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Fall 2013 Review: We Are Men

15 Nov

WeAreMenPilot1

Here’s the premise of We Are Men. Carter, a young man with his life seemingly all together sees it all fall apart when his fiancé (Wilfred’s Fiona Gubelmann) leaves him at the altar. His heart is broken, and he’s also newly unemployed as he worked for his fiance’s father. He freaks out, naturally, and eventually moves into short-term housing where he befriends three single dudes of varying ages, who show him the zen of being single and worrying about yourself for once. The three men are: (I’ll just use their actor’s names because you’re not going to remember their characters anyway) First, Tony Shalhoub, a four-time divorcee who is a bit sleazy but seemingly manages to consistently bed women far younger than himself thanks to his charisma and confidence. Second, Jerry O’Connell, a doctor and two-time divorcee, who is engaged in a long-term settlement battle with his second ex-wife. Third, Kal Penn, the only one of the three who still pines for his ex, who left him when she caught him sleeping around.

Anyway, basically the pilot is a battle for Carter’s soul between bromance and romance. Carter is beginning to really like the guys but also desperately misses his ex. He enjoys hanging out but quickly tires of their free and easy goal-less lifestyle. Kal Penn convinces Carter to make a grand romantic gesture to get his woman back. He does, and it works, and the marriage is back on. However, the guys realize that being with his fiance is actually killing Carter’s dreams, and they come in and interrupt the second wedding, convincing Carter to abandon his fiance at the altar this time to bromance it up and focus on making himself happy.

We Are Men is a bad show for a lot of the usual reasons (bad characters, bad writing) but what struck me in particular was the portrayal of women. Carter’s fiancé really is bad for him, in the show’s world, and for certain, anybody can get stuck in a bad relationship and some people just suck. Still, no woman in this show comes off as anything more than a male trope. His fiancé is holding him back from having fun and hanging out with his friends and wants him to work for her dad rather than pursue his dream job, which O’Connell helped arrange an interview for. The strangest complaint of Carter’s is that his fiance always makes them eat at the farmers market, which absolutely mystified me.

We Are Men tries to celebrate guydom and bromance and all those wonderful men-hanging-out-together qualities that so many shows have tried to celebrate over the last few years (probably due to the success of some combination of Entourage and The Hangover, but that’s another article). While there’s nothing wrong with celebrating male friendship, and I think it’s a great theme that was overlooked before a couple of years ago, sixth degree poor man’s iterations of that theme like “We Are Men” make me feel kind of disgusted for my gender. Certainly guys have been known to bash women as a gender occasionally, and there’s nothing wrong with idly complaining to some extent to make a guy feel better after a bad date or breakup, etc. It’s also silly to harp on one episode of a twenty minute show to bemoan the show’s point of view; it’s hard to fit a world view in less than a half hour. Still, it’s not an arbitrarily chosen half hour, it’s one you know your show will be judged and chosen by. Dads writes and creators balked at accusations of sexism and racism by claiming that later episodes would make the characters more complex, and to some extent it’s fair to note that most characters feel like tropes after an episode.   But maybe don’t put that much racism in it either. I would have absolutely no problem if the first episode featured just men; there’s nothing wrong with shows for men, by men, and they could introduce women in later episodes when these characters were more fleshed out. What I do have a problem is how the limited number of women are portrayed. His fiance is portrayed as a naggy impediment to his dreams. The other female character who gets a minute is Shalhoub’s daughter, who seemed like kind of a male fantasy, as the cool, sexy chick, who gave him tips on how to hook up with women. It’s not that other shows don’t feature women mostly as merely objects for men to ogle and hope to have sex with, but for whatever reason this show felt more boorish than most.

If Entourage is the male fantasy show you dream after a booze-filled party, We Are Men is the reality when you wake up groggy in the morning, hungover. Everything that seemed so great the night before now appears kind of ugly. While hanging out with cool successful guys and sleeping with a lot of hot chicks was fun in Entourage, it was less so when you realize that those guys were kind of sketchy and leering at women feels much more uncomfortable.

Of course guys look at attractive women, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with portraying that reality but I felt really creepy watching the four guys in We Are Men ogle women from their poolside. Probably the single worst shot without which it might not have stuck out as much is when the camera follows a bikini-glad young women, and Carter, narrating, tells us, well, we’re showing you that, just because. They do this in Entourage all the time, but somehow that show seemed separated from reality in so many ways, and it was strangely easy to enjoy the fun fantastical times Entourage provided while laughing away its approach towards women.

Anyway, bad show. Also worth noting were the cameos by Alan Ruck, who has also appeared in a couple of episodes of Masters of Sex this year, who shows up as the priest officiating Carter’s wedding, and Dave Foley, who is in the show for approximate ten seconds as Carter’s dad.

Will I watch it again? I again could only watch one more even if I wanted to, but I don’t. America got one right and decided they collectively ddin’t want to see any more of this claptrap. Smart call.

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Fall 2013 Review: Lucky 7

13 Nov

Four of the Lucky 7

Here’s the only thing you really need to know about Lucky 7: ABC has outdone most TNT and USA titles by conceiving of a title achieves the rare triple pun (for another example, see the album cover for Rush’s “Moving Pictures“). First, Lucky 7 applies to the titular group of seven employees who win the lottery (actually six do, and one doesn’t technically, but they’re still the seven described in the title). Second, it’s a reference to the 7 train which goes through Queens, where the show takes place. Third, seven is the final digit of the six numbers that the group plays in their weekly lottery pool, which wins them the jackpot. So, there. If you want to stop reading now, you now know the best thing about the show, the triple pun title.

Moving on. Because the show takes place in an outer borough rather than Manhattan, the seven are real New Yorkers, and not urban hipsters or bankers. You can tell because they have extremely noticeable accents.  The seven main characters work together at a gas station, in different roles. They are:

Bob – the boss, played by the only particularly well-known member of the cast, Isiah Whitlock, who played The Wire’s Clay Davis. He and his wife are looking forward to his retirement but doesn’t have the funds.

Antonio – a hard-working Hispanic mechanic had been saving away his lottery money instead of putting it into the pool as the most responsible member of the cast. When his responsible decision making is not rewarded, he seems to take it relatively well considering he’s still poor while his friends are all instant millionaires.

Denise – she works in the store and is worried that her husband is cheating on her after finding out that he’s sent hudnreds of text messages to a number she doesn’t recognize. She’d rather not find out the truth and she feels guilty because she’s gained a lot of weight since their marriage. On a subjective note, I found her accent extremely irritating.

Mary – a young mother who is struggling to provide for her daughter. She works in the store.

Nicky – an ex-con having somewhat of a hard time staying straight. He has a thing for Samira (who we’ll get to in a moment).

Matt – Nicky’s law-abiding brother. He’s living with his pregnant wife in his mom’s house, which is driving his wife crazy.

Samira – she’s a Julliard student with an incredibly stereotypical Indian dad who claims Julliard is useless compared to math or medicine and tries to set her up with Indian guys.

So basically,  they win the lotto towards the end of the episode, which we all know is going to happen because it’s the premise of the show (how great would it have been though if they didn’t win, and everything in the trailers about the premise was just a lie). The major plotline apart from simply winning the lotto involves the brothers. Nicky, who needs money to pay off some old criminal associates, convinces Matt, who desperately needs money to move out, to stage a fake robbery of the gas station store. Nicky will wear a ski mask and rob Matt, working at the register, and the insurance will take care of the loss. As you might guess, this does not go as planned.

This sequence contains of my least favorite narrative devices. Nicky suggest pulling off the robbery to Matt, who immediately turns him down, which is exactly how he should and would react as a non-criminal who has never considered robbery as an acceptable option at any point in his life, no matter how easy or potentially foolproof. However, right after Matt turns his brother down initially, his wife, who just gave birth, warns him that she’s going to move out to her sister’s place until he can get them a place of their own, because his mother is awful to her. All of a sudden, with that one new piece of information, Matt’s in for the fake robbery. I get it, the writers have done their due diligence, and checked off the “motivation” checkbox by letting us know how desperate a situation Matt is in, vis-a-vis his wife moving out temporarily. And credit for at least checking it off, but it still feels lazy, easy, and not convincing that this law abiding citizen would agree to commit a pretty serious crime a minute after learning this extremely disheartening, but not life-threatening news.

Anyway, they attempt the crime, but it all goes awry when Bob walks in, and Nicky hits him over the head as a quick reaction move, putting Bob in the hospital with serious injuries. We don’t know for sure from the events in this episode, but we’re certainly led to believe that the police are going to be pretty suspicious about this potential fishy inside job pretty quickly.

The only other major plot element of this episode was that, since Matt borrowed money to joint the lottery pool the week they won, the other lottery winners have to vote on whether or not he gets a share. This seems beyond shady to be. It basically means that, according to this rule, if they lose, he still owes the money, but if he wins, he might not get it. That makes no sense and I’m curious if it’s actual lottery policy, but not quite curious enough to look it up. A just awake Bob casts the tie-breaking vote to give Matt his share after the other four are deadlocked.

I forgot to mention there’s a flashforward at the very beginning of the episode in which the brothers are being chased by the cops and one of them ends up throwing a whole bunch of money out of the car, and says something to the effect of that it was the money that caused all their problems.  Did I also mention how ridiculously tired I am of flashforwards?

It’s not a good show. There’s a good premise lurking there underneath everything, and definite points for ethnic diversity, but demerits for the ethnic stereotyping, like Samira’s Indian father. The characters feel hackneyed. Instead of showing complicated, deep, working class characters, Lucky 7’s characters mostly feel right out of the book of what well off people think of good-hearted down-on-their-luck working class Americans. The writing isn’t sharp, and some of the characters, particular Nicky, the ex and current criminal, are particularly grating. Any chance generated by the potentially fascinating premise is wasted by settling for the obvious and uninteresting.

It’s not truly terrible; I’d rather keep terrible to use for worse shows, like Ironside. It’s just regular bad. Still, there’s no reason to feel much sympathy for its quick cancellation.

Will I watch it again? I won’t and I could only watch one more even if I wanted to. I still think this premise could have some juice to it if done well, but this certainly isn’t that.

Fall 2013 Review: Dracula

11 Nov

The D is for Dracula

Irishman Jonathan Rhys Meyers, best known on television as Henry VIII in the Tutors, plays the namesake British vampire in this extremely loose television adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After being woken from a years (or possible decades, it’s hard to tell) long sleep in the first moments of the pilot, Dracula decides to masquerade as an American industrialist, complete with a terrible yahoo-ish American accent. He’s got a trusty assistant named Renfield, who helps conduct his affairs; how he came to know Renfield and enlist him into his service is unclear. We know that he’s putting on the American industrialist act but we not why until the second half of the episode where the crazy conspiracy underpinnings of Dracula began to come to the fore.

Dracula’s primary goal is revenge on the secret Order of the Dragon. The Order of the Dragon is a powerful organization which has apparently been committing various clandestine acts for centuries, with the killing of vampires being at least one of their duties. We know they’re a big deal because a couple of their leaders let us know that they offhandedly concocted the story of Jack the Ripper to keep the vampiric truth behind some London prostitute murders under wraps.

Dracula holds a huge gala to introduce himself, as the American Alexander Grayson, to fashionable society with the hope of bringing out members of the order on which he wants revenge so badly. The order is composed of seemingly normal upper class Britons. In addition to killing vampires, the order retains its strength through controlling wealth by way also sorts of trading schemes, which Dracula wants to attack, while also attacking the members of the order physically and you know, doing the whole vampire biting of flesh sucking of blood routine.

Also attending his gala is an ambitious journalist, Jonathan Harker, who is accompanied by his lady friend Mina Murray. Both the names are recognizable as characters in the classic Dracula story though it doesn’t seem like this version feels particularly obliged to hew too closely to the original. As we let the crazy continue to seep out little by little over the course of the episode, it turns out that Mina is a reincarnation of Dracula’s long-dead wife who just so happened to be killed by members of that same sinister Order of the Dragon.

There’s no obvious rooting interest; Dracula is our protagonist but he kills at least a couple of people mercilessly in the first episode. While the Order of the Dragon does seem like they could be pretty evil, it’s not clear Dracula is any better except relatively. Journalist Harker may be the closest the viewer has to an analogue, though it’s unclear how quickly and how much he’ll learn about all the underlying conspiracies in the next few episodes.

In terms of new TV horror shows, everything Sleepy Hollow is, Dracula isn’t, and vice versa, but in a good way for both. Let’s call Dracula a British take on Sleepy Hollow; where Sleepy Hollow wears its insanity on its sleeve, Dracula keeps its crazy repressed below a prim and proper Victorian exterior. It’s not as straight forwardly outlandish as Sleepy Hollow, but it’s deeply embedded with centuries old conspiracies and all manner of supernatural. The combination of crazy conspiratorial and repressed and tense gothic kind of works. Dracula is largely devoid of humor but it feels like horror spooky and over the top rather than weighed down with seriousness the way more important dramas can (Boardwalk Empire and Homeland for example). The whole Order of the Dragon is a little goofy not quite enough to not laugh at. It’s, like Sleepy Hollow, as if the show knows is winking with its seriousness; even though what’s on screen is by all accounts completely earnest, viewers aren’t meant to take it too seriously.

Maybe Dracula in an odd way is the true successor to ABC vengeance soap Revenge. Like Emily Throne, Dracula appears to have come back in an unrecognizable form years later to seek revenge on a group that harmed someone that he loved. Of course, it’s not the attempted carbon copy of Revenge that several of the shows ABC paired with Revenge were (Betrayal, Deception), but the gothic horror setting is as good a home for some soapy behavior as the high class / low class setting of the modern day Hamptons. After all, what are both the Victorian era and Dracula about if not repressed sex?

Will I watch it again? I might. It’s not top tier, so I probably won’t get around to if I do until at least the initial torrent of fall television has slowed down, but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would and I was honestly intrigued. The plot may not have been the most original, but the new take on a gothic vampire story felt strangely fresh for a tale that’s been told in one way or another so many times.

Fall 2013 Review: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

6 Nov

Many times upon a time in Wonderland

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland owes its incredibly clumsy title to being a spinoff, in style, if not in practice, from Disney ABC surprise hit Once Upon a Time. It’s not a traditional spinoff because no character from Wonderland has ever been in Once Upon a Time, but reports lead me to believe their paths could cross sometime in the future and there are distinct stylistic similarities. I don’t like Once Upon a Time,, but I did my best to not let my biases get the best of me, as I said down to watch its progeny.

At first, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland actually seemed promising. What I disliked about Once Upon a Time original edition was it’s utter cheesiness. That’s not exactly an SAT word but it really aptly describes the quality which may make Once Upon a Time perfect for kids but unattractive to adults. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland contains a deliciously dark premise, at least to start. Alice, of Wonderland fame, is now a teenager stuck in a mental asylum. When she came out of Wonderland the first time she told stories of all her adventures, only to have her dad not believe her crazy tales. She returned to Wonderland again and again to find proof so that her dad would finally believe her, but when she didn’t it was only seen by her dad as running away and being mentally unstable. Eventually she was sent to an asylum for her own good, where they won’t let her out unless she admits she made up the stories. She tries to lie but they don’t believe her because she still cries out about Wonderland every night in her dreams. The asylum doctors end up suggesting a lobotomy, and broken of spirit, she gives in.

Unfortunately, that super dark premise doesn’t last long. Like in many fairy tales, things are darkest at the start. Alice has lost her willpower in particular because, as we see in flashbacks, her great love, an ex-genie (yes, that’s a thing – think how the genie in Aladdin was freed, but this time he looks like a hot guy) from Wonderland was killed by the evil Red Queen. Ever since his death, she’s had trouble caring about anything. Fortunately for her, a former Wonderland compatriot who’s escaped into the real world is summoned by the rabbit (the white rabbit of Jefferson Airplane fame), voiced by John Lithgow to help Alice, and let her know her true love is still alive. He somehow gets in and gives Alice the news which reinvigorates her and lets out her inner action hero as she takes out a couple of guards. They break out of the asylum and back into Wonderland where they set off to find her ex-genie. Forget the super creepy asylum and the potential lobotomy and all the doctors, that’s all done, because we’re in Wonderland now.  Now, there’s still a super evil baddie, the red queen, and the great twist is the rabbit is now in the Red Queen’s pocket for some reason that’s unclear up to her. But it’s a fairy tale and a classic fairy tale villain rather than the far more disturbing and creepy and potentially interesting asylum set up.

Which is fine to some extent. It’s innocuous enough, it’s pleasant, and I’m sure there’s a set who this appeals to. But to someone who has been exposed to so many dark adult stories and gripping emotional dramas, it feels well, and I know I sound cynical here, but lame. I certainly don’t expect every drama to be super dark or incredibly complex (Orphan Black, for example, as if I need to defend myself, is a ton of fun, certainly isn’t complex, unless you consider its sci-fi nonsense as complexity), and maybe it’s sad that I can’t enjoy this and it says more about me than it does about the show. Still, I can’t and I don’t.

Now,  in the second half of the episode, Alice and her buddy, the Knave of Hearts, are off on some sort of yellow brick road, questing to find her love, and they face a couple of obstacles, including a greedy Knave trying to steal from Alice, before episode’s end. They made it through them all though for now. The Red Queen, in the other surprise of the episode, is working for Jafar in a great confluence of Disney villains. He’s played by Lost’s Sayid, Naveen Andrews, who we see, has Alice’s genie locked up but for some reason needs her to unlock his power.

I need to talk for a second about the effects. Effects rarely bother me; they’re not something that ranks very highly for me on the list of pieces I look for in a movie or show and I’m usually willing to give substandard effects a pass. But I have to say that the effects here were really, really bad. The rabbit, and basically everything in Wonderland contributed to the overall cheesiness. Combined with the general tone, it seemed more appropriate for a Disney straight to home video film than a primetime TV show.

Will I watch it again? No.  The tone feels a little too I don’t know, like The Simpsons’ Storytime Village – perfect for ages 1 to 7 1/2 and the writing and characters aren’t so good that I’m willing to put up with a tone that doesn’t much interest me.

Fall 2013 Review: Back in the Game

4 Nov

She's back in the gameIn Back in the Game, Maggie Lawson stars as Terry, a single mom who moves back home and in with her father, known as “The Cannon,” played by James Caan, after she loses everything in a messy divorce. She brings along her son, Danny, who is maybe…11 or so (I’m terrible with ages). She had a difficult relationship growing up with her father, who pushed her extremely hard in her promising softball career but broke her heart when he didn’t come to any of her college games. Her son wants to play baseball to impress a girl which bring back painful memories of her dad’s abandoning her, but she’s happy to support her son if that’s what he wants. Unfortunately, while she was great, he’s terrible, and doesn’t make the team Even though the last thing she wants is to get back involved in the sport, she agrees to coach a second team when she realizes it’s either that or break her son’s heart by keeping him from playing,  Her new team is composed of misfits and outcasts who couldn’t hack it on the first team and she’s assisted by her curmudgeonly drunk dad who has few kind words for anyone, her and her son included.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s pretty much an update of any sports movie, but in particular the Bad News Bears, with Maggie Lawson and James Caan combining in the Walter Matthau role. Lawson has the former baseball star experience while Caan has the grumpy angry demeanor. It’s obviously a feel good story about losers and outcasts making something of themselves. The writing is solid though, and the losers are fairly funny. There’s a roll call of kids on the team at the end of the episode, where they all get a silly line, and while I was expecting this to be awful because over-the-top kid actors often rub me the wrong way, a couple were kind of funny.

It’s not an original story by any means, but to its credit, unlike the losers in Super First Night, another one of the new shows about outcasts this year, I find myself wanting to root for them. A lot of this is credit to Maggie Lawson, who I’ve always liked from Psych, and who plays pitch perfectly the balance between being constantly flustered while still managing to be relatively put together. Lawson isn’t constantly engaging in physical pratfalls, like Wilson. Rather, her main initial battles are with her emotionally distant father. Liking Lawson is integral to enjoying the pilot, and I think the creators picked the right actress for the role. Caan has the relatively easier job, but he does it well; it’s probably a role he could do in his sleep. Danny, the son, is thankfully a hair away from too precocious for me to enjoy his presence. There’s also a comically over the top villain, like there is in Super Fun Night, but he, the rival baseball coach, thankfully doesn’t dominate the pilot as much as the villain in that program.

The plot isn’t all that interesting, and the premise isn’t original at all, but the writing is decent and the acting is solid. It’s in the cute and innocuous tier with Trophy Wife so far. There’s nothing really must watch; it’s not so funny or so well written that it’s appointment viewing. Still, it’s a reasonably enjoyable comedy pilot which is certainly worth something these days.

Will I watch it again? Not anytime soon, likely. This review came out more positive than I realized so I’m rethinking that decision but at the moment it sits with Trophy Wife as decent shows that just can’t quite win the Darwinian struggle to enter my long TV viewing list at the moment.

Fall 2013 Review: Super Fun Night

1 Nov

Super Fun Night every night

Super Fun Night borrows from a set up that pops up over and over again in movies and television and has worked plenty of times before in movies like Old School and Animal House among many others. The main characters are self-aware and self-appointed losers. In this case, they’re three best friends who normally stay at home on Friday night, confident in their friendship but not so much in anything else. Like in any of these shows or movies, the losers are our heroes, and the story is about how they break out of their shells and show their worth to the rest of non-loser society.

Rebel Wilson plays the group’s nominal leader Kimmie, a lawyer who just got a promotion at her firm. The aggressive Marika and the diminutive Heather-Alice back her up. Kimmie has a crush on British lawyer Richard Royce who seems to genuinely like her in spite of her constantly embarrassing herself at work, as we see in several flashback cutaways.

Like in many of these types of shows and movies, there’s a clear antagonist, who is a conventional winner and was always a winner. Someone who’s great at everything, who is used to treating losers like dirt and getting away with it, but who is personally despicable by the viewer. More than winning, these characters are obsessed with making sure the losers know their place. The winners will always be winners and the losers will always be losers, and the loser best give up all hope of ever becoming a winner. These television shows and movies often take place in high school and if they don’t it’s like high school all over again with their sense of clear social strata. The British lawyer, Richard, just happens to also be in a position of power, as son of the head of the firm, thus making him an object of interest for Kendall. Kimmie likes him for him, Kendall likes him because his daddy is important.

The pilot is a first battle between our villain Kendall (by the way, even the names tell you who are the winners and who are the losers – given Kendall, Kimmie, Marika, and Heather-Alice, I’d bet you could pick out the villain) and Kimmie for Richard, and luckily for her, Richard seems much more on her page, personality-wise. Unfortunately, apparently just getting along better and having compatible personalities isn’t enough; Kimmie has to defeat, or at least equal, her rival in a karaoke sing-off to prove her worth.

I thought Super Fun Night would be like The Crazy Ones, a sitcom whose value depending almost entirely on your opinion of its polarizing and screen-hogging star, in this case Rebel Wilson. Your opinion about Wilson will have a large impact on how you feel about the show, indisputably, but it’s not dominated by her personality the way The Crazy Ones is by Robin Williams. She’s still the dominant force of the show, and if you don’t like her you probably won’t like the show, but it doesn’t scream Rebel Wilson just starring in a sketch show.

Super Fun Night’s sense of humor is well over the top and not in a good way. Most of the over-the-topness is through cringe-worthy moments where Kimmie embarrasses herself. It’s hard to watch at times. It aims for British awkward comedy combined with American physical comedy and neither work. Cringe comedy is difficult, Peep Show and the original British The Office are two of the most successful examples. In this show, unlike those, we’re unapologetically supposed to be rooting for the main character who is the cause of all the cringe-worthiness. Was I rooting for her? I was, relatively, but only because of a kind of cheat, as the villain was so obviously terrible that there’s really no other option. Given a real choice, I doubt I would root for her. Maybe this is malecentric but I feel bad for the guy who they’re competing over. Rebel Wilson’s clearly well-meaning but doing frustratingly stupid things time and again.

We get it. Kimmie makes a fool of herself a lot at work by accident with all manner of physical pratfall or her kind of disgusting habits. That point is hammered home again and again. Some of them are innocent accidents, some are poor social judgments that she really should know better than to make, and some fall in the middle. I generally keep these reviews link free, but Vulture penned an article that happened to hit the nail right on the head. In order for a show like this to work, you have to really have to buy in to the losers – you have to make them your own. Here, you don’t want to. I want to root for the underdog but they just turn me off here. People can be losers and behave like somewhat normal humans.

Will I watch it again? No.  The set up is a common one but Super Fun Night got it wrong, and Wilson’s brand of self-deflating physical humor is too much.

Fall 2013 Review: Betrayal

30 Oct

Betrayers and James Cromwell Sometimes you watch a show,and you ask simply, “Why?” Not because it’s so bad, though you wouldn’t ask it if it was good. Even with bad shows you can often see why they were made, or the path they took and where it went wrong, or who they were trying to appeal to. There was a plan, and whether it was intended to be good, or simply popular with one particular demographic of television viewers, you can guess what it was, even if it doesn’t get there in the end. No, what I mean are shows that make you ask “Why” because they seem pointless and forgettable and you wonder why they kept getting moved through all of the many stages required to get a show from idea to production to on air. A show so forgettable and just whatever that you’ll probably not remember anything about it within an hour of viewing it, and that absolutely no one will remember its existence even a couple of months after its debut.,

Betrayal is such a show. If I had to guess at the thought process, I would suppose that ABC was probably making another attempt to imitate vastly slowed down first season hit Revenge, but the only reason I’m suspecting that is the two shows share one world title that are pretty similar. Here’s your Betrayal primer, nevertheless, so you know all you ever need to know about the show and more. Sara Hanley (Hannah Ware, who played the daughter, the worst character on Boss) is a successful magazine photographer married to Drew, an ambitious and busy prosecutor. Jack McAllister is a talented lawyer stuck working for his father-in-law in a possibly shady business. He’s married to Elaine, a marriage he fell into young. Both Jack and Elaine have kids, and after meeting at a gallery displaying Sara’s art, they find they have a spark that they simply can’t ignore and begin an affair.

I’m sure they both have perfectly good reasons to be unhappy in their respective marriages but the spark is certainly hard to discern from a viewer perspective. Jack feels stuck being around his family all the time at work and at home, and feels totally controlled by his father-in-law. Sara, well, her husband is really busy I guess and doesn’t have time for coffee when she shows up in his office in the middle of the day without calling ahead. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sympathetic towards them and empathize with their infidelity, or more than that, at least feel swept up in it even if we don’t think it’s moral, but I didn’t feel anything. Feeling that they were both wrong is not necessarily bad but feeling nothing at all certainly is. Both felt guilty after Sara received a phone call from her husband right before they were about to consummate their affair and they decide to break it off. Later in the episode, however, Jack made a surprise visit to Sara’s studio.  They decide, at this juncture, that even though they’ve spent just about a day with one another, that they can’t possibly live without one another and have sex right then and there in the studio. I don’t really get it and more than that as mentioned before I just don’t care.

The shin hits the fan when Jack’s brother-in-law, his boss’s son, is considered a prime murder suspect in the death of his boss’s brother-in-law, who his boss suspected of shady dealings against the family interest which Jack discovered. That’s a long complicated sentence which I could have spent more time parsing out but it’s really not worth it. The important upside is that coincidentally or maybe not, Sara’s husband is the prosecutor, who believes that a conviction of Jack’s brother-in-law could make his career, setting up a run for political office. The episode ends with Sara breaking down after finding this out, her infidelity reducing her to a pile of guilt.

Betrayal really is probably going for something in the Revenge sphere, but it’s so far off that I have a hard time believing it. Revenge was trashy, soapy, fun. Betrayal, well, it’s soapy if soapy just means being about people having affairs, but it’s not at all fun. It’s super duper serious, ponderous, and uninteresting.

I entirely forgot to mention that the show tries to grab you with my least favorite plot device, the flash forward (which Revenge used as well), which appears at the beginning of the episode, but which I forgot about by the end, when it reappears briefly.  In the flash forward, Sara is shot and well, I couldn’t tell what else happened, and I didn’t really care to watch the scene again to figure it out. This device is intended to let me know big, interesting things are going to happen, because you might not realize that after one episode, but it always misses the point. If you can’t interest people in some aspect of your show after one episode, you’re not doing a very good job. A cheap trick won’t help.

Oh, I should probably mention James Cromwell plays Jack’s father-in-law. That’s pretty cool.

Betrayal is not as bad as a bad comedy because bad dramas usually aren’t as bad as bad comedies. It was a frustrating, sub-mediocre watch, but it wasn’t out and out laughably awful. It was merely pretty bad. Again, I ask. Why?

Will I watch it again? No. Betrayal is so anonymous that you probably won’t remember it exists if I ask you about it tomorrow. That’s not a good thing.