The Morning Round-Up: ‘New Girl,’ ‘Raising Hope,’ ‘Terra Nova’ & ‘The Good Wife’

Senior Television Writer
11.10.11 53 Comments


With all of ABC’s comedies pre-empted last night by the CMA Awards, this seems a good time to catch up briefly on some other shows it took me a while to clear off the DVR. Quick reviews of, in order, “New Girl,” “Raising Hope,” “Terra Nova” and “The Good Wife” coming up just as soon as I laugh in the face of thousands of years of samurai culture…

This week’s “New Girl” tried to accomplish two things that will be important for the show’s long-term longevity: 1)Actually establish who Cece is as a character, why she and Jess are friends, and how she fits into this world; and 2)Do an episode where at least 50%, if not more (I didn’t clock it) was devoted to the non-Jess storyline. Zooey Deschanel’s great, but adorkability alone isn’t going to carry a sitcom for years (though I would listen to many, many hours of her fake Chicago accent), so deepening the ensemble’s important. And the Cece/Schmidt portions of the episode wound up being more interesting and funnier than the Jess/Nick storyline. (We all know this is heading for will-they/won’t-they territory, and I appreciate Jess being confronted about that so early in the run, but Jess overreacting to Cece’s advice about foot posture was silly.) I still don’t feel like they have Schmidt calibrated exactly right – he’s better when he’s an over-eager puppy dog than when he’s just being relentlessly douchey – but Max Greenfield is quickly becoming the most valuable non-Zooey castmember, and I enjoy watching him work. The biggest challenge ahead now is figuring out exactly who Winston is and why he’s supposed to be funny, as he’s adding very little so far.

Speaking of unresolved sexual tension, “Raising Hope” did one of its periodic episodes addressing Jimmy’s feelings for Sabrina and why he hasn’t told her yet. I don’t particularly have a rooting interest in this, especially since the show essentially treats them as a completely chaste couple, but I was glad to see the conflict wrapped around Jimmy being manipulated by the kid. Both Chance men are essentially overgrown children to begin with (and Virginia’s only slightly more mature), so placing them in a more juvenile context always works, particularly if it also involves Jimmy being beaten up by MacGyver.

I’ve only been watching “Terra Nova” intermittently since the pilot, and haven’t felt the need to weigh in because Ryan McGee’s been doing such a good job with his reviews on our Monkeys as Critics blog. His strongest point, in case you haven’t been reading those, is that in addition to making the Shannon family terminally dull, the producers picked the absolute least interesting point in the life of the colony to set the show. A protected, secure, thriving colony that already has its laws and bureaucracies in place is vastly less compelling than, say, Taylor setting things up at the start, or even down the line if/when there’s a war with the Sixers. With things relatively stable – and with dinosaur CGI too expensive to feature them prominently every week (even though that’s what the show is about, or should be) – the show has had to consistently dust off ideas that Brannon Braga and company already did five or six times on the “Star Trek” spin-offs. (A cave that erases people’s memories is a hop, skip and a jump away from another episode where the holodeck malfunctions.) This week’s blackout episode, for instance, felt darned similar to a “Next Generation” episode called “Disaster” – which that show did in its fifth season, because that’s the kind of inventory story you tell later in the run when you’re running low on new ideas. “Terra Nova” has no ideas to begin with. It has a setting that it can’t really afford to properly exploit, and it has characters no one cares about (other than maybe Taylor and Skye), and its stories seem generated by some kind of A.I. program that’s watched the last 25 years of TV science fiction and cribbed the most obvious bits. There’s no there there. I agree with Ryan that “Nightfall” was probably the best episode since the pilot, but if this is the best the show can do, I’m fine moving on.

Finally, this week’s “The Good Wife” was another reminder of just how great that show is at crafting and casting guest characters. It helps that it’s based in New York (giving them access to that same great pool of theater actors who used to play judges and lawyers on “Law & Order”), and that it’s one of the few non-procedural dramas on network TV (meaning a cable-quality role with a network-sized paycheck), but the writers still have to come up with these people, and then actors like Bob Balaban and Carrie Preston have to play them as well as they did. The only problem is that Julianna Margulies so often seems to be upstaged on her own show. I like Alicia and think Margulies plays her well, but she’s so buttoned-down that when you put her with these more flamboyant guests (or other regular characters like Eli and Kalinda), it becomes easy to forget she’s there and the central character. Still, a good episode, and I’m glad Diane seems to have finally gotten wise to Alicia and Will.

What did everybody else think of any or all of these shows?

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