January 10th, 2011
11:11 AM ET
Sunday night was a busy one, as new midseason TV series were premiering all over the place.
The most hyped of them all was probably "The Cape," NBC's newest entry in the superhero genre (read more on that here). Family man and cop Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is framed as being the masked killer Chess, and inadvertently fakes his own death. He’s soon found by a group of bank-robbing circus performers, who help him become the avenging hero The Cape (got all that?).
Where to begin with this show? Well, let's start with the positive.
The second episode that aired last night was marginally better than the first (for one thing, characters' motivations were slightly clearer and Lyons' Australian accent didn’t slip through as much).
Keith David, as the Cape's circus ringleader/mentor, steals every scene; his contributions were easily head and shoulders above everything else. Another thing to appreciate is that his costume and his "powers" make a lot of sense, seeing as they came from the circus (never mind that the Kevlar cape seems to break the laws of physics here on a regular basis).
At the same time, the circus troupe quickly goes from being master criminals to being 100 percent in our hero's corner on his quest to stop Chess (played with scenery-chewing panache by "True Blood's" James Frain, and his contact lenses). Meanwhile, Chess is supposedly "dead," but he still wears the costume and goes by that name, anyway. Perhaps old habits die hard.
But one thing the first episode had over the second was Chess' henchman Scales, who was much more preferable to the serial killer Chess hired in the second episode. (Let’s not even talk about how he was able to go down a flight of stairs so quickly in one scene. True, suspending one's disbelief comes with the territory in a show like this, but one can only suspend it so much.)
Finally, we have fanboy favorite Summer Glau as the street-smart, ultra-rich, mysterious blogger Orwell, whose full story is purposely kept secret so far. She takes on the role of a "mistress of disguise" in the second episode as well. She'll certainly bring in fans of her other series, but this role - and the show so far - is ultimately forgettable.
Here's hoping that Fox's wickedly funny "Bob's Burgers," which also premiered on Sunday, is not forgettable to viewers. After seeing the same Seth MacFarlane-produced shows take over their "Animation Domination" lineup, it's truly refreshing to see something this original. The closest comparison is Adult Swim's "Home Movies" (and one of the creators of that series is responsible for this).
Simply put, Bob's struggling, family-owned restaurant is in the midst of the biggest burger-selling weekend of the year, when his weirdo daughter Louise's ("Flight of the Conchords"/"Daily Show's" brilliant Kristen Schaal) decision to tell her classmates that their restaurant serves human flesh comes back to bite him (her excuse? She had to "up the ante" at show-and-tell).
Too many highlights to list here, but there are just a few favorite lines I'd like to mention: "I happen to produce a lot of saliva, Linda," "Hello, the media?" and the poem, "Inspector of Health, Inspector of Pain."
If there's any complaint about this show, it's that pretty much every character is strange or disturbed in some way. The kids, especially, have only slightly different personalities. Even so, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this somewhat-understated, oddball show will find success with the Fox Sunday audience.
Over in Cableland, "Showtime" premiered new series "Shameless" and "Episodes."
"Shameless" stars William H. Macy as an alcoholic single dad of six (with the youngest being a bi-racial toddler who looks suspiciously like his former AA sponsor, who he says was close to his ex). No one plays a loser like Macy, and he's in top form here. But unlike the hapless Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo," Macy's Frank Gallagher in "Shameless" is a total louse – irresponsible and narcissistic.
That leaves his eldest, Fiona, to pick up the pieces, played bravely by Emmy Rossum. The family is barely eking out an existence with Fiona taking any job she can get and the rest of the kids (minus the two youngest) pitching in with both side jobs and theft.
The kids all have distinct personalities, to say the least. The oldest son, "Lip," is brilliantly criminally minded and son Ian is military minded as well as hiding the fact that he's gay...and having an affair with his married, Muslim boss.
Fiona meets a great guy who appears to be wealthy, funny and attractive, but there's no way things are going to go smoothly with all she has to handle at home. Plus, turns out this guy may not actually be who he appears to be. Their chemistry is great, and you really root for Fiona to have some luck given all of the family's financial issues.
It would be easy to get bogged down in the misery of their struggling, working-class neighborhood in Chicago, but the series has such a mix of familial love, strong dialogue, sex and quirky characters that it's hard not to love it. Throw in a pair of neighbors who are, shall we say, very affectionate with each other, plus Joan Cusack as an oversexed, gourmet cooking agoraphobic, and that’s a recipe for a possible hit.
Showtime had another high-profile show in "Episodes," featuring Matt LeBlanc's return to series television portraying himself. Take "Extras," the movie "The TV Set" and a dash of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and you’ve got an idea of what this show is like so far.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much of LeBlanc in the premiere (his scene consisted of him mis-dialing his mother and getting into a car accident), but the husband-and-wife team of Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangin and Tamsin Grieg thankfully carry the show well) are the real stars here as they see the start of their beloved award-winning British series "Lyman's Boys" slowly fall apart as it's adapted by Hollywood.
It turns out that Merc, the network executive who has picked up their show hasn't actually seen it ("he's not much of a TV person"), not to mention the lavish mansion the couple are staying in was recently used by the latest in a long line of reality shows.
Merc's also not a fan of the respected veteran British actor they have as the lead of their show, instead wanting LeBlanc.
It's a promising start for the show, but a one-hour premiere to set everything up more completely would have been better. Still, we'll keep watching.
What about you? Will you tune in for more of any of these new shows? Share your iReport recap or comment below.
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