Several shows are premiering new seasons this week, while J.J. Abrams returns to TV with Almost Human. Here's what else you need to be watching.
The GoldbergsWhatever happened to Jeff Garlin, the former sidekick to Larry David's slightly more misanthropic version of himself on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm? He's starring on The Goldbergs, the most sitcom-y new sitcom to debut on network TV this year. Despite coming off a slow start, the show is gradually finding its voice, which is why ABC renewed it for a full season. It's not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Curb, but thanks to Garlin and Patton Oswalt, who narrates the show, it's still good for a few chuckles. A new episode of The Goldbergs airs Tuesday at 9PM ET on ABC.
Finding BigfootFor three seasons (and counting!), a rag-tag group of cryptic zoologists have been on the hunt for that ever-elusive creature known as Sasquatch. Spoiler alert: they still haven't found him! Will the mysterious ape-like being ever be located when the fourth season of Finding Bigfoot premieres on Sunday night? I'm guessing not. Finding Bigfoot airs Sunday nights at 7PM ET on Animal Planet.
ScandalFresh off her hilarious hosting job on Saturday Night Live, Kerry Washington returns to her hit political series with a brand new episode. No comedy here, unfortunately, unless you consider the show's intricate plotlines involving various lies and backstabbing among Washington's political elite as topical humor. But then we already have Fox News for that, now don't we? A new episode of Scandal airs at 10PM ET this Thursday on ABC.
Almost HumanA futuristic detective must save the modern world from its many corrupting forces. Sound like a done-before concept for a TV show? Factor in that his partner is an android and you have Almost Human, the new sci-fi series from J.J. Abrams. Hey, I'll watch that! Almost Human debuts this Sunday at 8PM ET on FOX.
Unique SweetsEver wonder what pie would taste like as a butterscotch cocktail? The good folks over at Unique Sweets have, which is why they've focused an entire episode on developing the tasty new drink, as well as some oddball ice cream flavors. Let's face it, there's just no way you can have a show about dessert mash-ups and not have people watch it. Unique Sweets kicks off its season four this Sunday at 7PM ET on the Cooking Channel.
Produced by Judd Apatow and co-written by Apatow’s BFF Seth Rogen Drillbit is a little bit My Bodyguard a little bit Freaks and Geeks. The story focuses on three geeky high school freshman--Ryan (Troy Gentile) Wade (Nate Hartley) and Emmet (David Dorfman)--who become primary target practice for the campus bully Filkins (Alex Frost). Enter Drillbit Taylor (Wilson) a homeless Army deserter who answers the boys’ ad for a bodyguard mainly because he wants to rip them off. During the course of the movie however Drillbit teaches the boys how to stick up for themselves and grows to care about them especially after he pretends to be a substitute teacher at their school--you know to “watch” over them. It’s a cool gig for the drifter since he gets free coffee a new girlfriend (Leslie Mann as a horny English teacher) and newfound respect. Eventually everything goes to hell in a hand basket as they are wont to do but at least everyone walks away learning some valuable life lessons. We should say “Awww ” but thankfully the script keeps the gag reflex to a minimum. While Wilson may be phoning it in a little as Drillbit--a likeable rascal who’s a cross between a Dupree and a Wedding Crasher--his certain charismatic style is undeniable on screen. You can’t help but like him in whatever he does even if the film he is in pales by comparison. Not to say the rest of Drillbit’s cast isn’t supporting Wilson as best they can. The unlucky geek squad is full of fresh faces with newcomers Gentile and Hartley capturing their inner nerd with a passion. Many will also recognize Dorfman as the spooky kid from the Ring series now a pipsqueak-y teen. Frost (Elephant) has the crazy eyes of a psychotic teenager bent on humiliation and destruction of those who stand in his way. Realistic? Perhaps not but he makes a decent villain. Mann is handed the smallest part possible but makes her presence known. Her mini-seduction scene with Wilson in the teacher’s lounge is definitely one of the film’s better moments. Still this is Wilson’s movie and frankly he can do better. Seth Rogen must have had a hell of a time in high school--he can’t quit writing about it. On Judd Apatow’s first effort TV’s Freaks and Geeks Rogen played a high school freak while last summer’s Superbad which he co-wrote with former high school bud Evan Goldberg took high school geekdom to a whole new level. Now he and Apatow team up on another I’m-a-geek-in-high-school-but-stay-true-to-myself effort hiring director Steven Brill to helm the proceedings who brings his own level of expertise having directed such comedy favorites as Without a Paddle and Little Nicky. Drillbit does have its hilarious moments--a montage of hiring a bodyguard stands out (including the cameo from the original My Bodyguard Adam Baldwin)--but overall it just isn’t as fresh and different as other Apatow/Rogen collaborations. They seem to have forgotten how not to rehash past experiences--or past movies. There's also the fact that Drillbit is PG; by surpressing the colorful language it may have hindered their creativity. Either way the current comedy kings miss the mark this time around.
In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.
Morris Buttermaker (Thornton) doesn't really let himself get too involved in anything. He wakes up drinks a beer exterminates a few household pests for a living drinks some more beers and maybe gets laid. That's about it. Sure he was once a professional baseball player who pitched in the Show for about two-thirds of an inning but now he just uses that experience to pick up women. One such woman a tough-nut lawyer and overachieving single mom (Marcia Gay Harden) bribes Buttermaker into coaching her son's Little League team. Suddenly faced with a woefully inept racially mixed team of 12 misfits Buttermaker has got to whip them--as well as himself--into shape if they have any chance of making it to the championship let alone beating the reviled returning champs the Yankees and their overbearing coach (Greg Kinnear). Yeah Buttermaker is about to get seriously involved.
Although it's hard to top Walter Matthau's original irascible Buttermaker casting Thornton as the baseball-pelting beer-swillin' yet lovable curmudgeon is kind of a no-brainer. Since Bad Santa the actor--with his devilish goatee unkempt hair and rumpled clothes--has become the new W.C. Fields albeit an edgier one capitalizing on the I'll-deal-with-kids-but-I-really-don't-like-them persona. On top of that Thornton has a killer under-his-breath delivery especially when he's trying to dole out er words of wisdom to his team: "I know a tie is a lot like kissing your sister but the way we've been coming along it's more like kissing a really hot stepsister." The kid actors--most of them unknowns--also do a fine job. You've got the usual suspects from the first movie: the rather rotund Engleberg (Brandon Craggs); the hotheaded Tanner (Timmy Deters); and the shy and weird Lupus (Tyler Patrick Jones). Then you've got slight variations: the statistic-spouting nerd is now an Indian kid (Aman Johal) who carries around a laptop; an Armenian kid (Jeffrey Tedmori) struggles with the beliefs of his old-fashioned family; and a wheelchair-bound paraplegic (Troy Gentile) represents the politically correct "every kid can play" mentality. The one player hard to replace in the remake however is the team's ace in the hole pitcher Amanda Whurlitzer. Tatum O'Neal played her brilliantly in the original as a tough but sensitive girl who could pitch the ball like there's no tomorrow but who was looking for a father figure. She sparred well with the crabby Matthau. In this version Amanda is played by newcomer Sammi Kane Kraft a real-life ace pitcher who can't quite measure up in the acting department. Tatum you were missed.
The 1976 Bad News Bears was ahead of its time. A story about a less-than-warm-and-cuddly coach who lets the kids smoke drink beer curse up a storm and spout politically incorrect racial slurs wasn't something you usually saw in a so-called "kid" movie. But it managed to hit a home run with the anti-establishment. Unfortunately you couldn't make the same movie in today's more conservative climate but director Richard Linklater (School of Rock) sure tries his darnedest to give the audience a taste of what made playing with the original Bears so much fun. In this Bad News Bears the kids still mouth-off and Buttermaker still drinks. Several scenes such as Buttermaker telling Amanda to quit trying to make him her father are taken verbatim from the original. Even the same albeit cleverly disguised variation of Bizet's Carmen punctuates the action. But my question is this: if the burning desire to re-create the classic was too great why make an almost exact replica minus all the political incorrectness (which basically made the original such a hoot anyway)? Why not veer off and do something different? I suppose it's Linklater's way to bring in a new crop of fans who haven't seen the Matthau/O'Neal version as well as a way to pay homage. Still if I wanted to see the real Bad News Bears I'd rent the original.