Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is the Best Buffy Teaser? The Conclusion

NOTE: The Dawson's Creek Re-Watch continues TOMORROW despite my promise to post a Creek review each and every Tuesday. I stupidly relied on an internet website to watch the first four episodes but, predictably enough, the videos were removed from the website. Oh, well. Now, everyone gets 3,000+ plus words on Buffy!

Yes indeedy, ladies and gentlemen, the search for the Best Buffy Teaser finally returns to The Foot. Over two months have passed since the season six two-parter, and my promises to finish the search that same week. Today, though, the search will come to an end and the Best Buffy Teaser will be awarded. You can read through the other Best Buffy Teaser posts by clicking on the link on the right side of the screen.

The seventh season of Buffy's slightly more well-regarded than its sixth season but only slightly. The season's a mess, for the most part, with its major characters reduced to secondary players in the interest of the Spike-Buffy arc. The 10th episode introduces the potential slayers, who sadly dominate much of the final season. It wouldn't be so bad if the potentials had any personality or definable traits--they're more like a group of tertiary characters that blend into the back round. I had a hard time keeping track of them the first time I watched season 7. In a way, the potential slayers represent everything wrong with the series. Of course, they cannot be blamed for the poor way Xander, Dawn, Willow and Anya are written and used. Only the writers know why they gave more screen time to Tom Lenk's Andrew and the annoying Spike-Buffy romance. Like the potentials themselves, season seven's potential is tremendous. The Big Bad and the scope of the narrative had the potential to make Buffy's final season a terrific one. The writers, actors, directors and the rest of the crew couldn't maintain the momentum though.

Loyal fans will never know why the quality dropped in the final two years of the show. Maybe the writers were creatively bankrupt with Buffy stories. Whedon never lost his creativity, as quality of ANGEL and Firefly were so high during Buffy's final run. Drew Goddard, in an interview with Creative Screenwriting, talked about how empty the writers room was in the beginning of the season because of various staff pregnancies. Some episodes have joint writers, which suggests the scripts were late and rushed; however, the early part of the season's not the issue. Maybe real-life interfered with work life, and maybe Joss and his writers didn't have the time to plan and arc the season as they did in the past. Who knows though.

Anyway, it's time to write about the actual teasers.



"Lessons"--Written By Joss Whedon; Directed By David Solomon

The teaser opens with an Alias-style chase scene in Europe, of all locales. Hooded men chase a young girl through the streets. They eventually catch her and kill her. We cut to the Sunnydale cemetery where Buffy says "It's about power." The line's repeated throughout the early part of the season by various characters. Dawn's receiving her first lesson in slaying. In "Grave," Buffy promised to show her sister these things, and she obviously is. Buffy teaches Dawn that the vampire has the power. Of course, this particular vampire's stuck on a root and can't climb out of his grave. Buffy helps. Dawn and the vamp fight. She misses his heart with the stake. Buffy swoops in and chops the vampire's head off. The sisters then bond over missing the heart the first time.

The chase scene's far less interesting on repeated viewings. As for Buffy and Dawn, their scene plants the seed for the arc to come. The First Evil's catchphrase is--"it's about power." For the majority of the season, the line signifies the depth and the threat of the First Evil. They have the power and Buffy doesn't--that is, until "Chosen," in which Buffy's potentials receive the power. Buffy's slaying lesson with Dawn's pretty much what we'll see once the potentials arrive in Sunnydale. I'd rank the teaser for the season premiere highly if Buffy didn't ignore Dawn for the majority of the season, thus rendering their scene sort of pointless. Once it's clear that Dawn won't be a potential, she becomes as useless as the other characters who used to matter. Also, the teaser ends with the surprise that Sunnydale High's back-in-business. Joss wanted the show to return to its root. The high school as a setting's dropped midway through the season, though, so the show could devote more time to Robin's grudge with Spike. Blah.

"Beneath You"--Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By Nick Marck

A woman runs through the streets of a European city whilst being chased by a pair of hooded men (the Bringers). The Bringers catch her and stab her. The girl's head turns toward the screen. She says, "from beneath you, it devours." Buffy wakes up from her sleep, startled by a dream. She repeats the words to Dawn, "from beneath you, it devours." Outside, the streets rumble and a giant SOMETHING roams underground, ready to devour.

I like the revelation that Buffy's dreaming about the potentials because I always enjoyed Buffy's prophetic dreams. The girl in Europe's not referring to the giant creature underground in Sunnydale though. The words are yet another cryptic foreshadow to the Big Bad introduced at the end of "Lessons," when it took the form of every past Big Bad. The episode doesn't deal with the Big Bad, though. "Beneath You" is more of a stand-alone episode about Spike's soul and Anya's vengeance demon ways--she's responsible for turning a man into that underground creature. The teaser isn't anything special--it's standard Buffy.

"Same Time, Same Place"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By James A. Contner

At the Sunnydale airport, Buffy, Xander and Dawn wait for Willow's arrival. The three are nervous about the return of their former murderous friend. Dawn's spooked when she learns Willow never finished her lessons with Giles on how to be NOT evil. Xander hopes Willow will understand his yellow crayon penned 'welcome' sign. The girls point out how many times Xander told the story. Xander reminds the girls that he saved the world with his mouth. Oddly, Willow's not among the passengers exiting the plane. She doesn't show. We learn that Willow got off the plane but she doesn't see her friends--strange.

Willow's worried about returning to her life in Sunnydale. Buffy, Xander and Dawn are worried about Willow returning to their life as well. They're more concerned about how they can return to normalcy with Willow. Willow's emotions have a great deal of effect on the mysterious invisible stuff in the teaser. She's not seen because she's not ready to be seen, though she doesn't know she's doing it.

"Help"--Written By Rebecca Rand Kirshner; Directed By Rick Rosenthal

Buffy, Xander and Dawn emerges from coffins to possibly slay an elderly woman who died with mysterious neck trauma. Xander wonders if Buffy's always been so thorough in her slaying duties. "Vampire-by-vampire...it's the only way I know" responds Buffy. Buffy wishes the woman/vamp would awake so she can cuddle up with her insomnia and prepare for her first day as school counselor. Dawn and Xander assure her that she'll be fine but she worries that the kids' problems will be weird and tricky. Xander comments that she's not exactly new with weird and tricky problems. The elderly woman wakes up. Buffy dusts her.

What I like about the "Help" teaser is the dialogue. It reminds of me the first three seasons when life-and-death slaying stuff felt secondary to ordinary problems of a teenager--when Buffy worried more about a meeting with Snyder than a fight with three dangerous vampires. Buffy's more concerned about her new job as counselor than slaying. The dialogue's sharp, quick-witted and fun. The characters feel like the characters they've always been, which is why the teaser's so enjoyable. "Help" is an early candidate to win the best teaser from season seven.

"Selfless"--Written By Drew Goddard; Directed By David Solomon

Dawn's giving a pep talk to Willow before her return to college. Buffy and Xander converse about Anya--he's worried about her, their last conversation went terribly. Xander wants to call her. He thinks she's coming around after turning that guy into a giant worm; however, Anya's just butchered a frat house full of frat guys--their hearts have been ripped out.

Anya-as-a-vengeance demon has been the elephant in the room. For awhile, she opted to rant about Xander rather than exact vengeance on behalf of a scorned woman; however, she's a more active demon thus far in season seven. Xander's not concerned about the worm incident because it's small compared to killing men. Of course, Anya's responsible for a massacre. How will she come back from that? It's a short and effective teaser that sets up Willow going to college, which will lead her to Anya and the frat house. Buffy and Xander's conversation reminds the audience of Xander's love and concern for the girl, even though they broke up. Great teaser for a terrific episode.

"Him"--Written By Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed By Michael Gershman

Spike moves in with Xander so Xander's giving a tour. He wonders why Spike needs to live with him, and Buffy reminds Xander that keeping Spike in the school basement where he's driven insane daily is cruel. Spike doesn't want to be coddled. There's an undercurrent of romantic feeling between Buffy and Spike, which Dawn picks up on in the next scene. She and Buffy sit outside, eating lunch, watching the football team. Buffy explains that she feels for Spike but such a feeling isn't love. Dawn doesn't understand why people waste so much time chasing after those they love, brooding about those they love when time could spent curing diseases or painting beautiful murals. Naturally, Dawn falls in love at first sight with the star of the football team.

The teaser's another throw-back to teasers of old. Usually, when a character says something, the complete opposite will happen as is the case with Dawn and love. It's about infatuation rather than love, I guess. It's a funny, silly and light episode. The teaser just sets up the ridiculousness of love, and the insane things people do in pursuit of it. Nothing much comes from Spike and Xander's living arrangement.

"Conversations With Dead People"--Written By Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard; Directed By Nick Marck

A band plays in The Bronze. Buffy scours the cemetery, awaiting the undead to rise from their graves. Willow settles in the library for a quiet night of studying. Spike sits alone at the bar in The Bronze, nursing a drink, looking mournful and lonely. Dawn finds a note from Buffy, informing her that she and Willow won't be home until late. One undead being rises from his grave, as Buffy watches impassively, remarking, "here we go."

In the script, when the band begins to play, it reads, "It's full of loneliness. Pain. You know, season six stuff." Anywho, the teaser puts the characters in the spots they'll be for the entire episode. "Conversations With Dead People" is a unique episode. Each character only interacts with one other character. No Xander nor Anya. Spike doesn't have one line of dialogue. I like the teaser because it's different, and it feels special like Joss Whedon and his writer's are about to deliver a masterpiece.

"Sleeper"--Written By David Fury and Jane Espenson; Directed By Alan Levi

Xander's awoken by furious pounding on his door. Buffy emerges inside, wondering where Spike is. Xander doesn't know. Spike wasn't home when Xander arrived home. Buffy's worried because Holden told her Spike sired him. And she should be worried because Spike's in the process of burying the body he just murdered.

And it begins--the slow dovetail of season seven with "Sleeper." The next four episodes are basically about keeping Spike safe from The First. Buffy, of course, fears that Spike's a killer because of her bizarre evening being psychoanalyzed by her enemy, and because of those dreams she's had marked by the cryptic "from beneath you, it devours." Spike, meanwhile, whistles cheerfully as he buries the body. The question is, what's up with Spike? The urgency of the first scene promises an episode that seeks to find answers to Spike's bizarre behavior post-soul. And also, why is he whistling?

"Never Leave Me"--Written By Drew Goddard; Directed By David Solomon

Xander's repairing the damages to the Summers house following the fight at the end of "Sleeper." Dawn and Anya discuss Spike. Neither girl trusts him. Meanwhile, Andrew's roaming the streets of Sunnydale with The First in the form of Warren. The First wants Andrew to kill more people for mysterious reasons. Andrew balks. Elsewhere, Buffy tied Spike to a chair. In fact, Spike wants tighter ropes.

I told you--it's all about Spike. The teaser's constructed around Spike and the influence of The First. No one trusts him except for Buffy. There isn't an inciting incident in the teaser to drive the episode, though. It's three scenes with dialogue. I've seen the episode multiple times and I can't remember what the story of the episode is. It's good though, which is weird.

"Bring On The Night"--Written By Marti Noxon and Douglas Petrie; Directed By David Grossman

Once again, Xander makes repairs in the Summers home. The Scoobies are researching The First without success. Dawn wants to question Andrew about The First but he's unconscious from the Spike attack. Buffy dreams about her mother. Joyce tells her she needs to rest or she'll be no good to anyone. Meanwhile, Spike's being tortured by an ubervamp as the First haunts him in the form of Drusilla.

Again, nothing much happens. The First used Spike's blood for what they needed. Now, they're playing games with him. The new threat is the risen ubervamp. The Scoobies have no idea that such a vampire exists, let alone residing in their town. Once they discover the ubervamp, they will figure out how to stop it but that doesn't happen until "Showtime."

"Showtime"--Written By David Fury; Directed By Michael Grossman

At a bus station, a young woman exits a bus. The station's dark, deserted and creepy. Suddenly, she's attacked by two bringers. They corner her. Buffy arrives, throws the bringers aside and pummels them. She defeats them and then introduces herself to Rona, the new potential slayer. They make small talk about what to do when Rona's attacked again. Rona thought she was safe in Sunnydale. Buffy explains that she is but she'll be attacked again. "Welcome to the Hellmouth."

This teaser breaks the monotony of the past three teasers, in which very little happens. I enjoyed the humor in the scene after the bringers are defeated. I liked Sarah Michelle Gellar's delivery of her lines. Rona's not the first potential slayer to arrive, though, so it's not like her arrival's the beginning of the potentials arc. It's not a very good teaser in terms of structure and story. There is no hook.

"Potential"--Written By Rebecca Rand Kirshner; Directed By James A. Contner

Spike and Buffy are teaching the potential slayers how to fight a vampire. The potentials are inexperienced so Buffy talks about instincts and anticipation. She and Spike demonstrate. Buffy hurts his shoulder. She's concerned that she hurt him. All the while, she's on top of him as the potentials remark that the chemistry between the slayer and the vamp's hot. That's about it.

"Potential" is about Dawn figuring out whether or not she's a potential slayer. The teaser doesn't concern itself with setting up the A story. Instead, the writers force more Buffy and Spike in the audience's face as the potentials look on. Did the writers need a scene with lessons, considering the amount of speeches and lessons in previous episodes and episodes to come? It would've been better if the episode began with Dawn because she's the heart of the story but the writers were Spuffy crazy for whatever reason. Blah.

"The Killer In Me"--Written By Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed By David Solomon

Giles prepares to leave for a retreat with the potential slayers. He and Buffy converse. Giles references "Intervention" which is good. Willow enters the scene. Kennedy won't attend the retreat because she's ill. Giles leaves as do the other characters. Buffy goes into the basement where she and Spike discuss life for two days without potentials. Buffy brings up the chip seconds before it goes haywire in Spike's head.

There's some nice set-up for the respective stories in this teaser. Willow and Kennedy will spend time with one another because she's home, and Kennedy's shown obvious interest in Willow. Thus, Willow will experience some Tara guilt if she shows any sort of feeling for Kennedy. Giles left with potentials in time for the gang to wonder if he's the first. Buffy and Spike will deal with the chip. It's a solid teaser.

"First Date"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By David Grossman

Giles returns from the retreat with the potentials. Spike tackles him, thinking he's The First. Giles wonders why the chip didn't trigger a response in Spike. Giles is NOT the First and Spike's chip-less. Giles freaks out.

I appreciate the simplicity in the reveals--Giles isn't dead and Spike's chip is removed. I like Giles' fury over news that Spike roams free without the chip. The chip removal happens just in time for the audience to learn about Robin's personal history with Spike. The Giles stuff doesn't matter, really.

"Get It Done"--Written & Directed By Douglas Petrie

Buffy walks around the house, surveying the sleeping slayers. Chloe cries in the corner. Well, at least Buffy thinks her name's Chloe. Suddenly, the primitive tackles her and yells, "it's not enough." Buffy wakes up--'twas only a dream. The potentials sleep peacefully. Buffy tries to figure out what just happened.

Simplicity worked for season 7. The teaser's effective because of its simplicity. The exchange with Chloe shows that Buffy doesn't really know the potentials. The primitive stuff shows that Buffy needs to go deeper to beat the First and to empower the potentials.

"Storyteller"--Written By Jane Espenson; Directed By Marita Grabiak

Andrew sits in a Masterpiece Theatre setting, addressing the audience about the adventures of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. He narrates a story about Buffy fighting vampires in the cemetery before he's rudely interrupted by Anya, who wonders why he doesn't just masturbate like the rest of the household when in the bathroom.

The teaser establishes the storytelling world Andrew chooses to experience, as well as his own perspective. "Storyteller" is his episode and the narration over Buffy's fight guarantees an episode that won't be typical BtVS. That's about it.

"Lies My Parents Told Me"--Written By David Fury and Drew Goddard; Directed By David Fury

Flashback. 1977. Spike and Nikki Wood fight in Central Park as little Robin hides behind a bench. Spike leaves because he wants to dance more with Nikki. Nikki walks over to her son. She's proud of him for remaining where mom wanted him to remain. Little Robin picks up a stake before the scene ends. Cut to the next scene where Buffy, Spike and Robin fight vampires. The trio wins. Spike makes a remark about Robin's use of the stake. Robin quietly murmurs that he's waiting for his moment.

I'm not sure how invested the audience was in Robin's vendetta against Spike because I watched season 7 on DVD several years later. I can't imagine the audience sympathized with him because people love Spike. The first scene wants the audience to care about Robin and his mission to avenge his mother's death because the next 40 minutes will be about his mission. Does it work? Eh but nothing really works in the seventh season.

"Dirty Girls"--Written By Drew Goddard; Directed By Michael Gershman

A young woman, Shannon, runs from the bringers. A priest in a pick-up truck, Caleb, picks her up. The two converse about what she was running from. Caleb quickly reveals himself as a bad guy. He calls Shannon a whore and a dirty girls, wants her to deliver a message to the car behind him. He stabs her and throws her out of the car. Willow and Faith stop to help the girl. Faith observes that, indeed, she's back in Sunnydale.

Eventually, the writers needed to introduce a threatening, corporeal villain because The First can't actually do anything because they're incorporeal. Caleb's the bad guy. Joss Whedon actually wrote the scene--something Goddard freely admits in the commentary. Caleb's a typical religious zealot with a taste for murderous blood. He's not a particularly compelling or threatening villain because his threats and regard for women aren't anything new or original. I appreciate the thematic contrast between the misogynistic villain and the band of girls on the cusp of slayerdom. BtVS was always a show about taking back the night for women, and it's good Buffy returned to those roots with five episodes remaining in the series.

"Empty Places"--Written By Drew Z. Greenberg; Directed By James A. Contner

The entire of town's frantically fleeing for some reason. I understand a big battle's happening but those happen yearly and the town never fled. What's different besides the temptation to make the battle seem more epic with the series ending? Oh, that's the point. Buffy converses with Clem. The hellmouth's been crazy. People feel it. Demonic activity's everywhere. The conversations ends, the teaser ends. I won't bother beginning a second paragraph.

"Touched"--Written By Rebecca Rand Kirshner; Directed By David Solomon

Bad, bad teaser. The Scoobies, potentials and everyone else not part of a group argue about the next step since they kicked Buffy out of her own home. Faith suggests everyone chill out. They do until the lights go out. The entire neighborhood's power went out, which means the Sunnydale electric company fled town. Meanwhile, Buffy kicks a middle-aged man out of her home and quips about tab.

Everything's a mess--both in the fictional world and in the actual world of the writers room because season seven devolves into nonsense. The potentials want Faith as their leader even though she's a terrible leader. Buffy will spend the episode apart from her friends until Spike delivers a monologue that 16 year old me thought would charm girls. The group at the Summers home will remain as directionless throughout the episode and various characters will sleep with one another.

"End of Days"--Written By Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie; Directed By Marita Grabiak

The bomb goes off. Buffy finds the scythe and removes it from the rock. Caleb is surprised.

"Chosen"--Written & Directed By Joss Whedon

Buffy and Angel are in mid-kiss--odd behavior from someone who just gave his son a new life without any memories of his father, and someone who's in love with Cordelia. Buffy basks in Angel's presence. The two talk. The First has gotten more ambitious since it tried to get Angel to kill himself. Now, it's raising an army. Caleb, with dark eyes and blood dripping from his eyes like tears, asks Buffy if she's ready to finish their fight.

Well, here I am, writing about the last teaser in the series. It's unremarkable.

AND THE WINNER OF THE BEST BUFFY TEASER FROM SEASON SEVEN IS..."Selfless." It's the last teaser that comes from character rather than the nonsense First plot. It's from a time when my favorite characters still hung out with one another. Maybe I dislike season six and seven equally.


Here's why (from season 1 post): The teaser is outstanding. It sets up The Master's ascension but it also re-states its mission statement. While Cordelia and a boy kiss in her car, Buffy fights a vampire close by without anyone noticing. She stakes the vampire and remarks, "three in one night. Giles would be so proud." She's just a sixteen year old girl who has superpowers, and she's taking back the night from the evil vampires and demons. Earlier, Xander practices what he'll say to Buffy to Willow because the season-long infatuation he's had with Buffy will be resolved along with a whole host of other arcs built throughout season one.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Game Of Thrones "You Win or You Die" Review

HBO promoted "You Win or You Die" as the episode everyone would talk about, and they were right to do so. I can already see the multiple posts condemning the 3.5 minute lesbian sex scene, and the self-righteous critics who deplore the use of gratuitous nudity but feel just fine when a piece of wood graphically pierces a man's throat or the other instances of graphic violence throughout the seven aired episodes so far. The political landscape changed significantly in the seventh episode of the first season. The Lannisters have assumed power following King Robert's untimely death from a wound he suffered while hunting boar in the wilderness. Khal Drogo declared his intentions to invade King's Landing so that he and Dany's son may sit on the Iron Throne. So, yeah, major things happened during the course of the hour.

The news about King Robert blindsided Ned. Ned planned to inform his grace about Jaime Lannister's bastards, mothered by his sister Cersei, in hopes of changing the power structure of King's Landing and the whole of Westeros; however, with Robert on his death bed, Ned decided not to torture his friend with the harsh truth about his son, Joffrey, the heir to the throne. Instead, Ned changes the wording of Robert's last wishes. He writes only "the rightful heir" because he sends word to the oldest brother of Robert to assume the throne. As the newfound protector of the realm, he's trying to protect it. Unfortunately, protecting the realm's difficult with conspirators and Cersei around (Cersei especially...boy is Lena Headley kicking ass in that role). Cersei boils battle of the game of thrones to one simple truth: you either win or you die in the game of thrones.

Ned doesn't want to play the game that way. Two episodes ago, Cersei questioned Ned's ability to effectively lead. George RR Martin spoke about how good men sometimes make bad leaders. With Robert's death inevitable, Renly explains the plan of action that should be taken to remove power from Joffrey and the rest of the Lannisters. Ned rejects the idea because he's interested in the honorable course of action. As we've seen though in past episodes, honor's becoming an ancient concept in Westeros and Ned's honor will kill him rather than save him. Littlefinger has no interest in the honorable course of action either. His suggestion: let Joffrey take the throne, make peace with the Lannisters and bide one's time Again, Ned rejects the idea. Soon enough, Littlefinger has a knife to Ned's throat after he fails to remove Joffrey from the throne the honorable way as two groups of armed men kill one another.

The patriarch of the Lannister family, Tywin Lannister, has a long scene with Jaime in the beginning of the episode. Father and son discuss Ned Stark and the fight Jaime had with him. Tywin wondered why his son didn't kill the man. Jaime explains that the kill wouldn't have been clean. Tywin, like his daughter Cersei, doesn't care about honor in a duel. One day, he and the rest of the Lannisters will be dead and rotting in their graves. The only thing that matters is the name of the Lannisters and how that name's remembered in history. The Targaryans and Greyjoys names have been ruined in the annals of history--the same fate cannot happen for the Lannisters. Throughout their conversation, Tywin's skinning and gutting the corpse of a horse--symbolic imagery. One wouldn't think Jaime would get his hands dirty like that, and Tywin insists that his son needs to become the man he should've became more than two years ago.

The scene cast a different light on Jaime. For the last six episodes, he's been a true so-and-so by pushing a 10 year old boy off of a window and jumping Ned Stark outside of the brothel. Beyond that, he's just a smug son of a gun, walking around Westeros like he's the best swordsmen the land's ever had. His body language and demeanor around his father gave the character depth, and made him more than a one-note antagonist. Again, the importance of linage and family history emerges. On Robert's death bed, he regrets not making more of a man out of Joffrey. Tywin still views his son as a mere boy trying to be a man. Ned's scene with Cersei shed some light on the twins relationship as lovers. Apparently, the Targaryens kept marriages between brothers and sisters so that the blood line would remain pure. Cersei and Jaime want the same purity in their bloodline. The Lannister siblings remain unlikable and I hope the two receive their comeuppance before season's end. Surely they can't get away with trying to murder Bran Stark, and surely Cersei can't get away with having a bastard as the King of Westeros.

The political turmoil, betrayals and whatnot in King's Landing is very interesting. The tense war between the Lannisters and the Starks have produced fantastic storytelling thus far and I look forward to more; however, the strange happenings North of The Wall are incredibly intriguing. Osha, the only thief to survive the robbery attempt in "A Golden Crown," remarks that she planned on traveling as far south as she could get, before the long nights and the creatures in the North really wake up. When asked if she means shadowcats and another kind of dangerous creature, she just smiles and says no. But the creatures she means have been gone for thousand of years; however, they weren't gone--just sleeping and they aren't sleeping anymore. Meanwhile, at The Wall, Benjen's horse returns without Benjen. Later, after Sam and Jon take their vows at the tree, Jon's direwolf returns from the forest with an arm in mouth--Benjen's arm probably. The audience knows that the whitewalkers lurk North of The Wall but the characters don't.

The Dothraki's are now an official threat as well. Originally, Drogo had as much interest in invading King's Landing as Arya in her Sansa's love life. One of Varys assassins tried to poison Daenerys with wine, though, which left a rotten taste in Drogo's mouth. Drogo declared his intentions to go to war, to rape women and enslave children because the kingdom dared tried to kill his son and wife. The problems in King's Landing seem so small considering the threats that lurk outside their comfortable confines. I doubt Joffrey's prepared for the Dothraki's or the white walkers when winter comes.

The final three episodes of season one will be action-packed. I'm invested in every single story right now, which is good considering the apathy I felt towards the majority of television shows in the past nine months. The show doesn't waste time so I won't be surprised if the Dothraki's invade in episode eight. We'll see.

Some other thoughts:

-The scene with the prostitutes and Littlefinger will definitely be the most talked about scene in the episode. As I wrote in the opening paragraph, the scene lasts about three and a half minutes and the direction and actresses don't leave anything to the imagination. As the women have sex, Littlefinger talks about a duel he lost as a younger man, and how he now behaves like prostitutes. He doesn't fight his enemies, he fucks them over. While people should see his betrayal coming, they don't. His deception's on par with the prostitutes who trick their paying customers into thinking they actually satisfy them sexually. If one can look past the pornography of the scene, one will find one of the most originally executed scenes in some time in a movie or television. Most will just see gratuitous nudity and sexuality though.

-Jon Snow reacted badly when he the Night's Watch made him a steward rather than a ranger. Sam suggested that Commander Mormont wants Jon to be his successor, and that being his steward will have its reward in the future. Snow wanted to be a ranger, though. Of course, Sam always wanted to be a wizard--that truth finally makes Jon laugh.

-Jorah received a royal pardon from Varys and the council with Dany's death imminent. Jorah's devoted to her, though. Viscerys accused Jorah of wanting to have sex with his sister, and Jorah probably does. He stopped the wine seller and earned the trust of Drogo. I'm only observing though. I don't have any speculation.

-David Benioff & D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. Daniel Minahan directed the second episode in a row. George RR Martin's episode is next week.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Everwood "The Great Doctor Brown" Review

The painting of the family doctor, cheerfully treating the wounds and warming the hearts of his patients opens the episode. Irv narrates over the image, noting that the family doctor is an icon of the American experience. Irv describes Andy as the best example of he ever knew of the family doctor; however, he was rough around the edges when it came to the family title. Thus, we have the major theme for the episode. How does Andy reconcile his medical duties with his family duties? More importantly, can he?

Certainly, the reality of being a doctor in America's more difficult than the famous painting depicts. Irv's narration is guilty of over-romanticizing parts of Everwood, its history and its citizens (of course, the narrations are part of a book that isn't introduced so it's sort of the point). "The Great Doctor Brown" doesn't explore difficulties of insurance, health care, etc in modern America. The story's simple: Andy came to Everwood to be the man and father his late wife wanted him to be. Now, can he? As the Browns sit down for dinner, Andy receives a phone call from a mother with sick children--his first house call. Andy leaves the house, much to Ephram's chagrin. Once he arrives at the house, he learns that each child in the household's sick so his night's just begun. Upon returning home, he's met with resentment from Ephram because nothing's changed except for their location.

Ephram's not simply a petulant teenager with an infite grudge with his father because of the important moments Andy missed as a high profile neurosurgeon in Manhattan. Ephram thinks about his sister, about how he had his mother for the times when he had a nightmare or needed a parent. Julia's not around anymore to offer comfort and peace to her daughter after a nightmare. Delia needs her father present in her life, not making long house calls with families full of sick children. Small town, lower class families need a doctor, and they have one in Dr. Brown but Andy doesn't need to exhaust himself after-hours if it means further damaging his relationship. Andy receives such advice from Dr. Abbott in one of the final scenes of the episode, after Andy scared away his patients by talking to himself at the Fall Thaw. Harold reminds the great doctor Brown that small town medicine's a marathon, not a sprint, and that he'll be no use to the citizens of Everwood if he burns himself out by over-extending himself.

A day earlier, at the annual Fall Thaw festival, Julia reminded her husband why he came to Everwood. The scene's one of the best in the entire series. Dr. Brown makes a wish by throwing a quarter into a "pond," and through the glass, he sees his wife. Andy wonders what she's not in Everwood when she promised she would be so many years ago if anything happened to her. Julia looks at her husband with sympathy in her eyes as she gently reminds him that he moved so that he could know his son. He needs to say goodbye to her and hello to Ephram. She disappears and, seemingly, the entire town's staring at Andy Brown. It's the most important scene in the episode. It scales back Andy's workload and it helps him to re-focus on the true task at hand--building a relationship with his son.

Ephram wants a good, solid relationship with Andy as well. The problem is, Ephram's a teenager who acts out rather than communicate with his father about what he wants and needs from him. I've re-watched the first season of Everwood a number of times since 2002-2003. I only cared about whether or not Amy would give Ephram a chance during the first season because I was as young as the characters. Their story in "The Great Doctor Brown" has thematic unity with Andy's A story. Once upon a time, I thought Ephram only lied to Amy about Andy helping Colin because he felt jealous and hurt that Amy used and played him to restore her boyfriend. Ephram is jealous and hurt but surgery on Colin represents the life Andy left in Manhattan. The night before, Ephram successfully communicated what he needed from his father, and the incident at the festival brought the family closer together. Ephram doesn't want to threaten this newfound familial harmony. Of course, Ephram's going to find out how good his father is at his job in the next episode which will affect the Colin stuff but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The C story's heartwarming. Delia wants to sit in the front of the class but her teacher won't let her. Andy has a meeting with Ms. Violet, in which he tells the teacher that Julia taught her daughter how to be strong and independent from a young age, and he'd be a bad father to tell her anything else. Julia's portrayed as a saint throughout much of the first season until "The Unvieling" where we learn that she, too, wasn't perfect. She seemed like one hell of a woman though considering how strong Delia is.

"The Great Doctor Brown" is one fantastic second episode of a television series. Treat Williams was tremendous throughout the episode, especially in the scene with his wife and the scene with Mrs. Dudley when she tells him how grateful she is for him. Tom Amandes' Harold Abbott delights in every scene he's in. The time will come when I write more about him. This episode features such scenes as him calling his daughter over to the table in annoyance, deconstructing Amy's comparisons of her life to the crucifixion as well as his order of the most complicated ice cream cone.

Greg Berlanti wrote the episode. Kathy Bates directed it.

UP NEXT: "Friendly Fire," in which Ephram witnesses first-hand how good his father is at his job.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-watch: Dawson's Creek "Pilot" Review

In the mid-to-late 90s, Kevin Williamson was the most sought after screenwriter in Hollywood. Scream revived the dormant horror genre and ushered in a lucrative era of copycat slasher flicks. Paul Stupin, a future executive producer of Dawson's Creek, approached Williamson about developing a television series--a horror television series. Naturally, with the Scream success, executives wanted Williamson for his talent and ability within the horror genre. The man took quite a few projects as well. He wrote the original treatment for the seventh Halloween movie. Williamson wrote the screenplay for 1997's I Know What You Did Last Summer. He penned the Robert Rodriguez teenage alien film, The Faculty. In 1999, he directed his first ever screenplay, Teaching Mrs. Tingle--perhaps his proudest moment as a screenwriter and filmmaker because an old teacher, after reading the original Killing Mrs. Tingle draft, told young Williamson that he couldn't write and promised failure for him. I'm sure Williamson wrote unaccredited polishes on a number of horror projects during this insane five year period of success.

I suppose the sheer number of horror movies that man wrote or polished or composed treatments for burned him out in the genre. After all, he grew up a Steven Spielberg fan. His interests in storytelling were larger than "crazed, masked killer stalks teenagers." Williamson declined to write a horror pilot script because he wanted to write a coming-of-age drama, based on his own experiences growing up in North Carolina. He wanted to write a series about "adolescent anxiety, sweaty palms and first kisses" so he wrote a pilot called Dawson's Creek that incorporated those three things. FOX passed on the series. TheWB, though, reached a deal with Williamson to bring Dawson's Creek to their Tuesday night lineup. In January of 1998, Dawson's Creek premiered on TheWB Tuesday. The series ran for six seasons. Williamson left the series at the end of the second season to focus on his other series, Wasteland. He didn't return to Dawson's Creek until the series finale in which he tried to salvage any decent storytelling from the massive train wreck the show was under Tom Kapinos' reign as show runner. In between, he created TheWB's Glory Days but the series produced only ten episodes before cancellation. Williamson didn't find television success again until The Vampire Diaries began in the fall of 2009.

The first season of Dawson's Creek isn't complicated. Joey Potter's in love with her life-long best friend, Dawson Leery but he's in love with the hot new blonde who just moved to Capeside, Jen Lindley. Dawson's best friend, Pacey Witter, wants to have sex and, when he does, it's with his English teacher. The relationships between these four characters is the heart of the first season. The first season has more meat, of course, which I'll devote too many words to in the weeks to come. The "Pilot" only plants the seeds for the drama to come in the Leery household as well as the drama between Grams and Bessie.

Dawson Leery, the aspiring filmmaker and selfish teenager, is resistant to change. He whines when Joey suggests that she and he stop sharing the bed. Dawson doesn't understand why considering they've shared the same bed every Saturday night for the last ten years. Joey can't openly state that she has romantic feelings for him. Dawson's too daft to register anything because he's a "me me me!" kind of guy. Joey's essential point that Dawson misses is, their bodies are changing, feelings are changing, and their hormones complicate everything. Nevertheless, Dawson somehow convinces Joey to spend the night and they awkwardly lay next to one another as Dawson wonders why Joey had to bring it up in the first place.

The issues between Joey and Dawson throughout the episode stems from her unrequited affection towards the boy with the large forehead and the ridiculous hair. Joey's frustrations mount throughout the episode and she expresses resentment for Dawson's need to create conflict in the interest of his screenplays. Joey wishes Dawson realized how perfect his life is because her mom passed away years ago, her dad's in jail for possessing and trafficking 10,000 pounds of marijuana, her sister lives with an African American in a small town and carries his baby. Dawson, of course, lacks that sort of self-awareness. When Jen arrives in Capeside, she successfully changes things forever between Joey and Dawson. Dawson pays more attention Jen, tries to impress her with his knowledge of Steven Spielberg movies and invites her to the movies. Joey only receives an invite because Dawson doesn't want Jen to feel uncomfortable with just her and two other guys. She reluctantly accepts but causes hell for him during the date.

She behaves like a jerk throughout the night. She outs Dawson as a virgin and rejects any attempt by Jen to bond but Joey's a teenager after all, and she behaves like a teenager. The girl's full of emotions and she's not sure how to deal with these emotions in a mature way because she's 15 years old. Critics complained about the highly intelligent dialogue spoken by the characters, which is a fair criticism but Williamson succeeded in capturing the emotions of a teenage girl in Joey Potter. Dawson tries to understand his best friend once they're both back in his bedroom following their night at the movies. Specifically, Dawson wants to know why Joey freaked when he tried to hold Jen's hand. Joey smoothly explains that she didn't want to hold Dawson's hand; she just didn't want Jen to. Like it or not, though, Dawson will continue to pursue Jen because he likes her as he yelled earlier in the episode (not much nuance in Van Der Beek's performance). Joey reiterated that their friendship won't be the same because of change, which Dawson rejects again. Joey then asks Dawson how much he masturbates, who he thinks about, how many times, etc. Dawson goes silent. Joey leaves in tears. All seems broken between the two as Joey climbs into her boat to travel across the creek until Dawson yells, "every morning when Katie Couric reads the news." Joey laughs and Dawson beams. Joey continues to smile until she sees Dawson's mother kissing her co-worker on the lips when he drops her off.

The Leery household's the portrait of domestic bliss. Mitch and Gale dote on their son, support and love him. The two have an active sex life. Dawson nearly walks in on his parents fornicating in the family room. Dawson groans but the scene suggests their marriage is strong and healthy. Of course, Dawson wonders if his mother's having an affair with his co-worker because she uses a soft B when pronouncing his name during broadcasts. Joey rolls her eyes (a Katie Holmes signature) and accuses Dawson of creating conflict for the sake of his screenplays. The thought passes. Gale, of course, IS having an affair with her co-worker as I wrote already. Dawson's life won't be so perfect anymore which goes well with the theme of change throughout the "Pilot." Whether he likes it or not, he can't avoid change.

Dawson's the romantic of the core four. He pans sex because Spielberg never shot a single sex scene for any of his movies. His courtship of Jen Lindley's something out of the 1940s. His best male friend, Pacey's the complete opposite. The dude wants to have sex and he wants it now. The boys' differing philosophies will lead to conflict later in the season and throughout the rest of the season. Dawson will behave like a puritanical zealot and he'll demonize Pacey for having the gall to lose his virginity but I'm ahead of myself. Pacey meets an older woman in the video store with the name Tamara. The woman Pacey wants to have sex with is Tamara. Unfortunately, she's also his teacher but it's only a temporary hurdle. Before long, Pacey charms her by declaring he's "the best sex she'll never have." Teenage boy and 40 year old woman kiss, and THAT story begins.

Jen Lindley, meanwhile, claims she moved to Capeside to assist her Grams with caring for her grandfather; however, Jen's lying. Before school, Jen sits by her grandfather and Grams wonders what she's doing. Surely someone brought to help wouldn't be asked such questions. Nellie Olson, a tertiary character not seen past a few episodes, wonders if Jen parties. Jen likes a good time without substances. When Joey asks about her virginity, Jen says that she is one. The girl, though, carries herself like someone walking on glass, someone so reserved and secretive that the slightest movement might reveal something. Indeed, Jen has a past but I'll wait until the episode in which it's revealed to write about it. More than any character in the show, I feel bad for Jen. She's the outcast, her attempts to become friends with Joey fail, a psychopath has feelings for her and her religious beliefs conflict with her Grams so much that it creates a separation between the two that neither need at this particular point in their lives. She rejects her Grams' offer to attend mass as well as her Grams' request for her to say grace. Grams is a woman who looks down on Bessie and her boyfriend because of their racial differences. Grams won't always be like this though.

Dawson's Creek is a series, for whatever reason, that I have too many thoughts on. I watched the series after it ended on TheWB. I caught repeats on TBS during the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I stupidly thought that I needed to act like the characters to get a girl's attention. I believed that I could only woo a girl by telling her my feelings in a monologue. I kid you not. The series is nowhere near perfect. It has major flaws. The first two seasons, widely considered the best two seasons (except for Pacey-Joey shippers), have problems. No matter how maddening and terrible the show became, I still get a kick out of the episodes. It's very easy for me to write about the show.

I'm going to post the weekly write-ups on Tuesdays instead of Mondays. Tell your friends. My DC posts will be worthwhile reads, I promise you.

Kevin Williamson wrote the pilot. Steve Miner directed.

UP NEXT: "Dance." Dawson casts Jen as the new leading lady in his film, but creates a messy off-camera scene during her date at the school dance. Meanwhile, Joey confronts Mrs. Leery about her liaisons and Pacey gets under Tamara's skin with his public flirting.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Ordinary Family "No Ordinary Beginning" Review

And so it ended as it began, with a plane crash that gave the passengers permanent superpowers. The government asked the Powell family to assist in their search of the passengers of the crashed flight, who disappeared from the site of the crash. Mrs. X's masterplan involved creating a super group of super villains for reasons not disclosed to the audience. Katie had the shortest pregnancy in the history of television shows, and the threat of Victoria disappeared as soon as Joshua politely asked her to leave the premises. The series ended without a bang but, rather, a whimper--and as ordinary and annoying as ever.

I don't know what I expected from the No Ordinary Family finale. I suppose I expected resolution to the primary arc of the season but the arc was a mess, and I never knew what the stakes were until the final twenty minutes of the episode when Mrs. X stated that she'd give 80 prisoners permanent powers. Why, you ask? Great question. Jon Harmon Feldman and company never bothered fleshing out Mrs. X or her motives. She wanted permanence for the powers and she'd kill to find out how to make that happen. Mrs. X's masterplan was lame though. If NOF received a second season, it'd just guarantee more super villains for the Powells to beat in a generic, predictable hour of television. I'm not surprised the masterplan allowed NOF to continue as a boring and unimaginative series, and I'm grateful that ABC cancelled the series. Of the many things NOF did badly, the number one thing was atrocious villains.

"No Ordinary Beginning" focused on two things: finding and saving JJ from the evil clutches of Mrs. X, and the birth of Katie's baby. Mrs. X needed JJ to figure out how to create permanence in the powers. She thought math held the answer when, in fact, a plane stocked with the serum and about to crash held the answer to her question. JJ uttered gibberish when Mrs. X threatened his sister's life and the gibberish made sense to Mrs. X who let Daphne live until she commanded her guards to kill the family. The moment answered the question that Stephanie once tried to find out before she became distracted: how did the Powells gain their powers? The answer was lame. Joshua stocked the company plane with the serum, and the family breathed in the serum when the plane caught fire. Something about the life and death situation made the powers permanent. The circumstances seem like a chance thing that couldn't be replicated. It's a shame Feldman and his writers chose to give so many other people superpowers because the original conceit of the show was that the Powells were special and not ordinary (every damn episode carried those two words). Now, they're no longer special. They're also entirely ordinary.

Jim, Stephanie and Daphne banded together to defeat any resistance they might encounter in pursuit of their son and brother. Daphne probably watch episodes twenty and twenty-one of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and decided that joining forces would be a swell idea. The Powells succeed for the most part until Mrs. X holds them captive but that lasts about 12 seconds. Dr. King takes over as the primary villain. He briefly performs good deeds for some reason before desire for Stephanie consumes him and he tries to murder Jim. Naturally, he fails. He keeps injecting himself with serum to become as powerful as the entire Powell family. JJ injects him with the antidote. Soon, he dies because he used the serum for 18 years to prevent the cancer inside him from killing him.

Honestly, nothing stands out from the episode. Things happen. The good guys win. The bad guys multiply but they won't win because the Powells have the government on their side. Katie gave birth to a son. Joshua re-entered her life, without powers, and the two are poised for years of domestic bliss. I had more fun writing about the series than I did watching the actual episode. Now, though, I'm just tired of No Ordinary Family. Good riddance, show.

Zack Estrin and Ali Adler wrote the script based on a story by Jon Harmon Feldman. The great Paul Edwards directed it. I always wonder about the "story by" credits because stories are broken as a group in the writer's room. I know the credit's worth a decent chunk of money in Hollywood. Peter M. Lenkov got a "story by" credit on nearly every Hawaii Five-O episode. Maybe one of the many show runners who read this blog can e-mail and enlighten me about getting that credit. I'll probably just re-read a book I have about TV writing to remind myself.


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Chicago Code "Mike Royko's Revenge" Review

Throughout the thirteen episode run of The Chicago Code, I complained about several episodes and praised others. I accused the series of the same laziness that makes other network procedural cop dramas unwatchable. In my defense, I never enjoy the case-of-the-week stories in any procedural show whether it's Joss Whedon's shows or a police drama. It frustrates me that the core characters become secondary players to tertiary characters who will never be seen in the series. The middle portion of the season had too many of these stories, which drove me mad. Once upon a time, though, I named the pilot episode one of the top 5 episodes of 2010-2011. I related to the characters. I felt like they were fully developed. I couldn't wait to watch the rest of the series.

After three months, "Mike Royko's Revenge" reminded me what I loved about The Chicago Code--its characters. I had a smile on my face at the end, when each character found happiness and peace. Alderman Ronin Gibbons resided in a jail cell, alone, paying for the crimes he committed and the corruption he cultivated in the city of Chicago. I don't ask for much from a television series. In the end, I want to be entertained and I want to be moved. Of course, I want thought-provoking stories that explore deep themes and philosophies about life and death, love and war, the nature of mankind, etc. If a series evokes honest feeling within me then the show succeeded, and the end of The Chicago Code succeeded.

The stakes in part two were less contrived than part one. Gibbons continued to scheme various ways to avoid indictment; however, Teresa possessed a cool confidence that didn't exist in the first part of the season finale. Of course, she held all the cards and Gibbons had to scramble for any sort of leverage. He accused her of sleeping with Antonio and called for her resignation. Teresa and Cuyler, though, made a deal with Killian that would lead to an indictment against the Alderman. Before Killian could testify, Gibbons' lover murdered the mobster to prevent Teresa from destroying a great man's life. The superintendent nearly resigned (through force of the mayor) before Jarek the White Knight arrived with solid and devastating evidence against Gibbons. The good guys got the bad guys.

What I liked about the resolution of the arc was the smooth and seemingly effortless way the writers told the story of Vincent Wysocki, and wrapped up THAT arc. If Liz Killian held the powerful testimony against Gibbons, that would've been disappointing and hollow. Instead, Jarek's brother Vincent, who turned out to be a dirty cop in pursuit of redemption and forgiveness he never received in life because someone killed him, worked undercover during a time when Gibbons was sloppier and prone to mistakes. Jarek had to deal with the truth that his brother sullied the badge he wore to a certain degree, that he died because he behaved badly and stupidly, that he didn't die as an honorable undercover cop. Without his brother, though, Gibbons would've continued to walk around the city a free man. The truth about his brother freed Jarek from the burden he carried for years and allowed him to find happiness with his fiancé, who he reunited with. It helped that Jason Clarke played the hell out of the scenes when he watched the video tape and told his father and niece the truth about Vincent.

I don't have much more to write about The Chicago Code. Colvin's opening narrative conveyed the essence of the series. She told us about Mike Royko who wanted nothing more than the landlords of corruption behind bars, and Teresa made the dream a reality. It'd be great if real life reflected fiction but it doesn't. But TCC's an example of why fiction's need. We need these visions of positive law enforcement, of government, of justice being served to corrupt city officials. I'm glad I watched The Chicago Code and experienced the writers' vision of Chicago. Time well spent.

Shawn Ryan & Christal Henry wrote the episode. Lesli Linka Glatter directed it.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Game Of Thrones "A Golden Crown" Review

Game Of Thrones has so many characters that it's difficult to spend much time with any for an extended period of time in any individual episode. Jon Snow, Sam and his buddies at The Wall haven't appeared in two weeks. The Targaryan siblings returned in "A Golden Crown" after a one week absence. Other important characters such as Ned, Catelyn, Cersei, Robert, Arya and Tyrion had only one or two or three scenes in the sixth episode of the season. The observation isn't a criticism of the show. With only 55+ minutes each episode, Benioff, Weiss, Cogman and whoever helps with a screeplay (Jane Espenson and, soon, George RR Martin himself) need to make each scene count. And holy moly do the writers make the scenes count in Game Of Thrones.

The title, "A Golden Crown," deals with the idea of power as symbolized through the crown a king or queen wears. The first scene breathes life into the theme as Cersei attacks her husband's authority as the king of Westeros by telling him that she's more fit to wear the crown and he the gown. The final scene puts a button on the theme as Khal pours a golden crown of fire over the head of Viscerys. In between, Sirio tells Arya that only one God exists and he is death. One who wears the golden crown in Westeros invariably ends up dead. One who doesn't wear the crown usually dies in pursuit of the crown. "The Wolf and the Lion" introduced the many aspiring usurpers--these men had an idealized vision of the crown and the throne. The thought of absolute power's certainly seductive but the idea and the reality's different as Robert vocalizes before he leaves for his hunt. It's a rotten job with conspirators lurking in the shadows of the dungeons, in the brothels, and in the very same bed the king sleeps in. Robert's miserable, in debt to a man he loathes, married to a woman he despises, and surrounded by a family he'd rather see dead but he needs them.

Viscerys attempted to cultivate a similar thing with the Dothraki clan without foreseeing the power his sister would have as the Khaleesi of the Dothraki, especially with Drogo's son growing in her womb. The shift drove Viscerys insane. He tried to flee the land with Dany's dragon eggs. When that failed, he stupidly threatened the Khaleesi's life in front of the Khal--so certain that he'd become the king he felt destined to be ever since his family was ousted. Khal melted gold and poured it on Viscerys' head as his sister watched. He wanted a crown so Drogo gave him one. Dany observed that "a true dragon would never burn." Earlier in the episode, she experimented with one of her eggs. She placed one on a bed of coals, picked the egg up and didn't burn herself--the most powerful image thus far in Dany's arc. The true dragon in the Targaryan family is Daenerys. King's Landing plan to kill her but they have no idea how powerful a queen she's become in her short time with the Dothraki's.

Gold's a powerful symbol and image throughout the episode. For some, gold means everything--riches and power. For others, gold's used to kill a naive boy with delusions of grandeur. The golden crown's significance isn't lost on me. The two objects are mutually exclusive. Tyrion bribes the guard in the Sky Cell with gold to meet with Lysa and confess his crimes. Tyrion pays his debts and, once free, throws the bag of gold to the guard. For some, it's everything. For others, it's nothing. The thieves who attempt to rob Bran in the forest before Robb and Theon intervene want Bran's horse and silver. Silver's not quite gold but it's valuable and it represents power and wealth. I'd write another "for some, for others" sentence; however, it'd be beating the reader over the head with a not-too-difficult theme.

The best part of the episode involves Ned Stark. The character had just three scenes but holy moly did Benioff, Weiss and Espenson make the most of those three scenes. Ned occupies the throne while Robert's away hunting because the king needs to clear his head. The Lannisters accused Ned of drunkenly starting a fight with Jaime. As temporary king, Ned takes advantage of the power he possesses. First, he strips The Mountain of his titles, property and power as a knight. He orders his death because The Mountain terrorized a group of blue collar workers in King's Landing. Following that order, he orders that the patriarch of the Lannister family answer for the crimes committed by his family. And then he learns what Jon Arryn tried to discover before someone hired Ser Hugh to kill him. Last week, Varys told Ned that Arryn died because he started asking questions. What questions, I wondered. Well, Arryn tracked down Robert's bastard to prove that Joffrey is Cersei's bastard. OH SHIT. What a moment in the episode when the realization washed across Ned's face. All it took was Sansa whining about how she wants babies with bright, blonde hair. Robert told Ned that he can't rule the kingdom with the Starks and the Lannisters at each other's throats. Well, the families want each other dead. Game on.

The Eyrie remained one of the most bizarre settings I've witnessed and experienced. Tyrion confessed his crimes, which turned into punchline after punchline that further solidified Peter Dinklage as the best actor in the series. Tyrion masterfully planned his freedom. He demanded a trial-by-combat which Lady Arryn granted. The man who fought for Tyrion (I apologize that I missed his name) fought without honor that shocked Lady Arryn. In an episode that broke rules in every story, the two lines between the champion and the Lady summed it up--"You don't fight with honor." "No. He did." Tyrion smiled. Catelyn had a worried expression across her face. Uh-oh.

Arya had two scenes in the episode. In her first, she and Sirio practiced though she didn't feel like it because she feared for her father's life, especially after his wound. Sirio told her that she musn't carry her troubles with her into a fight because her troubles will weaken her. Arya told Sirio that she didn't see the point of using wooden swords when real trouble surrounds her. Sirio asked her if she prayed, and she does to both the old and new gods. Sirio corrected her: only one god exists and he is death. The dancers must always dance around that god. In her second and final scene, Ned told she and Sansa that they'll return to Winterfell because King's Landing isn't safe. Arya briefly protested before she decided to heed her father's words. Sansa whined because Joffrey declared his love for her. My favorite part of the scene was when Arya and Ned shared a look as Sansa whined. Sean Bean and Maisie Williams are great together.

Robert's hunt only had one scene but it was significant. Robert told his brother what it took to be a man in Westeros, and that's having sex with one girl from all seven kingdoms. Renly disagreed and pissed Robert off. The scene added some history between the brothers and showed why he might conspire against his brother with his lover.

The seventh episode's available to watch on HBO Go and HBO promises that everyone will be talking about the episode after it airs next Sunday. Naturally, I'm going to watch it before Sunday but I won't post a review until 10PM Sunday. The last two episode have been terrific and a great deal of fun. I love the characters and the show. "A Golden Crown" is so rich in meaning and thematic imagery, which I what I love most about any kind of story whether it be novels, short stories, television or film.

Jane Espenson (Whedonverse alum who wrote an episode for every Joss Whedon series--I don't think any other Whedonverse writer besides Joss accomplished such a feat) co-wrote the episode with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Daniel Minahan directed it.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

No Ordinary Family "No Ordinary Future" Review

Sometimes I'd like access to a show's writers room, especially in the event that an episode order's been cut, and the 19th episode becomes the season's penultimate one. Unfortunately, I do not and I can only posit and infer about "No Ordinary Future"--an episode that sought to become HEROES in its nonsensical Stephanie plot, in which the new serum allows her to outrun time itself. "No Ordinary Future" didn't feel particularly urgent in its storytelling. Certainly, nothing happened that would set the stage for a battle between the Powells and Mrs. X/Dr. King. Besides Mrs. X's involvement in Katie's story, the rest of the episode was a stand-alone in which Jim and George tried to solve the murder of a police officer and Steph tried to stop future events from happening.

Stephanie's travels into the future resembled Hiro and Peter' trips into the future in HEROES. The government sought to imprison the super-powered people in both shows. In NOF, the government somehow found out about the Powells' special abilities. The question throughout the story is: why? Stephanie continued to travel into the future despite the growing risks of time-travel to her body. With the help of JJ, though, Stephanie time-traveled to the exact time the rest of the world found out about the Powell family. It turns out, Jim decided to throw a car across the street because the person in the car had aimed a rifle at George. Stephanie simply had to convince her husband to stop the shooter any other way besides throwing the car across the street. Evidently, the propositions difficult for Jim to accept. After all, how else could he stop the shooter? The idea of informing the authorities somehow never entered the conversation even though Stephanie traveled to the future. Anyway, the event that reveals the Powells powers never happen because Jim doesn't throw the car across the street. Stephanie never suffers the effects of her extreme time-traveling. Everything's the same as it was in the beginning of the episode.

If the show received a second season, Stephanie's experience of the future would've happened eventually because superhero shows always introduce the government as villains. I'm once again grateful to ABC that they canceled the series because such a prolonged arc would've only irritated and annoyed me. The story never works in a superhero show yet every show runner uses it. The television industry's full of brilliant storyteller and not one writer knows how to make a show about superheroes interesting without resorting to the age-old 'the government took them captive!' arc. The family had a serious discussion with the children about the importance of keeping their powers a secret which only offers more evidence that Jon Harmon Feldman and his band of writers planned on such a story at some point in the series.

Meanwhile, Frank Cordero returned to the series. If you don't remember him, he and Jim became best friends after Jim saved his life. Cordero received a celebration from the department because he's transferring. Jim and George went and celebrated. Afterwards, three men killed Cordero in a drive-by shooting. As per usual, Jim and George investigate. They uncover a web of police corruption that Cordero was set to expose. The two men assigned to Cordero's case are actually responsible for his death, and key figures in the corruptive business. Jim, naturally, succeeds in catching and stopping the criminals. The story only existed to create tension for the Stephanie story because both stories collided at City Square. As you already know, nothing happened. I appreciate the final act symmetry in both stories but both weren't interesting. The reason is, NOF never actually changes at the end of the hour. If the purpose of the future story was to show what could happen to the Powells then it's a failure but, again, been there and done that.

Mrs. X brought Victoria, the shape-shifting red-headed beauty, back from the dead so she could steal Katie's future child and raise it with her one true love, Sylar II. Obviously, Mrs. X wants the baby because it might possess super powers from the moment of birth. Victoria's only a pawn in Mrs. X's nefarious schemes. Victoria doesn't realize this, and smiles hopefully when Mrs. X tells manipulates her with her desire to be a mother. Mrs. X remains a vague idea of a villain. She behaves and talks like one; however, nothing defines her--even Dr. King has some definition.

Overall, it was another ordinary episode of NOF. I probably wrote that sentence over ten times during the series run. Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer wrote the episode. Milan Cheylov directed it. The episode originally aired on a Saturday night at 10PM.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Upfronts 2011--ABC, CBS and The CW

The 2011 Upfronts ended yesterday afternoon following The CW's presentation of their fall schedule. Naturally, I waited until late Friday night to write about the new schedules for CBS, ABC and The CW. Between the three networks' new schedules, there's plenty to write about but I don't plan on writing 10,000 words about the fall schedule--that kind of word count can wait until my week-long television preview in August.

-ABC ordered thirteen new shows for the fall and mid-season. The network certainly needs fresh blood because their hit shows are aging fast. Desperate Housewives finished its seventh season. Grey's Anatomy finished its 7th season as well. Brothers & Sisters won't return. Nearly every show they developed last year failed. Paul Lee and the rest of the ABC brass need a new hit or two. I imagine ABC wants Shonda Rimes' new series, Scandal, to have as much success as both of her doctor shows. At 10PM on Wednesday nights, Emily Vancamp stars in a nighttime soap titled Revene about a girl who returns to the Hamptons after her family's lives and reputations were destroyed by the wealthy, powerful residents in the Hamptons. On Sunday nights, ABC will air Pan-Am--one of two series in the fall hoping to find the success as Mad Men. Of course, as Feinberg and Sepinwall pointed out, Mad Men's ratings would be disastrous on ABC. I'll write more about other potential hits in August.

-I watched ABC's trailer for Once Upon A Time, the series created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (former writers and executive producers on LOST). The duo hired Jane Espenson as a staff writer so hopes remain high despite a lackluster preview. The collision of the modern world and the fairy-tale world looks sort of lame. Jennifer Morrison stars as the protagonist though, and I adore Jennifer Morrison--not even Carter Bays and Craig Thomas' horrible writing for Morrison's Zoey character in HIMYM can tarnish her in my eyes. It's silly to anticipate anything from a 2 minute trailer though. I'll have more of an opinion and insight into the show once August rolls around.

-CBS' trailer for the Jonathan Nolan/JJ Abrams series, Person Of Interest, kicked ass. I have a bad habit of writing off CBS series immediately because it's CBS and so many of their shows disinterest me; however, I enjoyed the first season of Hawaii 5-O and I write about HIMYM. Person Of Interest just seems like an awesome series. It's about a presumed-dead CIA agent who teams up with a billionaire to prevent violent crimes by using their own kind of justice. Michael Emerson stars in the series. Word is, this is the highest testing pilot in CBS history. Christopher Nolan's brother, Jonathan Nolan, created the show and wrote the pilot. JJ Abrams produces it. Again, it's silly to have high hopes for a series after a 3.5 minute preview but I have high hopes for the series.

-I'll probably watch four CW shows in the fall. I'm 24 years old and male by the way. Why? First, The Ringer went from CBS to The CW. I would've watched The Ringer on CBS because I also adore Sarah Michelle Gellar. In fact, I adore her even more than Jennifer Morrison. Seven seasons of Buffy will make any man fall for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Second, I already write about The Vampire Diaries on a weekly basis. The CW will air its sister series, The Secret Circle, after TVD. Kevin Williamson's an executive producer along with Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. I'm most loyal to TV writers who entertain me on a weekly basis, which is why I watched Hawaii Five-O (because two former LOST writers wrote the show).

-The Secret Circle seems terrible from the three clips I watched at thefutoncritic.com. The Vampire Diaries had a dreadful beginning, though, and now it's among the best shows on television. Will The Secret Circle come closer to TVD's weekly quality? We'll see. The series stars yet another blonde actress I adore--the lovely and beautiful Britt Robertson, who last portrayed Lux on Life Unexpected. I wrote about the Life Unexpected series finale only because of Britt Robertson. So, yeah, it's about witches in a place called New Salem.

-Josh Schwartz compared his new series, Hart Of Dixie, to Everwood. Of course I'm gong to give the show a chance with that kind of comparison. The series resembles Everwood too, except without the family drama aspect. Rachel Bilson portrays a doctor who moves from Manhattan to a small town in the South.

Check out thefutoncritic.com for summaries and videos for every new series for each network. The website's a wonderful resource. Also, it's official--every new series I wrote about were one season and done. Hopefully, I don't doom any new shows by writing about them in a few months.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 2011 Summer Rewatch: Everwood "Pilot" Review

I watched the pilot episode of Everwood on a Sunday night in September 2002, six days after its official premiere on TheWB Monday. Why? I don't recall. TheWB aired promos for the show throughout the summer. I was drawn in by the promos--it was something about the small-town mountain town. I remember sitting around on a Sunday night with nothing to watch. For whatever reason, I ignored the Monday premiere. In those days, TheWB aired repeats of their popular shows on Sunday nights. Everwood received many positive reviews from critics. The network, I think, wanted to air the first episode again before the second episode aired the following night because of the great response. The pilot captured and engaged me like no other television show. As a sixteen year old who preferred movies, Everwood showed how good television could be. I remember the scenes that I watched with a lump in my throat because that lump returns every time I watch the series.

Everwood follows the Brown family after they move from Manhattan to a small mountain town in Colorado called Everwood. The family moves shortly following the death of Julia Brown, Andy Brown's wife and Ephram and Delia's mother. Her death changed her husband's life forever. A renowned neurosurgeon in Manhattan, Andy gave it all away to prove that he can be the father he never was while his wife lived. His decision to leave Manhattan neurosurgery for a small town that's ceased being a destination had everyone scratching their heads, thinking that Doctor Brown went a little crazy. Andy's not crazy, though. A long time ago, he made a promise to someone to be in Everwood, to give medical miracles to the small town folk.

The decision to move further strains Andy's relationship with his son, Ephram. He doesn't understand the reason for the move and he has over ten years of resentment built up towards his father because of the many times Andy missed something special in his life because of his job. Ephram doesn't understand his father, but he tries to. He tells Amy that he knows his father saved many lives when he missed birthday parties and recitals but that truth doesn't lessen the sting. Ephram's emotions are complicated and so is the relationship. Likewise, Andy doesn't understand his son nor does he know how to relate to him. He remembers Julia advising him to ask a simple question like 'how was your day?' Andy has to talk with him, rather than at him. Their relationship's evolution continues throughout the series, so there's plenty of time to write about it. I won't leave out the iconic scene between the two when both wish death upon the other. The emotion, anger and resentment's visceral. It's the scene that showed how special the series would be.

What most interests me about the "Pilot' is the meditation on the process of moving on and letting go following the death of one's spouse and one's parent. The theme carries on throughout the first season of the series, but no other episode captures the grief and sadness quite like the first one. The wounds are still fresh and open. Life in Everwood picks up 8 months following her death. I recently lost my father. I know the sadness I feel currently won't disappear at the 8 month mark or in 8 years. The saddest, most emotional moments of the episode involve Andy talking about his wife or remembering moments from his life with her. I think of the scene when the police informed Andy of her death, of the beautiful, haunting image of Andy bowing his head and leaning on the wall. Andy finds his new office, the old Everwood train station, after he follows the scent of Julia's favorite perfume. Every year for Christmas, he bought the perfume for her, but the fragrance made it difficult to hide. He follows the scent to the broken down station, where Brenda Baxworth tells him that trains were re-routed to Central City because Everwood's ceased being a destintion. "Not to everyone," Dr. Brown replies.

The scene becomes more meaningful when we learn why Andy moved his family to Everwood, Colorado. Several years ago, he and his wife had a conversation about Everwood. Julia and her parents stayed a night in Everwood because the train they rode through the state (most likely the California Zephyr) couldn't move through a snowstorm. Julia described Everwood as the beautiful place she'd ever seen. She told Andy she imagined heaven looked like Everwood. She told her husband that Everwood's where she'll be when she dies. Andy, with tears in his eyes, promised his wife that he'll be there too, and he looks at his wife as if for the last time. The scene's heartbreaking in its honesty in showing how much Andy misses his wife. I find myself, sometimes, whispering quietly my intentions to be at my father's favorite part of the beach in Delaware. Delia worried about her father. She watched her father speak to air and, later, dance with it. She told Irv (Edna's husband and the narrator of the series) that she thinks her dad's sick. Irv confirms that he is sick--with a distraught heart. Delia, more wise after Irv diagnoses what ails her father, told Andy that she knows he's suffering from a distraught heart, in one the most dust-inducing scenes in the series. In another scene with his neighbor, Nina, Andy tells her that he moved to Everwood to prove to his wife that he could be the kind of doctor and father she wanted him to be. Maybe it makes him crazy. Nina tells Andy, "if that's crazy then I hope my own insanity isn't far away." Andy's profound sense of loss, the different dynamics he has with each child, his soulful mission to be with the spirit of his wife while fixing the broken relationship with his son, is the heart of Everwood.

Pilots are among the toughest scripts to write in the industry because the script needs to accomplish so much in under 70 pages. Greg Berlanti needed to establish his main character and the rest of the core characters, build the world without overwhelming the audience, set up various arcs for different characters, create an episode "template" to show how the series will continue as a weekly episodic television series and communicate the show's tone, hook the viewers with the brilliant beats. If Everwood isn't the best Pilot in TV history, it's certainly in the top five or top ten because it's brilliantly simplistic, clear, communicable in its execution, but it contains tremendous depth. The significant character and arc beats are simple yet engaging, meaningful and full of conflict.

For instance, the other doctor in town is Dr. Harold Abbott. For decades, Everwood had one doctor until Andy moved into town. Now, two doctors compete. Harold's mother, Edna, works for the rival doctor because bad blood exists between the her and her son following her quick remarriage to Irv after the death of her husband and his father. Harold's also the father of Amy and Bright Abbott. Amy flirts with Ephram because she wants his father to perform surgery on her comatose boyfriend, Colin Hart, and Ephram falls in love with her. During the 4th of July, Colin stole his father's key so he and Bright could take a joyride. The joyride ended in an accident and Bright doesn't remember anything. The stories come from the Brown and Abbott families. The first season of Everwood's insular but universal, tender, warm, and familiar. The heart of the heart of ourselves.

In the weeks ahead, I'll dive more into the other arcs and stories of the first season. The friendship between Amy and Ephram, as well as the evolution of their relationship, is among my favorite in television. The dynamic between Harold and Andy is terrific. The family dynamics in the Abbott household is heartwarming and wonderful. The future arc with Colin Hart is outstanding. I'd write more about the Pilot but I must stop writing now. Join me next Thursday when I re-visit "The Great Doctor Brown."

Greg Berlanti wrote the episode. Mark Piznarski directed it.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No Ordinary Family "No Ordinary Animal" Review

It's been more than two months since I wrote about No Ordinary Family. In my March 1 review of "No Ordinary Love," I anticipated the series would return in April with six new episodes. The series ended forever on April 5 so I was wrong. The next new episode aired on March 22 then ABC burned the penultimate episode on a Saturday night at 10PM. I abandoned the series in March and early April because of family matters.

I didn't watch "No Ordinary Animal" until a few weeks ago. Halfway through the episode, I became annoyed and turned the episode off. I finally returned to the episode this morning, knowing that I only needed to watch twenty more minutes. The episode dealt with the consequences of Stephanie injecting the serum into Lucas. He became an animal. Mrs. X ordered him to kill anyone with super powers (I think). For most of the episode, Lucas attacked various people. The Powells investigated who could be behind the attacks. Stephanie suspected it was the man she used the serum on to prove her loyalty and trust to Dr. King. Things became personal when Lucas attacked Stephanie and she became infected. A big fight between Jim and Lucas happened. Lucas went to jail. The focus switched to saving Stephanie's life. Jim brought her to King, who used serum to counteract the infection. King warned that the injection would have side-effects. Of course, it does and Stephanie somehow runs into the future. How's that for lazily summarizing the A story?

I expected Lucas to grow into a villain. The character had potential because of Stephanie's relationship to the monster that she created; however, this is No Ordinary Family. Whenever a shred of potential existed for the story, Feldman seemingly shot it down in the writer's room. Mrs. X is a threat but her connection with the Powells is non-existent. Dr. King's nothing more than a bit player now in the grand scheme of the narrative. The writers could've explored themes found in Firefly's "Bushwhacked." Doc Jensen eloquently expressed the theme of that episode: people and their responsibility to others in catastrophic situations. I would've been interested in Steph's internal struggle because she's responsible for his new nature. I remember, though, that Jim and Steph killed a villain earlier in the episode with zero consequences. Through Jim, NOF removes blame from Stephanie. Jim tells Lucas that serum enhances the core of one's essence of being (now he didn't use the words...instead he said 'you were always an animal...that's what yo momma said...this show deserved cancellation). Jim's line suggests that Lucas is inherently evil. The line discards the notion of free will and suggests a kind of determinism in the evil characters in the series. It's problematic and frustrating. In the 18th episode, though, it's silly for me to expect complex, well-written villains.

Meanwhile, Chris and Daphne ditched school. Chris convinced his girlfriend to use her powers to manipulate the minds of the faculty members who tried to discipline them. Daphne listens to her boyfriend. Sometime between the concert and her fun with Lucas, the girl came to her senses and decided that maybe Chris shouldn't influence her to mis-use her powers. Daphne suggests the two take a break. The couple went from a nice story in episode seventeen to a break-up in the following story. I thought their story in "No Ordinary Love" worked as a commentary on the importance of truth in a relationship and the importance of a supportive spouse. Apparently not. Daphne actually broke up with Chris after she read Mr. Litchfield's mind and discovered that getting the equation was the difference between his life or death. Speaking of the equation,, we learned that Dr. King and Mrs. X plan on using the equation to make the powers permanent in the supers. They won't succeed.

"No Ordinary Animal" briefly flirts with the idea that Katie gained superpowers somehow. When Lucas tries to attack her, she uses her mind to throw the dude across the neighborhood. It turns out that she's pregnant with Sylar II's baby. Usually, pregnancy arcs annoy me; however, the series has been cancelled so it doesn't bother me.

Zak Estrin and Jon Harmon Feldman wrote the episode. Greg Beeman directed it. I plan on writing about "No Ordinary Future" Saturday and the series finale on Tuesday. I'm following the final broadcast schedule for NOF for no reason, really.

The Everwood Season 1 re-watch begins tomorrow in The Foot. Tell your friends.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Chicago Code "Greylord & Gambat" Review

The star witness in the grand jury investigation of the Alderman Ronin Gibbons disappeared. Colvin and Wysocki have 24 hours before the case is dismissed and the Alderman walks free. The plot sounds like a bad cop drama film starring Al Pacino as the grizzled cop but this is the story that drives the first part of The Chicago Code's two part finale. I'm impatient with procedural cop dramas. Yes, there are critics who blowhard about how The Chicago Code's different from the pack of network procedural cop dramas, how Shawn Ryan created a new breed of network cop dramas with The Chicago Code. Maybe he did. Maybe the innovation and originality of The Chicago Code eludes me.

"Greylord & Gambat" is a good episode of television within the context of its genre. The cops scrambled to save their city-changing case against the Alderman. Gibbons and Killian used their influence to find out who had been working undercover in Killian's group. The episode had its share of tense moments because the urgency in those two stories. When Liam ignores Wysocki's suggestion to find safety because his cover's blown, I wondered how long Liam would last because I figured news would travel fast in Killian's gang. News doesn't travel fast. Liam managed to access the files he needed and steal one before Killian's daughter caught wind of the truth.

I suppose Shawn Ryan, Virgil Williams and company wanted the audience to wonder if the red file would reach Wysocki before Killian's group killed Liam but I didn't wonder because the previous scene proved how "safe" The Chicago Code is. In other words, its formula's like any other network procedural police drama. The core characters are safe. Their dangers are only illusions. Of course, Liam needs to authenticate the red file that will lead to the indictment of Gibbons. Unfortunately, Liam's near death because Liz Killian shot him and the other boys beat him up before Jarek and Caleb saved the day.

The best scene in the episode happens at the end, between Jarek and Gibbons. Gibbons' back is to the wall. The vultures have been circling and they're ready to feed. He sees and feels his life's work slipping away. Gibbons tries to reason with Jarek by telling his side of the story. The Alderman didn't invent the political system but he has to exist and thrive within it. Gibbons essentially says that Chicago's full of corrupted politicians (which is absolutely no shock). He wants Jarek to make the case go away and he offers to tell him who killed his brother, Vincent. I liked the scene because of the dialogue. Gibbons' comments about the political system intrigue me. I'd be into the show if they focused more on the intriacies of the system (maybe I just need to watch The Wire to get that kind of storytelling). The scenes focuses more on how different the two men are. Jarek's a righteous, by-the-book police officer and Gibbons is the corrupted politician who represents the problem with Chicago. Colvin and Wysocki believe Gibbons indictment will reform Chicago.

I liked how Colvin and Gibbons were reversed. The majority of the season showcased Gibbons as the master politician, and Colvin as a seemingly powerless superintendent to really change things. Again, the two characters are two sides of a different coin. If TCC explored that truth more, it would've been a more engaging show.

Next week's the last episode of the series and the second part of the finale. Virgil Williams wrote the episode. Paris Barclay directed it.


How I Met Your Mother "Challenge Accepted" Review

Season finales sometimes annoy me. In the lazier series, characters will remark about how much they've been through in the last year. For instance, the 90210 finale featured two characters telling one another how much they've been through in the last season. I never watched previous episodes of the season so the sentence thoroughly confused me but who am I to doubt that the characters went through a lot? The later seasons of Dawson's Creek decided to have their characters comment on their life-changing journeys throughout that past season. Usually, such commentary means the characters did NOT actually experience a life-changing season. Season finales need to make a season feel worthwhile like change for the characters as well as progress of the overall narrative. Sometimes a series achieves this and sometimes a series forces it. And whenever characters comment on how much change they've experienced, it usually means that NO change actually happened.

"Challenges Accepted" mostly annoyed me as a season finale. Sure character arcs paid off but Craig Thomas and Carter Bays have the most annoying way of paying off character arcs. Ted closed the season no closer to meeting the mother. His arc during the season was mostly about his professional career and growth. Zoey only related to him through his work. Bays and Thomas essentially stated that was their intention for Ted when Robin and Barney told Ted that he can't retreat to the past when the future scares him. If the show runners had to squeeze meaning into that train wreck of a relationship, they could've done worse. The message suggests that Ted felt scared throughout the season, that he knowingly entered a relationship with Zoey because she stood between he and his professional growth. Ted's fear never received an explanation. Ted finally manned up and decided that he could oversee the construction of the newest Manhattan skyscraper. The amount of time the show spent on Ted and Zoey did not make the conclusion worthwhile. Bays and Thomas are really wasting time now.

The Lily pregnancy arc annoyed me even more. I doubt anyone felt surprise by the twist at the end when Lily revealed that she never had food poisoning. The teaser introduced Lily and Marshall's favorite soup place that happens to give the couple food poisoning. As soon as Lily began vomiting, I knew the episode would end with Lily pregnant. The show used to be clever. The soup shop should've been called plot device. Bays and Thomas really dropped the ball in Marshall's arc. Marshall had a job interview that he seemingly blew because he feared the food poison would cause bodily explosions (not my words--the show's words). The food poisoning somehow became a metaphor for Marshall's arc this season, in which his insides are continually ripped out as he cites his father's death or his unemployment. Marshall never experiences the effects of food poisoning. He sleeps soundly with his insides intact--another poorly designed metaphor for his future. Lily announces that she's pregnant. The scene between she and Marshall's nice but the food poisoning part of this story absolutely destroyed any good feelings toward the writers.

In the C story, Barney and Robin recalled their relationship. Both decided that they needn't revisit the past. Barney ran into the British girl he spent two episodes with. The episode ended with the reveal that Ted's the best man at Barney's wedding. I'm fairly certain Robin's the bride because of her expression when Barney asks the British girl to coffee. Do I really care enough about the identity of the bride to sit through 22 or 24 episodes next season just to find out the identity? Not really. I don't care enough about the mother to sit through two more seasons of the show to be honest. I don't like the characters very much. The stories are derivative. I'm going to continue writing about the show though. The series used to be great fun. It's running out of gas and I dread how bad the next 44-48 episodes could be.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Upfronts 2011--NBC and FOX

Upfronts 2011 began yesterday with a Bob Greenblatt conference call, in which he announced the fall schedule for the 2011-2012 NBC TV year. Since I'm independent blogger with zero press credentials, I learned everything from hitfix.com's two TV critics. I mostly ignore the boasts from the various network execs during upfronts because they all believe they developed the best TV shows. If the same network executives felt 2010-2011 was their best development year then I certainly won't trust anything they say about this development year. In case you missed it in Saturday's blog post, zero new TV shows I reviewed this past TV year received a second season. ZERO. So far, the upfronts haven't made me excited for September because two shows I look forward to have been relegated to mid-season launches. The other show earned the Friday night death timeslot.

-FOX and NBC are complete opposites. FOX is a successful network with a number of veteran TV shows that earn money while NBC's desperate to find new hits. FOX cancelled every bubble show because they could while NBC kept Chuck because it's numbers were good enough, and they had nothing else to replace it with the last few years. NBC ordered more new series but FOX ordered some. Zoey Deschanel's half-hour comedy received a pick-up. Bones' spin-off, The Finder, will air during Bones' mid-season hiatus. On NBC, Party Down show runner, John Enbom, has a new series in the fall. The majority of their new shows, though, seem boring.

-You won't find schedule breakdowns in The Foot. The professionals can worry about whether or not the FOX 9PM Monday time-slot's as valuable as it's been in years past, or whether The Voice threatens The X Factor's potential as a breakout. I care about the stories, the characters and the writers responsible for said stories and characters. Yes, television's a business. I'm overlooking it. I doubt that anyone reading a blog titled TV With The Foot really expects ground-breaking television business coverage and analysis though.

-Two of my most anticipated new series received mid-season launches. Kyle Killen's Awake and JJ Abrams' Alcatraz won't premiere until January. Alcatraz will debut once Terra Nova leaves the airwaves. Awake, meanwhile, is simply a mid-season launch--no other information exists.

-NBC decided to air Grimm on Friday nights, opposite supernatural and genre staples Fringe and Supernatural. I watched a 1 minute scene from Grimm, and the monster reminded me of the first season of ANGEL. I'm going to review the series because David Greenwalt created it. I doubt the series lasts 22 episodes though because of its Friday night timeslot but maybe the Chuck audience will help Grimm out.

-Beyond those three shows, nothing else interests me from FOX or NBC. Terra Nova's received enormous buzz. I only know that series suffered numerous pitfalls in the last year of production. Steven Spielberg's a producer. Terra Nova will air at 8PM on FOX this Fall. I'll watch the pilot.

-For the rest of NBC and FOX upfront news, check out hitfix.com or deadline.com or thefutoncritic.com.

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.