Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New TV Review Part Trois

Where have I been? I've been here, just lazy. On the one hand that's bad for this TV review feature because I've forgotten some of my impressions of the new shows I've watched. On the other hand it's good because I can give follow up reviews of subsequent episodes of other shows. First with the new:

Pushing Daisies - I really was looking forward to this show. It's created by the same guy who did one of my favorite shows of the past decade: Wonderfalls. It also has one of Wonderfalls' actors in it, Lee Pace (sadly, not Caroline Dhavernas). The show defintely has a unique visual style and quirky character, aside from the interesting premise. If you're not familiar with the premise: Ned (Pace) has the power to bring dead people back to life by touching them. If he touches them again, they die for good. If he doesn't re-touch someone he's brought back within one minute, someone else dies. (This fact creates tension and a major plot point.) Because of his power, he isolates himself from the rest of the world, running a pie shop. When a private detective discovers his power, he enlists Ned as a partner where Ned reanimates someone murdered, asks the person how they died, and he and the PI collect the reward money when they solve the case.

The best way I can describe the quirky style of the show is that if you didn't know otherwise, you'd swear it was done by Tim Burton. From the neogothic set design, robust colors, whimsical characters, and charming English accent voice-over, Burton's influence is undeniable. That style melds beautifully with the show's concept, making Pushing Daisies the most unique and intriguing new show of the season. And the cast is top-notch. I really like it, but I have some doubts about its staying power. The style is well suited to a movie, but it may become grating or old over several episodes with new plots each week. We'll see.

Life - I decided to try this out on the recommendation of another blogger. It airs the same time as Dirty Sexy Money, with which I wasn't too enamored. It's the story of a police detective who is convicted of a murder and sentenced to life in prison. After he is exonerated with DNA evidence, he gets released, awarded a huge settlement for his troubles, and decides to go back to work as a detective. While in prison he's gained a new Zen calm that he brings to his police work, and also an almost unnatural love of fruit.

It sounds quirky, but it doesn't really come off that way. The show is a serious police procedural, and so his personality quirks seem a bit out of place. Adam Arkin stars as his friend, and he's great (in the limited time he had in the episode). The rest of the main cast I could take or leave. Nothing too exciting. For the most part, I'm pretty blah about the show. Damian Lewis, who plays the freed detective Charlie Crews, actually comes off kind of creepy with the Zen and fruit fetish. Having red hair doesn't help (see e.g. Ginger Kids). It was this creepiness that probably confused me a bit about the show's ongoing plot arc (not seeing the pilot also contributed to this confusion, I'm sure).

The show uses interviews of people who participated in Crews' conviction, who are convinced of his guilt regardless of the evidence. I thought that this was supposed to plant doubt about his innocence, and stretch out the mystery of who he really is: killer or not. I think instead the plot is that Crews really is innocent, and that he spends the season trying to figure out who framed him and why. This conspiracy plot is much less interesting to me than the possibility of him being a killer and the audience trying to figure it out. It would make him a great anti-hero, and would explain our uneasy reaction to the character. This show is unlikely to go on my DVR schedule, but I'm going to give it another try this week. One interesting bit I noticed in the second episode, though: the actress who plays Crews' former-partner's wife is Meredith Salenger, the busty teen girl in such movies as "Dream a Little Dream" and "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon". I remember her fondly.

Here are some short follow-up reviews:

Cavemen - Episode two was pretty dumb, but not awful. Episode three last night was better. Pretty funny. I just don't see why people are calling this a TV travesty.

Reaper - Still awesome.

Dirty Sexy Money - Still uninteresting and thin on character depiction. The "big mystery" developments don't pull me in, either.

Moonlight - Dumb dumb dumb.

Journeyman - Haven't watched a second ep. I may have to start recording it, though, because the tail end of Heroes keeps getting cut off by the DVR, so we'll have to watch it at the start of Journeyman. If anyone is liking Journeyman, let me know and I'll check out another episode.

I think there may be one or two more new shows I'm going to check out, so there may be a couple more of these posts. After that I'll review the shows I used to write about, like The Office, 30 Rock, Earl, Heroes, etc. In the meantime, here are some pictures I took at my house that I meant to post a while back.

Look what was hanging out on the front of our house:


Sucker was huge! That's the before, here's the after:


The stain is still on the brick. I've been too lazy to clean it off.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New TV Review, Part Two

Dirty Sexy Money - I've never watched a show starring Peter Krause, but for some reason I really like him. He has some weird likability that makes you root for him. Has he ever played an all-out bad guy? Anyone know? Anyway, I didn't have many expectations or preconceptions about the show going in. Having watched the first episode, I'm not sold. It's too slick in terms of its depiction of the uber-rich family The Darlings. Each of the children seem like shallow, one-dimensional stereotypes, except for the hateful minister son, who's a shallow, one-dimensional out-of-left-field character. One blogger (I'm not sure if she'll swing by here and read this) calls it campy, but I disagree. I think the family is supposed to be taken seriously. Sure they do scandalous or laughable things, but they're supposed to be basically believable. This is a drama, after all. It's not like the Bluth family from Arrested Development, where you know it's a setup for silliness and you happily suspend your disbelief over the ridiculous qualities of the family members. Only the mother is somewhat believable, and only Donald Sutherland's eerie, goofy patriarch is interesting.

I also think the story moved along too quickly at the beginning, showing us each family member, how the family operates, and injecting our hero into the mix. And speaking of our "hero", he's supposed to be a dedicated family man trying to avoid the same career pitfalls of his deceased father that forced his mother out and effectively saw him raised by the Darlings. But then, with the promise of tons of money, he takes the job as the Darlings' family attorney on the spot without a word to his (adorable) wife. And further, the wife doesn't really care. When his new gig forces Peter's character to miss picking up his young daughter from school, the wife is easily placated with the opportunity to dress up and attend a lavish party. I was kind of encouraged by the "twist" at the end of the episode that seemed to introduce a season-long mystery, so I may watch the show again, just not this week because I'm giving NBC's Life a chance. But overall, it's a bad combination of taking itself too seriously while being just a little too fantastical. If it were more of the latter, it might interest me as an escapist soap (like Desperate Housewives).

Moonlight - I don't know what about this show attracted me. It wasn't the casting of Jason Dohring from Veronica Mars, because I was curious before I heard he was in it. I guess the idea of a vampire private investigator just sounded kind of cool (not having watched Angel at all). Well, the show's pretty dumb. It's very cliched all around: the script, the vampire mythology, the crime-procedural aspect. It even rips off "Interview With the Vampire" at the beginning for some exposition. They showed a preview of the rest of the season at the end which leads me to believe it might get better and less clumsy in subsequent episodes, but not good enough to watch again. Blah.

Cavemen - I love the GEICO cavemen ads. For that reason alone, I decided to give Cavemen a chance, knowing that almost everyone on the planet thought it was a horrible idea to import a commercial gag into a sitcom format. Flame me all you want (or just politely disagree) but I really liked the show. Let me start by saying that it's almost nothing like the commercials. The actors aren't the same, which is a bummer. The setup isn't the same, either, which turns out to be a good thing. If the show focused on cavemen obsessing over a particular prejudicial wrong, such as GEICO's insensitive ad, the show would fizzle. Instead it's a straight, standard sitcom with cavemen just living in the world. The "species" issue isn't used for satire on race relations, it's just a jumping off point for jokes (when a caveman is upset over a girl, his sheepish coworker asks if he's going to bite him). The cavemen have jobs, are grad students, play Wii, play squash, have relationships, drink coffee, etc. There's no real discrimination to overcome. If anything, the prejudice is reversed. One character harps on his rule of never dating "sapes", or homo sapiens. This leads to some funny lines. His slogan to remember the rule, "Only put your penis in the same genus." But this miscegenation is more an academic conviction than a social prejudice. At one point he condones his friend abandoning the exclusionary practice as long as he promises it will only be a physical thing.

Verdict: it's a conventional sitcom with the advantage of single-camera location shooting and witty writing. Also, seeing ridiculous cavemen in the situations provides a laugh in itself. A review of comments on Ain't It Cool News today saw the show roundly panned as one of the worst in history. But I suspect that those people had prejudged the show before it aired. They need to open their minds and see that cavemen can be funny, too. It's going on my regular DVR schedule.

Next up: Life and Pushing Daisies, for which I'm getting very excited.

P.S. on returning shows - The Office and My Name is Earl were hilarious last week. Prison Break is kind of lame this season, and Heroes is interesting (only watched the first ep), but it's not wowing me yet.