Ah, TV season. Just when I was starting to become more productive with my time, a new season of TV shows have started. I’ve actually been watching quite a range of shows at the moment. From the latest seasons of existing shows that I know and love to pilot episodes of brand new programmes to stuff like The Wire which I missed out on when it first went to air a few years back.
In no particular order, lets talk TV.
The Wire Season 4
I’m only saying whats already been said a thousand times before but man, The Wire is such a great show and this season, which introduces us to four middleschool kids growing up in West Baltimore, is particularly brilliant. The opening scene of the season in which the homicidal Snoop buys a powertool from a hardware store clerk perfectly sets the tone for whats to come. Snoop is terrifying, 100% believable and also about 40% unintelligible. I must admit, a good chunk of the actual dialogue that the characters use in this show goes sailing right over my head. I kind of like it that way though.
When I was told by a few people that this was one of the most depressing seasons in the series, I was anticipating a gruesome end for one of the four boys. There’s actually a lot more to it than that. Whats heartbreaking is to see the boys go through some incredibly shitty parenting, being let down by people in authority and gradually succumbing to a life that is in some way affected by the drug trade. I thought the journey that Michael goes through from starting out as a well-meaning older brother and diligent student to becoming a full fledged gangster paralleled nicely with his friend Namond who starts out full of bluster and is attracted to the glamourized ideal of being a gangster only to find he doesn’t actually have the stomach for the real deal.
Only one season left to watch. I might put off watching it for a few weeks. I don’t really want it to end.
Survivor: Nicaragua, Season Twenty One
I must admit, as much as I love this shows willingness to seriously mess around with the casting and run with some interesting gimmicks, I’m not really feeling the Young (under 30s) vs Old (over 40s) format they’ve chosen this season. I think I have a bit of a prejudice against the older cast members as there is a limit to what they can do with the physical challenges on the show. That said, its early days yet and it may yet turn out to be a good season. No one immediately stands out in a Coach Wade or Russell Hantz fashion but then I think after the last two seasons, that was probably a conscious casting choice by the producers. I noticed that after going through a lull and being off the pop culture radar for quite some time, Russell brought Survivor back into the mainstream. I’m surprised at the number of people who know who he is and have started rewatching the show because of his antics during the Heroes vs Villains season.
Modern Family, Season Two
I was a little late to discovering Modern Family. I only caught up on the first season after a recommendation from a friend. Can you blame me though? Look at this promo picture. The concept of the show sounds awful on paper. A sitcom about three families: a nuclear family, a gay couple and a Columbian woman married to an old guy. And yet its actually become one of my favourite shows in years. The topics are pretty standard family sitcom fair but it is the sharpness of the writing and the earnest delivery given by the cast that give this show its appeal. It is almost completely devoid of any antagonists. Its sweet natured and usually has a moralising monologue delivered at the end of the episode. It reminds me of the first three or four seasons of The Simpsons when Homer was still written as a character who wanted to be a loving father and not someone who was wilfully stupid and destructive.
Also, its nice seeing Al Bundy getting work again and Sophie Vergara is absolutely smokin’.
Party Down, Season Two
I started watching this show based on some recommendations from Mike and Munch. Party Down is a short lived program, first directed by Fred Savage, about a catering company filled mostly with aspiring actors. Each episode is located at a different function (corporate event, funeral, birthday party etc). For everything that I like about Modern Family being sweet natured and optimistic, Party Down is the very antithesis of that show. Taking full advantage of airing on a cable tv network, the show has a pitch black sense of humour and is loaded with vulgarity and nudity. It also has appearances from almost the entire cast of the excellent Veronica Mars. I’m about halfway through the second and final season and have thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Mundane trivia: I watched ten episodes of this show in a row on a long flight from Hong Kong to Dubai. Its a very easy show to watch.
Glee, Season Two
Its amazing to see how this show has blown up in popularity. Given that it came from the creator of Nip/Tuck, I certainly didn’t see its mainstream popularity coming. Whether intentional or not, the show felt like it started from the idea of doing a musical tv adaptation of the film Election. From there it went from strength to strength in its initial ten episodes, but after a midseason break, the show seemed to waver a bit in its direction as I guess Ryan Murphy had to find the right balance between showtunes, Eighties pop songs and the contemporary music that the audience was looking for. I felt he found his footing though and finished the first season with a very strong final episode.
Perhaps unfairly, I was a bit worried that the second season of Glee would ‘do a Heroes‘ and have a nosedive in quality for the second season but after watching the first episode, I’m confident we’re in for awesome ride. This show is such a weird unholy mix of musical, high school comedy and drama.
The Event, pilot episode
Even before Lost had finished its final season, producers were already looking for The Next Lost. Even though Lost squandered a lot of its popularity by the sixth season, the idea of capturing a massive tv audience with a serialized show that has people talking at the watercooler about a captivating mystery is a nice thing for producers to aspire to. If V, Flash Forward and The Event are any indication, it will also give us a smorgasboard of horrifically shitty short-lived tv shows for years to come.
Here is a simplified version of why I believe Lost was so popular: it was an intriguing mystery that unfolded very slowly, had movie-quality production values and captivating characters.
Based on the pilot, here’s what I believe the producers of The Event are going for: a patchwork hodgepodge of action scenes aimed at people who have attention deficit disorder.
Here’s a quick recap of the first episode. Bare in mind all this happens in forty minutes. For full effect, read this text at the same speed as that guy from the Old Spice commercial:
People running for their lives!!!! A guy hijacks a plane! Now he’s asking someone’s permission to marry their daughter! Someone drives the wrong way through traffic! He’s warning the airport not to let the plane take off! Too late! He races his car next to the plane! Here’s a sexy girl in a bikini! Now here’s a guy proposing to his girlfriend! No, wait! He doesn’t do it because he jumps off a cliff to save a girl from drowning! Here’s a sex scene for you! Now look at a guy hijacking a plane! Now here’s a Hispanic version of Barrack Obama! Oh my god he found out about a secret government conspiracy about aliens! Check out this secret military base in Alaska! In a family home an intruder abducts a child! Sexy snorkelling girl! Oh man, now a guy on a cruiseship has lost his girlfriend! The staff are pretending she never existed, so freaky! Several of the main characters have some back and forth banter where you find out a little bit more about them! A hijacked plane is about to land on Barrack Obama! Thanks for tuning in, we’ll see you next week!
Seriously, what the hell was that.
There was enough material in there to last two seasons. And I was lying about one thing. There isn’t a single scene where you are given any opportunity to learn about the characters or why you should care about them. All it is is a bunch of people reacting to ‘events’ that would typically be the climactic moment of any other show. Perhaps that is intended to be the gimmick for the show? Maybe the first season will be one hundred episodes long, each one with a similar volume of content. Maybe the next episode could have some dinosaurs, ninety two love interests, a recreation of the firebombing of Dresden and a car wash music video montage in it. I’ve never watched a show before where it is so apparent that the producers are terrified of you changing the channel. I mean in one episode, they managed to include a week’s worth of content from News.com.au. It has stuff blowing up, cheap titillation, fear of illegal aliens, fear of child abduction and no substance.
This is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen.