Dax Shepard and Lake Bell in ABC (US)'s Bless This Mess
US TV

Review: Bless This Mess 1×1 (US: ABC)

In the US: Tuesdays, 9.30/8.30c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Culture clashes seem to be one of the big concerns of network US comedies these days. Black/white, middle-class/working-class, traditional/modern, famous/unknown – imagine the hilarity as everyone tries to understand everyone else from different backgrounds. Not all such concerns are US-specific, of course. New US arrival Bless This Mess, for example, is somewhat similar to two other recent shows from other countries – Canada’s Cavendish and New Zealand’s Fresh Eggs – in trying to make us laugh at urban/rural culture clashes. But if you’re going to do it, you need to have something new to say and some observations to make. Bless This Mess doesn’t.

Here, the set-up is that a New York married couple – therapist Lake Bell (Boston Legal, Childrens Hospital) and music journalist Dax Shepard (Parenthood) – inherit a Nebraskan farmhouse and sight-unseen, decide to relocate the countryside for a new life as farmers. Plausible, huh?

However, once they’re there, they discover that the farmhouse is in need of a touch of repair, the farmland is barren and they have all manner of ‘interesting’ neighbours: live-in neighbour Ed Begley Jr, store owner/sheriff/amateur thespian Pam Grier and rival farmer David Koechner (Anchorman) who’d quite like to buy the property from them.

Can they make a success of both their farm and their relationships with their new neighbours?

Continue reading “Review: Bless This Mess 1×1 (US: ABC)”
Advertisements
Advertisements
The cast of The Code
US TV

Review: The Code 1×1 (US: CBS)

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, CBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

It seems hard to believe now but there was a time before Aaron Sorkin was a household name. However, way back in 1992, nobody had heard of the future creator of The West Wing, Studio 60 and The Newsroom. Thankfully, the then-playwright soon hit the big time thanks to a film adaptation of his stage play for A Few Good Men.

Featuring an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson as well as a sizzling script, A Few Good Men not only introduced the world to Sorkin, it also gave us our first real filmic glimpses at the modern US Marine Corps and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These were so unknown in the heady days of the early 90s that when I reviewed A Few Good Men, my editor actually queried – in print in my review – my claim that the base featured in the movie was in Cuba.

Oh, what happy, pre-Gitmo days those were.

Luke Mitchell and Anna Wood in CBS's The Code
Luke Mitchell and Anna Wood in CBS’s The Code

The Code

While the Marines have seen many outings in the movies and on TV since, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and its system of courts martial largely only featured in one show: JAG, which concerned the lawyers of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps charged with prosecuting crimes under the code. That ran for an astonishing 10 seasons (one on NBC, nine on CBS), launched the apparently immortal NCIS franchises and even this very day is being considered for a revival.

One can only assume that CBS is planning this only because it has so little faith in its latest drama, The Code, given that:

  1. The Code is all about the JAG corps.
  2. It’s basically a remake of both A Few Good Men and JAG
Continue reading “Review: The Code 1×1 (US: CBS)”
Advertisements
Warrior
US TV

Review: Warrior 1×1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic?)

In the US: Fridays, Cinemax
In the UK: Sky Atlantic (probably)

Despite his short life, Bruce Lee to this date remains the world’s most famous martial artist. While he was alive, there was many an imitator and even after this death, there were many who tried to piggyback on his fame or who claimed to be “the next Bruce Lee”. Small wonder then that the producers of Cinemax’s Warrior would wish to do the same by saying their show is “based on the writings of Bruce Lee” – even though it’s basically “Period Asian Banshee from the producers of Banshee“.

All about Bruce Lee
Andrew Koji in Cinemax's Warrior
Andrew Koji in Cinemax’s Warrior

Warrior

To be fair, Lee’s daughter Shannon is one of Warrior‘s producers and she did indeed have an eight-page treatment by Lee for a western TV series in which he would have starred. However, given that it was a treatment for ‘The Warrior‘, which (probably) ultimately metamorphosed into Kung Fu, I imagine there might have been a few copyright issues involved in a straight adaptation of that treatment.

So instead, Banshee‘s Jonathan Tropper fleshed Lee’s original ideas with his own characters and situations. In so doing, he’s basically recreated Banshee again, just in a different time and place.

Warrior sees 19th century martial arts prodigy Andrew Koji (The Wrong Mans, The Innocents) coming over to San Francisco from China. As in Banshee, our hero is looking for a woman from his past; as in Banshee, he’s a gifted fighter; as in Banshee, his skills mean he’s soon found by a local (Banshee‘s Hoon Lee) who helps put into a position of power; as in Banshee, that soon puts him into conflict with criminal elements in the city; as in Banshee, he doesn’t care about local rules and soon begins to shake up the status quo.

Continue reading “Review: Warrior 1×1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic?)”
Advertisements
The Twilight Zone
US TV

Preview: The Twilight Zone 1×1 (US: CBS All Access)

In the US: Thursdays, CBS All Access
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Why is Jordan Peele determined to prove me wrong? A while ago, I suggested that the old-school anthology show, with a different story and cast every week, no longer worked as a format, given the nature of modern television scheduling. Instead, the season-long anthology show has the best of both worlds, with both a regular cast and the ability to tell closed stories, all rolled into one:

With an audience who likes serial drama but who wants eventual conclusions to their stories that haven’t been drawn out too long, what could be better than a season-long story with a beginning, middle and an end, the next season then telling a completely new story in the same vein? With a bit of cleverness, you can even appease fans of the shows’ stars by having the cast come back to play different characters if they want – or just let them go off to the next job if they’d rather, just like in the old days, since that way you can get big names with limited availability to come in for just a season.

There have been attempts to return to the original, episodic formula, such as The Guest Book and Room 104, but these exceptions have somewhat proved my hypothesis that the format no longer works. How? Because no one watches them.

So I ask again: why is Jordan Peele is so determined to prove me wrong? I mean first he creates a feelgood, episodic anthology show for YouTube, Weird City, and now he’s resurrected possibly the most famous anthology show of them all, The Twilight Zone.

Why does the lauded writer-director of Get Out and Us think he knows better than me, hey?

Continue reading “Preview: The Twilight Zone 1×1 (US: CBS All Access)”
Advertisements
Abby's
US TV

Review: Abby’s 1×1 (US: NBC)

In the US: Thursdays, 9:30/8.30c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There’s a long tradition of multi-camera US comedies been prefaced by one of the cast members pointing out that it was “filmed in front of a live studio audience”. It’s supposed to make you think that the laughter isn’t canned, which is what the likes of M*A*S*H* had to endure.

M*A*S*H’s Larry Gelbart explains this history of canned laughter and why it is so awful

However, I must confess that with multi-camera comedies now being so rare, I was taken aback when NBC’s new sitcom, Abby’s, rolled out its own disclaimer about having a studio audience. That wasn’t the only reason, though. See if you can work out the other reason I was surprised:

NBC (US)’s Abby’s was filmed in front of a live outdoor audience

Yes, it’s filmed before a live outdoor audience. Have a think about that. An outdoor audience. That’s going to sound different, isn’t yet? No echoes, more diffuse. That sort of thing.

Given the fact that there are no echoes, the cast never leave gaps in the dialogue for when the audience are supposedly laughing and no one’s really delivering lines like they’re expecting anyone 30 metres away to be able to hear them, I’m going to go with the theory that Abby’s was both filmed in front of a live outdoor audience and has canned laughter.

A trailer for season one of NBC (US)’s Abby’s
Continue reading “Review: Abby’s 1×1 (US: NBC)”