The TV Gazette #3: “The Voice”, “The Last Man on Earth”, and more

Welcome to the TV Gazette!

The TV Gazette is a concept that I’m trialling: a weekly bulletin where I’ll round up anything interesting I’ve watched this week and what I’m looking forward to next week. The length of the post will depend on what I’ve been up to and what’s coming up, but I should be able to put something down every week.

Onto what I’ve watched the past week…

The Voice

At this point in The Voice, keeping the show fresh has to be the priority. The past eight seasons have been slickly produced and presented, but the show is undoubtedly in a rut — a very comfortable rut at that. The past season featured a winner that was as young as he was talented, Sawyer Fredericks, but his slow and relentless march to the victory made for a predictable season.

The ninth season premiere — the blind auditions — largely focused on the four pillars of the show: the coaches. It’s pretty obvious at this point that The Voice exists far better as a vehicle for its established coaches and guest coaches than for its unknown contestants. The blind auditions are the best example of that, as the coaches (Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams, and Gwen Stefani) plead for contestants to pick one of them as their coach while the studio audience chants the judges’ names. Considering how the previous seasons’ winners have failed to become half as popular as any of the coaches, the show is looking a little hollow in its star-making premise.

However, as the past eight seasons have shown, whoever auditions on stage is still hungry for a chance to achieve some success in their fledgling musical careers. The blind auditions also tend to be the most exciting segment of the entire season due to their which-coach-will-they-choose excitement, and invariably, the raw emotions of the contestants and their loved ones on display.

Occasionally, mercifully, the show gives us what it promises: that breakout moment. The best audition of the night came from Siahna Im, a 15-year-old who belted out a powerful rendition of “Fever” and sobbed with joy and relief afterwards:

Big Time in Hollywood, FL

A hidden gem from Comedy Central bites the dust…

Big Time in Hollywood, FL was a show that I really enjoyed watching, as it was not afraid to mix slapstick with dark moments and general insanity. The show’s premise — of the Dolfe brothers who harbour delusions of becoming famous movie directors and end up making a mess of things — was a perfect launchpad for what reminded me of a Coen brothers movie. The ten-episode season was short enough that the narrative was not stretched beyond its limit, but substantial enough for some wicked comedy, including a surprise guest appearance by Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), a story arc involving Cuba Gooding Jr, a monkey-turned-movie star and drug gangs. There was nothing quite like Big Time in Hollywood, FL in recent times, and I’ll be sad to see it go.

We go from the end of a show to the end of the world…

 You, Me and the Apocalypse

The newest entry into the end-of-the-world apocalypse genre comes from a trans-Atlantic effort that debuts on 1 October. Sky has teamed up with NBC for You, Me and the Apocalypse, which stars Rob Lowe (The West Wing), Jenna Fischer (The Office), Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Mathew Baynton (Yonderland) and Pauline Quirk (Birds of a Feather). They all play an eclectic range of characters, ranging from prisoners to a banker to a priest to a 5-star general, who somehow end up together in an underground bunker in Slough, England as a comet hurtles towards an unavoidable collision with Earth.

The end-of-the-world premise is nothing new, but this show looks to be more sophisticated than expected. Much of the show will focus on the events over the 34 days between the announcement of the Earth’s imminent destruction and presumably the apocalypse itself. Look out for the wide range of sub-plots that are woven into the main apocalypse storyline, including a crisis of faith and temptation from Father Jude (Lowe), a road trip by two escaped convicts Leanne and Rhonda (Mullally and Fischer), a monotonous life rudely awakened (Baynton’s character Jamie) and a slacker who has mere days to execute his bucket list (Joel Fry).

“It’s a really unlikely mixture of serious content and cheek… I don’t actually consider it a comedy although I know a lot of folk do. There are parts that are played for out-and-out comedy but I think it’s got more of a David Lynch feel. You know when I saw Blue Velvet for the first time I laughed all the way through even though it isn’t a comedy and I feel like this is the same, a sort of naughty, cheeky look at the end of the world.”

Rob Lowe

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth returns with its second season this week. The quirky sitcom from Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Forte received largely positive reactions for its first season, which focused on the aftermath of an apocalyptic event where a group of survivors, led by Phil Miller (Forte), come together in Tuscon, Arizona.

I’ll handily admit that the first season was uneven in quality — the middle episodes were repetitive and Phil Miller was developed into such an unpleasant character that any viewer would struggle to root for him as the protagonist. However, the show still had its great moments, starting from the brilliant pilot, which blended executive producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 22 Jump Street comic style with a lone performance by Forte as the desolate sole survivor (or so he thinks). The show’s high-concept premise is unique among the comedies currently airing, and despite its occasional iffy quality, I’ve seen enough promise from the first season to write those problems off as the inevitable teething issues experienced by a new show.

Will Forte was heavily involved in the first season — he was the showrunner, in addition to writing and starring — and he freely admits that he made mistakes in his first showrunning project. However, for the next season, Forte will relinquish the showrunner role to the incoming Dan Sterling (The Office, Girls, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), which should add more experience and stability to a promising project.

The back page

Thanks for reading the Gazette!

  • I’m recapping every episode of Survivor: Cambodia here.
  • Check out my Emmy awards round-up here.
  • My previous editions of The TV Gazette are here.

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