Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spring TV: Smash

Mira already posted some thoughts on Smash but I thought I'd do a quick review as well. I watched the preview on Hulu Plus and was really pleasantly surprised by it. I soured on Glee pretty drastically and was wary of any show that was trying to ride its coattails, but actually this is actually a show about theater from real theater people. Actually it's kind of funny that there haven't been any TV shows about this before -- it's really interesting to see how an original Broadway musical comes together.

Anyway, one of the biggest surprises for me was Debra Messing. I was not really a Will & Grace fan but she's super great when in sitcom over-acting mode. She plays Julia, one half of a successful Broadway writing team, along with Tom. I gather that she primarily works on the "book" (script) and Tom does the music and lyrics. Through some random conversation with Tom's new assistant Ellis (racing his way to becoming one of the more unlikeable characters on television), they come up with the idea to do a musical about Marilyn Monroe.

Vying for the part of Marilyn are Ivy, a Broadway veteran who is currently in the ensemble for Tom and Julia's last musical, whose looks and stage experience make her a logical choice, and Karen (American Idol's Katharine McPhee, who I never really liked but is actually okay here), a newcomer to the city from Iowa (of course). There's also Derek, the director, and Eileen (Anjelica Huston, who I find really...smiley? I've found her scary in the past but she's pretty likable here), the producer, and various other supporting players, both in the musical and off.

There are quite a few songs in each episode, but not all are part of the Marilyn musical (I think they'd run out pretty fast if that was the case). They're kind of a mix of Ivy or Karen singing in other situations and fantasy/dream sequences, but nothing too out there like on Glee. None of the musical numbers have really blown me away but it's believable enough. I remember one of the things that ruined Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (another behind-the-scenes kind of TV show) was that the supposedly hilarious skits on the show-within-the-show were just not funny at all.

One thing I really do like about the show is that the focus really is on the women. Julia, Ivy, Karen, and Eileen are very much the principals, with the men in their lives being the supporting players instead of the other way around.

A promising beginning!

Spring TV: Awake

This was one of the shows I was most looking forward to from last year's upfronts and I was disappointed that they decided to push it to midseason especially because I feel like it kind of already has an uphill battle to fight. It kind of has shades of last year's critically acclaimed instant failure Lone Star (it comes from the same creator, Kyle Killen) but at least this is on NBC, which is a bit less hasty with the ax than FOX is.  
Awake stars Jason Isaacs (um, Lucius Malfoy! Looks completely different without the long blond hair) as Michael, a police detective who is in a terrible car accident with his wife, Hannah, and his son, Rex. After the crash, Michael finds himself switching between two realities every time he goes to sleep: one where his wife survived the accident, and one where his son did. He returns to work in both realities, and has different partners (Steve Harris and Wilmer Valderrama), and also begins to see a therapist in each (Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong). Michael is unable to tell which is real and which is a dream, and doesn't necessarily want to find out as that would meaning losing either his wife or son forever.  

This sounds pretty depressing, and the gritty camera filter only adds to the grim atmosphere (everyone's pores look huge!) but the cast already has some great chemistry and I there's definitely story to tell. It looks like the show is going to have a procedural aspect to it, with Michael working on a case in each reality that for some reason share clues and details. I have no idea what this means, whether this is going to have any science fiction or fantasy leanings or not, but I'm curious to find out. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Check in Thursdays: Week 8

Watching... Modern Family and Suburgatory. I don't think Modern Family is necessarily as great as it was in the beginning but it's still a quality sitcom. Suburgatory learns a lot more towards the absurdist but it's such a hoot. The whole cast is hilarious, especially Cheryl Hines as Dallas, who you really can't not like.
Listening... The Hunger Games soundtrack seems like it's going to be really interesting. On the one hand, there's some very pop/country stuff like Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, and Maroon 5, and on the other hand, there are original songs from Arcade Fire, Neko Case, and The Decemberists. Only a month until the movie comes out!
Reading... Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a science fiction young adult novel that is set in a near future that is for some reason obsessed with 80s gaming culture. I don't think I really get all the references but so far it's been a unique and fun read.

Burkie (filling in for Mira this week):
Watching...up to date on White Collar, which has only one episode left this season.  i really enjoy this breezy show.  looking forward to the new seasons of In Plain Sight & Fairly Legal (also on USA Network).
Listening...Aleph, a book on CD by paulo cuelho about a middle-aged man's spiritual journey.  also, listening to a lot of ryan adams, lately.  i like his style, and how he jumps around from rock to country to folk to pop.
Reading...The Twelfth Enchantment, by david liss.  chick lit about a girl named Lucy in early 19th century England.  lord byron & william blake appear as characters.  since i'm guilty of using historical figures like that in my own writing, i like that sort of thing  :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Check in Thursdays: Week 7

Watching... Cougar Town is back! Despite it being from the creator of Scrubs, I never really expected to like this show, but it's definitely found its groove over the years and the cul-de-sac gang is one of my favorite casts on TV right now.
Listening... Sleigh Bells - Born to Lose. New album out next week!
Reading... 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Murakami's books are hard to describe...they often have elements of science fiction or fantasy and feel somewhat...dream-like? Surrealistic? I don't know, but it's very captivating. This is a massive novel though, and I was only able to finish the first half last year before I had to return it to the library. I was lucky enough to pick it up again this week and I haven't been able to put it down!

Watching... I think the most captivating show for me this February has been Revenge.  We finally have caught up to where the season started -- the engagement party.  Hoping this show continues to draw me in, though sometimes the storylines get to be a bit much/annoying.
Listening... Adele's performance at the Grammys has renewed my respect for her. She makes singing look/sound so effortless!  I'm a little sad that she's taking supposedly a 4-5 year break from her music career...
Reading... Absolutely nothing.

[Posted on 17 February.  Apparently one or two reminders about Thursdays isn't enough to get me, Mira, to post! Sigh. Next week, Burkie has agreed to graciously join Jenn in checking in on Thursday cuz Mira's out of town.] 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Check in Thursdays: Week 6

Watching... The Voice. Well, I'm intending to watch the Voice...
Listening... Cults - You Know What I Mean. Beautiful but driving retro-ish sound. Also really like Abducted and Go Outside.
Reading... Swim the Fly by Don Calame. Why am I reading a book targeted to teenage males?

Watching... The Voice. Ha! I'm actually caught up on it, too.  Still love the blind auditions. Ceelo in his ridiculous sequined red robes and holding a white puffy cat (Goldfingers-style) is hilarious. And Blake is just dreamy.
Listening... Ingrid's album, Human Again -- yeah now I'm actually listening to it.  My initial thoughts is that it doesn't grab me like her last CD, Everybody, probably because it doesn't have any happy music. But it's an album that definitely is growing on me the more I listen to it.
Reading... um... ah... eh... Nothing. I've got nothing. Ooh! Reading... this!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Check in Thursdays: Week 5

Watching... New Girl. I've liked this show from the beginning even though they still don't know what to do with Winston and sometimes Jess can get a little over the top. But I really liked this week's episode, which pitted Jess against Julia, Nick's new love interest, played by one of my favorite actresses, Lizzy Caplan. And while it does seems kind of inevitable that Jess and Nick will get together, it wasn't a romantic rivalry at all. Julia is just a very different type of girl from Jess and her presence kind of pointed out how ridiculous Jess can be but at the same time allowed Jess to defend herself. And of course I loved the crochet/knitting club at the end!
Listening... Two Door Cinema Club - What You Know. I don't even know where I heard it first but it's been stuck in my head all week! Bonus - Ships in the Night and Down from Mat Kearney's latest album. His songs have been used in a lot of TV shows and on first listen are kind of vanilla singer-songwriter (with occasional spoken-word/rap, eek!) but he really does have a great voice.
Reading... Um, I haven't finished any of the books from weeks 1-4 yet. And yet I continue to go to the library and borrow new ones...

Watching... Well if you see my last two posts -- a lot of junk on Netflix and the sneak preview pilot of Smash. :)
Listening... Ingrid Michaelson's new album, Human Again.  Just got it in the mail today! Love all of her music and am super excited that I'll get to see her in concert (for the 4th time) in May! Yay!
Reading... wedding magazines.  I suddenly got it in my head that it's time to really start getting things done. Well, especially since I need to be mailing invites in the next 3 weeks. Ergh.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

M: some quick thoughts on Smash

Too lazy to flesh out a real post, so here are just some bullets on my impressions based on the pilot episode...
- Like it already!
- Too many characters, what are their names?
- Not a huge Katherine McPhee fan, but this is a good outlet for her.
- Love, love, love the musical numbers -- a combination of existing songs and songs written for the musical. Proof that there can be musical theater on TV without exaggerated lip syncing. (Ahem, GLEE.)
- Where will they go past season 1? Create a different musical?
- Will they exploit potential success of the show and actually create a Broadway musical? The song numbers and storyline should already be ready to do so.
- There are a lot of very perfect and supportive significant other's (ie. Debra Messing's husband, Katherine McPhee's boyfriend) but it really looks like they're planning on messing with those relationships -- that already pisses me off!  Is Katherine McPhee's character going to be one of those girls who just can't resist a guy with an accent?
- NBC is putting a lot into this show and the show itself is exciting to watch. I hope it doesn't disappoint!