Monday, March 26, 2012

Reviews 3/20/12 - 3/26/12

I'm no longer busy and I'm beginning to catch up on all the shows I've missed. There are still a lot of episodes I need to watch, but I'm getting there.

True story: I haven't watched a complete episode of Mad Men since the season four finale on October 17 of 2010--a year and a half ago--so my memory was a little hazy on what happened back then. Luckily, Matthew Weiner eases viewers into the new season. We get a glimpse of each character at the beginning of the season premiere, they're living situation, what they're up to, and a hint of the conflicts. The biggest change, of course, is Megan. The decision to have Don propose to her was really abrupt during the end of the last season, especially with all the other things that were going on. But I'm happy with how they deal with her character in the first two hours. There's nothing immediately obvious about her character--unlike season four Betty who's just a pain--but there are indications at the beginning of the episode of how opportunistic she is, how she doesn't really know Don. Her enthusiasm about Don's party soon devolves and as the premiere heads into the second hour, it's clear that neither Don nor Megan is having an easy time. The episode ends with the two together, but sex is what's holding them together. Without Betty in the episode, it's impossible to say that Don has other options, but his marriage with Megan will surely not be smooth.

While introducing Megan was a big part of the premiere, there were several other interesting stories. Pete and Sterling are doing battle, the young guy with the accounts versus the old guy with nothing left. Pete's always been ambitious and Roger represents the next obstacle in his way. Joan eventually made it into the office, after mistaking a personal ad towards a rival firm for the firm looking to replace her. She wasn't the only one to mistake the ads, as the episode ends with blacks in the lobby with job applications. Kind of out of nowhere is Lane's story. He's unhappy with his marriage and while returning a wallet, gets a bit too friendly with the "girl" of the man's wallet. There really is not indication whether this will be an ongoing thing or just a deeper illustration of a marriage on the rocks like Roger's.

I'm not sure if I'm going to watch the third season of Shameless. The show is a lot like Karen--it can turn on a dime. All the money was stolen last week, but that doesn't seem to be a problem, and this week pretty much a potpourri of people being ridiculous.

The Good Wife has been drilling in this idea the whole season that it's better not to know the truth--or at least let it out into the public. Alicia begins her role on the panel seriously questioning the veracity of the witnesses, and uncovers some serious injustices. The others on the panel don't want this to escalate, but she keeps pushing and pushing. She is Alicia, after all. But then the uncomfortable truth comes out--that not only was her husband involved but also Eli Gold. To her, some things are better left hidden--even if there will always be a wronged victim.

Considering how great Supernatural just two seasons ago, it's really disappointing to see what's happening now. No Cas? No problem. He's reintroduced, without memories, then swapped with Sam. Now he's the one with Lucifer in the head and in the mental ward. What a cheap, easy way to wrap up two stories.

Fringe is supposed to be a science show. Not really hard science fiction, but a show where people on the show, namely Walter, did real science with chemicals and whatnot. The villain of last week's episode was a science guy, trying to find the right blend of pheromones and ultimately failing. This was supposed to parallel Peter and Olivia, two people undeniably attracted by something unseen by the eye. But if the plot was about pheromones--a scientific concept--why would the Observer talk about love--an abstract concept which is being used as an easy fall back? Is there something scientific about love which brings Peter and Olivia together regardless of other circumstances and Lincoln forever relegated to unrequited feelings? And what about the memories?

At this point, it feels like The Vampire Diaries is just spinning around in circles. The ring stuff is okay, but it's obviously was inserted to finally get rid of the most egregious plot device. Bonnie's plot was stale once again, although the acting contributed to that. And the supposed main story--the Originals--was pretty tepid until the end. Without Klaus or his hybrids menacing the town, there really doesn't seem to be much urgency.

Behind Community's outright cartoonishness during the impersonations episode, Abed and Troy's friendship is going through some problems. Yes, Abed is really cool and knowledgeable, but Troy is beginning to realize that Abed he wants is someone who can also come back to the real world. That's not the Abed in the present.

Given NBC's treatment of Bent, burning it off in a competitive timeslot during the spring, it's clear the show won't last. Indeed, the ratings sucked, and less than three million people watched it. But given NBC's treatment of Whitney at the beginning of the TV year, it is a bit confusing. Bent is not bad at all, featuring a good cast and an overall pleasantness. It's never particularly funny, but definitely not cringe-worthy like ABC's Tuesday crop of comedies or Whitney.

Justified: Quarles completely unhinged is truly a sight to behold. I wouldn't say he's better than Mags--yet--but he's one of the most exciting villains on television right now.

Well, that's the end of The River. I'd be very, very, very, very surprised if Netflix somehow scrounged up enough money for it. The end of the season/series was a wild mess, with some really crazy scenes. In the end, not much was explained except that the Bouina doesn't want them to leave. In an age where most science fiction on television is shoehorned into a procedural format (Alcatraz, Warehouse 13, etc), I appreciate what The River brought. It wasn't always coherent and the characters were boring, but it wasn't afraid to be crazy and unconventional.

Alcatraz ends its first season tonight and the show likely won't be returning. The good thing is, the last episode ended with Lucy waking up, hopefully a development which spurs the show ahead. Maybe the mythology will actually be expanded.

House had yet another good episode this season, pulling back the layers on House's parentage, before ending it right there. There are always going to be things about House we don't know about and why he ended up the way he is. Park's hallucinations were pretty fun and Michael B. Jordan really sold his lines, as cheesy as the story was.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reviews 3/12/12 - 3/18/12

Again, really busy so a lot is left out.

The Walking Dead ended its second season with a surefire statement that things are going to change. Chased off of the farm and the fodder killed, the gang has to find new arrangements. Rick asserts his leadership and the camera pans to the prison. Hopefully that's more interesting than the farm.

Shameless: It's not often that a television character is pure evil, but Monica is as close to one as they come. When she's alone she's trying to find an edge, and when she with other people she's constantly manipulating, all without regard for consequences. What's more confusing is why any stands to put up with her in the slightest.

If Supernatural wants to do an episode about cursed objects, fine, that's cool. If Supernatural wants to do an episode about cursed objects which somehow dovetails into the Leviathans, that's just stupid. The two stories weren't even tied together, related only because they happened in the same town. And how did this major coincidence happen? Beats me.

Well, looks like The Vampire Diaries is finally getting rid of the ring plot device, as it turns the wearer into a killer. The Stefan and Klaus flashbacks were good, but it feels like the overall plot has no juice. There's not much urgency with Klaus or Bonnie's mother. Everything is just hanging out there.

Community is back and the ratings were good!

Missing is truly a bizarre show. It goes from Lifetime-style musical montages to brief spurts of fighting and back to to musical montages. I don't get it.

I don't know what The River's long-term plans were, but as it stands the show won't be getting a second season. What's more odd is that the second to last episode of the season introduces an entire new story--scientists performing unethical medical studies and create zombies--gets Emmett back, and then concludes the new story as everyone hops back onto the boat. Why the rush? Humans creating zombies is far more interesting than ad hoc magic in the jungle.

Smash's ratings have stopped falling for the most part, but, in my opinion, the quality hasn't. I don't know what the writers' conception of love is, but Michael pestering Julia until she sleeps with him was pretty creepy, not to mention they are both married with kids. While he rest of the episode was okay, Michael's overbearing attitude was too much.

The new wrinkle in Alcatraz is that the doctor actually turns innocent prisoners (well, one at least) into actual killers. The seems more interesting than the usual fare, so hopefully we'll learn more. But we probably won't since the ratings keep falling. The problem is that the expectations of the show were high--that it would be an exciting, Lost-like adventure produced by JJ Abrams. Instead, it turned out to be a procedural with mystery elements on top. For people who poured over Lost, looking for tiny hints even if there were none, this surely was not enough. And those who do watch procedurals--people who didn't like the serialized nature of Lost and having to keep up every week--were already not watching.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reviews 3/5/12 - 3/11/12

I'll be very busy for the next few weeks, so I'll won't have much to say about the shows.

The Walking Dead: Now we're getting somewhere. Shane has been on the fence this entire, neither evil villain nor good guy, but he kept being painted as being dangerous. Indeed, he did kill Otis and as much as admitted it to several people. He finally snapped, and it ratcheted tension up several notches. With Dale and Shane dead and pack of zombies near the farm, it looks like things will start happening.

Shameless: I don't know about other people, but Monica is too mean and uncaring to be likable, even when she's supposed to be silly. Other than that, the episode was on point with the ghost business and Estefania phone sex.

I like how The Good Wife handled Caitlin. She wasn't a manipulator or scheming in the least bit--she was just doing her job. The writers, through Alicia, kind of led us into this direction where there would be this major confrontation between Alicia and Caitlin once Caitlin unveiled her master plan. But that never happened. Caitlin explains why she quitting the firm--because she's pregnant and has a loving fiance--and walks off, leaving a stunned Alicia. It's a fitting contrast to Alicia, who thinks she has something to prove, but is now unsure of the path she's on, a message greatly enhanced by the possibility of rebuying she old home and seeing the marks of how tall everyone in the family was.

Without another love story about people who had to stay apart, Once Upon a Time was much more enjoyable last night. The Storybrooke stuff was somewhat forgettable, especially because it was all setup, but the Red story was gruesome and fun.

For whatever reason, possibly as as test, The Mentalist aired on both Thursday and Friday. The first episode was more potent because it had the specter of Darcy doing something in secret, which was eventually revealed to be the FBI investigating Jane for his ties to Red John. The second episode was a mix of everything, with more focus on Rigsby and Cho for a change.

Awake ends its second episode with a clear message: there's a conspiracy. Given how many shows have tried conspiracies and not gotten them right, I'm a bit wary about this. On the other hands, the anemic ratings indicates there won't be a second season anyway.

Psych's horror movie homage was all sorts of good. It was actually scary at times, funny at other times.

In a very cool episode of Justified, Raylan gets trapped by Quarles and the FBI (which is indirectly Quarles doing), and narrowly makes it out. I like how Limehouse is playing it. While Quarles and Boyd are duking it out and putting themselves in the crosshairs of law enforcement, he's playing it cool, trying to keep things calm for his people before making any hasty decisions.

I assumed that Lucy Liu wouldn't be staying on Southland for another season, and this seems even more certain now that she signed onto a pilot. Now there's a plot that signals Tang's potential exit. Cooper is intent of getting to the bottom of the shooting, whether she removed the cap from the gun.

Last week's episode of The River was the strongest episode yet, including the pilot. My initial thought was that the episode should have come earlier. But looking back, the episode was right where it belonged. The meager character development in previous episodes actually paid off well in the episode as we look on the tapes of the past. Everyone has some stake in what's going on, and the characters hearing Emmett talk was quite potent. The final twist of the abandoned compound was pretty sweet also, although the bad ratings probably means we won't see more beyond the final two episodes.

After Alcatraz's latest two episodes, I told myself I'd be fine seeing it come back for another season. The episodes seemed to have more grit than previous ones

Smash wavers between earnest and way too dramatic, and this incongruity is unnerving. I want to like the show, but there are times when it's really annoying.

Being Human's second season has been all over the place. Each of the three characters have their own stories, and, aside from some chance intersections, haven't really interacted to the extent that they should. This disconnect leads to a general sense of the plot never moving, as a whole and in individual episodes. It feels like brief snippets and then the episode is over.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reviews 2/28/12 - 3/4/12

It's hard to get excited about The Walking Dead these days. The episodes seem to have progressively more grating moments as the season goes on. Take this week's episode. The theme of the episode--what to do with a potential dangerous prisoner--isn't exactly exciting, but it's workable. What results, however, is an hour where all the debates turn into annoying screeds from Dale who flits from one person to the other, trying to explain to them why they would support his position. It's fairly tedious as it drags on, nestled between an even dumber plot, Carl being an idiot. In an obscenely telegraphed scene, we see Carl lure out of the mud the zombie who eventually gets Dale.

What struck me about this week's The Good Wife episode is how much the show is dependent on a really good law plot. The suicide video was pretty good, but it never grabbed me in a way the main plots often do. There were no moments when I was on the edge of my seat, gleefully thinking how great it was. The twists were few and not very potent. So I found myself apathetic to the episode even though I found the rest of the plots quite interesting, though obviously not the best the show has given us. The show is still setting up the plots for the end of the season and we can see all the complications arising, from Peter's political aspirations interfering with professional and personal codes to Alicia's potential jealously (not sure if that's the right word to use) of Caitlin.

For all of the controversy over GCB's previous name--Good Christian Bitches--the show was a lot less crass than I expected it to be. In fact, the show really doesn't seem that noteworthy. There are the typical soap opera plots and then the religious stuff is tacked on in an attempt to show some contrast. The result is a show which is actually not that bad, but definitely not must-watch television.

Okay, so Once Upon a Time delivered yet another underdeveloped yet supremely sappy love story, but I have to comment on one thing: dwarves coming from eggs. How great was that?

Charlie's death at the end of Breakout Kings season two premiere sets the tone for the rest of the season--that this is serious business--but it's hard to say whether this was an inspired creative decision or simply a budgetary matter or Laz Alonzo wanting out. But what we end up with is a smaller cast, allowing for slightly more focus on the remaining characters and a criminal on the loose. Breakout Kings will never be that special of a show, especially in comparison to other offerings on Sunday nights; what it offers, though, is a decent procedural on Sunday for those who don't want to slog through CSI: Miami.

The theme of Spartacus was woman issues. It all seems rather unrealistic--as most of the show is--but I guess that's never really the point of the show. So we got some interesting scenes with the women and a couple advancements of plot.

I'd like Grimm to, just once, explain to viewers what the characters on the show actually see. From what I can tell, it's arbitrary what the rules are. Mainly, I want to know whether wesens can instantly recognize Nick as Grimm and if not, how they eventually tell, and whether Nick sees them in creature form. I don't even want to know who the captain is! It bothers me so much to see all this stuff going on that seems to be for cheap effects for the audience and not for the characters.

I'm ready to call The Office's Sabre Florida experiment a bust. It's far too wacky to be taken seriously, and none of it is really that funny. One thing the plot could have done is to allow the people back at Scranton something worthy to do, but instead they're just as silly those who went away.

Parks and Recreation was very fun with the arrival of Kathryn Hahn's character and unique way Pawneeans drink from the water fountain.

Psych's return reminded me of how fun the show is. The Indian Jones-esque plot was good and Despereaux return, death, revival, and escape was all nicely done.

I haven't really said much about Criminal Minds this season, mostly because there hasn't been much to say, but last week's episode was notable for its sheer awfulness. Criminal Minds writers and directors sometimes get caught up in this idea that people pretending to be normal can be more terrifying than people killing others, and we get these shots of people's blank faces and we're supposed to understand that there's something dark and sinister hiding underneath the eyes. This is fine--as long as it doesn't take up the whole episode. Unfortunately, last week's episode had a whole lot of people's faces and not much else.

Justified: Quarles is a great villain. On the outside, he seems like a cool, level-headed guy, with a mechanical contraption to make carefully executed kills. However, as we learn more about him, he doesn't have to all together.

Breaking Bad's Badger as Agent Dorneget on NCIS was hilarious and he meshed well with the rest of the team. This is his second time on the show so I hope we see him more often.

Smash's fourth episode seem a bit different than the previous episodes, more flowery and unrealistic, almost Glee-like. Ivy being mean to Karen could have been expected, but two parts--Karen getting new friends and them teaching her things and performance at Lyle's place with Lyle helping--were far more than the grounded show we saw before.

Castle can be quite a dynamic show in the number of weird/funky scenarios it throws at the audience in one episode. Last week's episode dove into fairy tale world (possible in an attempt for some cross-promotion with Once Upon a TIme) and into the past, and it came together nicely in the end.

I like that How I Met Your Mother is finally moving Ted forward. It looks like it'll be a while before we learn who the mother is, but we're getting there, slowly but surely.
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