Tag Archives: CBS

The Good Wife – “Cleaning House”

“Cleaning House”

October 19th, 2010

The Good Wife was the best new network series of last season, without a doubt: the show was smart, sophisticated, and comfortable in its balance of both procedural and serialized elements.

This season, The Good Wife is a considerably worse show, objectively speaking: the weekly plots are over-written, the serial arc has swapped character drama for fairly rote political maneuvering, and tensions which might have remained subtexts last year become baseball bat attacks this time around.

Normally, I’d chalk this up to a network note about wanting to draw in younger viewers with a more exciting product; while I do think that this is likely part of it, I’m reticent to speak too critically because I’m finding this new version of the show a whole lot of fun. This is not to say that I don’t wish that the scripts could be a bit sharper, or that the show would avoid playing so heavily to the relationships between Will and Alicia as well as Cary and Alicia, but “Cleaning House” demonstrates that there are times when manipulative plotting can be delightful enough to quell most, if not all, of my critical concerns.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Subway Wars”

“Subway Wars”

October 11th, 2010

This is precisely the kind of episode which is particularly dangerous for a show in How I Met Your Mother’s position. “Subway Wars” feels like a gimmick from the very beginning, and the show is at a point where it risks seeming unsubstantial. Back in the second season, something like “Subway Wars” might have seemed novel, but in the context of a sixth season it seems almost a bit desperate.

That being said, I think “Subway Wars” ends up working because it quite successfully ties the race towards Woody Allen into a personal journey for each of its characters. By grounding the journey in Robin’s belief that New York is turning on her, and Marshall and Lily’s struggles to conceive, the episode manages to make broad subject matter transition into legitimate character stories without too much difficulty.

It isn’t quite as well-oiled as it may have been four seasons ago, but I think that the risk ended up enough reward to make “Subway Wars” a solid entry.

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Season Premiere: The Good Wife – “Taking Control”

“Taking Control”

September 28th, 2010

I will admit to loving a good ironic title, and I’d argue that “Taking Control” somewhat misrepresents the state of The Good Wife heading into its second season.

I’ve seen a lot of divergent thoughts on the premiere: some seems to think the show is still in fine form, while others felt that it was “off” in some way. I’ll admit to being slightly in the second camp, albeit with a better sense of how, and more importantly why, the show feels this way. While I do think there are a few creative missteps here, I think the general function of the premiere was a good way to enter into the season (if not necessarily conducive to a particularly strong premiere).

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Season Premiere: The Amazing Race, Watermelons, and the Loss(?) of Uncertainty

“They Don’t Call the The Amazing Race For Nothin’!”

September 26th, 2010

Earlier this month, CBS gave away what I would technically consider a spoiler: they released a video of two contestants completing a Roadblock which was fairly clearly taking place towards the end of the first leg. Being generally spoiler-phobic, I resisted the video for a few hours, but then everyone and their mother were talking about it.

And when I finally watched it, I discovered why.

YouTube – The Watermelon Heard Around the World

I chose this version of the video with the highest number of viewers: while CBS’ own upload has 650,000, the copy posted has over two and a half million views. People have been watching this video for weeks, and it seems to have actually created some legitimate excitement around the season. I don’t think that the video is enough of a spoiler to ruin the episode (my usual spoiler-hating self didn’t really emerge), but I do think that it creates a very different sort of viewing experience than what we’re used to.

As a result, I want to ask (and perhaps answer) some questions about the strategy at play, which ended up helping the series to one of its most memorable premieres in quite some time.

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Discussing the Fall Premieres at Antenna

Discussing the Fall Premieres at Antenna

September 22nd, 2010

While I will be reviewing a number of new series here at the blog, admittedly I will not be offering my comments on some of the pilots I watch which I feel that those critics with screeners have already done justice ahead of time: if there’s no further substance for me to add, offering my opinion in the form of a lengthy critical review just isn’t a valuable use of my time.

However, many of those pilots lend themselves to short bursts of academic analysis, which is the purpose of the project which starts today at Antenna (the media and culture blog based in the Communication Arts department here at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which I discussed last week). A collection of scholars will offer their individual perspectives on a number of pilots, resulting in a wide range of responses to every new series debuting on network television (cable will likely be dealt with separately once the network madness concludes). The responses range from the snarky to the philosophical, which is a nice balance for addressing the combination of potential and horror which usually defines pilot season.

I’ll likely be offering thoughts on a number of shows (I’ve volunteered to fill in the gaps, more or less) as the week progresses, but I’m most looking forward to reading what so many others have to say (especially when many of them, unlike myself, do not write publicly that often).

So, check out the links below – each post will be updating throughout the week as new shows premiere, so keep checking back for updates (I’ll be tweeting them regularly, especially if I am in some way involved).

Antenna does the Fall Premieres

CBS [Featuring my thoughts on Hawaii Five-0, Mike & Molly]

NBC [Featuring a few more of my thoughts on Chase]

FOX & The CW [Featuring some thoughts on Lone Star’s struggles]

ABC [Coming Soon]

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Season Premiere: How I Met Your Mother – “Big Days”

“Big Days”

September 20th, 2010

Look, I was pretty harsh on How I Met Your Mother last season, but it was harshness which stemmed from love: I care about these characters, so to see their individual arcs subjected in order to make way for standalone stories which fought against the series’ greatest, if not only, strength (its serialized elements) was unfortunate.

Now, I’m not one of those people who believes that the show needs to spend more time discussing the Mother: in fact, I am more or less completely uninterested in that storyline, other than the fact that it largely allows “wistful romantic Ted” to emerge and I’ve got a soft spot for that particular characterization. Rather, my issue is that I need the character to feel like they’re evolving, that they’re reaching a point in their lives when they are considerably less aimless than when they began. My problem, then, is less that Barney and Robin split up, and more that they split up and went back to fairly reductive versions of their respective characters.

“Big Days” is an intelligent premiere in that it keeps things decidedly simple: other than yet another future milestone that we can start counting down the days until, the episode creates a small scenario which speaks to the series’ past, present and future without feeling too strained. Nothing it does feels particularly monumental, but the episode nonetheless captures the sense of purpose that the show was missing for the bulk of last season.

Which, if it holds, will be a welcome return to form.

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Jimmy Johnson vs. Survivor: Notoreity and Narrative in Nicaragua

“Young At Heart”

September 15th, 2010

The biggest challenge for a reality series like Survivor is finding a way to make things interesting in the beginning. The show so heavily relies on characters and their interaction with one another that those early moments are almost always less interesting simply because they are not yet characters: at best the castaways are caricatures, limited to their first impressions (which are encouraged and extrapolated by the producers within the opening “No one is allowed to talk” journey to the first locale).

However, with Survivor: Nicaragua there is no room for subtlety in terms of getting to know the contestants: the contestants are divided based on their ages, a key component in first impressions within the series, and two of the contestants are simply unable to remain anonymous for any length of time. What emerges, then, is a focus on the importance of honesty and perception within this game, key themes that emerge within every season of Survivor.

This time around, though, the producers decided to introduce them as early as possible, mostly in order to ensure that these two notable contestants can be successfully integrated into the series’ narrative in future weeks.

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Reality Bites: Survivor’s Fall from Grace with Emmy Voters

Reality Bites: Survivor’s Fall from Grace with Emmy Voters

July 10th, 2010

Anyone who watches Survivor could tell you that this year was its best in a very long time: blindsides became standard, immunity idols became common currency, and Russell (for better or for worse) introduced an entirely new way of playing the game. For fans of the show, it was everything you could hope for, combining the twist and turns of the best seasons with some of the players from those seasons with the “Heroes vs. Villains” structure of the Spring season. Overall, the year was definitive evidence that the Survivor formula is still capable of surprising us, and that twenty seasons into its run Survivor is still a viable reality series.

And so it may seem strange that, after experiencing one of its best years ever, Survivor was shut out of the Reality Competition series category at the Emmy Awards (although Jeff Probst is nominated again in the Host category, which he has won twice). This isn’t a huge surprise, really: after all, The Amazing Race has won this category for seven straight years, so it’s not as if one can expect a great deal of turnaround in terms of the nominees. However, Survivor hasn’t been nominated for the award since 2006, and I think the fact that it’s yet to be nominated again reveals something very interesting about the Emmy voters.

Primarily, it reveals that they don’t actually like reality television.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: CBS’ The Good Wife

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: CBS’ The Good Wife

July 5th, 2010

[This is part of a series of posts analyzing individual show’s chances at the Emmy Awards ahead of the nominations, which will be announced on July 8th. You can find all of my posts regarding the 2010 Emmy Awards here.]

There is a great deal of buzz surrounding CBS’ The Good Wife this Emmy season, and what’s remarkable is that I’m willing to join the chorus. When the show picked up a surprised nomination in the “Ensemble Cast” category at the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, I was sort of perplexed, believing that the series was more or less a star vehicle for Julianna Margulies and that it didn’t deserve taking the place of Lost, or Sons of Anarchy, or Breaking Bad. However, as The Good Wife’s first season progressed, I was able to see the show is more than Margulies’ triumphant return to television, and its blend of procedural and serialized elements have created a series that deserves to be part of this conversation.

The series benefits from being both familiar and unfamiliar to voters. On the one hand, the show has a comfortable legal procedural/workplace drama structure which hearkens back to Emmys past (when Law & Order was dominant, or when The Practice and Boston Legal each saw considerable success). However, on the other hand, the show very clearly expands beyond that structure with a complex serialized storyline surrounding Alicia’s relationship with her husband and the scandal which surrounds his life, which interrupts and complicates the ongoing procedural elements. The show has its cake and eats it too, which will allow voters to feel comfortable voting for the show either for its well-executed simplicity or for the risk in adding serialized elements to the series (while the show takes far fewer risks than Lost or Breaking Bad, they seem riskier considering The Good Wife is ostensibly a CBS procedural).

Margulies is unquestionably the frontrunner in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series race: her wins at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards were not flukes, and her Emmys pedigree is just as strong (and while she has a win for ER, it was in the Supporting category, so she’s searching for her first win in five nominations this year). It’s a deserved place for the actress, whose work on the show has been extremely strong and who truly does anchor the cast. The question, however, is how much the show (which I’d consider a strong contender for a nomination in the Drama field) expands into further caregories: while I’d say that the series’ pilot is a contender in both Direction and Writing (as most high-profile, successful drama pilots are), I’m more interested to see what happens to the rest of the SAG-nominated cast.

In Supporting Actor, Chris Noth has to be considered a threat – he’s part of the season’s prominent serialized arc (and makes a big impact in the pilot), has some notoriety from his time as Mr. Big, and is quite great on the show. However, Josh Charles (who is Emmy-nomination free despite the genius of Sports Night) is equally as good on the show, and has to merit some consideration as well. Similarly, Christine Baranski has a real chance in the Supporting Actress field (having won for Cybill in 1995 and having grabbed a guest actress in a comedy nomination just last year), but arguable Archie Panjabi’s Kalinda has been the breakout character from the series, and so she probably deserves greater consideration even if her lack of name recognition will keep her from breaking through (although, we said the same about Aaron Paul last year, and he made it into the field). Throw in some guest acting contenders (Alan Cumming for his extended guest arc, Mary Beth Peil recurring as Peter’s mother, Martha Plimpton as a rival attorney, Dylan Baker as a sadistic client), and the series could land in a big way.

The Drama field is pretty crowded this year, but The Good Wife is in a good position to take advantage of this as a freshman series: its newness will serve it well against some established, but less noteworthy contenders, and this is likely to grab it a number of key nominations that will provide some considerable momentum (which the show might need, as its ratings dropped quite a bit after its early renewal). A nomination for Outstanding Drama Series would be CBS’ first since CSI and Joan of Arcadia in 2004, and if it garners over 6 nominations it will be CBS’ most-nominated drama series since Chicago Hope’s years of dominance in the 1990s, and I think CBS will have a lot to be happy about on Thursday morning.

Contender in:

  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Julianna Margulies)
  • Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Chris Noth)
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Christine Baranski)
  • Writing for a Drama Series
  • Directing for a Drama Series
  • Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Alan Cumming)
  • Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Mary Beth Piel)

Dark Horse in:

  • Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Josh Charles)
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Archie Panjabi)
  • Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Martha Plimpton)
  • Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Dylan Baker)

Should, but Won’t, Contend In:

  • Honestly, I think it’ll contend in some capacity in every place it really deserves to: Matt Czuchry did well with his part, but his character’s real potential will be next season (considering where the season left his character), and no one else really played a pivotal enough role to be considered. However, the one omission above is Titus Welliver, who I think could have contended in Guest Actor but who didn’t submit himself for consideration (for this or for Lost), which is a pity.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series

June 1st, 2010

What’s weird about predicting the Emmy nominations (which are on July 8th, for the record) is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with quality: sure, a bad season can certainly hurt your chances at getting an Emmy, and a good season is sure to be of some assistance, but the objective quality of a series doesn’t really matter until they’re nominated. Until that point, it’s one big popularity contest, combining old habits, much-hyped new series, and those nominees who seem particularly newsworthy.

This is why it’s possible to predict the nominees, or at least the long-list of contenders who could logically garner a nomination on July 8th, before the eligibility period even ends (which isn’t really that big a deal this year, as any series which aired the majority of its season before the deadline [like Breaking Bad] will still be able to submit their concluding episodes). And while it may seem a bit premature, I’m pretty Emmy obsessive, and wanted to take some time this week to run down the potential nominees in each category. In the case of the series and acting categories, I’ll single out some who I believe are guaranteed nominations, while I’ll likely be less able to do so with Writing and Directing (which are often much less predictable, outside of a few exceptions).

We’ll start with Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series today, both because they’re a bit easier to handicap and because they’re the “big” races. They’re also the categories where I’m willing to put money down on a majority of the nominees, leaving only a few spots remaining for the other series to fight over in the months ahead.

And what a fight it’s going to be.

[Before we start, hats off to the great work of the Gold Derby forum members, especially moderator Chris “Boomer” Beachum, whose work continues to make projects like this a lot easier. Check out their Official 2010 Emmy Campaign Submissions thread for a full list of submitted nominees; you’ll end up there for at least a half hour before you realize how much time has elapsed.]

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