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.
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