Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let The Wild Rumpus Begin - New TV

One week+ into the fall TV season and it’s like opening a box of Monty Python’s Whizzo Quality Assortment, some crunchy frogs and painful metal springs and a teaspoon of lark’s vomit, and only the occasional raspberry gel.

First, old business, as some of my favorite shows premiered. Some shows made a successful transition from last season’s cliffhangers and denouements, some did not. Fringe, Community, Sons of Anarchy, and Castle did not disappoint. Hawaii 5-0 was uneven, but still delivered on the action, which is its strong suit. (That and Scott Caan. You can’t go wrong with Scott Caan.) Glee has, I think, worn out its jazz hands. The first episode felt like treading water and sometimes slipping under. The biggest disappointment, however, was The Mentalist.

I really enjoy The Mentalist, but I see in it something I think a lot of viewers (especially its older, CBS-centric, oatmeal-and-fuzzy-slippers audience) don’t see. To me, Patrick Jane is not a very nice person. At all. He’s deeply flawed and always has been. He’s a man of totally unreliable loyalty who cares not a whit for what is “legal” but for whatever he thinks is “fair.” (Last season he locked a loan manager in a vault without telling anyone because he felt the man mistreated an employee. He doesn’t mind being sadistic if he thinks it’s warranted.) He does not suffer fools gladly and is willing to mete out punishment to those he thinks deserve it. He’s basically a sociopath who passes very well for someone who is not, and having lost the one thing that made him “normal,” his only reason d’etre is revenge upon whomever left him with only himself. There will never be a happy ending for him, only an ending.

After last season’s really kicking finale, when he shot the man he thought was Red John, I wondered how the writers were going to deal with the aftermath. Apparently so did the writers. And, short of a “Dallas” style shower scene, they did what they could to punt. Long story short: brief incarceration, a death penalty trial that was over within days of the crime, where he acted as his own lawyer and the jury found him not guilty. I call shenanigans. Dear writers, if I had a sharp stick and you were within poking distance, I would poke you. Repeatedly. There is fair play and then there is flipping the game board over and declaring you won. While I give the last season’s final episode an A, I give this first episode a D-. It is saved only from an F by Simon Baker’s delivery of the line, “You’re under arrest, you loony bitch,” which was AWESOME.  

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on to new shows.  

The New Girl from FOX is the best of the bunch. Of course your opinion depends on if you find Zooey Deschanel tiresome or not. She has the kind of personality that can either drag you happily into her orbit or leave you standing on the outside, looking for a hatchet. The S/O, myself, Kid #1 and Kid #1’s fiancé all found it to be pretty delightful. It was smart, quick, and quirky in a good way.

The Ringer was middling. Sarah Michelle Geller is really selling the concept, but some of the execution was so-so. Especially annoying are the afternoon soap opera special effects, like when they’re supposed be speeding along in a motorboat and they’re obviously on a soundstage jumping up and down while three guys hold up a bad painting that looks somewhat like a seascape. Extra points for being partially set in Rock Springs, Wyoming. (I’ve been there!) Still watching, and hopefully things will even out.

Person of Interest is a show I have high hopes for, but the first episode was disappointing. The action wasn’t disappointing. There was plenty of suspense and gunplay and running and explosions. (And LOTS of shooting in the knee. At my house whenever the protagonist pulls a gun we yell, “Shoot him in the knee!” in honor of that one time on 24 when Kiefer Sutherland shot JoBeth Williams in the knee. Well, Jim Caviezel seems to like nothing better than shooting people in the knee. Lots of people limping around New York this week.) What was disappointing was the motivation. You’ve got an ex-Ranger who obviously worked in some type of Special Ops for the government, but is now a homeless bum trying to drink himself to death. So far so good. You’ve got a nerdy, twitchy, genius billionaire who made a secret algorithm/program to generate intel for the government, but left himself a back door. Again, still with you. But for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained, or even really hinted at, commando bum jumps right in to working with twitchy genius, with no real questions asked. There was no gain or threat or implied redemption or blackmail or, well, any motivating factor that made me believe this would occur. You’ve got A and C, but no B. There was no satisfying “snap” as the pieces came together. I ain’t buying it. Maybe it’ll become clearer. We’ll see. Jury’s out until next week.

And now we come to the big disappointment. While Terra Nova wasn’t as maddening as, say, Body of Proof, it was mind-numbingly dumb. It literally lost me in the first 10 minutes, when Dad comes home to the tiny cubicle apartment he shares with Teenage Boy, Teenage Girl, Cute Moppet, and Doe-Eyed Mom. See, he’s got a mysterious paper bag. And when he opens it, what’s inside? C’mon, I bet you can guess. It was an orange. A single orange. Because the world’s all polluted and we’ve destroyed the environment and we can’t grow oranges anymore. So oranges are like gold, or the polio vaccine, or something. Get it? Trust me, that image was tired in 1950.  

And then the Secret Kid Police come, because it turns out Cute Moppet is illegal. There’s a strict 2-kid rule in place. So they tear up the sad cubicle until they find Cute Moppet in an air duct and drag her and her little orange out. There will be hell to pay, no? Well, no. Turns out Dad goes to jail for six years, but Cute Moppet is not executed or cryo-frozen or given to childless strangers. What kind of dystopia is this?  (And later on when the question is posed to Dad about why he and his wife willfully broke the 2-kid rule, he replies, “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” The hell? No birth control failure or needed-bone-marrow-transplant-to-save-sibling-life or any number of at least imaginable explanations? No. Two educated people decided to put the welfare of their other two kids in jeopardy and have a child they’d have to keep hidden in an air duct for 18 years because it sounded like a good idea at the time. Now, of course, you feel sorry for Cute Moppet because she’s saddled with these dumbass parents who don’t seem responsible enough to care for a mutant government-sanctioned goldfish.)

Anyway. Fast-forward and Dad is in a dingy dungeon prison cell breathing unfiltered poison air, when Doe-Eyed Mom visits and explains she’s been recruited to go through a portal to Terra Nova, because she’s this brilliant, sought-after doctor. The catch is, she can’t take Cute Moppet, because that would be like “rewarding her for breaking the rules.” What, now they care? And if you were Doe-Eyed Mom, wouldn’t you just say, “Hey, if you want my magical doctor knowledge, let me take my kid, or I’ll just point and laugh while your colonists die of dinosaur fungus.”  But no, instead an unexplained plan is hatched to break Dad out of the dungeon and get him and Cute Moppet through the portal. And when I say “unexplained,” I mean totally unexplained. Next thing you know, we’re at Grand Portal Station and after some barely interesting hijinks, our whole boring family – including Convict Dad and his mysterious backpack -- is through the portal on the other side. When Convict Dad is discovered with his mysterious backpack a ruckus ensues and someone screams “Check that backpack for weapons!” At which point someone pulls out a huge knife and prepares to repeatedly stab said backpack. Because that’s certainly an efficient way to search for weapons. Repeatedly stabbing a backpack is so much easier, say, than UNZIPPING IT. Because, wouldn’t you know, Cute Moppet is in the mysterious backpack, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief when she is not repeatedly stabbed. 

After all this, you would imagine there would be hell to pay this time. I mean, last time it was just a slap on the wrist, but now there’s going to be consequences, right? Not so much. So in the end, the entire freaking backstory was useless. We gained NOTHING from it. Nothing. They could have just won a lottery and gone through the portal and it would have been more interesting and less idiotic than the ridiculous, overwrought, fifth-grader-written, hole-filled pantomime we were subjected to. And by the way, WHERE ARE THE FREAKING DINOSAURS?

Ahem. Well, now it gets exciting, right? Er, no. Because there’s more idiocy to be had. There’s the manufactured fight between Teenage Son and Dad over how he walked out on them and now Teenage Son doesn’t have to listen to Dad. Er, anybody remember the dungeon? There’s the fact that even though Dad spent three years in a dank, poisonous dungeon, he seems none the worse for wear. Why, he’s whacking vines (not a euphemism) and running around all willy-nilly after shiftless characters with nary a cough or a stumble. In fact, he seems in excellent shape. (Must have been the spa and the state-of-the-art gym portion of the dungeon that ended up on the cutting room floor.) Then there’s Teenage Girl giving us some muddled backstory about altered timelines or parallel realities or blahdy-blahdy-blah so that we don’t get distracted by the fact that recolonizing the earth in prehistoric times would mean that Hitler won the war and we’re all wearing kilts now, or whatever conventionally happens when you step on a butterfly after hopping out of your time machine. I’m not sure, because at this point, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE.  P.S. Convict Dad is now Head of Security Dad because….shut up, that’s why.

And Doe-Eyed Mom is now Super Doctor Mom and she’s in the infirmary, where some nurse tells her to check on a patient. Said patient asks Super Doctor Mom to “unhook him already.” She remarks that she can’t see an IV. But when the patient turns around, he’s got a 5-pound prehistoric leech attached to his back. Apparently that’s a popular treatment for hyperoxygenation of the blood. Of course no one briefed Super Doctor Mom on the newest medical treatments or apparently prepped her in any way as to what to expect. And the nurse didn’t say, “Hey, check on that patient, but be warned, he’s got a GIANT FREAKING LEECH on his back.” No. So Super Doctor Mom, instead of asking any questions about procedure, just yanks the giant leech off the patient’s back and sets it on the bed with a hearty, “There you go.” Lucky she didn’t pull out his spinal cord or inadvertently cause him to bleed to death.  Why, that would have been almost as irresponsible as keeping your Contraband Cute Moppet in an air duct for 18 years.

Oh, and eventually there were some dinosaurs and they were pretty cool. But they didn’t eat nearly enough people.

No comments:

Post a Comment