Thursday, 30 September 2010

New TV 2010 - The Mega Review Part 2

The Event - NBC

Television networks love starting high concept sci-fi shows, with their over-arching mysteries and season long plots. This time last year, FlashForward was being touted as having a four year plan, and complex shady characters. It was dead by February. Starting these shows is fun... just give them a fancy pilot and a neat concept. But then it hit FlashForward... characters sat about being unpleasant and repetitively inactive. Real people stop watching. The show died, and nobody shed a tear. And now, a year later, we have a new high concept sci-fi mystery show. And The Event sure does have a fancy pilot.

The Event makes a fancy debut. The idea is that an ordinary (read: bland) young man is going on holiday with his ordinary (read: hot) girlfriend, and then a short while later, he is on a plane, with a gun. We don’t see what happened between these two scenes, and are meant to wonder – what did happen between these events? What is going on? Who even is he?

The Event looks like it would be a decent sci-fi story if told by an omnipotent, reliable narrator in chronological order. I know those were a lot of big words, so I will put it simple: this is a show which is told out of order, and by deliberately missing things out in order to create tension. Not knowing what is going on seems key to all the tension. Did you like it on Lost when Locke would say “come with me” and no-one would bother to ask “why?” or “where?” Well, this is that, but constantly. No-one tells anyone what is going on, and we are not told what is going on. And y’know what – I loved it. This was a good debut.

As a show, I will want to watch it next week, to see what is going on. It was the first pilot show of the year which left me with questions for next week. But my advice is to wait. Don’t bother watching the show until next summer. See what people make of it – see if it gets good. It should. And if it does, enjoy. But there is a decent chance it will fail, and it is not worth expending your precious time on a sinking ship.

Added to that, truth be told, this show is coming a tad too soon after Lost. That finale hurt me. That finale did not just ruin Lost, it killed any desire I may have to get invested in a sci-fi mystery show, only to finally have them pull out the most obvious answer, even after swearing for years that was not the answer, and undermining it for six years so that it makes no goddamn sense in the mythology of the show. The Event wants to be the lovechild of Lost and 24, fine, but that comes with baggage.

So here I say it – The Event is Aliens. It is all Aliens.

Mike & Molly – CBS

This is the most boringly average sitcom anyone has ever decided to make. Mike is an obese policeman. I don’t normally define people by their weight, but here it is everything about him. Every word, every action, every single thing, is based upon him being fat. And there is a girl, Molly, who is fat. She likes cake and has difficulty on the stairmaster. They meet at a weightwatchers meeting, and looks set to begin the most average romcom ever. But with the twist that they are fat.

There were a couple of jokes, and Mike & Molly seem like they could be interesting, maybe even funny, people, if only they would stop spending all of their time obsessing over how they are fat. I can see that! It is pretty obvious! You don’t need to keep reminding me, in case I forget!

If you feel like watching this show you need to reconsider your life.

$#*! My Dad Says - CBS

This is another CBS three camera sitcom, filmed in front of a live studio audience, but this has William Shatner as the father to his now adult children, who he is trying to reconnect to. There are funny sitcoms, filmed as though they were made twenty years ago, and they mostly were made twenty years ago. This is not a funny show. Every joke feels like it was flat packed from Ikea, and after dragging out the construction of each one as only The Shat can do, the actors stare into each other’s souls, whist waiting for the audience to stop having a fit laughing at their average zingers and put-downs. It is a painfully average show which will be dead by Christmas. But then that is what people have been hoping would happen to Two And A Half Men, and that is a CBS sitcom which is somehow still breathing.

If you really feel the need for an average sitcom about failing at being a dad and old age, then I can’t advise against this. It was slightly funnier that Mike & Molly, to its credit, but it was so heartless, so soulless, that it really doesn’t deserve your valuable time.

Lone Star - FOX

This is the best hour of television that the last few weeks have given me. It was amazing.

The concept is harder to explain, so please forgive me when I mess it up. Robert Allen is a career con man, who has been working with his dad on a long con, trying to get into the family that runs a big oil company. He has been doing this by marrying the daughter. At the same time, he has fallen in love with girl, living in a town which he conned into buying bad stock. He is trying to keep himself working between both of these lives, “trying to live in his own house of cards” and all the while, trying to figure out who he is and who he wants to be. Now, trust me when I say that this is the second time I am writing this, as my first attempt was three times as long and four times as confusing. Both of these lives, his cons and his dad and himself, they are all filled with real, rich characters, and with the potential for drama and excitement.

It is shot beautifully. There are a huge number of subtle things and subtle scene that tell you who each character is, and why they matter. I have never before seen such incredible use of time to give such a stong feeling for who these people are, and yet I never felt over whelmed.

If I keep going it will sound like gushing, so I had better the problems out of the way now. Becuase there are so many characters introduced, the two women in Robert’s never get a chance to do much. But the bigger problem is that many people will be turned off by what Bob does. He is a con-man, who lies and steals from people, and lies and cheats on the women he loves. That alone will turn some people off. But the biggest problem for me is that this show reeks of being in trouble right from the start. It has been given a terrible timeslot, and has been given almost no advertising. (This is par for the course for a truly good show on Fox.) Partially, I guess that is because it took me almost two-hundred words to sum it up in basic terms, and I left out a whole bunch. And it doesn’t exactly have a name that sells itself, like The Event.

But even if this show doesn’t make it to next year, I cannot wait for next week. This was the best hour of drama so far, and you really don’t want to miss it.

No Ordinary Family - ABC

This is another of the big budget new shows to air, one of the ones with a high concept premise, and recognisable faces in the lead roles. Michael Chiklis, from The Shield, and Julie Benz, who was Rita on Dexter, are the parents in an ordinary American suburban family. They have two teenage kids, (who are both paint-by-numbers nothings in this first episode), and decide to take a family holiday. There is an incident. They get superpowers.

The Dad, and I am going to have to call them by their roles as I can’t remember any of them being called by their names in the entire pilot, becomes Superman as he was in the 1930s. Y’know, he can leap over a building but can’t fly, and can catch a bullet but isn’t bullet-proof. He is also depressed about being a stay-at-home dad with a part time job helping the police. His wife, who is a very successful career scientist, with a speciality that is never made clear, can run really fast. Because it is a metaphor for how she lives her life running through everything, as she repeatedly reminds us. While brooding. The two kids don’t get to do much, and their abilities don’t start to come through until the end, so I will leave that surprise for you. The only problem I had was that they are all so... depressing. I get that these people need to be flawed is they are to have character arcs, and y’know, grow as people. Perfect people are boring, we can all relate to that. But don’t be so depressed all the time. Stop complaining about your lives all the time. It gets very boring, very quick. Thanks in advance.

There is a hint of a conspiracy, which I predict to be painfully dull, and the possibility for monster-of-the-week averageness to be combined with family melodrama. So that is the usual. This family is like watching The Incredibles, but with none of their charm. (The show throws a couple of The Incredibles references up for you, if you keep your eyes open.) Most of all, it looks like a decent show. It doesn’t have the darkness, or the heart of the first season of heroes, but like it could be its own thing. It could be a show about family, who can do superhero things, and it gives the impression of being something I want to watch, not just of being something I feel like I should want to watch.

P.S – I had barely finished writing this when news broke that Lone Star has been cancelled! After two (critically acclaimed by the way) episodes! Seriously, people, what gives? All of you should still watch it, says I, because it really was that good. Looks like I will be crying myself to sleep tonight. Good bye, Lone Star.

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