November TV Sweeps 2014: Let the Reaping, er, Sweeping Begin!

grim-reaperNovember sweeps began on October 30th and during the upcoming month primetime television is going to be strutting its stuff with the hopes of grabbing more eyeballs to get a much needed ratings bump and in some cases a show saving ratings surge.

Only a few shows have been mercifully euthanized thus far. FOX’s Utopia, NBC’s Bad Judge and A to Z, and ABC’s Manhattan Love Story were all axed in the past week. In the case of Bad Judge and A to Z, NBC did them a solid by allowing completion and airing (supposedly) of their initial 13 episode run.

Manhattan Love Story and Utopia got the hook effective immediately.

But the cancellations are far from over. Quite a few season one shows are suffering from less than stellar ratings and could be shuffled off into the TV afterlife by the end of November.

Conventional Television Wisdom has the following new shows in need of some viewer loving to get a full season:

ABC’s Selfie and Forever
NBC’s Marry Me and Constantine
FOX’s Red Band Society and Mulaney
CBS’s The McCarthys

Of the 7 shows listed above, I’ve watched 5 of them. A full television slate made me pass on both The McCarthys and Red Band Society. Can’t watch everything!

Of the 5 I’ve watched, 1 of them – Mulaney– has already been unofficially cancelled with its production stopped at a firm 13 episodes and its abysmal ratings. I like Mulaney the man and he deserves better than Mulaney the show so I’m not crying over this show sailing into the West.

Of the remaining 4 bubble shows – Selfie, Forever, Marry Me and Constantine – I’m concentrating all my ‘Please Don’t Cancel This!’ mojo on Selfie (wait, let me explain) and Forever (do I really need to explain? Scruffy Ioan Gruffudd!)

Marry Me is fine to watch on the treadmill but not worth the space on a DVR or a long winded save or cancel argument in a blog.

Constantine? Ah, Constantine is a more complex nut to crack but first why you should give Selfie and Forever a second chance.

JOHN CHO, KAREN GILLANSelfie: Yes, the pilot blew, and the initial premise of John Cho shaming Karen Gillan into being less slutty and vapid and a more proper ‘lady’ made everyone want to shake a collective finger at ABC, but the subsequent episodes have developed into a nice workplace comedy where John Cho’s character has eased back from shaming into nudging KG’s character into being a better, deeper person while at the same time KG is nudging John Cho to work less and live more. I wasn’t as enamored of KG’s Amy Pond on Doctor Who (blasphemy, I know! Donna Noble 4eva) but on Selfie she’s really shown a great propensity for physical comedy and timing and the ability to take what is a vapid character and instill some depth and signs of growth and understanding. John Cho is taking what could be an unrelatable tight ass tool and allowing some softening around the edges as he realizes that he’s not right all the time and that he has let life pass him by. The balancing act between the two as they get closer to center has been pretty fun to watch and you already believe that these people can not just be friends, but true best friends, and perhaps something more judging by John Cho’s character in the last episode giving KG some serious googly eyes and talking about how red hair on Asians wouldn’t be cute. Even if they don’t got down the road of will they, won’t they, Selfie at its best is a comedy about two polar opposites finding intimate human connection in spite of the intrusive and isolating while electronically connecting nature of the social media age. See? The show is deep.

img-ABC-Fall-Preview-ForeverAs for Forever: yes it’s highly procedural (Ioan Gruffudd’s character, Henry, is a medical examiner who works with the police) and it bears a passing similarity to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s New Amsterdam, with the main character being an immortal living in New York and looking for a lost love, but where John Amsterdam was broody (but, yes, hot), Henry Morgan is immortal and living in New York and a cutie and has a lost love, but he isn’t mopey about it. Forever plays on a more whimsical beat with Henry enjoying the knowledge and experience his longevity has given him and Ioan Gruffudd playing his role with real gusto. Henry is a cross between The Mentalist and Elementary and makes no bones about it; if you’re watching the show, you’re watching for Ioan’s performance but there are some other tweaks that make this an intriguing show including the fact that Henry lives with his adopted son, Abe (played by Judd freakin’ Hirsch) who is now in his 70s while Henry still looks like a strapping 40 year old man. It’s a unique dynamic that you don’t see these days where the younger actor plays a grump and overprotective father (which Ioan pulls off with authority) and the older vet is playing the more emotional, less worldly son but Hirsch and Ioan pull of the dynamic that makes for some fun sequences. As with all shows about immortals you get some standard period time flashbacks (complete with bad wigs and facial hair) to key moments that relate to Henry’s current day predicament as well as an overarching series arc of Henry trying to understand why his immortality happened (he was born mortal and then died during a mysterious lightning storm) and if there is a way to make himself mortal again AND a potential love interest who he’s trying to keep his secret from AND a new mysterious figure who also claims to be immortal but seems to have been warped by his extended life.

All this is to say, yes, you’ve seen this all before in other shows, but what makes Forever something worth tuning in for really is Ioan Gruffud have fun playing an immortal with a cool accent who doesn’t bear the weight of the world on his shoulders and actually smiles.

Constantine_Show-e13998331226341_zpsa9fdd6c4And now…Constantine. I wanted to like this show and it has a lot going for it in the form of Matt Ryan who is superb as the titular character and with only two episodes under its belt, there’s still time for them to turn this ship around and go the dark way of Hannibal, but so far, Constantine feels more like a place where old Supernatural scripts go to get produced rather than about a damned to hell SOB who has no use for Heaven or Hell but can’t stop himself from helping people and has a very much earned cynical take on the world.

The comic book this show is based on, Hellblazer, is Dark with a capital ‘D’ and it’s the darkness of this world and the politics associated with it that distinguishes it from all the other supernatural hunter shows that it’s being compared to.

For example: The pilot episode’s emotional story centers on John’s guilt for failing to save Astra, a little girl who was taken to hell by a demon.

That’s the sanitized NBC version of the story.

In the original version of the story, (SPOILERS! And I’m still streamlining a lot of the beats) Astra was a young girl who forced by her parents to be the entertainment at a demon sex orgy; to save herself, Astra, summoned her own demon to kill everyone there, which it did, after raping and tormenting everyone there including her parents before dragging Astra to hell with it because no matter what the reasons, you don’t mess with demons.

Quite a different impact when you have all the nitty gritty of the story. And I think that’s going to be the problem with this show going forward in that to be different and interesting and true to what it is based on, Constantine needs to not be on NBC but on Showtime or Starz where the story can go as dark, twisted, and charged as it needs to be. Like I said two episodes in, TPTB may just be lulling the audience in before revealing how far they’re going to push things and they do have Hannibal as an example to draw from on working outside the box and Matt Ryan is doing his best but the turnaround needs to be swift and incendiarily buzzworthy as the ratings for the show are close to the point of no rebounding and the DC Comics television experiment of owning one night a week on each network will have its first failure.

While I have my reservations that Constantine can rise to its true potential on its current network, I’m holding out hope that I am proven wrong and will send a little ‘Don’t Cancel This Show (Yet)!’ love its way. At the very least I want it stay on long enough to get some kind of explanation of just why Dr. Fate’s helmet was knocking around Constantine’s lair and if he’s somewhere out there waiting for the right time to come and claim it.

Ready for a month of ratings stunts and time slot musical chairs?

Let the sweeping begin!

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