New Fall Shows 2015: What Are You Watching?

It’s getting closer to a new season of television! It’s always an exciting time of year to discover new shows and fall back in love with some old ones too. We’re still nearly two months out, so if you need something to fill your time, check out my most recent batch of show recommendations. If you’re looking to plan your viewing schedule, I recommend TVLine’s day-by-day grid or something like EpisodeCalendar or TraktTV. If all you want to know is the premiere dates of the new network shows, then this is the post for you. I’ve listed all of the new shows below with links to the trailer and a description if you haven’t had the time to check them out yet. This post will be stickied until we get midseason/spring premiere dates and will be updated with links to pilot episodes and reviews from me as they become available. Happy planning!
Continue reading New Fall Shows 2015: What Are You Watching?

Fall TV, We Need to Talk

At the beginning of every September, I get very excited about the upcoming television season. I want to try out new shows and welcome back old favorites. This year, however, while the excitement was there, the payoff has been lacking. While there are some new shows that I enjoy, I’ve failed to find one that I really love. And though many of my shows are having phenomenal second seasons, many that are older have fallen flat.

With many of my favorite cable shows airing in the spring, my falls are primarily driven by broadcast networks. While often derided in favor of their more niche cable counterparts, I tend to genuinely enjoy many of the shows they have to offer. Until this year. Whether it is an inexplicable writing choice in the hands of new showrunners, a lack of momentum and cohesion, or the choice to make every single character on your show miserable, several of my network shows have lost the things that made me love them.

Even though I have many options when it comes to things to watch, it makes me sad to drop a show I used to love. In some of these cases, I would have counted them among my favorite things to watch. It’s been wearing on me a little as the season has progressed, even if I’m not watching them. I know the medium and these shows are capable of great things. I’ve seen some really good work on all of them. And actually good work, not good for a network show or good for a procedural or whatever other qualification others may want to add. I know they can do more and all I ask is that they remember and believe that too.

So, since I’ve been disappointed in many shows this season and I know I’m not alone in that, I’d like to provide some alternative shows that I am very happy with in case you need to fill a recently developed hole in your viewing schedule.


Once Upon A Time I love what the Dark Swan arc is bringing out in this core cast. Jennifer Morrison in particular has been absolutely fantastic bringing out all sides of her descent into ultimate darkness. While this season has been heavy on Emma and Hook’s connection, if you’re not interested in that, there is still plenty more to love with the best versions of Snow and Charming (individually and together) that we’ve seen in quite some time and some wonderful moments for Regina.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine I will love Mike Schur and the things he creates until the end of time. He writes such wonderful characters and ensembles and never fails to make me smile. This season has gotten off to a great start with Jake and Amy entering into a solid relationship that remains one aspect of their characters, rather than the entire focus. With Holt and Gina back at the precinct, I have no doubt this show will continue to do even more and be one of the bright spots in my week.

Continue reading Fall TV, We Need to Talk

Just One Episode: A Different Type of Recommendation

I am a big advocate of taking show recommendations from friends, largely because they are recommendations made out of love. But sometimes the shows they recommend are long and daunting. Or they start out terribly and you wonder why your friend likes them so much. Sometimes the beginning just isn’t the best place to start because the show basically reinvents itself at this point. But if you’re going to judge a show by one episode, it would be better if it was a pretty great episode. Not necessarily the best in the series, but one that exemplifies the best the show has to offer. So that’s what I’ve compiled for a selection of shows I love. If you’re interested, give them a shot. Then head to the comments to tell me what you think and recommend a show based on an episode for me to try. If you’re particularly sensitive to spoilers before you watch an episode, then skip my explanations and just make note of the episodes.

Battlestar Galactica – 33 (1×01)

I love the miniseries but honestly, what amounts to a 3 hour movie to kick off a series can be a hard sell for someone looking to start the show. The first twenty seconds of this video are all you really need to know going into the first official episode.

“33” is a rare example of a fantastic (pseudo) pilot. The entire episode is viscerally tense. The writing and acting and great but Bear McCreary’s incredible talent as a composer and the makeup artist’s work to make the entire cast look 100% exhausted made this an episode that makes you tired in the best possible way as a viewer. It transports you into the show for 45 minutes.

It gives you the best of what this show has to offer. It is upfront about the fact that this show will push its characters into uncomfortable places. It asks “how far it is acceptable to go when the fate of the human race is on the line?”. But it is not all bleak. Hope is not lost. We see compassion and affection in moments like Colonel Tigh prolonging his watch in order to give Captain Adama a chance to rest. We feel the history between Kara and Lee as he tries to be in charge and they dissolve into sleep-deprived giggles. We watch the possibility of a future flash across Roslin’s face as she is able to add a number to her count of humanity. It is a brilliant episode and one I think everyone should watch, regardless of their interest in continuing with the show (though I think you should do that too and come talk to me about it).

The 100 – Day Trip (1×08)

I haven’t made it a secret that I love this show but really don’t like the pilot. The tone is off and the music cue when the delinquents land feels all kinds of wrong to me. It finds it’s footing relatively quickly in my opinion and while they are good episodes before this one, “Day Trip” is a big episode in the series. It redefines key characters and relationships as well as sets things in motion for the future.

The most significant moment is the emergence of Bellamy and Clarke as true co-leaders of the remaining kids. Full disclosure, I do ship them and hope to see them together romantically at some point in the future, but romance aside this is one of the core relationships of the show. It’s amusing to watch them bicker and develop a tentative working relationship in earlier episodes but the scene at the tree reveals that they are scared and don’t know what they are doing on their own but they might be able to lead together. They have messed up and there is so much pressure but there is comfort in not being alone. And to me, that is what this show is about at its core, at least in the first two seasons. It is about finding connection and the hope that comes from believing in other people and how that is what makes the toughest situations survivable.

This episode also manages to be slightly lighter in tone than some of the other episodes, despite a lot of darkness and murderous plots, and it is largely due to Monty Green. Monty is already a lovable character but he is adorable when he is high on hallucinogenic nuts. With such a dark show, you need someone to provide some lightness. While it isn’t always as a comedic relief (though in this episode it is), Monty is here to provide some balance. He is a sweet and kind and good individual and the series wouldn’t be the same without him.

Continue reading Just One Episode: A Different Type of Recommendation

An Introduction to Television Ratings

We’re a couple weeks into the new fall season and with that, I have new ratings data to look at in the mornings! I first started looking into the concept of ratings after Lie to Me was cancelled in order to better understand why some shows stay on the air and some don’t. The way they are reported can be a little confusing and it gets difficult to parse what information is most important and I know there is a tendency without certain fandoms to excessively worry over ratings or misconstrue them in a way that suits their own spin on a show so it is my hope that this guide helps clarify the different numbers that are reported on and how they can be used by networks to determine a show’s fate for another season.

What Are Ratings Used For?

While creating a show is a creative endeavor, keeping it on the air is a business decision so ratings are a marketing tool. They primarily exist to sell you to advertisers. High ratings (whether overall or in a particularly marketable demographic) means that advertising during a particular program becomes more desirable to do as the reach will be greater. From a non-business perspective, ratings data that is collected can also demonstrate some of the cultural reach of a program. More people watching a particular show tends to result in a greater impact on pop culture, especially when talking to casual viewers. While not used or measured in the same way, social media data can also be used to demonstrate fan engagement, which becomes important when scheduling cons or creating merchandise.

How Are They Collected?

The ones we see reported are collected by Nielsen and are based on a statistical sampling of the US. This means that not every person in the US is measured, just those taken from a representative sample. The numbers are then extrapolated to provide greater information on the total US viewing population. Ratings are collected through both viewing diaries and television-connected devices in selected homes to judge what was watched.

What Do They Mean?

The morning after shows air, live plus same day ratings are released. Two numbers are most often reported, the total number of viewers and the 18-49 rating. Total number of viewers is self-explanatory. The number is often interesting but of less use to advertisers. Traditionally, they have most cared about viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. They are less interested in raw numbers, but rather look at a percentage and that is the A18-49 number.

For example, this week Empire got a 5.5 A18-49 rating, meaning that 5.5% of adults 18-49 watched the show either as it aired or on their DVRs later that night.

Ratings data is also released for larger time periods. A show’s L+3, L+7, and L+30 are also reported as they become available to demonstrate viewers over a three, seven, and 30 day time period. While these aren’t the ratings that are important to advertisers, who are more concerned with the number of people who watched the commercials in a show in a three-day period, it does provide extra informations to networks about the way in which their show is being watched.

How Are They Used?

Typically, ratings of shows across networks are irrelevant to a show’s future. It is the network average that most matters to a show. Things that are performing well under the average A18-49 rating for the network are more in danger of being cancelled than a show performing at or above the average. Averages change season-to-season and tend to drop across all networks as viewing becomes more fragmented and cable shows and streaming gain more prominence. Shows also tend to drop between seasons as viewers cut the cord or simply lose interest between seasons.  

Continue reading An Introduction to Television Ratings

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Grandfathered and The Grinder

FOX seems to largely be promoting these shows together so I figured I may as well review them together too.

Show: Grandfathered

When It Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 8:00 p.m. EST

Do I Want to Watch More? YES.

I am incredibly charmed by this show. John Stamos and babies are a very cute combination and that is one adorable kid they found to play Edie. It’s not the most original show in the world but it feels cozy and lived in. The cast all have great chemistry with each other, particularly Stamos and Paget Brewster. Their sarcastic bickering feels like there is history and at one point, even love behind it and this show sells them as a former couple.

I’m interested to see why Sara broke up with Jimmy long ago and why she never told Gerald that she was the one who initiated the breakup. As much as I enjoy watching Stamos be incredibly charismatic with a baby, it’s Sara and Jimmy’s previous relationship that has me the most intrigued.

The restaurant scenes are less interesting to me and I assume they will fade away at some point or become a tiny background feature but I hope they keep Annelise around. Her interactions with Sara were very brief but I’d like to see them develop at least a casual relationship, as both seem to know how to tame Jimmy’s eternal playboy nature, which is much appreciated.

Nothing about this show is particularly subtle but it was very fun to watch and I can’t wait to see more.

Continue reading Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Grandfathered and The Grinder

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Quantico

Show: Quanitco

When It Airs: Sundays on ABC at 10:00 EST

Do I Want to Watch More? Absolutely

There was a lot of joking before this show aired that it should probably have been called “Grey’s Academy” and they aren’t wrong. This pilot is basically what you would get if you turned a Grey’s Anatomy finale in to a pilot episode but instead of the doctor’s treated patients, you get the FBI responding to the terrorist attack. For those not familiar with a typical Grey’s Anatomy finale, they are dramatic and have a lot going on, both relating to the disaster of the moment and the personal lives of the doctors. They are stressful and they are almost always engaging.

There was a lot going on in this pilot. It introduced the two timelines in which this show will be taking place – the post-attack timeline that is being investigated by the FBI and the flashbacks that will take us through training at Quantico. A lot of characters were introduced (including a few who are already gone) and we got a decent sense of who would be the main characters moving forward. It functioned exactly as a pilot should and made an entertaining episode that has me wanting more already.

I see a lot of potential in these characters and in the larger mystery/thriller portion of the plot, which are both excellent signs. I love a good mystery but it means nothing to me if I can’t connect with the characters. This is an extremely soapy batch of characters, the majority of whom have very big backstories. There’s a girl who lost her parents on 9/11, one from a Zionist family who visited Gaza and is keeping it a secret, one who shot her father and found out he was a special agent with the FBI, one who got a 14-year-old pregnant and forced her into an abortion which killed her, one who is at the Academy pretending to be a trainee but is actually there to spy on Alex, and one who is secretly a twin and are trying to pass themselves off as one person.

However, in addition to their dramatic backstories, they also seemed like they could be actual characters who could be defined by more than their history. We saw some potential friendships forming and the fact that some of them are rooming together should give us lots of opportunity to see them interact.

It was possibly a little too busy and packed with twists and surprises, which concerns me for the future. Some shows deal well with burning through lots of plot very quickly (see Jane the Virgin). Most don’t. In trying to keep up the momentum and energy, I hope they don’t sacrifice actual character development.

This is not going to be a show for everyone. It is very soapy and I’m sure it will be completely ridiculous at times. But I’m so in for it. Even if it crashes and burns, which is very well may do, it’ll be a fun ride until then.

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Heroes Reborn

Show: Heroes Reborn

Airs: Thursdays on NBC at 8 p.m. EST

Do I Want to Watch More: This was never really a question. I’m watching more.

I love the original show, flaws and all. The cast remains one of my favorites and it was the show that got me back into fandom. It was by no means perfect – there was a lot that didn’t make any sense and the characterizations could be all over the place. But it’s my show and I love it.

When this reboot was announced, I said that I’d be in as long as someone from the original cast came back. I was just expecting guest stars, which would have been enough for me, but the announcement that Jack Coleman would be returning as a main character got me even more excited for the show.

With all that in mind, this was the most fun I had watching a new show all week. It’s not completely new, the music cues and the font/unusual surfaces they use to announce where and when we are remain largely the same. But as the promos explored, Heroes Reborn takes place in a very different world than Heroes did, even the one they set up in Five Years Gone (though there were some similarities).

Much of the fun revolved around two different sets of characters. First, Tommy and Emily are adorable and charming. As many have pointed out, they are acting as an inversion of Claire and Zach’s dynamic in season 1 of the original show. Fortunately for them (and me), that was one of my favorite storylines in the original and Robbie Kay and Gatlin have some of the most natural chemistry so far on the show. And as this is a show that requires lots of chemistry between the actors to work properly, that bodes well for their future.

Second, I’m far more intrigued by whatever Noah and Quentin are trying to uncover in the Renautus conspiracy than whatever the black hole is that seems to be threatening humanity. There is no doubt that Coleman is a compelling actor. Just ask any Castle fan who’s gotten to enjoy him recently as Senator Bracken. He is so skilled at playing the shady, desperate man with all the problems that particular combination of traits comes with and it was very rewarding to see him put on his horn-rimmed glasses again. I also like Quentin. He’s Noah’s opposite in many ways. He’s terrible at the shadiness and lacks the grit required to investigate a large conspiracy but he’s going to do it anyway. I’ll look forward to seeing how their differing personalities come together and clash in future episodes.

For a fan of the original Heroes, I think this will be a fun show. Thirteen episodes is probably the right length for it and if it were to continue, the anthology model is always what Tim Kring had in mind. We’re basically watching the first season again, with many characters filling in roles we’re already familiar with and eventually working toward them all coming together to save the world. So that is why I’m in. That is what I love about this show. Not the superpowers (which as always, are a little weird), not the villains, but the way these characters who have been largely isolated and feel alone come together to save the way. It’s in the way they find their connections to each other and the impact that makes on them that made the season one finale so fantastic in my mind and if they want to try to remake that, I will be in for as many seasons as they give us.

I’m less convinced that this is a show that will be appealing to new fans so if you watched this and didn’t watch the original, I want to hear your thoughts!

Everything is a Story: The Importance of Media Literacy

One of my least favorite things to hear in regards to fiction is “It’s just a show/movie/book”. It’s usually being said for one of two reasons. First, it’s in response to someone writing a social critique of the work. It occurs every time diversity in Hollywood is brought up. It occurs when critics and viewers get tired of the depictions of sexual violence on TV. It occurs every time someone is brave enough to share why a work hurts and belittles them and their struggles. Second, it’s in directed toward fans who get emotionally attached to their media. While I also have plenty to say about the second usage in particular, the motivations behind the two aren’t so dissimilar and honestly, are just plain wrong. Nothing fictional is “just” anything. It reflects a particular viewpoint. It provides a narrative. It teaches us what to expect.

One of the things in life that I am most passionate about is the idea of media literacy. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Center for Media Literacy defines it as “a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.” It’s a form of critical thinking that specifically asks us to look at the messages that are being produced by our media – both fictional and non-fictional.

When we write or speak, we create a narrative. We’re filtering our opinions through the specific lens of our past experiences, beliefs, and values. We filter them in a way that reflects our intended audience. It’s easy to see this in non-fictional examples. This is how two different news sources can tell two drastically different stories about the same event. Each cater to specific viewpoints and will resonate with particular types of people. We can tell this story both with the words we choose and the amount of attention we pay to a given topic.

Presidential elections will be held next year in the US and throughout the primary process, I urge you to look for the narrative the candidates and the media are presenting to you. What are their views? Not just the ones they will come out and say directly on camera but the underlying beliefs that underlie those views. Look deeper at the words they use to sell you on themselves. Look at the way their statements are used and interpreted in the media then decide for yourself if that is really what they are saying or if it’s all spin.

The same is no less important in fictional media. When something is created, it tells a story that goes beyond the plot. It’s a story that says what is acceptable, what is normal, what is worth focusing on. It teaches us about beauty, about acceptable behavior, about how big we should dream. It says a lot about sexuality and gender expression. It provides example about what is possible.

Continue reading Everything is a Story: The Importance of Media Literacy

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: The Muppets

Show: The Muppets

When it Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 8:00 EST

Do I Want to Watch More? Yes

Confession: I watched very few Muppets-related things growing up. I’ve seen a couple of their movies and that may be it. I know who they are through general pop culture osmosis but I have much less of an attachment to these characters than many who tuned in to watch. So I went in to this with very few expectations of how these characters should behave.

I didn’t love the episode but I did enjoy watching it. Some of this is due to the fact that the Muppets are inherently a cute group of characters. There is a nostalgia that is comforting, even with as few memories of them as I have.

There are characters who I would like to see more of in future episodes. I’ve always been a fan of Gonzo and he wasn’t used a lot. I would also watch an entire show of Statler and Waldorf being cranky about everything because it suits my personal tastes, but I recognize that they work better in small doses. I’d also like more of Beaker because he just makes me smile.

As a whole, this isn’t a show I want to ask a lot of. I like the idea of exploring the emotional lives of these characters who have largely come as a big package over the years but even that’s not essential to my viewing experience.  I want to have fun for half an hour and smile. So long as that is happening, I’ll be along for the ride.

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Life In Pieces

Show: Life In Pieces

When it Airs: Mondays on CBS at 8:30 EST (thought 10/26/15); Thursdays on CBS at 8:30 EST (from 11/5/15)

Do I Want to Watch More?: Maybe.

I am beginning to understand why critics have been so ambivalent to negative about this season of TV.

This is very much a standard comedy pilot. Everyone is a little too broad and not quite formed yet as characters and the chemistry hasn’t had time to set in. It hasn’t quite worked out the emotion-to-humor balance yet. That’s fine and not particularly unusual.

So while I didn’t necessarily like the episode, I do like the general concept, so that’s one hurdle out of the way. Splitting the show into four acts, one for each member of the family, works for me. I like that they aren’t connected in any way. They really are the moments that make up a life that John describes at the end of the episode. It was done in a little bit of a heavy-handed manner, but again, it’s a pilot. I’d like to see some less monumental moments as the show continues. Yes, people remember things like a first date, the birth of a child, or seeing your first child getting ready to go off to college, but they also remember the little moments. They remember the time they took a wrong turn and got wildly lost or the time they were unexpectedly caught in the rain and had to run back to the hotel. I’d like to see some of those moments and I think they are feasible in a short four minute segment.

On the other hand, those little chunks make character development difficult. I didn’t feel like I spent enough time with anyone to get a sense of who they were and what would make them interesting in the future. The characters I gravitated tot the most were the ones who were played by actors I already like, like Colin Hanks, Angelique Cabral and Betsy Brandt. I felt more like I was watching situations instead of characters, which is not the way I like to watch TV. This may change as the show progresses and we see these people in a variety of situations but I don’t think the format is quite as naturally suited to that.

While it may not be high on my priority list, I would like to see the next few episodes to see if they can alleviate my concerns about character development. If I can start to become attached to the characters, this could be a show I grow to really enjoy. If I can’t connect with them, then it won’t be one that I stay with for very long.

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Blindspot

Show: Blindspot

When it Airs: Mondays on NBC at 10:00 EST

Do I Want to Watch More? I don’t know.

I came away from the pilot with the worst possible answer to my question. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode. It introduced a lot of characters and the premise of the show. You can see how a case-of-the-week can be built out of the tattoos with tiny glimpses to move the mythology forward. Characters would continue to be better developed and a rhythm between them would be found. As far as pilots go, it actually works pretty well.

I liked Jaimie Alexander’s performance quite a bit. There were moments when I felt very interested in Jane Doe’s story. Not who she was and how she got to be in the position of being covered in tattoos and left in Time Square but who she would be moving forward from this incident. I enjoyed the scene with Dr. Borden where he helps her figure out if she prefers coffee or tea. I like the concept of her getting to choose who she is and rediscover herself, whether she finds the version that was erased or a whole new interior identity. That story, I like a lot. And if you throw in some crime-solving, that’s fine with me. I don’t have a problem with a procedural populated with interesting characters, which I assume they will all become.

What I’m not interested in, unfortunately, seems to be the whole point of the show. I don’t care why Jane was put in a position where erasing her memory and being covered in tattoos that may help solve crimes or who the shadowy lurking man is who facilitated the process. That part failed to engage me at all and I like a good conspiracy theory. It’s still early and maybe it’s too soon to really tell if I will like where the story is going or not, but I remain unexcited about it.

I can overlook plots that I don’t like if there are characters who I care about. I didn’t connect with a lot of the post for the last three seasons of LOST and I cried a lot during that finale. So I can give this one another shot. I’m relatively light on Monday shows until Jane the Virgin comes back and will probably try out episode two in the hopes that it will clarify where the show may be headed in the future and possibly get me interested in the larger story.