Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Does It Get Much Better Than Revenge?

This week Amber West and I review two of TV’s top dramas on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday: a returning NBC favorite, Parenthood, and the new ABC smash hit, Revenge.

Revenge has been called the return of the night time soap opera, and the critics and viewers may be right.  The new drama loosely based on the Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, stars Emily VanCamp as Emily Thorne, a young and beautiful addition to the rich and prestigious Hamptons.   However, Emily’s arrival isn’t her first trip to the neighborhood…

"Our" Emily

When she was a little girl, Amanda Clarke and her father lived in the quaint beach house next door to her father’s boss and his mansion (known as Grayson Manor).  Late one night, Amanda’s father was ripped away from her for crimes that later sent him to prison for the rest of his life.  Not necessarily believing in his innocence, Amanda rebelled and spent time in incarceration herself.  The day Amanda was released from prison, she was greeted by a stranger with life changing news: her father was dead, he had been framed, and she was now filthy rich.

Amanda’s father had believed in and secretly invested in a young man named Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) when no one else would.  Nolan awarded Mr. Clarke forty-nine percent of his company in return for the investment, and his investment was now worth millions.  When Amanda’s father died in prison, all of his assets were awarded to her.  But something greater came with these riches – a map and an explanation to each and every person responsible for framing her father and sending him to prison.  Amanda assumes a new identity as Emily Thorne (the name of her closest friend in juvenile detention) and spends the next eight years of her life setting her plan in to motion, vowing revenge against those responsible for her father’s downfall – primarily the Grayson family.

"Our" Emily hard at work, researching her next target...

After establishing herself around the world as an educated and philanthropic young lady, Emily returns to the Hamptons and rents the beach house where she spent time with her father; the house where he was so abruptly taken from her.   In practically every episode, Emily destroys someone involved with her father’s demise: her father’s assistant and current mistress to Conrad Grayson, Lydia Davis (Amber Valletta); her father’s closest friend and a corrupt hedge fund manager, Bill Harmon (Matthew Glave); and the district attorney and current state senator, Tom Kingsley (Yancey Arias) to just name a few.

But these are not Emily’s prime targets.  Enter Conrad Grayson (Henry Czemy), the CEO of her father’s company who spearheaded the entire take-down, and his not-so-loyal wife, Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe).

Victoria may be smiling, but rest assured she is up to something...

To make matters worse, Victoria idly stood by and watched her lover (Amanda’s father) taken away in handcuffs.  Yes, that’s right – Victoria and David Clarke actually loved each other.  And little Amanda witnessed the entire thing – the love affair and Victoria’s standing outside the door as the police arrested her father.  Oh, and just wait and see what this secret romance created…

The look says it all...

How will Emily destroy the Graysons?  Will she involve their son, Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman); the man she’s slowly but surely seducing?  The pilot episode begins at Emily and Daniel’s engagement party with Daniel’s lying bleeding on the Hampton beach from gunshot wounds….so probably.

Sweet, sweet Daniel...

Or will the “real” Emily Thorne, assuming the identity of Amanda Clarke (played by Margarita Levieva) expose the entire charade before “our” Emily has the chance to exact her revenge on the Grayson family?

And what about Emily’s childhood friend, Jack Porter (Nick Wechler), who adopted her puppy when she and her father were ripped away from their beach house?  The same love-sick boy turned man who named his boat Amanda?  “Our” Emily has worked feverishly to protect Jack, but couldn’t stand in the way when the “real” Emily also fell in love with the bar owner.  Will he remain in the dark?  Will he learn the truth?  And when/if he does, how will he respond?

And then there's sweet, sweet Jack...

Oh, I could go on and on.  As if the title of today’s blog wasn’t clear enough, Revenge scores the highest of the highest WatchWed scores – the GTV rating.  It’s not gourmet because the series showcases what life in the Hamptons is all about – money, prestige, lavish homes, elaborate parties, and endless wardrobes, but because the storyline each and every week leaves such a sweet taste of revenge in our mouths that we simply can’t wait until the next episode.

If I could award Revenge with an even higher rating, I would.  How’s TBMIEH TV – The Best Meal I’ve Ever Had Television?  So that’s not a real rating here at Watch Wednesday, but it gets my point across.  I often say Revenge is my favorite of all of the new programs this 2012 season, but it may just be my favorite series that I’m watching today.  Period.

Revenge is infinitely sweet…

There's that look again...

What do you think? Do you watch Revenge?  Who’s your favorite character?  If you had all of Emily’s resources and a similar childhood story, would you exact revenge on those responsible?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and read her thoughts on Parenthood, the show, not her motherly experiences.

Come back next week when we review two new (or maybe old) TV shows.  We like to keep everyone on their toes.

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.

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
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
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

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Dirty Business, Again

This week Amber West and I review two of NBC’s new dramas on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday: Smash and The Firm.

What comes to mind when we hear the words “The Firm”?  Many associate these words with the best-selling novel written by John Grisham, but perhaps most think Tom Cruise almost immediately from his performance as Mitch McDeere in the 1993 film adapted from the novel, The Firm.

Mitch McDeere, fresh out of law school, is hired by a top law firm in Memphis where he and his young wife move (Abby, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn) to begin their new life together.  After just a few short weeks working for the firm, Mitch discovers that the company has been overbilling clients and he is immediately in a race to save his and his family’s life.  The Firm is a fantastic, suspenseful movie (also starring Gene Hackman) which is why I initially cringed at the thought of the story being retold yet again.

But it’s not.  Not really.

The Firm television series picks up ten years after Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama) turns in his law firm’s documents to the FBI, proving they were overbilling clients (from the novel and the movie).  The story continues that these said documents led the FBI to take over the law firm and uncover piles of other files incriminating the mob, who has in turn set their sights on Mitch and his family as retribution.

The U.S. Marshalls place the McDeere family (Abby played by Molly Parker, and daughter Claire played by Natasha Calis) into witness protection for a short period of time, but the television program begins after the family leaves witsec and returns to a so-called “normal life” with Mitch running his very own private practice.

Each episode, or chapter as each week is appropriately titled (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc), starts current day, then rewinds back in time to tell the story, uncovers more clues, and follows Mitch through the mystery, before it ends back in the current day.

"It's happening again..."

The pilot begins with Mitch running frantically through the DC area, running from two men in suits.  Mitch believes to have escaped the two suits and arrives in a hotel room where he is scheduled to meet a man.  This man briefly argues with Mitch, giving him nothing, before leaping to his death instead of facing the suits (they found Mitch) banging on the hotel door.

Rewind a few weeks…

While defending a court appointed fourteen year old boy charged with stabbing and murdering a classmate, a large D.C. firm swoops in and offers Mitch an opportunity to run a new criminal division – a job he declines but can’t shake the feeling that this is the right job for him that he has always wanted, not to mention will save his failing practice.   Despite Abby’s gut-feeling, considering her husband’s experience with the last firm (from the movie), the McDeeres attend a wine and dine to meet the partners and clients of the pursuing law firm.

Mitch and Abby meet the new firm...

But the deciding factor comes when Mitch is faced with a major legal battle versus a top medical company over a defective heart stint.  He strikes a deal with the D.C. firm – their resources for a percentage of his earnings.  He officially works for the firm, but he gets to keep his staff and his off-site office location.

Or so he thinks…

It seems each chapter will feature bits and pieces of three different plots: a minor storyline, an ongoing storyline, and one major storyline.

The minor:  Mitch will represent a new individual case each week, like when he takes on a dirty judge (guest star, Victor Garber).

The ongoing:  The mafia will follow and chase after Mitch and his family for his actions in Memphis (the movie).

The major:  Mitch will continue to research the Sarah Holt case – a client on trial for murdering an older woman while in her care.

This story qualifies as the major plot line because unbeknownst to Mitch, his new firm is interested in THIS case.  The firm isn’t interested in Miss Holt, the woman Mitch represents; they are interested in protecting their client – Noble Insurance.

Who is Noble insurance?  Remember the man from the pilot who jumps to his death?  He’s a Vice President at Noble insurance…

I don’t want to give too much of the story away for those who haven’t been enjoying chapter after chapter with me, but we do see a glimpse of truth behind the mystery in each episode.  The Firm doesn’t keep us guessing, not completely anyway, week after week like some frustrating shows.

The casting is absolutely great with Josh Lucas and his baby blues replacing one of Hollywood’s favorites in Tom Cruise, but also with Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers) as the chain-smoking legal secretary Tammy (Holly Hunter role in the movie) and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) as Ray, Mitch’s private detective/ex-con older brother.  Plus as a side note and odd-fun-fact, the McDeere house in the TV series resembles the McDeere house in the movie (in my opinion).

The Firm premiered on a Sunday night in January on NBC before moving to its temporary permanent home on Thursday nights.  I say temporary permanent because NBC has already moved The Firm, and to a time slot that I can’t help but think will kill the show – Saturday nights.  All this moving around can make a girl dizzy…

Because of the cast and the non-stop mystery and intrigue, I must award The Firm with the MacTV rating – it is by far a guilty pleasure like my favorite box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese.  After all, I can’t turn away from a good mystery; I never know where I’ll draw inspiration for my stories.  I’ve actually thought that this television series could have jumped the small screen all together and continued into a major motion picture sequel with success.

Now, depending on how The Firm wraps up the multiple plot lines, the rating could definitely fall to a JFTV rating, the kind of TV I regret watching after story-telling takes a plunge for the worst.  I hope this doesn’t happen; I really don’t want to feel miserable like I do after eating too many chocolate bars.

What do you think? Do you watch The Firm?  How does it fare in comparison with Grisham’s book and the movie?  Do you like Josh Lucas as Mitch, or do you prefer Tom Cruise?  Do you think the move to Saturday night will kill the show?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and read her thoughts on Smash.   Remember our “fight” last week to review Alcatraz?  Yea, no fighting this week.  Smash is all Amber’s…

Come back next week when Amber and I flip networks and review two of ABC’s dramas: Parenthood and my favorite of all the new shows, Revenge.

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.

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
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
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: Remembering the Family Programs of Years Past

Television in the 1980s offered a bit more substance than today’s reality fixation.  Honest- to-goodness family programming dominated network TV’s primetime hours instead of the incessant need to watch individuals hurt themselves while rushing through an obstacle course or young talent’s hopes shatter in recorded auditions.

Growing up, Sunday nights at grandma’s house included a hot family meal with all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins, followed by bonding time in front of the TV with shows like Life Goes On and Our House.  Remember those?

Life Goes On

Our House

After homework and dinner Monday through Friday, we curled up on the sofa with mom and dad learning valuable, although funny, lessons with hit sitcoms including:

The Cosby Show

Who’s the Boss?

Family Ties

Growing Pains

The Wonder Years

These series all share wonderful messages.  Audiences watch as fictional families learn to adjust to difficult situations like understanding Corky’s disability in Life Goes On, or recovering from the death of a parent in Our House.  We discover how serious dyslexia is when Theo Huxtable is diagnosed in The Cosby Show, and just how harsh words can be as Carol Seaver suffers constantly from jokes about her weight and her intelligence throughout Growing Pains’ run.

Not all of the storylines in these popular sitcoms focus on family units prevailing through hard times.  Sometimes the stories lighten the mood and take us back to a happy place.  For example, viewers reminisce about first loves and conquering true love as Kevin Arnold crushes on Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years, or as Tony Micelli and Angela Bower prove that money really doesn’t matter when searching for the one true connection in Who’s the Boss?.  We also learn to value the importance of friendships such as Mike Seaver and his buddies Boner and Eddie in Growing Pains, as well as Kevin and Paul in The Wonder Years.

But perhaps one of the best messages portrayed by all of these family sitcoms is the importance of education.  Each and every one of these series follows a character as they attend college.  Alex P. Keaton obsesses over one day leading the Republican party in Family Ties and attends college where he studies economics.  Even Kevin Arnold’s hippie sister, Karen, enrolls in college on her way to a M.R.S. degree (she gets married after her freshman year), and Mike Seaver overcomes his high school classroom struggles and takes a few college courses before quitting to pursue an acting career.

Sadly, families today with young children don’t have numerous options on the television similar to these ’80s sitcoms, leaving many with the decision to simply not watch TV.  While there’s nothing wrong with reality programs, what lessons do they teach our children?  That they can wear protective clothing and run through an obstacle course for money?  Or, that they can lay their hopes and dreams on the line to be the next big talent only to run the risk of being publicly humiliated, or that laughing at others’ failures is okay?

Reality TV is fun.  Most times, reality television is even clean enough for the family to watch together; but wouldn’t the return of family programming similar to these ’80s sitcoms make us smile?  We have a few popular sitcoms about families airing today (Modern Family and Parenthood come to mind), but aren’t these shows directed more toward adult humor versus good old-fashioned family values?

Just something to think about…

So many wonderful family programs aired in the 1980s, what did you watch?  What do you think of today’s family programming compared to the ‘80s?  What do you or would you watch with your family today?  I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday – New to Summer: Better Late Than Never

Summer is coming to an end, and we have some new programs to sink our teeth into before the fall television series return.  These new shows bring drama galore – police drama, dating drama, and teen drama.  What will you watch?

The new police drama:

Against the Wall – Lifetime

Wanting to advance her career in the Chicago Police Department, Abby Kowalski (Rachael Carpani most recognizable for her recurring roles on Cane and The Glades) is faced with a tough decision.  Does she wait for the necessary promotions as a female detective, or speed things up and join the Internal Affairs division?  Abby chooses IA, and her decision causes a divide within her family; a family with a long line of Chicago police officers.

Everyone knows that cops and IA officers do not get along – but what happens when a decision affects your entire family dynamic?

Against the Wall also stars Treat Williams (Everwood), as Abby’s father, and Kathy Baker (Picket Fences, Medium), as her mother.

Following the Internal Affairs division instead of detectives adds a nice twist to the ever popular television police drama.   Find out this Sunday if it’s worth a watch– Against the Wall premieres July 31st.

The new comedy – dating drama:

Friends with Benefits – NBC

Hot on the tails of the major motion picture success of No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits, NBC brings us this new thirty-minute comedy following a group of twentysomethings as they battle the dating world.

In Friends with Benefits, everyone is single and looking – Ben Lewis (Ryan Hansen, Veronica Mars) wants the perfect woman.  Sarah Maxwell (Danneel Harris Ackles, One Tree Hill; yes ladies – she’s married to Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles), just wants someone to settle down with and perhaps start a family.  There’s also the figurative “lady-killer” (Fitz played by Andre Holland), the “free-spirit” (Riley played by Jessica Lucas, who also played Riley on the new Melrose Place), and the “techie-genius” (Aaron played by Zach Cregger).

Oh, and Ben and Sarah are apparently the “friends with benefits.”  Who wants to bet they eventually decide they are soul-mates?

Produced by the great Brian Grazer (Parenthood and Arrested Development), Friends with Benefits might just make the grade.  Find out when the show premieres August 5th.

The new YA inspired drama:

 

The Lying Game – ABC Family

From the creators of Pretty Little Liars, and based on the novel by Sara Shepard, ABC Family brings the young adult audience another teen mystery this August.

Emma Becker learns that she was separated at birth from her identical twin sister, Sutton Mercer (both roles played by Alexandra Chando, As the World Turns).  Emma, a foster-child, agrees to switch places with her twin and live Sutton’s life with her wealthy adopted family while Sutton searches for their birth mother.

Not long into the switch, Emma learns that Sutton has disappeared and she’s faced with the dilemma of telling the Mercer family and all of Sutton’s friends the truth.  Is Sutton in trouble? Why were they separated in the first place?

Like most other ABC Family dramas, The Lying Game has cast a well-known group of actors: Andy Buckley as Ted Mercer (The Office), Helen Slater as Kristin Mercer (Supergirl, The Legend of Billy Jean), Tyler Christopher (General Hospital), Blair Redford (the new 90210), Alice Greczyn (Privileged), and Adrian Pasdar (Heroes).

If the mystery is anywhere near as decent as its predecessor, Pretty Little Liars, TLG is definitely worth a watch.  The Lying Game premieres August 15th.

What do you think? Do any of these shows interest you enough to watch?  Do you think starting in August will help or hurt these shows? Do you know of any other late summer starts?  I’d love to hear from you!

Be sure to go vote for the Tamberny Awards show by clicking here before July 29th!  And, just to show how fun Amber and I can be….

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