Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Under The Dome "Pilot" Review

Stephen King's Under The Dome was released in 2009, 2 years after The Simpsons movie. In The Simpsons movie, the EPA drops a dome around Springfield, and Homer needs to save the town. I joked at the time that Stephen King had run out of ideas. I imagined him watching The Simpsons movie and deciding to see what the story would look like if told seriously. Under The Dome's gotten pretty good reviews. My two friends said positive things about the book, though they did not like the ending. CBS would be wise to avoid keeping an ending considered horrible by people who've read the books. A series will be forever altered if a show doesn't nail the ending. The ending's far off, though--this is just the "Pilot."

The "Pilot" is busy. There are quite a few characters to keep track of, several abrupt turns in the story, plus the whole matter of the dome's mystery. Under The Dome immediately reminded me of LOST. The story cut from character to character. Each character is introduced decently into the story. I thought each character had his or her own specific definition. It's not like it's just a sea of people that blend together because nothing stands about them. There are murderers, crazy folk, power-hungry folk keeping secrets, a lesbian couple and their daughter, teenage siblings, a journalist, the town sheriff and his deputy (I think). The dome drops quickly. All hell breaks loose. Sort of. Not really. I expected more hell to be loosed than what was actually loosed. Under The Dome opened with a series of jarring scenes, though. The mystery of the dome will drive the series seemingly but what lives under the dome of these characters, in their heads and hearts, is, I think, potentially more interesting.

The "Pilot" provided sketches of the characters more than complete pictures. Pilots are designed to hook the viewer. The "Pilot" barely scratches the surface of the story. The town sheriff, portrayed by the delightful Jeff Fahey, is about to tell his deputy something about the dome, but then his pacemaker explodes after touching the glass. The town's congressman or councilman, portrayed by the gentleman from Breaking Bad, definitely knows more about the dome as evidenced in his threatening scene with the sheriff. Two teenagers are afflicted by seizures in the "Pilot" and utter something about 'stars falling.' The male teenager is hit by a seizure just as he figures out the important questions. Under The Dome has mystery bursting from the seams.

Under The Dome is reminiscent of LOST, but that seems like an unfair comparison for a Stephen King story. The Stand was a model for Damon Lindelof, J.J. Abrams, and Carlton Cuse. Under The Dome's been adapted for the small screen by Bryan K. Vaughan, a successful comic book writer and former writer on LOST. Cort Fey is the director of photography. Jack Bender works as an executive producer, though he did not direct the "Pilot." Under The Dome puts alot of different characters into a tight space. Mystery temporarily brings the characters together but there will be division and unrest.

A husband is cheating on his wife; loved ones are separated by the dome; a crazy man named Junior kidnapped the girl he loves and has her locked in a fallout shelter; plus who knows what else is happening with all the other characters whose hook couldn't be integrated into the busy "Pilot." I like the rugged badass who's introduced burying someone he killed. The rugged badass has a Sawyer quality. He's desperate to escape the town, but he's trapped. The town journalist takes him into her home, and she's adept at getting the truth. LOST's John Locke once told a character to be careful burying anything on the island because it won't remain buried. Locke quips it's because of erosion. Well, it won't be erosion in Under The Dome. The rugged badass' buried body won't remain buried. The rugged badass also has a little confrontation with Junior. Junior's the resident psychopath.

Britt Robertson plays the girl Junior kidnapped. In the second scene of the episode he told her he loved her and she told him she had fun over the summer. Junior took her reaction badly. Robertson is currently stuck in a fallout shelter. Robertson's one of my favorite actresses. I watched a full season of The Secret Circle because of her. I also watched Avalon High because of her. I'd like to see given more to do than be scared out of her mind every time Junior walks in. I'm hoping for rugged badass to save the day.

I think Under The Dome could be a successful summer series. CBS is a stable network. Audiences will watch what's put on the network, season be damned. Early reviews have been good, but reviewing pilots is a crap-shoot. Some pilots suck but then the writers figure out the show; some pilots are great but then sink because for a myriad of reasons. The production team gives me hope Under The Dome will maintain the pacing and tone of the "Pilot."

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Monday, June 24, 2013

Mad Men "In Care Of" Review

Every season of Mad Men inspires thought-provoking episodes from smart critics across the interweb. Mad Men inspires more than thought-provoking episodes, though. Fan theories exploded during the sixth season. Scenes are captured in GIFs. Memes are created. Grantland updates their Mad Men power rankings weekly. Matt Weiner came out of the shed last week to shoot down a number of theories. Mad Men's a ferocious tempest for three months every year. People find themselves in a frenzy over it. Critics will whine about the show's overt themes in nearly every review, feeling somewhat insulted by Weiner's choice to not follow his old boss, David Chase, in writing scenes that confound the viewer. Don's dream sequence several episodes ago in which he saw his phantom brother and his wife Megan inspired the "Megan is dead" theory. Don's seen phantoms in his dreams before, so the thought went that Megan's dead since he saw her in her dreams. If anything, Megan's presence in the dream signified the very clear idea that Megan as wife was dead to Don. The sequence followed the end of another episode in which the audience heard Don tune Megan out. Megan's presence in the dream underlined what was already clear. Matt Weiner isn't trying to be a Samuel Beckett. I think he's more or less a straightforward dramatic writer/creator. All of these theories just show how much American audiences miss LOST.

I almost passed on the sixth season of Mad Men. I've never been wild about the series. The writing's very good, some of the stories are engaging, but I never connected with the show in the deeply meaningful way many people have. I appreciate the beautiful look of the show, and I like listening to the writers discuss their process. The acting's very good. I don't think there are any shows similar, aesthetically, to Mad Men. Thematically, the series isn't such a departure from classic literature or even from the finer cable dramas on television. I've joked with a buddy of mine that AMC specializes in dramas about middle aged white men in crisis. Mad Men is the ultimate cable drama about a middle aged white man in crisis. Don's identity is actually split between Dick Whitman and Don Draper. He dreams about dying, he's convinced once he's happy he'll just need more happiness, he's a terrible father and husband; he's an alcoholic, an obsessive ad man, and so on. Don's a rich, captivating, and engaging character. I continue watching the series because of Don's descent into the abyss. (The sixth season premiere is one of my favorite episodes of the series.)

Season six had plenty of other storylines besides Don's. The merger happened. The creatives in the agency took speed one weekend, which led to Ken Cosgrove's memorable tap-dance. Every character experienced displacement. The merger displaced those characters whose egos rely on their power and influence in the agency. Pete, Ted, and Don, cheated on their wives. History repeated--the more things change, the more they stay the same, which seems more noteworthy for a story set in the ever-changing 1960s. I never cared about the truth of Bob Benson. Vincent Kartheiser and James Wolk are an entertaining duo on-screen, though. The insane theories about Bob Benson were more engrossing than the actual material for Bob Benson. Bob Benson has a specific purpose in the story and for the audience. Pete experiences the deja-vu of eight years prior when he learned about Don's Dick Whitman. In season 1, the audience followed Don throughout. Flashbacks showed Don before he was Don. Bob's suspected of a darker purpose because he's without context. He shows up smiling. Ken thinks he's a sociopath, which then convinced the audience he was a sociopath because Ken's rarely wrong.

"In Care Of" showed more evidence that Bob Benson is a sociopath, but neither Bud nor Pete really cared about the death of their mother at the hands of Bob's recommended nurse. Bob just continues. Roger threatened him but he accepts Bob's presence at Joan's on Thanksgiving, apron and all, with a shrug. Bob will keep on smiling and ascending in the company.

Don's story takes another turn, and Jon Hamm's terrific throughout the next transition for his character. For nearly six full seasons, Don's been a shadow--a brilliant ad man but a shadow. No one knows him, but that changed in a Hershey's pitch. Don delivered a memorable pitch about Hershey's as the symbol for childhood love. A combination of Teddy's blank face and Don's own shaking head led to an epiphany: Don couldn't run anymore. "In Care Of" also shows Sally's descent into teenage rebellion. Betty's blaming herself for her daughter's brush with underage drinking, admitting that the broken home Sally grew up in did not help her. Betty's not blameless, but Don recognizes his role in the immediacy of what Sally's doing. She became undone after seeing Don with Sylvia, and she wounded her father by telling him she doesn't know a thing about him. Just as I'm writing about the static nature of the series, Don finds it in him to tell the truth.

Don's truth-telling begins in the Hershey's pitch when he tells the Hershey execs what really drew him to Hershey's as a child. The speech is Don's most memorable since the kodak speech in season one. Don's bad behavior in the office caught up with him. SCP advised him to take a leave, and Duck's seen bringing in Don's potential replacement on a daily basis. He's staying in New York after deciding to let Ted go in his place. On Thanksgiving morning, Don takes the next step in his life, which is letting his kids in on the secret of who he is. Sally, Bobby, and little Gene stare at the broken down house in front him and then absorb Don telling them that he grew up there. Sally and Don exchange significant glances. Don's doing this for his daughter more than anyone in the world. Betty's phone call to Don late in the night is one of Hamm's best scenes in the series, especially the moment when he drops his head, as the phone dangles from his ear, and he absorbs what Betty's telling him about their daughter. The upcoming turn of the century seemingly will coincide with the turn of Don Draper.

I don't know if the turn of the century will coincide with the turn of Don Draper. I do know Mad Men is ending in summer 2014, and I am very interested to see how it'll all end.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Friday, June 21, 2013

Wilfred "Uncertainty" & "Comfort" Review

David Zuckerman's no longer the show runner of Wilfred, but Wilfred looks the same, sounds the same, and is the same. Tonight's one hour premiere was made up of two different episodes. Wilfred's premiere and finale digs into the major question of the show of whether or not Wilfred is imagined, a sign of Ryan's mental illness. The premiere's titled "Uncertainty" which guarantees Ryan and the viewer will feel uncertain by episode's end. There aren't any answers by the end. Ryan accepts that the answers he seeks will be revealed in time.

Wilfred's become a show that is able to make the serious elements and the comic elements work without either feeling forced. Season 2's most gripping storyline wasn't Ryan's longing for Jenna or his relationship with Allison Mack's character or whatever nonsense he had going on with his sister. The exploration of the character's sadness was the most gripping storyline. One of the stand-out episodes was the one in which Ryan spent 12 hours in his house playing games with another crazy man who knew Wilfred, and Ryan's hit by the truth of what he's been doing. He chose to sit inside his house playing an insane game with an insane man and a talking dog because he was sad. I like that Ryan's a tragic character and that the humor of the show comes from his tragedy, his sadness, and that broken part inside of him--it's very Kierkegaardan.

"Uncertainty" isn't as trippy and surreal as last season's 'sneak preview' premiere. Agnew and Lorge's script and Randall Einhorn's direction sort of displaces the viewer in certain scenes which creates a somewhat trippy and surreal feel. Angela Kinsey plays the role of Wilfred's clone's caretaker. We see her close a door, delay Ryan from Wilfred's puppy days, but she's not an imposing character in the narrative. The whole set-up's insanity eludes Ryan. Ryan's obsessed with figuring out what's real and what's not. He even theorizes about his brain trying to make other parts of his brain believe the whole brain isn't ill. Wilfred drinks anti-freeze to prove a point to Ryan that he's real and can die. Ryan takes him to the vet and Wilfred is saved. Ryan learns about Wilfred's original address and heads there hoping for proof of Wilfred's birth.
Ryan learns that he knows nothing concrete. Wilfred's memories of his original home are unreliable, and Ryan can't trust the only proof of Wilfred's, which is a stuffed green hippo. At home, Ryan burns the drawings he did of Wilfred as a boy. "Uncertainty" ends with Wilfred burying another drawing of him. The mystery of Wilfred and of Ryan is an integral part to the series, but it's okay to bury it for a stretch of episodes.

"Comfort" doesn't present an okay Ryan, though. Ryan's instability and sadness carries over from "Uncertainty." Jenna's back from her honeymoon and feels concern for Ryan because he hasn't talked about what happened with him and his ex-girlfriend, and he's become friends with the mailman. The mailman storyline allows Jason Gann to play another extreme of Wilfred's--that of a zealous born again preacher. A combination of a misunderstanding of death and a hatred for the mailman spirals out of control. The mailman stuff isn't the greatest. It builds to a reveal about a co-worker named Barry. The real substance is in Ryan accepting the friendship Jenna wants to give him. Last season explored Ryan's connection to other people. We saw him at the office, with his sister, with Jenna, but he was most at ease in the company of a talking dog. Perhaps this season will bring Ryan out more into the world and in with people.

Most of the laughs come from Jason Gann. Gann's terrific in "Uncertainty" playing the two Wilfred's. The proper Australian accent slayed me. Chris Klein's ridiculous performance is also humorous. Anyway, I'm fond of the balance Wilfred found. The show just works now. That's vague and lazy writing, but it's all I got--Wilfred just works.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Baby Daddy "The Slump" Review

Ever wonder what a random blogger thinks about your favorite show? Well, wonder no more. During the slow summer months, I'll tune into random shows and write about them. The 2013 edition of this begins with tonight's episode of Baby Daddy, a show on I accepted for what it was last summer.

Baby Daddy hasn't changed at all since the "Pilot. Well, it has changed in small ways. The main character isn't stunned that he has a child. The opening scene shows how comfortable he's become as Emma's father. He's bathing her, joking around, but he's also lamenting his lack of a sexual partner to his best friend and brother. Tucker and Danny also deal with their own respective slumps. Baby Daddy's a traditional sitcom with all the comfortable tropes of a sitcom format. When Ben meets a girl, of course she's revealed to be Tucker's top competition for a promotion; and of course when Danny's enduring a slump in his professional hockey career, he doesn't bother working on his actual game at all. The mother overreacts and displays the qualities she dreads her son dwelling upon in his therapy sessions. The stories are easy, light-hearted, with little stakes--a fine way to enjoy 21 minutes on a Wednesday night; the characters motivations are easy to understand, and characters are able to understand one another. The world of Baby Daddy is cozy and warm, like a baby wrapped in his or her blanket in his or her crib. The situations are familiar from sitcoms long ago, and the same-ness of Baby Daddy is worthwhile in a world that's uncertain, unpredictable.

The Ben/Tucker story is made of the stuff you can find in "How To Write Screenplays" books. It is the most basic story. Ben meets a girl who is revealed as his best friend's rival for a position he loves. In a previous episode, Tucker got a job in television; now, he has the chance to become an associate producer. Tucker doesn't want Ben dating a woman he hates, but Ben wants to because it's the basics of storytelling conflict. It's been done many times before on television and will be done many times more. I wouldn't even call it a story; it's more of an exercise in how creatively bankrupt writers get away with being creatively bankrupt. Ben continues dating Tucker's enemy despite Tucker's request that he not date her. The girl's never aware of Ben's best friend, so this leads to a scene that bummed me out. Tucker's in the apartment, yelling about the girl, but glad to hear his friend won't pursue anything more with the girl. Ben, meanwhile, has her in the room and won't let her leave for fear her and Tucker will cross paths in the apartment. The story reaches the predictable point where Tucker loses the job to her after Ben gave her a pep-talk.

Ben needs to clean up his mess in the third act, so he helps the girl land an interview with the New York Rangers. Tucker wonders why Ben didn't hook him up with a job in the Rangers. In Baby Daddy, the women seem to rule. Riley, who had fat jokes directed at her in the pilot, is the reason Danny's in a slump. Ben and Danny's mother is loud and obnoxious, overbearing and overwhelming, manipulative, and so on, but she doesn't ground the action to a halt. Her qualities are played for laughs. Ben and Danny basically ignore her eccentricities, though. Riley's role is essentially the same as it was, though the show added a boyfriend for her to create more dramatics between her and Danny. Danny hasn't scored a goal in six weeks because of his love for Riley that he's kept to himself. Riley and Danny won't date each other, though. Plot devices are in the way. The oft-mentioned but never seen Fitch is a plot device, and the pretty Dr. Shaw, NYR team psychologist, is a plot device. Their romantic union isn't for the fifth episode of the second season--that's a season finale storyline.

Baby Daddy's easy to watch for the casual viewer. The characters and their situations are broad. A 'previously on' isn't necessary. I haven't watched an episode of Baby Daddy since the "Pilot." One of the goals of my nonsense summer project of tuning into random shows and then writing about them is to figure out if it's possible for show x; if it's not, I'll write about musical cues for four paragraphs. Baby Daddy has an astonishing lack of laughs. Melissa Peterman's rambly monologue about her value as mother to Danny was the only time I laughed during the episode. Peterman's brand of comedy has an infectious quality. She was good on Reba, and she's just fine as the mother forcing her way into her sons' lives. Tahj Mowry remains the most comedic performer of the young adults. The other three actors are not very good, though Derek Theler does what he can with a lazily written jock character. Danny's a jock with feelings, though. I assume creator Daniel Berendsen thought he was breaking the mold with that character choice. Danny's career as a professional hockey player is barely explored. Throughout his slump story, I wanted to yell at the TV that Danny needs to go to the rink and practice. He's always in the apartment. Maybe season three can have an out-of-date flashback in which Danny reacts to Torts' firing. The show's not about Danny's hockey career. Danny's slump serves his personal story just fine, since he learns to open up more about his feelings rather than keep them bottled up.

Ben doesn't learn a damn thing. He learns the ways he can disappoint his best friend, and Tucker learns that his friend will screw him over to screw a girl. The baby's barely a factor in this episode. I can't assume the baby's forgotten about in every episode, but it wouldn't surprise me. I gathered from this episode that baby Emma is around for the audience to coo at and melt over. The baby is adorable. The main character should learn a lesson by the end of an episode. Berendsen's show is already derivative. Why break tradition by Ben acting like an ass through to the end without learning that being an ass isn't nice? Baby Daddy is scattered, flawed, but a pleasant little sitcom that requires no thought.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Monday, June 10, 2013

Game Of Thrones "Mhysa" Review

A season of television should tell a complete story. Seasons of TV need to stand alone but be able to exist in the grand overall story too. "Mhysa" contained a few cliff-hangers, enticing teasers, and never offered any resolution for any of its stories, except for one or two. Of course, season three and season four are telling the story of A Storm of Swords, which means Weiss and Benioff had the task of finding an endpoint for this season.

The task isn't difficult, though. Last week's Red Wedding happens a little more than halfway through the book, and there's the triumphant scene of Dany being celebrated as mother by the freed Yunkish. The finale's a very good episode because of the terrific writing, the various teases and cliff-hangers, but what stands out is the focus and emphasis on two of the most underserved stories since season two: Bran's and Stannis' stories.

The writers have a difficult task with Bran. Bran's with the Reeds who are mysterious for a good bit until Jojen starts opening up to Bran about what they have in common. Bran barely did anything for the first half of the season. He had some dreams, he woke up and then had his dreams explained to him by Jojen. The last few episodes have defined Bran's story more clearly than earlier in the season. Now, he's Beyond-The-Wall and headed into the nonsense in hopes of meeting the three-eyed crow. (The nonsense is the wights and white walkers walking around). His meeting with Sam in the Nightfort is a highlight of the episode, but it's another frustrating scene for fans who'd like characters to reunite. I'm among those fans. Bran's committed; hopefully the viewer is as committed. Commitment to Bran's story is essential, I think. While there's more definite direction and purpose, the specifics remain vague. The other highlight of Bran's story is his little story about the rat cook. The gods cursed this cook for killing a man under his roof, which should resonate with audiences just one week after The Red Wedding.

I think Stannis' story has been underserved for nearly two seasons. Stannis' motivations are clearly stated, and Melisandre's involvement, i.e. her helpful bits of exposition, have been clear as well; however, how many people feel invested in Stannis' story? Of course, Stannis is a difficult character to care about, to feel invested in. He never smiles, he's a stalwart for justice, he murdered his brother, and he almost murdered his most loyal friend, Davos Seaworth. The show's challenge is getting the audience to care about his story in some way. Stannis is at his most unlikeable for most of the episode. Davos bonds with Gendry as Stannis commits to sacrificing his nephew for the sake of an entire kingdom. Sam's return to Castle Black changes the course of events in Dragonstone, though. Aemon's crow delivers news from Beyond The Wall. Melisandre looks into the flames and sees that the war of the five kings is unimportant. It remains to be seen whether or not the king and the other lords of Westeros will take the threat as serious as Melisandre, Stannis, and Davos do. The message from The Wall saves Davos life. Davos helped Gendry flee Dragonstone before the sacrifice. So, the new mission, as it were, is a start, at least, for more viewer investment in Stannis' story. He's still a stern son of a bitch, hard to like or care about in anyway, and Melisandre is a pill though incredibly sexy, but Davos is awesome. I suppose Davos would be enough at this point without the new direction for Stannis in season 4 to care about this whole story.

The other stories throughout the finale continue to build for the fourth season payoffs. There were complaints about the Theon storyline since it began. Folk didn't like the constant torture episode after episode. Theon's story sped up considerably. The nameless torturer is Bolton's bastard, Ramsey, and he's doing what he's doing because he's a sadistic psychopath. Ramsey gives Theon a new name, which worked well with the heavy subtext of identity throughout the episode. Roose is just fine with it, too. Theon's body parts will be sent to the Iron Islands as a threat. Balon doesn't give a damn about threats and disavows his son, but Yara gathers men and boats to rescue her brother. Joffrey is an asshole during the small council meeting, gleefully celebrating Robb's death, calling for Robb's head to present to Sansa at his wedding feast, insulting Tyrion and Twin, and going as far as to tell Tywin he hid from the rebellion under Casterly Rock. Tyrion tells Joffrey to watch his mother since kings seem to be dying at a steady pace. The scene transitions into an acting showcase between Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage. Tywin pressures Tyrion about bedding his wife;
Tyrion wonders how she'll receive him upon hearing about her brother and mother; and then Tywin curses his son's birth.

Two short scenes with Arya are the best of the episode. Maisie Williams face as she sees what's been done to her brother's corpse was devastating--she conveyed everything Arya felt in that moment, thoughts about what happened to her dad, how close she was, and the hopelessness she feels now that her brother is gone. Arya's changed irrevocably. She kills a man on the road for mocking her brother and mother, and she then stares at her coin that Jaqen gave her and repeats his words, "Valar morghulus" or "all men must die." Oh yeah, Arya Stark's getting badass again.

Now the wait begins for the fourth season and the resolution to the many story threads of season three.

Other Thoughts:

-Great episode for Hodor.

-I'm rather tired right now and can't think up any other thoughts, though I know I have thoughts about Cersei, the Ironborn stuff, the Varys/Shae scene, and the Mhysa scene. My eyes are weary, though. So, until next season, good day.

-David Benioff & D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. David Nutter directed it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fosters "Pilot" Review

ABC Family dramas bring social awareness and intense melodrama together--it's the channel's brand. The Secret Life of the American Teenager ushered in ABC Family's brand 54 years ago when it premiered. Brenda Hampton's terrible series concluded just before The Fosters became the latest family-drama to both entertain and educate its audience. Executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez, The Fosters focus on a lesbian couple, their three foster children, and the one woman's biological son. Multiculturalism hasn't hit the mainstream yet. I like multiculturalism, but I don't like ABC Family's brand of melodrama. The Fosters has intense melodrama but it is less nonsensical melodrama than I thought. The cool thing about the "Pilot" is that it uses one's preconception of the characters to subvert any preconceived notions about the characters. Perhaps I'm naive for not considering Callie would be interested in her brother, but The Fosters followed a Brenda Hampton series finale. Brenda Hampton would've had Callie hook up with a boyfriend and then kill her in a horrific car crash. Anyway, The Fosters want to break down expectations about its show before one passes judgment on it.

The "Pilot" works well. Pilots are a toss-up most of the time. A series cannot be judged on its pilot since it takes some time for the writers, and the actors, to figure out what works, what doesn't work, which pairings should happen, which should not, etc. The teaser establishes the series' tone, pacing, and style. There are four or five scenes, each very short. Callie's beaten up in juvenile hall. The first shot is of her hardened face, and her next shot is that face bruised and bloodied. Lena, one of the foster mothers, takes Callie into her home because Callie has nowhere else to go. Lena's reaction Callie's face sets up the dynamic of the house and Callie once the characters are brought together. Lena and Steph, her partner and fellow mother, worry Callie will cause trouble. The audience is meant to feel the way Lena and Steph do. Callie steals Brandon's phone to make a call. She's elusive, at times manipulative, but she's sad. There are as many scenes of Callie looking suspicious as there are of Callie crying. There are tears in her eyes when Lena thinks about bringing Callie home with her. Callie's a beaten and bruised girl.

ABC Family doesn't tell subtle, nuanced stories. The obligatory Here's The Theme scene in the English classroom is one of the oldest tropes in television. Teachers never time their lessons right. Teachers ask the engaging questions just when the bell rings. Callie's teacher asks her what she'd do if she had to live her nightmare. He's interested in her thoughts about Franz Kafka's Gregor character in his short story, Metamorphosis. Gregor wakes up one day as vermin and doesn't know why. Callie's suffering through displacement. She went to juvenile hall for protecting her brother but was depicted as a monster who just went nuts and attacked her foster father's car.

Callie's story resonates most in the "Pilot." She's the integral character of the series--damaged, broken, alone, and becomes lovable and sympathetic when she saves her brother at episode's end. Brandon's the other character written with some depth whereas the others don't feel too deep yet. The texture of the Callie/Brandon dynamic worked. Steph asked her son to look after the newest house guest. Brandon chooses to protect Callie instead of advance his own interests at the piano audition for a lucrative scholarship.

The rest of the characters suffer from inconsistent/uninteresting writing. There are no overt English scenes in which a teacher parallels a character to a character from a book. The twins, Mariana and Jesus, are involved in a typical foster care plot: the biological parent wants to connect with them. The worst part of Disney's Angels in the Outfield is the subplot with the lousy father. Mariana steals and sells pills for money she'll give to her mother, who is addicted to something. The Twins' foster mother is in the manipulative stage of her addiction. She uses Mariana's desire to be close to her to get money from her to feed her addiction. The process leaves Mariana sad, and she's already hiding the truth from Lena, who's been working to get a reunion for the twins and their mother. The story can hit the right emotional beats but it’s swallowed up in trite, predictable, and exhausted tropes.

The adults in the show are the least interesting. The heads of the household shouldn't be the least interesting, but Steph's trapped in a story wherein she's working with Brandon's father, which causes Lena to become 'non-verbal.' I expect the series to explore the dynamics of a modern same-sex relationship, which is a story worth exploring; however, the character needs to be dynamic, interesting. If they're not, why should we care? The Brandon's father element is a bit too easy and safe, but ABC Family, while not always in the business of easy shows, likes to play it safe regardless of its promotions about thrilling and shocking twists.

Callie's the heart of the show. If The Fosters follows her the most, if the audience is allowed to watch her metamorphosis from innocent girl to hardened girl and now into someone else, someone new, someone well-adjusted or simply someone actively healing, then I'd be interested in tuning in every week. The other aspects of the show just aren't engaging. I waited for an engaging scene that didn't involve Callie that would happen at episode's end, just like the teacher's engaging question at the end of the class, but that never happened.

Other Thoughts:

-ABC Family has a type. Maia Mitchell resembles Alexandra Chondra. Chondra resembles TVD's Nina Dobrev. Mitchell also resembles Lucy Hale. These young ladies share a look. Maia Mitchell is the stand-out so far.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Game Of Thrones "The Rains Of Castamere" Review

I told you Game of Thrones would rip your heart out this season.

One of the weird things about me is how nervous I get watching certain scenes in certain television shows. I don't read spoilers, so most of my nerves come from instinct. During the days of LOST, my favorite TV show in all the land, I thought about what happened on an episode for weeks, or I thought about what might happen. Hell, I dreamed about what might happen. After Michael killed Libby and Ana-Lucia, I walked around the downstairs of my house for 90 seconds yelling, "OH MY GOD," shaking, and then calling my friend to tell him to watch immediately. I was an emotional rollercoaster during most of LOST runs and had tears in my eyes for much of the finale.

"The Rains of Castamere" made me a different kind of nervous because I knew what was coming in the end. With each passing scene, I felt more and more nervous until the chaos ensued. I read A Storm of Swords two years ago and nearly stopped reading the series after The Red Wedding chapter (but specifically after the Arya fakeout, which the show did not choose to do). I felt nervous because of the brutality of the scene, the horror of it all, and the pain of it. Game of Thrones is a painful series to watch, and A Song of Ice and Fire is a painful series to read. "Baelor" changed the show. Ned's death showed the audience that Martin's story is not interested in telling the typical triumphant hero story. Game of Thrones is a long and involved story with an insane amount of characters, an insane amount of stories, and an insane sense that nothing good will ever happen; that the bad men will win the day, that Joffrey will rule the Seven Kingdoms to old age, that Walder Frey will continue breathing, dining, and fornicating, while the noble Starks just seem to die.

Ned Stark's name is invoked and remembered multiple times this episode. Cat remembers the night of her marriage to Ned in a conversation with Roose Bolton. Talisa tells Robb their child, should he be a he, will be named Eddard. The Hound reminds Arya about Ilyn Payne cutting his head off with her watching AS he reminds her that she hasn't been with family since that day. Cat remembers Ned's nobility: he wouldn't let a bedding ceremony happen, because he didn't want to break a man's jaw on his wedding night. Ned's among the most noble and honorable characters in the series. Perspective changes a man, though. Jaime's story portrays Ned as a cold judge, a sort of Catholic figure, standing in a large, dark empty hall, passing judgment on a man he's not bothered to listen to, to possibly understand. Robb's prepared to die like his father, fighting the Lannisters. Cat outlined what might happen at Casterly Rock. Of course, Casterly Rock didn't matter. Glory at Casterly Rock was a fever dream. Robb was doomed from the day he broke his oath.

Tonight's episode finally brought out a truly frustrating thing from the books--the close proximity of the characters and the audience's awareness of it so that the audience goes nuts thinking of the ways character x and character y can finally reunite. The wildling/tower scene is tortorous to watch but for different reasons than the red wedding. Jon's just below with his wildlings while Bran's in the tower, trying to calm Hodor down. Arya's can SEE her family's tents at the Twins. Bran and Jon can't meet because of their different stories. Jon shows he's not a true wildling when he fails to kill the older man and then flees for Castle Black. Bran wargs to protect himself and everyone in the tower, but he catches a glimpse of Jon. Jon's absence from The Wall lends more credibility to Jojen's green dream about Jon Snow's absence from The Wall.

"The Rains of Castamere" would've been a success with solely defining Bran's story. Bran, Rickon, Osha, Hodor and the Reeds haven't done much this season. Finally, though, Bran's story is defined. He's the only warg in Westeros to warg another person. Hodor freaks out when he hears the thunder, so he gets inside Hodor to calm him down. He gets wargs with Summer to protect those he loves. Jojen hasn't told a single lie, which means Bran needs to meet the three eyed raven Beyond-the-Wall. Osha refuses to go, and Bran won't force her to; indeed, he needs Osha to take Rickon to the Umbers in the south. Rickon will be safe, and he'll be heir to Winterfall should something terrible happen to the Bran or the other siblings. Their goodbye scene is sad. Little Rickon's an underrated character. Bran, the Reeds, and Hodor, are moving north, and it's going to be awesome.

Another thing about the episode: it is contained. Critics complain about the number of character and storylines, whining that episodes should be more contained. The episode follows four stories. Over in Essos, Dany's men take Yunkai. Daario leads the charge, while Jorah and Grey Worm back him up. I think Jorah's facial expression after he returns to Dany's tent is more telling and important than the victory. The expression on Jorah's face seems to suggest Daario died, but Jorah seems crushed that Dany seems to care about Daario more than him. Jorah's been with her since Pentos. He enters the tent covered in the blood of the men he's slain for her, and she urgently asks about the well-being of the pretty boy.

Of course, the scene that'll linger will be the red wedding. It's the most famous chapter in the books, and it's a scene that pretty much moves Game of Thrones to a whole nother level, from a pop-cultural standpoint. I hope that you didn't see it coming, and I hope that it stays with you, because that's the mark of great fiction. The red wedding devastated me.

Other Thoughts:

-Sam and Gilly had another delightful scene. Sam's thing about the nightfort is worth remembering. Gilly's amazement over what Sam learned from marks in a book remind me of Shireen wanting to teach Davos how to read. I'm also reminded of Tyrion's affinity for words in season one. There are power in words, in notes. Dark wings, dark words--the essence of that is important in this series.

-Richard Madden and Michelle Fairley portrayed their characters terrifically for three seasons. Madden's Robb was more prominent in the show versus in the books whereas Cat was reduced to background scenery for most of season three.

-The Hound saves Arya by knocking her out and carrying her away. Earlier, Arya promised to stab him through the eye the first chance she got. Martin devastated me in A Storm of Swords by ending Arya's chapter with 'and she took an axe to the back of the head.' I read it during August 2011. I was already incredibly sad that year, and that last sentence just did me in for two days. I love Arya. She's my favorite character in the show. I do think Benioff and Weiss should've had Cat's insane death scene as the penultimate scene followed by the fake-out with Arya just so that the internet could further explode.

-Cat's death could be described with many adjectives, but that goes for the entire Red Wedding. The end of the slaughter is chilling. Robb stands up and turns away from Talisa, and he's dazed. Like a little boy he calls "mother" before taking a knife to the gut. Cat tried to save his life by threatening the life of Walder's wife, but Walder Frey is a true bastard. Cat watches her son die and then slits the throat of Frey's wife before her own throat is slit. Fairley's excellent in the scene because she's numb, empty--it's like she's left herself and there's nothing left. Those two moments will stick out in my mind: Robb's weak "mother" call and Cat's emptiness.

-So, who's worse? Joffrey or Walder? I'll say it's a tie.

-David Benioff & D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. David Nutter directed the episode.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.