Reviewing “The River”
ABC’s “found footage” horror series “The River” airs tonight at 8 p.m. See what our film and television reviewer, Devin D. O’Leary, has to say about it in this week’s Idiot Box.
Fall has barely begun, yet there’s a familiar chill in the air. Halloween is still a couple of weeks away, but there’s a certain group of people out in Hollywood already shivering in fright. Less than a month into the new fall TV season and the television dead pool has claimed its first victim.
Poor Marta Walraven, she’s a harried wife and mother. Her youngest son just got expelled for bringing a handgun to school. Her parents are acrimoniously divorced. Her dad is an infamous Russian mobster. And her criminally entangled husband just got murdered. Her one advantage is the fact that she’s played by sinew-powered actress Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill, Pitch Black, High Art).
The National Treasure films weren’t good by any conventional definition of the word, but they were fun. After all who doesn’t love a globe-hopping treasure hunt—especially when it comes wrapped in a conspiracy and painted over with a few layers of historical significance? Just ask Indiana Jones. Or Tom Hanks in that Da Vinci thing. These clue-dropping treasure hunts aren’t something episodic television has had much luck recreating. But ABC’s new thriller “Zero Hour” certainly gives it the old college try. And if the pilot episode is any indication, the network might have something halfway decent on its hands.
ABC’s new cooking competition “The Taste” promises—repeatedly, it must be noted—to be a cooking competition “unlike any you’ve ever seen.” This is a completely accurate description—but only if you’ve never seen a food-based show before. For the rest of us, it’s a totally generic, frustratingly unsatisfying taster menu of refried ideas.
If you think combining “Melrose Place” with “American Horror Story” sounds like a great idea, then you’re not very creative. You are, however, creative enough to be a programming executive at ABC. The network’s new series “666 Park Avenue,” is far more soapy than scary—but it does manage to meld two not terribly compatible genres into a rather rickety hour-long melodrama.
A few weeks in and the fall 2012 TV season is already starting to look like a washout. Almost none of the new shows are generating much interest. All that is about to change drastically, though, with the bracing, nuclear-power shot across the bow that is ABC’s “Last Resort.” This isn’t just the best new show, it’s the best hour of television in ages.
The broadcast networks have already started showing off their shiny new fall schedules. That means, of course, the conspicuous absence of several shows you may or may not have liked. Yup, the ax has fallen, and a whole host of network shows have been canceled. Some escaped by the skin of their teeth. (ABC’s low-rated but highly regarded “Cougar Town” is moving to TBS in 2013.) Others emerged battered and beaten. (Fan-fave “Community” will return next season. For a truncated 13 episode run. On Friday nights. Paired with “Whitney.” Also, creator Dan Harmon was told to take a hike.) So which shows are gone, gone, gone?
There’s been an awful lot of talk about representations of the female gender in the current television lineup. And why not? Between HBO (“Girls” and “Veep”), CBS (“2 Broke Girls”), FOX (“New Girl”) and NBC (“Are You There, Chelsea?” and “Whitney”) there’s plenty to ruminate on. One of the more attention-grabbing debuts in the last month or so has been ABC’s midseason replacement sitcom “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.”
Apparently we are not, as a nation, over that whole “found footage” thing. Obviously, after the chart-topping release of the theatrical superhero flick Chronicle and the successful debut of the jungle-clad horror series “The River,” America is still perfectly happy to watch handheld shaky-cam footage of stuff they can’t quite see happening. From The Blair Witch Project to Cloverfield to Apollo 18 to The Devil Inside, Hollywood has worked long and hard to turn “shot-on-video faux documentary” into a genre—mostly because it costs next to nothing to make.
Is ABC’s cross-dressing sitcom “Work It” the worst TV show ever made? Several critics are suggesting so. Me, I tend to doubt it. “Cop Rock” was pretty ridiculous. “Supertrain” was a notably bad idea. “Homeboys in Outer Space” didn’t do the world any favors. I defy any modern human to hunt down and sit through an episode of “She’s the Sheriff.” And despite the fact that 542 people actually subscribe to the “Out of This World” channel on YouTube, it was a brain-meltingly awful show. ... Which isn’t to say that “Work It” doesn’t give each and every one of them a run for their money.
One of the more perplexing trends of the fall TV season is the resurgence of fairy tale characters. Thanks to ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and NBC’s “Grimm,” prime time is flush with Big Bad Wolves and Little Red Riding Hoods hanging around the modern world. Have we all forgotten the valuable lessons we learned when “The Charmings” went off the air back in 1988? Namely, that ... nope, I’ve forgotten.