Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reviews 7/17/12 - 7/23/12

Way behind on television once again. :(

Warehouse 13, being a fantasy dramedy, never had a grand vision of where the show would go. The mythology grew, villains plotted, but at the end of the day, the show is about finding artifacts. The end of the last season saw the Warehouse blow to pieces, Steve dead, and Peter, Myka, and Artie standing in the rubble. This would be a monumental shift if it had lasted for more than an episode, but no, there is of course an artifact that fixes things, except Steve is still dead. The artifact Artie uses supposedly creates something evil, which could be interesting if done correctly. I like HG being alive, as Jaime Murray is pretty great.

Alphas was one of the biggest television surprises from last year. Sure it didn’t get nominated for any serious awards, and likely won’t be remember 20 years from now, but it broke out of the mold of Syfy shows in the way it approached the characters and the situation they’re in. The characters have their own, distinct limitations, their own powers, and different ways of thinking, and they really came together through the course of the season. The second season premiere begins eight months after Rosen’s very public revelation about the existence of Alphas. It’s pretty clever how the writers get the team back together. We get to see the inside of Binghamton, how chips are placed in all the prisoners, while reintroducing Gary who’d hurt some being after being reassigned to the NSA (yes, the government is really terrible). Then, there is trouble in prison, and… the guy in charge wants only Rosen! So Rosen is let out of the mental facility, he rounds up the team, and they save the day. As with Warehouse 13, the show has returned to its original premise, alphas catching alphas, but the changes from season to season are more pronounced. The characters have changed in the eight months, and it’ll be a while before they get back into the swing of things. What’s more, at least some people in the world believe in alphas, as much as the government tried to discredit Rosen, and Stanton Parish is executing his plans now that Rosen is out.

Unlike in previous seasons of Breaking Bad, the beginning episodes this season have largely been absent of those shocking events which make your heart stop. The show, however, remains eminently watchable, each minute as gripping as the next. The season premiere is contained in a small world, with Walt, Jesse, and Mike cleaning up their immediate problems from the previous season. The second episode does the exact opposite, showing us the whole world Walt has been in, and we realize just how small he is. From the opening scene, the hilarious sauce taste test, to the interrogations, we see that Gus’s network extended far beyond Albuquerque or even Mexico. We see Mike trying to take care of the situation, reassuring partners, and even bringing this woman Lydia into the fold. In this context, Walt’s actions—replacing the ricin cigarette, trying to get Skyler to come on board, restarting the meth business—seem doomed to failure. There is so much going on, but Walt has no idea any of this is going on, nor does he want to learn more. He is the master of the universe, his small, insignificant universe.

My criticism of Falling Skies last week, that plot developments happen too quickly and without notice, is again in play this week. Ben and Karen are somewhere out in the woods, Karen turns on Ben, then Tom saves the day and captures a tall alien in the process. There’s no explanation how this comes about, but it immediately propels the episode in a certain direction. The stories each week are distinct and interesting, emphasizing that Falling Skies was never meant to be a completely serialized show. Other than the march to Charleston and Ben’s harness, we can see the divide between each episode, the clear episodic nature of the show. One episode, Weaver’s daughter shows up, she’s forgotten by the next episode, then Weaver becomes gravely ill, he’s treated, and now he’s perfectly fine. This is actually fine, as a show like Walking Dead gets bogged down by serialization. Whether Falling Skies succeeds in the end are the plots, which have greatly improved this season. This week’s episode was one of the best episodes yet, featuring disgusting bugs like the episode a few weeks ago as well as real stakes with Jamil and Boone getting killed. Falling Skies needs this sobering reality, especially when the first season episodes had those ridiculous candlelight vigils. In terms of story, I’m a little miffed we learned nothing more when the tall alien was in custody. He seems to be giving the usual “we know better” spiel that all advanced aliens give when they invade.

Leverage always does the “fight the rich, evil bad guy” thing, but this week’s episode was a little different. The bad guy isn’t rich and isn’t evil. He’s more willfully ignorant, with a son who wants him to get help. There is this other bad guy, the owner of the team, who doesn’t factor into the episode too much. The episode has lots of funny moments with Vlad the ex-hockey player, Nate, and Sophie. Of course, nothing could top the hilarious Jack the Bear name given to Elliot’s hockey player character.

True Blood: I was surprised to see that we’re already at episode seven of this season, past the halfway point. Between the Authority HQ and Bon Temps, we haven’t been to many places this season. But the plot is slowly rolling along as the vampires, on Lilith blood, went rampaging. Okay, so none of this makes any sense, but stuff is happening, right? More importantly, unlike other seasons, there isn’t an explicit big bad causing trouble. Russell has become just one of many problems, and remains charming as ever. The rest of the episode was okay—Sookie burning off her fae power, Jason shooting Jessica in the head, fire monster laughing at Terry, Lafayette going to wierdoland, Tara disowning her mother—and, surprisingly, nothing this season has really bothered me. There were lots of stupid stories in previous seasons, but not this season.
Suits is more dynamic than any other USA show. There are no easy answers to the multiple problems and there haven’t been those classic resets which show up on its USA counterparts every season. Last week’s episode went even further, following Donna’s discovery of the missing memo in the previous episode. After Donna shreds the memo and everyone finds out, she’s fired, but not before a lot of emotion. Donna and Harvey arguing was one of the most legit scenes I’ve seen on USA. Really good work from Sarah Rafferty since the start of the show and this episode. We’ll probably see her soon enough, because ditching a character right now doesn’t seem like a good plot choice.

USA, the network where nothing changes. Burn Notice started the season of Fiona in jail and Anson on the loose. A few episodes and prison scares later, Fiona is out, after helping catch this bad guy. We’re back to square one, with Michael and Fiona with the CIA instead of out on their own. The show will return to normal and the conspiracy story will continue going around and around in circles. The biggest change will be the size of Michael’s team with the new girl and Pearce. Compared to the first season when there was only Sam and Fiona, there are a lot of people and combinations now.

White Collar also did a rest, with Neal coming back safe and sound, having brought back the island boss buy from Cape Verde who turns to be a notorious criminal. The difference is that Mozzie isn’t around anymore and Peter is out of his job, although I’m sure they'll be worked into the fold eventually. While this was always inevitable, I wonder if the writers can come up with a situation that was as good as the one from the previous season, when Neal and Mozzie were sitting on all the art and they didn’t know what to do with it.

Damages, in previous seasons, focused on the case primarily, and the cases determined where the plot went. This final season, though, appears to be going in a new direction, with Patty vs. Ellen driving the plot. The second episode manages to shed more light on McClaren, but the episode focuses on the legal battle between Patty and Ellen before the trial even begins. Ellen believes she is outmaneuvering Patty, going through these hoops to remove the judge who she believes is partial to Patty. In reality, Patty has complete control of the situation, preying on Ellen’s founded paranoia and using her to remove the judge who was actually biased against her.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reviews 7/10/12 - 7/16/12

I’ve fallen way behind on television once again. I’ve watched all the USA shows, but still need to watch multiple episodes of The Newsroom, Continuum, Common Law, and this week’s episode of Perception. I’m probably leaving out some other. The main point is, it’ll be a while before I catch up.

Breaking Bad will go down in history was one of the greatest television shows ever. Its unrelenting pace, its distinct visual style, its monumental acting performances will forever be remembered. What I will remember most is Vince Gilligan’s handling of the show, his impeccable planning and foresight. There are plenty of wishy-washy shows out there, which either make stuff up as they go or don’t have anywhere good to go. Breaking Bad stands out among all shows, with its ability to shock viewers at all turns at any time in a season, not just at the beginning and end. Each season flows in the next, setting up potential conflicts and characters relevant in the current season and also in the future. It is in this way that Breaking Bad reached its fifth and final season.

The fifth season starts with an ominous flash ahead to Walt’s 52nd birthday. He’s at a diner in the northeast, far away from home, haggard with facial hair and a crestfallen demeanor. He buys a machine gun, cuing us into the fact that bad shit will go down this season. We go back to the present in the aftermath of Gus’s death. Walt is running around, cleaning up after himself, getting rid of the poisonous plant among other incriminating items. This is all good—until he realizes the biggest piece of evidence, the surveillance camera. He and Jesse drag Mike, who is still recovering, back to help them, as they are all doomed if they don’t do anything. They end up having to destroy Gus laptop which is in police lockup, and do so in a funny way, with a giant magnet from the junkyard guy. They end up getting away, although they have to leave behind the truck after it tipped over. The bigger problem for them is Hank, who recognizes the lab was exactly what Gale drew and is ever more determined to get to the bottom of Gus’s operation. Meanwhile, we see what happened to Ted and it’s not pretty. He’s paralyzed and bald, and won’t tell anyone about what happened, or so he claims to Skylar. The season premiere ends with Walt hugging Skylar and telling her he forgives her. Sure, Walt, we believe you.

I guess True Blood is finally getting somewhere. Yes, it’s still all over the place with storylines flying by left and right, but the vampire story is going somewhere. The episode ends with Russell miraculously breaking free and killing Law & Order, a surprising twist since Christopher Meloni was the main new character. We still don’t know what the fuck is happening, but Russell is now on the loose and stuff will happen. The rest of the stories are okay, Hoyt getting dragged into a vampire killing crew, the fire monster, Sookie and Jason finding the faerie club, Tara-Jessica drama. 

Political Animals is a confusing show. It airs on USA, not known in the past half-decade for having serious programming, and its lighting is similar to other shows on the network. But its subject matter and tone seem to be serious with the bulimia, homosexuality in the White House, infidelity, dramatic outbursts throughout the first episode. And yet, it’s hard to take the show seriously. Right off the bat, it’s obviously about Hilary Clinton, and the show goes out of its way to make this comparison so many times that it gets dumb after a while. Worst of all is Ciarán Hinds's hideous Bill Clinton accent which is basically a parody. In many ways, the characters on the show are less competent than those on Veep, a parody about the Vice President and her staff. Barrish's staff is utterly confused about anything the Iranians do, and the antics with the Russian foreign minister are just childish, in an attempt to be playful. Altogether, the show tries to be super-dramatic like an HBO show while maintaining the fun of its USA counterparts. These don’t work in context of the Secretary of State, a crucially important role in the world where a mistake has real consequences.

In an attempt to fix Falling Skies, new showrunner Remi Aubuchon has taken the approach of having plot developments come very fast and without warning. A few weeks ago it was Weaver’s daughter returning out of nowhere, this week is was Weaver falling ill and Karen returning out of nowhere. While these plot developments are fine, the way in which they are handled leave much to be desired. They randomly happened, so there’s no flow between episodes and at the end of the episode, the immediate problems are resolved. Ben and Karen run off at the end of the episode, but is there any indication what will happen next? Not really. The other change is that he's focusing more on relationships, and they're all pretty lame with lots of silliness like Tom suddenly calling Anne his dead wife's name.

Now in its fifth season, there isn’t much Leverage hasn’t done yet. The show has always been fun, with elaborate schemes and funny characters, but none of the overarching, season-long plots have ever worked. The season premiere finds the team in Portland, after Boston got burned in the fourth season finale. They have a new place above a brewery, and quickly get to helping little people and bringing down the bad guys. The episode ends with Hardison and Nate up to something, reminiscent of the “mystery dialogue” that started all the previous arcs. Yawn.

Suits continues to move along perfectly in its second season. We get to see more of Louis and Donna, and learn what they are about, while the overall plot develops to set the stage for a rich battle between the factions at Pearson Hardman. Now the firm is facing fraud charges and Donna knows the memo exists, trouble not only for the firm but also the characters individually. But WTF was up with Rachel's plot? Is there something in Meghan Markle's contract that says she has to be in every episode?

I wasn’t planning on reviewing Louie and Anger Management this week, but I have to note how astounded I am that they are on the same network, airing on the same night. On the one hand, there is Louie, in which Louie goes off to Miami and has a good, eventually awkward, time. It diverges from normal episodes, but is similar to previous travel episodes and the audience can recognize what it is. Then there is Anger Management, which is just about the same every week. Charlie has the patients at his house, sitting on the couches, being weird. Charlie then is at the prison with the inmates, sitting in a circle, being weird. Charlie is then with Kate, sitting opposite each other, talking about sex.

If Damages had maintained the quality of its first season through four seasons, there'd probably be many more critics talking about it, and direct comparisons with Breaking Bad, also entering its final season. As it stands, the later seasons of Damages couldn't live up to brilliance of the first, and the show has fallen by the wayside. I feel like these problems are mostly by design. The setup each season is largely the same. There's Ellen, there's Patty, there's wrongdoing by corporate types, there's a case, and there are of course the flashforwards, flashbacks, and the occasional dream. There is much less room to move in this framework than in Breaking Bad, where anything can pretty much happen without fear of disrupting the next season. The fifth and final season of Damages is the Patty vs Ellen, a battle that has been coming since the first season and was teased at the end of the fourth season. The legal case revolves around a Wikileaks-like organization and is douchbag owner, and information that shouldn't have gone public. There are two twists that got my attention--Jenna Elfman's character getting killed so early and Ellen appearing to be dead or at least unconscious in the future--but the rest left my empty. It doesn't help that Ryan Phillipe is pretty boring, no comparison to Ted Danson, Željko Ivanek, Campbell Scott, Martin Short, John Goodman, or Dylan Baker, actors who elevated the show with the performances.

Royal Pains is like the exact opposite of Breaking Bad; its writers don't really know where anything is going and wing it until they have something that could work and let the rest fall in place. In their minds, there has to be a Boris story each season, so he'll randomly show up some point in each season and then a medical emergency will somehow arise. This time, it appears as though Boris detained an intruder and shot him, and the government is looking in it or something like that. Boris uses plenty of "mystery speak," jumbling up the order of sentences to sound cryptic for the sake of being cryptic.

Covert Affairs mercifully killed off Jai at the beginning of the third season. Let's face it--he was a useless character, never having a place on the show with the other characters other than the squabble with him on occasion. He reminds me a lot of Jill on Royal Pains, a character who was never given anything to do and then written off. He probably didn't need to die to change up the show, but the ultimate result of his death is that Annie and Auggie are sent off in new directions while Joan must struggle with her husband. Annie's new role gives her more leeway, as her boss is far for freewheeling than Joan, and she ends up sleeping with her target. Could this be a revival to a show which captivated me in the first season but bored me to tears in the second?

Although I've never been too keen on White Collar's overall plot machinations, always too random and filled with "mystery speak," when the actions gets rolling, it's hard to think of a show which comes close. I had to pause as Neal, Mozzie, and Peter were racing down the streets of Cape Verde from an incentivized mob and think how sick the scene was. One thing that really bothered me, the way Collins found out about Cape Verde, from Peter's papers in plain sight, was ridiculous. You'd think Peter would have learned by now that putting important evidence in an obvious place when someone crazy is looking for is a bad idea. I actually thought this was some kind of deception at first, because it seemed ridiculously easy for Collins to find the evidence and get to Cape Verde.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reviews 7/3/12 - 7/9/12

I'll be busy the next few weeks, so I will fall behind on shows. I still have to watch Newsroom (will problem review several episodes at  once), Longmire, and Continuum.

Perception is, like most shows, a procedural. It has a special twist to differentiate it from others, the main character has schizophrenia. But it’s not a debilitating problem—no, it helps him solve crimes! Okay, so this show isn’t supposed to be realistic or meaningful about the disease, and there are probably schizophrenia advocacy groups writing up a press release if they haven’t had already. Eric McCormack manages to be charming enough as to be likable when he’s being crazy, and the writers don’t go completely overboard with his quirks. What results is a passable summer drama, fitting in with TNT’s slate.

While The Closer will likely not be remember as a top show in an era already inundated with procedurals, its end closes what I think is an important part of TV history, big movie stars moving to television. Nowadays, stars mostly go to premium cable where special roles are more fertile, but Kyra Sedgwick pioneered it spectacularly. Brenda Lee Johnson is the kind of character you see a few times each decade. She is the complete package. Her disarming sweet Southern charm to lure in unsuspecting prey, her single-minded dedication to her job, her a willingness to get down and dirty with the worst criminals—these traits elevated The Closer above similar shows. And while Brenda often crossed the line, she also wasn't someone from The Shield; she never does anything for personal gain. The Closer begins its final sixth episode by returning to Phillip Stroh, the rapist attorney (both meanings), but he isn't caught, indicating he will return before the end. It's a solid episode with lots of bobbing and weaving from both sides, ending with the two rapists caught, but not Stroh, since he likely was not involved with this particular crime.

We’re getting a good ways in this season of True Blood, and it’s abundantly clear the show is continuing on the path it’s been on the past few years. Every character is given equal weight, each with their own story. Terry is off with the fire monster, Sam gets shot, Tara slowly realizes the fun she can have as a vampire, Lafayette going crazy, and Jason looking into his parent’s murder. The fire monster is more interesting than the others, because monsters are always cool, but the other stories take way too much space. Long ago, the writers should have consolidated the character, at least sticking them together, so we wouldn’t have these disjointed stories which aren’t particularly interesting to begin with. Even still, it’s not like the vampire plot is doing much better. Bill and Eric find Russell and learn that Nora helped dig him up, so at least the story moved along. But back at the Authority HQ, it was the same cooperate with humans speech we’ve already heard in previous episodes.

Discerning between bad writing and bad acting is difficult when there are no direct comparisons. A line may sound cheesy, but we can’t really know what it would sound like if, say, Jon Hamm spoke them, even if we imagine it would sound marginally less cheesy. This bothers me most when I have an issue with Falling Skies. The dialogue, when spoken by the younger actors, will usually sound terrible, and I can’t tell you bears the most responsibility. In the second season, Hal and Ben have gotten larger roles, and with that more dialogue. Most of Ben's scenes aren't working, and neither did Rick's. I know, I know... kid actors. But reinforcing the bad writing idea is the awkward writing for all the romantic relationships. On the plus side, we learn that the Skitters themselves were enslaved by the harness. Generic, yes, but the story is at least moving.

Weeds tries to change things up with Nancy being all happy and content with not being a drug dealer, but at this point, it’s hard to really care whether she’s changed or not. So much has happened that she can’t be forgiven, no matter how hard she tries. Some stuff actually happens this week, unlike the season premiere in which literally nothing happens. It doesn’t feel like an endgame, but it’s kind of too late for that anyways.

The rational part of my mind is telling me that Louie was raped in last week's episode, and it's also telling me not to make a big deal out of it. The setup to the ending was quite good with Melissa Leo killing it with her performance. They go from being antagonistic to blow job to smashed window to eating out. It's a weird chain of events, with Louie going with the flow despite a few roadblocks until the disturbing ending. Now, Louie is supposed to be a comedy, and while Louie's reactions were funny, it paints the idea of rape and sex as more gray than black or white, which could be controversial.

So... I went and watched the third episode of Anger Management. It's a fascinating show to watch, if you keep reminding yourself it's on FX and not CBS. It's also disappointing to think that Charlie Sheen, unconstrained by CBS and network television, can only recreate a CBS show. It's a typical multicamera comedy about a guy with a peculiar occupation, therapist in this case, and his slightly dysfunctional family and group of friends.

The main purpose of the exploration into Wilfred and Ryan's mind seems, on the outside, to be about a change of setting, not any deep message about the human psyche. The third episode of the season uses the new setting of the workplace to give Wilfred more people to interact with and more plots. This allows to see the same Wilfred we've come to love but also new situations which we wouldn't have seen had the show continued as the first season did.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Reviews 6/26/12 - 7/2/12

After last week’s misstep, Falling Skies rebounded nicely with a quieter episode which had some great character moments, not necessarily because of the acting, but the writers actually came up with an interesting situation. My biggest problem with the episode is that the plot developments went by a bit too quick, and there wasn’t enough time to fully development things in one episode. We meet Weaver’s daughter who’s living a with band of kids, and of course the writers play up the family drama angle up as much as possible. Again, I wish it went on for more than an episode, but there were genuinely good moments in there. Prior to the episode, Falling Skies didn’t emphasize the creepy nature of the skitters and their parasitic harnesses. This episode, however, embraces it fully, and gave us a stunning scene in which we see a bunch of kids about to be harnessed. Lots of gooiness, tendrils, and everything else icky. For those brief moments, I was freaking out over what everything looked like. Good job, prop, special effects, and visual effects guys.

True Blood isn’t exactly racings forward as previous seasons did, but there are enough interesting parts per episode to keep it afloat. The indisputable highlight of the episode was Pam and Eric’s scene. Pam is an awesome character, always willing to let off the best one-liner insults, but also vulnerable enough when it counts. We root for her when she’s winning and feel bad for her when she’s hurt. With Eric and Bill on the verge of getting killed for not bringing Russell back, Eric lets her go in order to keep her safe by preventing her from helping him. I do wonder, though, whether the scenes would have been more potent had the flashbacks been in this episode rather than the previous one. The rest of the episode had a bit with everything like the funky fairy detour, so we know they haven’t been forgotten (unlike, it seems, the werepanthers). And oh yeah, Alcide and Sookie, known killer of Alcide’s fiancée, kiss as Eric and Bill watch. Bon Temps, everybody. Needless to say, the brief Terry and Sam parts did nothing for me. Yeah, I want to know what happens next, but those measly few scenes are just too brief for anything to really come of them. The thing that bothered me most, though, was the kid vampire who was killed. There wasn't one time in all the episodes in which I didn't feel like he was just blurting out his lines. Surely there was a kid out there who could say the lines semi-realistically... or not.

Longmire: For all their efforts to be realistic, police procedurals in the end are about as unrealistic as 24. While the world we live in indeed has plenty of crime, the rates at which such fantastical murders and schemes occur are greatly overstated in these worlds. Imagine the public reaction if the Criminal Minds world suddenly became a reality. Widespread panic sweeps across the US, as crazed murderers rampage across the country, impeded only by a small group of FBI agents. But in the Criminal Minds world, the public is fine, accepting of their world where killers seem commonplace. Longmire, though framed in a grittier world than that of Criminal Minds, has its own set of problems. It’s located in a small town in Montana, and yet there seems to be an awful lot of wild adventures going on. Cartel members, child snatchers, major Native American conflicts, frequent shootouts—a lot has happened in just 5 episodes in this dinky town with a couple sheriffs. This week’s episode lays it on pretty thick with the Native American stuff. Now, I realize the US government has screwed them since the beginning of time until present day, in every possible way, but I’m not sure a fictional television show is where this kind of activism, with an increasingly preachy tone, should happen. And besides, are there plenty of other plots already ongoing?

Weeds is one of those shows which should have ended long ago. Agrestic burning down pushed the show down a certain pass and it was all downhill from there. Now, there have been interesting developments here and there, but the show has grown tired, going from one twist to another in order to propel the family from one location to the next. At long last, the show will come to an end for a 13 episode final season. The eighth season premiere begins where the seventh left off, with Nancy getting shot. Nothing really happens in the episode except we learn that the shooter is Tim Scottson, the son of Nancy's second husband all the way back in the second season.

Episodes is a fun show for someone like me who constantly wonders what's going on in private in the television industry. There are times when you question how such terrible shows can end up on network television with millions watching, and Episodes provides answers, however fictional they may be. The writers--in the show Sean and Beverly--are well-meaning, genuinely funny people whose creation is ripped to shreds and built back up into a monstrosity by the desire for ratings and stupid network executives. This would be a comforting thought, that there really is talent out there, just the networks are destroying it. On the other hand, writers of Episodes would want us to think that, as they and their friends would take less heat if they make bad shows. Back to the matter of the show, it tries hard to make us like Beverly and Sean as they navigate their way through Hollywood, but I could care less about what happens to them.

For some reason the official season premiere of Wilfred was last week rather than the episode the week before, the super-trippy episode which explained how Ryan got to where he was. It makes in the sense that the official season premiere is more in line with what we've seen before. Lop off the final episode of the first season, change Wilfred's attitude towards Drew, add in Allison Mack, and you get the second season premiere.

Louie is one of those shows which doesn't really require regular viewing if you care about plot, and the season premiere doesn't exactly offer anything we haven't seen before (though his black ex-wife was a fun  change). Sometimes things will carry over from episode to episode, but everything is so surreal that randomly watching a couple episodes is about the same as watching consecutive episodes. Thematically, you don't need to watch every episode either as you can gather tons of information about Louie from a single episode. In the season premiere you can see a lot of Louie's attitudes towards relationships in the episode as he tries his hardest not to be committed and yet be frustrated at his predicament.

On the onset, Anger Management presents itself as a CBS comedy; it definitely has all the right parts: the profession--psychology--a bunch of other quirky characters, the family, an overbearing laugh track, and obvious writing. So you wonder why this show ended up on FX, home to Louie and Archer, as esteemed as comedies can get, and you look deeper into the show. In the end, you conclude that the only reason it's on FX is because of Charlie Sheen and the viewers he'll bring. Indeed, Anger Managed debuted to stunning ratings and showed that even cable--FX!--can devolve the easy-thinking writing that dominates network television.

Suits really spread out its wings last week, with all the other characters having plenty of screen time, in addition to Harvey and Mike's usual legal work. There was Louis, trying to prove his worth and Jessica acknowledging it, and Donna and Rachel having drinks. It may not seem like much, but it looks like the writers are making a considerable effort to make the show into a real ensemble one. Mike got dragged into the office politics this week and while we know Mike won't be drawn in by Hardman, he's in the crosshairs now. This season is focusing on Mike's development as a lawyer and the fact that sometimes the "good guy" doesn't win. It's basically the opposite of Fairly Legal, where everyone wins once a mediator steps in.

Burn Notice continues to give the new characters a bit more to do with Pearce getting a lot to do for a change, interacting with all the characters. Although Michael and Fi will be separated for a while longer, it looks like the writers are pushing Jesse and Pearce together. At the beginning of the season, Burn Notice is working nicely right now. The team situation is changed up and we don't quite know what to expect week in and week out. Can the writers keep this up?

There was a bizarre interview with Royal Pains executive producers last week. They have several statements that make no sense, like Hank having to be with another doctor, and others which are a mark of unambitious writing,  when they basically said that they had nothing more for Jill to do. The main problem with her character, from the  very beginning, is that everything she did was defined by how it affected Hank romantically. There were attempts to broaden her character with the clinic and friendship with Divya, but ultimately, the writers did the will-they-won't-they thing with Hank way too many times and then ditched her. My thoughts after reading the interview was that this was an isolated incident. After all, Divya has grown plenty since the beginning, and even Paige eventually got something to do. Why the writers could never write anything consistent and long-lasting for Jill is quite baffling. I want to believe that Jill Flint is leaving because of something behind the scenes, out of hope that the writers are really more competent than their words indicate. But in last week's episode, there was another mark against the writers when the Hank and Evan conflict abruptly ended. Again, we see the writers unable to carry through with a plot in a meaningful way, ending things before they really begin. These brief half-season arcs begin with so much promise but always peter out this way. It's a matter of trust, and before long, viewers realize something which seems "big" really isn't.

With only 10 episodes this season and 4 episodes already aired, Dallas is rolling along nicely. Plot twists continue to come, information is revealed, and characters are continually backstabbing each other. For those who like the deception and intricate web of liars, Dallas pretty much hits the mark. For those looking for something more in terms of character, there is not much there.
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