Friday, November 30, 2012

Top television moments of the week – Talking cats and enchanted sleep

About half the shows I watch aired their midseason finales this week and the other half are airing them next week. The most wonderful time of the year my . . . foot.

What does this mean for the casual viewer?

For the most part, you’re going to be stuck with reruns and bad Christmas movies for the foreseeable future.

Since it’s the last week of sweeps, though, the networks brought out all the stops.

This week’s top television moments were:

5. Leverage – Everyone’s favorite grifters, hitters, hackers and thieves returned this week (they still don’t have a pickup for next season – so get on that TNT) and this time they took on a big box store. I like any episode that has Eliot at the center of it, so I found myself happily ensconced in the madcap adventures. My favorites moments included Eliot explaining to the bully at the store why he wouldn’t prosper – when he really wanted to beat the crap out him and Parker spazzing out about technology when Hardison was trying to work. Leverage is the perfect compilation of heart and fun – it would be a crime for TNT to let it go.

4. Supernatural – The Winchester boys found the fun again this week when Castiel decided he wanted to be a hunter. There’s tons of hilarity in the cartoon situations (Dean hitting himself in the head to hear birds being an especially funny one)  – but my favorite scene was Castiel interrogating the cat (who surely did hate that mouse). Since Sam and Dean didn’t believe the cartoon hilarity yet, when Castiel walked away and the cat muttered “dumbass” – I about fell out of my chair. That’s one of the best laughs the show has delivered all season. On the serious side of things, we finally learn what happened to Sam’s girlfriend. Her husband came back from the dead. Since Sam and Dean have came back from the dead multiple times – I bet Sam is thinking it sucks to be on the wrong end of that "miracle" finally.

3. Parenthood – Kristina has had a rough time this season, but watching the sheer joy on her face at the end of the episode when she got to teach the ever troubled Max how to dance was surely one of the greatest moments of the season. Still, I loved the part of the episode where Crosby starts a war with his neighbor. It’s become apparent that Sarah and Mark are going to break up – and soon. Now, spoilers say there’s going to be an “unexpected” pregnancy this season. My guess is Drew and his girlfriend – because Parenthood always goes for the biggest pile of melodrama they can find. I think other possibilities are Sarah, Julia and Amber. My vote is for Julia – but I still think it’s going to be Drew’s girlfriend, who has made so much of an impression on me, I can’t even remember her name.

2. The Walking Dead – Glenn took the beating of his life and then killed a walker with his hands (literally) tied behind his back. Any doubts viewers had about Merle being even somewhat reformed are gone. Andrea is still a moron. Rick has regained his sanity. Carl is no longer annoying. Michonne is only telling Rick’s group as much information as she feels like. And, oh, I hope Maggie is the one that gets to kill the Governor after what he did to her. I’m wondering how Andrea is going to feel when she finds out? Anyone else counting the minutes until Merle and Daryl meet up again this week? Anyone else think it’s not quite going to be a happy reunion?

1. Once Upon a Time – Snow and Charming were reunited. Sure, it was in a dream world where they had to constantly worry about getting burned, but at least they got to see each other. Now Charming is in a sleeping curse until Emma and Snow can make it back to Storybrook, Snow is willing to kill Mulan to get what she wants and Emma is still as lost as she ever was when it comes to understanding the world her parents came from. I’m hopeful that Snow and Emma are on their way home. I’m guessing they’re going to bring a new big bad back with them – in the form of Cora and Hook.

Honorable mentions go to:

Hawaii Five-0: Vanessa Marcil flaunts her saucy stuff as a psychotherapist that gets under McGarrett’s skin. This was one of the better outings this season – and I’m not just saying that because I love Marcil.

Big Bang Theory: Howard and Sheldon face off for a parking spot – and it causes Amy and Bernadette to say some truly snarky (and yet honest) things to another. I’m not sure if I liked Amy showing Sheldon her new bikini wax or Howard rubbing his “naked butt” all over Sheldon’s spot on the couch more. This was one of the stronger entries for this show this season, too.

Duck Dynasty: Si meets Clint Boyer and says something I’ve been saying forever: A NASCAR driver is not an athlete. Still, it was odd watching Jase follow him around like a lost puppy dog.

Mike and Molly: Mike becomes obsessed with the fact that Molly isn’t pregnant yet and decided to switch over to boxers – and wear rhinoceros penis around his neck. Molly already has a kid – it’s him – why does she need another one?

American Horror Story: The show jumps the shark again when Lana escapes Dr. Thredson, gets picked up by a maniac who shoots himself in the head and finds herself back in Briarcliff in three minutes flat. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous Angel of Death.

Revolution: Charlie was finally reunited with Danny – and she even got her supposedly dead mom in the process. Anyone else already excited to see the sparks between Rachel and Miles when the show returns in 2013?

Gossip Girl: Dan proves to be the biggest snake of them all when it's revealed -- in the waning seconds -- that he's only reuniting with Serena so he can get dirt on her for a "Serena" chapter to his book. Lily breaks Chucks heart -- and he in turn breaks Blair's. Only a few episodes left. I still have no doubt that Chuck and Blair will end up together.
What do you think? What were the best moments of the week?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

American Horror Story implodes again

After a solid start to their sophomore season, FX’s horror hit ‘American Horror Story’ derailed again Wednesday night.
I know, I shouldn’t be surprised – the same thing happened the first season.

The show started with a lot of promise, is sucked viewers in, then it completely went off the rails  and ended the first season in a fiery wreck that killed, well, just about everyone.

The anthology series started their ‘Asylum’ leg off with an appropriately dark and depressing season premiere that introduced us to some genuinely eerie characters (Dr. Arden, Sister Jude) and a handful of characters that were interesting enough to keep us tuning in (Lana, Kit, Dr. Thredson).

As a whole, it was better than the first season – and it hung on to its quality for a lot longer.

In the end, though, it fell apart as easily as the first season did.

What went wrong?

I blame show creator Ryan Murphy. He is notorious for this. He did the same thing with ‘Glee’ and Nip/Tuck.’ Murphy is ultimately one of those guys that invents something great by throwing a lot of weird stuff on the screen – and then he inevitably ruins it because he doesn’t know when to stop. He throws anything he can possibly think of at the wall and then, essentially sees what sticks.

‘Asylum’ was doing fine with their monstrous Nazi doctor and his “creations,” their slutty nun and her drinking problem, the newly possessed nun and her suddenly foul mouth and the murder mystery at the center of the show.

I felt the “alien abduction” angle was too absurd for the show to survive, but I kept tuning in, thinking they had to be going somewhere with it.

Let’s talk about Wednesday’s episode – there are obviously going to be spoilers people, so turn away now if you haven’t seen it yet.

We open up with Dr. Thredson raping Lana in his little dungeon. The weight of the scene was not lost on me. Actor Zachary Quinto is gay in real life. He was playing a straight man (read: serial killer) raping the woman that he now saw as his mother figure. Oh, and she’s a lesbian.

Lana ultimately fights back and escapes, only to be picked up by a creepy guy on the road who blows his own brains out while driving in a car with Lana. He did this within minutes of meeting Lana (literally minutes), thus landing her back at the asylum.

And viewers are supposed to buy that?

Kit attacks his attorney (love you Don Stark) and races back to the asylum – managing to sidestep Dr. Alden’s monsters – and stumbles on Grace within a few seconds. She takes a bullet for him and dies, but not before we see that one of Dr. Alden’s monsters has entered the facility.

The fact that no one had seen one of Dr. Alden’s monsters – except for Shelley – is dumbfounding to me. They’re supposedly all over the place.

My biggest problem, though, is Francis Conroy’s new “angel of death.”

First off, the wing extension is ridiculous. Second, turning asylum into a religious battleground for creatures of time past does not make me more interested. Instead, I can’t figure out why Murphy ever thought this was a good idea.

He had a ton of good ideas: Dr. Alden being a Nazi doctor, Sister Jude being the town bike, Lana being locked up for lesbianism, Kit being framed, that little murderous girl getting advice from Sister Mary Eunice, Anne Frank getting a lobotomy, etc.

At first, the good outweighed the bad – and there were problems from the beginning, even if they were sleight.

Now, though, the bad clearly outweighs the good.

I will watch the remainder of this season – mostly because it won’t last too long – but FX would be smart to wrest control of this show away from Murphy before he utterly destroys it.

What do you think? What is the real problem with ‘American Horror Story’?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Revolution is improving – but still has some work to do

NBC’s biggest hit of the season so far – the high concept ‘Revolution’ -- aired its mid-season finale this week and I can’t help but be thankful that the show continues to improve from outing to outing.

‘Revolution’ was one of the few shows I was excited about when it debuted this fall – and I was a left a little cold by its debut. I was surprised by my disappointment. This show was developed by Eric Kripke (‘Supernatural’) and JJ Abrams (‘Lost’) – I couldn’t see how they could go so wrong.

Still, I like high-concept shows, so I tuned in again the next week – and the episode was better.

So I turned in the next week – and the episode was better.

I’m not going to pretend that ‘Revolution’ is perfect – because it does have a few issues.

The first is, I’m not sure how the science behind the blackout actually stands up. I mean, sure it killed all the power at the time, but what’s to stop someone from harnessing electricity – or wind power or solar power – and starting over from scratch?

Also, like everyone else, I was not a fan of the show’s central character – Queen Charlie of the Pout – when the show first started. She was whiny and self-absorbed, and she had very little rooting power. At least they slowly seem to be making her more likable -- and less likely to quiver her bottom lip to get her own way every five minutes.

Thankfully, the show had Billy Burke in that first episode and I find him infinitely watchable in just about everything – except the putrid ‘Twilight’ series.

A few episodes in, it was revealed that Elizabeth Mitchell’s Rachel Matheson was actually alive. I don’t think this surprised anyone. Mitchell is too strong of an actress to be used only in flashback scenes. Still, she was kept separated from the main action – and drama – of the show and was largely a waste the whole first half of the season.

All that changed this week, when Burke’s Miles managed to free his nephew, Danny, and his sister-in-law Rachel from the clutches of the man that used to be his best friend – Sebastian Monroe – and who is now his arch nemesis.

Monday’s episode was pretty tight – and there was a lot of stuff to get through.

First Miles threatened Giancarlo Esposito’s Captain Neville with the death of his wife (a wasted Kim Raver) – if he didn’t free his friends. Esposito is always engrossing, and Neville is a richly drawn villain. I’m looking forward to learning more about his backstory.

Meanwhile, Charlie was reunited with the mother she thought was dead and the brother she desperately hoped was still alive. Graham Rogers (Danny) is the weakest acting link in the bunch – and he is really charisma-free. He’s got about as much screen presence as a couple of the actors from ‘Gossip Girl’ – which is to say, none.

I would also like to learn more about Miles’ past with both Rachel and Monroe – and given Rachel’s greeting to Miles was a great big smack across the face – I can’t wait to see how things play out between these two. Will Charlie still believe Miles can do no wrong when she finds out he was initially responsible for having her locked up? And just how trustworthy is Rachel?

My problems with the show revolve the science at its center – and the lack of historic context for the way people are living. Something just doesn’t “fit” in this scenario. I’m hoping that the show runners continue to work out the kinks, though, as things go on.

I think NBC might have a winner here. Burke and Mitchell look to have what should be explosive chemistry – and now that everyone isn’t focused on Danny constantly, maybe he’ll get a little character development (and a lot less annoying).

I think my favorite thing about ‘Revolution’ has been the slow way the show has bolstered the uncle and niece relationship between Charlie and Miles. He’s offered her some stability, and she’s offered him a reason to actually care. They've become the heart of the show.

Here’s hoping that, in the new year, ‘Revolution’ continues to grow -- and doesn't take any steps backs. The more they distance themselves from that weak pilot, the better.

What do you think? Is ‘Revolution’ better or worse than you thought it would be?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Where does your favorite television show currently stand?

Last week, the cancellations from the new season began in earnest.

ABC announced they were ending ‘The Last Resort’ and ‘666 Park Avenue’ after their initial 13-episode runs. The cancellation of ‘The Last Resort’ makes me sad – but I just couldn’t get in to ‘666 Park Avenue.’

CBS announced – to no one’s surprise – that the sitcom ‘Partners’ was being taken off the air effective immediately. They made the first cancellation of the year when they dumped ‘Made in Jersey’ after two airings, and Fox also axed ‘Animal Practice.’

This follows previous announcements that this would be the final season for ’30 Rock,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘The Office’ and ‘Private Practice’ – all of which were overdue to end and are also limping to their prospective finish lines.

NBC’s ‘Community’ looks to be ending, too, -- although no official announcement has been made – but Chevy Chase has already announced he’s out.

So, what about the other shows?

It’s not looking good for Fox’s ‘The Mob Doctor, but no decision has been made.

A handful of new shows have been given full seasons, the most notable are ‘Elementary,’ ‘Chicago Fire,’ ‘Arrow,’ ‘Nashville,’ ‘Revolution’ and ‘Vegas.’ I’m still confused how ‘The Neighbors’ got a full season pick-up – but I can’t think it will last into a second season.

Look for ABC to shuffle ‘Nashville’ to Sunday nights – pairing it with ‘Revenge.’ ‘Nashville’ was the best reviewed show of the new  year but it’s not exactly lighting up the Nielsens. Moving it out of the heavy Wednesday slot might help it – but it might also already be too late.

There are still a bevy of shows yet to premiere this year – with ‘The Following’ and  ‘The Carrie Diaries’ being the ones I’m most interested in checking out right now. Most of those will debut after the new year. I'll publish a list when I see firm dates.

The truth is, the two shows I’m most worried about are on cable.

The first is TNT’s ‘Leverage’ – which is returning for its winter run on Tuesday. I love ‘Leverage,’ but TNT usually announces the next season pickup before the winter episodes. I’m worried that the fact they haven’t done that yet means the show isn’t going to get a pick-up.

I think that would be a mistake on TNT’s part – especially given the popularity of the show – but I’m not in charge and I don’t make the decisions. As a compromise, I hope they give the show one final season – which would be season six -- so they can wrap things up right.

The other cable show I’m worried about is USA’s ‘Psych.’ That show has had its premiere date continuously shuffled -- now the seventh season will premiere on Feb. 27, 2013. ‘Psych’ is USA’s longest running show – and it absolutely gets no love. Instead USA props crap like ‘Royal Pains’ and ‘Necessary Roughness.’

‘Psych’ has a loyal audience – and it’s going to celebrate its 100th episode this season – so USA should try and show it some love. I want the show runners to have proper notice – so they can craft a solid ending to the show. USA owes them that.

USA also announced a couple of weeks ago that they were canning freshman series ‘Common Law.’ I liked ‘Common Law’ – but I didn’t love it. Still, I think they should have tried shifting it from Friday’s. It’s like USA wanted to kill it.

What do you think? What shows are you worried about? Which ones are you glad they cancelled?