Welcome back to Last Week in TV - Summer Edition. As fall TV officially begins tonight for me (Hello, Sleepy Hollow), I have one overarching question - Where did the summer go? Remember back when summer was a wasteland of reruns and TV movies, when the idea of original programming seemed foreign. Or maybe you are of the generation when summer TV largely meant reality shows, USA Network, and yes, copious reruns. I have never had a summer so chock full of original scripted programming before and I am still not caught up. Even more, a lot of this summer's offerings were actually good. Goodbye summer as a TV wasteland and hello trying to frantically trying to catch up on the summer fare I missed so I can chat it up with other fans.
Let's just say I am still behind, so some shows won't be included in this edition especially if they are still airing new episodes. I am currently behind on The Strain (8 episodes), Outlander (2 episodes), Legends (4), Honourable Woman (4), Lottery (6), Chasing Life (5), Crossbones (4), Finding Carter (10), Girl Meets World (8), Halt and Catch Fire (7), Jennifer Falls (4), Motive (5) and Major Crimes (8). I have yet to start Manhattan, The Divide, Defiance, or Under the Dome either. Whew! As I get caught up on them, I will mention it in future posts. My priorities will be The Strain, Outlander, Honourable Woman, and Motive in that order. Also because this is a special summer edition I will not be reviewing a nominated show. However the nomination form is below if you would like to nominate something.
I love a hero and in today's TV, they are hard to come by. Antiheroes and gray area drown out the classic hero story these days, making it hard to root for anything. In comes The Last Ship like a great action film of the 80's. They have a mission and they will complete it with honor and valor. Still in the new landscape of actual good TV choices in the summer, good characters alone can't win the title of Best Summer Show. What edged The Last Ship into first place for me was how often I found myself leaning forward towards the screen because I was so intensely watching how something was going to end. Not once was I watching the time or playing Free Cell like I did with most shows at one time or another. I was completely sold on the need to stay alive to find the cure and therefore their mission became my mission. That's the hallmark of good summer TV for me.
Status: Renewed for season 2
My Status: Must-See TV
Audience - Anyone who loved hero movies of the 80's. If you thrilled at Top Gun and got chills during the Independence Day speech (yeah, I know that's not the 80's but still), then this show is for you.
Best Reason to Watch - almost everyone gets to be a hero at some point in a TV landscape where it's hard to root for anyone anymore
Best Addition - Tex
All-Encompassing Quote - Slattery: "You're a leader. Lead."
Best Title - Two Sailors Walk into Bar…
Biggest Aww Moment - "We respectfully request to re-enlist."
Worst Plot Device - surprise pregnancy
Dominion was another surprise highlight of the summer season for me because ever since Supernatural, I have had zero interest in warring angels of any kind. Still they have created a complex world in which to set the backdrop of the story and for the most part, they seem to be sticking to the canon of their foundation. As the world opens up beyond Vega, even more history, alliances, and backstory flesh out the characters experiences. The only show that comes even close to creating such a rich setting is Outlander. I would like to see Dominion add more action because there is definitely more political maneuvering than actual fighting given that they are supposed to be in a war. Still the characters are intriguing and I tend to have strong feelings about all of them, for better or worse. Let's just say that Giles from Buffy is NOT a good guy.
My Status: Must-See TV
Audience - People who like to immerse themselves into dystopian worlds or general fans of sci fi
Best Reason to Watch - the rich world building
Best Addition - Arika
Biggest Surprise - I love Anthony Stewart Head from his Giles days and I have seen him in other shows where he was straight up evil, but I never hated his character so much that I wanted him off my screen before.
Best Twist - Noma is an angel
Worst Twist - surprise pregnancy
This is another show that surprised me because I dropped 24 a long time ago. I had a hard time distinguishing Jack and cohorts from the terrorists in previous years, which caused me to say goodbye after a couple seasons. Therefore I was sure that this would be a one and done for me. Imagine my surprise when the premiere had me not only hooked but also rooting for Jack. I found the story gripping and the characters intense. In fact, if they hadn't blown it by dumping in multiple side plots at the very end like an out-of-control comic book movie, then it would have been in the running for best show of the summer. After they killed off Margot Al-Harazi they should have stopped but nope, we needed some Chinese assassins and blown-up trawlers and about 60 other things to muddy the waters. Overall though it was quite the ride and for the first time, I enjoyed spending time with Jack. Chloe, as always, was a huge plus.
My Status: If Kiefer Sutherland decides he wants one more go-around, I am in.
Audience - former fans of 24 and anyone who likes a lot of action
Best Reason to Watch - the action
Best Addition - Kate and Adrian
Best Surprise - that this became appointment TV for me
Worst Surprise - the ending that didn't end
I'm a librarian so the premise of bringing together so many classic characters was fantastic. In the first season alone, Frankenstein, Dorian Grey, Mina/Harker/Dracula, Van Helsing, and a man who looks suspiciously like a tall munchkin all appear along with others. Watching them interact was a high point. Sadly though, while Penny Dreadful started out well, it's overabundance of nudity and the sheer boredom I felt partway through several episodes soon made me want to drop it. I kept hoping it would get better but there are too many drawn-out scenes for me. The cinematography was great and Sir Malcolm Murray calling Vanessa his daughter was the series high point. However, the extended episode length, gratuitous nude scenes, and pacing issues mean I won't be joining for a second season. Such a shame because it could have been an action-packed supernatural thriller.
Status: Renewed for season 2
My Status: Dropped
Audience - people who like cerebral horror and don't mind copious amounts of gratuitous nudity. Try it if you enjoyed True Blood.
Best Reason to Watch - the characters
Best Reason to Avoid - the pacing
Best Addition - Vanessa back story
Best Moment - Sir Malcolm Calls Vanessa his daughter and shoots Mina
Best Twist - Frankenstein's monster kills Frankenstein's monster / Ethan is a werewolf
Most Sympathetic - Frankenstein's murdering monster
I am still surprised by this show. There are no characters I root for and quite frankly the whole lot should be thrown in jail from the "good" guys to the villains. That's usually a big, red flag for me, but for some reason the plot of this story kept me coming back for more. I kept trying to figure out how Ryan was going to get out of the latest jam without blowing his gang affiliation. In the end it became about who I wanted to die the most, but it still had me wanting to see how it ended. The pacing helped too in that there was always something at the end that made you want to see just a little bit more. Well, me at least. Ratings were low so it was cancelled.
Audience - People who like complicated serial dramas with a side dish of cop corruption
Best Reason to Watch - the twist - Ryan was groomed by Acosta, a drug cartel leader, to get into the special gang task force to protect the gang
Best Addition - all the characters' shady back stories
Best Character - um, I'm not sure best can be used with any of these guys, but Ryan had the best storyline as the main character
Biggest Surprise - I hated Carlos with a passion and wanted him to die. Still when he was in the wheelchair trying to adjust I felt sympathetic towards him. Of course he ended that quickly by beating his trainer almost to death and then I just wanted him to die again.
Best Twist - The DA is also on Acosta's payroll
Generally sword fights and explosions win this category for me, but nothing pumped up the adrenaline more this summer than the car chases on Taxi Brooklyn. They were that good. In fact, I want Leo to join some of my other favorite shows and give them more punch too. The highest praise I can give him is that he is the Fiona Glenanne of the chase. Taxi Brooklyn was a fun show when it wasn't taking itself too seriously . After all, this is a show about a cop who cannot drive herself places and therefore partners with a cab driver. It's as ludicrous as the Castle detective-writer partnership Taxi Brooklyn was obviously copying, right down to the murdered family member of the female cop. Castle at least pokes fun at its premise, while Taxi Brooklyn only seems to do that on the standalone episodes, which may be why they were my favorite. Drop the complicated family crime sagas and make this a fun, crime of the week procedural with plenty of quips and snark. My guess it would be better received that way if it gets a chance to return. Right now that's iffy.
My Status: If it is renewed, I will be watching but I hope it adds more fun in season 2.
Audience - People who like odd couple crime procedurals like Castle
Best Reason to Watch - Romba, who is quick with a joke and is in general the least douchey character
Best Addition - Kat's mom, Frankie
Best Twist - Annabella, Cat's best friend in childhood, is running the family mob business and may have had Cat's father killed
Most in Need of Intensive Therapy - Cat, whose social skills are so atrocious I'm surprised people don't smack her on a regular basis. Argh, she's obnoxious.
Now in all fairness I haven't finished Chasing Life or Finding Carter, so if these characters have improved I apologize. Mostly I found Brenna to take top honors in the most annoying teen category (but only because I refuse to watch anymore of that idiot son on Tyrant). She hasn't met a person she liked, an adult she respected, or an issue that she couldn't suddenly make all about her. I spent almost every second of her screen time wishing someone would Gibbs slap her. I am sure she has many good traits and they really need to tap into those because in the episodes I saw, she was just taking up space. Most annoying family goes to the Wilsons, who made lying and terrible communication skills an art form. I realize that their situation was tenuous but no one even tried to see the other side and come up with a compromise. Since I am not one for emoangsting and I sure don't want to watch people yelling all the time, I vote for a whole cast re-do. TC from The Night Shift makes my eyes roll as well. No one with PTSD that bad should ever be making life and death decisions for others. He falls into the category of character where the writers expect me to ignore every stupid and self-centered choice he's made and instantly forgive him because he has puppy dog eyes. It doesn't work that way. His butt should have been fired a long, long time ago and no amount of pushing him as the one and only doctor in the known universe who can save people will excuse him from being a huge douche.
Teen Wolf came into this summer riding on high. Season 3 had the best ratings and the best reviews. Most fans thought the series was at its best and were looking forward to what the summer would bring. What it brought was a huge freaking breakwall that stopped all momentum and a plotline that still makes little sense. Who is the Benefactor? CrazyPants DoucheOrderly, Meredith, Lydia's Granny, Crispy Peter, a freaking machine from the 70's? Who knows? It didn't mean squat except to introduce a kazillion blonde teens that were largely undistinguishable and who sucked time away from people I actually cared about like a wendigo at dinner. Why did we have them again? Oh yeah, to introduce Liam - the worst new character of the entire summer. It's pretty bad when I want AngryBlonde/Mopey/Dopey to die more than Kate. All in all, this was BY FAR the worst season of Teen Wolf and a huge disappointment coming off the amazing 3B. Here's hoping that season 5 returns Teen Wolf to its former glory.
Status - Renewed for 20 episodes
My Status - Must See TV. One bad season does not a bad show make. I am keeping the faith.
Audience - Despite what it sounds like, the audience is not teens. Sure there is teen drama, more this time than ever, but for the most part this show is for anyone who likes a fast moving plot with lots of action and a set of very likeable characters who strive to be heroes.
Best Reason to Watch - the characters
Best Addition - Malia, who while being introduced in season 3 gets a much, much bigger part in season 4
Worst Addition - Liam
Biggest Twist - Scott makes a beta
Best Twist - Derek takes wolf form
Worst Twist - the majority of the first 2/3 of the season had no overall impact at all
Last season's comedy was some of the best in a long time. Sadly most of it was cancelled so I was anxious to find something light this summer to dull the pain. Enter a ditzy, poor chef with a heart of gold and all her new wacky friends. Young & Hungry is not going to win any awards. It's the froth on your mocha with just about as much substance. It doesn't change the world, but it is self-aware enough to know that and makes its own fun on the way. For the most part the show is carried by Yolanda, the sassy maid, and Sofia, the sassy best friend. Whenever these two are on they steal the show and that's a very good thing because the two leads are trapped in your typical love triangle that is better off fast forwarded. Mostly though it celebrates the power of friendship and creating your own family. That's a theme I can always get behind.
Status - Unknown
My Status - If it comes back, I'm there.
Audience - people who want a laugh without it always being raunchy
Best Reason to Watch - fun-spirited sass
Best Addition - Cooper (but not for the love triangle)
Worst Plot Device - one love triangle ending just so another can start
Best Story Development - the end of Josh and Caroline
Character Most in Need of Overhaul - Caroline, who's too selfish to make it clear why Josh is with her for so long
I dropped The Leftovers a few episodes in so maybe things have changed, but I have never watched a show that felt like it was missing a plot before. It felt more like scattered character vignettes, tied together by an event we never saw take place. The whole show revolved around how people changed and then went on with their lives after a catastrophic event occurred, in this case a percentage of the people on earth suddenly disappearing. The characters did interact but it never felt like it was a cohesive plot or that it was moving forward at all. One entire episode is about a priest trying to save his church. As a plot-driven viewer, this show was not for me.
Status: Renewed for season 2
My Status: Dropped
Audience - people who like character studies
Best Reason to Watch - in-depth psychological study of how people react to a catastrophe
Most Fascinating - Amy Brenneman
Biggest Mystery - why the cult doesn't talk and chain smokes
Other Summer Shows:
Graceland was my favorite new show last summer, mostly for the big twists and interesting character interaction. This season was not as good but it was still entertaining. The main problem was Mike was a complete douche the entire time. He was my least favorite main character last season, but this season ramped it way, way too much. I spent most of the time hoping he would fail while the rest of the team would succeed.
Status - unknown
My Status - I will watch if USA will renew but given how they keep cancelling the only shows I like on the network, I won't hold my breath.
Audience - people who like serial crime dramas with plenty of twists
Best Reason to Watch - Jakes and Johnny get more storyline this time
Best Addition - Lucia Solano, the crazy sister of an even crazier thug who Johnny of course beds / Kelly Badillo, whose interaction with Briggs helped the character
Most Useless - Zelanski, who appeared at the beginning as a new housemate and then disappeared after 3 episodes. I still don't know why he was even in it.
Least Suspenseful Cliffhanger - Mike will live on if they continue the series
Worst Plot Device - Juan's cassette tape / surprise pregnancy
Best Resolution of a Bad Plot Device - everyone important now knows what Paul did so we can move on
Most Surprising - Charlie and Briggs got back together
Crossbones is another example of everyone in a show being evil in turn and having no one to root for. Sadly, this one did not intrigue me enough to forebear it. I alternately wanted everyone dead and I cared not one jot who was screwing whom from one week to another. While it was definitely better than Black Sails and the acting was well done, Crossbones is not for me so I will probably never finish it. Apparently it was not for NBC or their audience either, as it was cancelled.
Status - Cancelled
Audience - Malkovich fans
Best Reason to Watch - the acting / the secondary characters
Most Intriguing - the women have as significant a place in their society as the men
Best Twist - Tom Lowe saved Blackbeard after he poisoned him
Best Character - it changed with each episode but the Balfours were almost always on my list
CBS bet big that a Halle Berry-driven vehicle would be a summer blockbuster. They were wrong. It's a shame though because overall it was a decent story if dragged out a bit too long. I liked how everything tied together so that there weren't the usual huge, gaping plot holes that most genre shows suffer from. The futuristic world with its casual advanced technology was great fun as well. Mostly though this is a coup of casting beyond Halle Berry with Camryn Manheim knocking it out of the park. It also brought up interesting dilemmas of how far technology should advance with the whole immersing an android into the human populace to learn side plot.
Status: Unknown, likely cancelled
My Status: I thought it wrapped up pretty well so I don't need a TV movie/ pity season for closure
Best Reason to Watch - well-crafted science fiction story that actually felt like they knew where it was going the whole time / top notch casting
Special Kudos - the VFX team for actually good CGI in the futuristic technology scenes
Best Surprise - the android kid who seemed evil in the beginning was actually the hero
Best Casting - Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays a shady futuristic scientist in Helix, also plays a shady futuristic scientist here
Most Predictable - the aliens are evil
I'll admit it. When Beverly Hills 90210 first aired, I too was fascinated by Luke Perry and the whole Peach Pit Gang. Therefore much like Girl Meets World, the only reason I checked it out was nostalgia. There's nothing new here and the characters are so stereotypical it is almost painful. The gay guy is super gay. The self-absorbed celebrity is super into herself. The go-getter never wants to stop and have fun and tends to scold the others throughout the episode. It also ends in a hokey catchphrase most of the time. I realize that Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth don't exactly have people knocking on their doors these days, but they both deserve better. No amount of nostalgia gets me through this.
Status - Cancelled
Audience - those who really, really loved Beverly Hills 90210
Best Reason to Watch - Beverly Hills, 90210 reunion
Best Character - Charlie for me because she was the most like me
For a story about kids living in the hospital, Red Band Society is fairly upbeat. They joke around and have fun and Nurse Jackson brings the necessary snark. It can go the way of a Hallmark movie/90's teen show, but it is rarely too heavy handed. What is laid on too think is the narration, which adds little to the show except for another character and there's already enough of them. It also has glimpses of teen love triangles which is a big no-no for me, but for now I find it charming so it's got 2 more episodes at least from me.
Prediction - pulled early since the demo is already low
Audience - people who like a little snark in their heartfelt dramas
Best Scene - Nurse Jackson takes away Emma's phone
Biggest Awww Moment - Leo gives the other kids his admittance bracelets
Best Reason to Watch - the teens, who are unique and yet definitely part of a team
Best Character - Nurse Jackson
Worst Plot Device - coma boy narrating
Best Quote - Nurse Jackson: "You know what happens to patients who cry wolf? We sell their organs for cash on the black market and split the money."
Doctor: "She needs to be wearing a heart monitor." Nurse Jackson: "Assuming she has one." Emma: "Hello, I can hear you." Nurse Jackson: "I know, baby."
Leo: "It's hard to sleep over the sound of your thoughts."
Most Unrealistic - I have never in my life seen hospital rooms as cool as these.
For once, the biggest draw in this show is the main character. Laura is funny and matter-of-fact. She's also well played by Debra Messing. Sadly, she is saddled with 2 incredibly obnoxious kids and an even worse douchebag husband who drag the entire show down. If I am going to get into another police procedural, it needs to draw me in right away. This one did not, and SPOILER, it didn't help that one of my favorite actors was pretty much booted in the pilot. This one is recommended for those who like a mix of comedy and drama in their procedurals like early Castle and who don't mind a secondary cast of incompetent yahoos. If you're overdone on procedurals, there's nothing here for you.
Prediction - The demo was largely inflated by Debra Messing's return to TV so expect a huge drop off by the third episode; cancelled at season's end
Audience - fans of police procedurals with strong lead females
Best Reason to Watch - Debra Messing
Best Scene - Laura uncovers the killer
Biggest Awww Moment - Laura's kids say she's the best mom in the world
Worst Plot Device - ex as boss
Best Character - Laura
Most in Need of an Overhaul - Jake
I am not predisposed to like zombie shows. Zombies are the gore of the horror genre and that's not my thing at all. Add one of my least favorite actors, kill off the only other guy I know, sprinkle in cheap looking CGI and the SyFy channel can leave me out. For those of you who like your campy SyFy extra gory, this is a less boring, less well-written version of The Walking Dead. Just don't eat during it.
Prediction - From the network that gave us Sharknado 2, this fits right in.
Audience - People who think The Walking Dead is too slow and doesn't have enough blood spurting
Best Reason to Watch - the laughable special effects make this a zombie comedy
Best Scene - zombie baby attack
Best Quote - Cassandra: "So are we just going to pick up every sketchy loser at every place we stop?" Doc: "Well we brought you along, didn't we?"
Murphy: "So what should I be doing while you all are getting incinerated to death?"
Garnett: "This works easier in the movies."
Biggest Huh? - Why are they reading an executive order from a dead president before killing someone in an extinction level event?
Best Reason not to Eat - about every 38 seconds. Take your pick.