(This is an extended preview of Sunday’s PopRox column in the Pocono Record. I have nothing else quippy to say.)
Thank you OnDemand! Thank you Internet! Thank you networks who see the power of those mediums to push your new TV shows!
Now simple viewers like us can sit back, relax and check out select new shows before they premiere, and decide whether they’ll be worth inserting into our TV schedule.
REVOLUTION (10 p.m. Mondays, NBC, starting Monday): J.J. Abrams has some kind of patent on coming up with the simplest premise — What if the world’s deadliest government agent was a hot chick? What if a plane crashed on a tropical island and everyone lived? What if an asteroid was headed toward Earth and could destroy the planet? — and make it sound like we’ve never heard anything so brilliant. So here comes the latest Abrams stroke of genius — What if the world’s electricity went off and never came back on? How in the name of Walter Bishop did no one ever come up with that before??? (Abrams is the executive producer, though, not the creator.) What happens is that the world descends into a primitive chaos, and the survivors divide into different sects to fight over land and food and stuff. Guess what? Not everyone is happy with that, including a spunky chick who may or may not be the key to turning the electricity back on because of her family. There’s a decent twist at the end of the pilot episode that you’ll kick yourself for not seeing coming a mile away, then we have the Abrams-patented mystery that’s supposed to keep everyone glued to the set for the next nine months. I’m just not sure that mystery is strong enough to keep casual fans invested, especially ones who have been burned by the eventual fizzle-out of the Abrams secret reveal in his recent shows. The bigger problem? Super-gorgeous lead actress Tracy Spiridakos leaves something to be desired in the acting department. OK, that’s being nice because I’m being held captive by her hotness. She’s not a good actress. But wait, there’s good news! Giancarlo Esposito, now starring in his fourth show in a year, is back to being a bad-ass after being one of TV’s best villains ever as Breaking Bad’s Gus. He’s a soldier for one of the powerful militias who is pretty cool with the future’s lax rules on murder and such. PILOT GRADE: C+
THE MINDY PROJECT (9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fox, starting Sept. 26): Mindy Lahiri (show creator, writer and star Mindy Kaling) has been addicted to romantic comedy movies ever since she was a kid. We know this because in the opening sequence of The Mindy Project we see her watching them at different stages of her life and explaining how she always thought her life would turn out like a rom-com. She hits the big ones — When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Notting Hill — but one particular movie doesn’t make the cut, and I think I know the reason why she never mentions Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s because The Mindy Project might as well be an American version of Bridget Jones to the point that Renee Zellweger could be talking to lawyers as we speak to discuss a copyright infringement suit. Mindy is strongly independent, a smidge overweight, has every other part of her life down cold other than the love part, has a guy she pines over, another one she fools around with and also hits the blind dating scene in between her latest publicly embarrassing moment. Sound like someone you may have heard of? Once you get past that, the show isn’t that bad. Kaling is charming in her Bridget Jones wheelhouse and looks like she’ll be able to carry the show for a while. It’s the perfect companion piece for New Girl on Tuesdays, and has plenty of time to make people forget about Renee Zell-what’s-her-face-ger. See? I’m forgetting already. The show is a little more daring than you’d expect, with uncomfortable zinger moments that you feel bad for laughing at, but can’t help it. Wonder where Kaling picked up that little bit of comedy training? PILOT GRADE: B-
THE NEW NORMAL (9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC): OK, so two of the episodes have already aired, but whatever. I was looking forward to this more than any other comedy this year, because I’ll follow show creator Ryan Murphy to the depths of TV hell before I jump off his bandwagon. The New Normal is a step down from Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story — at least so far. It’s a funny enough show, but for some reason it all seems crammed in. Like there was too much to say, so instead of cutting a line or two, instead they just had people talk faster. What’s in there, however, is Murphy-esque funny. What, you don’t think an 8-year-old impersonating Little Edie from Grey Gardens is funny? No? Then, umm, this show probably isn’t for you. I, however, think it’s pretty funny. Ellen Barkin is no Jane Lynch in the Sue Sylvester official I Hate Everybody Role (hey, Glee is back tonight!), and if she ends up with a special needs sister/daughter/friend to make her more sympathetic or likable, I’ll probably tune out immediately. GRADE: B-
BEN AND KATE (8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fox, starting Sept. 26): This year can’t get much better for Nat Faxon. After toiling around the comedy fringes for a decade, he won an Oscar as a co-writer of The Descendants and now he’s Ben, the screw-up brother with a heart of gold on a promising sitcom. Not sure why it took this long, but let’s savor Faxon and his teeth while he’s around. He seems naturally funny, the kind of guy who rolls out of bed and makes people laugh by accident. Maybe he was just waiting around for a really great script to come along, maybe people just wouldn’t hire him for his teeth. I know that’s the second time I mentioned his teeth, but c’mon! They’re weird! Between this and The New Normal, this might be the TV year of the precocious little girls. I’m cool with that. PILOT GRADE: B