A Few New(ish) Shows

Happily Divorced– The show based on Fran Drescher’s life is surprisingly entertaining. You can’t help but wonder why anyone likes watching someone whose voice is so grating, but somehow it works in this show about a woman who learns after nearly two decades with her husband that he is gay. They get divorced but don’t have the respective money to live in separate homes (their house is unrealistically big for this issue, maybe it is time to get two smaller houses). I don’t care for her best friend Judi, who seems there for obvious laughs and little more. The show isn’t going down in the history books as a fantastic comedy, but there’s something enjoyable about killing time with it.

Death Valley– MTV’s latest foray into scripted television is a supernatural comedy about how a police station (specifically, the Undead Task Force newly formed within the LAPD) deals with the revelation that zombies and vampires are real. At the same time, they are being filmed, Office-style, for a documentary. This show isn’t of the quality that Awkward is, but the network’s scripted TV has always been hit or miss and this is somewhere in between. A lot of its laughs are a bit cheap and zombies are a bit silly. It feels like the show is mostly missing true characters (rather than a group of caricatures), but I’m still watching to see where it goes.

Strike Back– this show isn’t exactly new at all, in that it is in its second season, but it only just came to the US this year (with a partnership with Cinemax that is much like the Torchwood deal with Starz). I watched the first season (which is, in typical British form, only a few episodes long) and found it to be all right. The main character’s internal drama did not come across as strongly as it might have and felt largely removed from the action of the story (perhaps because his family and the guy who is giving him a hard time are always on the other side of the world). The six episode first season is divided into two episode arcs and the strongest one was easily the first, focusing on the kidnapping of a journalist by someone from the main character John Porter’s past. Porter is a retired Sergeant, after a mission in Iraq led to the death of two soldiers from his unit. he has since grown estranged from his family and struggled to get his life on track when he is called in to help save the journalist. The show wasn’t strong enough to jump to the top of my to watch list, but it will remain on my “watch when all that is on is reruns” list.

The Lying Game– Yet another ABC Family show based on a book series. This show follows Emma and Sutton, twins who discover each other when they are teens. Sutton was adopted and has grown up in a life of privilege. Emma, on the other hand, has gone from one bad foster family experience to another. The girls’ personalities could not be more different–Sutton is the nasty queen-bee while Emma is sweet and desperate for love and acceptance. Sutton goes off to search for their birth parents while Emma pretends to be Sutton in order to cover for her. Things get complicated as the mystery of their birth grows and Sutton’s complicated life makes it difficult for Emma to maintain her cover. The mystery isn’t as engrossing and the series isn’t as addictive as Pretty Little Liars, but the show does have a charm of its own. (Perhaps the biggest problem is that while Emma is endearing, Sutton is not, whereas in Pretty Little Liars, all four girls are sympathetic. It may also be the lack of well-developed other characters.)

If You Like…Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl is all about rich kids who live a life of glamour as they scheme their way through life.

If what you like about the show is all the teen drama, consider shows like:
CW’s 90210 reboot about a bunch of kids in Beverly Hills. They’re the west coast version of GG. Also from the CW is Hellcats about a girl named Marti who joins her college cheerleading squad in order to get a scholarship for school.

ABC Family has some particularly strong teen drama with Pretty Little Liars (four girls deal with the death of their friend while trying to figure out who killed her and dealing with threats by a mysterious texter known as “A”, Greek following fraternities and sororities in Cyprus Rhodes University, Make It Or Break It about girls who train as Elite Gymnastics with the goal of competing in the Olympics, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager which is technically about a girl who gets pregnant as a freshman in high school after having sex for the first time but is really a show where kids talk endlessly about sex.

Some other current shows involving teen drama are Fox’s Glee which follows a high school glee club as they try to improve as a club and gain acceptance in high school, Teen Nick’s Gigtantic which follows the children of celebrities in Hollywood, and MTV’s Skins about a bunch of wild teens who spend most of their time drinking, partying, and having sex without concern for the consequences.

If what you like best about Gossip Girl is all the scheming and backstabbing, in addition to a number of the shows listed above, you may want to check out CBS’s Survivor and MTV’s The Challenge which revolves around people being thrown into some remote location and battling through challenges in order to make it to the end without getting voted out by their peers to win some money. Both shows are reality shows, so they are different, but you have more tricks and sneaking around than just about anywhere else on television.

If you love the crazy wild behavior and out of control people, consider Jersey Shore from MTV about a bunch of Italians who go to the Jersey Shore and spend their time drinking and partying or Showtime’s Shameless about a poor family who do anything the can to survive with no adult supervision to really look out for them.

Pretty Little Liars: Moments Later

Still the show that everyone is watching but no one quite seems to know why. The acting isn’t great, that’s for sure. The story of the girl seeing her teacher is so overdone at the moment that it’s more annoying than interesting. The characters themselves aren’t all that complex. But somehow, we can’t stop watching.

This episode took a step in the direction of some better writing:
-We got a teaser about who A is, Noel maybe or maybe not depending on if he was telling the truth or not.
-Hannah had a hospital visit from Allison which may or may not have been real (I’ll be honest, I always suspected that she was still alive). She also had a hospital visit from A. Connection?
-Emily’s parents found out that she’s gay and their reaction was anything but the supportive parenting we’ve seen in other shows (especially her mother’s reaction).
-The girls finally find out about Aria and Mr. Fitz. Can they just end the story now?

I haven’t read any spoilers so I can only make guesses where things are going, but even if I don’t know why, i will still be watching.

General Recaps

Pretty Little Liars– This has definitely taken the spot of show of the summer. It’s one of those oddly addictive shows where you can’t help but keep watching. A part of me was really into it, wanting to know who A was (we never actually saw Allison’s body, so there’s every possibility A is her) and the other part was frustrated. For one thing, the show was suffering from the “awful main character” syndrome that seems to be an issue with a number of ABC Family show–Amy of Secret Life, Emily of MIOBI. I find Aria’s entire story utterly uninteresting. Her parents are going through a pretty awful divorce and all she can think about and be upset about is the teacher she’s obsessed with. The other big issue I had is the fact that the actresses are fairly awful. But I do like Hannah and to a slightly lesser extent Emily and the tension building from episode to episode was well done, even if not every individual plot line was.

Huge– I might only like this because I like Nikki Blonsky, but I’ve enjoyed this show (and I think Blonsky will be singing this week!!!). Not the best show of summer, but not bad either. I particularly like the most recent bit of information about Will’s past, though the one character I’d really like to see more about is Shay. We’ve only learned a little about her and she’s such a crazy character that I want to know more about where she’s coming from.

Melissa and Joey– Entertainment Weekly summed this show up perfectly. It’s like being in an episode of “I Love The Nineties.” The show is completely formulaic and not particularly surprising or funny. ABC Family doesn’t seem to do half hour comedies well and this show surprised me considering how well their one hour teen dramas are doing. It just didn’t seem to fit. My friend says they’re trying to capitalize on the people who liked the movie Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence starred in and also perhaps target the nostalgic twenty-somethings who watch the channel and then pretend not to. I get the strategy, but the show just doesn’t cut it.

Royal Pains– This show has sort of hit a plateau, which isn’t to say it’s bad, but only to say it hasn’t gotten any better. I’ll be honest and say that I like Dr. Emily Peck as well as Paige, though both characters interrupt the main character romances that were set up in season one (you know, the will they won’t they that was Ross and Rachel but is now Hank and Jill, Divya and Evan). I like how Evan’s growing up somewhat and I find Hank to be a little too perfect. I’d like to see more facets of his personality beyond “hi, I’m perfect.”

Covert Affairs– It’s like Alias without the mythology stuff (thankfully, because despite my like for Lost and its mythology, the Alias stuff just didn’t stick for me). I kind of like it, though I am hoping for the show to step back for the formulaic stuff and look more at the bigger story (specifically, Annie’s love interest). Other things I’d like to see: Auggie’s action days (the recent episode with the girl he liked was pretty great), a female for Perabo to play off of (maybe a rival spy), more about Annie’s family, and more depth into the characters.

Drop Dead Diva– This show continues to surprise me. How many different story lines can you come up with about a dead person who is living in someone else’s body? It turns out, a lot of them. It may not be the best quality show out there, but it continue to churn out interesting, albeit preposterous, episodes. (Maybe a bit more insight into characters like Kim and Fred would be nice.)

Project Runway– This is quite the season. I’m not sure if or how the extended format affects things or even helps things, but I’m not complaining either. This season is a pretty good one. I think there are a few really talented designers, though there are others that are just ridiculous (the diaper shorts?). The first episode was ridiculous with its “you’re not on the show yet” challenge. Why was everyone freaking out? Are you on camera? Are you competing in a challenge? Then by definition, you are on the show. The benefit is in theory, the girl who got kicked off in that first episode should be able to tryout for the show again. What I greatly enjoyed though did not necessarily agree with, was Tim’s dressing down of Gretchen this week. Sure, she’s arrogant and hot headed, but to say that she bullied them into listening to her was unfair and from what we saw, untrue. She didn’t force anyone to do anything. We didn’t even see much arguing. And now, the cast that already hates her is bound to turn mean. And yeah, she’s pretty full of herself but her record did (at the time) kind of give her a right to be.

Weeds– Well, this show just continues to take strange turns. I know the writers think it’s a great idea to ditch everything and start over, but I miss the dynamic of the original seasons and the rest of the cast beyond the Botwins. And the whole mallet murder…yeah, I don’t even know what to do with that. Still enjoyable but perhaps straying father than I would like?

Leverage– This past week’s episode really showed off just how excellent the writing talent on this show is. Basically, we see the tale of how a specific dagger was “stolen” through the eyes of each of the characters before they had met and worked together. The brilliance of this was showing how each person’s memory was the same, but different. Little details, accents, etc all highlighted the individual characters, their abilities, and the overall dynamics. Even though they’ve turned to good, they still take pride in their abilities and their pasts. I for one would love to keep learning more about them. Though I don’t think they can quite utilize this specific format again (what are the odds that they all foiled each other on another heist?), I hope they find a way to use a variation of it. At the same time, I love how we’ve seen a number of episodes that highlight particular characters. Always strongest for me are the ones about Parker (since they’re the only ones, besides Nathan, where we delve into the characters’ pasts as well as their psyches), which we’ve had a few of lately. I hope to learn more about all of the characters. I will say that I miss Jeri Ryan on the show, not that I want her to replace Sophie, but maybe as an occasional guest spot or addition.

So You Think You Can Dance– Did you see it coming? Lauren Froderman beating out Kent Boyd? There’s only one reason this did not surprise me. My friend has a theory that the contestant who is set up as the clear winner from the beginning (of any reality show, not just SYTYCD) is virtually never the actual winner of the show. Perhaps the audience doesn’t like being forced into a decision or the contestant gets to cocky or just doesn’t show growth because they are already so strong, but for whatever reason, it seems to be true. (I can’t think of examples off the top of my head right now, but I’ll come back with them.) I for one am glad because Kent couldn’t seem to manage the few things the judges asked of him in terms of improvements whereas Lauren seemed to get better by the week without ever really misstepping.

Psych– I’m noticing one particular thing missing for me this season. Specifically, that is the heart of the show. Where are the emotional aspects? What happened to the will they won’t they dynamic of Juliette and Shawn for example? Can we learn more about Spencer’s mom or maybe Juliette and Lassiter’s pasts? It’s still entertaining but it’s not quite as solid as it used to be.

Rachel Zoe Project– What is with the obsession over Taylor? Whether or not she actually stole some clothes (which really just doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons), get over her. It’s like not a moment can go by without them mentioning her and usually bashing her. Yeah, she was a whiner, but are you really pretending she didn’t ever do any work? I’m not even sure why I enjoy the show but I do and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Ashley. The truth is, even without Taylor, there is still chaos, but it does seem to be more outer office chaos rather than internal (but then again, Rachel is healthy, which is a change, and she is not putting an employee in the unfair and awkward position of choosing who gets to go on a trip).

Rookie Blue– Another actress I’m enjoying these days is Missy Peregrym. I like that her face is actually expressive. You don’t need the camera to zoom in as close as possible in order to get a sense of how her character is feeling. Not every plot is excellent, but a lot of them are. It would be nice to get to know more about Gail because right now she’s ridiculous and I would love to know more about each of their pasts. I like watching the rookies blunder, I like things about training and learning. If anything, I’d like some flashbacks of them actually training.

Burn Notice– Aside from not believing that Fiona and Michael are as attractive as they’re meant to be, I’m not enjoying this show as much as I did in previous seasons. I think the main reason is that it feels like the same arguments are rehashed every episode and the emotional element that I mentioned was missing in Psych is also lacking in this one. I hope it gets better, because this new story with Jessie finally knowing the truth could be interesting.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager– Do you think Adrian is going to have a miscarriage? That’s the only other storyline that I think could be really interesting since they’ve lost the opportunity to do the abortion plot (not that I’m surprised). All the other storylines, meh. I’m glad to see a little less whining from Amy though.

Pretty Little Liars

Is it just me or does this imply that they do some grave digging?

ABC Family’s newest show, (based on a book) following a group of girls whose friend Allison disappeared (and supposedly whose body has been found) a year ago. They start getting mysterious text messages from “A” who knows secrets about them that only Allison knew. It also seems like “A” is stalking them (or has cameras hidden in their room?). They have kept some secrets from the police–like how a prank they pulled caused a girl to go blind, how they were drinking the night Allison disappeared, how Allison was dating an older boy, etc.–and I’m sure they are keeping more.

After seeing MIOBI and being thoroughly entranced, I found this show slightly disappointing, in large part because the actress come off as exceedingly stiff and unnatural. Lucy Hale (who plays Aria), feels like the biggest disappointment, if only because she’s the only one I knew beforehand and I actually liked her in Privileged. I was also excited to see Holly Marie Combs back on tv but she is barely on the show.

Each character has a sort of story:
Aria– caught her father cheating on her mom and kept it secret, made out with her teacher (before and after she knew he was her teacher)
Spencer– comes from an overachieving family, obsessed with winning to prove herself, makes out with her sister’s bf. twice.
Emily– has a boyfriend but becomes attracted to her new female neighbor
Hannah– shoplifts and got caught, the new queen bee (or so episode 1 seemed to claim but we haven’t really seen it)

None of the stories are particularly unique (maybe the theft but you can only do so much with that) and the characters are all fairly one-dimensional.

I’m expecting some much bigger secret to come out. Not sure I’m going to keep watching this, but I’m willing to watch a little more, at least until more summer shows premiere.