The Light from the TV Shows: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

First things first: welcome to the Bullz-Eye Blog’s new TV column, brought to you by the same person who’s brought you the site’s scintillating “Breaking Bad” reviews. Now that Walter White and the gang have wrapped Season 4 and Vince Gilligan has left us hanging ’til sometime in 2012, we’re going to be offered up a weekly look into the wonderful world of what’s on your television. It’s going to be rather loosely formatted, with topics sometimes being related to a series premieres and other times coming from out of the blue, but the ultimate goal is to offer up information and opinions about things that can currently be seen on the small screen.

Just to be contrary, though, let’s kick things off by discussing some shows that aren’t on the small screen anymore…or if they’re still on as of this writing, their death sentence has already been issued.

That’s right: we’re going to talk about the first crop of cancellations for the Fall 2011 TV season.

If we designate September 13 – the date that The CW debuted “Ringer” – as the beginning of the season, then we’re now five weeks into the proceedings. Funnily enough, that’s also how many shows have gotten the axe. Let’s do a bit of a post-mortem on the deceased series, shall we? And just for fun, I’ll also throw in a few previously-unpublished quotes from some of the conversations I had with cast members while they were in the throes of pimping their wares. I mean, criminey, I talked to five freaking people from “How to Be a Gentleman.” What the hell else am I going to do with these interviews?

R.I.P. The Playboy Club (NBC)

Cancellation date: Oct. 4, 2011

What we said in our Fall Preview: “Given that this is ‘the guys’ portal to the web,’ it should come as no surprise to find that we here at Bullz-Eye find this series to be imminently watchable, in no small part because of the ever-gorgeous Amber Heard. It must be said, however, that the similarity in feel to ‘Mad Men’ is almost unbearable at times, not just because it’s set in the ’60s, but also because if you close your eyes when Eddie Cibrian is talking, it might as well be Jon Hamm. Plus, not only is there a lot of melodrama on hand with the blend of romance and criminal activity, but the idea of having actors playing real ’60s celebrities – in the pilot episode, Ike and Tina Turner perform at the club – brings back dormant memories of ‘American Dreams.’ By the time the proceedings are over, there’s really only one question to be asked: will beautiful babes in bunny costumes be enough to keep us coming back? Up to a point, sure…which makes sense, since that’s why people kept coming back to the real Playboy Club. As for the show, though, we’ll see where things stand after a few episodes.”

Cancellation surprise level:  20%. The first time I watched the advance screener of the pilot, I kind of liked it. The second time I watched it, I liked it less. Admittedly, that second viewing took place after I’d listened to virtually the entire membership of the Television Critics Association moan about how awful it was, but it wasn’t just peer pressure that had dragged down my opinion. There’s no denying that “The Playboy Club” looked great, but upon screening it a second time, I was able to see past the visual appeal and realize that there was no substance beneath the style. I’d like to believe that America saw the same thing, but in reality, I think it probably had more to do with the combination of two other very viable alternatives (“Hawaii Five-0” and “Castle”) and viewers’ awareness that the “N” in NBC was never going to stand for nudity. Clearly, the idea of a Playboy-related series without naked ladies was about as satisfying as buying an issue of Mr. Hefner’s publication but only being allowed to read the articles.

Saddest quote from a cast member:

“I was interested in the character, I was interested in telling the story surrounding that character, I was interested in being a part of the world that that character lives in. I found a good story. I found a complex, interesting character-driven drama that involved a cast of several strong women. And I was, like, ‘I’m into this!’” Amber Heard

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ABC cancels “Charlie’s Angels” after just 4 episodes

ABC announced that it is pulling the plug on “Charlie’s Angels” after just 4 aired episodes. The ratings were bad and the reviews were even worse, so I guess this isn’t a surprise. Our own Will Harris explained in his Fall TV Preview that this show was a tough one to predict in terms of potential success. The producers definitely decided to play this one straight, without the campy feel of other reboots. In the end it just didn’t work.

As we all know, the show had its share of eye candy with Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor. When Will spoke with Annie, she seemed very excited about the show and its prospects, explaining how the casting process took months. It’s hard to argue with the casting, though the original was carried by a blonde bombshell, and perhaps following that formula would have generated more buzz.

In the end, however, the writing and execution didn’t seem to excite fans, so we have another show biting the dust following the cancellation of “The Playboy Club.” Perhaps these shows with eye candy should be on cable . . .

  

A Chat with Annie Ilonzeh (“Charlie’s Angels”)

“Charlie’s Angels,” ABC’s 2011 take on the classic chicks-kicking-ass concept, hasn’t exactly been setting the ratings on fire during its first few weeks on the air, but that’s not for lack of extremely dedicated actresses in the show’s cast. Take, for instance, Annie Ilonzeh, who plays Kate Prince on the series. Bullz-Eye had the chance to chat with the “General Hospital” alumnus just as “Angels” was about to take flight, and her enthusiasm and excitement about the series and her role proved decidedly infectious.

Bullz-Eye: So have you just finished a long day of filming?

Annie Ilonzeh: Yes, I have! So I’m sorry that I’m a little late calling.

BE: That’s quite all right. You have a good excuse, so you’re fine.

AI: (Laughs) Literally, it was perfect timing. I’m really surprised that it worked out. But after looking at the schedule, I figured, “Okay, we’re not going to be working ‘til 10 or 11 tonight.”

BE: Well, I’m glad you were able to finish in time to talk. I was at the TCA tour when you did the panel for “Charlie’s Angels,” but you all rushed off immediately afterward, so you weren’t around to chat at the party that night.

AI: Yeah, they had us in and out of there so quick! It was, like, “Get out of here and go back to Miami!” “Okay, okay!” So we were there for the panel that morning, and then we had a 2 PM flight or something crazy like that.

BE: You play Kate Prince on the show, and the one-liner ABC gives you in the press release is that you’re “a Miami cop who fell from grace, losing both her career and her fiancé.” Is that all they gave you to work with when you first got the role? Or did they even tell you which Angel you were going to be playing?

AI: Oh, yeah, I auditioned specifically for her. And, yeah, that was kind of the gist of it. Actually, I don’t think the ex-fiancé thing was in the breakdown as of that time, as in when I first auditioned. But when I auditioned, I kind of felt like things were a bit rougher at that time. They were still figuring things out. (Hesitates) Well, no, because originally I’d heard that they’d tried to attempt this a year ago, so I guess they kind of had an idea of the character. I just didn’t know about the ex-fiancé part very clearly. But slowly, through the four month audition process(Laughs) …I learned more about her and figured her out more, which was good for me. It was a long process, which sucks for any actor, because you wrack your brain and you’re, like, “Well, they didn’t say this, but they did say this, and she looked at me this way,” and…well, whatever. You just start making things up in your head, and it just gets crazy. But throughout that process, it did help me figure her out more. And I got to see producers more, and they got to see more. So it all worked out.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Fall TV Preview: What’s New for ABC

Tuesday

Last Man Standing

(8 – 8:30 PM, Oct. 11)

The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)
Starring: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Kaitlyn Dever, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney, Christoph Sanders, Hector Elizondo

Executive producers: JackBurditt, Tim Allen, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Shawn Levy, Richard Baker and Rick Messina

What the network says: “You can’t get manlier than Mike Baxter. He loves to have adventures while he’s traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. But Mike is about to find out that it’s not a man’s world anymore. While he might be king of the hill at work at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by his wife and three daughters. Today it’s a woman’s world, and this man’s man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Mike’s wife, Vanessa, recently returned to the workplace and was quickly promoted — much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers. Now that Vanessa’s work load has increased, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before. With things turned upside down at home, Mike’s last bastion of sanity – work – gets hit by change as well; his long-time boss and friend, Ed, announces that he’s grounding Mike from their catalogue’s international photo shoots and putting him in charge of the company’s webpage. But while adjusting to this new role, Mike discovers that the Internet might actually provide him just the outlet he needs, a platform that gives him a voice to appeal to those who agree that manliness is under assault, and a pulpit for his opinions about feeling like the last real man in a woman’s world. After all, men built civilizations, invented the locomotive and created ESPN, and Mike Baxter is determined to do what he must to reclaim his manly place in his home and at his job.”

What we say: It’s kind of hard to criticize “Last Man Standing” for having almost exactly the same mainstream manly-man tone as “Home Improvement” when Tim Allen freely admits that it’s something he’s making a conscious effort to re-stake his old territory. You can, however, criticize the series for not being very funny. Sure, it’s funny in a Tim Allen kind of way, but…oh, this way lies madness, so let’s just cut to the chase: basically, if you like broad comedy about a guy’s guy who’s annoyed with the fact that his brand of man is a dying breed, then you’ll like this show. I laughed a couple of times, but as I am not now nor have I ever been a guy’s guy, I walked away with little or no interest in ever watching another episode…which, come to think of it, is almost exactly the way I’ve always felt about “Home Improvement.” Based on this info, you can probably make your own judgement call as to whether or not you’ll have any interest in tuning in.

Man Up

(8:30 – 9 PM, Oct. 18)

The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)

Starring: Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler, Christopher Moynihan, Teri Polo, Amanda Detmer, Henry Simmons, Jake Johnson, Charlotte Labadie

Executive producers: Christopher Moynihan, Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”), and Ron West and Kelly Kulchak

What the network says: “Three modern male archetypes struggle as they search for their identities and try to prove that ‘real men’ really can use hazelnut creamer. Meet Will. Will’s grandfather fought in WWII. Will’s father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PS3 and drinks non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They’re still here — they just smell like pomegranate body wash now. Will’s evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife, Theresa, married him. But he and his friends find themselves wondering… In a world of Axe ads and manscaping, what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny clamps down on his anger and asks himself, ‘What would Tobey Maguire do?,’ when his ex, Bridgette, starts seeing a guy who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, all three are faced with an opportunity to ‘man up’ and be like their forefathers.”

What we say: I swear it’s not because the lead character’s name is Will, but…I actually like this better than “Last Man Standing,” even though it’s ultimately covering a certain amount of the same ground. I think you can probably attribute that to executive producer Victor Fresco, whose presence always guarantees that the series won’t be 100% commercial. Speaking of ground that’s already been trod upon, there’s also an undeniable similarity between “Man Up” and Fox’s late, lamented mid-season series “Traffic Light.” (That’s not a bad thing for me, though, as I loved the series.) As for the cast, there are really only two matinee names: Teri Polo, of the “Meet the Parents” franchise, and Dan Fogler, who’s one of those guys who can take things so far over the top that he presents a major love-him-or-hate-him vibe. It must be said, though, that he pulls the majority of the biggest laughs in the pilot. As far as putting this alongside “Last Man Standing,” I don’t know if that’s a great move or not, since the similar premises will likely viewers to suspect that if they don’t like one, then they won’t like the other, but it’s not true: “Man Up” may not be spectacular, but it’s ten times funnier than its lead-in.

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An okay evening at Spike TV’s “Guys Choice” Awards

We’re fussy about Red Carpet events here at Bullz-Eye central. That’s largely because as a lone, online writer you’re pretty much at the mercy of the publicity gods in terms of who you’re going to meet up with and you never know who that’s going to be. One condition we have is that we get to see the show/movie/what-have-you in question so, if all else fails, we can write about that or at least get a bit of entertainment and free food. In this case, that was a good thing. Not because we didn’t get to talk to anybody interesting, but because Spike TV’s “Guys Choice” presentation, which premieres on the network at 9:00 Eastern/6:00 PDT Friday is not your usual award show.

Right down to the sexy female dancers who liven up the breaks and its highly distinctive award statue, “the Mantlers,” it’s easily the most laid back and honestly silly awards show I’ve seen. It’s also the only award show we know of which contains R-rated profanity in one of its award titles: the “Funniest Motherf*cker” award, this year being given to Jim Carrey. It’s safe the say the show was completely irreverent about everything, except for its commendable commitment to drawing attention to the bravery and sacrifices made by members of our armed forces.

Speaking of Jim Carrey, the famed comic provided a remarkable bit of comedy dealing with the always absolutely never hilarious topic of..oh, Lord, we’d better just leave it alone. You don’t want to know. Carrey himself made it clear that children and other sensitive people were better off not hearing the routine before proceeding with a shocking and explosively funny performance, abetted by the sensitive stylings of violinist Neil Hammond.

More traditionally edgy and hilarious at certain points, but a lot longer, was a marathon bit by faux canine Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, aka comic genius Robert Smigel. The latter merited a bad on-camera review from Sean Penn who between this show and his criticism of Ricky Gervais at Golden Globes, seems to be developing a side career as a real-time award show comedy critic.

Mila Kunis at the Spike Guy's Choice AwardsJustin Timberlake less controversially proved himself to be, once again, no comic slouch, while promoting the charms of the co-star of his next flick, “Friends with Benefits,” the beautiful and talented Mila Kunis. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards distinguished himself by simply being alive to pick up his award and being the innately humourous individual he is.

And so it went. I’ll have a few choice quotes from the show at the end of this piece. First, though, let’s talk about the folks we met on the Red Carpet.

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