Legends of the Fall? Debating 'Whitney,' 'Pan Am,' 'Luther' and the New TV Season So Far



TV REVIEWS: Debating the Fall 2011 TV season so far.

By Robbie Woliver and Kenny Herzog


Welcome to the brand-new and improved (Don't worry, you can still access our archives here.) As you may recall, we'd recently debuted a new feature in which the site's editors, Robbie Woliver and Kenny Herzog, go tit-for-tat about the latest TV shows, movies, albums, true-crime happenings, celebrity blunders and general pop-culture schrapnel. Call it a great debate, call it a he said/he said, call it whatever you like. Just don't call it Shirley. 


Today, we take a look at the much-ballyhooed Fall 2011 TV season so far, which has plundered its associated networks with an advertising blitz that would make Norman Schwarzkopf blush. But have even half of the new comedies and dramas touted by NBC et al done anything more than make us feel duped and yearn for more unscripted series? We discuss those issues, in addition to the stifling fall humidity, below.


KENNY HERZOG: I don't know that I've ever seen a TV season with so much lead-in hype and promotion, all to trick us into watching terrible new scripted shows that make me regret ever ruing the success of reality.


ROBBIE WOLIVER: Well, I must part ways with you here. I love the new TV season. It's the Rosh Hoshana of Pop Culture. But you're right about the overhype. X-Factor, for example, started two years ago it seems, and it backfired.


KH: Well, you must truly revere it if you're putting Pop Culture in title case. With a few exceptions, and a few more still to come with less hype, it's all just such predictably generic sitcom or procedural fodder. In particular the glut of new shows marched out by NBC, who should really be ashamed of themselves. More than half of America right now can't even make in a year what they spent on 30 seconds to promote Whitney.


RW: Well, thanks for asking.... Oh, you didn't. This is why I think X-Factor doesn't work: Too long between each audition; we've seen it all before; Simon/Paula reunion=yawn; acts aren't that amazing (the singers on the awful Karaoke Battle USA were a million times better); and it's up against much better shows. And as for Whitney, just absolutely the worst, trite, sophomoric-but-not-in-agood-way crap of the season, along with 2 Broke Girls (also created by Whitney Cummings) which might be even worse. The live laugh track on Whitney makes me want to stuff knives in my sense organs. My vote for worst two shows of the season.


KH: So dare we call them the 2 Worst Shows? I haven't watched much of X-Factor. I saw one guy that was fresh off rehab perform an unremarkable original song and get hosanas that made me Rosh for my gag reflex. And here I thought The Voice was inessential. (I know you disagree with me there.) The only show worth watching the debut or return of this season is Luther. It's probably the first British show I've ever followed without constantly congratulating myself just for watching something British. 

RW: No, I agree about The Voice. Although I liked it before it got into the mentoring, which I hated, and which is the key element to X-Factor. I am waiting to find Luther. I know you've been loving it, but I can't access Season 1, and you've already warned me not to jump into Season 2. The last British show I liked was Fawlty Towers (not really, I like Being Human.) By the way, I'm now addicted to Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers "Whiskey Steak." I bought six of them on Saturday and they're all gone.  


KH: Don't even say the word "steamers" right now. It's so hot, and I was finally convinced that another horrendous summer of schvitzing and kvetching would be redeemed by a cool, breezy fall. Not so, Woliver. Not so! Speaking of hot, even after an improved second episode with less focus on its cartoonish supporting cast, Amazonian MILF Kathryn Hahn remains the only reason to watch Free Agents, which I hear is getting canceled. 


RW: You're kidding? I liked that show, and I thought I read somewhere that it got strong positive audience reaction. I'm enjoying these '60s throwbacks like Playboy Club and Pan Am (which makes me want to be a stewardess, which is funny cause I don't fly). Playboy Club hasn't been getting great reviews but I really liked it, especially the mood it sets, and the threading of the action and music. Pan Am is so bright and slick and '60s-ish, even though it's a bit empty, but that's the problem with all pilots. The music was used very well in Pan Am, as it was in Prime Suspect (the Black Keys). That's funny that I like these two '60s shows, considering I hate Mad Men. (What, do I hear masses booing?) I have to give it up to you though for keeping me on board with Up All Night. As you know, I just coudn't stand its failed attempt at hipness the first episode, but the second ep, which was about them trying to be hip, was quite brilliant. So a point for you on that one. So... what healthy dish did you have for lunch? 


KH: I think that's just the inevitability of your contrarianism toward Mad Men. You've found a suitable (no pun intended) replacement. For me, one "mature" throwback show is all I can handle. And as for Prime Suspect, aside from my constant Twitter mockery of its "hard-as-nails lady gumshoe" ad campaign, the usage of Black Keys is hardly original. The lowly Hung licensed one of the band's songs since its opening season, and BK are a band that's very safe and trendy for that sort of thing right now. And clearly for sale. Glad you stayed with Up All Night though. I'm very surprised with how genuinely almost-hip and smart it is, and they're very likeable. But what will keep me going all afternoon and in the old gym was a marvelous tuna melt that I made with a tad too much hot sauce but just enough shredded part-skim mozzarella on a delicious, hearty oat-bran bread.


RW: I didn't say Prime Suspect was hip for using Black Keys, I said I liked the way they integrated the music in. The worst part of Prime Suspect was the over-the-top macho vs. tough-broad environment. I never saw Helen Mirren's version, but I'm sure I would have liked it better. I did not like Prime Suspect, but I did like Person of Interest. A new criterion for me now seems to be if a show has a Lost alumnus/a in it, I'll watch it. POI had some interesting potential, and Lost's Ben, Michael Emerson, is fantastic in it. By the way, the food you eat is way too healthy for me to even hear it described without gagging. I am eating a chocolate chip Entenmann's cake, along with frozen Hershey's kisses and strawberry Milanos as I write this. Fuck your hand-ground oat barley whey bread. 

KH: That's an interesting way of looking at it, because for me I've realized that anything involving truly eccentric cops, weird crime-fighting partnerships, gruesome violence and prison in any capacity are my favorite things in the world. Hell, I'm DVR'ing a Vegas Jail marathon as we speak. But it also reminds me that Dexter is once again upon us this week, and in the wake of Luther (which I know you haven't seen), which is basically a leaner, more grounded Dexter with some clever role reversal, I'm very eager to see how I respond to it. And to catch up on last night's Boardwalk Empire, which I inanely thought didn't debut yet. HBO's premiere sked has been totally erratic.


RW: The ads for Boardwalk are actually pretty good, and very close to enticing me to watch. And I can't get enough of the Jail marathons. I am always shocked by how nice some of those cops are to the total assholes who are dragged into their jails. And speaking of which, happy anniversary. You're still married, right?


KH: Yes, thank you. And hope to be for many more years, hence a recent conversion to dietary formula that basically ensures ritualized daily colon cleansing. Are you happy now? Also, I forgot to mention that, as applies to Dexter, any show with alumni from Oz will always lure me in, even if it's accidental. But, in summation, there's still much to be determined about this season. Hell, Beavis and Butt-Head's return (which we, of course, broke news of on REVIEWniverse last July) hasn't landed yet. And you should definitely watch Boardwalk. It will be a fascinatingly go big or bust season, and the actors are terrific. OK, time for me to watch Vegas Jail and eat a Toffuti low-fat, gluten-free fudgscile. God, I'm glad we can say "fuck" on this site now.


RW: Kenny, we haven't discussed Charlie's Angels (sucked), Parks & Rec (my fave), The Office (sorely miss Michael Scott), Sing-Off (Ben Folds; best judge on TV), America's Next Top Model All-Stars (You go, Isis!), Revenge (lots of promise), Ringer (very little promise), The Good Wife (best drama on network TV, best cast, and proud of my wife Julianna's performance), Harry's Law (you know, this is pretty damn good), Gifted Man (could be fun on a Friday night), Secret Circle (yes, I'm a 14-year-old girl) and Glee (awful episode, but it was a kick to see them start to incorporate the Glee Project winners). All shows I watched last week. Yes, I'll get a life. Oh, and fuck.


KH: Hahahaha. Beavis would be proud. Butt-Head, not so much. Oh, and Office sucked, Parks & Rec was mediocre and keeps getting stuck between a really funny show about real people and something broader and more 30 Rock-style slapstick. Haven't seen anything else you mentioned. Too busy with Luther, which I've watched every episode of twice in anticipation of this week's Season 2 kickoff. It should be pretty fuckin' good. Let's catch up with each other's obsessions by next week so we can begin reviewing each of these fine programs individually, to the probable dismay of readers REVIEWniverse-wide.


IN OTHER WORDS: We're baaaaaack!








Please friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Have your own rating or comments you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Page 1 ... 5 6 7 8 9