The Playboy Club
(10 – 11 PM, Sept. 19)
The competition: Castle (ABC), Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)
Starring: Eddie Cibrian, Amber Heard, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Wes Ramsey, Naturi Naughton, Leah Renee, Jenifer Lewis, David Krumholtz
Executive producers: Brian Grazer, Chad Hodge (“Runaway,” “Tru Calling”), Francie Calfo (“Scoundrels”), Jason Burns and Dick Rosenzweig (“The House Bunny,” “The Girls Next Door”), and Ian Biederman (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”).
What the network says: “Nick Dalton is the ultimate playboy and one of the city’s top attorneys, rubbing elbows with everyone in the Windy City’s power structure. With mysterious and complicated ties to the mob, he comes to the aid of Maureen, the stunning and innocent new Bunny at the club, who accidentally kills the patriarch of the Bianchi crime family. Dating Nick is Carol-Lynne, a bombshell of a beauty and an established star at the Playboy Club who’s ready to be more than a Bunny. As she seeks an opportunity to elevate her stature even higher at the club, she can’t help but notice that something is developing between Nick and Maureen. Adding to the charm of the club is Janie, the foxy and carefree life of the party who is dating Max, a sweet and romantic bartender. Brenda, a stunning beauty with a dry wit, has big aspirations. Bunny Alice manages to take care of everyone but herself, and while married, is hiding a huge secret from everyone. Pearl is the club’s seamstress who’s been there since day one and knows more about what it takes to survive than anyone. Running the club and answering only to the top is general manager Billy Morton, who also shares a close friendship with Nick. With all of these larger-than-life ambitions, there are even greater secrets. It’s a good thing Hef’s Playboy Mansion is open after hours for a little R&R – and burying your past.”
What we say: 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.
Up All Night
(8 – 8:30 PM, Sept. 21, special preview Sept. 14 @ 10 PM)
The competition: The Middle (ABC), Survivor (CBS), The X Factor (Fox), H8R (The CW)
Starring: Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph
Executive producers: Lorne Michaels, Emily Spivey, Jon Pollack (“30 Rock”), and Erin David (“Saturday Night Live”)
What the network says: “Reagan Brinkley is a loving wife, successful career woman, life of the party and, most recently, mom. Determined not to compromise her career or cool reputation to the clichés of motherhood, Reagan adjusts to life with a baby and returns to work with the support of her stay-at-home husband, Chris. As Reagan and Chris figure out their new life, self-doubt, sleep deprivation and the pressure of today’s parenting protocols rattle their confidence. What’s more, the endless needs of Reagan’s boss, ambitious but vulnerable talk-show host Ava, threaten to throw Reagan off balance.”
What we say: As is only appropriate for a show about a new baby, “Up All Night” has already experienced some growing pains, with the producers making the decision to A) pump up Maya Rudolph’s role on the series, and B) add Nick Cannon to the cast as Ava’s onscreen cohort. As a result, the revised pilot – which still doesn’t include Cannon but does offer much more Maya – feels less about the new parents than it should, which isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, but…well, isn’t it ostensibly about the new parents? This is the kind of shift that you’d expect as the series progresses, not before it ever leaves the station. Granted, it isn’t as if anyone outside of the TV critic community will have any idea that a change has occurred, but viewers are still likely to wonder why a show revolving around Reagan and Chris becoming new parents spends so much time focusing on Reagan’s boss.
(8:30 – 9 PM, Sept. 21, special preview Sept. 14 @ 10:30 PM)
The competition: The Middle (ABC), Survivor (CBS), The X Factor (Fox), H8R (The CW)
Starring: Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn, Anthony Head, Mo Mandel, Al Madrigal, Natasha Leggero, Joe LoTruglio
Executive producers: John Enbom, Todd Holland, Ira Ungerleider and Karey Burke (“Miss Guided”), Kenton Allen, Nira Park, Chris Niel
What the network says: “Newly-divorced Alex is missing his kids and trying to keep himself together. Alex’s co-worker Helen thinks she has it together, but she drinks too much in order to cope with her fiancé’s untimely death. It’s no surprise then, when these two overworked public relations executives share an ill-fated night of passion and are forced to cope with the awkward aftermath. Thus begins the journey of two lost and emotionally damaged souls in search of happiness. Joining the cause is an array of co-workers who are both helpful and meddling at the same time. Stephen is the office boss who is concerned about Alex’s emotional stability, yet needs him to focus on his work; Dan is a bachelor in search of a wingman; and Gregg is the nerdy, lone husband of the group. Despite their valiant and well-intentioned efforts, they are failing in their attempts to help Alex get back into the dating scene. In addition, Emma is Alex’s spitfire assistant who is always ready with a quick comeback, and the building security guard is always ready to share a little advice. Together, this motley, and often dysfunctional, group takes on a new level of damage control.”
What we say: As it stands right now, “Free Agents” lives or dies on the performances of the couple at the heart of the series. Fortunately, Azaria and Hahn are sweet, likeable, and very funny. So, for that matter, is Mr. Head, but we’ve come to expect that from the artist formerly known as Rupert Giles. Insofar as the rest of the ensemble goes, however, it’s mostly and miss. The only other person who really stands out is Leggero, but she’s only got a couple of lines. The big question is where the series will go from here. Will it stick to its current strengths and phase out most of Alex and Helen’s coworkers, or will it begin to flesh them out and turn this into a good old fashioned ensemble comedy? Hard to say. At the moment, though, it’s worth sticking around just to see Azaria and Hahn interact with each other. They’re just so darned cute!
(9:30 – 10 PM, Sept. 22)
The competition: Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Person of Interest (CBS), Bones (Fox), The Secret Circle (The CW)
Starring: Whitney Cummings, Chris D’Elia, Zoe Lister-Jones, Rhea Seehorn, Maulik Pancholy, Dan O’Brien
Executive producers: Scott Stuber, Quan Phung, Betsy Thomas, Barry Katz, Andy Ackerman, Whitney Cummings
What the network says: Whitney and Alex are a happily unmarried couple. Together for three years, the duo is in no rush to get hitched, which seems to get a mixed response from their friends. Whitney’s close circle of girlfriends includes on one side: Lily, a romantic idealist who loves being in love, and on the other: Roxanne, a recent divorcee who is practical, cynical, and dreading being single again. Lily and Roxanne’s opposing points of view only exacerbate Whitney’s own complicated outlook on relationships. Completing their close-knit group is Neal, a real modern day Renaissance man – sensitive, cool and knows a little bit about everything and happens to be dating Lily. On the other end of the spectrum is Whitney and Alex’s next-door neighbor Mark, a police officer and total bachelor, who claims to be the ultimate player, but likes to talk a good game. At the end of the day, Whitney and Alex try to have a relationship on their own terms – in a world that expects a more traditional approach.”
What we say: How odd that a comedienne who’s generally perceived as being relatively cutting-edge should offer up such a pedestrian sitcom. “Whitney” suffers from the same problem as “Free Agents,” which is to say that the two leads are great, but the rest of the ensemble tends to fall relatively short of the mark. In particular, Zoe Lister-Jones is so over the top as to be annoying, and while Seehorn is amusingly brusque, her character needs to be toned down a bit as well. Speaking of toning things down, it’s remarkable how loud the live-before-a-studio-audience laughter is, especially given the majority of the material. Here’s hoping the rest of the show manages to climb up to the level where Cummings and D’Elia are.
(10 – 11 PM, Sept. 22)
The competition: Private Practice (ABC), The Mentalist (CBS)
Starring: Maria Bello, Aidan Quinn, Brian F. O’Byrne, Tim Griffin, Kirk Acevedo, Damon Gupton, Peter Gerety
Executive producers: Peter Berg (NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”), Alexandra Cunningham (“Desperate Housewives”), Sarah Aubrey, Julie Meldal-Johnson, Paul Buccieri, Lynda LaPlante and John McNamara
What the network says: “Tough-as-nails NYPD homicide Detective Jane Timoney is an outsider who has just transferred to a new squad where her new colleagues already dislike her. Jane is confident and focused – and also rude, abrupt and occasionally reckless. She has her vices, and rumors of a questionable past follow her everywhere – but at the end of the day she’s a instinctively brilliant cop who can’t be distracted from the only important thing: the prime suspect.”
What we say: Is it wrong that the first opinion I feel obliged to offer is that I hate the hat? It’s just feels like an unnecessary affectation, and it drives me crazy whenever I see her wearing it. Okay, I’m done bitching about the hat. But, you know, it could’ve been worse. I could’ve been a huge fan of the original “Prime Suspect” and could be sitting here bitching about how this is an affront to Helen Mirren’s accomplishments in that series. As it happens, though, I’ve never seen so much as a single episode of the original, so I’m able to take this American version on its own merits. I’m not sure how long the sexism situation can last as a running thread, frankly, so unless they want this to devolve into just another procedural (which would be depressing, since lord knows we have enough of those already), they’re going to need to maintain the unique personalities of the various characters that they’ve introduced. With Peter Berg working behind the scenes, I’m hopeful that that’ll happen. But we’ll see.
(9 – 10 PM, Oct. 21)
The competition: Shark Tank (ABC), CSI: New York (CBS), Fringe (Fox), Supernatural (The CW)
Starring: David Giuntoli, Bitsie Tulloch, Russell Hornsby, Silas Weir Mitchell, Reggie Lee, Sasha Roiz
Executive producers: Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, Jim Kouf, David Greenwalt
What the network says: “Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt discovers he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers known as ‘Grimms,’ charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world. As he tries to hide the dangers of his new found calling from his fiancé, Juliette Silverton, and his partner, Hank Griffin, he becomes ever more entrenched in the ancient rivalries and alliances of the Grimm world. With help from his confidant, Monroe, a reformed Grimm creature himself, Nick must navigate through the forces of a larger-than-life mythology, facing off with Hexenbiests, Blutbads and all manner of ancient evils, including royal lines dating back to the original profilers themselves, The Grimm Brothers.”
What we say: This is the kind of show that has “cult hit” written all over it, but 2011 is hardly the perfect time for a floundering network like NBC to hang onto a series like this long enough for it to build an audience. That’s a shame, because as odd as the premise might be, it actually feels like it has a lot of potential, blending the dark and spooky mythology of all the Hexenbiest and Blutbad stuff with a relatively straightforward police procedural. But with no real “name” actors in the cast, the only way “Grimm” isn’t going to meet a grim fate in only a few weeks’ time is if NBC throws a lot of promotion heft behind it. A couple of seasons ago, this could’ve been the next “Heroes.” Now, it’s more likely to be the next “Cape.”