Mangy product

The local JPop store took out a full-color full-page ad in the local ad packet…

….and let us know about some of their interesting product offerings:

Published in: on September 30, 2006 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Heroes unlike any other

The pilot of Heroes starts out on a bad foot – it opens with that guy who played Jesse on Gimore Girls, who played pseudo-Jesse on American Dreams, and who generally we do not like here at Nat’s TV.

Now this is a superhero series. And according to a piece that Mrs. Nat’s TV read, the creators were out to make something like has not been done before, and something that wasn’t comic booky. Problem was, they thought that the way to do this was by not reading comic books. And so, in the piece it is admitted that they ended up with something with some strong similarities to X-Men, featuring powered young folk who are actually the next step on evolutionary chains, and who will come together despite powerful folks out there who would stand against the evolution.
What they didn’t admit, and seemingly didn’t know, is that their execution is very comic booky. It’s just that it’s modern comic booky, rather than the default 1960s/’70s image that folks who haven’t read much in the way of comic books assume comics to be, from whatever parodies they’ve seen. Texture-oriented storytelling, slow to get to the plot, the look and feel… these are not astonishing things.

But comic-booky is not a bad word here. We like comic books. So is it good? There’s not enough here to say. It’s a bit generic, for the comic book fan.  We’re dealing mainly with four apparently-powered individuals – the guy who can fly, the cheerleader who heals almost instantly from anything, the painter with visions of the future, and the Japanese salaryman who can teleport and can control time (at least that’s what he believes; for any reasonable theory of time, he seems to be simply moving through it non-linearly, not effecting time itself.) None of these powers is shocking (and, in fact, all  can be found in the pages of X-Men.)

Which actually leads nicely to an example of the ways this thing is sloppy. Apparently someone cued them in on the X-Meness of it all before they filmed, and they have the salaryman actually make a reference to a specific event in X-Men 143. Except that its highly unlikely that the Japanese individual would have read that comic, much less that his less-geeky friend would recognize the reference… and besides, they got the issue number wrong (the storyline referenced is X-Men 141-142, the classic Days Of Future Past). But that’s detail stuff.

More important is the sloppiness in storytelling. The cheerleader is horrified by her powers, because they will make her an outcast – something that doesn’t seem justified by anything that is going on with her. If she had some visible power that others would detect without her specifically trying to show it off, that would be different. (And thing is, there would be all kinds of justifications for her power having visible problems. Problematic hair and nail growth could be justified in these circumstances.) Or even if the character were just drawn more richly, this emotional stress could be made to be understood. But they just don’t sell it here.

All in all, it’s not-bad enough that it’s hard to give it a fair judgment from the pilot… particularly since they’re being modern comic-booky, and thus ending the episode not with the conclusion to anything, but with a revelation regarding the guy and flying. It’s a revelation which is an effective surprise, and if it’s not one of those where you look back and realize how inevitable it was, it’s also not one that leaves you thinking it’s unfair.

Published in: on September 27, 2006 at 10:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Awareness

Whenever the ad comes on that says “September is Menopause Awareness Month,” I can’t help but to add on “…but every month is PMS Awareness Month!”

(Yes, yes, a cheap joke that doesn’t really reflect the reality I live in. But it makes me smile nonetheless.)

Published in: on September 27, 2006 at 12:32 am  Comments (1)  

Brothers & Sisters

In the comments, Michael properly called me on an incorrect thirtysomething reference in an earlier review. He was right – the Michael & Elliot company was not out of business at the beginning of the series. But the gist of what I recalled was correct – the story started in the middle of events, but that was that the company was failing, flailing, en route to its demise.

Which leads us quite nicely to the review of the pilot of Brothers & Sisters, directed by thirtysomething star Ken Olin and with a supporting performance by thirtysomething star Patricia Wettig. It’s built around a family with a family business – not everyone’s involved, but a few are. And at this point, the business appears to be in trouble. In this case, there are some financial irregularities popping up. That’s half of what’s going on. The other is that the semi-estranged daughter is visiting home with an eye for moving her conservative radio show career onto television. (It’s part of a certain liberal-versus-conservative theme going on here that is more about team versus team than about actual conflicting beliefs. However, doing this is part of a not-unreasonable effort showing up places to show that TV can portray a stated conservative or religious soul without the automatically being hypocritical or evil.)

The daughter is played by Ally McBeal. Oh, okay, it’s the actress who played Ally McBeal, but the whole cast is made up of that guy from Picket Fences, that gal from Six Feet Under, that nun who used to fly… enough to interfere with thinking of these people as a family This is an effect that is likely to fade with further viewings, but not as much as it should, because this show is so much about the conflicts within the family that there really isn’t that underlying sense of similarity that will make you quite believe it’s a family. There’s more to a family than bickering.

All in all, it’s moment after moment of conflicting, forboding, and the downside of drama withut any sense of hope. It’s all the wife being cheated on, the uncle playing with the books, the controlling fiancee, the druggie brother. There are characters there, but they don’t achieve the level of “interesting” yet. There are enough characters running around that we don’t get enough of any one of them in the pilot to really identify with them.

Apparently, this series had a lot of thrashing going on behind the scenes, with cast and key crew changes. Perhaps it will shake out with a stronger center after the pilot… but all in all, despite having actors I like, there’s not enough here to make it recommendable.

Published in: on September 26, 2006 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Seat of Defeat

The latest addition to The Daily Show format is The Seat of Heat, an added over-the-top question at the end of the main interview segment. If this feature is still in place at Halloween, I’ll be surprised. It destroys the biggest strength of the main interview – the Stewart sets the appropriate interview level for each interviewee, whether it’s a fluffy fun interview with Ludacris or an insightful and even acidic political talk. Instead, they all get moved to the same level. And any impact that the interview had is thrown away by that ending.

Published in: on September 26, 2006 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Six Degrees isn't as cold as it seems

J.J. Abrams, the man behind Lost (which I follow closely), Felicity (which I watched a few episodes of), Alias (which I watched just one episode of), and Mission Impossible III (saw some of it on the plane, didn’t listen to it, and could still guess what was going to happen in some scenes) has a new drama, following a number of people whose lives intersect at various points but who are not a single group.

The conceit may pose problems in the future, but this thing is off to a good start. Despite the fracturedness that comes from following all the different key characters (and lets see if I can identify them all without reviewing the episode – I’m bad at names, but there’s the cop, the widow, the ad exec, the photographer, the driver,  and Meg; am I forgetting anyone?), this thing feels solid. I actually get a thirtysomething vibe off of it. And no, it’s not for the obvious reasons that it contains ad folks and a photographer. Its the combination of the respect it shows for some of the characters, and the fact that we’re meeting some of them not as something happens, but after something happens. thirtysomething (if I recall correctly) began after the closure of The Michael And Elliot Company, and now they have to rebuild. Here, we hook up with a woman a year after her husband died, and she is now ready to rebuild. And a talented photographer who has gotten past his addictions and is ready to rebuild. (Don’t worry, not everything is starting with a rebuilding. We get to see some tearing down going on, with some bad decisions being made.)

One worrying sign, something that the producers should keep an eye on – the use of African-Americans as the violent criminal.  It’s good that the production is not all lilly-white, but it would hope in the long run that we’ll see black characters who aren’t on that side of the line (or at least dancing near it), and perhaps see non-black characters who are. But I’ll give the series time to show that.

And if “thirtysomething vibes” sounds good to you, you may want to give the series time too.

Published in: on September 24, 2006 at 1:34 am  Comments (1)  

How many reviews of Shark will have "jumping" in the title, I wonder?

What’s good about the new series Shark:

  • James Woods playing a snarky defense attorney turned snarky prosecution attorney.

What’s weak about Shark:

  • That there is little in it but attorneys being snarky to other attorneys.
  • That the writers don’t seem to have heard of subtlety or implicitness. This was driven home in two scenes – one in which Woods’s legal team each introduced themselves by practically stating “I’m so-and-so, and my motivation is thus-and-such”. In the other, Woods’s sixteen-year-old daughter sits down and explains to her father step by step her motivation for doing something, in precisely the way that no person (much less a sixteen year old) would do, and ends up after a speech conveying information that could have been handled by two well-crafted sentences, a knowing look, and a trust of the audience. A scene that could have informed us of the character left us simply not believing in the character.

All in all, watchable, but also quite missable.

Published in: on September 22, 2006 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  

The kids! They live!

Just taking a moment to note that the How I Met Your Mother trope of actually seeing the kids that the story was being told to was back for the season premiere; I’m wondering whether they’ve decided to bring it back full force, or to just do it once or twice a season to remind you of the context where this is all taking place.

Published in: on September 22, 2006 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Smith

There’s a certain constant grey that hangs over the series E/R. Everything has a uniform depressing quality. There is no fun, no real joy. The series is about constant grey. It’s hard to find anyone to particularly root for, because you know even if they win, they end up losing.
When E/R producer John Wells took over the reins of The West Wing, that same sort of grey fell over that series, which was once full of people who had hope of doing good, despite obstacles.

Smith is his new series, about a family man with a double life as the leader of a squad of high-end thieves. Ray Liotta stars, and he’s one of those big-screen guys you aren’t surprised to see on the small screen, as he seemed to have more name recognition than actual work. Virginia Madsden does a nice turn as his wife, who has complexities of her own. But at this point, I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be watching. I’m not supportive of the theif, I’m not astonished by their brazeness, it’s not one of those “wow, that was a clever way of pulling a heist” pieces a la The Thomas Crown Affair, and I don’t feel that there’s some vast mystery to him that will be unraveled. It’s just “here’s someone who does something dark, here he is looking pensive, here he is doing his dark thing”. I don’t feel for him, I don’t feel for his victims, it’s all pretty numbing.

Published in: on September 22, 2006 at 9:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Natural male enhancement

So it turns out that those creepy ads of a smiling confident guy touting “natural male enhancement” were part of a scam, separating people from their credit card numbers to get free samples, then separating the credit cards from cash. Not, mind you, that it wouldn’t have been scamy otherwise; there is so little oversight and protection against false claims for “natural”, “herbal”, or “homeopathic” remedies. One does not need to show efficacy to make those claims the way one does with other medicines.

On the other hand, in one way it wasn’t a scam. I mean, if you discovered that you let someone take you for your money because they convinced you that your d— wasn’t big enough… wouldn’t that make you feel like the biggest d— on earth?

Published in: on September 22, 2006 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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