All Along The Watchtower

films . videos . television

Friday, September 29, 2006

Now I'm worried...

The new season of Veronica Mars hasn't started yet and already I'm worried the show may not make it past the initial order of 13 episodes for the year.

Why is that? you ask.

Because the ratings for the season premiere of Gilmore Girls tanked Tuesday night.

Looks like "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino may get the last laugh. The show's seventh-season debut copped an audience of 4.5 million on the new CW network Tuesday night -- down nearly 2 million viewers compared with last fall.

Sherman-Palladino, you'll recall, took a hike at the end of the show's sixth season when Time Warner division Warner Bros., which produces the show, would not agree to give her and her husband, "Gilmore Girls" exec producer Mr. Amy Sherman-Palladino, a multiyear contract.

The CW noted yesterday that in addition to premiering against tough competition, "Gilmore Girls" had switched local stations in nearly a third of the country because of its move to the CW network.

Which is great, except that the CW's reality series "America's Next Top Model" managed to equal its best debut audience ever when it premiered last week, although, because it's a former UPN series, it had moved to new local stations in nearly two-thirds of the country.

Mars fans were counting on Gilmore Girls to deliver a solid lead in and hopefully have our favorite show hang onto and build on those good numbers. But if Girls is struggling, that means the ratings for Mars could be even lower, thus leading to the axe coming down sooner rather than later.

Honestly, the fact that Gilmore's ratings have dropped is not a shock to me. As I watch, I see parallels between GG and Lois and Clark. Back in season three, Lois and Clark got the leads together, had Lois figure out Clark equals Superman and then spent a good third of the season breaking the two up, having them get back together in typical bad romantic comedy fashion. Then for sweeps, the producers and ABC decided to rush a wedding into the storyline and created the five-part wedding arc that was a complete disservice to the characters and an insult to the fans. The show's rating tumbled, esp. in the wake of the wedding that didn't happen. Lois and Clark tried to pick up the pieces but it was too late as a lot of fans got disguisted with the show and tuned on. Even a late fourth season return to quality didn't gain back fans and the show was eventually cancelled.

I hate to say it, but the same pattern is emerging on Gilmore Girls. The giant "screw you" by Amy Sherman Palladino to end the season has turned off fans and many may never come back. Even TV Guide critic and Gilmore fan Matt Rousch last week recommended watching Friday Night Lights over Gilmore Girls.

But back to my point--Veronica was in need of a good lead-in. We thought Gilmore Girls might be it. But now it doesn't look good. Which is a shame because Veronica Mars is one of the best shows on TV.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gilmore Girls is back...or is it?

So, last night was the first new epiosde of Gilmore Girls by the new production team since Amy Sherman-Palladino did a scorched-earth policy as she exited the show. (I don't blame her really but it does leave the new writers with a hell of a hill to climb to open the season).

For those of you who missed it or were living in a cave this summer and missed all the on-line buzz about it, here's what happened. Lorelai got tired of putting off the wedding to Luke, gave him an ultimatium to marry her right then and Luke said he wasn't ready. Lorelai went to her ex (and Rory's dad) and ended up spending the night with him. The final scene of the season was Lorelai waking up with Christopher and having a look on her face of--dear heavens, what have I done? (In a case of art mirroring life, this is exactly what fans of the show were thinking about ASP's decision to move the Luke/Lorelai storyline in this direction..but I digress).

Now, this plotline hasn't quite been the trainwreck that a lot of fans and critics would want you to believe. Yes, it's misguided and everything about it reeks of TV "we've got to invent reasons to keep the couple apart" but it's not the end of the world as we know it.

The whole thing is--the plots left the show at a crossroads and while I hope that ASP had a way to get out of this, we'll never know since she's taken her toys and gone home.

Instead, she leaves a new producer David S. Rosenthal in charge and we mark the beginning of a brand new era of Gilmore Girls. We got our first taste of it last night.

And the report card is a fairly solid C+. In a way, it's like Manny Cotto taking over Enterprise in season four--he was left with a messy cliffhanger and had to spend two episodes cleaning up the mess before he could get into his stories. And that is a lot of what this week's episode reminded me of--Rosenthal taking the pieces he's given that he has to work with and doing his best to make something out of them.

Of course, my big criticism last year of Gilmore Girls was that you could watch the first five minutes and skip to the last five minutes and not really miss anything. And that appears to still be valid here with big things happening in the first five minutes and then big things happening in the last five. But on a show like this, it's about a journey with the characters. And we got that here--Lorelai dealing with what she did, Rory trying to figure out Logan's message and the plot in Stars Hollow that leads Luke to a revelation and was about as subtle as a two by four upside the head. Oh look, Luke has a hard time dealing with ultimatiums and making quick decisions...I get that. But if not, here it is once more.

It all end with Luke realizing he's an idiot, coming to Lorelai and then getting his heart ripped out, stomped on with golf shoes and drug behind a truck for a few hundred miles. Of all the choices Lorelai could have made, sleeping with Christopher was the worst and may have doomed (for now) her relationship with Luke. So, I am guessing this season will be about picking up the pieces and the long distance relationship of Rory and Logan, which honestly felt more like an adult relationship than Luke and Lorelai did...

What was missing--well, we got no Emily and Richard who are always conspicious by their absence. And while the dialogue was good at some points, at others it felt like it was trying too hard to be witty, urban and Gilmore-Girl-like.

I'm not breaking up with the Girls yet, but I am still wavering in my loyalty to the show. I want it to get back to what it was but I'm wondering if that is possible. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TV Dinners

After a week, I've had time to compare, contrast, consume, digest and expunge the new fall season of television programs. Some of the shows went down quite nicely. Many left a bad after-taste. Several of them require a second helping. I could torture this metaphor all day, so let's get to it.

I wish I had something intelligent to say about Heroes. I got suckered into watching Monday Night Football last night and missed the first part of it. Well first I got suckered into watching the idiot-fest that is Deal or No Deal. Then, I watched MNF. So, the last twenty minutes of Heroes was pretty good. Frankly, from all the promos they've been running for the last couple of months, it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on. As for the ending, in the words of Shyamalan, "What a twist!" We'll see how this show turns out. Despite a promising start, shows like this can degenerate into hacky freak of the weak stories pretty quickly. They also should look into getting it off of Monday nights.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which for some stupid reason I keep wanting to call 77 Sunset Strip, was on next. I have to get this off my chest. Although, I like the show, I'm not buying all of this Aaron Sorkin knob-slobbering that is going on. I didn't want to say anything, so as not to upset you sensitive writer types, but enough already. I liked Sports Night. But thirty minutes of people repeating the same dialogue back to each other four times while walking down the hall is my limit. By minute thirty-two, it is on my last nerve. That's why The West Wing was so unwatchable. Well, that and Martin Sheen. I like my Martin Sheen the way I like my women: tanned, youthful and in Vietnam. Wait, that's Gary Glitter who likes them like that.

I have to defer any further criticism of the show to The Studio 60 Drinking Game for a better look at the Sorkin style manual. I'm still of two minds about this show. Salon distilled my dilemma concerning it with the tagline, "Does Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60" tackle the self-perpetuating mediocrity of the TV industry, or romanticize the self-importance of overpaid jackasses?" That is exactly what I'm trying to figure out.

On Tuesdays, we have a fight in the house about, well, House. The children hate the show until I make them watch it. Which is probably wrong given the subject matter. But they wind up enjoying it, especially when, say, someone's testicles explode. Unfortunately, they are enamored of Dancing With the Stars. I blame their mother for brain-washing them into liking reality television. I try to coerce them into not watching that show without resorting to gay-bashing, but after seeing Sara Evans in that revealing outfit last week, they may be on to something.

CBS has shown some brains by realizing that Jericho is a nice complement to the juggernaut that is ABC's Lost. Rather than trying to counterprogram on Wednesday, they have conceded that hour as, er, lost.

Jericho started out strong, and hopefully will keep up the momentum. I worry that they are going to start cranking out too much plot and not enough character study. How will they solve the issue of just driving out of town to see what happened to the rest of the world is going to be worth seeing. Unfortunately, the show isn't hip enough to use the words "Forbidden Zone".

What Jericho needs, oddly enough, is Aaron Sorkin. His dialogue would make a post-apocalyptic small town a lot less depressing and give the inhabitants some wisecracks to go along with their important work of rebuilding civilization.

Another family struggle is on Thursdays, when I get overruled on My Name is Earl and The Office. Why, you ask? Because the rest of the family wants to watch The Amazing Race War, er, I mean, goddamn Survivor.

The first thing that struck me about this season of Survivor, other than I can't believe people still watch this crap, was how the race groups automatically started into self-parodying stereotypical behavior. I ain't naming names, but if you watch it again, you'll see what I mean. As expected, they will integrate the tribes with forced busing, race riots and National Guardsmen walking the remaining members of the black tribe to tribal council. The white tribe will move to one of the suburban islands, still within easy commuting distance, but with better schools.

After that comes Celebrity Duets. Or as I like to call it, Yet Another Goddamn Reality Show. Let's just say I'm rooting for Lucy Lawless for less than noble reasons, and just leave it at that.

I haven't watched ER for a couple of years. It wasn't bad, despite it looked like I had only missed maybe two episodes in the interim. It is a still serviceable warhorse for the NBC schedule, but at what point will they take it out back, shoot it and call the knacker.

Until Battlestar Galactica comes back, I'm barely tolerating you Friday night. We get the bloated results show of Celebrity Duets, and that's about it. I will say this, Marie Osmond has gotten hotter as she's gotten older.

Saturday is, of course, the day I get to rule the remote with College Football. Although if the ESPN night game sucks, we can check out the reruns of shows from earlier in the week. I think. Last Saturday, they showed Law & Order:SVU's season premiere. After watching it, I feel they should rename it, Law & Order: WTF?.

I get that they were trying to figure out a gimmick to get Mariska Hargitay out of the picture for a while, but what in the name of Lenny Briscoe was that crazy shit about? Never mind the bad acting, nonsensical characters and illogical character motivations. It reached B-movie heights based on the awful Southern accent that Marcia Gay Harden tried to pull off. She sounded like Kevin Bacon's wife in The Closer, but with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. They threw everything but a zombie apocalypse into that dumb-ass story. I'm pretty sure a zombie attack would have improved that shit.

Sunday nights I get shafted again with The Amazing Race. This show makes me root for the contestants to break down sobbing, scream at each other and lose, lose, lose. I hate everyone on this show. I can't believe I'm missing The Simpsons for this shit. Although, after the lame-ass season premiere of The Simpsons I'm not that upset.

The hidden gem of Sunday night programming is The Venture Brothers. Last week's episode, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Kills" was well worth sitting through The Idiotic Race for.

What about The Wire, you say? That fine program show up On Demand the Monday before HBO broadcasts it on Sunday. In fact, I've already watched, next week's episode. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but let's just say it involves crime in Baltimore, and leave it at that.

Enjoy your television watching this season, as always, tip your servers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Round one to ABC

Grey's Anatomy beat CSI in the ratings last night and by a fairly large margin.

Here's the breakdown of the overnights from Zap2It.
"Survivor: Cook Islands" put CBS on top at 8 p.m. with a 9.8/16. A "Grey's Anatomy" clip show on ABC was a strong second at 9.2/15. NBC was third with season premieres of "My Name Is Earl," 5.8/10, and "The Office," 5.7/9 (which actually built on its lead-in a little in total viewers and 18-49). "'Til Death," 3.9/6, and "Happy Hour," 3.0/5, were fourth for FOX. The CW went with a "Smallville" rerun.

At 9 p.m., the "Grey's Anatomy" season premiere, 15.7/23, scored a rather shocking win over CBS' "CSI," 13.5/20, which has dominated the timeslot for several years. "Deal or No Deal" was a distant third for NBC at 6.5/10. "Celebrity Duets" slumped to a 2.4/4 for FOX. A "Supernatural" rerun on The CW trailed.

Another medical drama, NBC's "ER," won the 10 p.m. hour with a 10.0/16. The premiere of "Shark" on CBS averaged 9.8/16. ABC's "Six Degrees" lost a big chunk of its lead-in to finish at 8.6/14.

First big Thursday showdown of the year

So, last night was the first big showdown of the fall season with a lot of heavy-weight shows facing off against each other. I will be interested to see where the ratings fall for each show and will post that as soon as I see it on-line.

So, I want to ask--did you watch any of the shows airing last night? If so, which ones and how did you choose?

Personally, I watched only stuff from the 7 p.m. CST hour, opting for the one-two punch of My Name is Earl and The Office and the reality "social experiment" that is Survivor.

The NBC comedy block was great with both shows delivering fine installments. Earl was a riot, but The Office edged it out as the best show of the night.

Survivor was...well, it was Survivor. Apart from the shock of Billy professing his love at first sight for Candice and Jeff Probst being stunned, there wasn't much else really interesting about it. Well, except that one guy has the secret immunity idol. But since that turned out to be such a dud of a strategy point last year, I'm not holding my breath.

OK, so those of you who watched CSI, Grey's Anatomy or any of the other shows that started up....any thoughts? Was Grey's worth the wait? Has CSI jumped the shark? Will ER ever be worth my valuable time again? And did anyone watch that new J.J. Abrams show, Six Degrees?

Ron Moore honors Star Trek

Ron Moore has a great op-ed piece in the New York Times talking about the impact classic Star Trek has had upon his life.

It really sums up what makes classic Trek more than just "another TV show."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Preview fall TV

There are a plethora of pilots and season premieres cropping up on-line this week. And the good news is--they're all provided by the networks, so they're legal for you to view. Here's a list of what's out there for your sampling pleasure.

The Class (Google Video)
The New Adventures of Old Christine (Google Video)
Smith (Google Video)
Jericho (Yahoo)

Kidnapped (MSN)
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (AOL)

ABC is offering the first million people who do so a free download of last year's season finales of Desparate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Lost over on I-Tunes.

I've also heard that NBC will offer free, streaming episodes of 30 Rock, 20 Good Years, Heroes, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Kidnapped for the first few weeks the shows are on the air. These will be free but still have commercials placed in them if you view them on-line. I've heard 30 Rock and Heroes are supposed to have the pilots out there for free viewing but I can't seem to find where they are. (Heroes has yet to show up on iTunes as promised in early August).

FOX is getting into the streaming video game as well offering up full episodes of every episode of Vanished and Prison Break (season two only) through Google Video.

Friday, September 08, 2006

See the first six minutes of Sunday's The Simpsons season premiere is offering a sneak preview of the first six minutes of The Simpsons.

There are just days you have to love the Internet...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Webisodes begin

The Battlestar Galactica webisodes called "Resistance" have begun over at SciFi. The first episode is now live with the new installments posted at midnight EST on Tuesdays and Thursdays as we build up the highly antiticipated season premiere on October 6.