Marvel's Agents of Shield, The Michael J. Fox Show, The Crazy Ones
I'm sure over the next few weeks you will see brand new shows and you may wonder if I have seen them and if I will cover them. My time is now incredibly short so if anything looks vaguely procedural I won't watch it until I am told by multiple sources that I should. Comedies are easier to get through but it's very rare that I see one which I think I could write about week to week. There's also a very good chance I just won't have time to get to it soon. So by all means suggest a show you see but don't expect too much. I will do what I can.
I will always post here in the Blogs section any reviews, don't expect to see a show receive weekly reviews on the main feed until it has proven itself. And even then I may not have time. The three shows I definitely will watch and write about are Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, The Michael J. Fox Show and The Crazy Ones.
I am keeping my expectations low. I have no idea what SHIELD will be. Will it be like Buffy or Angel or like Alphas? Will it be a character show or a procedural? We need to remember that Joss Whedon is not running it week to week and the last time he was we got Dollhouse. There are no guarantees that it will be any good. Also I grew up reading Marvel comics but haven't thought the movies were really my thing. And they shouldn't be. They are designed to be as broad as possible, not the character-focussed intimacy which the best comics can present.
The Michael J. Fox Show and The Crazy Ones present two of my favourite actors ever (Michael J Fox and Sarah Michelle Gellar) in brand new sitcoms. Again my expectations are low. Health issues aside I would always be worried about a Michael J Fox sitcom because Spin City gave him almost the perfect role for his talents. As for Gellar, I'm not sure she has ever shone again as she did on Buffy and the rumours coming out of the Crazy Ones are not good. I do like Robin Williams in general but the last few years have seen almost no good comedies emerge. So I recommend you brace for some bad reviews and lets hope against hope that network television can still produce something positive.
The TV Critic
Reviews will appear here...
Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D - 101 - Pilot
Quickly then: I'm a Joss Whedon fan. I'm a TV fan. I'm a Marvel fan. So I will be watching this show. It's a no-brainer.
However I'm not a movie guy. I saw the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films and I've seen Iron Man and Avengers. I didn't think any of them were particularly good. Sure the latter two were both funny but I don't watch super-hero movies for the comedy. I've yet to see a Marvel film successfully transfer what makes the comics so appealing onto the big screen.
The small screen Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D felt very much like a movie. It was incredibly fast paced with the scientific or supernatural explanations for what was occurring flying by at a million miles an hour. The focus was on slick looking technology and action sequences and good looking people cutting to the chase a lot. You can see why someone hired Joss Whedon to be involved in this grand Disney-Marvel-ABC project. Without his endless attempts to undercut pomposity with humour the whole thing might be unbearable. And that's not to say that Whedon's humour always worked. The dialogue and plotting moved so quickly that many of the jokes left me feeling like I hadn't had time to absorb what the scene was about, let alone be prepared for a gag to undermine it.
I'm sure you know what I'm going to say. The fast pace meant it was hard to fully understand what was going on. I have no idea what the "Rising Tide" has to do with the emergence of super heroes. I didn't follow who had given J August Richards the superpowers. Nor why this particular S.H.I.E.L.D team was such a thrown together affair. Without any of that it felt like any old procedural show and none of the plot beats meant anything. More importantly the characters didn't really stand out.
Brett Dalton as the new macho agent felt generic. Chloe Bennet as hot hacker girl was unconvincing. It also bothered me that three women were presented here as technological geniuses and yet they all looked suspiciously like gorgeous Hollywood model\actresses. I know that sounds like a silly complaint when watching a TV show these days but this was verging on Arrow territory in terms of its implausibly young and attractive cast choices.
I know that all sounds thoroughly negative. Of course I will give the show some slack and see where it goes. I'm actually sort of impressed that the show felt quite like the Avengers movie. If that was the style they were aiming for then it succeeded even if it's not to my tastes.
I was also intrigued by the big speech at the end. If the world is now filled with Gods then what happens to the little people? That verged on some sort of 1% versus the rest tone which I seriously doubt the Disney Corporation was going for. But for S.H.I.E.L.D to work in the long term it's going to need to find its inner-Buffy or Spider-Man (as it nearly did here in a nice joke) and make the "Great Power, Great Responsibility" idea into the emotionally moving concept it can be.
The Michael J Fox Show (First Two Episodes)
It’s great to have Michael J Fox back on TV. But it’s a shame that no one producer had a vision for this. The show is a Modern Family clone with a star lead. I imagine that is how the pitch was made. Personally I see this as an ongoing battle between the established studio-audience sit com which worked for decades and the modern single camera shows which have by and large not been successful.
Modern Family is of course a huge hit. But that has nothing to do with it being single camera. If it were filmed in front of an audience with the same cast and same writers it would be an equally big success. The advantages it has as a single camera show are that it can do a lot more location shooting and it can provide the talking head cutaways to hold the audiences hand.
The Michal J Fox Show should be one of two things. Either it should be a broad studio-audience comedy with a beloved star or it should be a half hour semi-drama about a celebrity with Parkinsons that is occasionally funny. The latter could be quite a moving and I’m sure very entertaining show. You could still have a fictional “Mike” walking around having adventures but the stories would have to be based in reality and there would be far fewer punchlines. The former show would look and feel like The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men. Then you could have the whacky family antics which The Michal J Fox Show wants to include and all the punch lines would feel right at home.
Instead we get the show that was pitched. We get occasional moments when Mike’s condition can seem moving or just interesting. And very rare moments where a punch line actually lands. The two worlds don’t marry easily and so the rest of his family seem real one minute and too sit commy the next.
I will watch the whole thing because I love Michael J Fox but I don’t think thetvcritic will have any more to say about it unless it changes quite a bit.
The Crazy Ones – 101 – Pilot
In structure this was very similar to the show Free Agents (starring Hank Azaria and Anthony Stewart Head) from a year or more ago. The setting is an ad agency where every week a new client will need a pitch and Sarah Michelle Gellar and (the stupidly handsome and talented) James Wolk will flap around trying to find a solution while Robin Williams does voices and nonchalantly imagines up a solution. It’s an easy, watchable formula. The cast are good and Williams, whether or not he’s being funny, can still be moving when he turns the sentiment on.
The question is, will this be funny? I think it has a chance to. But as with all single camera shows I won’t hold my breath. A comedy like this will only work if the employees or the clients have distinctive, understandable quirks. That’s the basis of good office-based sit coms. However if all we get is Williams being quirky, rather than having a defined quirk, then the jokes will just be random. And because this is a single camera show it will be harder to present clients who are weird without the whole show seeming fake.
It’s a tough line to walk and as I haven’t seen many good comedies in the last decade I’m guessing it won’t. But I like the people involved so I will be watching.