Southland : A little heartbreaking every week

Officer Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) off-duty.

I hope I’ve made it clear at this point how much I love Southland.  If I haven’t, well, I think it’s amazing.  Part of the reason that I don’t do full recaps of it is because I get so lost in its world that taking notes becomes totally impossible.  But I wanted to write it a little love note about last night’s episode.  As with most episodes of Southland there were a lot of quick little scenes that were resolved and moved on from as well as a couple of longer stories that led our characters to deeper facets of their personalities. Continue reading

New Partnerships Dominate Southland’s Return

Ben McKenzie and Shawn Hatosy protect the streets of Los Angeles

Like Justified, Southland returned last night with a great episode.  Contrasting this drama with what the networks put up in the fall, such as Terra Nova, is almost embarrassing (and impossible.  Yes, I understand that Terra Nova takes place in a world outside reality (both forward and back in time) and that makes it hard to compare to Southland which takes place in the present day, but the timeline isn’t what makes Southland so good.  It’s the the nuances and the excitement that this show generates that makes it so much better than what the big four networks are putting up.  Its simple concept is executed in such a way as to make them deeper and wider than any dinosaurs could hope to offer. Continue reading

Quick Take: The Closer

Kyra Sedgwick and Mary McDonnell of The Closer

The Closer is still bringing energy and character to a very tired format plus, it has the best intros on TV.  The switches between the search for a missing child and Detective Raydor’s interrogation of Brenda, in this week’s intro, were tense and powerful.  And when the Major Crimes Unit found the child floating in the pool, the team’s reactions brought tears to my eyes.  The case was actually really suspenseful and the toggling between the parents pleas and Raydor’s confrontation of Brenda over the “Shootin’ Newton” case was expertly done.  I just can’t get over the tension that was created throughout the episode and the sheer forcefulness of Brenda’s determination to both find the kid and deal with her guilt over leaving the “Shootin’ Newton” killer to be murdered by a rival gang.  This episode hit all of the right notes – the love of a little boy presented in contrast to Tao’s love of his teenaged son (who was a counselor at the camp the kid was supposed to be at), the righteous anger of the kid’s father as he bragged about leaving his wife without a son and without his money, Brenda’s inability to comprehend that Raydor is actually trying to help her avoid prosecution for her part in the death of a murderer – and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  I cannot express enough how impressed I am that a show that is seven years old.  The Closer hasn’t always been nuanced (and I don’t know that I would say that this episode was nuanced either) but it has always been a pretty great portrayal of a strong female detective trying to do her job.

Southland casts Lucy Liu – I don’t know if I like this news

Apparently, Southland will be adding Lucy Liu to its cast as a full time “special guest star” next season.  I don’t know how I feel about this.  On the one hand I think that Lucy Liu is kind of a big-ish name and could bring some new eyeballs to one of my favorite shows.  On the other hand, I don’t think that I buy Liu as a hardened Los Angeles police officer.  Reporter?  Yes.  Police officer?  No.  I worry that she will feel shoe-horned into the action as a way of upping the glam factor on a show that is decidedly not glam.  I believe that the last time Liu played a cop or cop-like character was in Charlie’s Angels and that was hardly gritty.

The article doesn’t say anything about who Liu’s character will be which actually makes me concerned that they hired her first and are writing her character second as a ratings ploy.  This is one of those shows, like Friday Night Lights in its later seasons, that needs to just be satisfied with the ratings it has and focus on the creative.  Writing for a beautiful celebrity, just because she’s a beautiful celebrity, takes away some of the show’s credibility.  My favorite thing about Southland is how realistic it is and while I will try to withhold judgement on whether Liu can overcome her extremely pretty face in order to portray someone that is not just a pretty face, I worry that the writers will make her character all about that.  I worry that they’re going to have her character be tough as nails in order to counteract all the preconceived notions about her because she’s pretty and we’ve seen that before.   What do you think?  Is this good news or is this going to ruin a great show? [Vulture]

Sunday Night Quick Takes: Falling Skies & True Blood

Hal (Drew Roy) talks to Anne (Moon Bloodgood) about his concerns since Ben's return

Falling Skies (TNT) – I’m really enjoying all the twists and turns that this show is taking, but I’m a little worried that they’re going to run out of stories to tell because of the quick pace.  It feels like everything is being put in motion, but there isn’t really a whole lot of follow through – just when we learned that the skitters can talk through the harnessed kids, Anne killed the one the resistance had, Dr. Harris died before he was done being useful as a character (in my opinion), and it only took what, 4 episodes, to get Ben back?  I just feel like the writers are running through a whole lot of story without really playing them out all the way.  Last night felt more like set up for what’s to come than an actual episode during which things happened (which makes sense since this was part 1 of a two part episode).  Some guy from a different resistance arm (his name is Clayton) got all of the Massachusetts 2 parents to let him take their kids to get away from an imminent skitter attack.  It was brilliantly played by him – he told a very convincing story about almost being wiped out, the Mech and skitter attacked at just the right time to convince Tom that the kids were too much of a target and should be sent ahead, and then he slyly took a different route to the safe house.  Of course we knew that this warning was too good to be true and it turns out that he is basically collecting kids for the aliens, though we don’t yet know what he’s getting in return.  It’s certainly not a life of peace as it seems that he has to deliver more kids every 2 days which can’t be very restful.  To no one’s surprise, Pope tipped the guy off about the school full of children just begging to be harnessed, although to be fair, it did appear that he was under some duress chained up in the basement of the safe house.  I’m still a bit nervous about Margaret and her motives – she’s just ingratiating herself to all the right people at all the right moments with all the right props (last night it was Annie, after she was attacked, with a gun and shooting lessons) and that gives me an uneasy feeling.  But I think she’s rad so I very much hope that I’m wrong about her.  My favorite part of the show right now is the relationship between Tom and his three sons.  I find the push/pull of Tom wanting to protect his kids and spare them from growing up too fast but also knowing that they are in a war now and there’s only so much he can protect them from interesting and think that Noah Wyle (Tom), Drew Roy (Hal), Connor Jessup (Ben) and Maxim Knight (Matt) are starting to feel like a family.  I just wish they wouldn’t spend so much time reminiscing about things we’re never going to see.  Because all those memories are exposition, it doesn’t have the emotional impact that the writers want it to.  I’d rather see them create new memories. Continue reading

Quick Takes: The Closer, Pretty Little Liars, and Love Bites

Chris Gorham and the all important giraffe wearing a top hat.

Love Bites (NBC) – I’m only doing a quick take this week because I was SO disappointed that we didn’t have a Becki Newton-centric episode AGAIN.  She is totally the best thing on this show (besides the randomly rotating door of guest stars) and I really miss her and her character.  The theme this week was “Boys to Men” – each vignette explored a different stage in guy’s relationship maturity.  I totally recognized the actress who played Marissa in “Ben & Marissa” (coincidentally, the names of my cousin his wife) and the actor who played her husband Rico, but I don’t think I could place them if my life depended on it.  This vignette wasn’t really funny until the very end during the skyped a capella version of “Taps”.  Drunk women who cheat on their husbands for forgetting their birthdays are not funny.  They are sad.  But the character of 23 year-old Ben, all clingy and insecure, felt like a real person to me.  I knew guys like that in college, so gold star for that.  Again, I recognized both Steffi & Tommy (Tommy was played by the guy who was Robin’s puppy dog boyfriend on How I Met Your Mother this season) in the second vignette, but don’t know their names.  The actors this week are all sort of second tier “Hey It’s That Guy” sightings.  You know you’ve seen them in stuff before, but they’re not big enough to remember their name.  Anyway, Steffi and Tommy had an awkward one-night stand made more awkward when he drives her to the hospital and pretends to be her boyfriend for her family.  I don’t know if it was the performances or the writing, but the whole vignette felt very insincere, even when it was supposed to be sincere and it was pretty much based on latin stereotypes and “women are from venus, men are from mars” style misunderstandings.  In the end, Tommy realizes that it’s time to grow up, stop painting his face for football games, and actually get a girl’s phone number for once.  ”Dale & Audrey”, the last vignette, had the most recognizable actors – Christopher Gorham (currently on Covert Affairs) played Dale and Izabella Miko (who was in the straight to DVD Save the Last Dance 2 ) played Audrey.  But oh man, this one was so bad.  Gorham played Annie’s (Becki Newton) brother-in-law Dale, who is getting ready to be a father to the baby Annie is carrying.  Aubrey is the new sexy french receptionist who flirts with him.  It’s all one giant male fantasy – she has the same taste in music, they go out to lunch and she teaches him the right way to light a woman’s cigarette, she has to buy a new shirt and uses the opportunity to flash him – until he spots the giraffe wearing a top hat (which was in the second vignette as well) he’s been searching for and realizes that he is really excited to be a dad and doesn’t want to have sex with the pretty receptionist.  It was pretty groan-inducing.  However, Annie going into labor at the end meant we finally got some time with her again.  Best line of the night: “It’s cool.  I give you a baby, you leave me at the curb.” – Annie.  If we don’t get more Becki Newton next week I’m gonna be pissed.  Her 2 minutes at the very end was the best part of this whole episode. Continue reading

Falling Skies: A strong second week

There wasn't a whole lot of "cute" kid interruptions this week, which I definitely didn't mind.

I find Falling Skies to be completely enjoyable, especially now that the rebel’s led by Noah Wyle’s Tom Mason have found a permanent home at the abandoned school.  I think following that huge group of people as they constantly change their position would get tiring very quickly and I commend the writers for finding a solution to that problem so early on in the season.  Everything seemed to speed up in last night’s episode without giving short shrift to anything.  Last week, Hal saw his harnessed brother, Ben, and a bunch of other kids being led by the aliens to some unknown location.  Instead of drawing out the search for them, Tom and Hal and the rest of the rebel offshoot traced them immediately to a hospital where the kids were gathering scrap metal together for some unknown reason.  Though their mission was just to get Ben, one of the other rebels (Mike?  Michael?  I don’t know) saw his kid and immediately went running into the line of alien fire to rescue him (this seems ridiculously stupid).  In the process, Hal and Karen (played by Jessy Schram who I saw at dinner last night looking very cute in jeans and a hoodie) were split from the group and when Tom went back to get them, he was attacked by a skitter, turned the tables on him, shot off his legs and brought him back to the elementary school as a prisoner of war (the scene of him dragging the skitter into the school was awesome and would only have been better if we had seen a trail of blood as it was dragged across the floor, because I like gross stuff).

Steven Weber's Dr. Harris is guaranteed to do something shady. C'mon. He's played by Steven Weber.

Back at the school, the lead rebel army leader (one of these days I will figure out what all the army guys’ names are.  But for now, vague descriptions will have to do) had brought an old doctor friend of Tom’s, Michael Harris (played by go-to shady guy Steven Weber), to teach Annie how to take the harness off without killing the captured kids.  There was no love lost between the two men as Harris had basically left Tom’s wife to die early on in the invasion.  But, he was successful in taking the harness off the other guy’s kid so that gave Tom hope for Ben.  After the skitter had been safely locked in a broom closet, Tom went back to get Hal and Karen, but only came away with a traumatized Hal who had been forced to watch one of the robot aliens kill a bunch of kids in retaliation for the rebel’s rescuing one.  I just felt like the whole story was fairly tight and action packed and yet opened up a whole host of possible directions for the series to go in.  I’m really excited by the pending rescue of all of the harnessed children (plus Karen), finding out what makes the skitters tick (it looks as though they have some sort of psychic connection to the harnessed kids with or without the harness) and just how good a cook John Pope (the semi-racist guy who was captured last week) really is.

More Sunday Night TV: The Glee Project & Falling Skies

Robert introduces the contestants to Idina Menzel

Glee Project (Oxygen) –  Is it just me or did this episode speed by?  Maybe it’s because the first episode last week also had an hour of auditions tacked on at the beginning.  I still like the format, but it feels a little like maybe they’re trying to squeeze too much into the hour.  The homework assignment was given the instant the show started, we barely got to spend any time with this week’s guest star, Idina Menzel, the prep and shoot of the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” music video was blink and you’d miss it fast, we saw the ridiculous video and then BAM!  It’s time for the bottom three: Matheus, McKynleigh and Ellis.  The problem is, I have no idea why they were chosen because the performers weren’t really spotlighted as much as they were shown performing as a group.  Sure Zach and Robert explained it in cute little sound bites to Ryan (Matheus – he’s a great little performer but he’s extremely boy band, McKynleigh – there’s a little bit of a disconnect, Ellis – who did well in the number last night, but doesn’t take any direction and takes everything personally), but I didn’t see any of that on the screen.  Apparently all of their missteps ended up on the cutting room floor which doesn’t make much sense.   Continue reading

New Show Alert: Franklin & Bash

I think Breckin Meyer's Jared Bash is supposed to be the more laid back of the two characters (with Mark Paul Gosselar as Peter Franklin)

Pilot episodes are always a little awkward.  They have to introduce the audience to the characters, the world the characters inhabit, and the stories the show is going to tell in the future while also hooking us in.  They can be incredibly clunky.  Franklin & Bash (TNT) wasn’t incredibly clunky, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a winner either.  The characters were introduced to us in two short sentences spoken by Malcolm McDowell’s Infeld: “Peter Bash.  No one plays a jury better than you. The way you look past their eyes into their souls.  Jared Franklin.  Son of the legendary trial lawyer, Leonard Franklin. You’re F. Lee Bailey meets Barnum and Bailey.”  Franklin & Bash start off running their own firm and eventually accept a job at a big law firm run by McDowell’s character (who we know is wacky because he holds meetings in his private karate dojo, wears jeans and sweatpants to court, and hires Franklin & Bash against the better judgement of his rigid nephew).  The dialogue was dripping with pop cultural references – The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Dame Judi Dench,etc – but it all felt so forced.  Like they were trying to sound cool and laid back rather than actually being cool and laid back.  They are quirky.  We get it.  No need to shove it down our throats with staged fights and interrupted sexual interludes (however, I do appreciate the shot of Mark Paul Gosselar’s ass – thanks basic cable!).  I’ll probably keep watching the show all summer since it’s fairly easy viewing and there’s not much else on, but if this were a fall series, it wouldn’t stand a chance.


Upcoming Summer TV Premieres: White Collar, Pretty Little Liars and more!

Even in a suit and tie, Matt Bomer looks laid back and relaxed. Perfect for summer viewing.

Happy June everyone!  Now that the regular TV season has officially ended, it’s time for the summer season to start.  What used to be a dumping ground for lame game shows, reruns and burning off episodes of previously cancelled shows, is now a time for lighthearted capers, silly tween dramas, and well, lame game shows.  I actually look forward to summer TV these days which wasn’t the case while I was growing up (thank god.  Lord knows I probably wouldn’t have seen the outdoors as much as I did).  It is a nice respite after all of the serious dramas and the comedies that require me to use my brain most of the time in order to get the jokes.  Give me White Collar and Pretty Little Liars, shows I can float through.  There is nothing too demanding about a summer TV show, and that’s a good thing.  Here are the shows (new and old) I’m most looking forward to this summer. Continue reading