Hyphen TV: Freaking Me Out

July 24, 2012

Steve, maybe looking sad because he's on this show.

Biggest TV news this week was the premiere of Sullivan and Son, the sitcom starring stand-up comedian Steve Byrne. His character Steve Sullivan is based on real-life Steve: both have a Korean mother and an Irish American father, and both grew up in Pittsburgh. Character Steve, however, left his high-paying job as a corporate lawyer in New York City to take over the bar his dad Jack (played by the dad from The Wonder Years!) has run for years. Most of the pilot is devoted to explaining this premise, and, you guys? I am not loving the show.

Every character and joke feel like the broadest, most tired kind you've seen a million times before, and the one thing that really differentiates the show from every other -- Steve's Korean mom Ok Cha, played with a questionable Korean accent by Jodi Long (who played the Korean mom in Margaret Cho's All-American Girl as well, by the way) -- is simply a different flavor of the intimidating, overbearing mom/wife we've also seen before. The addition of jokes that play up the difference feel just plain weird: Jack fearfully/resignedly saying about his wife, "Koreans live forever. Them and tortoises," and "She's never gonna back down. She's Korean," seemed a bit uncomfortably unnatural, at least to me.

Moms and sons always look in the same direction.

I should also mention (fictional) Steve's sister Susan, played by Vivian Bang, whom I know best as Nina in Derek Kirk Kim's web series Mythomania. She's the unloved younger sibling who gets nothing but criticism and tough love from her mom while her brother is showered with praise. I'm sorry to keep ragging on everything, and I want to make clear that the actors are mostly fine, but Nina is just incredibly unlikeable. I'm hoping that the writers find some sympathy to her in later episodes? What did you guys think of the pilot and second episode? Is it really as bad as I think it was? I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt as they find their bearings, but I'm not seeing anything here beyond generic comedy. But hey, it's still pretty thrilling to see a main character of Korean heritage on television, so it's not all complaints.

The show isn't THAT bad! Put down the gun!

Also premiering this week was Project Runway, back for its tenth season. This time around we're watching Buffi Jashanmal, a somewhat eccentric designer of Indian and Australian background who grew up in Dubai, Kooan Kosuke, a very wacky and blond afro'd Japanese designer who now lives in Queens, and Ven Budhu, a technically flawless designer who was born in Guyana. The sixteen contestants each had to bring in an outfit they made at home before they arrived at the show, then they were tasked with creating a second related look in just one day. Chatty Buffi was safe with her shiny and metallic pink and black looks, but I'm concerned that I won't be able to say the same about her hair, which has shaved, rainbow leopard patterned sides that you know aren't going to grow out well as the show progresses.

C'mon, what'll that look like in three weeks?

Quiet, serious Ven landed in the top three with his gorgeous pink rose-shaped top/white pants and pink dress, and in my mind, he should have won. That top was gorgeous, and the judges couldn't stop remarking about how talented he is technically and how expensive his pieces looked. I'm sure a win is imminent.

I like dramatic cutting photos.

Kooan is ... a character. I just know I'll either be loving him or hating him within the next episode or so, but I'm tentatively enjoying his wacky antics for the moment. He came in with a truly off-the-wall, colorful creation that the judges worried was too close to a joke. His second look resembled one of those metallic sun blocking fold-out thingies that you put in your car window in the summer. Kooan landed in the bottom three, but the judges were intrigued enough to let him stay, and I'm glad. Genius or lunatic? We shall see.


Quick Anya update in "Road to the Runway:" she got engaged in January! And is in New York working on her line (called Anya). Awesome!

As other shows begin, Duets comes to an end: for his final performance, Jason sang "Heartbreak Hotel," and though John finally said that Jason looked comfortable, it was too little, too late: Jason came in third place. I can't say I disagree with you, America, but Jason, I sincerely hope you find your sea legs and get to recording soon.

We had our first elimination on So You Think You Can Dance this week; luckily, both our guys were safe. Cole and Lindsay opened the performances with a lyrical hip hop number that had Cole working a nerd look and going to a checkup with a sexy dentist (seriously -- they even danced to Lady Gaga's "Show Me Your Teeth"). Cole was clearly having fun with his character, apparent especially when he refused to drop the act while getting the judges' critiques. "You're totally freaking me out," Adam Shankman told him when he kept speaking in his affected voice. "Dude, let it go." Nevertheless, Cole was commended for his acting by all the judges.

I wasn't kidding about the nerd thing.

Dareian and Janelle also got a lyrical hip hop routine, this one about a guy going on a date with his lady and proposing to her at the end. The dance ended with a kiss, which always makes the audience go crazy. Like Cole, Dareian was praised for his commitment to his character, and the judges were atypically critical of the choreography, which they felt was too light and didn't showcase the dancers' skills enough. Hopefully Dareian has amassed enough good will so far to take him to safety next week.

"Yippee! She said yes!"

On Craft Wars we met Esther Hall, a knitwear specialist who teaches sewing and knitting at a local college in her hometown of Columbus, OH. She's hoping to win so that she can get money to open her own yarn store. For the keepsake box challenge, Esther used the provided keys and locks to create a "sand castle," though she ran into trouble when her assistant Claire tried to paint their cylindrical box, messed up, and then had paint seeping into the felt they used to cover it up. The judges were impressed that Esther lined the box, however, and she made it to the second round, which had the competitors constructing large-scale wedding accessories using materials like blue jeans, candlesticks, and invitations. Esther was especially excited about the challenge because she's a recent bride herself, and she made many of the items she used for her own wedding. Esther went with the very current trend of photo booths, building a wooden structure and then hanging a denim and fabric garland against the back wall. The judges liked her project choice and the creative way she hooked up electric lights to the candlesticks, but she lost out to a wishing tree in the end. Boo! A photo booth is something that people actually use at weddings! Hope you get that yarn store some day, Esther.

I mean it's not perfect, but it's cute!

Conan had some noteworthy guests this week, including the aforementioned Steve Byrne. Check out clips here, here, and here.

Freida Pinto also made an appearance to promote her movie Trishna. Man is she pretty. Her clips are here and here.

Prettiness for reals.


Dianne Choie


Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.



"Is it really as bad as I think it was? I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt as they find their bearings," . Show 1 was fairly weak, show #2 showed some character development. Lots of snappy one liners but little depth. . At this point Jodi Long's character is the strongest, show #2 pointed towards an interesting dynamic between Long's and Bang's characters. . Owen's mother has strong possibilities too. S & S seems to be a female character lead show, none of the male characters seemed all that interesting (outside of Owen?). . If writing matures this could be a good sitcom.

I hope you're right! There have certainly been many sitcoms with pilots I didn't care for that I've grown to like a lot. I'm disappointed to see the broad familiar characters, but I think you're right about keeping an eye on the ladies...we'll see where it all goes!