US TV

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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US TV

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.  

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US TV

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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US TV

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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