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 And just for fun, I’ll also throw in a few previously-unpublished quotes from some of the conversations I had with cast members while they were in the throes of pimping their wares.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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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Fall TV Preview: What’s New for The CW

Monday

Hart of Dixie

(9 – 10 PM, Sept. 26)

The competition: Dancing with the Stars (ABC), Two and a Half Men / Mike & Molly (CBS), The Sing-Off (NBC), House (Fox)

Starring: Rachel Bilson, Jaime King, Wilson Bethel, Cress Williams, Scott Porter

Executive producers: Leila Gerstein, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Len Goldstein and Donald Todd

What the network says: “Fast-talking New Yorker Zoe Hart has her life all figured out: after graduating top of her class from medical school, she’ll follow in her father’s footsteps as a cardio-thoracic surgeon in New York City. But life has other plans for Zoe. Turned down for the prestigious fellowship she had been certain she would get, Zoe is without a job and without a plan. Desperate, she decides to finally respond to the kindly stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, whom she met at her medical school graduation and who had offered her a place at his small medical practice in Bluebell, Alabama. She swallows her considerable pride and heads down South – temporarily, she assures herself.”

What we say: If you thought the worst thing about “Hart of Dixie” would be trying to buy Bilson as a surgeon, you’re wrong. In addition to painting the character of Zoe with the sort of broad strokes where she starts the pilot as a complete bitch who’s dismissive of living in a small Southern town and ends it as a thoughtful young woman who believes the people of Bluebell just might have a few life lessons to teach her, the proceedings tend to be little more than cornpone cliches slathered atop a heaping helping of schmaltz. There are a few clever lines and amusing characters, like the mayor of Bluebell, a former football player who regularly refers to himself in the third person, but viewers below the Mason-Dixon line will likely sneer at the way they’re portrayed, while everyone else will just roll their eyes and switch over to…well, just about anything else, really.

Tuesday

Ringer

(9 – 10 PM, Sept. 13)

The competition: Dancing with the Stars (ABC), NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), New Girl / Raising Hope (Fox)

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nestor Carbonell, Mike Colter, Ioan Gruffudd

Executive producers: Pam Veasey, Jon Liebman and JoAnne Colonna

What the network says: “Bridget Kelly is a recovering addict, struggling to turn her life around. She’s six months sober, and beginning to get back on track, when she witnesses a professional hit. She’s placed in federal protection under the watch of Victor Machado, an agent determined to see that justice is done. But Bridget knows that Victor can’t keep her safe and she flees, telling no one, not even her close friend and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor Malcolm Ward. Hoping to buy some time, Bridget contacts her identical twin sister, Siobhan Martin, and joins her in New York City, reuniting with her for the first time in six years. Siobhan is fabulously wealthy, with a strikingly handsome husband, Andrew, who has no idea that Bridget exists. When Siobhan suddenly disappears, seemingly taking her own life, Bridget makes the split decision to take on her sister’s identity.”

What we say: With so many unabashed “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans among the writing staff, no one wants to see Sarah Michelle Gellar succeed in a series more than Bullz-Eye, but for that to happen, viewers are going to have to get past the painful sequences at the beginning of the pilot where Gellar interacts with herself. If you can get beyond that, Gellar’s interactions with the trifecta of Carbonell, Colter, and Gruffudd may offer enough charisma to keep people coming back, but given that we weren’t even halfway through the pilot before we started wondering incessantly just how long Bridget was going to be able to perpetuate her chicanery, things are going to have to get really interesting really quickly for the show to maintain the initial “welcome back to the small screen, Sarah Michelle” momentum in the ratings.

Wednesday

H8R

(8 – 9 PM, Sept. 14)

The competition: The Middle (ABC), Survivor (CBS), Up All Night / Free Agents (NBC), The X Factor (Fox)

Host: Mario Lopez

Executive producers: Mike Fleiss, Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Mario Lopez and Jeremy Spiegel

What the network says: “Celebrities are constantly in the public eye – but not everyone is a fan. Each week, celebrities from the world of television, sports and music will come face-to-face with their biggest ‘haters’ to try to win them over.”

What we say: All we’ve seen thus far is a “presentation” to give us a feel for what the show will be like, but it now appears that the season premiere is going to feature the same material, namely Snooki from “Jersey Shore” and Jake Pavelka from “The Bachelor” each confronting a “hater.” The concept itself isn’t so awful – it’s about time some of these internet trolls were taken to task by the people they’re mouthing off about from the safety of their computers – but based on the sampling of future “stars” who’ll be appearing on the show, it’s clear that the word “celebrity” is going to be pretty relative. Given the competition, it’s hard to imagine that reality-show alumni facing off against their “haters” are going to pull sufficient ratings to make much of a ratings dent against actual reality shows like “Survivor” and “The X-Factor.”

Thursday

The Secret Circle

(9 – 10 PM, Sept. 15)

The competition: Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Person of Interest (CBS), The Office / Whitney (NBC), Bones (Fox)

Starring: Britt Robertson, Thomas Dekker, Gale Harold, Phoebe Tonkin, Shelley Hennig, Jessica Parker Kennedy

Executive producers: Kevin Williamson, Andrew Miller, Les Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo

What the network says: “Cassie Blake is a normal, happy teenager, leading an everyday life with her devoted single mom, Amelia. But when her mother dies in what Cassie thinks is a tragic, accidental fire, her world is turned upside down. Cassie moves in with her warm and loving grandmother Jane in the beautiful small town of Chance Harbor, Washington – where the residents seem to know more about her than she knows about herself.”

What we say: The fact that it’s from Williamson, most recently known to CW viewers as the man who brought them “The Vampire Diaries,” may lead everyone who’s aged out of their teens to believe that “The Secret Circle” will be at best no more than another guilty pleasure that they’ll never publicly admit to watching. “Circle,” however, begins without the bandwagon-jumping feel that “Vampires” had at the outset – “It’s just like ‘Twilight,’ except it’s on every week!’ – and instantly offers a dark, intriguing premise as well as all the teen angst you’ve come to expect from a Williamson project. Yes, many oldsters will smile knowingly at the similarities to “The Craft” when the bitchy teen witches hit the screen, but it feels more like an homage than a rip-off. This could prove to be one of the more enjoyable series of the season. Stay tuned.

  

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