Monday Morning and TV’s on My Mind: What Fall Previews Did You Watch

So yeah, a whole week of  “Top 3” network previews has come to an end and I find myself wondering when the mid-season replacements will arrive.

As expected, I watch way more tv than the average person, and certainly more than the average intellectual will care to admit. My excuse: I’m a media whore?!? …. No, puritanical “I don’t own a tv set” folks, that is not why.  My excuse is that I teach media. Right now I am teaching a 3rd course, for the love of g-d why? why? why?!?, on youth culture. That compels me to be even more plugged in than usual but not enough to make me watch Mischa Barton.

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So here is my quick and dirty breakdown from an intersectional perspective & it brings on the serious snark, so if you don’t want bitchy you are in the wrong place:

  • Accidentally on PurposeDharma & Greg meets Knocked Up. Don’t care. Not Watching. Predict it will be canceled soon. (There are moc on this show. didn’t watch them either.)
  • The Beautiful Life – not only am I not watching, no one else did either. This show has already been canceled by the network.
  • Brothers – this show is fairly standard fare for black comedy on mainstream tv. What I appreciate about it is that it has a differently-abled central character & that the actor playing him is actually differently-abled. Daryl Miller’s background story speaks volumes about how far Hollywood still has to go with regards to ability.
  • Cleveland Show – is it me or do these cartoons actually look like they just used the wrong pencil on a sketch of the Family Guy? No. just. no.
  • Community – I missed this premiere but I love every single one of the promos. The one where he tries to sound smart in Spanish had me almost peeing. anybody see this?
  • Cougar Town – everyone has weighed in on how offensive this title is. I am also trying to wrap my mind around shows that are pitched largely to female audience engaging in promotions that insult them. In this, Cox plays with belly & arm fat meant to make her unappealing & in Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva a skinny girl whines and screams in horror at waking up in a plus-size body. I’m told neither one of these shows actually revolves around body hating anti-woman storylines but rather challenge them, so why the promos? Women need to demand better from the network. And did I mention I miss Dirt?
  • Eastwick – by some fluke I actually watched this. Even bigger fluke: I liked it. The bones for something funny and a little bit guilty pleasure with a bit of intelligence about women’s desires/abuse/parenting etc. thrown in is all there. And while Lindsay Price’s lip work is completely distracting (her post-plastic surgery mouth looks about as real as Planet of the Apes),  & she provides some of the clunkier junk in the pilot, Jamie Newman and Rebecca Romijn both shine as does the return of one of my favorite Popular girls Sara Rue. And Paul Gross is divine as the devil. So far no men of color in this show but Price, a woc, is one of three main characters; no LGBTQI characters either tho I think some might show up.
  • FlashForward – I was really looking forward to this one. It has a multiculti cast, strong female leads, and an intriguing plot. I watched 5 minutes and was bored. bored. bored. For those who liked Lost, and there are so many who did, this will likely be your new show.
  • The Forgotten – forget it. (Why watch this poorly acted retread when you could watch the ever queer, feminist, and often insightful Code Case?) I am predicting this will also be canceled before season end.
  • The Good Wife – Again with the hiding a potentially feminist plot under a not-so-feminist premise?!? Despite what you might have heard, this show is not about a long suffering politician’s wife who oscillates between standing behind her man who wronged her and hating on him. It is actually about a woman who gave up an up-and-coming legal career to be the politician’s wife and is now trying to find herself, her career, and an empowered world in the wake of marital infidelity. It’s got great bones and amazing talent: Margulies and Baranski to name just two.
  • Glee – oh how I love this show. Despite its 1 of everything (1 fat black girl, 1 closeted Asian lesbian, 1 closeted gay jock, 1 out fabulous gay kid, 1 kid in a wheel chair, 1 macho latino, the cheerleader, etc.) and occasionally clunky storylines, it manages to mix truly entertaining musical numbers, angst, and heart in entertaining ways each week. Jane Lynch is superb as the wisecracking, dry witted, nemesis, who has me practically peeing every week with her one liners. The only thing I really don’t like about this show is the adult plot with the teacher’s wife faking a pregnancy, not only is her character offensive, she is utterly unnecessary. There are plenty of quirky and interesting people within the realm of the school to entertain.
  • Melrose Place – Yes, I watched it. It isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be but that isn’t saying much. Some of the actors are very wooden, and at least one of them has been universally panned for bad acting in all of his other roles (soaps) so I don’t get why they were cast anymore than I understand why hidden talents like Stephanie Jacobson and Katie Cassidy are wasting their time here. Jessica Lucas, who showed so much promise as a child actress, is also wasted in this role but is doing roughly the same job and same character she has played in far too many previous “adult” roles so … Add to that, the fact that the Asian doctor (played by Jacobson) is reduced to high priced hooker on the first episode, and by a man she actually likes and is on a date with, and you can see that the all kinds of wrong transcends remaking this show and goes straight to the racism and sexism place. I didn’t stick around long enough to see how poorly they handled homosexuality, and aren’t you glad? – low ratings = slated to be canceled if they don’t pick up
  • Mercy – I wanted to like this show. It centers a largely female and queer profession, highlights the hard work that nurses do with little respect or thanks, and it has at least one person of color in the main cast. However, this show is such a watered down rip off of Nurse Jackie that the writers of the later should file suit. I assume they haven’t already b/c they don’t want the edgy, intelligent, and entertaining Nurse Jackie to be associated with this poorly ripped off drudgery.  Mercy steals all of the basics (the plot outline, most of the basic quirks of the characters, even the pub on the corner lot!!!) but fills in the blanks with melodrama and cliche. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they even had a “black boyfriend” joke that both insulted black people and working class white people (you know b/c the later all racist). Put this shlock behind you like the bad demon it is. Instead, happily enjoy the true writing and acting talent of Nurse Jackie re-runs until it returns. (It’s got qoc, snarky adult women w/ actual sex lives, happy faced newbies, and a doctor w/ two moms, not to mention really intelligent and poignant storylines and a cliffhanger to die for.) I’m told this week’s Mercy will include an out Latino actor playing a gay nurse – this too is derivative.
  • Modern Family – has so much good buzz you’d think I would watch the premiere to see what it was about. You’d be wrong. Sorry but the 3 minutes of the self-righteous gay couple with their Asian baby and the overly sexed up Latina whose accent is so heavy no one understands her on the promos was more than enough for me.  While I empathize with white middle class people’s anxieties about sexuality and miscegenation, oops no I don’t, I am blissfully without these hangups and ain’t watchin’.
  • NCIS LA – first let me say, I watch NCIS. I watch NCIS in rerun. I watch some episodes twice in a night. I can’t explain it. I just do. NCIS LA however … I actually fell asleep 15 minutes in to this show and when I woke up to the last 5 minute reveal, I was disgusted to discover I figured out the plot before I even saw who was playing father and child. Also, that tech board they have is extremely distracting for people with disabilities like mine, it actually makes my head hurt (as in ache not disgust). It has a main character of color and a little person at the helm but it also made a mockery of the only other person of color on the team and continues the vein of white cops poc criminals. While there are two women, the testosterone level is extra-specially beefed up in this show & I expect the main female teammate will be reduced to love interest, victim, or ex before the end of the season. I could see them also making one of the team gay, tho in that “we never talk about” way. Won’t be watching this again, but I suspect it will stay on the air because of its placement in between two well-watched shows.
  • Three Rivers – hasn’t premiered yet. All I have to say for now is Katherine Moennig. If you read this blog, I think you know what that means. (And for you boys who were turned off with how poorly O’Loughlin handled his one homoerotic scene in Moonlight, don’t worry, Daniel Henney is also a main character in the cast.)
  • The Vampire Diaries – this show is blowing up in ratings for CW. I don’t know why. The male lead is almost 30 not 15 and his older brother actually has laugh lines. Newsflash, teenagers don’t have wrinkles. It is so hard to take this seriously. So hard. I tried to watch twice. The first time I obsessed about the age difference between the 30+ male actors and the 20 or less female ones. The second time, I wondered what attracts young women to shows that depict them as snarky sex objects and insecure nerds & why anyone would believe that a vampire could have a public fight and get his hand sliced up in front of half the school, heal in seconds, and no one thought it was weird except his gf. Oh and did I mention half the second episode involved the main vamp joining the football team while his gf agonized about wanting to quit cheer leading? There are so many young adult vampire fiction novels to adapt out there, that are so much better than this, why not use one or at least higher writers and actors that will not just create Gossip Girl meets Friday Night Lights w/fangs?  Really it isn’t just that I am old. (tho yes, fan girls and fan boys, I will give you that part of it is because like the male leads, I haven’t been in high school in more than a decade)
  • Durham County – what a rip off. The director interview before this show aired, talked about how they wanted to produce a show that questioned the ongoing fascination with brutalized and murdered women on television as well as examine “what makes a serial killer act the way he does.” Lofty feminist goals I am firmly behind. Except, that never happened. Instead this show starts with a brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in Catholic school uniforms, followed by the most disturbing re-violation of them by the show’s serial killer next door. By the time the episode ended, another strong woman was murdered and dragged in shot through the woods. The second episode had a “mild by comparison” domestic violence incident and a gang rape threat, followed by marital infidelity. Yep, real feminist re-write going on here … I’ve seen less violence on CSI: Miami & less criminal misogyny on SVU.

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Returning Shows

  • House – I fell out of my chair with bitchy glee when House derailed the basketball game in the psych ward. Stuff like that is the kind of demented priceless that make the world worth living in. The rest of the episode was a little implausible, especially the love affair with a patient’s sister. Yet, this episode gave me renewed faith that House has not passed its television prime. It does have ongoing problems with gender (trans & cis) however.
  • Supernatural – somebody get the writers a Bible. They are so off script on theological issues I cannot help them. Not only has the show rendered the core plot of good vs. evil unrecognizable but it has also so utterly destroyed the core relationship of the main characters that I can’t imagine how they get to keep calling it Supernatural b/c it isn’t the same show. That said, it was inspired casting to make Rita’s evil ex from Dexter the Devil’s host and the angst surrounding g-d’s seeming absence rings true with the state of the world. I particularly liked the idea of the angels as petulant children trying to get g-d’s attention after feeling abandoned. I don’t think angels are that petty nor that they are so easily distracted, fooled, or corraled. While the demons were always creepy on this show, the Angels lack the moral dilemmas of The Prophecy, the disillusionment and desperate need for hope of Gabriel, or the awesome power of The Mortal Instruments add to that the last episode which has Dean taking an Angel to get laid in a brothel, which thankfully did get back on script before scene end, and Sam once again saving a doe-eyed damsel in distress while yet another black character acts out violently and you know why I feel the need to turn the channel. Oh and every episode seems like a Supernatural-fied version of an upcoming film; methinks McG is just angling for viewers at the box office after wrecking the Terminator franchise.
  • Dexter – I really thought the whole married w/ kid thing would be the end of Dexter for me. But the last 5 minutes of the show was a game changer. Not only are there body parts floating around from his car wreck (altho I have a pretty good guess who has them) but John Lithgow is the kind of creepy goodness that might make this the best season yet. Drawbacks: Maria, the main character Latina on the show, is still up to her “who can I have sex with in the squad now” tricks that undermine her position of authority and her skills as a detective. Debra, who looked like she was finally going to have an established enough relationship so that we could see her focus on blossoming as a detective is back in “why can’t I get it right” hell.  Worse, her relationship w/ her Afro-Cubano boyfriend opened all kinds of possibilities to depict race responsibly on this show, return a black man to the main storyline after the dismal treatment of Dokes, and address racial tensions insightfully, since Debra often puts her foot in it without ever intending offense. Rita has turned into a nagging _itch that totally shrinks her character from its complexities in the first season, but that has been happening for a while now. I really liked how complex Rita used to be and wish they’d get back to that. And of course, the show revolves around serial killers and often the crimes are against women and children which is both realistic and problematic.

So what about you all? What did you watch and what did you think?

Oh, one last thing: haters on livejournal, if you are going to disagree with everything I say about film and tv, that is your prerogative. But at least get my gender right when you are trashing my critique of gender and nitpicking abt my “facts”, otherwise you prove my point.

5 thoughts on “Monday Morning and TV’s on My Mind: What Fall Previews Did You Watch

  1. Loved your overview/analysis/critique! We have the same dis/likes in media, story lines & character representations. I love House, Dexter and Glee as well. The last two I think give us some of the most diverse casts on tv today. I love that an Asian man, Vince Masuka played by CS Lee, is being eroticized/sexualized (even if overly and in sexist ways) because it challenges some of those stereotypes of Asian men, masculinity and sexuality (but can he get some action already?!).

    With Glee I’m fascinated by the sexuality conversations going on about the actual acts of sex among youth. Discussions of desire, expectations, etc. I think are spot on and great teaching tools! I agree w/your comments re: faking pregnancy, the show is strong w/o that story line.

    I’m still watching Making His Band on MTV because it has one of 3 Black trans women in the past few years on MTV. I’m working on writing something about this soon because the conversations the women have with men and other women who are people of Color (and some famous) are valuable.

    Flash Forward was painful I agree. I’m not a fan of Lost (I really think they are just in the Bermuda Triangle & hallucinating, then the show blows up and the writers crap their pants and then come up with new crazy stories b/c they get picked up for more seasons). John Cho is dreamy, so why we got to be told he’s going to die by the end of the season (allegedly)?

    Have you seen Defying Gravity? I began to watch it because I appreciated Malik Yoba had a job again. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a multi-cultural cast as well on this show. It’s based in the future 2030ish and a team of international astronauts w/various expertise (biology, anthropology, medical etc.) go into space on a voyage to mars, venus etc. Definitely some magical realism going on in this show. I also find it fascinating that the writers have made abortion a part of the story line by making it illegal in the future when one of the astronauts decides to have one and document her experiences.

    Finally, I enjoy the show Medium. I think Patricia Arquette has the most realistic body of women on tv today and love Miguel Sandoval

    I’m missing Pushing Daises though. That show was *SO* good.

    • I don’t watch a lot of reality tv, but your point abt Making the/his Band is similar to gay prof’s about RuPaul’s show on Logo.

      Didn’t see that show on ABC you mention. It was one of those summer series that I never really knew what it was abt or when it was on. A lot of those tanked due to poor advertising. Sad that it had so much diversity and didn’t get a better slot.

      Medium has gotten a little tedious for me, but you’re right not only does she have the most normal body on tv, I love that her kids on that show are so varied in terms of looks, social skills, etc. And I’ve been a fan of her husband on the show since American Gothic so …

      It’s funny you mention Pushing Daisies, I was thinking how great Wed tv would be if I could watch Pushing Daisies, Glee, and then Eastwick. Total cheese but a nice way to confront mid-week duldrums.

    • they’re new shows or old shows that have radically changed format & most of them are awful, so be glad you didn’t/don’t watch. seems best.

  2. For one reason or another, I’m uncharacteristically behind on fall tv this year but what I’ve seen has been pretty lackluster. I like the Good Wife but it’s not as robust as I would like. Too much “case of the week” for me. I don’t watch the NCIS franchise but I suspect I’ll be popping by NCIS:LA on occasion b/c of LL Cool J. I caught Trauma over the weekend; it’s got a diverse cast but was too anemic to get excited about. I adore Lost but FlashForward doesn’t even come close. Lost started out small and only blew up into the conspiracy late in the 1st season. FlashForward made their conspiracy the central premise before we even care about the characters. And while Lost’s characters are given individual episodes in which they all get a chance to shine, FlashForward seems to be revolving around the Joseph Fiennes character (who isn’t remotely compelling) and relegating everybody else to comic or bit parts.

    If you watch Dollhouse, I’d love to read your thoughts on the show, if you haven’t written about it already.

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