Ah, now that's better. This week we had a decent collection of musical numbers and the attention returned to what's actually going on with the glee club. An added bonus: We had a little character development and some plot progression. Special super-duper bonus: It was also pretty funny. Glee is starting to find its balance. After five episodes, it's about time it hit that stride point.
Since the show that was supposed to be a meditation on the nature of heroism (namely NBC's expensive, baffling train wreck Heroes) has left that conceit in a trail of hammy acting and incomprehensible scripts, it falls to other shows and movies to tackle the subject. For those who want something a little lighter and less controversial than The Watchmen, we have to settle for the likes of Legend of the Seeker for our good vs. evil philosophy. Though it remains a decidedly genre-bound adventure show, Seeker has little glimmers of topical prescience concerning what it means to fight a war for an ideal. The big difference between The Seeker's war against Darken Rahl and, say, the horribly vague War on Terror is that Richard Cypher could conceivably defeat his adversary once and for all. As we've seen before and especially in this week's episode, the path to that potential victory is itself rather costly and destructive.
It’s about kids being abducted and molested—even killed. It’s about murdered prostitutes, men found dead in compromised situations, rape victims who have to testify in front of a grand jury… It’s about the most heinous felonies, as the introduction always warns.
And yet, it’s the only show I have set up on my DVR.
The other day while I was watching a new episode of Law and Order: SVU (and it was awesome, with a new cop on the scene, a wrongfully convicted man, and a compelling case), I had to pause during a commercial (there’s no way I’d pause while Hargitay, Meloni, Ice-T or Belzer is on the scene, of course) and ponder—why on earth do I love this show so much?
With the season premiere of House, we were left with a lot to worry about. How are Dr. House's personal developments going to effect his place in the series? Just as important, is the show going to waste all of that change just to go back into its comfort zone? By the end of tonight's episode, none of those questions were really answered, but there were definitely plenty of shake-ups. Given this show's tendency to return to the status quo I doubt that all of the changes will stick, but the laws of probability dictate that at least one will carry through. Let's guess which one.
It's hard to pick the biggest problem with an unsettling majority of Heroes, but if I had to choose one it would be the overabundance of storylines. There are always too many characters following too many unrelated plots, bogging down each episode so much that practically nothing happens. In retrospect, it would have been better to make the series about a single character who interacts with a variety of people with their own unique powers. Heck, it could have been a dark, postmodern series that followed a villain confronted by new would-be heroes every few episodes, all of whom bite the dust for crossing the villain's path. But that's too smart for the Heroes that exists today. While Season 4 remains inexplicably sharper than previous iterations of the series, it's already slipping into that old problem with overcrowding.
The first few episodes of any series are basically spent conveying what kind of show it's going to be. Some are easier to establish than others, like police procedurals and traditional sitcoms. Based on its premise alone, Bored To Death could go in several directions, but so far it's sticking to a satisfying formula. It's intelligent without really being clever and it's funny without relying on the overt absurdity of its plot to supply all the jokes. If anything, the show takes Jonathan's detective work rather seriously, leaving the more day-to-day aspects of his life to bring the funny.
Oh, but I do love layers. As the final moments of the Season 2 premiere of Dollhouse wound down, I realized that the early episodes of the series only hewed close to the lean, episodic formula of the show's ostensible premise because the story required it as a foundation for the much deeper, more satisfying plot that we have now. Dollhouse is not a show for idle viewers, but for dedicated fans who can appreciate the depth and subtly of the story as it is. What's more, I don't think this story could be told in any other medium but television. That's the genius of Joss Whedon and his team of writers.
I've written many times about Farscape's ability to take iffy plot twists and make them into really interesting developments. The core of this good writing is a willingness to go dark, to sacrifice beloved elements of the show and bring the characters into some really troubling frames of mind. Farscape never really had a status quo, so it never really returned to one after a big shift in the story.
Television, more frequently than not, is a rather predictable medium. It has to be. If it wasn’t, advertising dollars would be funneled elsewhere. In our time of economic crisis, it would be unwise for any company to spill out a few hundred thousand dollars on an ad spot during a show that could potentially veer off in to left field, insult the Pope, kick babies or any variety of other nonsensical things. That being said, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is still on the air – somehow – and they still have advertisers. Why? Who knows, but viewers should be glad nonetheless.
So, last week I was pretty harsh with the pilot of Community. I decided to give the show another shot, if only because it wasn't awful, just a bit middling. Tonight's episode fared a lot better, so I'll be sticking around for a few more weeks to see if the quality continues to improve. I suppose it's just an issue of a series finding its tone. Community still has a ways to go, but the picture grew considerably clearer with "Spanish 101".
As we enter the sixth season of The Office it's amazing that there are still certain combinations of the ensemble cast that have yet to grace the screen. To its credit, the show has always based its characters' relationships on at least a modicum of believability. So many of the characters on the show have no earthly reason to interact with one another outside of the most banal elements of the work day, so they usually don't. That's why it was such a delight to see the unusual combination of Dwight and Toby having an honest to goodness adventure together. That was just one of many excellent parts of this great episode.
By the end of tonight's episode of Glee I actually said out loud, "What the hell is this show doing?" Unless the tone of this musical comedy is going to shift hard into a series of intense emotions and soulful ballads, then things seriously need to get back on track. Or should I say less seriously. The strength of Glee is its fun, stagy performance element. This episode only had half of a musical number and an otherwise distracting chain of stories within stories. We're only four episodes in and it's already losing focus.
I have mixed feelings about gimmick episodes of any show. When they're done well, they're testaments to the power of creativity. Unfortunately, they are very rarely ever done well. In shows that mix episodic storytelling with a serialized plot arc, there's also the matter of timing. A gimmick episode can serve as a much-needed palate cleanser between heavier material, but it can also take the air out of an otherwise exciting segment of the season. "Mirror" is a goofy, one-off episode of Legend of the Seeker that comes at exactly the wrong time. It aired in the last leg of Season 1 when the stage had already been set for the final confrontation. It's one of my least favorite episodes of the series, but it isn't entirely without merit.
This Friday, Joss Whedon's excellent science fiction thriller Dollhouse will begin its second season boasting an impressive cast and pushing forward with a little extra confidence now that the infamous axe of Fox's cancellation policy isn't dangling overhead. The episode we saw as the Season 1 finale was the twelfth of thirteen episodes, the actual finale getting the network boot and living on as the most excellent DVD extra in history. With Dollhouse: Season 2 on the horizon, I decided to feature "Epitaph 1" on this blog.
When last we left Mr. David, his wife had left him for a man that manufactures underwear. That’s a bummer no matter how you cut it. But to redeem the character, David gave him Vivica Fox to bed down. That’s not a bad deal. Of course at the time it seemed like a pretty easy going relationship despite the fact that Fox’s character came with an aunt, a brother and two kids. And while David doesn’t seem like the fatherly type, no one seemed to mind.
So, what we technically saw tonight was the two-part premiere episode of House, Season 6. What we actually saw was a stand-alone, feature-length film starring a very familiar character. This movie, let's call it Ward 6 starring Hugh Laurie, was mostly touching, sometimes outlandish and most certainly divergent from the popular television series that spawned it.
I'm on record as saying that NBC's sporadically excellent, frequently disappointing adventure drama Heroes is, at its most epic, a high-budget train wreck. Aside from a few glimmers of proper storytelling thanks almost entirely to Bryan Fuller, Season 3 was amazingly bad. Hammy acting, a positively schizophrenic script and a parade of annoying characters made Heroes my favorite show to hate. That said, this series is a master class of picking up the pieces. If any show on TV needed a reboot, Heroes was it. The verdict on the two-hour Season 4 premiere is that it's surprisingly steady out of the gate.
I'm crazy for good writing. Give me the most cliche premise in the history of storytelling and I'll eat it up as long as the script pops. For that reason alone, HBO's new comedy Bored To Death has the potential to be one of the best shows on TV. It is gently novelistic, which is exactly what it needs to be to make its gimmick work.
In attempts to set one’s life right, the changes that result might be a bit too startling to believe. Usually they are. It’s not too much to believe that any one person is capable of dramatic change, but it is rare. How many friends and the like can you think of that’ve tried to stop smoking only to light up again once there’s a beer in sight. The changes that the David Duchovny character are attempting in this third season of Californiacation don’t even seem that drastic. He just needs to hold down a job to feed his kid in lieu of laying around all day and driving that beat up Porsche. That shouldn’t be too hard.