Let’s Make a Brand New Start

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I’m not what you would call a reality show junkie.  In fact, short of the occasional singing competition show, I rarely even dabble into the genre anymore.  I remember hearing the promos for Utopia almost a year before it actually aired.  Maybe it was the fact that Walden Two had been required reading for some of my psych courses in college or maybe it was the psych major in me, but the premise of the show was absolutely irresistible.

You put fifteen people in the middle of nowhere and leave it up to them to determine how they will survive.  They started these individuals off with nothing other than the absolute basics.  They had no electricity, no running water, very little food.  They were provided with $5000 and a dead cell phone as their only means of survival.

I must admit, I can’t really wrap my brain around the person that signs up for this for an entire year and calls this their utopia.  If anyone is asking, my utopia involves a debt-free life living in a cabin with a mountain view, private chef, and housekeeper.  It does not, under any circumstances, involve sharing a toilet with 15 people and showering with a water hose.  Just saying.

To be fair, these Utopians have turned out to be quite resourceful.  They wisely chose a diverse group of characters to add drama while also choosing individuals with different skills sets that would be able to contribute certain “talents” to the group.

There’s Bree the vet tech who helps with the animals when she’s not sleeping.  There’s Josh, the contractor who helped wire the electricity and is always building something though we never really see what.  We have Mike.  He’s a lawyer and he tries to be helpful though its difficult to  hold his head up with all his hair piled on top.  He’s got the Justin Bieber before he became a bad boy thing going on.  Sometimes when he throws his head I’m seriously worried he’s going to dislocate his neck or something.  If he did, Doctor Nikki would help him, I’m sure.

There are several other community members including a pregnant woman (Amanda).  I seriously think a psych eval is in order when and if she makes it out of there.  Something has to be off in your brain for you to have a choice, and choose to go into a place like this to have a baby.  Bella is a hippie chick who wants to live off the land to survive.  I’d like to see her banished back into whatever Woodstock Nirvana she came from.  I’ve seen a lot of of annoying people in my time, but this woman truly makes me want to go through the tv screen.

The other cast members are largely not worth mentioning unless you count Red who breaks away from the group every time he disagrees with a decision.  Bella could take him with her now that I think about it.

As a whole, the show has not lived up to its full potential.  What could have been an intelligent, social experiment is being overshadowed by petty, ignorant people.  While I had hoped the network actually wanted to produce a program that illustrated societal issues, it’s clear they are more focused on drawing in viewers by producing a Real-World-esque drama-fest.

Guess I’ll go read Walden Two again.

Grey’s Anatomy 11×1 — Its Gunna Be a Bumpy Ride

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Well, well, well. Grey’s Anatomy has returned for an eleventh season. Hands up if you actually thought it would last this long. I certainly didn’t. How will Shonda and Co. keep things kicking? Of course, I had to tune in and find out; especially since I heard that they were introducing Ellis and Richard’s long-lost lovechild –finally! (We all knew one was out there, didn’t we?) I had basically stopped watching after they killed off my beautiful George O’Malley (senselessly, might I add) so I still have a lot to learn about the “new” Grey’s. This could definitely end up being one of the tensest seasons yet.

I still can’t believe that Yang is gone! She was a staple of the show. Apparently no one else can believe Cristina’s not around anymore either because she was brought up quite a bit in this episode. Of course Meredith is missing her bff and Owen is missing his ex-wife. Meredith is making Alex (who has turned into quite the standup guy of late!) into her new ‘person’. It is already tons of fun to watch. I can’t help but wonder if they might cross the lines of friendship at some point. Call me crazy, but I see some serious chemistry between Ellen Pompeo and Justin Chambers. As much as I already love Jo and Alex, I wouldn’t mind a little line-blurring for “MerAlex”, especially now that “MerDer” are on the rocks yet again. I always preferred Derek with Addison anyway. It’s just too bad that she’s off somewhere getting her start as a “bad judge” (wink, wink).

Speaking of ‘ships’, I still can’t believe that Callie and Arizona are together! I know they have loads of fans, but Arizona just comes off as so damned annoying, judgmental and flighty (and not in a good way). How many times can she leave my girl Callie twisting in the wind before all their rootablity as a couple is completely lost? Not that I ever rooted for them. Torres and Mark Sloan were meant to be in my book, and if they couldn’t be together, then Erica Hahn was another great option. I still curse the day Arizona roller-skated her way through the doors of Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital (I still want to call it Seattle Grace. Is that wrong?). She’s just so flipping irritating. The most irritating character ever …. Or so I thought… Until Maggie Pierce showed up…

Maggie is Ellis and Richard’s love child (or so she says), making her Meredith’s third (or is it fourth?) half-sister. She’s no Lexie Grey, that’s for sure. Maggie is pushy, intrusive, obsessive, and irritating (yeah I already said that, but it bears repeating). I was so excited about Mer’s sibling showing up one day but I am sad that Maggie is that sibling. She completely rubs me the wrong way. I hope Mer remains cold to her for a long time, even after the inevitable “OMG, you’re my sister?!” moment to come. It will take me awhile to warm up to her too, that’s for sure. There’s something borderline creepy about her and I hate to say it, but the actress playing her is kind of weak so far. Not very impressive or charismatic at all. I know that she’s a newbie but she will have to work hard to play on the same field as acting greats like Sara Ramirez, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin McKidd, and even Pompeo herself – who has grown tremendously as an actress since her “Pick me, choose me” days of yore.

Now what Grey’s critique would be complete without touching on the patients’ stories? That’s part of what makes it a medical show, right? There were three separate lives on the line in this episode and I am pleased to say two of the three patients got happy endings. The one who didn’t was survived by a wife and the cutest little boy who brought tears to my eyes when he said he missed his dad already and was sad that he’d never see him again. Grey’s has always done heartbreaking, angst-ridden scenes so well  -when they played the full beats of a story, that is.

Truth be told, despite showing some signs of wear in its “old age”, Grey’s is in good shape. Season 11 is off to a great start. It seems the writers are going back to the roots of the show – telling compelling stories about the doctors. It’s not just about who’s boning who anymore. Character-driven stories triumph over plot-point writing every time. I am hopeful for an awesome season. I am going along for the ride, for now. I think I’d better buckle my seatbelt though! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Madam Secretary is made of win!

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“A woman’s perspective is such an important thing”, says Elizabeth McCord (aka Tea Leoni) at one point during the debut of the new show, Madam Secretary. And you know what? I couldn’t agree more. Most political tales are told from the point of view of the male and as a woman, I like seeing a strong female character at the forefront of the drama. Elizabeth is intelligent, fervent and brave. It takes guts to stand up to a bunch of her superiors who are against her, rather than supporting her. But lest you think this show is only written for “chicks”, let me say that it truly is a drama anyone can enjoy – chockfull of witty repartee, action, pathos and great acting.

The show opens with a shot of a mosque. A flash of text in the corner of the screen tells us we are visiting Damascus, Syria. The camera soon pans to the inside of a jail where a group of men are paying checkers. A young American man in typical denim jeans and a tee-shirt is being dragged to a cell where his brother is waiting. The young man is screaming “call the State Department”.

That was a decent – if slightly predictable – hook to the begin show though admittedly at that point, I was just waiting for a glance of Tim Daly’s fine self. We soon meet Elizabeth who is hurrying along while being stalked by a very entitled university student who doesn’t like his thesis topic. We get a glimpse at Elizabeth’s greatly witty side when she rebuffs the student in style and tells him he will not receive an extension on his paper. At that point, I am sure that I will like her a lot. And I do.

She soon meets up with her husband Henry (played by Tim Daly who is as fine as ever! Thank you, HDTV, for the close-up!)  and we get to see them interact. They are a fun couple, teasing and cajoling each other right and left. I can see from first glance that they have major shipper-potential. We learn that they live on a farm; that they have so-called normal lives, even with a “self-proclaimed anarchist” for a son. Cue the upset. The president arrives. He tells Elizabeth that the secretary of state’s plane went down. The man is no more and there is suddenly a position needing filled. Elizabeth is called to serve. She balks at the idea (anyone would feel under-qualified for that job, right?) and then we are shown that she has accepted the offer as the little text box in the corner soon reads “Two Months Later”…

A lot of stuff happens thereafter (there’s never a dull moment in this show) that I could spoil you about but you know what, I won’t. And why? Because I think you need to watch this show yourself. Actually, I demand that you watch this show yourself! It’s really that darn good. It would be a mistake to skip it and write it off as “just another one of those political shows”. It’s not. It’s actually bordering on brilliant even when it has a few predictable moments here and there.

The characters and acting alone make the show worth the price of admission. Tim Daly’s hotness makes the show worth the price of admission too, but I digress. Watch this show, even if it doesn’t sound like your thing. You might be pleasantly surprised just how fast the narrative moves. I am most definitely on pins and needles waiting for next Sunday’s episode. They left us with one hell of a cliffhanger and I look forward to seeing how the mystery element they introduced plays into the events of the coming season.

While Madam Secretary debuted at very modest ratings (they only scored only a 2.0 share in Households), I am hoping positive buzz about the show will ensure its success. I’d be pretty lost without Elizabeth and Henry. Seriously, I would. The show has made that much of an impact on me already. So just to recap: watch this show!

What did you think of Madam Secretary? Sound off in the comments below.

First Look at Selfie

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Somehow Selfie managed to escape my attention entirely.  I had never heard of the show until the early preview appeared on Hulu.  To be honest, this isn’t the type of show I normally go for.  It looked alarmingly similar to Suburgatory which, unlike a lot of people, I found annoying and tiresome rather than witty and cute.  In the interest of fair and unbiased reviews, however, I decided to give the show a chance.

The show begins with a brief introduction to our main characters, Eliza Dooley and Henry.  Sound familiar?  It should.  A tv show that harkens back to Pygmalion or what is more commonly known as My Fair Lady  automatically gains some credibility in my book.  I feel better–more hopeful–for a moment.

Eliza Dooley could easily be the most annoying main character in the history of television.  As someone that has watched more than their fair share of daytime tv, that is saying something.  Some of you may think annoying can be cute–like Reese Witherspoon’s character in Clueless.  Only in this case, she’s not.  She’s annoying like bad case of the sniffles or like the taste of Mexican food that won’t go away no matter how many antacids you take.

She has a voice that one can only pray is an acting choice because its tone and quality is much like the sound a door hinge makes when it is in desperate need of some WD-40.

Then there’s Henry…an actor whose face I recognize but whose name I don’t know.  He’s the only character on this show that seems to have a grip on reality.  He doesn’t understand Eliza’s (or the rest of the world’s) fascination with social media.

Both he and Eliza work for the same advertising company and, while Eliza is the top seller thanks to the length of her skirts and “the fact that her lipstick matches her thongs”, Henry’s success can be traced to the fact the doesn’t create personal relationships with others.

In his words, “I find it incredibly easy not to form personal connections in a city that only values wireless connection.”

Up to this point, I’m underwhelmed to say the least.  Eliza is on my last nerve especially with lines like this:

“I was hoping everyone had forgotten about my epic fail, or at the very least, would do like Elsa and let it go.”   Seriously?

As she walks around with her nose in the air and her head in the clouds, she seems oblivious to the fact that everyone hates her until she gets sick and texts her “friends” only to find no one comes through.

“Being friended isn’t the same as having friend.”  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a poet.

The next morning brings a confused, but no less snobbish, Eliza.  She has “legit hamster breath” (We get it, ok?  She’s a Valley Girl with the IQ of a tree toad) and she had no idea why everyone doesn’t fall over themselves to love her.

While in a business meeting with Henry and the rest of the staff, she has an idea. If Henry can rebrand a failed product, maybe he can rebrand her?!

This is actually painful to watch.

Henry agrees to take on the challenge of rebranding Eliza and I sigh heavily as I realize I still have half of this show to go.

But then, something amazing happens.  Eliza becomes human.  She sits at a wedding with Henry and watches with tears in her eyes as she realizes she may never have what the bride does.  The tough, annoying, grating exterior breaks down and you see a glimpse inside of a tortured teenager who desperately wants to be liked.

As the half hour draws to a close we begin to see what this show is truly capable of.  Henry and Eliza have a strange, irresistible sort of chemistry.  The kind of cute, hate you/then I love you kind of attraction that you’re drawn to.

Can a show succeed solely on the chemistry of two main characters?  I don’t know, but I’m intrigued enough to want to find out.

Sneak Peek at…

Forever

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You know that moment when you watch a show and you just know you’ve going to love this one.   Sadly, for me at least, that moment is usually followed by immediate cancellation.  If I love a show–really love it–it’s doomed.  My track record is scary…really.

Having said that, I’m cautiously optimistic about Forever.  It’s that good.  Think NYPD/Once Upon a Time/Sherlock Holmes.

The main character is Dr. Henry Morgan played by the uber yummy Ioan Gruffudd.  I don’t recognize him, but he’s talented, gorgeous, and he’s got a fantastic accent.

It turns out Dr. Morgan has a bit of secret.  He’s been alive for a really long time (200 years to be exact) mainly because he can’t die despite the fact that he manages to get killed a lot.

His predicament lands him in some interesting situations, so it’s understandable that he needs a confidante…someone he can talk to and lean on in times of trouble.  Enter Abe, Henry’s “Fairy Godfather” if you will.  We find out some interesting info about Abe towards the end of the show, but I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t seen the episode yet.

Dr. Morgan isn’t as happy about his immortality as you’d expect him to be and he spends a rather large chunk of his time working to determine how to break his curse.  When he’s not working his day job as the medical examiner for New York City, he holes up under Abe’s Antique Shop keeping records of his brushes with death.

Remember when I said this show was part NYPD…well, you need a cop for that and that cop comes in the form of Detective Jo Martinez.  We find out a bit about Jo throughout this episode, but most importantly we find out she’s become a bit suspicious of, and possibly taken with, Dr. Morgan.

The good doctor has managed to get himself involved in a train crash.  Everyone on board died (except him of course) which makes him the main suspect.  Luckily for the immortal Dr. Morgan, he’s not just a pretty face.  He’s also very, very observant.

Pretty woman on train- “You see a lot.”

Dr. Morgan- “I’ve seen a lot.”

Uh huh.

The show moves quickly.  Dr. Morgan works to  clear his name and quickly forges a friendship with Jo.  They team up to find the real killer and all is going along swimmingly until the cryptic phone calls start coming.

Someone knows Dr Morgan’s secret and they share his curse.

Dum..Dum..Dum…

Before show’s end, Dr. Morgan dies a few more times, Jo comes close to death, and we learn a little more about Dr. Henry Morgan’s beginnings courtesy of some well-placed flashbacks.

The show ends with some, all too appropriate dialogue.

“Henry, Are you ok?”

“I’ll survive.

Let’s hope so.  This show has the makings of a real winner.

First Look at….

Red Band Society

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You might think a show about a bunch of kids that lived in a hospital would be depressing.  You might expect to be in tears multiple times throughout the episode.  You might be prepared to hear dialogue that, although poignant, is a bit heavy handed.  You would be right.

The show begins with a voice which we soon learn to be the voice of, Charlie, otherwise known as “Coma Boy”.  He will be a narrarator for this fun-filled journey.

The show revolves around an interesting cast of characters….all of whom have depressing life stories.

Nurse Jackson runs the hospital.  There’s a heart of gold under that tough exterior, but it takes us a while to see it.  She tortures poor Brittany, who just wants to be someone’s “muffin buddy” and is almost cruel to other members of the staff.

Kara, the main recepient of Nurse Jackson’s wrath for most of the show, is a cheerleader who thinks the world owes her a living.  She’s clearly privileged and has everything money can buy….too bad money can’t buy her a functioning heart.

You’ve got Leo, the tough talking teen with cancer.  He’s lost a leg and he’s confined to a wheelchair.  Right now, he’s waiting to see if the treatment was successful.

Then there’s Jordi, a courageous, newly diagnosed cancer patient.  He’s preparing to have his leg amputated, hoping to stop the cancer before it spreads.

Dash, cystic fibrosis sufferer, who you might recognize as Astro (last seen on America’s Got Talent).  Guess that singing career didn’t work out for him.

Emma rounds out the group.  She’s suffering from an eating disorder which the show comes dangerously close to downplaying.  It’s revelaed she used to have a thing for Leo but, “now they only live to make each other miserable”.

These kids live in a hospital.  Miserable shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish.

As shows go, this one has the makings for good drama.  I’m a big fan of the “cleansing cry” and this show provides plenty of opportunities.  I’m just worried it may provide a few too many.  While this concept might make a great movie, I’m not sure it can sustain an entire tv series and, even if it could, I don’t know if my mental health could survive.

By time the teens have taken to the roof top for Jordi’s last hurrah befhore surgery, I’m already dangerously close to tears.

Leo hands out his red arm bands (clearly the inspiration for the show’s name) to his friends.  Each band holds a significance to him and, as he hands them to each person, he tells the backstory.  Sob fest #1

Sob fest #2 occured following a conversation between Leo and Jordi.  Jordi is getting ready to go in for surgery and he has some questions.

Jordi- “How bad does it hurt?”

Leo- “Not as bad as you’d think. What hurts most is not  that it’s [the leg] gone , it’s remembering that it was ever there.”

To be honest, the sobbing didn’t really stop after that.

I have to admit, the show isn’t what I expected.  The humor is smart.  The sadness is real and the stories are all too reminiscent of real-life stories we all know all too well.  I’m not sure if the show has legs.  I’m not certain enough people want to to tune in to get a bird’s eye view of their worst nighmares.

But, as Charlie tell us..

“People think when you go into the hospital your life stops, but they’re wrong–it starts.”

I, for one, hope he’s right.  This could be the start of a great show.

Mysteries of Laura makes its debut

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The new NBC show Mysteries of Laura opens with a high-speed chase. Laura (the titular character, played by the always stellar Will and Grace alum, Debra Messing) climbs out of her filthy (and I do mean filthy!) car and hurries down the street to catch a nameless criminal. Guns are drawn, chaos ensues, and an earlobe is tragically and gruesomely lost in the debacle. Almost immediately, we get a clear picture of who Laura is – a cynical, lovable mess. She’s an absolute train wreck and that’s what makes the show hard to turn away from. Messing’s character (and her talented co-stars) will no doubt be the draw that brings people back every week to watch a rather predictable (I mean, I knew who the killer was 5 minutes in!), schlocky show.

We soon learn that Laura has twin boys who can only justifiably be called demons (I kid you not, these children are of the devil!); an affable, if misguided ex-husband (played by the super-sexy and delicious Josh Lucas), and a whole host of problems. She is great undercover, has a brilliant mind for crime-solving, and is a devout mother but she’s got issues. Issues that should be fun to explore over the course of the season. Will Laura completely unravel under the pressure of her chaotic life? I admit it; I do look forward to finding out.

To be honest, Mysteries of Laura is far from rocket-science. We’ve seen this cop-show/harried-woman-police-officer formula a hundred times over, but it’s the characters and actors on the show that make it shine. Hopefully, it will be a true success because NBC needs a hit show like this couch potato needs to lose fifty pounds. I kind of doubt that the show will set the world on fire, but at the same time, I am certainly willing to give the show and OCD-Laura another chance. I actually look forward to next week’s episode and seeing what new tragedies will face our crazy, oddly dressed, junk-food loving heroine.

Did you watch the debut of Mysteries of Laura? Please be sure to share your own thoughts about it in the comments below. Thank you!