The new TV season: first month
About three or four episodes into the new season, I think this is by far
the most promising batch of shows I've ever seen in one year.
"Pushing Daisies" has been really outstanding in all three
episodes. It's twee and cute and precious like crazy, but also smart,
well-acted, compelling, and both dark enough and cynical enough to cut
the cuteness as necessary.
The tagline for "Life" is awful. ("Life was his sentence and life is
what he got back.") Between this and "Heroes" and "Chuck", NBC is
really racking up one of the worst sets of promo taglines ever. OK,
that aside. The character's wildly different, but yet in a lot of ways
I would compare this show to Veronica Mars. There isn't the high school
milieu, but the mix of mysteries-of-the-week and straight noir
continuing storyline is very well balanced and the acting and writing
(characterization) are so solid. I'm not especially impressed with the
crime of the week plotting, but it's never bad; it just takes a back
seat to the other stuff.
"Chuck": Again, an awful tagline: "He's the secret. She's the agent."
Tagline aside, the mix of comedy, action, spy stuff, and romance is
really watchable. It's written with insight into its character moments
and wit in its comedic parts, directed with a light hand, and the cast
just has tons and tons of charm. I wish the spy plots weren't quite so
dumb; there's a lot of really avoidable mistakes, but aside from that,
"Journeyman": Thematically similar to NBC's "Quantum Leap" from long
ago, but: Dan has a regular life in the present he has to tend to, he
only (so far) travels within a short period around his own lifetime, and
sticks to the Bay Area. The show makes a good stab at showing all the
drawbacks of Dan's involuntary time travelling, which is always a
pleasure for a sci-fi fan. Still, the time travel plots are so far not
nearly as compelling as the drama of Dan's regular life, which I think
is by design.
"Samantha Who": The pilot was OK. Some genius dubbed it "My Name is
Girl", and while there's a lot of similarities... well, a new show could
certainly pick a worse show to steal from. This had a late start, so
I'll have to grade it later.
"Aliens in America": Awkwardness humour played at a very high
level. It's really funny, surprisingly fearless in what it'll take on, but
sometimes the situations are so awkward I almost have to watch while
covering my face in sympathetic embarrassment for the protagonist.
"Reaper": like "Chuck" in lots of ways. Slacker semi-burnout is
employed at a big box store; events beyond his control thrust him into a
starring role in a series of high-drama escapades he'd probably rather
not be a part of. There's an annoying sidekick, a love interest he
can't get with, comedy, action, ... plus, this one is shot in Vancouver,
which always gets extra points in my book. But where the spy plotlines
in "Chuck" play off Chuck's regular life, the supernatural plotlines
in "Reaper" just get in the way of Sam's regular life. There's no
interplay, there's no attempt at subtext at all, and worst, the second
and third episodes were virtual rehashes of the excellent pilot. There
was literally no character development whatsoever in those episodes. Sure,
Sam's a slacker but the show has basically opened on him being
forced into a new role and every episode, every single episode has
featured the exact same whinging half-hearted efforts to weasel out of
it. What was entertaining one week quickly curdled. But on the bright
side, the fourth episode took the by now cast-in-concrete formula and
shoke it up ever so slightly.
"Bionic Woman". Shot in Vancouver and with a "Battlestar
Galactica" pedigree, plus it borrows elements from "Alias"... how
could I not watch? Unfortunately, this show is bone-stupid, or at least
has been so far. I'm sticking with it for a bit, regardless. Then
again, the Vancouver factor got me to watch "John Doe" about four or
five episodes longer than I should have.