Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is tv even good?

Just because I know you've been clamoring for it, I thought I'd take the opportunity, and god given right of every blogger, for a quick update of my thoughts on a few tv shows. While almost all of this season's new tv is still on the air, not all of it has lived up to the hype; and I for one have found myself drawn into some different avenues than I expected this season. So let's start with the big new shows first...

Bionic Woman
This show is seriously losing me. I've been one of the strongest supporters for the show, at least that I know, but no matter what I was hoping for this show seems determined to prove itself to be bad. I enjoyed the pilot, and I think a lot of that had to do with how much better I thought the pilot was than the original version which I saw of it way back at comic con. The second episode had me intrigued. While I wasn't super excited by the "mission" element of the show, I really enjoyed the dynamics of the team. I also really liked the training sequences where Jamie is leaning her powers. But since we've past that point now, episode 5 having just aired I have to admit, this show is really getting worse and worse. The action is really cheesy, the missions totally absurd, and the team element both in practical structure, and dynamics that I liked just a few episodes ago is highly implausible at best. This show is just bad, and despite the news today that they have another new show runner, this time Jason Cahill of Sopranos fame, taking over for their first replacement Jason Katims of Friday Night Lights fame, does not fill me with hope. If this show doesn't get better very soon, it won't just lose me, it will lose everyone.

My official most anticipated new show of the Fall season, started with a bang, then slowed down for a few episodes, where it almost died, but with new episodes on the way it looks like it now might be getting into a groove as the larger overarching story is finally starting to kick into gear. There's a delicate balance people need with their television, we want both smart and fun, interesting and accessible, and it's tough to find that middle ground. No where is that more evident is the dynamic between a show that wants to develop a large overarching storyline, but still maintain the episodic feel. Journeyman is having a tough time finding that right level. As a sci fi story, that is generally trying to take itself seriously it needs the larger mythos. Time traveling pseudo science aside, this genre as a whole tries to be about bigger picture things. But I remember hearing somewhere, on a director commentary of a tv show, some words that seem really true here; that tv shows live and die by their first 6 to 9 episodes, and every single one of those episodes should provide an avenue for someone who is just seeing the show for the first time to join. Journeyman has run the serious risk of becoming too episodic (ie accessible) for its own good. But with the return to the ongoing story elements as the show progresses into episode 4 and 5 I think Journeyman can get on track. Considering the sci fi element already scares a certain demographic off, I hope this show doesn't alienate the actual fans of the genre by ignoring them. It definitely has the potential to still be a very good show, I hope it can deliver.

I'm not sure where to begin with Reaper. I mostly liked the pilot, but since then... sigh. Maybe I should mention the good stuff first... Tyler Labine, formerly of Invasion and a slew of other things, is hilarious as the 'wacky slacker friend'. He jumps off the screen, and steals the show every time he appears. One day there will be a great starring vehicle for him, but for now he is the brightest spot in a show that is struggling to keep my interest. The other really nice thing about Reaper is the chemistry, the show is cute, and the cast really has a nice feel to it. Everyone is very natural, and the dialogue is quirky and fun, possibly that can be attributed to Kevin Smith's involvement as a show consultant. But the problems with the show are becoming more and more apparent as we get into the 5th and 6th episodes. The biggest of which being that the totally contrived reasons why the main guy, Sam can't get together with the main girl, Andi. The show is playing their relationship very oddly. They are both likable and have good chemistry onscreen but the reasons for Sam to not ask Andi out seem more and more to be a result of Sam being a total chicken than a good friend. Its frustrating to have your protagonist be such a loser, and frankly out of character considering how his story is developing in the rest of the show. The other big reason Reaper is slowly losing me is that the premise seems to be lending itself to an incredibly repetitive structure. Every single week Sam has to capture a new soul and return him to hell, every single week he gets some awful 'devil power', every single week he gets a 'vessel' that he doesn't understand until the critical moment, and every single week he bitches to the devil about how suckie his job/life are. Its going to get boring very VERY fast.

Kid Nation
I don't even know how to justify why I'm still watching this show. It's so overly engineered. These kids would totally get along in the real world, but the show seems to struggle to create conflict. I find the entire idea that we can use these kids to show us how to be a better world a little nauseating. Its far to simple-minded a theme; heartwarming pap. But the show is really just very very watchable. The kids are entertaining, and thank god, almost all of them are totally genuine in what they're doing. They're just living their lives in this crazy situation, and that is cool. I am hooked, and am not turning back.

I still haven't had time to catch up on the new shows Dirty Sexy Money, or Chuck. Both of which were on my to watch list. For others like Private Practice, or the critically and publicly renowned Pushing Daisies I think I'm just going to totally give up on. I only have so many hours in a day, and as you'll see from this post I'm already watching waaaay to much. Here's some thoughts on returning shows I've been checking out.

What played so strong last season has in a way entered what a lot of people are calling a sophomore slump. I say in a way, because I don't really think that it is a slump. I think this is just part of the ebb and flow of a series that has a few really great highs each multi episode story arc (a 'pod' as Tim Kring likes to call them), coupled with a lot of meandering slow plot builds the rest of the time. As season one ended a lot was going on, now that season two is going, especially picking up a full four months after the end of the first one, its not really surprising to me that the show is taking some time to find its footing again. That said, I don't think the super slow paced character builds, unexciting new heroes, or languid plotting are a good thing. Matt and Mohinder seem to be the slowest detectives ever, if Hiro is going to insist on staying in the past for a third of the season then lets actually see some of his adventures, and I don't think anyone wants to see Peter without his powers. It's like everything is just slightly off what I wanted in the new season. Even Claire's story, apparently lifted straight out of an episode of Smallville is kinda boring me. But it's all leading to something that should be very good, and that is what Heroes has a great ability to do, essentially plod along, until a moment of greatness. And on Heroes those moments, where we first hear future Hiro say "Save the Cheerleader Save the World", or have Peter duke it out all lightning bolts, fire and ice with Sylar, or when HRG actually gives up his own memories to save his daughter, or when Ted blows up the Bennet household... those moments are simply the best kind of television. They totally transport you, right into the very moments of the show. That is Heroes at its finest. And I am waiting for that to return; I believe it will, I just hope its soon.

Friday Night Lights
If you aren't watching this show, and I suspect you aren't because I don't think I actually know anyone watching this show other than me, you really should be. To be clear, I am not a football fan. I do not watch the sport, I do not have a favorite team, and I really only know the basic rules to the game. This show is not about football; it is about people set against a backdrop of football. This show is a drama, and it's modeled very closely on the real world. Maybe not always in plot, but definitely always in character. These characters react so naturally, and so consistently that its no surprise to hear that many of the scenes are riddled with improv. I am a huge fan of this show, and the second season is maintaining the very high level of quality as the first. This is a show that 3 or 4 years from now once they win a few emmys you'll discover and wonder to yourself why on earth you never watched it before. I'm telling you now, start watching this show. it's great.

Grey's Anatomy
This is totally a guilty pleasure of mine, and definitely the most girly of all the shows I watch, please don't make fun of me for it. The show is on its 4th season although I've only been watching since the last one I am pretty engrossed in the show. It's a total soap opera, with everyone sleeping with each other, highly implausible yet heart wrenching medical dramas that auspiciously mirror whatever happens to be going on with the doctors personal lives at the moment, and all sorts of touching moments from overly sincere excessively emotional pretty people. If you're looking for fluff, look no further.

A great character based medical show that has just begun its 4th season, this is another one of those series that I have just recently started making time for. House is quirky, and biting and funny. It has engaging mysteries and this season a very new cast. I also think you can drop in and out of this series and not miss too much, check it out if you can.

Survivor China
Survivor is Survivor is Survivor. This time its in China. People are still assholes. This game is just as engrossing as I remember, but basically played out. Why am I watching this??? I honestly don't know. It makes me feel kind of dirty. Watching this is almost as bad as watching American Idol. Stay away... if you can.

Robot Chicken
Of all the Adult Swim line up, this is the only show I am keeping up with right now. I have new Metalocalypse, and Frisky Dingo as well as old Saul of the Mole Men and Moral Orel on deck with my DVR, but just can't seem to find the time. Until I can get my grubby mitts on another season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, this show is by far the best AS has to offer. Only one problem, it's way too short.

How I Met Your Mother / The Office / 30 Rock
These shows are all hilarious. In unique and awesome ways. From Barney, to Dwight, to Baldwin. Watch them; you won't regret it.

South Park / The Sarah Silverman Program
These shows are really crass, but still funny. Like each episode is worse than the last. And I kind of feel bad enjoying them. But I still watch... what does that say about me?

There's a couple shows that I'm catching here and there like Legion of Superheroes (which seems very good this season) and Big Bang Theory (which is actually growing on me a little). But for every one of those there's a Flash Gordon, or a Batman that have fallen by the wayside. :(

To wrap up this extremely long post I wanted to mention two shows that have ended their run but I've just finished watching and wanted to recommend them. The first is the really excellent AMC original series Mad Men. This is easily one of the smartest most original shows I've seen in years. It follows a number of characters who work at an advertising agency in New York in 1960. The writing is extremely clever, and although this is definitely a show that you'll want to seriously pay attention to, if you miss a scene you won't be totally lost like with some other new series. The first season which just ended was absolutely amazing, I highly recommend you try to see this series and catch up by next season. And the last show I wanted to talk about is Flight of the Conchords, which is based on the 'parody' band of the same name. If you ever saw the Tenacious D series, it is ever so slightly like that. The show semi-autobiographically follows the band as they try to make it big. But really they are mostly just parodying themselves, and often they end up in truly absurd and funny situations, usually enhanced by their fish out of water kiwis in America antics. The show is dynamite, I was really just rolling laughing at it sometimes. While there is an element of hit or miss on a few of their songs, overall this show is great, and well worth your time. It's an HBO series that will begin a second season sometime next year.

You know, looking at this list its pretty insane that I can physically watch so much television. And all this is aside from things like The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Best Week Ever, and The Soup. None of which count as they are informational: hence news ;)

Good thing I'm so very very dedicated. Better head off now. Later kids.


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