Archive | September, 2012

April Ludgate is an Asshole

29 Sep

I love Parks and Recreation. It’s one of the best comedies on television, and even if dare I say it may have entered a period of slight decline (Tom and Ann dating reeks of running out of ideas) it’s still great.  So this comes from a place of love, but I have a qualm with the program (well, a couple of qualms, but others can wait for later).

April Ludgate is a complete and utter asshole.  You know, I tolerated it for some time.  I don’t mind her being lazy; I can understand that.  I don’t mind her being cynical and pessimistic and disliking people in general; all understandable.  But what just crosses over the line is she’s out and out mean, and for no reason.  Not like busting someone’s chops, or having a good laugh, but like a serious jerk who no one would want to hang around.  She’s actually nice to Andy, and I understand why Ron would like her, but that’s it.

She’s always been pretty mean to people, and particularly Ann, and I was willing to empathize with that, even though it was completely unnecessary and uncalled for, because of the Andy situation.  What crossed the line for me was when she, at a party, at her, Andy, and Ben’s place, threw Chris’s car keys in the garbage.  This is not fucking funny or okay.  This is they keys to his fucking car.  Taking someone’s car keys for any reason other than he or she drank too much is totally unacceptable, but if she took them, let him look for them for a minute, and then gave them to him, I’d grant her some leeway, as maybe a good laugh.  But, no she throws them out.  How the fuck is he going to get home?  So basically he’s stuck with no keys, can’t get into his car and home, thinks he lost them, which might be the worst part of all, and has to call a locksmith, which costs money, to get back in, all because April thought it was fucking funny.  I’m not saying she has to like Chris.  But that’s more than just a mean comment or a snide remark, that’s an asshole-ish action.

An even worse and more line-crossing action occurs in the most recent episode, the second of the fifth season (“Soda Tax”). Ben was nice enough to bring April along with him to work for him in Washington D.C.  No one made her go, she had a job in Pawnee, and she absolutely didn’t have to accompany him.  There was no pressure on her to go; it was completely her choice.  It was nothing but an extremely generous gesture from Ben who thought she might enjoy something in a busier city which could be more intellectually engaging, which again, I point out, she could have easily turned down at no cost.

Ben realizes that his college interns don’t respect him, and unfortunately, it’s largely out of his control because they’re well connected.  What prompts this realization is partly their shoddy work product, but also a caricature of Ben with a stick up his ass posted on the wall of the office.  Ben is naturally appalled by this totally uncool picture and tries to bond with the well-connected ringleader intern to curry his good favor.  Eventually he gives up trying to be liked after seeing a second caricature, even after he worked so hard to be cool.  Ben tells the intern to just do his work, and please stop making caricatures.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the intern didn’t draw the caricatures at all.  April did.  This reveal comes right after Ben explains that April is not, as is commonly believed in the office, his daughter, but rather his friend.  Some friend.

Yes, April, who Ben did a great favor to by taking along to Washington .  Now it’s bad enough that she gives absolutely no effort and is of no help at all to Ben in DC, even constantly giving him guff.  But oh no, doing nothing is not enough to fuck over Ben, who is desperate to succeed in his dream job and is working really hard.  No, she has to actively sabotage him, making his entire work environment poisonous and stabbing him directly in the back.  It’s bad enough to be unnecessarily and unprofessionally lampooned by employees, but by one you brought with you who is supposed to be your ally and who you consider your friend.  That’s pretty unforgivable.

And then at the end, she all of a sudden agrees to give 15% and is helpful, using her powers for good to try to intimidate the unruly intern and that’s supposed to fucking make up for it.  I’m sorry.  Too fucking late. Ben may forgive her just like that, but I don’t.

It’s just so crazily mean spirited.  Chris, at least, and I’m not defending the stealing of keys, but he can be annoying.  Ben has never been anything but kind and helpful.  You cross Adam Scott, you cross me.  That’s just the way it is.

Again, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt – her laziness and bad attitude, and her general dislike of people, I’m plenty willing to tolerate.  She still has lots of funny moments.  But it’s gone too far and there’s basically only one inescapable conclusion, when you try to actively sabotage someone who has been nothing but generous towards you.  April Ludgate is an asshole.

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Fall 2012 Review: Revolution

27 Sep

One of two new long-form serial shows on network TV, along with Last Resort (which I preferred),  the central premise of Revolution is  that all electricity in the world has turned off for some mysterious reason.  This is far more science fiction than Last Resort, which is more hard-boiled political thriller, and it has the JJ Abrams good conspiracykeeping seal of approval.  There’s a whole lot of premise and plot in the first episode to attempt to put the show on solid footing going forward, so some plot now, and more opinion at the end.

The show begins in the current day with a family in Chicago, composed of a father, a mother (played by Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell), and a little girl.  The father says something like, it’s happening, and that means that the world is losing power, which he knew would happen; he calls his brother, in the military, preserves a USB key which is placed on an unnecessarily special looking necklace (Chekov’s USB key? Also someone should tell them that it doesn’t matter what the USB key looks like, it works the same).  And then it happens; power goes out everywhere, planes fall from the sky, people die, mass hysteria.

It’s now 15 years later.  A bunch of people are living in an old fashioned village, and a portly dude with glasses (where do they get glasses from?  I guess he just had the amazing fortune to never break or lose his glasses in 15 years of mass hysteria) is telling a group of kids about how the world used to be.  The father from the first scene is here along with his two kids, teenagers, Charlie, the elder girl, and Danny, the younger son.  They’re part of a family unit with their dad’s new girlfriend, an Australian doctor, who joined up after his wife died (sidenote:  we, of course, know she’s not dead, because Elizabeth Mitchell is in the main credits, so unless there’s just a shit ton of flashbacks, or hallucinations, she’s somewhere).

Representatives from some sort of evil-seeming militia, the Monroe Republic, come up on horseback with weapons, led by Giancarlo Esposito (on a villainous streak coming off playing Gus on Breaking Bad).  When the father assures Esposito they’ve paid their taxes, Esposito explains that’s not why he’s here; he wants the father and his brother Miles.  The father doesn’t want to go, but on threats to the rest of his family, he agrees, asking just a moment to say goodbye.  The members of the little town, including Danny, don’t understand, and stupidly try to turn their weapons on the much better equipped militia.  The father ends up being shot and killed in the crossfire  which means Esposito, to save his own hide, takes Danny, the son, instead.  The father, before succumbing to his wounds, tells his daughter that she needs to seek out his brother Miles in Chicago.

Off to Chicago!  The great journey begins!  The daughter, Charlie, the new girlfriend, Maggie, and the fat dude, Aaron, all set out to find Miles, who will hopefully help them rescue Danny.  Charlie runs into a young attractive dude with a bow and arrow and tells him where they’re going.  The crew tries to sleep on the plane (en route, the fat dude, says he used to be a multi-millionaire from some company name Google, but that’s all worthless now), where they’re assaulted by some hooligans.  They attempt to rape Charlie, but the crew escapes because the hooligans drink some of Maggie’s poisoned whiskey, and the young bow and arrow dude from before shoots another hooligan.  Nate, the bow and arrow dude, accompanies them; while Maggie pleads with Charlie not to trust him, his act of helping them out wins the day.

That’s it, they’re in Chicago.  That was fast (their speed in reaching Chicago reminds me of this Flight of Conchords scene).  They go to a random bar, and naturally the first person they meet, the bartender, is Miles, though he doesn’t want to admit to it, and he talks to Charlie in private, and tells her he can’t help.  Also, he discovers that new friend Nate is a spy, and warns Charlie and crew to get the fuck out of Dodge for their own safety.  The militia comes in and it turns out Miles is a super duper badass who kills just about every militia member and at the end of the battle it also turns out that the rest of the crew stuck around to help him.  So, his niece convinces him to join with them and find her brother.  Meanwhile her brother escapes, is taken in by a woman and helped, then caught again at that woman’s house.  The woman also has a crazy USB key which she puts into a super old PC and types in the command prompt to someone else.  Power still exists!

So there’s obviously one huge question hanging over the entire show – why did the power go out?  Then there’s also, why do these people have ridiculous USB keys, and all of that.  Initially I’m less impressed with the characters than Last Resort, as they seem more likely to be cardboard action-adventure clichés and I almost wish this show was just set in this post-apocalyptic society, and there were no USB Keys, and no crazy power conspiracy, but then it wouldn’t be a JJ Abrams show, would it.  For all the later disintegration of Lost, damn, that pilot was captivating and I haven’t seen one as good in a Lost-type show since.  I do wonder though whether the end of Lost has made me look for the potential future problems in all of these first episodes.  When I watched the Lost pilot, I was innocent and naive, assuming the writers had a brilliant plan for how the series would be laid out just as good as that first episode.  If I had to guess there’s ten ways this show can come apart and at least one will happen, either due to the plot, or due to everything else being uninteresting besides the plot.  It doesn’t have to go that way though, and it’s unfair to judge the pilot simply on the likeliness that that will happen.

I also misjudged how the show would work, even in the first episode.  I thought the quest to Chicago would be an epic multi-episode spanning arc in which we’d slowly learn more about the world that exists in Revolution, but instead it took about five minutes.  This isn’t in and of itself bad, except that it leads to likely pacing problems in the future.  Shows like this want to have extremely plot-heavy first episodes to get the viewer involved, but if the next few episodes end up becoming much slower to compensate, it basically defeats the point.  There’s so many more ways to screw up long form serial conspiracy shows than to get them right that it makes one very dispirited just trying to think past a pilot.

Will I watch it again?  Yeah, I’m going to watch a couple more.  The more I think about it, the more I expect the show to get at least mediocre and then quite possibly bad, but because I desperately want one of these types of shows to succeed and be good I’ll give it a couple of chances.  My report and opinion after five episodes will carry a lot more weight than this first impression.

 

Why the Emmys are Stupid: The Wire and other reasons, but mostly The Wire

26 Sep

Okay, I hate to spend any time on the Emmys, because they’re at the least silly and kind of stupid, and at the most pretty terrible and detrimental to television, but they’re still regarded as at least something of a big deal, and I should at least explain my thinking.

Well, here’s the argument in short, and while this is the opposite of exhaustive, once you have this piece of information, any additional evidence should just be duplicative:

The Wire, one of, if not the best hour long television programs ever created, got all of two nominations during its entire run, both of them for Best Writing.

That’s it.  Not wins.  Nominations.  There have been lots of theories on why this is, but those are almost beside the point; almost as if to provide excuses.  The show was on a major network, HBO, that had been winning tons of Emmy love for The Sopranos (well earned, I might add), and the show was received with mass critical acclaim.  Perhaps it took a couple of seasons somehow for people to notice it, but the fourth season, for example, earned a 98 on metacritic, the second highest score ever, with reviews in from 21 critics.  To not even generate a Best Drama nomination after that season, let alone a single nomination in any other category?  That’s a complete and utter joke.  A farce.

Here’s the broader view.  The Emmy are an outdated way to determine what the best shows on television are.  You’d be better off going over to metacritic and seeing their list highest rated shows, composed of a formula which combines critics’ reviews.

Emmy voters are like MVP voters in baseball (and other sports). They’re a mix of people, with many still stuck in an outdated way of looking at things who are afraid to make interesting and unconventional choices.  Of course, unlike in baseball, you can’t really make statistically based arguments as to which show or actor is the best but I do think similar to sports,  prevalent ways of evaluating shows or players have changed over time, and the Emmys lag way behind.  I don’t mean the Emmys should even be on any real cutting edge here;  simply a poll of any sampling of 50 critics of newspapers and web sites would lead to an Emmy awards that, even if I wouldn’t agree entirely, I’d think was more credible.  In this way, in addition to the MVP, I think the Emmys can be similar to (new sports analogy!) the Coaches Poll in college football, in which people who don’t actually watch most of the games vote anyway.  Emmy voters who are relying on merely single episodes submitted by Emmy contenders are hardly qualified to judge.

An example of Emmy’s modern irrelevance, Modern Family has won the Emmy for Best Comedy three years in a row.  Unlike Jon Cryer winning for Best Actor in a comedy, which is simply asinine, Modern Family is not a bad show.  Even though it’s personally not my favorite, I understand why people enjoy it; it’s solid.  However, it’s not credibly the best comedy on television.  And even though Emmy says otherwise, most critics and ardent television fans know this to be so, so I’m not exactly sure what the point of the Emmy is.  If the point is to see all of our favorite television stars hobnob and commingle at one ceremony with a chance to poke fun at themselves and each other, well, I understand that in theory, though the ceremonies could be a lot funnier and more entertaining than they are.  But the idea of connoting certain shows and people as some sort of at least vaguely definitive award winners doesn’t make a ton of sense to begin with, and loses whatever sense it makes when it takes serious cognitive dissonance to accept the Emmy award winners nowadays as factually best.  If the Emmys are supposed to be some sort of consensus of what television critics as a group believe is the best, this doesn’t accomplish that.  I’d much rather a fivethirtyeight-like model where qualified critics who actually watch many of the shows regularly have their votes mathematically tallied using some sort of formula if we have to have something.

Fall 2012 Review: Guys with Kids

25 Sep

Personal branding has become a big industry in TV, as more and more showrunners and executive producers and creators pop their names on different projects.   You’ve got the actual people who run the show day to day like The Shield’s Shawn Ryan behind Last Resort and The Office’s Mindy Kaling taking on The Mindy Project, but you’ve also got the producers with whom it’s unclear how big their role is on the show – Judd Apatow behind Girls and JJ Abrams behind Revolution, for example.  Guys with Kids has been promoted heavily as being produced and “from” NBC Late Night host and longtime SNL alum Jimmy Fallon,  and is being sold on that name more than any of the actors or anything about the show itself.

Now, I haven’t always been the biggest Jimmy Fallon fan (I think SNL is the most overrated cultural institution of the past 30 years and never dug his weekend updates), and I just about never watch non-Daily Show/Colbert Report late night TV, but from what I hear, Fallon’s show is actually kind of pretty good, and every once in a while I’ll see a decent segment that becomes viral. So, I’m not exactly expecting the world when Jimmy Fallon puts his name on a show, but I do expect better than a retrograde laugh track-y sitcom about men trying to stay men.

Three best friends and dads with young children hang out and try to stay cool even with all the responsibilities placed on them by having kids.  They’re played by Anthony Anderson, who has four kids, Zach Cregger, who has two, and Jesse Bradford, who just has a baby. The former two are married, while the latter is divorced. The only minor “twist” on typical sitcom family structure is that Anthony Anderson is a stay-at-home dad, while his wife, played by The Cosby Show’s Tempestt Bledsoe, works. In every other way, the jokes are typical and the laughs are canned, filled with lots of familiar ground like that men and woman are different, and which activities are and are not masculine.

The first episode plotwise as well is loaded with typical sitcom situations shown and portrayed in a typical way. Typical doesn’t have to mean bad, but in this case it does. Divorced Bradford wants to go on a date to the Knicks game (Go Knicks!), but his crazy ex-wife (played by Childrens Hospital’s own Erinn Hayes) won’t watch the kid, or allow him to hire a babysiter because she has her own date, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (and, yes, from the moment his name was mentioned I put the odds at 85% that he would actually show up, and he does, and I wonder how much he got paid). Hilarity ensues when the babysitter bails, Cregger has to watch the baby, and Bradford has to rush back to his apartment when his crazy ex, who still has a key, decides to pay an impromptu visit to check that he wasn’t lying about the babysitter. Cregger on the other hand, angers his wife (Meadow Soprano herself, Jamie-Lynn Sigler) by agreeing to watch Bradford’s kid on the night they’re supposed to go out to a silly Titantic themed event for their daughter’s school. The event is ridiculous, he thinks, why would she care, not realizing she just wants to get out of the house, after spending much time indoors with the kids, as stay-at-home dad Anderson explains. Come on dude! Marriage 101!  He makes it up to her with an adorable fake Titanic dance when she gets back, and all is forgiven in the name of love.

Even the most boring and trope filled plots can be played with and reworked endless times in genuinely interesting ways. However, I spend time describing the plot because 90% of the time, you actually can guess accurately from just reading it whether the show is going to be good or not. I think this is one of that 90%.  I don’t think the premise is the real problem though; rather, it has all the pitfalls of most multi-camera shows that appear these days (I don’t think multi-camera shows have to have these problems, but they tend to); the timing is terrible, the few jokes that could be funny aren’t, and everything feels boxed and forced instead of free and natural.  I like Anderson and think that if he was put in a better situation to succeed he could be very funny; but the mediocre dialogue in addition to the format are stacked against him.

This would be a show not worth watching 15 years ago, but at least it wouldn’t have stood in such stark contrast to the really good comedies on TV.  The best I can say about it is that it’s not offensive like the truly awful comedies, the Last Man Standings, and the Rob!’s, but that’s very small praise.

Will I watch it again? It’s nice to have an easy no.  It’s too bad Jimmy Fallon couldn’t use his newfound critical acclaim to put his name on something better.

Fall 2012 Preview and Predictions: The CW

24 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

It’s easy to forget that the CW still exists.  It does, though, and it, like last year, has three new fall shows, and like last year I doubt more than one will survive.  Let’s see, though.

Emily Owens, M.D. – 10/16

Owens is a first-year intern at some hospital in Denver where she realizes that both her medical school crush and her rival from high school both work. It’s like high school all over again, but in a hospital, which sounds about perfect for the CW. They really, really play up the just-like-high-school angle on the CW about page, and Owens looks pretty frazzled in the promotional poster (note: wikipedia has been sadly lacking in information about CW’s new shows so I’ve been spending more time than usual on cw.com).  Also noteworthy, series star Mamie Gummer is the daughter of Meryl Streep.

Verdict:  Renewal – the most generic sounding of the three CW shows, but, first of all, it sounds right up CW’s alley, and second of all, it’s most analogous to the CW show that eventually made the cut last year, Hart of Dixie.  In a complicated and mostly unnecessary analogy, Emily Owens is equivalent to Hart of Dixie, a show about a doctor which is mostly good spirited and has personal drama, Arrow is Secret Circle (this is the worst comparison), a show about people with abilities and possible conspiracies involves those people’s parents, and Beauty and the Beast is Ringer, a more hard-boiled action thriller.  Anyway, the entire analogy only serves the minor point of explaining why I’m choosing Emily Owens to be renewed over the other two CW shows.

Arrow – 10/10

Having raked in cash from ten seasons of Smallville, the CW tries to duplicate that success with a show about a less popular member of the Justice League, Green Arrow. Green Arrow is a bow and arrow slinging hero who in this incarnation is far more analogous to Batman than  Superman. He’s a billionaire playboy (CW’s words) who disappeared at sea for five years, and after finally returning has developed his Green Arrow alias, a vigilante persona, while being chased by a policeman.  Also, there may be sinister motives behind is disappearance at sea.

Verdict:  14+  It’s a superhero show, and superheroes are still pretty in, so it has that going for it.  It doesn’t look all that good though, and Green Arrow, while I’m personally a fan, is definitely a couple of rungs below Superman and Batman as far as comic book heroes go.    CW, since the ratings are even lower than NBC, is mostly a crapshoot, but I’ll say they give it the season and then give it the boot.

Beauty and the Beast – 10/11

An extremely random quasi-remake of the CBS ’80s series of the same name, Beauty and the Beast starts erstwhile Lana Lang from CW series Smallville Kristen Kreuk as, uh, the beauty, Catherine Chandler, a homicide detective (CW’s show page describes her as “smart, no nonsense” and “strong and confident”). When she was a teen, her mom was killed in front of her, and she was only saved by a mysterious human creature, which you may correctly guess, is the titular beast. Chandler has a partner and a boss but becomes unmoored when she discovers that a murderer that they’re tracking is a dude who has been off the official radar for years, presumed dead, and turns out to be what saved her from being murdered. He also turns Hulk-like into a beast sometimes for some reason. By the way, these CW about pages are just a treasure trove of tropes (say that three times fast), for example, describing her boss as “tough but fair” and describing her relationship with the friendly M.E., as “a fun, flirtatious relationship that could easily turn into something deeper – if Cat would let that happen.”  Maybe she will!

Verdict:  14+  I have no fucking idea.  It sounds highly forgettable, which leads me to not pick renewal, but I’m guessing that CW will be slow, like last year to cut bait on its shows, preferring to wait until the end of the season, even when the result is nearly inevitable.  It’s just a guess.

Fall 2012 Previews and Predictions: CBS

21 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

So CBS has two shows that look out and out terrible and two shows that will probably be bad, but have at least the possibility of not being terrible.  Let’s check ‘em out.

Made in Jersey – 9/28

If I had a contest where I picked the worst sounding show of the new season, it would have to be Made in Jersey.  I hate to be judgmental (I don’t actually hate it, but I admit I shouldn’t do it), but sometimes all you really need to hear is a premise, and you know all you need to know.  Made in Jersey is about a New Jersey lawyer from a stereotypical Italian family making her way at a presumably WASP-y white shoe New York law firm.  If I had to guess what would happen, it would be that her clients and coworkers are initially skeptically of her Jersey accent and unorthodox tactics, but she wins them over by showing them tricks they didn’t learn growing up in Connecticut and going to Yale.  Worse, the actress playing the main character is English, which at least led me to hope that the premise would be based on a lawyer from actually Jersey, the English island near France.  Alas, it was not to be.

Verdict:  13-  I know, I know, it’s CBS.   It’s on Friday, which is a blessing in that ratings are expected to be lower, but a curse in that people don’t really watch TV on Friday.  So people will watch it, and CBS didn’t cancel much very fast last year.  But their standards are also higher, and it really does look terrible.

Partners – 9/24

Two close friends and coworkers must deal with the strains of each other’s relationships; that’s about all we’ve got for a premise.  Well, also that they work as architects and one of them is gay.  Numb3rs star David Krumholtz plays the straight friend, who is engaged to One Tree Hill’s Sophia Bush.  Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie plays the gay friend, and Superman himself, Brandan Routh is Urie’s significant other.  It really shouldn’t be obvious from this limited amount of information that the show is going to be terrible, but in this case it is.

Verdict:  14+ Honestly, I shouldn’t let my verdict on one show necessarily impact my verdict on another, but I figured at least one of Partners or Made in Jersey, the two terrible looking shows would get cancelled quicker than the other.  I’m torn.  Made in Jersey is on Friday nights, which means most people won’t watch, but a mediocre A Gifted Man hung around almost a full year there.  Partners will have the security blankets of How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls (shivers) around it on Mondays.

Vegas – 9/25

The first of the CBS shows that may not actually be terrible necessarily.  It’s the 1960s, and Vegas is in its wild west days, before Steve Wynn and the like.  The show is portrayed as a battle of wills between the sheriff of Clark county, where Vegas is located, Ralph Lamb, played by Dennis Quaid, and a Chicago mobster who follows Horace Greeley’s advice and goes west to set up his own base of operations, Vincent Savino, played by The Shield star Michael Chiklis, looking to rebound from the extraordinary failure of No Ordinary Family.

Verdict:  Renewal – This is the show I feel like I have the worst grasp of on this channel.  How procedural vs. how serial it is, I don’t know, and even if I did know, I don’t know how much that would matter anyway.  I don’t think it will be very good and I don’t think it will be terrible, but I have no idea where in the range of kind of bad to kind of good it will be.  This is a wild shot in the dark.

Elementary – 9/27

Like modern-day adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, but unsatisfied by the mere 3 episodes a year produced of the British Sherlock and prefer it set in New York City?  You’re in luck.  Trainspotting’s Johnny Lee Miller is Holmes in this adaptation, and Lucy Liu is his (shock!) female Watson.  As a fan of Sherlock, I was naturally inclined to believe that a CBS take would be inferior, but initial reports are that the show is actually not so bad.  One difference may be in the involvement of Watson, who seems, in Elementary to be less involved in the cases and more irritated at Holmes.  I’m still skeptical but I’ll try to give it an honest chance.

Verdict:  Renewal – I think it’s a good fit for CBS.  It’s a procedural which means it’s right up CBS’s general alley, but if early reports are accurate it’s maybe a little bit better than most.  It should appeal to core CBS audience; Holmes is a hundred-year old character, but the show attempts to make Holmes new again with a twist.  I’m not crazy confident in this prediction but I do definitely think it’s the most likely renewal on the network.

Fall 2012 Review: Last Resort

20 Sep

Last Resort is one of the two big complicated serial shows being attempted on network television this autumn (Revolution is the other).  These shows generally come in two flavors, huge conspiracy and science fiction/supernatural (some have a mix).  Last Resort is the former, and has the pedigree of being the product of The Shield creator Shawn Ryan.  The first episode was plot-heavy, even for a pilot, and a little confusing, so follow along closely and try to keep up, or skip to the end if you plan on watching it for yourself.

The action begins on a submarine, the USS Colorado.  Captain Marcus Chaplin (Homicide: Life on the Street star Andre Braugher) is a long time veteran and his second in command is Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), who has a young wife at home.  Marcus says Sam’s been recommended for a desk job so after this one final mission he can go home and spend time with his wife.  They pick up a couple of Navy Seals who were stranded on some mysterious mission and who, upon being picked up, don’t play nice with the sailors on board.  A bunch of not all that interesting personal sub drama passes by (some resent the female third in command, possibly because she’s female, possibly because she’s very young and the daughter of an Admiral played by Bruce Davison).

The sub gets an order to fire a nuclear strike at Pakistan.  Marcus and Sam get their keys out and are ready to turn them, before they look at each other, and say, wait a second, this order came from a strange secondary command channel (who doesn’t love complicated military jargon?), let’s get some more confirmation before you know, killing millions of people and possibly starting a nuclear holocaust.  Apparently this secondary command channel is only supposed to be used if DC is incapacitated, and Marcus checks their TV, and sees that well, the US isn’t blowed up.  He calls up some Washington people to double check his orders.  The Navy Seals and Robert Patrick (I can not figure out what his role is yet – he seems senior to most people but below the captain and his main role seems to be to lambaste every decision the captain makes) both tell him to turn the damn key, and when he questions the order, the Washington person tells him, well, he’s no longer in command, and Sam is the new captain.  Unfortunately, Sam is also like, what the fuck, and doesn’t fire, leading to a mysterious attack on their sub from another American ship.  As shocking as that is, once they collect their bearings and check the TV, they’re eve more surprised to see that the attack on them is being billed as an attack by Pakistan, giving the US license to launch a counter attack on what the sub people know is a phony pretense.

Realizing they can’t go back home without being attacked by more US planes, they surface at some island nearby, a tiny Caribbean nothing island apparently run by a random native who is the resident crimelord/man who runs island.  The naval officers take the island over, including a NATO station.  They challenge the power of the resident ruler and investigate but are given away when a lower ranking officer rats them out and is about to shoot Sam, before the man threatening gets shot instead by the third-in-charge woman.  Everyone runs off to the sub, and they’re all about to be killed by oncoming American bombers when Marcus threatens to send a nuke to DC if the bombers aren’t called off.  The bombers are called off, but the nuke lands anyway, albeit in the middle of the ocean, but well, everybody on the sub isn’t getting home anytime soon without being arrested forever.  Braugher records a video telling the US and the world that they’ve got a dozen or so more nukes, and if anyone fires on the island, those nukes are a firing.

Oh, and one of the Navy Seals gets wasted at a local island bar where he offhandedly mentions that he may be responsible for the whole sequence of events which took place.

There are a couple of scenes in DC as well.  A brillian female weapons contractor yells at the Naval admiral played by Bruce Davison for covering up some naval plot but he acts like it’s a surprise to him too.  Apparently she thinks it may have something to do with a crazy new weapons system she designed.  Scary government people have convened at Sam’s wife’s house as well, and when Sam tries to call home, he’s cut off after a minute.  Similar scary government people cut off the admiral when he’s talking to his daughter.

There’s plenty of questions asked – both trying to explain what happened, and where we go from here – why the nuclear strike, why the secondary command channel, why the cover up, etc.  I’m quite intrigued.  I can’t help myself – as much as I know that 90% of these types of shows end up deteriorating into some combination of nonsensical plot and miserable dialogue and lazy characterization, even the slightest hint of conspiracy is like catnip for me, for at least one episode, anyway.  As far as how Last Resort fares so far in these other non-plot aspects, dialogue, characters, etc, etc., well.  I think it’s better than Revolution’s first episode and superior to Terra Nova last year.   One of the many dangers of these types of shows is that the exciting plot can cover up for really cliched or boring characters, and while the characters weren’t exactly fleshed out a whole lot in this first plot heavy episode, well, Andre Braugher is good, and well, The Shield supposedly had good characters.  There are some potential cliches in the world-weary-but-wise commander and the plucky-young-female-officer-bent-on-earning-respect but I’ll give the show a little bit of leeway.  Instead the show chose to focus on drawing viewers by ratcheting up the stakes in the first hour; it’s hard to get much tenser than the possibility of all out nuclear war with an atomic bomb going off in the first episode; even 24 went well into season 2 before firing the initial nuclear blast.  It feels like cheating and it’s going to be very difficult to keep the subsequent episodes nearly as fast-paced, but as far as making me want to know more, it worked.

Will I watch it again?  Probably.  I knew I would be on the hook from the premise.  I’m a sucker for this kind of shit.  Unlike comedies, which often build from the premise, even what end up being mediocre dramas can have fine first episodes that make the show seem really exciting.  So I certainly will not be incredibly hopeful.  But I’ll watch.