Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Podcast: Comics in Widescreen

Working on a new podcast this summer with Charles Crane and Erik Brodsho called Comics in Widescreen.  We are meeting each week to discuss something related to superhero movies.  Our first episode is all about the unforgivable mess, Amazing Spider-Man 2.

We are still working on some technical things so it is not on iTunes yet.  But it can be downloaded for free here: https://mega.co.nz/#!XF0xVBAZ!8xwG3qu2A6YNlnf0Hf7aQ3EkIQTbapnZHa82i8h8SN8

You can also listen to it on my YouTube channel.  I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NBC Sitcoms 2013-14: Renewals and Cancelations

Parks and Recreation
While this show is not the ratings success that The Office was or the Emmy favorite that was 30 Rock this remains NBC's most dependable sitcom.  Going into its seventh season this is the only show that could still be considered Must See TV even if ratings have never backed it up.  By the time sitcoms get to six seasons they usually experience a drop in quality, but Parks and Rec still feels fresh.  Everyone involved clearly loves being on this program and the writing is as sharp as ever.  The show survived the loss of Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe and the diminished role of Chris Pratt by increasing the importance of the dependable Retta, adding in the lively Billy Eichner and continuing to include memorable guest stars with the brilliant Sam Elliott being the best of the bunch.  The show is taking a big risk by jumping ahead seven years in the timeline, but then again this show has always been about big risks.  This show has always overcome its obstacles because it is clearly a project of passion for the artists and the audience.  Next season is its final one and it is good that it will end on its own terms, but that is not good for NBC who will essentially be starting fresh with comedy if their new shows continue to falter.  I am a little nervous because the series has not been scheduled for the fall.  It will most likely premiere mid-season (possibly to accommodate new movie star Chris Pratt?) or will replace an early cancelation (my money is on A to Z).

About a Boy
Extremely notable as NBC's first new sitcom to get a second season in two years.  NBC is no longer the home of comedy that it once was but this pleasant dramedy seems to be doing well on Tuesdays.  This is NBC's third Jason Katim's series based on a movie and his experience shows.  The kid is well cast, Minnie Driver is fun on a sitcom but the real reason to watch the show is David Walton.  Walton, who was a stand-out on New Girl and the failed NBC sitcom Bent, plays the type of man-child we have seen in a dozen other sitcoms.  Yet his distinct likability and sincerity makes him a great character to base a series around.  I am happy to see this continue.  Also notable for having a unique crossover with Katim's Parenthood.  Walton had a small cameo on that show this season while Dax Shepard had a similar cameo on this one, making for an interesting shared California universe.

Never got to the six seasons and the movie that fans have been hoping for, well on NBC anyways.  It really is astonishing that this series made it to five seasons on network television.  It has always done horrible in ratings, has always been put on hiatuses and even had a change in show runner before hiring Dan Harmon back.  But for the five seasons we had we got a real special show and last season was one of its best.  Dan Harmon did a great job re-establishing the premises and making it more accessible.  The exit of Troy was meaningful and Pierce seems to mean more in death than he ever did in life.  The addition of Jonathan Banks has done wonders for the group dynamic.  The show was still funny, insightful and heartfelt.  I hope that a sixth season shows up on another network or online, but NBC unfortunately didn't have much more to gain from it.

Welcome to the Family
This was one of the earliest cancelations of the TV season and I am not quite sure why.  Like many modern sitcoms it is not laugh out loud funny, it is much more like a half hour dramedy.  But there is a pleasantness and likability that this had that was lacking in many other new shows.  This could have improved with a second season, as many shows with a decent foundation do.  The highlight was Ricardo Antonio Chavira who is deserving of a leading role, but Mike O'Malley, Mary McCormack and Justina Machado were also great in their roles.  The show did not reinvent the wheel, but not all sitcoms should.  I saw more potential here, but clearly most people did not.

Michael J. Fox Show
One of several new shows that did not service the star it was based around.  Much was made of Michael J. Fox's return to acting, but his titular show was a dud.  It definitely tried, but the talking heads segments did not fit the style of the show, the jokes weren't funny and the supporting characters didn't work.  Despite the good overall premise of a father with Parkinsons going back to work the individual episodes did not have much going on.  It was just a dull show.  NBC was banking on a lot with this as they beat out all of the other networks in a bidding war but it did not do anything for them.

Sean Saves the World
This was another one that I personally think was canceled too soon.  It was not brilliant by any means and never stood above the competition.  But unlike most modern multi-cam sitcoms this show understands how that format should work.  Sean Hayes is great at playing to a studio audience and his physicality brings a lot of energy that most modern sitcoms lack.  Thomas Lennon also is pitch perfect in his gimmicky character role, he finds loads of weird idiosyncrasies that are just entertaining.  This series was pleasant, balanced work comedy with home comedy and most notably dealt with homosexuality in an extremely progressive way.  Sean's sexuality is openly acknowledged but is never treated like a joke.  This show really could have improved had it received a second season, but not many people seemed to like it.

Growing Up Fisher
I only saw the first episode and it was good enough, but not good enough to keep me coming back.  The highlight is clearly J.K. Simmons who is perfect in a goofy dad role, but aside from him there was not much that stood out.  The Goldbergs and Surviving Jack were other new shows that were structured around a narrator recounting his childhood and this series just felt redundant.  It was probably always just meant to be a mid-season filler.

ABC 2013-14 Sitcoms: Renewals and Cancellations

Modern Family
The show that turned comedy on ABC around continues to be its foundation and most consistent series.  With constant reruns on USA and syndication it is still going strong and is one of the top choice's for viewers who want a laugh.  It is easy to overlook as it is so dependable at the Emmy's while internet darlings never get noticed, but this show is the real deal.  The chemistry among the great cast is as good as ever and the writing supports the characters and continues to find insight in the modern family.  This show isn't going anywhere.

The Middle
For a series that most comedy fans ignore, it is amazing to realize how successful this rarely discussed series is.  It should be receiving a bump from its reruns and syndication.  But this is one of the most dependable sitcoms.  It does not rely on shock value and big events, it is much more old fashioned.  There is a timeless quality to this series as it deals with timeless family issues and dynamics.  Its run might not last too many more seasons as Axel is already going to college and Sue and Brick are also getting older.  But I wouldn't mind if this stuck around longer, it is a dependable show for ABC to stick with.

Last Man Standing
Yes, Tim Allen's new sitcom will be going into a fourth season.  I completely forgot that this existed until I did a review of every sitcom premiere last season.  What I found was that this show was actually decently serviceable.  It is definitely a B-grade Home Improvement, but it is the type of show that you would watch in the early 2000's just because it was on.  ABC is keeping this on Fridays, which is a tough night to find success on.  This old fashioned multi-cam show seems to be a good anchor for a night with struggling ratings.  Better for the network to keep it familiar than take a chance on a more expensive show.

The Goldbergs
This was the only one of ABC's five new shows to be picked up for a second season.  The strong ratings really surprised me as I thought the marketing was weak and I wasn't a huge fan of the show.  But a lot of people like the nostalgia and the family dynamic works for most people.  I think that there are definitely better sitcoms out there, but this has its audience and could definitely improve with a second season.  It is definitely a good fit for ABC's family themed Wednesday nights.

This show was always a mid-season filler.  It always aired after something else failed and it is surprising that it got to three seasons.  The show was never bad, but never all that great either.  The creator has new series on ABC this fall.  Wouldn't be surprised if reruns of this wound up on ABC Family.

The Neighbors
This is a rare high concept modern sitcom that was actually kind of fun.  The gimmick of aliens trying to adapt to Earth while keeping their own customs was solid enough.  The more family friendly series seemed like a good fit for Fridays, but I am sure that production costs weren't worth the poor ratings.  Nobody seemed to really like it though so no huge loss.

Trophy Wife
Out of all of the cancelations this was the one that I was the most upset with (aside from maybe Community which had plenty of second chances).  This series featured good writing and a really progressive view of blended family.  The actors all had chemistry and the characters were paired up in interesting ways.  The cast was uniformly excellent with Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford, Michaela Watkins and the intimidating Marcia Gay Harden giving some of the best comedy performances this season.  The three kids were also great, which is not always the case.  This is a show that really deserved a second season and with its similarities to Modern Family I am not sure why it did not click with viewers or critics.

After this, Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B ABC does not seem like the place for sitcoms targeted at twenties-thirties.  I did not get a chance to see the show, but I never heard much about it either.  The premise seemed very limited and it seemed to be a rare sitcom with ongoing story lines.  Was probably mid-season for a reason.

Super Fun Night
Rebel Wilson was a great star for ABC to get.  With her success in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect she really could have tapped into an important audience.  However the show just did not work.  It wasn't funny and did not serve the star you wanted to see.  I know that ABC reworked the show several times and there definitely felt like a lot of executive meddling.  It is a shame because this seemed to lose Wilson some important steam.  Surprised that there was not a better vehicle out there.

Back in the Game
Never saw this as a strong presence for an ongoing series.  Maggie Lawson was fine, but she wasn't the most sympathetic lead.  James Caan was a disappointment as he was too aggressive in the role.  The stand out was Ben Koldyke who is deserving of sitcom success.  The show relied on cheap stereotypes and just wasn't funny.  Surprised it lasted as long as it did.

Fox 2013-14 Sitcoms: Renewals and Cancellations


The Simpsons
No surprises that The Simpsons are still on Sundays, they are a network staple.  It is interesting to note though that this season did feature the lowest rated Simpsons episode of all time.  Although the Lego episode did bring the show some much needed publicity.  The Family Guy crossover next year should bring it some attention as well.  The show has not been a big deal in a long time, but it is still comfortable and is making money for Fox with marketing.

Family Guy
Also making money for Fox in marketing is this animated staple which is probably doing more for the company with reruns and DVDs.  The show which has not been relevant in a long time got some short-lived attention by killing Brian, but he got better.  This show will probably stay around longer, but does not have the same impact it once did.  Although the recent cancelation of The Cleveland Show and the transition of American Dad to cable show clear signs of a weakening brand.

New Girl
This was the show that made Fox a player in live-action sitcoms again and it continues to be one of the most dependable sitcoms on TV.  This season explored Nick and Jess's new relationship before they recently broke up and are dealing with that in interesting ways.  The characters of Winston and Cece have come into their own in interesting ways.  Damon Wayans Jr. makes a welcome return as a main character and Linda Cardellini had a great run as Jess's sister.  Wayans returns as a full fledged cast member and the show looks to continue to be one of TV's most fun ensembles.

Bob's Burgers
Not a cultural phenomenon like The Simpsons or Family Guy, but a big critical hit that has a vocal online fan base.  Continuing to air this show shows a commitment from Fox to make attempts with primetime animation that no other networks even bother to attempt.  With it being a popular pick on Netflix instant this season could improve in ratings.

The Mindy Project
After a strong first season Mindy Kaling's show really came into its own.  It is full of effective guest stars, a likable cast and really intelligent writing.  While Ed Weeks, Zoe Jarman and Beth Grant had little to do this season Ike Barinholz continues to be one of TV's most underrated performers.  Xosha Roquemore and especially Adam Pally make valuable additions to the cast.  And then there is Chris Messina who does great work in one of the most interesting will they/won't they arcs I have ever seen.  Mindy is a perfect leading lady and this series showcases her wonderfully.  The show really is the best romantic comedy in recent years.  It is able to subvert elements of the genre while also functioning as a love letter to it.  I expect great things from season three.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The new Mike Schur sitcom was a big critical hit, winning two Golden Globes.  The ratings have not been the best, but a move to Sunday may help or hurt it.  This is a show Fox seems very committed to making succeed.  The show features a great cast with Stephanie Beatriz, Joe Lo Truglio, Terry Crews, Chelsea Peretti and especially Andre Braugher all being great reasons to tune in.  Unfortunately the show isn't an ensemble, it is a vehicle for Andy Samberg who can be pretty unlikable in this role.  He acts like a jerk and has to learn very obvious lessons.  Although much like The Office and Parks and Recreation I expect it to improve in season 2.  This show is also off to a much better start than those two series were in their initial runs.


American Dad
After years on Fox it is being moved to TBS where it will premiere new episodes.  This was never the success that Family Guy was, but I expect reruns do pretty well.  I am surprised that this premise has lasted as long as it has.  Critics seem to prefer this to MacFarlane's other shows, but it will never be the best TV.  Can't see it lasting much longer unless TBS markets it well.  A few more seasons tops.

Raising Hope
This premiered in a period when sitcoms where not lasting long on Fox.  It has always been a good show, but never left too much of an impact with critics or ratings.  The fact that it made it to four seasons is a testament to its consistent quality and loyal following.  Four seasons in this day and age is great and it will live on in reruns and Netflix.

I am shocked and appalled that this survived for a whole season.  This was the worst of the worst and shockingly it did as well as Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the ratings.  The writing and set-ups are lazy and downright offensive.  Just a waste of space and it will be rightly forgotten.

This may have been the best mid-season pick-up of the season.  The military setting may have turned some comedy viewers off, but there was a sincerity to this show that would have made for a great long running series.  It is about three brothers in training and it has a very respectful view of military families and the army.  Would have been nice if this got a better chance, but mid-seasons are tough.  Especially on Fox.

Surviving Jack
A pleasant little show that has some heart to it.  Christopher Meloni definitely elevates it above forgettable and Rachael Harris does good work too.  The main good is pretty good, but he comes across as the latest in the line of Charlie McDermott types (along with kids from The Goldbergs and The Michael J. Fox Show).  The show itself had too similar of a Wonder Years-like set-up as The Goldbergs and Growing Up Fisher to make much of an impact.

Us & Them
Despite being based on a well received British show and starring the likes of Jason Ritter, Alexis Bledel, Jane Kaczmarek, Kerri Kenney and Michael Ian Black it never made it to air.  Even Fox burned off The Goodwin Games in the summer last year.  Relationship sitcoms seem like a tough sell, which is not good since next season seems to be full of them.  I don't think that this even ended up online anywhere.

CBS 2013-14 Sitcoms: Renewals and Cancellations

Two and a Half Men
One of the few sitcoms to last past a decade.  Two and a Half Men, with losing one and a half of its men, will make it to 12 seasons.  I can't remember the last sitcom to make it that long.  CBS announced that next year is the end of the long running series.  Which is for the best.  Despite still doing great in ratings it is just not a fun show and not a relevant one.  At its best the series was entertaining enough for something to have on, but the show has gotten so unlikable and needlessly course.  Amber Tamblyn is now on the show, but while I may check out the finale there is not much that would get me to watch this regularly again.  It has overstayed its welcome, something shows like Parks and Recreation know to avoid.  Curious to see where Jon Cryer goes after playing Alan Harper for so long.

Big Bang Theory
Still a bonafide phenomenon that was was not only renewed for one more season, but three additional seasons.  The show will be airing until at least 2018.  Which to me seems to be way too long for a show about stereotypes and broad humor.  People do love this and it will continue to do well in the ratings.  CBS is a network that people still watch and this is leading the way as one of its main breadwinners.  Not going anywhere for a long time and it will keep cranking out new episodes that will do killer ratings even in reruns.

Mike & Molly
Even though Melissa McCarthy became a film star years ago she is continuing to air on this show.  It is interesting that her stardom hasn't improved the show's profile all that much, but it is pretty comfortable on CBS.  It is not currently on the fall lineup so the next season will either premiere mid-season or as a replacement for a failed new sitcom.  Could air on Mondays again if their Monday night dramas fail too.

2 Broke Girls
This show is going into its fourth season and it is a testament to how many people will just watch CBS. This is one of the more embarrassing comedies that is currently airing.  It will be teaming up with Mom as CBS' one hour of comedy on Monday nights (Thursdays is clearly their new flagship night).  We will see how this does without more popular shows such as How I Met Your Mother as a lead in.  Can see this being its last season, but could keep going.

This was easily CBS's best new sitcom of last year.  The humor is extremely broad and lacks any tact or maturity, but there is at least a lot going on.  The saving grace is its cast with Anna Faris, Spencer Daniels, Matt L. Jones and French Stewart being legitimately funny.  Of course the stand-out is the powerhouse that is Allison Janney, who is made for something like this.  It is conceivable that this show could improve with its second season.  Glad it is getting another chance, but has a long way to go.

The Millers
This was apparently the highest rated new comedy of the season, proving how accessible CBS comedies are.  The pilot I watched was horrendous.  It was painfully unfunny, but it found its audience.  It features a good cast, but the only one I would say rose above the material was Margo Martindale.  Still it must be doing something right to get so many viewers.  With Big Bang Theory as a lead in and the final season of Two and a Half Men following it should do strong enough to get to a third season.  This may be the longest running Will Arnett sitcom to date.


How I Met Your Mother
It is really telling of the television environment that this was the sole sitcom of the season to end on its own terms.  This was planned as the final season, which unfortunately underwhelmed many and had a very frustrating finale.  The series really wrote itself into a corner by basing a show around the promise of the finale.  The show was anticipation for meeting the mother.  This season only showed a short time of Ted actually being with the mother before revealing that the entire series was about his journey to find Robin.  Fans who had supported the series were very vocal about the manipulation.  From what I saw of the season I will say that it had an urgency that was lacking in the past few seasons.  But this is a show that did wear out its welcome with me.  The main characters became too immature and the narrative structure made Ted's various long-term girlfriends pointless and frustrating.  Still a great ensemble though with plenty of clever writing in earlier episodes.

We Are Men
This was the first cancelation of the season.  What is notable is that it was canceled with ratings that were too low for CBS, but would have been satisfactory on any competing network.  This was a clear attempt to capture some of the How I Met Your Mother audience.  It certainly featured capable performers but the material was so weak and pretty misogynistic.  It was just not funny and it did not have a good enough foundation for an entire show.  Picking it up was a mistake to begin with.

The Crazy Ones
Out of all of the series based on a star this is the one that really should have tried harder.  The marketing really pushed Robin Williams' iconic status, but the show really did not serve him.  He was on auto-pilot, improvising things that had nothing to do with the set-up.  Not that the scripts were any good.  I honestly believe that this was a David E. Kelley drama centered at a marketing firm that was sloppily retooled for Robin Williams.  If a comedy with Robin Williams on CBS can't succeed then something must really be wrong with it.

Friends with Better Lives
This premiered after the How I Met Your Mother finale as a clear attempt to transition that audience to a similar show.  Funny how the this and We Are Men were canceled while How I Met Your Dad didn't even get picked up.  This show lacked an easily definable premise and the jokes in the commercials didn't make an impact.  It was just a mid-season replacement that served its purpose to fill some time.

Bad Teacher
I did not realize that this even aired.  I did not hear a thing about it or come across any form of marketing.  The movie it is based on is fun, but as a premise for a sitcom it seems like a real stretch.  This may have left the least impact of any show this season.