New Show Premiers:
This is Us (NBC)
This new show is supposed to be similar to “Parenthood” but not as good but being a huge Parenthood fan, that was enough for me to tune in. I saw the first episode, which showcases 4 individuals celebrating their 36th birthday. The first is Jack (played by Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes) whose wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is about to deliver triplets. The second is Randall (Sterling K Brown), a successful businessman in search of his birth father and finally we have a twin brother and sister. The brother is an actor who self-destructs in his hollow reality show and the sister is an extremely obese woman who is desperately trying to lose weight.
Their stories move forward in a kind of sappy, syrupy way until the end of the pilot where there is a huge twist. I’m really not sure where this is going after said twist but it has me interested enough to tune in this week. It could do something pretty good or turn into a nighttime soap opera. Hopefully it will be the former but I’m looking forward to the next episode.
Fleabag is another one of those 30-minute dramedies that dropped on Amazon last week and is only six episodes. I got through the first several without being really engaged with the thirty-something British woman (nameless so is known as the “Fleabag” and is played by Phoebe Waller Bridge) who clearly has issues and engages in a lot of sex to try and distance herself from them. She and her sister Claire are scarred by the early death of their mother and a life with an emotionally distant father. Olivia Coleman who is her usual amazing self plays their unlikeable stepmother and there is a tragic storyline involving Fleabag’s best friend Boo that is told in flashbacks that impacts Fleabag’s life in a all encompassing way.
I’m clearly not the demo for this series and I’m somewhat saturated by all the tragic Thirty-something comedies out there about people who are battling depression, mental illness and other issues while they try to establish careers, relationships and families. It should be noted that the critics love this show and if I weren’t already watching “You’re the Worst”, “Catastrophe”, “Being There” and “One Mississippi”, I’d probably be more engaged. Phoebe Waller Bridge is an apparently well-known British comedian and uses the technique of talking directly to the audience – particularly during sex scenes. She is good and the technique works ok but there are only so many of these types of shows that I want to watch and I think this one put me over the top. The good news is that we are only dealing with 3 hours of material so pretty much anyone can get through that. It is well done, well acted and well written but with so much TV this fall, I could have skipped Fleabag.
The Exorcist (Fox)
Normally scary/horror shows are not my thing but let’s face it, Friday nights are a TV wasteland and my DVR hasn’t piled up yet with all the new Fall TV shows so I watched the premier. It has good reviews and the pilot was well done. I vaguely remember the movie but did recognize the callouts to the “Georgetown Stairs” and the Exorcist’s hat. Geena Davis plays a woman who thinks there is something bad going on in her house. She has two teenage daughters, one of whom, Kat, is home from college and won’t leave the room and the other one, Casey, at first glance, seems to be the most normal one in the family. The dad has a deteriorating mental condition where he forgets things but in a moment of clarity sends the local parish priest off to find the exorcist at a retirement home. There are two priests (the local parish priest is played by Alfonso Herrera) who are slowly dragged into this family’s drama and are quite intriguing.
The pilot moves quickly in trying to introduce all the characters and set the stage and misses some important set-up but this isn’t unusual for a pilot. There is a twist at the end of the episode where the “Devil” emerges and so we find out the house is really a bad place and an exorcism is required. I’m not sure how this show is going to move forward – does it spend the entire season in this one house and then move on next season to a different situation? Surprisingly the show is pretty good and could potentially hold me over until Grimm returns in January to Friday nights. Perhaps I should try and get out more on this night of the week!
Returning Show Premiers:
Marvel: Agents of Shield (ABC)
Shield introduced us to a new major character in its premier – Ghost Rider – who is apparently well known in the Marvel world. I understand that the TV show only gets lesser-known marvel characters as the main ones are in the blockbuster films but this character could be interesting. I still don’t think the show isn’t firing on all cylinders for me and it is unlikely that Ghost Rider will save it. In the first episode, Skye/Daisy/Quake has gone underground and comes across this new Ghost Rider who is out to kill bad guys (this week it is some Aryan Nation creeps). Daisy tracks him down and we’re not quite sure whether it is just to have him end her life or not. She is still pretty guilt-ridden over everything that happened last season and not in a good place. I think I had enough angst from her last year so hopefully this isn’t going to continue for a prolongued period of time.
The old gang has been broken up and dispersed. Coulson and Mack have been demoted to agent status (but still hanging out on that fabulous plane) and are hunting Daisy down secretly thanks to an alert by May. Simmons and Fitz are in a strange place – Simmons is now the highest ranking of them all and Fitz is off with one of last year’s villains who is busy building an android who gives Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina a run for her money. The show has issues and I miss the main characters being all together so I may ultimately rely on the far better Netflix Marvel TV series for this genre. I still need to catch up on Daredevil S2 while Luke Cage S1 and Jessica Jones S2 will be here in no time. They are far better than Agents of Shield yet there is something about Coulson and company that draws me in. We’ll see how it goes. If you have never seen it don’t bother to start and go straight to the Netflix original TV shows for your Marvel fix.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC):
If you are a big Grey’s fan, you won’t be disappointed by the premier which has Alex paying the price for his brutal attack on DeLucca; Catherine intervening in April and Jackson’s lives; Meredith lying to her sister and Miranda to protect Alex and no Arizona to be seen. It was all good and sets up the key plotlines for the season; Alex’s legal and employment issues and Meredith’s relationship with Nathan and her sister. We’ll hopefully have some happy times ahead for April and Jackson and it’s hard to imagine that Owen and Amelia’s wedding bliss will last for long and what huge disaster is planned for Seattle Grace or whatever it is now named.
Grey’s keeps chugging along but it has freshness with a continual influx of new characters that sets it aside from the other dramas that have not lasted nearly as long. I must admit there were a few years there in the middle I didn’t watch but I’ve been a fan of the last few. Shonda continues to work her magic with it.
The Blacklist (NBC)
The Blacklist opened up its fourth season with a fast paced episode that began where last spring’s cliffhanger left off. Lizzie, Tom and Agnes were kidnapped and of course Red and the FBI are on the trail. Red almost gets them back but clearly they are going to stretch out this plot for awhile longer. Tom who started this series as a very badass double agent seems to have shrunk into a suburban dad with no skills at all. Lizzie is briefly reunited with Agnes only to have her kidnapped again but the most interesting part of the story is an explanation of Lizzie’s relationship to Red. If we are to believe the man who kidnapped her and claims he is her Russian father, Red stole Liz away from him as a child but is not her father. It would be nice after four years to explain the mystery as to why Red is so protective of Liz. I thought we made further progress in this episode than in the past 3 years so that was good.
To conclude, good show, good season opener and I can watch James Spader all day and all night.
Mr. Robot (USA)
Mr. Robot ended its second season with a two-hour finale spread over two weeks, which still didn’t help me figure out what the heck happened this season. Season 1 was complicated but brilliant and the relationships between the characters allowed for the brain-busting moments where we find out that Darlene is Elliot’s sister and Elliot and Mr. Robot are one in the same. This year, none of the core characters even really interacted and I fell asleep during each of the episodes leading up to the finale no matter what time of day or night I watched them. It didn’t help that the show’s creator, Sam Esmail directed all of the shows in season 2 and many of them far exceeded 60 minutes which was way too long. For me, the entire season felt really disconnected and hard to follow.
That’s not to say I didn’t get the basic elements; Elliot was clearly in prison or a mental institution for the first part of the season; the after effects of the hack well depicted; Angela’s move to E Corp somewhat understandable although her relationship with Wellick is not and the likely continued existence of Wellick lurking around the periphery which was clarified in the final two episodes. In the finale, Wellick who purports to be Elliot’s only friend shoots him although I have no doubt that Elliot will survive because there is no show without Emmy winning Rami Malek. I do find the relationships with the Dark Army confusing and I miss having F Society together. Before I commit to a Season 3, I’m going to binge through Season 1 and Season 2 next summer to see if watching them back to back clarifies the show for me. If not, I will likely bag season 3.