These 7 Shows Died On My DVR

Criminal Minds

I used to use Criminal Minds as an example of what you should watch if Lost was too complicated for you. Then I stumbled across A&E reruns. I was hooked. But the show seriously lagged the past several seasons. The writers’ original fear that they’d run out of ways to kill people came true, and the storylines became less and less compelling. It rebounded toward the end of last season, but couldn’t continue the momentum this season. I haven’t watched an episode since at least March.

So what happened? Shemar Moore moved on and Thomas Gibson was fired. There went my two favourite characters. Bringing back Paget Brewster helped, but it wasn’t enough. Reid isn’t intense enough to replace what Hotch and Morgan brought to the dynamic, neither is Luke. Aisha Tyler’s character brings nothing; JJ has never been interesting for me. Rossi’s act as sage of the BAU is also tired.

Then there is Garcia. I’m completely tired of making the tech character an eccentric female, which I find degrading. Blindspot gets it right in this regard and gives the part the respect it deserves. Losing Morgan as her opposite left Penelope over-exposed and it’s just too much.

What would get me back? I’d still love to see a storyline that has the team get a case wrong. Shemar isn’t coming back, neither is Gibson. So unless they pull a Christopher Meloni out of their hat Minds and I have come to an end.

S.W.A.T.

Speaking of Shemar Moore, I have to admit this one hurts. I liked SWAT, and of course I love Shemar. The show deserves credit for at least trying to be more than a shoot-em-up cop drama, and I really liked the story with Street’s mom. But as time got tight, I wasn’t keeping up. It’s sat there waiting since February.

Maybe I’ll catch up if I ever have the spare time and buy CBS All Access. I’m sorry Shemar.

The Crossing

I made up my mind on this one long before ABC canceled it. Whenever I wish Lost would have focused more on the mysteries, along comes a show like The Crossing to remind me that characters matter most. The Crossing made virtually no attempt at character-based storytelling.

It’s mystery was interesting. People from the future somehow coming back in time to escape whatever hell the future brings. But the execution wasn’t there. And no offense to Steve Zahn, but I can’t take him seriously. I wasn’t a fan of Mad Dogs, but that might have been the perfect role for him.

The Resident

Honestly never even watched this one. I hope Emily Van Camp does well.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

This is just a factor of time. I have five episodes stored and doubt I’ll get to them. It’s a very enjoyable show that I encourage you to watch.

I did have a plan to blog about it. If you watch closely, the people behind Penn & Teller change from act to act. P&T’s clothes never change, neither do Alyson Hannigan’s. I think what happens here is they tape the entire season in one day, then edit the acts together so one of them fools P&T in each episode. I was going to do a photo essay breaking all this down, but ran out of time. Sorry.

Africa’s Great Civilizations

Africa is fascinating, so I taped this whole series from PBS. It’s interesting. But tbh I only turn it on when I know I’m gonna fall asleep.

Man With A Plan

I saw this show in person. It’s 10 times more funny in person. There are half a dozen or so episodes stacked up and I’ll blow thru one now and then. But it’s not good enough to make a priority.

 

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Westworld “The Riddle of the Sphinx” Confession

I totally missed it.

My whole bit is supposed to be about how much I loved Lost but I missed it. The director claims it wasn’t on purpose. Does that really matter? It was almost exactly the same, and I missed it.

I’m talking about the opening of last night’s “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” the fourth episode of Westworld season two. A record disk spins an upbeat rhythm, we’re in some kind of apartment. There’s a man on a bike. We aren’t sure who this is. Sound familiar? It should! The man doesn’t do any dishes, and no hatch gets blown open but we saw almost the exact same thing at the beginning of “Man of Science, Man of Faith.”

This didn’t even occur to me as I watched it. My excuse is I was too busy looking for signs of what timeline we’re in because that’s one of my biggest beefs with Westworld to-date. I made an effort to follow it better last night, and my reward was missing such an obvious parallel with Lost.

I’m embarrassed. I can barely show my face on this blog. I resolve to do better.

This brings up an interesting column on Wired by Angela Watercutter (no relation), who writes about her obsession with every Westworldian detail:

I’m going to do what I should’ve done with Lost in the first place: Sit back and watch. Don’t worry about clues. Ignore Twitter and message boards. If there’s something I’m supposed to know, Westworld will tell me.

I agree. Like her, I got so deep into the layers of little mysteries that I missed too much of the larger story the show was trying to tell. If it’s important, the show will make a big deal out of it (Jack’s relationship with his father). If it’s not important, it won’t (why Jack’s number is 23).

Damon says as much:
 “Which in the case of our show is, “The numbers are bad luck, they keep popping up in Hurley’s life, they appear on the island.” … But if you’re watching the show for a detailed explanation of what the numbers mean—and I’m not saying you won’t see more of them—then you will be disappointed by the end of season six.”

You could argue that Lost made too much sometimes of little things it had no intention of answering. That would be a fair point.

I take this laid back approach with most shows now, except for maybe Game of Thrones. I do like to make predictions there. But I try to keep it confined to predictions about the story and support them with things we may have seen in the show. Not find nuggets buried in a scene and extrapolate what they might mean, which is what I think happened too much with Lost.

Last night’s episode was my favourite of the entire series so far. It was easier to follow than others and, like Game of Thrones can sometimes do, it set aside Maeve and Dolores aside to give more time to Bernard and William. I think that made for a better story. It might also mean we’re headed for an overdose of Maeve and Dolores next week. Both characters are a bore in season two, so I hope not.

Westworld Season 2: Thoughts About This Mess

Of all the things I can’t handle in my TV shows, inevitability might be on top of the list. I can’t spend every episode of a series waiting for the most obvious thing to happen.

Take Westworld for an example. The moment Dolores killed the fly at the end of episode one made it obvious the hosts were going to realize they are hosts, and the odds were pretty good that we’d meet a host who didn’t know it was a robot. Such inevitability made it hard for me to take any joy in the show’s first season.

Enough people raved about it that I gave the show a quick re-watch, and I can see how people love it. I wouldn’t say I hate watch it the way I did The Leftovers, but I can’t say it’ll ever be a show I adore.

Here are my thoughts after three episodes of season two.

I’m okay with shifting timelines, but I need some kind of cue to tell me where we’re at. Putting a young Robert into the real-world scene in episode two helped, but I’d prefer to get the cue at the beginning so it’s easier to understand. Lost did this perfectly with the sound effect that signaled a transition to the flashbacks. Awake used warm and cold color treatments to tell viewers which reality its main character was experiencing. Westworld should do something similar. The timelines are too tight—weeks or days instead of years—for the characters to age, and the locations are exactly the same. They don’t have to throw a time card up on the screen, but some clear indication would be nice.

What was the main allure of season one? Watching the hosts become aware. Dolores figured it out. Maeve figured it out. Clementine could not handle, went zombie. Even Teddy, who rivals Revenge’s Daniel as one of the dumbest TV characters ever, figured it out. Now what? Aware Dolores is in a way even more of a drone than unaware Dolores. Her character has one focus that eliminates any depth she might have had. Wouldn’t it have been better if seeing what happened to her dad made her long for the simpler days when he was healthy and they were all happy? There’s an “ignorance is bliss” conflict there that could have put her character under a microscope by forcing her to question her new and murderous purpose. They passed and made her a military leader instead. Yawn.

It’s hard to be invested in the hosts’ fight against Delos when we only know three human Delos characters—Sizemore, Charlotte and Stubbs. The show hasn’t given any of them the time we need to have any sort of investment in their fate. We wanted Jon Snow to win the battle of the bastards because we love him and Ramsay was thoroughly detestable. Westworld hasn’t made us love the hosts or hate the humans, so I can’t care for the outcome of the conflict driving the story of its second season.

Where was William last week? More importantly, will that character even work now that we know he and the Gunslinger are the same? Yes, I think it will.

The show really suffers without Robert. They never made him a full-blown evil genius, but he was the central figure for every storyline to revolve around. Season one could ground storylines for the humans and the hosts in Robert. Without him, everything feels like it’s floating in the same space without anything to tie it all together. Maybe that’s the point…the park was under control with Robert and without him it spins out of control. He one-upped the board’s attempt to push him out of his creation in the most epic way possible: Writing a narrative that involved his own death to prove Westworld can’t exist without him.

I’m calling BS on the hosts making any sort of stand against the Delos security team. There’s no way old west shotguns could stand up to the weaponry Delos threw at them.

I like the idea of more parks with different themes. But at some point it’s going to be like okay, there’s no way one company can have enough money to do all this.

Why can’t they just give all the hosts clean hard drives? Wouldn’t that solve everything?

8 One-Season TV Wonders To Binge On A Snowy Weekend

The forecast is dire. Schools are closing early. Target is out of everything. Your boss even told you to bring your laptop home, just in case you can’t make it in Monday.

This can only mean one thing: A blizzard’s a brewin’, and you’re gonna be snowed in all weekend.

Your ancestors would have played board games. Or card games. Or watched a VHS tape. OR EVEN TALKED TO YOUR FAMILY. Fortunately you live in the age of streaming and none of this awfulness will befall you. You got options.

When a winter storm threatens to keep you curled up inside for days with nothing but streaming to do, here are great one-season TV shows to keep you entertained.

Last Resort

If you like military-government conspiracy stories with a dash of romance and a whole lot of Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine) you will eat up all 13 episodes of Last Resort. The story kicks off with Braugher, as commander of a nuclear submarine, refusing to obey an order to fire a nuclear strike at Pakistan. Braugher’s character has doubts about the legitimacy of the order and, as we see, there’s good reason to.

The story unfolds in the close quarters of the submarine, the French island it seeks refuge on and in Washington, D.C. You never know who to truly believe, who is on which side or which side is the good side. Last Resort includes a guest appearance from Ernie Hudson (Oz, Ghostbusters) that may have been the most dramatic moment in the short-lived series.

There are too many finer points of the story to give a more thorough overview of how Last Resort unfolds, but I’ll stake my claim that it’s among the most intense, heart-stopping episodes of any series I’ve ever seen.

If it’s so great, why’d it get cancelled?
Conventional wisdom chalks it up to an ultra-competitive time slot and a failure to attract female viewers. The premiere earned 9.3 million viewers, but it lost more than one-third of them by the time ABC gave it the ax in November.

Does it get resolved?
Yes! ABC cancelled the show with enough time for the producers to re-tool the 13 episode into a series finale. It ended in January 2013 and there’s no chance anyone will revive it.

The Last Tycoon

The pilot episode for Amazon’s The Last Tycoon drips classic Hollywood. The women have elaborate hair and vivid lipstick, the men wear sharp suits and speak with deep voices. The characters even move as if they could slide right into a classic Hollywood song and dance – and they do halfway through the first episode.

I watched the pilot on a stationary bike at the gym. Like the same for This Is Us, it was so arresting I found myself blowing past my 30-minute goal and watching the entire episode. Amazon released the rest of the season a full year later, but it was worth the wait. I’ll caution that the story does wander a little from the early episodes – don’t get too invested in the Nazi angle. The primary focus is wunderkind producer Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer) and his tight-fisted studio head, Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer).

The key to enjoying The Last Tycoon is to remember that, like Lost, the show is about the relationship between the characters and not the events around them. And simply enjoying the look and feel what we all imagine Hollywood must look like on its best day. A spiff for studio buffs: It’s produced by Sony but you’ll recognize it as being shot on the Paramount Lot.

If it’s so great, why’d it get cancelled?
Amazon Studios purged several expensive shows in September (Z: The Beginning of Everything being the biggest name). The Hollywood Reporter cited mixed reviews but you could also assume it was too expensive to continue as Amazon reportedly searches for it’s own Game of Thrones. Good luck with that.

Does it get resolved?
The main storylines from season one come to a satisfying enough conclusion before a cliffhanger in the final scene. That comes with the territory for these one-season wonders. It’s unlikely to get picked up.

Awake

I called Awake “intriguing” when it premiered in 2012 and claimed “This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.” Well oops about that. But it is phenomenally great. Go through to read my two-paragraph synopsis of the pilot to see how much I loved it.

Lots of shows go heavy with characters; lots of shows go heavy with mystery. Awake went heavy on both and intertwined them in a way that required them to give viewers an answer to both. Unfortunately, audiences weren’t buying and it never got that far.

If it’s so great, why’d it get cancelled?
MetaCritic users rated Awake their second-favourite new show of the season behind Revenge. Given how rapidly that show declined, I would love to go back in time and swap their fates. Awake premiered to 6.24 million viewers, nearly two-thirds of which bailed by the finale.

Does it get resolved?
Unlike Last Resort, Awake was in the can when it got canned. It’s not giving anything away to say the big mystery here is which reality was real. But remember: Characters.

Fortitude

I’m breaking the rules here. Fortitude got a second season, but the first could stand on its own. It’s so damned good and perfect for a snowed-in weekend because it’s set above the Arctic Circle in the fictional town of Fortitude. Everyone there is cold and resigned to the fact that there will never, ever be a time without snow and ice. Just like you are when you look out the window.

The idyllic yet insular setting gives Fortitude the perfect foundation to tell a slow mystery with a hint of darkness lurking at the edges. This story couldn’t take place anywhere but the most northerly settlement on Earth. If you had to categorize it, you’d draw a triangle with character-drive, sci-fi and psychological thriller at each corner.

This is a European show, and even thought it’s in English the American audiences might need subtitles for the accents and you should be aware that there’s levels of penis only seen stateside on HBO. Speaking of HBO, Richard Dormer plays the main male supporting role. Game of Thrones fans will recognize him as Beric Dondarrion.

Barely Honourable Mentions

The Event, NBC. This show tried, but it just didn’t work. It would have been better as a movie. Like, a Michael Chrichton movie. The government was hiding some aliens, some of the government was aliens. The Event premiered post-Lost and thought it could get away with the same flashbacks Lost used to perfection. It couldn’t and just confused people. NBC gave it huge hype and it premiered strong, then lost half its audience and died.

Flash Forward, ABC. Flash Forward premiered near the end of Lost, and there’s no doubt ABC had hopes it would bring many of us over. As I wrote at the time, the premiere covered a lot of ground quickly, which Lost fans would have loved. It brought a lot of mystery, much of which I enjoyed. Few others did. Go read the book.

Terra Nova, FOX. One of the things I loved about Lost was the way it started with a very small setting that expanded over time. First there was the wreckage on the beach. Then came the camp and the caves. We discovered the island with the characters as they ventured during season one before blowing things wide open starting with The Swan in season two. By the end of the series, the beach had a nostalgic “Oh yeah, remember when Lost was just the beach?” place in fans’ hearts. Terra Nova could have had that, but it sucked.

Tell Me You Love Me, HBO. So remember when I warned you about the penis in Fortitude. It’s nothing compared to HBO’s study of the sex lives of three couples who see the same therapist. The “Did You Know?” feature on Tell Me’s IMDB page actually has to disclaim that the sex scenes were simulated, even though no one would forgive you for thinking you were watching straight up porn. It somehow got renewed, but the second season never aired because there wasn’t anything in the first worth continuing.

Stay warm.

Scattered Thoughts: The Blacklist, 911, This Is Us and More

The Blacklist

I was so excited by the direction The Blacklist appeared to take in the season premiere. It looked like we were going to get a season of the dashing, fun Reddington we got in the first few seasons. Instead, we got the odyssey of killing Tom Keane. Great, that was a nice arc. But in like two episodes Reddington had all his money and cars and houses and suits back. WTF? We’e seen the Aida Turturro character what, two times?

Tom’s death was well done, and I enjoyed how the storyline played out. Less so the second half of the season with Liz trying to find his killer. Yawn. So let me offer an alternative arc:

  • The first half of the season is Reddington rebuilding his network. Starting from the hotel in the premiere and ending with him regaining his status at the mid-season finale.
  • The second half of the season is Tom’s death. Maybe Tom did something to help Reddington that led to someone wanting him dead. Maybe Reddington’s re-ascension came at Tom’s expense. Who knows.

I think this would have been a better path than such a quick return to the same The Blacklist that had grown so stale in previous seasons.

What I finally settled on as The Blacklist’s real issue is this: It has two main characters. Is it about Liz or is it about Raymond? Their relationship is the center of the show, but I think it also means the show is quick to bore.

Blindspot

Blindspot gets a little ridiculous sometimes when they’re putting together clues from Jane’s tats. Run these numbers through a random code, combine them with these numbers put in a circle, multiply them by pi—BAM!—found a bad guy. It’s a little much, but still fun. I’m glad they shipped Weller’s kid off to Denver.

I love Patterson. TV is too quick to make its technophiles into absurd caricatures (looking you, NCIS and Criminal Minds). Blindspot didn’t. Patterson is an integral part of the show and the FBI team. The show deserves credit for treating her like a brilliant professional. I loved the style and content of the Patterson-focused episode this past week.

But she should have died. As much as I like the character, I was surprised to find myself wishing she would walk into the elevator. It would have been a wonderful ending to a character that the show has given so much heartbreak.

Blindspot has handled itself very well in its third season. It’s not easy for shows to pivot away from their main storyline. The Ronan character is strong enough to be the main thorn in Jane’s side, and I expect that storyline will get most of the visibility for the rest of the season. It should be a good one.

This Is Us

I strayed a little from my “Don’t analyze this show” mantra after the over-done trilogy ended the first half of the season. It’s been dynamite since it came back. Except for last week. I don’t know what made anyone think we want a whole episode about Deja. But I do agree with the producer that NBC deserves credit for not intervening when the second-to-last episode of the season left out two-thirds of the main cast.

Remember last year when the penultimate episode was soooooo great and the finale was sooooo meh? Hoping for the opposite this year.

Y&R

When did Sharon enclose the porch on the ranch house? And come to think of it, why is Sharon still living in her ex-husband’s house on her ex-husband/ex-father-in-law’s property?

Goodbye, Chelsea. You were great with Adam but unfortunately the show let you die on the vine until you weren’t much more than someone who smiles at Nick.

Nick, you’re a brat. If they made posters of spoiled rotten rich kids, you’d be in them. You hate your father, but you love his money. Oh no wait you gave away all your money. Now you’re doing low-income housing. Sorry, that’s Randall and Beth Pearson’s gig. And your bar burned down. TWICE. My god you’re pathetic at adulthood.

I root harder for Nick & Sharon than I do for myself.

Ashby kids, you’re annoying. If my DVR had AI capabilities it would learn that I fast-forward through all your scenes.

Noah, sorry you were only good for being bad at having girlfriends. I wish they’d have done more with you, you could be a nice conflict between your father and grandfather.

I don’t care about The Hillary Hour. At all.

Nikki, that was kinda hot when you ran off with Nick’s contractor. You go!

9-1-1

It’s gotta be pretty bad for a show set in L.A. to not get my enduring affection. But 911 achieved it. Wow was this show bad. I quit after the plane crash episode. Not because the plane crash was poorly done (it wasn’t). But because this show has nothing other than emergency porn to keep your interest. The guy with rebar through his head? Come on.

The only thing worth watching about this show was the phone relationship between Connie Britton and the horny firefighter. That was awesome, but not awesome enough to keep watching. Peter Krause is terrible. Angela Bassett is terrible. So bad.

SWAT

Hey there, Shemar Moore. I’m sure SWAT is a totally unrealistic portrayal of an actual SWAT team. But it’s an entertaining hour nonetheless. The relationship between Shemar and his boss is a little forced, and the show’s attempt at addressing societal controversies is not quite ambitious enough to cram into one episode the way it tries to do.

The best character is probably the hot-headed young kid. It’s fun to watch him mature. I also really like the way they handled the story with him hitting on his co-worker who turned out to be bisexual. A show with no merit (hello, 9-1-1) would have drawn this out and probably given us at least one steamy sex scene. So kudos.

Jeopardy

Lee is a titan. If he qualifies for the Tournament of Champions, lookout. The dude was rarely wrong. Rachel also deserves credit for out-slugging him to start her run. She went on to benefit, I think, from some weak competition. This little banker twerp was pretty good, too.

Roseanne

I generally lament TV remakes (SWAT included, in this respect) because they make me afraid this great era of TV is running out of steam. So why am I curiously interested in watching Roseanne?

Africa’s Great Civilizations

This has been airing on the PBS lately. It’s pretty good.

Penn & Teller: Fool Us

More to come on this show. 😉

The Man In The High Castle

WHEN IS SEASON THREE HAPPENING FINALLY?

Bosch

Season four due out in April. Bosch isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s a solid and enjoyable show. Doesn’t hurt to have Man in Black, Matthew Abadon and a house with the most gorgeous view imaginable.

House of Cards

The more time goes on, the less interested I am in the upcoming season. What if the show just ends with President Claire declaring that it’s her turn? I think that would be fine, and also somewhat fitting. Kevin Spacey’s character is deposed, out of the power he’s enjoyed for decades. Replaced by the woman he manipulated for so long.

I normally don’t like it when TV pierces the screen to mirror real life events. But that would have been perfect.