Review: I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox) 1×1

I Hate My Teenage Daughter

In the US: Wednesdays, 9:30pm(E/P)/8:30c, Fox

Sometimes, I feel like I’m psychic. Do you?

I’ll tell you for why. I looked at the title of this show – I Hate My Teenage Daughter. I saw what network it was on – Fox.

And I knew in an instant that watching it would feel like being slowly licked by the Creature from the Black Lagoon, assuming that the lagoon was black because it was under a sewer outlet.

And hey! Guess what! I was right.

I wonder if I can use my powers to win the lottery.

For those of you whose psychic powers aren’t as well developed as mine, let me fill you in on the plot: we have two single mothers, one of them played by Jaime Pressly from My Name is Earl. Both of them were nerds at school, but have since developed okay. But they both have pretty, popular daughters. And oh my lordy, it turns out the daughters are turning into the same sort of mean girls who made their lives a misery at High School.

Cue zero hilarity and an overwhelming desire to take a shower. Here’s a trailer – one minor character has been recast since the pilot, otherwise these are the highlights.

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The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: Grimm (NBC/Watch)

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by Watch

Episode 3 and there are some signs of life still in Grimm. After the somewhat derivative first episode, the second episode managed to inspire a little more confidence with the (apparently) characteristic mixture of humour and horror that we’ve come to expect of the show, with ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ getting a decidedly macabre make-over. Not quite the level of humour as episode one, a bit more of a police procedural, it was okay, but lacked much of a real spark, beyond the humour value of the various reveals.

Episode 3 went off on a completely different tangent, giving us more of the show’s mythos, with fights between Hexenbeasts and Mellifers (sp?), and hints at an overall plot. Solid lead got given some humorous lines to deal with and couldn’t really give them anything much beyond solidness. The idea that the story should in some way reflect the fairy tale being mentioned also got thrown on the back-burner, since this one didn’t even slightly resemble ‘The Queen Bee’.

There’s nothing really bad about Grimm. It’s reasonably intelligent, it has its fun moments and it almost teeters on the brink of scary at times. But there’s nothing really remarkable about it either. It’s no different from a dozen, dime-a-dozen cable fantasy shows, from The Dresden Files to Friday The 13th. It’ll amiable enough, it’ll help you pass the time if you’ve nothing to do on a Friday night, but it’s really nothing you should go out of your way to watch.

Carusometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Won’t last more than a season

Review: Hell on Wheels (AMC) 1×1

Hell on Wheels

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, AMC
In the UK: Acquired by TCM UK to air in 2012

There’s been a lot of talk this season about AMC’s Mad Men. The Playboy Club and Pan Am have both supposedly been trying to emulate the success of Mad Man by both being set in the 60s and allegedly glorifying sexism, racism, et al. The parallels are relatively few and often spurious but what people have latched onto in this 60s setting. Apparently, until Mad Men, period drama didn’t happen on US TV so clearly anything period must owe a debt to Mad Men.

Now overlooking the quasi-period (e.g. Quantum Leap, New Amsterdam, Journeyman, That 70s Show, Life on Mars) as well as actually period (e.g. Glory Daze, Swingtown) is one thing. But to overlook the western? That’s downright ridiculous.

The western was once the mainstay of US TV: Bonanza ran for 13 years, Gunsmoke ran for 20 years and there were countless others. Modern day TV networks also haven’t forgotten the western: HBO had Deadwood while FX’s Justified is essentially a western set in modern times; and even as I type, the development slates at various US networks are already filling up with a whole new batch of westerns, ready to be unleashed on us next September, including a remake of the classic TV western The Rifleman.

But now look. While everyone’s been fixated on the 60s as the Mad Men USP, AMC – the home of Mad Men – is trying its hardest to cash in on the success of its own, currently absent show (as well as its first ever original mini-series, Broken Trail) with another period piece that relishes the mores and prejudices of a rapidly changing American society. Can you guess when it’s set?

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Question of the week: what fall shows float your boat the most?

So, all the new fall dramas and comedies have pretty much debuted now. I haven’t yet reviewed Hell on Wheels, but fingers-crossed I will do sometime in the next couple of days, but with that exception and with the exception of some The CW and MTV shows clearly intended for a younger audience and animated shows, I reviewed everything, I think.

Some of the shows have now died; some have been acquired by UK TV. But of them all, which has floated your boat the most, either from watching them or from having heard about them? Which would you now cancel and which would you have spared the sword? Which would you like the UK to acquire and which do you think were a waste of money (cough, cough, Pan Am, cough, cough). Let everyone know below or on your own blog.

In the list below, if it’s been cancelled, it’ll be crossed out. If there’s a channel next to it in brackets, that’s which UK channel has acquired it. And if it says SAFE next to it, that means it’s been given a full season or even renewed for a second season already.

Bloody hell. Written down in a list, I’ve watched an awful lot, haven’t I?

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: Boss (Starz)

In the US: Fridays, 10pm ET/PT, Starz

Not much to add on the subject of Boss since the first episode. Boss has been very consistent in being very well-made and in being hard to watch. I don’t mean hard to watch in just the metaphorical sense that it deals with tough issues and is quite unrelenting. I mean literally it’s hard to watch thanks to the shaky cam and general direction, which made the first episode in particular hard to follow.

It has settled down now and while Gus van Sant was the director de jour for the first episode (and executive producer for the whole series), Mario van Peebles himself turned up to do the duties for episode three, producing something that while still riddled with shaky cam and visual metaphor, still managed to have a coherent narrative and a sense that there was a story that needed to be serviced.

I think there are a few things things that need mentioning here:

  1. Kelsey Grammer is absolutely phenomenal in this. It now fills me with rage that he’s been slumming on shows like Hank and Back To You for the last few years, when he could have been acting his socks off in proper drama. What a waste.
  2. The show has now largely settled down on two storylines: Grammer’s dementia and its effects on his job, his relationships and, well, almost everyone in fact; and Jeff Hephner’s bid for governorship. The two intermingle as well, which is a good thing, given how bitty the first episode was.
  3. Women apparently don’t need foreplay any more. And about a minute’s enough for y’all. Homeland appears to have come to the same conclusion as well. One more and it’s official. At least in America.

Episode three has definitely been the best of the episodes, despite The Carusometer’s suggestions to the contrary, and that might well be because Farhad Safinia didn’t write it. However, despite the slight uptick, it’s still not enough to qualify it for a "1" rating for the simple reason that there aren’t any characters you can really root for. Everyone is just a vile and nasty politician or the kind of person who hangs out with vile and nasty politicians, and while there might some enjoyment in watching their downfall say, the show really isn’t focused on that angle. It just wants us to know that law-making is a dirty business and politicians can be pretty dirty, too. Well, duh.

So while this is a well-made, quality product with Grammer doing some of the best acting on TV at the moment, can I really tell you all to run off an watch this immediately, you going off with the expectation you’ll be having an enjoyable hour of TV viewing? No. But if you don’t mind something that’s quality, that’s about something a bit more real than air hostess fantasies and fairy tales, and both metaphorically and literally hard to watch, then go off and watch Boss.

Carusometer rating: 2
Rob’s prediction: Already picked up for a second season, but I’m not predicting a third.

Review: Grimm 1×1

Grimm on NBC

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Fairy tales are really real. They’re part of our world. Now a non-fairy tale character has found out and is having to deal with this strange circumstance.

Yep, it’s Once Upon A Time, over on ABC. But it’s also Grimm on NBC.

Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, too. “Into each generation a Slayer is born. One in all the world, a Chosen One. One born with the strength and skill to fight the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers.”

Yes, that’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Except if you cross out ‘Slayer’ and replace it with ‘Grimm’ and cross out vampires and replace it with ‘fairy tale monsters’, you’ve got Grimm on NBC.

So already, Grimm is not looking too hot on the old originality front. Add in the fact that the cop gets all his arcane knowledge from books given to him by a librarian, that he has help from a reformed creature of the night and that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you’d wonder when the first of the copyright suits would arrive – if it weren’t for the fact that Jim Kouf (Angel) and David Greenwalt (Buffy and Angel) are the exec producers.

Yet, despite all these inauspicious omens, Grimm isn’t half bad – and it’s certainly better than Once Upon A Time. Here’s an incredibly spoilery trailer – with the wrong music. The Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ was used in the actual episode.

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Review: Once Upon A Time 1×1

Once Upon A Time

In the US: Sundays, 8/7c, ABC
in the UK: Not yet acquired

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a clever man had the idea to make a TV show in which fairy tales were true and still happening in the real world. He made that TV show and it was called Grimm and it’ll be on later this week.

Yes, coincidentally, in the same ‘strange’ way as NBC and ABC both simultaneously deciding to do shows set in the 60s à la Mad Men (The Playboy Club and Pan Am) and CBS and ABC both simultaneously deciding to do shows about the plight of modern men (How to be a Gentleman and Last Man Standing/Man Up!/Work It), ABC has also decided to make a show in which fairy tales are true and still happening in the real world and it’s called Once Upon A Time.

How did that happen? Magic, presumably, and definitely not just networks copying each others’ ideas.

Anyway, in Once Upon A Time, Jennifer Morrison (Cameron in House) is a bondswoman. Yes, that’s plausible, isn’t it? She’s a single bondswoman who can’t get a date and has no friends. Getting more plausible by the minute, isn’t it?

But get this – it turns out that 10 years ago, she gave up a child for adoption.

Uh huh.

He finds her on the Internet and asks her to come home with him to save the town where he lives – Storybrooke. Everyone there is really a character from a fairy tale but doesn’t know it, thanks to the curse of Snow White’s wicked step-mother: the town mayor and the woman who adopted him.

But get this – again. Morrison is really the long-lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, disappeared in a magic wardrobe, but foretold to return on her 28th birthday to save everyone from the wicked step-mother’s spell.

So does this review have a happy ending? Let’s find out after the trailer.

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The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: American Horror Story

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm, FX
In the UK: Mondays, 10pm, FX UK. Starts November 7th

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how you can have all the elements of a scary story – haunted house, ghosts, demons, murders, possessions and more – yet not have something that’s actually scary.

So it is with American Horror Story, which since its first episode has settled down into something a bit more subdued, a bit more thoughtful, a bit more like it’s taken its Ritalin. But is it any cop yet? Not really.

The basic problem, apart from the lack of scariness, is that there’s so much going on in every episode, it’s hard to become too attached to any one element of the story and focus on it. Now, obviously, focusing on Alex Breckenridge as the youthful version of the house maid is what a lot of guys are doing when they watch the show, and since she is the most interesting part of the show, it was good to see episode three focusing on her. But we also had to deal with McDermott’s affair again, his daughter, the melty man, the arrival of the 1920s woman, Jessica Lange being way too big for the small screen and possibly the world’s fastest impromptu construction of a gazebo.

Yes, a gazebo. Or it might have been a very small bandstand: as I’ve remarked before, it’s hard to take American Horror Story too seriously, particularly when it doesn’t (or at least it isn’t sure if you should or not so hedges its bets).

We are at least getting answers to questions, but those answers aren’t exactly original – they’re exactly the answers you’d expect in any horror story, so possibly the show should be called Archetypal American Horror Stories – but we’re also getting new questions, the answers to which already don’t look any more interesting. And the questions in the first episode that were at least a little “on the edge” – who was the guy in the gimp suit? – appear to have been forgotten about for now.

As a show, it’s not bad and I’ll probably keep watching for Alex, but it really hasn’t found its feet yet and I’m not sure if it ever will. Not as cutting edge, scary or funny as might have been hoped, but not so badly made you want to switch off.

Carusometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Should last a season; might even hit two seasons. But no more than that.  

Review: Man Up! 1×1

Man Up!

In the US: Tuesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC

There is a famous illustration of ‘the ascent of man’ (it’s invariably a man).

The Ascent of Man

Yet, on the US TV networks, we’re getting a series of shows about what it’s like to be modern man. And so far, on a quality scale, it’s been more like this:

Ascent of Man Up 2

(Yes, I know that’s rubbish, but I had five minutes to do it in).

We started with How To Be A Gentlemen, which partially satirised the whole concept and actually wasn’t that bad – but now should probably be called How To Be Cancelled. Then we got Last Man Standing, in which Tim Allen basically does Home Improvement again, so although he does rant a bit about modern man (and his lack of manly qualities), largely he learns his lesson and discovers there is something to this ‘sensitivity’ thing after all.

But now we have – and there’s still Work It to come so we haven’t quite reach the nadir of this trend – Man Up!, from the same network that’s given us Last Man Standing and will also give us, you guessed it, Work It: ABC. Written by and starring Christopher Moynihan (who you may recall also created NBC sitcom 100 Questions aka one of the answers in the TV trivia quiz “Name a network US TV show that lasted only six episodes because that’s all the network thought it was worth”), it’s about three slacker men who are having to deal with modern life, playing games and dealing with the fact they haven’t fought in any wars to prove their manhood. It’s the first honest-to-goodness piece of all out offensiveness, with horrible male characters, even more horrible female partners and a real sense of confusion about what it’s actually trying to say, beyond “Ooh, er, life’s tricky for men sometimes. Can we have sprinkles on our cereal? Is that okay?”

Its one redeeming feature: a guy who’s basically the Old Spice Guy, but isn’t the actual Old Spice Guy. Here’s a trailer – it has the very few funny bits in it:

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Review: Boss 1×1

Boss with Kelsey Grammer

In the US: Fridays, 10pm ET/PT, Starz

A little while ago, I mocked Starz. To be fair, it’s very deserving of mockery, given Camelot and – gods help us – Torchwood: Miracle Day, just for starters.

But Starz is trying, really trying, not to be the the worst and tackiest of the cable networks when it comes to drama. Even though it shows Spartacus, which while quite good in quite a lot of respects, still has the Starz tacky DNA in every cell of its green-screened, over-developed body.

Yet now, with Boss, they’ve actually got a show that’s very good and only makes you think “Ooh, that’s a bit tacky, isn’t it?” two or three times in its entire hour-long first episode. It stars Kelsey Grammer as the mayor of Chicago and shows in glorious detail why the two things in life you don’t want to see being made are sausages and laws.

Here’s a trailer.

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