ABC’s Scandal and Revenge have been doing quite well for the US network, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that its rivals are trying to edge into the market. Both shows seem to capture a certain ethos viewers are craving right now; edgy, fierce, independent women usually rather, ah, creative means to get things done. Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) fixes things large and small while battling her demons, and Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) will stop at nothing to bring down the people who destroyed her father.
Apparently inspired by the flameout of CBS’ short-lived Jericho, NBC decided to try its own hand at a postapocalyptic drama in a disintegrating world without the comforts of home, namely the pleasures of electricity and all that come with it. Revolution opens in a time more or less like the modern-day US with a rapid action sequence in which the power goes out worldwide, and everything with any kind of electronics or advanced technology, including basic batteries, no longer works.
US network NBC put a lot of energy into developing a strong comedy block with offerings like 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, both of which distinguish themselves by having strong female leads. For a moment, it seemed as though the network was looking forward with its programming, initiating an era of female-driven shows with a fresh take on modern society. Unfortunately, with its pass on The Mindy Project, the network appeared to be throwing itself into reverse gear, as Alyssa Rosenberg pointed out on Think Progress; from being a comedy leader, NBC went to hovering fearfully at the back of the pack, afraid to take a chance on something new. Rosenberg, and others, suggested that NBC might have been unwilling to take on another show with a female lead, as though network officials believe there’s a limit on how many female-driven comedies the network can run.
The Olympics are in full swing in London, and the world is tuning in to watch; and, of course, to indulge the fiction that the Olympics are some kind of great leveling field where nations come together in amity, setting aside politics to compete with integrity and live side by side for a few heady weeks of friendship and solidarity. In the midst of regressive sex testing of female athletes, rising expenses, a scandal over empty seats, aggressive evaluations for doping, and the usual trauma of qualifying and not qualifying, one issue is looming especially large: NBC’s utter failure to handle its Olympics coverage in the United States.
NBC’s Prime Suspect is yet another US remake of a UK television show, which makes you expect that it’s going to be absolutely dreadful, since the US seems to have some issues with translation. For this reason alone, I largely ignored its existence for the first few weeks, until Lesley Kinzel wrote about the show to urge people to start watching. Then I had a Prime Suspect marathon and watched all the season’s episodes in a single night, and spent the next week waiting impatiently for another installment.
NBC’s darkly atmospheric Grimm premiered last Friday, blending the good old fashioned police procedural with the legends of the Brothers Grimm in a world that one of the characters assures us ‘is no fairytale.’ It’s unfortunate to see the show shunted into the infamous Friday night death slot, as this suggests the network may not be ready to give it a fair chance, and it’s a series well worth an opportunity to shine. Unlike a lot of what’s airing right now, Grimm is fun. If there’s only room for one fairy tale retelling on television, Grimm definitely wins out over Once Upon A Time.
It’s hard to say exactly when I figured out Whitney. I’d been dreading it since this summer, when I heard that Whitney Cummings — a spectacularly hacky stand-up who trades in tired “women are different from men” jokes, plus “edgy” sex — was getting her own sitcom. My dread level rose when Cummings took to the Internets to defend it. She announced that it was “basically about balls and sex and that sort of dumbness,” and that “all we do is talk about sex and vaginas and vejazzling [sic] about how [sic] the Kardashians are sluts and I’m in a freaking nurse costume trying to have sex with my boyfriend and he’s getting a concussion.” So, you know. Witty stuff. Then there were the promos — endless shots of Cummings leaning forward, mouth agape; kissy faces at the camera; “jokes” like “The Silent Treatment: Punishment Or Reward?” — and the certainty that Whitney was, indeed, going to be awful. But it wasn’t until the pilot episode, and the rape joke — the revelation that, on this show about the quirks of a long-term relationship, one of the “quirks” included Whitney’s lovable-doofus boyfriend having possibly raped her on their anniversary while she was passed out on sleeping pills — that I finally got it. Whitney is the Outsourced of gender.
Dan Harmon’s hit Community is wrapping up its second season tonight with the other half of the finale, a Western send-up that has given our characters a fabulous excuse for skulking around campus with paintball guns, forming a series of shifting alliances. Deliciously, Community has managed to reference not only iconic pop culture but itself with this reprise of last season’s equally paint-splattered ‘Modern Warfare.’ Let’s hope they don’t try for a third year, or a clever reference might become a tiring tradition.
I was slow to catch on to Community. I watched the pilot last year despite my general dislike of comedies, and didn’t pursue it, although it kept floating across my radar. People just wouldn’t stop talking about it though, so I recently took it up again to see what all the fuss was about. The show is a slow burner that doesn’t usually grab viewers with flashy theatrics: you have to be into Community to enjoy Community, and judging from the following the show is starting to pick up, more and more people are into it.
This is a show steeped in pop culture designed to appeal to pop culturalists of a certain bent, which is part of why some people may find it inaccessible, and why it may be destined for underground fame, as the one thing we love more than pop culture is referencing pop culture. Sure, it’s still funny, but it’s funnier when you catch the layers of references going on. The show is to some extent a parody of itself but it can be difficult to pick up on that when you can’t read the subtext. Community, in other words, is a half hour comedy that requires users to do their homework and come to class prepared for discussion.