Nat gets a word in

I generally find TV Guide’s Matt Roush worth reading, with cogent reviews and often informative responses to questions on the website (except, of course, when he devotes half the column to Alias, a show I do not watch. But when he devotes the same space to the Whedonverse shows, I’m perfectly pleased, of course!)
When I caught him not actually answering a question last week, I pounced and sent him a brief note with the proper information… which he then put in this week’s column. You can catch it here until next Monday, when the page is updated.

Published in: on June 29, 2004 at 10:43 am  Comments Off  

Method acting

As some of you know (and yes, there are multiple readers out there, I’m glad to know!), there are other things going on in my life besides blogging. As such, I fall behind.

Not far enough behind, alas, that Quintuplets would have been already cancelled, and thus spare me from having to review it. This series about a group of very-non-identical quintuplet teens and their parents stars Andy Richter, whose previous sitcom (Andy Richter Controls the Universe) showed that you can stray well from traditional sitcom style and end up with something quite enjoyable. Well, that series failed, so they’ve gone the other way now — saddled him with a sitcom that hits every cliche about what’s wrong with sitcoms, with obvious plots, non-character characters, and dialog that is nothing but a string of insults. Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty bad.

In contrast is Method and Red, a quirky one-camera sitcom about a pair of hip-hop stars who live in a decidely hipless, hopless upscale suburb, getting into trouble with the real estate agent next door who wants their loudness and strange visitors out of the neighborhood. By giving the lead characters earnest and kindly but fun-loving attitudes (free of gangsta-posturing or anything that would provide a real threat) and by making the conflict culture-based rather than race-based (yes, all of Method and Red’s male pals are black, but so are some straightlaced folks in the neigborhood), the creators have achieved something. They’ve given this thing a positive spirit so large and obviously overplayed that it goes beyond the obvious level of irony to come right around and be truly positive again. Method Man loves his mother, loves his goldfish, and wants to make everyone happy, even if it means an aggressive campaign of fruitcake delivery.

Even if you think that a comedy built around hip-hop stars isn’t for you, this one is worth checking out.

Published in: on June 29, 2004 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Faux Vegas

I don’t mean to say that Fox desperately wants to have the TV show Las Vegas, but….

One of their new nights starts of with North Shore, about an upscale hotel and the handsome young turk who works there and this lovely gal with whom he’s just friends and his crusty boss and all the half-draped female eye candy who they can work in, and the weekly dramas around guest problems. In other words, a rather blatant case of Las Vegas, only without the casino.

Immediately after that is their new reality series, The Casino.

(Although calling it a “reality series” is being generous. I bent my rule about not watching network reality series for this one, figuring that it might be a real look behind the scenes at a casino, and not some carefully manipulated human degradation series. But given all the places that they had cameras and all the awareness that the people had that they were on camera, it seems pretty clear that the “wild” times there were carefully set up.)

Published in: on June 16, 2004 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Jury's out… way out

“Expository” is a writing term for material used to reveal pre-existing facts. Dialogue that is seen as being blatantly expository — “boy, I’m a pilot!” — is considered clunky. Most police procedurals suffer at least somewhat from expository dialog, as the detectives are coming in after the crime and people have to tell them what happened.

The Jury, a new crime show which sees everything through the eyes of the deliberating jury judging the crime, is crippled with a severe expository problem. Y’see, the jury can’t just do expository on the crime. They didn’t see the crime, they saw the court case. So much of the show is the jury doing expository on the court case, which means that they’re doing expository dialogue about on other people’s expository dialogue.

Despite all the effort to inject attitude into this, the concept seems lame from the get-go.

(The episode I watched was the second one, which included much contextual discussion of Romeo and Juliet… including key discussion that got the plot wrong. And I guess I should post a spoiler warning for those who have not experienced R&J in some form. In the show, they said that Romeo and Juliet’s death was not a double suicide pact, which is correct. However, they then went and refered to their deaths as being accidents, which is totally incorrect. Each committed suicide, they just didn’t plan it together. In fact, each committed suicide for the same reason: they believed the other was dead.)

Published in: on June 12, 2004 at 8:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Life is hectic

And this is rarely getting updated, which is fine because I doubt anyone out there is reading it…

There were a couple premiers this week. Summerland is about a free-wheelin’ gal who suddenly has to take care of her orphaned niece and nephews. This drama is populated not with characters, but with Character Types and Stages Of Grieving. Not much here to care about.

Come to Papas is a wacky husband comedy that isn’t particularly funny.

To me, the big news this week is that HBO is getting into the traditional sitcom business. This is surprising, since the traditional live-studio-audience, multi-camera sitcom has been suffering and is not known for the sort of material that marks HBO’s originals.

It is, however, a brilliant move. The sitcom business is struggling, with the three biggest hitters going off the air over the course of two years (Friends, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond) and networks eager to fill their slates with reality TV and police procedurals. The few surviving sitcoms that are getting audience or critical attention are largely not traditional sitcoms but single-camera shows filmed without a live audience: Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, Scrubs (and, of course, the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons.) But part of the reason for the struggle is that sitcoms pull in an older audience, not the young folks that the advertisers crave. HBO doesn’t care about advertisers., and they like shows that can draw the attention of an older, more sophisticated audience. HBO hits the competition where they ain’t, and there’s always something to be said for that.

But the part that makes this brilliant is that it foresees an upcoming shortage. The syndication of sitcom reruns is a huge business; while they may be falling out of favor during network prime time, they are still the staple of local programming in the hours before and after prime time. The things that are filling network hours, the reality shows and the hour-long dramas, are not the sort of things that fare well in broadcast rerun syndication. There will be a large demand for quality popular sitcom reruns that will not be being filled. Making the next Cheers, the next Seinfeld, Roseanne, or Friends could make HBO a ton of moolah. And with HBO’s fertile creative system and the large sitcom talent pool that is going untapped, this seems an achievable goal.

Published in: on June 6, 2004 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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