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Last year the only series I liked better than “Breaking Bad” was “Game of Thrones.”
Walt continued his evolution into Heisenberg Badassery, and the show got so much better as the characters of “Better Call” Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut and Gus Fring began to assert themselves. Hank Schrader was the most improved of the first-season characters this year; I once dismissed Hank as a dim, loutish swine of an overcompensater, but Hank turned out to be The Real Thing.
The final season launches July 15.
Every series should work like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “Seinfeld” zillionaire Larry David just thinks about new episodes until he’s got enough good ones to fill a season, then he calls HBO and the channel greenlights another season.
Season eight was a humdinger, and my second-favorite 2011 sitcom after “Beavis and Butthead.” One NSFW highlight:
Like “Battlestar Galactica,” “Falling Skies” is the tale of a handful of folks struggling to survive after sinister-looking spacecraft and large robots decimate the human population. Unlike “Galactica,” (spoiler in invisotext) it’s not set a long time ago in a part of the galaxy far, far away.
Producer Steven Spielberg is the marquee name here, but “Skies” is overseen post-pilot by writer-producer Mark Verheiden, a veteran of Ron Moore’s 21st century “Galactica.”
As with “Galactica,” there’s a lot of emphasis on how humans deal with each other in a post-apocalyptic environment.
There’s a fighting father-son team (Noah Wyle and Drew Roy) who don’t always see eye-to-eye.
There’s some discussion of how much say civilians have in the surviving military’s new human order, faintly echoing the early tension between Galactica commander Bill Adama and schoolteacher-turned-Colonial-president Laura Roslin. (The chief advocate for the civilians in “Skies” is female as well, a hot pediatrician played by sci-fi icon Moon Bloodgood of “Journeyman” and “Terminator Salvation” fame.)
Like the Cylons, the invaders can look like us, sort of, because the aliens can control us with devices attached to captured humans’ spines.
There’s a 9/11-style memory wall, like the one featured in “Galactica.”
Now the bad news. So the “Skies” characters aren’t nearly as interesting as Roslin, the Adamas, Saul Tigh, Gaius Baltar, Sharon Valerii, Karl Agathon, Leoben Conroy or Kara Thrace. Nor are the alien villains yet as interesting as the baby-strangling Number Six.
The storytelling isn’t as compelling as BSG’s either -- but, let’s face it, “Galactica” sets a pretty frakking high bar. “Skies” still ranks easily among TNT’s more watchable efforts, and stands a decent chance of emerging as something better than ABC’s “V” and NBC’s “The Event,” alien invasion dramas cancelled for good the month before “Skies” premiered.
… In terms of quality, it's closer to Jericho than BSG. Falling Skies is not, nor does it appears to want to be, a series of deep characters and big ideas. Like Jericho, it has a sentimental streak, and seems determined to undercut the grimness with Hallmark moments. Most of the secondary characters--sweet kids, gruff soldiers--are as flat as postapocalypse Boston, and even a non-postapocalypse buff will see some of the "twists" of later episodes coming. …
… Though overfamiliarity stops Falling from being as exciting a debut as it might have been, it doesn't breed contempt. And much of the credit goes to a cleverly twisted central idea and to a strong central performance from Noah Wyle as the everyman hero. … Wyle creates a welcome sense of empathy and plants a real person in the midst of the not-always-convincing aliens and sometimes cardboard humans around him. As is often the nature of such programs, Skies does ask you to accept a lot of clunky dialogue and a few too many easily spotted twists. Even so, fans of the genre can embrace it as a summer-viewing diversion — one that's likely to work even better for younger viewers, who haven't seen all the films from which it borrows.
… sags after its taut two-hour pilot. I lost count of the times I paused episodes to try to understand an inexplicable moment or to complain to my couchmate about a predictable development. There are some promising ideas and story lines here, but the pilot far outshone subsequent episodes in terms of quality and efficiency. It's not as if every decision the characters make is silly, but too many inexplicable decisions are made by various survivors, and it's not hard to predict exactly how and why those decisions will go wrong. When characters do things because the plot requires them to rather than because those actions make sense to them and to us, eye-rolling frustration is inevitable. …
… pulp fiction, but it's very effective pulp fiction. The performances for the most part hover in the range of "solid" …
… As a classic action-and-ideas science-fiction drama, “Falling Skies” is at least average — good on the action, a little muddled on the ideas. And the pilot episode, directed by Carl Franklin (“One False Move”), looks great. But the show also appears to have been subject to the Spielberg imperative, which requires that suspense, speculative imagination and battlefield drama come wrapped in a heavy blanket of family soap opera, preferably involving single parents and troubled teenagers. …
… if children are going to strap on guns, set traps, jerry-rig explosions and dive for cover during gunfights, it had better be fun. And "Falling Skies" is very much that, the serious fun of those long summer days that you and your kid brother spent blowing up the bad guys and saving the world. …
… makes up for its special-effects budget deficit by preoccupying itself with a lot of hack sociology, in which various character archetypes express themselves in us-vs.-them cliches. The writing and acting tend toward scenes and lines we’ve heard in countless, failed sci-fi TV series — a form of plagiarism that fans of the genre more kindly regard as homage. …
… may not hold a candle to J.J. Abrams' "Super 8," also produced by Spielberg, but it's better than either "V" or "The Event." …
… Is Falling Skies a collection of outtakes from War of the Worlds? Is it E. T. with a mean streak? Saving Private Ryan with lizard-bugs? The answer is all of the above and less. For years, Spielberg has been making family dramas adorned with the trappings of other genres, each time with a little less to say. And with Falling Skies, in which he stumbled into the epiphany that the conquest of the Earth by genocidal space insects would not only mean the extermination of the human race but — gasp! — also the end of childhood innocence, he has bottomed out. At least, let us hope so. Fervently. Devoutly. Desperately. …
… Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. Don’t look now, but “Falling Skies” could be a summer obsession. …
… It is not a puzzle of mysterious motives that we must piece together, on the order of sci-fi series such as “V,’’ “The X-Files,’’ “Fringe,’’ and, of course, “Lost.’’ “Falling Skies’’ is just a dependable, us-vs.-them action-adventure series …
… guess what? It’s really good. So good and so entertaining, in fact, that the pressure is squarely on Terra Nova not to become a high-priced flop (cough, FlashForward, cough) come fall. Hey, stranger things have happened. … the entertainment value and suspense of Falling Skies is paced just right. You get the sense that we’ll get those answers eventually. And yet, you want to devour the next episode immediately. You know, like a raptorsaurus.
… has its moments action-wise, but the soapier elements mostly fall flat. … almost painfully old-fashioned -- filled with heroism, last-minute rescues and regular expressions of religious faith, reminding us that the truly devout are blessed with the inner peace to accommodate all manner of bad news, including an alien attack blasting the crap out of their home planet. There's none of the subtlety of "Battlestar Galactica," say, in paralleling current reality. This hews closer to "Independence Day," with a touch of "Red Dawn." …
I love McG’s first “Charlie’s Angels” movie (the one with Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Lucy Liu schooling the nerds to Heart’s “Barracuda” and Cameron Diaz’ swirly underoos) but was much less impressed with the sequel.
Know what’s worse than the sequel? Way worse? ABC’s new dim, lazy, woefully unoriginal and humor-challenged TV version , which is overseen by “Smallville” masterminds Miles Millar and Al Gough -- the fellows who also scripted “Shanghai Noon,” “Shanghai Knights,” “Showtime,” “Herbie Fully Loaded,” “The Mummy III” and “I Am Number Four.”
The pilot they wrote is so bland and listless it convinces me I initially cut “Smallville” too much slack 10 years ago; I’m pretty sure now I stuck with The New Adventures Of Young Clark Kent only because it namechecked my beloved DC Comics characters.
The new “Charlie’s” makes me wonder why Drew Barrymore, who produced both the movies and this series, didn’t exert more quality control.
This version of “Angels” gives us a young, muscular, shirtless, hottubbing Latino Bosley but can’t be bothered to stick “Friday Night Lights” cheerleader Minka Kelly in a bikini.
Bosley, by the way, is apparently SO good with an iPad he can use it to compel surveillance satellites to look inside any hotel room in the world, even those with kidnap victims inside. Why didn’t the kidnappers anticipate this? Oh yeah, because it’s FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE.
(And by the way, the blonde Angel in this new series is the daughter of a fictionalized Bernie Madoff, just as the blonde waitress is in “2 Broke Girls.” That jailed Ponzi schemer has really caught the imagination of TV writers!)
(And by the way again, is there any way this version can be better than the “Charlie’s Angels” TV remake Carlton Cuse wrote before he got sucked into “Lost”?)
… a much bigger mess than '70s critics ever accused the original of being....this version isn't what anyone's looking for out of either "Charlie's Angels" or just an hour of television.
... Was the clunky script for 'Charlie's Angels' also dug up from some '70s vault? It contains more than a few leaden lines, and any show that asks me to accept Minka Kelly (Lyla from 'Friday Night Lights') as an orphan who grew up to be a tough car thief is asking too much. If I want light entertainment and action-adventure featuring attractive people, I'll switch over to USA Network, where they at least try to avoid making the stories and characters faintly ridiculous. ...
... The devil is in the details of TV's latest uninspired reboot. Acting and writing? Mere afterthoughts in this noisy misfire. Even the casting lacks those essential star-is-born Farrah-mones. It's like a USA Network show after a lobotomy....
... It's unlikely anyone expected much from a revival of that eye-candy progenitor Charlie's Angels; the surprise is that you're getting so little. No one was ever going to mistake the original for, well, Prime Suspect, but it had energy and glamour and a self-aware sense of frothy fun, all of which are missing from this lugubrious update. ...
... ABC has marketed the remake with the slogan “These are not your mother’s Angels.” And that is certainly true — they are your grandmother’s Angels, throwbacks to an era when there was something contrary and cute about a woman with flowing hair and a lethal karate chop. “Prime Suspect” isn’t coy or campy, and perhaps because of it, it’s a lot more enjoyable to watch.
... The high gloss serio-silliness of the original is as dated as Farrah Fawcett's legendary hairstyle, but that doesn't stop creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar from adopting it ...
.... viewers have a pretty good idea of what they're going to get: action, attractive women and gorgeous locations -- but not much else. …
... This lousy, third-generation retread of the 1970s original is suitably DOA (dumb on arrival), but also offensively bland in feel. ... Now diluted by present-day TV’s cookie-cutter hustle and flow, the real duds are the Angels themselves: Rachel Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh and Minka Kelly. They come off as interchangeable affirmative-action figures who make Farrah and company look like early suffragettes who fought for the jiggle rights we now take for granted.
... The women never sparkle on camera.... Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (“Smallville”) seem to have generated their script from a Mad Libs exercise. …
… Am I hooked? Definitely not. The underwhelming cast brings nothing to the boilerplate action. Kelly is miscast as a biker chick, and making Bosley a hunk with computer skills fails to add life.…
... instantly dated. … other than Kelly (and, admittedly, this is highly subjective) the casting appears short on the requisite sizzle to make these Angels really fly, assuming they still could. … Sorry, Charlie.
... fails miserably and offensively. ... The writing is atrocious. It’s like a spoof that suddenly took itself seriously. That ABC could have made this on the drama side and the yet-to-air “Work It” on the comedy side – far and away the two worst shows of this new season – says a lot about what it takes to get fired in this town. …
A new USA series from Michael Sardo ("Wings," "Caroline in the City"), “Fairly Legal” is a USA hourlong about a houseboat-dwelling lawyer turned mediator. It stars Sarah Shahi (“Alias,” “The L Word,” “Life”), Michael Trucco (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Castle”), Ethan Embry (“Brotherhood”) and Virginia Williams (“How I Met Your Mother”). The white-hot Shahi is both a former Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and a descendant of Iranian royalty. The critics are mostly shrugging “Fairly” off:
… odds are most people aren't expecting greatness from Fairly Legal — which works out well, because that's not what the show is designed to provide. It's a well-constructed piece of popular entertainment from a dependable provider of the same, with an easy-to-like star and an easy-to-grasp premise. Add it all up, and you get a show that's pretty good. And at USA, pretty is good enough. …
… the series feels unfinished, not altogether there in its understanding of itself. Kate is trying to reinvent herself but doing it exactly where she came from. And Ms. Shahi plays her as if Kate were the product entirely of scrappy hard work, odd for a character whose career would seem largely nepotistic. The bigger problem is that “Fairly Legal” perpetrates the crime of delivering to viewers another woman whose intelligence seems largely instinctual. Kate has a knack for conflict resolution and making peace. With the right kind of gut, she is a lawyer of the “Legally Blonde” school. …
… an energetically delightful dramedy … bit weightier, in terms of themes and issues, than some of the other shows in USA's increasingly terrific lineup. … The "Fairly Legal" writers manage to make this intellectually formidable centerpiece lively and intriguing and Shahi, whose timing is just as exceptional as her looks, makes it funny and sexy. The rest of the cast give us characters who may have started off stock but quickly become multilayered and, like the show itself, capable of all manner of surprises.
… not complicated or particularly well written by any stretch, but it is grounded in enough little details to give it a more polished veneer. … The 90-minute "Fairly Legal" pilot, written by series creator Michael Sardo, moves at breakneck speed and fairly effortlessly welcomes viewers into spastic Kate's world. It's not a bad place to visit -- but I probably won't be checking in on her on a regular basis.
… adequately entertaining, thanks in large part to Shahi, an engaging actress who looks like Anne Hathaway. …
… USA Network’s mantra for years has been “Characters welcome.” What happens when they don’t show up? Viewers are left with something like “Fairly Legal,” a skeleton of a series. The cable channel’s newest dramedy stars a gorgeous actress and features lavish sets and a great location. Plot, dramatic tension and memorable characters? The production budget apparently stretches only so far. …
… fairly good. … The reason we care about Kate at all is because she is played by Sarah Shahi, who has natural charm to burn as she runs chaotically around town, always a little late. …
… Nothing here really pops, though, other than the world-class beauty of Shahi … All told, "Fairly Legal" feels as if the network -- despite riding a nifty string of successes by placing a light spin on familiar genres -- has dipped into this particular shallow pool once too often. …
A new USA drama from writer-producers Liz Kruger & Craig Shapiro (“Miami Medical”), “Necessary Roughness” follows a Long Island hypnotherapist who finds herself helping an anxious wide receiver named TK, who plays for a pro football organization named the New York Hawks.
It stars Callie Thorne, a 41-year-old actress to whom I’ve wanted to put the bone since I espied her on “Homicide: Life On The Street” 14 years ago. “Roughness” also stars Mehcad Brooks (known to “True Blood” fans as Egggggggggggs!!) as the player, Marc Blucas (once Buffy Summers’ supersoldier boyfriend) as the trainer, and Scott Cohen (Rory’s Chilton instruction on “Gilmore Girls”) as the team “fixer.”
A silly, undercooked, cliché-riddled and at times groan-inducing script ultimately trumps the considerable acting talent involved. As much as I love that somebody built a series around Callie Thorne, I wish it wasn’t this one. The pilot does not inspire me to program a DVR.
… When she makes a few breakthroughs with TK late in the extra-long pilot episode, it doesn't feel especially earned - or, at least, it doesn't feel like they were achieved through her doing the things she boasts about to the coach. Mainly, she just hangs around TK until the point in the script where he has to confess his problem to somebody, and she's the one who's there. … It's not a comedy - not going for the sporting equivalent of "Analyze This" - but it seems willing/able to go only so serious and not a step beyond that, and then what's the point? … I think there's potential in this idea. But the execution and/or the network aren't right for the idea.
… The cable channel scrapes the bottom of the creativity barrel Wednesday with the premiere of "Necessary Roughness," a tiresome show …
… has a promising cast but is bogged down with slow scenes and no shortage of well-worn situations. … seems not nearly as fun as it could have been.
… Only Julianna Margulies on "The Good Wife" is carrying a comparable load, and though "Roughness" is a more fanciful construction than that CBS show, with more obvious emotional victories, it feels just as honest. It worked on me as intended.
… if plot is incidental to your enjoyment of a show -- and especially if you're already a fan of Ms. Thorne's all-in acting style -- then "Necessary Roughness" offers OK entertainment. …
… it’s hard to imagine this “Friday Night Lights Shrink” will score with many. …
… It’s not incisive, as it skips through stages of emotion and glosses over important plot points at every turn. The theme is therapy, but we get very little insight into Dani’s work, beyond her use of hypnosis. The show is just an undemanding, entertaining, and sometimes whimsical ride. Yup, it’s likable. …
… enjoyable, a lighthearted look at football that takes a therapist in suburban Long Island seriously.
… another pleasant, shrewdly conceived dramedy from the slick machine known as USA network. … unlike so many pilots, this rookie takes the field exhibiting considerable polish. …
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June 5, 2012, 6:16 a.m. CST
June 5, 2012, 7:14 a.m. CST
Also, I'm hoping Doctor Who starts coming out with nonsensical story titles like "Cybermen of the Daleks".
June 5, 2012, 1:08 p.m. CST
June 5, 2012, 5:47 p.m. CST
...such a great show practically nobody remembers even happening. I was sad it wasn't picked up, but, in hindsight, it really did manage to tell it's cohesive story in just the one season. I always liken it as Deadwood or Rome with a liberal pinch of sci-fi.
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