It was slow release week for comics books, so I did what any overworked writer-by-night would do when given the opportunity for free time: I watched television with the hope that it might jumpstart my getting something down on paper. Fortunately, it was a big fall premiere week, so I learned a lot. Here are my takeaways from the start of the 2015 fall television season.
1) We have to go ahead an start admitting that Gotham is trash, fam. I don’t even have punchlines for that. We just have to start living with it. Moving on.
2) The absence of indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennett (Hayden Panettierre) from the Heroes Reborn roster proves that she’s invulnerable to just about everything except Nashville contract obligations.
3) Luchadores are more useful during metahuman McCarthyism than they are during the Vampire Apocalypse. Heroes Reborn is basically like the formerly alcoholic ex that just got out of rehab and looked you up to try and prove they’ve changed. It had its strengths and weaknesses, but one thing it had working in its favor was a luchadore vigilante (that looks shockingly like the Arrow) named El Vengadore that helps people with superpowers find safe haven. Granted, the guy didn’t last very long, but he was more useful in a five minutes fight scene than the Silver Angel has been in the whole second season so far of The Strain (better known as Peter Russo: Vampire Hunter).
Guillermo Del Toro has accomplished the impossible and given birth to a show that, despite its good points, has so much filler plot (presumably to stretch the source material out as long as possible), it actually succeeds in making a luchadore boring. Eight episodes and the most exciting thing we’ve seen him do so far is wash dishes and watch old videos of himself. There’s no reminiscing in the Vampire Apocalypse, fam.
4) Fez will never be a badass no matter how many pushups he does. In this week’s attempt to unearth long dead sci-fi movies that nobody’s thought about since Kanye dropped College Dropout, Fox’s Minority Report got off to a good start. And by “a good start,” I mean at least has a better chance of making it to December than the Dallas Cowboys stand of making it to the playoffs. I won’t even talk about the fact that the show has a chance to delve deep and explore the morality of pre-crime like Philip K. Dick intended and, instead, decided to just aim for the lowest common denominator as a sci-fi cop procedural. The real problem with Minority Report is that its primary characters are so depressingly unconvincing.
I won’t even talk about Megan Good, who has the emotional acting range of a handball (didn’t we try this badass cop thing in her 4-episode NBC show, Deception?). Among her elite crimefighting unit is also a cocky detective with a competitive streak played by Wilmer Valderrama, who seems to have done a handful of pushups since That 70s Show, drank some pre-workout formula and put on a Fisher Price My First T-Shirt. Sorry, but I don’t buy either one of these people chasing down perps and rousting the bar. But who knows… maybe Tom Cruise will show up for a cameo or something. Because at least crazy is interesting.
5) We have to face some hard truths about our childhood heroes. So, The Muppets debuted this week and the turn it took was vastly different than what the early trailers suggested. Instead of the focus being placed on the classic, zany variety show aspect, Jim Henson’s creations have been made to fit a format that runs more in the vein of The Office, depicting all the wacky goings on behind the scenes. It also highlighted a couple of hard facts we’ve avoided for years now. First of all, it really isn’t easy being green. Kermit has been working hard to put the team on his back, keeping a show together despite Fozzie, his warm up act, not really being funny, and Scooter, his executive producer, having almost no chill, talking reckless to A-list talent like Elizabeth Banks. Second, we’ve reached that point where he have to call an spade a spade.
Miss Piggy is a sociopath. All those years, we ignored that Kermit was living in a mentally (and possibly but very likely physically) abusive relationship with a narcissistic personality who takes selfies in the movie theater (though we probably could have stopped her from seeing Pitch Perfect 2) who is apparently salty about missing out on playing Katniss Everdeen. Well, the important thing is that he’s finally put his foot down and moved on, hopefully inspiring other anthropomorphic animals to know their worth and be unashamed in getting out of toxic relationships like I was in with the last season of Girls.
6) Ryan Murphy is gaining too much power on television. It’s enough that he has American Horror Story, which I’m personally worried about now that Jessica Lange has said her final farewell to the anthology series, but the death of Glee doesn’t necessarily leave void to be filled. Don’t get me wrong… I like Emma Roberts just as much as the next guy, but alongside Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande, Lea Michele, and Keke Palmer, Scream Queens really feels like the lost season of American Horror Story that passed broadcast television’s standards and practices… their “practices” being to attract as many 18 year olds to primetime television as humanly possible. This is the start of something frightening. At some point, Ryan Murphy is going to have enough television to justify having his own channel like Gordon Ramsay is on the edge of having. No one man should have all that power.
7) CBS has the mutant ability turn virtually anything into a procedural cop drama. We knew that when they took Sherlock Holmes and put him in a show that’s basically Every Cop Procedural Ever On CBS. Limitless was already a halfway decent movie that failed to take its promising sci-fi premise to its full potential, but when you need to aim even lower than the lowest common denominator, look no further than CBS. The show adaptation delves even further into the depths of mediocrity, taking the aforementioned promising premise, places Almost Bradley Cooper in Bradley Cooper’s place, and puts him to work for the FBI to create another middle-of-the-road installment of Every Cop Procedural Ever On CBS.
This show could aim far higher than A Really Smart Drug Addict Solving Crimes Better Than The Police (sounds kinda familiar), but much like Gotham, is so scared of alienating viewers that it will never do any better than pandering to the lowest common denominator. Speaking of which…
8) The Player is obviously Wesley Snipes’ court-ordered job made just for him. The only way someone comes up with a show about some Illuminati gambling ring that can predict crime and bets on some Nondescript Shirtless White Man stopping them… is if someone desperately needs work. For a premise so radically stupid to make it out of the pitch meeting, someone would have to have burned so many bridges with their fan base and colleagues in the business that this kind of last ditch career rehabilitation would be necessary.
9) Shonda Rimes is determined to make it so that Wes is Not Quite The Killer in every season of How To Get Away With Murder. The last five minutes showed yet another flash forward, except this time, Annalise Keating was shot half dead on the floor. Meanwhile, Wes seems to be the one in the closest proximity so far. It would be awesomely hilarious if this show came with a permanent built-in red herring (even though I wish it didn’t have to be the Black guy) that Professor Keating seems to constantly be right on the edge of sleeping with at all times (did that dance scene make anyone else uncomfortable?).
It would also be a little annoying like this show is becoming. Don’t get me wrong; Viola Davis deserves the Emmy she just won and the overall premise of the show is mostly air tight… if it weren’t for the supporting cast. Watching a gang of Scooby Doo-level crime solving law students argue with each other ten minutes at a time over which one of them might be a murderer is a level of asinine comparable to reality television. But then, that is the overall appeal of Rimes’ work: it manages to maintain the lowest common denominator while still pumping out compelling television for the snobs. So, there’s that.