Spring 2012 TV review

Using one word to sum up the shows I watched this television season.

Terra Nova: Failed.

Terra Nova could have been outstanding, instead it’s off the air. That is disappointing but not surprising. Even thought it was ridiculously expensive, FOX said it made money off the show internationally and hinted it would try to sell the show to a different network or possibly Netflix. Netflix however announced it would not buy the show. Still, FOX is reportedly keeping everyone under contract in case the show does find a second life. Should that happen, the show needs a ton of work to become anything remotely worth anyone’s time.

Alcatraz: Lame.

Jorge Garcia is, like, adorable on television, dude. But Alcatraz sucked. Bad. The main character, a female cop lured into investigating the sudden reappearance of Alcatraz prisoners, was horribly miscast. Do real cops show that much cleavage or just TV cops? She was not believable for even one second. Sam Neil’s character was kinda interesting, but not nearly interesting enough to keep the show afloat. There was some interesting stuff here, though. Sam Neil’s character being a guard at the prison when whatever happened to it happened served as a nice tie-in to the story’s two time periods. His Richard Alpert-esque kinda-sorta love interest who was brutally shot and laid in a coma also set the groundwork for something that could have been very compelling. But on an episode-by-episode basis the show seemed to forget all of that.

BUT…I like to Google shows while I’m writing about them. In so doing I read about what happened in the season finale and I have to say I’m stunned. Stunned to the point where I might have to go back and pick up where I left off to see how it all turned out.

Revenge: Unexpected.

Just as Revenge was heating up, ABC inexplicably put it on one of its moronic hiatuses, although at only six weeks this one is shorter than the break that did in Flash Forward. The storyline had finally come back to the engagement party it started with in the pilot. I felt it was a little cheap, but still pretty good. It will have to transition from the summer-in-the-Hamptons setting that it used to augment the soap opera feeling, but I’m looking forward to what it has in store for when ABC eventually lets it back on the air.

Once Upon a Time: Disappointing.

The first two episodes of Once Upon a Time were really neat. Then it kinda wandered. The premise of an evil fantasy witch trapping real-life versions of fairytale characters in an idyllic seaside town is creative and fun. But then it seemed the show wasn’t even about that anymore. The first few episodes had clear connections between what happened in fantasy land and what happened in Storybrooke. After that it flattened out. It is so uninteresting now that I wonder why I even continue to watch it. Adam Horowitz and Mankato native Edward Kitsis earned a lot of loyalty from their work on Lost, but even that is slowly running out. This show needs to pick it up, fast, or else it’s off the list.

Awake: Intriguing.

I hadn’t even heard about this NBC show (maybe because it is on NBC) until Damon Lindelof tweeted about how much he liked the pilot. So I checked it out and damn if it ain’t really well done and really intriguing. The premise is this: An LA cop is in a car crash with his wife and teenage son. He wakes up to find his wife survived but his son died. But then he goes to sleep and wakes up in a completely different timeline where his wife died but his son survived. This is intriguing enough, but the way they weave together the cases he works on in both realities adds a second layer of interest that is really cool. On top of that they add two psychiatrists – one in each reality – who each try to convince him that what he experiences is the other reality is not, in fact, reality at all.

Awake has “it.” It is the rare show that takes a good story and makes it even better through perfect storytelling. Which reality is real? Both? Neither? What’s the deal with his wife-reality boss hinting that the accident wasn’t an accident at all? If there’s a mention of that in his son-reality timeline, I missed it. Does that mean it is the fake one? This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.

American Horror Story: Compelling.

Person of Interest: Exceeding.

The River: Stupid.

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Terra Nova

FOX swung for the fences with the pilot episode of its new mega-drama, Terra Nova, reportedly doubling the $10 million ABC poured into Lost’s epic premier.  It’s too soon to tell if the show clears the fence or falls short with warning track power.

Terra Nova is a human colony in dinosaur times, set up after humans in 2149 find a one-way road back in time. The main characters are a family of five sent to the colony because it needed a doctor, which mom just happens to be. It also needed a cop, which makes it doubly fortunate that the husband escaped prison to go back in time with them.

The family dynamic is nothing special, and frankly it’s better left undiscussed.

Thus far, all but the first few segments of the series take place inside the colony’s barriers.  Even now, typing this review, I nearly typed “on the island” because there is a very island feel to Terra Nova’s setting. Recall the beginning of Lost, the island was an expansive unknown. We would later come to learn of Dharma stations, colonies and even a temple, but in the beginning all we knew was the comfortable beach and cave camps. Because of that, the writers were able to set up anything that took place outside those places to be mysterious, possibly dangerous adventures.

The colony is treated the same way. We are comfortable inside its walls with their markets and hospitals and modular homes. But outside there are dinosaurs. And Others, or “Sixers,” Terra Nova speak for the band of outlaws that lives outside the colony.

But are they really outlaws? The pilot dropped enough on us to show that there is more layers to Terra Nova’s onion. The island (honest to God, I did it again) has a commander, and that commander has a son who we learn is, well, we don’t really learn anything about him other than he has some chalk and wrote a lot of stuff on some rocks. Stuff about the real reason Terra Nova was created. Stuff we, as of yet, don’t know.

Again, this is a lot like what Lost gave us. We learned in season one there was something underground and some other people on the island, and probably there was a lot of history to be told. If Terra Nova’s creators have the same sweeping storyline in mind, we could be in for something exceptional.

Or we could be in for a dud. It’s too soon to tell. Some parts of Terra Nova aren’t up to par. The characters at times are too cliched: a teenage son angry at his father for going to prison, a saucy girl his age to tempt him away from the girl he left behind, a commander who is conveniently militaristic. You could have said the same about Lost in its early days. If Terra Nova can bring its characters and its story along well enough, it could last. If not, it will spiral downward and off our screens. Fast.