As noted in yesterday’s column, it has been years since the opening weeks of a new television season truly “belonged” to broadcast – but it seems that this year, in particular, the “other guys” have been coming on especially strong, with big news, bold moves and some of the most exciting new shows of 2014.
Here’s a look at a few more broadcast buzz-killers.
“Sons of Anarchy.” I’ve lost count of the dead bodies so far this season on FX’s ultra-violent biker soap. The carnage is so omnipresent that it has lessened the sickening impact of the savage murder of Tara, or so it would appear given the robust ratings “Sons” is currently enjoying. (Viewers are plainly more forgiving than critics on such matters.) Much of the all-encompassing madness has everything to do with the malevolent machinations of motorcycle mama Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal), easily the most detestable character on television now that King Joffrey is rotting in his grave on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” It’s more than a little exasperating to watch every character on the canvas, including her son Jax, blindly accept everything the ferociously flawed Gemma says as unequivocal truth. But there wouldn’t be much of a story at this point if Jax and his buddies weren’t so dangerously (and at times laughably) dim. I can’t imagine “Sons” coming to a satisfying conclusion in a few weeks; in fact, given everything that has happened, I’m not sure that Jax murdering his monstrous mother will be enough of a payoff. Still, “Sons” is nothing if not consistently surprising, so I’m there until the end.
“Homeland.” One show I don’t think I’ll be staying with is Showtime’s “Homeland,” which began what is supposed to be its comeback year with a highly problematic two-hour premiere that included a scene in which bipolar CIA operative Carrie Mathison, dangerously freaked out (if that is the correct term) by the prospect of motherhood, momentarily attempted to drown her new baby. I don’t know what to say, except that the writers and producers of this show, who are trying to rebuild it after its dreadful third season, haven’t done themselves any favors. What were they thinking? What should we be thinking? More importantly, why should we care? The best thing about “Homeland” right now is the story of Carrie’s colleague Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) and his struggle with PTSD, which last Sunday had him beating the crap out of two slobs in a diner who thought it appropriate to make crude remarks about the plus-sized woman with whom Quinn was enjoying a meal. Actually, there was something very satisfying about that scene, even if it was meant to be alarming.
“Kingdom.” Aside from the antics of Justin Bieber, I can’t recall the last time a male performer generated so much instant publicity for a passion project as Nick Jonas did last week for the new DirecTV series “Kingdom” (and his upcoming solo album) by stripping down and grabbing his junk. He did this for a photo spread in the new issue of Flaunt magazine. The pics went viral fast enough to reverse time (the way Superman used to do by flying around the earth in the wrong direction). I haven’t seen “Kingdom” (pictured below), but from what I gathered at DirecTV’s presentation of it at the Summer Television Critics Association tour it looks to be quite unlike anything else on television these days. Set in the world of MMA fighting, this is as much a show about bodies as minds and emotions, which makes the Jonas photos an oddly appropriate form of promotion.
“Tosh.0.” Daniel Tosh tried something daringly different on his Comedy Central series this week: For the first time ever, the clips of viral videos and the original content produced by Tosh and his team were deliberately family friendly. That’s a laugh in itself, given how popular this often very explicit show is with kids and as a family viewing experience. “Comedy Central has been forcing me to make this show dirty and gross for years,” Tosh acknowledged during the atypical half-hour, filmed before an audience of children and their parents rather than the usual crush of college kids. It was surprisingly funny, even if there was nothing in it that wouldn’t be welcome on ABC’s gentle “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Probably the edgiest thing in it was a sign outside the “Tosh Orphanage” that offered “Used Kids.” The young ones in the studio audience seemed to love what their host was doing, and he really seemed to enjoy interacting with them. That’s all well and good, but I wouldn't want to see him do it again.
“Peaky Blinders.” With even less fanfare than that surrounding the quiet arrival of Starz’ new comedy “Survivor’s Remorse,” which debuted last weekend to much critical acclaim, Netflix last week dropped the six-episode first season of the sizzling British drama “Peaky Blinders.” I’m half-way through, and totally hooked by a show that sounds like something we have seen a hundred times before and yet plays like something entirely new. It’s a handsomely produced drama based on a real-life crime family in post-World War I England. Cillian Murphy is riveting as Tommy Shelby, the head of the family, but Helen McRory, as iron-strong family matriarch Aunt Pol, steals the show. You’ll have to tune in to find out what the title refers to. (Hint: It involves razor blades.)
“Satisfaction.” In a move that upset nobody, USA Network last week cancelled its dark medical drama “Rush.” Meanwhile, it renewed the wholly unique if somewhat flawed “Satisfaction,” the adult drama about Neil and Grace Truman (Matt Passmore and Stephanie Szostak), an upscale (and rather boring) married couple struggling with individual mid-life crises that may or may not destroy their marriage. “Satisfaction” wasn’t exactly a hit in its first season, but let’s give USA credit for trying and sticking with something so different. Some advice for season two: Spend less time on Neil and Grace’s jobs and more on their involvement with sex worker Simon (Blair Redford) and manipulative madam Adriana (Katherine LaNasa), the power hungry woman who runs his escort service. They’re the best characters on the show.
Ed Martin is the Editor of MediaBizBloggers. He is also the television and video critic for MyersBizNet. Follow him on Twitter at @PlanetEd.
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