Fox, Wednesdays 9/8C
We actually got our first glimpse of Glee earlier this summer. I wasn't sure about it when my husband suggested we watch but it turned out to be creative, unique, and funny. The main character is a Spanish teacher, Mr. Schuester. The highlight of his life was the Glee Club in high school. When the chance comes to save it from budget cuts, he pays $60 a month for the opportunity to resurrect it. The only kids to sign up are the misfits and losers. At least as the popular kids see them. Rachel Berry is a neurotic girl in search of fame who usually ends up getting protein shakes dumped on her head. Kurt Hummel is a flamboyant fashionista afraid to tell his dad, and anyone else, that he's gay. Arty Abrams is a geek in a wheelchair who play a mean guitar. Mercedes Jones is a "Beyonce Knowles wanna-be" struggling with an inferiority complex. Tina stutters when she lacks confidence but sings with full force. Mr. Schuester frames Finn Hudson, the quarterback on the football team, into joining Glee. Though his teammates tease him, he finds he really loves it.
Sue Sylvester is the ex-Green Beret cheerleading coach, who took her squad to the championships and has it in for Glee. When Finn and Rachel are caught making flyers on the Cheerios copy machine, she demands the kids be hobbled in punishment. She gets a spot on the local news show and advocates caning.
It's a fun show. The music is really great. The kids can sing and dance. Even the football team, but that's spoiling. I do not like Schuester's wife. She's a taker, spending beyond her means and lying to her husband about being pregnant. Four episodes in, I do think they are trying to soften her to make her more likeable, so we'll have to see.
Of course, I don't like Sue. But we're not supposed to like Sue. Or Sandy. I do like however, that they've begun to focus on some of the other students in Glee where the first couple of episodes were heavily on Rachel and Finn. Mercedes built a friendship with Kurt. Tina gets the lead in a West Side Story song, and Kurt joins the football team to convince his father that he's not gay. They are beginning to flesh out even seemingly minor characters, like Puck, Quinn, and Marty, the football coach.
NBC, Thursdays 9:30/8:30C
Community follows Jeff Winger as he goes back to community college when it is found out his law degree "from Columbia" was not valid...outside of Columbia. He's a fast-talking swindler, looking to get his way no matter what he has to lie about. He accepts Abed's friendship for the information he can provide, especially about Britta, an attractive woman in his Spanish class. He lies about being a tutor and creates a study group to get close to her. Abed invites the others: Pierce, a womanizing manufacturer; Troy, a high school football star; Shirley, a middle-aged divorcée going back to school, and Annie, a perfectionist. The Daily Show's John Oliver cameos as a professor of Psychology and old friend of Jeff's who manages to swindle the swindler into taking school a bit more seriously.
Jeff looks down on these others as tools for his objectives, but little by little they are pulling him into real relationships. Imperfect as they are, they are laying a moral groundwork for him.
I admit I watched the first episode because John Oliver was in it. But I watched the second because it was witty and offbeat. The characters are both likeable and not-so-likeable. They're real. Who among us is as perfect as the characters we see on TV? As with Jeff, these characters are going to grow on us.
ABC, Wednesdays 9/8C
We saw a preview of Modern Family, showing three families, each different from the other. There's the husband and wife with three kids, the older man with the younger Latina wife and stepchild, and the gay couple who just adopted a baby. With the first episode we got to see a bit deeper into their lives. Claire and Phil have their hands full with careers, a teenager, and two other kids. Jay is trying to do better in his second marriage, to the much younger Gloria, a Columbian immigrant, and her son Manny. Especially with Manny, there's an age gap and a cultural gap. Mitchell and Cameron have just adopted baby Lily from Vietnam. Mitchell is a bit uptight and hasn't told his family for fear of their reaction. Cameron is more of a drama-queen and invites the family to dinner. The family, it turns out, his Mitchels's sister Claire and dad, Jay and their families. The families in Modern Family are all one extended family.
It's a funny show that stretches the sitcom boundaries with gay parents, older man-younger woman and the modern "nuclear" family. I'm not ready to put in my favorite shows category but I'm willing to see the second episode and I've got a feeling I'll end up liking it all the more.
In fact, none of those three shows fit the normal sitcom parameters. Glee's not Fox's High School Musical. Kids don't just go singing in the hallways. Okay, Rachel did once but it was more wishful thinking. Community isn't your normal college show. It's community college, the oft-maligned minor leagues of colleges. And Modern Family is, well, more modern than Leave It to Beaver or Growing Pains and is more realistic than Two and Half Men.
NCIS: Los Angeles
CBS, Tuesdays 9/8C
NCIS: Los Angeles is a spin-off of the popular NCIS. In fact, its pilot was two episodes of NCIS last season. They've changed things a bit with the premiere. The location, for one. In the 6 months G Callen has been convalescing from being shot multiple times in the pilot, the office moved to a new fancier location. And the Operations Manager has changed. She used to be Claire Masey, played by Louise Lombard and is now Heddy, played by Linda Hunt. Masey was believable in the part. She'd played a CSI who became a detective on CSI. In NCIS: Los Angeles, she was ex-Marine or ex-Navy. Either way she had worked with Gibbs before. She looked like she could be an agent and kick some butt herself. Heddy is a very short, older lady. It isn't believable in the least that she was ever in any branch of the military and I can't see her being a cop either, though I suppose it's possible. Worse, in the premiere, the sense is that she's been there for years. She's not a replacement for Masey. It's more that Masey never was.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I like the show in spite of Heddy. Just as I like Glee in spite of Schuester's wife. Chris O'Donnell plays G, a tough agent with a soft smile and an understated, tortured background. LL Cool J pulls off the role of former Seal Sam Hanna. Agent Kensi Blye is beautiful but no shrink when it comes to fighting. New to the team is Agent Dominic Vaile, a young guy trying not to make too many mistakes. There's good chemistry between the team members-except Heddy. The action is good, as we'd expect from an NCIS. It's not as witty as the original but then most spin-offs aren't. NCIS: Los Angeles has a lot more cool tools than our guys back in DC, like a huge touch-screen they can seemingly toss pictures onto.
And the one you might have missed, but I hope you didn't:
The Scifi Channel, Tuesdays 9/8C
Warehouse 13 is imaginative and put together really well. The CGI looks pretty real and the characters are fun. In 12 episodes, we really grew to care about the characters and even still they managed to throw us for a big, big loop and leave us with a gut-wrenching cliff hanger. And we have to wait until next summer! Secret Service Agents Myke Bering and Pete Latimer are suddenly reassigned to the mysterious Warehouse 13 where they meet the seemingly down-to-earth Arty Nielsen who manages the place. Pete is a fun-loving kind of guy who doesn't take too much seriously. He gets vibes that warn him of danger. He never really took those seriously but Mrs. Frederick, the head of whatever agency Warehouse 13 belongs to, does. Myka has an eye for detail. She's the type to read every page of the Warehouse Manual. Together they make a great team, though they bicker and squabble. When push comes to shove they look out for each other.
The premise is really unique, as far as I knew anyway. I hear there's some controversy about this being done before. Anyway, various objects in history have been found to have some sort of power. They need to be sequestered away as they can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands. Lucretia Borgia's hair comb makes people fall under the power of the wearer. Edgar Allen Poe's pen allows someone to write what they want to happen. The word "Wall" on a piece of paper causes a wall to open up and swallow a teacher. An Italian Bell causes people to literally die laughing. Others are funny. A dodge ball doubles if it hits someone. And it only hits someone when they are looking at it. So Pete and Myka get hit with one ball, then two, then four, etc, until finally Pete catches one and stops the dozens of others threatening to beat them to a pulp.
It's a fun show, with likeable characters, not your usual mysteries, and fun artifacts from history. Wish I'd thought of it. I can't wait for next summer. I hope you'll tune in, too.