Fall Television Preview

Summer goes by fast. Warm weather and short sleeves are almost over for another year and flip flops, normally reserved for feet in the sand, will revert back to what we refer to when a politician changes position on an issue.

Truthfully, the only lengthy thing about summer is the wait for fall television shows to return and this season is going to be quite an array of fun. There are some favorites coming back and some new programs that will quickly find an audience.

SUNDAY

“The Simpsons” on FOX is returning with the voice-cast IN PLACE. This is big news, since negotiations seemed to have fallen apart over the last year. This animated series is back, starting Sunday, September 27, at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

Homer Simpson

My wife loves “Once Upon A Time.” The series is brilliantly cast, the story is ever-changing and the characters are masters of developing, from good to evil and back. Now, we are seeing Merida coming to the series, as well as dark Emma, changing the entire idea of what we’ve seen the first four seasons! “Once Upon A Time” returns for Season 5 Sunday, September 27, at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

If you were a fan of “Dallas” on TNT, you definitely have a hole in your heart since the series was prematurely cancelled by the network (which I still haven’t forgiven) last year. Thankfully, ABC has a similar program, starring Don Johnson and Chase Crawford called “Blood & Oil” that is set in North Dakota, where a family faces off against a cruel oil tycoon. The series is set to premiere on Sunday, September 27, at 9 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

MONDAY

“The Voice” makes its return with a different lineup (again) with Gwen Stefani returning to join Pharrell Williams, Adam Levine and the newly single Blake Shelton. You can catch the returning NBC singing competition on Monday, September 21, at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

One of the most watched shows on television is “The Big Bang Theory.” The geek-friendly show has lost some of its shine, but the cast is good and the opportunity is there to bring the story back to the premise that originally made the show great. This year, the boys with be making a road trip to Mexico. Hopefully, CBS won’t be moving the show to a different night again, which also didn’t help. The series returns Monday, September 21 with TWO NEW episodes, back-to-back, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

“Gotham” wasn’t what I expected, therefore, I gave up on it early on. I regretted that decision and had to go back and catch up on what I had missed. The show really picked up the pace late in the season and captured a vibe all its own. The new season gives us a more sinister Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), as well as a now crazy E. Nygma/Riddler (Cory Michael Smith). The Bat-Cave is now in play, the Joker is on his way, Detective Gordon is angry and the city of Gotham is witnessing the birth of villains with the worst of intentions. “Gotham” returns Monday, September 21, 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

TUESDAY

The Muppets

“The Muppets” on ABC isn’t quite the same as you remember. Miss Piggy has moved on from her relationship with Kermit and is now (possibly) dating Liam Hemsworth, while Kermit is dating another pig. He definitely has a type. The structure of the show is set up more like ‘Modern Family,’ in that it has cut-aways to an interview-type of camera work. This means that we can see our Muppet friends break the fourth wall and talk directly to the camera. Watch the ABC premiere on Tuesday, September 22, at 8PM Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back for a third season on ABC and some major changes. Director Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) are searching for more people with powers. Inhumans will have a part in keeping them from finding those people. The new season starts Tuesday, September 29, at 9PM. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

Everything old is new again! Fred Savage from “The Wonder Years” is back on television, opposite Rob Lowe from “Parks and Rec”, in FOX’s new series, “The Grinder.” Savage is an attorney, while Lowe is an actor who plays an attorney, in an all-star comedic cast. Look for Christina Applegate later in the season! FOX’s “The Grinder” premieres Tuesday, September 29, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

“Fresh Off the Boat” also returns on Tuesdays, this fall. Though it had a slow start last year, the ’90’s throwback series, following the Huang family, is above average and deserves to find a solid audience. Based somewhat loosely on the memoir of famed chef, Eddie Huang, the series a great representation of the life of a preteen immigrant and how he deals with moving to a new state. A great use of ’90’s hiphop music sets this show apart. ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” returns Tuesday, September 22, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

The CW is a booming network! They’ve found quite the support with their new shows and will continue to build on it this season. “The Flash” is one that really surprised fans because, even though there were cliffhangers, events actually played out and jaw dropping surprises were present in nearly every episode. Since last season’s S.T.A.R. Labs team no longer has a leader, look for The Flash to try to go solo, in an effort to avoid hurting the ones he loves. This fresh, exciting series comes back Tuesday, October 6, at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

If you were a fan of zombies and a fan of “Veronica Mars” and a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” then “iZombie” is probably already on your watch list. It’s a detective style comedy/action mystery series that breathes fresh air into a saturated zombie market. The CW series returns for its second season on Tuesday, October 6, at 9 p.m.Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

WEDNESDAY

“The Mysteries of Laura” was on the chopping block last year with ratings that seemed to lead many to believe it wouldn’t see a second season. It’s back, though and may potentially find its footing with a new year. Speculation of guest stars, like last season’s Melissa Joan Hart, may add to the enthusiasm NBC had for this cross-over comedy/action/drama. The return date is Wednesday, September 23, at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

“Arrow” is another “DC Comics” series that the CW airs, along the same lines as “The Flash.” Arrow is based on the “Green Arrow” comic book and has an incredible social media presence on Twitter and Facebook. Don’t expect it to make a lot of sense, unless you start from the beginning of the series. It’s a good time for you to go back and watch last season online, before the new season starts on Wednesday, October 7, at 8 p.m.Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

Wednesday night comedy belongs to ABC, so grab the popcorn, a soda, sit back and prop your feet up with the family. From 8PM until 10PM, there’s no reason to turn the channel.
Starting at 8 p.m., “The Middle” is back with a seventh season! Who doesn’t love Sue Heck? It’s the middle of the United States, during the middle of the week and middle child, Sue (Eden Sher) is starting college and Axl (Charlie McDermott) has to deal with having his sister even closer than before. That means Frankie (2 time Emmy winner Patricia Heaton) and Mike Heck (Neil Flynn) are home with one child, Brick (Atticus Shaffer). Wednesday, September 23, at 8 p.m. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

 

The Goldbergs

If you’re not watching “The Goldbergs,” we probably wouldn’t get along. It’s the funniest show since “Arrested Development” and the entire cast is perfectly cast for this ’80’s stroll down Memory Lane. Set in Pennsylvania, the series is narrated by Patton Oswalt and is seen through the eyes of young teen, Adam Goldberg (Sean Giambrone). It’s like an more modern version of “The Wonder Years,” only funny. The series returns Wednesday, September 23, at 8:30 p.m.on ABC. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

“Modern Family” has become a staple of ABC’s comedy lineup. We’ve watched the kids grow up, been a part of the weddings and taken vacations with the family. It was a groundbreaking way to present a comedy series, almost like a documentary comedy, with interviews and asides. Now that another Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) has graduated high school and her sister, Haley (Sarah Hyland) has a job, the audience gets to see a new direction for “Modern Family,” which should open doors of opportunity to see new guest stars. The series returns Wednesday, September 23, at 9 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

“Black-ish” was a hit in its opening season, last year and returns this season with Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. This fun series tackles tons of hard issues, from racism to dating, with a mix of old school and modern parenting. This is one of the funniest ensemble casts on television! This season, rumor has it that the show will be tackling “The N-Word.” The series returns Wednesday, September 23, at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

Comedy Central has a long-running animated series you may have heard of. It seems the seasons of “South Park” get shorter every year, but the anticipation is always high and they don’t disappoint. The new season begins Wednesday, September 16, at 10 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: DVR

The hottest show of last year is returning for a second season. While I couldn’t get into it at all, “Empire” is undoubtedly the biggest hit FOX has ever had. The season premiere for “Empire” is Wednesday, September 23, at 9 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: (If you’re already a fan) WATCH

THURSDAY

NBC had a potentially exciting premise for a television show several years ago called “Heroes.” There was an amazing cast, a solid fanbase going in and a good time slot. The problem was, nothing happened. It dragged on, without mercy, until it vanished. For whatever reason, NBC is bringing it back in the form of “Heroes Reborn,” only without the biggest stars and the fanbase. The premiere of this NBC series is Thursday, September 24, at 8 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: SKIP

In keeping with its decline in caring, NBC doesn’t have much to offer this fall. One bright spot will be a favorite, “The Blacklist.” We’ll see a different attitude from Liz this year, as she has just discovered that she was the one responsible for the death of her father. Now she is the prey instead of the hunter. You can follow Raymond “Red” Reddington starting Thursday, September 24, at 9 p.m.  Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

FRIDAY

NBC used to be the go-to for comedies, particularly sitcoms. “Undateable,” unfortunately doesn’t hit the mark. The series is on Friday nights, which is a great timeslot for a show that is slowly sliding off the radar. Never fear, the cast is good enough to land other shows very quickly. If you’re hoping to see this show, catch it while you can. “Undateable” returns Friday, October 16, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: SKIP

“Grimm” has a supportive fanbase that has kept it alive and an online community that rivals most other shows on network TV. It’s not for everyone’s taste, so a wide audience isn’t going to be reached, but a loyal one will. “Grimm” returns Friday, October 30, at 9 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: (die hard fans) WATCH

“Community” fans rejoice! Ken Jeong is returning to network television in a new ABC comedy, “Dr. Ken.” The doc has absolutely zero bedside manner, but he’s fortunate to have married a therapist, who might keep him from surgically sewing his foot in his mouth. “Kids In the Hall” and “The Middle” star, Dave Foley will also star in the series, along with Suzy Nakamura from “According to Jim” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The premiere is Friday, October 2, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. WATCH, DVR, or SKIP? VERDICT: WATCH

Take a Walk on the Dark Side

Members of Garrison Carida, local chapter of the 501st Legion, discuss costuming and giving back at Steel City Con.

Members of Garrison Carida, local chapter of the 501st Legion, discuss costuming and giving back at Steel City Con.

One of the best parts of going to comic book conventions is finding like-minded people who share a passion for your particular fandom, whether it be comic books, manga, television show or movie. I’ve found it’s much easier to strike up conversations with fellow convention-goers than most people I come across in everyday life. Ever since the Millennium Falcon first soared through a Galaxy far, far away and onto movie screens, fans have been captivated by the “Star Wars” universe. With “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” slated for a December release, interest in the series is at an all-time high.

Going to various cons, we’ve seen our share of mediocre “Star Wars” cosplay, but one group always stands out with their commitment to the fandom and attention to detail. The 501st Legion has members all over the world and ensures costumes’ authenticity through strict guidelines to guarantee every weapon and rivet are screen accurate. We recently had the chance to attend a panel at Steel City Con hosted by members of the Garrison Carida Imperial Academy, the local chapter of the 501st Legion with members in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

FullSizeRender-2The 501st Legion is the world’s premiere charity-focused “Star Wars” costuming organization. Garrison Carida was formed in 2002 and currently has more than 170 members. Not only does Garrison Carida strive for spot-on costume accuracy, the group also combines their love for “Star Wars” with the desire to give back to their communities. The group has volunteered with many charitable organizations including the Special Olympics, Walk for Autism, Cystic Fibrosis Walk, Hoops Family and Children’s Hospital and Relays for Life.

Because of the 501st Legion’s commitment to accuracy, members of the group are often asked to participate in official Lucasfilm events such as movie premieres, toy launches and other special events. One Garrison member was one of a few dozen who received the build kit for the new Stormtroopers’ armor featured in “The Force Awakens.” Garrison Guard Jason Romanoff, one of the group’s founding members, said although he’s had the chance to meet various celebrities, appear on the “Today Show” and visit the vault at the Skywalker Ranch, the most rewarding part of “trooping” has been giving back to the community. He said his favorite memory was presenting a custom 501st Stormtrooper helmet to a young Make-A-Wish recipient in Pennsylvania.

Members say they’ve really become family and often get together for “armor parties” to put together costumes. In order to stay active, members must “troop” — or participate in an event — once a year. In 2011, West Virginia members organized to form Squad Corellia, in order to provide more localized, and personal service to the citizens of West Virginia.

For more information on Garrison Carida and the 501st Legion, visit www.501stgarrisoncarida.com or email info@501st.com. For those aspiring padawans not wishing to join the Imperial forces, visit www.RebelLegion.com.

The Name Behind Your Childhood

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with his work, even though you may not know his name and have never seen his face. You’ve probably doodled or sketched the characters he made famous, or maybe had their likeness on your pillowcases. The toys you grew up playing with were based on the characters he had a part in bringing to life.

His name is Tom Cook. No? Doesn’t ring a bell?

Tom animated and directed some of the most incredibly popular animated cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s. His work includes everything from “He-Man” and “She-Ra” to “Brave Starr” and “Ghostbusters.” Now retired, Cook was a recent media guest at Pittsburgh’s “Steel-City Con,” where he was welcomed by thousands of happy fans, excited to finally put a face to the name they saw on every closing credit of their youthful Saturdays and weekday afternoons.

Tom Cook discusses his animation during a panel at Pittsburgh's "Steel-City Con"

Tom Cook discusses his animation during a panel at Pittsburgh’s “Steel-City Con”

Cook was a bus driver, content with his job, before he became an animator. He saw an ad for a college art course at a local school and thought he would like to expand his talent for sketching into something a little more substantial. In a short time, the teacher told him that they were looking for animation assistants for cartoons that were being developed for network television. Cook kept his bus route, but decided to take the step of faith into following his passion, or at least an attempt to test the waters.

Cook’s first animated sample was “The Flintstones.” Prior to his career change, he would draw Fred Flintstone from different angles, seeing how the positioning and movement would look. He began familiarizing himself with how muscles and bone structure can look by studying the work of Jack Kirby and the characters created by Stan Lee in various comic books. He saw that animating could show a level of human realism and still work as a cartoon-type of character.

Because he wanted to be a full-time animator and work as much as possible, he went to Filmation Studios, which supplied us with his most well-known years of work. He did the animation for “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and “Heathcliff,” as well as most of the Saturday Morning cartoons that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. He says the most difficult to animate was “The Smurfs,” because there were so many of them in every scene. “It’s not that I disliked them,” he said, “you just always had to draw so many.”

Cook worked on movies, like “The Cunning Little Vixen” and the “Roger Rabbit Short: Tummy Trouble,” which was associated with the movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” He says his favorite character to animate was always “Thundarr the Barbarian,” which aired on both, NBC and ABC. Cook enjoyed the realistic look and movement of the character.

Cook has made appearances at conventions all across the country, sometimes appearing with the actors who gave voices to the characters he animated. Although he misses 2-dimensional animation, when it made way for the digital animation we see today, Cook was able to transition smoothly, because he was familiar with computer animation programs and was able to help in the training of other artists and animators.

“Many of the animators,” Cook said, “ignored the change and went from making more than $100K a year to having to take jobs as security guards because they were unable to learn to adapt.”

Since retiring, he began playing drums for a worship team at his local church and got married. His wife knew he was an artist, but wasn’t married to him during the time he was animating. She was surprised when she attended a convention with him recently and a fan came up to tell him he was a legend. He has since used that to his advantage with her in saying, “Legends shouldn’t have to take out the garbage around the house.”

Three times Jon Stewart skewered West Virginia

“Daily Show” host Jon Stewart will sign off for good tonight, after 16 years of hosting the popular Comedy Central program.

Over the years, Stewart has focused the show’s satire on West Virginia numerous times. In honor of his long and funny career, here are some of our favorites.

There was the time then-correspondent Stephen Colbert visited Jefferson: “Folks around here don’t lock their doors. They deadbolt them and they jam a chair under the doorknob, and sleep with one eye open.”

 

Or the time where Stewart stopped having his bottled water and ice imported from the Mountain State

 

And who could forget the time Republican state Delegate Cindy Frich mutated into a Democrat after drinking water contaminated by the Freedom Industries chemical leak?