Category Archives: fox

Idol’s Last Hurrah

Even with Syria the top story in the news (and no, I still won’t be writing about it), today was a relatively slow news day, and still keeping a low profile amidst the lack of news was the final announcement of the judges on the upcoming thirteenth season of “American Idol.”

To make it official, Ryan Seacrest will continue to host the Fox series, and along with returning judges from last season, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban, he will be joined by the returning Jennifer Lopez from season ten, and longtime “AI” friend and fan Harry Connick, Jr. So no Dr. Luke as rumored, no Mariah Carey, and saddest of all, for me at least, no Nicki Minaj.

Without Simon Cowell, the show lost most of its punch and charisma as far as I was concerned, and Nicki Minaj made it worth watching for me. Even the contestants were bland last season, Idol’s lowest rated season ever, and Nicki made it entertaining for me, and really she was the only reason to watch. With the new/old crew set for season thirteen, I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling it, and I might not be watching.

Glee Star Dead at 31

Over the weekend, “Glee” star Cory Monteith was found dead in Vancouver, he was 31. Recently released from rehab, drugs are suspected but unconfirmed.

Acting since he was a child, he rose quickly to stardom on Fox’s “Glee” a few years back playing Finn, high school footballer who joins the glee club. The musical comedy drama experienced great success in the first couple seasons, but then fell victim to what does in most high school shows – graduation. Trapped between following popular cast to college and introducing new characters, “Glee” has floundered. Finn recently returned to a bigger role as a co-teacher of the glee club.

The Canadian actor and singer had been in a relationship with “Glee” co-star Lea Michelle for a time before his death. He will be missed.

I Just Don’t Get It

I have had more than a few friends tell me not only what a great, but also hilarious television series “Arrested Development” is/was. That coupled with the fact that Netflix is going to bring it back for fifteen new episodes, which would serve as a prelude to a feature film. Well now, that sounds to me like there must be something unique and exciting about the series to have all that going on for it.

What did I know about “Arrested Development” however? Virtually nothing. I knew it lasted three seasons on Fox and was canceled because of low ratings. I knew that the musical group Arrested Development sued and settled over the use of the name. I knew that it starred Jason Bateman, and that Ron Howard was somehow involved. That’s it. Until very recently, I had never even seen one episode of “Arrested Development.”

Seeing how the whole series, in anticipation of the new fourth season, was available on Netflix, I decided to give it a shot. Wow. As Queen Victoria was often said to say, I was not amused. This thing was just not funny, or at least just not funny to me. When described to me by friends, or read about online, it sounded hilarious, but actually watching it – nothing. Crickets, baby.

What confounded me the most is that there are cast members who are on other shows or other endeavors who I think are hysterical. There’s Jessica Walter in “Archer,” Portia de Rossi in “Better Off Ted,” Michael Cera in some things, and David Cross in everything – yet in “Arrested Development,” it’s as if they are performing at a funeral.

I tried. I got through seventeen episodes before giving up, and not submitting to masochism. I just don’t get it. The new season will be available on Netflix starting this Sunday, May the 26th.

Following Not So Much

I think this one is the last one. I might watch “The Following” a couple more times, but I doubt I’ll be writing about it. Even Fox has tired of hyping it as much as they had been. Ratings have slipped even though Fox insists they will catch up through other pathways like DVR and streaming to other devices.

There was a Marvel Comics event a few years back called “Secret Invasion.” The premise followed (pardon the pun) that shape-changing aliens had infiltrated the human race. These Skrull, as they were called, looked like us, they acted like us. Anyone could be a Skrull. No one could be trusted. After a while, it became cliche. Any bad plot element could be resolved by that person or persons being a Skrull. If you couldn’t trust anyone, you couldn’t care about anyone. Epic character writing fail.

That’s the problem here. Anyone could be a serial killer under Joe Carroll’s influence. The known serial killers are unlikable, and the known good guys, even Kevin Bacon, are unlikable or ineffective. Who to root for at this point? Only James Purefoy, as the main big bad, has any charisma, and we barely see him.

As I stated early in my reviews of this series, the story was better suited as a movie or mini-series with a clear ending. I suspect “The Following” will now have an ending similar to that of “Alcatraz” – eventual cancellation.

The Following: Chapter Two

Okay, the hype is over, for the moment at least, and now “The Following” has to sink or swim as a series as opposed to an event. I had expressed in my review of the pilot that I didn’t think it had the legs to be a series. I guess this is where we find out. It has the bad potential to become a freak of the week show like early “Smallville” or “X-Files,” and I hope that’s not where we’re headed.

In the pilot, or rather the setup, multi-flawed FBI agent Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is pulled out of retirement to deal with the escaped serial killer Carroll (James Purefoy) that he had put away. He’s recaptured, but it turns out he’s built a cult of serial killers through social media, and they’ll do whatever he wants. This cult has kidnapped Carroll’s son to lure Hardy into a game of cat and mouse with the baddies.

Again written by creator Kevin Williamson, the subtext is very literate, and I am enjoying the writing theme and the Poe obsession. But I’m a writer. I wonder if other folks are digging this particular vibe or not. It works this way – Carroll was a writer, his crimes made Hardy a writer, and now this whole crazy game is built on the idea of a new book – one written by the followers in which Hardy and Carroll are the protagonist and antagonist.

Bacon and Purefoy continue to dominate the small screen whenever they are on it. Waste of an amazing cast, as I said last time. I just wish that the two of them would give us something edgier than the Clarice/Hannibal and/or Batman/Joker dynamic. I want more Shawn Ashmore, Billy Brown, and especially Li Jun Li.

Much of the episode is taken up by the good guys playing catch up to Carroll’s cultish followers and their shenanigans. I smell the stink of “Alcatraz,” “Revolution,” and “Flash Forward” on this one, as if we’re being played with like a fish on a hook. All we want is the confrontation(s) between Bacon and Purefoy, and the boy found, but you know we’ll only get dribs and drabs, while each episode has its own little underling serial killer story. Just give us what we want.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be around next time. I think I can see the future, and I’m not sure it has enough fuel to entice me further. We’ll see.

The Following

I was wary of this one. Usually when Fox gives a lot of hype to a new TV series, it’s either a big hit, or a big disaster. Excuse me while I wash the taste of “Touch” and “Alcatraz” out of my mouth. But then again, there was also “24.” Fox has been pushing “The Following” very hard, but because I like Kevin Bacon (well, bacon in general), and I’m just sheeple like that, I gave it a shot.

Bacon is former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, reactivated because a violent serial killer he put away has escaped prison. The charismatic James Purefoy is the killer Joe Carroll. Purefoy is a favorite of mine. You might know him from HBO’s “Rome,” and you should also know him from the excellent John Carter and the even lesser known Solomon Kane. The dude is awesome.

The catch here in “The Following” is that all the time Carroll has been in prison, he’s been online building a very particular social network. They’re not just followers, mind you, they’re also copycats and wannabes. Yeah, a serial killer social network, hanging on his every word.

Now the star power is not all in front of the camera, there’s some behind it as well. The pilot is written by creator and showrunner Kevin Williamson. You probably know his work, new spins in the worlds of horror and drama like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries.” However, like Fox, he’s had his share of dogs as well. Anyone remember “Hidden Palms”?

Also in the cast, but too far in the background for my tastes, are Shawn Ashmore and Billy Brown, both terrific actors. I also like relative newcomer Li Jun Li. It’s a great cast, but vastly overshadowed and overwhelmed by Bacon and Purefoy, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What is wrong however is a little thing and a big thing. The little thing is Williamson needs to brush up on his knowledge of pacemakers. The big thing is this premise is more miniseries than series. Viewers will only be able to take so much of this, before they start asking, “Is it time for the good guys to win yet?” The monotony can only be saved by new twists, and I wonder if Kevin Williamson has enough of them.

For another opinion on “The Following,” check out Amanda Reynolds‘ terrific review at Biff Bam Pop! here.

The New American Idol

There’s a whole new game going on at Fox’s “American Idol” this season, specifically in the way of three new judges. Randy Jackson stays on as the only remaining original judge, but he is joined by country singer Keith Urban, hip hop media superstar Nicki Minaj, and the legendary Mariah Carey. The problem is, as I and others have talked about here and there, indications are that the newbies get along like gasoline and fire.

“American Idol” premiered with its twelfth season last week with two two-hour episodes featuring contestant auditions. Audition week is the best part of the show, it’s also the most watched and talked about, mostly because its s freak show. Not as much as it used to be sadly. Like hockey and lacrosse have been neutered by having the fighting taken away, we now have less freaks on “Idol.” I suspect the ratings have suffered as well.

But of course that’s not the freak show most of America has tuned in for this season.

Before the premiere, the powers that be have been wisely playing up the Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey feud. Controversy breeds popularity. We all knew Nicki was crazy, I mean it’s a fact. Bitch cra-zay. But I think we, America as a whole, had forgotten the lunacy level of Mariah because that is a whole different planet of crazy. I think when we get to the live shows, Fox should just douse them both in gasoline as a preemptive strike because this is going to be bad, very bad.

The funny part is that Mariah comes off as a real bitch, to my mind at least. She acts superior and too good for the show more often than not. Nicki is actually pretty entertaining in a crazy way. In the four hours I watched last week, she won me over. I was disappointed to see Steven Tyler go, even more so to see Simon Cowell go a few seasons before, but I am digging Nicki, and I wasn’t that big a fan before this. I love it when she does the fake British accent and Mariah winces. And hey, Nicki namedropped Kate Bush on prime time American network television, so I’m on her side.

Keith Urban is interesting. I was surprised to find out he was a New Zealander. I don’t really think he adds all that much however. The poor guy has to sit between Mariah and Nicki, and quite honestly, as far as his judging skills go, he’s the male equivalent of Paula Abdul. I keep waiting for him to say “Nice shirt.” to a contestant.

I also feel bad for Randy holding this all together. I wonder if he might snap before Nicki and Mariah kill each other. I have noticed that he seems to have turned his filter off. If somebody is awful, he tells them right away a la Simon Cowell.

Well, I’ve been here with “American Idol” for eleven seasons, and I think, because of Nicki Minaj, believe it or not, I will hang on a bit for season twelve. Let’s see what happens.

Two Divas, A Dawg, and A Dude

Today’s guest blogger Patti O’Brien is a fellow writer and dear friend from the South Jersey Writers Meetup group. She’s been having trouble getting folks to come to her blog, so I told her I’d give her a spotlight here on Welcome to Hell. She’s a terrific writer, check out her thoughts below on “American Idol.”

*****

The premiere of the new season of “American Idol” (in mid-January 2013) may well be the most watched episode they’ve seen in years, and sadly, it won’t be due to the quality of the singers. The vocalizing on the first episodes is usually pretty dismal.

Nope, this year the singers will be secondary to what most viewers will be tuning in to see: the judges.

The feuds between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are already infamous. I don’t actually know what they’ve been fighting about but it doesn’t matter; two pop divas are at odds, presumably over which is the top diva, Minaj already playing the age card and Mariah, well, playing the Mariah card. Who’s to say which will actually be able to accurately judge new talent? Sure, Mariah’s the top selling female pop artist of all time, but can she offer valuable advice to the hopefuls who’ll sing for her? Other than ‘show a lot of boob, all the time, every single time you appear anywhere’ of course.

Minaj is a performance artist with a loyal following, but can she mentor a contestant who needs serious vocalist guidance? Only time will tell, and that’s what we viewers, who may have wanted to swear off the show when the new judges were announced, will tune in for—what will they do, what will they say, what will they wear?

The other new judge, Keith Urban, is possibly known more for being Nicole’s husband than for his music. Oh, and he’s cute, so that’ll draw in some female viewers. Of course, county music fans – those same fans who voted for Scotty McCreery – may also tune in to a show that’s historically been thin in this area.

And how about Randy? He of the ‘dawg’ and ‘dude’ and ‘I’m just not feelin’ it?’ Randy spends most of his time name dropping; his favorite thing is to name the original artist and maybe an obscure session musician who played on the first release of the tune the vocalist has just ‘made his own.’ Other than drool over all warblers who share his heritage, I think Randy’s shown us all the tricks in his bag, but it’ll be nice to at least have one judge who knows how this thing works.

With all the changes the show’s gone through, it leaves me to ask myself which judge I think has been the best and which the worst. Let’s start with the worst, because that’s easier – Ellen. Please. The woman is so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, she did nothing but praise or apologize: I’m sorry, it just wasn’t very good. But you’re so nice and pretty and wonderful and you’re a really good singer but for me, well, I’m sorry but I just didn’t love it. I’m sorry.

We get it, Ellen, you’re nice. But nice doesn’t butter the whole wheat toast on a rainy day in June, as my favorite judge might say. Yes, Steven Tyler, you were all that and a bag of crazy, but I loved you. You’d just as soon run up on stage and show ‘em how it’s done than sit there and listen, but you did offer opinions that were honest and usually on target, even if no one quite understood everything you said. You brought a certain panache to the show that the producers now need two crazies to bring.

And Simon? Well, you were harsh, obnoxious, full of yourself, wear nothing but undershirts, I mean, really, even plumbers wear shirts, Simon. Buy a button-up for the sake of all mankind, and learn to wear it with the buttons actually buttoned. You were mean and ornery, but you did make some good points.

Paula was sheer entertainment but on the few occasions when she was called on first, she could not put together a sentient sentence without first hearing what Randy or Simon had to say, then repeating it. But she, like J-Lo, looked pretty and was nice to the contestants; not as nice as Ellen, mind you, because Ellen’s kind of nice was gross. Sorry Ellen, I really am, but you sucked as a judge and you know it. Again, really sorry ‘bout that.

Someday, I’d like to see Ryan Seacrest in a judge’s chair. He’s heard everyone, knows the contestants better than the judges do, and must have a million opinions that nobody’s ever asked him to state. Well, I’m asking, Ryan: what the hell have you been thinking all these years? Maybe you should write a book; I’ll even ghostwrite it for you. We’ll call it “Dim the Lights,” and in it, you can tell us all the backstage gossip we crave.

So, when Idol debuts next year, I, for one, will be among the many who tune in to see how the new judges do. I don’t think I’ll like them too much, but I doubt they’ll be the worst. If you want to listen to some good ‘judges’ though, tune into “The Voice,” featuring Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Sheldon and Adam Levine. The format is different so they don’t judge, they fight over the singers they want for their teams, so it’s much more civil. And almost every one of the vocalists on that show are good, which makes the show already so much more watchable than “Idol.”

Also, I am now in love with Adam Levine, or as I call him, Mr. Devine. But that’s another story.

*****

You can check Patti’s blog Too Pooped to Pop here, and she’s also on the Facebook and the Twitter. Friend her and follow her, it’s worth it.

How Low Can Idol Go?

One of the big Hollywood gossip stories of the last week, and one that dominated TMZ was the Nicki Minaj – Mariah Carey blow-up on the set of the Charlotte SC auditions for “American Idol.” Apparently the two new judges on the show had words, exchanged threats, and some witnesses say even got physical. To me, even when the news first broke, it all seemed very suspect.

Later Mariah appeared on “The View” and mentioned, yeah, it was that casual, that Minaj had said if she had a gun, she “would have shot the bitch,” meaning Carey. Mariah’s husband, Nick Cannon, host of another talent show on another network, stated this past weekend that it was “all good.” I don’t know, a death threat, or at the very least a gun threat doesn’t sound to me to be “all good.” I think I’d be pressing charges if that was me or my wife – and double that if I was a big star in the public eye.

That, coupled with the fact that “Idol” remains in production, with no judges being removed, or visible disciplinary or legal action being taken – and especially considering the show’s flagging ratings last season – just stinks of publicity stunt.

What do you folks think? I think the ratings will be bigger come January when “American Idol” returns to Fox, and furthermore, I think both Carey and Minaj will be in attendance. One of my favorite quotes is one from Salvatore Dali, and was appropriated by Madonna – “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” I think it fits here. Time will tell.

New Season Fail?

I hate to say it, but other than the “Wonder Woman” pilot from David E. Kelley that NBC did not buy, I haven’t really seen anything from this newest TV season that has impressed me, nothing.

I love Zooey Dechandel, so I checked out her sitcom, “New Girl,” on Fox. First I was curious what someone like her who has been so successful in movies would want with television. I mean, this had to either be a great show, or a lot of money, right? Well, it turns out it might just be money. She’s fun and hilarious, but her three male co-stars were unwatchable. The problem – there’s three of them and just one of her. Awful.

Also on Fox, I tried the much anticipated “X-Factor” from Simon Cowell, and again, I was unimpressed. For someone who wanted to make a show that wasn’t like “American Idol,” it sure seemed a lot like “American Idol,” and not in a good way. Here’s hoping that Simon, along with Paula Abdul, return to “AI” next season. It will be better for everyone.

As long as we’re beating dead horses, the show I most was interested in this new season was “Terra Nova,” which at first glance kinda looked like an American version of “Primeval.” If only it was. I’d take another rip-off of a mediocre British scifi series over this dreck any day. Where were the freaking dinosaurs? Damn tease.

Look, don’t show dinosaurs in your thirty-second previews of the show for the last four months and not put any damn dinosaurs in the pilot for over an hour. To quote Millhouse in one of my favorite “Simpsons” episodes – When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?”

There were other series that were disappointments. “Unforgettable,” “A Gifted Man” and “Person of Interest” all had intriguing concepts, and quickly displayed with second episodes that they were all three simply formula shows. I don’t think we will ever see any progress on the main plot that got us hooked on the show, but will just be case of the week series. Damn shame too.

I was even disappointed by “Homeland.” It reeked of predictability for me. Again, a fine concept that just didn’t do it for me on the screen. Wow. When the pay cable shows aren’t good, you know it’s a bad season.

“Pan Am” was a pilot that has to be seen to be believed, so if you didn’t catch it, check OnDemand and see it. Not just for the now anorexic Christina Ricci, you need to see this decidedly confused show. First it’s kinda “Mad Men,” then it wants to be a comedy, then it’s an Airport movie and finally at the end it’s a spy thriller. See it while it lasts, it could be the quirky fun hit of the bunch, so bad, it’s good.

The only show I thought had promise, was canceled before I actually got to see it, which shows you just how on the mark I am with these things. Like “Pan Am,” it’s a period piece, same time frame, but this one’s deadly serious. “The Playboy Club” is/was about a mob murder in, you guessed it, a Playboy club. It had much promise, but, unfortunately, dead on arrival.



It looks like we’ll have new replacement shows coming up quickly as I think many of these are headed to the same fate as “The Playboy Club.” Hmmm… maybe NBC should take another look at “Wonder Woman”…

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