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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Black-ish “Pilot” S1 E1

I’m going to try not to get too deep in this review.   After all, this is a sitcom.   But I watched Black-ish and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  I loved the trailer and laughed out loud when Dre’s son Andre (Andy) came home and wanted to have a bar mitzvah and change his name to his hebrew one (either Shlomo or Shmoole…which I’m probably butchering the spelling.)   I loved the instant chemistry between Anderson and Ross.  In a 2 minute trailer, I totally bought them as husband and wife.   So I was very excited for this premiere.   But then I watched it all and for the most part I liked it but I do have a bit of “Mike and Molly” fear for this show.

Shows like this, where they push racial and cultural boundaries, are always interesting because it can insight passionate responses from viewers…both good and bad.  I’ve already seen lots of comments on this about how “white people won’t understand the humor” and “this show is racist and offensive” etc, etc.   I think everyone needs to take a deep breath.   In the simplest of terms, this show is about an African-American family living a hugely successful life (Dre is a SVP of his company and Rainbow is a surgeon) in the suburbs yet still trying to stay true to their roots…at least Dre is.   Now he has to remind the rest of his family how important that is as well.   The cast is led by Anthony Anderson, Tracey Ellis Ross, and Laurence Fishburne.  But my favorite so far is Marcus Scribner’s Andre Jr.   That kid had the best lines and best material in the pilot.  First with the bar mitzvah.  He also wants to be called Andy (because it shows he’s edgy yet approachable), play field hockey, and hold onto his first boob (vs. holding onto his roots.)  I loved that kid.   And like The Goldbergs last year, I instantly felt like this was a family.  The chemistry between all of them was evident right off the bat.

This could be a groundbreaking show.    The kind of show that families can watch and have a great discussion about afterwards.   There are many people who argue, that shows like that don’t work on network TV any more.   Well, maybe not.   Unless it’s a well written, well thought out show that has the abilities to push the boundaries with humor to bring real conversations to the forefront.  And Black-ish has the potential to be that show.  I already have tons of questions.   I can’t directly relate to the internal struggle of an African-American man who came from a tough background to raising his family in the type of environment that was better than his and how he balances raising his children in a color free world yet staying true to their cultural heritage.  There is no way I can ever completely understand that.   But I’d like to understand it better than I do now.   And I’m curious to watch it and learn more about it.   For example, the one part of the show where I raised my eye brow was when Dre was upset that his daughter didn’t want to hang out with the only other black girl in the school and that she didn’t even refer to her as the “only other black girl in the school.”  His daughter responded by saying “I don’t know.  When I hear Liza Jackson I think of meatballs and turkey burgers.”  Isn’t that a good thing, that she didn’t see the color of her skin?   Why was Dre so upset?  I don’t understand.   I feel like the way his kids were talking about Liza is exactly the way you want them to talk about her…as a little girl, not a little black girl.   I would think so.  Look at how upset Dre was with his promotion.  He was hoping to break down barriers at his company by becoming the first black SVP.   But not the first black SVP of the “Urban Division.”  It took something away from the promotion for Dre and I do understand that.   But if your goal is to break down barriers then why drive the “blackness” so hard at home with your family?   It’s that the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve?   It’s confusing.    So I hope the show explores that a bit more because while I’ll never fully be able to relate because I’m not African-American, I could certainly be more informed and have a better understand than before.    I want to know why someone who wants his family as far away from the way he was brought up as possible, also wants to make sure his roots are still very prevalent in their everyday lives.   What specific parts of your roots are you referring to?   I really want to know.

But my “Mike and Molly” fear is that I don’t want the show to be all about “black” jokes.   With M&M, I didn’t want the show to be all about “fat jokes.”  Initially it was and then it toned down and went to everyday comedy with the fat jokes coming every once in a while.   The pilot of Black-ish was very heavy-handed with the jokes about fried fried chicken being too black for Rainbow (who is mixed race) and “if I’m not black enough can someone tell my hair and my ass.”   That’s all well and good but I hope they tone it down and it’s more background humor than the front and center humor.  I know that’s kind of the premise of the show but I think that humor can still be part of the show maybe not just every joke….like M&M was with the fat jokes.  It gets old after a while.  And I think this cast deserves to be more than one trick ponies because they’re pretty fantastic.

I enjoyed Black-ish and will continue to watch.   Not only because I find the show incredibly interesting but it’s also really, really funny!

DVRs: 3+

 

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SERIES FINALE: How I Met Your Mother “Last Forever” S9 E22

So that’s how it ends.   The story of these 5 friends we have been following for 9 years has reached it’s conclusion and in some ways it’s exactly what I thought and in other ways, it’s nothing like I thought would happen.   One thing is for certain, people will be talking (and screaming) about this finale for days to come.   It was that kind of ending.  I imagine most people loved it or hated it.   Judging by the early comments, people LOATHED it.  However I am not one of them.    Was it my favorite finale ever?   Not even close.   Was it as bad as Dexter’s finale?   Not even close.   But enough with the broad strokes.  Let’s dive into this and if you haven’t seen tonight’s finale, stop reading now and come back when you have.

I have mixed feelings on this finale.  There were parts I loved and parts I didn’t and parts I was indifferent about.   But since this was a very polarizing finale, I can see how people would lean one way or the other.   I mean come on.  We just spent THE ENTIRE SEASON on the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding only to have them be divorced 20 minutes into the finale.   Hence one of the parts I didn’t like.   If you were just going to break them up, couldn’t we have spent, maybe, oh I don’t know, 6-8 episodes on the wedding weekend and the remaining 14-16 episodes on the aftermath and subsequent years and maybe a little more on Ted and Tracy (Question #1 answered….Mother’s name is Tracy.)  In some ways I feel like I wasted 20+ episodes this season by having this build to a wedding that ultimately didn’t matter.  I would have rather spent more time getting know Tracy a little bit more since technically the show is about her.    It would have also made the scene where we learn that our fears raised in “Vesuvius” came to fruition…Tracy gets sick and passes away…much more powerful because we have been closer to her.    Not to mention, since Ted has been searching for this woman for as long as we’ve known him, it would have been nice to see Ted grieve the loss of his wife instead of it being mentioned as an after thought.    But it just goes to show you how awesome Cristin Miloti is.   I fell in love with her the minute I saw her.  She was perfect for Ted.   We got to see some snippets of that over this season, but not enough for my liking.   But in the brief time we did get her, she made the most of it and made the audience fall completely for her the way Ted did.   And maybe that was exactly the point.   It’s pretty obvious this was the plan from the beginning.   Penny and Luke (Question #2 answered….the names of Ted’s kids) who were played by Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie, had to film those scenes at the end of Season 1 because if the show lasted a long time (which it did), they couldn’t show them aged on the couch 9 years later since this is supposed to be a story told in one sitting.   So if that is what they filmed 9 years ago, this was always the plan.  It explains why Tracy didn’t show up until this season.  It explains why even when she was here, we only got bits and pieces of her.  Because even thought the show was called How I Met Your Mother, it was never about the mother.    This was the story of Ted and Robin.    The mom was the red herring the whole time. You can look at that one of two ways.    You can love the story told in a way that we didn’t see coming (although my husband called it last week) or you can feel completely betrayed by the absolute misrepresentation of the series.  Either way, you’d be correct in your feelings.   But were the writers correct in staying the course?

There is something to be said for laying out a series game plan and sticking with it because that’s your vision and that’s the story you want to tell.   But then I think you need to define how long that story lasts because to me, you can’t have it both ways.    You can’t have a series go on and on and have the story and audience reaction to characters take you down a path you didn’t expect only to rip their hearts out later because it didn’t fit your original plan.   If you have a plan, make a 5-6 year plan.   But if you’re willing to let the story go where characters, actors, and/or fans take you, then you need to be flexible.   Even though you filmed those scenes with Fonseca and Henrie way back when, you didn’t have to use them.  It could have been something for the box set of DVDs “see what the writers originally planned to do!!!”    That’s good marketing people!   I guess that’s why I’m so curious about not just the finale but the whole final season.   If this was the plan you were sticking to, which I don’t mind as much as other people do, then WHY do an entire season on the wedding of a couple destined to fail?   Why try to cram the next 15+ years of stories and bombshells into 60 minutes?   The wedding could have been done in 6-7 episodes and then we could have had another 14-15 episodes to learn more about the mother, their relationship, her impending demise and Ted’s grief over that and how it impacted him.    Because that is something I would have wanted to see.  This is a man who has been searching for love his whole life.   Since we’ve known Ted, he’s a romantic and he loves being in love.   So to lose the “love of his life” (which now is up for debate) and not see anything from the character on how that impacted him, I think strays from the true character of Ted.    We were there when Marshall and Lily broke up and then got back together.   We were there when Marshall and Lily got married.  We were there when they debated about having children and then watched them bring Marvin, Daisy, and #3 into the picture.  We were there when Barney met his birth father.  We were there when Robin found out she couldn’t have children.  We were there when Ted was left at the altar by Stella.  We were there when Marshall’s dad passed away.  So how in the world can we not be there when Ted loses Tracy?   I feel so robbed as a fan.   That’s what upsets me the most.   There were so many moments in the finale where we could have had more and the writers had the time to do it with this final season and chose not to.   Instead we got Billy Zabka (although that doesn’t bother me as much because I love me some Billy Zabka), Daphne, Gary Blauman, Cassie, and other pointless characters when we could have spent more time on our Fab 5 and Tracy since this will be the last time we see them.   That’s what I’m most disappointed in.

As for the ending and the writers choosing to have Ted and Robin be together at last, that didn’t bother me as much as other people.  After all, the show is “How I Met Your Mother” not “How I Spend The Rest of my Life With Your Mother.”   Because for a long time, I really liked Ted and Robin together and was secretly hoping she was mother somehow and someway.   But I also thought she was great with Barney in a lot of ways.   Hats off to Cobie Smulders because that woman had chemistry with everyone!  And I’m ok with the show runners giggling to themselves to have this be the rug the pull out from under us.  As a fan of TV, I like when a show surprises me and throws a fun twist (as long as it makes sense….yes I’m looking at you St Elsewhere.)  I mean, I was one of those people who would scream when they would revisit the Ted/Robin pairing over the course of the series because ultimately we know they don’t end up together.   So what was the point right?    Well, now we know.  Now we know why after determining they aren’t right together, bad timing, hook ups, break ups, dating, not dating, longing looks…..it was all because they were meant to be together.   And while I’m ok with that, I still have to raise my eyebrows at a few things.   First, why have that ceremonial moment on the beach with Robin and Ted where Ted finally let’s Robin go?  Because if you’re still going to have a thing for her after all this time, then you haven’t let her go.  It also made me think, if you’re really over her, then why are you moving to Chicago?   And since the writers knew this was the path, why have that scene?  Second, why did Robin need to be with Barney?   I mean she married one of his best friends.   Couldn’t she have just been the career person now and that’s why she couldn’t be with Ted as well as Ted meeting Tracy?   If the answer is because they needed a wedding to get Ted to meet Tracy and to show with Barney’s character that being married really isn’t for him….fine.  He could have married the stripper girl he was engaged to.  He didn’t have to marry Robin.   I’m not sure why the writers would get many fans invested in Robin and Barney only to have it crash and burn.  Barney and the stripper could have crashed and burned with the same results.   So why get the audience invested in Robin and Barney only to know that the end game is Robin and Ted?   Robin could have been with someone else or alone with her career.  She didn’t have to be with Barney if the end game was Ted.  Finally, when Ted is in MacLaren’s on the phone with Tracy and Marshall is pissed because here’s Ted falling for another girl and going too fast, Lily is sitting there with a huge smile on her face and tells Marshall…this time it’s different.  After Victoria, Stella, and yes, even Robin, Tracy invoked a reaction out of Ted that was unlike any other woman ever has indicating to me, that she was his soul mate and one true love.  Again, why have that line and that moment if ROBIN is really his one true love?    Maybe I’m missing the point.  Maybe the point isn’t that Tracy or Robin are his soul mate but that they both are.  It’s the only thing that makes sense.  Because if it’s just Robin, then the other parts about Ted and Tracy don’t make sense.  And if it’s just Tracy, then the end of the story doesn’t make sense.    So I guess the only thing that does is that BOTH women are Ted’s true loves.    That while Ted has been searching and searching and fearing that he’ll never meet anyone he can share his life with, he was blessed (or cursed) to have two women he could love completely and spend his days with.   It certainly is a more real world scenario.  But is that what the audience wants?   Judging by initial reactions, I don’t think so.

Ultimately I wanted closure for my Fab 5.   And whether you liked it or not, that’s exactly what you got.  Marshall and Lily are back in NYC with baby #3 and Marshall finally got to be a judge after giving it up for Lily in 2014.  I had no doubt Marshmallow and Lily Pad would have a solid, happy ending because they have been solid since the pilot.  Even with all their ups and downs, NO ONE ever doubted that these two would be together forever.  In my mind, they were the heart and soul of the show, especially Lily.  As for Barney, he went back to being single and finally told his friends what I thought he should have said years ago….that basically he’s not the settling down type of guy.    He likes having throngs of women coming in and out of his life with no commitment.  It’s who he is and he’s very happy like that so as his friends they should accept him for who he is and be happy for him.    And they were.   But after the perfect month (LOL) Barney finds out he got Day 31 pregnant.   Actually I’m surprised this never happened before with all the girls he’s slept with over the years.  While in typical Barney fashion, we don’t know the mother’s name and he really wants no part of this, he gets introduced to his new baby….a girl…Ellie.   Turns out Barney is a one woman guy.   It just so happens that the woman in his life, the love of his life, is his baby girl.   And the always amazing Neil Patrick Harris just completely blows this scene away and gives us one of the most beautiful moments on the show when he tells his daughter the following:

You are the love of my life.   Everything I have and everything I am, is yours.  Forever.

I mean come on.  If you are crying after that you have to be a little dead inside.   It was such a beautiful moment.   The other fantastically beautiful moment in the episode was when Ted and Tracy met for the first time on the Farhampton train tracks.   Talk about a meet cute!!!   It was so sweet and a great nod to many of the clues dropped over the years…the mom being in the Econ 305 class Ted accidentally thought was his Architecture 101 class, her being Cindy’s roommate, losing the yellow umbrella on St Patrick’s Day….it was perfect.   Then the reveal of her name, Tracy McConnell, because the initials T.M were on the umbrella and Ted and Tracy “fought” over whose initials they really were.   I loved it.   It was everything I could have imagined for their first meeting and more.    And I did like the ending.    Since they decided to stay the course and put Robin and Ted together in the end, I think they wrapped it up well with Robin being in her apartment with the same breed of dogs, Ted being downstairs, Robin opening up her window to see him (with the dogs peeking out) and Ted shows her the Blue French Horn.  Again, a great nod to the pilot to have everything come full circle.

Look, I know many people are disappointed in how this turned out.   No one wanted to see Tracy die and Robin be back in the fold, except for the die-hard Ted and Robin shippers.  I think a lot of people feel duped.  And that’s why the finale is a hard one to wrap my head around because you can look at it a few ways.  You can look at it and say that if that was the plan all along, ok.  I applaud the writers sticking to their guns and telling the story they wanted to tell.    There are many people out there with an early idea of a show but then let it just roll and see where it goes with no real end game.  Not these guys.  So I respect that.   There  are still lots of things I would have done differently but overall, I can’t be unhappy with how everything resolved itself.  Especially since this is something that happens in the real world….people fall in love with multiple people all the time.  People lose their spouse and reconnect with old flames…it happens.  In the end, Ted got what he always wanted and I think people want to see that for his character.    OR…you can look at it and say, WHAT THE HELL WERE THESE GUYS THINKING?    Once the show went longer than expected, once you see how the actors (Smulders and Radnor & Smulders and Harris) played off of one another and their chemistry, once you see the audience’s reaction to story lines….change it!!!   You don’t have to stay the course if another one, a better one (matter of opinion) presents itself.   Maybe they felt backed into a corner with the “and that’s how I met your Aunt Robin” line.    Maybe because the kids reaction was filmed 9 years ago, they felt they had no other choice but to end the story this way.  But these guys were creative and smart and I think could have figured out a way around it.   Hell, they could have put an aged Fonseca and Henrie on the couch and said “Jesus dad.  That story took so long, we aged 20 years!”    Maybe they didn’t want to.   Ultimately, I hope the 60 minutes of last night (and even this last season) doesn’t put too much of a damper on what was truly a great series with an amazing cast and creative team.   I spent 9 years with this crew…many of whom are my age.   All I wanted to see was them happy and together.   While most of the episode last night showed them fractured, in the end, the gang was back together, as they should be, and in the end, we know they all ended up happy.   Whether or not it was a viewers definition of happy is another story, but the writers showed us a group of friends who loved each other and supported each other and were there for each other, altogether and happy…and that’s how a series like this should wrap up.

So what did you think?  Did you love it?    Hate it?    Confused by it?   Content with it?   I’d love to hear what you have to say!

 

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SERIES PREMIERES: THE COMEDIES

With me being away most of last week and just now getting caught up, I’m doing all the new comedies that I watched in one recap.

Mom

This was probably my favorite comedy of the week.   This was one I actually forgot about until I was going through the grid and saw it on there.  I’m so glad I taped it because I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Anna Faris was delightful as Christy, the single mom and recovering alcoholic who is struggling with her relationship with mother (Allison Janney) and her daughter (Sadie Calvano.)  As hard as Christy is trying not to be her mother, she can’t help but fall into the same patterns.  Faris and Janney had fabulous chemistry as mother and daughter.   I haven’t seen Faris in a lot but when I have I’ve always enjoyed her.   But the one thing I noticed was how great her delivery was.  It was so natural and effortless.   Even the simplest lines had me laughing.  French Stewart was terrific as the owner of the restaurant Christy works at and stole many scenes he was in.  Nate Corddry rounds out the main crew as Christy’s love interest who is the GM of the restaurant and is also still married.

The one knock on this show, it’s a big cast.  Between Faris, Janney, Corddry, Steward, and Calvano, you also have Matt Jones (ex-husband), Spencer Daniels (Calvano’s boyfriend), and Blake Garrett Rosenthal (Christy’s son.)   There are a ton of people on this show and I worry it might be overkill.   Also, let’s keep the Christy crying to a minimum.    But the show was funny, the cast was strong, and I’ll be watching each week.

DVRs: 4

Back In The Game

Starring Maggie Lawson, James Caan, and Griffen Gluck, BITG follows the Gannon family.   Terry (Lawson) has moved back home with her son (Gluck) after a nasty divorce and moves in with her dad (Caan.)   Terry and the Cannon have a pretty salty relationship with their only real connection being a love of baseball.  Terry’s son tries out for the local team and doesn’t make it so Terry decides to coach a team of rejected kids and turn them into ball players.

I liked this show probably more than other people did.  It did make me laugh at times (Ben Koldyke and Leona Crichlow were great as Terry’s antagonist and new BFF) but I’d like to see Caan’s character toned down a bit more.  I mean really, who beats on someone’s car because their kid/grandkid is being bullied?   Really, a conversation with the parents would have been too much to ask?  That type of stuff drives me crazy because it doesn’t work.   Just give me some funny moments, some heartfelt moments (the scene where Terry sees all her college softball games on tape in Cannon’s basement made me tear up because my parents have the same thing) and let the show and the cast do it’s thing.   There isn’t a need for that type of over the top craziness.

DVRs: 3

The Goldberg’s 

This was another show I didn’t hate.  I guess not the best way to start a review, but it’s true.  I enjoyed parts of The Goldberg’s.  I’m a sucker for 80’s themed TV shows because there is so much nostalgia for me.   And overall, there were parts I really laughed at.   This show is loosely based on creator Adam Goldberg’s real family which includes mom Beverly (Wendi McLendon Covey), dad Murray (Jeff Garlin), pops (George Segal), sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia), brother Barry (Troy Gentile), and himself (Sean Gamrbione.)   There is a lot of yelling, a lot of name calling, and some nice warm moments.  Was it a bit goofy and silly, yep.  Were some of the characters a bit annoying, sure.   But it was an enjoyable 30 minutes.   I don’t think I’ll make a point of seeing it each week, but if it’s on, I’ll watch.

DVRs: 2

Trophy Wife

I love Malin Akerman.  All the props to her about this show were dead on because she is absolutely charming and delightful.  Akerman stars as Kate who meets Pete (Bradley Whitford) after breaking his nose at a karaoke bar with her BFF Meg (Natalie Morales.)  In the hospital she meets his ex-wife Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) and their kids Hillary (Bailee Madison) and Warren (Ryan Scott Lee.)  But then it gets better, she then meets ex-wife #2, Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and their son Bert (Albert Tsai.)  Instead of getting scared off, she marries him!  Hilarity ensues.

This could be one of the best ensembles on TV.  Between Akerman, Whitford, Watkins, and Harden, it’s hard to go wrong.  Luckily, they all work very well together.   Sometimes you throw a bunch of big names together and it doesn’t work at all.  But that’s not the case here.  You can see how Pete would have fallen for each one of these women but how he would have broken up with Diane and Jackie.  And as a result, you can see how he would have also remained friends with them.

The thing I like most about this show is the fact that this is not too far away from the norm for many people.  Many couples have to deal with ex spouses and kids from previous relationships.  So how does the new couple deal with all of that?   I have so many friends in that some boat and believe me, there are TONS of funny stories that come out.  So I have no doubt this show will work and will probably be of my favorites of the season.

DVRs: 4

The Michael J Fox Show

I was so looking forward to seeing MJF back on TV in a starring role and on a sitcom.  I couldn’t wait to see it because the early previews weren’t bad.  Plus, I have loved MJF since his Alex P. Keaton days on Family Ties.  How could I not love this show?  It pains me to say it, but I didn’t like this show at all.  The cast didn’t seem to work very well off of each other (except for Fox and Wendell Pierce.)  I love Fox and I love Betsy Brandt but I didn’t buy them as husband and wife at all.  Katie Finneran as Aunt Leigh was over the top, as usual.  I have yet to like that woman in anything yet.  And the kids were blah.  Although I did warm up to Eve (Juliette Goglia) towards the end of the pilot.  And don’t get me started on the crying, puking producer Kay (Ana Nogueria)…ugh, she’s awful.

Fox stars as Mike Henry, a former local NYC news anchor who is now a stay at home dad who is annoying the hell out of his family and in turn, they are bugging him.   He has a “chance” meeting with his old Boss Harris (Pierce) who begs him to come back.  Henry eventually decides to go back to work and both he and the family are thrilled.

My biggest worry going into the show was that the Parkinson jokes would be a little too much.  I was wrong.  The biggest problem with the show is the writing and the casting.  Not that the actors are bad….let me make that clear….they aren’t.   But, they don’t work well together.  All their scenes feel forced and unnatural like they are trying too hard to be this quirky family.  I doesn’t work.  I’ll watch a few more to make sure it wasn’t just a bad pilot, but I don’t see myself making it through the mid-season break with this show.

DVRs: 1

The Crazy Ones

Here’s another one I had high hopes for because of the cast and here’s another show I didn’t like at all.   Again, my worry was Robin Williams being too much.   Not the problem (at least not in the pilot.)  It’s the material and the fact that this cast is a bit stiff.  Although James Wolk and Williams played very well off one another.  I love Wolk and Hamish Linklater but this show doesn’t work for them.   Then we have Sarah Michelle Gellar.  I’ve heard before that SMG is a product of her material….if the material is good, she’s fine.  If it’s bad, she’s not.  She can’t transcend bad writing because she isn’t very strong.  I always thought that was a bit harsh because she was so good on Buffy.  But when Kelly Clarkson (who isn’t an actress at all) can put you to shame in a scene, it does make me raise a few eye brows.  SMG didn’t come across well in this pilot at all.  It was almost as if she shrunk back into landscape being around the powerhouse of Williams instead of trying to command the scene and hold her own.  The material wasn’t very funny and I was pretty bored halfway through the pilot.  I don’t know if I can follow this ad agency and their “clients of the week” each week because I’m not sure I care and I think the entire cast deserves better.

DVRs: 1

 

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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Pilot” S1 E1

Even better than the 3 minute previews I kept watching over and over again.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine (BNN) was fresh, funny, engaging, and touching.   Yes you read that right, touching.  I’ve heard many comparison to this show and old classic, Barney Miller.  I was too young to watch Barney Miller so I can’t comment but I do know how highly regarded Barney Miller was so for BNN to get that type of analogy is a HUGE compliment.  I just laughed the whole time and throughly enjoyed each and every character.

BNN follows Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his fellow team of detectives as they figure out just how their new CO, Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) will lead their precinct.  See their last Captain let them have fire extinguisher races, so JP is hoping Holt will be just as deferential.   Yeah, not so much.  In a hilarious meet cute, JP is doing his best robot impersonation of the CO while Holt is standing right behind him.   You think Holt is just going to rip into him.  Instead, he tells him that he does a terrible robot impersonation and that he’d like to see him wear a tie.  This back and forth, power play between the two men continue throughout the episode with Holt telling JP he’s been doing too much manscaping and being relished to the records room by not following orders, to JP telling him he’ll dress more appropriately while he’s wearing the tie but no pants and speedo.

The best part of the Holt/JP relationship is that this isn’t the typical smart ass cop getting one over on his boss.  Holt is smart, driven, and very in tune with his crew even though he’s only been there for a few days.  So just when JP thinks he’s gotten one over on his new Captain, Holt turns the tables on him and gets the upper hand.  I love that!   And I think it helps that Samberg and Braugher have fabulous chemistry.  They play off of each other very well with Samberg’s razor-sharp wit and silliness and Braugher’s monotone and stone face delivery.   What makes this work is that Samberg is playing JP as a guy who likes to have fun yet takes his job very seriously.  And while most people want to hate the guy who’s the best and who is also a jokester, push the envelope type of guy, Samberg has such charm and a good balance between the silliness and seriousness that you can’t help but love him and wish you worked with him.   And Braugher, with his deep, commanding voice and huge presence on-screen, is able to play off that because he takes his job just as serious but also has a sense of humor that can have his people relax around him, but also know, they need to follow his command.

The touching moment came at the end of the episode when they are on a stake out and we learn that Holt captured the notorious disco killer in the 70s (loved the hair and suit on Braugher by the way) and JP wants to know why it took him so long to have his own command.   Holt tells him it’s because he’s gay and that the NYPD, at that time, wasn’t ready for a gay commanding officer but when they were, they used him as a publicity stunt and put him in roles that would promote the NYPD as a gay friendly organization.  Now that he finally has his own command, he doesn’t want to blow it.  JP, apologizes to Holt and tells him he feels like a jackass.   This is the type of scene that let’s me know what a great show this will be.   I love comedies when they have heart.  They can take a step back from the humor and give us a real moment with these characters that draw us in and then can find a way to seamlessly and subtly bring the humor back to return us to the comedic element of the show without being disrespectful to “the moment.”  And that’s what happened here.  Holt beared his soul and we got some good insight into why he is the way he is and JP was honestly upset for how he’d been behaving.   Samberg played this scene so well because it could have come off as insincere when after his apology he immediately sees the killer they are targeting and he announces how awesome he is.  But it didn’t.  JP was very genuine in his remorsefulness but Samberg found a way to make that stick when he was very careful about the tone he used in bragging about how he spotted the killer…it even made Holt laugh.

As far as the supporting cast, I was interested in each one of them and can’t wait to find out more.   You have tough as nails Det. Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) who is as scary as they say and absolutely perfect in her delivery.  Det. Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) who has a crush on Diaz and is as clumsy and awkward as they come, but a hard worker and sweet man.  I’m sorry but that muffin scene has me howling every time I watch it. Sgt Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) is a former field detective turned sergeant because once he had his twin girls, Cagney and Lacey (LOL!), he was fearful of losing his life…cue the scene where he shoots up a mannequin at a department store because of his sheet panic…priceless.  Gina Linetta (Chelsea Peretti) is the office manager and a civilian who is the eyes and ears of the office who has yet to learn she has a filter.  And finally Det. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) who is partners with Peralta and has a contest with him to see who will have more arrests.  She’s very driven and just wants to prove she’s one of the boys and tough as they come.  I love this girl already and let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before she and JP are together romantically.

It’s a fabulous cast, a great show, and I can’t wait for next Tuesday already.   If you haven’t checked this show out, this is a must watch!

DVR RATING: 5

 

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SERIES FINALE REVIEW: The Office “Finale” S9 E23

“Christmas Party” was the first episode of the The Office I’d ever seen.   Followed by “The Injury.”   Both were Season 2 episodes.  I only started watching The Office because my husband saw “The Injury” on a plane and thought it was both bizarre and funny at the same time but that I had to watch.    I watched these two episodes thinking this is the dumbest and strangest show I’ve ever seen.  But we both thought, to be fair, let’s watch it from the beginning to understand what the hell is going on.   So we bought Season 1 and spent an entire Saturday watching this show and laughing our asses off.   By then, we were hooked.

Over the course of 9 seasons, The Office has had some amazing episodes and some not so great episodes (as many series do.)  It created one of the greatest, most realistic love stories ever in TV…Jim and Pam.  It gave one of the top 50 characters in TV history…Michael Scott.  It made us care about this wacky group of people in a way I never thought I would.  I remember watching the finale thinking that I was so happy to get confessionals from every character on the show.  Even fringe characters like Meredith and Creed, I loved hearing how their stories wrapped up.    Not many shows can pull that off where you honestly care about each and every person.   Even annoying Kevin!  I was so happy to see that after he was fired he ended up buying a bar and having a really happy ending!  But over 9 years and 187 episodes, these people became part of our family, our TV family.   Even as characters came and went, other than Michael, our core stayed through to the end and it was nice to see everything wrapped up so beautifully.

Series finales are hard to do.  Especially when the show has been on as long as The Office has.   There are huge expectations.   You want story lines wrapped up.  You want people who deserve happy endings to receive them and people who deserve to be punished to get their comeuppance.  You want questions answered.   You want people who should be together, finally together.   You want something momentous, rewarding, and sensational but yet still stay true to the nature of the show and the characters.  And most of all, you want closure for you but also to know that the characters you leave behind are still doing well and moving on in their lives, even though you are no longer there to witness it.    For me, that’s a quintessential finale.   And it’s so hard to do, especially when you have very little time to do it.   The Office finale was probably the BEST series finale I’ve seen in a long time.    It had everything you want to see and nothing felt rushed or forced.   For a comedy, it had its goofy, silly moments, but in true The Office form, it had its heart-warming moments as well. It was, dare I say, perfect.  I laughed, I cried, I cried harder, I laughed again.   At the end of that show, I was so content with what I had just seen because it was exactly what I wanted.   And because I got a little taste of everyone, I didn’t feel cheated.    But the hands down, best moment of the show, was seeing Michael Scott return as Dwight’s best man.  Even now I’m tearing up writing this because it was a phenomenal moment.  And not just because I really didn’t think Steve Carell was coming back.   It was because John Kransinski, Rainn Wilson, and Steve Carell knocked that simple scene out of the park.  It was so touching to see these men, who have given each other such grief over the years, come together as friends and be there for one another…it was amazing.    There was so much talk about whether or not Carell would or should return for the finale.  The last I read, he wasn’t because he felt he already had his send off and didn’t want to distract from the rest of the cast. Class act as always Steve Carell!   But I stopped reading about the finale because if he did show up, I didn’t want to know about it.   And I’m so glad I made that executive decision because it made his reveal that much sweeter.  I literally gasped out loud when he was standing there and burst into tears….especially seeing Dwight’s reaction and getting one last “that’s what she said!”   And it was perfectly handled because it wouldn’t have been right to have the finale without Michael Scott but he was also understated enough so that he didn’t overshadow the cast, but we got just enough Michael to be completely satisfied.    Again, perfection.

There were so many relationships that developed on this show.  Some were more front and center like Jim and Pam, Dwight and Angela, Darryl and Jim’s friendship.  But it was some of the unspoken friendships that developed that was so nice to see highlighted.   For example, Stanley and Phyllis.  Here were two people who worked together for 15-20 years.  They sat across from one another for 15-20 years.   Even though we didn’t see it every week, these two were great friends.  To see the genuine embrace between them when they hadn’t seen each other in over a year, was so nice.   To watch Phyllis sit with the new rep in Stanley’s chair and feed him baked goods so she could fatten him like, like she did with Stanley was great.   But what got me was parlaying the hysterical idea that Stanley now lives in a shack on the Everglades in Florida carving birds out of wood, into this touching moment where Phyllis bursts into tears because he made a wood carving that looked exactly like her.   It was simple moments like that which really highlighted the connections between these characters that developed over the years.  Was it something we watched week after week….yes and no.  Yes and no because it was so subtle, we didn’t realize we were watching it until the finale.   The same could be said for Oscar and Angela.  They both drove each other crazy over the years and talk about two completely different personalities.   Highlighting the fact that Oscar was having an affair with Angela’s husband!   But strangely enough, that experience brought them even closer together.   In the penultimate episode, Oscar could see how broken Angela was and in a beautiful moment of kindness, extends his home for her and Philip to live in until she can get her feet under her again.   And when she reached out and put her hand on top of his, I lost it.   It was just that simple gesture that spoke so loudly about her feelings for what Oscar was offering to her.   I loved it.  And I loved seeing that continue even after Dwight and Angela were married with Oscar being Philip’s godfather!

But I think the friendship that was most beautiful to see come full circle, was the friendship between Jim, Dwight, and Pam….mostly Jim and Dwight.   Jim explained it perfectly.  He never hated Dwight.   He never wanted anything bad to happen to him.  He razzed him the way you would razz your brother.  And when it came down to it, he loved Dwight for who he was.   Dwight, we always knew, secretly had a man crush on Jim and even though he hated when Jim got the better of him, which was most of the time, he loved him for it too because he felt like he was in with him.  Over the course of the series, we saw their true feelings towards one another pop out because when something serious was going down, they leaned on each other and protected each other.  I think it’s also why Dwight considers Pam his best friend.  Because even though Jim would play countless tricks on Dwight and Pam would be complicit, she never wanted to hurt Dwight.   And when Dwight was going off the deep end really annoying his counterparts to the point no one liked him, Pam always stuck by him.   There were many times Pam believed in him when no one else did and he knew that.  Just as Michael always wanted to be their best friend, so did Dwight.   And in many ways, he was.

I can’t wrap up this review yet until I’ve spent some time on just Jim and Pam.   We watched their relationship grow over 9 years from best friends, to unrequited feelings, to an awkward but beautiful first kiss, to the beginning of a relationship, to an engagement, marriage, and children.   They were America’s ideal couple.   Then we hit season 9 and Jim and Pam hit a rough patch.   He was working for a start-up company in Philly and commuting back and forth from Scranton.  She felt all alone and abandoned at Dunder Mifflin and raising their 2 kids.  I really wasn’t sure where the show was going with this…especially with Brian the camera man lurking around and having obvious feelings for Pam.   I hoped they weren’t going down the affair route.  It wouldn’t have felt right.   And I hated watching Jim and Pam fight and be angry with one another.  I hated it.   Most especially, I hated seeing this couple who could have entire conversations by just looking at one another and knowing exactly what the other was thinking, being reduced to therapy speak.    “I appreciate” this or “to speak my truth” that.   What?   Are you kidding me?    This is what Jim and Pam is going to be reduced to?  But then a light went off.   We are getting to watch Jim and Pam remind, not only each other, but the audience, why they fell in love in the first place.  We get to see them fall in love all over again.   And because they have been the most real relationship on the show from day one, it would only make sense that this new job opportunity for Jim would put a strain on them.   It wouldn’t have made sense if it didn’t.   So we got to see that angst and then we got to see the payoff.   We got to see Jim and Pam flashbacks in the smartest way possible, in a video tribute to her so Jim could show how she is not only enough for him, but his everything.   It was a perfect way to be able to give the fans those flashbacks to our favorite moments yet still keep it within the context of the show.  In the end, Pam decided there is no way Jim is giving this up for her and sells their house without telling him (because, well, he bought the house without telling her) and they decide to move to Austin so Jim can work full-time for Athleap.   She finishes her mural, which is the story of the people of Dunder Mifflin, and Jim and Pam will live happily ever after….as they should.

In the end, all is right with the world.   Michael Scott is still married to Holly and they have lots of kids (which he needs two phones for all the pictures), Jim and Pam are together, happy, and moving to Austin to work with Darryl, Dwight is now regional manager of the Scranton branch (as well as the assistant to the assistant to the regional manager) and is married to the love of his life Angela and we officially learn that Phillip is really his son, Oscar is running for State Senator, Stanley is retired and divorced and living in Florida, Phyllis is still at Dunder Mifflin and still married to Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration, Erin found her birth parents and is still together with Plop, Andy is working for Cornell University, Meredith got her PhD (which she was going to school for the whole time), Toby is living in NYC with 6 roommates, Kelly left her pediatrician boyfriend to run away with Ryan (who by the way left said baby with the pediatrician,) as a result Nellie, takes the baby back to Poland with her and she now has the child she was always searching for, Kevin owns a bar, and Creed is going to jail!

Finally, I loved the way they wrapped up the documentary element.  I always wondered how they would do it.   I like the fact that they were smart enough to know that since the viewing of the documentary was in the penultimate episode, it wouldn’t make sense for the camera crew to be there for the finale.  It’s actually the first thing I said to my husband.  But they got around it by doing a time jump and saying they were there for a follow-up and retrospective with the Dunder Mifflin crew on being a part of the documentary, which they’re filming for the DVD.   And because the series was filmed this way, it was great for the cast to be able to say what they really feel about their show and do it in the context of speaking about the documentary.    I think the best line of the finale was when Andy/Ed Helms said “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days while it was going on instead of after they were over.”  You could see the way he was getting choked up that it was probably more an Ed Helms comment, than Andy Bernard.

I will miss The Office.  I know the last few seasons weren’t great and the show really went down hill after Michael left, but I don’t care.   I will miss The Office and all the people involved in the show.  I also want to commend the cast for heading out to the real Scranton, PA and spending time with the people of Scranton and thanking them for their good-natured sense of humor and their support of the show.   I thought it was awesome that they would all do that and take the time to not only say goodbye to us a viewers, but their second community of Scranton.     From top to bottom, the end of the series was handled magnificently and I can’t wait to watch The Office on Netflix, on syndication, on my DVDs, for many years to come.

What did you guys think of The Office series finale?

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in NBC, Season Finales, Series Finale

 

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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Go On “Pilot” S1, E1

I know we are going onto episode three tomorrow night but I’m just getting around to talking about Go On.  Go On is the return of Matthew Perry (again) to headline a show.  Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Mr. Sunshine failed miserably.  So will the 3rd time be the charm for Perry?  Not only do I hope so, but I believe it will be.

SYNOPSIS

Matthew Perry is leading man Ryan King…a snarky sports broadcaster who recently lost his wife in an automobile accident.  To deal with the tragedy of losing his wife, his company insists he enroll in group counseling.  The group is led by Lauren (Laura Benanti) who we learn has no background or expertise in psychiatry but has lost 40 pounds through Weight Watchers and became one of their leading motivators.  Joining Lauren is a calamity of characters with some wacky problems (like Sonya, who uses cats as a substitute for issues with her boyfriend) to serious issues (like Owen, whose brother is in a coma after a terrible accident and Owen really struggles with talking about it.)

WHAT’S WORKING

The cast is solid.  Perry is his typical charming, witty self.  I know there are many people who don’t like Perry because they feel he plays Chandler Bing with every roll.  But I don’t think that’s the case (see his guest role on The Good Wife.)  Perry is playing a beguiling, funny, witty, sharp character that was popularized by playing Chandler Bing.  And as a result, when shows are looking for someone to play a character with those types of qualities, Perry fits the bill perfectly.  It’s the same with Jack Nicholson.  If you need a womanizing asshole with a wise ass sense of humor, who’s better than Nicholson?   No one!  Same here.  And since I love Perry, I’ll watch him any day of the week.  He wasn’t what killed those last few shows….the writing did.  But that’s not the case here.

The rest of the cast is very complimentary.  It’s a fine line between quirky and lovable and annoying and stupid.  Especially when trying to write about a cast of people in group therapy for many different reasons.  It can’t be too sad, or sappy, or out there…then you turn people off.  But so far, the writers and the cast have done an excellent job of selling funny, weird, and sentimental.  I loved the scene in the second episode where Ryan takes George (who’s blind) to a Lakers game and Ryan is giving George the play-by-play.  George tells him to knock it off, because he’s driving him crazy, and to close his eyes and listen the game.  It will tell you all you need to know.  So far though, I like everyone…especially Anne, Owen, and George.

I read one review where the critic talked about this show having a Community feel to it.  And I think they’re right.  Community is about a common element bringing a group of people together who would never normally socialize with one another.  Go On has that same premise.  I love seeing all these different personalities meshing together.

WHAT’S NOT WORKING

Right now, not much.  The only thing I will say is that Benanti hasn’t had a chance to really shine yet.  So far she’s been rather boring…which pains me to say after watching her Tony Winning performance in Gypsy on Broadway.  She’s amazing!!   But in this role, she’s really dull around this wacky, motley crew.  It’s early, so I’m holding out hope she gets better as we get to know her more.

John Cho is also pretty wasted in his role.  He only shows up sparingly so I’m not sure what the direction for his character is moving forward.  Again, it’s early so they may figure something out.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I like this show and will keep watching it.  At first I thought the potential love interest for Perry’s Ryan would be Benanti’s Lauren.  After episode 2, I’m now thinking it might be his assistant, Carrie (Allison Miller) or we may have a bit of a triangle…even though there has been no indication of a romantic relationship between Lauren and Ryan yet.  It’s still way too early after the loss of his wife, but you know it’s coming.  But since I’m in no rush for that, just keep bringing on the comedy surrounding the therapy group and I’m good!

DVRs: 4 DVRs

 

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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW : The New Normal, “Pilot” & “Sofa’s Choice” S1, E1&2

And so it begins!!!!  The new TV is finally underway and some shows have already premiered this week.  Can you believe it?  I know I can’t.  This summer flew!!!  I’m sort of happy, though, that there are some early premieres because it will make it somewhat easier to discuss all the new shows and returning premieres, and give them their just due.  First on the 2012/2013 docket….The New Normal.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this show.  Some people love it, some people hate it.  Some people already assumed it would be awful because it’s a Ryan Murphy show.  I have to admit, I had my reservations after he completely destroyed Glee, how this show would fair.  But my initial assessment….I liked it.

WHAT’S WORKING

The premise for this show is simple.  A gay couple is looking for a surrogate to help them start a family.  Enter Goldie Clemmons who is looking to start over after finding her husband cheating on her.  Goldie would like to go to law school and set a good example for her daughter, Shania.  Andrew Rannalls and Justin Bartha are fantastic!  Georgia King is delightful and Bebe Woods is adorable.  Rannells and Bartha are terrific as Bryan and David.  David is the partner who loves sports and was the mathlete in high school.  Bryan, I believe is a writer, who is the more flamboyant of the two, who loves to have a good time and has a great quick wit.  The thing I like most about Bryan is that he has a huge heart.  He isn’t as plastic as he appeared at times in the pilot.  I didn’t think they were going to show him in the best light for becoming a dad.   But in Sofa’s Choice, he did a great job dealing with what he thought was Shania ruining his couch as well as being there for her when she was having a rough time at school.  Bryan has a HUGE heart and you can see how David would fall in love with him.

Goldie is so sweet I get a cavity every time I watch her on-screen.  She may be a little green to the ways of the world, but she’s strong in her own way.  She has opened her eyes to the potential that is her life and she is determined to give her daughter a successful role model while keeping her own dreams still very much alive.  I love it!!!  What a great message to send.  She will do whatever it takes and work as hard as she can, on her own, to make this new life for her and Shania.  That’s something I can watch and root for every week!

Shania is also a nice ray of sunshine.  I’m usually not a huge fan of kids on-screen because they annoy me, but she is really good.  She’s smart beyond her years and has this delightful quirkiness that would normal irk me but with her I find completely charming.  And I like that she has found a kindred spirit in Bryan.

This is a show I can see watching for a while because I am truly invested in each character (save for Nana Jane) and what happens during this whole process.  How do they all get along during the pregnancy?  What happens after the baby is born?  Would Goldie consider doing this again for them?  How will this all impact Shania?   How will having a baby really impact Bryan and David and their relationship?  Will I ever see the baby in that awesome sweater Bryan bought?  If the show can keep it focused on these four and really develop these characters, I can see tuning into the New Normal for many years!

WHAT’S NOT WORKING

Do I even need to say what I have an issue with?  Let me start with the small issue before I go on to the huge bigoted one.  NeNe Leakes is my small issue.  I’m not a big fan of reality TV personalities turning into “legit” on-screen actors.   Not because they can’t, but it’s usually because they aren’t very good.  Leakes isn’t bad but I don’t understand her point on the show.  She’s Bryan’s assistant (although I’m still not 100% sure what he does for a living) and other than her few lines to him in the beginning and a punch line for Ellen Barkin’s Nana, what else does she bring to the table?   Maybe that will change overtime but I don’t like how she’s being used so far.

As for Barkin’s Jane Forest character…there are no words.  I’m serious.  I’m not naive.  I know there are racist, bigoted, homo-phobic people out there.  But you know what, I don’t find them funny.   It’s one thing if you want to have a character that pushes the envelope in their thought processes and there are ways to incorporate that stereotypical element, into a show that can be humorous.    But how Barkin’s character is written, it’s not humorous…it’s cringe-worthy.  In the pilot, she goes on and on about not liking the lesbian couple walking down the street.  Then she talks about how selling Girl Scout Cookies, one of her competition “jewed down the price so she lost.”  She calls Bryan and David “salami smokers.”  Finally, when Rocky (Leakes) walks in, she panics thinking one of “her kind of eggs” is going in her granddaughter’s body.  The second episode is worse.  Like Jane making a comment like “I studied past presidents that used to own people like our current president.”   Ouch.  But the line that had me the most pissed off from an offensive standpoint and as a TV viewer was when Jane opened the door to Bryan and David’s bathroom to see Rocky there and she says “are you sure you’re even supposed to be using this one?”  I have no way to clearly articulate how much that bothered me.  Does she really think it’s 1950?   Does she really think blacks and whites have to use separate bathrooms?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?  Again, how is that funny?   Maybe I’m too uptight about this.   Maybe I’m too dumb to understand the humor.  But for me, this character is so over the top it appears more a marketing ploy than a plot driver.  And maybe that’s why I’m so annoyed with the character…because she’s so forced.  She can’t just make one comment, she has to make four or five (sometimes in the same insult.)  It’s lazy and it’s bad writing.  But it’s Ryan Murphy so of course there will be bad writing and of course he will put shock in area to create a buzz even if it doesn’t work from a storytelling perspective.  Because let’s be honest, can you name one good story he’s told on Glee the last three seasons?  Yep, me neither.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I like The New Normal.  Honestly, if they got rid of Nana Jane and found a purpose for Rocky, it would be an awesome show.  But the good parts, so far, really out weigh the bad ones so I am sticking with it.   That is until Murphy finds a way to screw this up as well.

DVR RATING:  3 1/2 DVRs

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in NBC, New Shows, Recaps and Reviews

 

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