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Television upfronts are upon us. Even though the fall TV season has just barely come to a close, with many shows not returning next year (poor Community), the networks have a new crop of shows ready to premiere later this year. NBC has recently announced its fall lineup, including an interesting mix of comedies and dramas. Here's a preview of NBC's upcoming primetime lineup
A to ZWhat It Is: Single-camera sitcom.What It's About: Andrew (Ben Feldman), a romantic at heart, tries to win the girl of his dreams, Zoey (Cristin Milioti).Who's in It: Ben Feldman, Cristin Milioti. What It Sounds Like: Exactly like How I Met Your Mother. It's so similar it's almost a little shameless. Check this: The male lead is a doe-eyed romantic; the female lead wants nothing to do with relationships; an unseen narrator who is also voiced by an actor best known from a '90s sitcom (Katey Sagal), is recounting the whole story; incredible romantic coincidences aplenty involving particularly colored items. It's madness. But at least they don't share a cast member... oh, wait...How Good It Will Be: It honestly looks like a tepid version of the CBS series, but without any of that show’s subversive charm or quirks.How Long It Will Last: It looks pleasant enough to last through the season, but who wants to watch another eight years of Ted and Robin doing will-they-won’t they.Premiere: Thursdays at 9:30 this fall.
Bad JudgeWhat It Is: Single-camera sitcom.What It's About: Rebecca Wright (Kate Walsh) is a wild party girl who also happens to be L.A.'s toughest criminal judge.Who's In It: Kate Walsh, John Ducey, Tone Bell, Theodore Barnes.What's It Sound Like: A reality show titled Judge Judy: Off the Bench.How Good It Will Be: Judging by the trailer, it seems like the main character’s antics will grow stale after a while. “She’s a high ranking official, yet she’s wildly inappropriate” can only be barely amusing for so long.How Long It Will Last: This looks dead on arrival.Premiere: Thurdays at 9:00 this fall.
The Mysteries of LauraWhat It Is: Cop dramedy. What It's About: Laura Diamond (Debra Messing) is a gifted detective who must balance the excitement of police work with managing her twin boys and a flippant ex-husband.Who's In It: Debra Messing, Josh Lucas.What's It Sound Like: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but with more family drama.How Good Will It Be: It’s hard to tell. The trailer is charming enough and is actually littered with a couple chuckles. How Long Will It Last: We can see this one going the distance.Premiere: Wednesdays at 8:00 this fall.
ConstantineWhat It Is: Supernatural drama.What It's About: Based on DC Comics’ classic series Hellblazer, demon hunter John Constantine travels the country to fight off the forces of hell while looking cool in a trench coat. Who's In It: Matt Ryan, Lucy Griffiths, Harrold Perrineau. What's It Sounds Like: Like Supernatural, with more Brits. How Good Will It Be: The trailer has some genuine creepy moments and looks like a far cry from the Keanu Reeves-centered, sun-drenched L.A. interperatation of the character from 2005’s Constantine. Matt Ryan is a dead ringer for the comic book version, down to the blond hair and british-accented quips. How Long Will It Last: This one has good chances. Even though it’s scheduled for Friday nights, which is usually the death nell for television, NBC’s other supernatural action series, Grimm has improbably managed to survive on the same night. Also, It’s connection to comics will certainly bring in viewers.Premiere: Fridays at 10:00 this fall.
State of AffairsWhat It Is: Drama. What It's About: CIA analyst Charleston Tucker (Katherine Heigl) must decide which international crises need to be brought to the attention of the president. She’s also on a mission to find the people responsible for the murder of her fiancé, who was the president’s son.Who's In It: Katherine Heigl, Alfre Woodard, Adam Kaufman. What's It Sound Like: Like Scandal meets Homeland. How Good It Will Be: It looks like a soapy, glossy network version of Homeland, which could be fun, but could also be terrible. How Long It Will Last: NBC found a surprise hit with The Blacklist, and this show looks pretty similar in story. If it can pick up on that show’s audience it will definitely make it through the season.Premiere: November 17 at 10:00.
Marry MeWhat Is It: Single-camera sitcom. What It's About: After six perfect years together, Annie and Jake are ready to get married, but the universe seems to have other plans for them. Who's In It: Ken Marino, Casey Wilson, Sarah Wright, John Gemberling. What's It Sound Like: It’s basically looks like Happy Endings, which makes sense since it’s also from that show’s creator, David Caspe. How Good Will It Be: The cast has some great comedy chops, and the trailer has some goofy laughs here and there. If this show is even half as good as Happy Endings in it’s prime, we’ll be satisfied.How Long Will It Last: NBC is in dire need of some new comedies so we’re betting this one sticks around for a while. Premiere: Tuesday at 9:00 this fall.
AllegianceWhat It Is: Spy drama. What It's About: Alex O’Connor is a young idealistic CIA analyst, but his life comes crashing down when he learns that his parents are deactivated KGB agents who have just been re-enlisted by the Kremlin to commit a terrorist attack against the U.S. Who's In It: Gavin Stenhouse, Scott Cohen, Hope Davis.What's It Sound Like: The Americans, but with fewer wigs and less '80s music. How Good It Will Be: It’ll be hard for this show to compete quality-wise with The Americans, which is probably the most underrated drama on television, since it is mining such similar territory. How Long It Will Last: You only have to look as far as NBC’s Hostages to see that dramas like this don’t tend to do well on the network. If the show is a critical success it good skate on its prestige like Hannibal, but we don’t see this as being terribly successful.Premiere: N/A
AquariusWhat It Is: Period police drama.What It's About: In 1967, L.A. police sergeant Sam Hodiak investigates a cult leader luring young women to his cause. Little does he know that that the guy he’s hunting turns out to be Charles Manson.Who's In It: David Duchovny. What's It Sound Like: Bates Motel, but replace Norman Bates with Charles Manson. How Good Will It Be: It looks like NBC is trying to mine the success (critical success at least) of Hannibal. If this show is even a tenth as good as that, it will be a home run.How Long Will It Last?: Knowing NBC and it’s audience, If this show does make it to the end of the season, it will be one of those shows that’s permanently on the bubble come renewal time.Premiere: N/A
Emerald CityWhat It Is: Fantasy drama.What It's About: A woman investigating the identity of her biological mother gets swept up into a tornado and transported to a twisted vision of magical world of Oz Who's In It: N/A What's It Sound Like: A dark and gritty version of The Wizard of Oz. How Good Will It Be: Judging from recent “Dark” versions of fairy tales (Hanzel and Gretal: Witch Hunters, Snow White and the Huntsman), we don’t have high hopes. How Long Will It Last: NBC’s recet genre offerings haven’t fared to well, but ABC’s Once Upon a Time shows that there’s certainly an audience for fantasy on network TV.Premiere: N/A
Mission ControlWhat Is It: Single-camera sitcom.What's It About: Dr. Mary Kendricks is a brilliant Aerospace engineer that must survive the boys club of Astronauts in the 1960s. Who's In It: Krysten Ritter, Tommy Dewey, Malcolm Barrett, Johnathan Slavin, Julie Meyer.What's It Sound Like: Mad Men meets Anchorman with some Better Off Ted sprinkled in. How Good Will It Be: Mad Men has found a great amount of drama exploring the old-timey misogyny of the 1960s. A series that can explore the same themes from a comedic lens could be really great.How Long Will It Last: It’s hard to tell. This sounds pretty ambitious from NBC. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that people will immediately click with, so Mission Control might not last.Premiere: N/A
Mr. RobinsonWhat It Is: Single-camera sitcom.What's It About: Down on his luck musician Craig Robinson (Craig Robinson... hey, wait a minute...) teaches music to pay the bills, but works harder to inspire his students once he finds out that they’re only taking his class for the easy A.Who's In It: Craig Robinson, Jean Smart.What's It Sound Like: An updated version of Welcome Back Kotter.How Good Will It Be: Craig Robinson is a huge talent, and we’ve been waiting for him to get the chance to carry his own show. Fingers crossed, everybody. How Long Will It Last: Hopefully, old fans of The Office can rally behind this show and help it secure at least a couple of seasons.Premiere: N/A
OdysseyWhat It Is: Multi-camera sitcom. What It's About: A soldier, a corporate lawyer, and a political activist uncover a military-industrial conspiracy involving al Qaeda, the U.S. military, and a U.S. corporation funding the terrorist cell.Who's In It: Anna Friel, Peter Facinelli, Jake Robinson, Jim True-Frost. What's It Sound Like: Traffic with a heaping teaspoon of Homeland.How Good Will It Be: It sounds like an ambitious, international undertaking from NBC. It sounds good, but then again it’s from a director of Grey’s Anatomy. We guess we’ll have to see.How Long Will It Last: Not too long. This doesn’t look like NBC’s usual offerings so it’s hard to think it will last.Premiere: N/A
One Big Happy What Is It: Single-camera sitcom.What's It About: Best friends, Lizzy and Luke decide to start an unorthodox family, but things get crowded when Luke meets and marries the woman of his dreams, Prudence, a british expat scheduled to leave the country. Who's In It: Nick Zano, Elisha Cuthbert, Kelly Brook.What's It Sound Like: A zanier version of Modern Family. How Good Will It Be: It sounds like fun, and Elisha Cuthbert was fantastic in Happy Endings.Premiere: N/A
Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtWhat Is It: Single camera sitcom What’s It About: After 15 years of living in a cult, a woman decides to reinvent her life by moving to New York and taking on the city that never sleeps.Who's In It: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess.What’s It Sound Like: Ugly Betty meets The Office.How Good Will It Be: Ellie Kemper is perpetually delightful, and the idea of a woman readjusting to modern life after living in a cult could lead to some absurd situations. How Long Will It Last: Like Mr. Robinson, fans of the office might give this show a boost at least initially. Were thinking this one will at least finish out it’s season.Premiere: N/A
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Martin Scorsese's gangster movie The Departed and road comedy Little Miss Sunshine walked away with the top prizes at the Writers Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles last night.
William Monahan won the Best Adapted Screenplay award for The Departed, while Michael Arndt collected Best Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine.
Best Documentary Screenplay went to Amy Berg for Deliver Us from Evil.
Elsewhere, The Sopranos writers Mitchell Burgess, David Chase, Diane Frolov, Robin Green, Andrew Schneider, Matthew Weiner and Terence Winter won the Best Dramatic Television Series award.
The Office writers Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Brent Forrester, Ricky Gervais, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Stephen Merchant, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur and Gene Stupnitsky won the Best Comedy Television Series award.
Ugly Betty writers Veveronica Becker, Oliver Goldstick, Silvio Horta, Sarah Kucserka, Sheila Lawrence, Cameron Litvack, Myra Jo Martino, Jim Parriott, Marco Pennette, Dailyn Rodriguez and Don Todd won Best New Television Series.
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