Tag Archives: Rescue Me

Goodbye (TV) Summer

Not that I had any free time to watch all of it.

Summer used to be the dead zone for television, but basic cable has been kicking the networks’ asses for a while thanks to their willingness to go against the grain. Sure, people spend more time outdoors in the summer, but watching at ones own schedule has been a choice since the earliest VCR. With digital television, I don’t think I ever watch a program in its actual time slot; I’ll even start a show late just to zip through the endless commercials. (Don’t worry, advertisers, your product placement is hard to miss…)

So the summer ends and the flurry of new shows are being dangled in front of us like a basket of cant-miss gems…even though we know most of them will suck out loud. And if there is something truly ground-breaking, it will likely get cancelled. Gotta keep those inbred families and their reality shows numbing the minds of America.

So a fond farewell to some favorites:

  • The Closer, winding down towards the series end although the rumored spin-off Major Crimes sounds great.
  • Breaking Bad, which just gets better every year even when you think it can’t possibly raise the bar.
  • Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s often-brilliant series that did for firemen what M*A*S*H did for war vets
  • Friday Night Lights, a class exit for a class act (although you Direct TV subscribers had a jump on me)
  • Louie, which finally let the brilliance of Louis CK shine through to a bigger audience.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Emmy Thumbs

That’s thumbs both up and down, as it looks like the voting academy finally started to recognize that basic cable programs are pretty much kicking TV’s ass right now. Yes, Mad Men had gotten tons of accolades (and deservedly so), but TNT, FX and USA have been pumping out quality programming with interesting characters and solid casts without getting their due. I’m still burning over the fact that The Shield got their attention in the first season but then fell off their radar after that despite six seasons that raised the bar every year. But we shouldn’t cry over spilt blood.

This year’s list of nominees did provide some surprising nods that put a big smile on my face. But as always, there were some jaw-dropping announcements that just made me shake my head. So for this week’s TGIF, how about Ten Emmy Thumbsfive up and five down?

(01)Justified: Walton Goggins got screwed over so many times on The Shield that I lost count, and I was afraid that his dynamic performance on Justified was going to be overlooked as well. But thankfully voters woke up and nominated him along with series lead Timothy Olyphant and the amazing Margo Martindale (who might have given the single best performance on television this year).

(02)Louis CK: Not only did he grab nods for his show and his acting, but his comedy special picked up two nods as well. Denis Leary had to watch The Job get ignored before hitting it big with Rescue Me; let’s hope Lucky Louie opened the door for a long ride with Louie.

(03)The Good Wife: a strong show that appeals to men and women, and Alan Cumming got a well-deserved nomination along with star Julianne Margulies.

(04)Robot Chicken: Some of the absolutely gut-bustingly funniest shows on TV are buried in the Adult Swim section of the Cartoon Network. Seth Green continues to amaze.

(05)Parks And Recreation: The pendulum on Thursday’s NBC comedy block has clearly swung to the newer half of the evening, with Community and P&R really stepping up their game. Amy Poehler is great but Nick Offerman should have been a no-brainer nominee.

(06) – Um…where are the nominations for The Closer, Castle, The Walking Dead, Treme, Fringe and just about anything sci-fi related?

(07)Modern Family – great show with a great cast. But did every single adult cast member deserve a nod? You couldn’t slide in anyone from Community or Parks and Recreation? Have you not seen Children’s Hospital?

(08) – Category Blunders! Since when is SNL a comedy series and not a variety show? Kristin Wiig gets a supporting comedy actress nod? Hosts of the show are guest actors? How about people like Mary McConnell and Cloris Leachman, who are cast members in the shows they were nominated for as guests?

(09)The Good Wife – like Modern Family, a good show, but let’s get real. Christine Baranski and Josh Charles are good actors, but…the best? There are at least ten people on Sons of Anarchy alone that blew them out of the water, and that show was completely overlooked again this year

(10)Mariska Hartigay. Really? Really?

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Two Thirds Gone

Damn, time flies fast.

Can you believe that 2010 is already two-thirds gone?

I’m still bowled over by the sheer number of solid music releases and comedy albums in 2010. I haven’t even scraped the surface on many of the new films and the December release promos already have me hooked. And now the Fall television schedule is starting.

(What’s that famous line – keep ’em fat drunk and happy?)

I swore that this year would be the one where I had all my notes in order by Thanksgiving so I could prepare a reasoned and well researched list of the “best of” this and that without having to cram all night, washing down a turkey sandwich with a six-pack of Red Bull.

Not quite. But I do have quite a few of the likely suspects sequestered for additional listens, and a re-filing job on the DVDs leads me to note the ones I need to pull out on that Lost Weekend.

Ahh…but no hints. You’ll likely know some of the leaders just by browsing the last eight months of daily posts, but those contenders will be joined by a bigger group as the year starts to wind down. In other words, more New Album posts and less Blast From The Past. Hopefully, anyway.

At least the networks have learned that people come inside their houses after dark; shows like White Collar, Persons Unknown, The Closer, Rescue Me and Rubicon have sated the summer’s needs. And what else can be said about Louie, which might be the most daring and naked comedy to ever be shown on television? Louis C.K. is a genius.

So thanks for hanging every day. Happy September! Onwards and upwards

I'll be ready - I swear!

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Emmy Nominations – Not Bad!

Shiny objects distract me.

 

The 62nd Annual Emmy Awards take place at the end of August but the announcements were made this week. Normally that’s great timing for television networks because their seasons are done and they need to attract attention to themselves and away from the summer blockbuster movies. 

But things have changed – basic cable has flexed its muscles in recent years, and proven powerhouses like The Closer, Mad Men and Rescue Me have just started their seasons. More shows have followed suit, and frankly White Collar and Louie are as entertaining as anything the networks have launched during the traditional season. And now that DVRs and TiVo are commonplace, there’s no longer a concern about weak numbers from failing to lure viewers inside on a nice summer night. 

Perhaps for that reason the networks seemed to be willing to take some chances last year – the Jay Leno 10pm debacle aside – and the voters seem to have responded. Like the Oscars, voters have tended to lean towards veteran shows, some nominations seemingly for a prior oversight or a body of work rather than the eligible time period. But this year freshman hits Modern Family and Glee dominated the nominations, although the multiple acting nominees might split the votes and give the advantage to the other actors. 

Omissions aplenty, like Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) and even Ed O’Neill on Modern Family. And my hopes of Better Off Ted getting its post-mortem due were crushed. But I was happy to see unexpected nods for unheralded and solid work, especially Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) and both Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights. And the final season of Lost did not go unnoticed, although it’s a shame that Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn can’t both win a statue. 

Looking at all the categories I was astounded at the level of detail. Awards for best single camera editing on a reality series? Best hair styling in a drama? Best commercial? But I’m glad to see categories like Best Casting, a reward hopefully for a solid ensemble show where everybody just looks right  (even if there are several glaring omissions). 

Here’s some of the major nominees and a link to the official Emmy website listing all the categories. I’ll make my predictions closer to the date. 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Larry David as Himself
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston as Walter White
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard
Jon Hamm as Don Draper 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lea Michele as Rachel Berry
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick
Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson
January Jones as Betty Draper 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
Martin Short as Leonard Winstone
Terry O’Quinn as John Locke
Michael Emerson as Ben Linus
John Slattery as Roger Sterling
Andre Braugher as Owen 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters
Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney
Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson 

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Glee • FOX
Modern Family • ABC
Nurse Jackie • Showtime
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC 

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad • AMC
Dexter • Showtime
The Good Wife • CBS
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC
True Blood • HBO 

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(F)X Marks the Spot

Louis C.K. is back on television and thank God for that!

Lucky Louie, his prior cable show that infused his comedy writing into a lewd and hysterical sitcom, proved to be too much for people. Their loss! The cast (Pamela Adlon, Rick Shapiro and several great fellow comics) was perfect, and his knack for putting himself into extremely awkward situations was both bold and hilarious.

Louie, the new show, merges clips of his stand-up performance with related filmed set-ups, which is not a new idea (think Seinfeld if the clips were used within the show instead of just bumpers). But Louis is an extremely watchable actor who convincingly sells uncomfortable and cringe-worthy. The material is based on his own life;  I sure hope he’s embellishing the bad parts.

Great to see fellow comics like Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo and Eddie Brill onboard as well (I could watch a “poker scene” every week just to let these guys riff) and Chelsea Peretti was great as the date from hell. But the better part of the show is simply Louis on stage, showing why he might just be the best stand-up comic we have right now. Not to mention prolific – this year should also see the release of yet another CD and DVD of fresh material.

Personally I enjoy the blend of stand-up and filmed segments – Louis C.K. writes, directs, edits and produces the entire thing, so it’s a pretty consistently funny experience. But if you’re the type who enjoys the stand-up routines but hates the vignettes that set them up, Videogum is the site for you – they’ve parsed the stage material.

Bonus: hearing “Brother Louie” as the theme song every week!

***

Rescue Me is also back for its final season, although the decision was made to split the episodes between 2010 and 2011, with the closing of the show set to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

 The first episode picks up after the pseudo-cliffhanger from last year (did anyone really think they were going to kill Tommy Gavin?) and uses the hour to re-introduce most of the central and recurring characters, most of whom have finally had their fill of Tommy. Haunted by his personal failures – and still haunted by his dead cousin – Gavin is somehow still on the precipice of a further fall even when seemingly at rock bottom. His wife might be finding solace with one of his crew, his daughter might be following in his footsteps, and his workplace might be closing, the victim of budget cuts and politics.

When the show first aired, there was a solid dose of homage to the fallen heroes from 9/11 and an emphasis on what is was all about to be a firefighter. As seasons progressed it became more about the humor and pathos of the firefighters’ personal lives (much like The Job spent less and less time at the police station), but anyone who knows good television cans ee an arc of redemption on the way. Will Tommy Gavin have to sink lower before rising to the occasion? Do bears shit in the woods?

Leary has always been loyal to his friends and associates, so thankfully that results in a lot of face time for Adam Ferrara and especially the great Lenny Clarke, whose Uncle Teddy character has shown he’s not shy about firing a sidearm. Also great to welcome back the luminous Andrea Roth, note-perfect as his exasperated (and smoking-hot) wife Janet.

I like Denis Leary the stand-up, but I really like Denis Leary the actor/producer/writer a lot more. He’s two-for-two already and I hope he and partner Peter Tolan have more concepts up their sleeves for 2012 and beyond.

Just two more home runs for FX, arguably the best channel on TV the past couple of years. And only a couple of more months before It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Sons of Anarchy return.

Louie

Rescue Me

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TV or not TV?

Get back here and WATCH ME, dammit!!

It’s been an interesting year for television.

With ratings sinking, cheap reality programming gaining traction and a couple of long-running landmark programs coming to an end, the landscape for the next year or two might be a complete crapshoot. 

Although I don’t spend my time wallowing in celebrity gossip, I do find the machinations of the television industry fascinating. And this year has been particularly bizarre, with the whole Leno/Conan debacle the biggest story of the year – unless you want to separate Leno’s return to The Tonight Show from the single greatest disaster in prime time history. Ironic that Jay would make Headlines wither way. 

"Man single-handedly kills 15 hours of broadcasting"

Somehow The Simpsons keeps rolling along, South Park remains controversial and long running franchises Law And Order and CSI Wherever multiply like rabbits. Networks try to feed us more copycat cop crap, lame lawyer shows and miserable medical dramas. When they come up with something original (FlashForward) or even a reinvention of a past success (V) they forget that a complex serialized drama can’t have a huge gap in its schedule or momentum will be lost. (And speaking of Lost, someone at ABC couldn’t even understand the concept of  the phrase “uniterrupted schedule”, choosing to air a repeat episode April 25th). 

Fox has announced that 24 is ending this season, no doubt largely in part to the high cost of the program. But they hit the jackpot with Glee, and hopefully will pour some American Idol profit into keeping the wonderful Fringe alive. NBC looks like it might finally have a Thursday night comedy block again (Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock) but is scrambling to replace the third of their schedule that The Jay Leno Show wiped out. If ABC drops it’s two high-priced sci-fi shows and cancels Heroes, they virtually  concede Monday and Tuesday nights; only Castle and Modern Family have broken the mold of celebretard programming. CBS might have found a winner in The Good Wife but the network is still more likely to clone a show than create one. 

 It’s not all hopeless. USA came up with a winner in White Collar which should help ease the loss of Monk.  Friday Night Lights returns this week thanks to the cost-sharing deal between NBC and DirecTV, whereby DirecTV gets to air the series on pay TV in the Fall, then NBC gets to air it on broadcast TV in the Spring. (Maybe that strategy can save shows like Damages and Southland; adult oriented drama that doesn’t pull vampire numbers in the ratings.) 

And the summer brings us basic cable winners like The Closer and Rescue Me and Mad Men as the more nimble basic cable channels like TNT, AMC and FX counter-program the dead season. Elmore Leonard on television is a good thing.  Louis C.K. on television is a good thing. 

If the smaller channels can get it right…why can’t the major networks? Pretty soon it’s all going to be internet television anyway, so the smart and savvy will survive. There is still a large audience that wants great storytelling and well-written comedy

But every year I still cringe when brilliant shows get cancelled. Watching the slow death of Better Off Ted was reminiscent of Arrested Development’s demise, only accelerated. And why would you have a show called The Unusuals and not let it be…unusual? But I could just be bitter. Hell, I still haven’t forgiven CBS for cancelling EZ Streets. 

There are a few excellent resources for those of you looking into that crystal ball wondering what’s happening with your favorite shows…or with the schedule in general. You’ll probably want to bookmark them. The week of May 17th might be D-Day for many of these programs as the networks finish Sweeps and sharpen the axes.

 

The Futon Critic is an excellent resource for TV news and even includes this handy guide to how many episodes are left for each program. Shows are listed by network in a cancel/renewal status grid  (note that a lot of them are TBD). 

The aptly named Is My Show Cancelled site focuses on just that very thing. 

TV By The Numbers takes a more statistical approach to the situation, tracking ratings on a daily basis and making some predictions based upon trends and historical decision points.

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I Like To Watch

"Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch."

So do a lot of people, apparently. Guess there is a bright side to an economic recession after all.

FOX is claiming its first-ever win in the Nielsen’s for the 4th quarter, as their viewership rose while CBS, NBC and ABC took a slight dip. Of course, FOX has a tendency to lie through their teeth stretch the truth on occasion, but with a lineup including heavyweights House and Bones plus the incredible success of Glee, I tend to believe this. (Plus the numbers came from the Nielsen Ratings…not that those or any other survey are any more accurate than an extrapolated small sample could be.)

And that’s before 24 starts revving its engine next month.

But almost as amazing is the rise in cable viewership and the number of channels setting all-time highs for ratings. FX lost The Shield and Nip/Tuck this year but has two big hits with Damages and Sons of AnarchyThe League also did very well, while It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia had its strongest season to date. AMC killed with Mad Men, of course, and has Breaking Bad coming back.

 USA in particular struck gold with The Closer and the final season of Monk, whose last episode now holds the record for the largest rating ever on basic cable. White Collar, the new series that rode Monk as a lead-in, seems to have charmed viewers as well.

But some disturbing news about one of my favorites, Better Off Ted, where ABC is burning off the remaining new episodes starting this Friday (a/k/a Television’s Graveyard) and then running double episodes on January 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th. Hopefully that’s just to clear the decks for Lost, which starts its final season February 2nd, and will occupy the same night and time slot. Glass half full over here.

Much more information at The Futon Critic.

30 years old this month; still prescient.

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