“Olga (Kurylenko) and I like to think we’re just as terrifying together as Ben Diamond and Ike, with their guns and their gangsters and all of that. We know that when two girls decide that they really aren’t fond of each other, it’s a whole other level of cat-fighting.”
Once upon a time, the summer was the designated dumping ground for all of the crap that the networks had lying around that they didn’t deem good enough to put on during the regular season, but now…well, actually, there’s still a bit of that going on, but viewers are also starting to get some unexpectedly strong material as well. I’ve been bombarded with screeners over the past few weeks, so many that I haven’t been able to keep up with them all, but I’ve managed to pull together a list of 10 shows that I have seen and found at least worth giving a try, if only for one episode to see if the first taste is enough to keep you coming back for more.
Wizards vs. Aliens
As a rule, any series which features Russell T. Davies, the man who finally succeeded in selling “Doctor Who” to Americans, as part of its creative team is a series that’s at least worth giving a shot, even if it is on The Hub. In fact, let’s back up a second: The Hub actually has a quite a lot of fun programming for the hipper young-adult set, so no one should be dismissing the network out of hand as being merely a channel for kids. Plus, hello, the show’s called “Wizards vs. Aliens.” How is that not going to be awesome? Granted, it’s still intended for a younger demographic, a la Davie’s “Who” spin-off, “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” so you shouldn’t go in expecting “Torchwood” levels of darkness, but if you go in with the right mindset, you’ll find it’s a lot of fun for the whole family.
If you read last week’s column about “The Glades,” where I talked about my trip to Miami a few months back and followed it with a Q&A with the cast members, you may also recall that I actually visited the set of two series on that expedition. The other, “Graceland,” makes its long awaited debut on the USA Network this evening, and in this case, calling it “long-awaited” isn’t just a case of blowing smoke.
I actually had an opportunity to screen the pilot back in January—actually, it might even have been December, come to think of it—in advance of attending the winter TCA press tour, and I was surprised at how dark the tone of the show was. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is still USA, not HBO, so it’s not like the second coming of “The Wire” or anything, but it’s definitely not full of the same kind of quick and witty banter that’s become a hallmark of the network’s series…in a good way.
Here’s how the network describes “Graceland,” in case you’re starting to get curious:
Inspired by true events, USA’s new one-hour drama, “Graceland,” is about the adrenaline-fueled world of a diverse group of undercover agents whose lies are their lives.
“Graceland” is a place where nothing is what it seems and everyone has a secret. From the outside, this idyllic beachfront property is inhabited by a group of young roommates. Inside, a vastly different world is exposed: one that sustains itself through a complex web of lies. “Graceland” delves into the lives of an elusive group of undercover agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who live and operate under one roof. When forced to give up any shred of normalcy and the question of trust is a matter of life or death, the house becomes their sanctuary, their “Graceland.”
Graduating at the top of his class, FBI rookie, Mike Warren anticipates a traditional DC desk job when he’s unexpectedly shipped to “Graceland.” Immediately thrown into his first undercover assignment, he relies heavily on the guidance of legendary FBI agent and mentor Paul Briggs. Briggs is an unusually Zen senior agent who notoriously hates the rule book and will go to any length to protect “Graceland” from the outside world. The ensemble cast features strong-willed FBI agent Catherine “Charlie” DeMarco, quick-tempered Customs agent Dale Jakes, intuitive and merciless DEA Agent Paige Arkin, and fun-loving prankster FBI agent Joe “Johnny” Tuturro.
Are you interested enough to watch a trailer for the show? I’m betting you are, but I’ll you what I’m gonna do: I’m just gonna embed a trailer right below this paragraph, and either you’ll watch it or you won’t. But it ain’t gonna cost you nothing to click on it, so…
Although I’ve been a regular attendee of the Television Critics Association press tour in my stead as a writer and senior editor for Bullz-Eye.com, I don’t really get the opportunity to attend all that many press junkets, so on those occasions when I do find myself on the sets of various TV shows, I tend to kind of bask in the uniqueness of the experience. (Maybe it’s just because I have a history of being easily amused, but I find that, no matter how many sets you visit, if you don’t do it regularly, it still manages to be a pretty cool experience every single time.)
Earlier this year, I was invited on a rare joint junket between two different networks—A&E and USA—to do meet-and-greets and Q&As with the casts of “The Glades,” which returns to A&E this evening for its fourth season, and “Graceland,” a new USA drama which bows on June 6. Both series film in the general vicinity of Miami, so the first day of the expedition was spent on the set of the latter, with the next day dedicated to the former. Rest assured that I’ll be filling you in on “Graceland” soon enough, but for the moment, let’s focus on “The Glades,” shall we?
Given that the series is, as noted, about to kick off its fourth season, there’s a fair chance you’re already familiar with “The Glades,” but for those who either only know of it or haven’t even got that much history with it, here’s the nutshell summary from the A&E homepage for the series:
Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore) is an attractive and brilliant Chicago homicide detective with a reputation for being difficult. When his captain wrongfully accuses him of sleeping with his wife and shoots him, he is exiled and forced to relocate. He lands in the sleepy, middle-of-nowhere town of Palm Glade, outside of the Florida Everglades, where sunshine and golf are plentiful and crime is seemingly at a minimum. But Longworth soon finds out this town isn’t quite as idyllic as he originally thought, when murders keep piling up. Each case pulls Longworth off the golf course and reluctantly into his element as one of the sharpest homicide detectives to wear a badge.
Season 4 is packed with even more mystery, intrigue, and fun. From haunted plantations to rum-soaked shot girls and even a zombie apocalypse, Longworth is once again solving murders that can only happen in the Sunshine State. This season also promises more drama on the personal front for Longworth, Carlos (Carlos Gomez), Manus (Michelle Hurd), and Daniel (Jordan Wall) as friends and relatives from near and far arrive on the scene. But the big question remains to be answered as Longworth waits for Callie (Kiele Sanchez) to accept his marriage proposal, or not.
If I’m to be honest, the pointed use of the word “attractive” as a descriptor of the main character in any series immediately makes me suspicious that it’s something that’s going to tickle my fancy—I can’t recall any occasion when I’ve been sold on a show because I was assured in advance that its cast was going to be good-looking—but “The Glades” has been a hard-to-dislike show since its debut. Yeah, I know, that’s kind of damning it with faint praise, but I really do intend it as a compliment: there are a lot of series that are very easy to dislike, but the show’s cast is pretty darned likeable across the board. Okay, maybe the aforementioned Jim Longworth is a bit too smug for his own good sometimes, but, hey, when you’re that attractive and brilliant…
When it comes to this column, I don’t tend to do a lot of cross-promotional tie-in pieces, but I’m going to make an exception this time because it’s for a show that I have vowed to do as much to promote and to help raise its profile as I possibly can: ABC’s “The Middle.”
Given that the sitcom was just renewed for its fifth season, it’s hard to call it anything other than a success, and yet I’m still reminded of something Mark Harmon said about “NCIS” back in 2011: “If it’s possible for a No. 1 show to be still be under the radar, then we’re still under the radar.” That’s kind of where “The Middle” stands, if you ask me…or if you ask just about anyone who who’s involved with the show, for that matter: they know they’re doing good work, the viewers know they’re doing good work, the critics definitely know they’re doing good work, and yet as of this writing “The Middle” has only received one Emmy nod to date (for makeup, of all things). That’s just ridiculous…and that’s why, over at the Onion AV Club, I pulled together a TV Club 10 list of the 10 episodes of “The Middle” which best represent the series and reveal what makes it such a pleasure to watch week after week.
Then, in conjunction with that piece, I thought it might also be interesting to reach out to the cast of the series and see which 10 episodes were their favorites. Not everyone was readily available to contribute, unfortunately, but three out of five ain’t bad, so don’t be afraid to express your gratitude to Patricia Heaton (Frankie Heck), Neil Flynn (Mike Heck), and Eden Sher (Sue Heck) in the comments for offering up their picks.
In closing, I’d just like to say – and I think you’ll probably agree – that there is something so incredibly right about the fact that Eden Sher described the opportunity to select her top-10 episodes as “way too much fun” and then proved it by writing a full paragraph about each one. No actor wants to be told that they’re “just like their character,” but there’s just enough Sue Heck in Eden Sher to make her one of the sweetest and most contagiously enthusiastic young actresses on network TV…but, then, if you read my interview with her a few months ago, then you already know that.