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If Television Was Reviewed by Sesame Street

September 29, 2008

First, a reminder to all writers that Circumlocution Literary is up and running, accepting submissions in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art. There’s no good reason not to submit, unless you have a deathly allergy to the possibility of rejection. In any case, given that we are shiny and brand new, chances for acceptance are a lot higher than at Glimmer Train or Tinhouse – providing your work is interesting and well written. Remember that even when submitting online, it’s important to be professional. If you want to give yourself an edge, read some of my previous blog posts for what mistakes to avoid.

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I love television, but what I love even more is voicing my opinions on television. There’s nothing I like better than watching an episode of Lost and shouting, “Hey, look, it’s the numbers!” This is probably very annoying for anyone who watches TV with me, and I’m the first to shush someone else for talking during one of my favorite shows. It’s only all right if I do it, of course. I don’t know how I lived for so long in a world where I didn’t know Tom Servo, Mike Nelson, and Crow T. Robot existed.

But there’s a reason I’m not a journalist. Just the facts, ma’am, is utterly and completely dull to me. I want to get creative with my writing, and I should be getting a diploma any day now to prove it. I don’t want to just write straight boring television reviews. So I give you the ABCs of the Fall Season So Far:

A is for Awesome-comma-Captain. Though he appears only briefly in tonight’s season premiere, I spent my Saturday watching Season 1, and was reminded just how awesome Captain Awesome is. According to one of the DVD featurettes, Season 1 was going to end with the revelation that the Captain was a Russian spy, but Ryan McPartlin became much beloved and made what could have been a one-note character into one of the coolest dudes around, so the writers said das vadanya to that plot. Thank goodness, I say, as the Captain’s almost childlike charm makes him an invaluable part of one of the best ensembles on television.

B is for Bromance, or how writers get away with writing slash on network television. At long last, the great, epic bromance of House and Wilson has come to an end. Finally, I say. I never bought the writers’ justifications for why nice-guy Wilson would endure the toxicity emanating from House since he gets absolutely nothing in return. Forcing House to finally face the fact that their relationship was entirely one sided put a nice twist on an otherwise typical episode. Last week’s Not Cancer took it further with counseling sessions from an annoying, but brutally honest, PI. House actually seemed vulnerable for once. Though Wilson will inevitably cave to House’s selfish hounding (what would Holmes be, after all, without his Watson?) hopefully the balance of power between them will shift somewhat so that Wilson gets to keep his newfound spine.

C is for Canceled, which is the fate of Stargate Atlantis. I’m disappointed, yes, but while I wouldn’t say this season has been bad, I don’t have the same enthusiasm for the show that I used to. Aside from The Shrine, with great performances from everyone as Rodney deals with the Pegasus Galaxy equivalent to Alzheimer’s, Season 5 has been fairly unremarkable so far. In a way I think it relates to my number one issue with the SciFi Channel – their stubborn insistence on returning to the status quo. While the characters actually seemed to be growing and developing interpersonal relationships during Season 3 and to a lesser extent in Season 4, this season the depths in their characters have been erased. Romances are being forced instead of allowed to grow organically. It’s as if they haven’t changed at all.

D is for Doctors Brennan, Hodgins, Saroyan, Sweets, and Addy. Bones probably suffered the most from last year’s writers strike, which forced the writers to bring an abrupt end to an already bizarre and complex storyline. Dr. Zack Addy became the apprentice to a cannibalistic serial killer because it seemed ‘logical’? Don’t think so. And the two-hour season premiere didn’t fill me with much confidence, what with Angela and Hodgins breaking up over literally nothing. Fortunately, things have since picked up. Bones and Booth are back to their bantering best, and Booth seems to have shed the utter stupidity he was carrying with him in London alongside his FBI badge. Zack has revealed that not only did he not eat anyone, he didn’t actually kill anyone either. Sweets becomes less annoying when he’s in his natural habitat rather than lurking around the Jeffersonian, though I’m much more tolerant of his character than some, as I’ve actually met John Francis Daley, and acted alongside him in an improv class. But while everyone’s waiting for Bones and Booth to get it on, as promised, the relationship I’m most interested in is not a romantic one. As Hodgins tries to come to grips with his anger over losing both his fiancee and his best friend, he and Dr. Cam Saroyan have some pretty interesting interactions. They may only last a minute on screen, but the complicated friendship they’ve carved out has got me intrigued.

E is for Establishing Shots. Okay, we get it, Burn Notice, women in bikinis = Miami. Frankly I’d be more likely to believe that it isn’t Venice Beach if there were more shots of old people playing golf. I know the whole point of the show is for Michael to find out who burned him (and I adore both the trigger-happy Fiona and best buddy, “I know a guy” Sam), but I think my favorite scenes are actually the ones between Michael and his mother, because then he’s just an aggravated son instead of a superspy, and every so often he puts aside the mask of sarcasm, revealing that he takes his family much more seriously then they give him credit for. However, as much as I love Michael Weston and his yogurt fetish, I have to believe that even in a city the size of Miami, he’s going to run into some of the bad guys he’s fooled before while trying to fool new ones.

F is for Fog, foul-smelling, sulfurous fog that hides giant worm/serpent creatures. Nasty. I have to give Primeval credit, and I know it has to do with its British upbringing. Unlike SciFi Channel shows, British science fiction will actually make a huge turn in the plot, and then commit to it. Any show that deals with time travel is going to have a butterfly effect, heck, even Heroes is dealing with that. Primeval‘s motives aren’t entirely altruistic, though. I suspect that the decision to alter time in a small but significant way had less to do with shaking up Nick Cutter’s love life, and more to do with accelerating the pace of the show so they could reasonably move into their own high tech office-slash-dinosaur hunting laboratory. While I applaud their resistance to pressing Ctrl-Z, I do miss Claudia Brown, and what promised to be a sweet romance for her and Cutter. Jenny Lewis, despite being played by the same actress, just doesn’t cut it. Hopefully Claudia will find her way back into existence.

G is for God. I guess it makes sense that in any world where you have a Hell, or Hell-like equivalent, then there’s got to be a Heaven too. It’s a balance thing. Still, finding out that there are angels and a God in the Supernatural mythos is severely disappointing, especially since I thought that particular lore was debunked in Season 2. I don’t have a problem with people’s religious beliefs, and I don’t think they need to be mocked or dismissed (though the way some people interpret them is just asking for it), but I’d appreciate it if one atheist could make it out of network TV unscathed. For whatever reason, despite the fact that there are many atheist leading characters, at some point they have to have a crisis of non-faith. And it’s really irritating.

H is for Hip Hop, as in, “Kenley’s outfit for the music challenge on Project Runway was about as hip hop as Paris Hilton.” Yet somehow, she’s still on the show. Either the editor was snorting heroin in the media room, or the judges really did rip her to shreds on the runway and then decide to keep her. I’m no big fan of Suede and his third person point of view, but his outfit, while not splashy, was still wearable. As Heidi put it, it actually looked like something Jerell would wear on a daily basis. Kenley’s jeans were the ugliest things I’d seen in a long time. And there’s something sort of endearing about Suede – where as Kenley’s a one-trick pony with a bad attitude and an over-inflated ego. If she makes it to Bryant Park, I may cry.

I is for Imports. I will never get over the irony that in an extremely small pilot season, casting directors hired two Brits to play Americans on TV shows stolen from Britain. Are there no American leading men left? Though I know it’s a bit early to be condemning these shows, I don’t hold high hopes for Life on Mars (which I love in its original British incarnation) or Eleventh Hour. Want to know why, ABC and CBS? Because in England, they don’t force their shows to go on when their stories are done. They have a certain number of episodes and then they’re done. Finit. Caput. No matter what the fan reaction. Their shows are more like miniseries, and frankly, I think it works better. I’m thrilled that American showrunners are starting to demand an end date. Unfortunately, five seasons is still the magic number for syndication. How are you going to stretch a show that ran for 16 episodes, beginning to end, for five seasons? It’d be one thing if you were just taking the premise, Americanizing, and running with it, but oh no. From what I’ve seen and heard, Life on Mars at least seems to be the spitting image of its overseas counterpart. Sorry, folks, but for every Office you have a Coupling. More often than not, in fact. So leave the British alone.

J is for Jennifer Jareau, who I sort of hoped was in the exploding SUV. Talk about drama if the mother-to-be is lost in burning wreckage! Nothing personal, but she’s the blandest of the bunch. If one of the members of the Criminal Minds BAU had to bite the bullet, she was the most expendable and her death would actually have an impact. Plus, she has a really unappealing boyfriend. But it turned out that the death CBS was promoting so vehemently was a minor character we barely had any time to care about. Though if Morgan leaves to take her job in New York, I really will be mad. Mayhem was completely predictable, but the characters – especially Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness who consistently turns out a good performance) – make it worth watching.

K is for Katie Cassidy, whom I miss. It’s nice that the character of Ruby is still around on Supernatural, but it was the actress herself I liked, as she managed to play both bitchy demon and desperate for salvation believably. Still, since they kept her character and Sam’s finally using his powers again, I guess I can’t complain too much.

L is for Legen – wait for it – dary! Neil Patrick Harris can always be counted on to improve any scene he’s in. While it’s great to see Barney struggling with real feelings for Robin, it’s also a relief to know that he’s still Barney. I agree with Robin – the scene in the restaurant was just weird. What I didn’t understand was why Barney thought he had to change for Robin. They already slept together, she sees something in him that he tries to hide, and she shares his sense of humor. The reason those two are so perfect for each other is that they’re both commitment-phobes. It’s certainly not going to be easy.

M is for The Mentalist, or, the serious Psych. Despite the tired premise, Simon Baker has more than enough charm and charisma to carry the show, and the dialogue punched for me in the right places. Owain Yeoman, last seen in the pilot of The Sarah Connor Chronicles and, my personal favorite, The Nine, does nicely as the slightly oafish, ‘there for you when you need him’ cop, but it was his partner, an actor I recognized from the AT&T commercials played during The Mentalist‘s breaks, who made his mark as the resident loudmouth. The obvious relationship setups worry me, but as long as new girl Grace van Pelt doesn’t force her religious views on the currently atheist (or certainly agnostic) Patrick Jane, we should be fine.

N is for Noah, Bennett and Gray-Cabey.  The latter is alive and in mourning in New Orleans.  This may be my Jewish side talking, but shouldn’t Niki have been buried by now instead of lying around in the living room?  I’m glad Tracey and Micah had that confrontation, and even more glad that apparently someone cloned Niki Saunders – or whoever the original was.  As for Mr. Bennett, I did wonder how he was going to explain his new partner to his daughter.  Fortunately, he plans to kill Sylar, just as soon as he figures out how.  And the whole “one of us, one of them” situation begs the question: does Noah know that Angela Petrelli is not one of us, but one of them?

O is for O’Hara.  Detective Juliet O’Hara, to be precise.  Psych had its mid-season finale weeks ago, but Shawn’s obviously real feelings for Jules remain.  Our little fake-psychic is growing up.  And though he’s still the same irascible Shawn he ever was, at least now he’s showing his ability to care about others as much as he cares about his hair.  His love and concern for Gus will go down as one of the great bromances of our generation, but it’s his serious crush on a somewhat oblivious Juliet that keeps me smiling.

P is for Pie. I know I’ve already said that I loved the season premiere, but I can’t resist another shout-out to the awesome everything that is Pushing Daisies. From the writing, to the acting, to the costumes, music, and scenery, there’s nothing else like it on television, and I hope it stays that way. The fact that they didn’t sweep the Emmys is just another sign that the awards show is rigged.

Q is for Questions. Like, why did ‘Joe’ on CSI: NY rob that bank in the first place? I was sure they were going to reveal that his daughter had cancer and he needed the money to pay the medical bills, but no. Apparently, he was just a greedy bastard. Go figure. Still, it would have been nice to know how he came up with the scheme in the first place, and why his wife was so willing to pack up her life and go to ground, but absolutely denied that her husband was a bank robber.

R is for Race, as in The Amazing.  How adorable were the hippie beekeepers?  Unfortunately they had neither the shape nor the drive and were the first to go home.  Can’t stand the frat boys, and I highly doubt I’ll like the southern belles.  I was skeptical of the brother and sister team, but I think they’ll grow on me.  The newly dating team is certainly no T.K. and Rachel.  She’s pretty cool, but he’s just an ass.  I mean, her knowledge of Portuguese saved their butts and he was completely ungrateful.  It’s far too early to tell anything, of course.  I’m not normally a reality fan – I prefer fictional people – but there’s something about this show that sucks me in.

S is for Stella and Star Wars. Sorry, How I Met Your Mother, saw that one coming from a mile away. Too much hype – after hearing repeatedly that Star Wars is Ted’s favorite movie, and that not liking it is a relationship deal-breaker, how else could the episode end but with Stella admitting to Marshall that she secretly hated it? I’m with Marshall and Ted on this one – how can anyone hate Star Wars? That she’s willing to pretend to like it for the rest of her life is sweet, but, sorry, she’s not The Mother. If you want us to believe she mothered the two kids who appear every so often at the beginning of an episode, you might have considered not saddling her with a child already.

T is for Tina Fey. 30 Rock might not be returning until October 30th, but fortunately that means Tina Fey is available to give her amazing Sarah Palin impression for SNL. I mean, it’s down right unnerving.

U is for… there is no U.  

V is for the Victims of Law and Order: SVU. A hard show to watch sometimes, SVU came out of the starting gate strong in its 10th season, with Olivia’s PTSD from her sexual assault the previous year, and Julie Bowen, an actress I was so over, turning out a great performance as a woman at the end of her rope, raising another woman’s hellspawn, who discovers that she actually married the man who raped her. I appreciate the tension the new ADA will bring to the unit, but I miss Casey Novak. And the episode was marred by the inexplicable hostility between Finn and Stabler. I’ve missed a few episodes, but when did they start hating each other?

W is for Weight Loss. While I enjoy The Office, it’s a struggle to get through sometimes when they rely on ‘uncomfortable humor’ to push an episode forward. Amy Ryan’s run as the new PR rep Holly has brought a nice balance to Michael since he’s trying to impress her and she inexplicably likes him, but the joke about Holly thinking Kevin was mentally disabled should have been put out to pasture awhile ago. Angela’s stress-triggered affair with Dwight behind poor Andy’s back, while amusing, is admittedly confusing; when did she forgive Dwight for euthanizing and freezing her cat? Still, as any Jam fan will attest, the entire episode was redeemed by the last few minutes, and that’s what keeps us coming back. Hopefully the writers know better than to break up this decade’s Ross and Rachel.

X is for Element X. I was placing my bets on Eva Thorne’s father being one of the bodies down in the bunker on Eureka, but when Carter had his ‘OMG’ moment at the sight of that photograph, I knew it was Thorne herself who had been there almost eighty years before. Lookin’ good, Miss Thorne. Still, since her brother was one of the bodies, I wasn’t far off. It would have been nice to know why Eva stayed young and pretty when everyone else (including Zoe, so it wasn’t a gender thing) rapidly aged and died. They never got around to that little plot point… On the plus side, Eureka’s cutest couple, Deputy Jo and Dr. Zane, are back together, but on the negative, Alison’s pregnant with her dead husband’s child, meaning it will take even longer for her to get with Carter. That woman has a cruel streak, I swear. First she asks Carter to walk her down the aisle at her wedding to Stark, now she wants him to be her lamaze coach for Stark’s baby? Ouch.

Y is for Yawn. J.J. Abrams, I’m not impressed with your latest outing. I suppose it’s okay to watch when there’s nothing else on, but it’s not something I have to tune into see. I know I’m in the minority, but I like really crazy conspiracy theories and convoluted storylines. I like feeling clever when I untangle the clues. I like strange, seemingly unfathomable plot points that pay off seasons later. Fringe, despite having all the usual suspects (telepathy, pseudo-science, corrupt corporations and government cover-ups), leaves me lukewarm.

Z is for Ziva. Thank goodness NCIS learned from House’s mistake and the big team breakup was only a blind. Having now seen a few more of the Kate Todd episodes, I don’t think I would have liked the show as much without Agent David. She makes things interesting, and definitely holds her own against our beloved Agent DiNozzo. Last Man Standing took an interesting turn from the beginning, and kept me slightly off balance all the way through, so that at the end I still wasn’t sure what I did and didn’t know. Nicely twisted, well-crafted, but I am so relieved that the team is back – or will be, once they get Tony off the sub.

Quote of the Day:

Captain Awesome: Way to go, Chuck. I always knew you could handle my family jewels.

Link of the Day: THE Halloween Event in Los Angeles – Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Charity Screening – providing Vlada and I sort out our Spring Awakening tickets, we’ll be at the Regency theater on Fairfax, getting our Horrible on. I plan to dress up as my very own supervillain, Poison Pen. For only 15 dollars that goes to charity, how can you resist?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2008 12:31 am

    Since Fashion Week happened so late in the year, they had the top 6 designers present at Bryant Park and people had to guess who were the top 3 because they didn’t want to spill who they were.

    So Joe, Suede, Jerrel, Kenley, Korto and Leanne all presented their lines.

  2. Emma78 permalink
    October 1, 2008 2:51 pm

    I think Life on Mars is going to be really cool. Have you seen any of the newer clips out? Looks awesome!

  3. October 1, 2008 3:59 pm

    To be fair, brits with american accents are just great to watch because we all know they’re brits. Like house. I know he’s british, but its too much fun to watch him pretend to be american

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