Still Mad about ‘Mad Men’

mad men

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

I’m still mad about Mad Men. No show pulls you in to its evocative world quite the way Mad Men does. At the end of the episode, I always feel a bit transported to another place and time. And no show quite devastates me the way Mad Men does. I’m still recovering from the way Joan was made partner last season.

But by now you’ve probably heard how we, as TV critics, are not supposed to tell you, well anything really, about the sixth season premiere of Mad Men (tonight at 9 p.m. on AMC).  My friend Mo Ryan wrote a great piece about it this week.

I have never been a critic to spoil big surprises for the viewers. I want you to have the almost same experience I have when you watch an episode. But if executive producer Matthew Weiner doesn’t want me to talk about new characters or new relationships, it’s impossible to review the premiere properly. I mean there’s only so many words I can devote to the state of Pete’s sideburns (they’re not good people, they’re not good).

Instead I thought I would give you six points to ruminate on while you watch the premiere.

  1. Mad Men gives good guest stars. There might not be an “Oh my God! Rory Gilmore’s on Mad Men” moment but there are plenty of surprising guest star turns that positively delighted me. One person looked so different that I had a very delayed reaction to figuring out who it was.
  2. After you watch Sunday night’s premiere, email me and let me know what clued you in to what year it is. I’m wondering if we will all pick up on the same thing. This revelatory type of storytelling of merely hinting at the month and year is quite effective. It truly gives the viewer the sense that we are dropping in on the characters’ lives versus they are telling a story to us.
  3. I’m so glad Peggy is still on the show and that her departure from the firm didn’t go the way of Sal Romano. I know it’s probably true to life that Sal would disappear from their lives but I still miss him on the show. Maybe this will be the season we finally get to see how Sal is doing. We’ve been able to check back in on so many other characters.
  4. Betty, who really didn’t get her fair amount of screen time last season, gets one of her more intriguing storylines in tonight’s premiere.  We see see her acting much more like a concerned and protective mother than we ever have.
  5. Mortality looms over the premiere. This has always been a recurrent theme on the series. Now it practically takes over in an absolutely not subtle way.
  6. I fear Don’s story arc is getting repetitive. I’ll be curious to hear if you feel the same way.

After you watch tonight’s premiere, email me through my contact page or post your comments below and let me know your thoughts.

A chat with Sarah Chalke

(ABC/BOB D'AMICO)

(ABC/BOB D’AMICO)

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

We will be seeing quite a bit of the always delightful Sarah Chalke in the next few days. She’ll guest star on Grey’s Anatomy tonight (read TV Line’s story about her appearance) and her new series How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life) premieres next Wednesday, April 3. In the ABC comedy, she plays a single mom whose finances force her to move back home.

From playing the second Becky on Roseanne to Eliot on Scrubs, I’ve always been a fan of Chalke’s work. When I was in LA, I had the chance to talk to her about her new series.

TV Gal: Why did you want to play Polly in How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)?

Sarah Chalke: One of the reasons I loved the part and wanted to do it because I could relate to it more than any other part I’ve played. [Chalke is the mom to Charlie, age three.] I feel like Polly at the bottom of it she just wants to be a great mom. She’s trying to balance her work and living with her parents and trying to date again and do all this but she just wants to be the best mom possible and I feel like every working mom can relate to that. You’re trying to balance it all and find a way to somehow enjoy it and you just want the best for your kid.

TV Gal: Does it feel different launching this show than it did when you launched Scrubs?

Chalke: As an actor you always feel like getting a pilot, the pilot getting picked up and getting on the air and making it, it’s lightning in a bottle. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. On Scrubs I got to stay with the same people for eight and a half years. When you do something like this and you have the same kind of chemistry and connection and just the enjoyment of the job at the end of the day that’s what matters to me. As soon as you become a mom, you realize what do I want for my kid? I want him to have a happy life. I don’t care what he wants to do. Just be happy. And you kind of realize, ‘Oh that’s all that actually matters in life. Just be happy.’ When you come across a thing like this where you have that rare situation, it just makes me that much more hopeful that it will go and that it will work. We had such a good time.

TV Gal: You are known for having finger toes. Will we see your toe dexterity on the show?

Chalke: We do an episode about my finger toes! I also date this one guy played by Reid Scott. His name is Hot Scott on the show. He ends up breaking up with me because of my obnoxious laugh so there were things about myself that definitely made it into the show.

TV Gal: You’ve been acting since you were a teenager. What keeps you in the business?

Chalke: I love that every day is different. I love working in comedy. I love working in dramatic stuff for shorter periods of time but as a job that could potentially go on for a long time I really just wanted to look at comedies because that’s for me the funnest way to go to work every day. I love getting to know different groups of people but more than that I love it when it continues and you actually get to really know them and stay with them for a while.

TV Gal: And you never thought about leaving the business and doing something else?

Chalke: I was 16 when I started working on the Roseanne show. It was the number one show at the time. I hadn’t really worked that much and I saw how private everyone’s lives had to be and how scrutinized they were and the paparazzi. It was this whole sort of world that I just didn’t know about and I thought, ‘Well if that’s the end goal if everyone just has to be driven in dark cars,’ it just seemed to me pretty terrifying as a 16 year old. That, of course, was balanced by it being the most amazing learning curve for comedy and the most incredibly experience to watch Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman and Roseanne and Sara Gilbert and Johnny Galecki that was an incredible gift to have that. The flip side of it was to see this other side of it and that was scary. I moved back to Canada after that experience. I thought, ‘I’m out. I’m going back to school. This is maybe not the direction I’ll go.’ But at the end of the day I just missed it.

TV Gal: How do you think J.D. and Eliot are doing?

Chalke: I hope they have a lot of babies. I hope they’re really happy. I think they are. Turk has probably moved in with them.

‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘The Good Wife,’ ‘New Girl’ and ‘Glee’ . . . this week’s TV questions

Credit: CBS

Credit: CBS

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Let’s turn our attention to the TV questions that are plaguing me this week.

Is Jayma Mays the mother on How I Met Your Mother?

At first, I was very excited about last night’s How I Met Your Mother. “Jayma Mays is the Mother!” I thought to myself. That euphoria lasted about five minutes before I realized that it is much more likely that Coat Check Girl as the possible mother is yet another bait and switch the comedy is pulling on its viewers.  Ted said he would have run to go see his future wife but really that could be anyone.  Besides, it would be a little confusing if the Mother we’ve been hearing about for eight seasons turned out to be Mr. Schu’s estranged fiancée. There are plenty of actresses out there and I hope that How I Met Your Mother picks a less than familiar face to play the title role. But mostly I hope we find out who the Mother is before the end of the season. I’ve looooong contended that the show was a strong enough comedy by itself and that it no longer needed the conceit of the title to keep viewers interested. Now, it’s more than a little annoying that the series keeps dragging out the big reveal.

Also, does anyone else think that by the time Ted is telling his children the story of how he met their mother that maybe the mother has died? There was something a little sad about the way he was saying he wanted those “extra 45 days” with her.  I totally get the sentiment behind what he was saying – we’ve all been waiting for a long time the next phase of Ted’s life to begin. But something about the scene didn’t sit right with me –it was as if the show was trying to hint at something else.  Like there was something more to Ted saying “I’m always going to love you til the end of my days and beyond.”  The whole scene had a slightly maudlin undercurrent.  Am I crazy for thinking this? Did this occur to anyone else? (Also if Barney and Robin’s wedding is 45 days away and they haven’t picked a caterer yet. They are in trouble.)

On a much lighter note, Ted, Barney, 20-years-from-now Barney, 20-years-from-now Ted, 20-minutes-from-now Barney and 20-minutes-from-now Ted singing “The Longest Time” is definitely one of my favorite How I Met Your Mother moments EVER.

Is Alicia truly in love with Peter on The Good Wife?

On Sunday’s The Good Wife (you can read my review of the episode here), Alicia had a heartfelt conversation with her daughter where she told Grace she was with Peter because she loves him. But I couldn’t tell if she was just telling Grace what Grace needed to hear. I believe Alicia loves Peter – they have a history and two children together. And clearly she’s still attracted to him. But is she still in love with him? I’m not so sure. There’s been a shift in the power dynamics and the way Alicia has treated Peter this season. She has the upper hand in their relationship (he needs her more than she needs him) and often it seemed like she was using their little afternoon delights to show who had the true power in their relationship (she even laughed at Peter when he said he wanted to take her out on a date).  Yes Alicia has used Peter’s political position to advance her career this season but I don’t think that’s why she is staying with him. She knows how much it would disrupt her children’s lives if she divorced Peter and pursued her relationship with Will.  And it’s hard to let go of her relationship with Peter and the family they have together. What do you think?

Will Jess and Nick hooking up ruin New Girl?

No, it will not. Plenty of comedies put their will-they-or-won’t-they couples together and it benefits the show – Pam and Jim on The Office, Sabrina and Jimmy on Raising Hope to name a few. It would be far more unrealistic if these two people, who live together and are clearly attracted to one another, did nothing about it for two years. The problem is that Nick does not have his life together – at all. He needs to figure his own stuff out before he can truly pursue a relationship. The trick will be to not make Jess and Nick like Ross and Rachel on Friends – that dragged on for way too long. Let Schmidt and CeCe be the Ross and Rachel. Nick and Jess can be the Chandler and Monica.

Does anything on Glee make sense anymore?

No, it does not. Santana and Quinn hook up? The show doesn’t have Quinn on all season and then brings her back just to fulfill a male fantasy cliché? Really Glee? Really? And it’s not like Brody was this great character, but a male gigolo? Really Glee? Really? Nothing about the characters is consistent. This has always been Glee’s Achilles’ heel. But this season the characters have been out of control. As we’ve previously discussed, witness Tina’s crush on Blaine, Blaine’s crush on Sam, and the aforementioned Quinn/Santana hook up. And the story lines are so erratic. Rachael could be pregnant! No she’s not!

And I’m wondering – is there another Glee that regularly features Sugar, Joe, Kate Hudson, and Sarah Jessica Parker? Not that Sarah Jessica Parker’s character ever made sense, but way too many characters have disappeared this season sans explanation. I still love the musical numbers. Seriously there’s not a better way to my heart than an ‘NSYNC/ Backstreet Boys mash up. At this point, the series should be a musical revue show with no dialogue and no plot.

What are your thoughts on How I Met Your Mother, The Good Wife, New Girl, and Glee? Talk about it below.

It’s time to start a ‘Smash’ Support Group

Smash - Season 2

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

My friends, it has come to this.

On Wednesday, NBC announced that, effective April 6,  it would move Smash to Saturday nights. Once abandoned on Saturday, the beleaguered drama will be allowed to air the entirety of its second season.  Smash showrunner Josh Safran told TVLine this week that the final episode of the season “was constructed as a series finale.”

So we must make a decision. Do we jump off this Titanic of a show and spend our precious viewing hours elsewhere. Or do we go all in and commit to watching Smash until the bitter end. I, for one, am going down with the ship. I will watch Smash until the last curtain falls.

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve decided to stick with the show because heaven (on earth) knows Smash has some serious flaws this season. I’m mean seriously how is it possible that they managed to come up with a character who is more annoying than Ellis? (Oh don’t even pretend like you don’t know who I’m talking about.)

It’s moments like this when we need our fellow TV viewers the most.  I decided we so need to form a Smash support group.

Each week, the group will meet and

  1. Wear oversized scarves.
  2. Randomly send out a person to go and get coffee for the creative team.
  3. Pout and threaten to quit the group the moment someone disagrees with you even slightly (thanks to @sj_martin for this one).
  4. Drink martinis and throw them at each other (thanks to @beccarebec for this one).
  5. Blame all our problems on Jerry.
  6. Form a search party for Jennifer Hudson (Is she hanging out in New York City with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson?)
  7. Try to buy tickets for Bombshell and The Hit Lit.
  8. Debate whether Franco is a good match for Grace.
  9. Go out to eat and break into song for no apparent reason.
  10. Start to tell a story, stop half-way through and then NEVER revisit that story again.

Are you still watching Smash? Do you want to join the Smash support group? Talk about it below and tell me what you would like to see happen during our weekly meetings. Remember, we are in this together.

Let’s talk about ‘The Good Wife’

Photo: Justin Stephens/ CBS Broadcasting Inc

Photo: Justin Stephens/ CBS Broadcasting Inc

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

I’ve been meaning to get this post up since last week but several other deadlines loomed and I didn’t have the time. And I thought I love The Good Wife. You love The Good Wife. There’s plenty to still talk about. I will warn you that there are some (relatively mild) spoilers ahead so read at your own risk.

Each week I review The Good Wife episodes over at PasteMagazine.com (you can read my latest review here). Last week I participated in a conference call with Robert and Michele King, the creators and executive producers of the series. Here’s what you need to know about what’s coming up as The Good Wife winds down its fourth season:

  1. The gubernatorial election will take place this season. Matthew Perry’s Republican Mike Kresteva is back on March 24. The Kings would not say whether Peter would win the election but did say the way Chris Noth’s schedule works it would work out fine for the show if Peter were in Springfield at the Governor’s mansion and Alicia remained in Chicago. My guess is Peter will win the election  – it’s a more interesting angle for the show to take. This season, The Good Wife proved Alicia had no trouble using Peter’s position to further her own career (it’s why she was the one cherry picked to become partner). I’m kind of fascinated to see what happens when her husband is Governor. And, if he does become Governor, the Kings say he will turn his attention  to becoming President, which would be very, very interesting.
  2. The little Alicia/Will/Peter love triangle will continue. “It’s Alicia struggling with her attraction to two men and we are going to explore that all the way until the end of the year,” Robert King said. “Before she could tell herself it was not adultery. It’s getting a lot more difficult,” Michele King added. My whole thing with Alicia and Peter is sometimes I watch them together and think, “Ah yes the show is reminding us that Peter and Alicia were once in love and were in a marriage together and have a history.”  But sometimes I  watch the scenes and think “Alicia is just using Peter like he used her.” Discuss. (As an aside, I would definitely pick the man who knows the lyrics to the Growing Pains theme song over Mr. Big, but that’s just me.)
  3. Will we find out Kalinda’s role in Nick’s disappearance?  Producers declined to answer, but they were clear we would not be seeing Nick again (hooray!). Whatever happened with Nick, it will continue to change Kalinda. “ Kalinda is someone who is constantly resisting connection but also there’s something within her that’s trying to find connection to other people and I think that situation is just going to propel her closer to want to reach out,” Robert King said. My speculation is that Kalinda is eventually going to want to talk to someone about it (maybe Alicia? Maybe Cary?). And , by the way, I TOTALLY think Cary and Kalinda slept together in the last episode.
  4. Things are about to get really ugly. “Civil war is where we are headed with the firm,” Robert King promised. Last Sunday, Kalinda told Cary to stop but don’t look for that to happen.  “He’s in this mode of ‘I’ve been screwed over now it’s my turn,'” Robert said.
  5. Mamie Gummer will be back before the end of the season to reprise her role of Nancy Crozier.  I’m not sure this will allow me to forgive her for Emily Owens, M.D, but it’s a start. The producers would also love to have Anna Camp reprise her role of Caitlin but nothing is confirmed yet.  I would love to see Caitlin back on The Good Wife because I have long contended that Caitlin was playing the long, long game. Don’t you think if Cary starts his own firm she could pop up? You know who else could join Cary in his new firm? Nathan Lane’s Hayden Clarke, who is now a lawyer. This is just speculation on my part but I’m putting it out there.
  6. Just a heads up on the guest stars we will be seeing in addition to Perry and Gummer – Stockard Channing (who will return as Alicia’s mom), Will Chase (last seen as Michael Swift on Smash), Dylan Baker (back as the dastardly Colin Sweeney), Gary Cole (back as Kurt McVeigh), Morena Baccarin (back as Isobel Swift), John Shea (back as Cary’s dad), and John Noble (Fringe).

What are your thoughts on The Good Wife? Do you think Kalinda killed Nick? Do you think she slept with Cary? Is Peter going to win the election? Would you sing the Growing Pains theme song with Will? Talk about it below.

‘Switched at Birth’ Giveaway!

Credit: ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES

Credit: ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

As you know, I love Switched at Birth (Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC Family). The show is educational without being preachy. It pulls you into the teenage drama and angst without being tawdry. I so appreciate that  Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Daphne (Katie LeClerc) have age-appropriate problems. They’re not acting like they belong on The Real Housewives of Kansas City. The series also gives the adults on the show their own issues and problems. While the children are the center of their world, their worlds don’t completely revolve around the children. John (D.W. Moffett) is running for office. Regina (Constance Marie) struggles with sobriety. Kathryn (Lea Thompson) is carving out a career for herself and not at all happy simply being the political wife. And even when the show goes down a cliched path (Daphne’s brief romance with the chef last year), it still surprises me with the outcome.

When I was in LA last month, I had the chance to visit the set of the series with my fellow TV critics and talk to the series creator Lizzy Weiss about the show’s upcoming all American Sign Language episode (next Monday, March 4). You can read my story about my visit to Switched at Birth here.

I’m also giving away the book “Switched at Birth: The True Story of a Mother’s Journey” by Kathryn Kennish. Post a comment about why you love the show by Friday, March 1 at 5 p.m. ET. I will pick a winner at random from all the comments.

ls ‘Glee’ Out of Ideas? Should we trust Claire on ‘The Following’ and other TV questions

CR: Bob Mahoney/FOX

CR: Bob Mahoney/FOX

By Amy Amatangelo ®

Here are my biggest TV questions this week:

1. Is Claire Matthews secretly one of Joe Carroll’s followers on The Following?

The first season of 24 changed me as a viewer. I trust no one now. No one. And just as Nina was revealed to be a traitor in the first season finale of 24, I don’t think Claire is as innocent as she seems. She was married to Joe. How is it that she suspected nothing exactly? Clearly The Following loves surprising viewers (witness the little menage-a-followers in last night’s episode). Could this be the big surprise of the season? Was Claire’s relationship with Ryan merely a ruse to distract him? I’m doubling down on this one – Claire is not what she seems. Who’s with me?

2.  Is there a more cringing inducing story line that Tina lusting after Blaine on Glee?

Honestly is Glee completely out of ideas? Shows always suffer when they’ve exhausted every possible romantic permutation and start coming up with ridiculous pairings. Finn kisses Emma? Blaine has a crush on Sam? The worst offense is Tina lusting after Blaine.  I still shudder at the thought of Tina putting vapor rub on Blaine and crying while he slept. It wasn’t sad and poignant. It was creepy and unsettling. Where did this even come from? I’m all for the underused Jenna Ushkowitz getting more screen time but this is not the way. Plus it exposes one of Glee’s worst offenses. Characters are completely and irrationally inconsistent. Why would Tina fall for a guy she knows is gay? And what exactly did Blaine have to apologize for? For being gay and not liking Tina the way she likes him? Glee doesn’t make a lot of sense most of the time. But this story line makes no sense none of the time.

3.  Does Scandal need to go back to fixing other people’s problems?

You know I love how completely nuts Scandal is. The show is ridiculous in the best, most entertaining way.  But, even for me, last week’s episode was too much. The President is now a murderer? Sure everyone on Scandal pretty much exists in a gray area. Despite all the talk about Olivia and company being “gladiators in suits” and the good guys, we know that’s not completely true. They are the good guys only in the right context.  But I still don’t want the President to be a murderer.  And I didn’t quite believe that Abby would turn on David like that. It’s a dangerous game Scandal is playing – characters should be flawed, that’s what makes them interesting. But they shouldn’t be so flawed that we are unable to root for them anymore.  Scandal needs to take a break from all the conspiracy and the back stabbing and the murder. This week’s episode (Thursday at 10 p.m. on ABC) skips ahead 10 months and begins Scott Foley’s guest star arc. The official press release for the episode says the team will be handling a new case. A few stand-alone episodes will do the show good.

4. Is there a more obvious story line than the doctors trying to buy the hospital on Grey’s Anatomy?

If it’s the settlement from the lawsuit that’s bankrupting the hospital, of course the doctors are going to try to buy it. Why did we have to spend three episodes getting to this obvious conclusion.  I’m finding Grey’s Anatomy positively tedious this season. Anyone who can name all the new interns without looking them up deserves some sort of prize. Because I call them Smash, Tina Majorino, the one I always forget about, annoying girl in love with Jackson and Lexie 2.0.

5. Is there a more annoying character on TV right now than Scarlett on Nashville?

She is so whiny and her accent is way over the top. I actually think I’m on Avery’s side which can’t be what the show intended.  Nashville is starting to become the show I hoped it would be but I always want to fast forward through the Scarlett scenes. Really the only time I want to listen to her is when she’s singing.

What do you think about what’s happening on The Following, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, Nashville and Scandal? Talk about it below.

 Where Have I Seen Them Before?

Amy Hargreaves is Gail, the woman Tom hit with his car on The Carrie Diaries. She plays Carrie’s sister Maggie on Homeland.

Nazanin Boniadi was the public relations expert following Alex around on Grey’s Anatomy. We just saw her on Go On as Hannah, Carrie’s friend who went out with Ryan. She was, of course, Barney’s girlfriend Nora on How I Met Your Mother.

Abby Elliott is Ted’s new crazy girlfriend Jeanette on How I Met Your Mother. She was on Saturday Night Live for four seasons and, interesting fact, was the original Kate in Ben and Kate before the role was recast with Dakota Johnson.

Susan Misner is having a busy TV season. She plays Louis Canning’s wife Simone on The Good Wife.  Stan Beeman’s wife Sandra on The Americans. And she was on The Following last night as Ryan’s sister Jenny.  I also recognized her as Dan and Jenny’s mother Alison on Gossip Girl.

This one was bugging me for a while. Leah Pipes was the senior who wanted Rachel to be topless in her movie on Glee.  She was Katie in the short-lived CW series Life is Wild.

Quotes of the Week

“I’m like the Joan Cusack character in the romantic comedy of your life.” Mindy to Jamie on The Mindy Project.

“Little choke doesn’t like caramel and also he’s dead.” Laurie about why the Latin Kings didn’t accept her gang initiation cake on Cougar Town.

“Child stars go downhill no matter how good they are. They could star in a Spielberg movie and still end up playing the nutty mom in some sitcom,” Virginia to Sabrina on Raising Hope in a nice little shout out to The Goonies.

“I’m a squirrel. You’re a nut. Winter’s coming and I’m going to store you in my cheek girl.” Schmidt to CeCe on New Girl.

“That’s for cancelling My Name Is Earl,” Burt as he kicked the NBC executive on Raising Hope.

“I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love. Don’t you want that too?”Olivia to Edison on Scandal. Oh Olivia, my dear, sweet Olivia, you need SO much therapy.

“Do you think she’ll still like me now that I’m dead?” Chris after suffering food poisoning on Parks & Recreation. 

“I think you should stay and I think we should fight.” Pam to Jim on The Office.

“Rayna, I’m done talking.” Deacon to Rayna before kissing her in the elevator on Nashville.

“Not everyone in here looks like they are on the CW. Some of us are more PBS.” Artie on Glee.

What do you think about what’s happening on The Following, Glee, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Nashville? Talk about it below. If you’ve seen a familiar face or heard a great quote, let me know through my comment page. And don’t forget to follow my blog by entering your email in the upper right hand corner. That way you’ll always know when I have a new post up.

Can season 2 of ‘Smash’ be a smash?

Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC

Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

True story: A few weeks ago  I sat down to watch the advanced screener of Smash.  I watched an ENTIRE episode before I realized I had watched the second episode of the season and not the two-hour season premiere, which airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Sure I was mildly concerned that suddenly the show featured new characters who weren’t introduced. And yes I did find it a tad annoying that so many story lines were dropped sans any explanation.  But at no point did it occur to me that I was watching the episodes out of order. I only realized it when I went to watch episode two and realized I already had. It shows just what a mess the show was by the end of last season.  I thought the looniness that defined Smash‘s freshman season was simply continuing.

I loved the Smash series premiere last year. I had such high hopes for the series.  I watched every single episode of its freshman season. I wasn’t hate watching. I was watching with the hopes that someday the show would become the series I thought it would be in the pilot. And I would see sparks of potential – musical numbers that moved me. Relationships that drew me in (I loved Christian Borle’s Tom and Leslie Odom Jr.’s Sam). Anjelica Huston’s Eileen Rand in every, single scene.

And the problem wasn’t Ellis. Or Leo. Or Dev. Or Julia’s adoption. It was the way those storylines were executed. Ellis could have been a great character if he had been better written and better performed.  Think of Nolan on Revenge. He’s an equally ridiculous character but he’s much better written and infinitely better performed and we love him.

There were two near fatal errors.  Julia (Debra Messing) had an affair almost immediately. It’s hard to root for a protagonist who is not only cheating but cheating on the couch in the rehearsal room where there are a million open windows. I had no sympathy for her plight and that’s not a good thing.

The second was that Ivy (Megan Hilty) didn’t just change episode to episode. She changed scene to scene, sometimes sentence to sentence. Was she a vixen? Nice? Were we supposed to feel sorry for her? Hate her? Like her? Root for her? Was she strong? Weak?  By the end of last season when Ivy was overdosing, I said out loud to the TV, “Oh come on!” The disaster of a character I had come to know the first season wouldn’t even do that.

So Smash begins its second season hitting the reset button and hoping that viewers don’t have much of a long term memory. Dev is gone.  Ellis is gone. Julia’s family is gone (although poor Frank does get a send-off)  and so is Michael. That frees Julia up to date which is probably where the show should have had her in the first place (enter Rescue Me’s Daniel Sunjata). Storylines are completely dropped –usually with a mere throwaway line. Julia’s possible pregnancy? Gone. Ivy’s suicide attempt? Explained away.  Julia’s scarves? Gone, but strangely her clothes are still shapeless.

New characters abound. Jennifer Hudson joins the cast as Ronnie Moore, a Broadway star looking to change her good-girl image and Derek (Derek (Jack Davenport) is just the man to do it. Broadway stars Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) and Andy Mientus come aboard as singer/songwriters Jimmy Collins and Kyle Bishop who befriend Karen (Katharine McPhee). Hudson is predictably fantastic. She was my favorite years ago on American Idol and I always love to hear her sing. But her character is clichéd. Jordan’s Jimmy is a little too petulant and so far Mientus’ Kyle doesn’t really leave an impression. And we are still hearing about what an amazing talent Karen is and how she has that indescribable star quality.  The only problem is it still seems that Ivy is the one bursting with talent.

Anytime a show hits the reset button, it’s starting from a disadvantage.  New showrunner Joshua Safran is trying to fix the problems he inherited. It’s too soon to tell if he’ll succeed.   Did you watch Smash last season? Are you going to watch this season? Talk about it below.

Jess and Nick Kiss on ‘New Girl!’ Jim and Pam fight on ‘The Office!’ Should you watch ‘Do No Harm?’

Nick and Jess kiss

Credit: FOX

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Can we talk about the kiss Jess and Nick shared on this week’s New Girl? That was one excellent TV kiss. I’m blushing just thinking about it. Nick is so my new secret TV boyfriend.

I had a chance to talk to Jake Johnson when I was in LA recently. You can read my interview with him here. Johnson had really interesting things to say about whether or not Nick and Jess should get together.  Nick has really blossomed as a character this year. I like to think of him as the sleeper breakout character of the season. He’s kind of snuck up on us.

I am fascinated by how the show is handling the whole Jess/Nick “will they or won’t they” conundrum. Much like how The Office handled Jim and Pam, Jess and Nick aren’t monopolizing the story telling but they are kind of percolating underneath the roommate shenanigans at all times. I don’t want them to get together yet. And I definitely don’t want a possible romance between the two of them to dominate the show. But, like Ross and Rachel on Friends, I’m pretty sure they belong together. How about you?

And speaking of The Office, I’ve been hearing from quite a few of you who don’t like the big fight that Pam and Jim had last week. As you know, I usually like TV shows to end with  all the characters still continuing on in perpetuity. Sam is still bartending on Cheers. The Friends gang still meets up at the Central Perk except now they talk about which private school is best and how to handle the rebellious teenage years.

But with The Office, I don’t want to think of Jim still working at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin forever. Since the show’s inception, Jim has been an underachiever who has never realized his full potential. I’ve liked this arc of Jim pursuing a new and inherently risky business venture.

Pam has always been the one who was happier with the status quo – the most telling insight into Pam’s character was when she was thrilled that Jim had secretly bought his parent’s house. She’s interested in pursuing her artistic ambitions locally. She painted a mural in the warehouse and applied to paint a mural for the city of Scranton.

That tension in Pam and Jim’s marriage to me is utterly believable as was their fight. Who hasn’t been in argument where you take out your anger at the wrong person when the person you are most mad at is yourself? Jim was frustrated that he had lost a key investor and upset that he missed Cece’s first dance recital. So he got irrationally angry at Pam for not taping it. I’m not saying he was right, of course, but the fight rang true. (As a side note, the only thing I didn’t find believable was that CeCe would be in a dance recital. Pam had CeCe around the same time I had my daughter so I think CeCe is about a year away from any kind of group performance, but I quibble).

I also liked that this was the way we finally got to see someone from the documentary crew. Of course if the show heads down the path of Pam and Brian (Chris Diamantopoulos) flirting or Pam considering an affair, I may never speak to the show again and I take back everything I’ve said. Because the Pam I know would never, ever do that.  But I like the idea that Jim and Pam have known Brian as long as we have known Jim and Pam. Just as we need to meet the mother before How I Met Your Mother ends, we need to meet the documentary crew before The Office signs off.

Jim and Pam have always been the heart of the series and last week’s fight hit on the crux of the tension that has always existed in their relationship. I liked it. How about you?

And finally, let’s talk about Do No Harm, premiering tonight at 10 p.m. on NBC. The drama couldn’t ask for a better lead in. It will debut after the series finale of 30 Rock and a one hour episode of The Office. NBC hasn’t had a good show in the Thursday night 10 p.m. time slot since ER went off the air. And, alas, Do No Harm continues that trend.

Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) stars as Dr. Jason Cole, a talented neurosurgeon who suffers from multiple personality disorder. Every night at 8:25 p.m. exactly his evil alter-ego Ian Price takes over and wreaks havoc on his life. I can play it pretty loose with TV in terms of facts but seriously every night at 8:25 p.m.? Yes that’s exactly how mental illness works. It’s nothing if not precise.

I might have been able to overlook that if the whole show hadn’t played like a Saturday Night Live skit. There were so many points where I was laughing when I know that’s not the reaction the series was hoping for. I really like Pasquale and I loved him as Sean on Rescue Me (and fun fact he’s married to Go On’s Laura Benanti in real life) but these characters are not for him. He plays Ian as totally maniacal and borderline cartoony. No need to watch Do No Harm. Trust me. You can listen to me talk about the show with my friend and fellow TV critic Mekeisha Madden Toby here.

Be sure to check out my review of tonight’’s 30 Rock series finale in Paste Magazine.

That’s all for today. What do you think about New Girl and The Office? Are you going to watch Do No Harm? Talk about it below.

‘Scandal’ Giveaway!

Credit: ABC

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the set of Scandal with my fellow TV critics. It was a fantastic set visit. Everyone was so delighted to talk to us about their show. They seem to have as much fun making Scandal as we have watching it. We also got a sneak peak at this week’s episode which is called “A Criminal, a Whore, an Idiot and a Liar,” (one of the best episode titles ever, don’t you think?). I can’t tell you much about it but I can say that once again Olivia is wearing some fabulous gloves and that the ending had a few rather shocking plot twists.

You can read my story about my Scandalous visit on Emmys.com. Since I couldn’t bring you with me on the set visit, I’m giving away the DVD of Season One of Scandal. To be eligible, post in the comment section why you love the show.  I’ll pick a winner at random. You must post by 5 p.m. EST Friday, January 18. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States and Canada.