Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Of reader mail, 'Mad Men' and Alyssa Milano

Couple of housekeeping things first: Today's column is a reader mailbag with comments on recent topics like Conan to TBS, the sideways universe on "Lost" and the uninspiring "American Idol" cast. And this morning, AMC announced that "Mad Men" season 4 would debut on Sunday, July 25 at 10 p.m. (and that the James Badge Dale-starring thriller "Rubicon" would debut the following Sunday with a two-hour premiere at 8, then air regularly at 9 from then on). So exciting stuff for mid-summer.

Meanwhile, last night saw the premiere of the Alyssa Milano sitcom "Romantically Challenged" on ABC. ABC played a weird game of Hide the Cookie with this one, where they posted a few episodes for review to their press site, then kept changing their minds about which episodes would air first (not a good sign), and then ultimately pulled the episodes that were on the media website (also not a good sign; the TV equivalent of not previewing your movie for critics because you know the reviews will be brutal). And since I was off the last two weeks (and not making an exception to preview Alyssa Milano's new show), I missed seeing the ones that were up and had to watch last night's premiere live (give or take some DVR buffering), and...

... well, I'm glad I hadn't devoted an hour of my life in the last week or two (vacation or not) to watching this. I have no issues with Milano (other than that she once dated Carl Pavano, one of my least favorite Yankees ever), I like co-star Kyle Bornheimer, and I liked parts of creator Ricky Blitt's last show, Fox's short-lived "The Winner" with Rob Corddry. But everyone involved seemed to be trying way too hard (witness the forced smile on Milano's face in the picture above, which she tried to maintain for nearly the whole episode, whether the moment needed it or not), and overall it felt like an example of the set-up/joke/set-up/joke style that's deservedly close to extinction.

I've seen far worse comedies this season ("Brothers," to name one), but this is one I won't be bothering with again, no matter what order ABC shows them in.

Anybody else watch? If so, what did you think?

30 comments:

DirtyKash said...

Ooof. I agree. I like Alyssa. We even have Alan's crazy receptionist Melissa from Two and a Half Men (I still watch that train wreck just as a lead-in to Big Bang Theory) as a supporting character, but the "jokes" fell flat and I agree that Alyssa overacted. Plus, the laugh track is annoying because the jokes are not funny. Don't think this show will last as it was beyond brutal. Cancellation imminent.

Anonymous said...

Ah, July 25th, what a beautiful day it is.

LA said...

The return date for Mad Men made my day. Happy 420 to all!

Kayvan said...

Alan i'm wondering - what do you think of Two And a Half Men? I've always had a soft spot for it, as even though it's a traditional set-up/joke/set-up/joke style comedy, it still excels at what it does. It's a show that's always been able to get a few good laughs out of me an episode, with some clever puns.

Jon88 said...

I saw three promos for the Milano show. On the assumption that these were meant to represent the show's best moments, I knew it would be a waste of time to pursue it any further.

MissNellie said...

Don't take it personally Alyssa. You have fans, you just need a better vehicle.

Dan said...

Alan, any comment on Mad Men ending in 2012?

joy said...

I follow Alyssa Milano on Twitter (I'm not a *huge* AM fan, but was surprised how engaging she is on Twitter.), and it was because of that, that I bothered to tune into the show.

The forced smiles (hers, in particular) were incredibly hard to watch - she's a better actor, and could have had a lot better material. The show won't last more than an episode or two more, it just can't.

I definitely wouldn't watch it again - still, score one for social media, I suppose.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, any comment on Mad Men ending in 2012?

Believe it when I see it. AMC is already backing away from the Weiner comment about six seasons, and Weiner himself told me the year before that he didn't see doing the show past five seasons. I suspect they'll keep doing it as long as it's profitable and/or Weiner can remain upright. David Chase intended to end Sopranos a bunch of times before he did.

Anonymous said...

I imagine very few people visit your blog to see what you think of primetime network sitcoms. I know I wouldn't miss less posts about American Idol and How I Met Your Mother.

Tyroc said...

I go to your blog for your insightful coverage of all TV. Thankfully, sitcoms included.

I never would have heard of the amazing Party Down without you!

Oh, and Romantically Challenged was not good.

If only they had given Better Off Ted such a good spot on the schedule.

somethingaboutmary said...

You may already know this Alan but I thought I'd share anyway. The other night I was watching both "Lord of the Flies" movies with my daughter who has become fascinated with the book and original film. While watching the 1990 remake film I noticed that Simon is played by a very young and having the same haircut James Badge Dale. He is one of the few good things about the film. I recognized him because I have been watching The Pacific and he is a really good actor and he was as a kid too. I am trying to get my daughter to watch Lost because of her interest in Lord of the Flies.

Elena said...

I only watched a couple of minutes, then switched to BBT, which was mildly funny. I'm stuck in a time warp I think, I still see Tony Danza's daughter when I see AM, although I think she had a long stint on Charmed, yes? Or am I confusing actresses. And although I like the sidekick lead (I remember her as Fez's crazy girlfriend--I see a trend here in her roles), it wasn't enough to keep me tuned in.

fgmerchant said...

I watched it. Literally, 4 seconds in, I paused it, turned to my roommate and told him the show would definitely be canceled. I laughed plenty of times, but that was only because I knew it would be canceled, so I could enjoy the cheesy badness of the show.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with the setup/joke/setup/joke format as long as the execution is good, but most of today's sitcom writers aren't up to the task.

(For the last 30 years, jokes have been increasingly devalued by writers and execs who can't write/don't get them, to the point where very few people know how to make a show like this anymore.)

That said, Blitt and Burrows do know better, and the finished product was disappointingly conventional.

Ben G said...

I'm curious on how Rubicon will be like. I am enjoying James Badge Dale's work on The Pacific, so I think he'll be a good lead. I'm not entirely excited about the premise, though. I imagine it'll be very interesting, and have nice twists and turns, but what makes both Mad Men and Breaking Bad better than nearly every other show out there is on top of having incredible dramatic moments, they also are remarkably funny.

I can't really see a political conspiracy show having moments of levity, but I hope they figure out a way to lighten it up.

J said...

I only wondered why I had to mute the last couple of minutes of this before watching Castle instead of muting the last couple of minutes of Dancing with the Stars. It was just mystery meat sitcom until you cleared this up.

Mimi said...

@Elena

Yes, la Milano was there for all ten years of Charmed - the only episode she wasn't in was the original pilot, I believe, because the part had originally gone to a different actress. I found her character insufferable, but she's good.

alynch said...

I find it rather curious that AMC isn't attempting to launch Rubicon after Mad Men. When you have two series, one of which is brand new the other of which is your channel's signature show, wouldn't it be logical use the signature series as the lead-in? I mean did HBO ever run original series before The Sopranos?

Craig Ranapia said...

Believe it when I see it. AMC is already backing away from the Weiner comment about six seasons, and Weiner himself told me the year before that he didn't see doing the show past five seasons. I suspect they'll keep doing it as long as it's profitable and/or Weiner can remain upright.

If AMC were smart they'd actually front up and tell Weiner to set an end date and stick to it. It would be damn tragic if Mad Men ended up being another once great show that ended up hanging around until you just wanted it put out of your misery. (Prosecution Exhibit A: The X-Files. Fox and Chris Carter krpt milking that cash cow long after it creatively ran dry.)

Craig Ranapia said...

Kayvan said:
Alan i'm wondering - what do you think of Two And a Half Men? I've always had a soft spot for it, as even though it's a traditional set-up/joke/set-up/joke style comedy.

Can't speak for Alan, but my problem isn't that the show is a "traditional" sit-com, but that every damn woman on the show is a nut, a slut or a castrating shrew. (And to be honest, I found the early writing of BBT's Penny as a vacuous bimbo really irritating too.) I know Roseanne and Cybill Shepherd can be pretty high maintenance, but was Chuck Lorre really that badly traumatised by working on their sit-coms?

SaneN85 said...

Ok, I finally finished all three seasons of Mad Men. While my primary reason for watching is still Peggy and Pete, I've actually gotten excited to see what's next after watching S3 finale. Before that single episode I was bored to tears with every storyline but Peggy/Pete.

Now I'm very excited to for the new season to start.

Craig Ranapia said...

SaneN85:

That's interesting, because the one shark-circling moment Mad Men has had so far was the whole soap opera-ish reveal of Peggy's pegnancy in season one. Elizabeth Moss is an excellent actress, but even she couldn't sell what was a really risky move that not only didn't come off (for me), but felt like it had been dropped in from Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy.

SaneN85 said...

I've heard a lot about the "soap opera" angle and how people didn't buy that she wouldn't know she was pregnant. That didn't skew it for me, considering that it happens all the time here in 2010 (there's an entire show about it). So, it didn't bother me at all. What is bothering me is the lack of dealing with it at all in Season 3 but instead forcing more of Betty on me.

ps said...

I'm sad that the show isn't better. One of my favorite funny authors/bloggers, Pamela Ribon of pamie.com, works on that show, so I kind of expected a little more. I think she used to write for Samantha Who, which I thought was cute -- not amazing television, but better than this Romantically Challenged show.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

I've heard a lot about the "soap opera" angle and how people didn't buy that she wouldn't know she was pregnant. That didn't skew it for me, considering that it happens all the time here in 2010 (there's an entire show about it). So, it didn't bother me at all.

Oh, that I could have swallowed. But after setting Joan up as a very smart cookie who not only knows where all the bodies are buried at Sterling Cooper, but what they were drinking and who they were screwing when still alive, she didn't even suspect that Peggy was pregnant? Please - bad TV writing 101 there. Defining character trait undergoes total failure once and only when plot requires it.

With 90% of other shows, I really wouldn't care. But Mad Men sets its own bar so high (and is so consistent in clearing it) the flaws really pop. Which, I guess, isn't the worse place to be creatively. :)

Henry said...

I think you're dead on about Romatically Challenged. I mean, I told my friends that it was nice to see her back on television (I've always had a crush on her since Who's The Boss? but never watched an episode of Charmed) and she looks unbelievably hot (I don't think that will ever change) so the idea of her as a lead in a comedy about struggling in her romantic life is a little hard to believe. Then I watched the episode and there wasn't anything I really liked about it outside of Milano (who, I agree, is trying too hard to flex her long-dormant comedy muscles). I guess the whole joke about getting the guy to spank his date by imitating Darth Vader is SUPPOSED to be funny, but I found myself thinking that 30 Rock could run circles around this show with the same kind of joke and that just shows why RC shouldn't even play in the same league with shows like 30 Rock or even Modern Family and Cougar Town.

Anonymous said...

I imagine very few people visit your blog to see what you think of primetime network sitcoms. I know I wouldn't miss less posts about American Idol and How I Met Your Mother.

NBC sitcoms, Modern Family and HIMYM reviews on this site get good amount of comments and discussion. Don't jump into conclusions easily just because you're a TV snob.

Romantically Challenged was just OK but the cast is really likable. The show only has 6 episodes, I think ABC will air all those episodes or I guess yank some of the episodes on Wednesday, 8pm as an "audition" (as Alan coined it for Scrubs 9 last two eps airing on the same slot). Well at least ABC still tried to make this show work unlike NBC's 100 questions which I guess we will see on the summer.

Andrew said...

Re: Joan not knowing Peggy was pregnant.

No one in the office, including Joan, (and excluding Pete, obviously) thought Peggy was even having sex. It's not that much of a stretch.