What in the new season works for your workout.
By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricst)
Here we are. The second and final installment of my ratings of new fall shows at the gym. At one point this week I spent 3 hours doing cardio while watching these pilots so I could get them all in. That’s how dedicated I am to you, my dear readers.
As I said before, I should make it clear that the star ratings on these reviews are not a rating of the quality of the show but rather how much I think they are an appropriate distraction while doing your cardio workout. Some amazing shows are best watched at home. The Wire and Friday Night Lights are examples of wonderful shows best watched while sitting on a sofa. Also, as with the comedies, I only watched the pilot of each of these shows before reviewing it. I did that because the real point of watching a show while doing cardio, at least for me, is to distract you to the point where the exercising becomes effortless because you’ve lost yourself in the show. Why bring a show back to the gym if the first episode didn’t grab you? If you want to give it a chance, do it at home. Dramas are usually better than comedies in this respect because they inherently pack in more action and suspense. In my opinion the only recent show out there that comes close to perfection in this department is last season’s Revenge, so you’ll notice that none of these freshman shows garnered five stars.
And with that disclaimer, the reviews!
Show: 666 Park Avenue
Premise: Something is rotten at 999 Park Avenue, and it’s not just the fact that it bears the same number as Herman Cain’s tax plan. Jane (Rachael Taylor) and Henry (Dave Annable – of Brothers & Sisters fame), are a fresh-faced Midwestern couple hired to manage the property owned by Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn – that dude from Lost), who may or may not be Satan (but most likely is totally Satan). The tenants have all signed contracts. Spooky stuff ensues.
Review: I hate scary movies because I scare easily, and not once was I creeped out by this show. We get it: it’s Faust. Vanessa Williams is great, but she’s played this character before. The show also relies way too much on creepy music to dictate what we should be feeling. Some horror-junkies may enjoy this show, but it simply wasn’t for me.
Appropriateness for cardio: « (out of 5). Creepy music does not suspense make. About 15 or 20 minutes into my workout, I wanted to watch something else.
Premise: The CW’s attempt at a new superhero serial is adapted from DC Comics’ The Green Arrow. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), former party boy and son of a billionaire is rescued after being stranded for five years on a remote island. During that time he apparently practiced his parkour and became handy with a bow and arrow. Once home, he assumes a secret identity sets out to fulfill his father’s dying wish: that he right his father’s wrongs.
Review: Oh, The CW. Bringing you quality programming for the 18 to 34-year-old demographic since 2006. I was going to skip this network, but their new show pilots were free on iTunes, so I figured, why not? Smart move, The CW. People who enjoy superheroes and comic books are going to like this show. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people. However, that’s just me. If you like comics, by all means give this one a whirl. The final moment of the pilot gave me enough reason to consider watching episode two.
Appropriateness for cardio: ««. There are plenty of action sequences. But for me, I just didn’t get hooked in by the premise. Still, Amell’s six-pack may be enough reason to watch.
Show: Beauty and the Beast
Premise: A re-boot of the 1987 series of the same name. In 2003, Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) is saved by a mysterious beast-like creature in the woods after her mother is shot and killed. Now she’s a detective with the NYPD. When a hair turns up at a murder scene that has part human, part animal DNA her suspicion grows. After she’s attacked in the subway, the same mysterious man/creature saves her. He’s a veteran, presumed dead, and victim of a secret army experiment gone awry that altered his DNA. Love at first sight? Who attacked Catherine? And why are the Feds determined to get in her business?
Review: This show is just SO The CW. That’s right, I’m calling you on it, The CW. Actually, that’s not fair. The CW knows exactly who The CW is:
The 1987 version of this show had something of a cult following. I
could see how this show could be one of those guilty pleasure, Friday-night-home-alone-with-leftover-Chinese-food-and-a-glass-of-pinot-grigio
shows. But still, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. The most interesting aspect of
the show was the procedural crime-solving aspect, not the dynamic between our
heroine and the beast, and even that felt flat.
Appropriateness for cardio: «. Save this one for when you want a night of trashy TV at home.
Show: Chicago Fire
Premise: Dick Wolf (creator of Law & Order) brings us this procedural, set in – surprise! A Chicago fire station. After the death of a fellow team member, the firefighters, medics, and squad members must deal with the aftermath, both in their professional and personal lives.
Review: Kinda torn on this one. The pilot was very formulaic, with a character dying in the teaser and his replacement being introduced in the next segment, which is the easiest method of getting exposition out of the way. I’m told it gets better after the pilot, so I’ll keep watching for now. For the hot, shirtless men if for nothing else. The show is very intense and packs in a lot of high-stakes action scenes. In fact it may be a little too intense. Political junkies like me will enjoy the cameo of the actual Rahm Emmanuel at the end of the pilot.
Appropriateness for cardio: «««. Here’s where the strength of the show lies. The fire sequences are so intense that it literally distracts you from everything else (as do the hot, shirtless dudes), which is sort of the point of watching at the gym. We’ll just have to see if the plotlines and personal relationships of the characters can hold their own as well.
Premise: In this adaptation using the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character, Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) is a former consultant for Scotland Yard who has just been released (sort of) from drug rehab. Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is assigned as his sober companion, who is then quickly dragged along as he jumps back in as a consultant for the NYPD.
Review: When I first heard about this show and its premise, I thought: “oh, that is gonna SUCK.” Boy, am I glad to say I was wrong! It’s a crime-solving show that keeps you guessing. When I tired to predict what was going to happen next, the show would go a different way, to my delight.
Appropriateness for cardio: ««««. The fact that, as I said, the show keeps you guessing is a huge plus in this department. I’m definitely adding this one to my gym arsenal.
Show: Emily Owens, M.D.
Premise: Mamie Grumer (Meryl Streep’s daughter. Holla!) is Emily Owens, M.D., a recent medical school graduate who is just starting her internship at Denver Memorial Hospital. But now that she’s a doctor, she’s an adult, right? Turns out working in a hospital is just like being in high school.
Review: This time, The CW, you may be onto something. The show is like Scrubs if it were an hour-long dramedy sans the cutaway gags and with a female protagonist (the show has the famed Scrubs inner-monologue voiceover throughout). One moment it’s cute, with Emily daydreaming about a fellow doctor she likes, and a split second later it gets scary, as the show takes the medical emergencies within it very seriously. The constant comparisons of a hospital to high school were a bit much – we get it.
Appropriateness for cardio: ««. Sometimes I had to look away during the surgeries (I know some people like watching all that blood and stuff, I, however, happen to be a pussy), and the show is a little slow paced. Still, I did enjoy it, and I am going to keep watching it at home instead of at the gym.
Show: Last Resort
Premise: The crew of a powerful American nuclear submarine is thrown when an order to launch nuclear missiles at Pakistan comes through a channel that should only be used when the U.S. homeland has been destroyed. When the captain radios for confirmation through the proper channel, the sub is hit by an American missile. With the sub on the ocean floor and running from its own military, the crew commandeers a tropical island and must now figure out who is behind the mysterious orders and how to get back home.
Review: Wow did this one feel more like a film than a series. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you like action or military films, this series is for you. Lots of action, and lots of questions left to be answered. Who gave to order to bomb Pakistan? What was that Navy Seal team up to? Does this all have something to do with the President being impeached? Etc.
Appropriateness for cardio: «««. It’s such an action series and there are so many questions that it’s an excellent distraction. It’s not exactly something I’d normally watch, however, so I may not be returning to it. But definitely give it a try if this is your kind of thing.
Show: The Mob Doctor
Premise: On this medical procedural with a Sopranos twist, Dr. Grace Delvin (Jordana Spiro) is a surgeon in the pocket of the Chicago mafia, a deal she made to save her brother’s life when he couldn’t pay his gambling debts. When she is instructed by the mob to kill one of her patients – an informant – she must decide between saving her brother, or honoring her Hippocratic oath.
Review: I mean… I didn’t hate this show, but I wonder if it can keep up the premise for a full season. The writers are clearly trying to play with legality and following the rules in the hospital verses living outside the law and beyond the rules on the streets, and where the lines blur between the two. Concept aside, Spiro is fantastic here, and I’ll probably check out episode two before making a final call.
Appropriateness for cardio: «««. There’s a car chase scene at the end of the pilot that is timed perfectly for an hour-long treadmill workout. If they keep that up, this show could work great. Other than that, there's not much else there.
Premise: Rayna James (Connie Britton) is a 40-something-year-old country music superstar who has begun to fade. With her latest album showing disappointing sales and her tour not selling tickets, her record label suggests (read: demands) she combine tours with (read: opens for) young rising star Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), whom she no likey.
Review: Remember that Gwyneth Paltrow movie a few years back called Country Strong? This show is everything that film should have been. Full disclosure: I actually really enjoy country music. My father loves it, so I was brought up on it. That said, the conflict between these two women is delicious. I love the B-plot about the mayoral campaign, I’m really intrigued to see what happens to the duo singing at the open mic towards the end; and the songs are fantastic.
Appropriateness for cardio: ««««. First of all, there’s a lot of songs, which is always good. While it’s not a show that relies on suspense, it is one with a strong female central character and more than enough questions to get you through 42 minutes of running.
Premise: An unexplained event causes all electronic devices on earth to stop working. Fifteen years later the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. After her father is killed by local militia, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) sets out to find her uncle and solve the mystery of why the power went out.
Review: Sigh… I didn’t hate this show but I have so many issues. The show rests on the premise that humans are inherently evil and without electricity people would lose all sense of morality and civil society would cease to exist. I’m just saying: humans were living sans electricity as recently as the 19th century and there wasn’t abject chaos and murder in the streets. Organized government and law enforcement were able to function. That said, the show has a lot of intrigue, and I want to know what’s with those electric amulets, so I’m gonna continue to watch for now.
Appropriateness for cardio: «««. There’s enough suspense and surprise to keep you going, though if the premise keeps making me raise issues like the ones above, I may, like the electronics in the series, have to shut it off.
Premise: Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid), a rancher and army veteran in 1960’s Las Vegas is appointed sheriff when the body of the governor’s niece is found in the desert and the actual sheriff is MIA. Lamb sets out to solve the crime as Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis), a Chicago mob boss, has just arrived in town to run the new casino “The Savoy.”
Review: Ever since the success of Mad Men, 1960’s period dramas have been popping up everywhere. Remember last year’s Pan Am and The Playboy Club? (No one would blame you if you don’t.) This one takes on a western twist and a procedural crime drama structure. I could go either way on this show, and I’m intrigued to see what happens when Lamb and Savino really come to blows.
Appropriateness for cardio: «««. Quaid plays his character with stern confidence, which is fun to watch. Also, car chases and intrigue make this a good one for the gym.
GREGORY JACOBS-ROSEMAN is a composer/lyricist and theatrical sound designer currently developing Save The Date: A New Musical Comedy. www.gregjr.com
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