Identifying and enhancing the note of the female antagonist is always an interesting play in order to appeal to the broad demographic but with female leads dominating most of prime time, the angular balance remains making them intrinsic and funny without reverting to a basic standard. Whether it be a retribution-fueled socialite in “Revenge” or 60s-era flight attendants modulating woman’s lib and society with a sense of style, this new crop of shows shows a diversity of vision.
Revenge Using an often used idiom of coming back to take out those who caused your childhood misery is the focus of many a literature and/or crime novel. The key becomes having the resources to pull it off. The lead characte rin this show tries to move back to her original stomping grounds and takes out [figuratively and financially] the people responsible for her father’s death. The soap opera touches of class structure and ideas of romance try to maintain a balance despite an overarching banality to the narrative. Creating a more intrinsic and keen viciousness within the air of a mask-oriented society is a keen art but the access remains within getting your hands dirty while looking great doing it without losing a sense of purpose.
Unforgettable Using a forensic style playback of someone’s memories to create a structure of investigation is a little far fetched but, of course, it depends on the psychology used to make it work. While the texture here has the balance of elements of “Prime Suspect”, the red-haired renaissance of the lead gives the series a bit of verve but has the possibility of wearing itself out as a “forensic light” because everything that the woman sees is immediately circumstantial. However, the idea is to do the investigations in reverse is clever but necessitates the eliminates the idea of probable cause. While there are some good moments, the progressions suffers from similar pains of “Life On Mars” which had a good hook but required too much suspension of disbelief.
Pan Am In following the perception of “Mad Men”, it seems interesting to approach this angle of intrigue and world travel through the notion of flight attendants but the ideal is that Pan Am was very different than air travel of today. Granted the through line is very soapy at times but the use of music and exceptional production value raises the bar. The characters, despite their perceptions, at times seem ambitious yet still virtuous in accordance with the times. The use of specific locations that definitely fall between the beaten path like Haiti and Rangoon definitely balance the idea of more urban destinations like London and Paris. Christina Ricci leads the pack blending a tongue-in-cheek modern virtue that almost puts her at odds with the backrgound she is against but her pinpoint accuracy on what the character believes in resolves any distance. While hanky panky among the ranks, women’s lib and the civil rights movement do intersperse in the stories, the episode progression still resolves to a lighthearted tone. The key is making the relationships and bonds stronger so that when they are eventually torn apart, the emotions will run high.
Up All Night With Will Arnett having less-than-optimum luck with his last two comedy pilot outings, it is great to see him settling in a notion of family comedy that he definitely knows something about. The key of course is a great partner. Despite the initial crank up time, the chemistry between Arnett and his on-screen wife Christina Appelgate, together raising a baby daughter, feels natural especially in their young fun singles-grown-up kind of way. With the addition of Maya Rudolph (who has the most kids in real life of any of the cast members) as a cross between J-Lo and Oprah with as many man problems as necessary to fuel a comedic actress of her like, the balance tends to work because the realities and what the characters want (especially since Arnett is playing Mr. Mom) with their ideas of life before and after baby are exceptionally pinpointed with a grand amount of tongue-in-cheek lunacy.
Encompassing more the comedy that made them gold with a balance of new scripted series revolves the idea of the Peacock with a sense of normalcy while trying to perfect the sense of edgy but available fare.
Granted the most accessible of all fare, especially within the fall, is the renaissance of football, which by odd circumstance was almost delayed by a possible strike. Al Olsen, one of the most recognizable voices following the true American game, second only to that of the now retired John Madden, is “just happy that football is back” stating that “they have to play”. Football, for him, boils down to the 16 games in the regular season, “20 times when you know when your team is playing”. The Sunday Night games they host “are like a big tent show” and “what we try to do is not only take you inside the game but also make it human interest” adding that “we are trying to appeal to women as much as men”. The importance for Al is “an emotional connection” because inside the game, for the teams themselves, the players and coaches “don’t listen to us because most of the time they just have the breakdown of tapes” because “we can’t know the team as well as them”. Commenting on the increase of technology in both the coverage and playing of the game, Al concedes that “HD Television and Cable Cam has helped things” but “it has reached a certain point that you don’t need too many toys but you need to use them properly”.
Across the booth from Al sits Chris Collingsworth who admits to still getting “butterflies in my stomach” but that “we have a blast and are proud of it”. The aspect that he finds is that it all relates back to childhood. He remembers that he was “the only kid in Florida who went to Baltimore for vacation to see football”. A funny story he relates is that every time they are covering in Indianapolis, their mikes pick up the traffic from quarterback Peyton Manning’s helmet which is “weird” and “he hates it”. The team he predicts that everyone will be talking about is the Philadelphia Eagles. The key is that as much as players want money, they want a ring. As far as their perceptions to the coaches and players in the booth, “if it is positive, it goes in one ear and out another” but “if it is negative, it stays”. The one unrelenting fact is that Super Bowls are “replayed in perpetuity” adding that “they still run the two Super Bowls I played in when I dropped the ball, and I cringe”. He likens it to the fact “that we live in pride that we didn’t miss anything” but “it does happen”.
Michelle Tafoya, who does the sideline commentary, is just happy to say that football season “is finally here and looks good from where we are sitting”. In terms of being close to the action, she says “you watch everything on the field very closely” but “you don’t want to get run over” though she admits that “the only time I was ever close to something bad is when I was pregnant”. Adding to the humor, she explains that “there is a certain time you become unintimidated by the shoulder pads”.
Switching into comedy gear, “Whitney”, the new comedy series from comedian Whitney Cummings, tries to find the balance between the essence of edgy fare that she has shown in various roasts on Comedy Central while still appealing to the mainstream audience.
Whitney herself relates that “this is an amazing time where there is alot of opportunity”. Having been a writer on the roasts, she says that “men don’t always write like men” and that she finds it “more interesting when the guy is the boss” stating that “the humor comes from the reality of that”. The relationship between her and Chris D’Elia is just “a narrative version of what we came up doing” adding that “we are very aware when we are doing takes saying “Is this a job?” She is here because of stand-up so she doesn’t want to forget that she came from that. Roseanne, as a model, has been very important to her but in terms of the balance between her persona and non-persona, it’s not something that she thinks about. She admits that her first introduction to what comedy is was when she read Paul Reiser’s book “Couplehood” which led to her being a big fan of “Mad About You” as well as “The Cosby Show”.
Chris D’Elia who plays her husband on the show, says that “we wanted it to be more real and come from a place of honesty”. Whitney, he says, “is such a strong female that alot of guys could come off as whipped”. According, for him, “in our friendship, she does what she does and I say, “You’re crazy!”
“Up All Night” follows a similar premise with characters more up the road played with aplomb by veterans Will Arnett and Christina Applegate with some help from recent second-time mom Maya Rudolph and the overseeing eye of uber producer Lorne Michaels of SNL.
Michaels says that “I thought it was about a period in people’s lives who had been living more exciting lives…then suddenly this big change happens”. For him, “it didn’t feel like well trod territory” though “people have been having babies on television for a long time”. In this sense “it felt fresh” for Michaels but admits “you can’t avoid topical but it is much more focused on domestic”. The reality, in his mind, is “first and foremost, you have to have people to believe in”. His role, as the producer, is that “I am all over the pilot and all over the casting, then I tiptoe out of the room as quick as I can”. As a comparison to “30 Rock”, he says “I still watch the rough cut every week and make notes as need be”. He admits that “my life is so built around Saturday Night Live” and that “with the sorts of people like Maya [Rudolph] and Justin [Timberlake]” if they were still doing the variety shows of yesteryear, they would be those kind of stars. The tangent for that now, however, is the advent of American Idol and America’s Got Talent.
Christina Appelgate mirrors the ideas that percolate the series saying “through those conversations, alot of things were born” adding “I know for myself I gave birth to my daughter at 39 and you still feel like you’re in your 20s but it does change that.” Will, who has 2 kids with wife Amy Poehler, says the show “just kind of happened” wince “I wasn’t thinking about doing anything this year.”
Maya Rudolph, also recently a mom again herself, says “I just had a child so I am in a bit of a fog” joking that “I pumped a half an hour ago”. The funny thing she says is “that I am the only one without a kid in the show” which is “a great place to cull from” reminiscing about her “extended youth” at SNL. In terms of children and the interrelation to the show, she says “you expect that you are going to be a certain type of parent, but you give into the reality and the madness that you don’t know what you’re doing” adding “as long as they are healthy and happy, that’s cool”.
Switching into more dramatic gear, “Prime Suspect” revolves in the idea of a cop show much like “Harry’s Law” but in the field.
Maria Bello plays the titular character once inhabited in Britain by Dame Helen Mirren. The key for her is that “we didn’t want her to be in a traditional pants suit” because “she is not earnest”. The Mirren performance for her was a bit dark. Through creator Alexandra Cunningham though, she found it “modernized and with a bit of humor”. The physicality of the character is not lost on her though. When they were doing the initial reservoir scene, her head hit the ground and Peter Berg [the director] bellowed “That was an awesome take!” Maria’s addendum to this is that “I’m not much of an exerciser”.
Cunningham, as the creator of the new show, explains that the world expressed in this incarnation is “not institutionalized sexism” adding “when you make these choices, you make these choices”. In terms of the narrative flow, she states “that we have alot of juicy cases that break” with the ideal and that “we are going to have alot of fun with Maria in her [character’s] personal life”.
Moving into more genre-based fare, “Grimm” reimagines in the modern level the notions of fairy tales and how they manifest itself.
David Greenwalt, the show’s exec, says the key is “having emotional fun and clarity to the characters” adding though “we are going to do an episode that has a thousand bees in it”. The narrative for him needs to play “like a harbinger of the future so you get the storybook feeling even if you don’t get a fairy tale” such as when they did the episode “Wolf Who Cried Boy”. The show itself was written for Portland even though they are shooting in Vancouver but that the feeling is “spooky, dark and the woods are close in”.
David Giuntoli, who plays the lead character Nick, says that he never read many fairy tale but remembers “The Exorcist” ruining “my life for a good chunk of time” because “I wanted to be scared but it ruined the next year”.
Revolving back into reality, “The Sing Off” continues the predilection of “The Voice” while still working the celebrity quotient in tandem.
Sara Bareilles, one of the judges, admits “I am such an acapella nerd that it seemed like a way to hook up with a killer cast of the characters”. She continues that “my philosophy…and Ben [Folds] and Shawn [Stockman] take this approach…is to be pretty fair”. The way “you get the most out of someone is if you are vulnerable” explaining “I have always been the recipient of constructive criticism”. She talks about growing up in the small town of Eureka, California and, when she moved to Los Angeles, it didn’t really fit but her acapella group there provided her with a “group of misfits”.
Stockman, part of the singing group Boyz II Men, states that “the simple beauty of acapella is making something that is real [through] precision” adding that “you can hit every note correctly all the major third” but all has to be well with “the music…period”. He defines it as having “a soul and a heart with a certain type of feeling”. He remembers a time when “we used to`go downstairs [to sing] in the subway but the acoustics were incredible” because “the harmony would go for miles” adding that “people would try to give us money but we would say no”. The interesting part of the process is that, at the beginning of Boyz II Men, “we didn’t like each other” because “we were singers before we were friends” but “we just liked the reaction we got from people when we harmonized”.
Nick Lachey, another judge with connections to acapella, stresses that it is wonderful to see this kind of music celebrated adding that “98 Degrees got signed covering Boyz II Men songs”. Folds, another celebrity judges, chimes in that “he and Sara are now working together with Shawn helping” because of the motivation of the show adding “we got together in secret”.
Wrapping up with the notion of talk show defined, Latin show star Cristina, long known for her defining afternoon show, moves with new character into different home at Telemundo after a long stand at Univision. She speaks that there is so much talent in the Latin community of stars which she has now interviewed over four generations. Interestingly enough in her house, the language is split half and half between English and Spanish. In terms of her show, she dictates that “I am not going to be daily ever again” adding that “this is not a cricket line” but her motto is “onward and forward, never look back” which is something she calls “palante”.
NBC continues to display a continuing university using new and established comedy stars to bolster its sitcom roster while testing new dramatic visions, enticing its NFL possibilities and adding to its variety structure without losing the necessity of it all.