Tag Archives: J.J. Abrams

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.

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.)

UNFORGETTABLE
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.

PERSON OF INTEREST
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.

A GIFTED MAN
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.

PHEW. FEELS NICE TO HAVE THAT ALL OVER WITH.

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.

Wham Blam Thank You Ma’am (Fall TV I am jazzed about)

Well, by the end of last spring a lot of my favorite shows were done and over with for good. No more Heroes. No more Lost. No more 24. And while there were several exciting new series this summer that I am pretty much entirely devoted to at this point, they are going to be gone soon. Thank goodness for new Fall TV!

I’m not ridiculously excited for any of this, really. But several things intrigue me, others worry me, and a couple I am just expecting to fail. The good news: if nothing else, I will have lots of fodder for blogging.

ANYWAY. New shows. Checkitout.

Nikita

Yes, Nikita. As in “La Femme.” As in, based on the movie and television series of bygone days. No, no, sadly there are not any original ideas anymore.  But hey, this looks exciting. And I am a fan of Maggie Q (scrawny an action star as she may be). Plus this is definitely my kind of show. Action! Spies! Lead female badass! Xander Berkley! Hopefully Nikita will turn out to be one of the good CW shows (a la Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, etc).

Outlaw

I predict this is going to be one of those shows whose livelihood is totally dependent on the popularity of its lead actor, because the rest of the cast is generally unknown and only passably interesting. Luckily for Outlaw, Jimmy Smits is a BAMF. I doubt I’ll become crazy dedicated to this show (see: my general disinterest regarding law shows). But the pilot definitely seems worth a shot.

Lone  Star

A con man living two lives but trying to get out…because he’s in love with both his wife and his girlfriend and has suddenly developed a conscience? I could potentially really love or really hate this show. The lead, James Wolk, seems loveable enough, and god knows I enjoy Jon Voight. Lone Star is gonna have to seriously impress to stick around, though, at least on my post.

The Event

Trying to be the new Lost? Quite possibly. Also trying to be the new 24? Probably. Going to fail as badly as FlashForward did? Just might. Do I care? No. Am I still going to be watching? Obviously. Because even if it ends up being terrible, it has Zeljko Ivanek. What else do you need.

Hawaii Five-0

Speaking of unoriginal ideas! Remaking Hawaii Five-0 might be one of the most questionable plans of the season. Could it succeed? Maybe. Especially if they’re keeping the music (one of the best TV themes Of All Time). Why might it not succeed? Well, it stars Alex O’Loughlin and he, well…see: Moonlight and Three Rivers and their utter failures. On the other hand, the rest of the cast includes Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Will Yun Lee, and Jean Smart. (Dear H5-0 2.0: way to hog the bankable Asian actors.)

Raising Hope

There is little to no chance I will watch this show. I only mention it because a) it is new and that is the point of this post/list/thing and b) it has Garret Dillahunt and I am excited he’s got a regular gig.

Running Wilde

Here is another show I probably won’t watch. I also don’t expect it will last very long. But it is probably better than it looks, because that is what we would expect of the minds behind fan-favorite Arrested Development. The trick will be making sure this show doesn’t get a case of same-old-same-old-itis. Who knows, maybe some especially clever writing’ll make it a break-out hit (or, you know, not).

Detroit 187

Hey, cop show! I don’t think I know who anyone in this cast is, but that’s okay. What we seem to have here is a gritty cop drama where the cases are less like wealthy-and-pretty CSI: NY stuff and more of the down-and-dirty Southland variety. Nice of ABC to give Detroit a little boost too, considering how much the last couple of years have sucked for that city.

Undercovers

Sooooo excited. I’m a little afraid it’ll end up being terrible. But then I remind myself that it is J.J. Abrams and that he is a champion of awesome when it comes to the spy genre. All the preview stuff is so shiny and clean and, well, sort of cheesy, that I can’t help worrying. I am definitely hoping that is all unnecessary anxiety and that Undercovers will end up being as spectacular as lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw is ridiculously attractive.

The Whole Truth

Rob Morrow vs. Maura Tierney. If ever there was a chance to maybe convince me that I should start watching legal dramas, this is probably it. Except that I still probably won’t. I’ll watch the pilot, at least, which is notable. For those who do like legal dramas, I expect this is probably a good one. You can expect the acting to be excellent, and ABC is good with the lead-male-lead-female interaction stuff shows.

The Defenders

This show has the potential to be hilarious. Jerry O’Connell being over-the-top wacky and James Belushi being grumpy but probably also wacky? The stuff that awesome is made of. Funny story: from 1961 to 1965 there was another legal show called The Defenders but the 2010 version is not a remake!

My Generation

Basically, My Generation is an attempt to take the fake-documentary method of comedies The Office and Parks and Recreation and utilize it for a drama. The plot is not particularly fascinating: it’s one of those reality show “where are they now” ten-years-after-graduation-old-friends-meet-up-and-dramatic-shit-happens things. Only scripted. Interesting concept, but I don’t know that it’ll pan out successfully.

$#*! My Dad Says

Hereafter referred to as Shit My Dad Says because everyone knows that’s the real title (and also it is a pain typing those characters instead of letters). For those not in the know, this show is based off of some guys Twitter account on which he posted Shit His Dad Said because they were living together and his dad was old and the two of them apparently didn’t get along all that well. This show will probably be a major hit this year for three reasons. 1) the Twitter account has thousands of fans and I’m betting a good portion will cross over to watch this, 2) William Shatner is the star and (logic defying as it may seem) he brings the fans, and 3) there has already been so much publicity/free press due to the “controversial nature” of just the title.

Blue Bloods

Hey, cop show! Slash family drama. I think the most interesting thing about this show is going to end up being the audience demographics. Depending on exactly where Blue Bloods ends up falling on both the Gritty Cop Grit and Touchy Feely Family Love scales, it could end up having either very wide or very narrow appeal. And wide appeal is what keeps things on the air.

No Ordinary Family

It is going to take a lot of awesomeness for me to watch more than the pilot of this show. I adore Julie Benz, I enjoy Michael Chiklis, and Romany Malco is a funny dude. But let’s be honest. This really just looks like ABC trying to remake NBC’s Heroes and cover up the fact they are doing so by dressing it up in Aww Family junk. If you want superheroes + warm fuzzies, watch The Incredibles. Seriously.

Law & Order: Los Angeles

Dear NBC,
Why
exactly did you decide that making a new Law & Order series seemed like a better idea than just extending the original for one more season and letting it take the record for longest-running primetime television series?
Love, Logic

The world may never know.

I Love Michael Ausiello

Why?

Because he knows things.

More specifically, he knows up-to-the-minute cancellation/renewal details.

Even better, he keeps this handy-dandy scorecard on EW.com, which saves me from surfing around to three million different websites in search of information about the future.

NBC, ABC, CBS, and the CW have all made their big decisions. Not everything is written in stone quite yet (because networks are like that with the finagling and the changing their minds) BUT, here’s a list of the outcomes I care about:

NBC

Chuck: renewed!!
Heroes: cancelled
Trauma: cancelled

I’ve written a whole post about my feelings on the Heroes cancellation (tragic acceptance) and went into my fears/expectations for Chuck about a week ago. The only thing I have left to say is, Trauma: everyone saw that coming.

ABC

Castle: renewed!!
FlashForward: cancelled
The Forgotten: cancelled!
Lost: ending
Scrubs: (FINALLY) cancelled
V: renewed

Scrubs is blessedly giving up on any new episodes and it is about damn time. FlashForward‘s loss is no shocker, nor is Castle‘s survival. But V…weird. Maybe because I haven’t been watching, but this one def surprises me. It must be better than I thought…or at least more popular…or something. And, THE FORGOTTEN FINALLY GOT CANCELLED! I have been awaiting this day for months.

CBS

CSI: NY: no official word yet
NCIS: no official word yet
NCIS: Los Angeles: renewed!!

NCIS: Los Angeles is maybe my favorite new show this season besides Glee, so it’s fantastic that it’s been renewed. I’m not worried about the other two…I mean really. It’s NCIS and a CSI iteration. They’ll never die. Yet.

FOX

24: cancelled
Bones: renewed
Fringe: renewed
Glee: renewed
House: renewed
Human Target: renewed!!!
Lie to Me: renewed

It was time for 24 to go, so that’s just fine. The big news here is that Fringe will be sticking around! I worry about how it’ll do next year with another J.J. Abrams series on air to compete with, but it’s definitely deserving of renewal. And Human Target! So excited!

the CW

The Vampire Diaries: renewed

That’s really the only CW show I care about right now. But I will add, Supernatural and Smallville were both also renewed. I could have sworn this past season was supposed to be Supernatural‘s last…not complaining, though, aside from the fact that I’ll have even MORE to catch up with. But Smallville? It just needs to die. That show has been on air for too long and the actors are too old to be running around as their same characters anymore. Please die?

These are just the shows that I’m at all concerned about. If you’re looking for news of something I haven’t listed, I definitely suggest you head over to the Renewal Scorecard at the Ausiello Files (linked above).

Lost: “Sundown”

Tonight marks the very first time I’ve ever watched an episode of Lost as it aired, and may I just say: ABC is HELL OF irritating. Between the “Enhanced” (read: For Utter Morons) version of last week’s episode preceeding, the waaay overdone lead-in, and the cross-versing V ads, the whole experience makes the idea of just switching back to Hulu awfully tempting.

However, for some reason, as-it-airs television is far more exciting than online reruns. I don’t know why. But the difference is significant enough to make me think I’ll just put up with being irritated for the next many weeks.

As for the episode itself.

Well.

What the hell ass?

One thing I will say for this episode, it started with what is hands down the best fight scene of the series. Seriously. Fight coordinator Andy Cheng deserves a freaking medal. Hell, the whole stunt team does. That was insane and beautiful and incredibly creative.

And speaking of insane.

This parallel universe thing is just getting way out of hand. I thought it had already hit mindblowingly insane. But I was wrong. Because freaking Keamy showed up. Freaking Martin Keamy from Season 4, possibly the creepiest motherfucker ever to appear on Lost. And he was blackmailing Sayid’s brother, and had Jin tied up in an industrial size refrigerator. I don’t know where all this wacky crossing-of-paths (like Jack just happening to walk by in the hospital) is headed, but there had better be some sort of destination.

Moving on to what makes a little more sense, Smoke Monster vs. The Temple just got significantly more interesting.

And by that I mean there is no The Temple anymore, “Locke” has recruited Sayid (who has apparently turned psychopathic) to help him along with Crazy Claire, and now Kate is along for the ride…which ought to be veeery interesting. I highly doubt that Kate is going to turn evil, per se, but didja notice how she’s the only crash survivor left on the island who is not (possibly) A Candidate? If I had my druthers, none of this would matter because Claire would live up to her word and kill Kate for raising Aaron, but I have no realistic hope of Kate dying before the end of the series. So maybe she can at least work for the bad guys for awhile.

Sayid killed Dogen, which is I guess karmically just in some way or other. Not particularly shocking – once he shared his backstory he was obviously toast. Drowning him in the water-that-apparently-used-to-be-clear-but-isn’t-anymore-which-is-a-problem was a nice poetic touch.

The far more fascinating (attempted) killing from “Sundown” was, of course, when Sayid stabbed a knife all the way through “Locke” and it did nothing. Again, not particularly shocking. But suuuuper unsettling, especially since he didn’t even bleed or show any sign of discomfort. This of course begs the question, “How are they going to kill him at the end of the season?” I’m very worried that the answer is “They won’t, they’re going to trap him on The Island forever. Still.” Especially after last week’s wacko mirror-lighthouse-spy device with the numbers and names, Lost‘s final season is bearing an unfortunate resemblance to the days when Alias fell from glory (read: the final season). Like I said: worried.

Also worrying me: the fact that the Smoke Monster seems to be getting increasingly columnar – as in, decreasingly smoke-like. It’s practically entered the realm of phallic imagery. Someone needs to get on that, STAT.

Season Six promises answers. Did we get any this episode?

Well…we’ve been told that “Locke” is “Evil Incarnate.” (As long as this isn’t a lead-in to religious themes, I can possibly support it.) And there was reference made to getting “anything you want.” Could this possibly be the Magic Box that Ben mentioned once? I know, I know, he insisted he was lying. But it’s Ben. He lies all the time, and we never know how much he actually knows. But real answers? Nada. Not that I was really expecting any this early on.

I think that’s all the noteworthy points of “Sundown.” As per Lost‘s early-in-the-season M.O., I am SUPER CONFUSED. But this was an enjoyable episode, and things are certainly looking up from last week.

Final note: “Catch A Falling Star” is now officially the Creepiest Song Of All Time.

Quote of the episode: “Put the girl in the hole.”

Lost, The Phenomenon: An Outsider’s Perspective

No, I don’t watch Lost.

Yes, I am starting to feel really bad about that.

Lost isn’t just a ratings magnet, and it isn’t just a brain-requiring science fiction (I use the term loosely) series. It is both, and that is what makes it so unique. Compare Lost to any vaguely similar show of the last decade in terms of ratings and it’s easy to see, it is an outlier.

Somehow, Lost has managed to attract seemingly ALL the people who watch shows of its approximate genre (I say approximate because, from my understanding, it really is pretty much unique in these terms as well), and even a few who don’t. And they all LOVE IT. Perhaps my experience differs from that of other people, but I have yet to find someone who is so-so on Lost. You love it, or you don’t watch it.

So the question is: WHY?

And I really don’t know the answer. Has creator-mastermind J.J. Abrams discovered the formula for primetime network television that captures this unheard of combination of ratings, intelligence, and weirdness? This seems unlikely. If he had such knowledge/mastery, surely Fringe would be a much larger hit than it has been (and was expected to be; see: minimal commercial breaks for Season One*). Or, maybe he did find a formula that worked…but it only worked at exactly that time. Rewind the clock to 2004, and it becomes obvious that non-realistic television was in something of a dry-spell. Basically the only other new science fiction show in the 2004 period was Battlestar Galactica – cable, hardcore sci-fi, aired internationally (simultaneously in multiple countries).

In the present, science fiction shows are seeing a rise in popularity again – and it’s not just J.J. Abrams making them. Yes, Fringe and Lost, but also Heroes, FlashForward, V: The Reimagined Series, and Dollhouse (up until last week). And that’s just the major networks. There’s more competition for viewers. And yet Lost still rises far beyond the rest.

The final season has just started, so it will be a good long while until next fall when we see the effect of a television world without Lost. But it will certainly be a brave new world. There’s no way to predict how the sci-fi television scene will change when Lost is no longer a landmark. As a purveyor of the genre, I’ll be on high alert until the future solidifies.

For now though, Lost fans are simultaneously rejoicing and beginning to grieve. Emotional investment is high, and the whole world is buzzing with anticipation. All this political network junk aside,the success of Lost can also be boiled down to the fact that it is brilliantly done, endlessly fascinating, there is simply nothing else like it on television.

So I’ve basically argued myself into watching it.

I didn’t start watching when it began because I was a dedicated Alias fan embittered by a) the declining quality of that series, and b) how Lost was dragging all these non-Alias fans on to the J.J. Abrams bandwagon. From then on came a series of excuses about “Oh, I don’t have time for television,” (no, really – at one point I did actually have such thoughts) or “Oh, I don’t have time or resources to catch up on what’s already happen.” But my priorities have changed (see: I have a TV blog now), as has the technology (hello, SideReel and Hulu!).

I guess the only real question now is: Can I catch up in time to watch (and fully appreciate) the finale with the rest of the world?

*Commercial breaks are how networks make money. They sell airtime to advertisers. The more audience members there are in a given timeslot, the more the network can charge. There is a certain amount of money that networks are looking to make. Minimizing commercial time is a sign that the network expects they can make the same amount of money with fewer commercial slots – as in, they can charge more. Seeing as Season Two of Fringe has seen a return to standard commercial time, I’m guessing that indicates their gamble didn’t pay off quite as much as they hoped. (As I am not an economist or a well-researched expert, I should also note the possibility that this may also have been either a sign or the recession or that the first-season commercial set-up may have been part of a negotiation to get J.J. Abrams to sign Fringe to FOX instead of his home network ABC.)

FOX Premieres Win At Life

I’m a day late, and I am not pleased about it. Especially since I was looking forward to the premieres of Bones and Fringe for weeks.  I’m pretty much made of disappointment that I didn’t actually get to watch them while they aired. But, I’m caught up now, and it was all SO good, I don’t even care (that much) anymore. Without further ado, the Thursday FOX premieres:

“Harbingers in a Fountain”

Bones crew, that was an excellent premiere! Is it possible you have finally realized that it doesn’t work when you go whole-hog on “major” episodes and have instead thoughtfully decided to stick to your strengths?

This episode had no right being as good as it was, contributing factors (namely, the cracktastic season four finale and the fact that this was a premiere). But it was excellent, and I am so delighted! On the one hand, it kind of hurts that a tarot-reading psychic played by Cyndi Lauper is such a great improvement over the majority of last season. On the other hand, her performance is some of my favorite guest work I’ve seen on Bones.

“Harbingers in a Fountain” has all the classic goodness that makes this show great. The dynamic between Booth and Brennan, which is always well-executed, was absolutely superb in this episode – and that with a slightly out-of-sorts Booth. The way the whole Omg, Booth in love with Bones?! situation turns out is slightly disappointing for my inner romantic. But, practically speaking, it was handled ingeniously. Because when a show hinges almost entirely on chemistry between two characters who are not together, their feelings have to stay unrequited or the entire show flops. It’s just a fact. (See: The X-Files, and virtually every other show that focuses on a male-female partner dynamic.) As far as the other solid, classic parts of this episode that really worked, a line from Angela sums it up best: “A pit full of mass murder victims, what’s not to love?” True fact.

I’m taking this episode as an indication that Bones will be back to snuff this season – gross, quirky, quick-talking, and occasionally intensely thought-provoking. I’m also hoping this episode is an indication that Caroline Julian (Patricia Belcher) is going to be around more in this season than she was in the last, and also as an indication that we might finally see more than some superficial character development for Tamara Taylor‘s character Camille Saroyan.

I was definitely counting on being disappointed, but now I’m EXTRA excited for next week’s installment.

“A New Day in the Old Town”

One of the major differences between Bones and Fringe (discounting the obvious ones), is that when J.J. Abrams has a Big Deal episode to do, he delivers like no other. This season premiere is absolutely no exception. I was waaaaay psyched for this, mostly because it’s only been a few days since I saw the epic Season One finale. And I was not disappointed by the results.

Within the first three minutes, the unexplained, wordless, intense weirdness already had me bouncing up and down (figuratively, not literally, I hesitantly admit) because I knew this was just the beginning of excellent things. Then the grossness set it – a guy smashing in his own face? Not quite as good as the melting jaw from the pilot episode, but still greatly enjoyable. I was already consciously appreciating the way Fringe channels the good ol’ days of The X-Files, and then THE TV IN THE LIVING ROOM OF THAT FIRST SCENE WAS SHOWING ACTUAL X-FILES FOOTAGE. IT WAS LIKE PARANORMAL GEEK HEAVEN. The best part was, that was only the beginning and things just kept on getting better.

Most shows, having the main character explode through a windshield from the inside of a car from another universe would be the highlight. But with Fringe, oh no. Then it turns out that said main character is braindead and set to be Terri Schiavo-ed (which is obviously a lie, but intense nonetheless). Then it turns out she’s being targeted by a shapeshifting supersoldier from another universe. Then it turns out said supersoldier communicates with his otherwordly command unit via typewriter and mirror. THEN the intensity just keeps on building to the not-quite-explosive-but-definitely-satisfying climactic battle scene. And all this is punctuated by drama about Olivia Dunham’s memory loss, angst over the Fringe division possibly being shut down, and the introduction of a new major player.

This last bit was not quite as delightful as the rest, although I definitely stopped hating her by the end of the episode (the Hamlet quote helped a lot). If Meghan Markle sticks around for the rest of the season, I’m not going to complain. She fits in, and her introduction wasn’t horribly weighed down by an effort to make her immediately interesting. Mostly I’m just vexed that Kirk Acevedo has indeed been fired from Fringe (actual reason unknown by me, although I’ve heard rumors it was financial). There’s still hope he’ll be back every once in awhile, though, so I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope for that.

I mark this premiere as a success. Not because it wrapped up last season and got the show back on its normal track, but because it really works as a link between this season and the last, introducing new storylines and leaving some questions unanswered. Three cheers for continuity. Four for writer and director of this episode, Akiva Goldsman. I didn’t know his name before, but I will certainly remember it from this day forward (check this dude’s track record, it is pretty magnificent).

Final note: I HATE THAT THE NEXT EPISODE IS STILL SIX DAYS AWAY. GAH!

The one show I did manage to watch on Thursday was Project Runway and its newspaper challenge. I only have one thing to say to those designers: bitches, PLEASE. I could have won that with my eyes closed.

That aside, Thursday was a damned good day for television in my world. Because there were two excellent EXCELLENT premieres…both of which reminded me of The X-Files. <3 TV.

“I Can’t BELIEVE they just DID THAT”

Let me start by saying, watching three season finales in a twelve-hour period is not good for blood pressure. The good news, though, is that I am now actually ready for the fall premiere season. BRING IT ON, NETWORKS!

I’m all caught up on the shows I slacked off on last spring (namely, House, CSI:NY, and Fringe), so now it is time for full excitement to set in over what’s coming soon.

THIS WEEK:

Two exciting season premieres on FOX – Bones and Fringe.

I just watched the Fringe finale (plus the four episodes leading up to it) so I am REALLY excited for this one. Not only because they left off with a jawdropper episode involving inter-dimensional travel, a rotting German psycho-scientist, and Leonard Nimoy’s return to television, but also because I was happily reminded of just how good this show is. I tried watching Lost a couple weeks ago and made it twenty episodes before giving up completely. I just don’t get the appeal. And I think that disenchantment made me forget how much I love everything else J.J. Abrams touches. The scripts are excellent, the plots are intriguing, and there’s always something delightfully disgusting. (I call the season finale a ‘jawdropper,’ but that was literal in the pilot and it was amazing.) Fringe returns Thursday at 9pm on FOX.

Airing right before that is the season premiere of Bones. Not quite as excited for this one, unfortunately. When this show is on, it’s on. Unfortunately, that’s usually in the episodes that don’t connect to any overarching season-long plotlines. This show’s strength is in the procedural (you wanna talk about delightfully disgusting…). Bones does not do major episodes well. Cases in point: Last year’s obnoxious season premiere double-header, the overdone season return double-header, and the mindtrip season finale. “Harbingers in the Fountain” is a pretty promising title, but I mostly just want it over with so we can get to the core of the season. The bare bones, as it were…let’s pretend I didn’t make that joke.. Anyway. Bones returns Thursday at 8pm on FOX.

Also coming up this week, a new episode of Glee (Wednesday at 9pm on FOX), the finale of Dark Blue (Wednesday at 10pm on TNT), the return of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (tonight at 11 and 11:30pm on Comedy Central), and the Emmys! Pretty much everything I was excited about for the Emmys has already come and gone. Justin Timberlake and Tina Fey were both honored for guest work on SNL. Veteran actors Michael J. Fox and Ellen Burstyn were both awarded for drama guest work. Jimmy Fallon’s show won an award for interactive media (which I only mention because one of the recipients is related to one of my best friends – go Jake’s brother!). And, most excitingly, JOSS WHEDON WON AN EMMY FOR DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG! I think I need to say that again, “once more with feeling:”*

JOSS WHEDON FINALLY WON A FUCKING EMMY.

There are so many things I could say about how INCREDIBLY EXCITED I am that this has come to pass, not to mention how INCREDIBLY DESERVING that man is of Emmy recognition. I don’t think there is a single project he has headed up that I am not deeply familiar with. And they are all so excellent, I don’t have a sufficient vocabulary to describe it. If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, go watch Firefly right now. Or Buffy. Or Angel. Or EMMY WINNING ONLINE FEATURE DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG!

…but I digress. The Creative Arts Emmys, some of the results of which I just shared, have already taken place but they will be airing on television on Friday. The rest of the primetime Emmys air Sunday on CBS, hosted by star of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog (and also some show called How I Met Your Mother…) Neil Patrick Harris. (Speaking of award shows, VMAs and Kanye West. I don’t think I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said by the entirety of the pop-culturally aware and decent human being population.)

*That’s a Buffy the Vampire Slayer joke, btw. I only point that out because I doubt anyone is going to get it.