For this time of year, there's a surprising amount of new programming out there to sample. Of the stuff that has come across my desk the past few weeks, the standout is Fox's "Glee."
It's "High School Musical" as if produced by Ryan Murphy, which in it is. The pilot that was sent out is still a work in progress — it runs about 49 minutes — and there's work to be done yet on the script and in the editing room.
But the musical numbers are worked in very smoothly and organically, and the cast is very cool, from Matthew Morrison as the earnest high school teacher trying to revive a once-proud Glee Club tradition to Lea Michele (late of "Spring Awakening," pictured in center with Morrison) as an ambitious perfectionist with designs on Broadway to Cory Monteith as the hunky quarterback who reluctantly gets in touch with his inner Steve Perry.
Throw in Jane Lynch as a maniacal cheerleader coach and you've got a show that I'd definitely watch again. "Glee," from 20th Century Fox TV, gets a big preview from Fox on May 19 in a post-"American Idol" slot, then is set to return for good in the fall….
…I really wanted to like NBC's "Parks and Recreation." On paper I like everything about it, from the star to the creative auspices ("The Office's" Greg Daniels and Michael Schur) to a setting that is someplace other than N.Y. or L.A. But the first installment, which bows Thursday, didn't make me laugh a whole lot. I agree with the crix, including Variety's Brian Lowry, who think it's too faithful to "The Office" mockumentary template for its own good. But I did particularly thesp Nick Offerman (pictured right) in the supporting role of Ron Swanson, boss to Amy Poehler's earnest bureaucrat Leslie Knope. He didn't get much screen time in the pilot, but they telegraphed a lot about his character, an anti-government government type, just from the poster of former college hoops coach Bobby Knight (in full finger-pointing roar) that hangs in his office. Frankly, Offerman's scenes were the ones that got the giggles out of this viewer. Rashida Jones, on the other hand, seemed miscast in her role as a nurse turned community activist. Still, I'll give "Recreation" a second visit, for sure….
…I can't say the same for CBS' "Harper's Island" (Thursday) or ABC's "The Unusuals" (Wednesday) ……After being very intrigued by the clips shown in January at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, I finally got the screener of HBO's "Grey Gardens" telepic, which bows April 18. Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore are fantastic as Big and Little Edie — there's no question who takes the Emmy for longform makeup this year — but the movie overall is a little less fabulous than I'd expected in its execution. However, the fact that it exists at all is a tribute to the determinctor Michael Sucsy (pictured above with Lange and Barrymore) to bring to the screen the back-back story of how Big and Little Edie got to where they were when the Maysles brothers came calling on Grey Gardens in 1973. Telepic marks Sucsy's first long-form helming assignment, and he is most certainly one to watch. Daniel Baldwin and Ken Howard are also quite good in their supporting roles…
…And finally, an overdue mash note to HBO's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." In this day and age, it takes real moxie to put on a show that revels in its simplicity, its sweetness and the natural wonder of its surroundings. It's precious, as is star Jill Scott (pictured with Idris Elba) and perhaps the perfect Sunday night balm for what ails this mean ol' world right now …