Monday, October 08, 2007

Some Reviews

Long-time contributor Jonathan asked for some reviews, especially of returning shows, last week. Now that I've caught up (mostly) on previewing the new shows on the schedule, it's ask-and-ye-shall-receive time. I'll look at the Monday shows today, with this being Monday and all.

Probably the biggest divide of any show out there is "Heroes," (NBC, 9 p.m.) Picking up a few months after last season's finale, we see old favorites (Parkman, Hiro, the Bennets) in different and unfamiliar situations as showrunner Tim Kring continues to introduce new characters.

Some people have criticized "Heroes" for being slow out of the gates, and perhaps there is some validity to that (we don't even catch our first glimpse of returning characters like Niki and Sylar until tonight), but if anyone remembers Season 1 of this show, Kring & Co. spend a lot of time setting up plotlines, usually with big payoffs later in the season. Clearly, a lot of "Heroes" is going to revolve around the company, and the trio of Parkman, Bennet and Mohindar trying to take it down. How does Hiro being in feudal Japan, or Peter having no memory, or the newly introduced Mexican twins play into that? I have no idea, but I have enough faith in the writing staff that there will be a payoff at some point this season. Meanwhile, the comic timing of Masi Oka and David Anders in feudal Japan has been nothing short of brilliant.

Also still on top of its game is "How I Met Your Mother." (CBS, 8 p.m.) The sub-plot of vacation Robin vs. New York Robin was well-executed, as was the death letters Marshall and Lily left for each other. How this show draws lower ratings than "Big Bang Theory" is really beyond me.

"Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) continues to sputter, and I finally gave up on it after two weeks. I mean, the show has bordered on the ridiculous for a while now, and introducing new conspiracies while not adequately wrapping up the old ones isn't the way to solve the show's problems.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Chuck" (NBC, 8 p.m.) has been one of the pleasant surprises of the new season, and the show gets even better this week now that the writers have established the premise. Chuck (Zachari Levi, one of the breakout stars on TV this season) must help track down one of the world's most dangerous terrorists, and to do so, he must learn to tango. Enter Captain Awesome! Meanwhile, Chuck continues to battle for the assistant manager's job at work. It's followed by "Heroes" and "Journeyman," (NBC, 10 p.m.), a show which I've liked but is struggling ratings-wise, most likely because of its confusing nature.

I've never been into "2 1/2 Men" nor "Rules of Engagement," which fill up CBS' 9-10 p.m. slot, and I don't think I'll start now, but the ratings have been pretty strong. It's followed by an all-new "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

Giving up on "Prison Break" also meant giving up on "K-Ville" (Fox, 9 p.m.) Despite a solid premise and a good cast, this show never lived up to the hype, devolving into car chases and standard '80s-fare cop melodrama.

Meanwhile, I eagerly await the second episode of "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.), which follows an all-new "Everybody Hates Chris." "Aliens" may be - arguably - the second-best pilot produced this year, only behind "Pushing Daisies."

Finally, I failed to mention it last week, but HBO is running a new miniseries mystery co-produced with the BBC called "Five Days," about a family that is abducted in the U.K. It had a very solid opening which re-airs tonight (HBO, 9:30 p.m.) before Part 2 airs Tuesday.


zodin2008 said...

Monday is always a deep roster for shows, but I agree woleheartedly with your "How I Met Your Mother" assessment - it's the BEST show on Monday nights. easily.

"Heroes" has definitely been uneven - from the fantastic (any scenes with David Anders and Masi Oka, the best buddy odd couple on TV) to the annoying (boring Mohinder speeches, Claire's hateable new boyfriend) but it's not like I won't continue to watch.

"Chuck" had a fun pilot and a weaker 2nd episode so I am happy to hear that tonight's installment is the best one since I am completely sold on "Chuck".

I have liked "Journeyman" so far and I really do like Kevin McKidd - a very sympathetic leading man. But it's damn confusing and why his old girlfriend is involved in his time travel and how he time travels is completely confusing and unexplainable.

Actually, I think they should have dropped the old girlfriend part alltogether and kept the focus on the character of Dan Vasser and how these time jumps are affecting his personal life - the old girlfriend stuff should have been saved for a cliffhanger 2 parter when he time jumps say to save her. I think this show has the potential to be another generation "Quantum Leap" and instead, it's just kind of a mess. I'll keep watching as long as its around.

I also don't understand how "Big Bang" out drew "Mother" - it makes no sense. The CBS audience is so freaking weird. The best sitcom of the 4 has the lowest numbers. it's a head scratcher. "Rules of Engagement" and "2 1/2 Men" are simply dreck. Stupid.

Jonathan said...

I think that's a fair assessment and defense of "Heroes." I too have enough faith to see how everything plays out. But I think even in shows with deep mythologies that like to take their time building up to the main focus can still have solid episodes even in the beginning that stand out. "Lost" and "24" are good examples of two shows that have had success in this area over the past few years.

The problem is so far "Heroes" has had two episodes of complete filler, and like Zod said, it's been very uneven. The stuff with Oka and Anders has been fun, and I'm also interested in the Ireland storyline with Peter. But the stuff with Claire and the annoying boy don't interest me, nor do I care at all right now for the twins trying to get across the border. The big murder mystery that everyone seems to be high on is fine, but wasn't this the same thing Sylar was doing last season, murdering the younger heroes instead of the older ones? I'm sure it will eventually take a completely different direction, but for right now I can't understand why everyone is giving it high marks since it seems like so much of a retread.

Finally watched "Aliens in America" last night, and could not agree with you more. If not one of the best new shows, it's easily the best new sitcom on the air. What a great follow-up to "How I Met Your Mother" this would be on CBS, and I also can't believe something as inept as "Big Bang Theory" is beating "Mother" in the ratings.

I've found "Journeyman" and "Chuck" both to be great bookends to "Heroes" so far this season. I'm digging the mystery behind the time traveling and the appearances of the ex-girlfriend because it gives the show more of a mythology than "Quantam Leap" ever had. "Leap" was great at the beginning, but the "Weekly Time Travel" storylines got old after awhile. "Journeyman" is actually trying to tell a bigger story than that, and I gotta give it respect for that aspect. Unfortunately, it might not be around for too much longer.

I'm use to loving shows that aren't getting viewers, but it really stinks that it's looking more and more that two of the better new shows, "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Journeyman" could be off the air sooner than later. Thankfully "Big Shots" isn't getting viewers and can hopefully die like it deserves. I'm still confused how ABC expected a female driven show like "Grey's" to be a great lead-in for male chauevinistic fare like "Shots." Maybe that's why we don't work in television, we just have too much common sense.

Phillip Ramati said...

The first rule of great drama is to start small, then get bigger. I'm not sure why people get so anxious about Heroes when they know the first few episodes have to lay the foundation for what's coming later.

As for the divergent plotlines, any show with a great big arc, like Lost, is going to have characters and plotlines that people don't get into as much as others. But if the payoff is there at the end, then it all works out OK.

Aliens is in a perfect timeslot for me. As soon as HIMYM goes off, I just change channels. And since it is on CW, Aliens can get by with lower ratings.

I don't mind the old girlfriend storyline on Journeyman, because it gives Dan quite the dilemma - a chance to reunite with his lost love, but at the expense of his current family. Clearly, the old girlfriend also time traveling will be explained in more detail as the series progresses, as will Dan's travels. I've liked the twists the show has put on Dan's "missions" the first two episodes, and am eager to see how it unfolds.

zodin2008 said...

I agree w/ Jonathan that no matter how much we are all into "Journeyman", I don't think it will stick around. I can only hope it will go for a full season (or at least 13 episodes) so that if it's not meant to air long term, the producers have time for closure (of course pending that rancid writer's strike).

I also agree w/ Jonathan that I am intrigued by the Peter/Ireland storyline. The main problem overall with "Heroes" is there absoltuely refusal to kill ANY of the characters from season 1 (except Isaac and his girlfriend and those were very minor type characters) and yet they have blown the cast up a lot with too many additions.

Matt Roush addresses the obvious "Heroes" problems in his first letter this morning and though you may ignore it, Phillip, this show just isn't nearly as strong as "Lost", the acting isn't as good, and they mythology is more convoluted and less well thought out. I am with Matt Roush entirely that "Lost" is a far superior show to "Heroes".

The two new heroes (from Central America, Phillip, not Mexico) may in fact be the Nikki & Paolo of "Heroes" in that why suddenly shove two new random heroes down our throat - and why not save them for "Origins" or let this show be on a little longer before going too crazy with new characters?

Strategic new cast additions like David Anders or maybe the girl in Ireland (or even Claire's new boyfriend if they just had a less hateable actor - Peter finally got a haircut now this idiot kid has hair and acting skills I loathe) but going too crazy and overstuff characters in a convoluted way - too much.

And I just don't understand Phillip your blind faith in Tim Kring considering that this show was uneven in year #1?

But let me stop complaining for now - this show has far less problems than "Life", "Journeyman" and "Bionic Woman". Yikes.

I have to agree with Roush that the 2nd episode of "Bionic" was very sub par (like the second episode of "Chuck" but we shall see there since "Chuck" had a better pilot) and "Life" wasn't any less annoying in episode #2 - I like the partner played by Sarah Shahi and the Adam Arkin character is a nice touch - but again (in full agreement with Roush) the Damien Lewis performance is dreadful and completely unrealistic.

Again, I heard about the premise of this show and when I suddenly saw what lewis was doing with the character, I was DUMBFOUNDED.

Jonathan said...

Bionic has definitely not been anything special, but I do love to see genre shows doing well since it paves the way for others. Katie Sackhoff is so good in every scene she appears that I wish they had just made her the lead, although that might have been tough with the "BSG" shooting schedule for the final season.

I actually liked "Life" quite a bit better in the 2nd epsiode. I'm really digging the documentary feel to it at times. I still think Lewis is off a bit, but he's much more toned down in Ep.2.

I have no problem with "Heroes" moving slowly, but like "Lost" is able to do, I wish the individual episodes would stand apart and be a little more interesting on their own instead of having stretched out filler for 4 or 5 episodes and then a couple of big ones after that. I think Kring doesn't understand pacing very well, and it's showing. But we've only had 2 episodes, so maybe tonight they'll get going a little better, and I will be wrong.

Phillip Ramati said...

I don't really compare Lost and Heroes except in the sense both are genre shows that have big arcs in their storytelling. Lost often focuses on one character a week in advancing its plot, while Heroes tries to advance all of the characters a little bit every week. There's no right or wrong way, since obviously both shows have had their share of success.

It's not blind faith in Kring; it's allowing him and the staff to take the proper time to tell their story. People had the exact same complaints about Heroes a year ago, and after the first four or five episodes setting the whole thing up, the series kicked it up a notch. That's what Kring is doing here (at least, that's what I believe).

I've been underwhelmed by Bionic so far (except for Sackhoff, who may be even better as Sarah than she is as Starbuck), but I'm keeping my hopes up.

I've enjoyed Life so far in part because of Lewis' eccentric performance. If a guy spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit and DIDN'T come out of it with odd mannerisms, I'd say it would be less realistic than what we see. Lewis might turn people off with his performance, but I think that's partly the point - Charlie doesn't mix well with "normal" people because of his incarceration.

zodin2008 said...

Phillip, last night's "Chuck" was definitely its best. Agreed. The show finally seemed comfortable in its own skin - and especially last night, reminded me of "Alias".

The thing I like best about the show is the chemistry of the cast and the way the characters really seem to care about eachother - Adam Baldwin is absolutely hilarious (again) and finally has the right vehicle to make more of a name for himself. The fight scene last night between the 2 girls (especially with both in costume) was VERY reminiscent of "Alias".

The funny thing is, NBC had hoped that "Bionic Woman" would take the 'mantle' from "Alias" as a great successor, when in fact it's really "Chuck".

With regards to your comments saying you would expect Damien Lewis to act 'quirky' coming out of prison, well, you actually need your head examined. No critic in America (thankfully - and even the ones who like "Life") would support Damien Lewis' bizarre performance.

Phillip - he had the crap kicked out of him for 12 straight years in prison and he comes out QUIRKY? This is proof to me Phillip that when you have made the decision to "life" a show, you will defend it no matter how bizarre your argument.

The only way I am buying Lewis acting like this is if this show was "USA" and fitting with their 'characters welcome' slogan. Eve n the over thr top quirckiness of the character of 'Shawn Spencer' on "Psych" would be downtrodden and dark if beaten for 12 straight years in prison.

Your argument strains any credibility you have to honestly and fairly analyze Television.