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Midseason Premieres Round-Up

Kerry Washington, right, stars in the new ABC drama "Scandal."

So, I’ve been slacking, but staffing a magazine is a neverending job and when someone quits, I step in. We’re actually accepting summer interns, if anyone’s interested. This is our first summer! I hope to be so happy about it by the end that I start singing “Summer Nights” from “Grease” and actually hit that weird note John Travolta does in the end.

OK. I’ve been watching a lot of midseason premieres and I’ve kept my mouth shut. But now it’s time to open it a little. I’m not going to open wide and start spewing out the criticisms because I have to edit our stories for May, but I thought I’d pop in and predict the futures of some of these shows, with a little insight added.

Are You There, Chelsea? : I bet this looked really good on paper, but Laura Prepon was a terrible choice as a lead. She’s a background character actor; second to someone else’s polished fiddle. She should be playing the sister and Chelsea Handler should be somewhere with her feet propped up on all her money.
Prediction: No second season renewal

Napoleon Dynamite : I watched the film twice. The first time, I was angry for wasting my time on a film with no plot and the second time I was stuck on a coach bus with it. (I ended up falling asleep somewhere in the beginning.) I find the cartoon to be just as annoying as the film, but I feel bad for everyone in the town because cartoon teens never grow up. They’ll be stuck with these kids forever. At least Jon Heder’s getting work.
This will probably get at least three seasons and be watched by people who somehow think it’s funny. Then, it will live in cult classic infamy with the film.

Key & Peele : I’ve only seen two episodes, but this show was hilarious. It uses the live show/pre-recorded format popularized at Comedy Central by Dave Chapelle. But the show’s got a different dynamic, using two hosts and with a smaller crowd.
It’s been renewed for a second season. Unfortunately, I think it would get canceled halfway through the second season unless it can gain some serious buzz. Good news: the skits will definitely live on through YouTube forever.

Smash : NBC’s problem is usually that they don’t put enough work and preparation into a show before debuting it. Well, they did with this show and it’s a hit. I was worried it would be too much like Glee, but this show is for Broadway lovers who will occasionally dip their toe into the Top 40.
This will be on for at least four seasons, losing its way somewhere in the second season when they’ve gotten to big to fail.

Fashion Star : My wallet hates this show. It gets smaller after every episode. The clothes are good, the concept is great, but the execution is terrible. I’m not invested in any of the designers because I don’t know how they are. The editing is so bad and we get so little time to see the creative process that I don’t know who anyone is. I swear they slipped in a guy in this week because I’d never seen him before.
This will last until NBC gets tired of paying for it. And they will never improve the execution.

Scandal : There are no words to describe how much I love this show. All the TV elitists hate it, but I’m not a TV elitist. Just give me good characters, good acting and a novel concept. When you put Shonda Rhimes in the mix, I will automatically love it. Then, you give me Kerry Washington? This show was created with me in mind.
At least two seasons. If people stand behind it like they should, it’ll be on for five, but I can’t see Washington putting in seven seasons of work on TV when she could easily get film roles.

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 : I love shows like Dexter and films like American Psycho, where you go into the mind of sociopaths. I never thought about a female sociopath, and definitely didn’t she’d be featured in a comedy about roommates. But this show works. Probably because Krysten Ritter is perfect for the role.
Three seasons before America gets tired of it and the network kicks it the curb.

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The Rise of Awkward Girls

The NBC sitcom Whitney is cashing in on the popularity of awkward women on TV.

What I hate most about TV sometimes is how together a lot of characters seem in fall shows. These are usually the ones that don’t get picked up for a full season. Thank, God.

Instead of people with only one or two minor problems being passed off as issues, networks seem to be looking to cash in on women so awkward that they make you a little uncomfortable. Two shows definitely fit that bill: Whitney (NBC) and New Girl (FOX).

Whitney (Whitney Cummings) is somehow in a three-year relationship despite her awkardness and complete disregard for social norms. Her boyfriend, Alex (Chris D’Elia), apparently a multi-millionaire after selling an Internet company, puts up with her antics and even plays along with them. After deciding they aren’t having enough sex, Whitney buys a sexy nurse’s uniform and during the sexy role play she makes him fill out paperwork and even takes his insurance card. That doesn’t really scream sexy, does it? She gets even more awkward in the second episode, insisting that they go on the first date they never had and taking their roles to the extreme. She even has an awkward meeting with him by the elevator.

As for New Girl, it’s just as quirky as the previews made it seem. Jess (Zooey Deschanel) can never do anything without adding some kind of awkwardness to it. In the pilot, she makes an entrance in a LBD and right after her roommates compliment her, she does a terrifyingly quirky little dance move. The second episode shows her driving around in circles because she’s afraid to get her belongings from her former boyfriend’s house. She’s a complete quirky disaster in the third episode, trying to help her roommate make his ex jealous by pretending to be his girlfriend. All she does is make fake pregnancy allegations and plead to wear false buck teeth. If she weren’t odd enough, Jess also frequently sings her own theme song under her breath.

A few years ago, characters like this wouldn’t have made it past two episodes, but both have been picked up for a full season. Can you imagine if Carrie Bradshaw or Mary Tyler Moore had this many quirks in the first season? I think the success comes from the fact that women in their target age group are becoming more comfortable with being a little different.

Although, I love Whitney, I remain on the fence about New Girl. Jess crosses the line between quirky and just unrelatably insane way too much. I’m also not crazy about Winston, a roommate added in the second episode. I preferred Damon Wayans Jr.’s coach character because he was awkward in all the right ways. Winston just seems lost. It’s a trait he shares with the story line.

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