Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reviews 6/12/12 - 6/18/12

The first season of Falling Skies was hit or miss--mostly miss. It has a cool idea, a band of humans fight back against aliens following a quick invasion, but the theme never realized itself into good television. The show tried, once in a while, to capture the post-apocalyptic feeling that should have been ever present given their horrible predicament; however, this would promptly be tamped by these mind numbing scenes when Tom strolls back into camp, has a reunion with his boys, and everyone is happy. Almost every episode ended with everyone happy, thinking that everything would be okay, and if all is well, then there's little tension from week to week. The cheese factor was far too high for any serious drama to exist. The second season premiere improves on these problems somewhat--I suspect, by virtue of plot density--and is more watchable than the previous season. Everything turns out fine in the end (this feature of the show is going to stay whether we like it or not), but at least there are several important difficulties which won't be resolved in next week's episode. There is actually distrust going on with Tom and his sons, and among them, and Pope isn't playing games anymore. On the mythology front, we learn that the skitters have this parasite/machine that can implant itself into people, bore holes in jars to escape, and fly back to a skitter and jump in its eye--that's it. The cliffhanger at the end of last season is mostly brushed away, with a tall alien giving out platitudes about surrendering and whatnot before letting Tom go and shooting the other prisoners. I'm hoping Falling Skies improves this season, but I love the idea behind the show so much that I'm sticking around for it no matter what.

Girls has been a very controversial show, and after watching the season finale, I think much of the arguing had nothing to do with the show itself. There is nothing about the show that warrants too much discussion. One side says something negative, the other feels compelled not only to heap unwarranted praise on the show (like saying the first season is the greatest thing ever) but also to start attacking the other side personally. From what I've read in the AV Club, negative discussion of the show would often end up in accusations of sexism...... because that's the only reason why you wouldn't like it. I mean seriously, is someone saying that Lena Dunham unattractive sexist? And is Todd VanDerWerff having a section on Glee's girls each week equally sexist? (The funny thing is, I clearly remember people complaining about it before but he and other gentlemen never cared. I suppose the lesson here is that objectifying not super-hot women gets a knee-jerk MISOGYNY cry while objectifying super-hot women does not.)You know what's sexist? The guy in India who cut off his daughter's head and paraded it around town. The Taliban poisoning the water supply of a girls' school. A ton of those Hollywood director who use the casting couch. You see these people white knighting on the AV Club, directing their vitriol random commentators to make themselves feel better, and it's pretty sad. Why not attack every show with a hot girl who can't act? Attack HBO for putting all that T&A in Game of Thrones.

About the show itself, Girls is a fun show, with enough unexpected events each week to keep viewers on their toes. But let's not pretend Girls is anything more than a quaint, quirky show that fits in with the rest of HBO's comedies. This isn't revolutionary or anything. The characters are unlikable, spoiled, and full of neuroses (a pleasant way of saying they're self-obsessed). Shoshanna isn't too bad, but her character seems to come from an NBC sitcom, not this warped reality. We never see them put effort into anything, nor are they particularly good people. Somehow, they manage to survive despite not doing anything of value. In this sense, 2 Broke Girls is actually more realistic. Girls tries to go deeper than purely work issues, to find something inside of the characters that viewers would be surprised to find inside themselves, but I think these glimmers of humanity never quite come through all the unlikable features, although there are some intersections. In the end, I like seeing what the characters do each week since the settings and situation vary so much, but there's nothing actually redeeming about any part of the show.

In week two, True Blood has already fallen into the trap of previous season--a couple interesting parts and the rest useless. The writers just love to keep 10 separate storylines, thinking each should be in every episode, when these protracted plots serve to make the episodes almost unbearable. (Is it too hard to do it Vampire Diaries style, putting off a couple plots for a a number of weeks, then bringing it back in full force, so viewers don't get bored?) Worse, the portrayal of the Authority leaves something to be desired. Although their rituals and religion are cool additions to the show, the Authority seems rather incompetent. They don't know anything about what's going on, or what Bill and Eric have been up to. For a group of seemingly powerful vampires, you'd think they'd have a massive database of information about every vampire, and spies everywhere. Instead, they're interrogating and getting nothing. And why would they need Bill and Eric to get Russell if they were so powerful themselves?

Suits is easily the most compelling drama on USA. I guess this isn't too much of a complement, considering how USA executives purposefully dumb things down, but I'd also say that Suits is more compelling than anything on TNT (maybe except The Closer). There is serious drama on the show--Mike lying about his education, Mike's girl problems, and now the other partner, Hardman, returning--and that USA slickness and carefree attitude we've come to know. All of this comes together in a nice package, and it makes Suits not only a good USA drama, but a good drama in general.

If you were to draw a string from one Burn Notice big bad to another, you'd notice something peculiar: it's one long chain. There's one big bad, then another, then another, each related only to the one directly before and after. It's this kind of storytelling which has driven Burn Notice for five seasons and is unlikely to stop, as Matt Nix basically admits that the network is the reason why the show is the way it is, if you read between the lines a bit. (Exact quote: For a lot of reasons, many of them having to do with how the show works on the network — and I’m not blaming anyone for this — our season premieres often have to hit the reset button fairly quickly.) It's a little different with Fi in prison for the time being, I'm guessing until the midseason finale, but the show can largely operate in the same way. Anson pops in once in a while, Jesse fills in for Fi, Fi has to survive in prison, and the rest of the parts fall in place.

I have a hard time caring about Royal Pains's ongoing stories. I barely remember what went down with Hank and Evan's father, and I've tuned out the Boris drama. But nothing irks me more than the Jill stuff. Since the very beginning of the show, Jill has been an ill-defined character, being part of the show only because she had a relationship with Hank. Slowly, this included Divya, but she's always been a pointless character outside of her interactions with the more important characters. The writers then tried to spice things up by having her take a position in Uruguay, and this dragged on for a season. But the writers hit a complete reset last week, having the job fall through. I get it, she doesn't have a job now and sets up a situation where she can help Hank with HankMed, but seriously, this kind of string pulling makes Burn Notice look good.

While the new Dallas isn't as bad as the recent Blue Lagoon remake on Lifetime (which is a serious challenger for the worst thing created in the history of forever), it's also not great television. The story is similar to the original, with JR, a billion years old, and his son John Ross scheming to no end while Bobby and his adopted son Christopher try to stay afloat. The first two episodes contain a multitude of twists, and by the end of it, we really get the sense that most of the characters are terrible people who have no morality and will stop at nothing to get what they want. One of the clunkiest parts of the show is when the writers are trying to be modern, bringing in this alternative energy angle. It's comes off as juvenile with discussion about Elena and Christopher's college degrees, as if an undergraduate education will be enough to compete with firms with millions of dollars who are hiring PhDs. Yeah, Elena can totally turn the tides of alternative energy!

Franklin and Bash is a silly, stupid show. Each episode has a court scene where everything goes bonkers and flies in the face of every other courtroom show. It's this kind of thing which sets the show apart from others and why I continue to watch it.
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