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Television: Round Up

by on Aug.15, 2007, under Television

Damages – FX

Glenn Close did a stunning turn in a previous season of The Shield, and presumably this gave FX cause to beg her to do her own series. And the results are excellent. Taking the traditional FX model of a single story running for a season, Close plays a litigation lawyer who is famous for her ruthless practice, and indeed practise, taking on a seemingly impossible case to prove a businessman unfairly fired hundreds of employees. It’s a big money case, and a lot is at stake. The story is shown from the perspective of a freshly qualified lawyer who finds herself in at the deep end of the case, under Close’s wing. Which turns out to be the worst place to be. Each episode flashes forward to some event in the future where our heroine is in a police interrogation cell, her boyfriend dead, his blood all over her. It seems it can only be Close’s doing, and the journey of how we get from here to then is intriguing. Strongly boosted by Close’s excellent menace, and a decent supporting cast, it shows a lot more promise than other FX shows that have been stuck in the gaps between series of The Shield.

Bionic Woman – NBC

Hooray – the sexy assistant lady from Jekyll has her own show! From the makes of Battlestar Galactica, and indeed apparently the cast of Battlestar Galactica, it’s yet another old show brought back from the past for a more cynical audience. There’s a decent amount of promise in this pilot, getting things dark enough to be interesting, and witty enough to survive the ludicrous story. It very much follows the BSG formula of implying a deep background story as more important than the episodic tale. Most importantly, it features super-fast running in the woods, and jumping from rooftop to rooftop, which is all the show really needs to do. Plus it’s got Starbuck in it, so double hooray!

Many more after the click.

Flash Gordon – SciFi

Talking of yet another show from the past, here’s one that could definitely do with an updating. Which, oddly, is the one thing they forgot to do. Instead of creating a contemporary, relevant Flash, instead this awful pilot keeps things firmly in the 70s, appearing to believe that mentioning the internet six or seven times is enough to keep things vital. Flash is, um, a local marathon winner (a title which is apparently cool enough to get him into nightclubs without paying the cover), whose father disappeared a few years ago in an experimental accident. He soon stumbles upon what happened – his dad stumbled through a portal to another world. And then an alien kills some people in a supermarket. Yes. This, somehow, leads to Flash finding a portal and leaping through with his ex-girlfriend in an attempt to rescue daddy. At which point he’s captured by an entirely unbearded Ming, on the planet Mongo. (Perhaps another planet name could have been thought of?).

It features the most leaden dialogue since… well, the original Flash Gordon. When Flash’s mother is being controlled by an evil robot she talks to her son over the phone in a strange voice. He suspects something, and says to Dale, his ex,

“Something’s wrong, she just called me Flash.”

Dale looks up, and just in case we couldn’t work it out adds,

“She only calls you Stephen.”

This is an alternate dimension where things are different because they have bright neon swirly lights in their guns, and an extra moon. And, peculiarly, the ability to go back and forth between our world and Ming’s at their own will. The whole exercise is depressing, not only wading through a swamp of dated ideas, but trying so embarrassingly to write witty banter between the astonishingly poor cast. It’s perhaps worth watching just to blink at in amazement.

Mad Men – AMC

Ignore all the nonsense about this pathetic programme. Set in the 1960s, it’s about a group of advertising executives faced with a changing world. And it’s the most unpleasantly smug load of rubbish I’ve encountered. Every moment is an oh-so knowing comment of, “Gosh, weren’t things different in the past?!” You’ll never guess what – women were poorly treated in 1960! But wait, some of them were fiesty, and stood up to men! They didn’t know photocopiers very well back then either, but we do! We know about them, and so their being confused or impressed by them is amusing to us with our bountiful future-knowledge!

The first episode (and indeed last I’ll watch) was all about struggling to advertise cigarettes in a world that was just beginning to recognise them as unhealthy. Potentially interesting, but rendered ghastly by the same smug-faced, look-at-us-we’re-from-the-future writing. We know that cigarettes ARE bad for you! But they’re dubious! We know so much better than those silly cavemen!

Shut up forever and ever you patronising cretins.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Fox

I still haven’t found the will to finish the pilot. It’s so incredibly poor, and so remarkably boring, that I can see no reason to persist with it. Nevermind the fact that this is a series about a character we know is going to die. Set between the events of Terminator 2 and 3, it’s an entirely pointless exercise telling a story no one could care less about. We know Sarah dies, we know John Connor goes on to survive the rise of the machines – hell, we know the rise of the machines is going to happen. So what exactly are we supposed to care about? Certainly not anything in the pilot’s plot, which appears to be little more than an awkward rehashing of then boring bits in T2. Since the dumb-as-mud Terminator 3 fails entirely to tell the story it promised – the rise of the machines, what better series to make than the follow-up to the movie’s massive anti-climax, of ending right at the moment it should have become interesting. Let’s have John Connor’s story, as he builds the rebel army that defeats SkyNet, in a post-apocalyptic world of evil robots! Not the Lamest Hobo being chased by the most attrociously poor Terminator actor. Even Summer “River” Glau fails to provide any spark, given the awful role of being the latest comedy robot sent from the future to protect the two heroes. Um – future people? Why do you keep sending crappy robots? A 90lb adolescent girl? WHY NOT A GREAT BIG TITAN WITH LASERS FOR EYES?

Saving Grace – TNT

Angels seem to be popular all of a sudden. ABC Family aired a three-parter called Fallen, about a teenage Nephilim (half angel, half human) who discovers he is the Redeemer – capable of returning fallen Angels to heaven. It’s a decent four and a half hours of lowish budget nonsense, and might make a decent series if they choose to spin it off. Also being bothered by angels is Grace, played by Holly Hunter, in a really peculiar new TNT show.

Grace is an alcoholic, weed-smoking cop, sleeping with married men, and with a foul mouth. And since it’s on TNT, a PG-13 mouth, which means we get at least some cussing to believe in. She’s a murder detective, as all American cops are, partnered with Kenny “Lem from The Shield” Johnson, with whom she’s also sleeping, despite his repeated attempts to save his marriage. So Grace is driving drunk, as she so often does, when she hits a man in the road and kills him. At which point Earl appears – a transient looking gentlemen carrying a disgusting plastic bottle filled with his tobacco spit. He’s an angel, played by the fabulous Leon Rippy. He gives Grace a last chance (he’s a “last-chance angel”), and encourages her to change her ways. Three episodes in, and she’s showing no signs of doing that, but Earl is sticking around.

Hunter is really great in it, seeming in her element as a depraved, moral-free cop, spending half the time naked (and at 49 years old, remarkably hot). Rippy’s angel is extremely funny, pulling stunts on Grace like filling her apartment with religious artefacts, or wrestling with her in Athens all night long. Laura San Giacomo (also super-hot at 45) does forensics for the cops, and is a Christian. She brilliantly helps Grace to prove the Angel is real almost straight away. But Grace obviously fights it all the way, refusing to be swayed by any arguments.

I love how confusing this must be for right-wing Christians. Essentially you’ve got exactly the sort of show they’re after – a woman living an immoral life who is visited by an angel to convince her to change her ways. But then she keeps showing her bum, and saying “BULLSHIT!” What a to-do!

And best of all, Angela’s dad from My So-Called Life plays Grace’s Catholic priest brother, and is a really decent human being. He makes everything ok : )

PS. I will pay £50 to the first television programme to portray the view through binoculars as a single circle, SINCE THAT’S WHAT YOU WOULD SEE.

5 Comments for this entry

  • jackson

    I’m equally confused by the raving critics of “Mad Men.” It’s trying far too hard to hit us over the head every 10 seconds with a “Look! It’s 1960!” reference. Yes, I see that everyone drank and smoked and men were men and women were sad little victims. Move on. So I’ve stopped watching, but I do read the smartass recaps on this site. They’re very, very funny and have all of the life that the show so sorely lacks:

  • Cradok

    I was under the impression that SCC was supposed to be ignoring T3. Isn’t it set several years *after* the Judgement Day date seen in T3?

  • Steve W

    “I will pay £50 to the first television programme to portray the view through binoculars as a single circle.”

    Rear Window gets it right in one scene with binoculars. I’m struggling to think of any TV shows which do, BUT I SHALL.

  • Paul Levinson

    I think Mad Men’s a rare gem… this Thursday’s episode was especially powerful… Double Mad Men

  • Tom

    Damages has passed the Difficult Second Episode test – haven’t watched the latest two yet. The basic concept is just such fun: the bad guy’s the only one with any scruples. The flash-forwards remain highly intriguing – that’s going to be tough to keep up, but they’ve already managed it for one episode longer than I’d expected.

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