Category Archives: Reviews

#TBT: Long Before Peter Pan, TV Promos Were Promising ‘Anything Can Happen’ on Live Shows


It’s Thursday, which means that it’s time for my weekly Adweek Throwback Thursday column. In honor of tonight’s Peter Pan Live! (which could turn out to be as big of a disaster as the fishnet and spandex that makes up Allison Williams’ Peter Pan costume), I revisited promos from various live programs, including my favorite “live” promo, for ER’s live episode in 1997.

As I wrote,

The show was at its creative peak, and this fantastic promo captured all its glory. Old episode footage was filmed as it played on a monitor, setting a dramatic, nail-biting tone punctuated by ace voiceover work from maestro Don LaFontaine.

See, “anything can happen. Anything!” (Quick question: Is the “Oh My God!” you hear in this clip the same one used in every single ER promo, or did they actually record a new one each time?) Alas, the episode itself was a dramatic dud, but the promo had more than done its job.

I also unearthed promos from 30 Rock’s (second) live episode, a long-forgotten Jon Lovitz Fox special from 1992, and 2008’s so-awful-it-can-never-be-forgotten Rosie Live.

#TBT: Long Before Peter Pan, TV Promos Were Promising ‘Anything Can Happen’ on Live Shows

#TBT: Sorry Jar Jar, the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ is George Lucas’s Most Embarrassing Creation Ever


For this week’s Adweek #TBT, I revisited the single most embarrassing artifact from the Star Wars Universe (yes, even worse than Jar Jar Binks): The Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired one night only, on Nov. 17, 1978, and was never seen again (legally, anyway). As I wrote at Adweek,

It was immediately clear to anyone who tuned in on Friday at 8 p.m. ET that the show was a train wreck. If the 10-minute dialogue-free Wookiee sequence wasn’t awful enough, then the virtual-reality sex scene—which still haunts my dreams, and in which Diahann Carroll urged Chewbacca’s father, “I am your experience, so experience me. I am you pleasure, so enjoy me!”—sealed the deal.

I rewatched the whole, interminable debacle for this story, and it’s even worse than I remembered — which made it even more entertaining to write about. Here’s the promo that CBS aired the week leading up to the show’s debut:

#TBT: Sorry Jar Jar, the Star Wars Holiday Special is George Lucas’s Most Embarrassing Creation Ever

‘The Blacklist’s’ Frustrating Fall: Keen’s a Keeper, but Red Regresses

blacklist season 2

At The Daily BeastI check back in on The Blacklist, which aired its fall finale last night. I wrote last spring that James Spader was single-handedly keeping the show together with his virtuoso turn as Raymond “Red” Reddington, and the NBC drama should wipe the slate clean of his costars and reboot with a group more worthy of sharing the screen with Spader.

Amazingly, the show did almost exactly that in the offseason, but the problems still exist. As I wrote at The Daily Beast,

So why does Season 2—which just had its fall finale Monday night—feel like such a disappointment so far? Because in focusing on all those necessary fixes, producers lost sight of the show’s raison d’être: Spader. Two steps forward, two steps back.

The Blacklist’s Frustrating Fall: Keen’s a Keeper, but Red Regresses

#TBT: Johnny Depp and Matthew Perry Made This 1987 Fox Promo the Foxiest Ever

Johnny Depp Fox weekend

This was so much fun. I kicked off a new weekly column I’ll be doing for Adweek called #TBT (Throwback Thursday), in which I’ll be unearthing video of some of my favorite classic TV promos and shows. For the first one, I wanted to spotlight a promo that’s been knocking around my brain since 1987: a campaign from Fox to celebrate its then-fledgling network, which includes feature stars like Johnny Depp, Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate. As I wrote at Adweek,

Because as Bill Hader’s SNL character Stefon would say, this promo has everything: Sagal and O’Neill strangling each other, a skinny tie-clad Perry hitting on an underage Applegate (then just 16), a man’s bare chest being inexplicably massaged, Tracey Ullman mugging for the camera, a mulleted Peter DeLuise channeling The Love Boat’s two-finger-pointing Isaac, no-longer-famous Fox stars flirting with each other, a teenage boy possibly plummeting to his death, CCH Pounder flexing her biceps, some of the highest ’80s hair you’ve ever seen and Depp literally staying above the fray.

Don’t let Fox Weekend pass you by!

Stop Hating on ‘Modern Family’ (But Also Stop Giving It Emmys)

modern family s6

Few people were more upset than I over Modern Family’s return to Emmy dominance back in August, when it once again won best comedy, beating Louie (!), Veep (!!) and Orange is the New Black (!!!). But at the same time, I felt like the backlash against the show — some people seemed to want it taken off the air immediately — seemed overblown. As someone who had watched all five seasons worth of episodes, I knew that Modern Family still had its moments. This fall seemed like a good time to revisit the show, so I did that today for The Daily Beast:

So, following Jay’s advice and putting all the hoopla aside, it’s time to examine how good—or bad—Modern Family really is at this point in its run. After watching Season 6’s first three solid episodes, it’s clear that Modern Family is much better than many of its haters remember. It’s still reliably and solidly funny, capable of several genuine laughs each week, which is more than most network comedies can say. But equally evident is the fact that the show, while still entertaining, stopped being groundbreaking long ago, and serves largely at this point as comedy comfort food.

This story also gave me an opportunity to talk about the most bitter, loveless couples on television: Mitch and Cam, who should really go their separate ways. But I still love Audrey Anderson-Emmons, who plays their daughter, Lily, my favorite character on the show. And I admire the show’s restraint in turning Modern Family into The Lily Show.

In its sixth season, Modern Family is still worthy of adoration from audiences — just not Emmy voters.

Stop Hating on ‘Modern Family’ (But Also Stop Giving It Emmys)

Will Gardner Had to Die So That ‘The Good Wife’ Could Thrive

good wife season 6

I’ll make this simple: no show is supposed to be as sensational in its sixth season as The Good Wife is right now. I reviewed the Season 6 premiere for The Daily Beast, and made this observation:

So much is going on, in fact, that it wasn’t until much later that I realized that one character was never referenced, possibly for the first time: the late Will Gardner. Now it can be said: Josh Charles’ exit last March, as shocking and painful as it was, is probably the best thing that could have happened to The Good Wife in the long run, and one of the main reasons this show, and these characters we’ve spent five years with, suddenly seem so fresh.

The show’s Emmy snub for best drama looks even more egregious in light of this premiere episode. And while it’s unclear how long the show can sustain this momentum without falling victim to the same pitfalls as nearly every other long-running series, I’m going to enjoy every moment of this unparalleled run while I can.

Will Gardner Had to Die So That ‘The Good Wife’ Could Thrive

‘Schoolhouse Rock': A Trojan Horse of Knowledge and Power

Schoolhouse Rock

This is the favorite thing I’ve written in quite a long while. To celebrate ABC’s upcoming Schoolhouse Rock special, I reflected on the show’s lasting legacy — it was an essential part of my Saturday mornings as a kid — for The Daily Beast:

Each song was a perfectly constructed Trojan horse: it was entertaining and infectious, while clandestinely packing an astonishing amount of information about lessons about word usage (“Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’”), America’s expansion (“Elbow Room”), women’s rights (“Sufferin Till Sufferage”), health (“The Body Machine”), the solar system (“Interplanet Janet”) and much, much more.

Like nothing before it, Schoolhouse Rock made learning fun and effortless. Multiplication tables were suddenly a breeze thanks to songs like “Lucky Seven Sampson,” while “The Preamble” was essential for anyone who had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution in school. “I’m Just a Bill” is so concise and catchy that my high school U.S. History teacher played it in class to explain exactly how a bill becomes a law.

Not only did I get the chance to listen to watch all these segments again, but I also managed to get my two kids hooked on the show as well.

And that continues to be the brilliance of Schoolhouse Rock; it’s completely irresistible, and endlessly rewarding, whether you’re watching it for the first or the hundredth time.

Even after all these years, knowledge is still power!

Schoolhouse Rock: A Trojan Horse of Knowledge and Power 

‘You’re the Worst’: TV’s Best Couple is Awful and Perfect for Each Other

youre the worst

Some shows are so terrific that I feel as if I have no choice but to sing their praises to as many people as possible. That’s the main reason that I pushed so hard to review You’re the Worst for The Daily Beast. It’s the best, and most surprising, new series of the summer. As I wrote,

Here’s the unexpected thing about You’re the Worst: While Jimmy (played by Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are both, yes, the worst—I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with either of them in real life—they also happen to be the most perfectly matched couple on television. There’s none of the usual forced chemistry, where a show pairs up its main characters regardless of whether it makes sense or not. These two click in every sense of the word—sexually, emotionally, comically—and it’s obvious that they need to be together, in part because no one else on the planet deserves to be subjected to either of them.

How great is this show? So great that it’s worthy of a second excerpt from my review:

We all know, and spend our lives trying to avoid, people like Jimmy and Gretchen. Thanks to You’re the Worst, now I can’t get enough of them. And while you might not have had time for the show earlier in the summer, there’s no excuse now as we limp toward September. Go to FX now and start catching up (the first five episodes are available there; the sixth airs on FX tonight). Because every once in a great while, two wrongs actually do make a right.

Start watching now — especially if you’re a Nielsen family!

‘You’re the Worst’: TV’s Best Couple is Awful and Perfect for Each Other

Surprise! Halle Berry’s Career is ‘Extant’


I was pleasantly surprised by Extant, the “event series” starring Halle Berry that CBS is hoping will do just as well for them this summer as Under the Dome did last year at this time. The show, as I write at The Daily Beast, is a substantial upgrade over Dome, thanks in large part to its star:

The show’s name, Extant, means “still in existence; surviving”—the opposite of extinct. The word could also refer to Berry’s career, which seemed to have flatlined in recent years, outside of the X-Men franchise. Extant can only thrive if Berry does, and so far the actress, making her first TV series appearance since the short-lived 1989 Who’s the Boss? spinoff Living Dolls, delivers in what is a difficult, enigmatic role. Berry has never deployed her talents consistently during her career, but acquits herself quite admirably here. While at first, she seems to be frustratingly underplaying Molly’s reaction to the pregnancy news, it turns out that there’s a method to her stillness. You see, Molly also knows things—some of which unfold in flashbacks—with many more revelations likely to come in future episodes. Until they do, Berry utilizes her star quality to keep us riveted and awaiting whatever twist comes next. And she makes the most of her standout scene in the premiere, in which she silently and captivatingly unpacks several years of emotional baggage.

My long-term reservations about the show aside, I applaud CBS for proving, at least for now, that quality broadcast television can indeed be extant during the summer months.

Surprise! Halle Berry’s Career is ‘Extant’

Stop Everything and Go Watch ‘Rectify’


I really needed to review something phenomenal to counteract the stench of I Wanna Marry “Harry,” and I found just what I was looking for in the second season of SundanceTV’s exquisite Rectify. As I wrote at The Daily Beast,

It might sound clichéd to say that Rectify is unlike anything else on television, but it’s also entirely accurate. The show’s languid, deliberate pace is almost hypnotic. Time moves differently in creator Ray McKinnon’s world, and not just because every episode lasts roughly a day (although that pace somewhat quickens in Season 2, which will cover six weeks over 10 episodes). The entire plot of Season 1 could fit into the cold opening of a typical Scandal episode, with one or two twists to spare. The show offers no cathartic “gotcha” moments, no easy answers, and no rapid-fire dialogue.

Rectify is about the journey, not the destination. And no mater what your travel plans might be in the coming months, this will likely be the most rewarding trip you take all summer.

Stop Everything and Go Watch ‘Rectify’