Season Premiere Roundup

My. Already a year later and fall’s new brood of shows are springing forth from the wombs of networks and we haven’t even recovered from summer TV yet. Or at least I haven’t (BREAKING BAD ANYONE?). Let’s round up some of the younglings and pass critical judgement on them like mean highschoolers. I’ll keep it spoiler-free (not for the finale).

Boardwalk Empire

The last time on BE, Nucky shot Jimmy.  That was the one thing that I pulled from the whole finale. After that, I immediately forgot about how the tension and development sagged in the middle of the season; how I nearly quit the whole journey altogether. The rejuvenated interest wasn’t triggered by the shock at the death of Jimmy -by its own merit, it was very shocking – but because all that happened to him was simply a brilliantly painted picture of the cycle of violence and a muted commentary on karma.

A lot hasn’t changed, since then; people’s faces are still being bludgeoned and blown off, Nelson is still complicated, Richard Harrow is obviously the best thing about the show, and Nucky continues to fall by the wayside as a Baltar-type self-preservationist. There are a few new key players introduced and supporting actors axed, but so far season 3 has one of those premieres that purposely puts a barrel to your head and tells you that you have to love it because of its intense violence and political meanderings. Seal it off with the HBO label of naked sexy time and you’ve got your usual “good” Boardwalk Empire episode to keep you glued. Honestly, I want the Owen and Margaret thing to have serious repercussions. Fingers crossed!

 

How I Met Your Mother

Shut up. I know I said I’d quit. I know! But I only picked it up because I heard Michael Trucco was in the premiere. And he was, for about 8 seconds. Can you tell how big a Battlestar fan I am? I’m not sorry about it at all. Even if it was just a glimpse of his abs and nothing much else, I watched it. Endured the arbitrary parenting jokes with Marshall and Lily (yawn), and sociopathic tendencies of Barney. Does anyone still find him likable at this stage? Because cool Barney Stinson left the building a long time ago.

However, apart from the delicious chocolate-ab-ed Trucco there’s another sliver of silver lining this drab, recycled tin can of a sitcom – a very accurate and succinct 52-second summary of what 7 seasons of HIMYM generally encapsulated. Meta and smart, which this show hasn’t been like in forever. We don’t need another mysterious glimpse of the mum anymore – we want an ending, not that perpetual cocktease of a stunt. A happy ending at that.

 

2 Broke Girls

Maybe it’s my mood, but 2 Broke Girls isn’t impressing me either. I said previously that the show is on Kat Denning’s shoulders, and it still is. The only difference is that I sometimes get the feeling that she’s slowly being pushed to the background. Where it used to be a real and funny look at struggling broke girls trying to eke a living for themselves and reach their dream, becomes the racist/sexist/dirty slapstick show by way of HIMYM 5 seasons old. Kat D has great acting range, so use her to give us the heartwarming yet spunky biatch that everyone wants to invite to their party. Could we move on from Caroline’s constant nagging misery about her old life and move straight into doing crazy stuff to get their business off the ground? Otherwise I’ll need to pack up and leave before I get led around for seasons on end hoping to see their cupcake shop open. (see: HIMYM complaints)

 

Castle

I forgot that Tahmoh Penikett was in this! As much as I love this guy, his villainy was awkward slimy instead of sinister. Except that moment when he flung Beckett over the edge of a building. That was effective. Guest star power aside (he is to me, ok?!), we have a very nice addressing of the Castle-Beckett hookup from last season as well as some  more of Beckett grovelling over her mum’s death. Not to sound insensitive, but it’s already 5 seasons in and I’m not sure if I could take it if it got cliffhanger-ed for next year.

As for the episode itself, not bad. There are explosions, Jack Coleman being a shady senator, and some great Ryan/Esposito interactions that prove that they are just meant to be partners forever until they die. Just kiss and makeup now, will you.

For Castle, I’m hoping that it won’t go by way of Bones and learn how to conclude everything when it’s time (probably best when Kate’s mum’s murder is solved). No more extending. I think the lifespan of this show is starting to wane, so the writers better have their thinking caps on now for that final push.

 

Revolution

When the world’s electricity goes out, what happens? Everyone lives like it’s 1900, apparently. Farms are raised and the militia ride in on helpless villages asking for tax in the form of crops or livestock. Firearms are outlawed, and everyone else uses machetes or illegal muskets. The big questions are, how and why did this happen, and is it ever going to come back?

On paper, the premise is great, as are JJ Abram’s and Eric Kripke’s minds are wont to produce. Such a high concept show should be backed by careful foundation-building and for its scale, invest in a capable and diverse cast. Initially, when the lights go out, it’s a marvel to watch everything that once was suddenly fall into darkness. It’s the perfect cataclysmic event when suddenly planes start nosediving and millions of cars sputter on their highways. Then it becomes like a western but with more greenery and concrete buildings.

I wouldn’t say that it’s a wonderful pilot, because the main characters are a bit of a yawn. But I endured. Not as exciting as say, a giant polar bear busting through the jungle, but episode’s end promised great things. The characters are typical, doing predictable things, but it still manages to make surprising developments just before the credits hit. There must be something about trying-to-be-responsible teenagers that I really hate. The moral compass in the lead Charlie is too strong, and no one is that perfect or upstanding, especially during times of crisis. And especially after a most recent rewatch of Battlestar Galactica (bless its dark gray soul), the good guy/bad guy line being drawn so clearly makes it quite difficult to be interested in anything other than the sheer fantastical elements of the plot/ongoing events.

Unfortunately, I also think young uncle and our favourite heroine have unintentional, inappropriate chemistry that I hope dissipates because boy, that would be awkward for a non-HBO programme. Or, it could just be my dark twisted imagination too steeped in the wealth of whackjob storylines TV produced as of late.

I almost forgot to mention – Giancarlo Esposito, who played the ever-terrifying Gus in Breaking Bad, is now a bad guy again. Gus-lite, I guess. Always a good thing when he’s onscreen.

 

Sons of Anarchy

Man, this one. I regret giving up on it in the middle of last season. I thought there wasn’t much happening but I should have been patient, because what I saw of the minute long recap stunned me. And that was only the first minute! The rest of it, obviously, blew me away and was a potent reminder of why I invested so much in the show in the first place.

Brutal, honest, unforgiving. SOA bares its dirty biker soul again for all to see. After we’ve been taken on this journey, her characters have become unlikable, but you still pull for them, hoping a desperate hope that they’ll find their redemption or avenge what’s been lost. And hell yes, there’s loss, blinding, painful loss that makes it very hard to watch at even the most gloriously beautiful of times. By the end of the third episode, I’m completely gutted. And that’s what great TV does to you. It makes  you weep like a baby, wreaks havoc on your conscience, and physically repulses you. SOA still has that power, and everything, all choices made, including shocking deaths and acts of violence, resonates strongly throughout the season like the sweltering knell of a clocktower spelling doom for all who hear it.

Top 3 favourite shows of all time, no joke.

 

New Girl

I love where this weird flower minibus of a show is going. I don’t know the destination, but the ride’s still enjoyable. Sometimes the kookiness feels a little forced because of awkward (the bad kind) writing, but Schmidt makes it all good. He has that post-broken penis magic all over him.

There are creative ups and downs with the show. I mean, how many times can we be held hostage with Nick’s relationship misery? And as much as his chemistry with Jess is amazing, it would be foolish to go into that this early. But the crew are the same quirky gang working out their twenty-something life isssues, and the douchebag jar is still there to make you feel right at home. I’m going to keep watching this. It reminds me of how I behave with my other friends, just that we cuss a lot more. Good times.

 

The Mindy Project

Honestly, from the trailers Fox spliced together, I was ready to skip this. I was too attached to Mindy playing Kelly Kapoor in The Office yard for me to disconnect and install this new version of Kaling.

Lucky for me, actually watching the trailer scenes played out naturally in their rightful places with context now clear laid out really made a difference. Set things in perspective, which means shame on you trailer makers. Mindy is seriously adorbs. I love that it’s a satire and takes all those rom-com cliches and turns them into another monster altogether. It may not be laugh out loud funny, but the feel-good of it is intoxicating. I don’t usually like anything about chick flicks or romantic comedies. I’m the kind of person who openly acts nauseated when I come across Renee Zellweger- or Reese Witherspoon-related paraphenalia. But Mindy’s writing and acting makes it okay. She makes the cliches okay, somehow. It’s safe to say that I’m sticking with this one until I grow tired of it for unforeseeable reasons.

 

Modern Family

Maybe I’ve just been a big skeptic of sitcoms all this while. I’m not saying that Modern Family lost its heart. It hasn’t, it just feels like the other half of the heart is sitting somewhere in Phil’s garage dancing around with Luke.

Last season we learnt that Gloria was pregnant. Go grandpa Jay!  We’re going to get lots of tired pregnancy/parenting jokes our way I suppose. A spot of toilet humour? Most likely. As usual, Ty Burrell is the best thing to come out of this humdrum. Please give Phil more airtime, because that’s the only thing that keeps me coming back to this show. That, and Dylan. And Dylan finding ways to house himself in the Dunphy house. And Phil’s pining for Dylan. Their dynamic has a very Arrested Development-lite feel to it that makes it so funny. For all other characters, there’s nothing much else to say except that their ship has sailed. What’s supposed to be whipsmart snark comes off as unlikable douchiness. So more Phil and Dylan!

 

The Big Bang Theory

I wanted to like it, but The Big Bang Theory has lost a lot of its appeal. I guess the novelty of laughing at the expense of geeks or with their jokes just don’t have that weight anymore. Not because the mass appeal of geek chic has rescinded into what it was 15 years ago, but due to the fact that it’s just not doing anything particularly interesting anymore. Yes, in terms of both experiments (scientific or social) and scientist babble. Now it’s just pretty much the Leonard/Penny mopefest.

Comedies are hard to write, I get it. I’m starting to think that it takes a real genius to create a comedic sitcom with true longevity. The only thing that I think I’m invested in is probably the development of Amy and Sheldon’s relationship and how it affects them as individual characters, because I want to see them evolve into something better. The rest? Not as much as a blip on the entertainment scale, sorry to say. Where are the crazy nerd chats? The complex indulgent tabletop modified board games?

And that horrid laugh track, I grow tired of listening to it so much. Why do we still have that horrible device around? If anything, TBBT to me is the super decadent candy bar of mallow/chocolate/PB/syrup/caramel I loved as a child but am now woeful about eating because I don’t have the same appreciation for it anymore. It may not necessarily be the same for you, but that’s where this show stands with me.

 

The Office

What I loved about newborn Office was that it was an expert balancing act in comedy and emotion. It wasn’t the classic dramedy, but you had all the ingredients necessary to make you laugh hysterically and sob woefully (at the same time even). The mockumentary format was what gave it the means to grow characters through their private opinions and criticisms of each other. Sometimes it felt voyeuristic. Like in season 1 with Jim and Pam. Man, that was so good.

Many years have passed, and all we have is a caricature of what The Office was. Not because I think Ed Helms sucks, but because the writing went into a dismal slump. One or two days I felt like I missed the awkward talent of Steve Carrell trying to be the likable boss man. Now characters are all over the place. I don’t mind ridiculous, but these days it feels painful because there isn’t enough balance of jokes, growth or typical Office situations we normally experience and love in the episodes. Andy went for an “Assertiveness Boot Camp” and now he’s a hardass. There is an introduction of a so-called younger Dwight and Jim, which is awesome, and Erin, who used to be sweet, is now just an unbelievable ditz. All I see is the final goodbye in the distance. I could not be happier for all the actors to move onto greater things instead of being trapped in a cesspool of mediocre punchlines. I’ll take this one last ridewith you to bid adieu, just for old time’s sake, and I’ll be glad to see you go.

 

Last Resort

It was a bad idea to place Last Resort in my playlist line after completing a whole Battlestar Galactica series rewatch, webisodes, movies, deleted scenes and everything. The military space opera epic-shaped hole in my heart is still raw and fresh from all the revolutionary character drama. It was the best balancing act of genres, writing and tone in probably all of the history of television. And the standards were set; the bar was set so high. The rewatch reminded me of those standards. Which Last Resort, well, didn’t quite meet.
I know it’s a little unfair to make the comparison, because they’re trying to do different things. At first glance at the trailer of Last Resort promises fun, action, and conspiracy, a little drama, but mostly action. Which is fine. But when it came down to watching it as a whole coherent body of work, I wasn’t so enthused about it anymore. Characters were introduced one-dimensionally. It’s like teacher pulling a new student up in front and saying, “Hey everyone, she’s the General’s daughter trying to prove herself. This is the sexy smart one with a conscience in a corporation. He is the antagonistic crew member who will cause problems for everyone for 3 seasons until a bigger bad comes to force him into submission.” That’s what Last Resort feels like. The drama  is overshadowed by all the niceties that the show is trying to accomplish before pilot’s end. Which is a pity, because there is great drama. Especially when the Captain records his message to his attackers/pursuers. That was nearly Samuel L. Jackson intense.
Maybe I was just ruined by BSG, which so skillfully did the character building during the whirlwind explosion of tragedy and madness and still managed to establish a strong mythos while maintaining its “mirror to our world” level of social relevance in the real world. (My point is, I will watch Last Resort again because it isn’t so bad, and promise not to make anymore comparisons like this.)

Elementary

Yet another Americanized adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most renowned character is spawned from the birth canal of networks looking to milk a literary legend bone dry. We all know that the most glorious version of Sherlock is that of Benedict Cumberbatch’s socially inept, egotistic rendition, beautifully enhanced and elevated when pitted against the equally intelligent, manipulative psycho Moriarty. Martin Freeman’s surprisingly complex John Watson is only the cherry on top of that brilliantly produced cake that is Sherlock. Nothing short of magical.

Lots of people have shown their cynic-colored underpants in protest of this US version. Frankly, Johnny Lee Miller channels a bit of what Cumberbatch does with his own character, except with less detachment and intensity. Which is strange, because Elementary‘s Sherlock is supposed to be an ex-junkie alcoholic, so he’s really supposed to be even more over-the-top crazy, right?

I have to admit that I watch because of Lucy Liu. I don’t mind that she’s Watson vagina edition. She’s hot. And she has chemistry with Miller. I just miss her from TV, so there’s that residual bias seeping through my pores for this one. She is vulnerable and sensitive and strong and my girl crush for her is right about back in full force-

Ok, besides that. The first mystery isn’t captivating (in fact, I think Park Ave 666 does it better) but is instead more functional, more customary. Let’s chalk it up to all the effort they’re putting in to make sure that the show stands on its own. It does in its own way, but not tall and chest-out like its BBC counterpart. It’s the kid trying to break out of his handsome brother’s shadow. It’s pretty okay, but not something that I’d die to watch every week like the way I would Sherlock – maybe I’d collect 7 episodes and watch them all in my own time later on while I’m on holiday or something.

 

Fringe

It’s 2036. 2036, PEOPLE. 24 years later, as the final moments of last season gut-punched us with, we find ourselves face-to-face with Olivia’s adult daughter and no trace of Olivia. It seems like she’s vanished. Observers are apparently running rampant and being big bads, while the world seems desolate, deserted and almost post-apocalyptic, as if something went terribly wrong with the universe. We get to experience Olivia even when she’s not there in the memories of Peter, their daughter, and the clues left behind.

So Fringe pulls a Lost. I’m totally fine with it and it’s a great way to start the season. We put a lot of things behind us yet piece together parts of the past that are missing, simultaneously getting to look forward to greater things. As a person who didn’t pay much attention to season 4 and its respective ramifications, this ep excited me. It’s been awhile since I’ve been emotionally invested in Fringe.

In its final season, I’m expecting for Abram’s team to pull out all the stops. And they should. I don’t care if it takes a herd of siamese sheep with wings to make it the biggest sci-fi spectacular finish the world has ever seen. So far, the black-tinged title hints at a dystopian style of life that places social and moral concepts (freedom, education, imagination, free will) at the front of what the world deems to be relevant topics of interest, where science and research used to dominate. An unusual turn to explore, but quite intriguing.

Glad to say that my yen for this has been refreshed. It’s like a season-long Dollhouse finale. See all my fingers and toes? Crossed to death that it’s as amazing at closure. Here’s to hoping.

 

Dexter

Let’s forget that last season ever happened. That’s what this premiere did. What little scraps of dignity Dexter had left with the cringe-worthy religious angle managed to redeem itself today. It quickly rectifies all and any damage done through the wasting of Colin Hank’s and Edward James Olmos’ incredible talents by diving into what we all were truly waiting for – Deb catching Dexter in the act.

This episode featured plenty of fast and furious housekeeping for last season’s mess to set up the last blocks of one of the biggest character arcs planned for Dexter. It’s a long time coming. We all knew it would end here one day, and this is it. The best thing about it is that it feels organic. I’ve read a few things off TWoP saying that the middle bits are drags, but I didn’t mind. It isn’t edge-of-your-seat but you can see how everything’s really going to fall apart for our favourite serial killer. Everything from Brian, to Dex’s slim escape as the Bay Harbour Butcher – it’s all coming apart at the seams. Was Harry’s code truly the best deterrent for Dexter, or did it send him to the guillotine?

If for any reason you should watch the premiere, it’s for the last five minutes alone. The camera work and direction are extremely powerful. I haven’t felt that way watching an episode of Dexter for years. Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

Revenge

Revenge lost me somewhere after Tyler was shot. I was a fair-weathered friend with this one, but I heard some great things about the finale, so I caught the last 3 episodes to see if I missed out on anything. Sadly, the last three eps where enough for me to feel good about skipping all the unnecessary, fatty bits. And those episodes were tight enough to encourage me to catch the aftermath of all that happened – Victoria? Amanda’s baby bump cockblocking Emily? Daniel being five times a douchebag? What’s this about Emily’s mum?

The premiere splits four different ways. Emily Van Camp is still being a cool badass about finding out who her mum is, and there is some nameless hot guy (see above) introduced. Or maybe I was too distracted to care what he was called. You see, the thing with Revenge is that it’s sporadic in developing its intrigue. At times the writers make deliberate choices to put an explosion here, a dramatic scene there that really gets you going and happy about what’s happening. A typical viewing usually results in me tuning in and out five or six times. It’s still the same for me this season. But you know what? There are several things that make me want to stick around to witness so I can throw my head back and laugh:

Daniel and Ashley getting smacked around or emotionally harmed
Amanda getting the frak out of the Hamptons and never returning again
Nolan being the only one to survive and continues being awesome
Emily seeing justice and getting her revenge
Victoria actually not being dead forever

This is just speculation of course. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’d watch just to see these things happen. I can dream.

 

666 Park Avenue

Terry O’Quinn is the devil, and Vanessa Williams is his wife. They make a believable, unsuspectingly evil couple and there’s hell to pay. I didn’t expect more than a fun romp with this, because well, it takes various elements of several urban legends and turns it into a show. Not that I’m complaining. Look at American Horror Story. A little over the top, but that worked out well.

The gist of it – the Jane-half of a couple in love applies to be the residential manager of 999 Park Avenue (666 when the shadows are cast at night, eh?), find their dream home at the too-good-to-be-true apartment suites, which comes with the job. Little do they know that they’ve just stepped into the gilded gates of the first circle of hell.

Among all the new shows, this is the one I was most surprised with. O’Quinn is deliciously sinister as a dealmaker that grants people their greatest desires in exchange for their soul. And he always comes to collect. There are very suspicious neighbours that make up the tenants of the residence and it’s delightful in its delivery of the spooky supernatural – sometimes it’s The Shining, sometimes it takes on the bizarre qualities of Hitchcock paranoia. It subtly borrows leaves of Asian horror where hands protrude from walls and things that aren’t shown give you heavier chills that what creepy things you actually do see. It plays on your vulnerabilities as a person – at times, makes you wrought with temptation, or feel violated even if nothing has really happened. The tension is great. And yes, it’s super fun and mysterious with an interesting backstory. It’s not going to win an Emmy, but it’s oh-so-good. It’s a pleasure I’m not guilty of indulging at all. This will definitely be on my follow list for a long while.

 

Homeland

I don’t know why people threw a fit over Homeland‘s Emmy wins. Did they even watch the first season? Because I think the recognition was well deserved. Clare Danes has the best frakking ugly cry I’ve ever seen. And the way Damian Lewis played Brody in a dilemma when he was in the bunker with the Vice-President? Single best scene of anything I’ve seen that TV season. I mean, I’ll even put that scene above Breaking Bad’s best. It physically turned my stomach. It really was that good.

Although not yet on air long enough for me to pin it up on my board of Most Amazing TV Shows Ever, it’s got a pretty great chance of making it to the list if it gives the same high calibre twisting, turning drama of the first season. Thinking about already makes me sweat. Judging from the premiere, it has a lot of promise and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s both emotional and riveting in its scenes of tension and building suspicion. Brody’s relationship with his daughter hits home so hard. If they keep going at this pace, I’m sure that they’ll be decorated with Emmys the next round.

Talky talk

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