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New Shows: September 21-30, 2014

REVIEWED: Madam Secretary -- Forever -- Gotham -- Scorpion -- NCIS: New Orleans -- black-ish -- How to Get Away With Murder -- Happyland -- Manhattan Love Story -- Peaky Blinders -- Selfie

Madam Secretary (CBS)
This is a pilot for a show still trying to decide what it wants to be. On the one hand, it is a political drama; on the other, a domestic one. Téa Leoni plays the Secretary of State, but isn’t entirely convincing — yet. She is, however, supported by very strong actors all of whom brought their A game. The story was a bit twee at times and it reminded me of more than one show that has come before, but there is a great deal of promise here. If Leoni can decide how to play the role and if the writers give her something to sink her teeth into, this could be a wonderful addition to the CBS line-up. I’m going to stick around for an episode or two to see what happens.

Forever (ABC)
This pilot reminded me a lot of another ABC romance procedural that I have loved for many years. The procedural element is routine, but it is the characters that make it what it is and keep me tuning in every week. I really, really liked these characters and the twist at the end about one of them was a wonderful reveal. I know I don’t need another show like this on my DVR, but I can’t help myself. Besides, Ioan Gruffudd every week, like Nathan Fillion every week, is never a bad thing.

Gotham (Fox)
J.D. wrote a full review of the pilot.

Scorpion (CBS)
A group of oddball geniuses solve huge problems, like how to keep 54 planes from falling out of the sky around LA. The leader, the one who keeps telling us that he can’t connect with people, connects with a waitress who is raising a genius son. Yeah, they’re the endgame couple with zero chemistry. The stunts are fun, but so implausible that I actually giggled at the poor CGI of the biggest one. This is a show that is just formulaic and silly.

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)
If you’ve ever seen an episode of either of this pilot’s sibling shows, you’ve seen this pilot. The major difference is that the city of New Orleans will play a much larger role than Washington or LA play in the other two. NCIS is not a bad franchise, but this show just feels as though it has been done before.

black-ish (ABC)
Andre Johnson is living the dream. Newly promoted at work, with a beautiful home, an accomplished wife, and four great kids, life is good. Except, he worries that his family is not black enough and spends the pilot trying to get everyone around him, both at work and at home, to more fully embrace black culture. There are some very funny moments and Laurence Fishburne’s hilarious performance is worth the price of admission. Overall, I got the sense that once this show settles into itself and stops trying so hard, it might just be worth watching.

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
The most hotly anticipated show of the year left me cold. While Viola Davis is exceptional in the lead role, and she is surrounded by a bevy of excellent actors, the characters are so awful that I was repulsed by them. In addition, the premise is so absurd that I found myself rolling my eyes. This one is all too much for me.

Happyland (MTV)
A typical MTV comedy with plenty of eye candy and predictable stories. I’ve seen better, but if you’re looking for something light and frothy that will make you smile while you roll your eyes at the soap opera clichés, you could do a lot worse.

Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
Dana and Peter begin dating in this rom-sitcom. The twist is that, through a series of voiceovers, we hear what each is actually thinking while they are saying something else. The problem is that both these characters are so awful, I couldn’t care less what they are thinking. Not to mention, the misogyny is so on the surface I kept shaking my head in wonder. Bad show.

Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
Thank God for the BBC. Even when it’s not at its best, it is still bloody good. Cillian Murphy plays Tommy Shelby, a gangster in 1919 Birmingham. The show is dark, moody, and occasionally veers into melodrama. There is also more than a passing nod to the Western and gangster films that have come before. No matter, it is wonderful. Not the best of the Beeb, but worth checking out.

Selfie (ABC)
Five minutes into this, I nearly turned it off. Vomit jokes just aren’t my thing. I’m glad I stuck with it as it improves dramatically after the first ad break. Based on Pygmalion (and, by extension, My Fair Lady), Eliza convinces Henry to “re-brand” her. Karen Gillan and John Cho have great chemistry and some of the dialogue is beautifully written. This one has huge potential, but I’ll wait to see how it fares before committing my DVR.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.


  1. I agree with pretty much everything you said about Scorpion, Chris, but I still sort of liked it. Maybe I just liked the lead. I'm going to give it a few more episodes.

    Thinking of trying Peaky Blinders, mostly because of Cillian Murphy and the strange title, and your review of it sounds encouraging. Thanks, Chris.

  2. Selfie was much better than I thought. It's really very charming.
    Oh Cillian Murphy, need to see Peaky blinders.

  3. Interesting article about how the new shows are faring in the ratings.


  4. After three episodes I'm enjoying "Forever" quite a bit. Sure, it's not terribly origial. But the characters are charming, and I like how the stories have touched on issues of life, death & mortality as a way of relating to the central conceit of the show. Henry & Abe genuinely feel like an odd family unit where each one takes on aspects of both parent at child at times, you feel genuine affection between them. The chemistry between Henry & Jo has been fine so far, if not exactly electric. I do like that they appear to have skipped past the typical period where she would've been combative & skeptical with him, kinda like Beckett was early on in Castle's run. Material like that can be fun, but we've seen it before. I thought it was refreshing that in the 2nd episode she's already showing a degree of trust in Henry's skills, and they seem to get along fairly well. Clearly the implication of the show is that these two will eventually fall in love, but having Jo still being in mourning over her late husband will hopefully keep them from trying to force that, and will let their chemistry develop naturally. Alana De La Garza was the primary reason I tuned in, she was one of my favorites from Law & Order, so it's good to see her back on my screen(and still one of the most beautiful women on television).

    Scorpion is every bit as silly and implausible as I expected it to be, but at the same time I can't help but enjoy it. I agree that Walter & the waitress have absolutely zero chemistry(ironic, since apparently the two have begun dating in real life).

    I'm not totally sold on Gotham yet, but it's certainly intriguing.

    I've been a JAG & NCIS fan for quite some time, though NCIS: Los Angeles lost a lot of appeal for me the last few years, as it got more "Michael Bay-ish". I'm enjoying the new show quite a bit, however. It's got three actors I like a lot, and New Orleans makes for a fun setting.

  5. Everyone should give Peaky Blinders a go. I watched the first season and really enjoyed it, despite the many dodgy accents. Season two starts tomorrow night over here, with Tom Hardy joining the cast.

    I saw the pilot of Scorpion at Comic Con (not by choice, it it slotted between panels I wanted to see) and thought it was terrible and the total lack of enthusiasm from anyone of the panel afterwards did nothing to convince me that it might get any better.

  6. Yay I've been waiting for this! I actually bothered with pilots this year so I have thoughts!

    Madam Secretary - good. I wasn't expecting to like it but it's good. I just hope they don't do a 'ripped from the headlines' thing every week because it's going to get old. Her husband is definitely evil somehow.


    Scorpion - I didn't think it was terrible at Comic Con, but I also didn't even consider watching it so that's not good. My mom watched it and I heard laughing from the other room so that's probably not great.

    How to Get Away with Murder - You are literally the first person I've talked to who didn't love it. I liked it and I'm sticking with it for now.

    Manhattan Love Story - The worst half hour of my life in a while. HORRIBLE. Absolutely HORRIBLE. So glad someone else has seen it and can commiserate with me on how HORRIBLE it was.

    Selfie - Also bad, but with Karen Gillan and John Cho. I'll watch it until it gets cancelled which shouldn't be in too much time.

  7. sunbunny, I enjoyed New Amsterdam as well, and wish it had gotten more of a chance, but that show wasn't without its flaws too. They jumped into the Epic Romance awfully quick, and then torpedoed it just as quickly. I'm curious to know where they planned to go with it, but it felt like that whole storyline was moving a little too fast, and by the final episode that aired the show had actually gotten somewhat depressing. Forever I think is a little better balanced. Maybe it lacks the same gravitas so far, but not everything has to be Game Of Thrones or Walking Dead.

  8. Patrick - I'm not saying Forever isn't good, it's just that not enough people have heard of New Amsterdam so I've made it one of my life goals to spread to word That New Amsterdam is Forever but with Jaime Lannister.

  9. Many, many reviewers have pointed out the similarities between Forever and New Amsterdam. As I never saw the latter, I can't comment. I did, however, watch the third episode this afternoon and I am still really enjoying the former.

    A friend of mine texted me this afternoon after this post went up about How to Get Away with Murder. She believes I am too jaded by my own law school experience to want to go back there in any form. While that may be true, I have watched The Paper Chase and read One L, both since I graduated and loved them both. I just hated the characters so much that I can't imagine spending any time with them.

    Both the rom-sitcoms will have short shelf lives, I predict. MLS because it is genuinely dire and Selfie because it is too twee.

  10. I'm where you are, Chris, with Madam Secretary - I'll give it a couple of episodes to see if it's as good as the pilot promised it might be. I also agree about Selfie - it's been trashed in the British press, who all seem to think Karen Gillan is too good for it, but I thought it was surprisingly funny and charming, and Karen is excellent.

    Re sunbunny's comment about everyone liking How To Get Away With Murder, I beling to a longstanding email list that discusses mysteies, and the general opinion there has been very negative. I haven't seen it myself yet.

  11. Oh, I quite like Forever. The leads are good, and it's kinda neat.
    Pity Selfie has no future. Gaah.
    At least Brooklyn Nine Nine is still funny.


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