Fall TV Reviews – Friday (Unf!)

It’s busy TV weekend, when people are gritting their teeth over what to TiVo, watch on broadcast or online. Hmm, choices, choices. CBS or CW? NBC or CBS? Or ABC? Or FX? Or Fox? Bring some snacks ‘cos we’ve got our work cut out for us.

The Big Bang Theory

In short: Another show embracing the back-to-back episode premiere. Everyone is reeling from Penny and Raj’s unintended hanky panky, Sheldon is still being Sheldon, Amy being Amy, some unusual saucy things go wrong, and some wrong things are unusually saucy. It ain’t science, but it’s still funny.

The Big Bang Theory is one of those shows that manage to maintain its tone and character consistently through 4 seasons. If I had to pick out of all the comedies that have aired, this would be my prime choice. Making Mayim Bialik more prominent as Amy Farah Fowler was the best decision this show has made, and she continues to shine as Penny’s dedicated BFF.

From internet kissing machines to parasite-infected chairs, TBBT keeps bringing to the table the same awesome characters and writing that charmed us into watching in the first place. More please!

Bottom line: Take a leaf from this series, networks. What started out as a window to the absolute insane coolness of nerd/geekdom is now a full blown monster force of nature on TV and still going strong. Think hurricane, or volcano. Then again, Sheldon doesn’t think geology is a science.

The Vampire Diaries

In short: Elena still loves Stephen, Jeremy is the Ghost Whisperer, Tyler and Caroline do it, Klaus has Stephen on a leash, and you will not pity Damon.

Happy birthday Elena! Your boyfriend is now back to necking innocent people and ripping the hearts from werewolves since becoming an all-powerful hybrid’s lackey. Everyone knows you kissed Damon, so stop acting like it didn’t happen.

Elena is reverting to the character she was in the beginning of TVD, and that’s bad. She’s going down the Sookie Stackhouse road, instead of being a badass heroine, making me really want Katherine back. No more seesawing puppy love, please. It’s time for new dynamics!

Outside of the vampire brother sandwich waiting to happen, the other characters of the show are really beefing up their performances. Tyler and Caroline are amazing, both individually and together, and I’m speaking it as a non-shipper. They’re probably going to be the reason for viewer retention long after the core threesome grows stale.

There are plenty of great season twists and turns, even in the second episode. Watch out for Jack Coleman. Eep! Since my TV companions were a couple of girls, shocks were more shocking and knucklebiters were more exciting. Elena being pushed into a pond is classic unintended hilarity. Rick Saltzman is a drunk. This show keeps getting better. Don’t change, TVD.

Bottom line: Going strong. Never thought I’d say that for PG-13 Twilight, but there it is. Even after the tiresome Stephen/Elena boohoo, the story moves forward, there’s lots of violence, gore, snarky bits, and WTF cliffies that keep you coming back. Thumbs up!

The Office

In short: The season’s opener appoints James Spader as Dunder-Mifflin’s new intense CEO (yes, Jo has been dethroned), and the crew is split as a result, creating office-wide uncertainty. Also, planking rules.

The obvious question on everyone’s mind this season is, who’s the new boss? They definitely don’t draw out the suspense. You find out as soon as the credits are over, and the manager of the Scranton branch isn’t James Spader’s Robert California. Wuh-oh!

There are a few surprises introduced and almost every character has their moment in this episode, which is nice. Except Creed, he’s always in the background. But a united office is always a comforting sight, especially in the light of a missing Michael.

Bottom line: It may not be the same without Michael Scott, but it’s not a tragic mess. The cast is still holding together just fine, and some are stepping up to the plate to show that maybe life without Michael isn’t going to be so terrible after all. Hopefully, people will stop focusing on the fact that Michael is irreplaceable (everyone knows that) and start realizing that it’s not another Michael they’re looking for.

The Secret Circle

In short: For a fluffy teenager’s take on witchcraft based on a young adult book of the same name, what a creepy theme song! Cassie’s lost her mum to the evildoings of the forever sexy Gale Harold, so she has to camp at grandma’s. She makes googly eyes at someone else’s boyfriend & there is foreshadowing with a bad boy, discovers a coven and witchcraft, and sappy teen music plays throughout.

It’s poor research, but I didn’t know Gale Harold was part of this. Or Thomas Dekker and his scarily plucked brows. The initial setup of how Cassie’s mum died was great because it had an air of dread mystery about it. By the time it cuts to the mandatory “new life, new school” part of the pilot, you’re totally amped because there should be some crazy tormenting shit happening around in school.

But there isn’t. Cassie is kind of a weakling. I know she’s supposed to grow into her own woman, give her time, etc, but as the episode dragged on, I felt like I was reading the first 2 chapters of Twilight (I put it down after that). Girls are supposed to identify with this? Why does the struggle seem so forced? It’s probably partly Britt Robertson’s portrayal that’s neither here nor there. When she’s finally able to show off her powers, it’s anti-climatic.

The whole witchcraft shebang is hardly frightening, so the “keeping a secret” and “oh my god wth witchcraft” nonsense is worn very thin. The token mean girl is no fun either, which spells trouble for the series – we can’t really root for anyone, except sexy Gale Harold, only for his sexiness. Which is a pity, because he has great acting chops too.

Bottom line: Maybe tolerable if you share similar opinions on life and love with the teeny bopper demographic. Quite frankly, a lot of wasted potential here, and it’s hard to make teen witches the same level of sexy as vampires. BUT it is redeemable with some deeper writing and dialogue for its core characters, I mean, look at The Vampire Diaries. Yawn first, and now so addictive I might as well be snorting it.

Person of Interest

In short: Michael Emerson is Mr Finch, wearing almost-Harry Potter glasses and flaunting his rich man garb as well as his awesome tech in development. He approaches a very grumpy, broody Jim Caviezel, who shaves his grayed-out Jesus beard and flexes his ex-CIA asskicker muscle just to help out.

Right from a man whose show budget is funded by JJ Abrams spawns a computer program that can identify someone who will be involved in a terrible crime occuring in the future. The problem is, noone knows if the person is the culprit, victim, or witness, and there’s no way to tell when or where it happens. Initially built to prevent another 9/11, it produced a list of alert events irrelevant to its purpose. Mr Finch has found a backdoor to this all seeing-all watching Big Brother machine to deal with this irrelevance and save some lives.

This premise is super interesting on paper and the actors pegged to it are proven class acts. Come on, it’s Ben Linus and Jesus Christ! In the show, Jim Caviezel as John Reese is a big badass with the hand-to-hand combat, Batman-esque voice and weapons seizure. He might as well be walking away from exploded vehicles. Michael Emerson plays Finch with his whole body and its language – even the gimp walk. So why don’t I care yet?

The pilot merely brushes the surface of Reese through vague flashbacks of a content life long gone. There’s no attachment, just pure action laid out to tell viewers that this is the rough format of each episode. They could’ve put in a little effort charm viewers with more storybut they’re keeping mum for now. So the show’s selling points would be the actors – and it’s only just enough. Come on! Make something happen!

Bottom line: Caviezel is cool. Emerson has range. They are great in their respective roles, but it has to be more than just victim-of-the-week for half the season (which the show seems pretty bent on doing). If they don’t sort it out next week, then I’m giving up.

Prime Suspect

In short: Jane Timoney (Maria Bello) struggles to stay significant in the police department as a woman in a man’s world, with desires to climb the law enforcement ladder instead of being a wallflower errand girl. Life outside the force isn’t easy either. Kirk Acevedo plays an investigator again.

It’s tough to warm up to a character like Jane. She’s quit smoking, but her attempt at cardio is sucking. She’s just trying to do her job but everyone’s being a douche about it. She makes difficult decisions (asking for the job of a much-loved detective just shortly after his death), but she’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

Usually, my hairy legged, bra-burning, self-empowering inner feminist would approve upon reading the synopsis, but actually watching live-action Timoney makes it difficult to sympathize. It could be the trying-too-hard vibe that’s overpowering her character for the first half hour or so.

However, it does get better as the episode reaches a (something close to) happy ending. Kind of a rough start for the pilot that has plenty of parts that could have been executed in a more refined manner (juxtaposing Timoney’s toughness against her breaking down in front of her fiance/partner/husband). It’s mostly just plain setup for the rollercoaster they’ve planned to try and crush Timoney’s spirit with, which is the perfect opportunity for Bello to prove that she can be just as good or better than Helen Mirren’s own interpretation of the character. It’s possible.

Bottom line: I’ve never caught the UK version of this show, so I can’t compare Bello’s performance against Mirren’s. It’s really a show that’s of an acquired taste – not everyone is going to like the tone or the Timoney character. Probably more suited to couch potatoes who love a good character study.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

In short: The gang meets Frank’s wife-to-be, then goes to New Jersey. Mac has a fatty tissue surplus, and there are lots of crude sex jokes being made. Same old schtick.

The thing I loved about this show was that it delivered social-political comedy through themed situations. It was in-your-face and crass, and it felt like the first of its kind because it was so fearless in its execution while keeping in line with the main commentary. Now it’s completely missing that key element that made it smart, and reduced itself to toilet jokes and… that’s pretty much it. And it’s starting to get annoying.

I have a soft spot for Charlie, though. Charlie’s musical episode still stands as one of IASIP’s greatest episodes of all time. Here in the opening episodes, he has a few good moments away from the rest of the knuckleheads. Of course, everyone else seems to love Danny DeVito, so I suppose the show has that fanbase to leverage on.

Bottom line: Too reliant on crossing the line with over-the-top stunts and moments, it doesn’t seem to be a good season if that’s all there is to expect. Please, please apply some current world relevance and be ironic again; you’re totally capable of it.

Talky talk

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s