February is a big month for the site. It is sweeps, so we are all kept busy writing about the exciting things happening on the shows we already watch. Sweeps do not stop the networks from releasing new shows, however, and here they are. The following shows premiered during the past month. For clarity, I have listed them in the order they originally aired. As a reminder, red means stop, blue (yellow being too difficult to read in my world) means proceed with caution or speed up to get through it, green means go.
House of Cards (Netflix)
I like this one so much, I’m reviewing it. This is a don’t miss.
Monday Mornings (TNT)
David Kelley has created some wonderful programs in the past, but this is not one of them. A standard medical drama, the twist is the Monday morning M&M (Morbidity and Mortality) conferences in which our heroic doctors get their butts kicked for making mistakes. The cast is very good, but the stories have all been done before. The pilot is taken almost verbatim from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. If you are a huge Kelley fan or a huge fan of medical drama, give it a chance. Otherwise, don’t bother.
The Job (CBS)
Five contestants compete for a job. In the pilot, the job was for an assistant manager position at The Palm restaurant. This show made me very uncomfortable as I felt that the candidates were jumping through hoops simply to make better television. And, three of the five ended up with jobs, two at the Palm and one at another restaurant. If you are a big fan of The Apprentice, you might like this one. For me, however, it just creeped me out.
The Face (Oxygen)
I have absolutely no time for shows that pit women against each other, especially when all these women have to do is put on clothes and pose for a camera. Add to this torture the horror that is Naomi Campbell and I struggled to get through the first hour. If you like shows like this, give it a shot. I, personally, think they are a disgrace.
Zero Hour (ABC)
Being a huge fan of The Da Vinci Code (say what you will; I stayed up all night to finish it), I was really excited for this pilot. Conspiracies, Nazis, clocks -- it just doesn’t get much better than this. I was wrong. Appalling acting, so many twists that the writers had to give us ten minutes of exposition at the end to explain it all, characters that were wooden and false -- it doesn’t get much worse. Nadim wrote a review of the pilot that is perfect and made me laugh out loud.
A documentary/reality series based on a family that runs a sideshow on the Venice Beach boardwalk. Sounds hideous, doesn’t it. The episode I watched was about the twenty-year-old daughter learning how to swallow a sword. I watched agape (pun intended) at what these performers put their bodies through to achieve these stunts. Not a show I will continue to watch, but I did learn that I would rather do just about anything else than swallow a sword.
Just when I thought I had seen everything that television has to offer, I turned on this show. Believe it or not, TPTB at AMC thought that a great idea was to offer a show in which two taxidermists compete in a contest to produce a tableau -- in the episode I saw, the theme was the end of the world. Much like the show above, I got through the show simply amazed at what I was watching. I learned as much as I will ever need to know about taxidermy. If you are not wildly interested in this art form, give it a miss.
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (Investigation Discovery)
The worst of our species breaking up with their spouses in the worst kinds of way, including stabbing with scissors and gluing penises to stomachs. Absolutely among the worst television programs I have seen -- ever.
History of the Eagles (Showtime)
A documentary about one of my favorite rock groups of all time. To write songs that good, you have to be a storyteller and the parts I was able to see just confirmed that these guys can tell a good story. I’ve already added the as yet unreleased DVD onto my Netflix queue.
Beyonce: Life is But a Dream (HBO)
A reality series in which the singer talks to us about the trials she goes through in her life. I am a fan of her music, but I discovered that I am not really a fan of hers. She spends a great deal of time whining and justifying some of the decisions she has made. I was turned off by her, but others have thought her insightful and honest. Watch some of the sections that are available online and decide for yourself.
Killing Lincoln (National Geographic)
Based on the book by Bill O’Reilly, this is National Geographic’s first foray into docudrama. The timing of this could not be worse as it will inevitably be compared, unfavorably, with the movie. I only watched pieces, but none of them inspired me to watch more. If you are interested in our sixteenth president, read one of the many biographies or, even better, read Lincoln’s own words.
Wendell and Vinnie (Nickelodeon)
A 30 going on 14 year old guy gets custody of his nephew, a straight laced twelve year old. In the twenty-one minute pilot, this show managed to hit every cliche you can think of -- and then made it worse with a laugh track that wouldn’t quit. I couldn’t bring myself to watch another episode.
Cult (The CW)
I finished watching the pilot with mixed emotions. I neither hated it nor loved it, and Josie summed up perfectly why. I will stick with it for another episode or two, but won’t get too invested. The numbers are pretty bad.
Weed Country (Discovery)
This is a six part series about the marijuana industry in Northern California. No matter where on the legalization of drugs spectrum you fall, give this show a miss as it is impossible to take it seriously. I watched the first part and laughed through it. The dealers and the growers are going to break the law in front of television cameras? Are the cops really that cliche? What should have been a fascinating look at an extremely topical subject fell into the horror of most reality shows -- the scenes were all obviously staged.
Glory Hounds (Animal Planet)
One of the best documentaries I watched this month. An embedded camera crew follows four dog handlers and their dogs as they do their jobs in Afghanistan. What is so astonishing is the bond that forms between the men and their dogs as they endure the harshest conditions imaginable. This is not a sanitized view of what is happening. Through the course of the two hours, one of the men and one of the dogs that we follow are seriously injured. It is brutal to watch, but it made me appreciate what these very young men are doing every day.
Out There (IFC)
An animated series of a bunch of kids who look like monsters going through adolescence. The story in the pilot has been done so many times, and I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Most of the others who have reviewed this have really liked it, so if you like animated shows or shows about young kids, give it a shot. I was done about ten minutes in.
Robot Combat League (Syfy)
When I sat down to watch this show, I expected to give it all of five minutes. Incredibly, I got completely swept up in it. Basically, twelve teams of two (one an engineer, one an athlete) work together to control a bespoke robot. These robots then face off in a ring and the winner is the robot left standing. It’s worth watching the pilot just to see the robots. Each is different, with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. I hate to admit it, but I just might stick with this one. My newest guilty pleasure.
Makers: Women Who Make America (PBS)
A documentary series about the rise of the women’s movement in the US. Only the first part has shown. It spans the years from the Second World War to the early seventies. If you are a woman, this is required viewing. Watch it and give thanks to all those women who came before us and fought the battles that, because of them, we no longer have to.
Golden Boy (CBS)
A standard police procedural. The twist is that, within the first five minutes, we learn that the protagonist will become the youngest police commissioner in the history of the NYPD in seven years time. This story is about how he gets there. It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t grab me. I felt like it was show I had seen many times before, especially when the young, arrogant, ambitious kid is paired with the smart, older cop who others look down on. Other reviewers have liked it, so if you like police procedurals, it may be worth a look.
Parade’s End (HBO)
Pedigrees don’t come much better than this. A veritable who’s who of British acting talent, a script by Tom Stoppard and Susanna White at the helm. I have eagerly been waiting for this to kick off. It was not love at first sight, more of a slow burn. The first hour is a bit slow, but I was hooked by the end of it. The visuals, however, are magnificent. It’s worth watching the first hour just to see the cinematography.
Boston’s Finest (TNT)
Another reality show, this one about the Boston PD that is impossible to take seriously because it is so obviously staged. During the pilot, a beat cop who has been looking for her twin sister for two years just happens to find her during filming. Do the Wahlberg boys really think we are that gullible? Also, I was very concerned about the fact that said sister, who is meant to be in rehab, spends lunch drinking cocktails.
When will people realize that The Blair Witch Project was so fifteen years ago? Another “reality” series in which young, ridiculous people are given cameras and then stranded in locations rumored to be haunted. This one was so dull and so predictable that I kept skipping ahead, only to find that exactly the same conversations were happening. All in, it got less than five minutes of my life.
The Ben Show (Comedy Central)
Ben Hoffman, who is not even slightly funny, now has a show the premise of which is that he has new experiences every week. In the pilot, he went to buy a gun. Buying the gun is interspersed with simply horrible sketch comedy. So bad, I didn’t get through the second sketch before turning it off.
Nathan For You (Comedy Central)
I am really wondering about who is making decisions over at Comedy Central. This show, hosted by Nathan Fielder, is just absurd. Fielder is trying to spoof the shows where experts give business advice to small business owners. In the pilot, he recommended to a guy selling frozen yogurt to sell “poo flavored” yogurt. You can’t make this stuff up, but you can change the channel. Do so.
A mixed bag this month. Some simply horrific television interspersed with a wonderful new series and a couple of magnificent documentaries. What did you all think of this month’s offerings?