A little delayed but I wanted to take a quick (fair warning, it should be looooooong look with quick touches on each show) look at the halfway point of this season’s TV run. This year, there have been a lot of interesting new options for my television dance card and in case some of you were thinking about adding some new shows to your watchlist, I thought I’d take the opportunity to give you some highlights, lowlights, and general information about each show at the halfway point. Additionally I’ll share my list of things I like and don’t like about this Fall’s run of television for shits and giggles. Disclaimer: I am by no means a critic. As I have shared in the past, I am easily entertained and appreciate most movies and TV shows. I do recognize crap but sometimes, crap is fun. Also, spoilers ahead.
Watch it On: Fox
Premise: Capitalizing on the success of all things comic book related, Fox has released a show that introduces you to the Gotham of Bruce Wayne’s youth. Although young Bruce is one of the main characters of the show, the story focuses on a young Detective Gordon and his battle against the corruption that has infected the city to its core. Facing off against the mob, serial killers, and future Batman nemeses, he is the one bright spot in a city full of officials on the take.
Let’s catch you up: Man, there’s a lot happening right now. I think the main plotline to focus on is Penguin’s. Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) betrayed Fish Mooney (lieutenant to major crime boss, Carmine Falcone) and to prove to Gordon that corruption is the name of the game, she (through Falcone) orders him to kill Oswald. He fakes shooting Cobblepot who returns under a different name to work for Sal Maroni, another major crime boss. Internal Affairs thinks Gordon is a killer and tries to arrest him until Cobblepot comes forward. This pisses off Gordon’s partner, Harvey Bullock and many other police officers. Additionally, Fish is pissed. So is Maroni. Basically, people are pissed at Gordon and Cobblepot. What no one realizes, is that Cobblepot is secretly spying on Maroni, Fish, and anyone he can for Falcone. He knew that Gordon would not kill him and made a deal that if he was right, we would be a rat for Falcone.
Are you confused but intrigued? You should be because this shit is complicated as hell. Don’t even get me started on Catwoman (Selina Kyle) as a witness to the Wayne killings and Alfred being a butler from hell.
The Good: The Penguin storyline is super engaging. I cannot wait to see how it plays out. The villains are the characters you want to watch because you learn so much more about their backstory (according to this storyline anyhow) than in any other mainstream Batman films/shows. The casting is well done. From Gordon to Bruce to Nygma (Yup, the Riddler is there!), everyone seems just enough like what you expect to make you feel good about the characters, while still providing enough mystery/surprise to keep you guessing about how the story will play out. The one character they took a real flyer on was Alfred. He’s much more gruff and a bit curt, very different from both the comic and on-screen (both large and small) versions that I’ve come to know. However, after you get to know him, you see how much he loves Bruce. He’s a bit of a badass.
The Bad: It’s a show in progress. When they stray away from the storyline and focus on Gordon as a detective it loses what makes the who so interesting: the Batman villains. The long story is very interesting, but they writers are really trying to give you a snapshot into Gordon’s life as a cop. When it veers away from the Penguin storyline, it’s very hit or miss. I understand what they’re trying to do but sometimes you just want them to cut to the chase.
Verdict: I’ve liked Gotham quite a bit so far. It started off strong, then went off course with Gordon episodes (which aren’t bad, just not what I want to see) and seems to have started to find its identity as a TV show. I’m really excited to see how The Penguin develops as he has been terrific in his role as the backstabbing Cobblepot. Recently introduced Harvey Dent also has me intrigued with where this show is going. Check it out!
Watch it On: The CW
Premise: Capitalizing on the success of all things comic book related as well as the success of its other DC character show (Arrow), the CW has spun-off the Flash from an appearance he had in a previous season of Arrow. The Flash follows Barry Allen as he learns to deal with his newfound powers (superspeed for those not in the know) fighting the likes of your common day criminals to other “meta-humans” that have popped up in Central City.
Let’s catch you up: So Barry Allen was struck by lightning and went into a coma. When he awoke, he had superspeed. As a child, a similar lightning storm occurred and his mother died. Since then he has been driven to find his mother’s killer (his dad took the blame). He lives with a detective who doubles as a father figure and a girl who is hot and he’s madly in love with. The doctor responsible for the lightning storm, Harrison Wells, is now a sort of benefactor for him helping him learn to use his powers. He has been beating up baddies who also changed with the lightning storm but just ran across another super speedy meta-human.
The Good: The overall story line has been interesting and I like the casting. In particular, I think Tom Cavanaugh and Jesse Martin play the characters of Harrison Wells and Detective West just right. Cavanaugh comes off as just suspicious enough that you always wonder if he is good, but then will end up doing something that makes you flip-flop back into to believing in him. Martin is just great at the gruff, I’m-a-cop-but-I-also-care character. The superspeed effect is done well and the show is just entertaining. They also do a great job using the fact that Arrow exists in the same universe and there have been some really great crossover moments and episodes.
The Bad: It’s falling into the Smallville trap of creating one-show villains that have been altered by the lightning storm that created the Flash. It’s getting a bit repetitive. Also, the CW loves the whole love triangle, unrequited love cliche which is great for teenagers but as an adult (okay… I’m losing you, I get it) who watches the show, I’m tired of the high school drama.
Verdict: Not at the level that Arrow is as a show but is fun and entertaining and has shown promise in terms of longterm story and character development. If they could clean up the romantic side of things and focus more on Barry’s quest to discover his mother’s killer (which it seams they are doing) I think it can get somewhere worthwhile.
Watch it On: ABC
Premise: Defense Attorney, Annelise Keating, doubles as a law professor who teaches a class she calls: “How to Get Away with Murder”. She chooses five top students to intern with her on high-profile trial cases and they see learn how to take advantage of the system to either promote or sidestep justice. At the same time, we follow them as they try to get away with a murder that we learn they will commit in future.
Let’s catch you up: Although Annelise is the usually shown as the above the title character, it’s Wes that the show generally follows (at least it feels that way). Don’t get me wrong, it hops around a lot. Wes barely makes the cut to get into the law school but somehow figures out a way into the top-five for internships. There are two main storylines: the first starts from the discovery of a dead college girl’s body. The police are trying to find the murderer. It turns out that Annelise’s husband should be the prime suspect but this has not come to light. Wes and Annelise find this out through various avenues (a cop Annelise is cheating on her husband with, Wes’s next door neighbor who knew the victim, etc.). The second starts with a murder already committed by four of the five interns. The two storylines work in the opposite directions and have met in the middle at the halfway point in the season.
The Good: This show is fast-paced. It drops you right in the middle of a murder scene and keeps its foot on the gas. You never want for entertainment. Unlike some other shows, I enjoy the one or two episode story lines. I’m not sure how the legal field works but the way they present clients “getting away” with murder is very intriguing and keeps you hooked.
The Bad: This show is fast-paced. Emotions are all over the place and it sometimes runs the risks of being over-the-top. Also, sometimes it can be hard to keep up with all the crazy shit that’s going on. Annelise is not a particularly likable character and, for me, goes through various stages of annoying, crazy, and boring. I liked her better before she went off the deep end (at the beginning of the show).
Verdict: Although it’s a little melodramatic, I’ve enjoyed the show. I think it pushes some cultural boundaries (homosexual intimacy, infidelity, justice vs. loopholes-in-the-law, etc.) and it keeps you guessing just enough for you to stay engaged. Matt McGorry (also seen in Orange is the New Black) shows a completely different side of himself as a douchebag with a very, very hidden heart of… we’ll say copper… or bronze. Not quite gold. I’ll keep watching
Watch it On: NBC
Premise: Capitalizing on all things comic book related (okay, this is a stretch… how many people have actually heard of Constantine if they’re not comic book enthusiasts *see – GEEKS*), John Constantine is a man who must defend humanity from demons using his ability to see the spiritual plane and various dark magic skills he has picked up during the course of his life. He struggles with his faith and is a bit jaded (to say the least) and takes pleasure in being sarcastic and a touch rude to the rest of the human populace (and especially to his semi-guardian archangel, Manny).
Let’s catch you up: We start the series with Constantine checking himself out of a mental institution (which he turned himself into after an exorcism gone wrong – a little girl was dragged to hell) because he can sense very dark forces moving in the world. With help from a psychic, a seemingly impervious friend, and what can loosely be called “guidance” from an archangel, he tracks down and defeats various forms of evil that are attempting to overrun the earth.
The Good: Matt Ryan makes a very strong and very surly Constantine. He’s got a fun but crass British charm to him and releases just the right amount of well-timed vulnerability and humanity. I never get tired of Harold Perrineau and this is no exception. He does a great job playing the part of Manny the angel who must follow rules (do not affect the outcome) while also yearning to lead Constantine to a path of redemption. The scene where he makes the decision to kill a fallen angel to save Constantine’s psychic was very powerful. I think he’s an underrated actor.
The Bad: This show starts very slow. You’d think with the relatively insane premise, it’d get right into it but sometimes the story can drag. It doesn’t give you a reason to get pulled in from the beginning. Fortunately as you are introduced to more characters and can see the bigger storyline, it becomes a bit more compelling. Verdict: I’m a fan of things like this – end of days, biblical, dark magic, etc.. Having a snarky British lead adds to the appeal and despite its slow start, I really got drawn into Constantine through the two lead characters.
10 Things I’ve Liked and Did Not Like (h/t to Zach Lowe for the format idea)
2 – Look, I never get tired of The Simpsons. But I understand why people say it’s fallen off. But one thing they’ve done is really go full board with interesting couch gags. I can’t find many links to the ones from this season (just this really weird one, not actually my favorite of the season) but these last few years they’ve really stepped it up with some cool couch gags. So what if I’m a loyalist?
3 – Crossovers land on both like and dislike. Arrow and The Flash got it right, using episodes from each to create one longer story line (plus the occasional cameo). The Simpons/Family Guy and The Simpons/Futurama crossovers had so much potential, and very fun moments, but unfortunately fell a bit flat in both attempts. If you are forced to pick one, watch the Futurama crossover.
4 – If there is anything that’s going to inspire to me to have children it is child chefs. Master Chef, Jr. has been a lot of fun to watch because the kids are sweet, endearing, and absolute beasts in the kitchen. It also brings out likable sides to the Master Chef judges. I’m not one for reality TV but children in the kitchen, keep it coming!
5 – Marvel’s “Agents…” followed by anything. Look, I’m going to watch these shows. I just finished Season 1 of AoS on Netflix and now that Agent Carter is out, I’m probably watching that too (It helps that I’ve loved Hayley Atwell since I saw her in Pillars of the Earth). But sometimes I just feel so exploited and dirty running to everything Marvel does… especially because they can’t get Spider-Man back from Sony.
6 – This season of Arrow has had its ups and downs. They’ve spent more time with three very beautiful leads and while Felicity Smoak is gorgeous AND has purpose, I’m not really sure what to make of Laurel Lance and Thea Queen. Willa Holland’s suddenly ever-present midriff aside, the two characters need to go somewhere and fast. Thea’s getting interesting now that she’s got training from Malcolm Merlyn so I’ve got my fingers crossed. Having said all that, this season has been awesome if only for the midway finale with the stunning end to Oliver’s and Ra’s Al Ghul’s fight.
7 – Love triangles. Unrequited love. Secret love. Anything that makes a show spend more than 1/3 of an episode on how two people should be together but then creates obstacles to keep them apart. I’m tired of this shit… take me to the fun stuff!
9 – Sleepy Hollow. I just like it. I’m a sucker for all things biblical and end-of-days. And Tom Mison pretend to awkwardly stumble through modern day obstacles never gets old for me.
10 – Asking myself why I’m still watching The New Girl and Grey’s Anatomy. The former used to be funny and charming but has since taken all the charm from the individual characters and turned them into extreme, annoying versions of their former selves. Bring me back the old Schmidt and Winston. I will stand by Grey’s until it gets ripped from TV if only to say I made it through the slog. It goes through seasons of watchability (I would say the previous one or two haven’t been too bad) but this season… it’s getting painful.
I’m excited for this upcoming half-season of TV. Gotham has already started and the first episode was intense! Brooklyn Nine-Nine Also seems to be rounding itself back into form. Thank God for the wonders of HuluPlus so I can waste away on my couch avoid being a productive human being!