Category Archives: Television

New TV: Last Resort

I just watched the premiere. Brilliant. Out of the five new series premieres so far this season, Last Resort is hands-down the best. The story, acting, cinematography, and pace are all spot-on. There’s nothing like it on television right now – not since The Unit and 24 went off air.

Much like Revolution, Last Resort started really quickly. It was just another day in the Navy, until a nuclear launch order came in over a secondary channel. The order was just far enough outside protocol to send up some red flags. For a civilian like myself, any nuclear launch order would give me pause. They way the crew handled it almost makes me think nuclear launch commands are standard fare aboard a nuclear sub. Then again, I suspect nuclear launch drills happen often enough that going through the motions during the “real deal” would be a matter of muscle memory. But the Captain and his XO are sharp enough to notice the oddities in the order (specifically, the way it was delivered). Suddenly, they’re questioning orders, fighting a small mutiny, getting shot at, and taking over an island nation.

Andre Braugher did a great job of being the Captain that the crew needed. Someone who could kick back to La Bamba, launch a nuke, handle insubordinate crew members, not launch a nuke, break away from his own government, take over an island, and post an awesomely intense Youtube video explaining the situation (not necessarily in that order). Of course, that sucks for the guy playing the XO, since he was overshadowed at every turn. It was Sam Kendal, played by Scott Speedman – because you forgot already.

I didn’t know women could serve on submarines, but I guess they can. It makes for an interesting plot device (plus, nobody would watch a show with a 100% male cast). So far, it’s only added another dimension to the mutiny storyline. The big payout could be that Lieutenant Shepard (Daisy Betts) has an Admiral for a father, and he seems to be involved in the big arc.

The filming locations – specifically that island – are reminiscent of LOST. In fact, the island scenes were on Oahu, not far from the LOST set. I’m pretty sure I drove past that NATO early warning post every day back in high school. Of course it had no satellite dishes or radome (the big golf ball) on the roof.

As of the end of episode 1, I count up to seven different arcs. It’s a lot, but I like how they’re handling them. Note that only six are really touched on. There’s a seventh that I’m speculating at. It’s probably something we’ll see come up as we end the first season.

Some other thoughts:
Max Adler (Glee‘s Karofsky) was there.
– I saw Robert Patrick there, and expected him to die in the first episode. Atlantis flashbacks. He survived somehow.
Autumn Reeser is the best. Her pillow talk may end up getting someone killed though. i.e. Loose lips sink ships. Literally.
Jessy Schram got more screentime as a picture than in person. Loved her in Falling Skies.
– Storing a body next to fresh fruit and milk? Seems like a bad idea.
David Rees Snell was the wounded SEAL. You may know him as Ronnie Gardocki from The Shield.

I really like where this show is going. There’s enough going on to keep me intrigued for the full forty. Some may find the number of arcs excessive, but I enjoy rolling through several during any given episode. The important part is that none of the arcs are remotely boring. I’m in for the full season.

On TV: Fall 2012 Season

It’s that time of year again. Every September, my Summer shows start to air their finales, and my Fall shows warm up their premieres. Over the past four years, I’ve honed my Fall schedule to 20-24 hours of weekly scripted television. Reality TV is not my thing.

New to my schedule this Fall: Revolution, The Mob Doctor, Vegas, Elementary, 666 Park Avenue, and Last Resort.

RevolutionI reviewed this one earlier. J.J. Abrams tells a good story. There’s a mystery that I’d like to see solved in Revolution. Even with the mixed reaction among the critics, I’m in for the season.

The Mob Doctor – Why I’m interested: I need a TV doctor show to replace House. After seeing the premiere last week, I suppose this fits the bill. The double-life of Jordana Spiro is an interesting plot device. However, I’d probably agree with critics that the plot twists are a little too cut-and-dry. The net morality of her situation sat absolutely even at the end of the show. I was hoping for something a little dirtier.

Vegas – Why I’m interested: Michael Chiklis. The Commish gets to play a true gangster this time. It’s like Vic Mackey unleashed in old school Vegas. As long as CBS doesn’t shackle the writers by keeping him ‘PG,’ I’d buy in for the whole season.

Elementary – Why I’m interested: Sherlock (BBC), and Sherlock (Hollywood). The deck is stacked pretty heavily against this show. The only thing it has going for it is Lucy Liu as a female Watson. Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a hero to me – specifically Benedict Cumberbacht’s version. He says what we all wish we could say (let alone notice). On the character alone, I’ll give this one a chance.

666 Park Avenue – Why I’m interested: John Locke (Terry O’Quinn). On the strength of his acting alone, I’ll watch this show. I’m not really in the market for a sexy supernatural horror/thriller right now. I have American Horror Story for that.

Last Resort – Why I’m interested: Andre Braugher. Some have called this “LOST with a submarine.” It might be, but I’m hoping it’ll be something more. I’m a fan of military dramas (like The Unit), and a fan of political intrigue. This show seems to have them both in spades. Also: Jessy Schram.

So that’s my Fall 2012 new TV roundup. I’ll be back later this week with a rundown of my returning shows – if I find time between work, sleep, and TV.

New TV: Revolution

The Fall TV season started this week. I’m a big TV buff; I regularly watch 20+ hours of scripted television each week. It’s a lot of time to invest in sitting around, so I don’t do it lightly. Every season (0ften twice a season), I check out a few new shows to see if they can earn a spot in my rotation. This week, it was a couple of early series premieres: NBC’s Revolution, and FOX’s The Mob Doctor. Given the hype around the Abrams/Favreau show, I figured I should do a little write-up on Revolution.

Within a minute of Carson Daily’s lead-in (he’s on The Voice, I guess), the premise of the show was delivered – a world without technology. It wasn’t a classic cold open like LOST; to which this show has been compared. It wasn’t even a soft-cold open like the children narrating the start of Falling Skies. We got a quick picture of today, and the abrupt sense at which ‘today’ became 15 years post-techno-apocalypse (known as “the blackout”). The rest of the pilot was about the first steps into unraveling the mystery of the blackout.

The premise is clear: a world without technology. Everybody loves a post-apocalypse story (see: The Walking Dead). Some of the scenes feel straight out of Discovery Channel’s Life After People series. Since it’s a J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau thing, I’ll just go with it. Plus, they claim to have answers to the big arc already. I’ve even heard that J.J. Abrams himself stated they’d make the big reveal before the end of the first season. Part of me wants to believe this, but part of me doesn’t think the show could last if they took away the magic. After all, would we have kept watching LOST if we knew that the island was a time traveling magic cork controlled by some immortal brothers, one of whom is a smoke monster with no name, and everyone simply died for no reason other than… because magic cork?

The characters are hit-or-miss. Gus Fring, whom I have the utmost respect for, got another henchman role. He was the Magic Mirror on Once Upon A Time. I just couldn’t watch him as Wicked Queen’s sniveling yes-man. It was too far from the cold ruthlessness of his role as meth kingpin in Breaking Bad. The same goes for his mid-ranking military role in the Monroe Republic.

Tim Guinee is (presumably) a scientist with the key to unlocking the mystery. Side note: Tim Guinee has been in pretty much every TV show since the mid 80’s. He’s like the white, less famous, TV actor version of Samuel L. Jackson. I suspect we’ll see many, many flashbacks of him and his pre-blackout wife (the lovely Elizabeth Mitchell) in future episodes. Both he and his wife seemed to know about the impending blackout.

Tracy Spiridakos was actually very watchable. It’s not just because she’s easy on the eyes. Her character has a solid motivation, and acts towards it. Need to get my idiot brother back from the militia? Okay, better go find uncle Myles, who is “good at killing people.” Saved twice by militia teenage heartthrob guy? Better trust him. She’s probably the only character acting on her immediate needs, and not guarding some future plot point around the blackout mystery. That makes her relatively relateable.

Then there’s the doctor, the Google millionaire, the techno-resistance algebra teacher (she probably wasn’t really a teacher pre-blackout), and a few other characters. A 43 minute episode really isn’t enough time to get to know everyone. The Google millionaire, however, is an interesting paradox. While I feel like he’ll be pivotal on the whole “technology” front of the blackout arc, he seems entirely out of place. Even 15 years post-blackout, he carries himself like he was just on Reddit an hour ago. That makes him really stand out. Hopefully they can “dirty him up” a bit in future episodes.

Some scientific qualms: Why did the airplanes, after having lost power, still have their wing lights on? Then, why did they fall straight down, instead of on a ballistic trajectory? Why do fire, candles, gunpowder, and the sun still work, but internal combustion doesn’t? I’m not gonna bother questioning the magic USB locket. Not yet, at least.

Magic USB Thing

So that’s my take on Revolution. It’s getting a really split reaction on the rest of the internet. While the ratings were excellent, the critics weren’t as kind. Personally, I’ll keep watching. I’m investing in the promise of a good mystery. Plus, I need to know more about the magic USB locket, and I really want to believe that the writers already have the big reveal written-in before the end of the first season. Now, if I could only be so certain that the show will actually survive to the end of the season.

On TV: Suits

Television is a passion of mine. Some people like sports. Some people like nature. Some people like nightlife. I like watching good television. Sometimes, I even like watching bad television.

USA Network has given me some great television shows in the past few years. It started with Burn Notice; which was once lampooned on Saturday Night Live as the most popular show that nobody watches. Well, it may have started earlier than Burn Notice (2007), but I didn’t notice USA as a source of original programming until that point. The 2011 Summer season gave me Suits. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

The idea behind Suits is simple: Mike Ross (played by Patrick Adams) accidentally lands an Associate position at Pearson-Hardman, one of the top firms in Manhattan, under the great Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). The only catch is that Mike isn’t a lawyer, but he does have a photographic memory and an incredible understanding of the law.

Initially, I wasn’t interested in watching the show. The concept seemed boring, and ripe for “uncomfortable situation” jokes. I had imagined “Meet The Parents,” but with everyone questioning Mike’s law degree instead of Robert De Niro questioning Ben Stiller’s… everything. Nevertheless, I picked up the pilot for free on iTunes (I love it when they give away free pilot episodes). The first episode was intriguing, the second was okay, but the third was phenomenal. The storyline was excellent. The dialogue was witty. The characters had clear motivations. The acting was great. The chemistry was present and resounding. I was hooked after three.

The first thing people expect when they see the promos is a bromance between Mike and Harvey. It turns out that there isn’t one. It’s actually more of a teacher/student thing – think Obi Wan and Luke rather than Starsky and Hutch. Harvey has the experience, reputation, and absolute presence; he owns the room. Mike has a brilliant legal mind, and the naivete that allows him to be outwardly compassionate. They make a great team, but I wouldn’t call it a bromance.

One of the best aspects of the show is character growth. To its credit, Suits was able to take a character that I hated, played by an actor that I disliked, and turn him into a character that I love to hate, played by an actor that I love.

Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) is the antagonist of the first season. The first time I remember seeing him on television was as a villain on the Knight Rider (2008) reboot. I don’t know if it was the writing, direction, or if he just chose to do it, but he was Heath Ledger’s Joker. While he gave a good performance, I couldn’t help but feel like they were just capitalizing on both the blockbuster movie and the late actor.

However, even watching with prejudice, I came to really like the character of Louis Litt (maybe not until the end of the first season). He’s just really good at being slimy, and he makes no apologies for it. I respect that. He fills the role of antagonist and comic relief so well that when you see him ‘win,’ it’s even more impactful. Watching him completely destroy the associates under his charge for being entitled and lazy with a “back in my day” speech and a stack full work he completed for them was so very satisfying.

I can’t write a review of the show without mentioning Donna. She’s a legal secretary; Harvey’s legal secretary. But she’s much more than that. She’s the pulse of the law firm. She knows all. She’s also Harvey’s “better half,” but not in the traditional sense. Where Harvey is cocky, Donna is more subtle. Both can (and will) manipulate people to achieve a goal, but they’ll go about it different ways. Watching them work together is extremely entertaining.

Two minor criticisms:

  1. That “House” moment – they do it less often now, but characters tend to find their solutions in random words they hear during completely unrelated conversations. House was famous for ending episodes in that fashion. While I actually enjoy those ‘lightbulb moments,’ I suppose it’s possible to overdo it.
  2. Gina Torres is underutilized. Even in the second season, as she took a more hands-on role in the main arc, she still felt sidelined. I get that Mike and Harvey are the main characters, but so far all we’ve seen her do is fight a bitter war with Daniel Hardman (David Costabile). It would be nice to get her into court. We all know Zoe can hold her own.

So that’s Suits. I can honestly say that it’s my favorite show on TV. If you were a fly on the wall in my house, you’d hear me shout, “SUITS!” every Thursday evening. Imagine it as a guttural cheer/mantra that leads-in to my weekend. It’s my equivalent of “STEAK NIGHT!

Side note: Suits just finished their Summer season, and will be back in January. I also hear that they’ve been picked up for a third season on USA.