Last time on Yellington Abbey! Carson and Lord Robert yelled because Ethel got her whore hands all over Harriet Jones’ luncheon. Half the family yelled at Branson for wanting his daughter to be Catholic and everyone yelled at Edith for having an opinion. [Read more…] about Downton Abbey Recap: These Have Always Brought Me Luck
8pm Eastern Time tonight, CBS
7:30 pm Eastern: Good Evening! Welcome to what will be the first of many Manhattan Digest awards ceremony liveblogs! LL Cool J hosts the ceremony, which starts at 8 pm Eastern time on CBS. This should be an interesting evening tonight, with the Album of the Year award showing a surprisingly rock heavy slate with Mumford and Sons’ Babel, Fun.’s Some Nights, The Black Keys’ El Camino, and Jack White’s Blunderbuss, with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange being the sole R&B outlier. Personally, I think that Babel and Channel Orange are the clear favorites, with Channel Orange being my pick to win the whole thing.
That being said, I’m here mostly to look at the show in terms of its’ presentation than to heavily critique the award choices themselves. The Grammy’s are known mostly for being the safest show on the February awards season, often only garnering attention for a killer performance (such as Elton John and Eminem’s killer performance of “Stan” in 2001), or some truly horrendous fashion calls (see Jennifer Lopez’s infamous green dress from the 2000 show). The latter is under intense scrutiny this year, as earlier this week CBS standards and practices sent out a letter vilifying the use of thongs or costumes that allow for exposed “breasts and buttocks”, singling out that earth-shattering corrupter of morals: the thong. Needless to say, my gut instinct is telling me that someone is going to find a way to defy this (odds on favorite here? Rihanna).
I would love for tonight to be a dialogue as we all react to the show together (and get different opinions at the same time), so feel free to use the comments section below and get involved in the conversation! Stay tuned to Manhattan Digest for more updates as the ceremony unfolds!
7:45 p.m.: Some early updates from the red carpet. Generally speaking it looks like the artists are complying with the S+P guidelines, with only a handful of particularly deep plunging necklines (including Miranda Lambert and Ashanti). Similarly the men seem pretty buttoned up, with a surprisingly large number of skinny ties. I think Taylor Swift’s dress was pretty impressive from a fashion standpoint. Conversely, Adele’s floral print design leaves a lot to be desired.
For me though, the highlight of the red carpet was Jennifer Lopez’s angry shrieks of protest after Ryan Seacrest noted that her dress was skirting the lines of what CBS was allowing screaming “I’m just showing a little leg and a little shoulder!”.
7:57 p.m.: Three minutes to the curtain and a large number of the awards have been given off camera already. Notable award winners included Gotye (who won two awards including Best Alternative Music Album, and Best Duo/Group Pop Performance – the latter with Kimbra for “Somebody that I Used to Know”), Skrillex (who also wont two awards for Best Dance Album and Best Dance Recording both for Bangarang), Rihanna (for her video for “We Found Love”), and Taylor Swift (for Best Song Written for Visual Media ).
Additionally it was announced on the red carpet that Ms. Swift will be the opening performance tonight, so expect to see her on your TV screens sometime in the next few minutes.
8:15 PM: And on cue we open with a weird man on a bike with a torch to introduce Taylor Swift who opens the show with “We are Never (Getting Back Together)” in a very sideshow circus vibe that involved a boyfriend strapped to a carnival wheel, trapeze artists, fire spinners and a large amount of pyrotechnics. The performance itself was pretty mediocre in spite of the spectacle, but it seemed like a fine way to amp up the crowd for tonight’s show.
Afterwords, we see our first appearance of show host, LL Cool J. He devotes his somewhat meandering opening monologue discussing music as a vehicle for bringing people together before pitching it to Eddie Sheeran and Elton John to perform Sheeran’s song “A Team”. I love Elton John as much as anyone, but it seemed like he was off for most of the song and it adversely affected the vocal harmonies. I did enjoy the off in the crowd staging aspect that they used, as it seemed to highlight the “lighter song” vibe that one gets when listening to “A-team”.
8:27 PM: LL Cool J asks us to use #Grammys when talking about tonight’s show before kicking it to J-Lo and Pitbull (with a split screen to the infamous green dress from 2000) with Pitbull fawning over J Lo before announcing the nominees for best solo pop performance:
The nominees are:
“Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson), “Set Fire to the Rain” (Adele), “Wide Awake” (Katy Perry), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jespen) and “Where Have You Been?” (Rihanna)
AND THE WINNER: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele.
Adele gives a very brief speech (in which she called back to last year’s six wins) before Neil Patrick Harris enters to introduce Fun. (whom have six nominations this evening). Fun. then took the opportunity to play “Carry On.”, which started a little slow but picked up once the instruments kicked in. Once it built, we got a performance with a very strong cinematic vibe, including the obligatory downpour towards the end. One thing did bother me about the performance however, and that is why frontman Nate Ruess wore those Capris?
8:48 PM: Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer appear to introduce Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. The duo play a couple of country tracks in “Over You” and “Home”. Their performance was perfectly fine and fairly low key compared to the immediately preceding performance before cutting to LL Cool J on American Bandstand in an awkward transition. LL then takes the opportunity to pay tribute to Dick Clark.
LL Cool J then makes an another abrupt transition, introducing Miguel and Wiz Khalifa, whom perform “Adorn” . The performance was sizzling, with Miguel showing off his pipes and performing the standard issue R and B theatrics. From there, our performer then announced the nominees for…wait for it…best country solo performance (because that made sense to me too right?)
The nominees for best country solo performance:
“Home” (Dierks Bentley), “Springsteen” (Eric Church), “Cost of Living” (Ronnie Dunn), “Wanted (Hunter Hayes), “Over (Blake Shelton), and “Blown Away” (Carrie Underwood)
AND THE WINNER IS: “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood.
8:58 PM: LL Plugs social media again before telling everyone in the Northeast to stay warm and kicking it to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, whom are presenting song of the year.
The nominees are: “Adorn” (Miguel), “The A-Team” (Ed Sheeran), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jespen), “We are Young” (Fun. Feat Janelle Monae), and “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson).
AND YOUR WINNER: “We Are Young” by (the now completely dry) Fun.
Nate Ruess gives a speech that has the first real crack of the night in “I don’t know what we’re thinking writing this chorus, now that we’re in HD and you can see our faces, we are clearly not young.”. They then thank Jay-Z (who mouths a “You’re Welcome” from the crowd) and Chick Corea before the orchestra kicks in to introduce Johnny Depp. I want them to win more awards now because they are clearly the only people so far who have not taken this awards show too seriously tonight.
Depp is there to introduce Mumford and Sons in 20 words or less. They play their hit “I will wait” in front of a large display of lights and had an excellent performance aside from some sound issues that seemed to keep the backing vocals from coming through, though the remainder of the sound was very impressive.
9:15 PM: We return to Ellen Degeneres and Beyonce (in a pantsuit tonight) whom do a shticky introuction for Justin Timberlake, whom is here to perform “Suit and Tie”. The screen goes black and white, which is probably not a right call because it makes Justin Timberlake look disturbingly like Rick Astley. Jay-Z then climbs on stage to perform his verse. The screen then goes color befor Justin does a new song with a full orchestra and band (Update: The song is titled “Pusher Love Girl”). All internet memes aside, the performance is excellent and realizing the irony in saying this about someone whose only a few years older than myself, he still clearly has it.
Following that performance, we next see presenters Kelly Rowland and Nas, whom announce the nominees for a new category: Best Urban Contemporary Album
Fortune (Chris Brown), Kaliedoscope Dream (Miguel), Channel Orange (Frank Ocean)
AND THE WINNER: Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
During the commercial, we saw a hard release date for Justin Timberlake’s new album, which will drop on March 19th.
Dave Grohl and Pauley Perette (Abby from NCIS) whom are here to announce that Dan Auerbach won producer of the year earlier in the day, before presenting the award for best Rock Performance
“Hold On” (Alabama Shakes), “Lonely Boy” (The Black Keys), “Charlie Brown” (Coldplay), “I Will Wait”, (Mumford and Sons) and
“We take care of our own” (Bruce Springsteen).
AND THE WINNER: “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys
Following that, Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys perform “Room on Fire” and “Daylight”. While Maroon 5’s performance of Daylight was fine, “Girl on Fire” felt a little flat at points. This was a bit troubling as if there are two vocal artists who not only can, but are expected to let their vocals soar, it’s Adam Levine and Alicia Keys.
Kaley Cuoco and Keith Urban next came out to introduce the award for “Best Pop Vocal Album”. The nominees were:
Stronger (Kelly Clarkson), Ceremonials (Florence and the Machine), Some Nights (Fun.). Overexposed (Maroon 5), and The Truth About Love (Pink).
AND THE WINNER: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly comes up and wings an acceptance speech, where she mentions being “stuck to Miranda Lambert” and expressed interest in working with Miguel. It was truly spontaneous and very welcome in this very overstuffed and seemingly overscripted show.
9:55 PM: After a performance from Rihanna that had shades of Adele’s performance of “Someone Like You” from last year, Carly Rae Jespen and Ne-Yo come out to present the award for best Rap/Sung collaboration
“Wild Ones” (Flo-Rida f. Sia), “Tonight” (John Legend f. Ludacris), “Cherry Wine ‘ (Nas f. Amy Winehouse), “Talk that Talk” (Rihanna f. Jay Z), and “No Church in the Wild” (Jay-Z/Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean and the Dream)
AND THE WINNER: No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and the Dream.
In a classy move, Jay-Z gave most of the speech to Frank Ocean and the Dream, whom both give quick shout outs. Jay-Z on the other hand, simply thanks “The swap meet, because that’s where he (The Dream) got that hat.”
10:02 PM: The Lifetime Achievement award was announced with The Temptations, Carole King, Ravi Shankar, Patty Page, Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, and Lightning Hopkins amongst the recipients.
After the break, Kat Dennings comes out to introduce the Black Keys, Dr. John, and the New Orleans Preservation Hall Band. All parties involved come out rocking, performing the Black Keys’ hit “Lonely Boy”. While I am typically not a fan of brass instruments in Rock Music. Adding to the proceedings was Dr. John, whom was dressed about as outlandishly as one could possibly be on a grammy stage, in full Hoodoo gear. It was a great performance, I do with it would have highlighted Dr. John a little more.
This was then followed up by Kelly Clarkson performing a medley including “Tennessee Waltz”, “Natural Woman”, in order to honor Patti Page and Carole King. This then segued into the nominations for best country album.
The nominees are: Uncaged (Zac Brown Band), Hunter Hayes (Hunter Hayes), Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran (Jamey Johnson), For the Record (Miranda Lambert), The Time Jumpers (The Time Jumpers)
AND THE WINNER: The Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged.
10:13 PM: We now get the Grammy’s tribute to Bob Marley with Bruno Mars, Sting, Damian and Ziggy Marley. The tribute started with Bruno Mars, who performed his hit single “Locked out of Heaven”. After the first chorus Sting came out in a fun moment as “Locked out of Heaven” is really Bruno Mars’ attempt at writing a police song. This then segued into The Police’s “Walking on the Moon”. This performance has been the best of the show so far, as Bruno hung out there with Sting and didn’t look out of place, though it looked like Sting initially hindered by the fact that “Locked out” was sped up.
Midway through the performance, Rihanna, Damian and Ziggy Marley came out and performed “Could You be Loved”. This actually created a largeness to the performance that made it feel more worthy of the Grammy stage, eclipsing even Rihanna’s prior appearance 15 minutes earlier.
10:30 PM: LL introduces The Lumineers, whom perform their hit single “Ho Hey”. The performance seemed perfectly servicable, and it seems like they have fixed the microphone problems from earlier. This then swept into Jack White’s performance of “Love Interruption”. After the completion of “Love Interruption.” Jack then exploded into “Freedom at 21”, giving the perfect loud kick after two quieter songs.
Katy Perry is now out to present the Best New Artist award. She marvels at the dedication it takes to get to that point before offering a little solace for those who didn’t win, saying: “I didn’t even get nominated for best new artist, but now I have my own eyelash line!”
The nominees are: Alabama Shakes, Fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers, Frank Ocean
AND THE WINNER: Fun. (Fun has taken two Grammys tonight, I think they are now very much in the discussion for Album of the Year).
I think this one is a little bit of a shocker, I was pretty sure Frank Ocean was going to be a mortal lock for this one.
Hour three right now seems to have been a lot kinder to this show than the first two hours.
10:45 PM: And apparently I jinxed everyone (sorry!).
Hunter Hayes is out to sing (I wasn’t impressed, but I’m not a country guy) before introducing Carrie Underwood, who then sung two of her songs. Carrie’s vocals did not feel particularly impressive, but the lighting for this was particularly impressive as they used Carrie’s dress as a proxy for a projection screen, allowing for a neat visual that worked out superbly.
After this, Prince made a rare appearance to present Record of the Year, looking like a hybrid of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Puff Daddy.
The Nominees are:
“Lonely Boy” (The Black Keys), “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson), “We are Young” (Fun.),“Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye f. Kimbra), “Thinking About You” (Frank Ocean), “We are never ever Getting Back Together” (Taylor Swift).
AND THE WINNER: “Somebody That I used to Know” by Gotye f. Kimbra.
11:04 PM: We come back to “Take Five” (no introduction, but it’s one of my favorite Jazz songs of all time, so uh, I know it…and now you do too.) for what I’m assuming is the tribute to Dave Brubeck as performed by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Kenny Garrett.
Neal Portnow and Ryan Seacrest (who’s now the honorary chairman of the Grammy Foundation) are out to introduce Justin Timberlake. Mr. Timberlake comes out to shill for the Grammy Foundation and the new “music educator” award.
We now get the in Memorian Montage, which includes Dave Brubeck, Donna Summer, Andy Williams, Chuck Brown, Robin Gibb, Patti Page, Davy Jones , Dick Clark, Fontella Bass, Hal David, Marvin Hamlish, Richard Adler, Andy Griffith, Ravi Shankar, Adam Yauch (Adrock of the Beastie Boys), Levon Helm and others. Looking back at that last sentence, it seems like every genre of music took a heavy loss in 2012.
This then leads to a tribute to Levon Helm fronted by Elton John, Zac Brown, Mumford and Sons, T-Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes as they played “The Weight”. This performance had a looser jam band performance due to the larger nature of this collaboration. Elton seemed a lot stronger in this performance than his earlier performance with Eddie Sheeran. This performance is easily in the upper echelon of performances tonight.
11:18 PM: We return to Juanes paying tribute to Elton John singing “Your Song” in English and Spanish in a very intimate acoustic vibe before kicking it to Frank Ocean, who’s performing his single “Forrest Gump”. They start with a cool visual effect where Frank is running on a video screen before completing his run up a hill to his keyboard in person. Frank wrenched a ton of emotion into this one and it created an excellent and haunting performance
We’re down to one last award, Album of the Year, and Adele is here to award it after making a quick crack about she got knocked up after winning Album of the Year last year.
The Nominees are:
El Camino (The Black Keys), Channel ORANGE (Frank Ocean), Blunderbuss (Jack White), Some Nights (Fun.),Babel (Mumford and Sons)
AND YOUR WINNER: Babel by Mumford and Sons.
A pretty deserving winner and one of my favorites from earlier. They managed to spread the love around somewhat with only Jack White not making the winner’s podium during the course of the show tonight.
11:42 PM: We’re down to the grand finale, a performance by LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker, and DJ Z-Trip, whom performed “Whaddup”, which was a fun way to end the show if only because Chuck D’s voice IS rap to me, and LL was game. It was a pretty solid performance and I would kill to see the single, though it would not have killed CBS not to stick fee plugs in the middle of the song.
My Final Thoughts: This year’s Grammy ceremony felt a little overstuffed with tons of abrupt transitions and sequences and with a little bit of breathing room we could have cut some of the weaker performances (notably the lacking Maroon 5/Alicia Keys collaboration and Hunter Hayes’ introduction of an introduction). Additionally, at times the show had a somber, joyless feel at points during a night that should be the biggest party for the music industry of the year. That being said, what you expected to deliver did deliver (the Marley and Levon Helms’ tributes, as well your Album of the Year candidates’ performances), so check out those seven performances.
Also some enjoyable moments I didn’t get to point out amid the I Love Lucy Conveyor Belt pace of the show:
- Taylor Swift was rocking out to EVERYTHING. I’m not sure why, but this is really amusing to me.
- The full extent of Kelly Clarkson’s gushing about R+B artist Miguel
- Once the show hit hour three and it slowed down a little bit, it seemed like the show was able to gel a little more as the orchestra wasn’t cutting off awards speeches at the 30 second mark as it did for Fun.’s first speech
Final Verdict: If you haven’t seen the whole show, it’s probably not worth watching all three hours. You owe it to yourself to YouTube up the Marley tribute though, and I would probably check out Fun.’s , Jack White’s, and the Black Keys’ performances as well. LL Cool J was passable as a host, but the role of host honestly felt superfluous with the rapid pace that the show took.
Community: Thursdays at 8pm Eastern on NBC
Since we last saw Community: A ton has happened in the last 9 months since any new Community last showed new episodes. Community was narrowly re-upped for a fourth season. The show’s creator was unceremoniously canned due to budget issues with Sony, Chevy Chase got really mad for a bunch of reasons, the show was moved to Friday (to be paired with Whitney…ewwww) only for that move to be rescinded when the Peacock had a disastrous developmental season left too few shows to be called up from the bench. As a result, the show was pushed back to spring, which is perfectly acceptable to me as it means that we will be replacing one of my least favorite holidays (Valentine’s Day) with one of my most favorite holidays (Halloween). Finally, Barack Obama was reelected president and the Manhattan Digest was created.
Oh wait, that section was supposed to be a recap of what happened on the show to catch people up? Ok. So when we last left off, the Greendale Seven had just saved the school from Chang, who had taken over the school in pure Napoleonic fashion after installing an imposter dean and kidnapping the real dean. A few months later, Jeff was forced to choose between his career and his newly found friendship when Shirley and Pierce struggle to determine who would run their new sandwich shop. Troy saved the air conditioning school and moved into the room that was formerly the Dreamatorium. Finally Britta was giving Abed therapy, which almost led to Evil Abed trying to recreate the darkest time line by being generally evil.
Our season premiere looks to revolve around two key points. First and foremost, the Dean has a limited number of tickets to a course titled “The History of Ice Cream”, which in true Greendale fashion leads to a Hunger Games style campus-wide fight for those precious few tickets. Additionally, we learn that last year’s beloved dictator Chang has acquired a case of amnesia, meaning that he has completely forgotten about his psychotic reign of terror last year (though hopefully he hasn’t forgotten how to play the Key-tar).
What I’m looking forward to: One of the things that last season finale did well was leave a number of plot threads open for season four while leaving an ending that would not be a complete let down in the case of cancellation. We should finally meet Jeff’s dad this season, which I’m awaiting with baited breath as Jeff’s daddy issues played a large role in season 3. Finally, even without a fifth season renewal, season four seems like a natural closing point to the story about college, so the absolute worst case scenario is the story reaches what would be it’s natural conclusion.
What I’m not looking forward to: No new episodes after may? A possible change in tone in an attempt to “broaden” the show under Sony’s behest? Whatever line it was that made Chevy Chase blow up midseason? This topic is pretty difficult for me as Community is easily one of my favorite shows on the dial and I am way too happy to see it return (hence the column title: Many Happy Returns). However, knowing the creative tour de force that is Dan Harmon (and if you haven’t checked out his podcast Harmontown I strongly recommend it) is gone, the show could lose some of the intricacy that was it’s hallmark over the last two seasons.
Previously on Dance Moms, Abbey yelled so much that Christi snapped and called her fat! The girls were in the room so there was a lot of crying. Let’s dive in! [Read more…] about Dance Moms Recap: Boys, Boys, Boys
Being the age that I am, something I am not prone to is watching shows geared towards children as they really don’t have much interest towards me. Almost a year ago, my sister gave birth to my beautiful nephew Eddie, and I was introduced to some really great shows for him. One being Yo Gabba Gabba, which is one of the more illustrated and interesting children’s shows to come out in recent years. They came to the Paramount Theatre in Huntington on Thursday and boy oh boy did they deliver.
As I walked into the theatre with my family in tow, you could feel the energy and excitement fill the room with the sound of laughter and screams from all of the kids alike. Even the parents were gearing up for the fun that was about to ensue. The show started with the usual opening that the show features, with DJ Lance Rock walking across an empty white soundstage, holding a boombox. When he opened the boombox, all of the characters appeared live on stage! Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee and Plex all stormed the stage and even myself at the age of 26 was super excited!
The show featured them performing some of their most popular songs from the actual television series, and of course there was dancey dance time. There was a ton of audience interaction, and everyone had a good time throughout. The highlight of the night in my opinion is when rap legend Biz Markie came on in the end and did his Biz Beats, a popular segment on the show. The show ended with the gang performing “Goodbye”, one that they did on an episode featuring Jack Black. Overall, the show was not too long as it was designed for children, and everybody seemed to have a great time.
Definitely check the actual show out, airing daily on Nick Jr.
It seems like every year a show premieres on American televsion that the critical consensus will label as the “Most talked about new show of the year,” or “best freshman season of the year”. This is Girls season 2, a show currently on HBO. In 2012, however, Girls received both of those designations to such a degree, it almost feels like there were no other new shows that came out last year (correct me if I’m wrong). Receiving highly positive reviews, solid ratings, and an almost instantly devoted fan base, Girls arguably was the first show since Mad Men to come off as both niche and accessible right from the start. Despite it’s acclaim, however, the show didn’t escape some rather nasty criticism either. The more polarized responses to the show tended to feel that the characters on the show were unlikable, and poorly constructed. Also, there were some issues on the series four main character all being Caucasian girls, with ethnic groups only being rarely used. For the most part I found these criticisms a little confounding (Sure there was one use of a black actor portraying a homeless guy. big fucking whoop!), but I couldn’t help but feel that a few segments of the show were struggling a bit to find it’s voice. Now, however, as the show is currently four episodes into its second season it already seems primed to silence these detractors.
For the unknowing, Girls is the creation of 26-year old rising indie star Lena Dunham, who acts, writes and directs the series. After achieving some festival success with her debut film Tiny Furniture, Dunham received attention from Judd Apatow, who was looking to produce a new pilot for HBO. Thus Girls was born, a show that acts both as a semi-autobiographical respot for Dunham, as well as generational statement/satire for contemporary 20-somethings. Stepping into her fiction-suit as Hannah, Dunham has addressed issues that come up daily for post-college kids, such as financial issues, sexuality, and the ever looming sense that one’s generation has a unanimous lack of responsibility.
Almost right off the bat, Girls was likened to Sex and the City, as both shows focus on a quartet of sexually adventurous females living in New York City. Granted, I’ve never really watched a full episode of that previous HBO series, but I feel that people were a little too quick to make that comparison. Girls is far too quirky to have a strong resemblance to Sex and the City, nor is it as polished. Girls certainly gives off an indie film vibe, in everything from it’s use of lighting, set design, and props that are literally bought from relatively cheap flea markets located in Brooklyn.
There’s undeniably a charm to how amateurish this young show is in some regards, but the sophomore season (Girls season 2) is definitely showing some vital signs of maturation. In interviews Lena Dunham said that the issues involving the show’s lack of ethnic groups would be addressed this season, and she certainly kept to her word. In the season premiere we find that Hannah is currently dating a black guy (played by Community star Donald Glover), which could of come off as a gimmicky effort to silence naysayers, but instead Dunham writes the character in a really unexpected way. Avoiding any stereotypes, we find out that this new character is actually a republican, which causes an uneasy tension with Hannah’s liberal policies. It climaxes with a brilliant argument between the two characters.
That’s what is really great about this new season of Girls (Girls season 2). Dunham is aware of the show’s complaints and it’s status as being “hipster-esque”, but she’s combating them while at the same time being a bit self-referential in a mocking way.
I’ll reserve my final judgement on Girls sophomore season till it’s completed, but right now it’s safe to say that the series is going to silence many of it’s detractors this season.
Monday Mornings: Airing Mondays at 10 p.m. Eastern on TNT
David E. Kelley made his return to television last night with the debut of his new show Monday Mornings. The former creator of such hits as Picket Fences, Boston Legal, the Practice, and Chicago Hope teamed up with former CNN medical adviser Dr. Sanjay Gupta in this new medical drama.
Monday Mornings tells the story of a group of doctors working at prestigious Chelsea Hospital who deal with both the crush of incoming patients as well as the hospitals extra-intense mortality and morbidity councils (which often occur on Monday mornings, hence the title of the show). These conferences are a key wrinkle to the show, as the interrogations often bounce the proceedings from a straightforward 90’s style medical drama (that’s right, no irascible pill popping doctors or soapy voice-over intros here) into courtroom show territory.
The show features an all-star cast including Alfred Molina (who will admittedly forever be Dr. Octopus to me) as Dr. Harding Hooten, a punishing chief of surgery who makes Percival Cox look non-abrasive by comparison, and Ving Rhames as Dr. Jorge Villanueva, a trauma chief with a knack for instant diagnoses and an uncanny ability to dispense advice. These characters in turn, are surrounded by a number of high level doctors, whether its hot shot neurosurgeons Ty Wilson and Tina Ridgeway (Jamie Bamber and Jennifer Finnigan), Dr. Sung Park (Keong Sim) a Korean neurosurgeon whose English is rusty exposing a brusque attitude, antisocial Buck Tierney (Bill Irwin), and the fast speaking workaholic Sydney Napur (Saryu Rao).
Like most hospital dramas, the pilot revolves around a number of patient cases, including an 11 year old who is diagnosed with a large brain tumor, a young woman who attempted to commit suicide by leaving her car on a train track has a ticking time bomb inside her brain, a woman whom is experiencing uncontrollable tremors, and a woman who has been through Chelsea Hospital five times in the past three months with various symptoms but no real long-term answers. Additionally, strains are shown in Sydney’s and Tina’s love life, however these strains manifest themselves in different ways and are a relatively minor subplot.
There are a lot of things that this show does well. The acting in this show is generally pretty strong, with Alfred Molina, Ving Rhames, and especially Keong Sim (who does a bang up job portraying Sung Pak’s brusqueness). Similarly, the show excels in its surgery scenes, where stunning visuals help to create a tangible feel of tension throughout the show (Ty Wilson’s hands being completely covered in blood after a botched surgery was particularly resonant). Finally, the pilot does an excellent job of easing the viewer into the show, giving quick glimpses into most of the principle characters and the flow of the show before ratcheting up the tension about 20 minutes in.
The one thing I did not like was the way that sections of the dialogue felt particularly contrived. This was particularly evident whenever the show tried to inject a little comedy into the proceedings, as the show often would jam snarky one-liners into situations that don’t warrant them (the reference to a side character being referred to as “007” because he had a license to kill fell particularly flat to me). This is a shame because the show is so excellent at producing tension that the one-liners often kill the flow of the scene. The editing feels awkward at points, making a major emotional reveal (Dr. Napur’s boyfriend rescinding his proposal) come off wooden, with a surprisingly hard cut in the middle of Ridgeway’s reaction.
The show could also use some a little additional characterization since after the pilot the shorthand description of both female leads is “they’re married to their job, and it’s ruining their home life” (I admittedly should have seen this coming when TNT’s own website for the show only described each character with a sentence or two). Additionally, while the stars deliver, many of the side characters tend to come off very wooden, with often either a rushed delivery of lines, awkward capitulation to authority, or hammy overreaction.
The Final Verdict: Monday Mornings marks a return to form for David Kelley. It follows many of the aspects of an ER-style medical drama, but also can slide into a courtroom style drama when the focus shifts to room 311. It’s star studded cast generally delivers, especially Ving Rhames and Keong Sim, but it seems difficult for anyone to excel because the writing and editing generally feels lacking. It’s mediocre, but it has the benefit of being in a Monday 10 p.m. time slot that is not exactly the deepest in television.
Boy oh boy did Beyonce have a lot to live up to last night. After being criticized since her supposed “lip sync” at the Inauguration a couple of weeks back, she knew she had to bring it hardcore to the Super Bowl. So did she accomplish that? From my point of view and several millions of people, she freaking did.
The anticipation built as the 2nd quarter ended. Coming out in a leather, dominatrix type outfit, she blew the stage up with several of her different hits from “Baby Boy” and “Crazy In Love”. It was the only time during the entire show that I actually stood close to the television screen to get a better view as to what was going on. I was HOOKED. The best part of course was when her Destiny’s Child crew, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland, popped out of nowhere to do “Bootylicious” and sing on her uber-huge hit “Single Ladies”. Cue to me going ballistic. Everything about the performance in itself was electrifying, as she herself is exactly that kind of an entertainer. There was really no need for a zillion backup dancers, bands, or anything else to distract from what people really wanted to see- her.
This was an improvement by a million miles from the Black Eyed Peas two years ago, and even Madonna a year ago. It seemed to flow a lot better than both of theirs and to silence her critics, she performed the whole damn thing live. That is an arena that is very tough to do so, and she did it. Freaking phenomenal.
According to ABCNews.com, she generated 5.5 million tweets (I made about 1.2 million of those), and many joked she was the one that caused the 34 minute power outage to happen as a result of how great it was. There were also rumors of the triangle finger sign she gave to the camera. Some people thought it meant illuminati (look it up), others thought it was designed for her hubby Jay-Z, who is known to make that kind of a symbol.
People who book the performers at the Super Bowl need to remember a night like tonight. Quite frankly, since the Janet Jackson one back in 2003, and perhaps the Prince show a couple of years back, the halftime shows have been a snore fest based off of what i feel of them afraid to book younger performers. There is nothing wrong with that, and there are several artists now that are an somewhat of a level that Beyonce is on and they can carry that kind of momentum. I wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat of tonight in the years to come, but Beyonce once again proved why she is queen of the castle and will stay that way for a while.
Last night marked the series finale of 30 Rock after seven long seasons, and the show ended as it lived: full of rapid-fire humor, Tracy Jordan’s antics, Jack Donaghy’s classic manipulative tricks, and Liz Lemon being as neurotic and frantic as possible.
The first half of this double header finale revolved around Jack Donaghy’s quest for happiness and Liz adjusting to being a stay at home mom. Neither goes particularly well as Liz immediately starts a fight on a moms only message board (with an anonymous poster that happens to be her husband nonetheless), while Jack goes off to formulaically fill out a pie chart with various things that are “supposed” to make him happy (such as faith, hiring a guy off the street to co-anchor for today, and a threesome with Nancy Donovan and Elisa. Despite filling in his happiness pie chart entirely, after reaching a number of goals (including an angry screed by Nancy Pelosi), Jack feels more disappointed than ever and leaves the job that he worked his entire life to get. Conversely, Liz and Criss come to realization that Liz would make the better breadwinner of the couple and Liz goes off to find a new writing gig. This ultimately leads to Liz and Jack getting into the most tumultuous argument in the seven year run of the show after Liz feels betrayed by the fact that Jack made her “want more” (in terms of dreams, expectations, and generally not settling).
Tracy and Jenna on the other hand, formed the backbone of the show’s two B-plots. Jenna attempts to adjust to the show’s cancellation by throwing Jenna-style tantrums but cannot cope with the fact that absolutely no one is listening to her. As a result she tries TV (only to be forced to play roles like corpses) and movies (only to find everyone in Los Angeles is younger and prettier than her). Tracy meanwhile is upset that Kenneth is not around to do him a favor as he used to in his positions of both page (and janitor), leading to a heartwarming moment where he “releases” Kenneth from his entourage.
The second half of the show revolves around a major plot development that occurs in the first half with Liz having to put up one final show of TGS in order to fulfill a contract obligation to Tracy Jordan. However, a monkey is thrown in a wrench when Tracy runs away in order to ensure the show never happens, unknowing of a hefty penalty in his contract that would be owed to him if the show does not reach the 150 episode milestone. As a result, Liz has to chase him down in order to shoot the final episode. Liz ultimately finds Tracy in a strip club, where Tracy is running from the show in order to avoid having to say goodbye.
Meanwhile Jack is trying to patch up with Liz after the tumultuous argument that occurred at the end of the first part of the show. This ultimately leads to Jack hitting rock bottom and various cast members wondering if Jack was looking to off himself. However, this turns into Jack’s final manipulative game, as Liz finds him boarding a boat to find his true bliss, only for it to turn into the shortest boat trip of anyone’s life after deciding to push a “see-through dishwasher”.
The show’s final C-plot involves Frank and Toofer trying to get Lutz to move off of Blimpie’s when he got to choose the writers’ final lunch. Nothing however will work to make Lutz not pick Blimpie’s as he chosen it for revenge after all of the hell the other writers have given him over the past seven years (until Liz, who is tyrannical about food throws Lutz in her office tells Cerie to order sushi and dessert). However, Lutz takes the ultimate of measures to ensure that the writers’ will eat Blimpie’s, come hell or high water.
The finale as a whole impressed, often juggling four plot lines through both halves of the show, with neither section feeling particularly crowded, and giving every cast member a proper send off, be it Jonathan finally screaming at Liz how Jack was all his, Pete’s attempt at faking his death, and Tracy’s father finally returning from buying that pack of cigarettes. This comes as no surprise, however, as 30 Rock has done an excellent job this entire season of wrapping up lingering plot arcs, whether it’s Kenneth’s final rise to the presidency of NBC (a long term callback to a remark Jack mentioned in which he stated that “Kenneth will be running this company in five years”), Jack’s final realization that despite her salty interior, his mother was really caring for him the entire time, or Liz’s adoption arc that mysteriously fell off the face of the earth somewhere in the middle of season three.
The (in this case, absolute) final verdict: 30 Rock went out with the sort of ending that a show of it’s caliber deserved. Despite the massive changes that many of the major characters had over the course of the show, it took lengths to prove that it’s central characters (Jack, Liz, Kenneth, Tracy, and Jenna) were still at their core the people that they were at the start of the show. As has been the case all season, the show managed to neatly tie up a number of unresolved loose plot lines, whether it’s Jack’s unresolved love life or the Liz Lemon adoption arc that disappeared from consciousness over the past couple of seasons. A terrific sendoff (and the first of many this season for NBC’s Thursday night lineup) for a show that was fearlessly frenetic and funny.
The Americans 10:00pm Eastern Time, FX
It takes a lot these days to truly blow me away from a pilot. I’m typically the sort of person who believes that the first episode displays what a given show can become, but often is not executed to a degree where that promise is actualized. However, the first episode of The Americans last night managed to completely blow me away.
The show loosely follows both the un-american activities and family life of two sleeper agents in America: Elizabeth (Kerri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys). Their “jobs” are a sham, their marriage was dictated by their Soviet overlords, and they exist to handle missions for the KGB while living comfortably in suburban Virginia. However, they must balance this while entirely withholding the truth from their neighbors, including a recently relocated FBI agent named Stan Beemer (played by Noah Emmerich) and even their own children.
What I truly enjoy about this show is that it reminds me a lot of Mad Men in that it’s a fairly subtle period piece that truly enjoys exploring the notion of identity. This tension is particularly palpable in the scenes where Philip and Elizabeth are discussing what to do with General Timoshev, a Russian defector whom they kidnapped from his apartment in Washington. Elizabeth remains steadfast in her resolve to serve the motherland, but also would like to off him because of some improprieties he took with her back in training, while Peter seriously considers his offer of defecting under the guise that they have been living this “American” life for half of their lives and that with young children they should consider taking the money and living a more stable life.
Another small positive for the Americans was the amount of detail they put into making the show look and feel like the early 1980’s, whether it be the cheesy wigs used for spycraft (that gave me flashbacks to the music video for “Sabotage”), the use of music (the show makes incredible use of both Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” and Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”), down to even the automobiles (my dad owned a boxy ’77 Cutless Supreme when I was a kid that looked not too far off from the sedan that proves to play a fairly central role in the plot).
The show, while positioned as a serious drama also likes to inject little funny moments into the show to break the tension, be it a seemingly pasted on scene (last night’s showing was an extended version of the pilot) where Philip just starts randomly dancing in the mall, while taking his daughter shopping, or the way that the FBI claims that President Reagan is trying to break them down with 7am meetings.
Where there was action in the pilot (most notably the first ten minutes, where Philip, Elizabeth, and one of their comrades kidnap General Timoshev) the action was tight, well executed and tense, especially once you come to the realization (and it took me a couple of minutes to get to this point) that these are not immigration officers checking on a random Russian, but rather the wholesale kidnapping of a Russian ex-pat.
One aspect that initially grated on me until it clicked, was that most of the action was shot in the dark (to the point where it was almost difficult to see). However, once I came to the (delayed) realization that the entirety of the spy aspects of the show occurred at night and most of the family drama during the day, it made it slightly easier for me to take. The other minor issue I had with the pilot was that it felt bloated at points (as much as I loved the scene where Philip maims the sleazebag who was making moves on his thirteen year old daughter, it felt pasted on and I can’t imagine that the scene made the 44-minute cut)
The Final Verdict: The Americans is a gripping thrill-ride of a show that grabs on to your attention and never lets go. While this version of the pilot felt a little bloated at points (it ran 90 minutes instead of the usual 60), it had the vibe of both a blockbuster action thriller and a subtle period piece all rolled up into one. This show is easily finding it’s way into my regular viewing, and it should really make it’s way into yours. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.