New TV shows on the menu

I’d like to pretend that as a mature 20-something with a full time job, I’d be over all those silly American shows of my childhood. But Dawson’s Creek is currently queued on my Sky Plus box, while I’m in mourning over the end of the Gossip Girl series (recap to come). Clearly, I still care.

But with Life Unexpected and Greek (two of my favourites) canned this year,it’s time to find something new to series-link.

Every May, the US television networks announce their “fall schedules” – translation, the list of the good, bad and often horrendous television series they will be showing from September. I’ve looked through them all and it seems a good list, although there are far, far too many Lost-wannabees and sitcoms hoping to jump on the Two and a Half Men publicity bandwagon, not to mention a healthy dose of supernatural adventures. (Note to Hollywood. Get over Twilight).

The good news (in my view) is that Gossip Girl has been renewed for a fifth year, meaning that it has outlived Josh Schwartz’s previous foray into the dark underbelly of the lives of the rich and glamorous.

But one cannot dine on Gossip Girl alone (seriously, all you’d be eating is waffles), so what else is on the menu?

Hart of Dixie:

Fast-talking New Yorker and brand new doctor Zoe Hart has it all figured out…but when her dreams fall apart, Zoe decides to accept an offer from a stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, to work with him at his small practice in Bluebell, Alabama.   She quickly finds that Southern hospitality isn’t always so hospitable.”

This sounds a lot like something that should be on the Hallmark channel, with characters in flowery dresses going to church all the time. It may well turn out to be, but the interesting thing about this is who is involved.

Rachel  (aka Summer Roberts) will star as the newly graduated doctor who finds a last-chance job in a stuck-up southern town and has to fight her way through inevitable bitchiness and rivalry and romantic drama. So far, so yawn. I bet she meets a gorgeous stranger who looks after, I bet the mean girl isn’t so mean after all. Original. Er, no.

But she’s reuniting with Schwarz and Savage on the show, the team behind both OC and Gossip Girl, so, while it sounds like soppy drivel, it has potential.

Ringer:

“A woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out by assuming the life of her wealthy identical twin sister – only to learn that her sister’s seemingly idyllic life is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she’s trying to leave behind.” 

This is a return to television for Sarah Michelle Geller or, if you were a TV-watching teen in the noughties and spent those years watching a small blonde girl battle (and occasionally romance) the genetically blessed undead, Buffy’s back!

However, judging by the summary, this isn’t Buffy at all. Identical twins? Life on the run? Wealthy? So far, so Sunset Beach.

Not that that’s such a bad thing. Sunset Beach had its charm (no, really, remember the demonic Jesus statue and the sinful shirtless priest? Exactly) But if you’re wanting a return to Joss Whedon’s smart and knowing pop-culture genius, I don’t think Ringer will be where you will find it.

But on the plus side, it also stars Nestor Carbonel (as in, freakish ageless eyeliner man from Lost). Speaking of Lost…

Alcatraz:

“From executive producer JJ Abrams…the chilling new thriller centered on America’s most infamous prison and one-time home to the nation’s most notorious murderers, rapists, kidnappers, thieves and arsonists. ”

And guess who it stars! Hurley.Well, no, Jorge Garcia, but, but Hurley is back!! Phew, too much excitement.

Basically, the idea is: what if those creepy Alcatraz maniac inmates disappeared, then reemerged in modern life without ageing? Huh? Sounds deep.

It could be very good. After all, everyone was a wee bit sceptical when JJ Abrams said he had a show about a mysterious island, a plane crash, and the survivors’ battle to get home. (Hello, why wouldn’t they just Tweet HELP ME?). And Lost was a runaway success, not to mention the most baffling and mindboggling piece of entertainment around.

But, then there were the polar bears, smoke monsters, bearded evils and French crazies hiding in the trees. For all Lost’s awesomeness, it required a helluva lot of patience and a passion for obscure sites like Lostpedia.

So, note to Alcatraz team. Avoid the temptation to put in every ludicrous idea you have, and just stick with the really, really good ones.

Oh, and don’t kill off anyone called Charlie, either.

2 Broke Girls:

“A comedy about two strikingly different young waitresses who form an unlikely friendship.”

 This show should be crud. The premise (metropolitan waitresses with baking business plan) is ridiculous and you just know that the girls will live ridiculously lavish lives that there’s no way they could ever afford if the title were true. Ref, Carrie in Sex and the City, Rachel in Friends, or anyone in what Hollywood imagines a minimum wage life to be.

Plus, it’s about baking. I bet they’re going to make it look really easy to make beautifully iced cupcakes and perfect pies. But they so won’t show the endless washing up once your cakes are in the oven, or the fight to get flour out of your hair, or the time the icing sugar packet breaks from both ends.

That said, Kat Dennings is awesome – both in the brilliant Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Charlie Bartlett. Great comic timing, realistic looks, hair that you just know goes frizzy when she walks out in the rain. So, definite potential.

Pan Am:

“Passion, jealousy and espionage… They do it all – and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series.”

Wednesday Adams (Christina Ricci) as fesity air hostess. Curious. You can imagine the production meetings where they came up with this.

Writer: “So, I have this idea. It’s a bit like Mad Men…” Money guy: “Sold.”

But I do adore Mad Men…


Gossip Girl: stop the Blair and Dan train-wreck

So, I’ve been somewhat rubbish with my Gossip Girl blogging of late. In fairness, the show went on hiatus over December and then I moved into a flat where we had a problem with the internet – in that, we didn’t have said internet.

I’m back online now, and I’ve seen the first two episodes of this year. In truth, they’ve been rather dull. After the Juliette-Ben-let’s kill drug Serena drama of 2010, we’ve moved back to the Gossip Girl standards of ice-queen Lily, clueless Rufus and Serena the absurd-romance chaser. Rather yawnsome, really.

The Chuck mixing business with pleasure is too predictable, and the girl (am too lazy to Google her name, so she will from now be referred to as ‘the businesswoman’) is one cliché after another. Is she supposed to be Chuck’s age? If so, how has she completed her college education (and postgrad, because in America a first degree is worth zilch) and gained so much experience, when she’s supposed to be around Chuck’s age?

I realise nepotism, but surely a savvy businessman would only give his privileged and well-dressed but unqualified daughter the perfunctory jobs, like, ooh, organising cocktail parties and picking out his ties.

Plus, she’s clearly crap, she keeps telling Chuck all the information he needs to take the Chicago duo down.

Eric and Damian, wherever the hell that’s going, is just odd. I like how the writers, in what I assume is a bid to keep casting-search costs down, have just decided Damian will be the villain in whatever implausible scenario they’re running this week. It’s like going to see a play where the ensemble play rotating roles, only in Gossip Girl there’s not even an attempt to disguise the fact that IT’S THE SAME ACTOR EVERY WEEK.

I expect the rest of this series to involve him a) doing something to screw up Blair’s ambitions b) being the other man in the inevitable next stage of the Rufus-Lily implosion and c) kidnapping Dorota’s baby to exact a hefty ransom out of the VdWs.

But all that is small fry. Now, I realise that since the dawn of unrealistic but fabulous teen drama, there’s been a tradition of romantic swapsies. Joey Potter had flings with everyone – Dawson, Pacey, random guys, even Jack before he came out) and I think they paired Jen with a fair few. But it’s not necessary to do it when it gives the viewer a desire to either vomit, or throw heavy objects at the TV.

Buffy, for all Xander’s adoration, never returned the sentiment. And Marissa didn’t go off with Seth, nor Summer (except, for a brief second in the first episode) try it on with Ryan.

I realise that the idea of a fine line between love and hate works well in a show so centred around witty barbs and disparaging insults. But Blair and Dan. No. NO. JUST NO. Yes, they are funny together. But only because they hate each other, not because of any underlying passion.

It is not necessary to complicate the unadulterated snobbery and rivalry of the Blair-Dan relationship with, as I expect will happen, a secret, purely physical fling, that will then be discovered (probably at a fancy party) and cause yet another rift between B and S.

To refresh; Dan has been with all the girls except Blair (and Jenny, for obvious reasons). Blair has been with all the guys except Dan. Serena has been with all the guys except Chuck (and even that’s not certain) and Nate’s been with every girl who even made a guest appearance on the show except Georgina.

Writers, dear writers. This is no longer a Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle. This is just the start of a bad comedy film where the groom has had flings with all the bridesmaids, the mother, sister and cousin, and possibly the wacky aunt too.

There is a reason why such films are critical and box office flops. DON’T DO IT.

Millennials Magazine

I’d like to draw attention to a great new (and new media) project over in (where else) America. It’s a web venture called Millennials Magazine – an internet only publication for, about, and by, twentysomethings.

Since launching – just a few weeks ago – they have already produced some fascinating and insightful content about Generation-whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-us. Their mission, so to speak, is this:

“… to give millennials a chance to speak independently, to begin to define ourselves against an avalanche of polemical articles defining us as a generation “victim to the recession” and “stupefied by technology.”

Ok, it’s a pretty ostentatious way of describing something that is essentially a glorified blog. But contrary to what Andrew Marr believes, blogs can be interesting, innovative and powerful. There’s plenty out there on the web that isn’t worth reading, but some of what’s on Millennials Magazine definitely is.

I can direct you to a letter from someone serving as a soldier in the United States Army, a comment on the myth of the plugged in youth and a great rhapsody about the joys of The OC.

If that’s not enough to pique your interest; it’s already got a mention on culture bible Slate Magazine.

Plus: As of today my work is on the site; an article about the trials and tribulations of living at home in London, which you can read here.

Blair Waldorf for president?

Photo: Jennifer Lipman

Could you imagine Blair Waldorf and Marissa Cooper in the White House? Nate Archibald and Seth Cohen wandering around Congress, or Vanessa and Summer leading a protest outside the Supreme Court?

You won’t have to, for much longer. Sort of.

Variety reports that Gossip Girl and OC creator Josh Schwartz and his writing partner Stephanie Savage are planning a new TV show following young DC wannabes.

So, Seth the senator, Chuck the congressman, Dan the Democrat or Ryan the Republican?

Or more likely a bunch of low paid interns who in one of Schwartz’s-trademark ludicrous plots wind up running the government and doing it well.

The show is to centre on “a group of twentysomething roommates who juggle their personal and professional lives in Washington.
“The young politicos find that the ideals that brought them to D.C. don’t always match with the realities of living in the nation’s capital.”
 
Having already taken on California and New York, this is perhaps the inevitable next step. 
Especially because Gossip Girl, with its anonymnous tip-offs, malicious rumours and incriminating photos, is basically a better-dressed version of the political media.  
 
This is Schwartz, not Sorkin, so while we can expect plenty of high-stakes drama, one imagines there will be less of a forensic look at the inner workings of the Beltway.
Social politics, rather than social policy, one might say.  
 Still, with West Wing firmly part of TV history, there’s definitely space in my viewing schedule for DC TV.

Gossip boy Josh Schwartz joins Twitter

Now, the teen TV drama Gossip Girl has always been at the forefront of social and technological innovation, as is explained here.

But TV just got that bit more interactive as Josh Schwartz – the man who brought us not only Blair and Serena but also Seth and Summer (RIP) – joined Twitter.

Yes, The OC creator has entered the debate, meaning that watching your favourite TV show can be a truly interactive experience. Don’t like what happened. Tell Josh via Twitter, as a certain gossip columnist has been doing.

It also means fiction and reality can collide in peculiar ways. Blair Waldorf, meet your maker.