Tuesday, September 12, 2006

TV Tues. - A New Season Begins

Haven’t had one of these for a while, have we? But the new season is gearing up, so you can expect a return to form here as well.

Bones: With all the hustle and bustle of moving into the new place, I completely forgot to set up my VCR to tape the season premiere of Bones, and therefore missed out on the introduction of the new boss, which is too bad, since getting thrown into the strained dynamic between her and Bones in the second episode made it hard for me to gauge what the character is really like. I did enjoy the moment where the new gal had to take a moment to accept that Bones had absolutely no clue what the significance of her “rocks” comment was.

Standoff: New drama about a couple of FBI negotiators who are not only partners at work, but romantically involved as well. I have to say, the ads for this one did absolutely nothing for me, and most of the pre-season buzz was fairly negative, but since there wasn’t much on the night of the premiere, I decided to give it a whirl. At first, I was pleasantly surprised; the writing wasn’t too bad, the interplay between most of the characters was entertaining, and it turned out to star not only whatshisname but also the wonderful Gina Torres. Things were definitely looking up. And then, the romance angle broke out . . . and the show broke down. Seriously, anytime the plot moved into a scene about the stars’ relationship, the show ground to a screeching halt. Think that’s partially to blame on the writing, partially to blame on the conceit itself, but most of it falls on the fact that the couple has no chemistry. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Everyone who ever complained about the Buffy/Riley relationship being stale needs to give this show a watch, after which Buffy and Riley will seem like Dave and Maddy from Moonlighting (the early years, of course). There are lots of things a show can do to improve itself over time, but a complete and total lack of chemistry in the relationship which is supposed to be the driving focus of the show? That’s going to be tough to overcome, any way you slice it.

Justice: Yet another legal drama, only this one has a couple of twists on the usual formula. The first twist is to end each episode by showing what actually happened in the case, so that the audience can see if the jury’s verdict was right or not. The other twist is to make almost all of the lawyers so greedy, loud, and over-the-top intense that they are impossible to enjoy watching. Victor Garber’s character is the worst culprit, since the only time he’s not screaming at his peons or clients is when he’s doing a press conference. I will admit to laughing once or twice at his curmudgeonly ways (in particular his views on dealing with a client’s family members), but in the long run I kept hoping that Kerr Smith (the only borderline likeable character so far) would just snap and pummel Victor unconscious to stop his constant haranguing.

Celebrity Duets: Not really proud of the fact that I’m watching this latest reality show experiment, but it could be worse: I could still be watching American Idol. For the most part I’ve found the bulk of the duets to be cringe-inducing, with the only consistent exception being Jai whathisname who has knocked it out of the park every time. I think Lucy Lawless has a great singing voice, but a great solo singing voice; it never meshes well with any of her partners. And I have no idea what the judges are smoking to keep praising Leah Thompson, whose voice sets my teeth on edge. At least, I think, Little Richard has been praising her, although to be honest, I have no idea what he’s babbling about at the best of times. It’s sad that people will now look back at his time on Hollywood Squares as on of the more coherent points of his career.

House: I never got into the whole House phenomenon before. I’d watched the very first episode, thought it was okay, but kind of routine, and since it was up against several other things I actually liked a lot, I never gave it a second thought. But a combination of The Anti-Cap’n’s love for the show and the fact that there was nothing else on I cared about last week meant I gave the season premiere a chance. Have to say, I liked it quite a bit; House is one heck of a flawed character, and I mean that in the best possible sense. None of the supporting cast clicked with me, which could make this one of those rare shows that I actually watch for the titular character . . . if I continue to watch, that is. Right now, signs point to “possibly maybe,” especially since there’s not a lot of competition on the schedule right now and, at the new place, I once again have regular cable which allows me to watch one channel while taping another! My multiple VCRs will go to waste no longer!

Stargate: SG-1: I’m still bummed that this is going to be the last season of SG-1, which I still find superior to Atlantis. The news that they’ll probably do some SG-1 tv-movies only slightly mitigates my disappointment. There’s a rumor that some of the SG-1 characters might move to Atlantis, which is interesting, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. Daniel would be the logical choice, since both Cam and Sam would be a bit redundant with Shepard and Rodney around, as would, to a lesser degree, Teal’c thanks to Ronan. There’s no solid Daniel analogue on Atlantis right now, and his character has been whining about not being allowed to go there for several seasons now, so his transplantation would seem a good fit. At the same time, I just don’t know how well Daniel would fit into the current Atlantis dynamic. The only other really viable candidate is Vala, but I think she fits even less into the Atlantis schema than Daniel. Personally, I would much rather see some sort of Vala-centric spin-off, especially after this last week’s Vala-heavy episode (and here you probably thought I wasn’t going to actually mention any episodes at all). Claudia Black’s highly comedic performance on SG-1 has been a constant joy, especially in light of her former dourness on Farscape. Honestly, at this point I don’t care what show she goes on, as long as I get my Claudia Black fix somewhere.

Prison Break: This show is testing my patience. They do get bonus points for killing off Veronica in the premiere, which took me by surprise, but lose those points and more for having the characters constantly acting like idiots. I’m a little too invested to completely write it off yet, especially since I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when T-Bag catches up with the rest of the gang, but unless they start tightening up the plots, the show is going to get dropped.

Vanished: Not to be confused with the similarly themed NBC series Kidnapped, this is a season-long look at the investigation to find a single missing person. On Vanished it’s a politician’s wife who apparently has a past filled with secrets. Two episodes in and, well, while I suppose I could conceivably care less about the show, I’d have to say probably not by much. As opposed to Kidnapped which I saw on the special promotional DVD available through Netflix a few weeks back.

’Til Death: Fairly by-the-numbers sitcom about a jaded married couple and their newlywed neighbors. A few lines here and there made me laugh, but it’s just so danged sitcomy that I don’t see it staying on my “must see” list.

Happy Hour: This one has gotten a pretty big drubbing by the critics, and I agree that it’s not going to win any awards for comedic excellence, but I saw a few flashes of potential here and there. However, the uber-bitca fiancĂ© of the “old” Brad did not amuse, only annoy, and will probably be enough to get me to stop watching the show fairly quickly.

Trailer Park Boys Seasons 1-2: Canadian comedy series which is probably best described as a mockumentary version of Cops, only told from the P.O.V. of the white trash criminals. Pooh’s Canadian boss has mentioned this series to her, and she and Zinger passed the word on to me, thinking it sounded like something I would like. When I first read the description, I thought the same thing; after watching the first couple of episodes, I began to have second thoughts. But, this is exactly why I usually give TV shows at least three episodes to hook me, because by the time the third ep had run, the show had started to find its rhythm, and by the beginning of the second season, it was firing on all cylinders. I think one of the problems I had with the early episodes was that it was obviously one of those “improvised dialogue” shows, and the cast didn’t seem really all that comfortable operating in that mode. Over time, their delivery and self-consciousness dissipated, and the characters started to engage, rather than annoy, me. I’m about a third of the way through Season 3, and the show has continued to improve. I’m now looking forward to the in-the-works big-screen version.

Blackstar: So, who out there remembers Blackstar? Nobody? Not surprising; it was a relatively short-lived cartoon on CBS in 1981 produced by Filmation, the folks who would later be responsible for the He-Man cartoon series. After recently clearing up some legal issues, quite a few of the old Filmation series have been getting the DVD treatment, and Blackstar is one of the first that I’ve been curious enough to rent. I figured it wouldn’t be anything too stellar (few of the cartoons from that time frame are), but the siren call of nostalgia and morbid curiosity compelled me to give it a whirl. The verdict? Man, what a stinker. Oh, there were some positives, like an interesting design sense, but really the show is one that is much more enjoyable when given the MST3K treatment, as PigPen* and I demonstrated while watching the only two episodes I got through. The worst offense of the series was the inclusion of the “trobbits,” seven dwarfish characters who were primarily there for the sake of hostage fodder and comic relief. Interesting sidenote on the trobbits: originally they were colored blue, but the production staff kind of had to change that after word of this other animated series debuting in 1981 about miniature blue creatures . . . In terms of unintentional comedy, probably the highlight for me was the way that the animators were endlessly fascinated by showing character reaction shots. There were times when a minute or two would pass by with no dialogue, as the camera cut back and forth and zoomed in and out on the horrified grimaces of characters; you’d think the voice actors were getting paid by the word or something. I also swear that when making the second episode one of the production staff was trying to win a bet about cramming as many stock sound effects into a single half hour as humanly possible; pretty sure he won it. Anyway, two episodes was enough to satisfy my craving for a Blackstar fix, so I sent it back. Now I’m just hoping that I get a copy of the Space Sentinels/Freedom Fighters DVD soon. I’m sure it will be just as cheesy (if not more so), but I am a bit of a glutton for punishment.

*That would be the new nickname for Cap’n Red.