The Best New Shows of the Fall

November 7, 2008

This week I am a guest columnist at Clique Clack for this article.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already November and that we are two months into the fall TV season.  Sweeps will be starting soon and it’s time to see how this fall’s new shows measured up.

Michael Lavine/FOX

FRINGE: When an unlikely trio uncovers a deadly mystery that involves a series of unbelievable events, they discover it may be part of a larger, more disturbing pattern that blurs the line between science fiction and technology. Cr: Michael Lavine/FOX

I have to admit that overall – with a few exceptions – it’s not been a very impressive freshman crop.  I’m guessing it’s a result of last season’s writers strike and can only hope that we can expect better in the future. 

Without further ado, here’s my report card for this season’s new shows:

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Appointment Television – The Best Shows Worth Watching

October 27, 2008

As any of you who’ve read my blog know, I watch a lot of television and I mean a lot.  But what most of you might not realize is that I have a husband, three-year old twins, a full-time job and hopes for some semblance of a social life.

My other obligations mean that a lot of my television shows have to be DVRed for viewing at a later time.  But a handful of shows rank as must sees for me.  I will go out of my way to watch these shows live and am gravely disappointed when I can’t.

So without further ado here is my list of appointment shows – television shows I schedule time to watch:

Chuck

Chuck - Season 2 Cast - Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah Walker, Adam Baldwin as Major John Casey, Zachary Levi as Chuck Bartowski, Sarah Lancaster as Ellie Bartowski, Ryan McPartlin as Capt. Awesome, Joshua Gomez as Morgan Grimes courtesy Mitchell Haaseth/NBC Photo

Chuck - Season 2 Cast - Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah Walker, Adam Baldwin as Major John Casey, Zachary Levi as Chuck Bartowski, Sarah Lancaster as Ellie Bartowski, Ryan McPartlin as Capt. Awesome, Joshua Gomez as Morgan Grimes courtesy Mitchell Haaseth/NBC Photo

It’s nice to start out the week with a little humor.  That’s why I watch Chuck.  And what’s funnier that a Buy More slacker turned super spy with Adam Baldwin as his take-no-prisoners handler? 

Chuck was happily not living up to his potential when he suddenly acquired a brain full of encrypted government secrets when the computer housing them was destroyed.  Now he balances his day job as part of the Nerd Herd with his secret life – a life where the girl he has a crush on – CIA Agent Sarah Walker – and NSA Agent John Casey (Baldwin) protect him while helping him to unravel the secrets in his head.

I already outlined my Top 10 reasons for watching the show so I won’t bore you with that again.  But if you are looking for a little lighter fare to add to your TV repertoire, then I highly recommend Chuck.

Chuck airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Fringe

Michael Lavine/FOX

FRINGE: When an unlikely trio uncovers a deadly mystery that involves a series of unbelievable events, they discover it may be part of a larger, more disturbing pattern that blurs the line between science fiction and technology on FRINGE airing Tuesdays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) this fall on FOX. Pictured L-R: Lance Reddick, John Noble, Blair Brown, Kirk Acevedo, Anna Torv, Mark Valley, Joshua Jackson and Jasika Nicole ©2008 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Lavine/FOX

Out of all the new shows, Fringe is my favorite.  Who doesn’t love a show where a cow has a recurring role?  Seriously, the mystery is high in this high-tech X-Files-like show.

With the help of lovable “mad scientist” Walter Bishop and his brilliant, but loner son Peter, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham sets out to unlock the mysteries behind The Pattern.  But Olivia has a few secrets of her own including a dead boyfriend who haunts her.  But she’s not the only enigma – Peter, Walter, the Observer and Nina all have a mystery or two of their own.

I tune in every week for the weekly case, as much as for the overall intrigue.  What is the Pattern?  Who’s behind it?  And what are they trying to do?

Fringe airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.  The next new episode airs on November 11.

Bones

Kwaku Alston/FOX

BONES: L-R: TJ Thyne, Michaela Conlin, Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Tamara Taylor and Eric Millegan. ©2007 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Kwaku Alston/FOX

I followed Angel’s David Boreanaz to Bones four years ago, but stayed because I fell in love with the team of squints let by Dr. Brennan.  Together the team of brilliant misfits solves murders based on a pile of bones.

Booth (Boreanaz) is a former sniper turned FBI agent who always gets his man.  But this single dad also has a soft spot for Brennan and her team, and of course, his son.  Brennan is his forensic anthropologist partner – brilliant, but socially inept.  And that’s just the leadership of this team.

The cases are intriguing – after all where else do you see a case solved from nothing more than a femur — but the dynamics of the team are what keep me coming back for more.

Bones airs on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Fox.  The next new episode airs November 5.  You can catch reruns of this season on Mondays at 11 p.m. on TNT.

Supernatural

Supernatural - Season 4 - Jensen Ackles as Dean, Jared Padalecki as Sam courtesy Brian Bowen Smith/Warner Bros. Television Entertainment

Supernatural - Season 4 - Jensen Ackles as Dean, Jared Padalecki as Sam courtesy Brian Bowen Smith/Warner Bros. Television Entertainment

I wait all week for this show.  And if I only get to watch one show a week – Supernatural is it.  In its fourth season, this sci fi series stars a beautiful 67 Impala and two demon hunting brothers – Jensen Ackles and Jared Paledecki as Dean and Sam Winchester – that are more than easy on the eyes.  Need I say more!

Okay, if you need more than pretty faces and a hot car to sell you, I’ll continue.  The show is about an epic battle between good and evil without being preachy.  In fact the show does an excellent job of combining the spooky with excellent dialogue, super music, wit and lots of great pop culture references. 

And the story itself is top-notch (in my opinion).  Dean and Sam were raised by their late father to be hunters after their mother was killed by the powerful yellow-eyed demon Azazel.  This season Dean has been pulled from the bowels of Hell by the angel Castiel to help prevent Armageddon and to keep Sam from being sway to the dark side through the use of his psychic powers – powers he acquired because Azazel dropped demon blood into his mouth when he was a child.

Supernatural airs on the CW on Thursdays at 9 p.m.

That pretty much wraps up a week for me.  I spend the rest of the time catching up on my DVR.

What shows do you find yourself scheduling time in front of the tube for?  What are your must see shows?


Chuck: Sarah’s Past Revealed in ‘vs. the Cougars’

October 21, 2008

On tonight’s episode of Chuck, “Chuck vs. the Cougars,” we got a glimpse into Special Agent Sarah Walker’s safely guarded past – sort of.

Byron Cohen

CHUCK -- "Chuck vs. the Cougars" Episode 204 -- Pictured: Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah Walker -- NBC Photo: Byron Cohen

It seems that Sarah – or rather Jenny Burton – was a typical teenager struggling with adolescent.  She graduated from James Buchanan High School in San Diego in 1998 (anyone else feeling old?).  Go Cougars!  She had a bad haircut, braces and played an instrument (violin maybe?).  And she was not even close to being a member of the in crowd like cheerleader heather Chandler (Nicole Richie) or jock Dick Duffy (Michael Weaver).

But that’s where the typical teenager comparison ends.  It seems Daddy Burton was some kind of con artist who trained Jenny as they moved from city to city and name to name.  In her sophomore year, Jenny’s dad was finally caught by the feds and she was recruited into the CIA by CIA Director Graham (Tony Todd) and given the alias of Sarah Walker.

We still don’t know Sarah’s real name, but at least we finally got to learn how she became a spy.  And we know more than Chuck, who seems to be less obsessed with Sarah’s past.  Was it her reluctance to go to the reunion or that old class picture that deterred Chuck’s curiosity?

What about your curiosity?  Did you learn enough about Sarah in this episode?  Or is there still more mystery to learn?

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Related Posts

Top 10 Reasons Why I Like ‘Chuck’

Yvonne Strahovski of Chuck previews Sarah’s surprising past

Quick Chat with Chuck star Zachary Levi


Top 10 Reasons Why I Like ‘Chuck’

September 30, 2008

Last night Chuck returned for its first episode since January, launching its sophomore season with “Chuck vs. the First Date” and I’m instantly reminded of what attracted me to the series last year.

For newbies, the show worked in a nice recap into the first 10 minutes.  Normal guy Chuck is going about his everyday business when a former friend from college, now turned spy, emails him with a file encrypted in pictures containing government secrets known as the Intersect.  The only other version of the Intersect is destroyed and Chuck is inadvertently drafted into the CIA and assigned Sarah (CIA) and Casey (NSA) to protect him.

This show is a nice break from all the question-filled dramas that I normally watch.  Chuck is a fun show that makes me laugh and sit back and relax.

Here are the Top 10 Reasons why I love this show.

1.  Adam Baldwin

Baldwin stars as Casey, the gung ho NSA agent always ready to shoot now and ask questions later.  The intimidating tough guy, who poses as a Buy More employee to keep tabs on Chuck, has a delightful dry humor.  For instance, in this episode, Casey crashes into a restaurant to save Sarah and Chuck, asking “Someone order drive thru?”

Casey is a simple man dedicated to serving his country.  He loves his gun, his Crown Vic and Ronald Regan.  But despite his devotion to the job, Casey has developed a soft spot for Chuck as we saw when he hesitated to terminate Chuck.

2.  Pop Culture References

I love it when a show can work in pop culture references.  It’s like a conversation with friends.  And Chuck is full of these references – most of them involving Chuck’s inner geek.  Last night references included a Comic Con poster, a subtle reference to Back to the Future with Chuck waking up to Huey Lewis songs and a Godfather impersonation.

But my favorite of the night was when Chuck was talking about his future with his sister Ellie and she asks what he wants to do and then says please don’t tell me you want to “pilot the Millennium Falcon.”

3. Chuck

Chuck is anything but James Bond.  But the reluctant spy is finally starting to embrace his alter ego, Charles Carmichael.  He has knack for getting into trouble all on his own, but add the fact that he has government secrets in his head, a best pal who majors in mayhem and a gift for never staying in the car when told and you can see how pandemonium rules Chuck’s humdrum life.

Oh didn’t I mention, Chuck’s track record with women.  He never got over the girl he lost to the same so-called friend who sent him the Intersect – at least until he met Sarah.  But their working relationship keeps his puppy crush sidelined.

4.  The Best Friend

Chuck’s life is complimented – or is that complicated – by the devotion of his slacker best friend Morgan.  The “little bearded man” has made a science out of doing nothing.

But Morgan doesn’t know about Chuck’s secret spy life and often complicates Chuck’s ability to save the world – and score with Sarah – with a scheme or two of his own.  Add Morgan’s creepy crush on Ellie and Chuck’s got a friend that’s just too weird to be true.

5.  The Buy More Staff

Chuck works at Buy More, a big electronics company that might remind you of someplace you might have shopped, as a member of the Nerd Herd described as “Geek Chic – In Overdrive.”  Chuck, Morgan and Casey work for “Big” Mike who is equal parts babysitter and ringmaster.

But the real heart of the store lies in its employees who – led by the master of chaos, Morgan – manage to never do any work because they are always too busy with some crazy scheme.  In last night’s episode Morgan conducted a cage match between Lester and Jeff to see who would get the assistant manager position.  Don’t you wish that’s how promotions worked at your job?

6.  Guest Stars

This series has some great guest stars.  Last year Rachel Bilson played a potential love interest for Chuck.  In the Season 2 premiere, Michael Clarke Duncan starred as this week’s nemesis, Mr. Colt, who told Chuck “I assume you find me imposing.”  I found him imposing and a great adversary for our top spies.

Next week it looks like John Larroquette and Melinda Clarke are up for guest spots.

7.  Captain Awesome

Awesome is Ellie’s jock boyfriend who response to everything is “awesome.”  You just got to like a character with depth like that!

8.  The Over Protective Sister

Ellie has been taking care of Chuck since their parents died.  She’s great as the over protective sister eagerly wanting the best for her brother, but hesitant to meddle in his life – too much.

9.  Cool Episode Titles

Each weekly episode is titled Chuck vs. something.  It’s consistent and descriptive.  I think my favorite had to be “Chuck vs. the Imported Salami.”  It says it all!

10.  The sets

There’s, of course, the Buy More filled with every electronic gadget needed and more, including all the latest spy equipment.  Then there’s the great restaurants that serve as Sarah cover – first Wienerliciouse, now Orange Orange.

But my favorite is the apartment complex where Chuck lives with Ellie and Awesome.  Look familiar?  It’s the old Melrose Place set.  You’ve got to like a show that recycles a piece of television history.

Honorable Mention

I’m adding this reason in just for my husband, since he seems to enjoy these scenes so much.  This show seems to find every reason possible to have a scene where Sarah gets dressed.

Seriously, all kidding aside, Chuck is a great show when you need a little fun in your day.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.  If you have, tell me why you like Chuck.


What Movie is Your Soul Mate Deal Breaker?

September 23, 2008

Last night on the Season 4 premiere of How I Met Your Mother, we find out that a recently engaged Ted spent the entire summer mooning over his fiancé only to discover that he really doesn’t know anything about Stella.

Eric McCandless/FOX

How I Met Your Mother - Season 4 - "Do I Know You?" - Sarah Chalke as Stella and Josh Radnor as Ted. Courtesy Eric McCandless/Fox

He doesn’t know the color of her eyes, the foods she is allergic to, her favorite color and most importantly what she thinks of his favorite movie.

In Ted’s quest to determine if Stella really is the woman he can spend the rest of his life with, he stages a movie watching session to determine how she reacts to Star Wars, his all time favorite movie.

Hilarity ensues as he watches her watch the movie.  In the end, Stella hates the movie, but tells Ted she loves it and in an ahhhhh moment confesses to Marshall that she’s comfortable with pretending to like Star Wars for the rest of her life if it means she can be with Ted.

But the scene immediately generated a conversation in our household.  What movie is so important to you that your significant other must like it if you two are to spend the rest of your lives together?

My husband immediately agreed with the Star Wars choice and added his favorite John Wayne movie, The Searchers – both of which, fortunately, I happen to like.

Then after a moment, he decides that it really is a wonder that he married me because his deal breaker movie is The Christmas Story

I quickly explain – you know my marriage is on the line here – that I do like that movie.  I just don’t feel the need to watch it for 24 hours straight.

My deal breaker is a little harder to define.  I know right off that any chick flick is out when talking to a guy.  If I go with my sick day movie, the movie I fall back on when I need cheering up or time to zone out, then I’d have to say The Lost Boys.

My husband will never watch the movie as often as I do.  And I can’t call it his favorite, but at least he didn’t boo at it.

I guess the morale of the story is that you don’t have to share the same favorite movies, but you do have to at least be able tolerate each other’s favorites.

So then, what movie is a deal breaker for you if your significant other doesn’t like it?  (Please say I’m not causing any divorces or break ups by asking this!)


Reaper Heats Up with a Big Revelation

May 14, 2008

Tonight’s episode proved that Reaper deserves the sophomore season it was just awarded.  Since its return from hiatus, the show has turned up the heat on the plot culminating in a big revelation which will come to a head in next week’s finale.

The Leak****The following could contain spoilers****

In the last few weeks, the plot has thickened on this supernatural comedy.  An unwilling bounty hunter for Hell, Sam has been a part of a demon rebellion, helped discovered a mole in the Devil’s ranks and finally told one of his girlfriends about his second job.

But even Sam has no clue about the news revealed in the final moments of “The Leak” episode.  When Andi convinced Tony to use his demon contacts to check Sam’s contract with the Devil for a loophole, she had no idea what they’d discover. 

But what Tony and his friends find is missing pages that suggest that Sam is the son of Satan – a fact that I speculated about three weeks ago.

Now that I’ve finished patting myself on the back for my foresight I can to begin to speculate what will be in store for next week’s finale when it appears that Sam finally learns about his genealogy.

What do you think the ramifications of Sam’s parentage are going to be?  Can he then chose to no longer be a reaper?  And who will die in the finale?  Any guesses?


Could Sam be the Devil’s Spawn in ‘Reaper’?

April 23, 2008

Last night the CW freshman series Reaper returned with its first of five post-strike episodes to close out the season.  But the fate of the show still hangs in the balance.  But it’s the status of Sam’s soul that I’m curious about – or actually more specifically, his lineage of his soul.

Sam and the DevilThe premise of the show is that run-the-mill slacker Sam Oliver (Brett Harrison) has his life turned upside down when he turns 21.  On his birthday he finds out that his parents (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise).  The Devil decides instead of taking Sam’s soul to Hell, he’d rather employ him as a bounty hunter for escaped souls, telling Sam:

“That’s a problem we’ve been having lately, what with overcrowding and so forth.  Honestly, we were underprepared for the influx.  I blame myself.  But that’s not your problem.  All you have to do is track down fugitives and haul their asses over to a portal to Hell.  Easy.”

The story sounds pretty simple and straight forward; and as you can imagine hilarity ensue when Sam tries to take down souls mean enough and bad enough to escape from Hell with nothing more than the help of his two best slacker pals – Ben (Rick Gonzalez) and Sock (Tyler Labine) – and a vessel given to him by the Devil:

“This will help.  A vessel.  Handcrafted in the bowels of Perdition, by the iniquitous and the vile.”  (Sam looks blank)  “Oh, I forgot, you got 600 on the SATs, didn’t you?”

And while on the surface the story sounds simple, the episodes are littered with clues that suggest there’s more to the tale.

First there’s the parents reluctance to tell Sam about the deal.  He’s dad stumbled through:

“There’s something I… I have to tell you. I, uh, I probably should have told you this a long time ago. I, uh… Before you were born, your Mom and I… sold your soul to the Devil.”

The parents tell Sam that his father was dying so they bartered the soul of their first child (because they didn’t they could have any) for the return of his health.

Then there’s the contract.  When Sam ask his parents to see it, they stall, coming up with vague places it might be before admitting they don’t have it.  An outraged Sam replied:

“You put the contract for my soul with my third grade report card, and Mr Huggles?”

And when he asks the Devil for a copy of it, the Devil claims inefficiencies in his administration:

“You know who works for me in my central office? White collar criminals. They hate me. They hate their jobs. I’m lucky if I get coffee in the morning.”

Eventually Sam gets it, but it’s so thick (think War & Peace) and written in legalese that Sam doesn’t understand it.

And finally, there is the unusual relationship between the Devil and Sam.  The Devil has taken Sam under his wing – acting like a mentor – helping him to succeed with his reaper duties and “interfering” with the rest of his life.  An example of the Devil’s guidance:

“Get the girl. Get the soul. I don’t care which, man, just pull that trigger. I’m tired of coddling you.”

It might not sound like much, but it’s clear that the Devil doesn’t dote on all his employees like this.  In fact, Sam’s demon neighbors – Steve (Michael Ian Black) and Tony (Ken Marino) – mention how rare it is for the Devil to talk to one of his charges, let alone confide in them in this latest episode, “Rebellion” in which the Devil invited Sam out for ice cream.

These clues make me believe that Sam could actually be the Devil’s son.

Think about it.  The Devil fears his enemies might harm his infant son (or worse, corrupt him into challenging his father), so he sends him to be raised in secret by humans.  Maybe the Devil traded his son’s safety for Mr. Oliver’s health or for the Olivers to have a child of their own (Sam has a little brother that we haven’t seen since the pilot). 

This explanation could clarify why the Olivers were so uncomfortable with revealing the deal and why nobody wanted Sam to see the contract.

And now that Sam has come of age, the Devil is teaching him the family business and getting to know Sam, thereby explaining the Devil’s particular interest in Sam.

Furthermore, in “Unseen” when Sam candidly asks the Devil if Cady (Jessica Stroup) is his daughter.  The Devil openly admits that she is not.  But it’s the way the Devil says it that makes you think that Cady might not be his offspring, but someone Sam knows (like maybe himself) is.

Either way, the addition of the demon neighbors has added a new dimension to an already great show.  I know some people might not have given Reaper a chance because it’s on the CW or because they fear it’s some dark sci fi show dealing with the supernatural like Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the CW hit Supernatural

In reality, Reaper is a comedy that relies on witty dialogue, pop cultural references and comical storylines for the slacker in all of us.  I particularly like the dialogue as you can tell from the many quotes I used above.  Unfortunately, reading them in print is not the same as when Ray Wise delivers them.  The Devil has the best lines in the show.

Reaper airs on the CW at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.  You can watch full episodes on cwtv.com.