Epitaph One, Different is Good

Dollhouse was not a huge success. While having an interesting idea the show’s plots sometimes felt forced and repetitive. I think with more time it could have developed into something very good as evidenced by the unaired Dollhouse episode Epitaph One.

This was the episode that was the cheapest to make, unaired in the U.S., and barely featured the star, Eliza Dushku, but turned out to be the best Dollhouse episode of season one or two.  Set in a post apocalyptic future we follow a band of “actuals” (people who are not imprinted as that is the norm in the future) are trying to get underground to avoid over-the-air imprinting. The plot isn’t important right now. What is important is FOX probably thought they were getting a throw away episode but they failed to see the potential for something greater. Like season 4 episode 19 of Fringe, Letters of Transit, where we are transported into the future to just give us a taste of where the show could eventually go, Epitaph One could have piqued audience’s interest of things to come and given the show a longer run.

People watch TV and get used to the characters and the setup of the shows they watch. CBS is particularly good at creating shows that fall into this pattern. You know what to expect from the characters and plots, but when viewership falls off it tends of fall off hard. Characters are boring, plot is predictable, and there are a lot of things vying for your attention. The odd episode that throws what you thought you knew into chaos makes for better entertainment. As an example: Castle is, for the most part, predictable and safe, but every now and then they throw in that strange episode that doesn’t fit. When I’m deciding what to watch I think back to those odd episodes and that is what helps keep me as a viewer.

Battlestar Galactica (remake)

The Quote:

“KILL ALL HUMANS!”

A toss up between: “I’m not a cylon” and “He/She’s a cylon!” — Uttered by pretty much everyone at some point.

The Review:

Battlestar GalacticaThe creators of the Battlestar Galactica remake first had to figure out the series long over-arching plot.  This part was easy: “Cylons try to kill all humans.”  Simple, to the point, exciting.  Done and done.  Then you add in the extras like why are they trying to kill humans, what the gritty details are, who is a cylon, and so on.

The next part was tricky because they had to figure out how to stretch the story into four seasons and still keep people interested.  Lost has this very same problem (which will only get worse because of the series length and growing absurdity).  The Battlestar Galactica creators came up with a system to deal with series fatigue.  The system is as follows:

  1. Hook people with overarching story, cylon attacks, and mythology.
  2. Spend 15-45 minutes having characters drink themselves under the table.
  3. Add (sometimes dull) flashback episode that has nothing to do with overarching storyline.
  4. Have a character be accused of being a cylon, sleep with a cylon, or be revealed as a cylon.
  5. Add tense episode where X character kills/fucks/marries/pisses off/punches X other character with no real consequences that ultimately has nothing to do with overarching storyline.
  6. If in doubt have more drinking.
  7. Go to #1

The reality is you could probably pair down the series to 40% of the episodes and still not miss anything from the main story.  I liked the “filler” for the most part, but sometimes it could get dull, preachy, or predictable.  What really bothered me is how little the filler actually changed the story.  Characters often painted themselves into corners and would do something almost unforgivable but within two to five episodes all would be forgiven and everything went back to normal.

I admired the show for broaching topics on suicide bombers, abortion, religion, law, military rule, and resurrection, but at the same time was overly preachy and formulaic with the big court drama during season three. Overall the show pushed buttons, broke some new ground in television, and was generally enjoyable.

Then the final episode aired.

To be honest the second hour of the finale of Battlestar Galactica ripped the soul out of the show.  The sugar coated fluffy ending went against everything BSG built up over the four seasons.  On top of that the big mystery of the opera house was poorly resolved with much of the religious aspect butchered to a simplistic and frankly insulting conclusion.  Add a dull ending that treated the audience like children and you’ve got one of the worst conclusions the show could have.  Because of the ending I can’t see myself watching the series ever again.  Battlestar Galactica, for me, was about how destructive but passionate the human race is and the ending ignored all that was built up through the four seasons and gave us a pathetic feel-good finale.

What you should take away:

If you plan to annihilate the human race, save the time, man power, and resources and leave us alone.  We’re more than capable of destroying ourselves; just give it some time.

Breaking the rules, laws, and even murder generally is acceptable as long as you spend a few days in the brig (in most cases).  Especially if your character is important or popular.

God’s Angels are made up of a baby killing robot and a smarmy selfish traitor.  Good to know.

If you are seeing things you are a cylon, or crazy… or both.

The Rating through the first hour of the finale:

The Rating for the second hour of the finale:

(Yes I hated it that much)

Down for the count: Terminator SCC, MOWE, Sanctuary, Dexter, True Blood, Life on Mars, Pushing Daisies, Life

Down for the count:

Terminator: Sarah Connor ChroniclesTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I don’t know what I was expecting this show to become or how they could keep it going for more than a half season.  I think part of the success of this FOX spinoff show was it started when most shows were ending during the writer’s strike.  Now that there are more interesting TV shows, and lets be honest, less retarded plot ideas, the show’s ratings have been going down.  Four episodes now sit on my Tivo and I really cannot bring myself to start watching them.  I think Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles lost me around episode four of season one, it just took me another eight more episodes to realize I no longer cared.  FOX will be moving the show to Fridays next year so expect it to completely fail just like every other show relegated to the Friday death slot.

Update: Word is Terminator: SCC is not going to be renewed.  Even if it is renewed it might end up on Friday which we all know means the end of the show either way.

My Own Worst Enemy

Even if I wanted to watch My Own Worst Enemy I could not because it has been canceled.  Christian Slater’s epic B-star status continues with little hope of upgrading to a better grade anytime soon.  Sure there are probably a few more episodes of this schizo spy drama airing on NBC but why bother when most of the questions the show brought up will remain unanswered?  To be honest I’m relieved I can stop watching.  The pilot was nothing amazing, but it had potential to be interesting in the long run, but knowing the TV business that potential was very slim.  So goodbye Christian Slater, I hope to see you star next in Timecop 3: The Multidimensional Crusades!.

Sanctuary

Inexplicably renewed, the SciFi green-screen-shot show will remain on Friday nights along with other mediocre television.  I was completely convinced it would be canceled after just a handful of episodes, but apparently someone out there likes this show.  Sanctuary might have been interesting, but it quickly became boring; substituting creativity with over done science fiction concepts and characters.  I found myself fast forwarding through recorded episodes realizing that, like many other shows on this list, I no longer cared what rehashed ideas the producers had to offer.

Dexter

Let me be very clear about this: Dexter season one was fantastic.  It was television like I had never seen before.  Characters, dialog, and plot were all amazing.  Actors also amazing.  This show will likely change the way people think about future television.  With that said the second season was interesting but in no way as good as the first.  The third season was where the show was starting to lose me, and now the third season really seems bland and uncreative compared to the first and even the second.  Can Dexter’s 4th season surprise me like the first season again?  Probably not.

True Blood

I can only say this HBO vampire show is starting to annoy me.  None of the characters are tolerant or sympathetic anymore, and the vampires are one cliché after another.  Disappointing for a HBO television show that seemed to have a lot of promise to be cutting edge.  The storyline seems to be meandering along taking the Lost approach where audiences are given some action and lots of mystery but not much else which seems to keep some people watching week after week, but not me.

On life support:

Life on Mars

This almost-science-fiction 1970’s drama on ABC would be a great show but gets held back when the main character tries to inject year 2008 morals, political correctness, and lifestyle into the 70’s.  Even worse is when Sam convinces his friends and co-workers with little effort to adopted these same values.  Some of them are unrealistically progressive even without Sam’s meddling.  Where the show should be gritty, dirty, and stubborn it tiptoes, sidesteps, and brushes over.  I don’t want to see some kind of politically correct alternate reality of the 1970’s, I want to see the real 1970’s with the good and the bad.  The show likely has been canceled as of this post, so I’ll probably never get to see what the hell really happened to Sam, but maybe I’m better off for it.

Update: Probably canceled.

Canceled (and probably canceled) even though I would still watch it:

LifeLife

A favorite show of mine with terrible ratings.  Worse than Knight Rider if you can believe that.  Brilliant music and writing, this is the kind of television that keeps me subscribing to cable.  While not officially canceled Life doesn’t have much hope with NBC needing to cut five hours of programming a week to make room for Jay Leno’s prime time appearance.  Perhaps USA or TNT will pick up the show (please).

Pushing Daisies

Apparently America doesn’t care about creativity, they just want another version of CSI or NCIS instead of something new and refreshing.  Is anyone surprised about the success of reality TV?  After winning many awards and praise from critics ABC is dumping the show because of ratings.  This is disappointing, but I guess ratings don’t lie.  The worst part about Life, Pushing Daisies, and even My Own Worst Enemy isn’t that they are canceled, but the show’s producers are not given the chance to close storylines and we end up with the producers of Pushing Daisies thinking about writing a comic book to close the story, and worse MOWE finishes on a cliff hanger.  Maybe NBC will give Life the ending it deserves.

Down for the count: The Ex List

I started to watch the second episode of The Ex List on CBS where a single woman is told by a psychic that she has already met her future husband.  I quickly realized I simply did not care anymore, and I only saw one episode of the first season.  The pilot was entertaining but really the first episode said all the show could say and still be interesting.  I barely made it five minutes into the second episode and realized they could only repeat themselves over and over for however long the show would be on TV until the final show where you would find out who she marries.  1-6 years of buildup for a single day of serious disappointment.

So I avoid the disappointment and choose to stop watching the show now.

I expect Sancutary on SciFi Channel to be next knock out.  I have yet to see the second or third episode sitting on my Tivo.

What I Watch – Fall TV

Fall TV season is in full swing so I thought I would run down the shows I watch.

Monday

Chuck, NBC – A spy comedy that usually doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The character dynamics are great and there is a lot of subtle humor mixed in with the obvious slapstick.  Shows typically are self-contained with an overall main plot (any readers of this blog will know this is often important to me).  I keep watching because it tends to be light hearted comedy-action that puts me in a good mood no matter how shitty my day was.

Heroes, NBC – A show about superheroes.  I reluctantly watch Heroes having previously sat through 11 mediocre episodes of season 2.  The high production values, fantastic cast, and great special effects tend to make up for the complete lack of direction the show seems to have.  I am getting sick of new characters (and powers) being added nearly every episode.  I keep watching because of the original greats (Syler, Hiro, Claire, and Peter).

Top Gear, BBC America – British TV show about cars.  It might sound dull, but the show is fucking hilarious.  The host’s outrageous stunts, bloated egos, and resulting mishaps make this one of the best series on television.

Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, FOX – I want to love this show but I cannot.  I still watch it each week because there are elements that really appeal to me, but in the end nearly every show is a disappointment because each show must be about Sarah Conner and John Conner escaping robots and after a while this gets a little old which is why they keep coming up with awfully wacky subplots to try and keep us entertained.

My Own Worst Enemy, NBC – I had my doubts about how good this split personality spy show could be, but the pilot was actually not that bad except for the horribly obvious Chevy product placement.  Christian Slater does a decent job making each personality distinct (at least in the pilot episode).

Removed from my Monday night lineup: How I Met Your Mother should really be called “How we can extend the same joke for six more seasons”, Samantha Who was kind of funny the first season, but again, how much longer can you make amnesia funny?  The answer was apparently just one season.

Tuesday

The Mentalist, CBS – This is a bit of a rip off of Monk but I am definitely intrigued by the main character and his back story.  I hope I can get past his smarmy looks and make this a regularly watched show..

Removed from my Tuesday night lineup: Fringe is a terrible pseudo science show that insults viewers at every level 2014 update: Fringe is awesome and 2008 me is an idiot , House while interesting in the first season started to lose my interest – I especially hate how House is pitched every damn week as an epic conflict/drama/battle/whatever (probably the same reason I stopped watching ER).

Wednesday

Pushing Daisies, ABC – I love this slightly-supernatural detective comedy show.  It is creative, funny, quirky and filled with great stories, characters, and visuals.  The second season had a bit of a rough start but all was redeemed when the police pulled dead clown after dead clown out of a wrecked car in episode three.

Bones, FOX – Another favorite show of mine.  The dynamic between Bones and Booth is fantastic as well as many of the supporting characters.  Plots are well thought out and they do not insult you with oversimplified detective work or science.

Mythbusters, Discovery – Busting myths is fun and funny.  If only they could make more episodes each year.

South Park, Comedy Central – An adult cartoon show that still manages to be funny after 12 seasons.

Thursday

Life on Mars, ABC – I have high hopes for this show (especially considering how much it has been hyped), but I have not seen the first episode yet.

Removed from my Wednesday night lineup: Eleventh Hour is a terribly stupid show that CBS possibly sunk $50 million into and will soon realize was a giant waste of money.  It is worse than Fringe, and that is saying a lot.

Friday

The Ex List, CBS – A woman is told she has already met her future husband by a psychic, but not which past boyfriend so she embarks on a life mission to figure out who her future mate is.  I am almost embarrassed to say I record this show, but I was kind of entertained by the pilot so it stays on my list for now.

Life, ABC – Another favorite that I was ecstatic to see return for a second season.  If you have not watched since season one I highly recommend renting the DVD or you will seriously miss out on a lot of what makes this show so great.  The music select for Life is typically amazing, and the actors all-around are brilliant.  The Friday time slot usually means death for any show so I hope Life pulls an X-Files and stays on the air.

Sanctuary, Sci-Fi – I doubt I will continue to watch this webisode turned real TV show since everything cool that ends up on Sci-Fi seems devolves to crap by the 8th or 10th episode of the first season (there are exceptions).  Hopefully they can turn around the excessive camp, mediocre effects, and acting after a few episodes.

Sunday

Dexter, Showtime – Now in season three Dexter, the sympathetic serial killer, continues to impress me with top notch acting and new story line twists.  The shocking premise of the show has worn off a bit so the main story has become more complicated to compensate but this is not a bad thing.

True Blood, HBO – Vampires, blood, sex, violence, foul language, comedy, and often really fucked up and always interesting.  True Blood convinced me to subscribe to HBO.

Other: Daily Show, Good Eats, random History Channel, Discovery, and science shows.

Pharmaceutical Ninjas

I started a blog called Pharmaceutical Ninjas on Blogger where I intended to post the silly nonsense that popped into my head, but it was promptly banned by Blogger spam robots after I put up a post making fun of product placement in recent episode of Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.  Here is a snippet:

The Dodge Ram provides a truck bed storage system that can meet the needs of even the most harden human apocalyptic survivors with storage for guns, explosives, and anything else you might need to take down a robot killing machine!

Stay tuned to FOX’s Prison Break, next, sponsored by Tampax Tampons! The Tampon that never leaks! You will be amazed at how we work tampon product placement into this week’s Prison Break!

Either the robots who will one day take over our world and enslave the entire human race read this blog and deemed it a threat to their dominance or Blogger’s spam robots don’t understand sarcasm.  While there are ways to get it unbanned I figured integrating Pharmaceutical Ninjas into blarbles.com saved me from ever having to deal with this stupidity again.

So thanks, Blogger, I used your service for all of five days and learned: Robots will never understand bad attempts at humor and now we know how to confuse robots just long enough to upload a virus into the mothership and… wait, no… aw shit.

Epic Short Review: Coupling – The Complete Series (BBC)

A British Friends, except better.  Coupling was not afraid of pushing the boundaries of language and content while still managing to maintain a level of realism and decency American TV shows often fail to find a perfect balance of.

Of course Friends came first so I guess Coupling is technically a rip off, but it still seems to do a better job at comedy and character development than the American show.

The final season loses Jeff (Richard Coyle) and tries to introduce a replacement who doesn’t have the charm of Richard Coyle.  As the relationships of Susan and Steven, Sally and Patrick developed rapidly near the end of season 3 and throughout the short season 4 the show lost a its edge and the jokes were starting to get old.  Fortunately the British know when a good thing has ended and season four was the final in the series.

She Spies – Season 1

The Quote:

“Mommy, I told you they don’t stay buried!”

The Review:

If you have no idea what She Spies is, don’t worry.  Some day, probably at 3:15AM, or 12:35PM, or 2:05AM you’ll flip on the TV and catch this show.  No you can’t go schedule your Tivo for it because it is syndicated, and we’re not talking Friends syndicated where they actually have a time set aside for the show, no, your local station will air them whenever the hell they feel like.  Maybe to fill dead air, maybe because they were conned into buying the rights to show it and now they feel like they should make a half-hearted effort to regain some of their money, but don’t worry, you will eventually see She Spiesas long as you’re not trying to look for it!

The creation of this show was a four step plan:

  1. Get three beautiful women to play former criminals turned secret agents.
  2. Add quirky camp, self-humor, and slapstick comedy with some of the dumbest plots ever.
  3. ???
  4. Profit!

I think the plan failed.  In fact I’m guessing they ran out of money for filming the last four episodes which consist of either long flashback segments to previous episodes, cheap replacement sets, limited locations, or have key cast members replaced with obvious stand-ins while they go work on another movie (episode 19 – Natasha Henstridge working on The Whole Nine Yards; you can’t blame her).

Anyway.  The show follows three ex-cons Cassie (Natasha Henstridge), D. D. (Kristen Miller), and Shane (Natashia Williams) given a second chance as they work for an unmentioned secret government organization under the guidance of Jack (Carlos Jacott, from Kicking and Screaming, Angry Boy, Common Law, The Home Court, Hudson Street, Townies, Highball, Grosse Pointe Blank, Mr. Jealousy, Cracker, Principal Takes a Holiday, The Larry Sanders Show, Since You’ve Been Gone, Seinfeld, The Last Days of Disco, The Real Howard Spitz, Buff the Vampire Slayer, She’s All That, Being John Malkovich, Bats, Angel, Conrad & Butler Take a Vacation, It’s a Shame About Ray, Alley McBeal, Thirty, Frasier, Attention Shapers, Spin City, These Old Broads, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Geena Davis Show, Dead Last, The West Wing, Buttleman, Grounded for Life, Firefly, The Movie Hero, CSI, Jiminy Glick in Lalawood, Guilt, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Fun with Dick and Jane, Desperate Housewives, Psych, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Two Familes, Big Love, K-Ville, Cavemen, Scrubs, Welcome to the Captain, CSI: Miami, and Eli Stone).  The show is silly and intentionally dumb, often making fun of itself for the fact that it is syndicated, and that they are exploiting beautiful women for jokes, viewers, and replacement for good plot and dialog.

Some of the episodes are hilarious and some are so horrible (acting, script, sets, story, extras, action – often all in the same show) that you can’t bring yourself to watch them a second time.  While some critics might write She Spies off as a cheap Charlie’s Angels, it is probably a smarter show overall, using stupid camp, humor, and ridiculous plots as assets instead of trying to hide them.

On a side note, the producers suck ass for trying to make the show serious for the second season.  Firing Jacott was stupid since he is a decent actor and was actually funny most of the time.  The second season became embarrassingly bad, ironically turning into the very TV show they were making fun of in the first season.

What you should take away:

If you can think of a really dumb spy plot that involves very few supporting characters, She Spies has probably already done it.

Also slapstick makes a great replacement for coherent plot!

Also She Spies proves that with some very creative writing you can use pre-made sets from other shows or movies being produced at the same time to save money.

The Rating:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 1

Buffy The Vampire Slayer CastThe Quote:

“I may be dead, but I’m still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you.”

The Review:

So, like, I totally think this whole Buffy the Vampire Slayer thing is, like, so totally radically awesome!

In 1997 the WB, a network at the time I had no idea existed (and is now gone forever), announced Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV show somewhat based off the 1992 movie of the same name starring Kristy Swanson.  People laughed and thought “How dumb.”

I was one of those people despite having seen and enjoyed the original movie.  Eight years later I caught a few episodes on the Tivo and soon I had the entire seven season set in my possession.  I think it’s a drug, a theory reinforced by the sheer number of dissertations written on the show.

The first season introduces us to Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) a vampire slayer who recently moved to the town of Sunnydale from L.A..  The show mixes camp and comedy with well written characters, sometimes wacky but interesting story lines, and enough seriousness, twists, and danger to keep it fresh.  Notably episode ten, Nightmares, and twelve, Prophecy Girl, rank as the two best in my book.  Nightmares wins for creativity, and Prophecy for its parallels to the original movie.  There are many other great episodes in season one and few outright terrible ones like episode 6, The Pack.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is very addicting and fun unless you’re a tool. I suppose you might not like it if teenage vampire dramedy’s weren’t your thing either… but I mean come on, that’s got to be the exception not the rule, right?

What you should take away:

Sometimes high school can be a bigger pain in the ass than vampires.

Also misuse of a flatbed scanner and a dial-up modem could put the world at peril by releasing a demon into the intertubes who will then construct a robot version of himself and attempt to date over a online chat room!

Also there is an up and coming alterno-band playing every fucking night at the Bronze apparently.

The Rating:

6 Stars