Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: NCIS: New Orleans

New Orleans is a Great Setting for a So-Far Uninspired NCIS Spinoff
David Williams, TVFirstLook 
Scott Bakula, Lucas Black
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, 9pm) immediately hooks you with a grisly image of death in its debut episode tonight. Unfortunately, the newest NCIS plays it too safe from there.

NCIS: NOLA’s agent Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula) is investigating the murder of a young man he’d liberated from the hard streets and mentored into being an upstanding Navy man. Clues suggest the crime is related to the victim’s past gang life, but Prime suspects a larger plot at work.

With him are Agents Chris LaSalle (Lucas Black), a good ol’ Southern boy unafraid of mouthing off, and Meredith Brody (Zoe McLellan), who finds it difficult to transition from the quiet Midwest to the exotic and perilous streets of the Big Easy.

Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Works Out the Kinks (Meaning, It's Better Now)

One of the things [Marvel's Agents of  S.H.I.E.L.D.] (ABC, 9pm) lacked most in season one was style. Some may have found the well constructed characters and story to be debatable, but there was no arguing against the fact that the look of the series was lacking. The lighting wasn’t all too dynamic, the colors felt very “cheap” and the camera work wasn’t all that fluid. Elements such as those have changed this season as it appears the series has finally found a visual appearance that works .... Keep reading.

Review: The Boomer List

A Good Premise Goes Bad When the Baby Boom Generation Speaks

The Boomer List (PBS, 9pm) starts with a terrific idea: Interviewing celebrities or simply accomplished people each representing a different year of those born from 1946 to 1964 – the designated parameters for boomerhood – reflecting the group’s influence and formative experiences. 

What’s missing in photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ film (which will be accompanied by a book of portraits) is any sort of cohesion or focus. Instead of zeroing in on signature events or ideas shared by the generation as a whole, the film is indeed a series of snapshots – a disjointed collection of memories, many of them seemingly peripheral to the defining attributes of a cohort that is redefining our conception of aging by heading into their retirement years kicking and screaming.

Keep reading.

Preview: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

PBS Remembers Joan Rivers with 2010 Doc A Piece of Work

PBS's American Masters is celebrating the life of the late comic genius Joan Rivers with 2010's Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work at 10:30pm. The doc is a fascinating inside look at Joan's personal life and it gives insight into what made her one of the country's most successful comedians. Clue: It had something to do hard work and putting in many unglamorous, but rewarding hours on the road.

Recap: The Voice

New Judges Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani Make Their Presences Known

The Voice (NBC, 8pm) - Both Gwen and Pharrell established themselves as great additions to the show, but Pharrell proved that he's got the best lines of anyone out there. Right off the bat, Pharrell won the first contestant of the night, Luke Wade, a soul singer from Texas, by telling him, "I know a thing or two about blue-eyed soul. You can ask Justin. You can ask Robin." Now this is probably the only instance where advertising your friendship with Robin Thicke gets you points, but I'm inclined to believe Pharrell when he says, "I know what to do with that voice." Keep reading.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey's Four-Star Season Premiere (in the UK)
The Telegraph

Allen Leech, Fifi Hart
There are still faults with Downton Abbey (returns to PBS on Jan. 4). Some of the dialogue should really have been left on the cutting room floor - “Tom, come with me. You know where the sandbags are kept!” Also, the large ensemble is beginning to feel unwieldy, and consequently, it seemed as if we barely saw the luckless Bates (Brendan Coyle) or Anna (Joanne Froggatt). 

But it is such an enjoyable confection that these criticisms feel niggardly. We tune in week after week because, rather like Carson, [Julian] Fellowes runs this household with a brisk orderliness and we know exactly what we’re getting. A social revolution may be afoot in the outside world, but I doubt the insurgents will tear down the wrought-iron gates of Downton Abbey very soon. 

Keep reading.

Fall TV 2014: Primetime's Best and Worst New Shows

The Fall TV Season's Best and Worst New Shows Reviewed

The Flash the fall's best new show: 5 Stars
It's here. The fall TV season officially gets underway tonight with ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC starting to roll out hot, new and returning primetime sitcoms, dramas and reality shows. And, as tradition has it, the networks are debuting several really good new shows that will live on for years to come with dozens of episodes seen by tens of millions of people around the world. It'll be great.

Except, also as tradition has it, for every one or two pretty good shows there are several cold-to-the-touch clunkers. And, by clunkers, we mean horrifically awful shows that'll vanish from our collective memory in no time.

TVFirstLook's editors and contributing editor Shari Anne Brill, and TV critics Rick Chason and David Williams have seen all the two dozen or so new network TV shows that will debut over the next several weeks, including a couple of shows the networks politely asked us not to review. So, here are reviews of this season's new shows, listed alphabetically with star ratings from 5 for best down to 1 for the worst new shows.

A to Z (Oct. 2. NBC, 9:30pm). 3 stars.
Shari Anne Brill

New romantic comedy A to Z stars Ben Feldman as Andrew and Cristin Milioti as Zelda. They've got great on-screen chemistry. I found myself instantly invested in what happens to these two endearing characters.

Review: Gotham

DC Comics' Batman Prequel Should Be Great (It's Not Yet)

Fox's new Batman prequel Gotham (8pm) from DC Comics has a couple of tantalizing attributes that may make even fair-weather Batman fans root for it. Notably, its visuals of New York City blended with dark, crisp CGI buildings are gorgeous. Gotham is its own gloomy and dangerous city. And Ben McKenzie as Det. James Gordon is so likeable it's impossible to not want the show to succeed.

Yet, Gotham at times teeters on being not very good. Its pilot tonight, at least, is an odd mixture of intriguing visuals that are reminiscent of Warren Beatty's 1990 movie Dick Tracy and acting that's devoid of emotion from a cast that includes Donal Logue as Det. Harvey Bullock to Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney.

Review: Scorpion

CBS's Geeks-Gone-Wild Drama Scorpion is Fast Paced and Fun

Katharine McPhee, Elyes Gable
There are a couple of words people don't often toss around to describe CBS's dramas: fast and fun. For good measure, you may want to also toss in "young."

CBS admirably addresses all these words head on in Scorpion, which debuts tonight at 9pm, after a double dose of The Big Bang Theory season premieres and just ahead of the Under the Dome season finale. CBS doesn't mess around with Bang or Dome, so they know they've got something here. And they do.

Elyes Gabel is Walter O'Brien, a beyond-genius genius who leads a crew of post-college, poor geniuses whose beyond-the-norm smarts include computer coding, electrical wiring, psychological profiling and statistics. There's also a seemingly autistic kid whose waitress mom, played by Katharine McPhee, is brought into Walter's group because only she can communicate with her son whose skill isn't quite clear yet.

Review: Forever

ABC's New Drama Forever is a Goner
Rick Chason, TVFirstLook

Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) might be the noblest superhero in TV history. Someone’s about to shoot a poor slave? Morgan will take the bullet for him. Everyone at a train station is about to be poisoned? Morgan will jump off a building with the scheming madman to save us all.

But, it's unnerving how much the central character - a medical examiner in ABC’s new drama Forever (10pm) comes off as a melodramatic hero. He's also a creep who overdoes it when he's hitting on women. But he’s attractive, so apparently his creepiness is OK.