Season premiere – Falling Water – 2016/17

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Another show not pulling much in the way of press is the upcoming Falling Water. Premiering in October on USA, the show was released online for advance screening. And it is downright awesome.

Burton, a security service within an investment firm, has some weird dreams. He seems to be dreaming about a girl who doesn’t exist, or maybe she does. He’s not sure.

Tess has some weird dreams too. Plus she has the uncanny ability to see mega trends that everyone will want to buy for fashion. But the dreams are weird. She keeps dreaming about a son she gave birth to. Except her medical records show no such birth and she doesn’t have a son. Or does she?

Take is a little simpler in his dreams. He sees his mother, or someone close to his mother, in a chair in the middle of a street and her head is all covered up, like a mummy with grey bandages. Since his mother is in a catatonic state, the dream isn’t surprising, but all the things he sees for work are indeed weird. Including a kid that reappears to him during his investigations. The same kid from Tess’ dream.

They don’t know each other, but they have interacted — Tess lives in Burton’s building, for example.

But forces for good and evil are amassing. The dreams are connected, part of a shared larger dream. They just don’t know it yet, but those who do, they want to control it, shape it, use it. Something big is going on, you just don’t know what yet.

I’m going all in, but I know I’m going to regret it. Jericho, Revolution. I liked the shows, and I liked the mystery elements going on in the background. Heck, one of the main actors from Revolution, Zak Orth, is even along for the ride here too. Not quite as crazy this time though.

Maybe with it being on USA, instead of the big five, it has a chance to go somewhere. It’s pretty cool.

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Season premiere – Van Helsing – 2016/17

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I knew nothing of this show other than its name. Mainly because it is a sci-fi show that isn’t on the big five network rosters, so it didn’t get the standard pre-launch coverage by the media. But I saw it listed, the first Ep is leaked online ahead of the premiere, why not check it out?

It was a lot gorier than I expected, and I confess I am not a fan of the gore. I skipped True Blood because the first episode was blood everywhere, people were practically marinating in it. The Walking Dead never really attracted me. But a vampire slayer that isn’t named Buffy? Sure, I’m willing to give it a go.

The premise is that a volcano erupted, something went wonky somewhere, people started turning into blood drinkers so they’re called vampires. Except there’s a woman who survived an attack and has been sleeping for a while. Maybe 3 years, maybe 3 months, not entirely sure. But the military sent a squad to guard her until relieved, but the relief never came. So one soldier and a vampire doctor are all that’s been left for some time. A bunch of vamps get into the facility, make it all the way to the sleeping girl, one bites her, and then weird shows up. The vamp starts spitting blood, bile, etc., and then dies. She goes wild-ass animal on the other two.

She doesn’t know why she’s there or what’s special about her, but the soldier is committed to keeping her there. Fast-forward through a too-obvious conspiracy, and we find out she can kick butt too, along with self-healing. Or as one of the stray guys trying to survive says, “She’s got super-powers now?”. And then the truly weird happens.

The guy who bit her and died? He isn’t dead. And he isn’t a vampire anymore. Her blood cured him. Dun dun dun. Vanessa Van Helsing has the cure for being a vampire.

Given it’s status on SyFy, it’s already got its 10 episode pickup probably so nothing to predict at this point. Let’s see how the season goes. The soldier isn’t much to listen to, but Van Helsing has some gravitas. As long as they keep the blood flow down, I’m in.

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Season premiere – The Blacklist – 2016/17

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As Season 3 started to wind down last year, there was an episode where Elizabeth died following complications after childbirth. They had a funeral, everybody said goodbye, and Tom tried to get his life together. Then, with everything in play and starting to normalize, Tom disappeared with the baby. Running from Raymond, refusing his protection. All of which was designed to get to Cuba where, voila, Liz was waiting, very much alive. She faked her death to get away from the craziness of Raymond Readington being anywhere near Agnes.

But the running didn’t work very well, cuz her Russian “father” found her, kidnapped her, Agnes and Tom, and as the season kicks off, everyone is running around Cuba killing each other. Raymond’s working his way through local enforcers to find out where the Russian has Liz; and a bunch of Cuban locals are dealing with Tom and Agnes. The FBI throws a hand to help, for the most part anyway, and it is business as usual. Find Liz, save Liz.

The episode was relatively okay, a little too much button, button, who’s got the (baby) button, but not bad. I have no idea what they’re doing with Tom. He’s supposed to leave mid-season to go work on the Redemption spin-off, and Liz gets rekidnapped at the end, with continued separation from her baby which MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL. The “father” who is trying to bond with her keeps separating the two of them with no real reason to do so, it’s completely ridiculous.

But it’s up and running again, wondering how long it will take to “find Liz”. I seriously hope it isn’t half the season again. Can we get back to the frickin’ blacklist again????

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Season premiere – Lethal Weapon – 2016/17

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I know there’s a familiar wind blowing through TV land where they look at old movies, old shows, old scripts, old tropes, old everything and think, “Hmm, if we rebooted THAT, maybe we would increase our chances of a hit”. This year, Lethal Weapon is one of the reboots (Rush Hour went nowhere last year, but hey, why not try again?).

When I read the premise, which isn’t much different from the movie, I thought, “Really? Who are you going to get who could replace Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as Riggs and Murtaugh?”. They were iconic in their roles.

Now, replacing Riggs should be easy…pick someone with a flair for crazy, and you got a shot. But Murtaugh has to walk a fine line between serious detective and WTF moments. Maybe they would change the ratio, but still, it’s a hard line to nail well. Glover did it expertly.

When I saw the casting and it was DAMAN WAYANS, I thought, “Seriously? This is your best catch?”. Oddly enough, Wayans wasn’t bad. Not Glover-good, but okay. More like his role in The Last Boy Scout with Bruce Willis. Good secondary characters around him too with his wife, kids, captain, a couple of other cops, and a shrink (the Rene Russo character from the movie).

But Riggs? He is terrible. If they named him something else, and tweaked the backstory, I’d take it. But not as Riggs. Pale, pale imitation.

I gave it my one episode try, and it will be the last. I’m sticking with my original prediction — 4 episodes and gone for good.

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Season premiere – Designated Survivor- 2016/17

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ABC is hoping for some West Wing-style magic with their new show, Designated Survivor. If you are a fan of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, you’ll remember that at one point, the Capital is attacked, all are killed, and Jack becomes President. Same premise here, except Kiefer Sutherland plays Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Kirkman, an unelected appointee. On the night of the attack, he is taken to an undisclosed location to act as the “designated survivor” in case of a hypothetical attack, and when the attack actually happens, he is sworn in as President.

When I saw the premise for the show, part of what turned me off was the producer pitching it to the press that this would be a great show for having political conversations representing both sides of the aisle, with smart people on both sides coming forward with solid commentary, arguments, etc. Tackling the issues that our current political climate can’t. In other words, verbal masturbation rather than focusing on what people tune in for…things like characters, plot, dialogue.

I even went so far as to suggest, sight-unseen, that the show would go no more than 4 episodes and get early cancellation. Having watched Ep 1, I think I grossly underestimated its potential. While pilots get tweaked within an inch of their life, and are no indication of how good of quality will follow in subsequent episodes, Kiefer Sutherland was awesome. Looking for his Presidential voice, he finds it in a meeting with the Iranian ambassador.

I’m not thrilled with the secondary characters. A general whose straight out of central casting as a buffoon stereotype “give em hell” leatherneck. A wife who may have potential but seems a bit sappy in places. Two kid characters whose storylines will no doubt be highly annoying for some time to come. Some bit players trying to support the President (his old chief of staff/policy analyst/EA, new speechwriter, acting Chief of Staff, etc.) seem okay but only one or two have any gravitas. And then there is the other “star”.

Maggie Q. I wasn’t expecting much, and was pleasantly surprised. She plays an FBI psy-ops agent investigating the explosion at the capital, and while she normally is highly physical in her roles, this one so far was more under-stated analyst-like duties. Didn’t suck.

Overall, the show has potential as long as it avoids the spin the producer was pitching to the TV press. I gave it my “1 episode” test, and while I’m not willing to commit to a long-term viewing relationship, I’m willing to go on a second watching date. As for the show’s longevity, I think it could either be gone in 10 episodes if the quality drops or run 7 seasons. If it makes it past mid-season, I’d up my bet for renewal.

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Season premiere – Bull – 2016/17

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CBS has a new courtroom show starring Michael Weatherly post-NCIS. Unlike NCIS, Weatherly is “Dr. Bull” aka Phil McGraw, supposedly, and running Trial Analysis Corporation — “trial science” for the snobbish, jury consulting for the layperson. My original prediction would be that it would go half a season, no renewal. Having tested it with the one episode I originally gave it, I’m guessing now that it will go full season but be on the bubble to the end.

It’s basically very similar to “Lie to Me” from a few years ago, and will appeal to the same demographics. The first case involves a spoiled little rich kid accused of murder in the Bahamas (no idea why the case is being tried in the U.S.) and now on trial. The big reveal as life unfolds isn’t that big a reveal, and if you didn’t see it coming, you weren’t paying attention in pop trials 101 for TV courtroom shows. I don’t know how big of grey areas the show will tackle in future cases, but you would be an idiot to expect the first case wasn’t a slam dunk “not guilty because he didn’t actually do it” type case. I also had a pretty good idea who did do it, just wasn’t sure motive. And I suspect that the focus group watched the show, didn’t like the ambiguous ending, and so there is a wrap up scene where they reveal really who did it, just as the police show up to arrest them.

Decent show, but unless they have some decent mystery up their sleeve, I think they’ll be one season and done.

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Season premiere – This Is Us – 2016/17

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NBC has a new dramedy called “This Is Us” about eight people tied to the concept of shared birthdays. It sounded originally like the eight would all share a common birthday, but I think it is just four plus four additional characters involved with them. There is a link in Ep 1 that four of them are turning 36. Early on you get to meet them:

  • a nerdy black yuppie (Randall) who has tracked down the dad who abandoned him at a fire station after his mom died in childbirth;
  • an expectant father (Jack) of impending triplets; and,
  • a brother (Kevin) whose a TV star of a low-rated TV show and a sister (Kate) who is obese and wanting to make changes in her life.

When I looked at the premise, I thought it had very little promise. Too much like a few ensemble shows over the last few years — a group who won a lottery, a group who were held hostage, a group who grew up together. A combination of fast forwards and flashbacks, but it is hard for a show like that to find and hold an audience’s attention in the cut-throat world of ratings.

My prediction was that I would try an episode, likely pass, the show would get a half a season at most (10 eps maybe), and certainly no chance at renewal. Having seen an episode, I think that prediction might have been generous, because this show might need some time to gather its legs. Which is too bad.

I *liked* it. The father of the triplets is awesome — Milo Ventimiglia who was in the original Heroes series. I liked him there too, but he has some gravitas here. Much more understated.

The TV star brother (Kevin) is played by Justin Hartley. I don’t always love him, but he gets the benefit of the doubt cuz he was awesome on Smallville as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. Here he is kind of whiny and pathetic so far.

The overweight sister is played by Chrissy Metz and I thought it was going to go “Mike and Molly” or “make fun of the fat person” cliches, but she is awesome. Let’s be frank — she is a plus-sized woman. And she has a scene where she is just in her underwear. I don’t know if it is all her, or they added to the pounds, but it is a pretty brave scene for someone without a ton of acting credits behind her. She starts of a bit cliche, and then nails it in scenes where she isn’t feeling sorry for herself.

Randall by contrast is hard to judge. He seems like he could be a cliche, but instead, he has these self-aware moments that just sizzle. It’s almost like he’s breaking the fourth wall to say, “Hey, I’m living this and it feels like I’m in a sitcom.”

And some of it rocks as drama, but there are sequential light moments that are great.

On top of it all, Gerald McRaney plays the doctor delivering the babies. And he NAILS the character. I have liked him all the way back to Simon and Simon (particularly if I ignore Major Dad) but his cameos either work great or they don’t work at all. This one may be the best I’ve ever seen him. He is absolutely fantastic.

I’ll watch it as long as it lasts, but I’m likely to be disappointed after about 4 episodes when it disappears.

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Season premiere – NCIS 2016/17

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Last year, Season 13 of NCIS ended with Tony DiNozzo exiting stage right to look after his and Ziva’s daughter, with the life of a single dad not fitting with his NCIS lifestyle. Back when Ziva’s character exited, the producers spent a whack of time over a bunch of episodes playing “agent, agent, who wants to try out as an agent?”. Lots of old characters rotated in and out for an episode, and eventually they added Ellie Bishop. Not all the fans out there love Bishop, I don’t mind her, but I was hoping they wouldn’t do another round of rotating characters. I thought the producers said that one or two of the characters from the last couple of Eps of Season 13 would become recurring characters if not full season regulars, so imagine my surprise with both of the two other agents gone, and not a lot of explanation other than they returned to their agencies.

Season 14 kicked off with a lot of backstory for a Latino agent who has been undercover in various operations for eight years, and recently had his cover blown in Argentina. He’s been off the grid for awhile, NCIS wasn’t even sure if he was alive or dead. But he was alive, still working, and when his cover was blown, the family he was after decided to take out his family back in the U.S. too. Lots of sub-plots around revenge, heart-break, infiltrations, blah blah blah.

But the real story is that the former undercover agent, Nick Torres, is now a new agent with the team. Played by Wilmer Valderrama, it’s nice to see last year’s Minority Report secondary actors getting work. I confess both last year and this year that I recognized him, but couldn’t place from where. Double-checking his bio writing this, I was shocked to realize it’s Fez from That 70s Show. I never would have come up with that.

NCIS likes to add a twist though, and they did it this time too. They added TWO agents, not just one. Jennifer Esposito plays Alexandra Quinn, a NCIS trainer that Gibbs pulls out of the academy to join the team. I’m hoping she’s not on the team just to give them a red shirt to eliminate in the future. I loved Esposito as Jackie on Blue Bloods, even if she didn’t have enough to do in the series. I even liked her on Taxi Brooklyn for the short time it was on. Happy to see her getting some work, and she has great presence. Not sure the dynamic with Gibbs since she’s not the spring chickens like the other three.

Finally, while the overall plot for the Ep was so-so, there is a great cameo by good old Bud Roberts. Now a Captain, and still at JAG, he starts to tell a story about Mac and Harm and what they’re up to, and then he gets interrupted and there’s no story. Oh, so close. Cute little scene. But baby faced Bud? He looks OLD now 🙂

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Season premiere – Gotham 2016/17

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Season 2 of Gotham last year was sub-titled in part as “rise of the villains”, and rise they did. By the end though it was all about Indian Hill and Dr. Hugo Strange. Finally, in an attempt to save many from a large explosion, Gordon stopped a bomb from going off but Fish Mooney managed to escape with a busload of X-men. No, meteor freaks. No, meta humans. Well, whatever we call them, they’re the results of Strange’s experiments.

I confess I was not thrilled to see Fish Mooney back. Call me Jada-ed (see what I did there?), but it is painful most of the time with her over the top acting and one-dimensional character. There is a small but loyal Gotham fanbase who were thrilled when her character seemed to be killed off, and yet like bedbugs, it’s hard to eradicate her character.

But she was in the first episode, and well, she didn’t suck. I don’t want to watch her but if the rest of the season’s shows stuck to the same level of her involvement, I’d be okay with it.

Gordon is okay as the past-wronged, now enjoying his freedom, ex-cop turned bounty hunter. Still enjoyable. Selina is working with Fish and causing trouble, but even she is having her own trouble adapting. Bruce left town after the Indian Hill and has just returned with stunning accusations to the Board at Wayne Enterprises that there is a cabal among them that is corrupt. Lots of little threads to kick off the season.

But I think I liked the interactions between Riddler and Penguin the best. Still fun, still enjoyable. Love Edward Nigma. Even if he’s nuts.

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Season premiere – Lucifer 2016/17

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Lucifer was one of two shows last year that I really liked — the other was Blindspot. In Blindspot’s case, it was an amped up approach to a procedural with huge mystery elements behind it. With Lucifer, the producers took the standard trope of “homicide detective paired with someone unusual” (Castle for a writer, Elementary with two genius consulting detectives, Forever with an immortal, etc.) and went big — Lucifer is not just named after the devil, he IS the devil.

The premise was awesome, and the main actor is fantastic. Secondary characters (the police) are all ho hum, although the main police detective woman has potential. But the tertiary characters — a psychiatrist, an angel, a demon protector — were all spot on. Made for some light banter with serious overtones. And Lucifer’s unadulterated narcissism is plain awesome. With the vulnerability added that when he’s with the cop, he’s mortal (he finds out he’s not bulletproof all the time anymore midway through the season). Sure some of the plots were thin, and some of the “twists” were obvious a mile away. But Lucifer is an ace character, delightfully delicious to watch.

At the end of the season, Lucifer takes a bullet from a psycho brought back to life by the angel to kill Lucifer and force him back into hell (oh, did I mention the reason Lucifer is in LA is that he retired and wants to start a new life?). But just as he’s dying, knowing that his death will lead to the death of his cop partner and his daughter, he made a deal with God — he gets to stay on Earth for now while he searches for his Mom. Who had been cast out of Heaven centuries ago, kept in Hell by Lucifer in prison, tortured by the demon protector, and now, has escaped!

The new season picked up with Lucifer believing his Mom is going to show up in LA to seek revenge, and sure enough, the first case post-escape has a woman killed by embedding metal horns in her head to look like a devil. The case itself is ho hum, but little threads abound. There’s a new forensic specialist who believes in God devoutly. The angel is losing some of his powers (he was mortally wounded at the end of the season, and saved with an angel feather at the last minute). The cop doesn’t believe Lucifer is the devil (mainly because his powers don’t usually work around her) nor does she think he is crazy, but she’s holding out to find out what his deal actually is simply because they work well together and close cases. Or in TV speak, “you make me a better detective”.

But it’s still all about Lucifer. Oh, and Mom came to say hi at the end of the episode.

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