Tuesday, September 30, 2008

episodes: dexter, desperate housewives, californication

Dexter: I agree with Alan Sepinwall (and I tend to) that there's just something wearing off about Dexter. The show isn't lacking interesting characters, nor are the storylines or character development weak, but I think that Dexter Morgan should only have a limited run. This show shouldn't last as long as, say, Friends or even Lost. He's infinitely interesting character, but I fear that Showtime might diminish his mystique and intrigue by constantly showing us more of his humanity. Although, this opener was superb in the Dexter-as-real department. (Spoilers!!!) Rita's son asks Dexter to come in for "bring your daddy to school for show and tell" day, and Dexter is intrigued by this. Michael C. Hall plays Dexter with such ambiguity -- not just morally, but characteristically (even with the narration sometimes I don't understand what's he thinking) -- that I didn't know if Dexter was genuinely touched by the prospect of having a son or if he sees this opening as a chance to really integrate himself into this idea of normalcy. The Season 3 premiere is entitled "Our Father," which refers to a plethora of fathers, both literal and representational. There's Harry, Dexter's dad, whom Dexter is slowly leaving behind as he deconstructs Harry's Code and his entire childhood. There's Jimmy Smitts, who plays a lawyer whose son Dexter "spontaneously" kills. Of course, due to Dexter's forced charisma (but is it really that forced...?), this guy becomes Dexter's friend and, I imagine down the road, a new father figure for Dexter. (Season-long theme!) But there's also Dexter-as-father... he's becoming Cody's new representative father, but at the end of the episode, Rita realizes she's pregnant. I'm incredibly interested in where they're going with this... but I was kind of annoyed that Harry's Code was constantly mentioned throughout the episode. I thought Dexter let go of the code? But of course, killing a random person and accidentally sperminating his girlfriend was never part of the plan... so perhaps this season will explore a primal, spontaneous aspect of Dexter.

Also while watching this show, I realized how diverse the cast is, and no one's really type-casted. Sure, Masuka is the "funny Asian," but is that really a stereotype? No, he just also happened to play the "funny Asian" on Chuck during Season 1. (Although, there's also a "funny Asian" -- as in, comedic relief -- on The Mentalist, so maybe this stereotype is replacing the "token black man"?) I love that this show takes place in Miami -- not New York or LA -- and the show explores both the beauty and the pollution of the city (beauty of the water, pollution of, you know, dead bodies). None of it seems forced, and I enjoy watching these characters act in a paradoxically natural way. The show, make no doubt about it, employs realism -- but Dexter, due to his removal from society, serves as ironic or satirical character that takes you out of that realism. It's seriously one of the best shows on TV -- and perhaps one day I'll give my defensive rant on Season 2 -- but they need to get rid of Harry's Code.

You can see a majority of the premiere at -- I don't understand this at all -- Imdb.com. Watch it HERE. Of course, it's a bit edited... no naked Rita for you. You need to order Showtime for that. Rating: A-

Desperate Housewives: Yes, yes. We've all heard about the five-year jump -- to an obnoxious excess -- but the show's not really rejuvenating anything. (Did you know Marc Cherry got the idea of the time jump from Lost? Yep, true story.) I loved, loved the first season of this show because it really seemed to be a postfeminist text. You have women who choose to be housewives -- and Susan was even a children's book author and Lynette was a career woman -- but the show lost sight of that. It's no longer about women making things work in suburbia; instead, it's about the age old clichés of women having to choose between a career and a man... and then it slipped into women just keeping their men. It's incredibly tiring and overdone. I was not impressed with this episode, although I did love the addition of Neal McDonough to the cast. He's super creepy as a Norman Bates type character, calm on the outside but completely psycho on the inside. But his fifteen minutes aren't worth the other 45... and if I wanted to see that character, I would just watch Dexter, which is opposite Desperate Housewives. Rating: B-

Californication: God bless OnDemand for giving me the second episode of this Showtime gem one week in advance. I'm not going to lie. I should hate this show. There is gratuitous nudity galore and it is inconceivable that someone like Hank Moody would go get so much tail. (Honestly, ever woman he talks to wants to bed him within two lines of conversation -- if there even is conversation!) But it's well written and extremely well acted, and the chemistry between David Duchovy and Natasha McElhone (arguably the most beautiful -- certainly that I've ever seen) will punch you in the face. The first episode was so-so... it's the scene after The Graduate that shows you what happens after you ditch your wedding and jump in the back of the bus (a convertible, in this case). In the premiere, Hank gets a little snip-snip, and watching Hank hold his privates is somehow comical enough that I never got tired of it. He performs accidental cunnilingus (which is just as funny as you're hoping) and runs into Callum Keith Rennie -- who, it seems, has a multiple episode arc. (Thanks the gods!) But the second episode is a REAL gem. Hank's friend Runkle, played by Evan Chandler who will always be Harry from SatC, gets fired for masturbating at work. His boss shows him the video -- which includes curious impressive editing and multiple angles -- and then he goes on a blow binge with his wife. Hank tells him, "No man should ever have to see his O-face." The funniest scene of the whole episode is Runkle yelling at his coked out wife. He starts talking hypothetically about his future and then when she doesn't understand, he yells "YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME" and then goes to sulk in the bathtub, all the while wearing a Red Lobster bib. It's absolutely brilliant. While last season was primarily a B-rating show, this season looks promising. Can Hank stay faithful? What does Hank actually want? Is love enough? It's an age-old question, but it's executed in such a remarkably fresh way. Rating: B+ (premiere), A- (second episode)

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