Fall 2013 TV

The CW’s ‘Reign’ Is the Guilty-Pleasure Period Drama You’ve Been Waiting For

Tonight the CW premieres a new series called Reign. It’s effectively The Tudors, filtered through a CW sensibility — lots of pop music and a candy-colored palette — and transposed onto the slightly more recent story of Mary, Queen of Scots. Everyone in this show is surpassingly attractive. There’s a great deal of sex, and a girl in one of those tattered burlap masks, and also a really hot Nostradamus. And then there is its genius casting of Megan Follows, best known as Anne of Green Gables, as Catherine de Medici. Basically I just like the idea that Anne grew up to be queen, and also that I can now nerdily mention that Anne directed the Mary, Queen of Scots play at the boarding school where she taught in Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. Intertextuality is a great and wondrous thing. … Read More

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Let’s Hope ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Will Kick Off a New Witch Craze

Tonight, the new season of American Horror Story (subtitle: Coven), premieres on FX, and without giving anything away we’re here to tell you it’s exactly the delicious dive into witchcraft you’ve been waiting for. The last few years in horror generally have been vampire-dominated, and thus, in a strange way, also kind of male dominated. Although things like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries and True Blood have female protagonists, it’s often men at the forefront, literally chewing on the scenery. The women have to be the strong, stoic types. Not so in AHS: Coven. And so, let us hope we’re all turning the tide back to not just a new cache of folklore but also to a supernatural trend where women get to do more of the fun stuff. Every single actress in this iteration of AHS looks absolutely delighted to be in the role she has. … Read More

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Will Rebel Wilson’s ‘Super Fun Night’ Break TV’s Female “Crazy-Monster” Mold?

With scene-stealing roles in box office hits Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson has earned the status of Hollywood’s newest It Girl. One might think it’s a surprising role for the Australian actress, but given her comedic sensibilities as well as the success of her predecessors — namely, self-depreciating humorists like Tina Fey and the unconventionally endearing Mindy Kaling and Melissa McCarthy — it’s not a shock. So Wilson has a lot of expectations to meet with her new ABC comedy, Super Fun Night, which premieres tonight to already-mixed reviews. The buzz surrounding Wilson has set the bar very high, but even so she looks to be destined to reach it. … Read More

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‘Masters of Sex’ Series Premiere Recap: “Pilot”

The uneven first episode of this much-hyped show sure tried to pack a lot in. That might explain why, from the very beginning of this pilot they’re telling us, not showing us. We start at an awards show, a pretty blunt way of introducing Dr. William Masters more or less immediately, signaling that he’s Very Busy and Important… Read More

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‘Homeland’ Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: ‘Tin Man Is Down’

First, a confession, so everyone knows where everyone is situated: contrary to what seems to be conventional wisdom, I did not find the second season of Homeland to be an unwatchable travesty. Too much of Dana and the snotty VP’s kid? Sure. Some occasional inscrutability? Fine. Not enough Saul? Always, always, always. But Brody is still one of television’s most fascinating enigmas, the battle between tenuousness and strength in Carrie remains riveting, and the “second 9/11” at Langley was an unexpected and effective reset button for the show—one whose effects are still being felt, two months later, as season three begins. … Read More

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How ‘Eastbound and Down’ Season 4 Makes Us Love Kenny Powers Again

“Antihero” is a major buzzword these days, especially when it comes to describing the (mostly male) protagonists on cable dramas. From the beginning of HBO’s renaissance of original programming, the antihero has been the staple for both its dramatic and comedy series, and Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers could fairly be put into that category. By the middle of the third season, however, it was hard to root for Kenny Powers; he has always been a despicable, misogynistic, redneck asshole, and the plot device that found him having to raise his son, Toby, barely humanized him at all. It’s hard to admit that the idea of a fourth season of Kenny Powers screwing over everyone in his life was not something I was looking forward to. To continue the show successfully, Danny McBride and company would have to figure out how to make the audience like Kenny again. … Read More

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Will ‘Masters of Sex’ Have the Courage to Be ‘Mad Men’ From Peggy Olson’s Perspective?

Remember when everyone was trying to rip off Mad Men? During the miserable 18-month hiatus between its fourth and fifth seasons, the networks saw an opportunity to steal the revered show’s audience. NBC and ABC brought us The Playboy Club and Pan Am, respectively, two dramas powered by the notion that 1960s costumes, sets, brand names, and retro sexual politics — rather than good writing, directing, and acting — were responsible for Mad Men‘s success. Since then, hints of the AMC show’s inspiration have popped up every now and then on TV, but never have I felt its influence more prominently than in Masters of Sex. … Read More

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‘Parks and Recreation’ Season 6 Premiere Recap: ‘London’

Hour-long episodes of traditionally half-hour sitcoms can be a dicey proposition — as later seasons of The Office proved, it’s easy for even a beloved ensemble comedy to wear out its welcome. Gimmick episodes that find a sitcom transplanted to international shores are similarly sketchy; too often, mere sightseeing is allowed to substitute for narrative, with the sight of our wacky favorites cavorting on foreign soil expected to carry the comic load. Last night’s sixth season premiere of Parks and Recreation is the show’s first double-length episode, and much of the action is in London, a city previously visited by the likes of Friends and Family Ties. But “London,” penned by co-creator Michael Schur and directed by Dean Holland (who helmed five previous episodes), seldom steps wrong. … Read More

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We Have Some Questions for Sarah Haskins About ‘Trophy Wife’

There are many things to like about ABC’s Trophy Wife, which premiered last night. And by “many,” I mostly mean the participation of Sarah Haskins, former Current TV skewerer of all things lady. (I also mean the participation of Bradley Whitford, but we can set that aside for a moment.) Watching the pilot, which was moderately funny and centered around introducing us to Malin Akerman’s prima-facie charming Kate, I found myself worrying, though. The show has sliced itself a fairly difficult task: how to lampoon a situation that still touches a lot of cultural buttons? People have built up a lot of (legitimate or not) anger and resentment over the years about the younger-wife thing. Willa Paskin, at Slate, feels that Trophy Wife manages to toe that line properly. But I have my doubts. Here are some of them, phrased as questions to Haskins herself in a perhaps-creepy-but-I-hope-ultimately-approachable frame that will lead to some answers.… Read More

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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Is Not the Next Great Joss Whedon Show — Yet

Few shows this fall — or in anything resembling recent memory, really — have premiered with the kind of ballyhoo that’s accompanied Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. A television spin-off of the über-profitable cycle of Marvel film adaptations that culminated in last year’s The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. plays like a direct sequel to that movie, with Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson resurrected for starring role and a “special guest” appearance by Cobie Smulders’ Agent Hill. Most importantly, last night’s debut episode was directed by The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, who co-wrote (and co-executive produces) the show with brother Jedd and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen, with whom he previously collaborated on Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog. Alas, in spite of those credentials and a few other friendly faces (hiya, Ron Glass!), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the Next Great Joss Whedon Show — at least, so far. … Read More

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