Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What I've been watching

Well, we have reached the midseason break for TV, and there is NOTHING on now, so now is as good a time as any to deliver on the long ago promised TV report, I guess.

I am actually listening to the latest LOSTcast on ODI right now as I type this...less than a month to go before LOST comes back!!

I watch a LOT of TV (thank you, DVR!), so this is going to be a long one...

So, without further adieu, here are my thoughts on what I've been watching this season, organized by what night the show airs...feel free to chime in with comments!

The Amazing Race: I've been watching this show for about 6 seasons now, and I was pretty disappointed with this season. It was kind of boring, I thought.There weren't really any teams that I absolutely HATED...although I did despise one half of the Terrence/Sarah matchup. Any of you who watched could probably tell me which half...Terrence. What a needy, whiny, childish little twerp. Constantly had to be told how good he was doing, while doing nothing but criticize Sarah, continually telling Sarah to SLOW DOWN so they could be together...hey, dude, you're in a RACE!!! Ugh. They did provide one of my favorite moments of the season, though, with this little Freudian exchange:

Terrence: Who's my girl?
Sarah: You are...I mean I AM!!


Only other team I really didn't like were the Divorcees, but they at least provided the fun of trying to figure out how they were going to royally screw up every week. I've never seen a team have such a hard time READING THE FREAKING CLUE. Every week, they would start out saying, "We learned on the last task to take the time to read the clue and really pay attention," and the next thing you know they were bumbling off in the wrong direction again.

Speaking of 'bout those "Frat Boys?" First of all, they unfortunately were like most of the "frat boys" that I've known...the fact that they had to keep referring to themselves as "Frat Boys," and talk about how manly they are, and how much beer they drink, and how they can't do "girly" tasks like ironing or dancing, etc...gee, guys, overcompensate much? By far the worst team to ever make the Top 3, at least as long as I have been watching. Every week they seemed to benefit from some other teams mistake and squeak by, never more so than in the next-to-last episode. We've seen a lot of huge mistakes over the years, but losing your money and passports in the middle of Russia the way Toni and Dallas did has to rank as the biggest and most fatal.

In the end, Nick and Starr ended a DOMINANT season by winning the $1M in the most unsurprising ending since the Yankees swept the Padres in the '98 World Series. At least Starr was hot.

Desperate Housewives: Yes, I watch this show...what of it? I pretend it's only because my wife makes me, but I actually enjoyed this season, after totally losing interest last season. The writers made a great decision to shake things up by moving ahead five years. It really made some characters and situations interesting again that had grown stagnant. Let's break it down couple by couple:

Gabby/Carlos: Consistently my second-favorite married couple on TV (behind Coach and Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights). The Carlos-is-blind story could have been really dumb and over the top, but I think they have done a good balancing act with it...there have been some humorous moments, but they haven't lost sight of the tragedy that losing your sight would be. Plus, Eva Longoria is hot, no matter how hard they tried to convince us otherwise.

Bree/Orson: Orson is the star of this pairing, in my opinion...he steals every scene he's in.

Susan/Mike/Jackson: Blech. I can't stand Susan, and I try to avoid any scenes that involve her. Annoying, selfish, immature, nagging hag.

Lynnette/Tom: One of the most realistic couples on TV. They go through a lot of conflicts/arguments, and I don't CONSISTENTLY agree with either of them...from week to week, they take turns making sense, and I think that's pretty much the way it works.

Dave/Edie: Kudos go to Neal's been pretty obvious for a while now where this storyline was headed (he's here for revenge on Mike/Susan for the car crash that killed his family), yet he has still managed to create a compelling character that can give you the creeps and invoke sympathy at the same time.

Mad Men: Look, I can't say it enough...WATCH THIS SHOW. Here, I even found a great deal on season one for you. This show is pretty close to perfect television. Superbly and subtly written, wonderfully acted, and on top of everything else, very beautiful to look at. This past season, Matt Weiner did a masterful job at adding layer after layer to the main characters, especially Betty Draper (January Jones). So much fun watching her become her own woman after being a doormat for all of season 1.
And Don's backstory...well, this quote pretty much sums it up:
"I have been watching my life. It’s right there. I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it. I can’t."
Seriously...WATCH THIS SHOW. Have I steered you wrong before?

Chuck: Sure, the primary storylines of Chuck as the reluctant spy/agent and the "Will they or won't they" romance between Chuck and the gorgeous Sarah are entertaining. But it's the ensemble cast that make this one of the most consistently funny shows on television. Morgan, Lester, Jeff, Captain Awesome, Anna...all hilarious, well-defined characters. I think this show really hit its stride this season, after a strike-shortened season 1.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: This show even manages to make Brian Austin Green cool again. I am a huge geek for the Terminator universe, so of course I love this show. I just wish John Connor would start acting more like the savior of humanity and less like a typical whiny teenager. Summer Glau, on the other hand, is a gorgeous killing machine. She does a good job of portraying the human/robot duality of the Terminator models, and her delivery is pitch perfect.

I wasn't on board with the "Riley" storyline until the twist at the I'm interested.

Heroes: Ugh. Where to start? First of all, I love this show, and I really WANT it to be good. But this season has been a trainwreck of epic proportions. I often find myself wondering if the writers are actually WATCHING the show. I have no idea what the motivations are for ANY of the characters any more, and I don't see how the actors can either. One week Sylar is evil, the next he's just misunderstood, the next he's PRETENDING to be evil, then he's back to evil again. All with little to no explanation as to why, at least not one that makes sense. I mean, was it Angela's idea to pretend to be his mother? Then why was Arthur going along with it from the minute Sylar showed up at Primatech? Would it not have better served his purposes to let Sylar know that Angela was lying in order to turn him against her? How come the first time Sylar tried to kill Elle, her electricity knocked him out, but the next time he was able to pull it off without a hitch? Once Hiro went back in time and took the catalyst himself, shouldn't that have created an alternate timeline in which Claire never even knew what the catalyst was? And why did they keep saying that everybody's powers manifested themselves during the eclipse in Season 1? That is completely false...Claire has had her power since she was a baby, Nathan got his when he was driving down the road before the accident that took his wife's ability to walk, etc.

ENOUGH. I could go on and on (as I'm sure you can tell). Do they not have anybody on the writing staff who is paying attention? Don't they know that the geeks (like myself) who are their target audience are NOTORIOUS for noticing obvious gaps in story logic and continuity like this?

Good news is that Bryan Fuller is coming back to the show later this season...maybe he can inject some sort of order to the writer's room. This season started with a bang, but every week since then has seemed like the writers are just throwing as much random stuff on the screen as possible and saying, "How about THIS? This is cool, right?" Well, yeah, it just doesn't make any sense.

This is from more detailed version of my rant:

Peter: I hate to say it, but Peter was one of the most consistent characters this chapter. While many of the choices he made were moronic -- deciding that the only way to stop his brother from making a decision in the future was to murder him in cold blood; deciding that taking Sylar's power was the best way to help the world, which resulted in him murdering his brother in the future and almost doing the same to his mother in the present -- he was focused on preventing the future from containing millions of people with artificially-given powers, and, in pursuit of that end, stopping his father once he turned up. But the self-righteousness combined with the "acting"? Tough to take.

Nathan: Ugh. First off, a technical point I've mentioned before: I assumed, when Linderman appeared after Nathan miraculously recovered from his mortal wounds, that he was responsible for the mysterious happening. Only later we learned that it was Maury projecting an image of Linderman, so how did Nathan recover? Leaving that aside, Nathan was the most irritatingly wishy-washy, spineless character this season produced, as he allowed himself to be led around like a dog on a leash by both Tracy and his father who TRIED TO HAVE HIM KILLED AND WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS WIFE'S PARALYSIS. And it looks like he's going to be the biggest player in the next chapter, so I hope he at least commits hard to evil, because otherwise? Zzzzz.

Angela: Oh, Lord. So this episode reveals that she knew Sylar wasn't her son, but she thought she could manipulate him into doing her bidding. Let's think about that. For one, what did she need him for? Just to be a Company agent? She didn't even know about Arthur at that point, so it hardly seems worth it. On top of that, let's recall, she sacrificed an innocent girl just to feed him. At the time, it seemed like she did so out of desire to care for and protect her son, but now we know it was just a cold-blooded murder. Not only that, but she didn't know that Sylar would learn to control his "hunger," so how many people would she have ended up feeding to him? The season wanted us to believe that Angela was leading the righteous party here, when in fact she was the most awful stealth villain of them all. Great job!

Hiro: Could effectively have stayed out of the season altogether. First, out of boredom, he managed to single-handedly cause not one but both halves of the formula to fall into Pinehearst's hands. Then he stabbed Ando with a fake sword, did a drug trip that distracted NeoIsaac enough to get him killed, turned into a ten-year-old, and lost the catalyst inside of five minutes after he took it from his dying mother. Yes, this episode finally gave him something positive to do. What was the first twelve's excuse?

Arthur: Would have had more depth if he'd been drawn by Looney Tunes. But this episode brings up an interesting point: Knox and Flint rebelled because they didn't want tons of other people to have powers, which would make them less special and less relatively powerful. Why wouldn't Arthur, a paranoid murderer, share that sentiment? And what had he told Knox and Flint to get them on his side originally? I realize I'm looking for meaning from a character who made Peter and Mohinder's line readings look good by comparison...wait, that's it! I've stumbled on the point of Arthur!

Sylar: Ye gods. So Sylar takes Angela at her word and believes that she and Arthur are his parents. Let's think about all the ways this turned out not to make sense. First off, in the future Peter saw, Sylar still believed they were brothers. Surely in four years he would have discovered that wasn't the case. Secondly, when Sylar showed up to Pinehearst, the first thing Arthur did was to tell Mohinder that Sylar was his son. Do you grant that in that very short period and with all the chaos of Peter running around that Arthur read Sylar's mind and decided to roll with the lie that Angela told him? I think it's highly dubious, especially since an attractive alternative would simply be to tell Sylar of the lie and turn him against her once and for all. But that's not the biggest problem -- Arthur teaches Sylar to be empathetic, but then Elle gets him to kill a random civilian who didn't even have powers; Sylar has sex with Elle, but when Bennet tells him he's not a Petrelli, he kills her, and not because of the "hunger," since he knew how to control that and also already had her power anyway. I mean, he was less boring to watch than Nathan, but no more consistent, that's for sure. Speaking of which...

Sylar's Power: First off, another technical point. Sylar lost a bunch of his purloined powers when Hiro stabbed him back in Season One. Fine. At the beginning of the chapter, he attacked Claire with his telekinesis and took her regenerative power, which restored him to full health. You'd think that would have restored those powers as well, since he learned how they work and all, but no. So the logical conclusion is that the sword blow permanently erased the powers he had stolen and left him only with his original ability -- except telekinesis wasn't it. It's true he was telekinetic at the beginning of the series, but it's this vague ability to "understand how things work" that's his power -- as "Six Months Earlier" showed us, he stole the telekinesis from that guy Brian in the watch shop. On top of that, though, there's the "hunger." We learn from the past that Sylar was able to control his "hunger" when he was feeling warm and fuzzy for Elle. Then he was able to control it when he thought Angela was his mother. Then he was able to turn it into something else entirely through empathy. (Remember Arthur had Sylar's power too, or should have, from Peter, and we never saw him afflicted by the "hunger.") Then he became a killer again anyway. On top of that, Peter took his power because he thought "understanding how things work" would help him save the world. But that power is complete and utter crap-- Sylar didn't know jack about how things work, or he might not have been used as a pawn by Arthur, Angela, and even Elle.

The Formula: Why didn't Primatech destroy it? I asked this in the very first episode, and it was never answered. If it could only be used for evil, why didn't they simply get rid of it? Anyone? Bueller?

Mohinder: Look, you saw it for yourself.

OK...this post is obviously going to be too long to finish in one back later to continue!

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