Monday, August 26, 2013

What I'm Watching: Summer is Ending!

I need to commit to doing more writing.  As I type this I’m nearly to the end of August and most of what I’ve done this year is start writing projects I haven’t finished, with the only thing getting done are these blogs… which happen almost never.


Recently, I tried to work on a short story and discovered that my brain can just barely put words together.  I know what I want to accomplish but the actual act of typing has gotten hard.  This has to do with atrophy of the creative muscle, I fear.


I’d go into why, but, eh.  Let’s not.  Instead, let us talk about the fact that summer is almost over.  School is starting.  Fall is arriving.  And somewhere in September, all the shows that went off the air last spring are finally going to come back and, you know, entertain us.


Unless it’s Revolution, in which case, it’s mostly about frustration and shame.  (Oh, but I kid.  Unless it actually turns out that way.  In which case, bleah.)


At the start of summer I sat down and started scribbling the names of all the shows that my wife and I needed to roll through this summer, including the shows we hadn’t gotten to, shows we wanted to see but hadn’t gotten our hands on yet, and much to my surprise, we’re getting pretty close to the end of that list.


The only thing we haven’t gotten to yet is Lost, and we almost started it yesterday, except we didn’t because, you know, it’s Lost, and avoiding actually getting back to the show is what we do.


We will get there, and I suspect we’ll get through the end of season five or so before TV starts in earnest.  And we may even make it to the end, because some of our shows (Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries) won’t actually return until October, and Glee that that huge gap in the middle…


Anyway, we didn’t watch Lost last night.  Instead, we watched…




We haven’t gotten all that far into the show, but to be honest there’s not much show to get into.  It’s run for two years so far, and up to this point there’s been a grand total of six episodes.


Now, granted, they’re about 90 minutes each, so they’ve basically made six TV movies.


I need to add here that I’ve been pushing to watch the show for a while, and the only reason we’re just getting to it now is because my wife has resisted the show.  I suspect she feared it would be gory, though she never came out and said it.  She’s also not really a huge mystery fan, but…


Well, okay, the show has mysteries in it, and that’s good, but what’s selling this show to people in a big way are the two leads, both presented with excellent character material who not only rise to the occasion, but surpass it.


I’m not going to say too much else about it until I’ve gone through the back five episodes, and realistically that shouldn’t take us more than a week or so.  Suffice to say that even though I haven’t finished series 1 and 2, I’m very happy that series three is on the way.


Being Human


Sticking with the UK theme, after a long pause I finally wrapped up the final series of the UK version of Being Human. 


And I hate to say it, but realistically the show might have ended at just the right time. 


It’s not that the show was bad, but it was clear that the BBC didn’t have much of an interest in the show anymore.  I base this on the fact that the apocalypse featured almost no people, and the cast spent much of the series sitting in the same sets week upon week.  The Beeb has always been thrifty, but this is the first time I felt it so keenly on Being Human.


And there were other issues as well.  After being granted a mere six episode run, the main characters weren’t even aware they were in a fight with another enemy until the last episode, which felt… underwhelming.


Here comes the “and yet…”


In the center of the last episode each character is “granted” a wish.  Now, all of these actors are pretty new to the show, all of them having arrived during the previous series for a few episodes, and now having taken over for the original cast.


And they were all, to a one, brilliant in these sequences.  They were funny, and heartbreaking, and despite the fact that they’ve been wholly together as a cast for less than six hours, I really FELT those moments.  These guys were given good material, yes, but they all dove deep and they brought it to another level.


Up to that point, I had thought I would be fine with the show coming to an end.  But I realized then that, no, I wasn’t really.


Because I didn’t care about the plot.  Yeah, I’d enjoyed the machinations of the earlier episodes, the way they twisted around and put the characters into real danger, but really now, I just wanted to watch a show where these three people hung out.


That would have been fine.


So my hat goes off to everyone on the show, for cruising through five series and a mere 37 episodes, and making us care about a handful of characters in ways that shows like Heroes and Revolution simply don’t.


And a final bit of applause for the ending, which lets you choose whether everyone had a happy end, or a sad one.


(Hint: It’s a sad one, but you can live in ignorance if you like.  Really.  It’s fine.)


Whose Line Is It Anyway?


You know what amazes me?  Between the various incarnations and itinerations of Whose Line, there are more than 400 episodes of show, when you slap in all the spin-offs, add-ins, and various other side projects that decided to do what this show does.


Heck, even if you take all the episodes under the official title, you’re looking at more than 350 episodes of STUFF that has poured out of the performers.


And now it’s back, and it’s on the CW and… well, it’s just as good as it ever was.  Which is to say, out of 22 minutes, you probably get ten great minutes, and twelve that won’t make you change the channel.


But when you put that up against any other standard sitcom on the air, it probably puts it in the top 5% of shows through history.


The big complaint this season has been that they keep bringing in special guest stars but… eh.  I guess people have forgotten that they used to bring audience members who were just about as funny as the so-called stars.  And at least the semi-famous people seem to be having fun, and haven’t actively harmed the show.


All in all, I’m happy to see the show back, and I wish it a continued long life.  600 episodes or bust…


Under the Dome


And then there’s this show, which…




Okay, so they had three things going for them.  Four, really.  Stephen King wrote the novel, and I’ve been a fan of his for probably 25 years.  Which is freaky.


On top of that, the novel was really quite good, which is more than you can say for some of King’s efforts.


Then they got Brian K. Vaughn to adapt it for TV.  Dude is talented.  Way talented.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work, and even dug his episodes on Lost, regardless of the general quality of that show.


Finally, Steven Spielberg also has a hand in the show.


And?  And?


And man, I just so much want to like this show more than I do.


I’ve emailed back and forth with some friends in an effort to figure out why I just can’t love this show, and the theories have wandered from the mostly-uninspired acting to the ho-hum direction.


One of the bigger issues?  Much like every other sci-fi show that takes too long to find its feet, the show is all too often a monster of the week extravaganza.  There’s no water!  There’s no food!  We need insulin!




The thing of it is, the show is doing really, really well ratings-wise, and is getting another season.  Which, you know, good for them.


But if they’re going to make this show work, I really think it needs to go one of two ways.


Probably the easiest way is to make the characters more interesting.  For the most part, it feels like they have occupations, but no real lives.  They don’t feel human, or rather they don’t feel human enough.  They spout dialogue, but it rarely illuminates character and mostly tells us stuff we already know, so we don’t forget about it.


Granted, a lot of shows have stock characters, but these don’t even feel stock.  They feel like a bunch of generic people telling each other what’s happening week by week.


The other option is, if you’re forgive the expression, to just plain up the crazy. 


Last week we finally got a few decent plot twists, as we found out just a little more about the dome and the mini-dome.


But we don’t need one plot twist.  Or two.  We need ten.  We need these people screaming through plot, chewing it up faster than the human mind can handle.  With only thirteen episodes, they should be able to create 22 episodes of story and cram it into a 13 story sack.


Or, you know, hire some of the staff of the Vampire Diaries…


I suppose the good news is that now they’ve got some time to really plan out the second season and make everything better.  But I question whether the critics have been hard enough on the show to warrant them making any improvements.


Here’s hoping.





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