Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Squawk Box: Fall Grab Bag

God Friended Me: I was a little dubious about this one, but after the first episode, I think I'm kind onboard with it. When Preacher's Kid turned outspoken Atheist Mile Finer (Brandon Michael Hall) gets 'friended' by God, it sort of turns his life upside down and it leads him to two other people John Dove and then Cara Bloom whose lives intersect with his own in unexpected and one might say miraculous ways. It's a concept that you sort of raise an eyebrow at when you see a preview for the show- you're not entirely sure if it's going to work, but surprisingly it does- remarkably well. I don't know if it's soon enough to dub it a 'Touched By An Angel for the 21st Century' but it could well head in the direction. It's more grounded, less treacle-y that Touched was, but seems like a show that will fit right in on CBS. It also starts poking around with the idea of faith in very interesting ways while also making a subtle but important point about social media: it doesn't have to be a dumpster fire and with a little divine help, you can actually do some good if you put your mind to it. I'll keep watching this one as well.

911: I was dubious about coming back to this show after last season. I can't think of many dispatchers that actually hopped on board with the show last season- it was... problematic to say the least, but somehow with Season 2, they've managed to find their feet right out of the gate. The introduction of Buck's sister who is looking for a fresh start and eventually winds up as a 911 Dispatcher is a brilliant hook, because it allows the viewer to see a character learning the ropes of the job. Buck has actually grown up a little bit and after a rough spurt of immaturity with the introduction of a new firefighter manages to make it through the first three episodes without being totally unbearable. Peter Krause and Angela Bassett seemed like a weird, almost forced couple at the end of last season in many ways- but they manage to find ways to make it work in the Season Premier and they've got good chemistry together so I'm honestly looking forward to this one going forward.

The 'dispatch' aspect of it is still somewhat lacking. I'd like to see more of Jennifer Love Hewitt doing the actual job and fielding the calls. Her trainer made me cringe so so bad, because in real life, there's no way you'd be cutting trainees loose on their first day because you've had an earthquake. (The 'listen to a call', 'learn a call' and 'do a call' training method isn't horrible, but the way it's portrayed in the show is so so so so bad.) It's a nitpick, I know. But it's also a good sign, because if a dispatcher can nitpick about training methods, it's probably like a nurse or doctor watching a medical show. And that is great news. I'm kind of pumped about this. Will keep watching.

Murphy Brown: I wish the original run of Murphy Brown would show up somewhere online. Like Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime- I know it'll probably be consigned to CBS All Access (gross), but I'd like to actually sit down and watch the original run. I didn't realize how much it intersected with real politics (like she called out Dan Qualye on the show and then she interviewed other single parents to underline the point. That's really powerful, incredible stuff.) I think it's tip-toeing around something really great- but unfortunately, President Trump keeps getting in the way. The fact that her son (played by Jake McDorman) is also a journalist- but at a rival conservative news network is a concept I hope they keep playing with- but there's also other stuff they could explore as well! When Murphy sneaks into the White House Press briefing in a weird fit of maternal jealousy after her son gets an invite to the press briefing and she doesn't to try and ask a question, she ends up hectoring Sarah Huckabee Sanders and lecturing her about the many faults of the Trump administration- not actually asking a question and not letting her son ask his planned question about the high cost of pharmaceuticals. He rightfully calls her on it and in doing so, sets an interesting theme of what journalism should look like and how it can be effective in today's media environment. If they can get away from ranting about Trump and start mining some of that territory, they could get some of the old magic back and then some. (Also: Hillary Clinton had a cameo in the first episode that people online absolutely hated. It was a little forced in parts, as 'celebrity' cameos often are, but I found it to be self-deprecating, self-aware and it got a chuckle out of me.)

New Amsterdam: a new medical show on NBC, this one offers a different twist on the usual fare: rugged and unshaven white guy (Ryan Eggold) takes over as Medical Director of New York's oldest hospital with an insane mission that's sure to end well for all involved: changing the system. ("Before you can heal patients, heal the system!" "It's the show everyone in America needs to see!") The hint of breathless platitudes hanging over this show almost almost make you want to roll your eyes and change the channel, but damn, once you watch the pilot you're kind of sucked into it whether you like it or not. If this wasn't based off a true story, the idea of a rugged and unshaven white guy coming to save the system would strike me as incredibly lazy writing, but Doctor Who alum Freema Agyeman is also onboard as an oncologist (which proves to be important, given the unexpected twist at the end of the first episode) and she instantly elevates any show she's in. TL;DR: watch this for Freeman Agyeman. If you've got a black, cynical heart about the world, prepare for some eye rolls here and there. But it's decent so far.

Honorable Mentions: The Gifted (X-Men on TV only without, you know, the actual X-Men), I Feel Bad (any sitcom that can make me laugh out loud multiple times in an episode is worth watching), and Manifest (pilot was intriguing, but the 'big mystery' hook feels a little too much like Lost for my liking. Worth a peek though.)

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