Saturday, October 13, 2012

More reviews!

My schedule will be wonky for a while until I catch up on everything I've missed. Here are a couple reviews.

Strike Back's third second (the second co-American season) was a mixed bag for me. While the visuals were stunning and the action frantic, the plot never took off. There was Knox and his wacky plans and not much else. Twists never really came and individual multi-part episodes weren't as good.

Yep, Grimm is going there with Renard and Juliette. That was the most predictable thing that could have happened and the writers choose it.

Beauty and the Beast is a misfire from the CW. The dialogue is horrible, the acting is horrible, and it's just boring. For all the sexiness littering the script, the pilot is just lifeless with Kreuk just going on with the flow when she's supposed to take charge. What's going for the show is that it follows The Vampire Diaries and it has a very similar setup to TVD, the main character being saved by a mysterious "beast" with a dark past. Also, the actors/actresses are good looking...

The Vampire Diaries: I was done with Klaus when the team failed to kill him midway through the third season. He'd already gone a whole season as the big bad, killed Jenna, and he's still here. From then on, I was annoyed by Klaus's existence. When he died in the season finale but showed up in Tyler's body, I was even more annoyed, and you can guess my reaction when he returned back to his body in the season premiere. Without Elena blood, he's not much of a supervillain anymore, unable to create the hybrid army he wants. Now what, more chasing Caroline? Most of the episode, consisting of Elena becoming a vampire while dealing with the council, was solid. The writers didn't cop out of turning Elena and there are some really good moments. The council part was a little more iffy, as a bunch of random people come out of the woodwork and cause lots of trouble for the vampires. Then the rev blows them all up. Um... okay?

Ranking the three Last Resort plotlines, I would say sub > DC > island. The sub part actually make sense because militarizes about the world want to get rid or steal the Colorado, which makes for some tense action scenes. In DC, Kylie poking around makes business sense, even if there is no personal reason why she's looking in places she shouldn't be. Then there's the island, which makes no sense. Between the flat SEAL and Dichen Lachman parts and Julian irrationally pissing off Chaplin, the island parts are just weird and seem to belong in another show. Another problem is that the show isn't describing anything else that's going on in the world. What happened after the nuclear missiles hit Pakistan? Shouldn't Chaplin be following this, in case there's an opportunity out there?

The CW is doing something right. Arrow managed to get good reviews and ratings (for the CW). It's a dark comic book adaptation with shades of the recent Batman trilogy, while keeping with the requisite CW sexiness. The pilot sets up Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow, and there are plenty of cool action scenes. There is plenty of eye candy with Stephen Amell's chiseled abs out in the open and Katie Cassidy who's a lawyer instead of Black Canary. Arrow has a mystery in it, the island where Oliver learned all his tricks.

I'm not counting out Supernatural yet, as there's been nothing in the first two episodes that are particularly concerning, certainly nothing on the level of the Leviathans. Kevin and his mother are great characters, funny at times and also very human when they need to.

Nashville's pilot does just about everything right. It's a sprawling drama with plenty of characters but also a very clear identity. We see the stratification of the music scene, from the aging superstar Rayna James to the hot upstart Juliette Barnes to Scarlett, a newbie who isn't even writing songs yet. There is also political drama brewing with Rayna's husband, a failed businessman running for mayor with Rayna's father's help. It's all a bit to take in, but the pilot does an excellent job with Rayna, giving her enough historical foundation so we can really understand her. Juliette, meanwhile, is given extra layers by having her mother having big problems. And Hayden Panettiere, despite the criticism, is quite good, pulling off Juliette's shiny veneer with ease while also doing the private scenes pretty well.

Chicago Fire premiered badly and probably won't last very long. I think I'll watch some more, because, well, the fires were quite impressive. That's pretty much all I have to say. The rest of the show is as generic as it comes.

Once again, Vegas procedural plots leave much desired when across town Vic Mackey, Savino rather, is handling the guys from Chicago. Savino has proven to be a savvy guy, not an angry thug like Rizzo. He has a legitimate business plans, knows how to handle problems diplomatically, but also knows when to get his hands dirty.

Revolution: Well, there goes Maggie. We didn't get to know her well, but there was enough weight behind her death, as the flashbacks reveal some information, up until her final, sad breath that it wasn't a complete waste. However, her death could have been far more effective if the writers had spent more time building up her character, especially her relationship with Charlie. Instead, all we get is a brief explanation, some short flashbacks, and tears from the girl who always cries. Up until the last minutes, we never saw Maggie and Charlie being particularly close or anything beyond friends. But the last minutes worked, which is mostly what people will remember.

As Homeland progresses, I predict there will be more instances where the writers have to really stretch the realm of possibility. The problem is that we know all the players and the general situation, so it's hard to come up with a serious twist. The second episode of the season ended with an impossible twist, Saul finding a memory card with Brody's confession hidden in the bag Carrie took from the house of the Hezbollah guy. The chances of this happening are close to zero, and no viewer could have figure this out. And yet the twist works in the narrative, because it puts Saul on Brody's trail. The downside is that the show becomes even more unrealistic, if that matters to anyone. The bulk of the episode is the tense operation to nab Abu Nazir. It plays out with Carrie and Saul waiting in Beirut while Brody watches it at the Pentagon. Brody foils the plot, but it's confirmed to be Abu Nazir which gives Carrie plenty of confidence. She may be home now, but with her appetite for the spy world whetted, it's only a matter of time before she returns to the game.

Dexter: Deb finding out about Dexter being a serial killer is the saving grace of the show. The rest of the show is still pretty shitty as we found out in the second episode of the season. The stuff with Louis is plain stupid, with no tension unless Louis turns out to be more of a psycho, in which case Dexter can easily dispose of him. And who gives a fuck about Quinn? Dexter, like The Office, has ruined so many of its characters that even if some parts are good, there will still be serious problems left over.

Okay, what is The Good Wife doing with Kalinda? She's basically become a generic sex kitten. The last time she had any real material was when Alicia found out about her and Peter. This thing with her ex-husband hasn't gone anywhere yet and there's no indication it will.

Revenge: The bitch is back. Victoria pulled out no stops in reinserting her back into everyone's lives and positioned herself to gain even more. I love the way Revenge just throws this massive twist right into the middle of the episode and essentially resets everything.

Alphas is awesome. I've said this plenty of times, but it needs repeating. Even more awesome is Kat, currently my favorite television character. The writers have an exact bead on her character and give her the best line. It always helps that there is depth to her character, explored in the heart wrenching reveal that the woman in the blue dress was from a TV commercial. Meanwhile, Rosen is becoming more and more disturbed, further blurring the line between the good guys and bad guys. Maybe Rosen is on the right side, but he's quickly becoming a sociopath.

Castle: Stana Katic has surprised me. After her complete failure in the 1940s flashback episode, I was worried she wouldn't be able to pull off the flirty banter. But indeed she did, putting new life in a show that's been sputtering for a while.

I don't have much to say about Hawaii Five-0, but I'm wondering why Michelle Borth was made a regular when there is no indication Catherine is leaving the Navy and joining the team. Is she really just going to help the team in her spare time? Surely she can't be searching for McGarrett's mother every week.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A couple reviews

Behind on television again so short reviews and a lot missing. :(

No ragging on Fringe's overall plot incoherence this time. I'll think of the show as an anthology, each season a different story with the same characters. In this particular iteration, people from the future have invaded, the characters we know have been frozen for two decades, while Peter and Olivia's daughter have been growing without them. Her development in this twisted world has gone way off the mark Olivia envisioned, adding an extra layer to an already torn world. The character dynamic in the episode is remarkable stuff and it's been the strength of the show through all the seasons. The plot, on the other hand, felt video game-y, like a quest to collect a couple items.

Grimm made progress last week, sort of. Monroe finally explains the whole shifting deal to Hank, and at long last the viewers aren't confused about the mechanics of the magic (took long enough, writers). The plot is pretty resonant this week, putting Monroe front and center. But then there is Renard doing his usual mystery business. Hint to the writers: without explaining anything, I don't give a crap. So as usual, Renard and this blond woman are talking in circles, skirting around the words that would actually shed new light on the situation.

It looks like the final season of the The Office is going to be a mixed bag. The two regular characters, Pam and Jim, are going to have a solid story to finish off the show while the others continue their sad existences. That's the problem when the show relied on gags for so long. The characters outside of Pam and Jim don't even have the possibility of a good plots because they been marginalized over the years.

Last Resort's ratings started off pretty low and went down in the second week expectedly. If it wants to stop bleeding viewers, it should pulling the gimmicks it did in the second episode. First, the RUSSIANS!! twist is too easy of a way to avoid any hard choices and then there's the reluctant SEAL comes to save the day "twist" to get out of yet another sticky situation. Beyond that, we get some good, needed backstory on the characters. Maybe the second episode exposed the limitations of the show, with the single island and single ship.

Supernatural hasn't been the same since the end of the fifth season. Years of plot and twists came together and once that was resolved, there was nothing left, as much as the writers tried. The Leviathans in the previous season were a complete bust, boring beyond belief. It's hard to get excited about this new season. It's an amalgamation of stuff we've seen before. Dean's been in Hell before, Sam's been in Hell before, and Dean's tried the domestic thing before. Shuffle around the names, and you get the new situation, Dean having been in Purgatory and Sam having tried the domestic thing. The season premiere dispenses with all this information as fast as possible in order to get the boys back on the road, so there are a bunch of flashbacks and not much else. I'm sticking around, but the show doesn't have much left.

If the rest of Vegas plays out like the second episode did, I'll keep watching. There's Lamb solving a case, Savino doing dirty work, and the two butting heads from time to time, all good enough for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reviews 9/30/12 - 10/2/12

I'm way behind on television again, so here are some reviews. I'll see if I can add more on Sunday.

Alphas needed a cool down episode after all the action in the previous weeks. It's not a bad episode, certainly not in comparison to other shows, but it wasn't up to the extreme standards set this season and in the previous one. Besides, the Rachel stuff, which was flat as always, there wasn't much objectionable to the episode. Gary was awesome as always and Rosen had some good moments. Next week, Kat!!!

Revolution is really trying to underwhelm, isn't it? These latest episodes have worked like clockwork. There's a problem, Charlie is incredibly naive yet handy (which makes her all the more annoying), a flashy action scene, some flashbacks, and then a twist at the end. The characters remain boring and it's getting pretty tiresome at this point.

When Warehouse 13 pulled the same obvious trick Dexter did in the previous season by making Brother Data part of Artie's mind, I rolled my eyes. The show has hit a creative dead end, and this was the final nail in the coffin, confirmation of the show's dead end. Myka and Pete had become a squabbling sideshow, Claudia and Steve don't have anything special after fixing Steve's problem, and Artie is under influence of an artifact, of which the level of influence is unknown so we can't differentiate Artie from the artifact. All in all, these artifacts and the characters have remained the same, and there's not much left in the show. Maybe the show will become more interesting in the second half of the season, but I'm holding out hope.

When Homeland won all those Emmys the other day, I wasn't sure it really deserved them, having watched both Breaking Bad and Mad Men much more recently. But when Homeland returned, all the memories came back and I immediately remembered what made the show so great. The episode sets the pieces for the season, showing us where all the characters are months after the end of the first season, before turning everything up a notch. The smile the episode title refers to is the turning point of the episode, and it's an iconic moment of television, crystallizing who she is, her desire to get down and dirty with these world events. Her demeanor, restrained earlier in the episode, completely changes as does the direction of the rest of the season.

Dexter ran out of good ideas seasons ago, culminating in the sixth season, the godawful batshittery overflowing with obvious, twists, and pointless side adventures. The big question going into Dexter's final two seasons was whether the show could reinvent itself enough that it could reclaim, if partially, the glory of the beginning seasons and not end up like Weeds, forever scorned after a promising start. The signs in the seventh season premiere are hopeful. There is lots of progress with Dexter's life for once, with Deb recalling things that happened to her, doing a little digging, and discovering Dexter's secret. And after lying for a majority of the episode, Dexter comes clean in the end.

Once Upon a Time is a show about magic where anything and everything can happen. As such, the writers make stuff up as they go and there is still some logic left over. Throw in fairy tale characters everyone knows and they have a hit. The second season resets the show without rhyme or reason, but promises interesting things will happen with new characters as well everyone's memories back.

Revenge started off a bit like a procedural, Emily x-ing off people each week while working a larger plan. Soon, though, that changed, and Revenge became one of the big surprises last season with its twists and solid characters. Its second season remains ripe for reinvention, as Victoria is shown to be still alive while revelations about Emily's mother have raised another can of worms. One complaint: the old Takeda looked cool and the new one really does not.

Positioned at Sunday 10PM after Once Upon a Time and Revenge, 666 Park Avenue was in the right time slot. It has magic going on like in Once Upon a Time, but also the darkness of Revenge. And Terry O'Quinn knows how to be this devlish kind of villain perfectly. The pilot is a solid piece of television, never slowing down to a crawl, and delivering some genuinely scary scenes in the vein of those you'd see on Supernatural. Along with good looking characters and the mystery of the setting, the show is near the top of new shows this season.

The Good Wife sort of fell off the map to a degree last season, moved to Sunday and not having anything too compelling happening during the season. Sadly, the season premiere doesn't indicate anything too big will happen this season. Lockhart Gardner has money problems and the campaign is getting more press, but the show still feels too comfortable for every character, except for Kalinda, who's off with her own wacky plot.

I'm not sure what to say about The Mentalist's season premiere. The CBI squabbles with the FBI, Jane pulls his usual tricks, and Red John gets to Lorelei. Nothing particularly interesting happens.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reviews 9/25/12 - 9/29/12

My new plan is to writer reviews on Tuesday and Sunday to lighten my load and so I remember more things. It's the beginning of the season, so I'm covering every premiere I watch, but after the premieres, they will definitely be less shows and words.

Starting from the pilot, Fringe's mythology makes zero sense. From the Pattern to the Bible stuff to alternate universes to Peter and Olivia in the fourth season to the Observer invasion from the future, nothing really fits together. In fact, Lost probably fits together better. The only constant between all the rambling storylines is the characters, and that's really all the show needs. The characters are so good that the show works regardless of how convoluted the plot is. So here we are in the fifth and final season, with the Observers taking over the world and our old buddies ambered for 20+ years. Does it correspond with any part of the show other than the single episode last season? No. Does it matter? Not really. The season premiere reassembles the crew and then looks towards a future which may be fixed. Fringe has always manages to pull the right kind of pathos out of thin air when it needs to and the premiere has plenty of it, with reunions abound. Fringe has also done amazing things with Walter Bishop through the years, and the premiere gives us plenty of good Walter content. Basically, the season premiere hits all the right marks, while ending with glimmer of hope as Walter sits in the car listening to music.

I have no clue why someone at CBS thought Made in Jersey would make it onto TV, but it somehow found its way onto Friday nights with a fair amount of promotion. But as the ratings for the first episode show, people aren't interested in watching Jersey Show meets The Good Wife.

For a CBS show, Elementary's main characters have surprising amounts of vulnerabilities, and the pilot doesn't shy away from them. Both Holmes and Watson have dark pasts and while they can solve crimes easily, they also have to contend with their own inner demons.

While I trust Eric Kripke to make Revolution work eventually, I have even more trust that Shawn Ryan will make Last Resort work, especially after an undoubtedly good series premiere. Okay, it's not the pilot of The Shield (seriously go watch it if you haven't), but it's pretty impressive stuff. The episode moves very quickly, skimming over certain parts like the SEALs and islanders, pounding the message home with scary ferocity. Broadly, the show deals with this issue of information and channels of communication. The USS Colorado has specific orders how to deal with from a certain channel, which blows up in their face and we can see the pitfalls in authority given limited communication. Then, the world is misled to believe Pakistan attacked the Colorado, and we can see how easily everyone can be manipulated to believe certain things. It's another manipulation of information when Chaplin shoots a nuclear missile at DC, making the bombers turn away. All the mysteries and plot entanglements, not to mention the tropical island, give whiffs of Lost, but Last Resort is far more grounded in the world and reality. The bad news, unfortunately, is that the ratings, like ABC's recent offerings in the Thursday 8PM slot, were weak for a premiere. Maybe the ratings will stay the same over time, but it's looking bleak for now.

In its sixth season, it's clear The Big Bang Theory is not about geeks making fun of themselves in a friendly way. It's more normal people making fun of geeks in a mean-spirited way. This is no different than CBS's other comedies in which various stereotypes get made fun of--different races on 2BG, fat people on Mike & Molly, gays on Partners, etc. We shouldn't be surprised when Howard is put on full display in the season premiere, shown to be as pathetic as ever.

The Office's second episode of the season expanded on the good parts from the season premiere, giving Pam a reason to want change as well, but the rest of the episode reminded us why The Office was so unwatchable last season. There's this other story with Clark, Erin, and Andy which is maddening. Clark turns out to be a creep, Erin remains a slimmer, perkier Kevin, and Andy becomes Michael, a buffoon, following his stint as Robert California in the season premiere. I don't even want to get into the hand-chopping business.

Up All Night spent another episode figuring out what the show is supposed to be in the second season with Chris working at home. Reagan has parenting trouble, Ava is being her usual self-centered self, and Chris isn't really doing anything. There's not much to say about the episode.

If Parks and Recreation were a more serious show, say, The Newsroom, then I would have a huge problem with Leslie and her soda tax which was aimless and stupid. (Pawneeans seem to be addicted to sugar, so taxing soda would have little effect on their consumption, which was Leslie wanted, and she doesn't mention anything about revenue.) What's more important is how she goes about doing her job and sticking to her beliefs. Even if she's being dumb, her can-do attitude is all that's needed.

I find it interesting how Criminal Minds manages to lock down big name actors and actresses so often. Now they have Jeanne Tripplehorn to replace Paget Brewster, which is a pretty even trade, even if Brewster probably belongs in comedies more than dramas. The problem, however, is that Criminal Minds has some of the most stilted, awkward writing out there, wasting the abilities of the people on the show who we've seen can shine if given the chance. The season premiere starts off with one of these moments when Garcia falls into the overdone talking about someone when they're behind you trap. The rest of the episode sets up Tripplehorn's character, Alex Blake, having her butt heads with Morgan as well as teasing the past between her and Strauss. Like the rest of the characters, she's not particularly interesting--standard Criminal Minds in order words.

The Neighbors is a really weird show about regular people living in a neighborhood of aliens. Its humor comes from how different the aliens are from humans with their customs and behavior, but there's nothing too funny. Then there is an attempt to humanize the aliens by showing how they have some of the same problems humans do. The show isn't bad, but I'm not watching another episode.

Modern Family picked up a slew of Emmy wins last Sunday once again signaling its hold over the awards shows. And its season premiere ratings were once again very high so we can expect plenty of years ahead. As for me, I haven't thought much of the show since the first season. It's a pleasant show, but it's also a static show, with minor changes once in a while which don't matter much on a greater level. I'll continue watching the show, but don't expect me to say anything about it each week.

Sons of Anarchy: After the CIA magic last season, I couldn't understand why the CIA couldn't step in this time and save Jax and the others. If Galindo is going to commit foot soldiers in prison to protect them, why not the big boys in the CIA? The problem with this line of thinking is that Kurt Sutter already decided Opie would die in that particularly manner, regardless of the situation. He has Opie ask Lila to take care of his kids, put himself in prison, and that's that. There is no particular logic behind any of this other than that it results in Jax's best friend killed, and Tig once again getting other people killed. This fully positions Jax to take the reins of the club and go wild.

Vegas, from the previews, appeared to be pretty exciting with Michael Chiklis as a bad guy and Dennis Quaid opposing him. I imagined the pilot would set up this conflict between them, propelling the show forward. Instead, the majority of the pilot is spent setting up a procedural. Perhaps CBS, after the failures of The Playboy Club and Pan Am, wanted more of a weekly backbone to the show. Even then, why have a pointless murder which is wrapped up in a tidy fashion? Why not start with the murder that the episode ended with?

NCIS's current arc never impressed me, and the season premiere was no different. The episode starts with all the main characters being safe from the explosion, as all the contract problems were worked out during the summer. The season premiere is as standard as it gets. The hunt for Dearing goes wrong when he escapes out of a window (which was stupidly obvious) and blows up FBI agents. Then he fakes his death in a car explosion before the team catches on and Gibbs kills him for good. Every was way too obvious for there to be any suspense. I can't remember the last time there was any episode with so many obvious "twists."

The Mindy Project's pilot isn't quite clear with the franticness from the start of the episode to the end, but there is nothing objectionable in the pilot and Mindy Kaling gets a lot more to do than she did on The Office. I'll wait a bit before making much judgment about the show.

New Girl is a fun show that doesn't really need a review each week. The characters are great together and episodes don't need complex plots to be good. Have them interact together in some way, and it's usually fine. New Girl changes things up by having Jess laid off and the first two episodes seem to imply that the rest of the season will be different for Jess.

Ben and Kate: With NBC churning out stuff like Guys with Kids and Animal Practice, FOX has turned into the new comedy leader. Ben and Kate starts with the annoying brother one might find in a CBS sitcom, but by the end of the episode, the sense of family comes through and annoying becomes heart-warming.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reviews 9/18/12 - 9/24/12

Looks like Blogger finally switched everyone to the new layout and it's quite a bit different (the old one worked fine) so if there are any differences in formatting that's Google's problem. Also, I'm thinking about writing 2 review posts a week, on Saturday and Tuesday to lighten my load on Tuesday and so I don't forget too much.

Oh hey, Alphas had another awesome episode. That's like 20 in a row now. The episode starts off weird with these flashbacks and time skips, then jumping straight into the action, and I was actually uncomfortable for a few minutes. But the writers, as they always do, manage to put all the pieces together, and the episode comes together brilliantly. Dani is locked up, Hick pretends to be with Parish's plan, and Parish has these super DARPA grenades which can kill millions if used in a certain way. We get to see some other alphas and their powers, deepening our view of the alpha community. The episode ends with Dani killed and a lot of sad people, although it was a bit silly that Dani, without much combative powers, would put herself in situations like that. One complaint: Parish does comes off as a legitimately scary guy willing to kill millions which ups the stakes; however, he has this stupid Malthusian logic which makes him seem more insane than brilliantly villainous. No Kat this week, but with Dani's arc over, we should be seeing more of her soon, hopefully with FBI training.

When Hawaii Five-0 really wants to, it can be a live-action cartoon, which was pretty much what the season premiere was, starting with Wo Fat's escape which was silly and ridiculous but also very slick. The rest of the episode makes little sense with McGarrett's undead (not the zombie kind) mother in a safe house along with Catherine, a Navy lieutenant, who will somehow be on the show much more, now that Michelle Borth is a regular. Then after McGarrett's mother leaves, they find out that she shot the ground instead of at Wo Fat. The parts with Chin were solid, though, and almost balanced how silly the rest of the episode was.

Serious Castle, amping up with the Big Mystery, is a pretty bad show, without the acting needed to push things enough and without the humor that made the show likable in the first place. Luckily for us, this only happens a few times a season when Andrew Marlowe puts his serious boots on. The season premiere has a few cute moments between Castle and Beckett, but it soon turns towards the overly dramatic, plot-heavy stuff that never resonates and isn't particularly interesting with the usual big-time politician behind it. I'm guessing next week's episode will be better.

Revolution is okay. It's not terrible like Terra Nova, but I also don't think it's as exciting as certain episodes of The Event. The main theme of the show, from the second episode, is the United States, or at least its flag used a symbol by the rebels. Included is the Monroe Republic confiscating all guns. The characters remain iffy. Charlie is a pretty bad character with her do-goodery and impulsiveness, but at least she can think on her feet. Then there's the mystery of electricity and Elizabeth Mitchell alive. Well, I hope everyone's in for the long haul.

CBS comedies are filled with caricatures of all sorts of people, but no gays until Partners. As it turns out, the gay caricature is the most annoying one yet, making even The New Normal look good.

If not for Max and Caroline (and Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs), 2 Broke Girls would be a pretty terrible show. The racial stereotypes are stupid and the jokes aren't smart. Still, those two girls make the show very watchable. The show won't get better, as long as the diner remains, but it's probably not going to get worse.

How I Met Your Mother has been dragging out the Mother reveal for so long that those still watching probably don't care too much. There is still plenty to like beyond Ted and his problems. The season premiere sets up the end point, with Robin and Barney getting married and Ted finally meeting the Mother. In the present time, though, there's Quinn and Victoria, so we know exactly where the season is going.

Treme is actually more direction-less than Boardwalk Empire. A lot of the characters don't even interact with each other on a regular basis, and the show has never had a real direction, even by seasons's end. Still, the common thread holding characters together is far more vibrant and alive than anything on Boardwalk Empire. The way New Orleans is portrayed and viewed by characters gives it an essential texture that emerges into this world. Contrast that to Boardwalk Empire, where the sets are detailed and pretty but ultimately hollow.

I've rarely commented on Haven, but I've kept watching. It's been a long time since the show's aired, so I'll add a few comments, which are actually a restatement of my usual complaints about the show. The Troubles. What are they, exactly? No one knows, and yet that's how every single episode is resolved. Something funky happens, Audrey and Nathan investigate, then a bullshit explanation of the Troubles combined with a personal problem and it's fixed. Rinse and repeat. The season premiere actually has something cool going on--aliens. But alas, it's the Troubles again. Then there's the mystery man and life goes on.

Wilfred's season finale made fun of Battlestar Galactica and it made fun of Lost in the previous season, making explicit references to the two shows which led viewers down an unending rabbit hole. Along with the random Amanda being crazy twist, the show seemed to resemble Children's Hospital, a parody with no sense or reason to the plot or continuity. I still have no clue what the show is supposed to be, whether it's supposed to be a legitimate exploration into Ryan's disturbed mind or just a funny show about a guy in a dog costume. Regardless, I like watching the show for all the amusing moments.

Parks and Recreation's season premiere had funny moments, but it couldn't have this joyously funny tone throughout, because the underlying problems with Leslie in Washington were laid bare as the episode continued. She came to get things done, instead realizing the impossibility of everything, the largeness of DC and how puny she is compared to everything else. She goes back to Pawnee and promises to get things done herself. The Ron story was a bit odd, as he was in charge of an event and failed to deliver, but we saw a smidgen of caring somewhere in his meat-loving heart.

For the first time in a very long time, it felt like The Office was going to have a good season. This is likely only because this will definitely be the final season, but it's never too late to change things and give something good for those fans sticking around (however little may be left, looking at the pathetic ratings). For starters, there are no new people other than the two inconsequential newbies, meaning we won't have another Robert California disaster this season. And after some thinking, Jim gets on board with his friend's business. Change is on the way for everyone.

Up All Night went through a major retooling, putting Chris back to work and canceling the Ava show which put Reagan back at work. I'll have to watch more episodes to decide whether this was a good move or not, but the initial concept of Chris staying at home while Reagan runs the Ava Show had to go dry eventually. Maybe such a dramatic overhaul wasn't needed, but there's certainly a limited amount of things that can happen in the original conception.

Glee: Britney 2.0 wasn't good, as one might expect. I don't think I'll say something about Glee every week, because thinking about the show just makes my blood pressure high.

I watch Royal Pains every week, but I never really have much to say. The Boris episodes are dumb in their attempts to be serious and drum up some drama. The characters developments are usually superficial, as guests sometimes stick around for a while then move on. Royal Pains still has that summer vibe that

White Collar hasn't been particularly interesting this season. While the show went into Neal's past this season, we haven't really learned anything too relevant about him that changes, or even enhances, what we know about him. Sam is Neal's father... so what?

The first season of Covert Affairs is one of the best first seasons of a television show in recent memory. The show felt fresh and Piper Perabo did a great job portraying Annie as a new agent still figuring out how to do the job. Then the second season came around and it was flat out boring. The third season captured the glory of the first season, putting Annie in a interesting situation with Simon. Annie proved herself multiple times and has confidence she didn't have earlier, and this can-do attitude pushed her forward. At the same time, though, she'd never do anything like this before and took a big risk like this. In the end, it all blew up with Lena being the mole and Annie gets her revenge. With all that happened to her this season, Annie should take stock and learn some lessons.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reviews 9/11-12 - 9/17/12

Revolution: Eric Kripke is one of the best showrunners out there. He made Supernatural into a top-tier show (at least before the last two seasons), allowing it to go far beyond its horror roots. Despite this, the pilot of Revolution is pretty bad. It's all mystery and little else. In fact, I would have guessed JJ Abrams wrote the pilot if I didn't actually know Kripke was the writer. Revolution is supposed to be about science. All electricity stops working one day, but everything else continues to work. To continue watching, the audience has to accept this despite what real science says. So okay, years after this happens, humans are miraculously still alive, able to form peaceful communities and militias. Again, we have to accept that this happens even if it doesn't make sense and none of this is explained. Beyond the electricity part of the show are the characters--teenage characters. Teenage characters, by and large, suck. The writing is usually shoddy and the acting isn't much better. Not all of the characters are teens, but there are enough to be off-putting.The pilot gets off to a bad start with Generic Stupid Teen getting his father killed, and the main objective of characters is to rescue this idiot. Well, it's up to Kripke to make this work and the ratings started off very high (4.1), so he should have enough time.

I watched the last half of Boardwalk Empire's second season in succession after a long break from the show and I got more into the show than I had watching it week by week. The dialogue becomes more familiar, and the little things the show does become more recognizable. Months after catching up, the third season premiere came around, which I watched and I was struck by how little I cared about the characters. Stuff is certainly happening--characters being despicable, violent, wistful, people getting killed, deals being made--and yet I'm not eagerly awaiting next week's episode. I don't have any problems with the show, and I'm a lot more positive about Van Alden now that he's crossed paths with Capone, but the show leaves me cold. Maybe I'll do the same thing I did with the previous season.

Alphas was awesome once again. I don't think there have been any duds this season which makes the low ratings ever more disappointing. There was tons of Kat this week and lots of her spunky cuteness (and more squabbling with Gary!), but there was also introduction to her past, which was sad and scary. The other part of the episode is Rosen confirming that Dani is involved with Parish which ends with a gut-wrenching scene with Dani in interrogation, asking for a chip in her head. I don't know how Alphas continues to do it every week, but everything the writers wanted landed squarely in the right place.

There are times in The Mob Doctor's pilot when it seems like it won't just be another medical procedural, when the main character, Grace, might actually do something unforgivable and get caught in a deeper mess. But by the end of the episode, everything is fine, the mob boss is dead, and Grace is indebted to a seemingly nicer mobster who knows her well. All signs point to normal procedural stuff in the next episode.

The Gormogon arc is by far the coolest arc of Bones, with an interesting mystery to go along with the crime solving. That was seasons ago, and Hart Hanson is still trying to recapture that, introducing the sniper Broadsky and now Pelant. The problem is, the Gormogon arc was about history with a certain tradition through the ages, bringing a National Treasure vibe to the show along with the murders. The Pelant arc is about computer magic. He uses computer magic and Angela fights back with her own computer magic. And of course the only way to communicate computer magic is through dialogue, which is more or less rubbish. Worst, the fun of Bones is sucked out because Pelant is so dangerous, and an unfun Bones is not something I want to watch.

When Weeds returned to Agrestic, now called Regrestic, in the penultimate episode, I believed the show had turned a corner and would deliver a good series finale. For a show that went cuckoo years and years ago, this was a hopeful, but not entirely unrealistic, idea. As it turns out, the series finale wasn't great but it also wasn't awful. It's way too long, an absurd amount of time spent on Doug's pointless cult while taking far too long to reach the critical points. Finally, we get to the main point: Nancy is alone by her own doing. Silas has a kid with Megan, who won't let Nancy hold the baby. Shane is an alcoholic. Andy has finally moved on and has his own life now. And really, Nancy deserved it all, maybe more. This time, Nancy can't bat her eyes and take a sip from her drink. This is her life now and she has to live with it.

Three-fourths of the way through Damages's series finale, I really wasn't feeling it, as the case never interested me. The last part of the finale, with the rush of the reveals, is nothing short of brilliant. The ominous shot of a bloody Ellen on the ground is actually her miscarrying and Patty looking worried at the police station is because of Scully killing Michael. Ellen also manages to beat Patty at the custody trial, giving her two big wins over Patty, which would seem to be good news. There is this lingering tension, however, about who Ellen has become, how she betrayed Chris and got Rutger Simon killed. It seemed as though she would become Patty in the end. Then the coda, a lovely 5 minutes of television--some of the best I've seen--that manages to exactly define what Damages is about. Ellen has a daughter, is with Chris (the VA comment being the hint), and is no longer a lawyer. Patty has a job, possibly the Supreme Court one (as implausible as it is), and is sitting in her car. Ellen comes up to talk, even thanking her, and introduces Patty to her daughter, with smiles all around. But it's one of Patty's visions. Ellen is still in the store and Patty has no one to talk to. The show ends with the camera lingering on Patty's face and we all understand: Patty is alone. How the writers handled Ellen's conclusion was great. There were immediate parallels between Ellen and Patty regarding their fathers and childhood and their approach cases. In the end, however, Ellen turned out different, because, as Patty's vision suggests, Patty taught Ellen important lessons. Ellen was able to see who Patty really was and the path she was on. Patty never had that and she never learned. Sometimes all it takes is a lesson to get on the right path before it is too late.

Sons of Anarchy certainly grabs me more than Boardwalk Empire, with its visceral nature and more explosive storytelling. It's also a more flawed show, while it's hard to nitpick at Boardwalk. The greatest problem is that the show still feels the same as it has in previous seasons even though lots of bad shit has gone down inside the club. The club members are more or less the same after all this time and Clay is still around. Meanwhile, there's this new big bad this season, Pope, who's as vicious as they get. We can already see that he's going to be the guy the club bands together to fight even if they should be at each others' throats.

NBC has given us comedies like Parks and Recreation and Community in the not too distant past and The Office and 30 Rock further back. Was it all a fluke? The latest batch of comedies, including the awful Guys With Kids, indicates a shift in philosophy. Comedies like Whitney, The New Normal, Go On, and Guys With Kids confront broad topics with characters of certain types. They're supposed to have a "point" to tell, usually something obvious, and the characters and story lag far behind.

Glee would be a much better show if it weren't so schizophrenic. The show is about so many different things that every episode is all over the place with the plots and the songs. Sometimes it seems like the show wants to have a lesson about something, but then it veers off into another galaxy. This happens with a multitude of plots as well. Something seemingly important happens but is forgotten in the next episode. Remember Karofsky and the bullying episode? The characters don't. Lately, I'm beginning to wonder if there is a reason beyond bad writers to explain why Glee has become so terrible. iTunes. "Born This Way" coupled with Autotune and makeup. Or Rachel telling Tina to wait for her turn the next year before Blaine takes the spotlight. Or "Call Me Maybe" being Rachel's song (with all the people not in Lima, the writers couldn't even use the song properly?). At some point, one could wonder whether the bad writing of the show is due to the commercial interests of the show. Maybe the writers aren't so bad after all and are slavishly tailoring the show to hit certain songs. If that's the optimistic way of looking at things, then we could also face reality, which is that Glee has become a bad show--not a flawed but overall enjoyable show as it was in the first show, but simply bad. There's the guy singing in the shower again, tough love teacher, new characters with their notable problems, Unique awkwardly moving to McKinley, and Sugar and Tina, still not doing anything. The one thing I liked: Rachel and Kurt at the end of the episode.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reviews 9/4/12 - 9/10/12

Alphas has had several very dense episodes this season, with the latest one being one of the most dense yet. The show could have just resolved the hive mind plot the way it did, Rosen talking down Jason Miller and everything being fine. But the writers have always pushed for more and they toss Stanton Parish into the mix, making the episode much more complicated. We get some cool background on him, like him fighting in WWII, and the rest of the team gets to meet him. And finally, Dani  is exposed, making the next episodes have even more to look forward to.

I believe I already made a post about Go On, but I don't think I have said anything about The New Normal yet. When The New Normal tries to be a normal show--you know, with characters and plot and the like--it's perfectly fine, even charming. Too often, though, it descends into preaching zone and it's like Newsroom without the gravitas. Characters make these big speeches and it's gets really stupid with how the "new normal" is showed. Show, don't tell, please.

Leverage sticks with its format every single week, so I became more amazed as each second passed. Parker got her own episode! This is a big deal on a show which runs on routine and regularity. While the plot wasn't all that impressive, Beth Riesgraf is just wonderful and made things fun.

Copper was chugging along nicely, and then Eva kills Molly at the end of the last episode. Didn't see that coming. The show is still defining itself and this shocking new development definitely changes things. I'm curious to see what the show looks like at the end of the season.

This final season of Damages hasn't grabbed me like previous seasons have. The people involved in the case just aren't interesting and I could care less about the eventual outcome. At the same time, Ellen seemingly dead isn't too interesting, with only one episode left. Maybe she'll actually be dead, but there's really no huge threat looming after the fake out at the end of last week's episode. So there's no actual tension involving any other characters. That all we have left is Ellen on the ground, blood pooling, is, quite frankly, far below what the show is capable of delivering.

Covert Affairs ended with the surprising twist of both Annie and Simon being shot by Lena, bringing up a load of questions. At least one load of questions was answered, as we learn Simon knew about Annie and the CIA, and isn't playing her.

Okay, I'll dispense with the Coma puns that can be made. I don't get Coma. It's a two-part miniseries, each part being way too long, and nothing really happens. In short, people with certain genetic markers are put into comas for medical research. It's that simple. None of the characters stand out, so it's not like there's anything to say about them. There is this message about the role of doctors and medical research, but it's understood within the first 30 minutes. The rest of the time is spent on non-tension filled tension, with an ambiance that's supposed to put you on the edge of your seat. Except nothing ever comes of these scenes and the miniseries crawls to the end.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Reviews 8/28/12 - 9/3/12

I finally caught up on The Newsroom. It's an absurd show. The show was designed solely to attack the Tea Party, as if the Tea Party is the most important news event in the history of the world. Worse, good journalism,  according Aaron Sorkin, seems to be airing sound bites of a bunch of people. There is no rigorous analysis, any attempt to pin down the size or scope of the Tea Party, what most of its members believe, what most think is important. They treat the Tea Party as a monolithic group of dishonest dummies. That may well be true, but The Newsroom sure as hell doesn't come close to proving that. The funny thing is, Will accuses the Tea Party of being against science and yet it's these journalists who make conclusions with no scientific rigor. You can find more of my rantings on Twitter. What I wonder is whether Sorkin himself was out to "civilize," because The Newsroom will only make conservatives hate liberals more, and make liberals hate conservatives more.

I also caught up on Copper. While the setting and tone of the show is nice, the characterization of Corcoran has been sketchy, often contradictory. He's set up to be a good guy sometimes, in the vein of cops you'd see in modern procedurals, but at other times it seems like he's just another guy living back then with all the stuff they did.

Grimm made big advances with Hank fully accepting everything Nick tells him. He takes it all in stride, and the episode doesn't slow down for those "show me the evidence" moments. It also looks like Juliette may be learning soon, as she at least hears the word Grimm. Beyond that, Monroe and Rosalie are as great as ever. Things are looking up this season.

Breaking Bad: Every viewer knew the other shoe would drop in the midseason finale. There was no way Breaking Bad would end the summer without a final bombshell leading to Walt's demise. So the episode is winding down and nothing happens yet. Are bullets going to fly into the yard and hit Holly? No, it's Hank taking a shit. The great Heisenberg, ruined by a bowel movement. Walt's arrogance and carelessness has led him to this point when he allows this book to do him in. The rest of the episode was fun stuff with two great montages showing how Walt got to the now. Now we'll have to wait for the final 8 episodes next season and Walt's final downfall.

Damages comes to an end in less than two weeks and those ominous images of Ellen dead appear related to Patty's attempt to kill her. The past two episodes have spent a great deal of time on this issue--first Patty stating she wasn't behind the attempted hit, then Ellen looking deeper and finding the guy. Another big issue which could cause problems is Chris getting the PTSD information to McClaren. It's kind of a random plot right now, I could see Ellen having to sell Chris out for one reason or another, becoming Patty in the process. The details of the case are still murky, but with Torben in the picture and Gitta going behind Ellen's back, stuff has to get going soon. We learned some of Patty and Kate's backstory, though I'm not sure if any of it is relevant or even particularly interesting. I guess extra bits of information don't hurt.

Covert Affairs: Annie's greatest asset as a spy is her ability to connect with people. Unfortunately, it's also her greatest weakness. Simon has to be playing her, right? Lena keeps hyping him as a master spy, so Annie fooling him would be way too stupid. Unless of course he's actually undercover and a good friend of Ben, and the two of them killed Jai on Arthur's orders and Joan, somewhat unwillingly, has been subtly pushing Annie towards Simon, using Lena as a proxy, which explains why she's been standoffish towards Arthur. Okay, probably too complicated, but I expect big shenanigans to happen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reviews 8/22/12 - 8/27/12

Did I already say that Alphas is freakin' awesome? Last night's episode was on the messy side, but there was lots of interesting content. We saw one side of the alpha world with the fight club and now we see the other side, with alphas trying to live on their own, far away from everyone else. Hurricane Rosen rolls in and messes things up like he usually does. Rosen's approach to this war with Stanton Parrish has been really poor as this episode highlights. He wants a direct resolution--finding out about the device, no matter the costs--while Stanton Parrish is playing a longer game. While Parrish isn't making any friends either, he provides an alternative to the single-minded Rosen and the government. Rosen doesn't offer much right now, and while he may be the good guy from a story perspective, few alphas seem him as one. Skyler fit right into the war, wanting the best for her daughter and also knowing that Rosen isn't the answer. Is Parrish? We could see her on the other side the next time we see her. Kat Watch: Not in the episode. Rosen said he had her take apart the machine but she didn't find anything. Boo! In hindsight, it was probably for the best she wasn't in an already cluttered episode.

Breakthrough on Grimm! Hank finally learns about Nick's Grimmhood! This is amazing stuff for a show which painfully and ploddingly tried to keep everyone in the dark every episode. Now there's only the Juliette problem, which is turning into more fail from the writers.

If people didn't already know Walt will be screwed. In this week's episode, the third to last of the first half, we see the height of Heisenberg--the cold-blooded drug boss who can look anyone in the eye and make demands--and the low of Walt--the angry, vindictive man who berates Jesse and later shoots Mike then pathetically apologizes. Walt, in the end, is not Gus, nor will he ever be, not even close. Gus ran a tight ship, controlled and unremorseful, every move serving a distinct purpose. Walt can't be like that. He's a dead man.

The season finale of True Blood was relatively better than the season finale in previous season, and the rest of the season was as well, so I'd call Alan Ball's final season a success. Now, his tenure has been rocky to say the least, but he pulled it out in the end, leaving the show on firm footing for the final season. What made the season finale particularly good was its separation of the important and unimportant (well, except for the Alcide stuff which was out of place as usual). There isn't any time dawdling around with Russell. He's dead within the first few minutes, making his existence this season more of a funny story on the side for the audience to smile at. Same with Maurella popping out babies. It's funny but isn't important to the main plot of the episode. Then there's the actually important parts of the episode, the raid on the Authority HQ, Lots of blood and exploding vampires which is always fun. And then the end, Bill dying and reforming as Lilith (or Billith as people are saying) which was surprising. Bill was already the bad guy for most of the season and for him to continue on, as an even more dangerous creature, is a significant departure from the path the show seemed to be on. So the stuff I didn't like: Tara and Pam was completely forced, perhaps in an attempt to regain the LGBT viewership. Alcide became packmaster finally, after an uneventful detour for a few episodes. Cue the V problems storyline. In hindsight, the fire monster storyline seems even worse than it did before. Now it's 100% irrelevant.

The first season of Strike Back, the Sky1 production, focused a lot on how the CIA is a bunch of dicks. This third season is going back to this idea, with the CIA almost killing the team at the beginning of the episode. The rest of the episode was fairly interesting with the Tauregs. One of the things I like about the show is how the characters explore different regions and cultures around the world while chasing the bad guy.

For those who thought Suits would break the USA and transcend its initial case per week premise, think again. After a summer of twists and turns, plotting and backstabbing, Suits returned to where it was before the season began. No Hardman in the picture, Jessica back in charge, Harvey and Donna doing fine, Mike and Rachel not together, and no one liking Louis, although he's more hated now. There's stuff to clean up, but the characters are allowed to practice law in peace now. The bulk of the episode was perfectly fine, with lots of great scenes like Mike and Harvey stoned. But the introduction of Tess and what happened later reeked of plot device. Awful writing. The writers wanted to keep Mike and Rachel apart, so they introduce this never before seen childhood friend and have her and Mike sleep together, and Rachel sees. Terrible, lazy, even offensive. No other way to put it.

At this point, it's best to think of Burn Notice's overall plot (and some stuff in between) as a big farce. Burn Notice is a lot like NTSF:SD:SUV; stuff blows up, people get shot, and the plot makes no fucking sense. Just like in all the previous summer/season finales, this season's summer finale ended with a big shocker--another big bad! We're already 20 layers deep and it's just getting started, as the ratings are still good. 50 more big bads (when all actors/actresses in Hollywood have been used up), 20 more evil international organizations with no clear intent, and we'll probably end up at the final boss, Michael's father. Other than that, the episode had a cool setup, putting the team out on their own, so the action was pretty good. But the ending... expected yet disappointing every time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reviews 8/15/12 - 8/21/12

Alphas did it again, this time with a cool haunted hospital episode. And it's not a generic slasher haunted hospital. The characters confront what they manifest themselves, and it's not the same for everyone. Gary sees Anna, Bill fights himself (this was dumb, to be honest), and Rachel sees Nina. The rest of the episode was spent on Rosen getting Nina to start "pulling" people in order to extract a memory from a senator. Part of this is using Kat as a guinea pig, and Kat remembers glimpses from her 16th birthday after being pulled. As promptly as that happens, Rosen and Nina are off, leaving behind poor Kat, highlighting how bad of a therapist Rosen is and how fixated he is on finding Stanton Parish. One thing that bothers me, though, is why Rosen doesn't want Kat to help the team. He might not have time to help her, but she seems like she could be helpful when the team needs a person to do something very specific.

Grimm wraps up the two parter with more of the same stuff as the first episode. There is the fighting, the meaningless, mysterious dialogue, and once again lingering questions. We learn this week that Renard is a bastard, literally. So does this new fact go with anything we've seen in the past and can it help us answer anything? Not really. We now know that he's not in the inside circle of royalty, but that still doesn't mean much without more details. The plot moved forward, as Juliette is woken by a kiss from a purified Renard. But, surprise, she doesn't remember anything. *Collective groan* On the plus side, there was plenty of Monroe and Rosalee, an awesome duo and the best part of the show.

I don't think I'll be watching any more of Major Crimes. Between always complaining Rusty and always sucking up Sykes, the new parts of the show are too much to take. Provenza and Raydor fighting is fine, but the rest is too much. I'll wait until Provenza and Flynn get their own spin-off.

This week's episode of Breaking Bad was the best episode of the season, brilliantly following up on the train heist from the week before and the deadly shooting by Todd. It's about as complete of an episode you'll get, with lots of plot but also some really solid character work. First, Walt, Mike, and Jesse have to deal with the body and it's somewhat sickening, the crew slowly tearing down the bike then dissolving it (and they used plastic!) before moving on to the kid--thankfully that part wasn't shown. They decide to let Todd stay after Walt lays out the options. They, like Skyler, don't have much going for them, as paying him off or killing him would make their situation even worse. So they get back to business, and Jesse sees that side of Walt, the one which whistles gleefully in the aftermath of child's murder, further burdening his mind. Then there's Mike, constantly being pursued by the DEA. He's freaking Mike, but there's a limit to abilities, and there is no way he'll stay perfect. This all comes together when Mike and Jesse confront Walt; they're out, ready to sell they're share of the methylamine. Walt is pissed but he's Walt and, in his mind, he can do everything. However, Mike tries to sell the methylamine and hits a brick wall--they want Walt's share as well to take the blue meth off the street. Now logically Mike should be able to find another buyer, but ultimatums are good for storytelling. Mike and Jesse are forced into a corner. They want to cash out, but Walt is standing in their way. Jesse tries to convince Walt at his home, and Walt has to bust out the Gray Matter history. It's not about money or drugs for him--it's about empire building. Jesse always thought Walt wanted money for cancer and he's seen a different side of Walt over time, but this is the first time Walt has explicitly laid out what he wants. The hilariously awkward dinner with Jesse, Walt, and Skyler follows, before heading towards the end of the episode, which is action-y like the previous episode. Mike ties Walt down and goes to talk to the DEA before selling all the methylamine, but Walt manages to escape. He supposedly has a plan that allows Mike and Jesse to get all the money they want but also lets Walt keep his share of the methylamine. Great episode from beginning to end. So many problems and potential solutions, and all roads all leading to what all viewers can see as an unhappy ending.

I like this season of True Blood, much more than the previous two seasons. In the latest episodes, there have been surprising clarity to the show that hasn't been seen since the second season. There haven't been the stupid side-stories or quivering fools we've grown accustomed to. Mainly, every character with a significant part is a badass and the other characters don't have their own storyline. A great example of this is Sam and Luna. They have, personally, a huge task at hand, to save Emma, but no one wants to see them for half an episode. So instead of having them chase random creatures as they may have in previous seasons, they have Steve Newlin having Emma, which brings Sam and Luna to the Authority HQ where they get caught at about the same as Pam. Now Sam gets to ask Pam to help Luna, and Pam gets to say a funny line about not knowing who Luna is. We don't spend much time on Sam and yet he's getting stuff done. Meanwhile, the Lilith blood has driven Bill and the others crazy while Eric and Nora, both off Lilith, run off, but not before Eric kills the general which supposedly will draw the wrath of the military, which has yet unseen anti-vampire weapons. Then there's Russell who has a whole bunch of faeries ready to be eaten after he defeats the head faerie who actually sucks at fighting.

After two seasons of Falling Skies, I'm ready to say that Falling Skies will never be a good show. It'll have its moments, maybe twice a season, but it's not cut out of be a good show, not in the way Alphas is or even The Walking Dead to an extent. The writers are so interested in moving the plot in whatever direction they want that the characters and dialogue become afterthoughts. But it's those elements which separate the average shows from the rest, and it's clear we won't be getting anything worthwhile. The season finale is what you'd expect from Falling Skies--lots of plot development. General lets 2nd Mass go fight, Tom declines, gets tossed in jail, rebel Skitters come with mission, Tom and others go on mission, they get caught, rebels save them, Red Eye is killed, Tom kills overlord, they go back to Charleston, get ready to go back to fight, and finally another alien shows up. It's basically an hour of info-dump and cliches. Woman throwing up = pregnant; non-white soldier = dead; big twist = generic third-party alien; overlord alien = supersuperduperduperduperidest genius with massive, glaring  flaws; 2nd Mass = fighters4lyfe; Hal waking from coma = a couple episodes with him plotting before the inevitable reset. You get the picture...

I haven't said much about Weeds this season, because, well, nothing noteworthy has happened. In its last season, Weeds is staggering to the finish line more than ever before, with some of the most pointless episodes of television I've ever seen. Stuff is happening--sex, a pregnancy which turns out to be fake, more sex, pot growing, pharmaceutical sales, more sex--but none of it means anything. You keep expecting a "so what?" to pop up, but it never comes. I get that these characters are terrible messed up, resulting in them doing messed up things, but there is nothing new, not even an attempt to return to the earlier seasons in some form.

Strike Back is the Cinemax equivalent of Starz's Spartacus. There is over the top violence and sex, and yet there is something oddly compelling about it. Call it trash if you want--you're still watching. Strike Back is a step towards serious programming for Cinemax, known mainly for softcore porn. There is an actual plot and the sex is not the main point of the show. In fact, the season premiere was shockingly restrained with only two sex scenes. The show's core retains most from the first season, a wholly British production. Toss in an American, a bit of 24, and you get the new Strike Back which aired last year. The third season is again a Sky1/Cinemax production and all the gungho kickassery one could want. The season premiere introduces the lovely Rhona Mitra as the new head of Section 20 after much deception, and she's already fighting with Scott. The writers got Stonebridge back into action rather quickly and, it seems, disposed of his wife so he'll be with Section 20 permanently. The plot in the first two episode has Section 20 in Somalia ttracking stolen nuclear triggers which go missing at the end of the episode, and there's this shadowy charity at the end of the episode to signal conspiracy.

Boss is a serious show. Most people figure this out pretty quickly. Tom Kane, played by Kelsey Grammer, grits his teeth and growls out his lines, as the camera lingers on his eyes, burning full with intensity. The ambient music grows, and the viewers is told, "We're not playing games." We're supposed to be impressed, thinking to ourselves, "Wow, this is SERIOUS!!" but it's mostly funny the way the producers try to hammer in the seriousness of certain situations. Okay, so Boss takes itself far too seriously and becomes comedic once or twice an episode when it's really trying to make a point, but it's the summer and there isn't much serialized television. I can see that the people on the show are trying hard, and the story isn't half bad, so I suppose there's nothing wrong with watching it each week. Watching Kane trying to create a legacy for himself is pretty interesting once you throw in the rest of the political and personal intrigue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reviews 8/9/12 - 8/14/12

I've basically caught up on everything I've missed. I'm debating whether to watch the rest of Political Animals. The date for the reviews include Tuesday, but I honestly don't have anything to say about Tuesday shows so I left them off.

Major Crimes continues right on from The Closer without much hesitation. The characters are basically all there except for Pope, Gabriel, and obviously Brenda, the look of the show is the same, and there's the Rusty kid from the finale. There's so much familiarity that anyone who watched The Closer not only for Brenda will find much to like. And yet, I can't help but think something is missing. The Closer began with Brenda finding herself in an antagonistic division with everyone trying to undermine her. Major Crimes is very similar in this regard, with everyone hating on Raydor (she's actually been a thorn in their sides for a while unlike Brenda who had just arrived), so we once again get that Prime Suspect vibe from the show. But after everyone came to respect Brenda, there was still plenty to watch. Brenda handled suspects like no other, using a mixture of anger and subterfuge to break them down, and it made for good television. Raydor's thing so far is that she cuts deals with suspects. Is that all she brings to the table? I hope not.

I don't like how The Closer ended. I don't want to be thinking, "What's Brenda Leigh Johnson doing today?"  while we're following Raydor and her new crew, because we all know Brenda's going to be doing something interesting at her new job at the DA's office. I mean, is Brenda really going to give up crime solving and dead people? Something tells me she won't, unless she takes a big step back from this whole world for a while. Aside from that, the series finale went as one would expect. We get to see all Brenda's familiar traits one last time, she finally nabs Stroh (alas Croelick is still out there, following the reports that Jason O'Mara would not return), gets to shoot him a couple times, and the team says their goodbyes. It's not an overly sentimental affair, but it marked the end of an era. With all her quirks and mannerism, Brenda was one of the most distinct characters of the past decade

Of the shows currently airing, there are few whose new episodes I really want to watch immediately. Breaking Bad is one, Alphas is another. I don't care too much for the rest. The writers do such a superb job with the characters that I want to know what happens to them next. Some shows (Warehouse 13, Grimm, to name a few) would have bungled the flashback device, but Alphas dives right in. Nina's backstory is both sad and chilling. She intervenes in domestic issues as a child, keeping her father in the house, which ultimately results in him killing himself. It's the perfect backdrop for her actions in the present when she's basically unhinged, making Rachel kiss her (yes, gratuitous by the writers, but they make sure to let us know how much Rachel hated it), making Tommy leave his family, pushing Rosen again, and finally jumping off the rooftop. She's may be back at the end of the hospital, eyes cover and arms strapped down, but there's so much wrong with her. Although Nina's story was very dark, Kat balanced it out. She has tons of spunk and is incredibly likable. I hope she gets to stick around longer or maybe even become a permanent member of the team. But I suspect she, like Nina, has a dark past, one that has been forgotten, setting Kat up as Nina's foil. All the members of the team have their own specifics debilitations, while Nina has no clear one. It is in fact her memory that holds her back and her inability to let go of her past.

With horrible, worsening ratings each year, NBC tried something different this year with Grimm. The network decided to start airing it in mid-August, right after the Olympics and a month before all the other shows will premiere, and on a Monday, not on its regular night of Friday. This would seem like a risky move, as network ratings are decidedly lower during the summer... but it's not like anyone watches NBC anyways. The season premiere got off to an okay start, a 2.0 demo, better than the first season average and only a hair lower than the series premiere. Now if the goal of these moves were to attract new viewers, NBC failed pretty badly. The first season of Grimm was good when it focused on the procedural aspects of the show, the different Wesen and how Nick eventually dealt with them. It was at its very worst when it touched on the mythology. It did so in the most infuriating way, exemplified by Captain Rernard always using "mystery speak." Every character skirted around the core of the mythology--a few words here, an implication there--but never a fully fleshed out picture, and yet the mythology was always a big part of the show, used as motivation for actions  many episodes. Characters would do something because of ____, but we don't even know what the hell _____ is.

The second season premiere focused almost entirely on this mythology aspect of the show. The plot device coins rear their heads once more, with this silly melting quest, and there is more of that useless mystery speak regarding Juliette, Nick, Renard. On the plus side, Nick's mother explains how the Grimms worked for the seven royal families, and how there's this thing out there that would allow the royal families to control the world, and Grimm knights hid the location by making a map and splitting it between them. The episode ends with a "To be continued," as Nick's about to get smacked in the face, but beyond that, there is little implication about what's really important. There are too many mysteries, too many magical objects out there that it's hard to tell what actually matters.

Breaking Bad became an action show this week with a full-on train heist with plenty of excitement to go around, starting from Walt bugging Hank's office and finding out that Lydia didn't actually plant the tracker. The heist is fun in usual Breaking Bad fashion, crafty rather than brutal. There are some hiccups late in the heist, but everything goes fine until the end. The kid rolls up on his bike and Todd shoots him dead. Normally if this were just Jesse and Walt, they would weasel out of it. It might take an episode or two, but eventually the kid would be alive and no problem. But there's Todd. He doesn't know how they operate, and he makes damn sure no one will find out about the heist. While Breaking Bad has action episodes from time to time, Walt and Jesse never shot anyone, nor were they ever comfortable shooting someone. And they are clearly not comfortable this time. Now what do they do?

Grudgingly, I went ahead and watched the season premiere of Hell on Wheels. Like the first season, the premiere was all over the place. All the characters are in different places and positions than they were in the first season, but still with no sense of direction. There is nothing cohesive in the little town that explains why exactly these characters are important to each other or the world around them, and why the writers have chosen to show them versus other people. Especially troublesome is Bohannon being the exact same as he was in the first season. While Anson Mount plays him with this greatly grim studiousness, Bohannon become tiresome after a while. He's told his stories, he's fought Yankee soldiers, he's wallowed in himself--and now, in the second season, he's doing it all over again.

I don't understand why True Blood can't be like this week's episode every week. No Arlene, no Terry, all the characters being active. Sam and Luna are actually doing stuff, trying to find Emma by changing in mice which was pretty funny. Sookie and Jason learn that Sookie belongs to Warlow contractually. Hoyt leaving for Alaska gave us some good moments from Jessica, stabilizing her for a while, and Jason, who's usually too silly to be taken seriously. There was movement at the Authority where things are getting crazier each week. Yes, the vampires are all really stupid, especially the way they handled Russell from the beginning (although it's dumb that vampire strength seems to be determined solely by age), but the story is moving forward. And Tara becoming a vampire has been a great move. She's no longer the quivering victim who mucks up the show!

Okay, time to make the Falling Skies-Walking Dead comparison. The second season of The Walking Dead was too slow; the second season of Falling Skies is too fast. The Walking Dead spent its past season on the farm with no serious threat to the groups existence, and the show really stagnated there. But at least there were hints of cracks as the season trudged along and the zombies always kept things interesting. On the other hand, Falling Skies is eager to get to the next plot point, always racing towards the new problem. There's no time to let anything develop. This is what I've complained about the past few weeks, and this week's episode was a great example of that. After so long to get to Charleston, there are a few minutes for viewers to get acclimated with the new setting before the first hint of trouble: the general doesn't want intelligence on the skitters. Then the contrivances come with Pope trying to escape and getting caught, Maggie getting caught trying to stop them, and Hal getting caught trying to escape with Maggie. It turns out that Terry O'Quinn's history professor character, leader of the Charleston group, is one of those dictator types.

Longmire, bizarrely, has dangled Walt's big mystery in front of us this whole season. There were this weird, stylized flashbacks which meant nothing and bits of dialogue which also meant nothing. When the reveal finally came, that his wife was murdered and Walt was involved in the murderer's murder, I didn't really care. No reaction. Does this change my view of Walt? Not really. He's always been one of those old timers who doesn't give a crap, no matter how rude or hypocritical. A bigger problem is that the reveal doesn't open up any new plot avenues other than Katie becoming more pissed. The good thing about Longmire is that the crimes, as unrealistic as they are, are Montana crimes, not LA crimes ported over. So we get to see different kinds of people, different cultures, and a different way of handling crimes.

NBC previewed Animal Practice while the Olympics closing ceremony was still going on, so it didn't start with much sympathy. Still, the premiere got massive ratings and NBC's goal of getting people to watch, even for a few minutes, was fulfilled. From there, though, the number of people sticking around depends on how many people like stupid humor. There's nothing smart or redeeming about Animal Practice. One of its main attractions is a monkey, which may be passable entertainment for some. We'll see where the show goes, but I don't have high hopes.

Common Law, off by itself on Friday nights, hasn't been a breakout hit for USA as have other shows (maybe USA could learn something from this and Fairly Legal) on the network. It has this gimmicky premise of two cops in relationship group therapy which enhances an otherwise boring show. The procedural side of the show is very plain, and with plenty of procedurals already out there, it brings nothing new to the table. The season finale takes us through the origins of the partners' original conflict, which should have been brought up earlier, and they resolve the case. If the show doesn't get renewed, this is a nice stopping point. They've resolved the immediate issue which put them into therapy in the first place and there aren't really any strings left hanging, except for Wes's ex-wife, if anyone cares.

As much crap as NBC gets, no one can say that it doesn't try with its comedies. Go On stars Matthew Perry as a sports radio host whose wife died which puts him in therapy. Not funny, you say? The writers jam as much comedy into the first half as they can before confronting the fact that his wife just died. It's some stupid bit about making a bracket for who has had the worst thing happen to them, and I was ready to hate the show. The second half is much better, and touches on serious issues while maintaining a humorous tone. I want to see Go On be more of the second half, which was funny at times without being over the top.
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