TV Review: Man with a Plan

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Airs: Monday 8:30/7:30c on CBS

Review: Pilot

CBS is taking the formula-driven series to a whole new level. CBS is already known for their dyed-in-the-wool procedurals (e.g. any one of the thousands of iterations of NCIS). But why they ordered the same script twice for this year is beyond me. It is one thing to be unoriginal; it is another to be unfunny. Man with a Plan is both.

In Man with a Plan, mom is going back to work; meaning dad has to do more around the house and be more involved with raising the kids. (See also: Kevin Can Wait). This is such a tired concept that I can’t believe CBS tried it twice this year.

Perhaps worse than its unoriginality is Man with a Plan’s complete lack of humor. I wanted to shut it off after three minutes. There was only one interesting character in the whole show – the stay-at-home-dad that hasn’t been around enough men for the past however many years. The problem is he overacted the part, making it eye rolling at best.

I am admittedly hard on sitcoms. I tend to find the “situation” part of sitcoms stupid and unrealistic (coming from the sci-fi/fantasy guy that tends to be rather damning). Man with a Plan is overdone, and not even remotely funny enough to overcome the same plot as a hundred other comedies that have come before it.

WWYT Rating: 3.9

Nielsen Rating: 1.6 A ho-hum rating for a ho-hum show. It will probably be renewed at this level, but it is also very likely to drop – putting it in danger of being cancelled. Chance of renewal 55% (up from 20%)

Hallmark Movies: Catch-up

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I have fallen woefully behind on my Hallmark movie reviews, much to the delight of some of my readers (and the chagrin of others). Rather than a full length post on each of a nearly dozen movies, I’ll just lump them all here, with short commentary. Currently, I am still at least three movies behind, but with the Countdown to Christmas nearly here, I wanted to update everyone on these stellar movies.

All Yours – Woman doesn’t believe a man can take care of her kids. No explanation given for this slap in the face. Rating: 5.78 (Rank: 66)

Wedding Bells – A couple who are clearly not going to get married, have their best friends plan their wedding after the bride’s parents’ money is tied up in a pyramid scheme. Rating 6.09 (Rank: 46)

The Convenient Groom – An online love advice columnist gives terrible advice and doesn’t listen to her boyfriend/fiancé. When they break up she conveniently finds a stand in. Rating: 6.64 (Rank: 15)

The Wedding March – Woman unknowingly schedules to have her wedding at an ex-boyfriend’s B&B. It goes as well as you would expect. Rating 6.39 (Rank: 25)

Summer Villa – The friend/publisher loans the use of her French villa to a writer to encourage book completion. The writer won’t be alone however, the publisher’s brother, a chef, is also there to for inspiration after a bad review. The rest writes itself. Rating 5.99 (Rank: 53)

Ms. Matched – A wedding planner butts heads with man who recommends budget weddings. While he is 100% correct, perhaps a wedding expo is not the place to espouse your ideas. Rating 5.79 (Rank: 65)

My Summer Prince – Another princess movie, interchangeable with all the other Hallmark princess movies. Rating 6.19 (Rank: 38)

Summer in the City – A “successful” business woman hires small town girl to run her New York City boutique. “Successful” business woman doesn’t know how to market her shop or do the books. She is also afraid to show her own clothes. Despite having zero business skill, she is trying to open a second shop. Rating 5.62 (Rank: 71)

Summer Love – A woman is caught in a love triangle between her boss and the CEO of the company. Ignoring obvious HR issues, a fun little movie. Enough twists to make it slightly different than all the other Hallmark movies. Rating: 6.69 (Rank: 13)

Summer of Dreams – Debbie Gibson stars as herself* in her own autobiography. Rating: 6.26 (Rank: 32)

Love on a Limb – A city employee chains herself to a tree to prevent it from being cut down instead of coming up with a solution to the problem and ends up costing the city thousands of dollars in the process. Rating 5.61 (Rank: 72)

*Her name changed to protect the innocent, but we all know it’s her.

Movie Review: Ruby Sparks

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Released: 9/6/12

Hollywood has a formula for everything. From cop/legal/medical procedurals on broadcast TV to big budget summer movie blockbusters. When Hollywood breaks the mold sometimes they create something good, but it’s usually bad. They also tend to think highly of it themselves, and it shows in its pretentiousness (e.g. Sideways) and/or it is self-referential (e.g. Adaptation). Ruby Sparks toes the line of pretentious.

Calvin is a best-selling novelist with writers’ block. He is finally struck with inspiration in the form of a dream. He dreams of a woman named Ruby Sparks. She is perfect and Calvin is in love with the character, until one day she appears in his kitchen. Calvin has created the perfect woman for himself and whatever he writes, she becomes. Sounds perfect, but is she real? Is he going crazy?

Ruby Sparks explores a lot of areas. It starts innocently enough with an author’s relationship with their characters. George R.R. Martin either hates his characters or is afraid to love them so he kills them as quickly as he creates them. If you love your characters too much, you will find it hard to put them into peril (and there isn’t much of a story if there is no struggle).

Ruby Sparks then transitions into a slightly more serious matter, relationships in general. Relationships take work, even if you have literally the perfect woman, a woman so perfect you created her from your mind. From there the film takes a dark turn into abusive controlling relationships. What would happen if you could control your mate with a single stroke of the pen? If you could make them do whatever you want? It’s a little disturbing.

It is always good to see something new and something that makes you think. Ruby Sparks succeeds in that regard. It was well done, but it is a bit pretentious – not overtly so, but it is there. I also found the ending to be a bit of a cop-out, almost as if it had to revert back into formulism to satisfy someone (certainly not me). Ultimately, I would recommend Ruby Sparks, but I suspect that people will either love it or hate it.

WWYT Rating: 6.9

IMDB Rating: 7.2

TV Review: American Housewife

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Airs: Tuesdays 8:30/7:30c on ABC

Review: Pilot

Those who regularly pay attention to this blog know my pet dislikes – nonlinear story telling (without a purpose), laugh tracks, and time-travel butchery. It is time for another, one of which I have been silent on so far – excessive use of the voice over. It can be an exceptionally useful tool in moderation [e.g. How I Met Your Mother, Star Wars (Scrolling Text=voice over for all intents and purposes), Burn Notice]. Excessive voice overs, however, I find to be lazy writing. It’s as if the writers can’t be bothered to actually put a plot into place, instead they have to explain it to you via voice over. Show, don’t tell. American Housewife might as well be a book on tape with the amount of main character voice over. Even worse, her voice is a bit too, uh, nasal to tolerate for too long.

There is nothing special about American Housewife. It is a standard family comedy where everyone has their little quirks. On the positive side, the dad, the always excellent Diedrich Bader, plays the straight man perfectly. The youngest daughter who has severe OCD and germophobia (a la Monk) is also fantastic. On the down side, in addition to the aforementioned nasally voice over, the middle child is obnoxious and the oldest daughter is just there.

All the jokes in the trailer that I found funny somehow seemed to fall flat in context. The show does have potential, as the show grows into itself the need for voice overs will diminish (I hope). I will give it another week or two before making a final decision, but if I were to make a decision right now, it would not make the cut.

WWYT Ratings: 5.3

Nielsen Ratings: 1.9 A very solid opening. It is in line with the other ABC comedies on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The quality of the show may result in a bigger decline than normal, but I think it should still be well safe. Chance of renewal unchanged at 60%.

TV Review: Van Helsing

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Airs: Fridays 10pm on Syfy

Review: Double episode premiere

Why is the vampire myth so hard for Hollywood? They have no souls. They have hypnotic powers. Sunlight burns them. They can only enter if invited (that whole hypnotic powers thing comes in handy). They only die via wooden steak through the heart or decapitation. I understand that everyone wants to put their own spin on the vampire myth, but vampires aren’t trying to “fit in” to human society, and they sure as hell don’t sparkle in the sunlight. Van Helsing is merely the latest to corrupt the vampire myth. They seem to have mashed zombies and vampires together.

Van Helsing has an interesting basic concept – If a vampire drinks Van(essa) Helsing’s blood they revert back to a human – a nice twist to Dracula’s archenemy. Would she be coveted or reviled by vampires? It is a point that is difficult for Van Helsing to get to because the premiere bounces all over the place. You would think Van Helsing would be the main character, what with the title and all, but the show seems to follow Axel Miller, a low-level army grunt assigned to protect Van Helsing. It bounces around in time, and you know how much I love that. In fact, you could swap episodes one and two with no discernable difference to the storytelling (I might have accidentally done just that). During a flashback it gets more confusing – apparently the Yellowstone super volcano is exploding, a story of itself, but this is somehow linked to the vampire explosion? When another eruption goes off, a bunch of people randomly turn from human to vampire – more similar to zombie lore than vampire mythology. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

I am a vampire purist. It seems rather silly to complain that something that is mythical* isn’t right. Van Helsing has a good premise, but is too scattered to be worthwhile. This zombie/vampire mashup is similar to The Strain (another scattered premise). If you are tired of vampires, Van Helsing isn’t the show for you. If you are tired of zombies, Van Helsing isn’t the show for you. If you can’t get enough of vampires and zombies, and love seeing all the ways that the mythology can be perverted, then check it out.

WWYT Rating: 5.0

Nielsen Ratings: 0.21. This is an average rating for the four episodes that have aired. Keep in mind, the first episode drives this rating up a bit though. This rating would be a solid performer for Syfy if this were the average. The last three episodes have been below average for the network. I anticipate that it will be renewed for a second season (60%).

*Or not.

TV Review: Frequency

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Airs: Wednesdays 9/8c on The CW

Review: Pilot

I have a vague recollection of the movie, Frequency. By vague, I mean, I thought Christian Slater was in it (he wasn’t – I was thinking of Pump Up the Volume). That said, Frequency, the TV show had the same vibe (so to speak) as the movie. I was honestly a little surprised, I expected a terrible remake of the original, like so many of the other shows adapted from the large screen. It wasn’t terrible, which is more than I can say for most of the premiers this season.

Raimy Sullivan has an old ham radio in the garage. It used to belong to her late father. During a lightning storm, the ham radio activates and allows her to communicate with her father twenty years ago. [This premise, however implausible, is still more believable than Conviction]. Her conversations lead to saving her father’s life, but has a ripple effect around her – her mother is dead, her boyfriend doesn’t know who she is. She alone can remember both timelines.

I said I was surprised it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t very good either. The acting left much to be desired – it was completely unbelievable that Raimy was a detective. It was also heavily implied that the transfer of some blood work from a nurse to her mother is why the serial killer targeted her mother. Why then, did she not disappear until three months later? (Other than for plot purposes).

Frequency was a bit surprising but still a little underwhelming. The show feels a little different than the CW’s typical superhero fare, in a good way, but it is typical CW acting. I’ll give it another episode or two to see where it goes.

WWYT Rating: 6.0

Nielsen Rating: 0.4 Lowest of the new shows for The CW means this would theoretically be on the chopping block first, but who knows what they will do. Chance of renewal 49% (unchanged).