Friday, September 28, 2012

Idiot Box

Ok, so it's big premier week on television, and I happen to be sick this week, thus I have nothing better to do...

What the hell, let's review the new shows Mel and I have seen so far this season.

First off, the new shows that have actually premiered so far and that we've seen


Monday:

Revolution
The Mob Doctor

Tuesday:

Go On
The New Normal
Vegas


Wednesday:

Guys with Kids


Thursday:

Last Resort
Elementary

None of the new shows for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday have premiered yet.

666 Park Avenue premieres this coming Sunday, and looks possibly interesting, but the early reviews are pretty bad. The cast and writers are good, so it may improve over the pilot (also I've been in the building it's based in... and it's quite creepy, and has an interesting history).

So, the ones we actually HAVE seen...

Sitcoms:

Go On:

Funny, so far well written (four episodes in), very good performances in a strong overall cast. Particularly good performance on the part of Matthew Perry but he's playing the same basic Sorkinesque character he's BEEN playing over and over again since his guest shots on "The West Wing" (including in "Studio 60" and "Mr. Sunshine"). That character has been entirely unsuccessful in getting over with audiences. The showrunner of the show was a senior writer on Friends, so perhaps he'll have more success

The New Normal:

So far adorable, screwed up, quirky, funny, cute... It's got a very gay sensibility, which since it's created and written by gay men, about two gay men and the straight women in their lives... So far we like it, but I doubt it's going to work overall. Ellen Barkin is... Memorable... It's actually very sweet, and has a lot of heart, but it may just be too contrived.

Guys With Kids:

I wanted to like it... I love the cast, and the writers SHOULD be good... But it just isn't. The concept should work, but the writing is so cliched, so tropish, so plastic and obvious... It's just bad.


Drama:


Last Resort:

I'm going to do a full review on this one tomorrow. It's... interesting...


The Mob Doctor:

So bad I think it's already been unofficially canceled. Watched five minutes of it and deleted it. Some of the worst TV I've seen in years. I can tell you what the pitch was "It's Greys Anatomy meets The Sopranos, but sexier, and funnier".... It isn't. Any of that. At all.


Vegas:

I am cautiously optimistic. The performances were very good, the cast is beyond excellent, the writing so far is good; but the pilot wasn't quite there yet.

For one thing, it's supposedly set in Vegas in 1960, but the cars and motorcycles used in production vary all the way up into the 80s (several of the Harleys were 80s or 90s models. I clearly saw a '67 gto, most of the vehicles were '62 through '65 models), some of the fashions were mid 60s etc...

The fact is, "Mad Men" has set a new and very high standard for period accuracy, and every period show is going to be judged against that.

That said, Dennis Quaid is great, Michael Chiklis (the few minutes he had in the pilot) was very good, and the supporting cast is excellent. The potential for these characters is huge.

I'm hoping that the full series pickup will do better on production design, and the writing will relax a bit into the characters and plot lines. The potential is definitely there.


Elementary:

GREAT performance by Johnny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu hasn't had a chance to show much here yet but there's potential there. In general, great cast, sharp writing so far, but kinda hollow... I'm hoping that's just the nature of the pilot beast, having to jump in and sell the program on that first few minutes. It's definitely a "watch it for now, see how it works".

Definitely NOT as good as BBCs "Sherlock", but it's an entirely different format, concept etc... So it's not really fair to make the comparison. Also, "Sherlock" is some of the best TV ever made, and probably the best interpretation of Holmes on any screen large or small (even better than the 80s Jeremy Brett incarnation, and that's really saying something); certainly the best modernization of Holmes ever. It's available on Netflix now, and you should watch it if you haven't yet.



Revolution:

I saved this one for last for a reason...

Wow... I didn't realize they let stuff this bad on network TV anymore.

Seriously, they actually PAID someone to write this?

S.M. Stirling already wrote this... and he wrote it a HELL of a lot better than this piece of crap.

I mean... Someone with SOME knowledge of basic physics had to have read this script at some point and said something to someone about how bad it was....

Three ways to deal with this sort of thing in fiction:

  1. Handwave it away as "no-one know why the big thing happened. Some people say it was aliens, some say it was the hand of god, some say the hubris of man... I don't know, I just know we're here". From there, either never speak of it again, or make finding out a core part of the story (which inevitably leads to 2 or 3)
  2. Handwave it away as implied (subtly or otherwise) fantastic causes. Aliens, magic, etc... Thus opening yourself to a universe that follows different rules than the ones we currently understand. Then, as with 1, never speak of it again, or make it a core part of the story.
  3. Come up with a realistic, plausible, and physically possible but extremely unlikely explanation. Has to ACTUALLY be theoretically possible, and plausible enough that it might, even one in a billion, happen. 

They choose to not do any of these things, but try to blend them all... only... not really... Basically there's no internal consistency, no plausibility, and yet no idea that its "just magic" or "just aliens" etc... Thus there is NO immersion or suspension of disbelief.

Take "Lost", "Terra Nova" and "Jericho", mash them together, and make them make even LESS sense with LESS consistency, and there you go.

 A very important note: No matter what you choose to do in your fictional universe, it must be INTERNALLY consistent. Your universe has rules, even if they are not the rules we understand, and it has to follow them. If for some reason it appears not to, then you have to have a plausible explanation why; even if that explanation is "the aliens were pretending it was the other way, but that didn't work so they stopped pretending and now it works this way"; so long as it's internally consistent, you don't break immersion. When you break the universe, in an internally inconsistent way, you instantly break all immersion and relation that your audience has to that universe; particularly if you do it because you wrote yourself into a corner, or because it's plot convenient. Witness "lost".

This particular comic says much of what I would otherwise be ranting:








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