Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Rump of the Season

It's mostly all over but the crying in television season land. The last few new shows are being led out of the stables and put through their paces. In advance of May's upfronts, most of the decisions have already been made and everything I care about (save Human Target, which is still in the fog) has been renewed: BBC's Being Human and Luther, Fringe, Community, all the other things whose fates weren't much in doubt.

It's been a pretty lackluster midseason, end-of-season, whatever-we're-calling-it-season, and the "replacement series" have been pretty atrocious. Bye-bye The Cape, Mad Love, Mr. Sunshine. The Chicago Code was well-liked by people with taste, but I skipped it as a sacrifice to the TV gods, and am not invested in it's eventual fate.

So that leaves us with the last few dribs and drabs, most of them pretty drabby. Dana Delaney deserves better than the earnest-exposition-fest that is Body of Proof. I don't know if it was an effort to give watchers something to hang onto, but the pilot was full of people just talking and talking and talking about themselves, what I call the "stuck on the airplane" syndrome, where you're strapped into the airplane seat next to someone who say's, "Let me tell you absolutely everything about me!" Trouble was, even with all the fraught backstory, I didn't care. I had literally seen everything it had to offer, and it had been offered far, far better. Blah.

If you blink you'll miss Chaos on CBS. Great cast: Eric Close (my beloved Mr. Wiseman from Now and Again!), Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under, Planet Terror), James Murray (Primeval), and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?). The four leads are fabulously charming, but they've got nothing to work with. Cute in spots, but ultimately disappointing and sadly doomed.

(Yet to come, but still on my radar are Breaking In on April 6th, and Fallen Skies on June 19th.)

That brings us to the one show that, for the most part, DOES work. AMC's The Killing debuted this weekend to pretty great reviews. Based on an immensely popular Danish series, The Killing follows the investigation into the brutal murder of a teenage girl. I'll admit the first hour didn't really drag me in. It was pretty, but cold. I found Mireille Enos as the lead detective on her last case before leaving too quirky and stoic at first. She could have been wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with, "Get me, I'm an Enigma!"  (And what the hell was she looking at washed up on the shore in the opening?) Also, is it just me or is Billy Campbell basically the same character no matter what he's in? I kept wishing for him to fall into one of ubiquitous bodies of water and drown because he bores me that much.

But the slow build didn't matter, because another episode followed, and it made up for it. Enos finally clicked and was terrific. But the standout for me was Joel Kinnamen (a Swedish actor I was previously unaware of). As the ex-narco cop come to take Enos' job , he looks like nothing more than a redneck meth-head. I found myself assuming that he was going to be the useless counterpoint to Enos' efficiency. I was wrong. 

There's a scene at the high school the murdered girl attended, and Kinnamen stays behind, even though the kids are a stone wall. Out behind the school, he lights up a joint and starts flirting with two cute teenage girls. It's a really a scene where you don't know what's happening, where you feel like anything could happen. It's both creepy and compelling.  But when he gets the one hint of information he's looking for, you can watch in his face how those girls become instantly irrelevant to him. In less than a minute, everything you assumed about him is totally changed.

I like a story that surprises me, and so far this one has. Now if we could just shove Billy Campbell into a closet somewhere.

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