Superheroes Anonymous

Okay…I confess. I’m a book-a-holic. I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. And I’m blunt. If asked, I will gladly tell you what I liked and what I didn’t like about a book.

So…even though none of you asked, I LOVED this book.

“Superheroes Anonymous”, the debut novel by Lexie Dunne, is the superhero origin story of Gail Goodwin, known to the world as Hostage Girl because of her penchant for getting kidnapped by any and all super villains. Now, the kidnappings aren’t all Gail’s fault. The villains all think that she’s the girlfriend of Blaze, the one superhero who has a monopoly on rescuing Gail.

Only problem? Gail most certainly is not Blaze’s girlfriend. She doesn’t even know who Blaze is. Not that the villains believe that.

At the risk of spoiling the fun adventure this book takes readers on, Gail eventually ends up with powers and that’s where the real story starts. The reader is introduced to a colorful batch of characters. Angèlica, Guy, Vicki, Jeremy, Sam, Kiki, and Cooper are all superheroes living in the complex below Davenport Tower in New York City.

I hate spoilers, so I’ll be purposefully vague…the adventure Gail takes throughout the novel is funny, emotional, and surprisingly cliché-free. It helps that Dunne is a masterful storyteller and Gail is a witty, self-aware protagonist.

Dunne creates such a real world with her words; it almost felt like the superheroes would pop right off of the page.

I downloaded “Superheroes Anonymous” onto my phone on Thursday night so I would have something to flip through on my train ride into the city. I’m lucky that my dad was with my for my ride home, because I was so involved in Gail’s story that I would have missed my stop!

I strongly encourage everyone to download the (free) Nook app to their phone or tablet and read “Superheroes Anonymous”. Regularly, the book costs $2.99, but using this link (X) you can receive a code and download the book for free.

And if you’re like me and finish the book in the course of one round trip train ride to Manhattan, the sequel, “Supervillains Anonymous” is coming out on June 30.


Why Can’t TV Shows Last?

As a self-proclaimed TV connoisseur, the fact that TV shows now premiere in September and at mid-season, in January, should make it feel like Christmas has come twice a year.

Not so much.

Every year, dozens of new comedies, dramas, and everything in-between are aired on the Big Four networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox) and The CW. Every year, I pick a few that look interesting and invest my time by watching. This year there were 24 new shows that premiered in September and five that premiered at midseason (defined as the start of the new year until spring).

But how many of them actually make it to season 2?

The answer: Not many. Approximately 65% of new shows will be cancelled in their first season. That’s terrible news for someone that invests her time in new shows each year in hopes of finding a new favorite.

NBC has effectively cancelled six of seven new shows after less than a full season. “The Mysteries of Laura” starring Debra Messing was the only show to receive a full season pick-up order. One show, “Allegiance”, was cancelled after only 5 episodes (To be fair, they weren’t very good episodes, but it was still a fun show to watch.)

ABC had eleven new shows this season; two have been officially cancelled. But with ratings for several others not as high as the network would like, there is a good chance that more shows will be cancelled.

FOX has eight new shows airing during the regular season. Three were cancelled.

The CW only had two new shows on their line-up this season, “The Flash” and “Jane the Virgin”. Both were picked up for second seasons.

CBS ordered seven new shows to series and only one has been officially canceled, the half-hour comedy “The McCarthy’s”. Three have been officially picked-up, but the remaining shows suffer from low ratings and a lack of critical acclaim.

Of the shows that have been cancelled, I watched five of them. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when I think about the wasted storyline potential, the awesome casts, and the hours I spent watching these shows, it’s frustrating.

The fact that these networks all use the antiquated Nielsen ratings system to determine how many people are watching a show each week only makes it worse for people like me. A show’s chance of renewal is almost always based on the viewer count. The problem is: no one watches TV live anymore. People in the target demographic of 18-49 year olds are watching TV online, through their DVRs, streaming, and illegally downloading episodes. This change in medium makes it much harder for shows to last.

What’s the point of actually watching new shows if there is a VERY good chance they will be cancelled?

I haven’t actually found the answer to that yet. My best guess is some form of masochism.

The Odd Couple

CBS’ new sitcom aired on Thursday, February 19th at 8:30. “The Odd Couple” starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon is a remake of the 1970s classic starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Remakes in general make me wary, since they very rarely live up to their predecessors. I’m a big fan of Perry’s most famous work, “F.R.I.E.N.D.S,” so I wanted this show to be a success. I’m sorry to say that the pilot left much to be desired.

The basic premise of the show is the same, with a few modern updates. Perry, as the slovenly Oscar Madison, is now a radio sportscaster instead of a sports newspaper writer. Lennon, as the uptight neat-freak Felix Unger, checks the allergy reports on his iPhone just before making the recognizable sniffling noise from the original series. Oscar is divorced and trying to get a date by “accidentally” leaving his mail in the mailbox of his attractive neighbor (Leslie Bibb). Oscar’s trick works, and they set up a date. In a predictable “twist,” Felix appears at his doorstep, freshly kicked out of his own home by his soon-to-be ex-wife. There begin the unfunny shenanigans.

Perry and Lennon are both accomplished comedic actors, and they have a good rapport, as seen when they co-starred in “17 Again”. Unfortunately, the two men just don’t seem to click in this situation, nor are the characters believable as long-time friends. Perry tries too hard to match the gruffness of Klugman, but it is difficult to see him as anything other than Chandler Bing, a byproduct of the so-called “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” curse. Lennon fares better, his mannerisms reminiscent of Randall’s.

Leslie Bibb and Lindsay Sloane play sisters that end up on a double date with our protagonists. Neither one is particularly memorable. I would love to see their characters developed in future episodes. The first step towards that development is giving them story lines outside of being potential love interests for Oscar and Felix.

Yvette Nicole Brown, late of NBC’s “Community”, plays Oscar Madison’s assistant, Dani. Brown is a wonderful comedic actor, but she is vastly underused here. The show would be smart to give her a bigger role in future episodes.

I genuinely laughed maybe a handful of times. It was difficult to find something that was funny when the show relied on outdated gay jokes and long-suffering husband jokes made by Oscar’s two friends. The laugh track was also especially difficult to ignore.

It is extremely difficult to judge new shows based on their pilots. The writers have yet to get a handle for the characters. Hopefully, the show will become more tightly written and the laugh track will not be needed to tell viewers when to laugh.  With “Two and a Half Men” airing its series finale, CBS has a big hole in their Thursday night line-up. The worry is that they will be too quick to judge this show based on ratings and will not allow it the time needed to develop.