Good Things

I just had a really great moment.

Yesterday sometime, USA Network tweeted a quote and challenged their followers to name the character who spoke it. I had no idea. I had a brief suspicion it sounded like it belonged to Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) of Suits, but no actual knowledge. Tonight, I’m catching up on some back episodes of Suits and right there in the middle of the episode was that quote. It took a moment for the realization to sink in, but once it did I found myself smiling hugely. There was absolutely no way I had been exposed to that quote before seeing it tonight. So, the fact that I could even think of attributing it to the correct character without anything but the text? I find that pretty incredible. And I think it speaks to the writing of the series. “Good writing” in television is something I struggle to define at times, but I think I’ve found one of the key elements: characters with strong, recognizable voice. My impression of Suits has just crossed the line from “enjoyable” to “excellent.”

You should be watching this show.

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

Next up in the fall premiere rundown, new shows on ABC! (Next after what, you ask? Check out my post on FOX’s new shows here.)

CHARLIE’S ANGELS
Premieres Thursday September 22 at 8pm

Yes, you heard right. Charlie’s Angels is back. Again. Producer Drew Barrymore has convinced ABC to try yet another retro show reboot (despite the rather catastrophic failures of Bionic Woman and Knight Rider in the recent past). The mere fact that this is, in fact, a reboot is a major count against the show. As is the fact that many people who watched the show as it aired the first time are still alive and still represent a fair amount of the overall competitive ratings pool. And you just know that they aren’t going to favor the new series. Especially since, odds are, it won’t be that good.

Certainly there will a group of people that is either large or largely vocal or both complaining that the new series is “not as good” as the original. And that right there is one of the two major problems with remaking anything. The new will always be in disfavor with some people merely on principle. The new is not “not as good” because the original was any good itself, but just because it is new and clearly we just hate new things. Which (second major problem) is why people continue to try and recreate what has been successful before. New ideas are not an assured win. And neither are reboots, really, but there’s a psychology that they are and so they keep on coming.

To be fair, there have been some successful and even genuinely good reboots over the past decade. For example, 2003’s Battlestar Galactica, now a major institution within sci-fi, and last year’s break-out CBS hit Hawaii Five-0. So it is possible Charlie’s Angels could surprise us all. My personal hang-up with the series is that it is Charlie’s Angels. If it wasn’t attached to that title, and all I knew about it was the premise (Rachael Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh, and Minka Kelly redeem their criminal pasts by kicking ass in sexy outfits), I admit it: I would totally watch that show. And so, I am going to do my best to suspend my bias.

For all I know, it isn’t going to suck at all. They’re certainly making an effort – Minka Kelly’s character is a new one, a replacement for original Angel Gloria. This tactical decision – and it is a tactical decision on the part of the show-runners – helps immediately separate the new from the old. Plus, it conveniently does away with the most glaringly outdated character name.

PAN AM
Premieres Sunday September 25 at 10pm

The first time I saw promotional material about this show, I was totally uninterested. Probably because I’m not the target demographic. Pan Am is partly riding on the fact it is set in a certain decade not too long ago that has been relaunched into public adoration by way of a certain smash-hit AMC series. Also a decade during which most of ABC’s Sunday audience (or at least, who I imagine is ABC’s Sunday audience, aka the people who watch Desperate Housewives) was alive and kicking significantly skinnier legs than they’ve got now. So, potentially, there is an audience ready and raring to go.

What piques my interest is not the glamour (although that is always fun), or the soap opera-y interpersonal storylines (mostly just a depressing reminder that we are living the end of the soap op-era), nor is it the stylized setting (which promises to be delightful and slick and chic and all those good things). Instead, I am intrigued by an element just barely hinted at in the previews for this show: the little secret side business the Pan Am girls are in. No, I don’t know what it is. I’m guessing probably drugs or stealing things or something of that sort.

Now, if I had my way, this show would be awesome. Because the Pan Am girls would be assassins, or spies, or both. And the series would use the retro setting as an opportunity to explore the idea of “the modern woman” and how that did begin to change starting in the mid twentieth century. If I had my way. Realistically, I’m expecting this to be mostly a fluff piece. A complement to its ABC Sunday cohorts. And that’s fine too, but I probably won’t watch after the pilot.

ONCE UPON A TIME
Premieres Sunday October 23 at 8pm

I’ve got pretty mixed feelings about this series. There are a elements in the premise/preview that make me worry. And that’s just ignoring the fact that this show is kind of weird and probably really expensive to make and putting those two things together usually results in early cancellation. Even if the show is good (which we will have to wait and see, because there are so many elements at work).

One thing that greatly concerns me is that the entire premise rests on a sort of parallel universe scenario. On the one side is the charming but semi-creepy small town, another member of the Twin Peaks wannabe collective. On the other is a straight up fantasy environment snatched right out of a bedtime story, with castles and pouffy dresses and monsters and some wacky SFX makeup (all of which look sick, so immediate props to the production team for that). The exact same individuals exist in both worlds and the exact same scenarios occur, but (supposedly) there is no cross-universe-awareness. This is, in short, a bold move. Parallel universes are a tricky situation no matter what you do or who you are. Ask ten people how they liked the final season of Lost, and I’ll bet you $20 that at least seven of them will complain about The Sideways. And Lost was already fully established. If there is any sort of falter or flaw in the presentation of this new series’ parallel universe, it is doomed. Even if the presentation is flawless, it could still be doomed. Fantasy/sci-fi scenarios like this do not tend to attract wide audiences, no matter how spectacular they are.

Another major worry is perhaps just a matter of personal taste. From what I can surmise, the central character of Once Upon A Time is played by Jennifer Morrison, lately of House. I am not a fan of Jennifer Morrison. She is capable enough as an actor, but I don’t find her intriguing in the least. It may well be that Once Upon A Time is actually more of an ensemble piece – I think it’s safe to assume that Lana Parrilla‘s Evil Queen is going to be the performance of the show, because that’s just how Evil Queens work. But I just can’t see myself maintaining interest in a series that single-mindedly focuses its story on a character played by Jennifer Morrison. It’s just a problem for me.

I will honestly be surprised if this show lasts very long. Airing on Sundays + Unusual Plot + Fantasy = Uh Oh, in simple terms.

THE RIVER
Midsesaon

I’m really interested to see if this series actually works out. It looks like an attempt to adapt the creepy-things-in-the-dark horror/thriller/shrieker movie genre for television. Not a bad plan, altogether. If every person who enjoys this sort of movie could be pulled into watching the series…well, let’s just say that there’s a lot of potential audience out there. And not an audience likely to care if the episodes get repetitive, because that’s kind of one of the major hallmarks of the genre. Not to mention that the Paranormal Activity-type camera work and filtering will be pretty unique among major network shows, another potential draw.

What may or may not work against The River is the fact that it appears to be one of many attempts to fill the void left by Lost. ABC is especially suffering for a slice of the sci-fi fan pie these days, but I am totally on the fence about whether or not The River could be a solution to its woes. The Amazonian setting is a good move, I think. Fascination with that area, which is one of the last mostly-untouched zones of the planet, is a pretty popular thing these days (partly thanks to the fact that a lot of wacky foods fueling the antioxidant/smartfood crazy come from there – society is weird). Plus, even without the paranormal twist, there’s a lot of Really Terrifying Stuff lurking in the various levels of the rainforest. Venus Fly Traps and Big Ass Snakes, guys. What might be missing for some of the floating former Lost audience is the complicated, tricky storyline. I expect that a wider, twistier plot is planned for The River if it lasts long enough. But the initial scenario, family searches for mysteriously disappeared father and gets freaked out by things, looks to be about 90% cheap thrills, 10% anything else.

I’m not a horror movie girl by any means. And I really really hate snakes, no matter how not-real and not-going-to-get-me they are. But for some reason, I’m very interested in this show. At the very least because its got some pretty excellent actors including Sam Neill (appearing in the pilot as the lost father/explorer), Leslie Hope (24‘s Teri Bauer), and Paul Blackthorne (also of 24, but who I am interested in primarily because of my recent discovery of The Dresden Files).

No promised release date on this series yet. It’s one of those coming-in-midseason-but-only-if/when-something-else fails-spectacularly-and-we’ve-got-space-in-the-schedule series. But it will get here eventually, and I’m looking forward to it.

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.

SHOWDOWN: Franklin & Bash v. Suits

That’s right – I have a new  post category (which I’m hoping I can make into a weekly thing). SHOWDOWN, a platform from which to nitpick at the usually excessive, often disturbing, and usually embarrassing amount of similarity between multiple series and all their various elements. The purpose of SHOWDOWNs is partly to point out the lack of creativity in the world of television, yes, but also to examine possible reasons for why, despite rampant sameness, some shows succeed so much better than others. Also I’m breaking down the SHOWDOWN into several Points of Comparison, awarding points to the victor in each of those, tallying up to find an overall winner, and pretending that this practice isn’t totally ridiculous. Go!

THIS WEEK’S SHOWDOWN: LEGAL BUDDY DRAMADIES ON SUMMER CABLE

SERIES:  FRANKLIN & BASH (TNT) and SUITS (USA)

POINTS OF COMPARISON: LEAD DUO, SUPPORTING CHARACTERS, STORY PROGRESSION, TASTE LEVEL

Leading Duo

The success of any buddy comedy lives or dies with the success of its buddies to garner the affection of an audience. Nobody wants to watch a buddy comedy starring Voldemort and Gollum. (OK, lie. I would totally watch that.) The two characters need unquestionable appeal, individually and especially as a pair.

Franklin & Bash: The leads of this show fit a classic pattern. Of the pair, one is more handsome than goofy and one is more goofy than handsome, one has family issues and one has romantic issues, both are charming, and both are totally loyal to each other. Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) are both absolutely perfect for their roles and for each other. My disappointment with this pairing is that they are sometimes too similar and that the interplay is minimal. At least in the episodes I’ve watched, they seem to work individually for the most part and come together only to recount and occasionally knock out a kneeslapper courtroom scene. In a scenario rather backward from the usual, Franklin and Bash seem different on a superficial level but grow less distinct the deeper you dig. I enjoy the cooperative comic elements, but I could do with a little more conflict. Any argument between the two is distinctly lacking in heat. There’s no question these guys are fantastic and fun to watch, but they don’t hold up well to critical analysis. Once you look past the hilarity of their banter-y, frat boy antics, they’re actually sort of…boring.

Suits: The leads of this series are more Odd Couple than bromance BFFs. The two are clearly polarized in several ways. Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is older, handsome, suave, well-educated, and prides himself on being the reason lawyer jokes exist. Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) is the problem-child-with-a-heart-of-gold, supergenius, slightly dorky type. They are balanced beautifully and share equally in both the dramatic and the comedic. The rapport between the two is phenomenal, as is the growing development of their relationship, which leads in turn to development of the individual characters. Basically you couldn’t hope for a pair better complemented, performance- or character-wise. That being said, it could fairly be argued that their relationship leans more toward the mentor/pupil side and therefore they don’t exactly qualify as “buddies.”

Winner: I don’t think there’s a winner here. I definitely prefer the pair from Suits, but I can’t argue that they are the better buddy comedy leading pair.

Supporting Characters:

You can learn a lot about a show by how well-conceived, well-developed, and even well-cast the smaller roles are. Series do not survive solely on the power of great leads alone. (Y’know, unless the show is, say, Moonlighting.) Supporting characters also represent the possibility of sideplots, which in turn represent the possibility of long-term appeal.

Franklin & Bash: I have two names for you. Reed Diamond (of Dollhouse, at his snarky antagonist-but-not-a-bad-guy best). Malcolm McDowell (in what is possibly my favorite role of his ever). If these two were the only supporting characters in the series, Franklin & Bash would be the most hilariously enjoyable show ever. But no. Instead, we are also subjected to Dana Davis (one of the worst things to ever happen to Heroes) as an ex-con private investigator who does all of F&B’s legwork, Kumail Nanjiani as a prissy acrophobic computer research genius prone to vomiting, and Garcelle Beauvais as the sexy older woman who is supposed to be so impressive and intelligent but for some reason still sleeps with overgrownfratboy Franklin. Those latter three are all extremely one-dimensional and even more uninteresting. Pindar (Nanjiani) was the primary focus of the resolution of an episode, perhaps the pilot (I’ve forgotten…), and it almost ruined the entire thing. There are two other recurring characters who I suppose might qualify as “supporting,” Bash’s one-that-got-away Janie (Claire Coffee) and nonspecific-lawfirm-employee Debbie (Alexandra Holden), but neither of them have any personality whatsoever, so they are hardly worth mentioning.

Suits: Just one name for this series, but it is way more important than the two from Franklin & Bash. GINA TORRES. I will be honest, her presence is 100% of the reason I actually watched this show. I saw ads and had little-to-no interest (certainly not enough for me to remember it was happening at all). And then somehow I stumbled across the information that Gina Torres was in the show. And here we are. And of course she totally lives up to her own reputation – elegance, strength, and subtle humor are the words for her always. Another familiar face, although perhaps not a familiar name, is Rick Hoffman, who pulls out the stops on obnoxious assholery and plays that guy you want to hate so beautifully that you love him for it. Meghan Markle is Rachel, The Love Interest, who actually has quite a bit of character and background information already. She is both a useful instrument for story progress and just plain likeable. Finally, Donna the Secretary (Sarah Rafferty). Of all the regular characters, Donna has the least screen time and would be the easiest to marginalize and caricature-ize. And maybe she is a caricature, but I Don’t Care. The woman is hilarious. The one time so far I’ve laughed out loud (and started to tear up) for an extended period at this show, it was her.

Winner: Suits. By a landslide, not even just because of how bad Franklin & Bash‘s supporting characters are. As phenomenal as the lead duo is, I am at least equally entertained by and interested in the supporting characters of this series.

Story Progression

The issue with epis0de-based long-form series is keeping them interesting. It is fairly inevitable that individual procedural-type shows are going to be fairly cookie-cutter in terms of format: problem, conflict, solution, resolution. This is why CSI cases get weirder and more impossible every year – to make sure the audience doesn’t get bored. And so, series also have to make sure there is some measure of progress with the overall storyline, whatever that may be, in every (or at least every other) episode.

Franklin & Bash: I’m honestly not sure exactly what the long-term story arc of this show is supposed to be. I believe it has something to do with the fact that Franklin and Bash are trying to fit their unconventional selves into a distinguished law firm. Which is a great premise. But it would go over a lot better if one of the main schticks was not their super eccentric boss. As in, it would go better if there was any sort of conflict there at all. The other primary, extended plotlines are one emotional/personal conflict per lead character. For Jared Franklin, it is some sort of daddy issue that seemed pretty well established and without chance of resolution at the end of the episode where it was introduced, but this will probably go on for as long as it possibly can. For Peter Bash, it is not-exactly-unrequited love: his ex-girlfriend, whom he still loves, is marrying someone else, but he insists (in one of the most embarrassingly corny moments I’ve seen in awhile) there is still a chance. We the audience are not privy to any information on the history of these apparently doomed relationships and are not allowed any time to make a connection with the non-lead characters involved and so, basically, have no reason to care. As far as the episode-to-episode content of Franklin & Bash, it is well-written and well-acted if nothing else. There’s always a Reed Diamond snark scene, always a Malcolm McDowell wackiness moment, and always a phenomenally borderline ridiculous courtroom showdown. And, y’know, there are worse things.

Suits: The major flaw in Suits‘ plot-related long-term storyline is that it is based on a short-term arrangement. Mike is Harvey’s not-really-a-Harvard-grad intern/protege/underling, and the main conflict is keeping every other character from finding out that Mike is not actually allowed to be doing the job he is doing. So while the illusion maintained, the story works out well. Once the inevitable revelation happens, no matter how creative I get, I cannot conceive of a way for the plot to continue without becoming unbearably stupid. That said, the interpersonal plot arcs in the series are incredibly well-done. Obviously, Mike and Harvey’s relationship is the most prominent, and it is very well-crafted. But also compelling are Mike’s attempted romance with Rachel and Louis’ (Hoffman) relationships with everyone. Even the history of the relationship between Harvey Specter and Jessica Pearson (Torres) inspires a good amount of fascination.

Winner: I’m gonna have to give this one to Suits as well. Franklin & Bash might have more long-term potential with such an open-ended storyline, but I care a lot less about the story and so don’t really care about said long-term potential.

FINAL TALLY: Franklin & Bash – 2, Suits – 0

I guess it’s no surprise I’m giving Suits the win in this SHOWDOWN.

The two series are fairly well-matched in terms of comedy, writing, casting, and production value. The major difference for me is connectability. Franklin & Bash puts the majority of its energies into entertainment value. And yeah, the mere concept of a lawyer shotgunning a can of beer as part of his defense case is pretty damn entertaining, especially when that antic leads to a victory. But even beer and boobs and bravado get dull after awhile. Suits has its own faults, overbearing USA-typical product placement among them, but there is a certain amount of soul to it. There is a human quality, personified in the Mike Ross character, that Franklin & Bash has no chance of matching. If you’re just looking for a fun show to bide the time until that fall season premiere you’re waiting for happens, I recommend both series equally. But if you want to add to your permanent repertoire of shows to track, I suggest you check out Suits.

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

I will admit, I’ve been struggling to find the inspiration/motivation to start up here in earnest again. I have found the answer*: NEW FALL LINEUP. There is nothing more energizing than the anticipation of a whole list of new shows. Mostly because of the implied opportunity to both praise and bash. I am Very Excited.

And so Melted Brain begins again. The method of this year’s Fall Lineup Preview is a network-by-network breakdown of the shows I’m going to be watching/tracking. First up: FOX.

TERRA NOVA
Premieres Monday September 26 at 8pm

I have every faith that this series is going to be terrible, but I am totally going to watch it. Why? Dinosaurs. I mean really. What more could a show possibly need…..that said, I have serious misgivings about Terra Nova. For several reasons.

1) It is trying so hard to be Avatar but it just can’t. They’re even using the same scary old guy – Stephen Lang – although he appears to be more toward the benevolent end of the scale in this series…although maybe that’s just a trick and he’s actually playing the exact same character. Anyway. 99% of the appeal of Avatar was the technological techniques innovated and utilized to produce it and network television just can’t match that. By a long shot. Also, Terra Nova also seems to be lacking the one minute glitter of moral appeal from Avatar: environmental undertones**. Which leads and expands into my next issue with Terra Nova,

2) The premise of this show breaks my nature-loving, pacifist little heart. No really, I have one, and the previews of Terra Nova are making it cry. I am not generally a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, not least because sometimes I think that I’ll end up living one sometime in the next eighty years or so. But, accepting the fact that post-apocalyptic literature is and always has been a major staple of Western world fiction, I will say that the appealing theme is usually humanity redeeming itself through the practice of basic kindness in a cutthroat environment (and also the creation of really awesome tools from rudimentary and scrap materials). In Terra Nova, humanity’s solution to a broken society is apparently to send humans, guns and plastics in tow, back to the Jurassic so that humans can start wantonly killing the wildlife and destroying the planet a few million years sooner. Even if we totally disregard the time travel paradoxes inherent in this scenario, there is something really wrong with this. If the apparent moral implications of this premise doesn’t worry you, you worry me.

3) The thing that confounds me most about Terra Nova is how it came to be at all. It’s about time-travel and a post-apocalyptic society, but also they fight dinosaurs. Fighting dinosaurs and other forms of violence appear to play a key role, but the story appears to revolve around a wholesome, loving family. And that family is so loving and wholesome and relatable, but apparently they are also those good guys who flagrantly disregard rules (two child limit for an overpopulated world, but they have three) and father figure is apparently that stereotypical alpha male family man who is both the biggest hero and the biggest asshole when it comes to basic law abiding. Basically, there are an awful lot of logic-gaps. And this is even before the story starts.

I keep trying to convince myself that Terra Nova must be better than it looks, because how else could it possibly have earned air time. But then the more I think about what I have seen and learned, the worse it seems. So I’m going to watch the pilot, and a few more episodes after if I find I can stomach it. But I am not hopeful. And I maintain the suspicion that Terra Nova has come to fruition simply because there is still a major sci-fi void on the major networks (because Fringe just doesn’t count for some reason) and everyone is trying desperately to fill it and inherit the ratings-bringing nerdhoards.

NEW GIRL
Premieres Tuesday September 20 at 9pm

I do not want to watch this show. I do not want to watch this show. I do not want to watchthisGODDAMMIT. Even I am hopeless against the powers of Zooey Deschanel. I think she is overrated in so many ways. I think her domination of the “quirky girl” market is ridiculous and aggravating. I think this show is going to be pretty awful but that it will survive at least a full season just because it is Zooey Deschanel. And those three guys who were cast because they’re vaguely good-looking, you’ve never heard of them, and they won’t distract from Zooey Deschanel at all. Mostly this is just going to be a Zooey Deschanel temple disguised as a television show.

Of course, I could always be mistaken. This could end up having the same sort of sneaky charm-coated-clever that makes How I Met Your Mother so damn appealing. (Probably not, though.)


THE FINDER
Midseason

This series has already been premiered, to an extent, in a crossover episode with Bones last season (this is known as a “backdoor pilot”). I didn’t particularly enjoy it then, and I don’t expect a full non-Bones pilot is going to change my mind. Why? Because this series is nothing new. The Finder is going to be just another iteration of That Show. Which That Show do I mean? It could be any of three.

First possibility: TV Procedural Based On A Book Series (primary and obvious reference example, Bones). There is something about basing television series on book series that makes my teeth itch. Because when the television series is good, I wonder how a premise/story so well-suited to TV could possibly work as a book. And when the television series is bad, I just wonder why the television series had to happen at all…and again I wonder how good the book could possibly be. Which is maybe more a commentary on my bias about television series that do get adapted into TV series…anyway.

Another good fit is Quirky Procedural (examples: The Mentalist, Lie to Me, Raines). CSI is old now. We as a general public are no longer fascinated by standard forensic investigation, because we have finally figured out that it’s just a bunch of science nerds pouring chemicals and tapping at computers and that, realistically, the whole process should be a lot more drawn out and a lot more boring than television has trained us to think it is. So instead we get these off-the-beaten-path “investigators” who have superpowers, explicable and believable or not, that we are supposed to be fascinated by. This backfires, of course, when we realize that the reason we don’t understand said superpowers is because They Don’t Make Any Sense, that the writers are basically free to make up random shit, and the entire thing becomes obnoxious. These shows, in an attempt to sidesweep their nonsensicality, often also rely heavily on one other key element, the last category,

Procedural That Revolves Around An Attractive Male Lead. “Attractive” is a general term I use that doesn’t necessarily (although usually does) include the physical. Familiar favorites of this category include House, The Mentalist, and the recently deceased Lie to Me. Basically, these shows rely heavily-to-excessively on the charm of their lead character. Every other character can be boring as all hell and the premise can be totally ridiculous (or, again, boring as hell), just so long as the principal is enigmatic/handsome/eccentric/badass enough to keep the attention and affection of an audience.

The Finder fits into those two latter categories really well, but I have no hopes for it. I don’t find Geoff Stults particularly talented or particularly physically attractive. The “Finder Power” as previewed in the initial Bones episode seems especially ridiculous (Pyramids on the ceiling mean somebody is thinking about dying which means they are dying prematurely of a disease? Because pyramids have a traditional symbolic meaning of soul-immortality which of course everybody knows and…how did we get to that conclusion again?). And even giving some actual screen time to Michael Clarke Duncan is not enough to make a show worth watching. Unfortunate fact. FOX keeps trying to find that elusive new procedural to join/replace House and Bones as they dwindle into old age. But I don’t think this is it. Shoulda kept Lie to Me, guys…

ALCATRAZ
Midseason

Alcatraz is the newest form of awesome from JJ Abrams and supposedly he has promised that it will be Even Weirder Than Lost. Given the preview, I’d say that’s a distinct possibility. Which is, for those of us suffering through a world where great shows we want to watch get cancelled and dreadful shows we would never watch endure Methuselah-style, probably the greatest selling point.

I did a little research into the storyline of Alcatraz, because it’s hard to tell from the preview exactly what the show is going to look like in the long run; what the preview gives us is probably a good half of the substance of the pilot. (For other shows, I’d assume closer to 80%, but JJ Abrams is the king of pilot episodes so there is definitely way more to it than what we’re seeing already.) What you can’t tell from the preview is that the story actually largely revolves around a woman called Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and her multigenerational family history with the infamous prison. She appears to be the newest member of a well-known archetype, Fairly Dull Blonde Government Agent Female Lead. But she could always surprise us (read: me). Certainly the rest of the cast is spectacularly exciting: Jorge Garcia of Lost, Parminder Nagra (ER and Bend It Like Beckham), Heroes alums Robert Forster and Santiago Cabrera, and Sam Neill (SAM. FREAKING. NEILL.). Also featured in (at least) the pilot, an actor you maybe haven’t seen before but who I have high hopes for, Jeffrey Pierce, who I know as the alcoholic would-be rapist/murderer from Life but who you might know from any number of guest roles. Or not. Either way, I have the expectation that he’ll prove to be excellent.

My general feelings about Alcatraz run somewhat opposite my feelings about Terra Nova. I worry a little that it is going to be a sad knockoff-cum-rehash of previous JJ Abrams projects. What we know so far is that bad people with secrets disappear and then reappear mysteriously on an island and get into fights with other secret-holding morally-questionable persons and there’s a huge conspiracy underlying everything that happens that may or may not ever be explained in a totally logical way. And it takes place on an island. Ringing some rusty bells for ya? Tired-sounding or not, though, we can be assured that the pilot will be spectacular. Because again, pilots are what JJ Abrams does better than almost anyone in the business.

Alcatraz won’t be coming until the midseason, but it’s never too early to create buzz. JJ Abrams projects thrive on two things: anticipation and introductions. (Case in point, the year-and-a-half lead-in to Star Trek and then the first ten minutes of that movie.) So start getting excited. It’s not too early.

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.

*The other newfound inspiration for a Melted Brain revival is my discovery of/pending involvement with Personal Arrogants. This is a website and podcast formed around the idea of pop culture and nerd culture colliding. If you like to think and you like to laugh and you like to use the Internet (and if you don’t, wtf are you doing here), I HIGHLY recommend their podcast.

**I remember reading this article when it came out and despairing at the sheer NO SHITness of it all. Avatar has environmental undertones? Really? Avatar might be slightly racist? NO WAY. Perhaps the writer was just trying to adjust to the shock of there being anything remotely resembling substance in a James Cameron megamovie but seriously. I make a hobby of pointing out the obvious, and even I think a Captain Obvious line has been crossed.

Hindsight: The Dresden Files

(Experimenting with a slightly different Hindsight format here, because the precedented format is a bit…excessive for a show that only ran twelve episodes.)

Original Airdates: 2007-2008
Network: Syfy*
Creator: Jim Butcher, Hans Beimler, Robert Hewitt Wolfe

The Dresden Files, based on a series of novels by Jim Butcher, tells the story of Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne), private investigator/police consultant and wizard. His wand is a hockey stick – sometimes a drumstick for smaller jobs – , he fries technology with mere touches, and he is a terrible housekeeper. His best friend is the ghost of an ancient sorcerer called Bob (Terrence Mann). He is the go-to consultant for Chicago detective Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz) for all things wild, weird, and exceptionally disgusting. Other recurring characters include Murphy’s partner/underling Kirmani (Raoul Bhaneja), magical High Council member Morgan (Conrad Coates), and Inarra Serra’s vampire twin Bianca (Joanne Kelly).

The cases investigated by Dresden and Murphy provide the backbone for most episodes and include such paranormal staples as vampires, werewolves, possession, ancient relics, and magically aided petty theft. There are a few series-long plot arcs involving the death of Harry Dresden’s uncle Justin Morningway (Daniel Kash), Dresden’s own flirtation with black magic and its addictive properties, and of course the unavoidable slow-burning almost-romance between the lead and his female “very close friend.”

STRENGTHS:

1) Paul Blackthorne
How good is Paul Blackthorne, exactly? I-was-so-impressed-that-I-went-and-looked-him-up-and-realized-he-is-someone-I’d-seen-before-who-I’d-already-been-really-impressed-by-but-I-didn’t-notice-because-the-character-was-so-different-from-the-previous-times good. He embodies the semi-slobby Chicagoan hero so completely, you’d never know he was actually a Brit. Nevermind the Brit who played the awesomely villainous Stephen Saunders of 24‘s Day 3. Blackthorne has a great ability for both comedy and emotion, physical and verbal. And he has the hallmark ability that assures my admiration for any actor, male or female: he convinces me that he is attractive, even when I don’t particularly think he is. Even when the other elements of the series get dull-verging-on-irritating, Paul Blackthorne’s performance maintains my interest.

2) Settings
The environments for this show are of an immense quality, exterior locations and interior dressed sets both. When the action or writing failed to hold my complete attention, just looking at the details and completeness of sets like Harry Dresden’s lab was more than enough to occupy me. Everything (or everywhere, rather) felt completely formed and perfectly suited to the purpose and mood of the locations and the scenes taking place within them. Neither costumes nor special effects are particularly worth mentioning for this series, but the settings give The Dresden Files a level of visual success worthy of note.

3) Solidity
In a very real way, The Dresden Files hits the ground running. There’s no toddler period where the actors and characters struggle to establish relationships with each other and with the story. You know who Harry Dresden is the moment he introduces himself, and you know that he knows himself as well. Even before you learn that Bob is a ghost, and long before it is explained that he was Harry’s teacher, you understand the relationship between the two of them. The series was lucky in that way, because at least there was no time in only twelve episodes wasted on a concerted effort to make old friends act like that’s what they are in a way that the audience believes. I believed from the beginning, and that’s pretty rare when you get right down to it.

WEAKNESSES

1) Episodes
The biggest struggle for me in watching this series was the fact that, of only twelve episodes, three of them were The Vampire Episode and The Werewolf Episode and The Ghost Episode. And, the really unfortunate part, none of these took particularly creative forms. The vampires are dull and predictable, cousins of the Buffyverse breed but without the teeth, so to speak. And when the Twilight werewolves rank as more inventive and interesting, well… Fact is, the format of American television requires a formula of 3/4 filler and 1/4 story. The story portion of The Dresden Files is great, absolutely. But it fails fairly epically at filler. And you can’t get ratings to continue on for more story when your filler sucks, nor is anyone going to care enough to try and help you.

2) Comprehensibility
This is maybe the unfortunate consequence of a few things coming together in a less-than-ideal way. The original pilot for The Dresden Files was actually cut down into Episode 8, which pushed a lot of exposition so far back that by the time it got to the audience, everyone with half a brain had put the bits together through pure intuition and also the scattered details that were desperately thrown into earlier episodes to make up for the fact that the entire set up of the world and story got thrown off. But even taking those things into account, there was just a lot that needed to be explained earlier and more clearly. Often I complain that series overcompensate for potential stupidity on the part of their viewers. It is the opposite case for The Dresden Files. It would be lovely to just have some linear presentation of basic facts. When Bob says “Did you remember your wand?” I’d like to not have to go “Wait. Is that the hockey stick? Or was it a drumstick? What?” until the object in question starts shooting blue lightning.

3) Fluff
Perhaps the greatest fault of the series is that it does not at any point demand to be taken seriously. If it was not explained that Harry Dresden has a dark past and dark addition to black magic, we would have no idea, simply because the sort of intensity implied in that situation is never presented. We don’t see Dresden struggle with it – or, at the very least, not in any way that for even the briefest moment we worry he might succumb to his sinful side. Asking the audience to worry about Dresden’s struggle with the darkside is like asking someone to be afraid for their life in a lasertag arena. It’s a pretty simple concept that The Dresden Files fails to realize: no risk, no reward (no renewal).

BEST EPISODE: “Birds of a Feather”

http://www.hulu.com/embed/FVkwav-D_WHxPKiDnnCKDg

This episode became the pilot for the series after “Storm Front” was cut in half and shuffled back to the end of the series, and it made a great first introduction. This is the one episode where concrete storytelling and innovation really worked. We see Harry Dresden as an adult and as a child echoed in an adult. We also get not one, but two pretty original magical creatures, the skinwalkers and the anthropomorphized crows (the speaking voice of the latter is possibly my favorite thing that happened over the entire course of the series because it is just so perfectly done). It’s a successful episode, especially as a pilot, because it really does inspire curiosity and induce you to watch more of the series. Not least because it implies a future storyline (one that never comes to fruition, but still).

WORST EPISODE: “Bad Blood”

http://www.hulu.com/embed/qrIMzde6LPevASXoyKGl2w

aka, The Vampire Episode. The concept is tired, the vampires are uninteresting, the end is predictable…as is much of the middle. If there are any great one-liners or jokes to redeem this episode, I’ve forgotten about them. The episode isn’t terrible, but it is pretty boring. If you have ever seen any episode of any series remotely involving any creature vaguely reminiscent of a vampire, you have seen “Bad Blood.” Ditto if you’ve ever seen something involving gang/turf/drug conflicts and scantily clad women.

There’s an uncomfortable dichotomy to my opinion of The Dresden Files. I enjoyed it so much while I was watching, but I wasn’t disappointed when I hit the last episode and that was all. I really struggled to come up with three “strengths” of this show that were in fact strong enough to incorporate into this post. Not because the series is bad, but because there is almost nothing fantastic enough to be worth mention.

The mark of a great series is often that, when it ends, no matter how much there has been of it, you still want more. A few excellent elements aside, there’s nothing to make me wish for more of this show. I’m curious about the books, maybe, but mostly because I’m hoping the television series didn’t do them justice and that they contain the meaty story I was missing all twelve episodes. I don’t say this to discourage anyone from watching; this half-season is worth watching. It lives out its welcome exactly, without leaving too early or staying too long. And maybe that’s the secret to a different sort of great television.

*When The Dresden Files aired, the network was still branded as Sci-Fi.

Big Screen Brain: X-Men First Class

I have now seen X-Men: First Class twice. So, those of you who haven’t seen it at all yet, Get On That. I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s any more than average as a whole. But it is unarguably entertaining.

X-Men: First Class is a prequel/sequel to the other X-Men movies of the past decade AND it is a Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, Stardust) film BUT, it tries so hard to be both simultaneously that it succeeds and fails in equal measure.

How It Succeeds As A Matthew Vaughn Film:

1) Casting
The actors are the usual mix of well-knowns and sadly-not-well-knowns. The cast includes The Guy From Atonement (James McAvoy as Charles Xavier), The Girl From Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique), The Guy From Everything Ever (Kevin Bacon as The Bad Guy), and a shark* (Michael Fassbender as Magneto). January Jones‘ cleavage is also featured prominently (to be fair, there really isn’t any other way to feature it).

2) Assholes
The ultimate rule of Matthew Vaughn films is, the more asshole-y a character is, the more AWESOME they are. And also the better the performance is. Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon really live this out to the fullest, Kevin Bacon and his nine languages and his sideburns in particular. Fassbender makes an excellent jerk, but he’s hindered somewhat by his Tragic Past and ever-present angst. Bacon is at his melodramatic supervillainy best. How do you tell he succeeds better? He can wear the helmet without inspiring mockery. Fassbender just looks like a douche (although maybe that’s because Magneto went a little crazy with the spray paint and added a hood ornament).

3) Environment
One of my favorite parts of Matthew Vaughn’s style is, well, the style, the mastery of every visual element. First Class is fully infused with the flavor of the sixties. The villains in particular are steeped in it, from the interior spaces of the submarine and the Vegas nightclub to the costumes. Especially the costumes, in my opinion. Basically every man in the film knows how to really wear a suit (or a pair of shorts, if called for). And (when she wears clothes,) January Jones has some truly phenomenal Mod outfits.

How It Fails As A Matthew Vaughn Film:

1) PG-13 Rating
Let’s just all agree: Matthew Vaughn is not a PG-13 kind of guy. Imagine Kick-Ass with a PG-13 rating. Exactly. You can’t. Just like he can’t make his usual beyond-off-color raunchy jokes or put the vocabulary of a sailor in the mouth of a ten-year-old girl while stuck within the X-Men franchise. You can feel his discomfort in the softer scenes, especially compared to the ease of strip/nightclub scenes and the Wolverine cameo.

2) Narrative
The storyline of this film is not well-structured. It is not cohesive. It isn’t really a single story you can sink your teeth into. Vaughn’s trademark is totally comprehensive narratives about characters who be have in totally incomprehensible and unpredictable ways. This film just had way too many elements to tie all together. The writing team and all did their best, no question, but that only goes so far sometimes.

How It Succeeds As An X-Men Film

1) Superhero-y-ness
There are enough cheesy catch-phrases, grandiose proclamations, and intense stare-downs in this film to satisfy any eight fans of the genre. “I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders; no more”, “Well, I adapt to survive. So I guess that means I’m going with you.” “MUTANT AND PROUD.” Need I say more?

2) Special Effects
There are some seriously cool moments in this movie, FX-wise. Emma Frost’s diamond form (particularly the moment when it cracks). Any time Sebastian Shaw uses his powers. Darwin’s transformations. And of course, the flying submarine. Perhaps the coolest moment of all is when Hank McCoy’s feet are briefly made human then transformed from that surprisingly-still-hairy state to full Beast mode. It is a digital moment both impressive and grotesque, and it is awesome.

3) Conclusion
First Class remains true to franchise form and delivers an ending that is technically a victory for the good guys but somehow feels ambiguous in spite of that. This narrative choice is probably the most ingenious element of the X-Men movies because that less-than-happy, semi-cliffhanger type ending is really the secret to assuring there will be an audience for a sequel. No matter how we feel about what has transpired in the current film, we want to see what happens in the next one.

How It Fails As An X-Men Film

1) Wolverine
Yes, I know it would be canonically incorrect to have Wolverine all over this movie. But can we just agree: a twenty-second cameo is not enough, no matter how hilarious.

2) Sentiment
Often the emotional storylines of this franchise are overdone to the point of being intolerably saccharine. But First Class faulted toward the opposite pole. Even where I wanted to connect emotionally – the death of Magneto’s mother, when Professor X gets shot, – I couldn’t quite. Rather than melodramatic, the characters seemed almost underemotive. I will give credit where credit is due, though; Jennifer Lawrence kicked the touchy-feely crap out of that scene where Beast insists she is not beautiful just as she is and the related scenes that followed.

I absolutely did enjoy this movie…clearly, given I’ve seen it twice already. It has a very talented cast, features some typically excellent work by one of my favorite directors, and the aesthetic elements are fantastic. Even where it loses me, it doesn’t really, because what’s done poorly (or at least, done in poor taste) is great fodder for mockery and unintended hilarity. It’s FUN, and that’s the important part.

* I am not the originator of the Michael-Fassbender-Is-A-Shark idea, but I am riding shotgun on the bandwagon. I think originally the comparison was drawn because of the teeth – seriously, he has SO MANY FREAKING TEETH – and the excessive grimacing that shows off said teeth. It is probably fortunate I hadn’t heard the shark thing the first time I saw the movie because it was pretty much all I could think about the second time around. My overactive brain even extended the parallel to apply to his profile, the amount of time he spends in water, and even the nature of his character. It is quite an apt comparison when you get down to it. (But, honestly, it’s mostly just The Teeth.)

Big Screen Brain: Thor

I realize I’m a good month behind the times with this review, but I only just saw it and seriously: this is a movie that badly needs to be blogged about.

The problem with Thor isn’t that it is all style and no substance, exactly. Both elements are there in about equal measure. But there is nothing that feels genuine, so beyond a few relatively cheap laughs involving drunk physicists and/or overly hammy culture clashes, any true enjoyment there is to be had is so deeply buried under thick layers of fluff and mishandling that one needs to work way too hard and think way too much (to wit, be me) to find it. And after all that effort, what there is to be found is hardly worth it.

One major conclusion I’ve come to in thinking about Thor is that I’m over the CGI craze. The artist-technicians created an amazing fantasy environment in Asgard. It was larger than life, beautiful, filled with almost mind-boggling exquisiteness, and yet I remained totally disenchanted. Why? Because absolutely none of it was real. I couldn’t really appreciate the beauty (or even the work it took to create it) because all I was thinking about was the fact that almost the entire movie must have been shot in front of a green screen. And having that image in your head pretty much contaminates the whole experience.

Magnificent shiny castles are considerably less impressive when you’re plagued by the idea that They Don’t Exist At All. My mind immediately jumps to Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the production work done by WETA Workshop. The fantasy environments (Rivendell, Lothlorien, Moria, Mordor, to name a few) were scaled models that were superimposed to create backgrounds in the correct scale. So yes, those scenes were also mostly green-screened. But they were layered with a few real-size constructed environments and there was a physical structure, albeit a miniature one. No matter how good CGI technology gets, there will always be a difference between what is real and what is, for lack of a better term, illustrated. I like to think I’ll always be able to tell.

The other production elements of Thor are of sufficient quality at best. Costumes were well enough but nothing spectacular. The music did it’s job, but no more. The coolest thing was probably the SFX makeup for the Frost Giants. That was admittedly Pretty Sweet.

Of course all that is just dressing. My long-winded disappointment with the amount of CGI is a peripheral complaint, a distraction from what truly disappointed me about this movie. Namely, the story and the telling thereof.

The superhero narrative, the modern model of the Classical hero story, is not complicated or difficult. It is the most basic of arcs, and all a storyteller has to do to succeed is hit all of the essential elements. And yet somehow, Thor fails.

Thor reads like someone bit a big chunk of it out of the middle. We see arrogant, boorish, warmongery, pre-transformation Thor at the beginning of the movie. And at the end of the movie we see noble, dignified, self-sacrificing, post-transformation Thor. Which is all well and good and fitting with the hero journey storyline…except that the transformation never takes place. At the very least, it is far too subtle.

The tender moments with Natalie Portman (I honestly don’t remember her character’s name because, really, she’s basically just Natalie Portman) and Thor’s inability to pull his hammer out of a rock are, I can only assume, intended as moments of character growth. Unfortunately, they seem more like opportunities to reveal to the audience deeper, more sensitive layers that Thor already possessed. Yes, there is a distinction.

I feel that part of the problem was an underestimation (or perhaps a misunderstanding) of Chris Hemsworth. Visually, he fits the “hunky and dumb” bill to a T. But his emotive abilities as an actor are truly outstanding. Recall, this is George Kirk of JJ AbramsStar Trek, the guy who appeared in only the first five minutes of the movie and somehow still managed to steal the show – y’know, the guy whose performance still makes me cry every time even though I’ve seen the movie an embarrassing number of times at this point. Even from behind a beard and flowing locks that seem to mysteriously grow when he dons an overly shoulder-padded cape, Chris Hemsworth brings full emotional life to his character – perhaps more than he ought. It is clear that sensitivity is his natural element, Viking brashness an act. Instead of wondering how he got to his mature end-of-movie character state, we wonder instead why he wasn’t shown that way from the beginning. I do, anyway.

Perhaps a contributing factor to this lack of sequence and clarity in the hero’s personal journey is what I found to be an over-emphasis on the personal journey of the antagonist. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed every moment of Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) descent into villainy, particularly when his Frost Giant face is first revealed. But his story also seems somewhat out of sequence because his reasons for evil are revealed over halfway through the movie. And those revelations are presented the way Thor’s ought to have been: as happening in the moment, rather than as an unveiling of things already present and in motion. It seems there was some confusion about which was truly the main, important character (you’d think the title might have tipped someone off). As a result, hero and villain stories were switched in terms of emphasis and the overall plot of the movie felt awkward at best (weak at worst).

There is little else about Thor worth noting – no, not even Anthony Hopkins. Stellan Skarsgard, maybe. The Asian Viking is weird, I will grant you, but we live in a world that badly wants for political correctness and multiculturality (even when it makes no sense) and so that must go uncommented as well. Also because talking about the Asian Viking would force me to point out that the rest of Thor’s BFFs – Broadsword Barbie, Gimli, and the Scandinavian Musketeer – are equally ridiculous. And I don’t want to do that – that would just be mean.

When all is said and done, Thor is definitely a letdown and definitely the failed child in the pre-Avengers movie family. The only part of it I genuinely enjoyed was the post-credits clip featuring Nick Fury and a reminder that The Avengers Movie Will Be Here Soon And It Will Be Awesome. So I’ll concentrate on looking forward to that…and just pretend that Thor 2 isn’t going to happen.

This Week 3/15 to 3/19

Wow. So. Monday just sort of got away from me there. Whoops.

Tonight:
8pm – Glee on FOX

Thankfully, Tuesday will give me time to catch up. Reminder: this week is Regionals on Glee and, supposedly, Rachel is debuting an original song. God help us.

WEDNESDAY:
10pm – Justified on FX

THURSDAY:
9pm – Bones on FOX
10pm – Fairly Legal on USA

FRIDAY:
9pm – Fringe on FOX

SATURDAY:

Nothing new is airing.

 

Apparently FOX is the only network interested in airing anything new this week. Works for me. I’ve still got quarter-to-half finished drafts of posts about last week’s Bones and The Adjustment Bureau sitting around waiting to be finished. Also, the real world is sort of encroaching on my TV time. Funny how that happens.

This Week 3/7 to 3/12

So yeah. I guess I’m back.

I’ve spent the last…however long its been…mostly hacking away at my To-Watch list of old. Progress so far: Seasons 1 and 2 of Damages, Seasons 1-3 of Dexter, rewatching Season1 of Dollhouse, attempting to watch The 4400, and then also watching hours and hours of Whose Line Is It Anyway. Next up is Season 1 of The Closer, and I’m very excited.

BUT. Time goes on. New things air. And I try to keep up, or at least catch up.

MONDAY:
8pm – Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family
8pm – The Event on ABC (2-hour midseason return!)
9pm – The Chicago Code on FOX
9pm – Being Human on SyFy

Of these four, I’m only current on The Event, and that’s only because there haven’t been any new episodes since my Great Catch Up of early January. Actually, I haven’t even started The Chicago Code yet. But people I trust tell me I should, so.

TUESDAY:
8pm – Glee on FOX
10pm – White Collar on USA

GWYNETH PALTROW IS BACK ON GLEE!!! (Which reminds me. I finally caught back up on Glee after my period of disenchantment. And I LOVE IT again. Good times.)

WEDNESDAY:
10pm – Justified on FX

Question for Wednesday: is Mr. Sunshine worth watching? I’ve been curious.

THURSDAY:
9pm – Bones on FOX
10pm – Facing Kate on USA

This week on Bones: continuation of the “sniper arc” I keep hearing about. What makes that actually exciting: Arnold Vosloo!

FRIDAY:
9pm – CSI: NY on CBS
9pm – Fringe on FOX

I really need to catch up on Fringe. I miss it.

SATURDAY:
11:30pm – Saturday Night Live (Zach Galifianakis and Jessie J.) on NBC

In Big Screen Brain news, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau. Expect a review in the next couple of days.

My Favorite Guest Actors – Issue 2

I’m pulling this feature out of the deep recesses of early Melted Brain because, well, writing reviews takes thinking and that’s hard so I don’t want to but I do want to post something so this is the best I could come up with. These men (yes, all men this time – I don’t know why, but I have a hard time remembering or getting really attached to female guest actors) are some of my very very favorite guest actors. They’ve all appeared on several of my favorite shows and, I’ll be honest, they all have that capacity to be excellently creepy. I am nothing if not consistent in my tastes. Here we go!

Arnold Vosloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He tends to be cast as “The Middle Eastern Guy” and it is in that capacity that he has appeared on several of my favorite shows. Most notably, he played the slipperiest, trickiest, most difficult-to-find-nevermind-kill main 24 villain, Habib Marwan, on Day 4. He has also appeared on Chuck and NCIS and, most recently, on Bones (and that role is being reprised soon as the touted “sniper arc” moves forward). Generally, it is versatility that impresses me in an actor. But that isn’t really what gives Arnold Vosloo his appeal. Instead, what most impresses me about his various performances is the consistent steadiness in his carriage. No matter what he is doing or saying, there is always a certain element of…class, I guess you could call it. Nervousness and wavering are just not in his vocabulary and, really, it’s that steadiness that makes him so appealing and intimidating as a villain. And there is nothing better than an effortlessly intimidating villain. Except for maybe an effortlessly intimidating might-not-actually-be-a-villain, which is also an archetype he plays.

Mark Pellegrino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This actor has a peculiar talent for portraying both innocuous benevolence and brute violence…often in the same character. The two best examples of this disparity are Jacob of Lost and Paul of Dexter. He is totally believable as a loving father/guardian type, as well as an abusive power-hungry sonofoabitch, and somehow he even carries off the transition between those two elements. It is thoroughly amazing. But, it is a little sad that he is being more and more typecast in that sort of role – other recent examples include appearances on Supernatural and Being Human. Though losing the opportunity to seem him anywhere at anytime would be sad, I would love to see Mark Pellegrino get his own show – preferably something that gives him a chance to show off a bit more versatility.

Titus Welliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving right along to Mark Pellegrino’s opposite number from Lost, The Man In Black. Fittingly enough, he is somewhat the opposite as an actor. Titus Welliver shares the talent for straddling two seemingly incompatible personality traits within the same character. For him, the combination seems to be enigmatic menace and almost sissyish emotionality. My favorite role of his is Kyle Hollis from Life, a murderer-for-hire turned evangelist. It was the brief clip of that character’s preaching hellfire and damnation that really sold me on this man’s talent. That talent is yet another point chalked up on the board for “Reasons Why I Should Start Watching The Good Wife.” Also, he gets major bonus points in my affections for having one of the coolest names ever.

Tony Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Todd is a bamf, straight up. The man is basically built to play menacing characters. He’s also got one of those excellent, excellent voices. He has played characters on both sides of the moral spectrum, but I definitely prefer his villains. He played General Juma on Day 7 of 24 and was pretty much solely responsible for what I consider to be the best (and by “best” I mean “most terrifying and exhilarating and adrenaline-rushy”) fifteen minutes of the season, possibly of the series. I’ll be totally honest and admit that he’s not my favorite because of his range, or even because of his talent. It’s pretty much just because he plays awesome villains and/or intimidating authority figures and any appearance he makes is sure to be good times.

Callum Keith Rennie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m being totally honest, I should probably start off this paragraph by being straightforward and admitting that, yes, part of the reason I enjoy Callum Keith Rennie so much is because he is attractive. But seriously, mostly I love him because he plays excellent creepers. My favorite role of his so far is probably Leoben of Battlestar Galactica because, thanks to the chance to bounce of the sheer brilliance of Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, he got to dig his heels way deep in and explore that delicious moral gray area. His character from 24 (yes, 24 again), Vladimir Laitanan is a close second, but that’s probably because not only do I love charming-but-terrifying, I really love Russians. I was going to say “He’s another who I’d love to see have his own show.” But then I went to imdb and found out that he DOES – he plays the lead role, a detective with multiple personality disorder, in a Canadian show called Shattered. Guess what just jumped to the top five in my Need To Watch list.