Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Midseason Doldrums - Tales from the DVR

Used to be, TV series rolled out on a predictable schedule. Fall premieres, the occasional mid-season replacement, and the burn-off of the unwanted during the summer, when decent people weren't inside watching TV, but rather out catching fireflies or having ice cream socials or some such.

No more. Now TV is like one of those endless sushi conveyor belts. And while what you get is mostly the same old Spicy Tuna or California Roll, you keep looking in the hopes that something fresh and exciting is just around the bend. 

My DVR is hovering at that 50% level (about 100 hours), the level where I start to get nervous, so I figured it was time to start clearing it out. (Not all of that is mine - the S/O has like 20 hours of old newsreels and the entire America: the Story of Us miniseries that he may never get around to watching. And quite a bit of it is stuff we watch together -- the full season of Mad Men, the full season of Castle, among others -- because a hot date night around here usually consists of dozing off in the middle of an episode of White Collar.)

First off: Unfinished and Finished Business.

Fringe - I am so glad Fringe is back. In it's third season, it's really hit its stride, and good Friday numbers (Shock!) mean that it's moved from the cancellation heap to the maybe-not-cancellation heap. Hope springs eternal.

The whole Fauxlivia storyline was nerve-wracking (in a good way) and the aftermath is just heartbreaking. Yeah, I don't know if I could get over finding out the man I love was sleeping with the fake evil me from an alternate universe and didn't even realize it either.

Best line? Peter asks Walter if he's all right and Walter responds, "If by all right you mean despondent, then yes." Did I mention how much I love Walter?

Medium - Medium has been a dependably good show, a happy little workhorse. I always found it worth watching. Joe and Allison Dubois (played by Jake Webber and Patricia Arquette) were hands-down the best TV couple: real, messy, devoted. I was terribly fond of them. So I faced the series finale with some trepidation. Would it do justice to the seven years that preceded it?

Er, no. In fact, if I had a time machine and could go back and not have watched the finale, I would. I want to find Glenn Gordon Caron and kick him repeatedly in the shins. And I LIKE Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting and the criminally canceled Now and Again).

But this was just, well, a mess, and a mean-spirited mess at that. Like a pie made completely of "Fuck you, viewers." The last two minutes were nice, and it was sweet that everybody got to wave goodbye at the end, but that didn't make up for the preceding 58 minutes of crap. Me, I'm going to pretend it didn't happen and write my own ending, and like Allison, I'll have woken up and it will only have been a dream.

Now onto the new shows....

The Cape -- Reviewed it once, and the second episode didn't change my opinion much. I say just give Keith David his own show and do away with all the sappy earnestness. Verdict? Off the DVR.

Harry's Law -- The previews for this looked cute and I like Kathy Bates. I look at David E. Kelley with a jaundiced eye, because the last show if his I actually liked was Picket Fences. Since then it seems like everything he done as been a sackful of quirks in search of substance.

How to best describe Harry's Law? It's like an update of the White Shadow, but with a grumpy old lawyer instead of a grumpy old basketball coach. And not in a good way. I had the uncomfortable feeling that it was written by old white liberals who tell you, "But I have black friends!" It was creepily paternalistic and hackneyed. It wasn't horrible, but I felt a little embarrassed watching it.

Add to that, it was, again, a sackful of quirks (it's a law office and shoe store!) and a huge lack of character development (why was Nate Corddry hot to work there again?) and so many old TV tropes you'd need a passel of sticks to wallop them with. Verdict? Off the DVR.

Off the Map - Do not want. Didn't watch. From the people who brought you Grey's Anatomy, of which I saw an episode once, I think the one where Kyle Chandler exploded. It was enough to make me swear off things of this ilk, much like I quit doing tequila shooters once I got to college. Here's a sample of an episode blurb:

"Lily and Ben help a wildlife photographer who is being attacked by an anaconda; Tommy learns a cultural lesson." Er, what?

Verdict: Never on the DVR.

Fairly Legal - this one surprised me, as I'm naturally distrustful of "law" shows since Perry Mason went off the air.  I'm looking at you, David E. Kelley.

But this was pretty delightful. First off Sarah Shahi is adorable, kind of like a Mary Tyler Moore for the new millennium. It was sharp, interesting, witty, the characters did not seem like they'd been invented by throwing darts at the big ol' wheel of personality traits. Oh, and San Francisco is lovely. If I ever get back there again, you're going to have drag me out kicking and screaming.

One question, do women really enjoy wearing the fuck-me heels? Really? I guess I just don't get the whole shoe thing. Although I did once have a pair of Acme roping boots that I wore so much I had them resoled three time before they finally fell apart. Somehow I think that's not the same thing. Verdict? On the DVR.

Being Human (American version) - I sat down with an open mind. Really. I'm biased against Yank remakes of Brit shows (there must be a good one somewhere, but I can't think of one off the top of my head), but I wanted to give this an honest shot.

So, is it any good? I don't know. You're going to have to ask somebody else. I got through maybe the first 20 minutes and was so distracted by the fact that it wasn't the original that I found I couldn't watch it. Again, doesn't mean it's bad, it just seemed...unnecessary.

I was a bit leery of the original at first, I mean, a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost all share a flat? What kind of adolescent Twilight-lite is that? But it works, and occasionally it works splendidly. It's engaging and funny and tense and moving. Russell Tovey is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant as George the werewolf, trying desperately to live a human life. Lorena Crichlow as Annie the ghost is lovely and alternately vulnerable and kick-ass. Aidan Turner as Mitchell the vampire it at once vaguely dangerous and utterly hapless. Seriously, the worst leader of the vampires ever, where every decision he makes seems to turn out in the worst possible way.  I find that weirdly endearing. Oh, and Adrian Lester as Herrick is a grinning jack-o-lantern of a villain. If I ever happened upon Adrian Lester walking down the street, I'd instinctively run the other way.

The Americans playing their versions of these roles seem like ghosts themselves to me, shadows of what they're supposed to be. Add that to the fact that the plot lines are going to be fairly similar, and there are no surprises to look forward to. So no thanks, I'll stick with the original. And if you get the chance, you should check it out. It's really surprisingly good. And, yay, it's been renewed for a third season and will premiere on February 19th on BBC America. Huzzah!

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