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.

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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.

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program….

Remember me? Yes…Yes..It’s been a while. Life has a pesky way of getting in the way of the fun stuff, doesn’t it?! The truth is I’ve been crazy busy. While I’d love to sit back all day and gorge on tv, no one is offering to pay me for that yet. Until then, I keep my day job.

As my fantastic fellow tv addict has already informed you, we’re back…to stay this time! I’ll be dropping in later this week to catch you up on the shows I’ve been loving since my last post (RIP Betrayal).

Also this Friday marks the launch of a fun new feature at TV Tarts…Flashback Friday. This is a weekly feature we’ll devote to shows that we’ve loved and lost. The first post will be this Friday and will be courtesy of me!

Here’s a hint…

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Until Friday,

Lynn

Trophy Wife – An Overview of the First 3 Episodes

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While I was busy with real life or maybe, just off twiddling my thumbs, Trophy Wife somehow managed to air 3 episodes already. I finally got a chance to watch those episodes today so I’m going to do a review of all of them in one sort of jumbled up post. I will say that I don’t know exactly what I was expecting of the sitcom before I actually watched it, but it wasn’t exactly this…

 

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? AKA, the first episode of Trophy Wife. Truth be told, the first episode was pretty bland – to the point of almost being completely not worth talking about. I’m not even going to lie here. It turns out that all of the sorta funny and charming parts we had already seen because they all played out in the promo. The rest – aka the other seventeen minutes of the pilot – were just so blah! The characters showed little depth (I still don’t know half of their names; they are just that unmemorable!), the pace was slow, and call me crazy, but I don’t find gruesome hamster deaths funny. Like, at all. We were given about a two-second look at Kate and Pete’s courtship (for lack of a better word), and then that was it. I really can’t figure out why he married her – I mean, other than the fact that she’s a gorgeous “piece of real estate”. As for her attraction to him? Well that honestly mystifies me the most. Was she looking for a sugar daddy? A substitute father? Did she just love his eyes? We don’t know! We simply weren’t shown. And going into the third episode, we still know very little about them other than their names and their occupations (he’s a lawyer; she’s a trophy wife, of course – aka jobless). Of course I don’t need to know everything at the starting gate; I don’t need the writers to hit us over the head with a major back-story right away, but come on now – give us something to work with here. Help explain what drew these two pathetic souls together, and what holds them together now. At least tell us if their sex life is good! Lol Just give us a reason to care about them. Please.

 

Okay … Now, at this point, as tempted as I was to just skip right over the next two episodes after that first piss-poor showing, I kept on. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment?! I do know that I liked the majority of the actors already. And I kept thinking it’s going to get better. It just has to get better.

 

And episode 2 was better. Slightly. The writing was a little less contrived anyway and it showcased the immense talents of the little boy who plays Albert aka Bert aka The Bertster. He’s freaking great! In fact, I have heard more than one person say that he’s the sole reason they watch the show (of the few people who actually openly admit to watching this, of course lol) He’s funny, energetic, hyper, clever, and just a joy to watch. He is the show’s official scene stealer-slash-future child Emmy winner, I think.

 

As for the other two kids on the show… Well, much like their parents, they mystify me. Warren seems like a stereotypical big goof and Hilary, she’s just a brat. Speaking of Hilary, they pulled a bait and switch with the actress who played her in episode 1. As in, the first Hilary is finito – as in, off the show! Suddenly Hilary isn’t a cute, willowy blonde but rather a petite brunette played by Bailee Madison. Who is of course in every Disney-related project these days. And who plays exactly the same character in every Disney-related project. I will not actor bash but the change was jarring because I can’t figure out what was wrong with the first Hilary. She didn’t seem so bad, just creatively-unchallenged – much like the other actors in the cast. None of them have exactly gotten a ton of great material to work with. Not even close, to be honest.

 

And now we’re moving on to episode 3. This I decided was to be the ‘make it or break it’ episode. If I didn’t like it, I was not going to ever watch another episode. Well, episode 3 was better than the first two in some ways but there was very little Bert and well, that is just criminal. I guess we did learn a little about Pete. I figured out that he’s a permissive, nice-guy type parent – until Wife #1 Diane tells him how its gunna be. Then he dances to the beat of her drummer. And by contrast, we learned that Diane’s a megalomaniac who “catfishes” to keep her kids in line. Alrighty then…

 

We also saw more of Kate’s friendship with that Meg person. What did I learn about Meg? Oh. That she’s as bland, predictable and cardboard as the whole of the series is thus far. Plus, I realized that she’s played by the same actress who went all Glenn Close-y on Liam in the fifth season of 90210. But I digress… Oh and I also learned that she likes booze. That’s all I got for our friend Meg. But why Kate is friends with her, I haven’t a friggin’ clue. Because I don’t know anything about Kate nor do I care about Kate. She’s the titular character and there’s just nothing about her that draws me in or makes me want to keep coming back for more episodes. I do like Malin Akerman though. I always have (she’s the new, highly improved Cameron Diaz in my mind) but this role of hers is just going nowhere fast. In fact, the whole show is going nowhere fast. I want it to get better. I honestly do. I want it to be amazing because Marcia Gay-Harden, Bradley Whitford, and Malin are faves of mine and because Bert is just so damn great. But it’s not amazing and I am not sure it ever will be amazing. It’s watchable, I guess. I mean, it is a quick half hour distraction from your life that you don’t have to over think… But as a person with a limited amount of free time, I know that I need a fairly good reason to keep tuning in week after week, investing my time and my patience in this show.

 

Now I told you already that episode 3 was the do-or-die episode for me; that I would decide after I watched it if I would ever watch again. Well, sorry but you’re going to have to check back with me next week because I’ve decided after everything to give it yet still one more chance. Seriously, one last chance though. I mean it this time. (Marcia Gay-Harden, I blame your fabulousness for entrapping me into viewing again! Lol)

 

All I can say is that Episode 4 better be off the charts epic or Trophy Wife can just go the way of many other forgettable sitcoms that came before it – into complete oblivion. I am giving the writers one more chance to make me care about these characters and this show in general! ONE CHANCE. Please don’t blow it!

My Realization, AKA The Goldbergs Episode 1×02!

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So I freely admit that I have woefully fallen behind on contributing … well, anything! … to this site as of late. Real life intruded for a bit there, but I am back now and ready to do some TV dishin’! I have lots of episodes to catch up on but I did just watch The Goldbergs ep 1×02 so let’s discuss that one first, shall we? (Yes I am more than a week behind but if you haven’t seen that episode yet; this review is new to you. And if you have seen it, reminisce with me lol Thanks!)

This episode of The Goldbergs was entitled “Daddy Daughter Day”.  The moment I saw the episode title I immediately thought “okay, how badly is Daddy Murray going to seriously eff up this special occasion with Erica?” I had many preconceptions about the episode but I am happy to say that the majority of them were wrong!

You see, being that I am an active consumer of modern-day sitcoms; I know a lot of the trends. The writers of said sitcoms seem to think “the bigger and more contrived we make [the gags], the funnier the audience will find the show and we won’t get cancelled just yet”. So I went into watching this expecting a lot of far-out, contrived and slap-sticky occurrences to happen during or even on the way to Erica and Murray’s special outing. I was truthfully expecting some seriously epic disasters. Anything for a laugh, right?

Admittedly, there were some seriously disastrous moments like Murray going into near-catatonia when Erica went on ad nauseum about her and her best friend Lainie’s wild teenage dramas. And when he forbade Erica to associate with Lainie anymore which we know is, of course, a big no-no for any teen girl, that was a disaster. And it was of course doubly disastrous that he made her so mad while they were roller-skating that Erica rolled away and left her father there, trying to “merge” into skating traffic. Which resulted in him plummeting to the floor, unable to get up.

So yes, those were disasters but they were what I’ll call “natural disasters”. They could easily happen in REAL life and they do! And that’s when I had a serious revelation. Yes, I had an “A-HA!” moment watching a TV comedy! I realized that the reason The Goldbergs is so funny is that it’s generally realistic. The writers take moments that have and do happen and will continue to happen in REAL people’s lives and put them on screen for us to watch in all their awkward glory (utter embarrassment is utter embarrassment in the 80’s and every other decade too!). It’s a highly relatable, as are the characters, and that’s the beauty of it. REAL life is disastrous and awkward too and sometimes you just have to laugh about it or you’ll just cry hysterically. There are no exaggerated stunts or gimmicks on this show designed to try to force a laugh out of you. They don’t drag out the dog and pony show or make a million and one fart jokes to cause you to chuckle. They just amp up reality and the results are hilarious. REAL life, in hindsight, is hilarious. When you’re not crying about the craziness of it all, of course.

Speaking of crying, there was some crying in this episode and again, it felt very realistic here. How many Moms have been in Beverly’s Bedazzler-accented tennis shoes, terribly sad that their kids are just growing up way too darn fast? Beverly had a very human moment in the kitchen where she was all teary eyed and lamenting that with Adam, she feels as if she is having to “say goodbye to a little boy [she] was just getting to know.” And there is Pops (boy, do I love Pops! I want a Grandpa just like him!) to give her some sage advice which forces her to immediately spring into action. She knew then that she had to give her kids growing room. She also knew that she had to give Adam what he wanted for a change. In this case he wanted a really cool back-to-school outfit that his mom had not picked out. (Yeah, I’ve so been there, haven’t you?)

The episode winds up quite nicely with Bev (played to uber-perfection by Wendi McLendon-Covey; once again, I will say she had better get an Emmy for this role!) taking Adam shopping for some “dangerous” designer duds. (She finally agreed to ditch the obnoxious and childish train-appliquéd sweater she had tried to saddle him with earlier in the episode.) She has to literally threaten the store employee who was ready to close the shop into keeping it open long enough that Adam could get some awesome jeans but she got it done. (I want to note here that the sales girl seemed truly terrified of Bev! She even agreed to honor the year-old expired coupon Bev brought with her. We all know it’s a fact that Mama Bears do attack and well, Bev is the ultimate Mama Bear. She would eat her own young before she’d let someone else hurt them! Lol)

And finally, back at the house, Murray and Erica watched an old home video of her as a kid and share a nice moment. A moment that feels authentic and real. (Awkward authenticity is basically the whole framework of this show.) And when Murray starts calling Erica a “Moron” once again, it’s deeply felt and even appreciated.

The Goldbergs has quickly become my favorite new show of the fall season. I will admit that Murray’s yelling does grate on my eardrums and nerves at times and that there are moments I find Adam oddly, highly annoying, but like with true family, sometimes you just have to love them anyway – in spite of their many flaws and hang-ups!