Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out the return of 30 Rock. But can it pick up the pieces?
Series: 30 Rock
Premiere Date: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8 PM ET
Number of Seasons: Entering its seventh — and final — season.
Cast: The thinking woman's superhero Tina Fey leads a large, wildly talented, and eclectic ensemble that includes Words with Friends aficionado Alec Baldwin, song-and-dance woman Jane Krakowski, everyman Scott Adsit, human Muppet Jack McBrayer, human sad trombone John Lutz, slacker extraordinaire Judah Friedlander, token hottie Katrina Bowden, and the man who got you pregnant while you were reading this, Tracy Morgan.
Synopsis: Liz Lemon (Fey) is the overworked, underappreciated head writer of a late night sketch comedy show called TGS on NBC (owned by the illustrious KableTown). She's surrounded by her merry (well, sometimes) band of misfits that includes her business tycoon boss Jack Donaghy (Baldwin), the self-absorbed cast members of the show, Tracy and Jenna (Morgan and Krakowski), and fellow loony coworkers like loyal page Kenneth (McBrayer) and intellectual hired goons Grizz and Dot Com (Grizz Chapman and Kevin Brown). Liz is trying to juggle her crazy work life in addition to her equally crazy love life, which has included dating the likes of a beeper salesman who appeared on To Catch a Predator, a handsome doctor with a hook for a hand, Wesley Snipes (not that Wesley Snipes), and a ficus plant that resembled Bon Jovi.
Where We Left Off Last Season: Liz seemed to be on the baby track with her adorable, sane, IKEA-hating, hot dog-selling live-in boyfriend Criss (James Marsden, at long last getting the girl); Jack and Avery (Elizabeth Banks) became happily divorced; Jenna was blissfully engaged to Paul (Will Forte); Kenneth and Hazel (Kristen Schaal) all made us wildly uncomfortable with their first kiss; finally, Tracy chose Tyler Perry as his new role model in life.
What Might Happen This Season: From the looks of that spectacular photo above, Jenna goes through with marrying Paul (who will presumably have the same dress as his bride). Whether or not Liz marries Criss is still up for debate, though pictures released from the set of 30 Rock this summer implied that they — or, at least, she — goes through with adopting a baby. Elsewhere, Jack might finally convince Nancy (Julianne Moore) to move out of Bah-stin and live with him in New York, where he's the CEO of KableTown, while Angie (Sherri Shepherd) and Tracy continue their television dominance. And Dr. Spaceman will, naturally, become the Surgeon General.
You'll Like It If: You like quick-witted comedy that's as smart as it is silly.
You Won't Like It If:You're a dummy, dummy.
Emmy Love: Thus far, 30 Rock has received 57 Primetime Emmy nominations and have gone home with 14. From 2007 to 2009 it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, the same three years Alec Baldwin won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Tina Fey earned Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2008 and Elaine Stritch won the 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Jack's unrelentingly judgmental mother Colleen.
Ratings: While 30 Rock has always been an awards show and critical darling, the series never went far beyond its cult status to become a major ratings player. In its first year, it averaged only 5.8 million viewers, while Season 6 had its lower viewership yet with 4.5 million. (It came in at a dismal #130 for the 2011-2012 season). 30 Rock had its biggest ratings year back in Season 3, averaging 7.5 million viewers. Still, despite low ratings, the popularity of Fey, the show's fervent fan base, and the fact that it's available on Watch Instantly on Netflix, kept the show alive.
Key Soundbites: "I want to go to there!", "Blergh!", "HAM!", "What the what?", "Lizzing!"
Key Facial Expression:
Wine/Food Pairing:Whatever wine Angie throws in your face during an episode of Queen of Jordan, paired with Night Cheese.
What to wear while watching it: A tux… it's on after six — what are you, a farmer?
What to yell at the TV: "Good God, Lemon!"
The Tao of Lemon: "I believe all anyone really wants in this life… is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich."
Inspired Halloween costume: If you're single, go as Liz Lemon as Princess Leia on jury duty. If you're in a couple, go as James Franco and his body pillow Kamiko.
Who to Watch it With: Your equally nerdy, comedy-loving friends.
Who Not to Watch It With: Someone who doesn't know how to shotgun a pizza if the moment calls for it and/or a Canadian.
If You Like This, You'll Love: DVD marathoning Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show, Parks and Recreation, and Community
[Photo credit: NBC]
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Glee' Returns: A Deep Dive
A Los Angeles apartment building falls prey to something very nasty--won’t you come along for the ride? A TV news crew accompanies a fire company to a Los Angeles apartment building where something has gone wrong. VERY wrong. For the next 90 minutes the characters--and the audience--embark on a grimy gritty shock-filled rollercoaster ride through the hallways of an apartment building that is soon under siege by both a threat inside and the obligatory threat (i.e. the authorities who are always interested in keeping the lid on things) outside. It’s never really explained what the pesky pestilence is that kick-starts this horror thriller nor does it really matter. As seen through the lens of the TV cameraman (Steve Harris) the audience gets a good jolt of high-concept horror in the tradition of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield--but certainly more effective and better-rendered than the latter. It’s a pure edge-of-the-seat horror-fied (and horror-fried) adrenaline rush which should find great favor with fans of the genre. This is not a movie about acting unless acting is determined by how well people play under pressure. This is a concept movie a gimmick movie. The actors are merely there to fulfill their functions--show up scream and die--which they do with solid dispatch. Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter as the TV reporter-cum-heroine-by-default looks dynamite and screams even better. Jay Hernandez as a friendly fireman portrays manly panic quite well. He’s a hero and he’s a hunk but oh boy are the odds stacked against him! The majority of the ensemble cast ends up as fodder but they manage to make a positive impression that hurries this film along. This is not an actor’s movie but the actors most certainly do their part to keep the proceedings moving along. The real star of the show is Minnesota-born filmmaker John Erick Dowdle who maintains a relentless pace that serves this story--and the intended audience--very well indeed. If the intent was to make a gory paranoid rollercoaster ride that never lets up then the director has succeeded. You want to read more into it? Go ahead. I’m going for a drink to settle my nerves!
On the one hand it’s a comedy. We meet Sarah Huttinger (Jennifer Aniston) a thirtysomething knee deep in a pre-midlife crisis with a way too patient fiancé (Mark Ruffalo) and a nowhere job. Her anxiety is only exacerbated when she visits her picture perfect family in Pasadena CA a place she’s never felt like she belonged especially after her mother died. But then it gets weirder when Sarah finds out her family was the inspiration for The Graduate. It seems Sarah’s grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) was the Mrs. Robinson and that her mother ran off with the same guy briefly right before she got married to Sarah’s dad. Sarah becomes obsessed with finding this “other” guy Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) believing he might be the key. He’s a key all right--to a night of drunken lust. But none of this is going to solve Sarah’s problems now is it? She’s got to find her own answers in her heart. Excuse me while I go throw up. Maybe Jennifer Aniston should just write this year off. Not only did she lose a husband to another woman she also hasn’t made very smart choices in her career. Derailed completely missed the track and now this comedy is no better suited to her talents. Aniston is much better playing sweet and quirky rather than messy and neurotic and honestly shines brighter when co-starring with strong comedic talents such as Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly) or Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty). (That’s why we’re holding our breath for her next film The Break Up with [real-life boyfriend?] Vince Vaughn.) Shirley MacLaine making a habit out of being the best thing in an otherwise dull movie (In Her Shoes anyone?) is a hoot as grandma. Costner doesn’t look anything like Dustin Hoffman thank goodness but has zero chemistry with Aniston. And who knows what the hell Ruffalo is doing wasting his talents doing this romantic comedy crap. Just say no Mark. As a director Rob Reiner hasn’t had much luck lately either. This is the first movie he’s directed since 2003’s Alex & Emma--and we all remember what a success that was. To be fair Reiner apparently took over the reins from screenwriter Ted Griffin (Matchstick Men) who was making his feature film debut ten days into production and changed things quite a bit. That’s not surprising because Rumor quite simply lacks direction. It wants desperately to be a comedy with a hint of relationship drama but somehow misses the mark on both. Now the idea of a Graduate update is somewhat intriguing. Reminds me of Robert Altman’s The Player in which The Graduate’s original screenwriter Buck Henry pitches a sequel of sorts to a studio development exec. It’s meant to be a joke of course but somewhere in the spoof there might’ve been a sliver of mad brilliance. Too bad Rumor ruins it.
Completely stripping Catwoman of her "Batman" connections the geniuses behind this comic-book movie--at least as bad as Spider-Man 2 is good--also stripped it of any pleasure. Neither campy a la Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt of the old TV series nor sexy vamp like Michelle Pfeiffer of Batman Returns Halle Berry's Catwoman is well one lost little kitty in the big city. Actually she's Patience Philips--an annoyingly mousy graphics designer for a top cosmetics firm who despite her job has no fashion sensibility no self-confidence and no boyfriend. (Yeah riiiight!) She is befriended by a mystical Egyptian Mau cat which--courtesy of lousy digital effects--often looks disturbingly like Toonces and sounds like Linda Blair in The Exorcist when it meows; moreover its way of befriending Patience is to lure her into a suicide attempt--one of many plot points lacking a rationale. When Patience discovers that the cosmetics firm's villainous owner (Lambert Wilson) and aging supermodel wife (Sharon Stone) are marketing a toxic disfiguring facial cream she is killed--flushed through a drainage system into the ocean. But here comes that darn cat again to revive her as she's lying in sludge and mud. Next thing she knows she's sleeping on her apartment's bookshelf eating tuna by the caseload looking longingly at Jaguar hood ornaments as if they're long-lost relatives and jumping about walls basketball courts and whatnot faster than a speeding bullet. She also takes to wearing a pointy-eared black-leather dominatrix outfit along with too much makeup but at least no whiskers. She also starts sniffing around that foul cosmetics firm which leads to a martial-arts showdown with Stone. What the Oscar-winning Berry doesn't do regrettably is get a CAT scan to see what kind of ailment convinced her to make this lamebrain movie.
I've seen better acting on 7-Eleven surveillance videos than in Catwoman. Berry is cloying in the film's early stages when she's playing insecure lonely Patience and she's more pathetically childlike than anything else. Once she's Catwoman though she's really terrible tilting her head for endless close-ups and giving lots of wide-eyed stares meant to conjure feline curiosity but that more recall George W. Bush's "deer-in-the-headlights" gaze. The screenplay makes a few lame attempts to observe the duality of women in the way Patience changes to Catwoman but it's not there in the performance. Yet Berry's turn is a career-peak gem compared to Stone who can't decide whether to play the power-mad Laurel Hedare as a broad cartoonish send-up or as someone connected to reality. Looking like a vampiric Susan Powter and barking sarcastic lines without a hint of emotional connection to her character Stone is just awful. On the plot's fringes Benjamin Bratt does his best as a police officer (gee what else) who is both infatuated with Berry and suspects her of murder.
The one-named French director Pitof (short for "pitoful"?) supposedly is a digital-imaging expert who has worked with City of Lost Children's Jean-Pierre Jeunet but you'd never know it here. Either he doesn't know much about directing actors or maybe he only gives directions in French. The effects--especially action scenes involving a digitalized version of Berry--move at such a chaotic breakneck pace that she looks completely phony. Plus there's absolutely no sequential logic whatsoever to where Catwoman moves and when--apparently invisibility is one of her superpowers. These awkward clumsy scenes are usually accompanied by distractingly loud music. Pitof's only other directing credit is some obscure French flick starring Gerard Depardieu…one hopes Catwoman will be his last.