Midseason TV Report: What’s Going On With All the Shows?!

On the heels of FOX cancelling freshmen series Ben and Kate, I thought it would be a good time to check-in on the TV season thus far. The 2012-2013 TV season started promising enough, with a batch of new shows vying for our attention and space on our DVRs. But it seems, to this TV fan anyways, that this was a particularly rough year for a lot of shows, not just the new freshmen series.

TOO MANY COMEDIES = FEW LAUGHS

The biggest issue that came about with the new season was that 3 of the major networks decided to schedule a chunk of their comedies on Tuesdays. Sure, it probably seemed like a good idea early on, but it became clear that with 8 comedies vying for similar audiences in a two-hour block, there were casualties to be made. After making their debuts, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project got more episode pickups beyond the initial 13, despite middling ratings. FOX put faith in the shows growing in viewers, but for some reason, the numbers just weren’t there for Ben and Kate. Critics approved and enjoyed the show, but seemingly out of nowhere, FOX halted production and pulled the show from the schedule. In its place, FOX is doubling up on Raising Hope, currently in its 3rd season, and putting its season finale at March (which could be taken as a bad sign for the critically adored show).

Over on ABC, the story is just as troubling. After cancelling 666 Park Avenue (more on that later), ABC had decided on putting Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 in that timeslot, on top of its current Tuesday timeslot, so that all their episodes would air before DWTS came back and they introduce some celebrity diving show. However, after two weeks of not so great ratings on Sundays, ABC effectively pulled the plug on Apt. 23, while Happy Endings will double up on episodes on Tuesdays. Again, it seems like Happy Endings is getting burned off, which might be a sign of trouble ahead for the show.

NBC is struggling with their own Tuesday comedies, Go On and The New Normal. Go On, the ensemble comedy starring Matthew Perry, has a solid viewership (some say due to its former Voice results lead-in), but not a lot of people talking about it. The New Normal had a lot of people talking early on, with people either loving or hating it, and now has settled in with those who liked it and not much else.

The new season has certainly been rough on a lot of comedies, and not just for the aforementioned Tuesday shows. CBS’ Partners and NBC’s Animal Practice were pretty much D.O.A. NBC cancelled Dane Cook’s Next Caller before a single episode even aired. FOX’s The Goodwin Games saw its episode order cut from 13 to 7, and no sign of when (or even if) those episodes will see the light of day. Second season show Up All Night took a hit creatively upon its return and are currently in the midst of reformatting to a multi-camera show (think more along the lines of Big Bang Theory; filming in front of an audience). Community was supposed to come back for its fourth season in October, but NBC put it on benchwarmer status, before finally giving it a February premiere date. Yet don’t even get me started on the shows that somehow find a way to survive.

RISKS PAYING OFF?

This is not a knock at the general viewing public (or maybe it is?). With cable networks thriving with their original programming (Homeland, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, etc.), the broadcast networks served up some different offerings for the new season to varying degrees of success. NBC got off easy when it found itself a hit with Revolution, a show that hooked people in with its premise of what happens when all our power/technology goes off?

ABC, on the other hand, continued its rough season when it was 0/2 for new dramas, 666 Park Avenue and Last Resort. 666 Park Avenue struggled to find its footing for the first couple episodes and was quickly deemed as a campy thriller/guilty pleasure. A lot of people shot down Park Ave for its not-so-scary storytelling, to which I can’t help but say that it’s a broadcast network show – American Horror Story, this is not. Alas, some people dropped the show as it was getting good and new viewers were nowhere to be found. When the announcement was made that ABC was cancelling the show, they had initially promised to air all 13 episodes, but then completely pulled the show off the schedule with 4 episodes left (that will supposedly air some time in the summer). Last Resort was an ambitious effort to begin with and paired with its terrible timeslot, it didn’t seem like it was going to last very long. Despite strong writing and a top notch cast, the show seemed to appeal to a more male audience, on a mostly female-oriented network.

Though not as much of a risky show as the other 3, ABC’s Nashville is still quite a wildcard. While it was deemed as another musical series a la Glee, the outcome was a much more drama and character-driven series that happened to be set in the world of country music, thereby allowing music to be organically introduced into the show. The show is certainly not without its flaws, but overall, it is a great show. For some reason however, the ratings are not what was expected of the show, leaving questions as to whether it will be able to earn a second season pickup come Upfronts (or earlier).

WRITING SLUMPS

Not to be rude, but there are some shows that I think have suffered in quality lately. Revenge, coming off of winter break has finally picked up steam and gotten a little bit back to basics. But before break, it was a huge mess with all this Americon Initiative stuff that made absolutely no sense, the stuff with the Ryan brothers and the Stowaway, even the storyline of Emily/Amanda’s mom felt a little underwhelming and unnecessary.

Glee is trying its hardest to balance the McKinley and NYADA storylines, but when I’m not furious with them over musical choices, I can’t quite seem to connect to the new kids. I keep wanting to see Dianna Agron, Naya Rivera, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., and they are nowhere to be found.

What should’ve been a huge creative kick with Elena becoming a vampire on The Vampire Diaries, has instead become an incredible bore with the focus on finding “the cure.” Even the thing of having Damon and Elena finally hooking up got ruined by the idea that Elena was sired to Damon. Now with the writers and the network trying to do an Originals spin-off featuring Klaus and Elijah in New Orleans, I can’t help but not want it to happen.

SHOWS THAT HAVE IMPRESSED

I hate to sound so negative in all these analytical postings, so let me turn around and muse about some shows that have done well so far this season. Who would’ve thought that one of the biggest hits of the fall would end up belonging to The CW? Arrow was far and away one of the biggest winners of the fall TV season, and one of the few new shows this season that seem to be a certainty for renewal.

Scandal premiered late last season with 7 episodes, but came back firing on all cylinders for its second season. Shonda Rhimes created a show that certainly didn’t feel like Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, in any shape or form. Its steady ratings increase certainly show that more and more viewers are catching on to this seductive series.

Though it only premiered this past week, I am already very impressed with FOX’s The Following. Lots of people tuned into the premiere, despite all the controversy of whether it was too violent, particularly in the wake of such violent tragedies around the U.S. We’ll have to see if those numbers stick for the next few weeks.

Of course, some of the other new shows that I have enjoyed this season so far have received middling ratings including The Mindy Project, Go On, Nashville, and the now-cancelled Ben and Kate. Of the returning favourites, Nikita continues to not disappoint and impress on so many levels, while How I Met Your Mother is finally guiding us towards the pivotal meeting of the mother in question.

So moral of the story is: no matter how good (or bad) the show is, ratings are everything, and dictate whether or not your favourites survive. There are still a bunch of new shows that will premiere in the coming months, heading into the circle of TV life that is Upfronts. In the meantime, sound off on your thoughts of the TV season thus far!

The End of “Fringe”

It is with complete sadness that I write this post talking about the end of this wonderful show, Fringe. After 5 very well-earned and incredible seasons, Fringe has come to an end. I won’t go into details of the series finale itself, but rather I’d like to take this opportunity to just write about the show.

From its start, Fringe was a show that defied the odds and sort of epitomized the saying “expect the unexpected.” Being a show from J.J. Abrams and the Bad Robot brand, and premiering after the mainstream cult success of Lost, high hopes and expectations were thrust upon the show. Many were trying to tout it as “the next Lost” (a label that gets put on any sci-fi/high concept series nowadays); some called it “the new X-Files“. What intrigued me was, of course, that it was a J.J. Abrams show (I never watched Lost, but I was a huge fan of Alias) and the sci-fi aspect of it. I saw Anna Torv, as Agent Olivia Dunham, as the new Sydney Bristow – a strong, kick-ass female lead. Then they cast Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop, and seeing as how I watched Dawson’s Creek in my tween years (and also The Mighty Ducks movies as a kid), that got me really excited.

The first season, while trying to find its footing, wasn’t perfect. They started off as a show that seemed very procedural, with a case-of-the-week style of storytelling that gave room for new viewers to jump in. With the nature of the show being part science, they had dropped hints along the way of some sort of a mythological background in the overarching story. By the end of season 1, going into season 2, we were introduced to the idea of alternate universes, and that’s where things really got going for the show. Once we got to season 3, it felt like the sky was the limit for the writers; a creative kick bumped the show from a really good show to a really great one, exploring these alternate universes and different character dynamics. At this point of course, the show was much more serialized than its first season, but it still contained case/monster-of-the-week storylines, that which had an impact on the characters. While most shows that straddle the line between procedural and character drama, it can become very cheesy and cliche; with Fringe, everything came about in a rather organic and grounded way, which is a little funny considering all the weird stuff it has going on each week.

Aside from all the sci-fi, what really set Fringe apart from all the other genre shows was that it had such a strong focus on the characters and their development. As someone who majored in Sociology in university, it somewhat surprises me how sociological they got with the characters and the relationships in the show. These characters – Olivia, Peter, Walter, Astrid, and extending to Broyles, Nina, and Lincoln – became a family to each other. They have suffered in their lives and through insurmountable odds and circumstances, they found a way to connect to each other and form this incredible bond. Particularly in season 4, with the timeline reset, it begged the question: how do the people around us affect who we are?

For a show like this to reach 5 seasons, 100 episodes, and get a proper ending is rare. Yet like our characters, the show itself has beat the odds (moving timeslots from Tuesdays to Thursdays to Fridays, low ratings) to get to this point. Many shows don’t often get the opportunity to wrap up storylines before going off the air, and the fact that Fringe got this final season was a complete act of faith/kindness by Fox, who really could have cancelled the show a few times in its run. It is the group of passionate fans that the show has that played an integral part in the show’s survival. In the end, the loyalty and passion put on display by the fans paid off, as the show ended with what can only be said as a perfect finale. The ending was a wonderful recall of everything we know and love about the show – the action, the scientific elements, the love and relationships, Walter’s humour, the alternate universe, and even a sequence that featured a callback to past “monsters of the week.” It ended in a way that gave us a sense of finality with regards to the overarching series and storyline, but leaves us in a state of wonderment as to what these characters are up to now, in hopes that we can get a movie made to catch-up and go on a different journey with the gang. Now, can these fine actors and writers get the credit and respect they deserve?! They are overdue for some Emmys.

Thank you J.J. Abrams, Robert Orci, and Alex Kurtzman for developing this wonderful series. Thank you to Joel Wyman and Jeff Pinkner for spearheading the creativity and uniqueness of the show, along with the rest of the writers. Thanks to the Fox network for keeping the show on the air for five seasons. Without a doubt, thank you to the cast – Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Blair Brown, Lance Reddick, Seth Gabel, and all the actors who have come through the show – who brought such heart and emotion to these characters we have all come to love dearly. For this fan, I don’t think it’s possible for there to be another show like Fringe.

Thank you again for 5 incredibly heartfelt and awesomely weird seasons.

New Music from Justin Timberlake & Destiny’s Child?!

Today, the entertainment world just keeps giving us great news. Following the Oscar nominations this morning, we got a one-two punch of new music news.

*NOTE: Please excuse my fangirl freakout that is about to happen*

First, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS FINALLY MAKING NEW MUSIC! Over six years after the release of his sophomore album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake posted a video to his website this morning stating that he’s ready to get some new music out there, with a countdown to what is presumably the release of his new single. Midnight, January 14th. Countdown is ON!

Second piece of music news for the day, Beyonce has gone on record that Destiny’s Child will be reuniting and releasing new music this year as well. A compilation album of love songs by DC, will be released just in time for Valentine’s Day, and will include a new track. Their last album, Destiny Fulfilled, was released in 2004. Odds are Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams will most likely join Beyonce when she performs at the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

And here I thought there was nothing to look forward to in music this year…

2013 Oscar Nominations

Nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced this morning by host Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone. As always, the announcement came with some surprises and shocking snubs. So without further ado, the nominees, plus some thoughts

BEST PICTURE

  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

With the new Academy rules in effect, anywhere between 5-10 movies could have been nominated; this year was a strong showing with 9. To me, I think 6 of the movies were a given, considering all the buzz and accolades they had gotten. Amour is a lesser known movie, albeit having gotten rave reviews, so wasn’t sure of its chances. Beasts of the Southern Wild is the little movie that keeps picking up steam, as more people discover and fall in love with it. I know I shouldn’t be so surprised by the inclusion of Django Unchained, but I am. Coming off of Inglourious Basterds, which was fantastic, Tarantino’s latest just fell a little short for me. Most years, there’s usually a frontrunner that you can tell. If we go by pure numbers in nominations for the awards show, Lincoln (with 12 total nominations) would be it. But for the first time in years, anybody could win this. Granted, as we get closer to the ceremony and other awards get handed out, we might be able to get a sense at who’s got the best chance at winning Oscar gold. For now, it’s refreshing to see that there’s not one or two movies that is taking all the spotlight.

BEST ACTOR

  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
  • Denzel Washington, Flight

I think the biggest, yet only slightly shocking surprise here is that Joaquin Phoenix got nominated. I haven’t seen The Master myself, but after the movie played at TIFF, a lot of people were saying that the performances by all the actors in the film were incredible. However, Phoenix then made a statement that he thought campaigning for awards was stupid, leading many to believe that he just hurt his chances Oscar chances – clearly, not the case. As it stands, it seems that Daniel Day-Lewis is the frontrunner to win again, but as it the case for Best Picture, I think any one of these fine actors could win it.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible

The biggest news to come out of the announcement is that we have both the oldest (Riva) and the youngest (Wallis) nominees ever in the category. At 22, Jennifer Lawrence is already better than all of us, scoring her second Oscar nod. Naomi Watts also earns her second nomination, while Jessica Chastain moves up from her Best Supporting nod last year. The only surprise in this category was that Marion Cotillard didn’t get nominated for her incredible performance in Rust and Bone, but besides that, it was a strong year for nominees. I think it’s going to be between Chastain and Watts for the win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Alan Arkin, Argo
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

As Emma Stone so dryly noted when announcing the nominees, we’ve got a category full of past Oscar winners. All of these actors were expected to be nominated, though I thought Leonardo DiCaprio would’ve been the pick over Christoph Waltz for Django.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Sally Field, Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

My take on awards season is that the closest thing to a frontrunner we have this year is Anne Hathaway, for her performance in Les Miserables – everyone keeps talking about it. At this point, the only other person who could possibly beat Hathaway is Sally Field.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Who would’ve thought the biggest shockers would come out of the Best Director category? Zeitlin was definitely the biggest surprise nomination here. With such a strong year for movies, it was shocking to not see Kathryn Bigelow (for Zero Dark Thirty), Tom Hooper (for Les Miserables), and most of all, Ben Affleck (for Argo) not being nominated. I thought Affleck was a lock for a nomination, thereby truly solidifying his role as a Hollywood power player.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Amour, Michael Hanake
  • Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
  • Flight, John Gatins
  • Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
  • Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Clearly showing signs of sci-fi bias, Rian Johnson’s script for Looper was robbed of a nomination. Looper was one of the most original stories to come out of Hollywood in recent years, totally up there with Inception in terms of originality.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Argo, Chris Terrio
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi, David Magee
  • Lincoln, Tony Kushner
  • Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

The biggest snub here was Stephen Chbosky for adapting his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. That was a wonderful movie and deserved to get some recognition.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Hollywood churned out some great animated features this past year, as not one of the nominees was a small/foreign animated film. I’m certainly a little surprised that Pirates! got nominated, as I didn’t think much of it, but I suppose the Academy likes themselves some stop-motion animation.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, music and lyric by J. Ralph
  • “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • “Skyfall” from Skyfall, music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • “Suddenly” from Les Misérables, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

There were doubts as to whether the theme song from Skyfall would be eligible, as the beginning of the song sounds eerily similar to an old school Bond song. Regardless, Adele received a nomination for the song, and how nice is it to see more than two nominees in the category?

There you have it folks, a quick look at this year’s Oscar nominations. What were some of the surprises and snubs for the nominations? Who do you think are the frontrunners? Sound off below! For a complete list of all the nominees, visit Oscar.com.