Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I tend to write teevee reports at regularly irregular intervals. What this means is that I generally wait until SamuraiFrog writes one, which then reminds me that I need to write one, too. Hooray for lemming-like blogging practices!

But anyway, most shows (minus a few FOX shows that were put behind due to baseball and lots and lots of X-Factor) are now anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of the way through their seasons, so it's a good time to see what's going on.

:: The gold standard for teevee at Casa Jaquandor continues to be Castle, which has lost exactly none of its touch. I was a bit afraid that after last season's grim and intense (but great) finale, that this year the show would veer too strongly in the direction of that tone, but they've still been able to maintain their just-right mix of seriousness and goofball comedic cops-and-criminals that made the first three seasons so great. I just love this show to absolute pieces.

Now, having said that, I am still concerned about the ongoing storyline about Detective Beckett's pursuit of her mother's killer(s). I continue to believe that for best effect, the Castle producers really need to put that storyline to bed this season. They've gone to the well infrequently enough that it hasn't become old hat yet, but in my view, they are getting ever closer to the point where it just won't be believable to keep having Castle and Beckett pull back the curtain only to find another curtain. There is now no possible way that Castle and Beckett themselves don't end up together in a romantic capacity, and I don't think that can really feel right as long as there's this very dark and tragic loose end dangling out there.

Still, Castle continues to be just fantastic. The Halloween episode was incredibly well-done, and I loved the episode that had Castle and his mother as hostages in a bank robbery, a very nicely-done break from the show's usual routine.

:: Sticking with the "police procedural" thing, The Mentalist has been a slog this year. Last season ended with Patrick Jane shooting Red John to death right in the middle of a shopping mall, which promised for some possibilities for really interesting storytelling. How would a guy like Jane react to having achieved his revenge? How would he find it at all satisfying? How would he react to now being a killer himself (no matter how justified)? How would his cop friends react to him? How would that affect his investigative skills? And as for Red John, how is this serial killer able to inspire so many disparate followers who are literally willing to die for him with nearly religious intensity of belief?

Alas, The Mentalist explored none of these possibilities. They instead took the lazy path that I had feared all along: that the guy Jane gunned down wasn't Red John at all. Which means that we'll get more Red John murders (which involve very bloody killings and a red smiley face drawn on the wall in the victim's blood), more Red John followers, and more lathering, rinsing, and repeating.

Even worse, The Mentalist has now, in the space of eight episodes or so, managed to completely waste two wonderful guest stars in Bradley Whitford and David Paymer. Whitford played the guy that Jane gunned down. It was a terrific scene, but what if Whitford had lived to stand trial as Red John? They could have really used that...but instead it was ten minutes or so of neat character interaction, and then, BANG! As for Paymer, he played a blogger whom Jane came to believe was a serial killer, and again, there was some potential for some great cat-and-mouse stuff with a recurring character. Instead, Jane taunts Paymer's character into badmouthing Red John (whom everyone believes to be dead) on live television, an act which leads to Paymer getting to be the victim Red John uses to announce to the world that he's very much alive. (Now, I must admit, this last was a twist that I genuinely didn't see coming and it was really quite well done.)

So, the Mentalist writers are in a similar position to the Castle writers: they need to wrap Red John up this year, or else it's just going to get boring. Their problem, though, is that they simply aren't as good a bunch of writers as the Castle bunch, so I have a lot less confidence that they can pull it off. We'll see.

:: I recently decided that The Wife and I needed a new show to watch, so I downloaded a few episodes of Person of Interest, the James Caviezel show that has him playing an Iraq War vet who is recruited by a mysterious guy who has developed a computer program that can crank so many numbers that it can predict when crimes are about to take place...but it can't predict how or when. All it can do is spit out the social security number of someone who is somehow involved in something bad, whether they know it or not, whether they're the criminal or not. We've watched two episodes and we're intrigued enough to keep watching.

And I, for one, would love to see Caviezel one day try to star in some kind of goofy, dopey sitcom. That would be hilarious.

:: I'm still watching New Girl, but subsequent episodes have not lived up to the promise of the pilot. It's almost like the producers put all of their effort into the pilot, and now, having been picked up, are now saying, "Oh geez, now what?!" It didn't help that they had to recast one character right out of the gate (an actor from the pilot had to bow out of the show when his old show got a surprise renewal, so his contract was still in effect). The show is still good for a few laughs each week, but...well, it's just slightly above "Meh" right now. (Of course, from my perspective, New Girl could restore some goodwill by having Zooey Deschanel don the overalls from the pilot episode again. Seriously, she may be the single cutest woman to ever wear overalls in history.)

:: The Big Bang Theory continues to be fantastic, although their (apparent) conclusion of Leonard's fling with Priya was pretty ham-handed. I have a hypothesis about that...but for now, the show's strength continues to be the simplest of all models: they've created an entire group of interesting and memorable and whacky characters, and they just stick them into interesting and memorable and whacky situations. Big Bang Theory is the most character-driven show I know of right now, and I still love it. The gentle implications that Amy Farrah Fowler is actually quite a bit more interested in sex than Sheldon generate tons of hilarity, and the slow morphing of Bernadette into Howard's mother is a masterstroke, as Howard clearly loves his mother but also clearly can't figure out how to get away from her.

As for Leonard's breakup with Priya: it really wasn't handled well at all (assuming that it's a done deal and Priya's gone), and in watching some reruns, I note that his earlier breakup with Penny wasn't handled all that well either. I really think that the Big Bang Theory writers have a high level of distaste for writing "bummer news" stories like breakups, and when they find they have to write one, they do the minimum amount of work required and surround the breakup with all manner of other farce (which is why the Leonard-Penny breakup happened during an "Evil Wil Wheaton" episode). Plus, Priya never came off...well, I'm not even sure how she was supposed to come off. They obviously couldn't write her super-nice, but they weren't able to really pull off writing her as a bitch, either.

:: I really want to like How I Met Your Mother more than I do. It's funny, it makes me laugh, and I like all of its characters but one. The one I don't like, though, is the main character. I just have zero interest in Ted Moseby and I don't give a crap if he ever meets those kids' mother.

:: Two Broke Girls, however, amuses me greatly. It's just a basic "odd couple" kind of sitcom, and those always hinge on the characters and their actors. Here it works pretty well.

:: For dumb fun, I still turn to CSI: Miami and Hawaii Five-0. They're really pretty much the same show – they even look the same, with the same styles of photography. The CSI: Miami premiere, which had Horatio Caine staggering through an entire crime investigation despite a bullet wound in his stomach (sustained in the last moments of last year's finale), was over-the-top fun, as was the "Miami hit by a tornado" episode. I love these shows, even though neither is to be taken the slightest bit seriously.

:: Reality shows? I'm pretty much down to The Amazing Race, which is the same as always. I was annoyed that they brought in two Survivor winners as a team, but those folks got eliminated very early on, so it didn't bother me much at all. They've also thrown in some bizarre twists to mess with the racers, like the one where at the roadblock (the second of each episode's two challenges), they had to earn some money and then donate it to an orphanage. At the donation table, there's this little sign off to the left – incredibly easy to miss – that reads, "You MUST donate ALL of the money in your possession." Team after team missed the sign, donated just the money they'd earned in the roadblock, and then walked a mile or so to check in at the Pit Stop...only to have Phil tell them, "Go back and give them ALL of your money." Oops.

:: X-Factor is American Idol with a different black guy in Randy's chair, a different fourth person in Kara/Ellen's chair, a less-drugged Paula in Paula's chair, Simon in Simon's chair, Pepsi cups instead of Coke ones in front of the lot, and some British guy instead of Ryan Seacrest presiding over the whole thing, as we judge acts of wider age ranges and including groups. That's it. I watched two episodes or so and then said, "Yeah, I've seen enough of this." If these kinds of singing competitions are your thing, then rock out, but I've had my fill by now. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I'm even watching the upcoming season of Idol.

:: Still enjoying this go-round of The Office; I think that being freed of Michael Scott has in some ways reinvigorated the writing. James Spader's corporate boss guy is really weird, though.

:: As for the various highly-touted shows that run on cable networks, I watch exactly none of them. Frankly, they all sound really grim and dour and I just don't want that all that often, which is why I'm unlikely to ever bother with stuff like Breaking Bad or The Wire or Sons of Anarchy. I just don't much feel like watching that sort of thing.

OK, that's about it. I'll report back later in the season....


Lynn said...

I agree about all the cable dramas. Most of them just don't interest me. I tried Damages (I think that's a Direct TV exclusive) for one episode and immediately decided I didn't want to get into a soap opera.

One cable show you might like, if it ever returns, is Memphis Beat. Like Castle it has a good mix of seriousness and goofiness plus lots of interesting characters and Blues music. My only complaint is that it has very short seasons with long, long hiatuses (hiati?) in between. It's on TNT, if I remember right.

Geoff Valentine said...

I'm with you on the Mentalist. It used to be a fun diversion, but now, not so much. You probably saw Ken Levine's funny write up on it?

My wife, whom I've dubbed "the crime whisperer" for her uncanny ability to predict plot twists in crime procedurals, nailed this one well in advance of the denouement.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Element: Yes, I read that! I really should link it. It's very funny.