Six New Shows for Your Consideration

We haven’t taken the pulse of new TV shows in a while, and there have been some decent ones lately. So here goes:

sorry guys. not feelin' ya.

sorry guys. not feelin' ya.

THE KILLING (Sundays at 10 on AMC): Twin Peaks, but in reality. CSI, only … good. Make whatever kind of comparisons you want to whatever past show, just know that The Killing is a good show with great acting and a good story that is pretty guaranteed to keep me into it for the rest of the season. Michelle Forbes, one of the great unknown actresses in Hollywood, should start contacting designers about nailing down a dress for the Emmys. The two detectives, however, should not. Rule #1 for any cop/crime show, whether it’s as complex as The Killing or as frivilous as Moonlighting: The cops that are going to dominate the show and spend almost all of their screen time together need to have some sort of chemistry. No one is saying they have to hook up by the end of the year, but they have to have something that makes people want to watch them together. These two just don’t just don’t have any. It’s almost awkward seeing them together, like when Charlie Sheen inevitably goes back to Two and a Half Men. Anyway, AMC keeps showing that network promo about how it’s now the go-to place for great TV, which is true and warranted. But I think I’m a little offended since I said that, like, five months ago! How come they didn’t care when PopRox says it! Never mind, I know why.  The only problem is it’s a little premature. If AMC’s peak was the ratings-busting premiere of Walking Dead — one of the best pilots of the last five years or so — then it’s been a little downhill since then. The rest of Walking Dead was good, but not nearly as good as the premiere. And it was over in five weeks, a good bit short-sighted by the network. Then comes the delay for a fifth season of Mad Men. Then comes The Killing, which is good but not great, and has the definite potential to bleed viewers over the next eight weeks of its run. Although it did keep its viewers in week 2. This run is enough that AMC has 100 percent overtaken FX as the basic cable place to go for great TV, much in the same way that Showtime overtook HBO a couple years ago when HBO had some down years. But HBO made a comeback — and FX can too. GRADE: B

BREAKING IN (Wednesdays at 9:30 on Fox): Normally, I’d hear the words “Christian Slater sitcom” and head for the hills. I’d burn holes in the soles of my shoes I’d be running so fast. But two things made me want to give this show a chance: 1. It was created/written/produced by Seth Gordon, the man who gave us one of the five best documentaries of my lifetime, King of Kong. 2. While the headline star is supposed to be Slater, it’s actually Bret Harrison, the former star of Reaper. He’s got a pretty charming screen presense, and I usually like what he does. But man, what the hell does Christian Slater have on Hollywood? How is this guy still getting good work? This is a show that could have potential, but he drags it down like he wants it to fail. But he really doesn’t — he’s just not a good actor anymore. Was he ever a good actor? Look at his resume since Broken Arrow in 1996, and there is nothing on it. Nothing. The two TV shows built around him in the last two years have been horrible. The one movie since 1996 that gave him a chance at a career comeback — Bobby in 2006 — fizzled. Even the time that would have been his career peak, from Pump Up the Volume in 1988 to Interview with a Vampire in 1994, what did he really do that was all that good? I only count two $100 million movies — Robin Hood and Interview — and it’s 110 percent accurate to say the success of both movies had literally nothing to do with him. In fact, I’d say both were in spite of him. True Romance is the only thing on his resume I really like. So how the heck is he still getting work? Is he that big a name? When they were casting this show, why didn’t the producers say, “Oh forget it, it’s not like he’s going to bring in ratings. Let’s give some up-and-comer a chance.” What would have happened if Mad Men decided to cast Slater instead of Jon Hamm just because they thought his name alone would bring in a couple thousand viewers? Anyway, it was hard to concentrate on anything but that watching the show. Slater did Slater things, and even more distractingly, one of the characters uses boom goes the dynamite as a catchphrase. Maybe in the next episode they’ll also say that Christian Slater jumped the shark. It’s somewhat funny, just not enough to follow, and most likely not enough to get a second season. GRADE: C-

worth a couple more looks

worth a couple more looks

HAPPY ENDINGS (Wednesdays at 9:30, ABC): Yay! A reason to not watch Breaking In! I was kinda disappointed after I watched this show to find out it got lukewarm (at best) reviews. Maybe since I have such paltry, menial expectations for network sitcoms anymore, anything that makes me laugh gets a passing grade. But I think there is something here even if it’s a mishmash of formulaic sitcom characters we’ve seen a thousand times before. Hey, look! It’s a girl who thinks she’ll never find the right guy! And over there! It’s a controlling wife and a submissive husband, because apparently Cougar Town forgot to copyright it! Even if the players are stereotypes, the writing is very good and elevates the show from “typical spring burnoff” to “I want to see some more before I get too excited.” Hey, in today’s TV world, that’s pretty good! The one major problem is the woman who the show is based around, Elisha Cuthbert. Comedy doesn’t seem to be her thing. But neither was action. Or drama. So until she finds a Battlestar Galactica sci-fi project, she’s destined to just go from show to show flaunting her hotness but lack of discernible acting talent.

your 2011 emmy winner for best supporting actress. at least she should be.

your 2011 emmy winner for best supporting actress. at least she should be.

JUSTIFIED (Wednesdays at 10, FX): I was trying to keep this about new shows, but this show warrants a check of its pulse since it’s completely redefined how it’s approaching its weekly episodes. It’s doing exactly what I said it should have done during its first season — ditch the occasional procedural format that turned it into “The Wacky Adventures of Raylan Givens” and go with a more FX-branded serial format. The result has been phenomenal. It’s like this is a completely different show, barely recognizable from the initial half-dozen episodes of the first season. It’s now like a gripping TV version of Winter’s Bone — the backwoods, drug-dealing mountain mafia. Only Givens is there to give it some perspective as an insider-turned-outsider-turned-insider, an anchor to the real world where not everyone thoroughly enjoys living about 50 miles from the nearest 7-11. Timothy Olyphant is approaching Emmy-worthy and Walter Goggins as Boyd Crowder was Emmy-worthy last year, and continues to be this year. What’s impressive is that even though both have an outside shot at an Emmy nomination, they seem perfectly comfortable giving up screen time to the truly impressive Margo Martindale as Maggs Bennett. You’re more likely to know the first 20 digits of pi than you are to know Martindale by name, but you’ve probably seen her in about a trillion things (next-door neighbor Nina in The Riches, evidence clerk in the first three seasons of Dexter, Dewey Cox’s mom). She could probably put all those parts together — and they’re pretty good — but they wouldn’t be nearly as good as Maggs Bennett. As good as the role is, Martindale is better. If she doesn’t get an Emmy nomination, they probably should just shut down the awards. This season has made Justified one of the 10 best shows on TV, now easily FX’s best drama and probably its best show. GRADE: A

WORKAHOLICS (Wednesdays at 10:30, Comedy Central): Part Office Space, part Drew Carey Show, part Half Baked with a little Flight of the Conchords-type humor thrown in there, and you’ve got Workaholics. The cool part is that even though it’s a mishmash of all those shows, or at least somewhat influenced by them, it still has the vibe of an original show. Even though these guys work as a comedy troupe on stage, they stayed away from the obvious sketch comedy format and decided to stick with a regular sitcom form. It completely works even if it feels somewhat like a sketch comedy show because every scene seems to deal with a different topic or situation. It’s going to be a hard pace to keep up for a whole season, but after two episodes, they’ve at least done enough to hook us in to see if they can. Comedy Central hasn’t made an original show this funny since Reno 911! and Chappelle’s Show, a streak of like a dozen pretty major failures. That isn’t as much a praise of this show as it is an indictment of Comedy Central. GRADE: B+

it was worth a try, but sam doesn't get approval for a spinoff

it was worth a try, but sam doesn't get approval for a spinoff

BURN NOTICE: THE FALL OF SAM AXE: About 15 minutes through the two-hour movie, it dawned on me. It’s written by the creator of Burn Notice. It’s being directed by the star of Burn Notice. It stars one of the lesser stars of Burn Notice. So why did I expect anything other than a two-hour episode of Burn Notice, minus most of its best qualities? That’s the danger with moving secondary characters up to full-time status. There is a reason they’re secondary characters in the first place. They serve a purpose — for Sam it’s comic relief — but beyond that one purpose, they don’t have much going on. When you try to add on layers, it might not work. Frasier worked as a TV show because the additional layers the show added allowed the character to grow. For Sam in a Columbian jungle, you’re not telling us much we didn’t know. He’s a soldier. He’s a good guy. He likes to wisecrack. He likes beer. Sure, it’s funny to see the first time he used the Chuck Finley alias. But did we really need a two-hour movie to find that out? That had webisode written all over it. And what the heck was the budget for this thing? The battle scenes looked like an NYU mid-term production. GRADE: D

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