Manhattan Love Story: The Pilot

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MANHATTAN LOVE STORY: 1.01 “The Pilot”

There is a reason that thoughts remain unheard. Because if people heard everything you thought, you’d come across as a huge douchebag.

Just as the people in Manhattan Love Story did.

It’s funny. From what I can tell, this show is filled with people that are supposed to be imminently likable: cute, quirky, attractive, fun — you name it. And maybe you could argue that in the very least, some of them are “attractive” (after all, Analeigh Tipton, who plays Dana, made it on as a contestant in America’s Next Top Model). However, once you spill open their heads and discover that Peter is nothing but a jerky sleezebag looking at women for only sex and Dana is rude, whiny, and unfunny, somehow, they don’t come across as appealing.

Which is funny. Considering that in the half hour prior to this series, Selfie made the world’s most self-absorbed woman — who doesn’t even know how to ask someone, “How are you” — actually a sympathetic character. But that’s another post.

Instead of finding myself invested in these characters, I came out of the series much like Dana did out of her date: ultimately disgusted. Just remove the tears. (I only cry knowing that I’ll never get that half hour back again…and I could’ve spent that time writing my review of Gotham.)

If I were to guess, I think the major flaw in this series was allowing us to hear the thoughts of more than one person. I understand it may be funny to hear the differences between a man’s thoughts (which apparently is only about himself or sex) and a woman’s (which apparently is only insecurity and sarcastic reactions), but the way it’s perceived, funny it is not. The show should have taken a note from Scrubs, the way they focused in on one character’s quirkiness to make the thoughts and narration interesting, amusing, and whacky.

Instead, we get this. I suppose they tried to land on “cute” in the end, as Peter decides to take Dana on a date to conquer her bucket list, but that just feels like another sitcom device. Is this the way the series goes? Every episode, the two goes through another thing on her bucket list until one day Peter has an item of his own: “Marry me, Dana!”? Sigh. If that’s where they’re headed, it’s boring and predictable.

Alongside Peter and Dana were an assortment of side characters, who I can’t tell you any of their names — or frankly, their relationships to each other (I think some were siblings…right?)

Disclaimer: I was about to tell you that the only memorable person I found on the whole series — only to remind myself that, actually, that was Selfie. Whoops.

I rarely hope a show will be the first to get cancelled, but just watching this show — knowing that it actually made the cut when other probably better-quality series didn’t get picked up — was making me angry. This show was so terrible that the only thing I have to say in its favor is that, hey, at least I watched it once. That’s more than I can say about some other pilots out there.

But barely.

Gotham: Selina Kyle

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I wasn’t sure what to expect for this week’s Gotham. The episode promo seemed very Penguin-centric, which didn’t exactly thrill me. It’s not like I don’t like The Penguin. But as I said in my last review, it just felt like they threw his evilness into the mix too fast, and I wasn’t quite sold on him yet.

Fortunately, while the episode did show some quick Penguin scenes (and rather frightening ones at that), it was not solely focused on that. Instead, we got a separate case, that of missing children. And we got a more direct introduction to Selina Kyle, who we all know will one day be the infamous Catwoman.

Before I get into the case itself, I must say that Lily Taylor and Frank Whaley were great choices for the kidnapping duo, balancing high manners with horrifying behavior. While we never actually did understand why the kids were being shipped off, the question of cannibalism came up. I’m choosing to think that they were being used for some other purpose — but that can’t be very comforting, could it.

The case itself was interesting enough, mainly because it let both Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock shine. They’re a great pair when they interact — even if that interaction is disagreeing. Seeing how they cross each other and disagree was even better when you later saw the counterpoint of Jim’s letting Bullock beat the crap out of some thug in a prison sell. (It all comes down to numbers: one guy versus 30-something kids. Kids win.)

In addition, we got to see how the city is even more corrupted. Not only does the police chief reference being “with the program,” but here we have a dirty mayor willing to imprison bus loads of kids, just so they’re not his problem anymore. Only the cute ones get to go to foster care (though, honestly, you’re telling me that Selina, er, Kat, and that crying kid aren’t cute enough to go into foster care? You must be kidding me). Jim’s got a lot piling against him.

But what impressed me most about this episode once again was the city of Gotham itself. Whoever came up with the cityscape was brilliant. It’s gritty, dark, and real. I’d tune in week to week, just to see that city alone.

Overall, the episode was good. I do think it’s struggling to find use for Bruce Wayne (I think that it will continue to have this issue as the season continues — there’s only so much you can do with a 10-year-old with such a huge future). But Gordon and Bullock carry the show with ease and are incredibly interesting to watch.

Gotham: The Pilot

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GOTHAM: 1.01 “The Pilot”

It’s premiere time! And believe it or not, I’ve actually found a show that I’m interested in and want to watch again. That show? FOX’s Gotham.

It’s actually no surprise that I was impressed with this pilot. The promos alone revealed great quality, and I’m a huge fan of Ben McKenzie (remember Southland? Impressed then, impressed now).

McKenzie shined again in this show, but he was supported by a great cast of characters, both familiar and new from the Batman mythology. While I hesitated, worried that I would only see Donal Logue as Sean Finnerty from Grounded for Life instead of Harvey Bullock (clearly, I’m behind on some of his more recent roles, but Grounded is so vastly different from Gotham that it made an impression), I was pleased to see that within minutes I was seeing a brand-new face and character.

I also quickly found myself drawn in my Fish and her gang of thugs, as well as the rest of the building story arc. I was skeptical that we’d really find out the Wayne killer in the first episode — in fact, if we did, I’d be disappointed. And I must say that the scene where the Waynes were slain was moving and effective, a truly tragic and attention-grabbing beginning for the series.

That being said, I do wonder where we go from here. Can we really continue to have Bruce and Alfred appear in every episode? We’ve introduced such future characters of Ivy, the Riddler, and Catwoman, but what do you do with them beyond that? When the series was first introduced, though, I wondered the same thing. How do you make something as iconic as Gotham work without just making it another procedural? Are we just waiting for villains to become villains? Are we just waiting for Bruce to become Batman?

I hope not. And honestly, with this beginning, I find myself more enthralled with the city itself than those side characters and future villains. Sure, I’m interested to see how Edward Nygma, in particular, turns from a helpful friend of the fuzz to a enigmatic Riddler, but that can take time. In fact, I must say that Gotham the city became its own character with its fully developed city scapes, buildings, and sets, and I want to see that develop around the show (and Gordon within it) more than anything else.

My main complaint? The Penguin. Not only was his iconic walk not established before the “penguin” nickname was referenced, but I would have much preferred a few episodes before he became a true villain. Slitting a throat for a sandwich at the end suddenly became out of character. We hadn’t yet seen him as a threat, merely a wannabe weasel, so I would’ve wanted to see that edge develop a little more slowly, seen him as a victim of his life of crime gone wrong, seen him react to the fact that he lost everything as he tried to climb the ranks to overthrow Fish.

Yes, a slower development of such a psychological mastermind would’ve had a better treatment. But honestly, there’s a lot more for the Penguin to do and many more episodes to go. Pilots always have some sort of weakness. And there was just too much good going for it for me to really get bogged down by one character.

After all, with the weight of Batman on its shoulders, I’m impressed its standing so tall already. Let’s hope it can handle the pressure.

Some Early Thoughts on Lifetime’s ‘The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story’

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Full disclosure: I have not seen a screener of The Unauthorzed Saved by the Bell Story, which premieres tonight on Lifetime (9 ET/PT). I have, however, seen many clips and promos, most — if not all — of which are on the movie’s website. This includes the first five minutes and a clip where the gang is taking promo pictures and bickering in a very juvenile way. This is all to say that I know probably just about as much as anyone else about this movie (which I do plan to watch tonight), but I thought I’d pass on some early reactions nonetheless.

I was a Saved by the Bell fan. I never really cared all that much about what happened behind the scenes. Sure, you could guess that there were drugs, alcohol, parties, and sex, and while I’d love to convince myself that child actors are different, well, that’d just be naive. (It’s actually, rather sad, but we won’t go into that. I’m sure Bieber and Lohan fans all over the world have written enough about that.) But anyway, if you’re going to hand me the story in a neat little Lifetime package, I’m going to take advantage of it. That being said, I think it’s going to be a horrible train wreck… in the best possible way.

Let’s start with the casting. If you watched the first five minutes, you’ve already discovered that our SBTB narrator, Zack Morriss, is not the narrator of this particular tale. While this movie swings the spotlight in another direction, I must admit that I find the actor who plays Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dylan Everett, a terrible pick. I can’t speak to his acting chops (like I said, I’ve only seen a few clips), but for such an iconic character, he just doesn’t look like him and the voice doesn’t match. He’s too short. His face is too wide. Beyond the blonde hair, brown eyebrows (which SBTB costar Dustin Diamond relentlessly mocks in his book, of all things), and comically large cellphone, you wouldn’t really know it was supposed to be Gosselaar at all. That’s not to say Everett isn’t going to do a good job, but he’s certainly going to have to convince us more than the others. It’ll be a tough hurtle.

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On the other side of the spectrum is Taylor Russell McKenzie, who plays Lark Voorhies. Because I read Diamond’s book, I know that Voorhies was a rather quiet one on the set (he called her boring, but given the tone of the entire disaster of a book, I’m a wee bit skeptical). So between her look and her demeanor, she might just be a good choice. All that being said, it will be interesting to see what she does with the role — and what Lifetime does with the part. We don’t want any boring characters, even inadvertently. I wonder what she’ll get herself into. Continue reading

In advance of Lifetime’s movie, I read Dustin Diamond’s ‘Behind the Bell’

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We’re less than a week away from Lifetime’s new movie, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. The movie delves into the lives behind the stars of the well-known series, “exposing the challenges of growing up under public scrutiny while trying to maintain the squeaky clean image of their popular characters both on and off-screen.”

Lifetime isn’t the first to reveal the story. Years ago, SBTB‘s own Dustin Diamond (aka “Screech”) reveals the “truth” behind the series in his book. From what I understand, the movie will not be based completely on Diamond’s book, but if you watch the first five minutes of the movie, you’ll soon discover that it is Diamond’s young doppelganger who is the narrator, so I’m sure a good bit will be pulled from it. In advance of the movie, I thought I’d dive into the book for a taste of what’s to come.

behind the bellA long while ago, I bought Diamond’s book for my Kindle for 99 cents. I’m not much of a memoir reader or one to delve into “true Hollywood stories.” But I was a fan of SBTB and I saw Diamond’s stand-up over a decade ago while he was on the college tour (he references his quick time on college campuses briefly near the end of his story), so I figured, What the hell? It’s only a dollar.

Let’s just say, I’m glad I didn’t spend any more than that. A hardcover for $23+ on Amazon? Are you kidding me? Not worth it. That being said, I read the entire thing on my iPhone in two days, so it’s an easy, quick read. So it’s got that going for it. (Update: I see the book is now no longer available new on Amazon. It’s also no longer available on Kindle, but you can get it on your Nook.)

The book promises to share the behind-the-scenes stories of SBTB, and from the bits and pieces that I read over the internet over the years, it hinted at sharing all the dirty details of his costars. While, yes, I suppose Diamond does “out” some ugly behavior — Mark Paul Gosselaar’s public urination and Tiffani Thiessan’s affairs with cast members — what was offered as a salacious tell-all was really a has-been actor’s bitter, self-centered, disgusting tale of…geez, I don’t even know what.

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Minkus meets ‘Girl Meets World’

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I’ve been watching Girl Meets World. This is probably not a surprise to most of you who have been reading this site for a while. I covered Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana, both on the Disney Channel, so you’ve probably assumed that I’ve continued to watch the network. That’s actually not true. Too many teen “pop stars” and annoying characters to make me continue. Also, I’m in my 30s. It’s a little unacceptable.

But when Girl Meets World was announced, I was curious, since I am a Boy Meets World fan. And as we heard in drips and drabs about which original cast members would be appearing, I was curious to see them reappear. So because of this, I’ve been watching the show…solely for the cameos.

And so far, I’ve only gotten one: a brief appearance by William Daniels as a vision of Mr. Feeny — a vision that I’m still fearful might mean that Mr. Feeny has passed on. I don’t think anything has been specifically said along these lines, so it’s clearly just a theory of mine. But I guess we’ll see as the show progresses. Or perhaps we won’t. This show is for kids, not 30-somethings reliving TGIF nostalgia.

Or is it? The latest episode finally did give me a cameo I’ve been waiting for. While he’s no Shawn or Eric, he is our very own Minkus. “Minkus. Could it be Minkus?” I still hear young Corey’s name when I hear his name.

Whether most people would recognize Lee Norris now as the young Minkus he was, I’m not sure. Well, unless you happen to be a One Tree Hill fan and have been watching Mouth for the last number of years, like me. But there he was, in all his nerdy glory, once again competing with Topanga for top honors, including those honors of their children, Riley and Farkle (that’s right, we officially know now that Farkle is Farkle Minkus).

Of course, as a Boy Meets World fan, I could always ask for more. Overall, the episode was lacking (any episode that centers on Mya seems to be weak, though when she is in the supporting role to Riley’s plot lines, she’s a star). Though I will say that “Career Day” was a smart way to reveal Minkus’ relationship with Farkle and get an update on his career (head of Minkus Industries…whatever that is. Fortunately, it just happens to be located in New York, like the rest of them).

This does mean I’ll be continuing to suffer through the ups and downs of Girl Meets World until I see more of those familiar faces. It’s not a terrible show; Corey, Topanga, and Mya make it tolerable. And I’d wonder if it finds its legs before it runs out of cameos, but given the network it’s on, those who regularly watch (and obsess over) Disney Channel, and its early renewal, Girl Meets World will continue on for quite some time, even after the viewers get reacquainted with the Boy Meets World universe.

Chelsea Kane Talks Lifetime’s New Movie, #PopFan

One of the benefits of summertime is that it gives me the opportunity to catch up on some guilty pleasures. While you all may know my guilty pleasure for bride shows, I do have another that takes up a good portion of my time, particularly on Saturday nights. And that’s TV movies.

Lifetime has a new one premiering on Sunday at 8/7c, a psychological thriller called #PopFan, where a young pop star is rescued by a kind fellow in rural Maine, only to discover that her hero might not be as valiant as he claims.

I was lucky to be part of a conference call with one of the stars of the movie, Chelsea Kane. Chelsea plays Ava, our troubled pop star, who escapes to Maine to clear her mind and reassess some life choices. You might recognize Chelsea from recent roles on One Tree Hill and Jonas L.A., and she currently plays Riley Perrin on the ABC Family series Baby Daddy.

In the call, Chelsea discussed what it was like to be part of a creepy thriller, her time with costar Nolan Funk, and even singing and dancing.

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On working on a psycho thriller. Chelsea had a blast working on the movie, but she admits that it was taxing: “Some of the scenes toward the end of the film…there is a lot of crying. At least for me, I really had to dig deep for some of that stuff. So at the end of certain workdays, I was just emotionally drained after sobbing for hours on end.” But Chelsea admits that it was good challenge for her, and commends the people around her. “Our director Vanessa [Parise] had so many great tricks and so many great methods for pulling a good performance out of me. And Nolan was amazing. He was so good in the movie and so good to me on set,” she said. “I usually am the happy-go-lucky comedy girl, so it was good to take on this role.”

On her character: Chelsea really wanted to make sure that her character was likable (despite some early scenes where Chelsea admits that she was a brat!). “I still wanted her to be a likable girl,” she said. “You want to find some way to root for her at some point. It was finding those moments where this girl has a heart, she’s just a little lost right now, as opposed to being a complete turnoff through the whole film.”

On preparing for the role. Chelsea had a great relationship with the director of the movie, which included, of all things, letter writing! “I wrote her several letters that had my deepest, darkest secrets in them or hard times that I’d had in my life so that she could see where to draw from when she needed me to be scared or hurt or sad…who I would kill for just to get out these different emotions,” she explained. “That was a part of preparation that I had never done before… To dig into the harder times in life and relive those and open up to Vanessa about them, that was definitely a challenge. It was a different way of getting the results. I’m glad I did it, but there were a couple days on set where she’d ask me a question about something personal and I’d fall apart.” Continue reading