TV Round-Up: Oh, The Dramas

28 May

Last post from the end-of-the-season TV round-up, this one’s for the hour-long drama-type shows. There were thankfully only a few of these, and I found myself getting behind on some of them and then gradually catching up.

LOST was pretty much the only sci-fi drama I enjoyed this year, as I lost track of both Fringe and V a few episodes back. Fringe seems to have gotten stronger in the second half of this season, and I’ve seen plenty of reports online that confirm that, but all the same something about the dourness of its vibe keeps me from ever getting too excited about it. V, on the other hand, has goofy and cool source material and a decent cast (especially the already-praised-enough-on-this-blog Elizabeth Mitchell), but can’t seem to get it together to actually be fun. It’s a show about lizard alien invaders who eat flesh! Why so serious?

Oh, go away.

This year’s Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con show was Caprica, and after sitting through the entirety of the first season, I think I can safely say that it was the most boring, baffling thing I watched this year. Just endless plodding through an oversaturated CGI world filled with characters who all acted in inexplicable ways, teen drama and uninteresting corporate maneuvering and literally one explosion, all heading towards a climax that involved some matrix-like video game world and some stuff about consciousness. Okay. Bear’s music is great, and I really like a lot of the cast, but I just can’t get myself interested in the show itself.

A show that I was always sure to catch soon after it aired was Chuck, the third season of which stands as a great example of how to keep a light show fun while exploring some slightly deeper territory. The writers took some darker turns with the story and introduced Brandon Routh as a character that only got more enjoyable the eviler he became. Chuck also became yet another show to take the “will they or won’t they” romantic question, answer a definitive “They Will,” and keep moving right along. The fact that Chuck and Sarah finally got together came as a surprise to absolutely no one, but it was handled really well by the writers and the actors and the final few episodes after they paired up were really good times. The smaller budget was noticeable, and I didn’t love the first half of this season quite as much as the second half, but I’m happy that they’ve managed to secure a fourth season and am looking forward to the new ways they can pimp Subway sandwiches in episodes to come.

Onward to HBO – I actually haven’t finished out the new WWII documentary The Pacific yet, and I kinda feel guilty. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it feels sort of like eating my vegetables or something. I loved Band of Brothers to the point that I recently watched the whole thing again, but that series had a spark that The Pacific just seems to lack, at least for me. I don’t know – the cast is doing an outstanding job and the visual effects and setpieces are pretty mind-blowing… it really captures how much it would’ve sucked to fight in the Pacific front, it’s just… maybe I’ve seen it all before? The soldiers breaking under pressure, the crazy dude in your foxhole with you, the night ambushes and mosquitoes, the loss of humanity in the jungle – I know it’s all true, but that doesn’t change the fact that it feels like I’ve seen it all before in a dozen movies (though most of them about a different war).  In addition, many of the scenes have a sort of pro-America, We-Are-Brothers undertone that feels forced – the very true stories stand as a testament to the bonds these guys forged, and we’d get it without the string crescendos and the speeches. It’s still quite good, but it just feels like every episode is long and kind of dull. I dunno.

The other HBO show I’ve been watching is the lovely Treme, a show that I have an intensely difficult time being objective about. I just love it – it’s as heartfelt and true an ode to jazz as I’ve seen on screen, and there’s something in every episode that just does it for me 100%. Yes, some scenes in the early episodes fall victim to an over-reverence for the city and its real-life inhabitants, but I can’t really look past the fact that they’re willing to show a lengthy performance by Donald Harrison’s quintet just after a deep discussion of the differences between NOLA swing and NY swing. Then make a sex joke about McCoy Tyner’s left hand and play Giant Steps, all in the space of a few minutes. The plot kinda just rolls along at its own pace, and without the overarching cops vs. dealers conflict that The Wire had, runs the risk of feeling meandering. But I like it – it’s nice to watch a show with a different pace, and the writing, setting, and characters are so good that I’d be into it even if it didn’t feature so much amazing music. For regular analysis, I highly recommend reading Alan Sepinwall’s weekly posts about the show, as well as Dave Walker’s fantastic New Orleans-centric posts for NoLa.com in which he explains all of the various aspects of Orleansean culture depicted on the show.

Another Sunday night show that I’m actually way behind on is the amazing Breaking Bad – I’m only now closing out the second season, and from what I’ve heard about the new season, I’ve got some rocking good times in store. I think that a lot of people get scared off of this show since “Good, but intense and dark” seems to be the agreed-upon meme. And yeah, it is intense as hell and also dark, but it’s also funny and brilliant and so effing good that folks really need to be watching it. The acting is just nutbars, the pacing is relentless, and it’s simply one of the best shows on TV. So yeah, soon it’ll be time to catch up on that one.

Another great hour-long show that I’m happy to have back in my life is Friday Night Lights. My roommates are watching the first season of that show on Netflix, and it’s awesome to see that more people are finally getting into it – seriously, such good stuff. I can’t think of another show that could come stamped with a guarantee to generate tears (good tears) at least once per 42.5 minutes. The newest season is really good, arguably stronger so far than both the second and third season. Granted, we’re not that far into it – five or so episodes, but things seem to be at a turning point and it’s been really fun to see Coach brought so low, fighting his way back up with nothing but grit, hard work, and the love of a good woman. Some of the “evil” characters are a little bit TOO evil, and there are quite a few contrivances and logic leaps made in order to create an entire second school in Dillon, complete with some housing projects and a ton more minority characters than we ever saw before, but it’s in the name of telling a good story, so it works. And honestly, the show could just be a camera set up in Mr. and Mrs Coach’s living room and I’d still watch. Like, an episode could be: “Breakfast on Monday,” and it’d be them having breakfast talking over one another and doing their hair. And it would be riveting.

Speaking of awesome shows about people with southern accents, this one here is actually my favorite of all: FX’s new show Justified. Raylan Givens in the house!

At the beginning, I was just happy to see Seth Bullock finally get permission to bust some heads every week; I liked the pilot a lot and dug some of the other opening episodes. But it wasn’t must-see TV until about halfway through the current season. Suddenly, all of the serialized plots got their momentum going and the self-contained episodes turned out some great guest stars – Dan from Deadwood as a crazed hostage-taker, Milton from Office Space as a nutty judge and Johnny, also from Deadwood, as his would-be assassin. On top of the relaxed performances from the main cast, the writing is uniformly strong and really clever from episode to episode – so often they could go with an easy joke and instead toss off a genuinely great bit of wordplay.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that this show, set in Kentucky, and the Indiana-centric Parks and Recreation are my two favorite shows on right now – Midwest represent! A few episodes ago I realized that of all the shows I watch, I was really looking forward most to seeing what went down this week in Pawnee and in Harlan County.

So that’s that! Wow, lot of shows on there. Looking forward to this summer with So You Think You Can Dance returning in what looks to be fine form and season 3 of True Blood, which will no doubt be the best season yet. In the meantime, I’m gonna go outside because dude, it is beautiful out there right now. Take that, TV! You are not the boss of me!

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One Response to “TV Round-Up: Oh, The Dramas”

  1. The Sonia Show May 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    I agree with you about most of the shows listed here, especially “Friday Night Lights” and “Justified.” And now that I’m over “American Idol” and “Lost” has concluded, I’ve decided to finally watch “Breaking Bad.” I’m going to get the first season on Netflix very soon.

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