30 June 2012

The Watcher: June 2012

It's been a long time. I know. My bad. But the summer is upon us, and it's time to sum up some shows now passed and to write up about current addictions. And since June is pretty much with the nearly being over, I've cobbled everything June-y television-y into this post. Anyone watching with me? Thoughts?

Awkward., Season 2, Episode 1 - Resolutions (Airdate: 28 June 2012)
The one great show on MTV the channel hasn't canceled yet is back! [Note: I'm still bitter about the Skins cancellation, and also bitter that folks didn't seem to have a liking for it, what gives?] At the end of last season, Jenna just found out the individual who wrote The Letter (pretty much saying, 'Buck up, stand out, stop being a whimp') was none other than her very own mom! Additionally, in that wonderful category of ones love life, Jenna and Jake smooched, while Matty was regulated to the sidelines. If you're not watching Awkward., you're missing out. It's amazingly clever, from the way these tired teen show tropes come across as brand spankin' new to the hilarious dialogue and variety of brilliant wordplay (check out how many ways a character can talk about a penis without outright callin' it out). And it doesn't hurt that the cast is so darn cute and charismatic, playing off each other fantastically, making these 21 minutes fly by faster than Superman's blurryness.
"Resolutions" returns on top form: Jenna and Jake are having a blast with the making out, fun physical stuff, but have yet to really hammer out the details: is this a relationship? Matty knows he screwed up, but he's willing to do anything for a second chance with Jenna, and ends up making a dumb, impulse decision in the end. And Jenna finally decides to take charge of her life, she makes her decision about Jake and she lets her mum know that...dun, dun, dun (!)...she knows. All in all, a really solid twenty minutes, made - as per usual - in large part from the fantastic Ashley Rickards. New crush. Wonderful lady. But speaking of true awkwardness, the penultimate scene of the episode with Jenna, Jake and the condoms and their discussion afterward, not particularly a huge fan of how that played, specifically Jake's reaction. Felt a tad forced. Otherwise, great episode, and I'm over the moon Awkward. is back. Just wish it was for a longer period than 13 episodes. Ladies and gents, check out the show, you (most likely) won't be disappointed.

Bunheads, Season 1 - The First 3 Episodes (Airdate: 11 June 2012 - Present)
As a fan of Amy Sherman-Palladino's Gilmore Girls run, there was not a scenario where I wouldn't be checking out her latest series, Bunheads. And I'm sincerely glad I did. The setup is that a Las Vegas showgirl, Michelle, leaves behind her unsatisfactory life and, via a evening of champagne and unwise decision making, wakes up married and on her way to the very small town of Paradise. Michelle's trying to find where she belongs, and her path leads her to Paradise and, inevitably, a dance studio. Concerning the specifics of the series, I'll leave that shadowed, because I went into Bunheads not knowing a single thing about it outside the Palladino Stamp and by premiere's end, was flabbergasted by the turn of events. And the episode after that ends on a crazy note, as well.

For three episodes, Palladino and her crew have set about building the world and characters that inhabit Paradise and establishing Michelle's place in town - and it's been fantastic. Two really excellent, fun episodes and one solid piece (the latest ep). There's just enough similarities to Gilmore Girls to raise a few eyebrows, but in truth, there is plenty of originality to separate the two, even if the voice and tone is very much the same. Not going to get into specifics, because I want folks to be intrigued enough to check it out for themselves, but overall, Bunheads has been quite satisfying in dialogue and content.

I know that the series hasn't been a ratings success for ABC Family, and the consequence of that fact sets its future in inevitable stone, but I don't want this party too end too early. Bunheads boasts a terrific lead embarking on familiar territory, it's watching how Michelle deals with this new environment that is so damn compelling. At the very leastest of hope, the show deserves a second season pickup, the story demands some satisfaction. So, folks, give it a whirl. Grade: A

Game of Thrones, Season 2 - The Complete Season (Airdate: 1 April - 3 June 2012)
Nudity, blood, politics, dragons, nudity, dwarfs, sarcasm, kingdoms, mist, monsters, betrayals, and lots and lots of characters; that about sums up Game of Thrones. Somehow, as the first season aired and ended, the series became a juggernaut, critically and in the ratings, appealing to both the fantasy gurus and the general public. Folks have been eating up Game of Thrones, and two years and twenty episodes in, I feel the writing and production team haven't quite done enough to deserve the faithful followers they've inspired.

Season 1 was pretty damn good, I'll give it that. Some areas moved at a pace that was altogether too slow for my liking, but season one and season two reflect the same amount of pace as, for comparisons sake, the two years of The Walking Dead: one quick, the other slow and, at times, frustratingly boring. With the exception of one of the ten episodes that compose GoT season two, there was very little that impressed me this year, or let alone was deserving of the accolades and ferocious fanbase. And instead of going on lengthy, obnoxious rants, I'm going to attempt to concentrate on something pacific: characters.

There is what feels like nine million characters inhabiting the world of the series, and the writers were unsuccessful in giving each character something to do, and making their actions and arcs make complete beginning, middle and end sense. Failing to come up with an example off the top of my noggin', there are instances where things are brought up and then dropped entirely. In the first year, it was those freaky creatures that began the series, and this year, the Smoke Monster that was birthed from crazy Red Head Girl. It's never spoken about or alluded to, as far as I'm aware of, again.

In the end, I'm going to chalk season two's odd pacing and lack of true movement as a necessary evil for placing all the characters in the right place for when the narrative really starts to heat up. Besides, this was the year that gave us a truly demented Joffrey on the throne, and that rat bastard was delicious entertainment. My feelings are about this series is best summarized by saying that people who don't have a clue as to what happens in the books, who only know of the information given by the series - the writers need to work more towards those people. I understand there's a ton of shit in the books that may or may not make their way into the televised series. This is irrelevant. What does matter is making sure what they decided to include makes sense, has an arc, and actually matters.

Episode nine gave viewers the first real look of a Helm's Deep-esque battle on a HBO television budget, and it was glorious. With a heavy concentration on character - which, in turn, made the battle all the more emotional and important - the limitations of the budget didn't end up hurting it at all, because it wasn't about the scale and spectacle anymore. By giving us real, frank moments with the characters, they sold those 55 minutes entirely. If the series can somehow find a way to channel the magic they conjured in that episode, Game of Thrones will be in for a marvelous third season.

Perhaps I'm just very giddy that a series of my genre is getting global recognition, and I really hope the content merits the attention, so that everyone will look at the fantasy (and sci-fi, argh) genre and give it the same respect as, say, Mad Men. For me, the show has yet to reach the level it deserves. Grade: C+

Girls, Season 1 - The Complete Season
A unique show with a unique voice that makes it fairly difficult to give something resembling a proper review, so a good amount of this might just come across as rambling. Created, written/co-written, and starring Lena Dunham, Girls features four gals in New York and depicts their individual journeys in a very frank, unconventional manner. Actually, 'unconventional' is a fantabulous way of describing the series. It's not the modern Sex and the City, nor is it some soap opera thing you'd find on The CW, but this time with the added layer of nudity and swear words. It's a difficult show to describe, and that, I think, is why I find myself so damn fascinated by it.

Dunham's character isn't an immensley likable character. Hell, none of the characters really are. And there's something worth complimenting on its own: boasting flawed characters that are real and messed up, who make dumb choices and aren't CW-level pretty. One lady is having a friends with benefits fling with a tall, skeletal dude who has some genuinely odd turn ons, while another sexes around town and doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on what to do next, and Girl #3 is trying to figure out her relationships and life. Oh, and there's a younger gal, the hilarious virgin, who is written so brilliantly that she more than makes up the show.

In ten episodes, Dunham crafts a arc for each of these characters, and because of the manner it's written, the show is thus unpredictable, and that's something commendable. There's no large battles, no obnoxious soap opera elements or cat fights; Girls is just a grounded, realistic, harsh look at three/four girls and the decisions they make. Absolutely worth your time. Grade: A

True Blood, Season 5 - The First 3 Episodes
Coming off the wildly successful fourth season (at least for me), I've had high hopes for True Blood's return, and thus far, I'm not disappointed. Two things have kept me the most interested: Bill and Eric's dynamic and where they fit into this new Sookie-free paradigm, and The Authority, what constitutes their religion and ethics and series of rules (and, of course, Christopher Meloni's tremendous acting chops). The scenes with the Authority and our protagonists are absolutely riveting, and continue to pump blood into this aging series. On the opposite spectrum of interesting, Hoyt's descent into becoming a Devil May Care gothic dick, Arlene's husband's war/fire thing with Scott Foley, and Lafayete's continued existence prevent the show from becoming really damn good. Tara's newfound predicament lends itself to multiple dramatic possibilities, but its execution to this point hasn't impressed - although I have no doubt the actress portraying Tara is having a field day, and quite happy to no longer be bound by the angry, bitchy, whiny Tara that chewed up scenery for four years.

Jason finally seems to be developing into what can best be described as a real character, Jessica just wants to have fun, Alcide's angry and huffs and buffs and does stuff, Sam ain't all that bad this time 'round but really ain't doin' anything, and Sheriff Andy's had his ass crack exposed to all manner of species in Bon Temps. This is the current state of True Blood. Oh! And I've neglected to mention Sookie a paragraph in already - my bad. Truth is, Sookie's one and only problem right now is dealing with Tara, which is both understandable (when considering that only, what, two days have passed, counting the day of the season 4 finale?) and nice, in that she's not neck-deep in some stupid vampire romance/killing spree/whatever shit - although with the return of Russell right around the corner, things are probably going to start getting ugly for dear ol' Sookie. What more, this year has shed light on Pam's past, and her rebirth as a vampire, highlighting the actress' amazing emotive abilities and talent for deadpan comedy.

Three episodes is hard to truly judge the series completely, but with less than 10 episodes to go now, I feel confident with the story this year, and that the characters are heading into interesting places. Yes, I would prefer to have each and every character to have important, captivating, enlightening arcs year after year, and this has truly not been the case, but preliminary signs indicate...season 5 just might be a winner. At the very least, Bill and Eric's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid journey (as it's been described by showrunner Alan Ball) will be fun to watch, as will be The Authority's impact in the series universe. Grade: B+

1 comment:

Marsha Lowell said...

Hey, thanks for the list! I’m always looking for something good to watch. I have seen Girls and True Blood and was on the fence about a few of the others listed. I will have to give them a shot. I would rank the shows I’ve watched the same as you did so I trust your opinion! Thanks for also including the date and time that each will be premiering so I will know when to record them. Between my job at Dish and keeping up with my family, I can never find the time to watch a regularly scheduled program anymore! I have grown a strong relationship with my DVR. I even had to upgrade my box to the Hopper whole home DVR system just so I could get a memory big enough to keep up with my recording habit. Oh well, there are worse things to be addicted to! Let me know if you have any other recommendations and I will be sure to add them to my list!