Friday, September 28, 2007

Big Shots = Big Bore

In an attempt to say something positive about "Big Shots," I can say that it has two gorgeous actors in it: Michael Vartan and Dylan McDermott. Unfortunately, that is literally the only positive thing that can be said. This show has a similar idea as "Dirty Sexy Money," in that it is about a group of rich people leading extravagant lifestyles. Sadly, everything DSM gets right, "Big Shots" gets wrong. The four main characters are completely unlikeable from the moment they are introduced. There is Duncan (McDermott) who spends most of the episode trying to bribe the prostitute he hired (because he was "lonely" to keep the incident secret from a reporter. There is Brody, who spends the episode cheating on his perfectly nice wife. There is Karl, who didn't do much other than wait on his wife and complain about it. Then, there is James (Vartan) who gets fired, only to be saved by his boss dying and ultimately being promoted. Mixed in there, he finds out his wife was sleeping with said boss. Now, I have seen Michael Vartan on "Alias" so I know he can act somewhat. But apparently he needs good writing to do that, because on "Big Shots" he spent most of the episode acting and looking like such a sap, that I cringed every time he was on screen. It wouldn't be so bad, if the show played like "Desperate Housewives" as so over the top that you felt like you were supposed to laugh at unlikeable people and unrealistic situations. But "Big Shots" takes itself way to seriously for that to succeed, and even the good cast won't save it.

Sad Betty: The Ugly Betty Premiere

I am apparently a sucker. I spent almost the entire hour of the Ugly Betty season premiere being so glad that Santos was seemingly alive, that I didn't even care about how cheap it was to have him be okay after getting shot in the cliffhanger last season. So, I had a hard time handling the reveal that he was in fact dead and the whole thing had been a fantasy of Hilda. The scene where Betty just held Hilda as she broke down in tears was heartbreaking and really well done. Ana Ortiz (Hilda) did a fabulous job with all those scenes.

The rest of the cliffhanger follow ups were also all done well. Amanda and Marc were as hysterical as usual with Amanda trying to figure out why her birth certificate lists Fey as her mother. I loved that meta reference to VC Andrews, when Amanda wondered if Daniel could be her brother. Those meta and pop culture references are one of the things this show does best. In shipper land, Betty spent most of the episode trying to get over Henry. Despite her goodbye to him in the "relationship funeral," I don't think she is really close. Which is why the romantic in me was thrilled that Henry showed up back in New York. Hopefully, he will arrive knowing the that Charlie was cheating on him. I know shows often drag out romances, but Betty and Henry really need some time happy together. More near-misses will cause them to become as annoying as a unnamed couple on another Thursday night ABC show.

Meanwhile, Daniel was still popping pills, now out of guilt for causing Alexis to slip into a coma in their car accident. But by the end of the episode, he had decided to clean up for her sake. I hope he doesn't reconsider when he finds out Alexis was the one who had the breaks on the car in the first place. At the end, the show did seem a little cliche, by having Alexis wake up as soon as Daniel got the nerve to visit her. But, the follow up, was so good that it almost doesn't matter. Because as soon as she talked, we find out that "Alexis" doesn't remember anything about her operation, so to speak, and still thinks that she, is the very male Alex. That is certainly not a story you see every day. I suppose that storyline could become a little insensitive, depending on how long it lasts and Alex/Alexis's reaction. But it is the perfect thing to play out on "Ugly Betty."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dirty Sexy Fun

“Dirty Sexy Money” may be my favorite new show of the season, at least so far. This debuted on ABC last night, and was a completely enjoyable hour of television. Peter Krause, plays Nick George, who is absolutely the most likable character. He inherits his recently deceased father job as family lawyer to the rich Darling family. All the family members are completely over-the-top: rich girl finds out her father paid for her to get an acting job and tries to kill herself, older daughter thinks men use her for her money and is in love with Nick, drug addict son gets arrested, other son is reverend with a secret illegitimate child, and the last son is a politician having an affair with a transvestite. Yet, Nick’s reaction to having to deal with them plays out so well that the situations are humorous instead unbelievable. It may be the result of too many soap operas, but most of the dramatic moments were a little predictable: Nick’s father had been having an affair with the family matriarch, and his father may have actually been murdered. But that didn’t prevent the reveals from being enjoyable, and I am looking forward to where this show goes.

Kid Nation: To Watch or not to Watch

For a show that is supposed to be about kids on their own, they seem to have a lot of guidance from producers. The main dilemma of last night, was whether the kids should kill a chicken to eat, which only came up because they were told to think about it. The argued about it slightly, but decided to kill the chickens rather easily. Even the kids who were upset about it didn’t raise as much trouble as the editing tried to make it seem. One girl talked the whole episode about wanting to leave because the animals were getting hurt and it made her sad, only to reveal at the end she was staying without much debate.

I do feel bad for the green team; to not only lose twice in a row, but to lose the reward for the town. Interestingly enough, the other kids seemed to handle the loss better than most adults do on these shows by expressing disappointment at not getting the reward, but still comforting the green team – and not interviewing later about being upset. Most people watch reality shows for the conflict – seeing everyone get along makes me impressed with the kids, but also slightly bored. The only real conflict in the town seems to be Taylor and her yellow team not performing in the kitchen. But after two episodes, I realized watching a group of kids bicker about who has to do dishes, is really not entertainment. It is the type of thing parents try to avoid. I don’t really know if this is a problem the show can overcome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reaper v. Chuck: The Showdown

I know it is not fair to compare two shows, but considering their similarities, and the fact that I watched them back to back, I am going to make an exception for “Chuck” and “Reaper.” If I wrote two separate posts, I think I would just end up comparing them anyway.

“Chuck” is about a computer nerd who accidentally downloads all the secrets of the CIA and NSA into his brain. The pilot sets up the how this happens (his old roommate turned into a rouge spy and sent it to him) and the result: that he will end up using his new knowledge to go on Alias-style save the world missions, while being protected/helped by two government agents (including the token “hot” girl). It is not a serious spy show, there were definite camp/humor moments in the pilot, even during the action scenes. For example, the scene with the ninja stealing Chuck’s computer played like a spoof, and Chuck ends up defusing a bomb by going to a porn website that causes a computer virus. There were serious moments as well, with Chuck worrying about his family, thinking about his life changing, or Sarah (the female agent), possibly starting to care what happens to Chuck. Despite this, it did not reach the emotional depth needed to play as too serious. Overall, I enjoyed this, and despite my crowded Monday television schedule, will probably keep watching unless future episodes start to get weaker.

“Reaper,” on the other hand, is about a slacker (Sam) who finds out on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the devil. The devil shows up to collect, and now Sam has to act as a bounty hunter for souls that have escaped from hell. I enjoyed this a lot more than Reaper for several reasons. Sam is more likable than Chuck, as are the supporting cast. “Reaper” manages to make you like two parents who sold a child’s soul to the devil. The show also does a good job showing how characters are reacting to what is happening to them, and by letting them have some choice. Sam’s mother offers to give up herself to get Sam out of the deal, but Sam refuses and tells his parents he got himself out of the deal. The characters also seem to have more depth than “Chuck,” although this could change as the season goes on and the show/characters evolve. “Reaper’s” style of humor is less campy than “Chuck’s”, but still manages to offer more laughs. Part of this could be the influence of Kevin Smith, who directed the pilot. With his presence gone, it is hard to say what future episodes will look like. In the end, I would keep watching this, even if there was nothing else left in my Tuesday night lineup.

Jouney to a better show: Journeyman Premiere

I am a day late with this one, but Monday nights have a lot of shows to fit into a couple hours. I am a sucker for time travel stories, so I was really looking forward to "Journeyman" – the show about Dan, a journalist who starts taking trips to the past (simply by waking up in a different time, but still the same place), and ends up helping people he meets. In the pilot he makes several trips (over a span of ten years) helping one man and his family. The multiple trips are because Dan’s actions create an additional problem later on. In the pilot, he saves a man’s life, then helps his marriage, then stops the same man from killing his wife and child years later, just so the child can go on to save lives as a doctor.

This could be an interesting premise, but the way the action plays out just makes it boring. Similar shows, such as "Quantum Leap" and "Early Edition," both set up early on what was going to “go wrong,” so to speak, followed by the heroes getting to know the characters and helping them – usually by the end you wanted the bad situation to be fixed. Both shows also set up time limits, so there was an urgency in what needed to be done. With "Journeyman, " Dan just sort of flounders around in the past until he completes whatever he is supposed to do. I didn’t spend enough time with the characters to be invested them, and because we (and the main characters) don’t know what is ultimately fixed until the end, it is hard to care about it getting done.

Thrown into the mix is the fact that while on these trips, he runs into his old fiancĂ© Livvia (who died eight years ago). Livvia, who was/is the love of his life, is revealed to also be a time-traveler, and may not really be dead. This appears to be setting up lots of cryptic encounters between the two that will either be annoying, informative, or slightly romantic. From episode one, I am leaning towards annoying. Back in the present, Dan is already having problems with his current wife, who (along with his friends and coworkers) thinks he is using drugs/going crazy, not time-traveling. While this might be the normal reaction for a person who’s husband starts disappearing for days at a time, it makes her very unlikable.

I am willing to give this show another chance to see if more experience with time travel makes the characters more likeable and the action more interesting. But, going with first impressions, "Journeyman" is dull and not worth the time to watch.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heroes: I Broke History

Last season, Heroes peaked (in both quality and excitement) before the season finale.  Based on that, I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the new season – it would either be as disappointing as the finale or as good as the awesome mid-season episodes.  

I think what actually aired, was a mixture of both.  There were some great moments:  HRG's showdown with his new boss, seeing that Parkman and Mohinder are protecting Molly together, finding out Mohinder is going undercover with the company (and working with HRG), and pretty much every moment with Hiro and Kensei.   I was worried that Hiro being stuck back in time away from everyone else would be annoying, but I like how it played out.  It doesn't hurt that Kensei is played by David Anders of Alias. I actually still think of him as Sark, just on some bizarres mission.  But the two actors made the storyline work, and I am looking forward to seeing Hiro fix the history he "broke."

There was also nice set up for the rest of the year.  Molly is still having visions of a dangerous "bogyman" who can "see" her – who will presumably be the new big bad guy of the year.   Hiro's father and Mrs. Petrelli are getting death threats from some of the original Heroes, who is seemed to have formed The Company years ago.  One of the more interesting storylines of last year involved finding out about the older characters with powers and how they were connected, so I am excited to see where the writers go with this.  I do hope that Hiro's dad is not actually dead, and considering that the Peterelli brothers are alive gives me some hope.  The new characters (Maya and her brother Alejandro)didn't make a huge impression on me yet, but the fact that at least one of them seems to be infected with the same virus Molly has last year, will connect them with other characters soon enough. I am not sure I like the "virus" storyline, it seems like a cheap way to kill off characters or create drama (a mysterious illness that infects heroes without explanation?   Really?), but combined with everything else that is going on, it may work.   

Heroes also picked up four months after the events of last season, which made for some gaps in storytelling, and confusion.   Nathan is alive, but no longer married?   Peter is alive, with amnesia, and lost somewhere in Ireland?  Parkman is divorced and now a cop in NYC?  All great potential for storylines, but I'd like some more details on how exactly that came to be.   Some exposition about what happened is fine, but if they don't go back and give more details, it is just lazy storytelling.

But Heroes has never been about great continuity, it is better at focusing on the bigger picture. Regardless, I am already hooked again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Week

As it turns out, it takes a little longer than I thought to blog about these shows. I am going to try to do better this week and write up at least one show a night. This may require slightly shorter posts, but I think that will work out better overall.

I want to do a quick synopsis of what I did watch last week and missed reviewing.

Kid Nation
: Yes, I watched it. And for all the scandal, it was fairly tame...yet a little boring as well. Most of the kids they showed seemed cute enough and not as obnoxious as they could be. I especially liked Sophia and Laurel, they seemed to have good heads on their shoulders. We certainly did not see all 40 kids, and probably will never learn all their is just too many to keep track of. There seems to be a heavy presence of the host, and the kids really don't get much freedom to "create a new nation." It is more like Survivor, the child version. Which means entertaining enough when focusing on good people, boring when not. I'll give it another episode to see how it continues to play out.

Gossip Girl: I don't know if I am getting older or teen soaps are getting worse. I loved The O.C., but even with the same creator, Gossip Girl seems to be trailing it in quality. Most of the characters on this show are one-dimensional, and the plot was fairly predictable. I like Kristin Bell, and she did a good job with the narration, but I don't think it really fit with the show. The voice over was shoe-horned in at the wrong times. I'm willing to give it one more shot. Pilots are often tough to judge because they are setting things up. But, if I don't see more complex stories, I think I will be done.

Survivor: I have seen every season of Survivor, so at this point everything seems to be a reminder of a past challenge or contestant. This year was no exception. The show is done with its "racial segregation" experiment, so this season is just old-school Survivor with two tribes of eight. Other than being stranded with no luggage, there was not any extra hardship going on to make the episode stand out. I was glad "Chicken" went home, just because I couldn't understand a word he said. I also ended up liking Ashley more than I thought I would after her first interview, so was glad she seemed to be less sick by the third day. However, I don't know what she was thinking with those boots. I know she wasn't expecting to be left with no luggage, but shouldn't she have known it was a possibility and dressed more practical? Other early favorites are James the grave digger and Todd the "gay Mormon flight attendent." The only ones who stood out as annoying were that waitress from New York who didn't like other people smiling/talking, the professional poker player who thought Todd was lying about his job, and Leslie, who couldn't sit through the Buddhist welcome ceremony. That is not what bothered me, but the way she kept saying she wasn't religious when she is a Christian radio talk show host and mentioned her relationship with Jesus several times did get to me. However, Leslie, did score points with me for talking to James about how to overcome his shyness. They are one of those pairs that sometimes bond on Survivor where you never expect them to become friends, but they usually end up creating a cool alliance. Think: Elisabeth/Roger from Australia or Earl/Yau Man from Fiji. Overall, it looks like there a good mix of personalities, so it could shape up to a fairly decent season.

Monday, September 17, 2007

K-Ville Pilot

When described, K-Ville sounds like an interesting show. The premise, the story of New Orleans cops in a post-Katrina setting, suggests that current issues not usually discussed will be explored. Unfortunately for anyone watching, it doesn't pull this off.

The show could change drastically from the pilot, but last nights episode was nothing but a cliche filled crime procedural. It featured a cop investigating the murder of a friend and predictably getting too personally involved to make rational judgments. Until of course, the last ten minutes when it is all wrapped up---despite the fact that the culprit's motive doesn't quite make sense. (A woman sabotaging her own fund raisers to rebuild the run down area of New Orleans, because her brother's killers lived there? ? Seriously?).

The lead Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson) was abandoned by his partner is the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, which causes him to not trust his new partner Cobb (Cole Hauser). While he turns out to be right (Cobb is an ex-con who escaped from prison during the storm), Boulet's attacks show him as as irrational. Combined with drinking on the job and a refusal to move out of New Orleans, despite his wife's pleading, Boulet comes off as very unlikable. Perhaps with more focus on Boulet's as a person and what is leading him psychologically, this would be a different story. But this is lacking from the pilot. The sacrifice does not even result in good action sequences. The action scenes mostly consist of car chases, which are too choppily shot to be enjoyable.

Next week Heroes returns opposite this show, so I probably won't bother watching further episodes to see if things improve. When a series is goo d enough, I'll find a way to watch multiple episodes in the same time slot. But K-Ville just doesn't convince me to bother.

A New Plan: Prison Break Season Premiere.

Let's face it, Prison Break has always been an unrealistic show. To continue the plot into a second season, it had to get even more unbelievable. So, to continue with season three, it was obvious the writers were going to have to push the envelope even more. If you can't accept that, it is probably not the best show for you to be watching. But if you can accept it, last night's season premiere was pretty fantastic.

The reason? We got to see the main characters back in the same setting, which is SONA, a prison filled with the "worst of the worst," and so horrible that even the guards have abandoned it. One that force prisoners to fight to the death over any grievances (real or orchestrated by enemies) and has no other sense of order.

Besides Michael, the new prisoners includes Bellick (who was never the nicest person while working as a guard, but doesn't really deserve the treatment his is getting), Mahone (who was a great villain while trying to track the fugitives, and almost deserves to be locked up in SONA), and T-Bag (who absolutely deserves to be locked up in SONA, and yet seems to thrive in the prison). In a nice twist, Lincoln is on now on the outside trying to help Michael get out of prison. And early in the episode, this seems easy. The The American Consulate says there is evidence Michael is innocent and will transfer him while waiting for a trial. The conspiracy group that wanted to put Michael away last year seems to have a new motive: wanting Michael to break another inmate out of prison. Why would Michael agree to this? Well, the conspiracy group has kidnapped Sarah and LJ.

I am interested to see how Michael's mind works without the benefit of the long term planning he had available for the original break out. Hopefully, this will include some great scenes of him teaming up with Mahone, who is the only one whose mind was ever a match for Michael. If the scene where Mahone gave Michael tips to fight dirty, and later defended him, are any indication, the rest of the season should be fantastic.


I have always described my dream job as being a television critic. It combines three of my favorite things: watching TV, writing, and telling people my opinion. So, if I could actually get paid to watch as much television as I want and then write about it, I would be in heaven. If I could actually impact people's opinions, it would be even better.

But, life isn't fair and I don't have my dream job. Fortunately, this is the twenty-first century and I don't have to wait for someone to hire me to write about something...I can do it myself with a blog (albeit without getting a paycheck). So, that is what this is. I plan to review almost all the shows I watch as they air. I'll also start the fall season watching as many of the new shows as I can, and as I lose interest, I'll drop them and focus on the best.