Opinionado!!! (03.26.17 – 04.08.17 Part 1)

I’ve got a lot of opinions. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter or in real life knows this. I constantly want to talk about things that are going on in the world of entertainment, but I need an outlet. That’s what this is for. Every week, I’ll give you my thoughts and impressions on the biggest pieces of entertainment news, from trailers, to promotional images, to breaking news stories. I’ll even provide short reviews or impressions of the things I’m watching, reading, playing, and listening to every week. So sit back, relax, and get swept up in the swirling vortex that is… Opinionado!

Film:

Justice League (Trailer 1)

Whoo boy. Starting off with a doozy, huh? This was probably the most anticipated trailer on the planet. Even before Batman v Superman’s release, fans and critics alike have been wondering “What the hell is that Justice League movie going to look like?” Turns out, the answer is “Like a Zack Snyder film”. It’s got the incoherent action, the muted colors, overall grimy texture, and the copious amounts of slow-mo. The only thing this doesn’t have is Malick-like shots of wonder and Christ imagery. I’ve watched this thing a few times now and tonally it’s just all over the place. The film LOOKS exactly like a sequel to BvS would be expected to look, but they’ve sprinkled in a bunch of “light-hearted” attempts at humor (some of which works and some of which doesn’t) and layered the whole thing in a cheesy, rock-version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” because apparently Beastie Boys’ “Unite” would have been too on the nose. Look, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of how Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have handled the DC Extended Universe. I want them to succeed, because I actually like DC Comics and their characters and storylines, but I also want them to fail so that they can just start the whole thing over from scratch and do it the right way. I have no idea if Wonder Woman will be good (although the skeptic in me says to not get your hopes up), but I’m almost positive that Justice League will not be a good film. I hope I’m wrong – I actually like what they’ve done with Aquaman and the Flash, and I think Cavill, Affleck, and Gadot are actually a great central trinity – but man, some parts of this trailer look really bad! Cyborg is just awful on every level (is his costume still rendering?) and the set pieces in this thing just look so dreary. It’s like someone took Return of the King and turned down the saturation. And really, “Come Together”? Damn.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Trailer 2)

“If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” CHILLS. Man, I am so ready for a good Spider-Man movie, and I really hope that’s what this is. It’s not the Marvel film I’m most excited about this year (that honour goes to Thor: Ragnarok), but I’m cautiously optimistic. I think that Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker, and I’m geeking out that Spider-Man will get to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, could anyone else sell that “Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” line the way that Robert Downey Jr. sells it? I don’t think so. I love the whole “John Hughes with superpowers” thing, especially since I just saw the same thing done quite effectively in Power Rangers. We haven’t see much from the extended cast yet (remember that Donald Glover, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Kenneth Choi, Tony Revolori, and Logan-Marshall-Green are all in this movie and I think we’ve seen glimpses of maybe2 of them in the two trailers released thus far), but I love the chemistry between Holland’s Peter and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. I’m even excited for the Vulture, and I don’t like the Vulture as a villain. I haven’t been a big fan of any of his iterations, be it revenge-seeking engineer, youth-sucking vampire, acid-spitting mutant or whatever, but I think this works. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Michael “Birdman” Keaton himself, and they’ve actually designed a Vulture suit that looks appropriately badass, especially when paired with that vintage military flight jacket. I’m excited to see where they take this whole thing.

A Ghost Story (Trailer 1)

Every now and then, there are movies that I hear enough good things about that I decide to abstain from watching their trailers. I did this for Arrival, I did it for Split (after seeing the initial trailer), I’m doing it for Colossal, and now I’m going to do it for A Ghost Story. So no, I haven’t watched this trailer yet, but I’m been assured that it’s a good one. Watch it, or don’t. Your choice.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Trailer 2)

Man, I have no idea what to make of this movie, but I think I love it? It’s like Terry Gilliam, Baz Luhrmann, and Guillermo Del Toro got together to direct a pastiche of Star Wars, Jupiter Ascending, Moulin Rouge, Guardians of the Galaxy, John Carter, The Fifth Element, and Doctor Who. It’s so wacky and colorful and fun. I have absolutely no familiarity with the source material, but even if it fails completely on a plot and/or characters front, I need to see it on the biggest screen possible on opening night.

A Dark Song (Trailer 1)

I don’t have much to say about this one other than, uh, creepy. This looks to be right up my alley. I believe we’re going through a bit of a horror renaissance right now, and this looks like a strong contender to join the ranks of It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Get Out, and the rest.

It (Trailer 1)

Nope nope nope nope nope nope NOPE. That was my initial reaction to this trailer. Actually, I think my initial reaction was “holy shit”. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this looks absolutely terrifying. I’m haunted by the image I saw as a child of a clown in a sewer grate, and this brings that right back to the surface. I get chills watching this thing. I know people are upset that Cary Fukunaga walked away from this project because they wouldn’t let him make the movie he wanted to make, but that doesn’t necessarily damn the movie. We were all upset about Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, but that movie turned out great. I’m not saying that Fukunaga’s It wouldn’t have been better, but that doesn’t mean that this one will be bad. Pennywise looks insanely creepy and the movie looks like it has been very well shot. I even kind of want to read the book now, which is insane, because I’m pretty sure it’s like, 8000 pages long.

Tomb Raider (Promo)

I mean, she looks great. That’s my opinion on this. She looks good. That’s really all we know, but it’s a good sign, right?

Sony Is Making Their Own Marvel Cinematic Universe (News)

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If you haven’t already heard, this past month, Sony announced plans to release two new comic book movies in 2018 – an R-rated Venom film and a Black Cat/Silver Sable team-up film. If you don’t know who any of these characters are, that’s okay – most people who aren’t Spider-Man fans wouldn’t recognize them, which is why it’s weird that Sony is betting hundreds of millions of dollars that people will flock to the theaters next year to see them. Back when Sony was still producing those decidedly not-amazing Amazing Spider-Man films, they had plans for a grand web of interlocking Spider-Man films – a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, if you will. They were in development on a Sinister Six film, a Venom film, and a female-led Spider-Man film. And then the Sony hack happened, and all of these details leaked out, and Sony began to tank. They ended up teaming with Marvel Studios to produce a new series of Spider-Man films that would tie into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the first of which, Spider-Man: Homecoming, comes out in July. We all assumed that Sony’s dream of a Spider-Man cinematic universe had died, because it just doesn’t really make sense to do that without Spider-Man. Well, you know what they say about assuming, right? As it turns out, Sony is charging full steam ahead of producing a number of Spider-Man spin-off films that will be, in no way, associated with Spider-Man: Homecoming or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s certainly… a choice. This is… this is maybe one of the more misguided decisions I’ve seen a studio make recently. I mean, I think DC is making a ton of mistakes with their cinematic universe, but at least they have access to all of their characters. Venom was designed to be Spider-Man’s foil. Black Cat was introduced as a love interest for Spidey. What are these characters without their shared history with Spider-Man? Imagine if DC made a Catwoman movie that had nothing to do with Bat-what? Oh, they did that already? Well how did it do? Oh. OH. Well… yeah. Then I expect these to do about as well as that did. Good luck Sony. You’ll need it.

Joss Whedon is Directing a Batgirl Movie (News)

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Chances are if you know me, you already know how I feel about this news. My feelings towards the DC Extended Universe can be summed up with one Shania Twain song:

As I’ve said before, I’m torn on the DCEU – on the one hand, I’d love to see good movies based on DC characters, but on the other hand, I don’t want to see future movies saddled with the garbage continuity they’ve established thus far. I want a fresh start. Rebuild it from the ground up. Don’t build your home on a dubious foundation like Batman v Superman. Alas, Suicide Squad made enough money to keep this failed experiment afloat and I’m sure Wonder Woman and Justice League will help matters, regardless of their quality. With each passing day, I’m more and more convinced that we’re stuck with what we’ve got, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything Warner Bros. is doing is misguided. Did you know there are currently 18 DC films in various stages of development? Of those 18, only 6 have dates, and only 3 of those 6 have officially entered production. It’s absolutely bonkers. There is constantly so much drama going on behind the scenes of these things – the rumor mill is constantly churning, and it would be easy to just disregard it all if Warner Bros. didn’t have a history of driving talent away from their DC franchises (I’m looking at you The Flash). I’m not even sure it’s worth formulating an opinion over Whedon’s Batgirl film because the chances of a) it actually happening and b) Whedon being involved are so slim that it feels pointless. Will I watch a Batgirl film directed by Joss Whedon? Absolutely. I’ll watch anything by Joss Whedon. Would I rather he not make a Batgirl film and do something else instead? Absolutely. Will I get my wish? Probably! Who knows? Come see me in a year if Whedon is still attached to this stupid thing.

Review – Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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Look, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this anime adaptation and the whitewashing it contains. I won’t defend it, but I also understand the decisions that lead to this point. I’m not going to say anymore on that here because frankly, I have no authority to do so. I also don’t have the authority to speak on this film as an adaptation. I’m not a big anime guy. I haven’t seen any of the source material. In fact, I skipped out on watching the original film specifically because I wanted to judge Ghost in the Shell on its own merits. So what did I think? I thought it was good! Not great, just good. I enjoyed my time with it. It’s not going to win any awards for plot or characterization – it raises some interesting questions that it never gets around to answering – but it sure looks nice. The production design is just fantastic. The effects, the sets, the cinematography – this is a nice film to look at it. I kind of want to see it again in IMAX for that reason alone. If you’re looking for some entertaining eye candy, you could do a lot worse than Ghost in the Shell. If you’re looking for a deep, philosophical sci-fi film that’s going to blow your mind, look elsewhere.

 

Television:

Black Lightning Gets a Costume (Promo)

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In case you weren’t aware, The CW is getting a fifth (FIFTH!) DC superhero show in Black Lightning. It’s unclear as of now whether or not Black Lightning would exist as a part of The CW’s Arrowverse, as it was initially developed for Fox, who passed on the script. The pilot is currently filming in Atlanta and we now have our first look at Cress Williams in costume as Black Lightning, and it’s… busy. Aesthetically, it actually fits in well with the rest of The CW’s superhero shows. They continue to go in a completely different direction than Marvel Television, who seem intent on downplaying as many costume elements as they can (just check out the leaked set photos from the Inhumans). Many have remarked that this would be a better costume for the Inhumans’ Black Bolt, but… we’ll get to that when we’ve got an official still from that production.

ReBoot Reboot is Official (News)

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As a kid, I adored Reboot. The first computer animated TV series, ReBoot was revolutionary from an industry standpoint, but it was also revolutionary to me from a storytelling standpoint. ReBoot, along with its sister-series Beast Wars (or Beasties, for us Canadians) showed me that kids show didn’t have to be dumbed down. Both series’ featured dark, mature storylines, with character deaths and plot twists. A lot of my storytelling proclivities were formed during this period and they greatly influenced me. So it’s with a heavy heart that I must announce that ReBoot is returning as a CGI/live-action hybrid. Who is this for? People have been clamoring for more ReBoot for years, and every now and then we’ll hear something about an eventual ReBoot reboot, but now it’s officially official and I don’t think it’s what anyone wants. Instead of a straight sequel or a re-imaging, we’re getting some weird thing about teens who play an MMO and get tasked with protecting… cyberspace or something. I don’t know. It sounds really stupid. One of the character’s names is “Goog’z”. GOOG’Z! Apparently the original characters will play some sort of role, but I just don’t really have any interest in seeing human characters. Am I the only one? I hope I’m wrong! But I’m never wrong. My opinions are always right (re: DCEU).

Legion Season 1 (Impressions)

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I recently finished the first season of FX’s Legion, and… y’all should watch Legion. It is such a unique, gem of a show. I don’t want to spoil any of the weird, little things that make it so special, but I will say that the acting, the music, and the production values are all top-notch. It quickly became one of my favorite currently airing programs. Things start off weird and only get weirder, but the payoff is worth it. This is a Noah Hawley (Fargo) show based on the X-Men franchise. I shouldn’t have to convince you to watch it.

Attack on Titan Season 2 Premiere (Impressions)

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It’s time. Time… for anime! I’ve never been a big anime fan, but one of the few shows that I had actually watched was Attack on Titan. I go to anime for weird, crazy things that I can’t get from American films and TV shows, and Attack on Titan fits that bill. It takes place in a world in which humanity has been driven into near-extinction by a race of mindless, titanic, naked men. Yeah, you read that correctly. The remnants of humanity hide behind 3 massive, concentric walls that protect them from these titans, but they’re forced to fight when a colossal titan breaks through the gate. They fight using these aerial maneuvering devices that utilize gas-powered harpoons attached to ropes to swing through cities and forests like Spider-Man. It’s as crazy as it sounds. It’s ridiculous, intense, disturbing, and graphically violent. I love it. After a 3+ year wait, season 2 has finally premiered, and the insanity has continued. There are a couple great twists in the first episode and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

 

Games:

Destiny 2 (Worldwide Reveal Trailer)

I, like many others, have a love/hate relationship with Destiny (both the game and the universal force). Prior to its release, I had it in my mind that we were getting something along the lines of “epic space opera of Mass Effect meets combat of Halo”. What I didn’t expect was “first-person sci-fi Diablo with less story”. It’s a very nice looking game with interesting art design, it’s got a good world with plenty of lore to discover, and the gameplay actually feels great – it’s just that none of that ever coalesced into a really great whole. The pieces are (mostly) there, but they were never arranged properly. The fun was mired by confusing systems and weird restrictions. I think there is a great game lurking somewhere in Destiny (and I’ve certainly sunk enough hours into it), so I’m hopeful that Bungie figures things out with Destiny 2. I think I like this trailer? The tone is a little off though; it feels like it’s trying way too hard to be whatever it thinks people want. I’m holding off judgment until we learn more about what the game actually is and how it differs from the first entry.

 

Music:

Kendrick Lamar – “Humble”

Okay, first of all, the song is straight fire. Second, does anyone else feel like Kendrick watched Beyonce’s Lemonade and thought “I can do that”? Not that this 3-minute video necessarily stands alongside Beyonce’s opus, but it certainly seems to be inspired by it. The video is filled with fascinating imagery and interesting camera shots. I’m not smart enough to begin to understand what any of it means, but it sure looks great, doesn’t it? It inspires hope in me that I’ll actually enjoy Kendrick’s new album after feeling let down by To Pimp A Butterfly. Yeah, that’s right. Come at my haters.

Broken Social Scene – “Halfway Home”

I was a huge Broken Social Scene fan back in high school, and they, along with Arcade Fire, basically shaped my taste in music during the mid-to-late 2000’s. I was a fan of just about anything the Arts & Crafts label released, and at one point I was basically buying all of it (even though I ended up with many CD’s I disliked and would never listen to again). I thought that I had outgrown Broken Social Scene, but it sure brings a smile to my face to see them all performing on stage again. BSS concerts are a special experience, because it’s literally just a group of friends playing music together on stage. There’s a purity and an intimacy to it that you don’t get from big, packaged concerts. I’m not sure I really dig the song all that much, but I’m glad that Broken Social Scene is back regardless. “Friendship ladies and gentlemen, friendship!”

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – Pure Genius (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

Pure Genius (Thursdays on CBS)

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One of my problems with the vast majority of CBS programs is that they’re all overly simplified, seemingly in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s not that their programs are that bad, it’s just that they’re bland retreads of ideas that have been done to death. Look at great dramas like Lost or Breaking Bad (yeah, that’s right, I’m putting them on the same level – fight me), or great comedies like Arrested Development or Community. They stretch the bounds of their genre and format. They actively strive to break new ground and to tell stories in creative and interesting ways. CBS programs do the opposite. It’s like they actively strive to be as unoriginal as possible. Which brings me to Pure Genius.

The brilliant author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke had three adages that were known as “Clarke’s three laws”. The third, and most renowned, of these laws is that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Procedural dramas too often take this idea to heart. One of the most common complaints about television procedurals is that the technology used may as well be magical. Watch any episode of CSI, Bones, or Scorpion and you’ll see what I mean. Procedural technology is capable of literally anything. How many episodes of television have you seen where someone tells a guy at a computer to “enhance” an image. Now there are actual ways to enhance an image, but these programs always take it to the most ridiculous extremes. “Do you see that? It’s his reflection. See if you can zoom in on it. Ah, what’s that in his eye? It’s the reflection of his killer. See if you can enhance the reflection of the reflection. We’ve found our man”. There’s actually a name for this phenomenon – the CSI effect. In an academic journal analyzing the effects of this phenomenon on actual juries, authors N.J. Schweitzer and Michael J. Saks state the following:

In recent years, the television program CSI and its spin-offs have portrayed forensic science as high-tech magic, solving crimes quickly and unerringly. Of course, CSI is only fiction. One forensic scientist estimates that 40% of the “science” on CSI does not exist, and most of the rest is performed in ways that crime lab personnel can only dream about.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Television is, after all, an entertainment medium and it’s used by many as a means of escapism. What’s the problem with a little magic technology? There is no problem with magic technology… in science fiction. But that’s not what Pure Genius is. It’s billed as a medical procedural, and in an attempt to distinguish itself, it incorporates “sufficiently advanced technology”. It is the television embodiment of Clarke’s third law.

There’s a scene in the episode in which the team, led by brilliant Silicon Valley billionaire James Bell (Augustus Prew), try to bring a young girl out of a coma. They’ve grown tired of waiting for her to come to them, so they decided to go to her. With the vast resources that he has used to fund the cutting-edge Bunker Hill Hospital, Bell purchases an experimental piece of equipment that allows for brain-to-brain communication – mind-reading. They throw the helmets on the patient and her mother, and sure enough, as the father speaks to his daughter, the mother utters the words “hi daddy” through tears. Now, if this were an episode of Fringe, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Fringe was a sci-fi procedural that dealt with fringe science. Pure Genius is not. In fact, showrunner Jason Katims actually told his writers’ room that he didn’t want to make a science fiction show. That means that apparently, the writers have done some amount of research into real experimental medical practices that they believe could be utilized some day. If this episode is anything to judge by, however, those practices are still a long ways off. Everything important in this show takes place on a high-tech computer screen or holographic tablet. Every impossible problem is solved through magical technology that’s too advanced to fail.  This is House without the ingenuity – or the characters.

Every character in Pure Genius falls flat. There are no distinct personalities. The only character less interesting than Bell himself is Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney), who is at first reluctant to join the hospital before being wowed by the miraculous power of all the expensive tech. There’s a whole team of medical experts that frankly aren’t worth elaborating on here – trust me, this show isn’t doing anything you haven’t seen a hundred times before. If you’re going to have boring characters, then you at least need to have an interesting plot. If you’re going to have a boring plot, then you at least have to have interesting characters. Pure Genius lacks both. ER, House, and Grey’s Anatomy were compelling because you were watching interesting characters push themselves to solve problems and save lives. In Pure Genius, the technology does most of the heavy lifting.

It’s unfortunate, because Jason Katims is the insanely talented individual who brought us Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, two shows which were known for their loveable characters and authentic emotional beats. Those shows elevated the family drama, but there’s nothing that sets Pure Genius apart from other shows of its ilk. Maybe one day Katims will have his show explore the complexities that surround sufficiently advanced technologies, but until then, I can’t recommend Pure Genius.

It kind of sucks to end The Pilot Project on such a low note, but… what can you do? I didn’t ask CBS to premiere half of its new fall schedule later than everyone else. Go forth, skip all CBS shows, and be blessed.

Recommendation: Skip it

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – The Great Indoors (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

The Great Indoors (Thursdays on CBS)

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One of my problems with the vast majority of CBS programs is that they’re all overly simplified, seemingly in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s not that their programs are that bad, it’s just that they’re bland retreads of ideas that have been done to death. Look at great dramas like Lost or Breaking Bad (yeah, that’s right, I’m putting them on the same level – fight me), or great comedies like Arrested Development or Community. They stretch the bounds of their genre and the format. They actively strive to break new ground and to tell stories in creative and interesting ways. CBS programs do the opposite. It’s like they actively strive to be as unoriginal as possible. Which brings me to The Great Indoors.

The Great Indoors, like most CBS comedies, can be boiled down to a simple, singular premise, which in this case is “millennials are funny”. Like Two and a Half Men (“men are funny”), The Big Bang Theory (“nerds are funny”), and Mike & Molly (“fat people are funny”) before it, The Great Indoors places all of its bets on this one joke.

Joel McHale plays Jack Gordon, the “aging” adventure journalist at the now-defunct magazine, “Outdoor Limits”. Due to the fact that print is dead, “Outdoor Limits” is shuttering its print division in favour of going fully digital. Jack is horrified, because now that “Outdoor Limits” is just a website, it apparently means he can’t go explore the world outside anymore. In fact, when you switch from being a magazine to being a website, you also have to switch from posting articles to posting memes. Like I said, everything has been overly simplified in order to beat you over the head with a singular joke. You see, Jack can’t do his previous job anymore because he’s now in charge of supervising the millennials that make up the magazine’s online team. There’s Clark (Christopher Mint-Plasse), Emma (Christine Ko), and Mason (Shaun Brown). All three are so VERY millennial. They post content such as “Best Outdoor Gear for the Zombie Apocalypse”, because while they work at an outdoor magazine, they actually know nothing about the outdoors. Because they’re millennials. And iPhones. And such. Clark hosts a podcast where he interviews Mason about his podcast. Emma is upset that she’s been working 8 weeks without a promotion. Mason keeps accidentally (?) sending people dick picks. Do you get it yet? There are frequent jokes about participation trophies. I’m not making this up. At one point Jack is referred to as “the human version of dial-up”. I haven’t cringed this much since I watched the only episode of The Big Bang Theory that I ever watched (bazinga!). Will Jack and these crazy kids ever be able to work together to create something meaningful or are they doomed to continually fall into the same old clichés? Both, probably.

I suppose if you’re old enough to find millennials perplexing (although aren’t we all?), maybe you’d get something out of the jokes involving Instagram accounts and podcasts, but if you are that sort of person then surely you’ve heard it all by now, right? In fact, you’ve probably already MADE the same jokes that these writers are being paid to think up. Doesn’t that just infuriate you? Writing isn’t even a real job though is it? Maybe they should get out of their parent’s basement and make an honest day’s living for once. You know, back in my day, we weren’t special. Siiiigggghhhhh… I just can’t even right now. :$

Recommendation: No

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – Man with a Plan (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

Man With a Plan (Mondays on CBS)

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Oh man. This is it. The one we’ve all been waiting for!

I don’t know that I necessarily dreaded watching any of this year’s pilots (even Kevin Can Wait was fun to mock), but if there was one that I cared about the least, it was probably Man with a Plan. Now, I wasn’t really basing this feeling on anything. I hadn’t seen a trailer or heard anything in particular about the show. I think that maybe my preconceived notions stemmed solely from the title. Nothing about a show called Man with a Plan sounds particularly appealing, because that’s about as broad and clichéd a title as you could possibly come up with. Unfortunately, the show lives up to its name.

I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but Man with a Plan is fine. It’s fine! It’s not particularly funny or original, but I’m sure there are people out there who would enjoy it. Matt LeBlanc stars as Adam Burns, a (wait for it) man with a plan! He’s got a wife, Andi (Liza Snyder), and three kids: Kate (Grace Kaufman), Emme (Hala Finley), and Teddy (Matthew McCann). The Burns’ are a middle-class family living in the suburban Pittsburgh, and the series looks to follow Adam’s struggle to become a stay-at-home dad while his wife goes back to work. It’s a winning formula, because that’s just it – a formula. Down-to-earth wife, goofy husband, and oddball children. I just described Man with a Plan, as well as The Middle, Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, Modern Family, and Speechless (and those are just the network family sitcoms that are airing this fall). I would have listed The Goldbergs as well, only the husband/wife roles have been reversed (sorry, I can’t speak to The Real O’Neals because I haven’t started it).

Listen, you’ve probably noticed by now that it’s very hard for me to hate a show. Unless the show is actively offensive or boring, I’ll probably find some redeemable qualities in it (or at least I’ll recognize that it’s competently made). Should I be so easy on unremarkable entertainment? Maybe not. That’s why I’m not a very good critic. Having seen first-hand the work that goes into creating a show, I don’t feel right being overly dismissive. Man with a Plan wasn’t very funny, but I also wasn’t overly offended by it. So…

Man with a Plan is a serviceable slice of American family sitcom, and if you think it’s something you’d like, then go ahead and watch it, but you’d be better served by watching Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, Speechless, The Middle, or The Real O’Neals (probably). There might have been a time in which Man with a Plan would have felt fresh and original, but in this age of “Peak TV”, who has the time?

I mean… if they didn’t bother to put in any effort, then why should I?

Recommendation: Skip it

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – American Housewife (ABC)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

American Housewife (Tuesdays on ABC)

american-housewife

Oh man. This is it. The one we’ve all been waiting for!

I don’t know that I necessarily dreaded watching any of this year’s pilots (even Kevin Can Wait was fun to mock), but if there was one that I cared about the least, it was probably American Housewife. Now, I wasn’t really basing this feeling on anything. I hadn’t seen a trailer or heard anything in particular about the show. I think that maybe my preconceived notions stemmed solely from the title. Nothing about a show called American Housewife sounds particularly appealing, because that’s about as broad and clichéd a title as you could possibly come up with. Unfortunately, the show lives up to its name.

I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but American Housewife is fine. It’s fine! It’s not particularly funny or original, but I’m sure there are people out there who would enjoy it. Katy Mixon stars as Katie Otto, an (wait for it) American housewife! She’s got a husband, Greg (Diedrich Bader), and three kids: Taylor (Meg Donnelly), Oliver (Daniel DiMaggio), and Anna-Kat (Julia Butters). The Otto’s are a middle-class family living in the incredibly wealth town of Westport, Conneticut, and the series looks to follow Katie’s struggle to keep her family grounded amidst the wealth and privilege they’re surrounded by every day. She’s got two kids (Taylor and Oliver) who are fitting in too well and becoming the privileged elite that she can’t stand, and she’s got little Anna-Kat, an outsider who seems to be suffering from a mild case of OCD. It’s a winning formula, because that’s just it – a formula. Down-to-earth wife, goofy husband, and oddball children. I just described American Housewife, as well as The Middle, Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, Modern Family, and Speechless (and those are just the network family sitcoms that are airing this fall). I would have listed The Goldbergs as well, only the husband/wife roles have been reversed (sorry, I can’t speak to The Real O’Neals because I haven’t started it).

Listen, you’ve probably noticed by now that it’s very hard for me to hate a show. Unless the show is actively offensive or boring, I’ll probably find some redeemable qualities in it (or at least I’ll recognize that it’s competently made). Should I be so easy on unremarkable entertainment? Maybe not. That’s why I’m not a very good critic. Having seen first-hand the work that goes into creating a show, I don’t feel right being overly dismissive. American Housewife wasn’t very funny, but I also wasn’t overly offended by it. So…

American Housewife is a serviceable slice of American family sitcom, and if you think it’s something you’d like, then go ahead and watch it, but you’d be better served by watching Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, Speechless, The Middle, or The Real O’Neals (probably). There might have been a time in which American Housewife would have felt fresh and original, but in this age of “Peak TV”, who has the time?

Recommendation: Skip it

 

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – Frequency (CW)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

Frequency (Wednesday on CW)

frequency

If No Tomorrow represents the new CW, Frequency is more indicative of its past. On the surface, it’s a somewhat goofy, mostly derivative procedural wrapped up in genre trappings. In look and feel, it couldn’t be more generic. The one thing it has going for it is the sheer audacity of the premise.

In Frequency, Peyton List plays Raimy Sullivan, a cop with a chip on her shoulder because of her dad Frank (Riley Smith), another cop who died while undercover 20 years ago. She’s got her father’s old ham radio in her garage. One day, lightning strikes the house and the radio powers on for the first time in years. Raimy begins to have a conversation with the stranger whose broadcast she picks up. As it turns out, that stranger is Frank Sullivan, communicating with his daughter from 20 years in the past, using the same radio she’s using. Yes, the premise of this show is “girl talks to her younger father on a magic time radio”. The thing is, he’s supposed to die the next day.

Now, I should probably warn you – I’m basically going to spoil this entire episode, so if this sounds appealing to you, stop reading and go watch the episode (it’s streaming on Canadian Netflix).

So, if you could communicate into the past with your dad, who is on the verge of death, what would you do? You would, of course, warn him, even though every single piece of time travel related media ever created has warned you against doing so. And so she does. And he lives. Woohoo! Daddy’s saved, and the future is changed, and now it turns out that he lived a long(er) and happy life with his daughter before dying in 2011 (hey, 15 extra years ain’t bad). It’s all good, right? Except it’s not, because Raimy’s fiancé Daniel no longer has any memory of her. Her mother (who was Daniel’s nurse after he was in a car accident) was supposed to introduce the two of them, only she didn’t, because her mother’s now dead, a victim of the “Nightingale” serial killer who preyed on nurses in 1996. Does any of this… sound familiar? It should, because this exact narrative device was used the day before on the 3rd season premiere of The Flash. And the day before that on the series premiere of Timeless. And it was used two weeks later on the 2nd episode of Legends of Tomorrow’s 3rd season. As I said in my Timeless review, I love time travel, but this is just ridiculous. Now, there’s no way that the writers of all 4 shows could have known that this would happen (although they are all filmed in Vancouver and 3 of them are specifically about time travel), but this “twist” stops being shocking after the first couple of times (and let’s be real, time travel stories have been telling variations of this concept since they were first conceived). I know that for the characters, it must be particularly jarring and horrifying to have people in their life just… erased, but it’s not much fun watching the characters react this way. What did you think was going to happen? YOU CHANGED THE PAST! If I had the chance to time travel and I did, I would do it knowing full well that I was basically destroying the present. I can’t empathize with these stupid characters when they’re aghast that MENDLING WITH THE TIME STREAM screwed things up. Anyway, maybe that’s just me.

This show is fine. It’s not aggressively bad, it’s just a little bland and uninspired (except for that dumb radio thing). Want to see Riley work with her dad to hunt down the Nightingale killer in order to save her mother’s life? Check out the show, but make it quick. If Peyton List’s other starring roles are anything to go by – Windfall (13 episodes), Big Shots (11 episodes), FlashForward (22 episodes), and The Tomorrow People (22 episodes) – Frequency’s days are numbered. Peyton better start looking for another show to destroy, for she has become List, the destroyer of shows.

Recommendation: Try it (I guess)

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – No Tomorrow (CW)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

No Tomorrow (Tuesdays on CW)

no-tomorrow

The CW has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last few seasons. Five years ago, The CW is where you would have gone to watch Gossip Girl, Hart of Dixie, Hellcats, Nikita, One Tree Hill, The Ringer, Smallville, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries. It was a network that programmed specifically for teenage girls. Now, that’s not to say that these shows were without their merits (I’ve succumbed to many a guilty pleasure in my time), but The CW wasn’t the haven for progressive, critically acclaimed dramas that it is today.

These days, The CW is the place for highly-entertaining, well produced genre fair like The 100, iZombie, and the Arrowverse family of shows – Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. These shows aren’t for everybody, but it’s impossible to deny that they’re of a higher quality than the programming The CW was serving five years ago (Supergirl is 10x the show Smallville ever was). That being said, The CW is still the place to go for romantic dramedies – they’ve just classed them up a little. The critically-acclaimed Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend delivered the networks first two Golden Globe awards (both for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy). The CW has grown into the little network that could, with one of the most consistently entertaining lineups of any broadcast network, so it’s always interesting to see what new shows they’re willing to introduce into their overcrowded schedule (they only have room for 10 hours of programming a week, compared to the 18 hours that other networks are working with).

Enter No Tomorrow, a charming, quirky romantic comedy that I’m sure The CW hoped would be their next Jane the Virgin or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The high-level concept is that bored warehouse manager Evie (played by the lovely Tori Anderson) encounters the attractive, adventurous Xavier (Joshua Sasse, of Galavant), who believes that the world is going to end in 8 months and 12 days after being struck by an asteroid. This has led him to leave his job and pursue the completion of his “apocalyst” – a list of things that he’d like to do before the end. Evie is taken in by this idea and makes her own apocalyst to complete. Effectively, this show is about a girl trying to cross items off her bucket list in an attempt to live life to the fullest. Not a wholly original concept, by any means, but Tori Anderson’s so adorable that it’s hard to care. Anderson and Sasse are probably the two most charismatic leads of any new fall show, so it’s easy to forgive this pilot its flaws (one of which is the extended cast, which I’m not sure I’m sold on yet).

The one thing that could set this show apart from other “bucket list” stories is the “end of the world” aspect. It will be interesting to see how much the show ends up dwelling on that idea, since there’s no proof that the world is actually ending. If it is, then it certainly puts a bit of a time-limit on the show’s life span, doesn’t it? Without the “end of days” conceit, I’m not sure how sustainable the bucket-list idea will be, although I suppose I’ve seen better shows do more with less.

I’m choosing to remain optimistic about No Tomorrow. It’s an endearing show with endearing leads and I genuinely hope that it improves. That being said, it looks like The CW’s probably going to end it at 13 episodes, so… you’ll be able to binge it on Netflix (where new episodes are airing in Canada) quite easily!

Recommendation: Try it