FALLAPALOOZA

Photo Courtesy of HBO

Photo Courtesy of HBO

Warning: Spoiler Alert

As NJATVS’ residential Aaron Sorkin enthusiast and unapologetic fanboy, it is my duty and privilege to cover and in this case preview “Newsroom Season 3”. Before you consider the theory that I’m just some windbag critic riding the coat tails of Sorkin’s success as of late with Newsroom, Moneyball, and Social Network, consider the following. I have seen 8900 West Wing episodes (22 x 7 x 58 times). I’ve seen A Few Good Men more times than I should admit. I even came very close to paying for a copy of the stage play on principle. Sports Night is easily the best sitcom involving the sports world to date. And I will debate anyone willing to do so that Studio 60: Live on the Sunset Strip is the best comedic series prematurely ended of all time.

The first and most important detail of which is to inform those not already in the loop that season 3 will indeed be the final season. I know, take a moment to reflect and compose yourself. The first season, like most Sorkin projects, adjusted the bar. Reassessed how we define good television. That may sound lofty, but if you really watch season 1 with open, objective eyes you’ll see just how good it was. Sorkin is a master of characters and it shows throughout that season. We don’t have the time for me to break down each element of season 1 that made it so intensely good. However, rest assured that when the series has concluded and I have time to go back through and break it down properly, I will. If for no other reason than for me to properly place it in its rightful place in television history.

Not all is rosy. I would love to tell you that Season 2 was every bit as good as Season 1. I’d love to be able to say that. A couple of things to bring up first. Will and Mackenzie’s relationship arrives at a crescendo that is satisfying to any viewer by the conclusion of season 2. Jim, Don, Neal and Sloan all go through a series of ups and downs. Jim’s feel more pronounced, but those four do experience a great deal in season 2. One of those has yet to see the depth of his or her journey, but that we’ll save for the actual preview portion. Charlie is great and continues to be maybe my favorite character that is not considered part of the ‘essential’ cast. I would argue that Charlie is indeed essential. Even guys like Gary Cooper (a videographer, not the cowboy) and Reese Lansing made real contributions.

The problem one discovers with season 2 is the departure from the previously held blueprint. Look, it’s not my place to say right, wrong or otherwise. Here’s my take though. The series debuted in 2012. The news stories they would chase because a shade under two years before that. Now the show runners get to pick and choose which stories to chase. The fact that they could pick and choose and didn’t follow a real-time projection was both good and eventually problematic. The problem is that eventually the Newsroom stories were going to catch up to the real life stories. Correct or not, it felt like Season 2 was an attempt to buy time for more desirable story lines later. Instead of following the original blueprint, Season 2 was a complete departure. We were taken on a ride that focused as much if not more on one internal story as opposed to a series of news stories.

Season 2 was not explicitly bad. Let me be clear. I would still put Newsroom Season 2 up against 90% of the television on that year. It’s Newsroom, it’s Aaron Sorkin, it’s HBO. It was going to be good no matter what. There were significant high pressure, high emotional big time moments in Season 2. It was just a different ride. Season 2 was bigger, even though I believe Season 1 was better. For anyone who has not seen Newsroom yet (what’s wrong with you first off), if you’re waiting for the conclusion of the series in order to binge watch it, I’m not going to stop you. For clarity sake, assume that Season 2 is every bit deserving of the accolades, just know that it feels different.

If you are on the fence for some indescribable reason, there are two scenes in Season 1 that should sell. The first one is the opening scene of the series. Will McAvoy is speaking on a panel at a college. It’s a long scene and worth every second you invest in it. This clip can be found easily on YouTube. The other is a scene from the Gabby Gifford’s episode where Will refuses to announce her dead just because all of the other news outlets are. Remember, they don’t do good television, they do the news.

Season 3 is a bit of an enigma. On one hand you have Season 1, measured, steady, and running off a blueprint. Chasing news stories from the perspective of what that would look like from the people doing the chasing. Then Season 2 is a completely different approach. Whether to buy time or just adding drama, we may never know.

The question is, which method will Season 3 follow? With a gun to my head, I’m guessing somewhere between the two versions. Clearly, it seems, we are headed back to an episodic rundown that will include real, actual news stories. The first of which may be the Boston Marathon bombing. Which would mark the first Newsroom response to an act of terror. We saw what happened the night ‘we got Bin Laden’, but we have never seen the team’s reaction in real-time when an act of terror is executed in the moment.

Another major development, the development that I believe will take the show out of the Season 1 model and more into the Season 2 model is the Edward Snowden story line (whether that is the actual story or just a parallel, we’ll have to wait and see). There is a story that deals with a person leaking a massive amount of national secrets. When that happens it will create a convergence of two different while somewhat related entities. On one side you have the leak which is very much newsworthy and the idea that Neal aided in the story coming forward by way of social media. In the Season 3 promo released by HBO, Neal very clearly states, “social media is going to solve this crime”. On the administrative side, Will, Mack and Charlie are all fighting to keep the network from falling into the control of those more interested in social media numbers than that of journalistic integrity.

While the above story lines may seem intriguing enough, the bigger picture is…well the bigger picture. Season 3 will come down to the team’s (Will, Mack, Charlie, etc) ability to not only stave off attacks against their ideals. News doesn’t have to be entertaining to be news. An informed electorate. And everything they stand for. A news show responsibly delivering the news whether its trending on twitter or not. Defending that ideal will be paramount. In addition to that, amidst the pressures to compete in social media, the social media guy (Neal) will be facing some real world trouble. If the leaks were aided in any way, that person could be tried as an accomplice to espionage. All indications are that the one that may have unintentionally committed treason is Neal. And the larger theme that will rule the entire season seems to be the integrity of a news outlet protecting it’s source at all costs.

Will McAvoy: If you have our back, then we’re not going to let you get shot in yours.

There is no question that Season 3 has been written with the series coming to a close in mind. It is my opinion, that Sorkin and the people at HBO must have looked at both seasons and created a dynamic that takes the best of both to create as final season that will not only be satisfying, but exceptional. Sorkin has a beautiful knack of building the moment, the line, the story in such a way that it’s conclusion is ideal. That is when he is given the opportunity to write to a close. This may only be a 3 season run, but I am holding out hope that in three seasons we will feel like we’ve seen every bit of the story. Beginning, middle, and end.

Do yourselves a favor. Set your DVR now. For my money, anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with is great. In some cases we will say “check out ____________, it might prove worth your time”. The worst Newsroom episode made is still without question, worth your time. Set your DVR. Schedule your life around Newsroom. And make sure to check back to NJATVS every Sunday going forward as we will no doubt be on top of this show until we reach its conclusion. And then we’ll probably still write about it in a future retrospective piece.

Photo Courtesy Of CW

Photo Courtesy Of CW

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Regular readers of these pages know that this writer grew up as a huge comic book fan, during what’s known as the “Silver Age Of Comics,” (Late fifties to early seventies) and that I primarily read books from the DC Universe. Reading the tales of the Man Of Steel, The Caped Crusader, along with the Legion Of Superheroes, the Justice League Of America and Green Lantern, helped create the voracious reader that I am today. There’s one title I’ve yet to mention, as in some ways it was my favorite series, the stories of the Scarlet Speedster known as The Flash.

This is the season for “Comic-Book Television,” on the broadcast networks, as many shows try to capitalize on the success of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” received last season. We’ve already scene the debut of “Gotham,” a story set when Bruce Wayne was a 12-year-old boy and future Commissioner James Gordon’s a newly minted detective. We previously previewed “Constantine,” based on another DC title “Hellblazer.”

I had low expectations heading into the pilot for the new CW version of “The Flash,” chief among them that it’s airing on the CW Network. Although I’m hopelessly addicted to the network’s series “Supernatural,” every other series I’ve sampled from the network has failed to satisfy this viewer, including the other DC property the network airs “Arrow,” the series that introduced Barry Allen, the secret identity of The Flash.

However without giving too much away, “The Flash,” far exceeded my expectations in all areas, writing, acting, directing, storyline and the pacing of the pilot. The series has taken the story that I grew up with and updated it for a modern audience and bringing in elements in the pilot that emanate from elsewhere in the DC Universe.

Jason Jones will recap the pilot after the show airs next Tuesday night at 8:00pm EDT, so I’m purposely playing this preview close to the vest. However, Fanboys, comic-book fans and fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy rejoice, if the series retains the quality displayed in the pilot, “The Flash,” will enjoy a long and healthy run and possibly open the door for other members of the DC Universe.

The Flash Premieres Tuesday October 7, at 8:00pm on CW.

Photo Courtesy Of Showtime

Photo Courtesy Of Showtime

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Joining any series as it’s embarking on it fourth season would be a tough task, choosing a series with the complexities of the Showtime Original Series “Homeland,” at this point might seem near impossible, save for one fact. Season four shuffles the deck and sets up a new storyline after completing what I refer to as the “Trilogy,” in its first three seasons. I perceive the first three seasons of the show set in the world of the CIA and the people, organizations and countries it battles, as season one being the original, season two as the satisfying sequel and season three, while confusing and tedious at times, wrapped up the story nicely.

Before heading to see what lies ahead though you’ll need some knowledge of what took place during those three seasons. So lets break it down season by season:

Season One: After surviving an eight-year stint as a POW in Iraq, United States forces recover Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) in Iraq and a shocked nation hails his return to American soil. Except reality’s far more complicated than that and Brody’s family’s moved on in his absence. His wife Jessica’s (Morena Baccarin) believed that she’s a widow and would never see her husband again, so a few years ago she began an affair with his best friend Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff) and were talking marriage. Brody’s got two teenage children and they barely remember him, so there’s definitely an adjustment period for all.

Although most of the country sees Brody as a hero and a candidate for Congress, a brilliant but bipolar CIA operative Carrie Mathison, (Claire Danes) believes the Marine got turned during captivity and works for a terrorist, a theory that gets ridiculed by her superiors. However the agent trusts her gut and pursues the case on her own and things start adding up, making her accusation more credible.

Brody’s in fact working for a well-known power broker in the Middle East Abu Nazir, (Navid Negahban) who befriended him during captivity and left him in charge of protecting his young son, whom Brody strongly bonded with. However, tragedy struck when a CIA bombing attack, destroyed Abu Nazir’s village and killing his son. Nazir used that event, to turn Brody against the CIA and especially its Director William Walden (Jamey Sheridan) now the Vice President of the United States and planning to run as the current President’s term’s in its last year. Abu Nazir engineered Brody getting found and the Marine came back to his country intent on killing William Walden.

Carrie and her boss Saul Berenson, (Mandy Patinkin) debrief Brody and Carrie’s more certain that Brody’s working for the enemy. Berenson thinks she’s heading in the right direction, but won’t back Mathison’s plan to place the Marine under surveillance to CIA director David Estes, (David Harewood) however Carrie does it without permission with the help of a tech friend.  The CIA operative starts stalking Brody, following him everywhere and finally finds the perfect place to “accidentally” run into him, in a meeting for people with mental health issues. The former Sergeant notices her and the two start chatting, which eventually results in them having sex in a car in the parking lot.

Although Mathison’s attracted and developing feelings for Brody, she keeps going full-bore on the surveillance. Meanwhile Nick’s developing a bond with Vice President Walden, who actively recruits him to run for Congress. Things aren’t going as smoothly in the Brody home, as Nick and Jess adjustment to life as a couple once again is proving difficult. Then there are the conflicted feelings of his teenage daughter Dana, (Morgan Saylor) who has stronger memories than her younger brother of “life with Daddy,” however Brody’s still a stranger to her. She walks into the garage while Brody’s engaged in an Islamic prayer-session and Nick explains that he became a Muslim during his capture and Dana accepts it without question promising not to tell anyone including her mother.

The affair between Mathison and Brody heats up, but so do her suspicions and doubts that the former Marine’s exactly who he says he is. Berenson believes her case now’s got credibility, but Estes maintains blowing it off, thinking too much of her case’s based on circumstantial evidence. Carrie decides she’s going to prove her case and take down the apparent hero, so she goes off her meds. Not sure what life’s like for people who really deal with bipolar depression, but on Television the standard practice’s to stop taking your meds without confiding in anybody. The reason’s always explained that although the medication controls the mood-swings, these people decide that they’re far sharper non-medicated. But that move always comes with a toll down the road.

Mathison decides to confront her lover about her suspicions, telling that there are members of the CIA who believe he’s spying for someone in the Middle East and she’s one of those people. Needless to say the talk ends badly and possibly at the worst possible time as Brody and Walden will be at the same event in a couple of days and the former Marine’s scheduled to wear a suicide vest and blow himself, Walden and all around them to dust. Carrie gets wind of the situation and contacts Nick’s daughter Dana, telling her she must get her father to promise to come home that night.

A party official’s shot and killed by a sniper, which causes security to gather all the VIPs and put them in one small secure room, the scenario that Brody and his handlers assumed would occur. The former Marine’s already to take his life for the cause, already leaving a video saying goodbye and explaining the steps he took. He’s just about to ignite the vest, when his cellphone rings with Dana on the other end. She tells him she’s got a bad feeling and he needs to promise her, he’ll see her at their house that night. Nick tries to ignore her pleas, but she finally gets to him and he promises he’ll see her soon, thus ending the threat.

Nick finds out Mathison told Dana to make the call, he then talks to Estes and confesses they had an affair, but she’s now stalking him. Carrie gets in hot water with Estes and going so long without her meds, has her scraping near the bottom. She finally agrees to hospitalization and electro-shock therapy, which she’s undergoing when season one ends.

Season Two: Brody’s now a Congressman and one of the fair-haired boys on Capitol Hill. He’s on a very short-list from which Walden and his advisors pick Walden’s running mate in his campaign for President. After the bombing attempt failed, Brody convinced Abu Nazir that controlling the Vice President could end up far more effective than killing him and Brody’s worked hard to enter the inner circle that gives Walden advice.

Carrie, recovered and back on the job, finds out that her instincts were spot-on when the Agency somehow gets a copy of Brody’s suicide video. Estes never apologizes to Mathison or admits he messed up, instead he wants to use Brody as a double-agent to take down Abu Nazir. If he does that and resigns his Congressional seat, the United States will decline to press charges and he’ll be a free man.

Brody and Carrie start heating up again as Nick realizes his marriage to Jessica’s over, she fell in love with Mike while imprisoned and he’d assumed the role of the dad in the family. Brody tries to get Abu Nazir into a situation that will result in his downfall, but the Middle Eastern War Lord figures things out and comes to the United States.

Abu Nazir captures Carrie, but then lets her go, after Brody agrees to kill the Vice President. Walden has a severe heart condition and Brody exacerbates it, takes his meds away and refuses to let the front-runner to become the next President of the United States call 911 and he dies on the carpet of his office. Carrie returns to the warehouse that held her with a SWAT Team, Abu Nazir steps out of the shadows and looks like he’s reaching into his robe and gets gunned down immediately.

With nobody aware of his role in Walden’s death, Brody’s off the hook and a free man. He and Carrie decide to leave the country adopt new identities and start life over again. However, first there’s the memorial service at CIA Headquarters they both need to attend, but they leave early as Estes’ eulogizes his former boss at the Agency.

They head back to Carrie’s office to celebrate and discuss the future when Nick notices, someone moved his SUV from the parking lot to right in front of CIA Headquarters, while they are realizing what’s happened, the vehicle explodes destroying the chapel with all inside. The bombing was Abu Nazir getting revenge from beyond the grave on Brody. Saul, out of the country on Agency business, rushes back to Washington to become acting Director of the CIA.

All the evidence points to Brody, although he wasn’t involved and to make matters worse, the tape of his goodbye speech before sacrificing himself to kill Walden surfaces on TV. Claire and Brody’s plans for a new life together gone, she gets him to the Canadian border and he turns into a fugitive eluding authorities as season two concludes.

Season Three: Congress and the Senate want answers on the bombing of the CIA building and one Senator Andrew Lockhart’s getting lots of face time on the tube. Acting Director Saul Berenson throws the blame on Brody and seemingly throws Mathison under the bus, telling Congressional Committees, broadcast live on national TV that Carrie had an affair with Brody and she’s bipolar and a history of staying off her meds. Mathison gets into a debate one on one with Lockhart, as she addressed his committee and comes out looking bad. Operative Peter Quinn, (Rupert Friend) who joined the team during the second season, can’t understand while this avalanche of manure’s falling on Carrie’s head. She’s even involuntarily hospitalized spending a stint in the psychiatric ward.

Just when this viewer thought that the scenario they presented made no sense, they revealed they planned it that way. In an unusual move the show runners kept the audience in the dark about the plan concocted by Saul and Carrie, to throw the blame elsewhere so the real architect of the attack would act less cautious, making themselves visible enough to get caught. Berenson’s found his man, an old friend in Iran who worked with Saul when the Shah still ruled the country Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub.) Berenson’s investigation uncovers Javadi’s stolen large sums of money from Iran, a deed that would cost his life if the Iranian government found out. So once again Berenson turns an agent, as Javadi’s next in line to become President of his country. Saul plans to get Brody asylum from Iran for blowing up the CIA building, then getting tight with the current President until Brody gets the chance to kill him. Javadi then becomes ruler of Iran and the United States has the friendliest government in that nation since the they overthrew the Shah in 1979.

Brody’s not survived well in his travels as the CIA find him imprisoned in a South American prison turned into a junkie by his captors who filled his veins with Heroin. By the time he got rescued, other Marines believed he was too far gone to recover enough to carry out orders. Brody shocked them all however, getting back into top physical shape, hoping this mission would clear his name.

While this went on the gears were turning in the nation’s capitol, as Andrew Lockhart has surprisingly been named as next Director of the CIA, which could make for a tough transition as Berenson and Lockhart don’t get along. Although maintaining his game face, Saul’s crushed by the decision as he assumed the position was his. But ever the professional the mission comes first and he gives it all his attention.

After some very tense moments and some needless deaths, Brody gets asylum from Iran. The President and the former marine meet which is when Brody’s supposed to kill him, however he doesn’t. For the next few weeks Brody becomes a celebrity in the Middle East as he denounces the United States and Western culture. The powers at the CIA determine that they have to assassinate Brody, however Carrie gets to him first and warns him of his fate. She also tells him she’s carrying his child.

After an attempt on his life goes awry, he meets with the Iranian President and tells him all about the CIA plan and Javadi’s role in the plot and then kills the President. However he’s soon caught and he’s hung in public as a giant crane grabs the noose attached to his next and Brody quickly dies. The upside of the mission’s that relations between the United States and Iran are far improved from what they were before Brody’s mission, as the third season and the trilogy come to an end.

The game resets in Season four, as Saul’s no longer with the Agency moving onto the private sector. Carrie’s now stationed outside of the country as Bureau Chief in Kabul, while her infant daughter remains in the States being cared for by her father and sister. Lockhart’s reign as CIA Director seems rather bumpy from all the preseason rumors, could Saul be coming back this time as a confirmed Director of the Agency?

If you enjoy, intrigue, espionage as well as sharp writing and stellar acting, than Homeland’s a show for you, but be prepared this show’s not escapist TV. The writers seem to have a good handle on events in the Middle East and within the Agency. A critic a few years ago labeled it “the thinking person’s version of 24.” Never having seen the Fox series, I can’t comment on the comparison, but Homeland will keep you thinking.

Homeland Debuts Sunday October 5, at 9:00pm on Showtime.

Courtesy of Fox

Courtesy of Fox

Here at NJATVS, we hold quality above any criteria. With that in mind, it’s rare that we would consider a sitcom. There’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about sitcoms. However, it’s also rare that one stand out amidst the crowd. It is just my personal preference but, I have a hard time sticking with a sitcom. In recent history some that come to mind, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation and even the Emmy winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine. All of which I have started and grew tired of. Not to say they aren’t great for what they are but I’d much rather devote my time to say The Blacklist or The Newsroom. With that said, Mulaney is going to be different.

Mulaney’s namesake refers to the main character and inspiration for the show, standup comedian, writer and all out cleverly funny man John Mulaney. If his work is unfamiliar to you, his contributions to Saturday Night Live are significant and include but are not limited to Bill Hader’s character “Stefon”. I feel confident in saying that at the very least, John Mulaney is the best standup comic and comedic writer who isn’t a household name (even though he is to a number of us). On the high-end, John Mulaney is the best standup comic working today. Now I know that seems a little lofty, hyperbolic even. However, I do say this with a reasonable sample size in mind. I personally believe going to watch live comedy is maybe the best form of entertainment. I have seen my fair share and listen to standup comedy daily. I am fortunate enough to not only utilize a terrestrial standup comedy radio station but Pandora as well. So among all the names I could spit out that you may also not be familiar with (i.e Dan Cummins, Chad Daniels, Kurt Braunohler, etc)

While it goes without saying that names like Louie CK, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Kevin Hart, Bill Burr, Mike Birbiglia and Katt Williams may be more readily acknowledged household names, I would put John Mulaney up with any of them. He has a style, a delivery, a meter, and subject matter that appeals to all people of all walks of life. I’ve been to many shows over the years. Saw John Mulaney with Seaton Smith as the opener this summer. It was unreal. Comparatively insane. To be fair, I would’ve paid full headliner price to watch Seaton Smith do his own show. Luckily for us Seaton Smith is a significant character on the cast of Mulaney. Then John Mulaney came out and virtually burned the place down.

Now this is supposed to be a preview on the series Mulaney that starts October 5th on Fox. I really cannot overstate this enough. If you don’t know who John Mulaney is, you are doing yourself a disservice. “New In Town” is available on Netflix so my only question is, what are you waiting for?

Mulaney is a 30 minute throwback to the classic sitcoms of the 1980s and 1990s. This story follows the life of John (loosely inspired by John Mulaney’s experience, more in tone than actual events), as he juggles the stresses of a new job with a new boss (played by Martin Short) and the drama of his roommates and neighbors. The cast is impressive, which should speak to the quality of the show. In addition to John Mulaney (John) and Seaton Smith (Motif), Martin Short (Lou Cannon) brings an incredible presence to the role of a former standup great selfishly turned game show host. The incomparable Elliot Gould as the eccentric neighbor Oscar, “Oh Hell-lo”. Zack Pearlman as the lovable obnoxious local pot dealer, Andre. And who can forget the lovely Nasim Pedrad as the lovely yet bat s*** crazy Jane. Side note, regardless of what the reason may or may not be, SNL dramatically underutilized Nasim Pedrad and I for one am very glad to have an outlet to see here on a more regular basis.

The beauty of this particular sitcom is that we will have the privilege to see John Mulaney’s standup material make its way into the show as a portion of a would be ‘set’. I don’t want to make the correlation to Seinfeld, but at the very basic terms, Mulaney will also spotlight a short standup set in each episode. In addition to the actual standup, I am positive from what I’ve seen, that a fair amount of the story lines are founded in the life experience of Mr. John Mulaney. And if his actual previously done standup is any indication, those story lines should factor in nicely. If I see that they factor in “The Salt and Pepper Diner” or “Xanax with Batman” into a storyline on Mulaney, I just might lose it…in a good way.

There is also something to be said for the elder statesmen of the show. I would be interested in avidly watching Mulaney if it were just John Mulaney and Seaton Smith. However, any time you can add Martin Short and Elliot Gould into the mix, it has to be on your list of must see TV. If you haven’t already seen it, check out Fox.com and look for “Mulaney: Opening Act”. If you are not sold on what I have presented you, I cannot imagine you wouldn’t be sold after watching Mulaney: An Opening Act.

John Mulaney alone is worth the price of admission. Seaton Smith is maybe the funniest guy I’ve seen live that no one knows about. Nasim Pedrad brings a comedic commitment not found in most comedienne, or most men for that matter. Martin Short and Elliot Gould’s resumes speak for themselves. And while I am not familiar with Zack Pearlman, his presence on this cast and the footage I have seen of him say without question that he will bring a different element to the show that I am very much looking forward to.

On a site that is dominated by televisions elite of dramas, the inclusion of Mulaney should speak volumes to my expectations. The comedy found therein is genuinely funny, relatable, compelling and most importantly for maximizing viewership, relatively family friendly. Very hard to come by in this day and age of pushing the envelope comedy. I truly hope you and everyone else who comes across Mulaney on their DVR guide will truly give it the chance it deserves.

Finally, even if sitcoms are not your cup of tea, do yourself a favor and support live comedy.

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I only began watching Once Upon A Time a few weeks ago. I knew virtually nothing of the show. I assumed I would watch the first few installments to test it out. Two episodes in, I found myself irrevocably addicted, so I shot-gunned the entire series. I only finished a few days ago. I didn’t realize while I was watching most of the series, but season four premieres in just a few days! And it’s a good thing it’s so soon, because the Rumplestiltskin-sized hole in my heart is threatening to swallow me whole.

The writers (headed by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz) consistently delight in their ability to build an intricate universe, and their wrap-up of season three was no exception. The Wicked Witch of the West (Rebecca Mader) got defeated, although not before releasing a bit of post-mortem magic to open a time portal, sending Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) on a field-and-time trip to the Enchanted Forest, 30 years in the past. They made it back though, and in time for the christening celebration of Snow White’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming’s (Josh Dallas) son. We find out that they named the son Neal, in honor of the deceased Baelfire/Neal Cassidy (Michael Raymond-James), who died earlier in the season trying to stop Zelena/the Wicked Witch. In typical Once Upon A Time fashion, Baelfire’s significance is too complicated to briefly explain, but between the tearful announcement of the baby’s name and the “finally finding my family” speech from Emma, I will just let you know that I cried so hard that I woke up my cat, who was not in the room with me at the time. Because of Emma’s recommitment to family (and her growing interest in attaching herself to Captain Hook’s face), she decided that her son Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) and her would remain in Storybrooke. In other happy endings, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) eloped in a private ceremony in the woods. They wrote their own vows. More hysterical crying.

But, this wouldn’t be the Once Upon A Time we love without a fair bit of trouble brewing. Regina/the “Evil” Queen (Lana Parilla) received yet another kick-in-the-happiness when all found out that her new boyfriend Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) isn’t a widower, because Maid Marian (Christie Laing) is very much alive and came back to Storybrooke. Will we see an old-fashioned, jaw-dropping, soap-opera-esque love triangle in season four? God, I hope so.  The show-runners filled season three with thrilling action and stunning firefights, but this show is also capable of some devastating romantic storytelling, and I can’t wait to see it happen again. Witnessing Robin and Marian’s happy reunion in the diner would make it seem like Regina’s heart’s destined to get broken for what seems like the thousandth time. However, we learned earlier in the season that a man with a lion tattoo’s (like Robin’s) as Regina’s True Love and Happy Ending, and there have been allusions that Robin and Marian’s relationship was not as Happily Ever After as many legends imply. Will Regina’s ruined romance send her back to Dark Magic and revenge? Will the love and respect of her adoptive son keep her away from the darkness? Will Regina scheme and plot to ensure that Robin Hood remains her own? Will Robin even want to stay with Marian after mourning and moving on with Regina? So many questions! And we’ve barely even started!

Regina isn’t the only one facing romantic upheaval. I’m just hoping that Belle and Rumple get some quality honeymoon time going to town on each other before Belle finds out that Rumple first gave her a fake copy of the dagger that empowers and controls The Dark One (and, of course, himself as well), then killed Zelena with the real dagger after he promised Belle (during his marriage proposal) he would Zelena face jail and justice instead of exacting revenge. Will that final act of dark magic shake Belle’s belief that Rumple is still a good man worthy of her love? Are we really sure that Rumple kept the real dagger and gave Belle the fake? And, speaking of Zelena, her magic seemed to work on its own to open the time portal—was that its only purpose, or will the Most Powerful Sorceress In All the Realms be joining us in some form down the road? The melodrama is billowing like crinoline on a princess’s wedding gown.

Have you noticed how I haven’t even mentioned the final scene and Frozen preview? I haven’t even started talking about how an urn from Rumplestiltskin’s vault started spilling its guts on Zelena’s time portal and lit the thing up with blue goo, with the blue goo then turned into a woman with the most gorgeous blonde French braid you’ve ever seen, clad in an ice blue gown, who shot frost out of her hands and then marched out of that barn like she was gonna kick everyone’s ass? THAT IS HOW MUCH THERE WILL BE GOING ON IN SEASON FOUR. I’m sorry, but I haven’t caps locked once in this entire piece and I was about to explode.

But yes! Once Upon A Time is giving us a Frozen story arc, and everyone on the internet’s heart may burst come Sunday evening. The show has been very careful about what to tease for this, and in the interest of letting everyone marinate in as much self-imposed spoiler denial as they wish, I’m not going to get too detailed about the previews, except to say that we know it’s an 11 episode arc, that at least Anna (portrayed by newbie Elizabeth Lail) and Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster) will be joining the cast along with Elsa, and although the arc will have the typical OUAT fractured-fairytale treatment, there will be tons of references to Frozen. As Georgianna Haig, who is playing Elsa, said, “”You have to do a shot for every reference to Frozen. You’ll get very drunk!” Well, if you insist…

Season four is usually a challenge for shows like this, particularly on ABC (I’m looking at you, Lost!), but even I have to admit that things would have to go off the tracks pretty hard to wreck the quirky, fluffy, resilient fantasy brilliance that has been Once Upon A Time so far. There are dozens of other mysteries, large and small, that have yet to get answered and no guarantee that season four will provide us with all the answers. I think we all hope that it won’t tie things up too tightly (but I will say that if we don’t find out who planted the book for Mary Margaret to find and give to Henry soon, I might have a little tiny fit). We’re on the cusp of twenty-two brand new episodes of magic, true love, and some of the best wardrobes I’ve seen on TV in ages.

How many more days till September 28th?

Once Upon A Time Returns Sunday September 28, at 8:00pm on ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The landscape’s radically changed as season two of the ABC series “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” kicks off on September 23, at a later time than last year, now broadcasting at 9:00pm, perhaps reflecting a darker year for the series. The debut episode of the series, revolved around recovering agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) returning to S.H.I.E.L.D. to form an elite team based on a plane that he referred to as “the bus.” This season S.H.I.E.L.D. Chief Phil Coulson’s in charge of the recovering crime-fighting unit, after HYDRA breached their security and destroyed the organization’s credibility.

The sophomore season of the series, begins with S.H.I.E.L.D. barely functioning, its assets seized by the Government and most of their agents, dead, traitors, or have left the Agency for other opportunities. Coulson tries running the agency in the shadows, still doing the jobs they trained for, without leaving a footprint. The team refuses to give up attempting saving the world, they just have to do it far more discreetly.

Most of the team from “the bus,” are still on board, with Coulson’s closest confidante Melinda May, (Ming-Na Wen) now fully trusting the veteran agent. Also back for another go-round is newly minted agent Skye, (Chloe Bennet) as well as a member added to the team late in the first season Agent Antoine Triplett, (B.J. Britt) formerly John Garrett’s (Bill Paxton) before finding out that Garrett was working for Hydra.

For all you “Shippers,” it looks like Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) survived being deprived of oxygen without ill effects, however the FitzSimmons dynamic may have gotten damaged by Leo’s confession that Jemma Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) the love of his life. Simmons thinks of him as a brother and we may see a tense relationship this season.

Although this writer believed that former team member turned traitor Grant Ward, (Brett Dalton) got locked in a Federal Penitentiary and out of the picture in the upcoming season, that’s not the case as Ward’s featured in all the show’s promotional materials. What role, Garrett’s former protégé will play in this season’s storyboard’s unknown, whether he’s accepted back as a member of the team or they’re holding him to extract information, we’ll find out in the first few episodes.

We’ll also meet new characters in season two, starting with Kyle MacLachlan, playing Skye’s birth-father, a man Skye has no memory of. The description of him by others in the first season was that he and Skye’s mother were pretty close to being fully evil creatures, responsible for deaths of hundreds trying to track down their daughter.

Coulson will have some new allies as well including agent Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) a veteran, whose used to following her own agenda, but seems in lock-step with the Agency’s new chief. Also expected to join “the bus,” Mockingbird, (Adrianne Palicki) convinced by Coulson to join the cause. We’ll also welcome back Patton Oswalt as the Koenigs; a recent promo features Oswalt as Billy and Sam Koenig, both obsessed with lanyards and badges.

After a bumpy start, S.H.I.E.L.D. finished up its first season strongly, helped by the release of the Theatrical Feature “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and their parallel plots. The TV series will survive or fail on its own merits in its second season as they’ll lack the synchronicity they enjoyed last year. However, I saw the characters come into their own last season and with a huge task ahead of them in rebuilding the Agency, they can shine.

Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiers Tuesday September 23, at 9:00pm on ABC.

Photo Courtesy of CBS

Photo Courtesy of CBS

Warning: Spoiler Alert (sort of)

‘Scorpion’ is a new dramatic series on CBS combining a team of geniuses and a governmental resources to routinely solve problems our government would otherwise have trouble dealing with. Despite popular belief, the concept that the characters on the show are in some way smarter than the viewers watching the show has always been a cornerstone of successful dramas. Think of any show you love. Chances are good that there is a character that is smarter than you about a thing that is not critical to you in your life. Gregory House, Fitz/Simmons, Josiah Bartlet,  or Bobby Singer.  We are fascinated by watching smart people do smart people things. And this show puts four geniuses together to solve problems.

The cast is unique. The ‘team’ which one would have to believe is the star of the show is composed of Elyes Gabel (Walter O’Brien), Ari Stidham (Sylvester Dodd), Jadyn Wong (Happy Quinn) and Eddie Kaye Thomas (Toby Curtis). If none of those are familiar to you, that’s understandable. If Eddie Kaye Thomas seems remotely familiar, it should. He played S***break or Paul Finch from the American Pie franchise. Where the cast gets really interesting is everywhere else.

After the ‘team’ we find a slew of actors that have made their presence known in other productions. First and foremost is the waitress in the diner, Katharine McPhee who rose to prominence during the fifth season of American Idol (as I cringe in my seat). The character that pops off the screen is none other than Robert Patrick. Most known for his role as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement day. Patrick has made a name for himself providing very good but focused roles on such shows as The Unit, The Sopranos, The X-Files, Lost, NCIS, Burn Notice, Last Resort and even True Blood. Erick Avari who played the elder Suresh on Heroes. Joel Gretsch who had a healthy run on the show ‘V’ and the 4400, even if I know him from his role of Bobby Jones in movie Bagger Vance. And even Ernie Hudson better known as Winston from Ghostbusters 2 makes an appearance at least in the pilot episode.

The premise of this show is an intriguing one. Geniuses work together to save the populace from the bad things that they hopefully aren’t even aware are happening. There’s a nice, attractive waitress single mother involved. And even a FBI agent in their corner providing support and resources. Sounds good enough to watch. Then we discovered a wrinkle a little over a week ago. If the waitress is just a waitress in a diner, who cares? From the first promo we knew the waitress had a son. A son she believes is ‘special’. In what was believed to be the big moment in the waitress/lead genius relationship, Walter says

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your son is not special, he’s a genius”

We later would discover that was a set up for the more telling and important detail not only to the wrinkle in their relationship, but also maybe the biggest wrinkle in the show in the early going. Using geniuses to solve problems is not enough to bring all of these people together. Katherine McPhee is too big a name to just use in the pilot. And yes, I understand how referring to Katherine McPhee as ‘too big a name’ sounds ridiculous. However, she was a recurring character on Smash (a show I went out of my way not to watch) and has 15 acting credits on the resume. This wouldn’t seem right if she was the token CSI cameo. Back to the point at hand. The real ‘big’ moment that doesn’t include planes falling from the sky and amassing 20,000+ deaths, it comes in the form of dialogue at some point in the pilot episode.

“If you will translate the outside world to us, then I will translate your son to you.”-Walter O’Brien

As this is a new series, we have very little to offer the rabid fans in the way of plot point spoilers. I think it’s fair to assume that they will telegraph the eventual romantic conflict between Walter and Paige. Maybe there’s something between Toby and Happy. And at some point there will be a power struggle between Agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick) and his boss(es). Government agencies thinking outside the box tend to always bring with them conflict from above. Aside from that, I am excited to see what they plan on doing with this great idea long-term. I recommend giving this show a fair shake. Is it going to be The Blacklist, Gotham, or Person of Interest, but it does seem worth the time of the viewer with high expectations.

Scorpion debuts September 22nd and will be found on CBS, Mondays at 9/8c.