NBC’s bloody brilliant “Hannibal” may not reverse the network’s tragic ratings tailspin all by itself. But it’s already a huge improvement over the last show to inhabit the Thursday night 9 p.m. timeslot. Given that show, “Do No Harm,” only lasted three episodes, though, that’s not saying a lot. Still “Hannibal” is one of the best new shows of the midseason, and one of the few to challenge ratings-hog rival CBS at its own game.
NBC’s midseason replacement sitcom starts off with a stereotypical setup. Seems that chubby loser Skip (Josh Gad from Broadway’s The Book of Mormon) has been kicked out of college after seven unproductive years and is now forced to move back in with his parents. The twist in this tale is contained in the titular address. Yup, Skip’s parents are the president and the first lady of the United States.
Maybe it’s the approaching end of the Mayan calendar. Perhaps it’s Chuck Norris’ talk about President Obama’s re-election ushering in “a thousand years of darkness.” Whatever the reason, human beings have got the apocalypse on their minds again. Never one to miss a trend, NBC jumps on the doom-and-gloom bandwagon with its new end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it series, “Revolution.”
TV writer/producer/director Ryan Murphy has had a solid run of it. He went from “Popular” to “Nip/Tuck” to “Glee” to “American Horror Story.” Now, he’s trying his hand at sitcoms with “The New Normal.” Murphy’s never shied away from humor, but he’s always had the hour-long format to play in. That’s allowed him plenty of room in which to shoehorn his trademark social criticism. “Glee,” for example, has about a 1:1 song-to-sanctimonious-speech ratio. Clocking in at a network-standard 22 minutes, “The New Normal” doesn’t leave a ton of room for the funny. But Ryan’s working on it.
Top 10 things I’ve learned while watching the 2012 Summer Olympics
By Devin D. O’Leary
The Olympics are designed to instill in participants—and by extension, viewers—the principles of cooperation, team spirit, individual merit, sportsmanship, strength, bravery, tenacity, skill and international brotherhood. Most of what I absorbed from watching this year’s competition, however, involved the number of free condoms issued in Olympic Village (150,000!) and the mistaken belief that eating mass quantities of McDonald’s food will make you a great athlete. So, with the games coming to a close this weekend, I look back on all the things I learned from the XXX Summer Olympics.
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?
For whatever inexplicable reasons, Americans are becoming pop culturally obsessed with alternate worlds / parallel universes. It’s cropping up in films (Mike Cahill’s navel-gazing astronomy lesson Another Earth) and in television (FOX’s mind-bending mystery series “Fringe”). Heck, even venerable kids’ comic book “Life With Archie” has dedicated the last year or so to exploring two increasingly dark parallel existences—one in which Archie married Betty and one in which he married Veronica. (I’m not even kidding.) Now, NBC goes whole hog with the concept with the speculative cop drama “Awake.”
Given the continuing success of vocal talent competitions like “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” “The X Factor,” “The Voice,” et al, Americans are obviously obsessed with people who can carry a tune. So far, though, Hollywood hasn’t been able to translate that into anything other than “let’s all vote on America’s next pop star.” FOX’s “Glee” briefly captured the drama of stardom-seeking in fictionalized form, but the show’s writing continues on a tragic downward trajectory. The movie industry, meanwhile, has yet to fully convince audiences they actually want to see a full-fledged musical. (Nine? Burlesque?) Hell, even Broadway has a hard time holding onto shows that aren’t “jukebox” musicals filled with pre-popular songs by well-known groups like ABBA or Green Day. So what’s next?
TV seems to have a very low opinion of us right now. Midseason replacement time is upon us, and we’re being assaulted by the likes of “Work It” (thankfully already canceled) and a sitcom starring Rob Schneider. (Seriously, what did we do to deserve that?) NBC, meanwhile, is making an all-out assault on our collective taste by pairing the execrable “Whitney” with the marginally less execrable “Are You There, Chelsea?” Both shows were no doubt generated at the roundtable of “Chelsea Lately,” the E! Network comedy chat show hosted by Chelsea Handler and frequented by Whitney Cummings.
Hollywood’s award season is in full swing. It began last week with the lowly People’s Choice Awards and continues though Feb. 26 with the handing out of the prestigious 84th annual Academy Awards. In between, we get award show telecasts of varying import, from the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (Jan. 12 on VH1) to the Independent Spirit Awards (Feb. 25 on IFC).
The second of this TV season’s new, fairy-tale centric dramas is NBC’s “Grimm.” Unlike ABC’s occasionally preposterous and decidedly ungrounded “Once Upon a Time,” NBC’s fantasy series at least has a clear-cut identity. It is, simply put, a standard-issue police procedural ... with monsters. While that might not be as creative a premise as “Once Upon a Time,” it does give the show an easy access point for viewers who might otherwise be put off by a show that requires a major suspension of disbelief and a lot of explanation.
Starting tonight at 8 p.m., NBC will air a special two-hour “Dateline” episode dealing with the notorious West Mesa Murder Mystery. Reporter Josh Mankiewicz reports from Albuquerque on the story that made national headlines—the discovery of 11 female bodies buried on the city’s West Mesa. The story is told through the eyes of missing persons Detective Ida Lopez. While the killer remains very much unknown, a rash of recent clues has revived interest in this shocking story. The episode, titled “Somebody’s Daughter,” will air Friday, Dec. 10, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KOB-4.