Chase

Chase is an action procedural, a hot blond federal marshal and her team chasing the big bad guy for the week; it’s not about figuring out what happened, but about figuring out what the guy is going to do next.

I really don’t have much to say about this one way or another. It’s smoothly done. How interesting each episode is going to be will depend more on the bad guy than on the good ones – are they going to be able to come up with folks making interesting decisions week after week?

There is some attempt to make it sound like there will be some rich character detail in the lead, whose dad was one of the bad guys – something that she alludes to in every conversation she has with a witness. Got a bit annoying.

So this one goes on the DVR-if-there’s-nothing-against-it, watch-if-there’s-nothing-else-to-do list, along with The Mentalist.

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Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Raising Hope

Doing goofy comedy with lower-class characters requires riding a tricky line; it’s easy to slip from showing a lovable bunch of losers to  elitist sneering at the powerless. My Name is Earl somehow managed to spend most of its time on the funny-rather-than-just-cruel side of that line; perhaps it was because we were able to find things to root for in most of the characters.

The new Raising Hope, from the creator of Earl, starts out on the wrong side of that line. It tells the tale of a family of quirky-but-n0t-lovable losers, with a new baby that is unexpectedly brought into the family, in the primary custody of the least quirky, least loserish of the batch. The cast has a few respectable folks in it – Cloris Leachman as the conveniently senile oldster leaves me with the feeling that she really wishes she had Betty White’s carer, while Martha Plimpton as the newborn’s young grandmother gave me the reaction of “Martha Plimpton? In this??” for its odd fit with what she’s done in the past… followed by the realization that I’d not seen anything with her in a long time. But the characters in the family and out (mainly, a retail worker that the young dad has a thing for) are neither sufficiently interesting to excuse their lack of lovability nor sufficiently lovable to excuse their lack of interestosity.

But sandwiched within the desperate character stuff are moments, moments where the material work. There were a number of out-loud laughs generated by the episode, such as when the baby bounces around in the back seat of a car, due to dad being wise enough to know he needed a baby seat but not enough to know that the seat has to be buckled in. It’s just a happy bonce in the back seat. But that very gag points to a reason why it may not be watched in the Nat’s TV household; Mrs. Nat’s TV flinches at any humor derived from babies at risk. (In some ways, it’s a good trait to have in the mother of one’s children.)

Is it good enough? No. Is it rescuable? possibly.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hawaii Five-0

Now look, a remake of a series is never promising. At the moment, I cannot think of a single live-action primetime broadcast network revival of an original American primetime broadcast network series concept which lasted more than a full season on network. Yes, off-network revivals of network shows have at least a reasonable history of success – Battlestar Galactica, The New Gidget, Still the Beaver, What’s Happenin’ Now?, The New WKRP in Cincinatti, and Star Trek: The Next Generation all had qualifying runs, but even those markets are littered with The New Monkees, The Munsters Today, Fame L.A., and so forth.

With Hawaii Five-0, I’m coming to it as largely a blank slate. I have some vague memories of maybe having seen part of an episode of the original decades back, but I may be thinking of Dragnet. So I don’t even have that strong hold on the concept of the show, just the few little clip moments that everyone knows – Jack Lord looking impressive, “Book ’em, Danno!”, and that theme song.

They’ve wisely kept the theme tune, even making a last minute reversion back to the original recording, because, well, it works. It doesn’t call back an era because it wasn’t like other things of its era. It’s immediate, it grabs, and it works. And there are some other things that work in this show. Danno is particularly well-cast, and the mix of native-born Hawaiian, recent immigrant, and native-born-who-seems-like-recent-immigrant on the team is a good idea. But in  way this feels like some new generic high-action cop show which they’ve tried to graft parts of the old show onto… and yes, I know I didn’t watch the old show, but I have trouble believing that they spent time trying to explain why Danno is called Danno, or why they were called Hawaii Five-0, or why there wasn’t really a police crew with their job. Watching this pilot feeling the need to explain or actively blow off these concerns made it feel like they were embarrassed by what they were laden with in doing a revival. Danno should be called “Danno” because he’s called Danno. Everyone is called something. While they do complete the storyline in the episode, long-term mysteries and emotional conflicts are set up in a way that basically announces that Hey, We Had To Set Up Longer Term Things, That’s The Way It’s Done Today.

There was a lot of grace missing in the show, I guess that’s what I’m saying. So it’s off the recording list.

Note: Due to a DVD-R failure that I still haven’t quite diagnosed, House and Lone Star did not record. The latter is rerunning later in the week; I’m looking forward to that.

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Event

When Lost began, something awesome and mysterious happened, and the explanation eventually proved to be complex.

When The Event begins, complicated things are happening. It’s different.

The trick to these big mystery and mythology series would seem to be creating a lot that’s curious but also having some clear stories going on within that bigger picture that the viewer can understand, feed them followable story while slowly dealing with your mysteries. The Event doesn’t find that balance. It does try to invest us in a central character, the lovable Jason Ritter, but it brings him to us when he’s already neck-deep in the show’s craziness. He comes across as just kindly, enthusiastic jetsam on top of whatever’s going on..

Blair Underwood plays The President Whose Name Is’t Obama But Who Is Otherwise Obama. Laura Innes plays smar-and-hiding-something, which carries over what she was doing in E/R. Zeljko Ivanek plays the tight-lipped, vaguely sinister, very smart advisor whom we don’t trust, a role which he’s done many times befor – quite well, of course, but it’s just another sign of how this series brings no surprises (twists, mysteries, yes, but where we expect twists and mysteries). It’s like they’re trying to be lost, but not season 1, they’re trying to throw you right into season 2 or 3. They’ve not earned the complexity.

I can look at the big happening at teh end of the pilot episode and see the five different ways that it is set up to be interpreted, but I cannot find myself caring about it.

You know, if it were up against nothing, I might DVR it for a while and see if I get around to watching it. But I’m expecting to like Lone Star and hold out hope for  Mike and Molly, so the DVR is apt to be taken by one or the other.

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 6:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Outlaw

In Outlaw, Jimmy Smits quits being a conservative Supreme Court justice so that he can be a liberal lawyer. Because after all, conservatism is about not caring about people and only caring about the system, right?

Sigh.

I mean, I’m someone that most Americans would probably judge as having a leftist bent, but I can’t see this as ringing the slightest bit intellectually honest. It’s manipulative in silly ways.

Mr. ex-Supreme rebel has support team, and they are all quirky, of course. The overly-confident, overly-competent sexy bisexual detective might actually be cool if she took it down 25%, but instead she’s tiresome. The others are all just unreal, existing solely as a simplified set of reactions to our lead. Everything tries to be too hip.

The basic concept of ex-SC-turned lawyer is a good one. The star is a good choice for it. But the execution is execrutionating!TM

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm  Comments (3)  

Terriers

A couple minutes into the pilot of Terriers, and you know exactly what this series is: a couple of charming low-rent not-quite-licensed private eyes with their canine sidekick will go through some shenanigans en route to solving a crime each week, and yet will never quite be able to profit off of their success. Charming, light, not very serious, and reruns well – something you might see on the USA Network, like Monk or Psych.

But then you keep watching.

Then there’s the scene where the one p.i., the formerly-hard-drinking-cop with his lovable roughness, meets up with his ex-wife. And she’s neither a shrew nor someone who is ready to come back into his life if only he lived up to his potential. Yes, he does something a little TV-ish with the sense that he’s trying to get her back, but he doesn’t expect her back, and when he sees her moving on from him, he’s not happy about it but he’s not shocked nor crushed into craziness. He’s human. They’re human.

And then you get to the end of the episode, and yes, some things are tied up, but it is clear that that story is not over, that there’s a bigger case that will be evolving, that Terriers is a serialized story rather than a series of stories. And it’s all done pretty well.

This one caught me off-guard. FX shows have not generally won me over. But I’ve put this one onto the weekly record schedule for now.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hellcats

Hellcats, the new cheerleader drama on the CW is not for me, but I will grant it this: it is less not-for-me than I would have expected. I expected cheer Glee, which would seem the obvious reason why a show like this is on the schedule. What I got instead is perhaps more One Tree Hill, more of an angsty tone than the cartoony tone that makes Glee tough for me to view.

Not that the drama is serious. The story builds around a  prelaw student who has lost scholarship and has to try out for the cheerleading squad to get a new scholarship, despite her disdain for the acitivity. Does this curvaceous outsider rebel make it on the squad? Well, I’ll let you watch and figure that out.

The show does, of course, have cheerleading sequences, and they make me tire just watching them. I cannot envy the actors who have to go through them, take after take, as part of an otherwise grueling shooting day.

Potential romances, rivalries, and parent issues are all set up. I expect that this will end up a fairly by-the-numbers drama aimed at teen girls and those who aspire to be them. But the dialog, while unrealistic, does have some real bounce at times, the good-looking people re good looking (and for those of you who watched Buffy, these include D.B. Woodside, the last principal of Sunnydale High, back as a man of medicine here.)

But speaking of Buffy: hey, CW, you now have a series about vampires and a series about cheerleaders. Wouldn’t it be better to have one series, where one kills the other? Doesn’t matter which one. Either would work.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

No Ordinary Family

I caught the pilot of No Ordinary Family at Comic-Con. It’s a four-member superteam-as-family pattern that can be seen as coming from Fantastic Four via The Incredibles. Don’t call it a rip=off , though – after all, this is an ABC TV series, and ABC is a division of Disney – who now owns both The Incredibles and The Fantastic Four. Can’t rip yourself off.

Some of the Fantastic Four got powers that reflect their personalities – the Thing and the Human Torch both reflect that, but it’s harder to find that intent in the Invisible Girl and Mr. Fantastic. With the Incredibles, it’s all about the powers reflecting their basic nature. With this new show, they’re going a different way – the powers don’t reflect who they are, but rather are exactly what they need, making up for their individual weaknesses and problems.

As a writer, it is tempting to get snarky over that particular move (“gee willikers, nothing fuels good drama like removing characters’ weaknesses!”), but to be fair the pilot is more of a “hey, it’s fun to have powers!” exercise than any real effort at conflict. Michael Chiklis – who to me, as a non-The Shield watcher, is still primarily the guy who starred in the best time-traveling-Bob-Woodward- talks-to-the-ghost-of-John-Belushi pic ever made, although he acquitted himself well as Ben Grimm – plays the somewhat shlubby husband with the far more pretty and successful wife in Julie Benz, following the modern sitcom tradition of couples. They have two teen kids. They all get exposed to a mysterious substance, and bam, the shlubby guy who has felt crushed by the world gets strength and invulnerability, the wife who doesn’t have enough time to do everything gets superspeed, the dumb kid gets superintellect and the socially awkward kid gets telepathy.

Oh, and some villain gets powers from the same source. Because, you see, that’s the only way that Hollywood knows how to do it. They think the work has a lot more grace if you generate hero and villain from the same source. That’s why the first Iron Man movie is the same as the recent Hulk movie is the same as various other attempts. They do not see that all that does is paint an inherently bleak worldview, that there is no net good to be generated, because anything which generates good also generates evil in approximately equal quantities, and the best the good can do is to stop its matched set of evil. In this case, the series makes no pretense of realism – folks do plenty of stupid superpower testing simply because it makes for interesting shots  (the “lets jump from a tall building and see if my powers keep me from splattering on the sidewalk” sort of thing), so if you’re not afraid of inserting wild elements, make up a wild source for villainy, why don’t you?

The crowd at Comic Con was supportive of the pilot (understandable, going in there pumped up, having a shared experience, and having the cast and creative crew in the house), but it felt by the numbers, expected, and not as fun as it wanted to be. I won’t shy away from looking in on it if I’ve got nothing else to watch, but I don’t intend to follow it.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nikita

I don’t think I’ve ever watched any of the versions of La Femme Nikita, neither of the movies nor a full episode of the series that ran four seasons about a decade back. If the new CW series Nikita is anything to judge by – and given that it’s a McG series, it may well not be – I havent been missing mch.

You see, there’s this secret US government agency that exists to kill folk, and they do it by capturing people they think would make good killers and both training them and forcing them to kill folks. This seems to be a rather unnecessarily complex and stupid way of building an assassin squad, if a whole agency was truly needed just for that (really, you could take all of the real assassinations in the world and you wouldn’t need a whole huge agency to do them, I reckon.) And it exists in this very unreal-feeling world of agencies against agencies, all very dark and stabby and pointless. Nikita herself is one of their assassins who has escaped and is now trying to bring the agency down.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say someone was trying to recapture the big success of Dollhouse, with the kick-ass females and the dark-secret agencies and dark color schemes, and captured a lot of the weaknesses that, well, made Dolhouse not a success.

I shan’t be watching more.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why I’m bothering catching up

So I’ve fallen behind. New shows have ended their summer season and I’ve not even gotten around to posting my reviews of the pilots. For a moment, I thought “why bother?” To some degree, I keep this up at all because it has such a long history. Tomorrow will be the ninth anniversary of the first TV review on my pre-blogging blog.

But then I realize that I rely pn this blog for my own reference, to remind myself what I saw and what my impressions of it were. So here’s a few quickies:

  • Rizzoli & Isles: in this TNT  action drama, a lady cop and her lady forensics friend – yes, this is a female-targeted program in a number of ways – face the bad guys, including the serial killer who is stalking the cop. Remember how Silence of the Lambs was aggressively creepy but it had a lot of really good stuff that made the creepy parts both good and meaningful? And remember how the sequel just had the creepiness? This is the latter. Watched episode 1, didn’t continue.
  • Covert Affairs: a perky CIA trainee gets thrown into big-time spywork and internal politics before she’s ready in this USA Network hour. In the big reveal at the end of the pilot, the boyfriend whom the lead thought had abandoned her turns out to still be around, still carings, and involved in something bigger that we do not yet understand. Airs right after White Color where, in the big reveal at the end of the pilot, the girlfriend whom the lead thought had abandoned him turns out to still be around, still caring, and involved in something bigger that we do not yet understand. DVRed a couple episodes and watched them since the pilot, but it’s not compelling.
  • This year’s Emmy awards ceremony was actually a pretty good show, starting with a really strong opening, with Jimmy Fallon, the cast of Glee, and various other TV folks performing “Born to Run”. It was so well-tuned, well-timed, and nicely bouncy. It was so good, in fact, that I’ve been bugged ever since by one missed opportunity. Sure, Fallon was doing Bruce, but for that one moment where The Boss suddenly shouts out “1-2-3-4” to note the break from instrumental to lyrics? That shouldn’t have been Jimmy; that should’ve been taken by Sesame Street‘s The Count. With the high energy level of that moment in the song, to have launched him onto the screen for just those three seconds would’ve been epic.
Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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