Around the Water Cooler: “The Mindy Project” – The Season 2 Premiere (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “The Mindy Project” currently airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:30 PM.

What: “The Mindy Project,” a situation comedy about a thirtysomething, Indian gynecologist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), who is looking for love and life fulfillment, despite being a unique personality with a curvy body type and despite the fact that she works in an OB/GYN office filled with other unique personalities (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/mindy_project_the/summary.html).

When: The Season 2 premiere aired on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, on FOX at 9:30 PM.

Where: The show is set in New York City (Manhattan specifically), primarily in the OB/GYN office in which Mindy works.

Why: I think Mindy Kaling (formerly Kelly Kapoor on The Office) is one of the funniest contemporary writer/performers.  She’s got a unique sense of humor and line delivery that makes her somewhat easy to relate to and yet awkwardly off-putting all at the same time, and this quality elicits the laughter, at least for this viewer.  Also, this program seems to be the Bridget Jones equivalent of the 20teens, and since I’m America’s answer to Bridget Jones, I had to check it out.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

The Mindy Project is still finding its footing as a viable sitcom in many ways.  Mindy the character is a scatterbrained, high energy woman with high expectations that define the situations in which she finds herself.  Sometimes those situations are laugh out loud funny; sometimes, they are a bit too cringe-worthy and awkward to be truly funny.  This includes her current relationship with her fiance, “cool minister” Casey.

At the end of the season 1 finale, Mindy chopped off her hair and agreed to go with Casey to Haiti, where he ministered to the local population, but a gall bladder infection resulted in Mindy being flown back to Manhattan for removal of her gall bladder in the season 2 premiere (because it’s necessary for her to be flown all that way?).  Nevertheless, she and Casey decide to speed up their wedding plans – and then they decide not to get married in a rush because Casey wants to go back to Haiti and believes that Mindy belongs in New York.  This whole Casey the “cool minister” was never a story line I bought completely – it all felt too contrived as an obstacle to the real relationship potential between Mindy and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), which also feels contrived, in the sense that it’s a trope of all romantic comedies, and The Mindy Project truly presents like the Bridget Jones’ Diary of the 2010s.  In some ways, the romcom formula plays well because Mindy the character believes in them wholeheartedly.   Yet, the show is at its funniest when it skewers that formula, thanks to Mindy the show’s head writer.

Still, Mindy and Danny have a certain bickering chemistry that is fun to watch.  In addition, the supporting cast, including handsome Dr. Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) and crazy nurse Morgan, are so zany, and the dialogue, supplied primarily by Kaling herself, is so rapid-fire and witty, that The Mindy Project is filled with some laughs.  The hope is that season 2 capitalizes on the moments that are funny, and that Mindy Kaling, as well as Dr. Mindy Lahiri, continue to push the envelope in order to find a stride that works.

 

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) Mindy and Casey in a long distance engagement?  Yeah, that’ll work.  How much time will pass before Danny becomes a factor, since his affection for Mindy is really starting to show?

2) Dr. Jeremy getting “fat” feels like a nonsensical story line.  Especially since he still doesn’t look that fat. Frankly, he and his English glibness are too underutilized.  Fix it!

3) James Franco has a recurring guest role as Dr. L, the second, Mindy’s replacement in the practice.  His character is already extremely off-putting in an unfunny way.  I hope it’s over sooner rather than later.

4) Bring back the shady midwives!

5) The collapse of Danny’s short-lived rekindling of his romance with his ex-wife (played by Chloe Sevigny) was really rushed.  Of course, so was most of this romance/engagement/flying off to Haiti/wedding piece.  I hope some light is shed on it all.

PARTING SHOTS

The Mindy Project is a funny show and probably appeals the most to thirtysomething women still finding their footing in the world (of which this author would fall into such a category); yet, it’s also uneven.  It all rests on Mindy (the actress, writer, and character) to steady the ship and keep it sailing straight, or the show has real potential to suffer from a sophomore season slump. Right now, it balances upon the line between funny/absurd to ridiculous/stupid.  Let’s hope it doesn’t teeter off the line onto the wrong side.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Mindy Project was ordered for a full season by FOX as part of the comedy block with New Girl at 9. Time will tell how it all fares.

Around the Water Cooler: “New Girl” – The Season 3 Premiere (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “New Girl” currently airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00 PM.

What: “New Girl,” a situation comedy about goofy but lovable teacher (some have described her as ‘adorkable’) Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), who, after finding out that her boyfriend cheated on her, answers a Craig’s List ad and ends up living in a loft with three others guys, including metrosexual, yuppie womanizer Schmidt; grumpy but down-to-earth bartender Nick; and eccentric but loyal radio producer Winston.  Also interwoven into this mix is Jess’ childhood friend CeCe, a deadpan model who has more street smarts than Jess but tends to make poorer choices, such as becoming involved with Schmidt (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/new_girl/summary.html).

When: The Season 3 premiere aired on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, on FOX at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in Los Angeles, California, primarily in the loft itself.

Why: I just caught up with this show on Netflix instant.  I had some interest in it when it was first advertised because I love Zooey Deschanel, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to catch it when it was on.  So many people, both trusted friends and critics alike, have said it was funny; once it became available on Netflix, I binge watched both seasons.  It is now one of my favorite sitcoms ever…for now. It is, in fact, quite hilarious, and I laugh out loud at least once per episode I see.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Of course, the biggest question of this new season is how the landscape is going to change now that Nick and Jess have confessed their feelings for each other, have slept together, and have run away (at least temporarily) to Mexico, at least until the gang brings them back in this episode.  The sexual tension and will-they-or-won’t-they quality of their chemistry was a huge contributing factor to the hilarity of the first two seasons.  Will it sustain now that these two characters have found each other?

To that end, Schmidt, after being given an ultimatum to choose between CeCe, who narrowly escaped from her (somewhat) arranged marriage, and his former-turned-current girlfriend Elizabeth, does what only Schmidt does best: avoids confrontation by telling each girl he chose her without making an actual choice.  While this scenario produced some groans from this viewer’s end, in that it is somewhat of a tired trope, it could also potentially be hilarious because Schmidt is such a unique douchebag of a character.  Will the dysfunction with CeCe trump his inner fat kid feelings for Elizabeth?  Viewers like us can only wait to find out.

And will someone please find Winston a lady friend?  I do not want to watch him doing puzzles without his pants for the next 23 episodes.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) How is the whole dynamic between Nick and Jess going to play out?

2) Will Schmidt escape with his life after failing to make a choice between CeCe and Elizabeth?  Should he and CeCe really end up together?

3) For the love of God, really, Winston needs a woman.

PARTING SHOTS

For such a simple premise, New Girl is a refreshingly contemporary and relevant situation comedy that finds a few atypical character archetypes and mixes them together into a wildly flavorful (and crunchy) salad of laughs.  That shouldn’t change, but the executive producers have noted in interviews that the landscape is changing and wide open now that Jess and Nick will be intermingling.  How will it affect the dynamics of the loft?  Of course, who cares, as long as it stays as funny and fresh as it was the first two seasons?

LOOKING AHEAD:

New Girl is one of FOX’s higher rated shows, so a full season was automatically ordered.  What will happen as the year progresses?  Only time will tell.

Pilots and Premieres: “Sleepy Hollow” – Series Premiere

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Sleepy Hollow” currently airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Mondays at 9:00 PM.

What: “Sleepy Hollow,” part supernatural thriller, part historical fiction, part revisionist fiction, part cop drama.  It’s got a little something for everyone.

When: The series premiered on FOX, Monday, September 16, 2013, at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in what is now known to be Sleepy Hollow, New York (formerly North Tarrytown).

Why: Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, in their colonial times regalia and context, thrust into the present?  That premise alone doesn’t fascinate you?

How – as in How Was It?  

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Sleepy Hollow = ****

SYNOPSIS

Nicole Beharie plays Sleepy Hollow sheriff’s deputy Abbie Mills, who witnesses the murder of her partner and sheriff by the Headless Horseman, an unidentified figure that Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) decapitated (in this show’s backdrop) during his service in the Revolutionary War.  How the Horseman is raised from the dead or brought into the present is unclear, but Crane is also pulled into the present, being apparently tied by blood to the Horseman thanks to his wife Katrina, who he comes to learn was a witch – she was even burned at the stake.

Though the search for the sheriff’s killer, monitored by a police captain played by Orlando Jones, is underway, Crane is discovered wandering through the streets of the apparently semi-large city, the proverbial fish 250 years out of his home waters.  Brought to the station, Crane is assumed to be insane, but Abbie, who has not informed anyone that the killer was a headless guy on a horse, believes Crane’s story and association to the Horseman and believes he can help her to solve the crime. Disobeying orders to house him in an asylum for an extended stay, Abbie and Crane work together to search for clues and history behind the Horseman’s rise, as she seeks to solve the crime behind her partner and mentor’s death. What they piece together, with the help of some magical artifacts, Abbie’s own personal history of seeing a possible demon as a child, and Crane’s memory, is that the Headless Horseman is, in fact, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Death, to be specific – and that his coming heralds the arrival of the other three.  The Horseman seeks reunion with his head to bring about conditions suitable for the arrival of his compatriots, and Crane and Abbie, who was all set to transfer to Quantico to become an FBI agent, realize that their destinies are intertwined with each other, with this faceless horror, and with the town called Sleepy Hollow.

THOUGHTS

Sleepy Hollow has a highly intriguing premise, pieced together from other films and television shows. Mixing elements of Supernatural, Back to the Future, and the title story itself, Sleepy Hollow presents several intriguing questions:

1.) How did Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman get drawn into the present, and why did it take 250 years, if the Horseman’s head was hidden and buried?

2.) What does the alleged demon that Abbie saw have to do with the Horseman or the other Apocalyptic Horsemen?  And how do Abbie and her sister fit into the bigger picture?

3.) Are there other members of the witches’ coven scattered about the town, and what powers do they possess?

4.) What does her former partner’s obsession with town lore and his extensive research on legends of the town, including Abbie and her sister’s encounter, provide for the larger backdrop?

Mison is delicious and instantly charismatic as Ichabod, traditionally characterized as somewhat of a bumbler.  In this program, he is quick-witted, quick-thinking, and quick to acclimate to the foreign world that is his future.  While his chemistry with Beharie seems somewhat forced, he steals nearly every scene he is in with an earnest line delivery that is neither too glib nor too overwrought with dramatics. Ichabod is the character to watch.

On the other hand, Beharie brings nothing particularly interesting or special to the role of Abbie.  She plays her sheriff’s deputy with some sass, some skepticism, and some square-jawed seriousness, but, as the viewer, it’s hard to empathize with her character at the outset when so little is offered.  She saw a demon; her sister has been institutionalized; and she wanted to become an FBI agent.  She was also close to the sheriff, her mentor.  She’s meant to be the focal point of the show, and yet, aside from the burning question of what her and her sister’s encounter has to do with the overall plot, she’s somewhat uninteresting when not much is known about her, since she’s not part of the original Sleepy Hollow story.  Because she is the fulcrum character, the anchor to the present, and the mirror of the viewer, the writers are going to have to work somewhat harder to make her a bit more interesting. Since this is just the pilot, the hope is that more of her character will be revealed in the near future.

The supporting characters are a work in progress, since none of them enjoyed as much screen time as Abbie and Ichabod.  Also, the Horseman racks up a significant body count in the first episode.  It will be interesting to watch how long characters last in this world, particularly after they have encountered either Crane or Abbie.

The production value of this program is very high.  The special effects are employed with care and are convincing enough to lend the appropriate amount of thrill and creepiness to the proceedings.  The music is also very good.  This show, like other shows before it, has the potential of being an enjoyably mysterious, thrilling, and/or scary ride each week.

Still, there are some gnawing concerns given the premise and execution of the pilot episode.  The Sleepy Hollow story is fairly short; much of what will be told onscreen will be pure revisionist fiction.  How far can it go?  Will the writers drive toward a full-on apocalypse?  Will it get Biblical?  Just what kind of scope will this story have, for if it remains within the confines of its source, it may have a very limited life indeed.

In addition, as previously described, the chemistry between Beharie and Mison is uneasy at best, and it’s not just because their characters are separated by time, gender, and race.  There is a distinct quality to the repartee that almost feels as if something is missing; however, this could be owing to the somewhat lacking dialogue.  Ichabod was almost too quick with his observations about the present; Abbie was almost not put off enough by his story of time travel.  The characters finding themselves allied in their quest against the Horseman and the lore of the town felt rushed and relied on some serious suspension of disbelief.  Let’s hope the evolution of their partnership does not suffer from this same quality, or the writers could spin themselves and these characters into banality quickly.

RECOMMENDATION

Sleepy Hollow is worth a look, as long as your head is firmly attached to your shoulders.  Those who love supernatural stories, cop dramas, historical fiction, or the original Sleepy Hollow legend will probably find the most interest in this show.  The progress of the story in the first season, and how the writers choose to develop some of the themes tantalizingly laid bare in the pilot, will be telling to the show’s future.  For now, there is intrigue and a great lead-in with Bones in the 8 PM slot.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Too early to tell.  The pilot enjoyed a large audience and was rated pretty highly.  The show will likely be picked up for a full season, but series are produced in 13 episode increments, typically.  Let’s see how it fares.

Around the Water Cooler: “Bones” – The Season 9 Premiere (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Bones” currently airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Mondays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Bones,” a black comedy/procedural about forensic anthropologist Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel), her work, her colleagues, and her relationship with partner and lover, FBI Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), who she assists in solving grisly murders by examining skeletons and bones (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/bones/summary.html).

When: The Season 9 premiere aired on Monday, September 16, 2013, on FOX at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in Washington DC and surrounds, primarily at fictional institution, the Jeffersonian Institute, and the FBI.

Why: I initially tried watching this show because I love David Boreanaz, formerly known as Angel the vampire on his self-titled show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I couldn’t get into it at first and stopped watching after two or three episodes because the crime procedural, which this program largely emulates, is not my cup of tea (I do not enjoy shows like Law and Order or CSI).  Yet, the show became very popular with friends and respected television critics and seemed to have some longevity, so a few years ago, when the show was made available on Netflix instant, I caught up, muscling through the first few episodes of the first season, which, in fact, are uneven, and learning to enjoy the unusual chemistry between Deschanel and Boreanaz.  Once the show found a solid cast and also explored story arcs with serial killers, not to mention toying with the sexual tension between Bones and Booth, it became a mainstay of my fall to spring television viewing.  All of the characters are lovable and engaging.  Except for Daisy the Squintern.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

The major question of this, now the ninth season, is how much life Bones has left in it.  The primary thrust of the season will be whether the Jeffersonian team, along with Booth and Caroline Julian (Patricia Belcher), is able to capture serial killer and computer genius Christopher Pelant.  Pelant, who sees hyper-intelligent Bones as his most formidable adversary (while simultaneously holding a perverse affection for her), threatened Booth in the Season 8 finale by indicating that he would murder five innocent people unless Booth told Bones, who had proposed to marry him after long declaring the institution of marriage to be a pointless construct for her own rigidly scientific and anthropologically ordered life, that he couldn’t marry her (Pelant is capable of hacking complex computerized networks, including security cameras in the major metropolitan DC area, and can track them and see them).  The premiere deals with the aftermath of Booth’s retraction, indicating that in the three months between seasons, Booth has doggedly searched for Pelant with the intent of killing him, while Bones has puzzled through Booth’s consummate rejection of her proposal, which was a cataclysmic personal step for her. In the meantime, Bones’ best friend Angela (Michaela Conlin) has drawn the line with Booth, her husband Jack Hodgins (TJ Thyne) is trying to stay neutral, Camille Saroyan (Tamara Taylor) is cultivating a professional detachment while trying to give Booth the benefit of the doubt, and Lance Sweets (John Francis Daley) worries for the stability of Bones and Booth’s occasionally fragile relationship, for which he feels personally responsible as their sometime psychoanalyst, roommate, and (always) friend.

The show’s executive producer, Hart Hanson, has indicated that as long as there are grisly, bone/skeleton-related deaths to portray, and as long as the actors remain invested, Bones will keep on ticking.  It’s no secret, however, that the show lost a bit of its spark when Bones and Booth finally consummated their long-repressed feelings for one another, a consummation that was not shown onscreen, to the vitriol of some fans.  Avoiding the Moonlighting curse, the writers have managed to render Bones’ personal and emotional evolution, now as partner to Booth personally as well as professionally, relevant as she becomes increasingly compromising to concepts previously abhorrent to her, such as marriage.  Yet, if Bones and Booth finally do marry, it seems the show will probably have used up all of its major milestones.  Nine seasons is a long time for shows nowadays.  It will be interesting to see if FOX prolongs the show’s life while its late-stage quality declines, as sometimes happens. Fortunately, the formula for this show. unique to its quirky premise, is like a well-oiled machine, and the familiar pattern of each episode provides a sense of easy comfort, with the long-term story arc serving as background to each episode’s crime to solve. As a result, people keep watching these characters, even if there are few surprises left.  Of course, I anticipate that several surprises will emerge this season as the Pelant arc plays out.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) Where is Pelant, and how omnipresent will he be this season?  How quickly will this looming obstacle to Booth and Bones’ eternal happiness be resolved?

2) Are all of the squinterns coming back?  Can Daisy just leave?

3) How are Cam and Aristu doing?  I find that relationship charming, and there is so little focus on it.

4) Are Angela and Hodgins going to be given any interesting story lines this year?

5) Will Sweets find love?

6) Bones told Booth, in the end of the premiere, that though she knows he loves her still (and Christine, their daughter), and though she knows they will someday get married, it will be his turn to propose to her.  How will Booth do it – because you know it’s going to happen this season?

PARTING SHOTS

Bones is still quality television and still offers plenty of disgusting remains to siphon through, plenty of crazy Hodgins experiments to stage, plenty of easy chemistry between characters to play, and plenty of “I don’t know what that means” and other typical Bones expressions.  If the writers are smart, they will milk the Pelant story thread for as much of the season as they can, as he is the only real obstacle the characters appear to face anymore.  Also, maybe Bones should get pregnant again.  What would she do with two children?

LOOKING AHEAD:

Bones is one of FOX’s higher rated shows, so a full season was automatically ordered.  Will will happen as the year progresses?  Only time will tell.

Around the Water Cooler: “True Blood” – HBO Announces That Season 7 Will Be The Last

THE SPECS:

Who: The show is available to HBO subscribers exclusively, as it is HBO produced original content.  Of course, there are other ways to find it, as it’s kind of massively popular.

What: “True Blood,” a drama wherein vampires have come out of the coffin after the manufacture of a synthetic blood substitute called TruBlood, and a Southern waitress named Sookie Stackhouse, who is a telepath, is at the center of it all (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Blood).

When: The Season 6 finale aired on Sunday, August 18, 2013, at 9:00 PM on HBO.

Where: The show is set in fictional Bon Temps, Louisiana, in or around present day.

Why: This show was recommended to me by a friend because I love all things with vampires in them and tend to gravitate toward story lines with fantasy, including supernatural, themes.  I have stuck with it because of 1) vampires; 2) the sense of humor; and 3) hot men, particularly Alexander Skarsgard, better known as Eric Northman, the 1000 year old Viking vampire, and Joe Mangianello, aka Alcide Herveux, the resident werewolf.

How – as in How Will We Survive Without It?

In my last post recapping Season 6 of True Blood, I opined that the show may possibly have one good season left in it before HBO should pull the plug.  Apparently, HBO agrees with me, based upon this story from The A.V. ClubThe 2014 and seventh season will be the last of this vampire show.

I can’t say I’m surprised.  As I’ve been saying, True Blood, though still entertaining thanks to the plethora of hot men (well, hot people) populating its cast, is on its last legs from a writing standpoint, and some have been saying that sharks were jumped long ago.  I will be sad not to have an excuse to dream about Alexander Skarsgard every summer, but even I recognize that when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.  Also, if the show’s producers had followed the source novels by Charlaine Harris just a bit more to the letter, they might not have written themselves into the gaping black hole of story they’ve heretofore created through the addition of too many characters and not enough time to care about any of them.  Frankly, I think Warlow should have been a permanent addition to the cast, and Sookie should have been made a vampire-fairy hybrid like him.  That would have created some interesting complications.  The Vampire Diaries turned Elena into a vampire, and that show is still clipping along at a fine pace.

With that said, however, I hope the writers take this opportunity to create a satisfying ending.  Sookie should be in a stable relationship with someone (though Alcide would not be my first choice).  The vampires should find a way to coexist better with the humans they feed off of, and a few loose ends, such as rabid zombie vampires and Sarah Newlin, still at large, should be neatly tied off.  There’s no need for a grisly, unhappy ending, since all of the season ends have pretty much circled that general drain.

Just my thoughts, anyway.

PARTING SHOTS

It was the right call to give the show one more season.  Though still watchable, True Blood is more about its eye candy than its riveting storytelling.

LOOKING AHEAD:

True Blood will return for Season 7, the show’s last, in June 2014.