On TV: Review of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Season 2 premier

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“Sleepy Hollow” | Season 2, Episode 1: “This is War” | Date: Sept. 22, 2014


I watched the second season premiere of “Sleepy Hollow.”

I was struck by one question: “Why am I watching this show?”

Then I remembered: Decapitations.

There was one. Lt. Mills (Nicole Beharie) cuts the head off Crane (Tom Mison). Except it wasn’t Crane. It was evil, bad magic guy.

I don’t really pay that close attention to the plot. This is tops on my “Watch, Don’t Think” TV series list.

Oh, Ben Franklin was in the episode. Naked.

And there was a flaming sword.

So, you know, that’s a win, I guess.

On TV: Review of ‘Scorpion’ pilot

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Scorpion” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 22, 2014


Good news, everyone. “House, M.D.” is back on TV. Except now its called “Scorpion.” Instead of rude doctor leading a team of young doctors, it’s a rude genius leading a team of other geniuses.

Don’t worry. There’s a waitress (Katharine Hope McPhee). She’s earnest and all heart. She tames the savage genius Walter (Elyes Gabel). Oh, the waitress’s son is also an introverted genius.

The other geniuses include a math guy, a mechanical engineer and a psychologist. And they’re all psychologically damaged. Apparently, there are no well-adjusted smart people in popular culture.

It’s a shame. I went to college. I knew a lot of very smart professors. Almost all of them were well-adjusted citizens, many with spouses and families and lives.

There’s also a Homeland Security agent (Robert Patrick) who has a history with Walter. Patrick plays that tough guy he plays. It’s nice to see him again.

Oh, and there’s a blizzard of techno babble exposition that will have most viewers reaching for the aspirin.

The whole pilot hinges on a ridiculous scene involving hooking up an ethernet cable between a speeding sports car and an airplane.

Despite what sounds like an interesting premise, this feels very much like a typical CBS show — a police procedural somewhere between “Hawaii 5-0″ and one of the “CSI” clones.

On TV: Review of ‘Gotham’ series premier

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“Gotham” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 22, 2014


The “Gotham” premier was an instantly forgettable pilot without a single character interesting enough to compel further viewing.

“Gotham” wants to tell the story of Gotham City before Batman. The problem, of course, is that the only reason Gotham City was ever interesting was because of Batman.

A crime-riddled American city? Let’s just read the newspapers in Detroit or Baltimore or New Orleans.

“Gotham” is supposed to be a story about Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), a young detective who will one day be police commissioner and Batman’s BFF. Right now, he’s just a horribly, obviously earnest good cop in a city of bad cops.

There were a couple of bright spots. “The Wire” veteran John Doman, most recently seen as a villain in “Person of Interest,” chews up the scenery quite convincingly as crime boss Carmine Falcone.

Iowa native Robin Lord Taylor is convincing as the conniving, cowardly villain Oswald Cobblepot, also known as the Penguin.

“Gotham” looks like the 1989 Tim Burton “Batman” movie, only, you know, without Batman. That is not a compliment.

A regular reader of this site suggest I should give each new series three episode. That feels like a burden with a show this uninteresting.

On TV: Review of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Season 8 premier

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The Big Bang Theory” | Season 8, Episodes 1 and 2: “The Locomotion Interruption” and “The Junior Professor Solution” | Date: Sept. 21, 2014


The comedy website Cracked spewed some vitriol on “The Big Bang Theory,” with the critic call the popular situation comedy “a goddamned terrible show.”

That seems a harsh and ill-considered. Certainly the troubled nerds and their beautiful women meme is well-worn into its eighth season. But Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper is one of the great television characters of the 21st century.

When last we saw Sheldon, he was overwhelmed by all the change in his life. He decided to take a train trip to clear his head. We see him in a train station, no pants and one shoe, the victim of a robbery. He babbles incoherently about various scientific theories until he finally calls Leonard (Johnny Galecki) from a police station.

Watching Parsons vamp is a pleasure, even if the other plotlines in the season’s first two episode are rather placid. Long-mocked Howard (Simon Helberg) decided to take a physics course from Sheldon to work toward his TV. They fight about who is smarter.

Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) helps Penny (Kaley Cuoco) get a job as a pharmaceutical representative. Bernadette is put off by Penny’s apparent laziness. Penny is annoyed by Bernadette’s bossyness. Both women confide in Amy (Mayim Bialik), who is delighted to play  her friends anxieties off one another simply for the attention.

“The Big Bang Theory” is the highest-rated show on television. Is it the best? No. But it is enjoyable, largely on the strength of Parsons’ work. It’s also not the worst show on TV. It’s entertaining, which is all that we can ask from a sitcom and much more than most deliver.

Morning Mixtape: ‘Pill’ by Edie Brickell

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I heard “Pill” by Edie Brickell on KFMG late one night while drinking a beer before bedtime. Sometimes I turn on the old single-speaker clock radio and listen to the radio with its scratchy interference and touchy tuner. KFMG is my favorite station because it reminds me of KDHX, the community radio station I became a fan of when I lived in St. Louis. I never would have heard this song on any of the commercial stations in either city. This is a fun video, too. It reminds me of a cross between one of Terry Gilliam’s old “Monty Python” animations crossed with a little 1980s Peter Gabriel. Anyway, enjoy this song and enjoy your day.

On TV: Review of ‘Madam Secretary’ pilot

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Madam Secretary” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 21, 2014


Boy, I really liked the “Madam Secretary” pilot.

This makes sense. Lead Téa Leoni is one of those instantly likable people. And she is damned good as Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, a U.S. Secretary of State thrust into the job after the previous occupant died in a plane crash.

Leoni renders McCord as tough, smart, witty and powerful. She spends the first episode manipulating contacts in her former job — the CIA — to save a couple of dopey American kids who decided to play international politics and who found themselves in a Syrian prison facing execution.

McCord leans on one unwilling asset: “I’m appealing to your sense of humanity. And I remind you that the Secretary of State has the power to expel any foreign diplomat from the country for any reason.” The asset smiles and says, “I’m feeling very … humane.”

McCord finds a rival in bossy White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson (Željko Ivanek), who works a little too hard to protect the chain of command. McCord goes behind his back to the President (Keith Carradine) with a plan to rescue the kids.

The plan is a success. The next morning, Jackson tries to intimidate her, but McCord holds her ground in a great, tense exchange between two strong characters and excellent actors.

A subplot is introduced, one in which an old buddy of McCord’s from the CIA warns her the previous Secretary of State was murdered. He later turns up dead and McCord is heartbroke.

This drama feels mature in its first episode. I worried it would be a “West Wing” clone, but it is so much better than that. McCord is the strong female character TV has needed for years. Not once in the hour did she strike a tone that I thought was unbelievable, overwrought or pandering.

The Leoni is unmistakably gorgeous, her character never uses sex to sell herself or as a bargaining chip, yet it does not go as far as to make her assexual or anticeptic. In fact, two of the brighter moments in the show involve McCord and sex.

The first was her worrying that she and her husband (Tim Daly) don’t have sex as much as they did before they moved to Washington, D.C. That felt like a real conversation a woman would have with her husband, even a strong and powerful one.

The other great moment came when a leak to the press threatened to derail her plan to get the kids out of Syria. McCord smartly decides to use a image consultant to go on a shopping trip, which lead to a typical media blitz about her appearance and skillfully distracted from what could have been a potentially disastrous leak.

There’s a lot of potential in this series. It’s going to get clobbered in the ratings by the NFL games, but hopefully all the people who are sick of news about NFL players beating up women and children turn their viewership “Madam Secretary.”

 

Morning Mixtape: ‘A New Anhedonia’ by Phosporescent

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Anhedonia is a psychological condition characterized by loss of interest in things that once gave you pleasure. I live with depression and anxiety. I find myself on bad anhedonia benders from time to time. It’s awful. I watch a football game and feel nothing. I watch “Doctor Who,” my very favorite show, and feel empty. I know it passes. Songs such as “A New Anhedonia” by Phosphorescent help. Wherever you are today, be kind. You never know what burdens someone is carrying.