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Fall TV Pass/Fail (Part One)

A fact that sometimes surprises people when they hear it (myself included) is that I graduated an accredited, four-year private college with honors. I say that primarily to brag, but secondarily to let you know that often times I worked very hard in college in very difficult classes that stretched me mentally, academically, and sometimes physically (Ultimate Frisbee, spring quarter senior year…hey everybody should schedule a blowoff class their senior year). And while most of those classes demanded a lot of my attention and focus so I could keep my GPA at honors levels, my favorite classes were graded on what’s known as the pass/fail system.

If you’re unfamiliar with pass/fail classes and somehow also not able to grasp exactly what a pass/fail class is just by the name, it’s a class where instead of an A-to-F grading system, there are only two grades: you either pass, or fail. No in between. That brings me to fall television’s new schedule of shows (I’m not big on segues). We’re all busy, and our leisure time is almost as valuable as our productivity time, so rather than go through and grade every new TV show on some sort of A-F, five star, ten point, etc. scale, I’m going to break it down very simply for you into shows that either pass or fail (assuming of course that the “class” objective of each show is getting you to watch).

This guide is not exhaustive, it’s basically a handful of the new shows that looked interesting enough to me to DVR (I don’t watch anything live anymore that’s not sports), so if your favorite new show didn’t make the list of ones I’ve reviewed, I kind of don’t care. But still let me know in the comments because I’ll need something to fill the void in my life once Breaking Bad ends next week. Also, this list is pretty sitcom heavy because I like comedies and because like black people to Paula Deen, all dramatic hourlong serials look the same to me.

Let’s get started.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
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Andy Samberg’s first solo outing without SNL backup or his Lonely Island posse, the show’s premise is basically Reno 911 but in New York. I don’t know if a lot of you are  Samberg fans or not, but I like him, and I think his quirky brand of positive comedy is a welcome balance to darker comedies like Louie and It’s Always Sunny and cookie-cutter network fare like whatever is on CBS right now (you’ll note I included exactly zero CBS shows on this list because all CBS shows (particularly sitcoms) are absolute garbage (except The Crazy Ones). Am I generalizing? Yes. Are sweeping generalizations sometimes accurate? Also yes. Did I just use three sub-parentheses in this parenthesis? Triple yes). Two episodes in to B99, I laughed pretty consistently. Grade: PASS.

Dads.
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I’ll say it right now: I like Seth MacFarlane. I like Family Guy (even the new seasons), I liked Ted, I loved his hosting job at the Oscars (sorry, classy friends). I already like his new movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and it doesn’t even come out for another year. So yeah, I was biased toward this MacFarlane-created sitcom from the start. I wanted to like it, I really did. But, I didn’t. The jokes are hit-or-miss at best (leaning more toward the “miss” side), the leads aren’t that engaging or funny to me (not a Seth Green fan, never have been), and any modern-day tv show that still uses a laugh track already starts at a deficit in my book. The premise is okay, and I appreciate the postmodernist idea of kids having to support their folks at an increasingly younger age, but none of it felt that original or funny to me. Maybe it will get funnier after it’s cancelled and brought back a few years later, ala Family Guy. Grade: FAIL.

Agents of SHIELD (ain’t nobody got time to put all those periods between letters, so just know that it’s an acronym, ok?).
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Agent Phil Coulson’s Marvel/Avengers character and Clark Gregg’s acting career are both deservedly resurrected in this weekly sci-fi series that takes place in the same universe as IronMan, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor (though never close enough to get them any screen time). As someone who’s been looking for a replacement for Heroes ever since it went bad after the first few seasons, I’m excited for Agents mostly because it’s the exact same premise as Heroes was, just with a better producing team that (hopefully) learned from the sustainability mistakes of previous attempts at this sort of show (Alphas, The 4400, et al). One episode in I like, don’t love, it but if the Marvel world has taught us anything it’s that the payoff is pretty consistently worth the buildup, so I’m giving it a few more eps to convert me from cautious optimism to full on fangirl. Grade: PASS.

Sean Saves the World.
I’m going to save you the trouble of reading my summary of this show and just show you the promo poster instead and let you make your own extrapolations from there.
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Grade: FAIL.

Derek.
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Quickly becoming my favorite atheist (sorry Jamiroquai and Nick Caruso), Ricky Gervais’ latest offering is a show that displays deep understanding of and respect for the human soul (ironically from a man who doesn’t believe they exist). Like the UK version of The Office (if you haven’t seen it, ask your most pretentious friend for a summary, he/she will have), and his lesser-known (but far superior) show, Extras, Derek takes the ordinary (borderline pitiable) and spins it into something fascinating, extraordinary, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. All in 22 minutes. And as an added bonus, this one is a Netflix original, so there’s no killing time for an entire week between episodes. Grade: PASS.

The Goldbergs.
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What if there was a show just like The Wonder Years, but like, less naïve and more self-aware? Also, ‘80s references. That’s basically the premise for The Goldbergs, and if it sounds a little thin, that’s because it is. As an SNL sketch, I love it. As a television show that’s meant to last anywhere from five-to-eight seasons, I’m not on board. The pilot didn’t blow me away, and I don’t see it having a lot of room to grow from there. But if I don’t like it, that probably means the general public will love it. Because that’s the purgatory I live in where 30 Rock and Party Down are off the air but Two and a Half Men is still around and Big Bang Theory just won a handful of Emmys. I can’t sigh exasperatedly enough to describe how I feel about that. Grade: FAIL.

Hello Ladies.
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Stephen Merchant is a name most of you won’t know, but he’s the creative Yin to Ricky Gervais’ Yang. Except if Yin and Yang were both equally funny in the same way instead of being opposites. Okay so maybe the analogy doesn’t hold up all that well, but for years Stephen Merchant has struck me as Gervais’ wildly underrated comedic equal, and now he’ll finally get the chance to prove me right that he’s been waiting for all these years. Hello Ladies is Merchant’s vehicle and blah blah blah some pun about a sports car and/or cruise control, just watch this show already. You will like it or your money back. Worth stealing your friend’s HBOgo login if you don’t already have one. Grade: PASS.

Well that’s all the grading the FCC will legally allow me to do this week (none of that is true), but check back next week (or whenever I get around to it) for my thoughts on the next wave of TV premieres. And in the meantime don’t forget that South Park, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, and New Girl have have all started back up if you’re looking for a comedic safety to fall into in case none of the new shows strike your fancy.

Play on,
Dustin

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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Just Keep Sharking

No lengthy and overly verbose intro today, so let’s just dive right into it.

Say what you will about sharks...because they can't understand English.

Say what you will about sharks…because they can’t understand English.

Shark week was last week and while I don’t have a lot of thoughts or feelings on that in particular, something I’m always reminded of when I think about sharks is that in order for sharks to live, they must literally always be moving. Ever forward. Up up, down down, left, right, left, right, B A, select, start — a shark cannot survive without constantly being in motion. As humans, this is probably the most important shark trait we could adopt (next to constantly growing new rows of teeth). I’m not the first to make this analogy, nor is it wildly profound, but it’s one of those things that’s important enough to restate from time to time.
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Ala Cartman

I’m sitting here in my room singing a slow loop of the only words I know from the song “No Diggity” (which, I am not proud to say, are just “I like the way you work it. No diggity. And that’s it. It’s a very short rendition), and I can’t figure out why CBS is so popular. I’m not entirely sure how those two things are related, which is a phrase I haven’t uttered since the first time I saw Bruce Jenner and Kim Kardashian in the same house.

It’s 3am, I always find myself writing these things at 3am. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not staying up to write. I’m staying up because I’m in the middle of my once a month laundry marathon (that’s exactly what it sounds like. I only do laundry once every four-to-six weeks. I have a lot of underwear) and I can’t go to bed until I get this last load into the dryer. That should be soon so hopefully this post will be short.

I don’t know all the details because honestly who could possibly care, but basically Time Warner is mad at CBS because CBS doesn’t think CBS is getting enough money and Time Warner doesn’t think Time Warner is getting enough money so they’re taking their ball and saying “Screw you guys, I’m going home” just like Cartman from South Park.

So now, Time Warner has blacked out CBS’ channels from its cable service until they can reach an agreement on the best way to give all the millionaires more millions.

I own exactly zero copyrights to this image, in case you wondered.

I own exactly zero copyrights to this image, in case you wondered.

The problem is that blacking out a single channel as a result of this dispute has caused them to accidentally stumble onto the reverse of what cable companies should have already been doing for years: offering their services ala carte.

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The Friday Five: Five Rules for Choosing Your Karaoke Song

“For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and cry out like the ostriches.”

…That verse from Micah (chapter one, verse eight) probably marks one of the earliest references to karaoke in the Old Testament (that’s the first half of the Bible, to all you pagans out there). The simple fact of the matter is that at some point in your life, you are going to have to sing (or at least co-sing) a song in some sort of karaoke situation. Oh sure, I’ve heard all the excuses before “I’d never let myself sink that low” “I’m too careful to end up like that” “I’m a good person”, etc. but the fact of the matter is you can either prepare mentally and spiritually for this kind of thing, or you can just live in denial and be caught totally off guard when it happens to you (and trust me, it will). Bachelorette parties, housewarmings, cookouts, bar mitzvahs…technology has progressed in such a way that karaoke can strike anywhere, at any time, and even if you take every precaution available, karaoke will find you. And when it does, karaoke will show no mercy. Luckily, I’m here for you, and if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can survive karaoke as unscathed as possible…and heck, you might even come out of it with a good story to tell.

Five Karaoke Rules that will keep you from ending up like this guy. You're welcome.

Five Karaoke Rules that will keep you from ending up like this guy. You’re welcome.                                                     (Note: The National Anthem is not a great karaoke song choice)

Rule 1: Know your level of vocal ability.
I always think this one is a no-brainer, but then every year I see a new set of American Idol promos (I haven’t watched an actual episode of American Idol since the Clay Aiken/Ruben Studdard season, I was too hurt after watching Clay unjustly lose to ever go back…plus those types of shows are pretty played out) where an astoundingly high number of people can’t sing. It’s one thing to be blissfully unaware that you’re singing is off-pitch (shout out to whoever was standing behind me in church this week*, but you do you, homeslice), but there’s a special level of pain I feel for people that are terrible singers and have NO IDEA! Like whoever is the Paula these days will be like “sorry sweetie, you’re no good” and the contestant will be all like “Psh YOU DON’T KNOW MY WORLD SON, I’ma take my voice and go out and make a million dollars without your show! I voted green party!” and then we never hear or see them again, with the sort-of exception of William Hung, who is on national TV about as often as I am (AKA not very). The moral of the story is: it may be painful, but do whatever you have to in order to figure out how good of a singer you are BEFORE you find yourself in front of a group of people at a karaoke bar or a panel of Randy Jackson types.

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The Five Stages of When a Pretty Girl Talks to You

Spring is in the air, which means attractive women will be popping out of the woodwork left and right in your everyday life. Now don’t worry, most of these hot girls won’t even notice you, and the ones that do definitely won’t want to interact with you…however, the law of averages says that at some point a cute gal is going to need you for something (like doing her math homework or giving up your place in the movie theater line so her and her friends can see Spring Breakers, etc.), so in order to give you a fighting chance when that situation arises, I’ve written a brief guide to assist you…

Wait...why is she looking over here? Oh God, her mouth is making sounds at me, OH GOD SAVE ME!

Wait…why is she looking over here? Oh God, her mouth is making sounds at me, OH GOD SAVE ME!

The Five Stages of When a Pretty Girl Talks to You:

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