Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Tube (VII)

tv series reviews

Comedy dramas take over the small screen, with vastly varying results


Season 1
Cast: Krysten Ritter, Ivan Sergei, Eric Schaeffer, Rachel Hunter, Robyn Cohen, James Martinez, Seth Numrich, and Ving Rhames
Director: Eric Schaeffer
Genre: Comedy Drama
A dramedy about a support group for suicide survivors, Gravity is just as amusing as its premise suggests (that is, not very amusing at all). The series strives to be a dark comedy but it never quite works; it is offbeat, yes, and it does take on an unconventional subject, but the show does not succeed in merging humour with the topic. The characters are staid, and it just tries too hard to be self-important; as a result, instead of being engaging and amusing, Gravity is simply uncomfortable to watch. The pursuits of the stereotypical characters fail to grip the viewer, and it doesn’t help things much that it never becomes apparent what the point of the series is anyway. Plus as it has (very rightfully) been cancelled, even if you manage to slog through the ten episodes, you will be left without a proper ending. Directed by co-creator and co-star Eric Schaeffer, who seems to deserve the brunt of the blame for this atrocity, Gravity is an unpleasant non-comedy, and a waste of Krysten Ritter’s acting talent.
Status: Cancelled after 10 episodes.

Melissa & Joey
Season 1
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Joey Lawrence, Taylor Spreitler, and Nick Robinson
Genre: Sitcom
‘90s teen stars Melissa Joan Hart (the lead actress in Clarissa Explains It All (1991–1994) and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996–2003)) and Joey Lawrence (known for his roles in Gimme a Break! (1983–1987) and Blossom (1990–1995)) are brought together in Melissa & Joey, a series that harks back to the type of sitcoms that now seem to have gone out of style. Conventional to its core, Melissa & Joey follows the story of councilwoman Mel Burke (Melissa Joan Hart), her niece and nephew (Taylor Spreitler and Nick Robinson), and former commodities trader turned nanny, Joe Longo (Joey Lawrence), who are brought together after a series of unfortunate events so that they can exchange contrived banter while dealing with unlikely plot developments. It is cheesy but amusing, although it will be trying for people who don’t enjoy overly silly sitcoms. However, fans of such series or of the two lead actors, especially those who are prone to bouts of nostalgia, are very likely to enjoy the silly experiences that befall Melissa and Joey.
Status: On a break following the mid-season finale; additional 20 episodes for the first season to be aired in Spring 2011.

Season 1
Cast: Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Sam Jaeger, Savannah Paige Rae, Sarah Ramos, Max Burkholder, Joy Bryant, Tyree Brown, Miles Heizer, Mae Whitman, with Bonnie Bedelia, and Craig T. Nelson
Genre: Comedy Drama
Following the struggles and issues of the Braverman family, Parenthood is a comedy drama that has been based on the 1989 film with which it shares its title, and is the second attempt to do so; the previous series aired from 1990 to 1991. The drama focuses on the ups and downs of Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille's (Bonnie Bedelia) family, as their children (Lauren Graham, Peter Krause, Dax Shepard, Erika Christensen) and grandchildren cope with parenting and growing up while dealing with issues regarding relationships, drug usage, Asperger’s syndrome, infidelity, and more. The series feels like a close relative of Brothers & Sisters and Modern Family, but benefits from a strong cast, that sets a solid foundation for the drama, which becomes more interesting as the characters are developed further. However, some members of the multigenerational family are less intriguing than others, and when it veers into the less interesting storylines you might end up wanting the focus to switch back to a family/character that you find more appealing. When it works, the series is warm, witty, and poignant; when it doesn’t, it feels like watching a clich├ęd collection of caricatures. But all in all, Parenthood has the potential to turn into one of the most affecting dramas on television.
Status: Renewed for a second season (which is currently in progress)

Season 1
Cast: Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Rockmond Dunbar, Jamie Denbo, Kimberly Quinn, Loren Dean, and Karina Logue
Genre: Comedy Drama
The story of an ex-cop (Donal Logue) and his best friend (Michael Raymond-James) who start a private investigation business that leads them into a complex web, Terriers is powered by a witty script, very talented cast, and distinctive characters, and is one of those rare series that works as a dramedy by being both amusing and exciting. But before you get too excited, the show has already been cancelled. It was smart and offbeat, despite being yet another detective show; the series offered a blend of drama and suspense and humour and succeeded in a territory where many others have failed to deliver. Unfortunately, Terriers suffered immensely because of a misleading title (no, it isn’t a show about dogs), a terrible marketing campaign (no, that dog in the poster has nothing to do with the series), and the dramedy just wasn’t given a chance to build a following. In the (very disappointing) last episode, the crew are left to hastily tie up (some of the many) loose ends, offering an unsatisfying ending to the series. Terriers had heaps of potential but disappointingly ended up letting viewers down as it met an early demise because of being mismanaged by the network.
Status: Cancelled after 13 episodes.


Season 7
Cast: Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Perrey Reeves, and Rex Lee
Genre: Comedy Drama
Based loosely on Mark Wahlberg's experiences in Hollywood, Entourage has been met with favourable reviews and amassed a loyal fan following since it first appeared on the small screen in 2004. But after six (mostly successful) seasons, the series is starting to show its age. In its seventh outing, the dramedy falls under the weight of its own familiarity as well as the expectations pinned to it due to its prior awesomeness. Vince (Adrian Grenier) is on a thrill binge, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) ventures into business, Drama (Kevin Dillon) is offered a job as the voice of a cartoon character, Ari (Jeremy Piven) faces trouble at work and home, Eric (Kevin Connolly) is just generally boring, and it all feels a little purposeless. Add the presence of guest star Sasha Grey to the mix, and the series takes a dip for the worse. The lack of strong storylines and the increased focus on individual pursuits has let the series down, and while the cast continues to deliver, the seventh season of Entourage is neither as amusing nor as fun as the show used to be not too long ago.
Status: Renewed for an eighth and final season.

- By Sameen Amer
Ink Magazine - Jul-Sep 2011

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