Watching the American Dream October 28, 2009Posted by Patrick and Paula in Televisual.
Tags: Glee, Melrose Place, Modern Family, The Good Wife, The Vampire Diaries
[Edited version published in Flux, 28/10/09]
With nothing but The Apprentice to entertain us on homegrown television these days, here’s a few shows from across the pond that you’re sure to be addicted to for at least a few episodes. None of them feature Jackie Lavin, but you’ll have to make do.
The Vampire Diaries
Irish Airdate: Should be appearing on ITV2 early next year. No Irish station has made any comments about buying the show yet. But you never know.
The premise: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – boy meets girl, boy turns out to be a vampire. They fall in love.
The talent: Lots of unknowns with one familiar face, Ian Somerhalder, Lost’s Boone, as evil vamp Damon.
What’s it like? This series was inevitably going to be compared to that other teen vampire series, Twilight. But The Vampire Diaries, the book series, was written in 1991, long before Twilight.
This led us to expect a little more originality, and we had to groan in certain scenes that were a little too Twilight-esque to be mere coincidence. It’s a shame too, since it seems like The Vampire Diaries has at least some potential.
For a start, the central character Elena is a lot less annoying than Twilight’s Bella, and more happens in the pilot episode than in the entire first Twilight film. But enough with the Twilight comparisons.
The first episode isn’t too bad, and sets up a few interesting mysteries for the weeks to come, such as Elena’s potentially psychic friend, an evil vampire doing the rounds in town killing people and the like, and a dead parents back-story to be explored.
Irish Airdate: Haven’t a literal clue. Catch it online for now.
The premise: Vapid materialistic twentysomethings living in an LA apartment complex. Oh, and there’s a murder mystery too.
The talent: Ashlee Simpson-Wentz makes her “long-awaited” return to TV, and Cloverfield’s Jessica Lucas also appears.
What’s it like? American network The CW are following their 90210 reboot with this one, a retread on the popular 90s drama.
The murder mystery at the centre of the show feels a little uninvolving, since most of us have only known the character for the guts of half an hour. Then there’s a bizarre subplot with one of the characters doing some part-time prostitution to pay for college.
The original was successful for its outlandish, ridiculous plot twists and overblown storylines, but since most of us were too young to have seen it back then, do we really care?
Ella, a ‘high profile’ publicist, appears to be a hybrid of Ari Gold and Tara Reid. Ashlee Simpson-Wentz’s Violet is just plain irritating and whiny. Both characters are utterly underdeveloped and scarcely likeable.
It’s pure guilty pleasure material, and we’ll probably tuning in again, if only to see where it goes next.
Irish Airdate: E4 announced last month that they’ve bought Glee and will be airing the first series early next year.
The premise: Idealistic teacher Will Schuester forms a ‘glee club’ – a show choir full of misfits in this musical comedy.
The talent: Role Models’ hilarious Jane Lynch stars, and Heroes or Ugly Betty fans will recognise Jayma Mays. Broadway vets Lea Michele and Matthew Morris also take centre stage. The show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, has a proven track record with shows like Popular and Nip/Tuck under his belt.
What’s it like? Before episode two had even aired, Glee attracted a global cult-like following, who call themselves Gleeks. And it’s easy to see why.
The highlight of any episode of Glee, eight of which we’ve seen, is Jane Lynch as the coach of cheerleading team, the Cheerios. She tries at every turn to thwart the glee club, with, as she says “a conviction that can only be described as religious.”
The other characters are just as interesting, including a closeted gay kid, a stuttering Asian girl, an abstinent cheerleader and an all-singing, all-dancing wheelchair user to round off the cast.
In the first episode alone we’re treated to covers of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ and Amy Winehouse’s Rehab, which could be hits in their own right.
The Good Wife
Irish Airdate: The show is part of RTE’s Autumn/Winter schedule for this year.
The premise: Alicia Florrick is forced to take up her old job as a defence attorney while her husband sits in jail following a very public sex and corruption scandal.
The talent: ER‘s Julianna Margulies stars as the ‘good wife’ of the title. Sex and the City‘s Chris Noth is billed as a ‘Special Guest Star’, though we hope he’ll stick around.
What’s it like? The Good Wife could easily have been ‘just another legal drama’, but it’s saved by the political scandal at its core.
The fast-paced pilot throws Florrick back into the world she left behind with barely a chance to catch her breath, finding out in the process that she is vying for a position at the firm with young gun Cary Agos, played by Matt Czuchry (Gilmore Girls).
The cast do a fine job in the first episode, bar Archie Panjabi as the firm’s in-house private investigator. If we had the choice, she’d be gone by episode two.
Outside of the courtroom, Margulies struggles to deal with two children and an intrusive mother-in-law, all of whom have felt the after-effects of Noth’s playing away from home. The drama refreshingly adds more character development than is usually expected from a weekly courtroom drama, and the pilot left us eager to hear more.
Irish Airdate: It’s already started on Sky 1. Catch it on Thursdays at 8pm.
The premise: A mockumentary about three modern families, all of whom are dysfunctional and all of whom make for great viewing.
The talent: Married With Children‘s Ed O’Neill plays the newly married Jay, who is often mistaken for his wife’s father. She (Sofia Vergara) is Latino and beautiful. He is not. Ty Burrell, of Black Hawk Down and Dawn of the Dead fame, also stars as father-of-three Phil.
What’s it like? Three separate storylines mightn’t have worked, were it not for the fact that each family is equally hilarious. Phil and Claire have elements of Jon and Kate Gosselin about them, and their relationship is just as mismatched. Gay couple Cameron and Mitchell have just adopted a baby girl, but are as unsure as everyone else if they are ready to be fathers. One if the best moments of the pilot is Cameron’s unveiling of baby Lilly to the couples’ extended families. Never has The Lion King‘s Circle of Life been put to such good use.
The show is as cringe-inducing as The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the triple storyline means that the gags just keep on coming.