Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TV or not TV.

Caprica: the most thought-provoking drama on the tube these days, this prequel to the revered Battlestar Galactica poses intriguing questions about reality and the meaning of life and identity. Plus it's all leading to the birth of the Cylons.

Breaking Bad: the concept (high school chem teacher with potentially fatal disease ends up becoming major drug dealer with a flaky slacker as his sidekick) seems so unlikely to attract an audience that you wonder how it ever got a green light for production. Anyone who watched the weird and compelling opening minutes of this week's third season opener stayed to see what was happening, I'll guarantee you that.

Damages: the show that's justhisclose to siddtracking my immediate reaction when anyone asks me what's the best show currently available in the living rooms of America. I automatically say Mad Men but, particularly this season with its mesmerizing use of flashbacks and flash forwards to force the viewer to pay serious attention to understand its complex storyline, Damages is pushing toward the top slot. All that pus Glenn Close and, to a lesser degree (because, you know, Glenn Close), Rose Bryne. This season is also providing a new perspective on the acting chops of comedians Martin Short and Lily Tomlin and has perked up even more with the return of Ted Danson's charismatic and ethically challenged CEO (they tried to kill him off in season one but Danson was too good to let disappear; he's come a long way from Cheers' Sam Malone).

Lost: this one has recaptured some of the early intrigue for the final season, not only because of the promise of closure and explanations but also the "sideways" story-telling in which each episode concentrates on a single character both in the familiar island setting and also an (imaginary?) life he or she might have lived had the plane not gone down in episode one.

24: while I haven't seen last night's episode yet and may want to take this back when I do, 24 seemed to get some of its chops back last week; at least I paid attention a little bit. The switch from new baddie to newer baddie in the early episodes (twice in one show as I recall) has been somewhat annoying and the stupid, stupid, stupid subplot about the Katee Sackhoff character (she works for the nation's top intelligence agency but has lied about her name and past and keeps disappearing from work for hours during a national crisis so that, among other things, she and her current boyfriend, a top level intelligence operative, can kill her former boyfriend and his psychopathic pal, who she has just help commit a robbery in which a watchman was murdered) is incredibly off-putting, but Jack Bauer's last improbable quest to save the nation is the best in several years.
[Update:Arrghhh! This crap absolutely jumped a dozen sharks this week, including the head of CTU, being told there was "a probation officer from Arkansas" at headquarters to see him at 4:30 in the morning in the middle of a major crisis, never blinks and says he'll see him in a few minutes; the rescue of Jack Bauer by crazy Renee, who finds him just in the nick of time in a four square mile stretch that CTU said was too large to search even with teams of men, and, finally, the weekly Big Reveal Too Improbable To Believe. Put this show out of its misery, please.]
Fringe, Bones, Smallville: all three are about to come back from hiatus; the first is the best SF show extant, the second is the best "will they or won't they?" dramedy extant  and the third holds the key to the fanboy heart that beats somewhere inside me.

Castle: the second best "will they..." show and Stana Katic, who plays police detective Kate Beckett, the model for writer Frank Castle's "Nikky Heat" fictional heroine, is worth the time all by herself (and the guest appearance by Dana Delany this week and next is a Very Good Thing too; the lady has held up quitel well from her days on China Beach).

The Good Wife: enjoying this shocks me thoroughly but they have managed to set up some solid self-contained episodes against which the larger story is told and Julianna Margulies' portrayal of a woman betrayed who is not quite sure if she wants to forgive her errant husband or whether he is as innocent as he claims is very solid.

Saving Grace: returns this coming week for its final episodes, a quirky, well done show about a non-believing tough gal cop (Holly Hunter) with her own guardian angel and, when we last left her, confronted with pretty strong evidence that there is a God who apparently has plans for her.

Other: Ugly Betty, fast approaching the finish line, is more charming and enjoyable than ever (ain't that often the way); Southland, a solid cop show but could become repetitive; V and FlashForward, the jury still out on both; Human Target, a light-hearted adventure series with a very good cast which will never be "must watch TV" but certainly a nice diversion; Justifed, the first episode showed promise but everything appears to be on Timothy Olyphant's shoulders.

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