Just in time to get you over your Breaking Bad hangover, The Walking Dead returned to AMC for its fourth season, under the helm of new showrunner Scott Gimple.
Usually, having three different execs in four seasons is the kiss of death for a show, but in the case of The Walking Dead, it’s actually helped keep the stories fresh, as each new head as imprinted his own vision on the apocalyptic future, while still being guided by the popular graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman.
Season 4 presents new challenges for the survivors at the prison, and a new internal dynamic as well. The group is no longer a Rick-tatorship and is instead lead by a democratic council. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is haunted by his failures as a leader and has tried to turn over a new leaf by taking up farming. Early episodes this season have season expanded roles for Tyrese (Chad Coleman), who is dealing with new loss, and Carol (Melissa McBride), who has become more of a leader. New threats include odd grouping behaviors being exhibited by the zombies, and a strain of swine flu that turns one section of the prison into a zombie time bomb.
Obviously, this offers a much different than last season’s smoldering build to the all-out war with the Governor. Season 4 is less urgent, more omenous, with the generalized threat being felt more randomly throughout the group. Of course, the promised return of the Governor (David Morrissey) and Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) obsession with finding him and killing him hearkens back to last season, and keeps that real but remote threat in the backs of our minds.
The Walking Dead has already been picked up for a Season 5, and that’s good news, as this show has never let itself get stale or cliched. And of course, the one continuing theme throughout that keeps the characters (and audiences) on the edge of their seats is still true: No One Is Safe.
GENERATING EDGY COMEDY out of the geriatric set can be tricky. Dads proved that, as that show never managed to leapfrog gross-out silliness into true cutting edge humor. The same can’t be said about The Millers, a family sitcom about a pair of divorcing retirees (Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale) and the impact it has on their grown kids (Will Arnett, Jayma Mays).
The key to The Millers finding an audience is Emmy-winner Martindale (Justified, The Americans), who combines her dramatic chops with a very dark brand of comedy. She plays an instantly, spectacularly unlikeable character: an insufferable know-it-all with severe boundary issues. The result is an awkward, uncomfortable sort of comedy that won’t be for everyone. Bridges tempers the result by playing a hopelessly (and very funny) absent-minded hopeless mess. Arnett and Mays play well off each other as the arrogant over-achiever (Arnett) and family screw up (Mays).
Your parents are miserable, and that’s funny. Martindale, Arnett, Mays & Bridges
Thus far, The Millers has aimed for mining comedic situations out of mundane set ups, letting Martindale’s omnipresent mom lend an edgy hue to the proceedings. I’m concerned that audiences may have difficulty continuing to connect with main characters who are so hard to root far, however, and I’m hoping the show finds a way to balance out its dark side. In the meantime, however, this is a pretty funny show which deserves a chance.
THE BAR FOR cable dramas is set pretty high, and I’ll be honest when I tell you that Masters of Sex doesn’t rise to the level of addictive TV like Homeland or Mad Men. Nevertheless, Showtime’s period piece/biopic drama about sex researchers William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan, in the role she’s been waiting for) has plenty going for it.
If Mad Men presents us with the earliest female empowerment icons: January Jones as the disaffected wife, Elisabeth Moss as the woman who dared put career first, Christina Hendricks as the woman who used her sexuality to manipulate powerful men, Kirenan Shipka as the prototype rebellious ‘60s teen, then Masters of Sex could be viewed as the how-to manual on how some of these women came to be.
At the center is Caplan’s Virginia Johnson, a former nightclub singer who stumbles upon the repressed but curious Masters’ study of human sexuality. Johnson is a natural, a sexually liberated woman at a time when there was no such thing.
Caplan and Sheen
Masters of Sex features plenty of sex and nudity, none of it gratuitous, most of it not even prototypically sexual, unless you have a wires and diodes fetish. By reducing the sex act to a stream of data on a printout, the show demystifies sexuality while at the same time exploring what a mystery it really is to the human beings who practice it.
This show is not quite the period piece Mad Men is, nor is it quite the epic drama that Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones offers. Instead, it’s a niche drama. Character driven, with a less grand scale story, but grounded in the actual history it retells. Most of all, Masters of Sex is, like Mad Men, mostly a story about how women in the ‘50s and ‘60s came of age to produce the society we all take for granted today. It’s not binge-watchable, but it’s damn watchable.
There were plenty of Halloween themed episodes this week, but I wasn’t expecting the best one to come from Key & Peele’s sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. But their series of spoofs of vampires, zombies and the like was easily the funniest Halloween humor available. My personal favorite was the no-nonsense vampire calling out his fellow creatures of the night for being too over the top and goth. “What’s with all the licking and hissing? Can’t we just eat?” LMAO.
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Kanye West has asked Kim Kardashian for her brand in marriage (Saturday Night Live); 2) Every time a woman calls another woman a slut, a Spice Girl dies (Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell); 3) Golf is just walking around with a stick (The Neighbors).
Usually when a show gets hit with early cancellation, I am sitting there nodding in agreement. Quick cancels are reserved for truly awful shows. But Back In The Game, while flawed, was not truly awful, and I’m sad to see it go so quickly. It’s Bad News Bears type vibe held plenty of potential, and the talented cast included James Caan, Maggie Lawson and Being Human’s Lenora Crichlow. Sadly, I get why the show may not have connected with viewers, since the execution of an otherwise decent premise was so clunky and misdirected, but I thought this show could have been saved. Not anymore.
Black Girls Rock 2013 airs on BET on November 3.
The season premiere of Mike & Molly airs on CBS on November 4.
Timothy Olyphant makes a guest appearance on The Mindy Project on November 5 on Fox.
The 47th annual CMA awards air on ABC on November 6.
Adam Lambert makes a guest appearance on Glee on November 7 on Fox.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo, or shoot me an email: [email protected]. I welcome your input!