Sunday, November 06, 2011

[TV] TV Roundup

TV Roundup: Let's start with the good stuff. Breaking Bad ended another great season. I am mildly surprised that it was so good since I read at the outset how the showrunner, Vince Gilligan, went into the season unsure of its direction. Ninety-nine times out a hundred that's a recipe for disaster, but they pulled it off and made a classic. Tremendous build up in tension throughout the entire season eventually reaching an ending that, while it pushed the boundaries of plausibility, fit very well.

Even more interestingly, once the season was over, was that the overwhelming majority of opinion is that Walter has gone to the dark side; that he is now one of the Bad Guys. Even Gilligan thinks so. Me, I'm not so sure. At the outset of the series he was a doormat. His wife was a contemptuous ball-buster, now she's dependant and pleading. His brother-in-law was the tough guy alpha male, now, through the string of events that doesn't count in Walt's favor, they are equals. His handicapped son, who loved him but didn't seem to admire him, now worships him. He was essentially reduced to meekly begging for help from past friends who had won astounding success, while he toiled thanklessly as a high school teacher. Now he is rich and needed and just defeated the biggest drug cartel in the Northern Hemisphere through guts and will and brains. There have been costs, but there is also a cost to being pitiful, ineffectual dust speck to the last.

Hey, if the answers were clear, it wouldn't be good drama. Looking forward to the next, and last, season.

I remain very entertained by Psych and whether you would be depends almost entirely on your taste in comedy. Like all the USA shows, the plots are borderline incoherent, but they do really well with the snappy crosstalk dialogue, including an occasional moment of comic genius. But then, my sense of comedy was formed in the time before all jokes involved bodily fluids and anatomical assessment, so make of that what you will.

Dexter is doing OK, this go around. Last season was a pointless mess. This one is getting kind of interesting. But, of course, being Dexter it will never be more than a guilty pleasure. There is a strong, Christian theme going on this season. There is a good repentant Christian and a bad extremist Christian to prompt Dexter to chew on the value of belief. One would expect this to turn into a rehash of all the adolescent level "If there's a God why do bad things happen?" drivel that bad writers lean on in desperation. But they've done a good job of being even handed with respect to spirituality so far. Dexter has come a long way from being a true sociopath who is incapable of feeling, which was needed for there to continue to be any ongoing drama. Still, from a dramatic standpoint, it's a tight squeeze between sociopath and normal dude who just likes killing people. Go too far either way and you lose the character and the show. For now, continues to be good creepy fun.

I should like The Walking Dead more than I do. There are some decent story lines, lots of open-ended unresolved issues, the episode that just aired prior to this was an examination of the cost and value of living, heighten by the reality of the zombified world. Some choose suicide, parents question whether their children wouldn't be better off dead than face the inevitable, some kill so that others may live. Life as a point of priority. Great premise, decent acting, nice visuals. But the characters are really as shallow as possible and the dialogue is painfully bad. Nothing but expository blather and hopeless clich‚. The "I can't do it!" "Damn you, you have to!" school of discourse. Really, I have to DVR this and fast forward through talking. Could have been a contender.

More disappointing still is Boardwalk Empire. The Scorcese connection gave this cache and ill-informed critics declared it to be a classic early on when it was actually never even close. One of the most heavy handed shows ever. It is typical of late Scorcese in that it is nothing new. Just the same old gangster stories rehashed with a different setting. The characters here and completely interchangeable with any number of characters in The Departed or Gangs of New York. The men are either cowardly and conniving or ruthless and power hungry. The women are either Madonna or Whore. The brash upstart rebelling against his father figure, the veteran scarred in both body and soul, the upright detective with a dark secret. Every story arc is telegraphed. HBO mistakenly renewed this for another season of the current one. This show needs to be wrapped up as quickly as possible.

The most promising news is that the Return of The Milch is coming sooner than expected. The Luck pilot will air on December 11th, nearly a month and a half before the regular season is scheduled to start. I can't wait to hear me some Milchian quasi -iambic pentameter again. Plus we get some Michael Mann stylings and a Dustin Hoffman versus Nick Nolte thespian cage match (also involved: Dennis Farina). Plus it's about gambling. It could cause a rift in the fabric of space, or be the biggest disappointment since John from Cinncinnati.