Homeland: Proof that risky story telling pays off

Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis) meet up for a drink before everything gets blown to smithereens (metaphorically this time)

I liked the first season of Homeland.  It was a tense thriller with a strong (meaning well-defined) female character at its center starring one of my favorite actresses – what’s not to like?  It definitely had moments of surprise, but for the most part, the plot seemed to sort of chug along to inevitable conclusions – No one believed Carrie about hero Brody’s involvement with a terrorist, Brody does not go through with the bombing of the Vice President et al, Brody still looks like a hero and Carrie gets locked away in the loony bin.  These endings felt set up from the beginning.  But all of that left me wondering where the show was going to go during its second season.  I find that character based shows can often go on indefinitely because you can always put your character in new situations to react to.  But Homeland, while it has great characters, wasn’t really a character based story in its first season.  It was the story of a C.I.A. Agent trying to take down a spy and capture a terrorist.  From the outside, it appeared to be plot driven – but don’t tell the Homeland writers that.

Carrie with her new surveillance partner Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). Is he going to stick around now that there’s no one to secretly surveil?

Last night, Homeland basically blew up its main plot!  After finally being proven right about Brody’s nefarious intentions, Carrie and Saul set up a new surveillance (welcome back Virgil & Max!) to see if they could ferret out his handler and build a case against Nazir.  However, after “bumping into” Brody and then having one drink with him, Carrie brazenly called him out as being a spy and took him into custody.  WHAT!?!?  I don’t think I was ever necessarily bored with Homeland, but I certainly had become complacent to its awesomeness and the end of last night’s episode ripped me right out of my comfort zone.  Homeland just threw the rule book out of the window.  It proved that taking risks and subverting an audiences expectations just draws them in even more.  I cannot wait to see how the writers get themselves out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into.  For the first time in a long time, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what’s going to happen next.

Finn (Timothee Chalamet) and Dana (Morgan Saylor) adorably try to stop being adorable.

P.S. What’s going on with Brody’s daughter Dana and the Vice President’s son, Finn?  I mean, I know what’s going on – they’re being totally adorable and teenagery and awesome – but in the grand scheme of things, how will it fit in?  One of my absolute favorite relationships on this show is the one between Brody and Dana.  They have a great connection and a great honesty between them that is really refreshing.  But she trusts her dad a little too much and is bound for some great big hurt and that makes me really sad.  It also makes me think that her relationship with Finn is more than just a cute aside.  Am I being too conspiracy theorist?

The Vampire Diaries: The gang’s all here!

Yup, Elena’s (Nina Dobrev) a vampire for sure now.

How good was last night’s episode of The Vampire Diaries?  I know some people aren’t fans of the fact that Elena is now a vampire, but let’s be honest, it was bound to happen sometime.  I really appreciate the fact that the writers took the chance and made her a vampire this early in the series.  (Especially if it means we’ll eventually see a Katherine/Elena show down – I know, Katherine is older therefore technically stronger, but Elena has love on her side. . . oh who am I kidding, Katherine would kick her ass.  I still want to see the fight though.)  Last night’s episode proved that this was a really great decision.  Making Elena a vampire has made it necessary to put the love triangle on hold for the moment, has given Damon and Stefan a new way to have the same philosophical disagreement about what it means to be a vampire (Stefan wants to get Elena started on an all-animal diet immediately, Damon thinks she needs vampire food AKA human blood from the vein in order to survive), Caroline is no longer the baby vampire on the block so it gives her a chance to take the lead instead of always being in Elena’s shadow, and it has given Bonnie and Jeremy a chance to make googly eyes at each other again which makes me very happy. Continue reading

Sons of Anarchy Loses One of Its Own

[I know I have a blanket "spoiler alert" on this site, but if you don't want to know who died on last night's episode of Sons of Anarchy, please stop reading until you've seen the episode.  Then come back and tell me how you feel.]

Charlie Hunnam, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst & Kim Coates

I follow Kurt Sutter, the creator of Sons of Anarchy, on twitter so I knew that there was going to be a death on last night’s episode and I knew that it was going to be someone important.  I hate that I knew this going into the episode.  I hate spoilers in general, but these teases almost bother me more than knowing exactly what will happen.  There was no element of surprise in the episode despite not knowing exactly who was going to die.  It made me feel less impressed with Sutter for following through on the element of danger that he set up in the premise of the show itself.  It made the other storylines of the night feel superfluous and also annoying because I was just waiting to find out who was going to die and that made the episode feel disjointed to me.  Instead of being like Ned Stark’s death on Game of Thrones – something that felt completely unexpected and brave of the writers because they killed off the perceived main character of their show – Opie’s death felt overly plotted and yet utterly random at the same time. Continue reading

Returning Shows Quick Takes: Parks and Recreation, Castle, Bones, How I Met Your Mother

The list of returning shows that I watch is astronomically long.  It’s a serious problem and depending on how the new crop of shows do, I may have to make some cuts.  While most of the shows that I’m really looking forward to haven’t premiered yet – shows like The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Revenge and Homeland – a few of my favorites are back.  But are they better than ever?

Parks & Recreation: Still my favorite sitcom I think.  I just adore the characters so much.  On last week’s premiere I felt like a few of them were a bit too much like caricatures than actual people (especially Ron and Tom) but hopefully things will even out a little bit.  I really liked Leslie’s realization that outside of Pawnee, IN she doesn’t have much of an influence and that she used that realization to have more of an influence in Pawnee.  The big fish/little pond story has been done before, but never with such an optimistic fish.  Regardless, this show still cracks me up. Continue reading

Face Off SEASON 3!!

A new crop of makeup artists arrive at the lab.

Face off is back!  And apparently better than ever as it comes with a new judge and a new twist where America gets to vote (or at least have a hand in voting) who wins this year.  I am SO stoked this show is back so soon!

“Shouldn’t have had those two glasses of champagne.  Something’s going to go down.” – Nicole   Continue reading

So You Think You Can Dance returns tonight with a tribute to Mia Michaels

I’m going to a concert tonight so I probably won’t get to watch the return of So You Think You Can Dance until tomorrow, but I’m super curious/excited to see what happens.  After a couple of seasons away from the show, Mia Michaels is back. . .sort of.  Tonight, each pair will be dancing a classic Mia routine – from “The Bench” which Travis and Heidi danced in season 2 to season 5′s “Gravity” originally danced by Kayla and Kupono.  I happen to think that Mia is a genius choreographer for the most part and all of the dances chosen are great, but I’m not sure how I feel about watching these new pairs try to take them on.  Each of the original dancers brought something so specific to the choreography that lifted the routines to a different level.  I suppose that’s kind of the point.  To see how the choreography is changed by who dances it and also to see if its the dancer or the choreography that really defines the dance.  It’s a really interesting idea and I’m very much looking forward to it.

So You Think You Can Dance – From 20 to 16

The top 20 perform a dance choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon

Group Routine, choreographed by Christopher Scott performed to “The Beautiful People (District 78 Remix) by Marilyn Manson: I really had no idea who choreographed the opening group routine while I was watching it.  It highlighted Cyrus which led me to believe that it was a hip hop choreographer, but had these great group movements (that I really have no way to describe other than to say it was like the dancers were portraying the movement of breathing) which made me think that it was a contemporary choreographer.  The dance was completely great, but the director did a really poor job of capturing it and editing the performance which is a bummer.  I LOVED the choreography – really challenging and different and entertaining.  The whole piece had a really great vibe to it.  I’m so glad the producers recognized how important these group routines are and didn’t get rid of them when they got rid of the elimination episode.

Amber and Nick during rehearsals.

I can’t believe we’re going to lose FOUR dancers tonight.  That’s not cool.  We jump RIGHT into the top 20 announcement by pairs.  Everyone is pretty much getting the same level of screaming across the board although it definitely lessons as the pairs go on, as if the crowd got tired of cheering which is really weird and kind of sad.  It doesn’t take that much energy, guys.  Also, it is made very clear that the group numbers are pre-taped.  I am ok with that.  I adore Cat’s dress.  So summery and adorable.  Umm, that routine was apparently Tabitha and Napoleon.  They have really switched things up stylistically this season.  It’s kind of crazy.

Judges: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Adam Shankman

Tonight’s guest judge is Adam Shankman which I think is a good choice for the first cut.  At least he knows something about dance/dancers so he’ll actually be able to have an opinion unlike, say, Zooey Deschanel last week. After Nigel does his whole Dance Day Spiel (which I’m all for, really, but he does go on a bit long) Cat says that we are not only going to get 10 performances from the contestants but also a sneak peak at Step Up: Revolution and a live performance from some of the dancers from the movie PLUS we have to see four people eliminated.  All in under 2 hours.  Ummmmm, right.

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Lindsay & Cole, Hip-hop, choreographed by Christopher Scott, Performed to "Teeth" by Lady Gaga: I have a total soft spot for this song so I’m prepared to really like this performance. I thought his costume was great and Lindsay is definitely tried to bring the personality and character, but I don't think the props really worked the way that they should - she seemed to be working extra hard to move that chair around and things kept flying off her costume. She definitely out-danced him a little. He was just a little less sharp or something. Maybe she was more exaggerated in her sharpness? I'm not sure. It's was cute, but maybe a little under-choreographed. Cole totally annoyed me when he remained in character during judging. The first time, ok, but after that it's obnoxious.

Here’s where things get weird and sad and awkward.   Continue reading

So You Think You Can Dance: The Top 20 Perform for Votes

The Top 20 perform a Christopher Scott routine.

The show opens with a group number which I’m almost positive has been choreographed by Christopher Scott (I was right) and I am immediately relieved because I assumed that with the elimination of the results show the group numbers would be eliminated as well. Anyway, The costumes makeup and hair are just rockin’.  I love the use of the spinny chairs as props and I really feel like everyone is in complete unison and just kind of rocking it.  Wow.  I’m really excited to get to know these dancers.  They just completely hold my interest.  They all look as if they’ve been a company forever.  I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to lose any of them.  Why, GOD, WHY!

Now we have our intro to the top 20 dancers and its clear that the opening number was pre taped because everyone is in different hair and makeup and costumes.  I guess I’m ok with that.  Our judges tonight are Nigel, Mary and Kenny Ortega (he of Dirty Dancing and the High School Musical series).  Right off the bat they explain how things are going to go down next week – America will vote for individuals and the bottom three guys and bottom three girls will be announced next week and 2 of each will be sent home by the judges.  Apparently there will also be some discussion with the choreographers about the dancers, which I think could be interesting if we get to see any of that.  They better not kick off 2 dancers each every week.  That would be a depressingly short show.  I’m hoping the double elimination is just to make up for the lack of episode last week.  Shall we get on with it?

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Witney (why no “H” Witney?) & Chehon, Samba, choreographed by Louis Van Amstel, performed to “Jump" by The Cube Guys & Lucinana: Chehon is a little stiff. Witney is awesome at this, as she should be considering that this is her thing. I wish they had chosen a different hairstyle for Chehon. There's something a little stop and go about the choreography that's not really sitting well with me. They are trying to connect, you can see them trying to connect, but there's definitely something missing here. They gave it the good old college try, but the two of them together just didn't work. Yes, Witney was great, but I think she wasn't quite there for Chehon to bring him into it a little more and that would have been nice to see. I pretty much don't care what the judges say, but find it hilarious that Kenny clearly didn't know Chehon's name so chose to call him "mister" during his critique.

Season 9 is kick-ass.

Good god.  I can’t even handle this season.  There is barely a weak link.  Plus, no results show means I have to wait another whole week for another episode.  Unfortunately, I think that Nick and Amber’s Viennese Waltz is going to land them in the bottom three because it didn’t quite have the same allure as a lot of the other dances.  I’d also put Janaya and Brandon in the bottom but I don’t want them to go home at all.  I think it’s possible that Daniel and Alexa will end up in the bottom as well which would be really sucky.  I don’t want anyone to go home.  LET THEM ALL STAY.  Let’s just pick the final winners at the end of 10 weeks of awesome dancing.  That’s my vote.    UGH.  Two people going home next week is stupid.  Can’t they just keep a double elimination for further down the line when they can seen who’s not improving and have more evidence of the dancers’ abilities?  I HATE (but really love) this show!

White Collar is back – Summer has arrived!

Reunited and it feels so good. (Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay and Willie Garson)

When White Collar first began I didn’t really have particularly high hopes.  USA was just starting to create original series and their motto – “Characters Welcome” – wasn’t really inspiring a whole lot of interesting content (I was definitely not a fan of Monk).  At first White Collar was just a lark.  Matt Bomer is so handsome and the cons were so much fun that it made for the perfect summer viewing.  As the seasons have worn on, it has retained that lightness while also expanding the characters’ depths and exploring interesting relationship dynamics at the same time.  I have been completely impressed with the subtlety with which Peter and Neal’s friendship has grown and the sweetness of their bond.  Bomer and Tim DeKay have fallen into a great rhythm, but I never feel as though they are sleep walking through their parts because the writers are constantly asking more of them.  I always sort of knew that I would enjoy White Collar for its duration, but I never thought I would consider it to be so good. Continue reading

TV Trailer: Sons of Anarchy Season 5

As most of you know, I came pretty late to the Sons of Anarchy party, only watching for the first time this year.  However, once I arrived, I never wanted to leave.  I have watched all four seasons at least three times (working my way through a fourth with FX’s repeats on Thursdays in the wee morning hours) and consider the show one of my favorites.  I think that on the whole, the show has been completely overlooked and under-appreciated by both the media and viewers (unfortunately, I have to include myself in that category up until I finally sat down and watched).  I am so stoked to see what’s going to happen in season 5 with Jax (played with great intensity by Charlie Hunnam) taking over the role of club president from Clay (a ferocious, scary Ron Perlman).  This just released preview trailer has a lot going on with it – there’s Jax leading the club, Tara waiting for him patiently, Gemma trying to stop him and causing him to go over the side of a bridge, and Clay just sort of waiting for it to all go down.  I don’t think this means that Jax is going to die, but I’m worried for his position at the top of the club food chain.  I’m also worried that Gemma is going to do something that she thinks is in his best interest, but really just hurts him in the end.  It’s all so complicated.  Can’t wait!