Tele-Tuesday: The Long Lost Family Drama

Last week, we reminisced about the popular family sitcoms of the 1980s including favorites Who’s the Boss?, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, and The Wonder Years.  The Ooo Factor viewers remembered even more with shows like Alf and The Hogan Family – weren’t these sitcoms great?  These television shows allowed real-life families to join around the living room TV set and watch television families work through the dysfunction in their “make-believe” lives while making us laugh.

But the family oriented thirty minute situational comedy isn’t the only thing missing from television programming today – where’s the one hour family drama?  We touched on Life Goes On and Our House last week – two one hour dramas that focused on family units resolving difficult issues like dealing with a brother’s disability or a father’s death.

The 1980s provided many great honest-to-goodness family dramas that were safe for children of all ages to watch alongside their moms and dads such as:

Highway to Heaven

Quantum Leap

We also cherished the ABC after school special in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Remember those?  Kids learned valuable lessons like: handling the difficulties surrounding blended families after moms and dads remarry; understanding the dangers of drug use, drinking, and unprotected sex; as well as learning how to cope with molestation and rape.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant aspects of the after school special was the network’s casting of young TV heart-throbs like Scott Baio (Charles in Charge), Billy Warlock (Days of our Lives), and Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) to play vital roles in the made-for-TV movies.

Speaking of the ‘90s, this decade didn’t take a complete detour from family programming and produced multi-year hits like:

 7th Heaven

Party of Five

Once and Again

One of our favorites was the short-lived Get Real starring Jon Tenney (The Closer), Deborah Farrentino, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries), Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA), and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as the Green family.

Looking back, what a fantastic cast!

Mom and dad Green had their issues (for example, mom suspected dad of cheating), and the teenagers definitely had their issues (the usual sibling rivalry, secrets, and coping situations).  The Greens resembled what we’d consider a normal family today – they struggled, they loved, and they learned.  The program walked its viewers through the family decisions, as they hoped to reach a positive outcome, but didn’t always succeed. Unfortunately, this series failed after twenty episodes.

But mostly, the ‘90s began what we now know as YA television with dramas appropriate for teenagers, but perhaps not children under the age of twelve with programs including:

Beverly Hills 90210

My So Called Life

Television airs many of these YA programs today such as The Vampire Diaries, The Lying Game, Pretty Little Liars, and The Secret Circle to name a few.  While great TV, watching these shows is a tad risky for the younger audience, mostly due to the high volumes of violence and sex.

In 2010, ABC tried their hand at a family friendly drama similar to those we watched in the ‘80s and ‘90s that was appropriate for all ages, but No Ordinary Family was pulled from the air waves after a short first season.  Why didn’t this show make it?  Apparently it lacked viewers.

Why weren’t families watching No Ordinary Family?  The series started when mom (Julie Benz) and dad (Michael Chiklis) take the kids on a much needed vacation to strengthen their family unit, and they return with superpowers: the mom has super speed, the dad has super strength, the teenage son has a super brain, and the teenage daughter has telepathic abilities.  No Ordinary Family had the ever-important family dynamic, was full of motion-picture-esque action sequences, and taught morals like the importance of not cheating in school no matter the reason, yet this program fell victim to the network’s axe after twenty episodes.

 

Instead, shows like the Secret Life of the American Teenager, a drama that focuses primarily on teenage sex and pregnancy, last for multiple seasons.

Just something to think about…

Obviously, family television has changed over the years – is it for better or worse?  What ’80s and ‘90s family dramas did you enjoy?   Which one-hour drama does your family watch today?  Is it considered a family drama?  I’d love to hear from you!

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Studying the Behaviors of the Criminally Inclined

The new television season has arrived!  Many of our favorite programs have returned, so Amber West and I decided to share a few more Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews to check out two additional CBS hit series – The Good Wife and Criminal Minds

First up – Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds follows a team of highly trained FBI agents who profile criminal behaviors for the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU).   There are tons of police procedural programs on TV today, but none like this. 

The BAU team’s home base is at the famous Quantico, Virginia location; however, they travel around the United States once a city’s local authorities request their presence at the scene of a crime.  The unit studies the unsubs, or unidentified suspects, instead of the crime itself.    

The team is led by Unit Chief Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner (Thomas Gibson, Darma & Greg).   Hotch’s dedication to his job cost him his marriage.  After his ex-wife Haley (played by Meredith Monroe) was murdered by serial killer “The Reaper” (C. Thomas Howell), Hotch gained custody of his son, Jack. Hotch attempts to make amends by being the best father he possibly can; he even coaches the little guy’s soccer team. 

Due to the graphic nature of his job, Hotch rarely smiles and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; but, despite the difficulty, he will do everything in his power to protect his team.      

Next in line is Senior Supervisory Special Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore, The Young and the Restless).  Excelling at his job, Morgan has been named Acting Unit Chief when Hotch is out.  He was in line to be the next Unit Chief of the New York field office, but he declined the position.   He is strong and fast, and is by far the most physical on the BAU team (he’s pretty to look at too). 

Morgan had a difficult childhood: he witnessed his father’s murder and he was sexually abused by the local boys’ club caretaker.  As an adult, Morgan was framed for murdering a few of his hometown’s local boys, but was later proven innocent by his team.   

Also serving the BAU as a Senior Supervisory Special Agent is David Rossi, played by Joe Mantegna (Joan of Arcadia).  Rossi is credited as one of the founding members of the BAU, but he retired to write books and lecture on criminal analysis.  He returned to the team after Gideon’s untimely departure (see below), and seized the opportunity to solve a cold case that had haunted him for decades. 

Rossi has been married and divorced multiple times, and often jokes that divorce lawyers are the only people in his personal life that he can make happy.            

Special Agent Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster, Friends – remember Kathy?  She dated Joey and Chandler….) joined the team after Elle walked away (see below).  Early on, Prentiss felt she had something to prove being that Hotch and Gideon suspected her mother’s position as a U.S. Ambassador had something to do with her joining the BAU team. 

Prentiss served Interpol for years, where she worked undercover hunting international arms dealer, Ian Doyle.  This past year, Doyle killed her Interpol colleagues one-by-one, blaming them for the death of his only son.  Doyle finally found Emily, hunted her, and killed her.  Or did he? 

Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler, Alvin and the Chipmunks motion picture franchise) is probably my favorite member of the team.  Reid is a genius; he graduated high school before he was a teenager; he has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology; he has a Ph.D in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Engineering; and he has an insanely high IQ – all courtesy of his eidetic memory.  Reid reads faster than anyone on the planet (he scans the page with his finger and remembers it verbatim), he remembers everything he sees, but he struggles with certain things that he hears. 

Reid suffers from inexplicable headaches and fears that he has inherited his mother’s schizophrenia.  He is not as physically fit as the rest of his team, which probably led to his being held hostage twice (once by a character portrayal by Luke Perry and another time by James Van Der Beek).     

Special Agent Jenifer “JJ” Jareau, (AJ Cook, Tru Calling) also serves the team as the media liaison.  JJ joined the FBI after attending one of Rossi’s lectures, and she is the only non-profiler on the team.  Because she isn’t a profiler, JJ has a hard time understanding how people can commit such horrible crimes, but she remains professional and battles through each case. 

JJ recently returned to the team after she was forced to take a position at the Pentagon.  Besides Hotch, JJ is the only BAU team member with a child.   

Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia, played by Kirsten Vangsness, serves the team from Quantico.  Garcia joined the team after the FBI caught her hacking into their systems.  Rarely does she accompany the team to crime scenes; instead, she prefers to stay locked inside her computer lair wearing bright eye shadows and lipsticks while  frantically surfing the internet and databases for information to assist the team. 

Garcia is one of the only BAU team members to have an actual romantic relationship (fellow FBI analyst, Kevin Lynch, played by Nicholas Brendon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).   

The BAU team has suffered its share of casualites over the years.  Previous team members include: Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin, Chicago Hope) silently walked away without telling anyone after his former girlfriend was murdered by a serial killer; Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini, The Sopranos) left the team after she was shot following an undercover assignment; and Ashley Seaver (Rachel Nichols, Alias) was transferred out to another department, explained by Strauss downsizing the BAU team. 

Recurring characters include: Reid’s schizophrenic mother, Diana Reid (Jane Lynch, Glee); former New Orleans police liaison and father of JJ’s son, William “Will” LaMontagne (Josh Stewart, No Ordinary Family); and  BAU Unit Direct Supervisor, Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson, 24).    

The Criminal Minds franchise took an unfavorable dip last year with the one-season-and-done spinoff, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior starring Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo.  I have to admit that the story improved as the season moved forward, and unfortunately it ended with a cliff hanger.  Maybe the Criminal Minds team will do another cross over episode and close out that story line for us?

Regardless, the original remains strong airing new episodes every Wednesday night on CBS and in syndication on A&E and ION.  At almost any given time, one can find an episode of Criminal Minds to enjoy. 

As if my love for the characters isn’t evident by the length of my post, I must give Criminal Minds a GTV rating: it has everything we want and more, especially for this fiction writer.  Criminal Minds is an excellent source of research for understanding a potential protagonist’s actions in murder mysteries.  That’s my excuse for watching so much of it, anyway.  Yes, I’m going to keep telling myself that…     

What do you think? Have you watched Criminal Minds?  Who’s your favorite BAU team member? Were you disappointed with the cancellation of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and check out her review of The Good Wife.  Amber was very adamant during the Tambery Awards production that Julianna Margulies win best actress – and she did!  Congrats, Julianna. 

Come back next week when Amber and I click over to NBC and review two of the channel’s hit programs – Harry’s Law and Law & Order: SVU.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.  We’re currently working on our September schedule and would love to chat with you!

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday: New to Fall – Final Four…For Now

Fall television is here!  

As always, the networks have a lineup of many new programs to accompany our returning favorites.  For the past four weeks, we have introduced these new shows hoping to find a permanent home on the networks.  Some of the series have promise, while others may flop – but, regardless, we’ll tune in to check them out.

But, guess what?  We’re not done! 

While we will have more shows premiering later in the year and into 2012, for now, here are the final four new programs for Fall 2011.

*****

Grimm – NBC

We’ve all heard of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, right?  Grimm follows Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli, multiple TV appearances including Nip/Tuck, Ghost Whisperer, and Veronica Mars) as he balances his life solving murders and learning that he comes from a long line of criminal profilers (Grimms) responsible for protecting the people of the world against the supernatural. 

Nick tries to protect his girlfriend (Bitsie Tulloch, Outlaw) and his homicide partner (Russell Hornsby, In Treatment) by not telling them the truth about his family lineage and his newfound responsibilities.  Instead, he turns to a former Grimm creature, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, My Name Is Earl), for help understanding the mythology in order to protect the world as he knows it.

Will Nick succeed?

Other notables: David Giuntoli first appeared on MTV’s Road Rules: South Pacific and also participated in the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet.   Grimm also stars Sasha Roiz (Caprica) and Reggie Lee (No Ordinary Family). 

Grimm premieres Friday, October 28th.

*****

Once Upon a Time – ABC

Once Upon a Time stars Jennifer Morrison (House) as bail bondsman Emma Swan.  Her ordinary life takes a bizarre turn when Henry (Jared Gilmore), the son she gave away a decade ago, arrives claiming that according to his fairytale book, she is the missing daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. 

Emma takes the imaginative Henry back to his hometown of Storybrooke, where she finds herself unusually attacked to the town.  If the townsfolk are indeed fairytale characters, they do not recollect their former world and they go about their day-to-day lives like all humans.  But, Emma can sense that something is not right. 

Will Emma accept her destiny and return the magical balance to the charmed city?  

Other notables: Once Upon a Time also stars Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love),  as Snow White/Sister Mary Margaret; Joshua Dallas (Thor) as Prince Charming/John Doe; Lana Parrilla (24) as The Evil Queen/Regina; and Giancarlo Esposito (Homicide: Life on the Street) as the Evil Queen’s Magic Mirror/Sydney.  

Once Upon a Time premieres Sunday, October 23rd.

*****

Man Up – ABC

Man Up follows three friends as they question what it means to be a “man” in today’s society. 

Friend number one, Will (Mather Zickel, Rachel Getting Married), is married with children, but he’s childlike himself with his addiction to video games.  Friend number two, Craig (Christopher Moynihan, Coupling), is stuck in the past trying to get his college girlfriend back.  While friend number three, Kenny (Dan Fogler, Take me Home Tonight), is busy attempting to sabotage his ex’s relationship with her gorgeous new man.   

Will these friends “man up,” or continue to act like children?

Other notables: Man Up also stars Teri Polo (Focker movie franchise and The West Wing) as Teresa, Will’s wife; Amanda Detmer (Saving Silverman) as Bridgette, Kenny’s ex; and Henry Simmons (NYPD Blue) as Grant, Bridgette’s new hottie.

Man Up premieres Friday, October 21st.

*****

I Hate My Teenage Daughter – FOX

I Hate My Teenage Daughter stars Jaime Pressley (My Name is Earl) as Annie, and Katie Finneran (George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead) as Nikki, two single mothers cringing as they watch their teenage daughters turn into the girls they hated when they were growing up. 

Annie was raised in a very strict household, so she allows her daughter (Sophia, Kristi Lauren) to have as much freedom as she wants.  Nikki was an unpopular outcast, therefore she allows her daughter (Mackenzie, Aisha Dee) to have whatever she needs to fit into the popular crowd.  While trying to give their girls everything they never had, Annie and Nikki have created two spoiled mean girls. 

Who will win in the end – the mothers or the daughters?

Other notables:  I Hate My Teenage Daughter also stars Eric Sheffer Stevens (As the World Turns) as Matt, Annie’s ex and Sophia’s father; Chad Coleman (The Wire) as Gary, Nikki’s ex and Mackenzie’s father; Kevin Rahm (Desperate Housewives); and Rosa Blasi (The Bold and the Beautiful). 

I Hate My Teenage Daughter premieres Wednesday, November 30th.

*****

What do you think?  Will you tune in to watch any of these new shows?  Which one most interests you?  Which of these shows will make it and which ones won’t? I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday: Fall Wouldn’t Be the Same Without New Crime and Drama

It’s that time of year again!  The fall television schedule is right around the corner and, as always, the networks have a lineup of many new programs to accompany our returning favorites. 

Similar to the last two weeks, we’re introducing more of the new television programs this fall.  Some of the series have promise, while others may flop – but, regardless, we’ll tune in to check them out!

Today, it’s time for new crime and drama!

****

 Unforgettable – CBS

Unforgettable stars Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as former New York City detective Carrie Wells.  Carrie remembers everything:  every moment and every aspect of every day.   When asked to help the police solve a crime, Carrie is reunited with her ex, Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck).  Carrie decides to rejoin the force with one major goal – solve her sister’s murder.

Other notables: Marilu Henner (Taxi) plays two roles: first as a production consultant (similar to the main character, Henner possesses the rare ability to recall all autobiographical events, a condition known as hyperthymesia) and second as a recurring guest; and, Michael Gaston (The Mentalist) plays Detective Mike Costello.

Unforgettable premieres Tuesday, September 20th.

*****

Revenge – ABC

Revenge stars Emily VanCamp (Everwood) as Emily Thorne, a young and beautiful addition to the rich and prestigious Hamptons.   Emily’s arrival isn’t her first trip to the neighborhood.  When she was a little girl, her father was framed for murder and Emily vows revenge against those responsible – primarily the Grayson family. 

Other notables: Revenge is loosely based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the series also stars Madeleine Stowe (from many motion pictures including Stakeout, Twelve Monkeys, and The General’s Daughter) as Victoria Grayson. 

Revenge premieres Wednesday, September 21st.

*****

Charlie’s Angels – ABC

Yet another adaptation of the popular ‘70s television program that starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Cheryl Ladd, to only name a few, this remake of Charlie’s Angels stars three new young and beautiful starlets: Annie Ilonzeh (General Hospital) as Kate Prince, a former dirty cop; Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights, The Roommate) as Eve French, a former street racer; and, Rachael Taylor (Grey’s Anatomy) as Abby Sampson, a former thief.   The three angels work for John Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez, Day Break and The Wire), the face of Charlie’s agency (Townsend Detective Agency), and will protect each other at all costs. 

Other notables: Charlie’s Angels is produced by Drew Barrymore, an angel herself in the motion picture hits; Leonard Goldberg, an original producer of the ‘70s hit; and,  Nancy Juvonen, producer of the major motion pictures starring Drew  Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy LiuRobert Wagner was supposed to follow in John Foresythe’s footsteps as the voice of Charlie; however, Wagner had to leave the project due to other conflicts.

Charlie’s Angels premieres Thursday, September 22nd.

*****

Person of Interest – CBS

Person of Interest stars Michael Emerson (Lost) as billionaire Mr. Fitch, and Jim Caviezel (from many motion picture blockbusters including A Thin Red Line and The Passion of the Christ) as former CIA agent, John Reese.  The two men find each other after Mr. Fitch creates a software program that has the ability to predict crimes.  Fitch seeks out Reese to help solve these crimes before they happen.  Why?  Because the former CIA agent is presumed dead – who better to help stop these crimes before they happen than a dead man?  

Other notables: Person of Interest is produced by J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe); and, also stars Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as Carter, the detective on a mission to find Reese. 

Person of Interest premieres Thursday, September 22nd.

*****

 Prime Suspect – NBC

Based on the British drama series of the same name, Prime Suspect stars Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly, ER) as Detective Jane Timoney.  Jane’s confidence, lack of tact and reckless behavior make her adjustment in the New York City homicide division challenging.  Will her fine detective skills and her ability to focus on the case at hand help her fit into the all-male department?

Other notables:  Prime Suspect also stars Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, Practical Magic, and TV’s Third Watch) as Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney; Kirk Acevedo (Fringe) as Detective Luisito Calderon;  Peter Gerety as Jane’s father, Desmond; and, Tim Griffin, Damon Gupton, and Brian F. O’Byrne as other members of the  homicide department. 

Prime Suspect premieres Thursday, September 22nd.

*****

A Gifted Man – CBS

A Gifted Man stars Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, The A-Team, Insidious) as Michael Holt, a self-absorbed New York City surgeon whose life is turned upside down when his ex-wife haunts him from beyond the grave and asks him to continue her work in a free clinic.   Michael’s life changes for the better, pleasing his sister (Christina played by Julie Benz, Dexter and No Ordinary Family), while leaving his assistant (Rita played by Margo Martindale, Justified) questioning his recent career choices. 

Other notables: A Gifted Man is produced by Academy Award winning director, Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs); and Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon alumnus, Rachelle Lefevre (vampire Victoria) plays Kate, a doctor at the free clinic.

A Gifted Man premieres Friday, September 23rd.  

*****

What do you think?  Will you tune in to watch any of these new drama and crime programs on television this year?  Which one most interests you?  Which of these shows will make it and which ones won’t? I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday #7 – Spring Cleaning

 

May sweeps used to indicate that the television industry saved the best for last.  The networks broadcast non-stop, action packed, cliff-hanging story lines every night of the week hoping to pull in the largest ratings of the year before announcing which shows would be receiving pink slips.  Times have changed, and today’s May sweeps ultimately means knowing which shows will return, and which shows will be swept away before the season finales have all aired.

Recent years prove that no show is safe: many shows are done after only one season, “One & Done”; some shows make it through the toddler years, a minimum of two or three seasons; some programs have aired for years, even decades with multi-generational loyal followers; and, some are still awaiting their destiny.  Television’s broom was very busy this year….

One & Done

 $H*! My Dad Says, 18 to Life, Better with You, Boston Med, Breaking In, Chaos, Chase, Chicago Code, Dating in the Dark, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Mad Love, Mr. Sunshine, My Generation, No Ordinary Family, Off the Map, Outlaw, Perfect Couples, Persons Unknown, Scoundrels, Skating with the Stars, The Cape, The Defenders, The Event, The Gates, The Good Guys, The Paul Reiser Show, The Whole Truth, Traffic Light, Undercovers

Terrible Twos & Threes

Dark Blue, Human Target, Life Unexpected

Seasoned Veterans

 Big Love, Brothers & Sisters, Entourage, Friday Night Lights , Last Comic Standing, Smallville

And the Answer is (Updated 5/18/11):

Criminal Minds (RENEWED),  Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (CANCELLED), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (RENEWED), CSI: Miami (RENEWED), CSI: NY (RENEWED), The Good Wife (RENEWED), Hell Cats (CANCELLED), The Mentalist (RENEWED), NCIS: Los Angeles (RENEWED), Nikita (RENEWED), One Tree Hill (RENEWED),

Still Awaiting their Destiny: Flashpoint and Wipeout

On a positive note, not all chivalry is dead: some shows have earned advance notice that next season will be their last.  Thank you networks; thank you for allowing the writers to close out a series appropriately for the loyal fans.  This doesn’t happen all that often, just ask Law & Order.

All My Children – Last episode September 2011

 

Chuck – 13 episodes 2011/2012

  The Closer – Final season begins July 11,  2011

  Law & Order: Criminal Intent -Currently airing on USA

One Life to Live – Last episode January 2012

Seems a bit insane, doesn’t it?  What are the morals of today’s Tele-Tuesday?  Don’t get too attached to freshman television series, and no television show is safe from May sweeps.

The TV world’s information is so very scattered right now, and the networks will undoubtedly continue announcing changes in the days to come.  In the meantime, here are a few websites to check out for more information:

 TV Series Finale

Hollywood Reporter

Which of these cancellations came too soon?  Over the years, what television series has been cancelled that you still mourn?  Which network do you think sweeps the most shows in the trash before giving the audience a chance to watch week in and week out?  I’d love to hear from you!

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