Mike’s Prattle


News, TV and other ramblings

Posted by Mike on November 18, 2008

I may have finally broken into the paying market with music writing, probably just at the very point I’d given up on it. I’ve been asked to contribute to a book of essays on a particular music subject by a British book company, with a theme pretty close to my interests. I’ve done quite a bit of work for product over the years, but it’s nice to start getting some pro work on the resume and I’m excited to be part of this project. More news and specifics when things get concrete…

Oblivion is still causing my free time to disappear at an alarming rate, so I’ve had to put it away this week before I can really get to it on vacation to try and catch up on a lot of television I’ve been putting off, which means that a few shows are about to hit the bubble. The game is insane fun, but now when I go walking it’s starting to feel like I’m pointing and clicking when I’m moving, which is unnerving to say the least.

So, from Sunday to Saturday….

True Blood / HBO / Sunday (late in season 1) / B-  I was just talking to a friend at work about the Twilight phenomenon and the really resonant value of the young girl falling in love with a vampire story which seems to be extremely popular. True Blood’s similar, although it’s not young adult and benefits from its Southern milieu. There are some interesting arcs to the show and a lot of eye candy, but overall this show is missing that sort of inspiration to make it gripping viewing and I find it hard at times to be sympathetic with most of the characters, although at the same time it’s great they’re all grey and realistic. But now we’re almost to the end of the season, the increasing movement to a climax appears to be missing when it should be compelling. I think it also hurts this show that the cliffhangers are so awkward and forced, characters often put in danger when you know for sure they’re not going anywhere. The most dramatic character deaths, like the one in the latest episode, come within the story. Overall there’s a little too much style over substance with True Blood, although it still hangs on the edge of entertaining.

Entourage / HBO / Sunday (late in Season 4 (or 5?)) / B-  This season has improved a little on the last and worst Entourage season with some very memorable Ari moments (particularly poignant given his character was based on new Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s brother), but it still rambles without much of a direction and without the stronger humor it showed when it first started. There’s still something very lighthearted and fun about the whole thing which still makes it watchable, but I rarely look forward to it and barely cast an eye on the last episode, at least for now. Frankly it was a lot more fun seeing Vince on top of his game compared to him trying to make a comeback now.

Family Guy / FOX / Sunday / C+  Family Guy isn’t quite as funny as it once was, although it still hits the right note here and there and thus I’m about two weeks behind on this show as well. For the most part I think this is probably a better DVD show than a weekly watch, there’s something about watching a few eps in a row that strengthens things for me. But given it’s a bit weaker than it used to be, I’m not really in a hurry for the DVD either and I missed most of last season. The kind of show for when I have more free time.

Dexter / Showtime / Sunday (early to mid Season 3) / B  I’m also about two weeks behind on this show, but it’s one of the few bright spots this year, with Dexter’s new friend played by Jimmy Smits taking things in an interesting direction. I found the Doakes story lines in the first two seasons to be the ones I liked the least so now he’s gone, I’m finding I’m enjoying this much more.

Californication / Showtime / Sunday (Mid Season 3) / B-  Always an amusing show to some extent, this is another program that’s started to ramble a bit, with the main plotting basically being about the aftermath of the protagonist’s second attempt at a relationship not working out and thus back to his varying sexual exploits, but without the cracking writing and hijinks of the first season. I think the story works best through his rocky relationship with his daughter, which gives it a lot of emotional power, something missing where it shouldn’t be with the mother. Another program I’ve let lapse due to Oblivion and On Demand.

Chuck / NBC / Mondays (approaching Mid Season 2) /B++  Chuck’s one of the best shows on television right now, each episode improving considerably on the last with a very likeable cast of characters, lots of romantic tension, humor and, finally, a move to more original plotting. It’s one of the best escapist shows on the air, combining the spy genre and lots of geeky references (including one to Vogon poetry last night, from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Nothing terribly serious, just a lot of completely crazy fun with some great riffs on love and friendship. The way this is going it could be a classic by the end of the season. At this point it’s no wonder why NBC picked it up for the full run not long after the season started to air. One I hope finds more of an audience as it goes, it’s far preferable to its follow up. It’s one of the few in this post I never miss.

Heroes / NBC / Mondays (Approaching mid Season 3) / C-  Heroes is a freakin mess, in plotting and characterization, a show of dozens of characters, very few of them likeable or sympathetic. This was further hurt by a time travel thread that shows what were basically good characters as villains in the future and vice versa, making it really difficult to see an agenda on anyone’s part. It’s impossible to believe any of the drama, if someone gets knocked off, someone’s super power kicks in. I asked myself, why do I care? I really don’t, so it’s unlikely, now two weeks behind, I’ll return to this mess. In the last two seasons even the creator admits it’s a mess, but I can track the problems back to the first season. I don’t think I can take superhero stuff anymore. I mean is everyone really a Petrelli in the end?

House / FOX / Tuesdays (Early in Season 5) / B-  As long as Hugh Laurie is the lead in this one, I don’t think I’ll ever stop watching, he’s good enough to elevate even some of the most mediocre of plots and despite the procedural elements being fairly tedious this year, House’s relationships with Cuddy and Wilson are promising some good drama down the line. Overall this is a great show in a mediocre season so far, but it’s still better than a lot of what’s on.

Fringe / FOX / Tuesdays (Mid Season 1) / B-  The Abrams skill at the overall series arc hints and method behind the madness is keeping me with this show, particularly the episode with the weird bald guy who shows up at bizarre moments and seems to know the older scientist character. All of this is fascinating to me, despite some of the acting being subpar at times on the part of the two younger leads (Noble and Reddick, by contrast, are always great). I’m surprised how gory this show is at times, but also at how innovative some of the themes are in particular episodes. I find it a little hard to pay attention to, but when I can it tends to pay off.

The Shield / FX / Tuesdays (Two episodes left) / B  Closing the books on one of the great cop shows, while The Shield isn’t quite as good as it was during the early seasons and #5, now that we’re in the endgame it’s utterly fascinating to watch and thus recovering from a slow early Season 7 start. It’s hard to say much at this point, given this is a series I’d highly recommend just watching and how important the very first episode of the show still is. Bad cop vs good cop basically with the families being dragged down in the proces.

Bones / FOX / Wednesday / C  I think this one’s dropping about as low as Heroes for me, although I don’t dislike it at all, it’s just that the show is so procedural and episode to episode this year that the larger arcs that kept me interested seem to be at a bare minimum, thus the show never compels me to watch or pay attention. Probably one I’ll have to drop given competing interests now. There’s something about the way TV is structured that makes it difficult not to guess who the murderer is 15-20 minutes into the episode, it’s almost always the person they’re trying to deflect your attention away from.

South Park / Comedy Central / Wednesdays / B – This last half of I think the show’s 12th season has improved a little for me on the last few seasons with a few stand out episodes like the one following the Obama victory in Oceans 11 style. That’s one thing I like about this show, if it dives a few weeks, they’ll always come up with a great one around the corner that restores your faith in the show. Always risky, dangerous and hilarious, and Wendy thrashing Cartman this year was a big highlight.

The Office / NBC / Thursdays / B  This show has been particularly funny this year, improving on its formula with the addition of Amy Ryan for the early arc as Michael’s new girlfriend. The ongoing feud over Angela is hysterical, especially when Dwight comes in wearing Cornell U shirts and the like. I’ve missed the last episode or two like nearly every show this year, but it’s definitely one I’m still digging, fulfilling the promise of the great British show in a totally different manner. 30 Rock that follows, I’m also interested in but haven’t paid much attention to an episode yet.

Life on Mars / ABC / Thursdays / B  Life on Mars is turning out to be a very successful remake of a British show and this is coming from someone who thinks the original is a stone cold, nearly perfect classic. In fact there have been at least 2-3 episodes that are almost identical to the British counterpart, only changing what was necessary to move the milieu to New York. Keitel was inspired casting given how difficult the Gene Hunt role was to fill and the lead’s turning out to be likeable as well as good work from Imperioli and Mol. This one’s surpassing all my expectations at this point, especially when you consider that they had to revamp this thing in a major way before it went on air.

Real Time with Bill Maher / HBO / Season finished / B  Maher would make a great chat at some point, I almost always agree with him and am impressed at his bravery to say the things that need to be said about religion and the like. I’m not always impressed with his panel of guests though, there’s ususally some celebrity like Ashton Kutcher who’s views on politics I could care less about and often some tedious right or left idealogue who seems to be there to generate controversy. But while Maher gets to talk, I’m almost always happy to listen.

Legend of the Seeker / Syndication / Saturdays / D  I read the first so many Terry Goodkind books a while back that inspired this show, but gave up when I got tired of epic fantasy and the heightened and cheesy angst over the constant splitting up and reuiniting of Richard and Kahlan. Watching this show has made me wonder if the books were worse that I remembered them, as this sort of post Hercules/Xena reduction of the style into fantasy cliches seems to have identified and magnified their weaknesses. Removing the darkness and violence of the original series leaves this nothing but a cliche fantasy series whose only bright spot is looking at Bridget Regan, but the occasional California-like eye rolling breaks her character too much for me. Three strikes and I’m out on this one. I mean you seriously have us believe that living from camp to camp you’re still going to be wearing cheesy white cloaks that show up the cleavage? And that running pell mell through the woods in a long skirt isn’t going to make you trip and go flying? And the guy playing Zed, while not bad, has turned the character into something a lot more cookie cutter than I rmemeber.

I’m also intermittently keeping up with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow show, although with the latter two I haven’t had the time to do so. All ebb and flow depending on the news, but in particular I’m surprised how often The Daily Show just nails it.


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