Reviews: New Anime REDLINE & FIRST SQUAD: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
Written by Scott Katz
Sunday, 15 January 2012 22:51
Anime fans are in for a treat as two signficant new films make their debut on Tuesday, January 17. From Manga Entertainment comes Redlineand First Squad: The Moment of Truth. Both films are exciting, fun, eye-popping spectacles, but each could not be more different from the other.
Redline comes to us from Madhouse, the animation studio whose crazed, over-the-top style has won accolades from fans all over the world. Some of Madhouse's previous efforts include television series and feature films such as Black Lagoon, Death Note, Demon City Shinjuku, Paprika, Record of Lodoss War, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and literally scores more. American audiences have seen their work in The Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight, Hulk Vs., and the new Marvel Anime series currently airing on G4. If you're an anime fan, the name Madhouse on a project automatically makes it must-see viewing.
Set in the far future, Redline tells the story of the biggest, baddest, most cutthroat racing event in the galaxy. Only adrenaline junkies with a death wish even consider trying to qualify for the competition, which is held once every five years. At the center of the swirling chaos, we find JP, our lanky, leather-jacketed young hero with a pompadour that is akin to Elvis' cranked up to 100. One of his main rivals is the sweet-natured, but headstrong female racer Sonoshee. Romance blossoms on the track, but the murderous cyborg rulers of Roboworld, where the Redline event is being held without their permission, threatens to crash this coupling before it can cross the finish line.
In a way, Redline is a throwback to the old ways of animation. It's completely and gorgeously hand drawn – over 100,000 individual drawings make up this film, which runs a generous 1 hour and 42 minutes – about a half hour longer than most anime films. The result of this seven year effort is immensely pleasing and the racing sequences provoke genuine giddy thrills. This is not a film which takes itself seriously at all, so don't you dare try to. It's admittedly barely there story has about the depth of a Fast and the Furious flick so the mandate is "look, don't think." But since this is Madhouse, there is more than plenty to look at and admire. The studio, whcih has a drool-worthy back catalog of influential hit movies and television series is at the top of its game here. Its long, arduous effort to get this film done has paid off handsomely. Redline is a triumph of traditional animation techniques (albiet supplemented by some computer effects and enhancements), and is what Speed Racer wishes it could have been.
102 minutes, Blu-Ray $29.99, DVD $24.98
FIRST SQUAD: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
75 minutes, Blu-Ray $29.99, DVD $24.98
Click images above to watch the TRAILERS!
Studio 4°C, which animated the other film under review, First Squad: The Moment of Truth, also has an impressive catalog of projects, and, in fact, contributed sequences to The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight just as Madhouse did. Anime fans have also seen their work in feature films such as Steamboy, Spriggan, and Tekkon Kinkreet. Among their current work is the popular ThunderCats revival series currently airing on Cartoon Network. With a pedigree of this high quality, it comes as no surprise that their latest feature effort, First Squad: The Moment of Truth is a legitimate triumph of animation and solid storytelling with neither getting the short shrift. Because Redline is a balls-to-the-wall gonzo roller coaster ride full of sound and fury, it does keep you at an emotional arms' length. In contrast, the often quieter, more contemplative tone of First Squad successfully draws you in and forces you to pay attention to the characters and to care about what they care about.
First Squad: The Moment of Truth centers around Nadia, a girl who cannot remember her past, but who can foretell the future. The story takes place in 1942 as the Nazi forces, who have already conquered much of Europe, have their sights set on Russia. General Wolf, an SS officer, uses supernatural forces to raise from the dead an army of 12th century Teutonic Knights to aid him in his conquest against the Red Army. In Russia, Nadia is taken to a secret facility in order to make contact with other teenagers who had special gifts and were part of an elite unit killed by the Nazis. Nadia enters the land of the dead to convince her former comrades to come back with her to continue the fight against General Wolf and his supernatural army.
The battle scenes are equisitely staged and the snow-filled environment of the Russian front is convincingly rendered. As is common among anime aimed at an older audience, the story is non-linear in its progression, and its action moves without warning back and forth through time in order to set things up and then fill in the backstory. An additional element that is rather unique to animated films is the inclusion of live action actors playing war veterans, historians, and psychologists being intercut into the flow of the narrative at various points and commenting on the story as if it were historical fact. This gives the film a faux-documentary style, which has proven polarizing to the audiences that have seen it. For our part, we really enjoyed it and felt it added a sense of depth and importance to the film. One caveat, however, is that it seems the necessary subtitles for the live action sequences only show up when the Russian soundtrack with English subtitles is selected. However, all the animated sequences, which make up the lion's share of the film, are dubbed nicely into English. We would have appreciated having English subtitles burned into the live action bits so that the audience wouldn't have to choose between English and Russian dialogue.
Each of these wonderful films could easily be spun off into an ongoing television anime series or at least a series of movies. In fact, First Squad ends so abruptly and with such a sense that there is more story to be told, that we hope there are sequels waiting for us down the line to pick up where things left off. For different reasons, we've been won over by each of these films and would like to visit their worlds again.
As far as the transfer quality is concerned, each boasts crystal clear video and powerful Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio in their Blu-Ray versions (DVD audio is Dolby Digital 5.1). Video quality is outstanding given that there are many difficult and intricate animated sequences in both films. There are no special features on First Squad, while Redline boasts over 90 minutes worth including a Perfect Guide to Redline, a Quick Guide to Redline (both featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with the actors, writer, and director), and the Redline 2006 trailer. Each of these movies is priced to own, and we can wholeheartedly recommend both.
Review: FLASH GORDON & JUNGLE JIM vol. 1 BY ALEX RAYMOND
Written by Scott Katz
Monday, 26 December 2011 19:59
With his meticulous sense of design, sweeping alien vistas, bold heroes, vile villains, and scantily-clad females, it is quite possible that artist Alex Raymond invented the concept of eye-candy for his seminal newspaper comic strip Flash Gordon.
The 1930s were a golden period for the newspaper adventure comic strips, and 1934 in particular was a signifcant year as it saw the debuts of two of the most celebrated comics strips of all: Terry and the Pirates, which bowed in October, and Flash Gordon, which premiered several months earlier on January 7.
Flash Gordon was created for King Features Syndicate as a direct response to the success of Buck Rogers, which began publication exactly five years earlier on January 7, 1929 by a rival outfit. However, the talent of Flash's creator Alex Raymond quickly brought the character to heights of popularity far surpassing its charming albiet relatively primative progenitor. No mere knockoff, Flash Gordon upped the ante for what a science fiction comic strip could achieve in both story and art. It helped solidify the template to which all ensuing space fantasy sagas owe a debt. Flash's arrival and battle with Emperor Ming on the planet Mongo, while ostensibly broken up into discrete story arcs, actually comprise a continuous seven-and-a-half year grand narrative the likes of which were not seen before and rarely since.
We can't say with full conviction that Flash Gordon was the most lavishly illustrated strip of all time – that honor would likely go to Hal Foster's breathtaking Prince Valiant – but both Alex Raymond and Flash Gordon are at the pinnacle of comic strip achievement and this masterwork is finally being collected in a format that showcases its full impact.
What makes these collections so mandatory for any serious fan of comic books or comic strips is that these books afford one an opportunity to watch a master storyteller take a strip from its embryonic
stages to its full potential. As the series begins, Alex Raymond keeps things neat and orderly sticking to a four-tiered, twelve-panel grid. As the weeks go by, the strip begins to find itself, and its underlying themes and concepts begin to coalesce. It takes a bit longer for the growth in art style to emerge, but by July 22, 1934, Raymond eschewed the old twelve-panel layout for good and began to open up his art by using fewer and larger panels of varying shapes and sizes. At this point, there was no stopping Raymond, and fans will be in for a treat as they can now bear witness with each turn of the page to the blossoming talent of a legend growing into his full creative powers. Soon, he was experimenting with camera angles and perspectives, and by mid-1935, Raymond's pencils develop the more intensely detailed feathered texture for which he became justly renowned.
In this first volume of six, the Sunday strips from January 1934 to May 1936 are reprinted – more than enough to be introduced to Flash and his friends and enemies whose names have seeped into the national pop culture consciousness: Dale Arden, Dr. Zarkov, and Ming the Merciless. In these initial strips, we also meet other key figures of the alien planet Mongo as Flash careens from one gloriously preposterous escapade to another: from fighting the Red Monkey Men for Ming's amusement to befriending Prince Thun of the Lion Men to battling for his life underwater against King Kala of the Shark Men to escaping from the City Above the Clouds led by King Vultan of the Hawkmen. All this while dodging the unwanted attractions and amorous attentions of every nubile femme fatale on Mongo: Ming's daughter Princess Aura, Azura the Witch Queen of the Blue Mountain Men, and Queen Undina of the underwater Coral City.
Flash Gordon, the character, is the typical heroic male that existed in fantasy before the 1960s: strong, confident, square-jawed, and uncomplicated. He sees a wrong that needs to be righted and just dives in and goes for it. His mission always takes precedence over his own personal wants or needs. His relationship and ever-impending, but never realized, marriage to Dale Arden always takes a back seat to whatever crisis is at hand. Flash is largely a cipher, personality-wise – his adventures are more interesting than he, himself is – but that's what gives characters like these their aspirational allure and allows their readers to project themselves into their places more easily than it would be with a character who is full of specific quirks and idiosyncracies. Our hero fights tirelessly against Ming and the evil hordes of Mongo for almost a decade without reservation, without asking for reward – without even so much as a bathroom break – just because that's who he is. No nihilistic pessimism here. The tone of the strip is empowering because it proudly embodies the American ideal that one good man can make a difference and that you could be that man.
Being one of the most popular comic strips of all time, Flash Gordon has been released numerous times before in a variety of formats. However, it's never been released like this. The folks at The Library of American Comics are releasing this series in their celebrated Champagne format. The book measures a large 16"x12.5" and presents the Sunday strips at pretty much their original full size. Better still, the book contains the Jungle Jim topper strips that debuted with Flash Gordon and were also drawn by Raymond. When each strip was given a full page to itself for several months, they are each presented in this book in their full page formats. Some of these pages are iconic classics of the series such as the full page splash of the horde of Hawkmen warriors bearing down on Queen Azura's forces, and it's a treat to see them presented in all their pulpy glory.
Alex Raymond's classic Flash Gordon Sunday page
(from June 16, 1935)
As for the presentation of the art, although it appears syndicate proofs are not available for use and so the results cannot be as sharp as if they were, we were still generally pleased with what we saw considering these were scans of old newspapers and fine lines – a tip of nose here, a partial jawline there – disappeared in both the original printing process and the aging of the materials over the last 75 years. We would make special note of the coloring job, which we found to be more subtle and readable than the highly-saturated colors in, say, the Checker Books editions of a few years ago. Everything is printed on heavy, crisp white matte paper making for a sumptuous end product.
Once again, LoAC goes out of its way to present wonderfully detailed supplemental essays to place Flash Gordon, and his creator Alex Raymond into historical context. Beyond the de rigueur Raymond biography, it was also much appreciated that they attempted to give Flash Gordon's writer, Donald W. Moore, his just and due credit in spite of the fact that no clear records exist on what the extent of his contribution was during the twenty-odd years he worked on the strip. Different expert suppositions are presented and all appear to have validity, but for us, it seems clear that Alex Raymond was always in the driver's seat and created the characters and the broad strokes of the story for Moore to script. We say this because the layout of the strip changed over time as Raymond began using fewer and fewer panels to showcase his growing artistic ambitions, and it would seem to be a case of the tail wagging the dog to suggest that Raymond began drawing larger panels simply to accommodate shorter scripts from Moore. In our estimation, the relationship between Raymond and Moore likely followed a template similar to the way daytime television serials are written using a tiered approach that starts with a head writer who comes up with all of the plot machinations and story beats followed by breakdown writers and script writers who structure the specific episode scenes and lay in the dialogue. Whatever the case, the Raymond-Moore combo made for some memorable and thrilling all-ages fun.
Today, we are truly fortunate to be in a time where printing techniques and publisher resolve have combined to present the classics of the American comic strip to a new audience in the formats that they deserve. Through the efforts of the Library of American Comics and other publishers, new readers can be exposed to classic writers and illustrators such as Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Roy Crane, Frank Robbins, Harold Gray, Lee Falk, Chester Gould, and so many others.
Creators like these are to be admired for their devotion to their craft and for their perfectionistic work habits because they could not possibly have known at the time that their efforts would be seen, discussed, collected, and admired 70 to 80 years after they wrote and drew it – that dedicated book editors would scour the countryside looking for the best possible samples of the strips and doing painstaking digital restoration and remastering of them in order to keep their work alive for a new generation of readers. All Alex Raymond, for example, could count on is that each Sunday strip would be seen for a single day and then it was highly likely that it would disappear forever after that.
Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim volume 1 by Alex Raymond is an important record of the artist's versatility as an illustrator as he moves deftly from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the outermost reaches of space without missing a step. And the stories are just plain fun reading to boot.
USTownhall RealStories presents NICOLINA ROYALE of PROJECT ACCESSORY
Written by Scott Katz
Saturday, 10 December 2011 14:32
On Sunday, December 4, we spoke to Nicolina Royale, one of the contestants on the new Lifetime Television cable series Project Accessory. Nicolina was eliminated after the third episode, which aired on November 10, but not before she became a fan favorite among the viewers of the series.
Just 30 years old, Nicolina has made a transformative journey throughout her life from her beginnings as a high school student instrumental in helping to pass anti-hazing laws in Minnesota to striking out on her own in Hollywood and starting her own accessory design business. Nicolina's story is both touching and inspirational, and her never-say-die attitude and strong work ethic are always evident when speaking with her.
Ms. Royale's most recent accomplishment was being chosen as one of the twelve finalists, among thousands of people who auditioned, to appear on the inaugural season of Project Accessory, a spinoff of the successful reality competition, Project Runway.
On the series, contestants are given challenges to make accessories – whether it be a hat, shoes, a handbag or jewelry – in a set amount of time with a given set of materials. Their creations are then shown to a judging panel which includes Kenneth Cole, Ariel Foxman, and celebrity judges ranging from Debra Messing to Kelly Osbourne. Each episode at least one contestant is eliminated.
Now that Nicolina has returned home to California, she was free to stop by our show and chat with us about all the behind-the-scenes events and what her experiences were like as a contestant on reality television.
What was her audition process like? What was it like shooting the series in New York City? Was she surprised to be eliminated so early in the competition? Which contestants did she make friends with and which ones drove her crazy? What would she change about the show's format if she could? Who would she like to see in the finale? In contrast, who does she feel does not deserve to be there? What advice would she give to an aspiring designer just starting out? Did she feel that the way she was edited for the series was an accurate portrayal of who she is as a person?
Always fun, effervescent, and outspoken, Nicolina dishes about all of that and so much more in our exclusive longform interview that clocks in at just over an hour. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy Ms. Royale at her most "ah-may-zing."
To learn more about Nicolina Royale and her line of affordable, chic accessories with a rock-and-roll edge, please visit http://www.nicolinaroyale.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @nicolinaroyale.
Click on the "play" button below to listen to the interview...
US Townhall RealStories presents BRUCE CANWELL of The Library of American Comics
Written by Scott Katz
Sunday, 13 November 2011 13:39
On Friday, November 11, we had Bruce Canwell, Associate Editor of The Library of American Comics, back on our show to give us the scoop on the upcoming projects that the Library will have available in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season and beyond.
Highlights include what promises to be the definitive version of Alex Raymond's classic comic strip Flash Gordon as well as Milton Caniff's masterpiece Steve Canyon. And what's this about a book featuring Chuck Jones' little-seen brief foray into the world of comic strips? Listen in and find out.
Steve Canyon vol. 1 1947-1948
The Definitive Flash Gordon &
Jungle Jim vol. 1
Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was
During our chat, we also run down the current status of each of the major book series from the Library of American Comics and when readers can expect the next volumes to arrive in stores. As Mr. Canwell is also a comic book fan, we also take a few detours to reminisce about some childhood favorites from Marvel and DC.
Pop some popcorn and settle in because this interview clocks in at almost 3 hours, and we think you'll agree that it's time well spent. For more information, about The Library of American Comics, please visit http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com
Click the triangular "play" button on the widget to listen to the interview:
To listen to the first interview we did with Mr. Canwell back in 2010, click here...
With relatively few specials from its competitors and a full lineup of new episodes, CBS increased its lead over 2nd place ABC by almost 2 million viewers. Two and a Half Men seems to have stabilized at just under 15 million viewers a week, but it looks as though The Big Bang Theory will reign as TV's top comedy for the foreseeable future. Fox, meanwhile, slipped into fourth place due to the absense of football spillover into its Sunday night lineup and the slipping ratings of most of its series. This allowed NBC to jump up to third place without gaining any viewers.
Over at ABC, Charlie's Angels was sent to cancellation heaven as of last week's episode. It's 8th and final episode will not air. The AMAs that aired Sunday saw an increase in viewers over last year's event and gave ABC a stronger Sunday than usual. It will be interesting to see if the pre-emption of the network's surprise hit Once Upon a Time will have a negative effect on the ratings when the series returns.
ABC scored its best week in terms of average viewers thanks to a strong performance by this year's Country Music Association Awards, which the network's highest-rated show of the week and pre-empted its Wednesday night lineup. ABC would likely have won the week if the CMAs were held on Thursday, a weaker night for the the network. However, this Thursday's Grey's Anatomy episode did gets its best viewership of the season for its fall finale, which was up against a rerun of Person of Interest, which fell out of the top 30. Once Upon a Time retained all of its viewers from last week and remains one of the few new fall series with any buzz although Revenge (pre-empted this week) is starting to heat up as well.
Elsewhere, there were no real surprises. The new fall series seem to have found their audiences, for better or worse, and most notched similar ratings to last week's episodes.
In cancellation news, yet another NBC series, Prime Suspect, was announced as getting the axe after its 13th episode airs. In January, The Firm, a sequel to the John Grisham novel and movie adaptation, will air in its timeslot on January 12, 2012 following a special two-hour premiere on Sunday, January 8. Josh Lucas takes over the Tom Cruise role as lead protagonist Mitch McMeere.
With the World Series over, CBS reclaimed its usual number one spot in the weekly ratings with a season-best thanks to a special broadcast of NCAA football on Saturday, which drew 20 million viewers and was a hair's breadth away from being the number one show for the week. It's been quite a long time since any Saturday show could make that claim. Elsewhere, CBS's lineup remained strong, although Two and a Half Men continues to lose, with a single exception, at least a million viewers each week . The Big Bang Theory, in contrast, soared to its second-highest audience level of the season, taking Men's place as America's top comedy.
Fox remained strong at number 2, but the shows pre-empted by the World Series did suffer ratings drops. New Girl returned after 3 weeks off and lost 1.3 million viewers from its previous episode on October 4. Terra Nova likewise lost a chunk of its audience – about 1.7 million viewers – from the last time it aired. Glee's return after a month saw its lowest ratings in two years. However, Bones returned to the lineup with its 7th season premiere and drew an audience of 10 million – about even with its season 6 premiere.
NBC saw its strongest weekly average in about a month, but its shows struggle every night. Grimm is a relative bright spot as its second episode only lost 600,000 viewers from its premiere, but Chuck, in its last season, is dying a painful death in the Friday 8pm timeslot, coming in 97th place with 3.1 million viewers. Brian Williams' debuting newsmagazine Rock Center brought in worse ratings than the premiere of the already-canceled The Playboy Club in the same timeslot. Rock came in 80th place with 4.1 million viewers. Besides football, only Harry's Law and Law & Order: SVU manage to crack the top 50 for NBC.
Over at ABC, Tim Allen's sitcom return, Last Man Standing, continues to lose a noticeable amount of viewers each week, while Once Upon a Time and Revenge are holding their audiences. Modern Family remains ABC's biggest hit entertainment series, but none of the other sitcoms around it are approaching its numbers. Perhaps ABC should consider moving The Middle to the 9:30 slot to form a stronger one-hour block. Happy Endings loses almost 6 million viewers from its Modern Family lead-in, and when Cougar Town returns mid-season, it will likely not fare much better.
Although this year's World Series started off weakly, it ended on a strong note as Friday's final game was the most watched Series game since 2004 thanks to a tight competiton that pushed the Series to a full 7 games – the first since 2002. The Series has wreaked havoc with Fox's primetime lineup which had a ton of pre-emptions, but a second week at number one made up for that. X Factor, airing a two-hour installment on Tuesday, ratched up its best ratings since its premiere episodes in September. However, Sunday's premiere of Allen Gregory, the final piece of Fox's Sunday Animation Domination lineup, debuted weakly at number 60 with 4.8 million viewers.
In its second episode, ABC's Once Upon a Time held up nicely and remained in the top 20. It was the highest-rated entertainment program on Sunday. CBS remains strong every night of the week and has top 20 hits from Sunday to Thursday. In contrast, NBC has problems every night and really doesn't have any blockbuster entertainment series to build on. Grimm debuted on Friday to 6.6 million viewers – the second best debut for a new NBC series this season, but it was good for only 47th place. Still, that was acceptable given that it was up against the final game of the World Series. However, football remains NBC's only real ratings draw.
The World Series battle between the Rangers and the Cardinals, although relatively low-rated, led Fox to its first weekly win of the season. Expect this to be a more regular occurrence once American Idol returns in January.
However, the other networks didn't seem phased by the Fall Classic at all as each network actually posted gains in audience over last week. That is, except for NBC who basically sat in the dugout on Thursday by putting up a night of reruns against Game 2, which drove it to a season-low average of 5.3 million viewers for the week. Once again, Harry's Law was the network's top scripted series, coming in at number 42 with 8.4 million viewers.
NCIS, now in its 9th season, remains the number 1 show for a second week, while Tim Allen's Last Man Standing lost about 3 million viewers and fell all the way to 30th place. Man Up! debuted even more poorly: it muscled up a wimpy 7.8 million viewers – good for 46th. Ratings declined from there in its second outing on October 25 (to be seen in next week's chart), so the series will likely be castrated shortly. On the plus side, another ABC series, Once Upon a Time, debuted extremely well on Sunday in a difficult timeslot opposite both the fourth game in the World Series and NBC's Sunday Night Football. If ratings hold, this could be the surprise breakout hit of the season as series that have been much more heavily hyped – Charle's Angels, Pan Am, Prime Suspect, and The Playboy Club – have all fizzled.
The Sheen-less Two and a Half Men loses a noticeable amount of viewers with each successive episode, but it's still the highest-rated comedy on television. Another Chuck Lorre series, The Big Bang Theory, is nipping at its heels this week, though.
After a 12-year absence from network television, Tim Allen returned to prime time with the one-hour debut episode of his new series Last Man Standing and promptly landed right back in the top 10. Only the premiere of 2 Broke Girls had more viewers for a sitcom premiere this season. Speaking of Girls, the show has lost about 8.5 million viewers since it began, but is still one of the highest-rated comedies airing right now and builds on its lead-in, How I Met Your Mother. Elsewhere at CBS, Person of Interest and Unforgettable have settled comfortably in the top 20 as has X Factor on Fox. The news wasn't all good at CBS, however, as it canceled How to Be a Gentleman for a second time after its single airing in its new Saturday night timeslot drew only 2.4 million viewers.
Back at ABC, Charlie's Angels was given its pink slip after its October 13 episode aired. However, an additional four episodes will be broadcast before the Angels are sent to cancellation heaven permanently. Given that Pan Am performed even worse and has lost almost half its audience since its premiere last month, we think it likely that this period drama will be grounded once its initial order of episodes has run.
Major League Baseball playoffs on Fox pre-empted its shows on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but vaulted its ratings over ABC to come in second place behind perennial front runner CBS. NBC crashed with its worst ratings of the season drawing an average of only 6.4 million viewers for the week and landing with a thud in fourth place. As can be seen in the charts below, NBC's highest-rated new series for the week was Up All Night, which only managed to come in 58th place. NBC's ratings will look even worse after football seaon is over. The Kathy Bates vehicle, Harry's Law, remains NBC top-rated scripted series landing in 40th place.
In week 3, The Playboy Club aired its final episode on NBC, and notice came down that Free Agents, another NBC series, was canceled after its fourth episode aired on October 5. Likewise, The CW canceled its ratings-anemic H8R after its fourth episode aired the same night.
CBS remains the number one network by a comfortable margin, and there's nothing on the horizon from any network that will unseat it from that position. The Tiffany network is unstoppable on most nights with Tuesdays being particularly strong as its three series all land in the top 20. However, there are some cracks in the armor: Person of Interest is not a worthy successor to CSI in the Thursday 9pm timeslot ratings-wise, and A Gifted Man provides only a mediocre lead in for CBS's Friday night lineup.
ABC has no breakout new hits, but its returning shows are still doing relatively well. Modern Family has been firmly ensconced in the top 10 all season and is the network's highest-rated scripted series. However, ABC's much-hyped Pan Am continues to hemorrage viewers. It likely won't last past a single season.
The second week's ratings are in, and the new series are starting to find their audiences for better or worse. There are no breakout new hits this year as the sole new entry in the top 10 last week, 2 Broke Girls, has shed about 7.5 million viewers from its premiere and has dropped to number 17 this week. That makes Person of Interest the current top new series, which comes in at number 13. It's ratings are off slightly from CSI's 11th season average in that same timeslot, however.
As we stated in our Fall TV Preview article, period dramas tend not to do well on network television, and that has borne out as The Playboy Club became the first casualty of the season. It's third episode, which aired Monday, October 3, was its last. Production will continue until the sixth episode has wrapped, and then NBC will try to see if it can be sold to another network like Bravo (also an NBCUniversal company). The other period drama, Pan Am, has also seen its ratings decline about 3.5 million viewers in its second week.
Three new series debuted this week, and two of those managed to attract a decent sized sampling: Fox's Terra Nova landed at number 33 with 9.2 million viewers opposite longtime favorites Dancing with the Stars (ABC) and How I Met Your Mother (CBS). On ABC, Suburgatory did better, nabbing 9.8 million viewers – more than three times its direct timeslot competition, NBC's Free Agents (3.1 million). Free Agents was NBC's lowest-rated series for the week, and we predict it will be quietly removed from the schedule shortly. The other debut this week, The CW's Hart of Dixie, starring The OC's Rachel Bilson, caught the attention of 1.9 million viewers – about what could be expected from a CW series.
Sunday, September 25 ended the first official week of the new television season, and on the surface, not a lot changed from last season: CBS was still the number one network, and NBC was still number four. Of the new network offerings, 2 Broke Girls, Unforgettable, and Person of Interest – all on CBS – cracked the top 20 as did Simon Cowell's X Factor (both episodes) on Fox.
In spite of a change in management, NBC's fortunes continued to dwindle. Its top rated series were The Office and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – both tied for 46th place with 7.6 million viewers each. That a major network cannot place a single entertainment series in the top 45 is astonishing. NBC was putting a lot of marketing muscle behind its adaptation of the British hit, Prime Suspect, but it pulled in fewer than half the viewers of its timeslot competitor, The Mentalist, which entered its fourth season on CBS. Football remains NBC's only bright spot as this week's showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts was the number 2 watched broadcast.
Over at Fox, X Factor, while much hyped, underwhelmed. The reunion of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul only mustered up 12.5 million viewers on each of its two airings this week. Cowell himself had gone on record saying that anything less than 20 million viewers would be a disappointment. Perhaps he meant the two installments added together? Still, the series is Fox's top-rated entry right now as Glee began its third season with 9.2 million viewers and a #41 rank.
Speaking of much hyped, ABC had solid-if-unspectacular starts for its soaps, Pan Am (#26 for the week) and Revenge (#35). Desperate Housewives entered its 8th and final season ranked #36. The network's remake of its 1970s classic Charlie's Angels was its lowest-rated new series coming in at #44. Thursdays at 8pm has been a difficult timeslot for ABC since forever, so if ratings hold steady, there's still a chance the series could get a full season pickup.
Based on this week's ratings, we'd predict quick cancellations for NBC's The Playboy Club and Free Agents. Watch them now while you can. Up All Night will likely hang around a little longer as it has gotten good reviews.
The CW continues to be a non-factor in the ratings as it is routinely beaten by Spanish-language network Univision. The CW's highest-rated series was The Vampire Diaries with 2.5 million viewers coming in at #98 – its only series to crack the top 100. America hates H8R – its second episode, which aired September 21, was the lowest-ranking new episode of any series on any network.