June 11, 2014

SUMMER TV 2014: WEDNESDAY BEST BETS

It’s Wednesday and we’ve got something for everyone tonight. Unscripted competition series? Check! Goofy sitcom? Check! Moody police drama? Check! Viva Hump Day!

In addition to this trio of Wednesday “best bets,” you can also check out new episodes of the hit ABC Family sitcoms MELISSA & JOEY and BABY DADDY. Both are holdovers from my 2013 “Summer TV Guilty Pleasures” list and make for a perfect hour of mindless fluff (add a glass or two of pinot to “enhance” the comedic experience).

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (FOX)

WHY WATCH? Because in a sea of crappy, carbon copy reality shows, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE is one of the few that consistently delivers the goods. The talent on display is off the charts and Cat Deeley remains one of the best hosts in the business. This is a show that celebrates dance, choreography and true artistic vision. It’s never a shoo-in for renewal year to year and, honestly, that’s a real shame.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Anyone who loves a television experience that mixes heart-tugging personal stories, engaging competition and eye-popping dance moves. SYTYCD crosses all disciplines and is the perfect way to jump the midweek hump. Tonight is only audition week three so it’s still early enough to jump on the “Hot Tamale Train.”

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE airs Wednesdays at 8PM E/P on Fox.

HOT IN CLEVELAND (TV LAND)

WHY WATCH? Because the show is damn funny and Betty White continues to amaze with her razor sharp comic timing. This is that rare sitcom where you know everyone is having the time of their lives. Five seasons in, HOT IN CLEVELAND is still firing on all cylinders and rarely misses an opportunity to engage in some truly loopy fun.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Anyone who likes the laugh out loud experience of a sitcom classic peppered with big dollops of wholly inappropriate dirty jokes. Each episodes spins a lot of simultaneous plates but somehow manages to bring home the comic bacon. If you’re a comedy snob or total tight ass, this won’t be your cup of yuk yuks.

HOT IN CLEVELAND airs Wednesdays at 10PM E/P on TV Land.

MOTIVE (ABC)

WHY WATCH? Because MOTIVE completes the trio of exceptional summer crime dramas that kicks off on Mondays with MAJOR CRIMES and new hit MURDER IN THE FIRST. The fun twist here is the structure of each episode. Within the first few minutes, the “killer” and “victim” are ID’d (with dramatic on=screen graphics, no less) and the rest of the hour is spent trying to figure out why the crime was committed. It’s a gimmick that works quite well because the conclusion is typically not telegraphed early on. Extra fun: trying to figure out where supporting player Lauren Holly ends and her plastic surgery begins.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Anyone who likes their crime drama dark, twisty and morally ambiguous. Things are usually wrapped up nicely at the end but, you rarely feel sunshine and roses at the tragic outcome. This Canadian import is beautifully produced and well acted. Leads Kristin Lehman and Louis Ferreria look the part and do fantastic work every week. It’s also refreshing to watch a police drama that never plays the “woman in peril” card.

This is A-list, must-see stuff.

MOTIVE airs Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC

June 10, 2014

SUMMER TV 2014: TUESDAY BEST BETS

After a strong start to the week with a quartet of tune-in worthy dramas on Monday, it looks like the TV Gods have declared Tuesday their day of rest. There’s a boat load of unscripted crap to sift through, including two hours of Duggar hell on TLC (home of some of the worst programming this side of WE and MTV). While some people think FARGO is the bee’s knees, I think it’s as insufferable and overrated as the movie that inspired it. That means my “best bets” list for tonight is a bit skinny, with one new drama making the cut.

CHASING LIFE (ABC FAMILY)

WHY WATCH? Because when you think “summer TV” and “ABC Family” I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is “cancer show.” OK, that’s a gross oversimplification of this surprisingly well done and engaging series. Credit some above-par writing and an appealing cast, including a nice turn by lead Italia Ricci. Extra points for the presence of one of my favorite character actors, Vondie Curtis Hall. CHASING LIFE is life affirming, often gut wrenching and has more than a few surprises up it’s sleeve.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? “Too cool for the room” haters can take a powder. This isn’t a show for the tragically hip. Should your appetite for serious, medical issue dramas lean more towards THE BIG C-lite, sidle up to the DVR. If you’re looking to add a little serious stuff to your plate of fluffy summer TV fun, you could do a lot worse than this promising ABC Family original.

CHASING LIFE airs Tuesdays at 9PM E/P on ABC Family.

June 9, 2014

SUMMER TV 2014: MONDAY BEST BETS

Start your week off on a high note with four scripted dramas that will add some sex, humor and intelligent crime drama to your Monday nights. These quick hit reviews will give you the highlights you need to know and enough of a tease to match the right show with the right viewer. Fire up those DVRs and enjoy!

MAJOR CRIMES (TNT)

WHY WATCH? Not only is this spin-off from THE CLOSER a thousand times better than the show that birthed it, a first rate cast and smart writing keep the drama crackling. MAJOR CRIMES manages to mix hard-hitting police action with well-placed flourishes of humor and emotional drama. Veterans Mary McDonnell, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan and G.W. Baily anchor an exceptional cast that also includes fine work from Raymond Cruz, Phillip P Keene, Kearran Giovanni and Graham Patrick Martin (one of the best young actors on series television).

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Anyone who enjoys a crime drama that mixes the best elements of police procedurals with serialized storylines. Extra points if you don’t need a neat and tidy resolution at the end of every hour. Like a moral quandary? MAJOR CRIMES has you covered.

MAJOR CRIMES airs Mondays at 9PM E/P on TNT.

MURDER IN THE FIRST (TNT)

WHY WATCH? Two big reasons: Taye Diggs stars and Steven Bochco is one of the creators. The supporting players include James Cromwell, Steven Webber and Richard Schiff. Unlike typical police procedurals, newcomer MURDER IN THE FIRST will follow a single case across the entire season. Sound familiar? TV trivia points for you! This is the same format used in the 1995/96 first season of MURDER ONE, also from Bochco and one of his best scripted dramas.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Fans of Diggs who have their fingers crossed that he’ll finally take the lead in a series that lasts more than one season (and showcases his talent a bit better than the tepid PRIVATE PRACTICE). Also, if you are looking for a return to gritty form by Bochco, this could be just the fix you’ve been longing for.

MURDER IN THE FIRST airs Mondays at 10PM E/P on TNT.

LONGMIRE (A&E)

WHY WATCH? I hate westerns. Seriously, can’t stand them. Maybe that’s why it took Netflix to expose me to this excellent A&E original. Robert Taylor plays Walt Longmire, a weather-beaten Wyoming sheriff who is as moody as he earnest. Pop-culture geeks will appreciate a cast that also includes Lou Diamond Phillips and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA vet Katee Sackhoff, both doing some of the best work of their careers. LONGMIRE is first-class stuff.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Anyone who makes public proclamations that they hate western-themed things as well as those who feel the exact opposite. Be warned: LONGMIRE has a unique pace and “feel” that might not work for those who require non-stop, in-your-face action. If you’re looking for intriguing police mystery with a side of thoughtful introspection, aim your long gun at LONGMIRE and tune in.

LONGMIRE airs Mondays at 10PM E/P on A&E.

MISTRESSES (ABC)

WHY WATCH? After three hours of crime time, check your brain at the door and fire up your libido! It’s time for the slutty antics of MISTRESSES. The catch here is an interesting yin/yang of tawdry soap opera storylines being interpreted by a genuinely talented quartet of lead actors. Alyssa Milano (who has never looked better), LOST alum Yunjin Kim (as the worst therapist…ever), Rochelle Aytes (who is so insanely beautiful you’ll get lost in her eyes) and Jes Macallan (a genuine find). This stateside re-make of a UK series made my “Summer Guilty Pleasures” list last year. Thus far, season two has not disappointed.

WHO SHOULD WATCH? Well, no one really but you shouldn’t suck down potato chips and hot fudge sundaes either. Yes, girls and gays are the core viewers here but I know more than a few straight guys who are rarely disappointed by the often eye-popping sexual escapades. Speaking of eye-popping, Justin Hartley drops in this season as does newcomer Ricky Whittle. Ricky who? See below and thank me later.

MISTRESSES airs Mondays at 10PM E/P on ABC.