Fall TV: Hits And Misses
By Stacey Gillard
Well here we are again, thrown into the desolate waste-land that is the mid-season hiatus. In my Fall Preview I noted 4 new shows that were on my watch-list. Now that we’ve had a few months to get to know what each of these have to offer I have some thoughts on where we are at. Here are my reviews and grades, some kinder than others.
I couldn’t make it through even a shortened season of the new Fox show. I had high hopes after finding the movie intriguing and I felt there were many avenues to explore. Sadly, none of the characters grabbed my attention and it felt to me like a slow, angst-ridden police procedural. Stark Sands (Dash) did the best he could with what he was given and his comedic timing and social awkwardness were shining points of the show. However, the lack of chemistry between any of the characters, especially between Sands and Meagan Good’s Vega, who lacked any ability to smile or find humor in a situation, prevented me from relating to their various situations. Nick Zano had great potential as Dash’s twin brother, Arthur. There were flashes of brotherly caring but there was always an agenda to Arthur’s actions that created an insidious undercurrent for every interaction. And don’t even get me started on Agatha and her actions on the island. I found nothing redeeming about her character. I tried to make it to at least the winter hiatus for the purposes of writing this review but watching became a chore.
I did not include this CBS show in my original preview because, while I enjoyed the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie, I was disheartened by the ending and had concerns about the show’s longevity given the subject matter. However, I was delighted to be proven wrong and Limitless has become a show I greatly look forward to each week, so I decided to throw it in as a counter to the negativity of Minority Report! Flawed characters are a weakness of mine (hence my love of Supernatural’s Winchester brothers!) and Jake McDorman’s Brian Finch fits the bill. The humor of the character, his teetering just on the legal side of things with his methods, his irreverence towards his superiors, all add up to an appealing character. But what makes Brian someone I will root for is his vulnerability, his self-doubt and his struggle to live up to standards he believes his family holds him to. The chemistry between McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter as his FBI partner Rebecca Harris is perfectly played, no hint of a romantic interest and as the series has progressed, so has their friendship. With few people knowing the source of Brian’s brilliance, Rebecca is a trusted confidante, although she, too, is in the dark about Senator Morra’s (Bradley Cooper) involvement. The darkness of Morra that had me disappointed in the movie has translated well to the small screen and as a villain he has a perfect combination of intimidation and ambition. With a stellar supporting cast, consisting of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Brian and Rebecca’s long-suffering commanding officer, Hill Harper as Rebecca’s often cynical partner and Ron Rifkin as Brian’s doting but over-protective father, among others, this show seems to be one that could go places.
I must admit that while looking forward to CBS’s take on the DC world, I had some reservations after seeing the pilot. Melissa Benoist is, let’s be honest, adorable. Her Kara Danvers is bumbling, clumsy and eager to please but I wasn’t 100% sold on her conversion to a superhero. As the series has progressed, though, she’s starting to earn her cape and recent episodes where she’s struggled to contain her powers have given Benoist an opportunity to build layers to the character. Chyler Leigh as Kara’s double-life leading sister, Alex, is a nice example of a strong yet feminine character and she has great chemistry with Benoist. Kara’s co-workers and friends have developed a great working relationship; crush-worthy James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) and love-lorn Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) make up team Supergirl, even having a secret lair in the CatCo tower. One of my issues with the pilot episode was the ruthlessness and callous attitude of Cat Graham (Calista Flockhart). It raised the question of why a strong, female character needed to have a bitchy, chip-on-her-shoulder demeanor. Over the course of the initial 8 episodes, however, we’ve been given glimpses into Cat’s motivation, especially telling was the visit from her mother, and she seems to have softened slightly around the edges making her a lot more appealing. Her interactions with Cara have evolved into more of a mentorship role and while she rushes to cover any moments of vulnerability with a snide remark I feel in many ways her relationship with her assistant is softening her slightly. If I had to be picky I’ve been a little disappointed in the visual effects, especially considering the budget should be higher on a major network like CBS. But overall I’m invested in the characters and the growing story arc has definitely kept me interested.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Grinder! I was looking forward to it but had reservations about the brand of humor being promised. I shouldn’t have worried, not with Golden Globe nominated Rob Lowe breathing life into the ridiculous character that is Dean Sanderson. On so many levels Dean epitomizes the less appealing aspects of “typical Hollywood” and yet he somehow turns it into a lovable naiveté. He truly believes he can be a lawyer because of his on-screen experience and his heart is definitely in the right place. Fred Savage is brilliant as long-suffering brother Stewart, often overlooked as he moves around in Dean’s shadow. Stewart’s wife Debbie (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) tends to back her husband’s play but also manages to keep him grounded when he has his outlandish ideas to expose Dean for the imposter he is. Their children, fantastically played by Hana Hayes and Connor Kalopsis, are star-struck by their uncle and Stewart has to stand by and watch as they go to Dean for life advice. All this should add up to angst but the chemistry between Lowe and Savage is such that you end up truly believing in the brotherly bond and you know that Dean will stand up for Stewart in any given situation. The hilarious appearance by Timothy Olyphant as Dean’s rival in the mid-season finale was a marvelous opportunity for the writers to showcase the neuroses of actors as well as the bizarre expectations some fan-bases have. One of the funniest characters created in recent years and perfectly portrayed by Steve Little, Todd is a caricature of rabid fandom and our expectations, his fawning over Dean practically steals every scene he’s in. As much of an idiot Dean appears to be Lowe has brought him to life in such a way that you can’t help but want to wrap him in a blanket, pat him on the head and tell him it’ll all be okay. Definitely a keeper on my series recording schedule!
One of the most anticipated new shows of the season, NBC’s Blind Spot was a little tough to get into for this reviewer. Using a choppy, hand-held style of direction to reflect the confusion and panic of Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) was a good artistic decision but after a few scenes it started to be a little distracting. The story, however, was compelling enough for me to keep watching and over the first half of the season it’s become a favorite of mine. Alexander brings a vulnerability to Jane, despite her expertise in martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. Each time she feels lost or out of her comfort zone because of her amnesia the viewer feels the visceral fear with her. Her partner, Kurt Weller, played by Australian Sullivan Stapleton is a man filled with guilt regarding his link to Jane’s disappearance as a child. I think his link to her past was well handled by the writers. It was a surprise but it wasn’t made to feel “convenient.” While technically a procedural, Jane’s tattoos offering clues to crimes committed or about to be committed add a layer of mystery to the whole premise that has kept me hooked. Add into that the growing chemistry between Jane and Weller, which was inevitable considering the charged atmosphere between the two from the first moment, interesting back stories to the other agents working on their team and a lovable tech, Patterson, played by the adorable Ashley Johnson and Blind Spot is finding a rhythm that has made it quite addictive. The conspiracy involving Weller’s superior Mayfair (the ever brilliant Marianne Jean-Baptiste) was a little irritating and seemed to drag out but now that has been explained I’m actually looking forward to seeing how Carter (Michael Gaston) will get his comeuppance. Definitely an intriguing show and I’m glad I stuck with it through the shaky beginnings.
So there we have it. 2015’s Fall Season has been successful in the most part. Not only that but we’ve had a fairly strong start to the sophomore season of The Flash (although I do wish there were a few less tears), a shocking cliff-hanger in the middle of the 4th season of Arrow as well as a jaw-dropping moment to keep us on tenterhooks until the return of Agents of SHIELD in March! Supernatural remains strong in its 11th season, with a familiar return to Monster of the Week episodes and the brothers actually getting along. And I may finally be getting my Shamy moment on The Big Bang Theory! It’s been a blast! What about you? What new shows have you hooked? What returning shows are giving you the warm fuzzies? As always, we’d love to hear from you.
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