Sunday, October 7, 2012

TV Fall 2012 reviews so far

With the NHL lockout and a lot of new time on my hands, I've decided to reconnect with an old friend of mine: television. It hasn't been an altogether smooth experience. Let's begin with a few observations:

The Outdoor Life Network OLN: do any of these shows take place outside anymore? What's with the people fighting over storage space? How does this qualify as outdoorsy? Wasn't this network famous for hunting, fishing and other outdoor manly type ventures that you could ironically watch from the comfort of your own home?

The History Channel: does anything on this channel occur in the past? Because that's traditionally where history is placed. This channel took a lot of flack for being the 'Hitler Channel' because it used to play Nazi documentaries ad nauseum, which was a great ratings grabber, but something of a narrow view on history. It appears that the channel has decided to do away with this altogether and go straight to shows that look like they should be on OLN: trucking, commercial fishing, dangerous professions. The new motto is that History will be made. But the point is that history HAS been made and generally, a network entirely devoted to history should focus on the past.

The Learning Channel (TLC): it seems like this channel exists so that it can 'learn ya'. And not in the strictest educational sense, or else the educational system is in way more trouble than I initially feared. The home network of reality series on polygamists, Amish, unusually large families and midgets is maybe learning us something but the lesson always seems to be that people can be pretty different yet the same. Unfortunately, the sameness has less to do with the good things we're capable of and more with our pettiness and silliness. And if anyone thinks that Honey Boo Boo is here to learn us something good, I think I hear the hoofs of one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse approaching- or at least I hope.

Ok, so tv has gotten a little weird. Some of their channels are a bit less than perfectly named. There are a ton of maudlin new shows on the air which likely won't last more than a season because their silly weak premises are all things that we've seen before, cheeky doctors who can't manage their personal lives, sexy dramas about people in dangerous professions and dysfunctional sweet families. Yawn. But there are a few worth watching in all this:

Person of Interest (this is a must-see): This compelling drama asks many philosophical and moral questions about security, surveillance and vigilante justice. It also probes into fundamental questions about human nature, like our inherent goodness or badness, and the secret around 'the machine' is worthy of any sci-fi enthusiast's half-skewed vision of a bleak future. The machine has almost become a character in this series, opening it up to more questions. It also features a fair amount of ass-kicking from a man in a suit. The only possible flaw in this series is that it over-promises and under-delivers, something it has been able to avoid so far, but could be a potential pitfall in the future.

Elementary: the frenetic energy of the new Sherlock Holmes makes his brilliant deductions irritating and fascinating all at the same time. Arrogant, insensitive and utterly devoted to finding out the truth, the audience is thankful to have the calm female Watson on the scene. The costume choices for the new Watson seem absolutely determined to remove Lucy Liu's former sex bomb status by disguising her as one of New York City's bag ladies. No matter. It works and the tension/chemistry of the two main characters which has always been played on between two male leads is promising with one male and a female- but we expect things to stay platonic, just the same.

Vegas: Anyone who's enjoyed watching John Wayne films with dad is going to like this series. The mix of cowboys and gangsters is irresistible and fun to watch. The feel of the era is a little all over the place. It claims to be 1960s, but some of those gangsters look more 1930s and those kitschy showgirls aren't helping any. There aren't a lot of surprises and you will probably find yourself calling everyone a wise guy afterwards, but you could do a whole lot worse.

666 Park Avenue: It's interesting, but there are many potential pitfalls in this show. The naive young couple who moves into the Drake Hotel to become full-time live-in concierges are entirely uninteresting, so the audience gets to watch interesting things happen to them. The young woman's boundless curiosity is seemingly never counterbalanced by a healthy fear for her life as she explores the mysteries of the world's creepiest laundry room. The basement lit by a single light bulb on a string is usually fair warning that something horrific is about to happen. And horrific, unexplainable things do happen in this show. The potential pitfall of this show will happen if they try too hard to explain everything. There's a supernatural quality to this show that appears more kitschy than fascinating at times, yet works because of the creepy authority of Terry O'Quinn. But remember, even he couldn't save Lost.

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