Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Everything is going my way unless I die": Gleanings from beyond the grave

These gleanings are killing me. Don't know how much longer they will GO ON. But look for more information when our 300th post rolls around in a few days.

For now. . .in chronological order. . .

CSI: How much more grim do we really need? Hm? The show's sense of portentious doom is starting to feel. . .old, which is something I haven't been able to say in the past. Indeed, the opening of the season premiere -- which involved Cirque du Soleil performers flying around to bombastic classical music while a casino imploded -- was just this side of completely insane. And then. . .Catherine got raped? What? This show has long been the sort of thing I could just have on in the background, but it's losing a sense of itself, assuming that bigger means better (a common syndrome for older shows -- if you've ever listened to David talk about ER, you know what I mean). I don't know how much more I'll be following this this year. If this dismays you, please get in touch.

On the other hand, I'll condense two episodes of The Class into one entry now. The show is sort of fun, and I think it's going to continue to get better, but this isn't a situation like How I Met Your Mother where the show started out with so much potential that continuing to watch it felt compulsory. Still, Lizzy Caplan is great, and the multiple storylines setup is something that could work better with a less-strained premise. What's more, the physical gags are always great -- if the show could somehow figure out a way to just do all slapstick, all the time, it would be better off. Even those of you who don't like the show (and I guess I would regretfully include myself in your number) have to admit that Holly getting hit in the face with a STOP sign was pretty great. Still, the Holly/Kyle storyline is a real strain and completely unbelievable on a show that aims for something higher and seems to miss it continuously.

Kidnapped revealed to us that lil' Leopold (and, honestly, I love that name) is in Mexico somehow and simultaneously showed us just why the show (which has been THE ratings disappointment of the new season) is so expensive. It appears that the production crew ACTUALLY WENT TO MEXICO to film a one-minute scene. They couldn't find a back street in New York (where they shoot -- on already expensive locations) that could convincingly double as Mexico? We also had to see a Spanish mission, then have a character say something about how it's not safe in Mexico? This is still a pretty good show, and the plotting is well-done (much better than that awful Vanished), but the fact that it's to be canceled imminently makes me more inclined to be hard on it. Paradoxically. Or something.

Everybody Ha-ates Chris had something of a schizophrenic episode -- the scenes with Chris struggling with love were smart and bittersweet while the scenes with Whoopi Goldberg as the neighbor having a fight with Rochelle over a neighborhood watch were a little too over-the-top on a show that has its verisimilitude as its greatest weapon. Rock's narration continues to have the best jokes, but the cast is capable of handling the funny stuff and the dramatic beats. The new time slot is hurting it (did you see the ratings?), but here's hoping Chris can find new fans in one of the worst time slots on the schedule.

I'm really liking The Amazing Race, but I'm really tired of The Amazing Race at the same time. The show, seeming to sense this, is taking its time to focus on the unusual friendships forming between teams you wouldn't expect (the coal miner and his wife, the gay couple and the black, single moms have formed an offbeat alliance that seems to be based on real friendship as opposed to strategic thinking). It's also upped the difficulty of the challenges and taken us to some interesting and different locations. That said, the race through the Hanoi Hilton to find John McCain's flight suit was horribly, horribly gauche, even if it was redeemed slightly by the brothers' decision at the end to take a moment of silence for what soldiers went through at that location. And I have to admit that it WAS fun seeing the father and daughter team (whom I actually quite liked) get gamed by an opportunistic local who wanted a ride to her brother's place.

Brothers & Sisters got better in its second episode, but it's still not quite worthy of the talent involved in it. The show is really just a high-toned adult soap (think NBC's long-running Sisters from the 90s), and it should embrace those roots, rather than trying to be too many things at once. Still, Libby had to hold back tears, so this show should play well to its target demographic. Which is women who like to cry, I guess.

Prison Break may have lost me. I could handle bizarre plot complications. I could handle physics that made no sense. I could even handle the whole "Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Prison Break" arc of early season two. But now the characters are acting out of character to introduce plot complications, and that may be unforgivable. I think I will keep watching to see if Haywire can make it to Holland on his raft with his dog and his floppy hat (I don't need to tell you that this idea screams spinoff potential).

Meanwhile, How I Met Your Mother spun out its funniest episode of the season so far. It was great to see Michael Gross (Steven Keaton of Family Ties) back in action, and the episodes of this show that play around with the general structure of the sitcom (this one started at one story, split it into three stories, then brought those stories back together at the end) are some of its best ones. It's been nice to see the show not put the focus on Ted and Robin and let its supporting players have the spotlight, even as Ted remains the main driver of the story. This episode, focusing on his parents and explaining a lot of why he is the way he is, went a long way toward making me like him that much more. This is a show that's really discovering what it is and broadening its horizons in its second season, and that's something worth watching.

Heroes seems intent on following its boring-boring-boring-boring-AWESOME format, which guarantees that every episode will be mostly hit and miss. For me, most of the misses involve scenes featuring any character that's not Hiro or Claire. Only Hiro and Claire seem believable as people who've just discovered superpowers, mostly because Hiro's got unallayed joy and Claire is terrified that those around her will find out. The others, who are dour and moody for no good reason, just seem a bit too much, though Greg Grunberg, who seems more confused by his powers than anything else, is a good addition to the cast. I like how willing this show is to burn through plot, but will that give the writers much to do after season one? I mean, gads, you've got a nuclear apocalypse lined up for November sweeps. Where do you go after that? Break out the push pins, Heroes!

And then there was Studio 60, a maddening blend of absolutely spectacular (Matthew Perry's performance), puzzlingly mediocre (the scenes where we were expected to believe a network president's DUI would be a huge deal in the media) and completely awful (Science Schmience?). What's holding me back from loving this show right now is its valedictory tone, as Aaron Sorkin praises himself for saving a medium that didn't need saving and writes completely unrealistic situations that just make no sense. Tim Goodman at the San Francisco Chronicle wants to know why people think that a show about entertainment can't be as important as politics. And, honestly, I would LOVE that show. I would WATCH that show. But Studio 60 a.) gets too much factually wrong about television and b.) feels like a completely condescending putdown to anyone in the audience who would dare not be a coastal liberal. Look, I'M a coastal liberal and I feel like the show is talking down to me. Not a good sign.

If you're looking for my Friday Night Lights and The Nine thoughts (and please, please, please watch both), they're up at House Next Door. Scroll down, like, an inch and you'll find a link.

1 comment:

Kenny said...

Man, I don't know how you have time for all this, but it's great.

HIMYM is awesome this year, really in the groove. The Class is worth it just for Lizzie Caplan, and the redhead and weird sister are good too. Also the contractor has a way with lines that is funny and appealing ("This house is not well built!"). Studio 60 has become a show I love to hate. It gets so much so wrong, and is so consistently obnoxious, it makes me feel good to hate it.