Wednesday, May 13, 2009

what i've been up to: TV edition

In all honesty, I haven't had the desire to update since the finale of Battlestar Galactica. I said I would post my reactions to it -- and perhaps one day I still will -- but I never got around to it because, in all seriousness, words failed me. It's analogous to writing a eulogy, except instead of eulogizing one person, you're reflecting on an entire world that's gone. I tried to prepare myself for the end, but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional flood that came at the line, "I know a bit about farming..."

But enough about my unhealthy idolatry of BSG. Here're some quick thoughts on a few things that have crossed my path...

Two shows that have surprisingly won me over are Castle and Better Off Ted. The former's success rests largely with the charm and charisma of lead Nathan Fillion, whereas the latter only succeeds when showcasing its ridiculously funny supporting cast. I think Castle is funnier than most other situational comedies (though technically it's billed as a crime dramedy -- I still haven't decided if incestuous genres elate or irritate me) because Castle's situations are actually funny. When meeting his daughter's boyfriend before prom, he opts to intimidate him with a blood-splattered lab coat and fake severed head. That's much better than the cliché ".45 and a shovel" line. Also, Fillion and his co-star Stana Katic have really strong chemistry together. Their potential romance is masked by Beckett's transparent contempt for him (she keeps him at a distance because his novels got her through a difficult time in her life, and she doesn't want to be vulnerable around him), but it works because the show is able to space time for them to be serious and smart as well as flirtatious and fun. Better Off Ted is the complete opposite of a crime dramedy -- if there would be an opposite for such a genre. This show is about a man who struggles with ethical and moral dilemmas while working at Veridian Dynamics (I recommend watching the company's commercials, especially their response to Barack Obama's address interrupting their air time), and it's therefore a... corporate satire. Between Portia de Rossi's perfect delivery and the Phil-Lem bromance, I'm really hoping ABC takes a chance and renews it for a second season.

Scrubs had a wonderful series finale last week, and I hope that ABC gives creator Bill Lawrence the freedom to create a new show rather than rehash the Scrubs formula. For one, it's time that Scrubs ends (even though I enjoyed this last season on ABC), and two, it's just not Scrubs without the inner monologue of John Dorian. The finale was funny, honest to the characters (J.D.'s book of Dr. Cox's insults was wonderfully balanced by Cox's secret compliment to J.D.), and Alan Sepinwall has a good rundown of some of the show's inside references in the finale. Also, I highly recommend checking out the last five minutes of the show, complete with the perfectly selected "Book of Love" (Peter Gabriel's version) in the background. And while we're on the subject of ABC, the penultimate episode of Lost moved along nicely to set up the events that will occur in the finale tonight. Although the theme of "leading" is so season one (instead of Jack-logic vs. John-faith, it's now Richard vs. Ben vs. Locke vs. Jacob vs. Widmore -- and any of those dynamics are interchangeable), I enjoyed the new and improved Jim LaFleur opting to save himself and his lady Juliet over rescuing the others. My biggest problem is -- and will always be, it seems -- that Lost spent so much time explaining time via the closed-loop theory that I'm going to be really irritated if they switch it midstream. Faraday had this extensive journal detailing his theories on the "constant," and then he goes to Ann Arbor for three years and says, "No, no -- it's about the variables!" That's an unnecessary red herring. And also... You. Can't. Change. The. Past. I'm sure I'll have much, much more to say on Lost after tonight's finale.

Now for the shows that are continuing to disappoint me... While I enjoyed last week's episodes of The Office and 30 Rock, they were still just typical episodes. As comedies, they're supposed to have jokes, and so I did laugh. But the jokes were not mind-blowing or gut-busting at all. (Although, I love that Liz and Pete couldn't guess the ages of black people. Samuel L. Jackson is 61 and Grizz is... 18?) Both shows have had a really uneven season, and the only reason to watch them is to catch the weekly pop culture reference. Unlike How I Met Your Mother, which has created innumerable phrases that have forever changed the pop culture landscape (Legend--wait for it--dary, the cougar, slap bets, the lemon law, "Woo" girls, and of course, Robin Sparkles), 30 Rock offers one-liners that only last a week before being replaced by the next week's one-liner. (This week, it was "That's a deal breaker, ladies!", which was spoon-fed so it's twice as awful.) These shows really need to step up their game and remind us why they were so great in the beginning. Also, I was disappointed in last week's episode of Bones. Brennan's rationalization of wanting a baby with Booth was... irrational. Now, on paper, it makes sense that Brennan would want Booth's child. They each have different skills that would be beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint. She's intelligent, and he's quick-witted and strong. But her reasoning for wanting a child was poorly executed. Having a child is obviously more than extending your good genes. It requires time, patience, selflessness -- and Brennan's decision to pass on her good genes was completely selfish and uncharacteristic of her. However, Booth's reaction (and everyone else's, for that matter) was characteristic and understandable. I just hate it when the Bones writers equate intelligence with obliviousness or social ineptness. Also, what was with Booth having a tumor? They've been planting the seed for a while (previous hallucinations), and all of a sudden he's diagnosed and treated in one episode? Judging by next week's previews, Booth is back on his feet. My guess is the writers needed an emotional response from Brennan to sleep with Booth out of love and not just logistics, and if that's the reason Booth had a freaking tumor, I'm going to be very upset.(*)

(*) In an episode of Slings and Arrows, the creative director explains that mourning is really a selfish act, that when we mourn, we're really mourning our own loss, a loss of ourselves or bits of our identity. This is a very interesting observation, and one that I agree with, that applies here. The only reason to give a MAIN character through a potentially fatal disease is so that other characters are affected by it. It's not a one-episode treatment; it's an evolution of a character's relationship with that person. See, for instance, Izzie and Alex getting married on Grey's Anatomy. Although I think the execution was poorly done (Miranda convinced McDreamy, who then convinced Meredith, who then talked Alex into taking her wedding), but the point is that it deeply impacted the structure of these characters. Most significantly, I think, it allowed Callie to repent her previous hatred for Izzie. Even Cristina was changed by the disease! On Bones, everyone in the waiting room seemed more concerned about Brennan than Booth... and that's just not good writing.

Lastly -- on the TV front, at least -- Dollhouse was a thoroughly disappointing hour, and if the show is renewed for a second season, I will not be watching. The major problems I had with this episode: (1) Ballard tells Romo Lampkin (Mark Sheppard will always be Romo Lampkin to me) that the Dollhouse is underneath them and Romo walks away? Was Ballard's smile to the camera supposed to indicate that he intended for Romo to walk away...? (2) Ballard works for the Dollhouse now? NO. No. Why in the world would DeWitt allow that? Why would Boyd? (3) Eliza Dushku's acting was so horrendous in this episode that I almost broke my TV. Alan Tudyk's Alpha is implanted with multiple personalities (one of whom has a multiple personality disorder!), and he becomes schizophrenic. Dushku's Echo is imprinted with thirty-eight personalities and she simply talks through casual exposition? Poorly, poorly done. Even the editing favored Tudyk's performance. (4) The cat-and-mouse scene at the end was... non-existent. Sierra and November are imprinted as assassins and then... they're not seen again! Ballard and Boyd are able to capture Echo and take her back to the Dollhouse as Alpha escapes. (5) Why would the now fully-aware Echo willingly go back to the Dollhouse? There was pertinent scenes left on the cutting room floor. The ending of the episode was way too rushed for all that happens. (6) And this is the real kicker... the entire arc of the first season, the entire reason Alpha went psycho and killed people, the entire reason we've been watching the show... is essentially that Alpha thought Echo was hotter/better than Whisky (Dr. Saunders)? WHAT?!? I understand that, as a serial killer, Echo probably fit one of Alpha's profiles, but his actions can be reduced to mere jealousy. Whisky was getting all the attention. He thought Echo was better. So he killed a bunch of people and took off. And then came back in a ridiculously elaborate plot to steal Echo.(**) Seriously, Joss. This is first-draft material.

(**) I'm still unclear as to why Alpha stole Echo, imprinted her with the mind of an idiot, and then kidnapped a store clerk and imprinted her with Caroline's personality. What was the point of his crazy rant? Why steal all of Echo's previous imprints? Sigh...

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