Archive | September, 2012

Summer 2012 Review: Copper

8 Sep

So, as a terrible joke (the use of the word “joke” is charitable), a friend and I started calling this show “Cobbler” and now I can’t get it out of my head.  So, let’s cobble it out.

It’s the early ‘60s.  The 1860s, that is, and we’re located in the Five Points, a la Gangs of New York.  The Civil War rages, but we don’t really care.  Our main character is “Copper” Kevin, a former Civil War soldier who returned with his daughter dead and his wife…missing?  We open with an ambush of three would-be bank robbers.  Well, they get the robbing part right and all, but are taken out a few yards from the bank by Kevin and two colleagues.  The take down is violent – they shoot first, and ask questions later, though with good reason, and grab some of the cash before their superiors gather it up for return to the bank.  They’re not corrupt; that’s just the way the 1860s work.

Kevin and his partner each have their own lady loves, I can’t really figure out a whole lot about them from the pilot.  He also gets an offer to referee a boxing match from the scion of a rich family, something or other Morehouse, who likes Kevin because Kevin gave him an assist in the war – always the great social equalizer.  While there he meets the prototypical rich local plutocrat, Mr. Haverford and his English wife, Mrs. Haverford.  You might be seeing them again!

Soon, a girl is found murdered.  Kevin notices that she is the girl he saw earlier, in the first scene, who talked to him for one second for some reason.  Sorry, forgot to mention that earlier.  Through some investigation, Kevin learns that the dead girl is the sister of the earlier girl, and that the earlier girl was kidnapped to work as a prosititue by the nefarious local madam, the contessa, before running away.  He takes the dead girl’s body to some random black guy who is apparently his personal M.E. (why are a black guy and a white guy being friends at this point – easy answer – war buddies), and whose wife is played by the actress who played Wallace’s love Jackie in the second season of Veronica Mars.  Black M.E. (now there’s a show title) tells us that she was raped, well, after death, so I suppose not technically rape, but you get the idea.  In addition, she was hit in the head with a blunt object.  Kevin pays the contessa a visit and beats up one of her doorman, a bulky dude, who Kevin is convinced kills the girl, because, well, he’s big, and why not?  Kevin beats the shit out of him, without a confession, but leaves him handcuffed in a room/torture chamber.

Kevin pays a return visit to Black M.E. who tells him, ah hah, it was a staff that did the damage, and the man had to be a certain height – taller than the guard who Kevin initially suspected.  Kevin feels slightly bad about the guy he just beat, but realizes where he saw a cane, at the home rich local plutocrat Mr. Haverford, who he immediately knows did it.  He steals the staff, as evidence, and then brings it to his superiors.  Of course, because this is America, where the rich, no matter when, buy their way out of criminal activity, his bosses arrange it so that the guard he originally beat was “guilty” and sentenced to death, settling the matter, even though everyone knows what really went down.  Justice!  Kevin is disgusted but powerless.  He settles down, hopefully having saved the girl’s sister (who they found later and hid from the scary plutocrat; sorry, forgot to mention that), for now, before at the end, he is confronted by Mrs. Haverford, who asks if her husband committed the crime.  He did, Kevin, tells her.

I wanted the show to be better than it was.  I have surprisingly little sense of what the show is from just the one episode.  If I had to guess, there will be a case every episode with slow advances on the personal lives of the two main coppers and the pursuit of evil plutocrat Mr. Haverford.  However, it could easily become a longer arc-ed show right off, which would almost certainly be the more interesting choice.   I think there’s a lot of very easy ways to make a show like this interesting (in this case, good) but I’m not all that confident that the show will trend in that direction based on what I got in the first episode.  From just one episode each, I think I’m a bit more interested in Hell on Wheels than Copper in terms of recent shows set in the second half of the 19th century.

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.  Actually, as fall starts, it immediately jumps behind a number of other shows.  I wanted to like it more than I did, as I said, but that’s the show’s fault as much as mine;  it definitely could have been more inspiring.  I was hoping for something more than what seems awful like a police procedural set 150 years in the past.  In an idle moment maybe I’ll try to sneak in a second episode to get a real batter sense for how the show is going to work, but if it ends up just being another single episode case, than that episode will probably be the last I watch.  More serial TV, please.

Summer 2012 Review: Sullivan and Son

5 Sep

Here’s the premise, and essentially the first episode of Sullivan and Son in reliatvely brief. Steve Sullivan is a big-city corporate lawyer living in New York, where he was just promoted to some nameless, not-understandable-by-normal-people position for his investment bank.  He’s returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh for his dad’s birthday with his girlfriend, another big city NYer more excited about his promotion than he is. He gets back, hangs out with his friends from home and his family, and finds out his dad is selling the bar that has been in the family for multiple generations. He realizes his dad enjoys every day as a bartender, while he dreads every day as a corporate lawyer, so he decides on a whim to buy the bar, and move home to spend time with his friends and family. His big city girlfriend can’t even begin to comprehend his decision and decides to return to NY, ending their relationship.

Sullivan and Son features just about every classic go-to sitcom contrast a viewer can ask for (or ask to please not have). It’s got poor vs. rich; he was making big time bucks in his NYC corporate lawyer job, but will trade it in for a less financially fulfilled life living around the poorer goofballs of Pittsburgh – rich is good for your wallet, but not for your soul.  He’ll both bartend and practice some law, although local real person law rather than unintelligible corporate law (see: Ed). It’s got big city – small town (even though it’s Pittsburgh, not Stuckeyville, but still). New York may be upscale and sophisticated but it has no heart, and people don’t care about each other like they do in Pittsburgh.  Steve’s girlfriend represents every negative stereotype about NYC and pretty much admits it straight out – she wants to pay too much for pretentious but inferior products – coffee, she says, costs four dollars, because that’s how you know it’s good. She wants to be around people who matter, and who are sophisticated, unlike those losers in Pittsburgh, and, well, she wants this big materalistic life that clearly shows a lack of appreciation for the things that really matter in life.   We’ve got the ethnic clash as well – (a la Rob Schneider’s Rob! (forget about that one already?  sorry for reminding you), but one generation removed – unlike Rob, who is marrying a Mexican-American, Steve is son of mixed-race parents) – Steve is the product of an Irish father and a Korean mother.  Her Korean mother naturally prefers her son to her daughter, and participates and likely will continue to in further Korean cliches.

The bar is fulled with lovable loser characters who will inhibit the series – Steve’s cadre of hometown friends, who naturally act like kind of jerks, because that’s how all good sitcom friends act (see:  The League) – like real friends who make fun of you, but take it just a little too far in situations.  There’s the older folks too, including the mother one of his friends (played by brief SNL veteran Christine Ebersole), a local lovable drunk who still wants to sleep around with just about anyone, making for both awkward and good-humored situations for the other customers, as well as the resident old racist (played by brief SNL veteran Brian Doyle Murray), which also makes for awkward and good-humored situations for the other customers.  There’s also the old high school crush that may have been interested in him too (Ed again) who is apparently now kind of dating a guy who does exactly what Steve used to do two days ago before he abruptly decided to take over the bar.  I guess they’ll never revisit that.

That’s the show.  There’ll be some guys hanging out and ribbing on each other, some will-Steve-slowly-get-closer-to-dating-his-old-high-school-crush, some Irish and Korean stereotypes, and some good-hearted everyone loves each other after all moments, I’m sure.  It’s not  terrible like the truly bad shows are (again, Rob!) but why this show exists I’m not exactly sure.

Will I watch it again?  No.  I suppose if I must judge this against other TBS sitcoms, it’s better than Men at Work.  The humor is cliched and tried but I think I like the main character in this show more than anyone in that show, and the people in general seem less obnoxious with the possibility of even being likable.  Alas, it’s still not very good.  I’m sorry if The Office, Arrested Development, and it’s progeny have gotten me to expect more out of a sitcom than a couple of cliches and a laugh track, but they have.  Just try a little harder next time, please.

Summer 2012 Review: Major Crimes

4 Sep

Do you like The Closer?  If so, you’ll like this.  If not, you won’t.

I really want to simply end this review with that line but it feels like a cheat, so I’ll explain Major Crimes, if by chance you, the reader, has had the good/bad fortune to never have seen The Closer, or can’t imagine a Closer without Kyra Sedgwick (after 7 long seasons as the most popular show on cable, it can be hard).

Mary McDonnell, best known to me, at least, as President Roslin in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, portrays the new main character in this The Closer spin-off.  At first, I thought moving from President to head of Major Crimes would be a pretty big demotion, but the LAPD may actually be bigger than the society over which Roslin was President.  McDonnell, as Captain Sharon Raydor, a character introduced late in The Closer, with the possible intent of a spin-off right from the beginning, takes over right where Kyra Sedgwick left off.  Quite literally, she replaces Sedwick’s Brenda Johnson as head of the LAPD’s Major Crimes unit.  Many in the unit, mostly the same characters from The Closer, are not fans of Captain Raydor, and and apparently have despised her rule-abiding policies for the past couple of seasons of The Closer, which I have not watched, when she was in a different position. Aside from the general emasculation that the old white police boys club clear feels because a woman has been assigned to lead them (again!), they don’t like Raydor in particular because of her new plea bargain friendly policies, designed to create cheap, fast and easy plea bargains for criminals even though they may involve slightly shorter sentences than if these cases went forward and to trial the old-fashioned American way.

In particular, this first episode involves a police shoot out.  Undercover cops are trailing a couple of suspected armed robbers, who have taken out a couple of grocery stores, but without violence.  Right at the beginning of the episode, the robbers are involved in a shootout with the police, leaving two of them dead, and one caught.  The caught criminal is about to agree to talk, when he’s fired upon.  It’s at this point that we learn that Raydor has become the new head of the unit and her subordinate, who headed the unit for about a week previously after Brenda left is not happy about it, let me tell you.  He gives her and Assistant Chief of Operations Taylor, who comes by to deliver the news, all the guff they can handle before reminding them that there will be more guff later, after he does his damn job and solves this case.

Blah, blah, blah, it turns out the shooters were a gang of military vets who were unable to fit in with regular society and played a first person shooter called “Win or Die” together (only the relatively young  woman working the case knew what the video game, or video games in general, were, unsurprisingly).  One is left alive, and turns out to be a cop’s son, and the police have the goods on him.  Raydor works hard to get the right facts confessed for the DA and makes a plea bargain happen which again further incenses the old white dude now her inferior.  Raydor struggles with her hold on the unit, which largely despises her, but stays firm and does her damn job, making it through her first day in charge alive and with a win on her record.

Oh, also, there’s a weird subplot about a disaffected teenage boy who is a material witness in a major case which may or may not have been discussed in The Closer and who needs a place to stay until his time as witness is up.  He complains and whines and complains and eventually it turns out he’ll live in an uncomfortable living arrangement with Raydor and be a main or at least recurring character for some reason.

This show is exactly what it appears to be on the surface.  I’d rate it as slightly better than The Closer because I prefer President Roslin’s no nonsense rule-following attitude to Kyra Sedgwick’s incredibly annoying I’m-just-a-girl southern accent as she talks to suspects when convincing them to confess, but the style, format, and cast is essentially the same (sadly without JK Simmons).  It’s well produced and the action is brisk, easy to watch, and paced smartly.  It’s nothing more than a police procedural though, and there’s no special element that makes it stand out, and anyone expecting anything additionally will be sadly disappointed.

Will I watch it again?  Honestly, no.  I would understand if someone else did though.  If you liked The Closer and it wasn’t entirely for Kyra Sedgwick, you’ll probably like it.  If you didn’t you probably won’t, and if you didn’t care at all about The Closer, you probably will not care at all about Major Crimes, which is more or less how I feel.