Friday, September 30, 2011

The Secret Circle "Loner" Review

"Loner" shared similarities with the first season of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. The back drop of the episode was a school dance. The circle dealt with an outside threat with hundreds of their fellow students down the hall. Cassie took a normal guy to the school dance and blew it because of her supernatural responsibilities. The teens tried to hide the circle from their parents. All the teens need is a parental-type librarian who possesses a world of wisdom about witchcraft and its history in Chance Harbor. The similarities didn't hurt the episode at all; rather, I thought "Loner" was the best episode thus far. It had a distinctive 90s feel--a mix between Buffy and Williamson's Scream. I'm glad I watched.

The binding spell installed a system of checks and balances within the group's circle. The power was too inconsistent, chaotic, and dangerous when wielded by an individual. The spell took away that individual power. The circle can only use their power together when completely in sync with one another's thoughts, so they're brought together in ways they weren't in the initial two episodes of the series. The circle's the most important component of the series. If the group dynamic's off, the show will suffer. If the characters disposable, the show will suffer. Fortunately, the group dynamic works. I feel invested in the characters because they're invested in one another now. Faye was a good friend to Melissa. Nick let Melissa into his life. Cassie opened herself up to Diana. I'll use a cliché to sum up the circle's importance--united they stand, divided they fall.

Zach Larson, an old classmate of Dawn and Charlie's, came into town between fishing trips. Larson harassed Cassie about her decision to live in Chance Harbor. As he left, he vowed he wouldn't let witchcraft happen again. He became the threat, the figure that united the circle at the school dance. Faye was attacked in the abandoned cabin by Zach and displayed deft self-defense skills. We learned that a circle's only broken when one of the members dies, so Zach aimed to kill one of the members. Years ago, in 1995, his high school sweetheart was supposedly killed in the fire that took the life of each of the present circle's parents. The circumstances of the fire are a mystery as well as Amelia's role in his girlfriend's death (or something else). Zach corners Cassie in the hallway, during the dance, and nearly kills her until the circle joins hands and uses magic to save Cassie's life. I thought the sequence in the dark hallway was excellently done--dark lighting, good pacing, and a sense of foreboding. It reminded me of those late '90s slasher films I enjoyed so much.

Dawn and Charlie are problematic villains right now. I'm tempted to blame LJ Smith, the author of The Secret Circle, for writing bland characters; however, Andrew Miller and Kevin Williamson aren't bound to the original text. They could've polished the characters up, given them more life and spirit. Their shared quality is how evil they are. They're no less selfish than Faye but Faye's capable of restraint whereas Dawn and Charlie kill men and ruin lives in their pursuit of it. The reason for their extreme actions is important. It's a mystery now. Their behaviors consistent with others in pursuit of power, though, which would be fine if the characters weren't so bland. I suspect the actors aren't sure about the respective direction of their characters; therefore, their performances hurt their portrayals. However, I think it's a case of bad writing.

I thought the writing for the teenagers was quite good. Faye shed her abrasive, selfish, and nasty behavior for an episode to showcase her more redeeming qualities. Phoebe Tonkin's been terrific. She impressed me last week after Faye nearly murdered Sally, and again this week when went from angry to scared in a heartbeat in the cabin.

The love triangle between Cassie, Adam and Diana has some rough edges. Diana's persistent in her pursuit of Cassie's friendships. The episode title comes from Cassie's idea that she's a loner. She's avoided the circle for the majority of the series but that'll change now that her life's been saved. I'm disappointed whenever Diana brings up her love for Adam. Cassie and Diana's friendship would be better if Diana wasn't trying to stem a relationship between Cassie and Adam. Ideally, the triangle would've never happened. Love triangles are rarely interesting. I'd be more interested in a female friendship without some guy coming between them. It's The CW, though, so I'm out of luck.

My nostalgia for Buffy might've inflated my opinion of "Loner." Nonetheless, it was a solid episode--so solid, in fact, that I'll continue writing about the series each Friday.

Richard Hotem wrote the episode. Colin Bucksey directed it.


Person of Interest "Ghosts" Review

This will my last post on Person of Interest. I don't mind the series. There's just not enough to write about on a weekly basis, besides a detailed plot summary. Every TV series doesn't need to be written about, especially CBS procedural dramas.

"Ghosts" followed the default procedural beat sheet. The character moments were few and far between (once in the first act; another one in the third act; the final one in the fifth act). Unlike other procedurals, Jonah Nolan's not interested in much character development. The pilot focused on Reese; this episode focused on Finch. In both instances, we learned little about Reese and Finch. Its neo noir style mandates a bit of mystery for the main characters. The majority of the episode focused on the case-of-the-week. Finch and Reese uncovered clues, protected a fifteen year old girl, thwarted a hit man, and punished corporate greed. Reese never learned anything about his employer.

Finch is interesting because he's enigmatic. Michael Emerson has mastered the role of the enigmatic male with an unknown past and suspect motivations. Brett Cullen was introduced as his friend/co-worker in flashbacks. The episode concluded on a shot of the man's likeness with a date of birth and date of death beneath the head. In 2002, Finch continued to master The Machine. Finch referred to the device in the same reverential way the aliens referred to the crane in Toy Story, which elicited a smirk from your humble reviewer. The men went back-and-forth about the device's capabilities as well as its ethical ramifications. The Machine foretells danger to each American yet the government opted to save everyone rather than just someone. Cullen (not the character's name) was uncomfortable with the government's decision to separate people into two groups because Cullen believed everyone's worth saving. Finch defended the government and the machine by telling his friend how many lives The Machine saved by providing the information to stop deadly terrorist attacks.

The flashbacks were interesting because Finch's morality regarding the machine and its purpose came from a friend. Finch stated that he'd lost someone but I didn't expect it'd be a friend's loss that transformed his life. His friend's death must've been catastrophic for Finch to alter his business plan. He's now closely guarded and reluctant to allow anyone into his life. Reese tried to peel the layers back of his employer. Reese was puzzled by Finch's steady employment in an office building because of his unlimited resources, so he assumed (correctly) that Finch owned the company. Reese was too close, though, so Finch walked away from his post and instructed Reese to stop prying. Finch has trust issues. It's clear he hasn't been the same since the death of Cullen's character, and it also useless to speculate further. Simply, some unknown event's responsible for Finch's enigmatic ways.

Finch isn't limited to cryptic codes or short phone calls. The fifteen year old girl at the center of the case-of-the-week needed protection from people who wanted her dead because she was heir to property with high value. Teresa, the girl, hadn't trust a single person since a hit man murdered her entire family. The hit man saved her life because he refused to kill a child, so she's been a target for two years. Finch convinced Teresa to trust him, to put her life into he and Reese's hands. As the new hit man closed in on the two in a hotel, Finch apologized for not allowing her to run when she wanted to. Finch didn't seem like a man willing to apologize but he did, and Teresa decided to stay with him until the end. Luckily, Reese saved the day. Finch and Reese didn't simply save her life, they returned it to her.

I liked the case-of-the-week because of how it used Finch. Reese was just the muscle throughout the episode, going from place to place beating people up, and shooting them in the legs. Finch's actions come from a place of regret and remorse; he's looking for redemption. Teresa would've been a name erased at midnight nine years ago. In 2011, he apologized to her just in case he failed her and she died. That's growth.

Michael Emerson's the more dynamic actor of the two. Indeed, his performance reminds me of Ben Linus so far. The scenes between he and Brent Cullen reminded me of the second and third season of LOST when Ben sent Goodwin to his death for being sexually involved with Juliet. Now, the death of Cullen's character had the opposite effect on an Emerson character. Emerson's underrated in quiet scenes like the one when he apologized to Teresa. He's very effective when asked to convey emotion and sorrow. Person of Interest's worth watching because of Emerson's performance. I won't have much to write about the series weekly, so maybe I'll check in every so often.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Vampire Diaries "The End of the Affair" Review

The history between Klaus and Stefan's, in fact, very old. It dates back to the roaring '20s in the Windy City of Chicago. Klaus' interest in Stefan always went beyond saving Damon's life. Were the stories of Stefan's savagery so popular that word of them crossed seas and continents? Klaus possessed a specific knowledge about Stefan's blood habits; knowledge that couldn't be gleaned through word-of-mouth storytelling. "The End of the Affair" delves into the history between the vampires, deepens the overall mythology, as well as the arc for season three--another successful episode of TVD.

Stefan's martyrdom's been reduced. As one should recall, Stefan traveled with Klaus in gratitude for saving his brother's life in "As I Lay Dying." He became more committed following the hybrid failure last week because he still cares for Elena, and still wants to protect her. Klaus will inevitably learn the truth about curse because he's hired a witch and brought his sister back from the undead to figure out what went wrong. It turns out that Elena's necklace is the key piece in the witch's spell. All of this is very exciting and engaging but I want to write about Stefan, and how these events have made his role more interesting.

The roaring 20s was a drunken and murderous adventure for the tortured Salvatore brother, so much so that Klaus brought him to Chicago to restore the memories Stefan lost in his, seemingly, constant drunken state of existence; however, the two vampires became friends in the windy city. Stefan fell for Klaus' beautiful sister, Rebecca; and he and Klaus bonded so well that he referred to the original as his brother. The expository trip to Chicago revealed more about Stefan's ripper days. We learned of his penchant for dismembering bodies then re-assembling them out of remorse. His old apartment had a secret door that led to a small room. The wall paper had a long list, with many columns, full of the names of the people he murdered. Stefan relished in the brutality and torture. Klaus used the list to prove that, once upon a time, they knew one another. Stefan didn't remember his days with Klaus and Rebecca because he was compelled the night Klaus fled Chicago. Klaus carefully brought Stefan to a place where he could return his memories. And, suddenly, Stefan wasn't just a man bound to Klaus by his word; he'll want to be there out of friendship, and sense of brotherhood.

Stefan's selfless sacrifice to protect Elena's life, as well as Damon's, is romantic, heroic, noble, etc. His selfless sacrifice would've gotten old quickly though. Stefan the Reluctant Soldier could only progress so far before it became stale. Stefan the Friend has endless possibilities as an arc. The broken compulsion promises a significant departure from that reluctant hero persona. How will the new memories blend with the old? Stefan and Rebecca had an instant love and connection that resulted in Rebecca's death. She would've risked getting caught by her and Klaus' mysterious pursuers for Stefan. Elena's necklace used to belong to Rebecca until she lost it in the chaos of the bar raid. As I wrote earlier, the necklace is the key piece in communicating with the original witch (who cast the curse) to figure out what went wrong. All roads lead towards Elena and the truth that she was brought back to life after Klaus murdered her. Stefan's face betrayed little when Rebecca frantically searched for the necklace. His expression resembled the one he wore when he saw Elena hiding in his apartment--a mixture of pain and longing. As of now, his motives are unknown.

Elena and Damon embarked on another search-and-rescue. This episode clearly became the third and final part of a three episode arc. For Elena, she went through a process similar to the five stages. Elena experienced much denial, then a quasi-bargaining period, and finally acceptance when Stefan made it clear that she's in danger because Klaus is going to learn the truth. If she's around, she's going to have a bad time. She listened to him and quietly left Chicago with Damon. It would've been lazy if the writers reduced her search to one-episode-and-done. Damon and Elena had a lousy plan. They just needed to try one more time. The three episode arc supported what we know about Elena, and it deepened Damon further. The near death experience did change him. He's no longer a quasi-nihilistic in an existential crisis. Damon's embraced his love for Elena and acted because of that love; he also embraced his love for Stefan, as evidenced by his consistent attempts to rescue his brother and save the soul he worked so hard to get back.

Elena read through Stefan's journal during her down time in his old apartment. There were accounts of Lexi's help, which inspired Elena. If Lexi successfully rehabilitated Stefan then so could she; however, Stefan told her that he spent thirty years recovering from his ripper days--a time span that would cost Elena the majority of her life, which he didn't want to do to her (a conflict that isn't new in vampire fiction but it works every time if executed well). I'm glad the three episode arc concluded because I'm eager for more stories beyond the dominant Elena/Stefan/Klaus/Damon arc.

Klaus and Rebecca have been on the run from a mysterious older gentleman for many, many years. The revelation's worrisome because quite a few villains have been on the run from someone else. I appreciate the depth of the TVD world, but after awhile the big bad that is running away from the Big Bad becomes redundant. Klaus been as evil or menacing as advertised. Katherine's deep fear of the original vamp seems like an overreaction. The writers have a difficult task of upping the Big Bad ante each time they reveal one villain's running away from someone more sinister and, well, villainous. Klaus' desire for an army of hybrids makes more sense now, as well as his former desire to become a hybrid. He'll fight power with more power. Though I've expressed reservations about the redundancy of the chase angle, the ambition of the arc's what I love about TVD. There's so much thought and detail in each layer and step of an arc. They're never simple but they're always awesome. The main arc's shaping up to be another memorable one.

Meanwhile, Caroline was tortured by her father. The homosexual man used aversion therapy in an attempt to change his daughter's nature. It was one of the more heavy-handed decisions by the writers. Mrs. Forbes and Tyler rescued her from the cell. Caroline felt the excruciating pain of her father's hate. She cried in Tyler's arm, unable to understand why her father hated her so much, destroyed by that hate her father feels towards her and her nature. I'll reserve further comment on the storyline until it develops some more.

"The End of the Affair" was great. The Klaus-Stefan history was natural. Elena and Damon won't search for Stefan any longer. Katherine returned. Caroline's story was heart-breaking to watch. The third season's off to a terrific start.

Caroline Dries wrote the episode. Chris Grismer directed it.


Revenge "Trust" Review

Well, I didn't like the second episode of Revenge. I figured I'd state that truth immediately. As per usual, I write about two episodes for shows I'm interested in writing about for the long haul. Second episodes provide a better feel for what future episodes will be like. I didn't like what I saw in "Trust."

Mike Kelley, the series' creator, promised to wrap up the Daniel Grayson murder mystery in the thirteenth episode, which allows the series to focus on the dramatic trial in the back nine. I suppose it's refreshing for a show runner to make promises about the direction of the show. The series has a small window to tell a large chunk of their narrative now. The narrative moved forward two months in one week yet nothing changed. The majority of the episode recycled the pilot, which isn't uncommon in the initial six episodes of a series, but it didn't make for a compelling or engaging hour of TV. Basically, the timeline moved forward but the actual narrative did not, and that's just a waste of time.

Okay, I lied. The narrative moved at a snail's pace. Emily took revenge on a man named Bill Harmon who was part of the conspiracy to destroy the life of Emily's father. The episode ruminated on the idea of a trust. And who's more trustworthy than family? Of course, Bill wasn't family; he was LIKE family, though. In flashbacks, Little Amanda ran towards Bill's arms, excitedly yelling "Uncle Bill" as he waited to swoop her up. David, Amanda’s father, trusted Bill like a brother. Bill ran a successful hedge fund. He acted as a trusted financial adviser to David until he was bought by the Graysons to help ruin him in the court room. Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship--friendly, sexual, and business. There's neediness in any relationship, as well--a need for companionship or intimacy or money. Bill's supposed to be a trusted individual. After all, he's responsible for billions of other people's money. Emily's fueled by the fire of broken trust. Uncle Bill sold her father out, and since she's not in the business of forgiveness, she decides to ruin his hedge fund.

Emily's revenge isn't a complicated scheme. Bill's the dumbest Wall Street executive created, and the scene in which he buys stock in a doomed company was reminiscent of Martin Prince's infamous "Soy! Soy!" scene in The Simpsons. She performed a simple task in her destruction of the man: she made him trust her. Bill, being in the business of hedge funds, wanted Emily's investment. He needed her money to make him more money. Her seemingly close friendship with Nolan Ross made Bill more eager to do business with Emily because, despite his quirks, Nolan's one of the richest men in the world. When Emily exchanged inside information with him, Bill bit like a fish. The hedge fund went down swiftly as Emily sipped wine and smiled to herself.

Bill's a nobody in the grand scheme of her revenge plans against the Hamptons, though. Victoria Grayson, the queen of the Hamptons, is the one Emily's after because she's responsible for the plan against her father. Years ago, Victoria and David had an affair. Something went wrong. Victoria needed to make a choice, so she chose Conrad. Victoria doesn't trust the new girl from next door, especially when she learns of her son's interest in her. The head of the Grayson security investigated Emily and found nothing initially; however, two years of her life weren't documented, and she and Lydia's husband left the board of directors for a New York Preservation company at the same time. Victoria instructed her head of security to follow Emily at all times.

The board of directors revelation suggests something sinister about Emily. Either the girl stole someone's identity (anything's possible in a damn soap) or the name's coincidence or Michael (Lydia's husband) has a role to play. I'll opt for the latter scenario because Emily easily rented the home. Michael has cause for revenge, considering his wife's adultery. Revenge is built around these connections and crosses. Audiences eat up this sort of melodrama, and it's why I disliked the second episode of Revenge. I didn't care for the Emily and Victoria feud the second time around nor the financial troubles of the Porter family nor Nolan's sociopathic interest in Emily's revenge nor the Lydia/Conrad scene. The surprise party for Emily, thrown by Daniel, only happened to blur the future. The scene said, "Boy that Daniel is quite a nice guy. Could Emily have really murdered him? Is her revenge THAT cold?" And I'm just not interested in finding out what happens.

I'd consider watching some more episodes if I suspected the soap opera quality would be reduced but it won't be. I'm intrigued by Victoria's character. Thus far, she's been mostly portrayed through the lens of Emily, so she's cold and cruel; however, she's a loving mother and loyal to her father. Victoria's not spying on Emily because she's resentful of her youth or riches; she's just a mother protecting her son whose been made his mistakes with the opposite sex. Likewise, Emily should become more relatable as her relationship with Daniel grows, and when she reveals her identity to Jack. The isolated woman's hard to identify with, even with her tortured back story. She sits alone at the end, on her birthday, blowing a single candle out on top of a cupcake because she can only trust herself. I doubt that philosophy remains because there's no conflict, no hard choices, or pain. Emily's revenge scheme will be complicated by her affections for Daniel. If not, why bother telling a story about revenge if it's as easy as the Bill Harmon storyline?

I declared last week that I wouldn't write about The Secret Circle anymore. Naturally, I'm writing about #103 tomorrow. I'm inclined to watch another Revenge episode because I'm intrigued by the murder mystery as well as the two main characters. I won't promise to write about it, though.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Terra Nova "Genesis" Review

Terra Nova is a paradise--a quasi-garden of Eden with plentiful food and drink, abundant plant life, various kinds of flowers, and air so sweet and pure that one never need an oxygen mask to breathe again. The base also exists 85 million years in the past, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the moon looked close enough to touch. Life in the 22nd century's essentially unlivable. The air quality's nearly toxic. The smog's so thick that children cannot see the sky. The portrayal of 22nd century life isn't uncommon in science fiction--it's only a matter of time until civilization destroys the earth.

The series is ambitious. The two hour pilot's more of a movie than a two part TV episode. The graphics alone probably cost more than two or three episodes of any other TV series. The dinosaurs look terrific. The territory surrounding the terra nova base was wonderfully designed by the graphic arts team. The series might struggle to sustain its look on a weekly TV budget. The second part features an epic action piece that lasts nearly three acts. There were chase scenes, rebellious groups of outlaws, near-gun fights, and overwhelming set of stakes for the principal characters. The visual display's impressive. A TV show hasn't looked so movie-like since the LOST pilot in 2004.

The story and characterization isn't so rich in detail, though. The Shannon family boasts five archetypes instead of formed characters. The father is a do-whatever-it-takes-for-my-family kind of guy; the mother's a brilliant, loving mother willing to sacrifice her safety if it means safety for those she loves; the teenage son's a miserable bastard with daddy issues and a tiresome rebellious streak; the daughter's a wealth of expository knowledge about dinosaurs and the dawn of civilization; the youngest daughter's the illegal fifth spawn of the Shannon parents but she represents a sort of hope for Terra Nova, which is a place where a family of five can live peacefully, and a world where children won't be killed by a destroyed earth. Before Terra Nova, the father was sentenced to six years in prison after physically harming an officer who discovered the existence of a third child in a strict two child world.

The Shannon family came to Terra Nova because the mother was recruited to be one of the doctors. Jim, the father, escaped from prison with the help of his wife. He then successfully traveled back in time with his youngest daughter without much complication. Jim used to be a cop before prison. Jim used to be a present father, too. The prison time didn't help his youngest daughter remember him while Josh loathed him for attacking the cop because he and the family fended for themselves for two years. Jim's work is an up-hill climb. He needs to earn the trust of the military outfit, led by Nathaniel Taylor, as well as the trust of his children. Not only does he need to assist in the re-building of a livable world but he needs to re-build his family.

The military and his children need Jim, of course. Commander Taylor balked initially when asked by Jim to return his badge and gun. Josh sauntered off into the unknown of Terra Nova with a group of people his own age. Once the dinosaurs and the Sixers pose a dangerous threat to the base, Jim proves his worth to the Commander. Likewise, once Jim saves his son's life from carnivore dinosaurs, Josh isn't so mopey and miserable anymore. In fact, he compliments the sky and smiles.

The mythology's predictably mysterious. The time-travel aspect isn't an issue. The butterfly effect won't ruin the future because the effect doesn't exist. Instead, Terra Nova's exists in a fracture of time-and-space, in a completely new time stream that doesn't threaten the future at all. The sixth pilgrimage to Terra Nova produced a band of outlaws involved in a conspiratorial plot from the future. The depths of their plans aren't known but they rely on geometrical equations to communicate with one another about the "controlling the past and future." The words are ominous. The sixers are a rugged group who use aggression and intimidation to re-stock their supplies. Their mission will no doubt involve something deadly.

The series is about civilization. Civilization's responsible for the desolation of Earth in the 22nd century. Civilization could fail just as badly 85 million years ago in the past. In fact, the show seems poised to portray civilization in such a way. The sixers have no issues with death; ditto the police in Terra Nova. Commander Taylor's a man of peace, someone who believes in the mission of Terra Nova but he's opposed by carnivorous dinosaurs and rebel pilgrims. The Shannon family's similarly noble and they’ll help Taylor in his fight.

I didn't like the two hour pilot. The second part dragged despite the action. The sixers were too wooden on screen. The pilot sought to resemble LOST in its scope, presentation, and structure. The sixers resembled the others with their cryptic coded language and propensity to point guns at the heroes. The episode could've been exceptional with better character development. The series boasts a ton of executive producers but the well-paid writers couldn't create a single compelling character in the two hours. The creative discord's responsible for that, though. I don't have much optimism that characterization will improve. The series is fixated on the graphics and the mythology. Eventually, these writers will learn the staple of successful storytelling--great characters. Terra Nova doesn't have any.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Hart of Dixie "Pilot" Review

David Foster Wallace was born and raised in the Midwest and, later, moved to the east coast as an adult and working professional. He wrote about his Midwest upbringing in his various non-fiction pieces. The author tried to reconcile the naivety of his Midwest roots with his newly found East Coast cynicism. Wallace wrote about his cynicism in a review of a Dostoevsky biography, in a piece about the Illinois State Fair, in his 9/11 retrospective, etc. In his opinion, East Coasters are ironically detached from people, places, and things at all times whereas his Midwest brethren are more innocent and more sheltered--their experiences are completely different from those on the East Coast.

He raised the bar impossibly high for depictions of transplants.

It's unfair to open a review of The CW's Hart of Dixie with a paragraph about David Foster Wallace because the man was a modern literary titan. I thought about him throughout the pilot episode, though, because Rachel Bilson's Zoe Hart is an east coast transplant in the Deep South. Zoe used to work in a New York City hospital until a doctor advised her to spend 12 months in GP if she wanted to achieve her dreams of becoming a heart doctor. The reason the doctor advised her to spend a year in a general practice is because she lacks bedside manner (in other words, the aspiring heart doctor lacks a warm heart), so she finds the practice of an old man who offered her a job several years ago; however, the man passed away, leaving his half of the practice to the girl.

Blue Bell, Alabama, is the place where Zoe Hart moves to. Blue Bell's a typical small town where the residents know one another and resent the arrival of an outside, which makes it an insular and uninviting community. The small town's not unlike the fictional town of Everwood. The residents worry about how the true doctor of Blue Bell will react to the new doctor. The golden boy of Blue Bell's engaged to Zoe's worst enemy in the town. Everyone's aware of each other's quirks and tricks. Zoe, naturally, doesn't fit in with the community. She insults the southern belles (an example of that east coast cynicism), writes an ill-advised eye prescription for an older man so he can drive his car again, which leads to the town's golden boy being hit by the older man's car. The ill-advised prescription is front-page fodder. Zoe's openly resented by the town. She plans to leave for New York until she learns the truth about her half of the practice--Harley, the old man, was her father.

Hart of Dixie seemed like a throwback to TheWB series of old--the ones with heart, humor, and healthy dose of sentiment every week. The CW hasn't successfully developed a WB-type show in its five years of existence. The series will potential inevitably devolves into unwatchable melodramatic messes. The previews for Hart of Dixie offered the hope that it'd resemble those great, old WB shows. The pilot tries to capture the tone and atmosphere but it doesn't quite work. The small town's not warm and embracing like Everwood; its twenty something characters aren't as endearing as the ones who populated Felicity; the heart and sentimentality is lacking.

Red flags were raised during press tour when the creator /show runner talked about the origins of the series. For her, Hart of Dixie's a form of escapism from her stressful life in New York City. The assembled critics worried about authentic portrayals of southern life because the pilot introduced only two African-American characters in a state populated with African-Americans. The creator admitted that she didn't have too much knowledge about the south, before returning to her song-and-dance about the escapist adventure.

The casts of southern characters have heavy southern drawls. They're alternately warm and friendly or cold and cruel, depending on the person. For Zoe, it's the latter because she walked into a town without anyone's permission and assumed control of a practice without the other doctor's consent. George Tucker (Scott Porter) is one of the nice people along with a pregnant woman named Mabel. Zoe, at least, feels welcomed by those two. The latter character's actually her first case as a general practitioner. Zoe wouldn't develop a heart without helping a pregnant woman who had been controlled all her life by her mother. Zoe not only delivers the baby but also helps Mabel stand up to her mother. The entire town doesn't hate her. Blue Bell's mayor found her a place to live. Her nurse is the type of supporting character who will, you know, support her.

Rachel Bilson's way too adorable and nice to successfully portray a cold-hearted doctor. I wanted to hug her in every scene. She and Scott Porter have solid chemistry together. The situation between their character's been done time and time again (hell The Secret Circle's doing it now) but their natural interaction with one another hid its contrived and stereotypical nature. Bilson works well opposite any actor actually.

I wanted to like the show but I don't. The premise seemed promising; however, the revelation about her father essentially destroyed my interest in the show. The sources of conflict weren't interesting or believable. For instance, the conflict between the doctors was done already (and excellently so) on Everwood. The conflict between Zoe and her mother was flat. The series, for some reason, invented too many reasons for Zoe to remain in Blue Bell. If Zoe decided to stay because she wanted to help people, that would be enough. I don't need the decision to be about Zoe pissing her mother off. Once again, I hoped for a show that would resemble Everwood. Some pieces were taken from Everwood but the execution and tone's completely different. I'd write about what worked for Everwood, but I wrote about 24 episodes this summer, and I don't want to repeat myself. Trust me: it's completely different.

Networks tried to develop the next LOST. The CW's tried to develop another Everwood or Gilmore Girls. The formulas seem simple to replicate but the difference is always in the details. I appreciate The CW's effort. Hart of Dixie just doesn't work for me.


How I Met Your Mother "The Ducky Tie" Review

Last season's "Bad News" had a careful, well-thought out story designed to take the audience by surprise in the end. "The Ducky Tie" was similarly structured. The story of Ted's reunion with Victoria was frequently interrupted by a bet between Marshall, Lily, and Barney that involved her breasts. There were long stretches in which the action centered on the bet only to return to Ted's story as an after-thought. Ah, gosh darn it, it worked. Though I've developed the habit of heavily criticizing each episode of HIMYM since I started writing about, I'll happily acknowledge the series' strengths.

Victoria and Ted's romantic arc largely eluded me. I watched a couple of episodes involving the two as a couple but not much more. I'm not someone who will offer verbose paragraphs about my feelings on their coupling. From what I've read, and from how Ted was written tonight, Victoria seemed like one of the best women in Ted's life. Ted cheated on her with Robin when she went abroad to study the culinary arts. The infidelity derailed the relationship. Both moved on. Their reunion at the Architect's Ball was awkward and loaded with unspoken feelings for the other.

The first act was about Ted's regret for ever cheating on her with Robin. Ted offered to clean the dishes in an effort to clear his conscious. He hoped that something would spark between them again, and that they'd be together one more time; however, Victoria's going to be engaged on the morrow. The proverbial ship sailed. Ted wondered 'what if' and reluctantly admitted the hope he had when he saw her across the room. His earnestness evoked dormant emotions from within Victoria, though.

The second revolved around their memory of each other and their time together. Ted and Victoria kissed. Ted learned about her own affair with Klaus from class i.e. her future husband, which affected his feelings of guilt. Ted wondered whether Victoria felt the same love for him. Victoria swore she did and spoke with such love and affection that one wondered whether those feelings ever left her. In the third act, the former couple departed, content to not indulge in the game of 'what if.' Victoria offered a piece of advice, though--Ted, Barney, and Robin shouldn't hang out because the dynamic isn't natural. Future Ted closed the episode by stating how Victoria was right--the trio just didn't realize it yet.

I didn't foresee another love triangle between Ted, Robin, and Barney emerging in the seventh season. Ted moved on. Robin moved on. The pilot concluded with the revelation that he just told the story of how he met their Aunt Robin. There are various possibilities for the upcoming triangle between these three characters. It's worth the show's time to re-visit a romantic relationship, or the possibility of one, between Ted and Robin because Ted needs something profound to happen before he meets his wife. The character's had few significant relationships. He drifts in and out of meaningless ones. Victoria attempted to open her former boyfriend's eyes to the Robin of it all--how her presence influences his life as well as his relationships. Victoria suggested that his feelings for Robin never disappeared, which is why his relationships with other women haven't lasted.

The suggestion's somewhat plausible but it's inconsistent with what we've watched over the seasons. The Stella situation collapsed because of her own baggage. Zoey wasn't a compatible woman for Ted. He hasn't felt jealous of Robin's love life since the origin of her and Barney; however, Ted and Robin shared a scene last week that focused on what they mean to one another. He brought her to the Architect’s Ball because she met the qualifications of the kind of girl he wanted to spend his time with--as a friend, we thought, or something more within his brain.

The impending arc should be thee arc that leads to the wedding and the mother. Presumably, whatever happens leads to a wedding between Robin and Barney. The situation no doubt brings Ted and Barney closer together as Ted will be the best man. Ted's words of encouragement and affirmation of the bride suggests it's Robin. Josh Radnor delivered the words in an odd way last week. The words carried more meaning than a simple 'you chose the perfect woman because she's my friend.' The words had the weight of someone who, despite losing to someone else, didn't feel anger or resentment--just love for his friends. Whatever happens between the three should no doubt lead Ted towards the woman at the wedding because it's too important an arc for it not to matter in Ted's overall arc.

I'm interested in the series again. I hope the execution of the arc isn't infuriating or irritating. I thought Victoria and Ted's reunion was well-written and well-acted. I'm invested in the soon-to-be triangle. I didn't like the silly B story with Barney, Marshall, Lilly, and her breasts. I mostly wondered how Alyson Hanigan became such a terrible actress when she used to portray Willow so well for so many years. Overall, though, "The Ducky Tie" is a good episode.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Gifted Man "Pilot" Review

I thought the premise of A Gifted Man was misleading when I previewed the series last month. Well, it isn't. The series IS about a brilliant neurosurgeon whose life changes forever when his ex-wife appears to him after her death. It's not about his ex-wife finding peace after death because she's fairly peaceful in the after-life; she's only concerned with the work she left incomplete in life. Michael Holt, thee brilliant neurosurgeon, has a tremendous gift that's been limited because of the stigma attached to that brilliance.

Michael operates on the rich and famous. Anna Paul, his ex-wife, opened a free clinic several years ago to help the families who've been priced out by American health care. Their lives took different paths following the divorce. The divorce wasn't messy. Michael decided that he did not want to be married anymore; that he wanted to focus his energies on neurosurgery. Ten years later Michael ran into his ex-wife and had dinner with her. The next day he learns about her death two weeks ago. Michael reacts as anybody would--he freaks out and scans his brain for a tumor; however, he's healthy. Anna's just there. Somehow her spirit entered his life. Anna doesn't understand it either--she just knows she's with him for a time then she's not, and then she is.

Sick people aren't the only ones who need Michael's help. His sister, Christina, is single mother raising a rebellious teenage son. Christina struggles with money. She struggles raising her son. Michael doesn't ignore her. He helps her with money and he bails her son out of trouble; however, there's a distance between Michael, his sister and her son. Michael removes himself from the people who really need him. When Christina tells him about a free therapy session for her and her son, he rejects her request that he join the duo for each session, even though he's the most important male in Milo's life.

Michael's not a bad guy, of course. The character resembles any elite doctor in an elite hospital. The man moves a mile a minute. He's short and curt with patients. He doesn't coddle his team following a surgery (he aims to make his team stronger by not complimenting them). Michael's secretary, Rita, works tirelessly to maintain his schedule but she doesn't even receive a birthday wish from her employer on the day of her birth. Change would be good to him. A moment's breath to feel sadness for a lost patient and friend could be the difference between his former self and his future self, that is if he allows himself to feel these emotion.

Anna wants her former husband to help the people she left behind. I also think she wants to open the part of him that's been dormant or that he refuses to re-open. He's so afraid though. The fear stems from her presence in his life after death but the fear's deeper than just her presence. The shaman, Anton, who offers to extract Anna's spirit found a tear in his energy, or rather, an emotional tear. She found her way through a wounded shoulder. Wounds are emotional too. The expression on his face when he hugs his ex-wife conveys a multitude of emotions--joy and regret among them. Anthon nearly completes the extraction of Anna from Michael; however, Michael sat upright and stopped the extraction before its completion. Michael needed to face his ex-wife to complete the extraction. The meeting was his opportunity to speak the truth about his feelings for his wife and to ensure her that he'll be okay when she's gone. Anna smiles, confused about the purpose of their meeting, curious about Michael's claims that they'll be separated again. Anna explains her desire to complete her life's work through him. Most of all, Anna wants to see the love of her life for many days to come. Michael wants to see her too.

The elements are in place for a satisfying series. Michael's attitude about the rich and the poor changes as the worlds are juxtaposed. Michael saves the lives for two wealthy people--a young tennis star and a CEO. Neither express gratitude. The tennis player yells at him because she'll miss the chance to break a world record while the CEO passes away after disobeying Michael's simple orders to not drink or disrupt the surgical wound. The poor family he helps bakes him a cake following surgery on one of the children. Michael found room for everyone in his life--therapy sessions with Christina and Milo should soon follow.

The previews I watched last month were compelling. The honesty in the writing and the acting were evident in the three minute trailer. I thought the pilot might resemble the pilot of Everwood because there were similarities. Alas, A Gifted Man didn't match the brilliant Everwood pilot nor did it pack the emotional punch. I liked the pilot very much, nonetheless. I don't need another Everwood, though. I like how the series is content to tell a simple story about a doctor whose life's transformed by the death of his ex-wife. TV With The Foot doesn't always need shows about vampires to write about. I'm content with dramas like A Gifted Man.

Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle, Margo Martindale, and especially Julie Benz, delivered nuanced and effective performances. I was especially drawn towards Benz's Christina. She brought a different energy to a role that's been done many times before her. Christina wasn't pathetic or helpless. The character's just struggling. I look forward to upcoming episodes because I'm interested in learning more about Michael and Anna's relationship. I'm interested in seeing how all of these characters relate to one another and interact, which is all I ask from a new series.


Person Of Interest "Pilot" Review

The trailers for Person Of Interest were exciting, especially with snippets of J.J. Abrams and Jonah Nolan explaining why they believe in the show. The pilot episode wasn't terrible or bad--just bland and boring. The series follows two characters who are considered deceased. Together, they work to stop crimes before they're committed by using a high-tech machine. Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson work well together. The concept's is intriguing. The script was tightly written. The procedural case-of-the-week was the bland and boring part of the episode. Of course, the case-of-the-week dominated the episode, thus the episode was bland and boring.

The Nolan brothers are very talented. Christopher Nolan revived the Batman franchise and made neo-noir relevant. Jonathan Nolan wrote the short story that Memento was based on. The brothers share an affinity for the same tropes, especially the 'loss of a spouse or girlfriend that completely transforms the man' trope. Reese is a former member of the army and CIA. He planned on living a life without the government but the 9/11 attacks changed his plans. Presumably, he joined with the CIA to track down terrorists around the world. During that time, his wife or girlfriend was murdered. For an extended period of time, Reese wandered the streets with long, greasy hair and a full suicide beard. According to Finch, Reese has been attempting to drink himself to death for the last three years. The men meet after Reese destroys a foursome of thugs on an unknown MTA subway line. Finch offers Reese purpose, direction, and an opportunity to use his skills for good. Reese accepts without asking many questions.

Finch, too, was driven to this morally good vigilante endeavor because he lost someone he loved. The men don't respond or recover well from lost in stories written by the Nolan brothers. The males are irrevocably damaged. Cobb in Inception plunged into the business of dreams in which he made powerful enemies who wanted him dead. Leonard Shelby accidentally murdered his wife, forgot that he did, and then murdered individuals who he believed murdered his wife. Reese is a person of interest in America because his fingerprints were found at over a dozen crime scenes; his past involves years of finding and murdering suspected terrorists; he had a death wish for the first five minutes. Character development is pushed to the back-burner for much of the episode. Reese doesn't actually demand any answers until halfway through the episode. The dude just blindly hacks into phones, installs cameras in a woman's house, and shoots gang members in the legs without bothering to question Finch about his magical machine.

The history of the machine isn't too interesting. Nolan tapped into America's fears when developing the idea. Finch created the device for the government to use in their hunt for terrorists post-9/11. The ability to read any e-mail or listen to any phone call wasn't enough for the government, so Finch built the machine. Simply, it scanned the billions of people on earth and found the most relevant threats. The irrelevant criminals were folk who murdered someone in a robbery or a jealous rage. The machine erased the irrelevant data and that haunted Finch through the years. Finch felt wrong to wipe away those who also need help. Crimes are no longer random acts that can't be stopped for Finch and Reese. They'll never shrug their shoulders because the machine's provided them with choice--the choice to stop crimes before they happen. Of course, there's a catch--the machine doesn't say whether the person of interest will be the victim or the criminal.

The case-of-the-week's confusing but it shows how difficult their vigilante endeavor can be. The woman is a supposed future victim because she's prosecuting the leader of a gang; however, the gang member's been framed by a mysterious group of powerful people. The mysterious group of people are cops. The woman's actually the leader. Fights happen, guns are shot, and people are wounded. Reese saves a life and puts the woman behind bars. The motivations of the woman eluded me. The lesson, though--vigilante justice isn't as simple as the machine implies it is.

The pilot's well written and structured. I know what the series' mission statement is. I know what a weekly episode of the series will be. The characters were decently defined in their introductions. There are depths to explore going forward. The NYPD is seeking information on Reese. Reese angered a Russian mob and that element won't disappear. Finch is a millionaire with seemingly no one else involved but I suspect he keeps skeletons in the closet. The series is packed with potentially interesting stories.

Jonah Nolan wrote the pilot. David Semel directed it.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Vampire Diaries "The Hybrid" Review

The CW promo department always cut TVD trailers terribly. I watch the 15 second trailer after each new episode and wonder if next week will be the week when TVD produces a dud of an episode. The dud episode never comes. I'm riveted by each episode, and on the edge of my seat during each act break. I'll advise The CW to find new editors in the promo department because these trailers are atrocious.

"The Hybrid" was an exciting and riveting hour about duality and a person's true nature. Klaus and Stefan found the home of Ray's werewolf pack. Elena, Damon and Alaric embarked on a search-and-rescue in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The groups seemed destined to collide but they never did. The series has plenty of time for that, though.

Klaus failed in his mission to turn an entire werewolf pack into hybrids because he failed to kill the doppelganger i.e. Elena. Klaus doesn't know that. Stefan stared, with dread in his eyes, as Klaus tried to figure out which part of his plan went wrong. Klaus read something from the stare but his loyal comrade stated he looked like hell because of the werewolf bite that was killing him. Klaus gives Stefan his blood, saving his life, more focused on transforming Stefan into a fervent follower. Klaus is bothered by Stefan's depressive nature. The experiment with the werewolves is symbolic of the themes I mentioned in the previous paragraph. By nature, vampires and werewolves resent one another. Vampires nearly wiped out the existence of werewolves. They prey on another. Klaus forces these two natures to merge and, naturally, the werewolves resist the change. The transformation's a torturous process in which the people bleed out or go insane. The latter scenario forces Stefan or Klaus to murder the insane person because the werewolves are more dangerous with vampire blood in their system. The scene's gruesome by the end--a group of people murdered senselessly because Klaus wants an army of hybrids. Stefan's literally in the middle of it--metaphorically and physically, as the last shot of the A story's of a lone Stefan standing in the middle of the corpses with Klaus' blood in his hands.

By nature, vampires are monsters; however, they're incredibly human in The Vampire Diaries. Stefan, Caroline, Lexi, Rose, and even Damon have been more humane than some human characters in the series. Season 1 saw the watcher's council attempt to eradicate vampires from Mystic Falls. The adults behaviors have been more monstrous than the vampires and werewolves. A vampire's humanity takes practice and discipline. Stefan used to 'coach' new vampires during their transition so they could avoid the death and destruction of vampiric life. He saved Caroline and tried to save Vicki. Elena remembers that quality, how Stefan never gave up on anybody, so she doesn't plan to give up on him. Damon, though, feels like he lost his brother to his true nature. He resists Elena's attempts to rescue him because Stefan's a lost cause in his eyes. Damon, Elena and Alaric wind up in the Smoky Mountains hours before a full moon and the promise of active werewolves. The mission's search-and-rescue but Elena never comes near Stefan. The trio stay well past sun-down. They tried to question a rabid Ray but fled when they witnessed his odd and extreme transformation. Ray found them eventually, as the wolf, and Damon saved Elena's life by running far from her and Alaric. Klaus ordered Stefan to retrieve Ray if he wanted his life saved. Stefan ripped Ray's heart out seconds before the sort-of-hybrid tore into Damon. Stefan reiterated his wishes to be left alone and Damon obliged.

The incident offered a truth Damon was blind to after the death of Andie--that Stefan's true nature hadn't disappeared because of the blood. Stefan still saved the life of his brother despite the darkness he's succumbed to, so Damon feels obligated to return the favor. Damon's nature is sometimes more complicated but he's simple at the core--a vampire whose loyalty and love supersedes his monstrous nature. The conflict between a vampire's monstrous and humane nature poses interesting questions about the fundamental nature of vampires. The evidence of the previous two seasons suggests that a vampire's more humane nature's most natural. Vicki was doomed as a vampire because her flaws and addictions as a human were magnified. The girl could never control those feelings and impulses in life, much less in death. The blood's an addiction, no different than drugs and alcohol for a human, and the makeup of a vampire determines the depth of blood lust more than their vampiric nature. Elena's right in her desire to save Stefan's life. If he's considered a lost cause then it's the equivalent of giving up on an alcoholic or drug addict, which doesn't damn Stefan as much as those around him. The stoic and heroic vamp's not a lost cause because he never considered anyone to be a lost cause, not even his brother.

The duality of the supernatural surfaced in the B story, where Tyler decided to reveal his other self to his mother after he learned about Caroline's abduction. Carol wanted to save her son from the monster she considered Caroline to be. Caroline, though, is one of the sweetest characters in the series. Her transformation into a vampire didn't turn into a monster because she controlled it with Stefan's help. Tyler can't communicate with his mother through words about the humanity of supernatural person so he shows his mother. Carol Lockwood watches from behind bars as her son transforms into a werewolf during the full moon. Tyler's no more a monster when in control than Caroline, which Carol soon learns without a single word spoken between them. She vows to fix the situation but her mysterious accomplice is set on doing something to Caroline. The accomplice's name is Bill, and he happens to be Caroline's father.

The nature of someone wasn't limited to the supernatural folk of Mystic Falls. Alaric left the Gilbert residence because he doubted his ability to care for Elena and Jeremy, to be the role model they need. In the premiere, he told Elena that he can get it together for school but he's a mess within the walls of his own home. Elena delivered a terrific pep talk to help her friend believe in himself and his ability to care for her and Jeremy. Alaric moved back into the house and kept the eternity ring. The former shows Alaric's willing to endure his wounds rather than run while the latter suggests Alaric feels committed to living. He resisted the ring in early in the episode but wanted it in the final act.

Elena, of course, is who she is. The girl's an open book--loving, loyal, trustworthy, caring, and a whole bunch of other flattering adjectives. Like Stefan, she doesn't give up on the people she loves. She urges Alaric to re-consider his decision for Jeremy as much for herself. She decided to quit the search-and-rescue because she worried about Damon's life. Elena's a wonderful character and admirable heroine.

The C story was separate from the themes of duality and a person's nature. Jeremy and Matt planned to communicate with Vicki from beyond the grave. Jeremy received two entirely different messages from his former girlfriends. Vicki insisted there was a way to bring her back while Anna instructed Jeremy to ignore whatever Vicki said. I wonder: is it a love triangle beyond the grave or something more intriguing? Matt's involvement suggests the story will be deeper because he dealt with the reality and pain of his loss for much of the C story.

Overall, "The Hybrid" was a thoughtful and interesting episode. The action happened in spurts. The TVD writers continue to lay the foundation for the third season. I'd like to mention Tyler's scene with Elena in which he helped her find werewolf spots because he felt responsible for the situation (he bit Damon). I often forget how a plot point sets off a string of chaotic events. The line reminded me of George R.R. Martin's style of storytelling. Martin's more impressive with his intricate plots because he's one man while TVD has an entire room. Also, Nina Dobrev's so damn pretty.

Al Septien & Turi Meyer wrote "The Hybrid" and Joshua Butler directed it. I noticed that Mr. The Event, Nick Wauters, is a consulting producer this season. His last series was a train wreck so hopefully Williamson and Plec reined him in.


The Secret Circle "Bound" Review

I'm good for one CW show a season. I tried to write about Hellcats last season. The attempt didn't work out and I bailed after two episodes. The Secret Circle pilot didn't blow me away. I watched "Bound" with an open mind but the episode didn't hit with me. The adult characters are boring and uninteresting. The teenage circle of witches isn't very interesting either. The drama came from possible love triangles and unrequited feelings. There's nothing wrong with that in a CW show. It's just not for me. I already watch a CW show regularly that has love triangles and pieces of melodrama (of course TVD is awesome). The Secret Circle could evolve into a series nearly as great as TVD. I'm just not going to write about it anymore.

"Bound" was about the inevitable binding spell of the circle. There were quite a few expository scenes. Dawn's father-in-law visited Chance Harbor after he heard about the possible revival of magic in town. Through their exchanges, we learned about the dark past of the old circle and why the magic was taken from them. Adam told Cassie how the old circle never binded their powers and that resulted in the deaths. Faye, the wild-card witch, experimented with her powers and nearly killed someone. Cassie couldn't control her tremendous power. The specifics of the binding ritual is similar to the essential concept of Marxism. The intent's to distribute powers evenly among the witches.

The only charismatic character in the series is Phoebe Tonkin's Faye. Faye isn't incredibly interesting but Tonkin portrays her with a menace and glee that's unlike any of the other performances. I liked how her behavior shifted immediately when she pushed the tertiary character through a railing. The dangerous witch disappeared and the teenage girl replaced her. Tonkin's very, very good. The rest of the teenagers are reduced to melodramatic pieces in romantic triangles. Adam and Cassie shatter glass and lights because their chemistry is electric. Dekker and Robertson have okay chemistry but it's not magnetic. Dekker's a bit too restrained in his performance. He speaks in low tones and seems disinterested in those around him but the exposition tells us Adam and Cassie are meant to be.

Britt Robertson should shine once her character embraces her potential. She spends quite some time resisting and arguing with her fellow witches. Cassie looks longingly at Adam. Diana already feels insecure about Cassie's presence around her boyfriend. Each witch is as powerful as their own feelings and thoughts. Imagine a teenager could control light and weather with their teen angst. The powers will explode as the attractions and envy grow.

The adults are the most problematic, as per usual in teenage dramas. Charlie found a magical crystal that allows one to use magic again. Dawn used it to intimidate her father-in-law. Dawn and Charlie are essentially chasing their youth. They need the new circle to use their powers to return to the adults powers. The evil plan's not engaging nor are the villainous Dawn and Charlie. Naturally, I dislike them because they threaten their elders with death. They're just dull overall.

I don't have much to write about "Bound" because nothing really happened. I'll recommend anyone reading to read my review of the latest TVD episode because it's thoughtful and verbose. TVD's sister series isn't for me, though, so I'm bowing out of writing reviews of their episodes.

The Conclusion of the 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "The Last of Summer" Review

Everwood returned from its four month hiatus with one question to answer: did Colin Hart live or die? Originally, Greg Berlanti wanted to conclude "Home" on a shot of Andy Brown peering through glass at the Harts, Amy, the Abbotts, Edna, Irv, and Ephram, unable to face the gathering because he just lost Colin on the table. The network intervened and persuaded the creator to resolve the season one arc in the second season premiere.

"The Last of Summer" takes place during the Labor Day weekend, presumably. The town pool's about to close with one last summer event left before the unofficial end of summer. Amy day-dreams about the pool party. She imagines her brother and Colin chasing little children around the pool as well as a conversation between her and Colin about a rendevous under the diving board later that night. As Colin walks away, he disappears into the air, and an expression of sadness overwhelms Amy's face. We're then transported to the County High gym where a memorial for Colin's happening. Amy, dressed in black, shakes off her day-dream. A fellow student addresses the audience with his own memories. Amy follows him, unsure of what to say, then interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Brown. The assembled people stare in shock, and Amy resentfully glares at him.

Greg Berlanti never was interested in telling a story that would end with success for Colin. Everwood's not about Colin or his family. The show's about Andy and his family. A character doesn't grow unless he encounters conflict, hardships, and obstacles throughout his arc. "The Last of Summer" isn't about Colin's00it's about Andy's place in Everwood following the unsuccessful surgery, and about that promise he made to Colin in his living room. "Home" was Colin's goodbye--to his friends, family, and the audience. "The Last of Summer" is about loss, adaptation, change, acceptance, and moving on--essential Everwood, in other words.

Andy's been ostracized from the community because he's perceived as an executioner, as Donald predicted in "Home." Lunch from Mama Joy's carried out in a bag. The patients don't visit Andy's practice anymore. Andy's beaten himself over the summer for carrying out Colin's wishes on the table. Memories of the crucial moments replay over his head. The blood was leaking from a vein, the surgery would start from scratch, and Colin's brain would've been damaged from the additional time it took to repair the vein and re-start the procedure. The conversation repeated in his head, so he prepared his team to close, and Colin bled out. The guilt and doubt were displayed in his expressions. Ephram wonders why Andy's beating himself up when he's lost patients before. Andy hesitates before he agrees with his son that he tried his best. The great Doctor Brown needs to be set free from his secret to resume his life and to forgive himself for losing Colin on the table.

Mrs. Hart asks Amy to organize a memorial for Colin before the first day of school at County High. Amy obliges. She struggles throughout the organization of the memorial as she looks through old photos and deals with memories of her boyfriend and is confronted by the future they'll never share. Layne comes over to drop off Colin's laptop, in case there's anything Amy could use from it. Amy apologizes to Colin's sister for not calling her before the surgery. Laynie's not mad because she had one more day to feel normal (I have a brief nitpick: "Home" was about Colin's individual goodbyes to the people he loved, and he never called his sister? The exchange makes it seem like Laynie didn't know the surgery happened, which is just odd). The laptop, of course, has the fateful document Colin typed up, instructing Dr. Brown not to resuscitate him if something went wrong.

Amy confronts Dr. Brown in Brenda's brand new restaurant about the document. Half the town's packed into the Planet Hollywood rip-off so they witness the emotional exchange. Amy basically accuses Andy of murdering her boyfriend. She forces him to confess that he stopped trying, which he does. The girl's in tears as her father leads her. Later, Ephram and Andy have an honest exchange about what happened. Ephram feels hurt that his father wouldn't tell him, and claims the only mistake he made was "not being honest with me." The confrontation, in a way, partially freed Andy because the secret came out. The conversation with Ephram gave him perspective. Andy went through the critical moments of surgery and explains, "Colin would have been barely functioning at best, and at worst he would have been on a respirator, until the Harts were forced to make the same decision that I had to make." Andy knew that the only way to keep his promise was to let Colin go, so he did, and now Ephram can decide just like everyone else in town: did he kill Colin Hart or did he save him?

The County High memorial presents a moment of catharsis for Andy. He listens as Amy finishes her words of remembrance then approaches the podium to offer his condolences, share his memories of his patient, and to defend himself, "Many of you believe that I was somehow responsible for all of this...and I let you, because I was desperate to believe it, too. We're taught as surgeons to think that we are in control of people's destinies. But the truth is, we are really just foot soldiers. Colin knew this. He didn't expect a miracle from me, because he knew that he was the miracle. What he expected was for me to do my best." Andy chokes up and tears stream down his cheeks as he apologizes to the Harts, and to Amy, for not being enough to save Colin's life. "I'm sorry that he's gone," Andy says, in conclusion, then exits the gym with his family. The burden's lifted, though, and he's free once more.

The last hours of summer fade away as a new season waits to take its place. Amy and Ephram are the lone two pool workers, cleaning up the remnants of the last pool party of the summer. Ephram delivers a speech to Amy that's rich with themes regarding adaptation after loss as well as the reality of life after the loss. Following his mother's death, people told him that he'd heal in time and feel normal again; however, he never felt normal again; he just learned how to adapt and continue living with something broken inside him and someone missing from his life. The words don't comfort Amy because she's lost inside herself. Grief's different from each person. The grief I felt after the deaths of my grandmothers didn't resemble the grief I felt for my brother nor did that grief resembled the grief I feel with my dad gone. Ephram tried to help but he and Amy's grief isn't similar. It's a process she'll need to go through, and she will over the course of season two.

Everwood was a wonderful series that too few people watched during its four year run. "The Last of Summer" finds characters trying to return to normalcy after a devastating loss in their lives. The characters will return to normalcy because the series celebrated the resiliency of the human spirit. The obstacles and hardships don't stop, though, and that allows the characters to continue growing. There will be more loss before its series finale as well as new relationships. I'd like to write all about what happens after #201 but I'd never spoil the show for anyone who happened to stumble upon this after seeing the episode for the first time. The series wasn't perfect after its near-perfect season one but it was pretty damn good.

Other Thoughts:

-Dr. Abbott helped Bright with a tie before the memorial. The conversation's about Amy's outbursts of emotion. Bright feels differently from his sister. He doesn't blame Dr. Brown. If anything, he feels guilt for causing the accident. Harold tells his son that Amy's outbursts of grief doesn't mean she loved Colin more, which moves Bright to hug his father in thanks and appreciation.

-Emily VanCamp was terrific throughout the episode. Alyson Hanigan held the title for best crier on television but VanCamp's performance throughout the series threatens to steal the title. I thought Treat Williams was fantastic, especially when he delivered the speech at the memorial.

-I experience a gamut of emotions whenever I watch "The Last of Summer." It's a powerful and moving episode. Irv's narration, which leads to the credits and the theme, always gets me. The third and fourth season abandoned the narration device, which I used to detest, but I enjoy it now,

-Greg Berlanti & Rina Mimoun wrote the episode. Michael Schultz directed it.

-In closing, I recommend everyone watch seasons two, three, and four of Everwood. Friday Night Lights is considered the best family-drama ever made (I think). Well, I disagree because Everwood tops the list.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revenge "Pilot" Review (series premiere)

Photo credit: ABC
Revenge isn't subtle. Emily Thorne, the lead character, tells us that Revenge isn't a story about forgiveness but one about revenge. Indeed, the series deals with binaries: white (or gold) and black; fire and ice; privileged and underprivileged. The premise of the series is centuries old, made famous by French author Alexandre Dumas in his classic The Count of Monte Cristo. Emily Thorne had ten years of her life taken from her after the wealthy Graysons conspired to ruin her father's life. The Graysons implicated the man in a situation that involved the terroristic attack on a plane that claimed over 200 lives. Emily (actual name: Amanda Clarke) spent ten years in a state-run facility until her eighteenth year where she stumbled upon 49% ownership of a successful company as well as the truth about what happened to her father, so she took her money and lust for revenge to the Hamptons where those that hurt her family reside.

The pilot episode's very confident. Mike Kelley, the creator, knows his characters and their backstories well, which is refreshing from other scribes who pack in way too much information within the 42 minute run time. The Ringer pilot, for example, was bogged down by too much exposition and not enough character developments. Revenge, though, mixes the exposition and character development naturally. It helps that we learn about Emily's back story through flashbacks, and that she has a friend who plans fundraisers and parties for the families because said friend summarizes each major character in concise sentences.

Emily VanCamp's quite capable of successfully portraying this revenge-fueled woman. Critics were hesitant about the actress’s ability to play such a character because she's naturally sweet and affable in whatever role she's in; however, her character uses her sweetness and affability to disarm her neighbors into trusting her. Emily observes that revenge isn't always best served cold; sometimes it's best served in warm hot soup. The pilot opens with three gun shots and the death of Emily's fiancée, the beloved son of the Graysons. Once the body's discovered, hysteria erupts amongst the gathered guests at the party as Emily awaits the guy who shot her fiancée to answer the phone. The situation seems clear--Emily had someone shoot her fiancée as part of her vengeance, another slice of sweet, warm revenge--until we learn that the shooter's the dutiful, hard-working and wholesome Jake Porter who used be Emily's childhood sweetheart. It's the one area of grey in the pilot because Jake could've acted out of jealousy or as part of Emily's revenge. Her face betrays nothing as Victoria Grayson venomously asks what happened to her son.

The shooting won't happen for five months, though. Presumably, the first season will culminate with the hysteria of Emily's engagement party. Anyway, I mentioned binaries in the beginning. Victoria's matriarch of the Grayson family--a woman with dark hair, dark clothes, and a dark heart. Emily emerged from the state run facility with dark hair and the demeanor of Ephram Brown until she learned the truth and changed her appearance. She has flowery golden brown hair along with a lightly colored wardrobe. When the two women meet, Emily's dressed in a white and Victoria's dressed in black. The theme of the engagement party's fire and ice. Victoria personifies the metaphorical implications of ice--cold, harsh, and sharp. Emily's the quintessence of fire--able to melt away the facades of her neighbors.

We meet the people connected to Emily's past quickly. Jake Porter stills hold a torch for his childhood sweetheart, even naming a boat for her. He took care of her dog for the last decade. Lydia's co-owner of the house Emily rented, and happened to provide the devastating testimony that ruined her family's life. Nolan Ross is the tech-whiz who records video of every major event in the Hamptons and who happens to be connected to Emily in a way that's unexpected. Victoria's family includes her adulterous husband, spoiled daughter, and rebellious son (who becomes Emily's fiancée). Jake Porter's family includes his blue-collar father and mischievous brother. The former struggles to pay for his business property while the latter charms the spoiled Grayson daughter (she responds to the charm as evidenced by their skinny-dipping at the party, five months later).

Everything's insular and connected in Revenge. It's contrived but convenient. The only characters with redemptive qualities are the ones who work for a living, who struggle to earn the money that comes so easily to the privileged peoples of the Hamptons. Daniel Grayson, the future fiancée, possesses the potential to complicate Emily's desire to destroy his family because he's not snobby or spoiled like his sister nor cold-hearted and adulterous like his parents. Indeed, we learn he hurts the image of his family because he's content with lowly waitresses, which Mike Kelley uses to signify Daniel's good heart. Characters are portrayed as absolutely good or absolutely bad with no in between; however, the flash-forward suggests more complex characterizations in upcoming episodes.

There are questions unanswered such as: Why did the Graysons destroy Mr. Clarke's life? Why did Jake shoot Daniel? Why did Emily call Jake? How much does Victoria know in five months? I'm fairly interested in the answers because of the structure of the pilot. Nothing made my jaw drop but the reveals were earned. The melodrama's fairly low. I'll continue watching until the melodrama goes into overdrive because I adore Emily VanCamp and I'm interested in the story. ABC wants the show to hit with audiences because it's promoted the premiere during every commercial break. I think the show will find success because it's the kind of ABC show audiences know--soapy, dramatic, and full of beautiful people.

Revenge premieres tonight at 10PM on ABC.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ringer "She's Ruining Everything" Review

Second episodes usually succeed more often than they fail. The grunt work of the pilot's behind the creators. Second episodes usually revolve around character development. Indeed, Ringer's "She's Ruining Everything" develops its characters which makes the series slightly more watchable and enjoyable.

Bridget assumed the identity of her twin sister in the first episode after an apparent suicide-by-drowning. Bridget's on the run from the FBI because she's crucial in a case that'll put a criminal behind bars for the rest of his life; however, she perceived a lose-lose situation and took off. The wealthy, vibrant world of her sister was off-putting at first. Bridget-as-Siobhan found herself in a loveless marriage, with a step-daughter who loathes her, as well as an affair with her architect's husband. Bridged walked into a life full of broken relationships and betrayals. She treated each individual like they were glass because she had to learn about the people in Siobhan's life. Bridget assumed nothing until she knew more. Well, this episode's about the learning process.

Bridget observes more details and processes more information. Juliette, Siobhan's step-daughter, returned home hung-over from a night partying. Bridget the addict saw a younger version of herself. Juliette looked weary and sad but she's built walls around herself as high as The Wall in Westeros--800 feet tall and made of ice. Bridget reaches out but Juliette retreats, conditioned to after years sharing the same loft with Siobhan. Andrew, her husband, was an enigmatic character whose layers were peeled away in this episode. Andrew's been conditioned too--conditioned to feel worthless in his marriage. The marriage damaged his relationship with Juliette. He's not cold or cruel, just numb and conditioned. Bridget soon realizes what her brother-in-law's marriage was. Before a party, they have a nice conversation. She compliments him. He remarks that he hasn't heard such words in a long time.

Bridget's story is about rehabilitation. She wants to rehabilitate her sister's family because she knows how it feels to be abandoned by Siobhan. There are two significant flashbacks in the episode. Before Malcolm and rehab, Bridget drank until she stumbled into men and made an ass of herself at the bar. The bartender wouldn't let her drive, so she called Siobhan. Siobhan showed up with a coldness that now defines the character. Bridget sat at a table, draped over it, with heavy eyes--the look of an addict. Her twin stood over her in a symbolic frame--Siobhan looming over Bridge. Siobhan walked out on her sister, leaving several dollars to pay for the tab and a cab, and a wound that hasn't left Bridget. She won't leave Andrew and Juliette because they need her. Juliette breaks down in her arms after a bad night in which she took something she shouldn't have. She identifies with these broken individuals because she used to be broken.

While that growth and connection happens, there's a body that needs to be hidden. The problem becomes more urgent when Andrew opts to throw a party in the loft because of the space. 300 hundred people will be within feet of the corpse. The body's never a tangible threat to ruin Bridget's facade--it's just nice to rely on for act breaks. Somehow, the corpse never smells horribly. Bridget hides the body in a steamer trunk. Later on, the body mysteriously disappears. Several characters nearly find it but they don't. SMG draws in a dreadful, expectant breath only to exhale in relief every single time (it became annoying on the third and fourth time). I don't care to speculate about who took the body and what it means.

Siobhan's also alive. She's in Paris, France, and annoyed by her sister's insistence on ruining EVERYTHING.

Overall, I quite liked the character development throughout the episode. I wouldn't mind watching a series with just Bridget, Andrew, and Juliette. I don't like the nonsense with Siobhan, though, or the Henry and Gemma characters. Machado's too distant a character to matter. It's a shame because Nestor Carbonell's great. Scenes between he and SMG are terrific, so I'm hoping he learns the truth and decides to help her in some way. I don't know if I'll write about the series, though.

Rob Bailey directed the episode. The creators wrote the episode.

Hawaii Five-O "Ha'i'ole (Unbreakable)" Review

Hawaii Five-O's the rare procedural I watch weekly. The word "rare" implies that I watch procedurals regularly every once in awhile, though, which is untrue. I watched Shawn Ryan's The Chicago Code last season but never enjoyed an episode as much as I enjoyed Hawaii Five-O. I wondered why because Shawn Ryan's among the most respected and creatively talented in television. One thing unifies the many procedurals scattered across the networks: boring episodes. Many procedurals take themselves too seriously as if their episodes will solve the problems of urban crime or political corruption only for the story to resolve itself in simply with a clean confession from the suspect, so the characters can return to their complicated lives for five minutes at the end.

Hawaii Five-O is a fun procedural. Lenkov's procedural's guilty of taking itself too seriously sometimes, especially whenever Wo-Fat's involved. The history of the McGarrett family, anything involving Danny's ex-wife, and Chin Ho's history with Hawaii PD's a source of serious storytelling. I tolerate these instances of serious storytelling because they're interesting. Also, the characters are fun and will crack smiles during each episode. Five-O's different from the grim-faced fictional cops who police the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Philadelphia. There's nothing gritty about the series because of its lush Hawaii setting. Each episode begins with several seconds of helicopter footage over one of Hawaii's beautiful islands followed by a scene with banter then another scene before some crime's committed that dominates the rest of the episode until the final five minutes. Sometimes they detour and buy water ice from their buddy or a character's involved in a light-hearted B or C story.

The first season ended with the Five-O team disbanded following the murder of the governor. McGarrett went to jail because he was found with the gun that took the governor's life. Chin Ho returned to the Hawaii Police department. Kono lost her badge as part of an investigation. Danny contemplated moving to New York to be with his ex-wife and daughter. The episodes don't waste time. Within ten minutes, McGarrett escapes prison and the narrative's running at break-neck speed. Chin Ho and Danny need to clear Steve's name and implicate Wo-Fat. Joe White (Terry O'Quinn), who trained McGarrett, arrives to Honolulu to his expertise to the team. The episode moves fast. The locations change in the blink of an eye. There isn't much to write about unless I decide to write a detailed summary. The action's simply and storytelling 101: McGarrett needs to clear his name so he and the team figure out how to accomplish that goal. There are obstacles, chase scenes, and fights, but McGarrett's name's cleared after a friend of his father's leads them to a security camera in the governor's office. It's enough to clear McGarrett but not to implicate Wo-Fat in the murder.

The A story resolves the season one cliffhanger but the arc's nowhere near a resolution. Steve McGarrett's going to climb down the rabbit hole of his family's history in season two because his father used to meet with the corrupted governor and villainous Wo-Fat. Wo-Fat warned Steve about his family's shady history, which he's unable to shake from his head. I'm interested in what Steve learns about his family during the course of the second season. I'm not too interested in the continuation of Wo-Fat on the show, though, because I don't even remember when he was introduced as a big bad. Furthermore, I'm less interested in Jenna's involvement in Wo-Fat's gang. The premiere ended with that plot twist. Again, I don't remember her introduction, and I suspected she'd be more evil than good because she plopped into the show willy-nilly with some connection to Wo-Fat that eludes me. Larisa Oleynik's not a nuanced actress. The scene between her and Terry O'Quinn gave away the twist because she acted suspiciously and O'Quinn eyed her suspiciously. So, I'm not interested in the reason she double-crossed Five-O and I dread the episode when the team uncovers the truth.

Danny chose work over family. The decision bit him in the ass because Rachel's moving back in with Stan. It just so happened that Stan's the father of the baby, not Danny. The previous sentence will make no sense to anyone unfamiliar with the series. The news transformed Danny into a morose individual who only half-heartedly banters with McGarrett. The decision to move Rachel and his daughter back to Hawaii prevents any sort of age-old tension between the former couple. There won't be any guilt-trips from Rachel because he chose work over family life in New York City. Instead, there'll be more unresolved romantic feelings from both characters, which worked last season. Also, any scene involving Danny and his daughter were great. It'd be too cruel for the writers to take Danny's daughter from him.

Lenkov and his writers made good decisions during their hiatus. The conflict between Chin Ho and Danny's easily handled (said conflict stemmed from Chin Ho arresting McGarrett last season and declaring to Danny that 'Five-O's no more'). Arbitrary and unnecessary conflict doesn't happen on the show. Perhaps the writers know how tiresome it is to watch, and perhaps it's a drag for them to write. I hope the Wo-Fat storyline takes a break for several episodes because the stand-alone ones are very fun.

I'm not writing about the series weekly. I just wanted to share my thoughts about a solid CBS police procedural.


The Playboy Club "Pilot" Review

The Playboy Club could be the worst new series of the season; however, a pilot's never a clear indicator of what a show's capable of over the long-haul of the season, so Amber Heard's new show might work in the future. The pilot, though, is atrocious. The series could very well receive the TV season's first cancellation because only five million people tuned in for the Playboy period piece. I'll be surprised if the show's around in late October.

There's a great deal wrong with the series. For starters, the Nick Dalton character's supposed to be an iconic and charismatic character. Eddie Cibirion's Don-Draper rip-off entered this world with nothing but stands on the cusp of having everything--tons of money and Amber Heard. Unfortunately, he doesn't have Jon Hamm's magnetic screen presence or a Matthew Weiner script to work with. His back story is contrived and uninteresting. Years ago, he worked as a handy man in the mob (the most powerful mob in Chicago). Dalton abandoned the Family when he began working as an attorney. For three years he won case after case which put him in the position to run for state attorney. We learn that the Don possesses the power to destroy Dalton's goals or help them.

The Don of the mafia frequents the Playboy club where new bunny, Maureen (Amber Heard), just began work. She's a shy cigarette girl. Her duties are vague, so she finds herself in trouble when she abandons her duties to dance with men who ask for her hand. She dances with Dalton's former boss for several seconds until he feels her ass. Uncomfortable, she leaves him to dance with another man. Bruno, the mob boss, feels insulted, so he corners Maureen in the back room and attempts to force himself on her. Maureen resists. Dalton enters to help her but Bruno overpowers his former lackey, tries to climb on the girl, and receives the heel of her shoe in his neck, which kills him--this is the inciting incident for the A arc and it's so bad.

As I speculated, the incident draws Dalton and Maureen together. Furthermore, the incident draws Dalton back into his mob days because Maureen denied suspicion by announcing that she went home with Nick. Nick's history with the mob makes him a suspect because of the aforementioned damage Bruno could've inflicted on his career. There are scenes designed to be tense because we know Maureen and Nick hid the body; however, scenes between Nick and his old mafia friends lack the intended dramatic intensity because of weak writing and poor acting. The actors who portray various mafia characters are bland with mannerisms and inflections borrowed from any generic mafia movie while Eddie Cibriano probably hired Jon Hamm's acting coach so he could learn how to be Don Draper on NBC.

The Playboy Club aims to be a series about female empowerment. The general idea is no one but bunnies had the power to choose who they were in the 60s. Sean Maher's subplot about a secret organization designed to allow homosexuals to live as they wish is juxtaposed with the freedom of the nightclub. The political agenda of the show's been pushed in the media but no one's bought it because a show centered around playboy bunnies is the wrong platform to commentate on sexual politics, especially when it's a Hugh Hefner voice-over calling attention to the empowerment his company's given women.

I didn't like the episode at all. I loved watching Amber Heard but she can't turn a lousy pilot into a good one by herself. I have no interest in watching any more episodes or writing another word about it.


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.