheating, fighting, rape, drug use, etc. BUT – they showed the consequences to the characters’ actions.  It wasn’t all fun and games. GLEE does a similar nice job trying to show consequences to actions and words (with the exception of that whole teen pregnancy thing which seemed to go away without a problem).

    But Skins is unabashed in taking those consequences out of the equation. And that’s the biggest issue with teenagers today – they don’t think about consequences. And why should they? Parents and teachers don’t hold them responsible for anything, and TV shows are telling them not to worry – it will all blow over in 60 minutes or less.

    Good luck Skins, I hope you inspire plenty of 14 year olds girls to rush out and get their first STD. Hey, that sounds like an idea for a spinoff…instead of Skins…Lesions!

  • TV Review: AMERICAN IDOL Premiere

    January 20th, 2011

    That’s right, I’ll admit it. I watch American Idol. I have since season one and at one time, I was a total fanatic. To this day, I have a total Kelly Clarkson fetish. And Carrie Underwood too. But besides those two and perhaps Daughtry and Adam Lambert (both of whom didn’t win), what has American Idol done for music lately?  It took me a minute to remember who won last year, and we haven’t heard from Lee Dwyze since (which I’m okay with). So can they go back to finding true superstar talent now that Simon’s not there?

    I based my business model after Simon Cowell – naturally, I was a fan. And while on occasion he was too cruel, sometimes people need to hear it. And for me, along with some good singing, Simon was the reason to watch. I also really liked Kara (I think I was the only one though) – I thought she was blunt and cool and just a bit high strung and pretty hot and that’s how I like my judging. But with both of them gone (and thankfully Ellen too), the new panel of judges of Steven Tyler, J-Lo and the “Dawg” Randy Jackson are missing something – and I hope they find it before it’s too late.

    I realize it was only the first episode, so I’m not going to judge the whole season yet and I’m going to give them some time to adjust to their new jobs, but the judges were just SOOO nice. It was like watching Paula Abdul times 3, but with less medication.  And perhaps it is the cynical asshole in me, but while I don’t like watching 2 hours of the WORST singers ever, I do like watching people get told the truth. And last night, the judges sent 51 (!!) people thru to Hollywood in the first 2 days of audition. This is about DOUBLE the amount they usually send from each location. At this rate, they will have 500 people go to Hollywood instead of the 200ish they usually bring.

    I know part of this is due to editing, but it really seemed like EVERYONE got a golden ticket and that’s mostly because they were solely going on voice and didn’t know how to say NO. And American Idol isn’t just about voice – it’s about having IT, it’s about having the ability to be the “American Idol.”

    And that trashy Jersey Shore reject with stars on her tits and her Snooki-gut hanging out – wasn’t Idol material. But because she could put a few notes together, she got through. Same for a couple others like the off-the-wall chick that sang show-tunes and wants to be the next Liza. I liked her – I thought she was a friggin’ hoot and for some reason, I think the ‘white-trash sexy’ look is hot – but come on – she’s not the next American Idol so why put her through?

    Same with a bunch of other contestants who were OK singers but certainly don’t deserve to be on AI. For me, there were only a couple of standouts include Robbie Rosen from Long Island, who was wheelchair bound and now isn’t. He was probably the best of the bunch.

    The other thing that stood out this year is the number of 15 and 16 year olds was WAY higher than any year before. This is the first year 15 year olds have been allowed to compete, and there were a few good ones, but it makes me feel like a dirty old man because some of them were…well…really hot (like that girl whose dad had throat cancer).  Luckily Steven Tyler is there to hit on them for me.

    Unfortunately, I think MOST of the 15 year olds will flame out at Hollywood week. Yes, they can sing, but I’m guessing many don’t know how to arrange music and sing with a group and sing music that they haven’t been rehearsing for years.

    I’m still waiting to see what Jimmy Iovine brings to the show in the mentor capacity, but I’m happy that they have done away with bringing in a different star to mentor them every week – that was pointless and they often gave conflicted notes to the contestants. And thank God the theme weeks are gone too – no more disco! I respect exec producer Nigel Lythgoe a lot – he’s talented, he’s got personality, and I think he does an awesome job on So You Think You Can Dance. And he did a great job on the first 5 seasons or so of Idol, so I think he’s going to shake up the show well. But for now, he just needs to get his judges to have a stronger backbone.

    I think J-Lo brings a personality to the show and I don’t hate her, she just needs to toughen up. Everyone knows (or thinks) she’s a bitch, so I understand her wanting to go the total other way to improve her image and become profitable again (let’s face it, the girls’ movie and music career is pretty much over), but she has to lay the smack down every once in a while. Randy’s doing a better job as the heavy, but he still needs to stop reaching his neck out like a damn peacock and he needs to say more than 5 words if he’s going to be the Simon of the bunch.

    And Steven Tyler…what can I say? I love the guy. Aerosmith is in my top 5 favorite bands of all-time. But he reminds me a little bit of what would happen if Gary Busey was also a musical genius and could hit on 16 year olds girls without seeming like a total rapist.  But, I’ve got hope. And the chance to hear him sing on Idol is worth the wait.

    So, I’m going to give this season a shot. The first episode was…NICE. Not bad, not great…just NICE. Hopefully, the talent gets better than the first two days. And hopefully the judges get a bit tougher. And despite ratings being down another 10% from last year, that’s pretty good considering its shining Simon star is gone. I think people will stick around as long as Idol keeps hitting the right notes.

  • TV Review: Harry’s Law

    January 19th, 2011

    By Danny Manus

    I tell my writers that creating their own voice is what’s going to set them apart, get them noticed, and give them a longstanding career. There are very few names in drama television – as far as writer/producers go – where their voice is known throughout the land and their names truly mean something to the viewing public (and not just those of us living and working in Hollywood). Sorkin, Milch, Chase, Wells…and Kelley.

    Their voices live on in some of the greatest characters and lines of dialogue ever written. Their names are to be revered. They are to be studied. They are to be loved. 

    But sometimes…some of these names need to be told …No. And this is much the case with David E. Kelley’s new show “Harry’s Law,” which premiered to pretty decent numbers on Monday night and as number 1 in the demo in their hour.

    Let me say this first – “Doogie Howser” and “LA Law” were two of the first adult shows I remember watching with my parents (along with “Dallas” and “Three’s Company”) and it made me not just love television – but love law as well. “Picket Fences,” though not as flashy as his other shows, was the one my family used to gather together to watch and I always loved it (and it launched Don Cheadle’s career). Then came “Chicago Hope,” which began my love affairs with Mandy Patinkin, Peter MacNicol and Christine Lahti and launched the career of Peter Berg among others. I can still remember singing along with Mandy and bawling my eyes out in the episode where (ten year old spoiler alert) Peter MacNicol’s character dies.  

    “The Practice” is in my top 10 all-time favorite shows without a doubt – total appointment television – and made me a huge Camryn Manheim fan. “Ally McBeal” will always have a fond Vonda Shephard place in my heart. Even “Boston Legal,” my least favorite of his shows, was still entertaining and quirky. And “Boston Public,” was my network television debut as I was an extra in two episodes and got to meet the cast (my friend worked on the show), but it made me love TV even more being a tiny part of it.

    So it’s with great sadness and reverence that I say that David E. Kelley has jumped the shark and I think someone needs to tell him…NO. His newest rehashing of old quirks and gimmicks and verbose leftwing soapbox rhetoric just doesn’t live up. Despite a convincing performance by Academy Award winner Kathy Bates, the rest of the show is just….silly. And not GOOD entertainment silly like Ally McBeal. Not SO over the top silly that it’s actually funny like Boston Legal. It’s just….silly.

    First off, he moved the show’s location to Cincinnati and yet the streets look exactly the same as his Boston sets. And I kind of feel the city’s location was whispered as it gave Kelley a pain in his heart not to say Boston in the first few words of dialogue. And there’s nothing interesting about Cincinnati

    Second, while I love Brittany Snow and I was a fan of Nate Cordry’s when he was on Sorkin’s “Studio 60”, I don’t think either of them have the depth of talent or consistency of timing YET to pull of Kelley’s awkwardly paced quirky dialogue and this was most evident in Cordry’s courtroom scene where he just keeps going on (louder and louder) without realizing he’s trying too hard. And we can see it.

    The beauty of Peter MacNicol, Greg German, John Larroquette or Camryn Manheim is that their characters’ quirks and ticks, mannerisms and timing were just…natural. They didn’t feel like they were trying to hit the mark how Kelley told them to. And the actors of Harry’s Law have not worked out the kinks yet. Now, Nate Cordry took over for Ben Chaplin (who was in the pilot when it was bought and whom I can’t see being funny at all), so perhaps it will just take some time.

    But the quirks themselves – guest star Paul McCrane’s double speak stammer, Cordry’s rapid fire courtroom shtick, Bates’ gun-toting potty mouth, Christopher MacDonald’s grandiose flashyness, Snow’s love of fashion, and every black thug character’s heart of gold – he’s done it all before. And the whole Law Firm/Shoe Store gag – it was done much better with the bowling alley law firm on NBC’s “Ed” a few years back (which btw launched the careers of Justin Long, Gennifer Goodwin and Julie Bowen and was a more heartfelt show).

    And this time around, it feels like David E. Kelley would rather grandstand about his favorite issue of the day then tell a story and make us laugh or care or think. He’d rather pummel us with liberal bias, the same types of rants that got Studio 60 cancelled after one season.

    So if I was NBC, I’d tell Kelley to take a week off and go observe people who are different from him – not liberal, not lawyers, not in Hollywood – and come back with some new stories, new quirks, new characters, and new ideas. Otherwise, Harry’s Law is going to be found guilty of the worst crime in television – unoriginality. And the sentence is one 13-episode season.

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