Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's the Writing, Stupid

I'm sorry, I say that all the time, but it keeps manifesting in new ways. And I am a writer.

This time the context is new fall television. So far, I've seen Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Class, Six Degrees, and Heroes. (minor spoilers ahead)

Six Degrees
This is a well-acted and nicely shot show. But it's dully written and as such, is likely to be my first Season Pass casualty. The characters are clichéd beyond belief:

  • A straightlaced public defender who goes "nuts" over a quirky, fun-loving girl
  • A gambling addict trying to live honestly, who gets sucked back into whatever by his criminal brother
  • A mother grieving her dead husband
  • A fast-track businesswoman ready for marriage who learns her fiancé is cheating on her
  • A guy who had everything and destroyed it, who's trying to get it back
I found nothing compelling about anyone's stories, except Erika Christensen's, and I don't think what's in her box is going to be enough to keep me watching. Which is a damned shame, because this is a JJ Abrams property and I still love the premise. I'll just have to get my connections fix from Lost.

In contrast, there's...

The Class
I posted on the pilot before, and have watched one additional episode since. The performances are still stiff, the production very "sound stage classic sitcom." And I can't say the writing has NO clichés, especially as regards characterization, but they do follow my acceptability clause when it comes to clichés: If you're going to go there, twist it up.

So there's the slacker who lives with his mother and longs for the girl he let go--but is smarter than he sounds and apparently good at his job in construction. There's a gay man who's happy and in a committed relationship and even a TEACHER! And another gay man who apparently doesn't know he's gay (in a totally different way than Jonas of Arrested Development). The dialogue is funny without trying too hard (okay, sometimes it tries too hard, but it still gets me to laugh). My favorite character is Richie, a guy who's miserable enough to commit suicide but keeps getting interrupted. He meets Lina, thinks maybe he has a chance to be happy, but runs her over with his car and breaks all the bones in her feet. When she wakes up in the hospital, the first thing she says is "I met the nicest guy."

So this show has a chance. It doesn't make me run to the TiVo, but I'm happy to use it to fill in the gaps.

This show is a surprise. It's darker, moodier, than I expected it or wanted it to be. I think the indestructable cheerleader tried to commit suicide, and that's how she found out she can't be killed. Her certainty that this has ruined her life is very annoying. I mean, come on! You can't be harmed. That seems pretty damned cool to me. Then there's a desperate mom with maybe a powerful second personality...a desperate geek who can teleport...a sweet, selfless guy who can maybe fly and loves his asshole older brother (and if it turns out only the brother can fly, I'll hate the show)...a hot Indian who's father was researching these genetic anomalies...a desperate painter who's predicting disasters (why, I asked my husband, do people with predictive powers ONLY predict bad things?)...and more desperation to come, from what I can tell.

It sounds like I don't like the show, which is weird, because I did like it. It was interesting and well done all around, even if I'm having a hard time connecting with any of the characters. I'm willing to give it a lot more time to grab me than I'm willing to give Six Degrees.

And finally, the pi
èce de résistance:

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Funny, dramatic, unpredictable, suspenseful. This show has the best chemistry between actors of all the new ones I've seen so far. Relationships are complex. Humor is paramount but not at the expense of the drama. The filming is...geez, I'm gonna sound like a geek...compelling. Yes, the FILMING. There's one scene in the second show that follows Matt and Harriet through the set, and you feel the presence of it just like you do the spaceship Serenity when you watch Firefly. It feels more real than any of the other shows, which is ironic since it's set IN Hollywood, often considered the most UNreal place on the planet. :)

How about the new episodes of old shows?

Prison Break
Not as good as last year, but still decent. The yummy factor is still huge, and the speed with which the FBI agent has gotten on the trail is fascinating. It feels like it doesn't have much further to go, however, which is worrisome.

Since this show started in the summer, I'm not sure how long it's going to go before its season ends. It's my first Sci-Fi Original Series. :) The gimmick still works for me. I like the "what if" element, and the characters are interesting enough to keep me watching. They seem to have dropped their overriding conspiracy, however, and that jars me whenever I see Beverly-the-shrink-who's-much-much-more.

Season premiere in two parts, so far as comfortably good as it was last year. It's a quiet show, not as explosive and rock-music-driven as its bigger compatriots. It drops and picks up characters and their plot threads seemingly at whim. And I really doubt a single FBI team would cover soooo many different kinds of crimes (but I could easily be wrong). I like the people, I like the stories...a definite keeper, though again, I'm not driven to the TV to watch it.

I can't wait for Lost next week. I guarantee it will top my list again. Ugly Betty and 30 Rock are well reviewed, though I'm not too excited about either one. I just want something to make me laugh. The Nine starts next week after Lost, and tomorrow I get Smallville (yay!) and Supernatural (which I still have yet to watch on DVD, season 1). Twenty Good Years is my final test show, and I have a feeling I'll keep that one and drop 30 Rock and/or Ugly Betty. When Lost goes on early haitus after far too few episodes, I'll check out Daybreak, which, like Six Degrees, has a high concept that might not be borne out in the execution.

So, how do you all rate the new fall season so far?


MJFredrick said...

I have Heroes, Jericho and this week's Prison Break taped (yes, I still use my VCR). I don't think I've watched any new shows. Wait - Standoff. I like Standoff. I like the intelligent romance between the two leads.

I like Bones better this year, wanted more Pam and Jim on The Office, laughed my ass off on My Name is Earl, thought Grey's Anatomy should get a B- for too much going on.

I'm looking forward to Supernatural, thought I've only seen the first 4 episodes, and Lost and The Nine.

I can't get into Eureka. I've tried. Seriously.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I think I only got into Eureka, Mary, because there was nothing else on. Last season's TV gave me a routine, you know? And I was like a junkie. :)

Trish Milburn said...

I think with Heroes, it's going to be a slow build and I hope the network lets it be. There are so many characters that you can't just dump everything on the viewer at once.

I agree about Prison Break. It's still plenty suspenseful, but the first season was just SO tense.

Eureka's season finale is next Tuesday, though I'm going to miss it because Veronica Mars starts back that night.

I think you'll like Supernatural. I LOVE it. The beginning of season 2 was great.

Also love Bones. I heart Seeley. :)

I think the only new show I've been watching is Men in Trees, which I like.

Anonymous said...

I've seen only 2 new shows that I've liked.

Heroes: I liked it more that I thought I would. I think its more 6 Degrees than the actual 6 Degrees show with all the connection between the people. I already like some of those people and their abilities. and that Indian guy is perfect eye candy for a Monday night.

To me 6 Degrees is not a JJ Abrams show. He has the name as an Executive Producers but he did not write or direct the Pilot, that what would have made it a JJ show. He wrote and directed the pilots for Felicity, Alias and Lost those are JJ shows.

I also watched Ugly Betty last night cute show and since I'm biligual I've sort of known about both the Colombian and the Mexican version that is currently showing on Univision now. This version is so much kinder than the Spanish versions those are cruel and catty and so so mean. I had always made fun of my mom for watching it and now I'm doing the same. In the spanish version her boss is the most self-centered,horndog who sleeps with anything that moves and uses Betty and her business know-how(since he knows nothing about the business)to make himself look great and not giving her the credit for the work that she does.

anyway, I'm waiting to see "The Nine" and "Daybreak"(Daybreak filmed and explosion scene just outside our parking lot last Friday and I told the location manager that I was looking forward to watching this show. He was very nice and paid us 500 bucks just in case debris from the explosion landed on our parking lot. did I tell you that they filmed this in the middle of the night when no cars would be in the parking lot.)

I ready for the beginning of Lost next week. I'm not really spoiled for anything this year and hope to continue this way.


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Hey, Rose! So great to see you over here!

Good point about JJ's role in Six Degrees--makes me feel much better about not liking it. :)

Greg Grunberg on Heroes adds to the JJ-type feel of that show, too. :)

I was aware of the background of Ugly Betty but I didn't realize it was so much more vicious. I CRIED at the American version. I'd hate the original. I love that Daniel has some compassion, which balances the pain of what she's enduring. I couldn't watch a show that was nothing but negative.

Typing Slave said...

Finally saw Heroes and we both liked it. Geo's excited about the comic book element. I hope there are more women soon instead of a bunch of white men, one geeky Asian man, one Indian man with no powers, and two blonde bimbos.

I mean, think about it. Unless it was planned by some unknown agency WHO would Darwin up with the mad skillz, why would a majority of evolvees be white and male? A majority of humans are not white and male. Anyway, I was just hoping for more diversity.

Geo made an interesting observation about the Mom with the split personality, or whatever her power is. (He suggested a connection to her Bizarro World self in an alternate reality.) He said, not everyone with powers turns out to be a hero. He sees her potential to be a villain instead.

Also watched Ugly Betty online. Very fun, if cartoonish.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

40% of the main cast is non-Caucasian. That's not un-diverse. Also, the "heroes" are a sampling--others are out there, so you're just assuming, Darwinically, that they are mostly white and male. I guess I can't be disappointed, because my expectations weren't different. I admit the only female I really like on the show is the girlfriend-of-the-painter/daughter-of-the-dying-man, though.

I don't think the stripper-heroine power is related to an alternate reality because this is about genetics, not science fiction in general.