TDP – Week 2 Report


And how am I doing? Not great. I did some major twitching earlier this week. Last night I had a sudden impulse to rewatch Dr. Horrible so strong that I was halfway to the computer before I remembered I wasn’t allowed to. And I was SAD.

I don’t know that this week was any harder (or easier) than last week. Certainly I did fewer things just to fill the time that would otherwise have been spent watching TV. I did more not-seeing-plays things that involved going places and being out of the house, though, so that’s maybe good. On the other hand, a lot of that was running errands and Christmas shopping, which are not my favorite things.

But I have:

– Started reading Speaker for the Dead

– Reorganized my entire iTunes library

– Updated software for my phone, my iTunes, and my computer

– Sort of watched part of A White Christmas without sound (I was at a party. It was on in the background.)

– Tried to learn how to fold an origami dragon (it is SO DIFFICULT)

The good news is, since I’ve made it this far I will probably make it the rest of the way. The bad news is, I have a three day weekend ahead of me and not quite enough things to do to fill all that time.

TDP – Week 1 Report


It has not been a fun week. This is not an easy thing I’ve decided to do. But, I’m doing it. I’m also hoping that this will get easier as the month goes on. I was really close to breaking the other day. I didn’t, though. Still no TV. What have I done instead? One (and a half) books, four plays, two albums, including:

1. Ender’s Game. I read it for the first time this week. And, like every other book I have ever finally read after years of people telling me I ought to, I feel dumb for not having read it before now. Although I don’t know that I would have appreciated it as fully when I was younger. Plus, now I can get all excited about the movie!

2. Pippin. This accounts for one of the plays AND one of the albums. It is my new favorite musical. The production I saw was amazing. My life is better as a result and I’m now completely obsessed.

3. The Heist. I’ve spent more time than I should probably admit listening to this album over the past week. I think I’m mutating into a Seattle hipster. But it is REALLY good.

4. The Amber Spyglass. This is the half book. I’m listening to the Philip-Pullman-with-full-cast audiobook, which is absolutely amazing. Audiobooks are, I think, going to be my great compromise for The December Project. Because while I can do much of the multi-tasking I do when I watch TV – dishes, cooking, painting my fingernails – my brain has to engage a little bit more. Plus, words! Lots of awesome literary words to help improve my brain.

We’re on to week two now. Hopefully it will be a little easier. Although I don’t have four plays to go see. So the weekend nights might ultimately be tougher.

SHOWDOWN: The Dark Knight Rises vs. Skyfall

Inspired by my own feelings on what are arguably the biggest movies of the past year and related debates I have now had with a variety of people, I bring you an admittedly ambitious Big Screen Brain twist on the Showdown category. I considered making this a three-way contest including The Avengers, but decided I was inviting more than enough nerd-rage as is. Besides, I saw The Avengers three times. It wouldn’t be fair to compare with movies I’ve seen only once each. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) PS – I figured out that you can add polls to blog posts, looky!


MOVIES: Christopher Nolan‘s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and Sam MendesSKYFALL


The Exhausted Aging Protagonist:

Both these trilogies are, essentially, new looks at the origins of long-established franchise characters. When they started their respective journeys as Batman and James Bond, both Christian Bale and Daniel Craig had considerably fewer wrinkles and scars than they did by the time part-three rolled around. The trick for these films is a balance between admitting that change and maintaining action-movie awesome.

The Dark Knight Rises: When the film begins, Batman (Christian Bale) is letting Gotham move on without him. He is not only tired and showing age, but broken. The suit back comes back on only in the face of absolute desperation – for himself and for his beloved city – , and the results aren’t pretty. Bruce Wayne in his weakened state is clearly no match for the berserker-force of Bane (Tom Hardy), and even Catwoman manages to run a few circles around him. Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) ran the biggest circle of all, landing him out of commission in a far-away prison for an awfully long portion of the movie. Of course Batman has his victory and saves the day, that’s never a question. But the manner of the victory reveals the true struggle: saving Gotham is only part of the plan, sharing equal footing with saving the soul of Bruce Wayne. The story ends with retirement, halfway across the world with a really hot girlfriend and not a superhero-appropriate care in the world. We are left with only the vaguest hint that there just might be somebody to take up the cape sometime down the line.

Skyfall: The story begins in franchise-typical fashion, with an epic chase sequence that ends with James Bond (Daniel Craig) being shot. And not just grazed. Shot in the chest, over a waterfall, missing-presumed-dead. He embraces his opportunity as a dead man to become a layabout on a Mediterranean beach who gets his kicks by playing what is unquestionably the Worst Drinking Game Ever. Until MI6 gets blown to bits and he returns to protect his country, his boss, and his job. And he does so, injured, tired, and gadgetless. The final showdown is just James Bond, a head start, some guns, and the will to survive. Which he does, of course, in spectacularly primal fashion. There is no hint that this is the end of Bond – as an audience we know that this is Daniel Craig’s goodbye and that the next time we see James Bond his face will be new. But the final note on Bond, both character and franchise, is absolute certainty that he will live on in a new age, that though his methods and thinking are old school, he can adapt and the world will not outpace him. (For more on James Bond in Skyfall, I suggest Paul Constant’s review-sum-character-analysis.)

Winner: I’m giving this one to Skyfall. If you look at the overall goals and mental states of the two characters over the course of these films, the difference is clear. Bruce Wayne intends to die, either a false death in victory or a true death in victory or defeat. James Bond intends to win, death be damned. And he does.

The Villain:

The Dark Knight Rises: The obvious disadvantage to this film is that no matter who the villain was, they were going to be following in the footsteps of Heath Ledger‘s Joker and, well, you know. That said, the combination of Bane and Talia al Ghul is a formidable one. Especially since you don’t even know they’re in cahoots until the eleventh hour. That is, their relationship isn’t revealed until then, but easily half of the film is spent hinting violently. As a result, the “big reveal” isn’t so much that as an “oh god, FINALLY we can move on and get back to the story.” Part of the immense power of the Joker was his total anonymity beyond the twisted persona.Bane has that power for most of The Dark Knight Rises, but once his back story is filled in, the secret to defeating him becomes equally clear, and all that remains is a rather less-than-suspenseful wait. By contrast, Talia al Ghul starts the film as a completely different and apparently innocuous character. Then her insanity grows exponentially over the final hour and transforms her into an unpredictable and dangerously desperate adversary. Both these villains, together and separately, present Batman with opposition powerful enough to put his final victory until at least some temporary doubt. What they do lack, however, is the sort of unnerving personal connection to Bruce Wayne that made the Joker and Raz al Ghul both great foils and formidable opponents.

Skyfall: Let me begin by getting the obvious out of the way: Javier Bardem KILLED IT. As in, if-I-hadn’t-known-it-was-him-I-would-never-have-known-it-was-him levels of killed it. Silva is, for all intents and purposes, the only villain in the film. He is enough of a threat on his own that there is no need for a second, direct combative adversary – the henchmen are just there to add volume. All other antagonists (M-to-be Ralph Fiennes and cabinet member Helen McCrory) are non-villainous, and couldn’t hold a candle to Silva even if they wanted to. Once he is introduced, even extra-sexy French-Asian Bond girl Bérénice Marlohe becomes completely uninteresting. His persona is made of a powerful duality: an unspecified but supposedly complicated backstory and a brutally simple but specific mission. Silva’s power as a villain comes from his similarity to Bond, and even more from the lingering question of whether he or Bond is the dark side. His face says everything. For all that the chic, queeny, bleach-blond exterior fits, there is no question that the sinking, blackened, cyanide face is the true one. Ultimately he loses, because he is the villain, but he does fundamental damage and that is what really counts.

Winner: Silva. No question. If he were pitted up against the Joker I don’t know who would win, but in this case it’s no contest.

Effectiveness as a Trilogy Ender

The Dark Knight Rises: There is no question that this film is the conclusion of an arc. Batman Begins followed very closely the heroes-journey process that led to the realization of Batman. The Dark Knight provided climax that can only be described as truly epic. And now in The Dark Knight Rises themes and storylines are wrapped up more-or-less neatly in a conclusion both loud and quiet. There are hints that the story of Gotham and Batman continues on. But the sense of finality is absolute, and the result is widely satisfying. (It was not my favorite ending, and I could definitely have done without that cafe scene at the end, but then again I only like endings where everybody dies and nobody is happy, so.)

Skyfall: The tricky thing is that this film does not truly belong to a trilogy, but to an extensive franchise. It feels like a trilogy because there are three films, and they fundamentally changed the way that many people look at James Bond. (Well, Casino Royale and Skyfall did. Quantum of Solace mostly just confused everyone.) Daniel Craig is his own Bond, a separate character from all the previous generations, and as a result of Casino Royale‘s mission to revivify the franchise, he has an individualized storyline underlying all the action. Skyfall completes his personal arc, and it completes Judi Dench’s longer arc as M. But, the primary function of the film is not to conclude, but to complete a new beginning. Very literally, Skyfall acknowledges that James Bond as he has been is out-of-date and thus reinvents the franchise. Q and Moneypenny, missing elements from the two previous Daniel Craig Bond films, have been reborn and Skyfall ends not with a sense of finality, but an enthusiasm for continuing on.

Winner: The Dark Knight Rises has this one in the bag. Christopher Nolan has created a third, powerful film that completes his story and his vision, and good as it is, Skyfall just can’t touch that.

Final Tally: Skyfall – 2, The Dark Knight Rises – 1

I knew as soon as I stepped out of the theatre after The Dark Knight Rises that it wasn’t going to be my favorite film of the year, nevermind one of my favorite films ever like The Dark Knight was. Skyfall was a total surprise to me. Of course it was going to be a fantastic action film, of course Daniel Craig was going to go out with a bang. But the artistry of the film-making and the unexpected elegance of the story made it truly excellent. It has its faults, but it might be my favorite film of the year. And yes, that includes two Joss Whedon movies. Whoda thunk.

The December Project

A year of hiatus… Several months of procrastinating… Another month of real thought and deliberation… And…

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Well, almost. Consider this the pre-re-launch. I’m taking the month to get my brain back in the blogging groove. So it’s less a grand return than a gradual re-entry. And conveniently timed to begin after many midseason finales and end before most midseason returns. AND, just to make things more complicated, I’ve decided I can’t just simply resume where I left off. I have to make it a thing.

So, I present to you what is possibly the most unorthodox approach to TV blogging possible: I quit TV for the month of December. Really.

And I did it as a strategic part of my return to TV blogging.

Let me explain the rationale behind this. It begins with a reiteration of the rationale behind the title of this blog. In so many words: TV melts your brain. Whether this is scientifically proven and true or not is irrelevant. I believe it is, at least to a certain extent. But I have always decided that because I treat television more like brain fodder than background noise, it is less true for me personally. I have always believed that what I watch and why I watch it and how I think about it lend me a certain amount of resistance to the more brain-cell-mushing aspects of the medium. Thus the blog. Except that I stopped writing the blog.

I stopped writing the blog because I simply ran out of time. Other things were going on. Things in the real world. And I didn’t just stop blogging, I stopped watching regularly too. Even shows like Glee and Castle, shows I’ve watched faithfully on a weekly basis (more or less) since the very beginning have been relegated to marathon-style catch-ups every month or two. There are a lot of factors involved, directly or not, with this shift in the way I consume television. They range from changes in Hulu’s (my main viewing resource) legal contracts with the major networks to my own work schedule. The fact is, I do not watch television the way I used to. I can not. And that’s fine. Except that I want to write the blog. And the blog is about the television.

The result is a dilemma: How do I write the blog, which was so closely tied to timely, weekly viewing, without doing said timely, weekly viewing?

The answer is a change in the way I do the blog.

I’ve spent much of the past month thinking about the work that I have done on Melted Brain, about the strengths and the weaknesses. I’ve hounded reader-friends for input. And I’ve forced myself to face the very simple but very terrifying question: What do you WANT it to be? The short answer: A new approach.

Well, a mix of old and new approach. I’m keeping the elements that are (more or less) unique to Melted Brain – Oh THAT Guy, Hindsight, et cetera. I’m keeping Big Screen Brain. I’m dropping the weekly schedule. I will be changing the visual format. I will be trying some new post categories (along the lines of Showdown and those mentioned above). And, my primary focus, I will be refining my writing to clear it of some of the flaws I allowed to spiral out of control toward the end there. Which brings me back to my month-long hiatus in watching television.

The purpose of The December Project is two-fold: revive my blog, refine my thinking. Now, let’s be frank. It’s been a long-ass time since I’ve written a blog post, and I can feel it in my brain. Writing is a skill, and I am out of practice. This very post has involved at least three start-and-stops. Words don’t flow directly from my brain to my fingers and off to the Internet as easily as I remember. So I am giving myself a month to readjust. To use an obvious but effective metaphor, The December Project gets me back in the pool without taking a dive. I’m using the stairs in the shallow end and giving myself time to adjust to the temperature. But not because I’m a wimp (I am in real, cold pools, but not here). Because I want to do well, and I know I can’t just yet. So, I’m limiting my exposure to new material, essentially forcing myself to do solidly thinking on what I already have to work with.  Emphasis on the thought- and writing-process. Emphasis on practice before I jump all the way back in. This month on Melted Brain, the focus is not the television, but the blog itself.

So, HOW do I maintain a television blog for a month without watching any television? I submit to you the following conditions and goals for The December Project:

1. Condition: No TV episodes. Not new, not old, not on the internet, not on DVD. Zero. For the rest of the month. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that I have watched ONE episode this month, two days ago: the first season finale of The Good Wife because I just couldn’t help myself. BUT, I will not watch the last two episodes of Smallville until January – more on that later.)

2. Condition: No YouTube. Because once you get on that mind-numbing train of hopping from video to video, it never stops. And also the temptation to blur the lines into web series episodes.

3. Condition: Movies, but not by myself. The intent here is to remove myself from the lonely, passive, half-dazed way that I have been watching television the past few months. A way that invites brain-melting outright. Watching movies with people leads to dialogue, which leads to thinking, which is good for blogging. (In the spirit of full-disclosure: I can do a month without TV, but I can’t do Christmas without watching A White Christmas at least once. That’s just how it is, and I’d rather allow myself than forbid and subsequently fail.)

4. Goal: Weekly updates on the progress of The December Project. What I’ve watched, if anything. Struggles I may or may not have without TV to occupy my time. Books I have read – that’s a thing I’m doing, reading books. I started my life as a bookworm, so I’m going back to my roots. Also, books are better for the word-skills, which badly need work.

5. Goal: Two other posts per week. Just to get myself back into the habit of regularly blogging.

6. Goal: Renovate. It is a new age for Melted Brain. It’s time for a new visual format. This is likely to be a trial-and-error process, so I’m giving myself the month.

And that’s it! That’s the plan. That’s The December Project. Bring the blog back to life. And do it without watching TV. Piece of cake.

Or, it’ll be a complete disaster. I guess we’ll see.

Person of Interest: “Pilot”

My expectations for this series were – and still are – pretty high. I can’t say that I loved the pilot, but I’m not sure if that’s because there was actually anything wrong with it or if my disappointment is just a reflection of overblown expectations not being met. Or maybe a strange combination of both. (This dilemma, along with the similar difficulty I’m having pinning down my thoughts on Prime Suspect, is actually fairly amusing given the article I wrote for Personal Arrogants yesterday.)

If I’m totally honest, I think 90% of the problem is that I saw the “big plot twist” coming from five minutes into the episode. When I watch an at least half-decent detective show (let’s use Castle and NCIS as examples), I almost never know who the killer is before it is revealed in the script. I would make a pretty terrible detective. So I worry when I can do some quick math (quote from Finch “She might be the victim, she could be the perpetrator” + Natalie Zea is credited high up on the guest star pecking order + we stop focusing on her for most of the episode + red herring of the jailed guy’s little brother = OMG IT’S HER) and figure out what is supposed to be the epic turning point of the episode. Especially when I can do it before the second commercial break. On the other hand, maybe knowing what was coming helped me see more clearly the crafty writing/plotting used to set it as a surprise – which was pretty crafty – , and I should actually appreciate it more as the result of a set-up than be disappointed with it as a successful shock-me moment? (I think I may have just accidentally converted myself to agreeing with the conclusion of this UC San Diego study re: the benefit of spoilers, at least in letter. In spirit, I maintain my belief that stories are more enjoyable when you don’t know what’s coming.) I think I’m going to have to wait to pass judgment on the script/story quality of this series until after a few more episodes pass. The episode that blows my mind is coming – I’m still holding out.

As far as the broader storyline of the series goes, I was actually pretty impressed. Not so straightforward Minority Report style afterall. And not even straightforward ex-government-agent-seeks-redemption either. It’s been revealed explicitly that Reese (Jim Caviezel) is presumed dead, on the run, and seeking newer better purpose after his disenchantment with his work for the government. Here’s what we don’t know: who he was, what he did, who, specifically, he worked for. Yes, I know they said “Agency,” presumably with a capital “A”, presumably as in “CI-A”, but you never know. Given that he apparently has warrants out for him on US soil and given the ties being drawn to 9/11, I’m almost thinking DEA or NSA might be more likely. I suppose we’ll find out eventually. In the meantime, I am looking forward to the development of this story line. Also oddly intriguing is the girlfriend storyline…which is weird, because I never care about the dead-significant-other story, even (or maybe especially) when it’s the point of the whole thing. Gotta give props to Jonathan Nolan for this bit of writing. I think the main reason I’m so curious in spite of myself is that practically nothing was revealed about it.

Final note on story: I really want the investigation of Reese by Carter (Taraji P. Henson) to be an on-going thing. I mean, I’d probably have to shoot myself if I heard “Just one guy. In a suit.” as many times in every episode as I did in this one, but the fact that she can find anything is a) unusual, b) fascinating, and c) possible fodder for long-term plot development wherein the NYC investigation crosses paths with people looking for Reese everywhere from D.C. to Americanaville, USA. And (just had this full revelation thanks to a seed of thought planted in my brain last night by an excellent TVer friend), the whole investigation-of-a-vigilante-bad-guy-fighter gives a great Batman vibe to the whole show. (Yes, I’m mentioning Batman. Sorry Jonathan Nolan. I really didn’t mean for that to happen. But seriously: think about it.) Gotta love the Batman vibe.

One place where this show definitely meets-and-exceeds expectations is sheer badassery. And by “this show” I do mean Reese. The one-guy-taking-down-a-whole-room isn’t what I’m talking about. I mean, sure, it’s a passable cheap thrill. But it isn’t new or exciting anymore, and it’s actually rather unimpressive when the room is a handful of the douchiest white kid punkfaces ever. I’m gonna give props for pointing out exactly How Stupid the whole holding-a-gun-sideways-“it’ll-eject-a-shell-casing-in-your-face” thing is – I didn’t know it until that happened, but I’ve been waiting for someone to point this out for years. I don’t know about the necessity of Reese carrying The Largest Gun Ever at all times either, but I’m willing to overlook it. The moment that validated Reese/Jim Caviezel as a bona fide bad ass in my mind was the grenade in the car…the car that he was riding. The framing of that detective was also pretty good, but I’d say the grenade and the point-blank shooting that followed were the key moments. The only moment that might have been better: “You need to know what it’s like to listen to someone be murdered and not be able to do anything about it.” We didn’t get a lot of Finch in the pilot, but that moment/the following scene count for an awful lot.

There are some things that I did really, truly enjoy about this pilot. The visual style is excellent – a nifty mix of security-cam-type footage, pseudo-voyeuristic camera shots, and wacky (but not too annoyingly wacky) diagonals to make the two-people-talking scenes just a tad more interesting. I’m also impressed by the level of taste – reducing the final result of the final showdown to exterior shots of two gun blasts might have been intended as a time-saver, but it is also a relief from what might have been a totally gratuitous display of violence. And of course there are a couple things that I found highly disappointing – prime example: the recording-switch in the courtroom. Yes, it is always a little satisfying, but. Old. Tired. Cliche. Try Harder Next Time.

I guess the final conclusion is, I need to see more. I definitely need to see more Michael Emerson than we got in this episode. And I could also do with just little a bit more influence from J.J. Abrams – the most obvious thing I could pick out was that the sound editing and soundtrack seemed to share a lot of features (major instrumental bursts before commercial breaks, for example) with Abrams/Michael Giacchino series…and then it turned out that no-one in the music department has worked on previous Abrams series and I was just wrong anyway. Person of Interest could benefit from a little of the hit-maker magic, although giving it some of the Cloverfield/Super 8 Abrams flavor could be more interesting. What I want to see most is staying power, because I have every confidence this show will improve with time – it just needs the chance.

Castle: “Rise”

This week’s review of Castle is brought to you by the letter CAPS LOCK.

After watching the Castle S3 finale (in July…), I had a few general hypotheses about where the S4 premiere might go. By “hypotheses” I mean less predictions, more like “extrapolations of what might happen, based on well-worn cliches.” These were not, I stress, not things I was hoping for. Just things I was expecting.

1) We’d start after a time skip, when Beckett returned to work.

2) The new captain would try to split up Beckett and Castle/get rid of Castle.

3) Beckett wouldn’t remember the shooting, and she definitely wouldn’t remember the I Love You desplaration.*

So…how’d I do? Not too badly. Unfortunately, that means the folks at Castle didn’t do a whole lot better.

Let’s start with item #1: Time Skip. You could argue that I was flat out wrong about this. The episode did actually begin the moment immediately after the funeral, with Beckett being rushed off to the hospital in a high-stress, higher-drama sequence with some pretty sweet moving and handheld camera work. Effective way to get the audience’s blood pumping and recapture summer-muddled attention immediately, so props for that. However. However. I think it needs to be pointed out exactly how stupid the entire scene really was. For one thing, talk about a no-risk scenario. At no point was there any doubt that Beckett was going survive and be Just Fine. So, WHY EVEN BOTHER. (I actually rolled my eyes at the flat-lining. Most unnecessary melodramatic thirty seconds ever.) For another thing: Josh. All of that. He had more screentime in that opening scene than over the entire past season, and yet somehow I cared Even Less. Because first we see him being all That’s My Girlfriend! I Will Save Her! heroic (melodramatic cliche bullshit in its purest form), then we see him being Grar Macho Man I Blame You Castle! douchey (out of character, and we – the audience – didn’t like him anyway so why bother giving us a reason?). My final reason why this first scene was a terrible idea is probably the most important. The only important-to-the-story thing that happened in the entire thing was Beckett’s “I’ll call you in a few days (read: not).” And you know what happened then? The Same Damn Thing That Happens Every Summer Break On Castle: Castle and Beckett part ways, at least one of them angrily, and then reconcile. TRY SOMETHING NEW. Seriously. I don’t think this first scene – any of it – needed to happen at all, and the five-or-six minutes spent on it might have been more useful for development elsewhere. Like, say,

Item #2: New Captain**. I feel pretty justified in saying that I totally called this one. Which makes me sad, because it is about as cliche and predictable as you can get. The new authority character who everybody hates/fears, who is ultimately destined to either become a watered-down sympathetic shell of their former self OR who will get killed off/promoted/made gone. I don’t care that the authority character is, by-only-semi-unusual-choice, a woman. I don’t even care that that woman is Penny Johnson Jerald (one of the greatest parts of 24 S1). This narrative choice, even with the sneaky twist of her jealousy of Beckett, is kind of like the ancient family butler of the cop-drama genre. He’s perfectly effective, but even if you put a new, shiny, affirmative action vest on him, he is showing his age and maybe you should let him retire peacefully and choose something more interesting to take his place. Like a robot. Or a house elf. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

Now, finally, item #3: Beckett Amnesia. I was flat-out wrong about this one, but I didn’t realize until the very end of the episode because the writers were tricky as fuck. Beckett didn’t black everything out: she remembers Everything. This is maybe slightly unrealistic (I don’t have any firsthand experience with getting shot at a funeral, but I don’t think memory loss is unusual after, you know, dying, even temporarily), but it is potentially a great starting point. Especially when it gets revealed during my hands-down favorite scene of the episode, Beckett talking to her new therapist, Michael Dorn. This was the scene of the episode, for two reasons. One: MICHAEL DORN (I mean really, does it get any better than having Lieutenant Worf as your therapist? No.) Two: This shows promise. Here more than anywhere else in the episode, I see potential for Castle‘s story actually growing and developing. Beckett, already a fascinating character played by a highly capable actress, has great potential for personal growth and development. And, as in real life, her admission to herself that she has problems and needs to deal with them is the place where change is going to start. She isn’t Sydney Bristow, required to go to therapy and spending all her energy on resisting. She’s human, admitting her own weakness, and striving in a believable way to build up strength. As far as character development and progress in the interpersonal storylines, this might be the most brilliant choice of the series so far. So writers, DON’T FUCK IT UP.

I didn’t hate this episode, but I can’t say I liked it. Too many poor choices, not enough redeeming factors, and a homicide case backbone so nothing I barely even noticed it was happening. But, looking past the way “Rise” was reacting to last season and moving on to how it is setting up for this season, I’m actually pretty excited. Castle‘s development has been, a few trip-ups aside, on a permanent uphill trajectory. And while that is a wonderful thing, it starts to make us nervous around S3 when we start asking ourselves the inevitable question: “When is it going to reach the top and start going down?” I don’t think it will be this season. If Castle keeps up the solid episode-to-episode work and really digs in to the new character choices (Beckett’s therapy, as I mentioned, and also the newfound more-adult, more-aggressive Alexis we got a glimpse of), this season still could be the best yet, the show could still keep growing. BRING IT ON.

*That’s a mashup of “desperate” and “declaration”, incase you didn’t get it.
**Haha, I just had a funny moment in my brain where I realized when I’m talking about something related to Nathan Fillion and use the word “captain,” I immediately associate it with him, even when that’s completely incorrect.

FALL IS FUN: New Series for 2011/2012 – CBS

LAST ONE!!! I’m doing this in a bit of a rush, so please forgive any insane errors or typos or whatever. Thankfully for my time crunch, there are only three new CBS shows I care about. (For other Fall Fun, see my posts on the new series from ABC, NBC, FOX, and miscellaneous networks.)

Premieres Tuesday September 20 at 10pm

Here is a series that definitely falls under that potentially leaky umbrella of “quirky and improbable procedural.” The main character remembers everything. Like, crazy photographic memory everything. And she’s a cop, so she uses that delightful superpower to solve crimes. I’m actually really excited about this show. For one thing, the insane memory thing is a source of endless fascination for me (part of the reason I love Suits so much, truth be told). And for another, This Is The Type Of Show I Hate Prime Suspect For Not Being (see: my rant in the Fall is Fun NBC post). Finally, a procedural about a main character with wacky amazing awesomeness…who just happens to be a woman. As in, where the fact that she is a woman isn’t the point. This series has the potential to be a pretty sweet cop show, and I am definitely looking forward to it.

Premieres Thursday September 22 at 9pm

Michael Emerson. Jim Caviezel. Fighting crime, Minority Report style. Emerson’s character built an email-reading-phone-call-listening supercomputer after 9/11, and the entire purpose of his mission is to stop crime before it happens. To do this, he’s privately recruited ex-CIA agent Caviezel’s character to do the dirty work. I’d be lying if I said I was crazy fascinated by this premise. Because, again, Minority Report. Been there, done that, right? But here’s the punchline: showrunners for this series are J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan. If you don’t recognize that first name, just leave. If you don’t recognize that second name, it’s not entirely your fault, it’s because he doesn’t always get the spotlight cred he deserves. Yes, he is the brother of Christopher Nolan, a writer of the Batman films, and, oh yeah btw, he didn’t just write the script for Memento, he also wrote the short story it is based on.

I don’t really know what to expect from this show, other than Michael Emerson playing a character even nerdier and socially inept (but probably significantly less terrifying) than Ben. I do expect to be impressed. I will be very very disappointed if the pilot doesn’t knock my socks off. LITERALLY.

Premieres Friday September 23 at 8pm

This is another series I don’t quite understand. Patrick Wilson plays a brilliant surgeon who, for some unknown reason, suddenly starts hallucinating his dead ex-wife. And, supposedly, after the initial period of insanity she starts being helpful or something. Emphasis on the “or something.” It is very possible I won’t stick with this show much beyond the pilot. Sad but true: 90% of the reason I’m watching at all is the actors. I enjoy Patrick Wilson for sure. And, like any self-respecting person who has seen the 1995 A&E Pride and Prejudice, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Jennifer Ehle. I mean really.

Feel like I missed something? That’s probably because I have absolutely no interest in seeing it. If you want a full Fall/Midseason schedule, I suggest Zap2It’s nifty interactive chart, which will provide you with a nifty little interface and handy links to check out the titles you don’t recognize.


This Week 9/19 to 9/24

We’ve had a week of discovering just how much my life is ruined by not having internet access. (How much, you ask? SO MUCH.) Anyway. Ducks are in something resembling a row-like formation, approximately, so now here we are: a This Week post for the first time in MONTHS. It’s almost like I’m making a legitimate effort or something.

8pm – Eureka on Syfy (season finale!)
10pm – Castle on ABC (season premiere!)
10pm – Hawaii Five-0 on CBS (season premiere!)
10pm – The Playboy Club on NBC (series pilot!)

Really, Monday nights at 10? Really? Of course I’m going to be watching Castle, no question there. But it’s the principle of the thing. Also going on tonight: Ashton Kutcher’s Two and a Half Men debut. (Am I the only one who thinks the title should be changed to One and Two Half Men?) AND, two hours later, Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. Somewhere out there is a marketing genius.

8pm – NCIS on CBS (season premiere!)
8pm – Glee on FOX (season premiere!)
9pm – NCIS: LA on CBS (season premiere!)
9pm – New Girl on FOX (series pilot!)
9pm – Ringer on the CW

So I haven’t watched the pilot of Ringer yet…or the finale of Glee. Probably going to watch NCIS prime and then New Girl (just to finally put my morbid curiosity to rest).


Apparently I’m going to spend Wednesday catching up from Tuesday and Monday. Or maybe I’ll give in to the temptation to watch the pilot of Revenge at 10pm on ABC.

8pm – Charlie’s Angels on ABC (series pilot!)
9pm – Person of Interest on CBS (series pilot!)
10pm – Prime Suspect on NBC (series pilot!)

What is Prime Suspect doing on Comedy Thursday? Can anyone explain this?

8pm – A Gifted Man on CBS (series pilot!)
9pm – CSI: NY on CBS (season premiere!)
9pm – Fringe on FOX (season premiere!)
9pm – Supernatural on the CW (season premiere!)

I don’t know what CSI: NY is doing on my schedule – I pretty much stopped watching. I don’t know what Fringe is doing on my schedule – I’m now two and a half seasons behind or some damn thing. I do know what Supernatural is doing on my schedule – just finished S4, so as soon as I slam down S5 (so to speak), I’m working it in because that show is freaking awesome.


Saturday is not even a day on TV.

And now I have to go do my last Fall is Fun post REALLY REALLY QUICKLY before I end up staying at this Starbucks for an awkwardly long time. Enjoy your week! Premieres, guys! Funandnews!

FALL IS FUN: New Series for 2011/2012 – Other Networks

So if my original plan had worked out, this fourth Fall Is Fun would have been about CBS. But time has moved quicker than I have and one of my most-anticipated new shows is actually premiering tomorrow, and so what was intended as the fifth and final post, series “other” non-Big-4 networks, has been moved up. (Check out posts 1, 2, and 3 – FOX, ABC, and NBC for more Fall Fun!)

Premieres Tuesday September 13 at 9pm

This is the show that premieres tomorrow. I am not going to get to watch it, and that is making me Very Upset. Because holy crap does this show look exciting.

The most important thing about Ringer is that Sarah Michelle Gellar Is Finally Back On Television. She’s had a good break after her seven-year stint of Being Buffy. And now she is returning and ready to remind us exactly how ridiculously phenomenal she is. Not only do we get one Sarah Michelle Gellar, we get two. DOUBLE THE FUN. And since each twin she is playing seems to come with her own insanely twisted plotline, DOUBLE THE AWESOME. Plus, as if Sarah Michelle Gellarx2 wasn’t enough, the cast also includes Ioan Gruffudd* and Nestor Carbonell.

I’m almost confused that this series is on the CW. It seems way too…legit. Yes, there are certain network-typical elements already obvious in the preview, e.g. way too much designer clothing, way too much glitter, way too much everybody having sex with everybody (and probably a CW-standard horrible pop soundtrack). But so far, all of the characters appear to be adults. And the general theme appears to be rather…dark. And not mopey vampire dark or tweens on drugs dark. Mob hits and druglords and sororicide dark. I almost wonder if Ringer would work on one of the major networks…

Possible production flaws (and by “flaws” I do mean “it’s mostly a matter of taste”) aside, there is one definite upside to this series being on the CW: less ratings anxiety. The CW does not compete for ratings on the same level as the four major networks, so this series doesn’t need to draw quite the same numbers in order to survive. Not that I think finding an audience is going to be a problem, because the show does look pretty damn intriguing and, again, Sarah Michelle Gellar Is Back On Television.

Premieres Wednesday October 5 at 10pm

Apparently, this show is what happens when the creator of Nip/Tuck teams up with the co-creators of Glee. Which, personally, I find incredibly confusing. I never watched Nip/Tuck, largely because when it was at its prime I was way too young for watching it to be even remotely appropriate (but also because depictions of plastic surgery tend to make me want to barf – see: The X-Files S4e6 “Sanguinarium”). I do watch Glee, which is primarily why I find this confusing. I’m hoping the total genre shift is just going to prove that Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy are actually as good as the early days of Glee implied they were. One show writer who doesn’t have to prove a damn thing: Tim Minear. His involvement means I would watch this show purely on principal, nevermind who the other writers or the cast are (Zachary Quinto, Dylan McDermott, Jessica Lange, anyone?).

I say “would” because I don’t know for sure that I’m going to be able to watch this one. I am not a horror movie girl. I will readily admit that I don’t have the stomach for it. Usually, I acknowledge that thriller/slasher/horror films are a prominent feature in the landscape of American-grown entertainment and leave it all well enough alone. Time was, I could have been assured that TV content limitations would keep me moderately safe from being plagued from nightmares but, well, yeah. Those days are gone and you’re allowed to say “shit” on Suits. My curiosity may outweigh my fear at least as far as the pilot episode. The only preview I can find for the show is thirty seconds long and pretty much embodies the term “teaser trailer.”

I GREATLY ENCOURAGE OTHER PEOPLE TO WATCH THIS SHOW. Because it will probably be awesome, and because I will feel less bad about chickening out. And because it may not last very long. (Sorry, Tim Minear but you did choose the Twitter handle @CancelledAgain for a reason…)

Premieres Sunday November 6 at 10pm

I think I am more fascinated by the idea of this show than I will be by the show itself. Post-Civil War America? Awesome. Building of the Transcontinental Railroad? Awesome. Classic Western vibe? Awesome. Cast including Colm Meaney and Tom Noonan? Awesome. And then I remember that I don’t actually like Westerns all that much, nor do I tend to care about AMC shows. When the reality that I’ll need to prioritize and cut some things out of my viewing schedule sinks in, this will be one of the first things to go. So once again, I ENCOURAGE OTHER PEOPLE TO WATCH THIS SHOW. It will probably be good. It’s just not really my taste. (Which may mean, more than anything, that I ought to expand my horizons…)

HOMELAND (Showtime)
Premieres Sunday October 2 at 10pm

When all I knew about this show was that it starred Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis, it was the new series I was most excited about. Now I know it also stars Morena Baccarin, and I know that Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa of 24 (and other awesome things) are involved, and I’ve learned a bit about the premise, and as a result the impossible has happened: I am Even More Excited.

Homeland dissects the chilling possibility of the rescue of a hero turning into the aiding of a terrorist. It combines the oh-so-current flavor of fear of American homeland security with the pulse-pounding excitement of a conspiracy thriller, and tops all that off with the heartbreaking flavor of human ability to cope with the most extreme abuse (mental, emotional, and physical). I sound like a talking point dictionary or something, but seriously: there are some big, scary, brilliant story elements at work here. And some big, scary, even more brilliant production and performance elements putting them together.

I want this show to be The Next Greatest Thing from Showtime. I want it to succeed and flourish and lead to massive amounts of well-deserved recognition for everyone involved. (If this doesn’t end up being as good as I hope/expect it is, I might cry a little bit.)

Bonus Mention:
The Secret Circle (premieres Thursday September 15 at 9pm on the CW). This is based on another series of novels by the same author whose work forms the basis for The Vampire Diaries. So it is probably Not That Bad At All. Plus, it has Thomas Dekker. If there was nothing else good on, I would watch it. Maybe I’ll watch the reruns in a few years or something.

Feel like I missed something? That’s probably because I have absolutely no interest in seeing it. If you want a full Fall/Midseason schedule, I suggest Zap2It’s nifty interactive chart, which will provide you with a nifty little interface and handy links to check out the titles you don’t recognize.

*I never want to have to spell this name Ever Again. OMG BE LESS WELSH.

FALL IS FUN: New Series for 2011/2012 – NBC

And now for the NBC installment! (See my posts on FOX and ABC for more Fall Fun.) Of everything I’ve looked at so far, I’m most anticipating NBC’s new lineup. There’s some good stuff here. Bonus points to any person who picks up on my Firefly reference. It’s not actually that hard to find.

Premieres Thursday September 22 at 10pm

I’m going to make the unusual move of starting with the show I am least thrilled about. Prime Suspect is the remake of a hit British series that starred…Helen Mirren. Yeah. You’re feeling that immediate gut reaction of “what dumbass decided this was a good idea?” aren’t you? And you should. Because seriously: as if the rampant remakes weren’t bad enough, NBC now trying to pass off Maria Bello as a suitable replacement for Helen Mirren. I don’t mean this as an insult to Maria Bello in any way but, Bitch Please.

If that were my only objection to Prime Suspect, I would attempt to get over it because the honest truth is that remakes are not always a poor choice (see: The Office, also on NBC). But I actually have an even greater objection, which is the premise of the show itself: woman in a man’s world. I beg the pardon of any turn-of-the-last-century suffragettes who are rolling around in their graves as we say this, but Can We Just Get On With It Already? Perhaps in British society (which I know very little about), about a decade ago (when the original series premiered), this might have been a premise worth spending time on. But in this day and age, looking at the growing number of series featuring female cops without the flavor of sexism, the theme seems outdated and backward to me. Is there a reason we can’t have a show about a badass female cop where the focus is on the badassery, rather than on the femaleness? Or any type of character – doctor, lawyer, private detective, whathaveyou. House is not about the fact that Gregory House is a man being a doctor, it’s just about that he is a doctor. So wouldn’t the truly progressive thing to do be to just make a show about an awesome lead, and leave the character’s gender as an ohbytheway?

I’m sure Prime Suspect will be a perfectly passable crime procedural. It may even include some really great performances from, yes, Maria Bello, as well as the rest of what looks like a rather outstanding cast. It’s a perfectly good show, I’m sure. But I worry about the moral/social forces at work here.

Premieres Friday October 21 at 9pm

The preview for Grimm is disconcertingly awesome. And by that I mean I find it disconcerting that it is awesome. Mostly because it is forcing me to reconsider my initial, even-less-informed opinion of the show.

See, initially, I was very very wary of this idea. Crime procedural based on fairy tales? Come on now. Obviously I was interested and planning on watching, but I wasn’t actually expecting it to last (or even be worth lasting). The biggest concern for me was endurance. For other paranormal-edged procedurals of this sort (see: The X-Files, Supernatural, etc), “the fairy tale episode” tends to be just that. One episode. So stretching that out into a series? Chancy. Sure, you can do the Little Red Riding Episode, the Hansel and Gretel Episode, the Snow White Episode. But eventually you are going to run out, especially if you are limited to Brothers Grimm variety Western folklore stories.

Thus were my concerns, until I heard the three most important words in the preview: spoken by a badly injured woman in a hospital bed, “You’re a Grimm.” What is a “Grimm” and what exactly does that mean? I have no idea. But it does mean Something. And that was the turning point for me, where I veered away from resignation of failure to a cautious sort of hope. It’s hard to explain in brief terms exactly what I mean by “show mythology.” Effectively, it’s what makes The Vampire Diaries actually good, rather than just another shitty CW show with (slightly) more neckbiting. It is a Good Thing. Also a Good Thing: it looks like werewolves might finally be getting some love on this series, and it’s about damn time (but that is a rant for a later date). One last exciting thing, and its a Really Exciting Thing: one of the producers is David Greenwalt (Angel, Buffy).

I don’t know what all of this means for Grimm’s chances of survival. It could still fail miserably. Especially since it’s starting out in the Friday Death Slot. And, for all I know right now, I could be getting all worked up for something that ends up being awful afterall. But oh my dear and fluffy lord I hope not.


If you loved Glee when it started but have become increasingly disenchanted with its tween-audience-mongering as it has gone on, you are not alone, and you are not without hope. At least, not if you’re anything like me.

Glee celebrates people who love musical theatre, and that’s fine and lovely and commendable. But Smash is a celebration of theatre itself, of the business and the people in it. So, yes, there is a certain amount of narcissism at work here. But when narcissism includes bona fide Broadway star Megan Hilty (who you may or may not know as the only person to out-Galinda Kristin Chenoweth), it is hard to complain. Particularly when she is part of an ensemble cast that also includes Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, Anjelica Huston, and Katharine McPhee. It sounds like I should be making this cast up, but I’m not.

The story of Smash is the creation of a musical about Marilyn Monroe, from inspiration to production. It goes at the process from all angles – actresses are most prominently featured, of course, but Debra Messing’s lyricist character is a close second. The show will feature original songs, and all the wonderful nonteenybopper drama the world of theatre has to offer.

I, theatre geek extraordinaire, am Ridiculously Excited about this show. I worry about it’s chances. Musicals do not survive well on TV, with the one obvious exception. And if Smash is trying to compete directly with Glee, it is going to lose because, well, it is. But if it can capture the folks disenchanted with Glee‘s childishness and also a new audience looking for something singy and dancey but a bit more mature, it just might be able to stick around.


The premise of Awake is possibly the most fascinating premise to hit television in the past decade. The main character, a detective played by Jason Issacs (you probably know him as Lucius Malfoy), is in a car crash with his family and afterward finds his existence split into two realities: one where his wife survives, one where his son does. And, apparently, the two realities start to collide. If I have to explain to you how fascinating this is, how broad the potential for craftiness and excellence, then maybe you should just watch the upcoming Napoleon Dynamite cartoon and not worry your pretty little head. Personally, I am going to watch every single episode of this that I can, as it airs. Because its quite possible the show won’t last very long, and I expect every second to count.

And that is pretty much all I have to say about that. I am REALLY looking forward to this show.

Bonus Mention:
The Playboy Club (premieres Monday September 19 at 10pm). I haven’t made up my mind whether I’m interested in this or not. The title is a bit off-putting, as is the getting-tireder-every-second ’60s setting. BUT, well, boobs and dead people and a promised appearance by Sean Maher. I’m having an understandably hard time resisting the pull.

Feel like I missed something? That’s probably because I have absolutely no interest in seeing it. If you want a full Fall/Midseason schedule, I suggest Zap2It’s nifty interactive chart, which will provide you with a nifty little interface and handy links to check out the titles you don’t recognize.