Friday, September 28, 2007

I Heart TV

While the movie studios put out derivative crap, the television studios have clearly picked up the amazing writing and acting talent. Here's a rundown of the shows we've been watching and my take:

Damages: Whassup, FX? First The Riches, now Damages, perhaps the best noir lawyer show EVAH. Some really good stuff here, if you've got cable. It's been on for about two months, though, so if you want to catch up (and you better - this is not a show you pick up in mid-season) you might look for the earlier episodes online.

Torchwood: BBCs spinoff of the very good Doctor Who refresh series. In fact, it's an anagram. This one may be a winner, or it may not - it's got the quirky DW feel, but not quite the timing or pace. Of course, I've only seen one episode. This one is still up for grabs.

Chuck: I laughed, I cried, I got all of the jokes. I must be the biggest geek ever! An excellent first episode of this geek-meets-spy series. Not sure if it can carry the theme over a full hour each week, but very promising.

Bionic Woman: An excellent cast with the exception of the title character who somehow manages to suck every ounce of entertainment out of every scene she's in. Not sure I'll sit through another one of these. Brush With Greatness: My brother went to high school with Lindsey Wagner, the original.

Journeyman: Very interesting premise about a man who travels back through time at inopportune moments (like when driving a car) to "fix" some bit of history that should never have happened. Of course, he runs into his "dead" ex-fiance on one of the trips for extra progressive discovery fun! This show is another one on the fence - the feel was great, but there were several plot holes in the pilot regarding the guy he was helping.

Dirty Sexy Money: A clear winner! Public Defender lawyer gets sucked into working for the uber-rich family his father represented, ends up discovering that dear ol' dad may have been killed. A stellar cast including Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh as the heads of said family. The ringtones as each member of the family called him on his first day on the job (programmed by his assistant) were hilarious.

Private Practice: Grey's Anatomy spin-off starring the gorgeous Kate Walsh. She did stellar work as the ice-queen wife of McDreamy on GA, but the writers had trouble keeping her in that mode and she ended up playing an almost comedic role toward the end of last season. Flat writing, uninteresting story lines, and the strangest setting I've ever seen (a multi-discipline clinic in LA) bring down what should be a really good cast (Tim Daly, Taye Diggs). I hope Kate has a clause that will let her go back to Grey's, watching her is like eating really good ice cream. Yum. Because this show won't make it past week 13 without paddles.

Reaper: Man discovers that his folks sold his soul to Satan before he was born. Satan shows up on his 21st birthday and tells him he gets to either collect souls that have escaped from Hell (using a Dirt Devil in the first episode) or face a variety of bad ends for himself or his family. This show looks to be about three-quarters of the way there, although clearly the high point is Ray Wise as a very cheerful Satan and Tyler Labine as the best slacker every. The workplace setting of a Home Depot type store offers many opportunities for hilarity. There's a show here.

Life: Damian Lewis was the best thing about the early episodes of Band of Brothers, so it's a bit strange to see him as a somewhat unhinged cop who did 12 years for a murder he didn't commit, but who is exonerated and put back on the force as a detective as part of his settlement (which also involved an entire precinct full of money). It's *almost* good, but Lewis is doing the "crazy cop" thing a little too hard, and someone overplucked his brows. Another one on the fence, but one I have some hope for.

So two duds, two awesome shows, and several that just might do well, but just might not. Of course, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Lost (looking forward to see where *this* one goes), Dexter, Weeds... Good thing we have a digital recorder, because otherwise we'd be fighting over who got the tape time.

And I just have to say it - HD makes even Bionic Woman look amazing. I think that the movie industry is going to be in serious trouble over the next 10 years unless they start taking more chances. The truth is that television has always had the advantage of being able to tell a story over a longer period, although always with the risk that said story will stop before it ends. Many of these shows require watching from the early episodes, which has killed other programs in the past (Twin Peaks, anyone?), but now that you can see past episodes via the web, either for free on the network sites or through purchasing online a la iTunes, or even just wait for the DVD set to come out at the end of the summer, there is no excuse. TV has come into it's own as a quality storytelling medium, and I'm loving it.


Eric said...

Many of these shows require watching from the early episodes, which has killed other programs in the past (Twin Peaks, anyone?)

I'm not sure which show revived the sequential season (instead of just a random collection of episodes) but it's likely either Survivor or 24. Of course, Survivor nearly killed television with the resulting reality show overload.

HazMatt said...

Finally the new season is starting. Here's my take so far:
Bionic Woman: Interesting, but I'm not sold yet. There are shades of Alias here(a good thing in my book), I'll be curious to see where it goes.
Journeyman: Didn't grab me. Maybe I'm still burnt on the whole timetravel concept. The premiere wrapped up a bit too tidy for me. I was really wanting some more hints about what was going on, i.e. big picture stuff.
Private Practice: Good cast and a fairly interesting (if implausible) setting. If they can keep it fresh and maintain the quality of writing that GA has, it'll make our regular list.
Reaper: Now here is a excellent new show. I was sucked in immediately and laughed through the whole thing. I'm trying not to get too attached though. A show this funny and quirky is probably doomed. I'm still mourning over Wonderfalls.
I haven't seen Damages, but I may check it out now. I liked the Riches. Maybe I'll try to find the back episodes in a month or 2 when the first wave of cancellations happens.
Chuck is on my list to check out. Now you've got me excited. Same with Dirty Sexy $.

Many of these shows require watching from the early episodes, which has killed other programs in the past (Twin Peaks, anyone?)

I don't agree that the serialization of shows will kill them anymore. With the availability of episodes online (both legitimate and not) and DVDs getting released within months of the season finale, people can and will start from the beginning and catch-up. That probably contributed to the demise of Twin Peaks, but I think the bigger reason was that there were too many hanging plot threads and not enough resolution. X-Files fell into this trap and Lost may. This is one of the things that I think made Heroes really take off - there was a foretold catastrophic event coming at the end of the season. So people people could count on things getting 'wrapped-up'. I know that's not exactly what happened, but I know people who took the time to watch their tivo backlog of Heroes episodes based on that.

Doug said...

I've been getting Damages through iTunes. If you love drama, this is the show you need to invest your money and time in. By far the best show on today and I'm constantly making comparisons to it when watching other dramas.