Say what you will about The CW’s second year, but it will be remembered as a general failure in the eyes of most analysts. There was just something about its lineup that fell apart, and no one really knows why: Gossip Girl has been one of the most buzzed about shows on television, the network had two strong pilots in Aliens in America and Reaper, and it seemed as if for once things were going well for Dawn Ostroff. Then, however, everything fell apart: Gossip Girl has been an on-air failure compared to its internet traffic, its reality shows have been absolute busts, and its comedies have struggled mightily.
So, heading into its third year, The CW is taking off the gloves and looking to make a mark on television again. The result is a combination of blatant attempts to rekindle old television glory, further branding their audience based on the teenage girls who make Gossip Girl buzzworthy, and a few bones to critics to prove that the network isn’t in as much of a state of flux as we know they are. The result is something that seems oddly familiar, and The CW only hopes the results aren’t familiar as well.
The New Shows
90210 – Tuesdays at 8pm
It is inevitable that I will be watching this series, even after Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Cupid) moved on to his other two pilots (Neither of which has been finalized due to ABC’s decision to largely keep pilot decisions until midseason) and left it in the hands of other people. It has cast members I want to see, particularly the fantastic Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) as the Matriarch, and I’m a sucker for teen dramas.
[The above/below is really quite tentative, if only because of CTV’s lack of a consistent Fall Schedule. Right now, Gossip Girl is airing a day before its U.S. airings on CTV in Canada, so I’m covering it a day early. However, Pushing Daisies is debuting in the same timeslot two weeks from now. I expect Pushing Daisies to get moved, but this could all change]
Tuesdays are a perfect day for television at Cultural Learnings thanks to a relatively light schedule on Wednesdays. Of course, spiting me once again, the TV deities weren’t kind enough to offer a plethora of shows on this particular evening. As a result, let’s look at the three shows that (for now) have made the cut into the rotation.
FOX’s biggest drama series has never quite had itself in a state of upheaval like this one: with Chase, Foreman and Cameron unemployed and a new set of residents incoming (Including Kal Penn (Kumar) and Olivia Wilde (The O.C.’s resident lesbian)), it seems like a good time to start paying closer attention to Hugh Laurie and company. I’m hoping this new element might cut down on the procedural predictability, but we’ll see.
Faced with the enormous task of battling off with House, a show that controls all sectors of the viewing audience, Reaper might struggle to gain traction. However, its pilot is quite sharp, and I think that there is a lot of potential in its concept that is worth investigating further. A few weeks in, I might be begging people to stop watching House to switch over to The CW for a change, but we’ll see if it even lasts that long. Fingers crossed.
Earlier this evening, I already started covering this new drama from O.C. creator Josh Schwartz; it’s one of those shows where slick production values and adequate writing elevate what may otherwise be tossed aside as teen fare. My cynicism may grow too large to be contained within shorter articles, but for now we’re going to follow the Serena/Blair battle until the bitter end.
From the moment that Gossip Girl opened with Peter, Bjorn & John, I felt a wash of Orange County air sweep through my window. Where else but Josh Schwartz’s former flame, ‘The O.C.’, would you find such attempts at musical relevance (a bit late due to the pilot delay)? After a month of endless promotion from CTV in Canada (Including a series of hideous testimonial-based commercials touting ‘Team Serena’ and ‘Team Blair’), it was almost a relief to know that young viewers would worry no longer: the next big teen drama has arrived.
I was most shocked by those elements of the series that the show’s endless commercials didn’t quite show us: Serena’s post-suicide attempt brother that brought her home, specifically, was definitely not in the teen debauchery commercials. Instead, we got the love triangles, the drinking and the debauchery. It’s just like how the commercials for The O.C. didn’t so much foreshadow the parental drama inherent to the show’s plot; said drama exists here as well, with two fathers and two mothers getting recurring story points within the episode.
If I were to put myself in the shoes of one of the show’s target viewers, those who would “pick a side” in the show’s central Serena vs. Blair showdown, I’d say that it was a successful first outing for the series. It delivers just the right amount of sexual content, underage drinking and upper class debauchery, and establishes the novel’s back story well; by the time the show intercut Chuck forcing himself on Serena and Serena’s past-fling with Nate, I could hear the sides being taken and the arguments forming.
According to CTV’s Fall Schedule, revealed recently, Canada will get day early airings of two drama premieres that are highly anticipated.
The CW’s Gossip Girl will be airing at 8pm on Tuesday, September 18th. This is a day earlier than its September 19th premiere on The CW.
Also, Pushing Daisies (The critic’s darling making its way on the hype train to hopefully success, pictured) will also debut at 8pm on Tuesday, October 2nd. This is also a day earlier than its ABC premiere on October 3rd.
Now, which show will actually be staying in the time slot? Well, that question doesn’t appear to be entirely clear. Either way, this news means that Canadian fans might be able to watch these shows a night early…or, if the schedule shifts around, they might only ever air once.
[Regardless of what I think about some of the fall pilots, there are three comedies that each deal with prominent cultural stereotypes to very different degrees. Rather than review them individually (I’d be overly mean to some of them if I did), I figure I’d run them down in relation to their ability to deal with these sensitive cultural issues.]
Culture in Question: Prehistoric Man (Cavemen)
Yes, Cavemen deals with the stereotyping of a non-existent culture, and there is a distinct problem with this: the writers are not capable of forgetting real cultural stereotypes in the process. The entire series basically boils down to stealing every single African-American sitcom joke and just transferring it to these hairy neanderthals. The Cavemen feel out of place at a country club, they feel that their crime is more reporter than white crime, and they worry about interracial marriage.
Cultural Impact: Setting the clock back decades. By presenting a culture of exclusion to a level not seen since the 70s, it’s basically making North America out to be this cultural dead zone incapable of accepting other cultures. And while racism is still a serious issue, ignoring any of the past three decades of advancement is just insulting to the efforts of the civil rights movement.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Culture in Question: Geek Culture
While certainly not attempting to prescribe a moral to the state of geek culture, The Big Bang Theory does attempt to represent it. In the process, however, the geek turns into a complete sitcom stereotype: they play World of Warcraft, they watch Battlestar Galactica (w/ Commentary) and they don’t know how to talk to girls. This, in the mind of sitcom writers, is a geek in a nutshell.
This fall, all of your favourite shows will be returning, and some new blood will join the pack. Which nights should you be scheduling off? Here’s the full calendar list of premiere dates for the Big 5 Networks.
Over the weekend, online pirates were pleased to see that the flood was beginning: torrent sites across the internet began posting leaked screener copies of the 2007 pilots from FOX’s much-discussed Terminator spinoff Sarah Connor Chronicles (Pictured) to ABC’s buzz-worthy drama Pushing Daisies. I can only speculate, but I imagine that some people at the networks might be upset to see this. However, part of me really hopes that there is a certain number of employees who realize that these pilots leaking onto the internet is not the end of the world. In fact, it might be the best thing that happened to these shows. And the networks should have been putting them online themselves.
These pilots are leaking because the DVD Screeners sent to critics weren’t going to just sit there after being watched, and technology has reached a point where uploading shows is apparently quite easy (I’ve never done it myself). It is telling that the pilots uploaded thus far are the ones that are getting the most buzz in internet circles: fanboys are concerned over Sarah Connor Chronicles, critics are abuzz about Bryan Fuller’s (Wonderfalls) Pushing Daisies and NBC’s Chuck (From O.C. Creator Josh Schwartz), and Kevin Smith (Clerks) directed The CW’s Reaper (The first pilot to leak).
On the one hand, uptight network executives are probably concerned that their premiere ratings might go down as people watch the show ahead of time, or that bad buzz will take down the series before it can even get started. To those executives I make the following case: premiere ratings don’t matter, and the audience watching these shows online will not penetrate the casual mass of fans who make Two and a Half Men a comedy sensation. What you want to be doing is creating a fan base, something that this actually helps far more than it hurts.
The nominations for the 56th annual Primetime Emmy awards have been released, and the result is a whole lot of frustration. While there are certainly some attributes in these categories that certainly warrant some sort of positive feelings, the overall impact is limited with some rather vile mistakes made by the voters. Yes, I said mistakes. Let’s take a look at the Best and the Worst of the nominations.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
This one is simple, really. While there were some other categories that had either too many familiar faces or the wrong mix of people, Supporting Actor in a Comedy gets it just right. Jon Cryer is the token nominee for the popular vote, but then you’ve got four awesome comedic talents: last year’s winner Jeremy Piven along with new (And fantastic) fresh faces in Rainn Wilson, Kevin Dillon and Neil Patrick Harris. I really can’t argue with any of these selections. I would have liked to see Justin Kirk in there, but it’s still a great category.
Runner-Up: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Three Grey’s Anatomy actresses, two Sopranos actresses, and perennial Emmy favourite Rachel Griffiths. It is clear that the men are where the new talent is making an impact, because these nominees couldn’t be much more predictable. The lack of new talent (Elizabeth Mitchell for Lost, Hayden Panettiere for Heroes) is the biggest problem, and I really hope that this can change in the future.
Runner-Up: Outstanding Drama Series
Most Surprising Nominee
Michael Emerson (Lost) – Supporting Actor in a Drama
I had written off Michael Emerson, one of my early picks, after Elizabeth Mitchell failed to crack the Top 10. However, it appears that Emerson was able to make it in, and with 6 nominees in his category worked his way into the fold. This was likely supported by Terry O’Quinn’s tape, which featured Emerson heavily. It is most deserved, and the most pleasant surprise of the morning.
Runner-Up: Boston Legal – Outstanding Drama Series
[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our fourth set of candidates. For complete listings for all Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Mary-Louise Parker (Nancy)
It has now been about a week since I started watching Weeds, which perhaps makes it difficult to put the show in perspective compared to others. I finished both of the show’s seasons in the span of about a week, and I think that this should be seen as a testament to the show’s quality. However, let’s be honest here: while the supporting performances of Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk, Romany Malco, Kevin Deacon are all great, the entire show hinges on Mary-Louise Parker’s portrayal of a suburban widow turned drug dealer. I think that a single episode could survive without her subtle and engaging portrayal of Nancy Botwin, but the series as a whole requires us to feel for Nancy, understand Nancy, relate to Nancy and to a certain extent judge Nancy on her actions. What Parker nails each and every time is a character who has no idea what she’s doing; every time she tries to assert herself, her character finds things moving too fast, and she’s forced to fall as she always invariably falls. But we always want to pick her back up: we want Nancy to succeed at selling drugs just as much as we would want the Dillon Panthers to win the big game on Friday Night Lights. As individuals living in a legal system that frowns upon this, we should see it as somewhat subversive…and we do, but just the right amount. That is the work of Mary-Louise Parker, and it is work that is worthy of Emmy consideration.
What I like most about Parker’s work is that there is that constant awareness of how dangerous what she is doing really is, and yet also her ability to get swept up in it all. The constant fear that her children will figure out what she does for a living was real for Nancy, especially in the case of young son Shane. Nancy got herself into hot water this season: her DEA agent beau found out about her occupation of choice, she married him to gain protection from the law, her grow operation was threatened by Armenians, her elder son figured out her position (And got his girlfriend pregnant), she realized how screwed she was in her sham marriage, and pretty well everything spiraled out of control in the season finale. And through it all you saw Parker both being overwhelmed by the emotion of it all and getting absolutely giddy as Snoop Dogg digs her “M.I.L.F. Weed”.
While Perkins and Kirk have the real “comic” roles, Parker’s core storyline forms the show’s entire dramatic construct. Without a deft hand, these storylines could become too dramatic, or perhaps even too comic. Instead, Mary-Louise Parker always gives Nancy Botwin qualities we find funny, charming, and just enough to make us sometimes forget the mistakes she’s made. And that is a performance that should garner her an Emmy nomination.
Episode Selection:“Mrs. Botwin’s Neighbourhood” (Aired September 11th, 2006)
“I have fires in two houses, Mr. Botwin…Mr. Scotson.” This line perfectly demonstrates why this episode is a strong submission for Parker: she is faced with conflict on both sides of her life (Mother and Pot Dealer/Grower). Silas’ girlfriend Megan is pregnant, and she tells her parents on her own…and then stops talking to Silas, who had wanted her to keep the baby. Meanwhile, Nancy has to deal with four Armenian pot growers in her neighbourhood who are more than a little hostile and her newly established growhouse, so she turns to her sham DEA husband (Mr. Scotson) for assistance. Combine this with a hysterical attack from Elizabeth Perkins, and you have a woman who is struggling to keep her head above water. She lashes out, attacking Megan’s father for hitting her son and just delivers a great performance in the process. This is Nancy at her lowest with a glimmer of hope in its conclusion, and it is an engaging performance worthy of consideration.
Let’s be honest: Kristen Bell will not be nominated for an Emmy award. The show is too lowly rated, and struggled too much creatively in this its third season, for it to ever be considered a serious contender. However, I cannot help but continue to be engaged by Kristen Bell’s characterization of this young woman struggling with pretty well everything around her. She smart, intelligent, savvy, and yet is in many ways just as damaged as the rest of us. While her character has lost depth in the past two seasons, I still think that Bell remains the show’s highlight: without her turn as Veronica, I don’t know if the show would have ever engaged fans in the first place. As she moves on from the now cancelled Veronica Mars, I believe she has a bright future ahead of her. However, before she moves on, I think it is important that we at least bring attention to the fact that without her strong performance, Veronica Mars wouldn’t have lasted half a season. With wit and charm, Kristen Bell brought sophistication to the realm of teen dramas that it had not seen before: the result was a performance that, to hell with reality, is worthy of Emmy consideration.
I have yet to see the pilot for The CW’s Reaper, but I will refer to people that have to help me make my point. The titular Brill and Eric of the Brill And Eric Watch TV Podcast had a ‘preview’ of Reaper and pointed out that they hoped that changes wouldn’t mess with the show’s formula. Specifically, they felt that the series’ female lead was different than the usual CW brand of ditzy female bimbos. Well, maybe not in so many words. And they also foreshadowed that some recasting might be in order.
And their prophecy has become correct: Nikki Reed, originally cast as the love interest for Bret Harrison, has been replaced by ‘Heroes’ alum Missy Peregrym, who played…”illusionist” Candice, according to the Hollywood Reporter. If people want to tell me exactly what to call her, feel free to do so. Regardless, I am OUTRAGED at this development for a few reasons. On a smaller note, before I get to the big ones, Reed would have been close to her character’s purported age of about 21. Peregrym, meanwhile, is 25. But that’s just a quibble. Here are the two main reasons:
1. Nikki Reed is Awesome
An independent film darling, and writer of hit drama ‘Thirteen’, Nikki Reed expanded into the world of popular television (My world, apparently) by appearing in The O.C.’s unfortunate third season as a love interest for Ryan while Marissa was off being a whore with Johnny. Maybe it was just that comparison, but Reed was absolutely charming. She was mature, she was attractive, she was engaging, and she was perhaps my favourite pairing for Ryan before Taylor came along. She brought real characterization to a painfully underwritten character, and her acting chops showed.
2. Missy Peregrym Isn’t a Good Actress
She’s not terrible, but Peregrym has done nothing in her two TV roles (ABC’s Life as We Know It and the aforementioned Heroes) to convince me she’s a good actress. She did some engaging work towards the end of Heroes’ first season, specifically in her scenes with Noah Gray Cabey, but on the whole Candice was a boring and not really that entertaining character. And, either way, there was NOTHING within her performance on either show that convinced me she was capable of being an interesting love interest.