Ranking The New Crop Of TV Shows: 2017 Edition

Fall is here, and so is our annual Back To TV Week! Listen. There are good TV years, and there are bad TV years. 1994 saw the premieres of Friends, E.R., Party of Five and The Magic School bus, for instance. Alas, this is not Back to 1994 week, and let’s just say the cable and network offerings of 2017 are a bit more checkered. That’s why we’re using the red light/green light approach: shows that probably are not worth your time get a red light. Shows you might want to give a shot depending on what you’re into get the yellow light. Green light shows could still end up disappointing us, but they deserve a chance.

9JKL

Airs: Mondays, 8:30/7:30c, CBS

Premise: Mark Feuerstein lives in an apartment between his parents’ apartment and his brother’s apartment.

RED LIGHT: This looks bad, the reviews are bad, but it gets a yellow light if you really loved Raymond, I guess.

The Brave

Airs: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Premise: It’s like a procedural, but with military behind enemy lines.

YELLOW LIGHT: Early reviews reference “jingoism” and “rah rah conservatism” so I’m going to take a pass, thanks. If you’re a big fan of military dramas, then this is nothing groundbreaking but maybe it has a place in your schedule.

Dynasty

Airs: Wednesdays, 9/8c, The CW

Premise: It’s Dynasty, but now and with a Latina stepmother.

YELLOW LIGHT: If you like campy soaps, this is just the thing for you. If that’s not your thing, the light just turned red.

Ghosted

Airs: Sundays, 8:30/7:30c, Fox

Premise: A nonsense person (Adam Scott) and an incredulous person (Craig Robinson) ghostbust Los Angeles to help out the cops. It’s a comedy.

GREEN LIGHT: It’s like The X-Files but Ghostbusters but Adam Scott. I will absolutely give it a try.

The Gifted

Airs: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox

Premise: Kids have mutant powers; parents have to go underground due to government threats. It’s in the X-Men universe.

GREEN LIGHT: This is said to be the most-anticipated show of the year, and it piles on special effects, a solid cast, and an interesting premise. It doesn’t sound like  a genre I’m usually into, but I also would have said that about Orphan Black and look where we are now.

The Good Doctor

Airs: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Premise: Freddie Highmore, who is an adult now, is a pediatric surgeon with autism.

GREEN LIGHT: Premise sounds good, cast sounds good, reviews are decent – why not?

Please note: in our post of Fake New Shows of 2019  – it’s a good post, go read it – we had the following:

Jerry Maguire

In this TV adaptation of Jerry Maguire, Jerry is played by that British kid from Finding Neverland (Freddie Highmore).

The Gospel Of Kevin

Airs: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC

Premise: God needs Kevin (Jason Ritter) to save the world.

YELLOW LIGHT: It does not sound great, but Jason Ritter’s all right? If anything, I learned that a place of my brain remembers that OTHER show about an unlikely everyperson with a mission from God – Joan of Arcadia. Anyway, the premise also includes Kevin’s recent suicide attempt and him living with his widowed sister and niece, so I’m going to … not, I guess, unless people start raving.

Law & Order: True Crime: The Menendez Murders

Airs: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

Premise: Literally the whole deal is in the title. It’s an anthology thing.

GREEN LIGHT: Thing you should know about me: I often fall asleep to true crime documentaries because someone spray-painted over my soul or whatever. And for 8 weeks this fall, I will be falling asleep to this one.

But really, 90s crime series and specials, from O.J. to Jonbenet, have been all the rage, so this feels right on-trend. Also, it’s not a 90s crime anthology without a respected actress in a perm wig.

Marvel’s Inhumans

Airs: Fridays, 9/8c, ABC

Premise: I swear, none of it made sense to me –  but presumably if you’re into the Marvel universe it does.

RED LIGHT: There is, of course, a niche of people who will love this, but if you don’t already know that you’re one of those people you can skip this. Face it, Friday night is not a time slot for a show the network has great confidence in.

The Mayor

Airs: Tuesdays, 9:30/8:30c, ABC

Premise: A rapper runs for office as a stunt but he gets elected – then he is good at it!

GREEN LIGHT: I’d watch Daveed Diggs in anything, and this premise sounds like a lot of fun once I get past my instinctive shudder at the phrase “runs for office as a stunt but gets elected.”

Me, Myself & I

Airs: Mondays, 9:30/8:30c, CBS

Premise: This is the story of the same man at age 14 in 1991, in the present day at 40, and in the future at 65.

GREEN LIGHT: First of all, Bobby Moynihan. Second of all, 90s flashbacks. Third of all, a future-jump to the 2040s. This sounds fantastic, and I hope it lives up to its promising premise.

The Orville

Airs: Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox

Premise: It’s the future, and a crew is on a spaceship, but it’s kind of a crappy spaceship. It’s a dramedy.

RED LIGHT: This could go one of two ways. If successful, it will bridge the comedy and sci-fi genres; if not, it will alienate fans of both. Unfortunately, first reports lean toward the “not.”

S.W.A.T.

Airs: Thursdays, 10/9c, CBS

Premise: A SWAT lieutenant has dual loyalties – the streets and the police.

YELLOW LIGHT: On one hand, this is the very definition of “done before.” On the other hand, Shemar Moore. If you’re a police procedural fan then you might want to at least catch the pilot.

SEAL Team

Airs: Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS

Premise: It’s a SEAL team.

YELLOW LIGHT: Word is people are really looking forward to this one. It’s not my cup of tea, but if it’s yours then you’ll probably also want to look into The Brave, profiled above.

Ten Days In The Valley

Airs: Sundays, 10/9c, ABC

Premise: The producer of a cop drama has a cop drama of her own when her daughter goes missing.

GREEN LIGHT: Reviews are good. Even better, this is a limited series – 10 episodes – which is the TV sweet-spot of taking your time with a story without drawing it out into unnecessary twists and turns.

Will & Grace

Airs: Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC

Premise: Will and Grace! Jack and Karen! Willandgraceandjackandkaren! Again!

GREEN LIGHT: Could this be the return of Must-See TV? Reboots have a spotty record, but this one looks like the real deal as long as it can avoid the Fuller House pitfall of making EVERYTHING into a winky nostalgia reference.

Wisdom Of The Crowd

Airs: Sunday, 8/7c, CBS

Premise: Solving crimes with a crowd-sourcing app.

YELLOW LIGHT: I’m bored of “X expert uses Y to solve crimes!” shows, but reviews are decent, so if that genre appeals to you then think about adding this one to your lineup.

Young Sheldon

Airs: Monday, 9/25, 8:30/7:30c, CBS

Premise: Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, but young – a child genius in the late 80s, starting high school.

GREEN LIGHT: If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory – because based on ratings, a LOT of people are fans of The Big Bang Theory. It doesn’t appeal to me at all, yet Young Sheldon looks really sweet. The child genius and 80s-throwback elements seem fun, and the pilot tested well. It’s enough to make me wish they had given the kid a different name and taken away the Big Bang Theory element, though I get that that is a huge draw for a lot of people. Fact is, Young Sheldon seems watchable whether you watch Big Bang or emphatically do not watch Big Bang.

I have a feeling that someday we will be saying that we liked Iain Armitage back when he was still Iain Loves Theatre.

 

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Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: The Handmaid’s Tale

This weekend you could turn on your TV  to watch a totalitarian regime use self-serving but ostensibly biblical rationale to oppress women, the LGBT community, intellectuals and others – or you could turn the news off, flip over to Hulu and watch the first five episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. We suggest the latter.

If you aren’t familiar with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, you won’t need to know much before you watch the Hulu series. Creator Bruce Miller wonderfully establishes the setting and reveals information at a pace that will answer all your questions in time. The Handmaid’s Tale depicts life in Gilead, a quasi-biblical military dictatorship established in the former United States after the constitution was suspended sometime in the near future. With the birth rate drastically low, low-status fertile women are assigned to Commanders as “Handmaids” to bear their children if the commander’s wife is unable to conceive. There’s no real choice in the matter: the other option is to get shipped off to the “colonies” and clean up nuclear waste. The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her experiences with her commander (Joseph Fiennes), his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and fellow Handmaids (Alexis Bledel [Ofglen], Madeline Brewer [Janine], Samira Wiley [Moira]).

The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Timely It Will Scare You

Since Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, it’s always had unsettling echoes of reality … but sometimes it’s extra prescient. In 1985 America was experiencing the rise of the Moral Majority – a far-right backlash to developments both negative (the rise of street drugs, the growth of the AIDS epidemic) and positive (the gains made by the ’70s Gay Liberation Movement and the reproductive rights developments in Griswold v. Connecticut  and Roe vs. Wade). The back-and-forth between periods of social progress and reactionary periods of regression are familiar to anyone who’s opened a history book. An adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale probably would have been well-received in the 90s or early 2000s, but the Hulu adaptation feels almost necessary now. With news stories about an Oklahoma bill requiring a man’s permission to get an abortion, the commodification of children in unethical surrogacy and adoption contracts, and gay men being rounded up into camps in Chechnya, it’s not hard to envision a future like Gilead.

In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood makes it clear that not long has passed between its 1980s publication and the establishment of Gilead– she refers to cassette tapes, 1950s military surplus and 1970s magazines all still in existence. Likewise, the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future: in flashbacks to Offred and Moira’s recent past, there are references to Tinder, Uber and Craigslist. If Gilead looks familiar it’s because it should – Atwood has commented that everything that happens in The Handmaid’s Tale has already happened somewhere in the world. Even smaller details are accurate, such as the Handmaids’, wives’ and Marthas’ (housekeeper/cook/maid) old-timey outfits —  they’re spot-on when you look deep into the trenches of some Christian Fundamentalist movements or the FLDS church, where womens’ wardrobes are a kind of Little House throwback.

The Handmaid’s Tale Is Probably Going To Win All The Acting Awards

… or at least it should. If you watched Mad Men you already know that Elisabeth Moss can do everything, but if not we’re letting you know: Elisabeth Moss can do everything. She seamlessly switches from young, carefree Offred, to Offred as a Handmaid concealing her distaste for the regime, at once defiant and compliant. Moss excels both in scenes without dialogue and in voice-overs (I especially enjoyed the voiceovers after re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale and getting to the epilogue — no spoilers, but I forgot about that part). Joseph Fiennes is just as the Commander should be: he’s clearly part of the regime, but you can’t help but have some questions about him. Yvonne Strahovski is delightfully icy as Serena Joy. I admit that when I read The Handmaid’s Tale I was expecting something a little more Tammy Faye Bakker, but she’s actually perfect for a 2017 version. I can just picture Serena Joy as the Pinterest-perfect upper-class housewife before Gilead.

The real revelation, though, is Alexis Bledel as Ofglen. We’re both longtime, reunion-panel-attending Gilmore Girls fans, but having only seen Alexis as Rory I didn’t really know what range she is capable of. In one instant you can see why Offred believes that Ofglen is totally sold on the Gilead lifestyle, and in the next you understand that Ofglen is a rebel. Ofglen is both unbreakable and quietly devastated, and Alexis’s innocent appearance is used to better end here than it is in Gilmore Girls; as Vanity Fair noted, “she’s less Bambi here and more trapped bird.”

For what it’s worth, in my notes I wrote “somebody should have told me Samira Wiley was in this,” so I’m telling you now. If Poussey was one of your favorites in Orange Is The New Black, you’ll absolutely love Samira as the ebullient Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale. If Moira’s character in the Hulu series has the same outcome as Moira in the novel, I can’t wait to see it, but at least through episode 5 she is seen only in flashbacks.

The Handmaid’s Tale Works Really, Really Well As A Show

Many books suffer in film adaptations, and I think even more suffer in television adaptations. However, the Hulu limited series is the perfect way to adapt The Handmaid’s Tale. The format has allowed for expanded stories of some of the characters — for instance, Ofglen has a bigger backstory and a different fate in the show; we have filled in Moira and Offred’s history, but there is still more of Moira’s future to come as of episode 5. Although some characters have been altered or expanded on a bit, every change preserves the spirit of the book. Bruce Miller also made the wise choice of adding in details to show that we aren’t too far off from 2017. Now that The Handmaid’s Tale has been renewed for a second season, I do wonder how the comparison to the book will pan out. Does the first season encapsulate the whole novel, or will the season end partway through? If you have read the book, you’ll know that the Epilogue gives fodder for how the show could continue if season one does end with the book.

Still, I’d argue that all of the best adaptations succeed because they can be enjoyed on their own merits, and that’s my belief of The Handmaid’s Tale. The whitewashed lighting and beautiful set and costume design lend a real cinematic feel, and the writing includes plenty of time for suspense and speculation — but it doesn’t go full Lost and add a ton of elements that the viewer doesn’t have time to make sense of. Even the songs at the end of each episode are perfect. It’s dystopian fiction without any teens being sorted, and it’s grounded enough in reality that you won’t feel like it’s set on a different planet. The Handmaid’s Tale is a series so gripping that when I remember it’s Wednesday and a new episode is up, I’m more than happy to switch off the news. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.

‘Anne With An E’ Thoughts, And Other Anne Reading

Where my kindred spirits at?

We are mere days from the Netflix premiere of ‘Anne With An E,’ but I had the pleasure of viewing the first two episodes earlier this spring when my Canadian TV signal was coming in. There’s a lot to be excited about,  so I’ll just mention a few things now:

  • In an epic Meeting Of The Canadian Cultural Icons, the opening titles of ‘Anne With An E’ are set to The Tragically Hip’s Ahead By A Century, giving the song a new meaning and perfectly encapsulating Anne.
  • The aesthetics are phenomenal. The ‘Anne With An E’ production strove for authenticity in its sets and costumes, but certainly also to meet a modern appeal. To wit: the puffed sleeve dress won’t look as ’80s as the one in the (dearly, deservedly beloved) Megan Follows version. Yes, that ’80s dress was historically accurate, but the choice was one that complimented a 1980s aesthetic; the choices in this production, similarly, are historically accurate but complement a 2017 aesthetic. That is to say that many of the rooms in Green Gables are beautifully bare and folksy, like a Kinfolk spread. Both the CBC and Netflix premieres included flower crowns and a flower wall. The town shots of Avonlea are a little more ‘gritty’ and a little less Little House on the Prairie. The colors are at once washed out and sepia-tinged. It’s just PRETTY, in a way any production set in Prince Edward Island should be. You can see what Anne’s swooning over.
  • ‘Anne With An E’ does depart from the books, for better or worse. I hate to bemoan too much imagination in a discussion of Anne of Green Gables, of all things… plus the (dearly, deservedly beloved) Megan Follows version strayed from the books in its own ways. With this adaptation helmed by Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett, safe to say things are considerably darker. There are two arguments to be made here. The first is that Lucy Maud Montgomery knew darkness as a child, as her mother died when she was very young and her father effectively abandoned her, but chose a light and optimistic outlook in the Anne novels. The second is that the darkness is implicit in the Anne series anyway. We know Anne was overworked and abused in her earlier placements, and we knew of her loneliness in the orphanage. Her use of imagination as an escape permeates Anne of Green Gables, especially. She does face rejection and fear abandonment; she cannot remember being loved.
  • However, some plot devices that were used to increase the dramatic tension in ‘Anne With An E’ felt unnecessary. The classic Anne debacles – the hair dye, the ridgepole, the Lady of Shalott business, good Lord, the cordial – are enough.
  • I think Anne Shirley was always a feminist, but ‘Anne With An E’ couches that in more modern terminology. For instance, Anne tells Marilla that girls can do anything boys can. It struck me as anachronistic, but then I remembered my niece who I’ll be watching this with and realized that it’s not for me. I’ll take some improbable dialogue if it’s to a good end, especially in a children’s series. I’d compare it to the 1994 adaptation of Little Women that way.

  • Finally, if there’s one reason to give this adaptation of Anne a chance, it’s Anne herself. Amybeth McNulty is the closest to the Anne of my imagination of any actress so far. Anne is aged up to 13 in this series, and Amybeth really does look like a 13-year-old who sees herself as scrawny; it was hard to suspend disbelief when the wonderful Megan Follows looked 17 in the first movie. Amybeth has just the right intelligence and spirit behind her eyes to make a convincing Anne, effectively conveying Anne’s disappointment, trauma and high-flying spirit. If I was 15 I’d totally want to be bosom friends with her.

The take-away: ‘Anne With An E’ – or any Anne adaptation – won’t meet muster for some fans of the 1985 CBC series Anne of Green Gables, but there’s a lot to love if you judge it on its own merits. I’ve loved Anne since I first read Anne of Green Gables in second grade, and I enjoyed the episodes I saw of ‘Anne With An E’ enough that I’m anxious to see the rest of the series. You could say that some liberties were taken with the stories, but you could also say that there was plenty of scope for the imagination in the original texts.

Other Anne Reading
Marilla Cuthbert Was a Creepy Church Hag

My analysis of Marilla Cuthbert – whom I love, of course – as a creepo who kind of did try to buy a child to do chores. And if you have enough cash-money to buy a human child, you can buy her the ugly sleeves she wants, right?

Gilbert Blythe, Dream Man or D-Bag

Is Gilbert Blythe a swoon-worthy match for Anne or a total jerk who should leave her alone? Both? Neither? Or is the problem with Anne herself? Join me on the journey to unravel basically every weird romantic situation I’ve ever been in.

Anne of Green Gables 2013

Several years ago there were rumors of a modern-day Anne of Green Gables adaptation. I tried to parse out what, exactly, that would look like. Mr. Phillips and Prissy Andrews? Yeah, that’s a Dateline special waiting to happen.

Questions, Comments, Concerns: Anne Of Green Gables

Because I’ve never skipped an Anne of Green Gables adaptation, I wrote about the PBS version that aired in November of 2016. Takeaway: it was fine, I guess.

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Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Difficult People

Tomorrow the second season of Hulu’s Difficult People premieres which means you have 24 hours or less to catch up (or at least start the first season if you haven’t already). If you haven’t heard of it, let me introduce you to a show about the most ridiculous human beings who you love and dislike greatly at the same time.

Basic Plot

As best friends living in New York City, Billy and Julie’s typical, irreverent behavior lands them in some very awkward situations.

It’s obviously not high concept, so it’s nothing like your Orphan Blacks or Mr. Robots. Think of it like Will & Grace meets… a less boring version of Seinfeld? But you know what else isn’t high concept? The reasons why you should start watching and catch up to ALL 8 EPISODES FROM THE FIRST SEASON (!) just in time for season two.

Queen Amy Poehler Is Responsible For This Gem

If you trust Queen Poehler’s comedic chops, then you should probably at least give this show a try. Game recognize game, ya feel me? Amy is an executive producer of the show, and had known both Billy and Julie pre-Difficult People. She obviously had known Billy from Parks and Rec, and Julie was a performer at UCB, the improv company Amy co-founded. We know Amy has already hit it out of the ballpark as an executive producer of Broad City, and while I admittedly don’t think Difficult People is as strong as Abbi & Ilana’s masterpiece, Amy still stands behind the show 100%. So I do too. She’s said of Difficult People, “I would binge-watch the shit out of this show if I weren’t involved with it.”

For A Dollar…

Billy Eichner first came into the comedy world with a Funny or Die webseries called Billy on the Street, which eventually led to his TV show on TruTV. At some point during his TV show, he got hired as the boisterous (and not too far off from his Billy on the Street character) Craig Middlebrooks on Parks and Rec. His alter ego Billy on Difficult People is somewhere in between Billy on the Street and Billy Eichner IRL, but all equally hilarious.

Hulu’s 30 Rock of Cameos

The recurring characters on the show are worth it alone – Gabourey Sidibe as a waitress at the restaurant Billy works at, Rachel Dratch as a customer at said restaurant, and the glorious Andrea Martin as Julie’s psychologist mother. Then there’s the season one guest stars who you are pleased to see come across your screen, such as a weird Seth Meyers and magician Kate McKinnon. For the second season, they got some pretty heavy hitters, including Tina Fey and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Need I say more?

Pop Culture Refs

I love a good pop culture reference. It’s 90% of my daily conversation. There are enough pop culture references in Difficult People that would rival Gilmore Girls. And Gilmore Girls had literal booklets in their DVD sets explaining what all the refs were. Julie (a Real Housewives of New York recapper – a job she really had for Vulture) and Billy (an aspiring actor) are the same, and their interactions with each other are based on their love for celebrities. At one point, Julie tells Billy at an Oscars party, “There was a small earthquake in L.A., but don’t worry: Emmy Rossum is fine.” I mean, thank GOD.

Your Emotions On Screen

One point of contention not all people may enjoy about the show is that Billy and Julie aren’t afraid to speak their minds and ruffle some feathers. They are at times brash, a little too honest, but entirely self-aware. Is this a good thing? Who knows. Is it what you’re probably thinking inside but too afraid to say outloud? Yes.

#TooFemale: Nancy Drew And The Mystery Of The Old Network Executive

I feel the same way about lowbrow taste as I do about cooties: I’m not sure that it exists, but I’m also far too old to care if you think I have it. You can call it middle American, or white-bread, or basic, and it’s a way of dismissing accessible or popular culture. I guess I know a thing or two about it: I listen to Top 40 music and have enjoyed several Target Book Club picks. Experimental theater is great but I really liked Rent. I have been as moved by some performances on So You Think You Can Dance as I have by the real-live ballet. I tuned into CBS every week to see if Ted and The Mother would stop playing umbrella tag and meet already. And as a lowbrow 7-year-old, I pored over my mom’s 40-year-old copies of the Middle American favorite, Nancy Drew.

Popular culture is popular for a reason. Sure, today it’s market researched to achieve maximum returns but it goes beyond that; people still have to like it. It’s popular because somewhere in it there’s a truth that people can relate to.

I’m suspicious of anyone who automatically dismisses all of popular culture. That reaction is usually tied to classism, often with a heaping side-order of regionalism (thing these people probably also profess to hate: heaping side orders). If you think everything popular is beneath you, you’ve risen above the masses. You’re better educated, higher class, smarter, more cultured. And it’s tied to regionalism because people often equate these tastes with suburbia, or the Midwest, or the rust belt, or… really, any of the “belts.” People live in these places for any number of reasons. They’re not idiots, and I’m confused by anyone from the coasts who rips on the cultural savvy of the “flyover states.” Guys. We’re all reading the same internet. 

Okay. I had to get all of that out of the way to clarify what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that CBS is questionable because their shows appeal to “Middle America,” wherever and whoever that is. The problem is that CBS doesn’t have any faith in their “lowbrow,” “Middle American” audience. They underestimate “white bread” America as much as the lit snob giving side-eye to the woman on the train reading Danielle Steel. The proof: CBS passed on a pilot not because it was bad, but because it “skewed too female” – as though the average audience will turn, horrified, to NBC if a man isn’t helping to solve the crime; as though half of the audience isn’t female itself.

The pilot, by the way? A modernization of Nancy Drew. Twenty years ago, those yellow hardcover books brought me on the journey to uncover the mystery of the old clock – and the old attic, and the old stagecoach, and the old album – with a cool, competent teenage girl who was smarter and quicker than the sneaky or bumbling (usually) adult men she faced off with. But now we’re at the final chapter of Nancy Drew and the Mystery Of The Old Network Executive, and I don’t think she’s going to win this time.

I would have given Nancy Drew a try. So would Baby Boomers who grew up knowing that Nancy Drew was always the smartest person in the room, even if she was underestimated. Nancy Drew might have been just another CBS procedural, but maybe it would have brought to life the savvy sleuth I idolized when I was a skinny, freckle-nosed second grader. Heck. Maybe Bess and George would have finally gotten together.

Your average American audience isn’t afraid of a show where a girl solves the crimes (have we forgotten Veronica Mars?), and they weren’t afraid of the concept over eighty years ago – 80! – when the first Nancy Drew book came out. The problem isn’t that the consumers of popular culture don’t want women’s stories. It’s that the gatekeepers of popular culture won’t tell them. If a network lineup consisted, 50%, of shows about a female protagonist with well-developed female secondary characters, people wouldn’t stop watching TV. At least I don’t think so: I guess I’ll tell you if it ever happens.

As for CBS, thinking typical tv viewers are too close-minded or stupid or narrow to accept Nancy Drew following The Big Bang Theory? That’s the worst kind of snobbery there is.

Saturday Spotlight: Happy No Year!

It’s 2016! And whether it’s because we’re happy to be done with 2015, or hopeful for what lies ahead, we’re very ready for 12 fresh new months.

Best of C+S 2015: Speculative Premiere Week: Meet The New Shows Of 2019!

So it’s 2016, huh? Sounds fake, but fine. In our final Best of 2015 post, we’re going to take it back to the future – here are all the Law and Order spinoffs, fat guy/skinny wife shows, and C-list celebrity comebacks that we’re pretty sure will be hitting our screens in 2019. Happy New Year, everyone! See you Monday with our all-new 2016 posts.

Maybe we’re getting a little carried away with our role as Fantasy Network Executives, but we’re pretty sure we can predict exactly what will be on tv in 4 years. Expect the new batch of series to contain a breakout SNL star, CBS’s latest Fat Guy/Skinny Wife offering, a movie franchise adaptation, a poorly planned reboot, and a patently offensive comeback or two. And Ryan Seacrest, always Ryan Seacrest. So what’s on the block for 2019? Set your DVR’s way ahead, it’s going to be quite a year!

Selfie Off with Ryan Seacrest

The top 10 selfie takers in America face-off (quite literally) in a variety of different challenges to see who can take the best photo. On a rollercoaster, next to a fire, in a haunted house, who will not let outside elements deter them from their photography skills and ultimately take the crown of America’s Favorite Selfie Taker? This show does not do well.

Sass and Grass

taraji franco

James Franco and Taraji P. Henson star in this buddy cop dramedy patrolling a rough Philadelphia high school, which has a bad weed problem. Except Franco may have a weed problem of his own.

Soul Mates

Teen ghost falls in love with a living teen (teen ghosts are the teen vampires of 2019).

Fantastic Four

Because if it fails on the big screen, let’s try TV instead.

The Franny

A reality show starring Fran Drescher, featuring her life as a TV producer and her close friendship with her gay ex-husband.

The George Lopez Project

In this George Lopez vehicle, he plays the George Lopez character from his 2002-2007 series “George Lopez.” He has moved to Tallahassee to care for his aunt with whom he has “comedic” (but not actually funny) spats.

Waffle King Juniors

The search for the best kid waffle maker is on. Hosted by Alton Brown, sponsored by IHOP. As the title suggests, Waffle King is already a show by this point.

Tiny Houseboat International

Features people looking to not only downsize their home but also sail the high seas (but not too high, these boats are TINY).

Roller Coaster Tycoon

In this Apprentice spinoff hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, the search is on for the next great amusement park mogul.

Pretty In Provo

Aidy Bryant stars as a Cool Mormon trying to juggle her mommy blog and etsy shop, while wrangling her kids Wren, Polly, and Olive-Lou. Her house and outfits are bright and adorable, and we… kind of want this to exist for real? AIDY?

Jerry Maguire

In this TV adaptation of Jerry Maguire, Jerry is played by that British kid from Finding Neverland (Freddie Highmore).

By The Book

Keri Russell and Barry Watson are former classmates at NYU who were academic rivals (there was always a sexual tension between them, but nothing happened). Now they’ve both returned to their alma mater as professors in the same English department and still have that feeling of hatred towards each other but also even stronger sexual tension. One of the students is young Gene Draper from Mad Men. There are sweeps week guest spots by Scott Speedman and Amy Jo Johnson.

Blueprint For Love

Taran Killam stars as a Ted Mosby type, but less pretentious and more funny and charming. He’s an architect, trying to follow the rules from an archaic dating guide to the letter in the hope of meeting “the one.”

Gal Pals

Katie Holmes and Ellen Page star as sisters who have to pretend that they’re dating in order to rent an apartment in San Francisco, a la Three’s Company.

gal pals

The London Editor

A career-driven American 30-something (one of our 2019 TV Rookies To Watch) who has no time for love spars with her London-based editor (Thomas Sangster, the kid from Love Actually). She pictures him as a grumpy old sourpuss, but discovers that he’s actually a young, charming curmudgeon. But they live on different continents and, again, she doesn’t have TIME for love!

Kangaroo Court with Bindi Irwin

Bindi Irwin travels to wildlife preserves across Australia, solving training problems and inter-animal rivalries: think Dog Whisperer, but with more kangaroos.

Gossip Woman

In this CW reboot of Gossip Girl, all-grown-up Jenny Humphrey is a touring musician who is haunted by a gossip blogger (still Dan). Inexplicably, Jenny and Dan (along with a few of their classmates) are parents to teenagers, who start to find that their own secrets are being revealed.

Silver Sisters

This reboot of Golden Girls features a cast of 38-44 year old women (the oldest allowable in 2019).

Meerkat Detective

A animated/live-action comedy about a Meerkat detective who solves crimes in Chicago using the social media live video app Meerkat.

Suburban Legends

After years in the city, Jake Potter moves back to the suburb of his youth, where he is reunited with all of his old childhood gang and they pick up right where they left off … to much head-shaking by his prim wife, Julie. There are ’90s and early ’00s flashbacks. This is CBS’s requisite Fat Guy/Skinny Wife show for 2019, and it stars Shia LaBeouf (who is fat in 2019).

Ill-Conceived

In this attempted comeback, Amanda Bynes plays a sassy, wealthy young doctor who recently took up a post at an inner-city abortion clinic as terms of some kind of probation. The show is quickly canceled because everyone hates it, and in the final episode to air Amanda discovers that she’s pregnant. Maybe Diablo Cody writes it?

CSI: Des Moines

It stars Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney, who play Daniel Muldowney and Donny McDaniel.

Law And Order: Car Theft

When your car gets stolen, who you gonna call? Probably 911, who will tell you to call 311, who will refer you to this department run by Camryn Manheim.

So You Think You Lift, Bro?

Just two dudes facing off, lifting heavier and heavier weights as the competition goes on. It’s not a hit on primetime and gets cancelled after two episodes on Spike. Hulu’s fitness-oriented online platform MeatHead, picks it up and does great.

Floored

Brad Pitt realizes every A-lister is starring in a TV show so he does too. In a multi-cam comedy for CBS, Brad plays the super of an Upper East Side apartment building in New York City. He’s an overall upbeat guy and the quirky tenants (think Gilmore Girls or Parks & Rec townies) love him – but when his ex-fiancee moves into the building to live with her new fiance, his jealousy and cattiness comes out. The show airs after the Shia LaBeouf show.

Another Shonda Rhimes show

Doesn’t even matter what it’s about. It’ll be on and we’ll watch it.

Dubya

George W. Bush stars in this docu-series about the months leading up to his first big art show installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He shows a stressed side we’ve never seen before but manages to keep his positive attitude a crack a few (a lot) of dad jokes in the process.

 

Comments, Questions, Concerns: Coat Of Many Colors

Like most tv movies, Coat of Many Colors left us with a few questions, a handful of concerns, and a whole lot to say. Airing on NBC last night, it was a two-hour sugar-fest as Dolly Parton told a childhood tale of this one coat she had. And I loved it.

Comment: Dolly Parton + Red Sequins + A Sleigh + Dollywood = Christmas Magic

Dolly opens the movie wearing a sequined dress and sitting in a sleigh in Dollywood. That might be the merriest thing I’ve seen all season. By the way, when I was a kid I thought Dolly was way older than she is (even though she looks great). It’s because I interpreted her platinum hair as white, and also because being from the Northeast, I’ve only ever known very old ladies to have that kind of sculpted, sprayed-out hair and heavy makeup. But again: Dolly looks wonderful. .

Question: Did Baby Dolly really trot up the aisle at church wearing clownish makeup and singing?

They’re retroactively making Baby Dolly act just like Sassy Adult Dolly. She even quips that she wants to go to heaven but doesn’t want to “look like hell to get there.”  Dolly fans will remember that story about how she saw a heavily made-up woman as a child, and told her mother that’s what she wanted to look like. “That woman’s trash,” her mother replied. “That’s what I’m gonna be when I grow up, trash!” Dolly said. The whole thing sounds more like a funny story an adult would make up, or a Family Circus comic, but whatever. It’s a cute origin story.

Comment: This Baby Dolly actress is adorable. Oh my goodness. And she’s great!

Face it, a lot of child actors are working just because they’re cute, can read lines fairly convincingly, and they aren’t awful to work with. But this girl is adorable and she can ACT. I know 8-year-olds. Most of them could never do this. Her name is Alyvia Alyn Lind; remember it.

Concern: Can this family support another kid?

Dolly is excited about getting a new sibling, but seemingly has dozens already. They’re like blonde, southern Weasleys. I’d say Muggle Weasleys, but we all know that Dolly is magic. (I looked it up, by the way. Dolly had 11 siblings and obviously it worked out just fine for her).

Comment: Dolly’s mom compliments each kid when she prays before dinner.

I don’t even care if it’s not true, that’s beautiful and something I’d do if I had kids. A lot of people complain about the modern ‘everybody gets a prize, everybody is special’ parenting, but if you let kids know what’s wonderful about them they’ll always remember to let those qualities shine.

Question: Will this end with a Christmas scene? I may not be able to deal with that.

Spoiler: it doesn’t, unless you count Dolly in that sleigh again.

Comment: This sequence after Dolly’s brother dies is ROUGH.

Dolly’s baby brother dies and adult Dolly takes over singing. Props to little Alyvia for keeping up with a duet with Dolly Parton. However, if this movie doesn’t pick up after baby Larry dies, I’m going to have to change the channel.

Comment: Jennifer Nettles, everybody.

She’s great! As is Ricky Schroeder, who I didn’t recognize at first but should have due to his trademark twinkling blue eyes.

Question: She’s going to turn the dead baby’s blanket into a coat for Dolly, right?

Right. Dolly is really excited to be the first person to wear it. I’d say that was sad, but as a kid my wardrobe was like 80% hand-me-downs, 10% school uniforms, 10% new, so I feel that.

Concern: I’ve gotten so into this movie that I’m starting to think Willadene and Dolly are pretty cute names.

When I first started at my job, a copy-editor addressed a whole bunch of queries to me as Dolly instead of Molly. I thought it was the cutest mistake ever.

Comment: MAN SCREW THOSE KIDS laughing at Dolly’s coat.

Her coat is beautiful and all their brown clothes suck. They’re like Garbage Pail Kids. Or the Herdmans (Best Christmas Pageant Ever? Anyone?).

Concern: There is an hour left and the only thing to resolve is whether or not Dolly will feel good about her new coat.

And I guess whether her dad will start to like church.

Question: Why don’t we like that girl Judy? She seems nice.

There’s some reason we don’t like the Ogles (the Garbage Pail Kids/ Herdmans) but I must have been out of the room. Anyway, apparently Judy is still Dolly’s BFF, which is precious.

Comment: I just got really excited when I realized Dolly’s dad was probably going to start going to church and become wonderful.
Concern: How will they fit Jolene into this?
Comment: Dolly cuts school to put on makeup at a department store. Dolly, you little scamp.
Comment: “I’ve got a little, shriveled up black heart” – Baby Dolly, expressing my worst fears about myself to be totally honest.

But she doesn’t, of course. Dolly is full of love. Do you all know about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library? Get acquainted. Rumor has it she gives a TON of her money away to other causes too, but it is mostly anonymous.

Question: Can you do big confessions of love at Church like that?

Dolly’s parents have one of those romantic public confession of love scenes — in the middle of church. Can you do that? I grew up Catholic and for us, the answer is definitely no.

Comment: YOU WEAR THAT COAT, PRECIOUS BABY DOLLY.

 

 

What I Think Happens In Doctor Who (I Don’t Watch It).

Well, this one’s going to get me kicked off the internet: I’ve never seen Doctor Who. That is probably the most incendiary thing I’ll ever write here, at least until I get around to penning I’m Just Not That Into Mr. Darcy, And Other Jane Austen Opinions Nobody Asked For, or Macarons: Not That Delicious. As in What I Think Happens In Game Of Thrones (I Don’t Watch It), I haven’t abstained from this show because I think it’s bad. I haven’t watched it because:

  • I’m not sure where to start. One of the things I think I know about Doctor Who is that it’s been on forever and there have been a bunch of different Doctors Who. If I start at the wrong place, am I doomed to hate it?
  • A lot of people I know are fans. So if I don’t like it, I will take it to the grave.
  • Also, I always feel bad when I don’t like a show, even though I realize that David Tennant and co. won’t be crushed if Molly From The Internet isn’t a fan.
  • I reflexively stay away from anything with aliens. I watched a lot of Unsolved Mysteries as a kid and was terrified that I could be scooped up at any moment. [There was an admittedly half-assed abduction attempt around this time, and I just now realized I probably had a misplaced fear of humans scooping me up at any moment? Who knows.]

I’m sure I will watch a few episodes at some point. But before I do, I want to get down what I THINK happens in the show so I can laugh at it later … and you can all laugh at it now.

  • If you aren’t from North America, it looks like normal tv from a regular channel. If you are from North America, it looks like cable access or maybe Wishbone episodes from the late 90s.

    To be clear, “like Wishbone” is never an insult.

  • Doctor Who is an alien who can look like anything, but who always chooses to look like a British man.
  • He has a sidekick, who he calls a “companion” like he’s Aunt March and somebody has to read him the Gospel Of Luke at Plumfield.
  • The companion could also technically be anyone, but in practice is always a young, attractive British woman.
  • For a while his companion is that one blonde girl who’s like British Tyra Collette.

    Plus maybe some Burberry.

  • He has a mission. Helping people, probably? Sounds fake.
  • When Doctors Who quit, they just get a new one and they’re like “no, it’s still the same guy inside, but he’s an alien who turned into a different attractive but not hunky-attractive, wry but not smarmy British man, don’t worry.” And nobody does.
  • They always meet up at an old-fashioned red phone booth.
  • No. I think blue.. Police booth? I can picture it.

    I wouldn’t let myself Google Image it until I had written the whole post, because I was afraid of accidentally finding something out.

  • Like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

    “Actually, no.” – my image search results.

  • I haven’t been to England for 8 years, but I definitely saw a billion red phone booths and zero police booths, so I’m not sure how incognito that is.
  • I think sometimes there’s time travel. Why am I not watching this again?
  • The spaceship is called Tardis and no, I have no clue what that means. Tennant And Regular Dudes In Space?
  • There’s sometimes a big Christmas episode. But I bet it airs on Boxing Day. I just bet.
  • I’m almost positive at some point there are dinosaurs.
  • The special effects are reminiscent of Space Cases or Halloweentown.

    Exhibit A.

    Exhibit B.

  • It’s not America, so sometimes they let unattractive people be on the show if they’re good at acting.
  • It’s not America, so adult characters have parents who are actually 55+.
  • I bet at some point they tried to do a social issue tie-in episode and it sucked.
  • The series, though generally good, has a few episodes that are just notoriously, horribly bad.
  • Is his companion called Poppy one time?
  • He’s not a doctor. Not a medical doctor, anyway.
  • The companion has to make up a series of increasingly implausible lies so her loved ones don’t find out.
  • They don’t fall in love every time.
  • But even when they’re not technically “in love” they totally are.
  • Wait. Maybe every once in a while the sidekick/companion is a dude, like Robin to his Batman.
  • The show has been on FOREVER. Like since the 1960s or ’70s, I think? But it took a break for a while and nobody watches the early years.
  • Also, the Doctor was not so attractive until the more recent reboots.
  • They must have catch phrases.

    There’s a chance I’m thinking of Full House.

  • There’s something like a Dilek.
  • I know that isn’t the word exactly, but that IS the name of a girl who was friends with one of my college roommates, and it is something like that.
  • Anyway. I have no clue what the Dilek is but the phrase my brain keeps going to is “bad guy spaceship.” I don’t think that’s right, though. It might be more like a friendly alien.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch is not in Doctor Who. Tom Hiddleston is not in Doctor Who. Eddie Redmayne is not in Doctor Who. However, there’s a near-1:1 ratio of people who like this show and who like those guys. Which is why I always feel like they were in it.

Saturday Spotlight: Back To TV Tunes

HERE

We were celebrating Back To TV week here at Cookies and Sangria, because as days get shorter and temperatures drop – no thank you to both – we at least know that we are about to slip back into our network TV routines. It’s like going back to school, except good.

Naturally, our Playlist Of The Month was TV-related – we discussed some of our favorite TV theme songs. From FNL to MTM (that’s Mary Tyler Moore, obviously), we love how a theme song can set the tone for a show. Or, in the 60s – 90s, provide exposition for the entire plot, like that one chapter you always skipped in Baby-Sitters Club books.

THERE
  • 100 theme songs in one take, on guitar – how many can you guess?
  • Not sure we agree with all of these, but how about theme songs that are totally mismatched to the show they go with?
  • Of course, one of our favorites was the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song. If you’re at all interested in the show or in theme songs in general, you have to read how they did it.
  • Speaking of behind-the-scenes looks at writing a theme song, this Jay Ferguson interview on writing themes – including the US version of The Office – is a great read.