Two for January

While most of the shows I watch are on hiatus, I’ve been catching up on Arrow. And thinking about these two new shows that I will definitely tune in for:

  • AmericansThe Americans on FX: Home to two of my favorite dramas (Sons of Anarchy and Justified), FX has proven it can produce a quality show that keeps me coming back for more each week.  Set in the 1980s, this show is about a couple of Russian spies living in America. Starring Felicity’s Keri Russell, the show has a lot of promise, even if the promos have been light on details.So far, FX has outlined the following plot. Russell and co-star Matthew Rhys are two spies living in an arranged marriage. They have two kids, who don’t know anything about their spy lives. And they live next door to an FBI agent involved in counterintelligence. They have to balance their allegiance to their homeland with a growing affinity for the American way of life.
  • FollowingThe Following on FOX: Let me start out by saying I love Kevin Bacon. So I would probably watch just about anything he was in, small or big screen. He’s just one of those great actors who has proven over time to be adept at taking on a variety of roles, both light and heavy. And of course, it helps that Kevin Williamson (producer of The Vampire Diaries and the Scream movies) is at the helm.
    Bacon plays a broken cop on the hunt for a serial killer who uses his fans as his instruments of killing. The promo is gritty and compelling, and the production value looks excellent – you might even think you are watching a movie trailer.

Will you be checking out either of these shows? Is there anything else new on TV that I should be checking out?

When good shows disappoint

They are coming...and they are a total bummer.
They are coming…and they are a total bummer.

This is a tough post to write, because it’s a critique of two shows that I used to love. And while I still tune in to these shows, they just aren’t what they used to be.

First, Fringe. When Fringe started out, it was brilliant. In the tradition of The X-Files, Fringe was a clever mix of monster-of-the-week and recurring mythology. Even when the show made the leap of introducing an alternate universe, I was right there with it. And where many shows falter, it proved to be genius in bringing together its two main characters, Peter and Olivia.

But let’s face it, Fringe is the kind of show that doesn’t reach a wide audience. Although excellent, it is just too heavy for the mainstream viewer. So each year, I was surprised when it was renewed. And last year, I think the show’s creators were even a bit surprised, as the season finale would have made a perfect series ending.

Alas, the show was renewed, and my worst fears for it have come to pass. The one-off episode focused on the Observers from last year paved the way for this season. And instead of that brilliant mix of monster-of-the-week and mythology, it has become a bleak, dystopian mini-series. Each episode drags on, and the characters lack their original appeal. Frankly, if it weren’t in the final few episodes, I’m not sure I would continue watching.

I'm not drinking the Bones Kool-Aid.
I’m not drinking the Bones Kool-Aid.

Next, Bones. Now, you probably think I’m upset about Bones and Booth as a couple (the dreaded Moonlighting curse). But that’s not my gripe with the show. I do think the way Bones and Booth came together could have been handled better, but I’m over it. My real problem with the show is the lack of focus and the degradation of the characters. Bones basically comes across as a robot – with such lines (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here) as “He is upset because this is a dead child and he has a little boy” and “I get it, it’s funny because you wouldn’t put a murder in a children’s book.” Seriously? Bones is a novelist and a mother, and she seemingly has no emotional depth. In years past, she struggled with empathy, but she seemed to be on a path to discovering herself. She never seemed so wooden as she does now. And Booth is about as interesting as a yard tool at Sears.

This show was at its peak during the long-term story arc of the Gravedigger. Now, it just seems to meander from episode to episode with no real direction. And don’t even get me started on the 9/11 episode, which was so flawed on so many levels.

I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me on these points. And don’t get me wrong, I’m still tuning in, so there are obviously some redeeming qualities to Fringe and Bones. But I’d like to see them regain their former glory.

Waiting sucks

Last week was an especially lame week for TV. It seemed like just about every show on every network took a break. And while FOX can blame it all on American Idol, there is just no excuse for the other networks.

At least Big Love was on. And boy was it good. I’m not sure how the writers are going to wrap all of the drama in just a few more episodes, but I’m excited to see them try. It’s nice to know that when the other networks are off, HBO is on.

Thinking about the end of Big Love, and anticipating Game of Thrones (more on that later), makes me even more excited for True Blood in June. And to be quite honest, the shirtless Eric promo that HBO posted this week doesn’t hurt either. Very nice. You’re welcome.

The fourth book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series has always been my favorite (a consensus among fans). Without spoiling anything, let me just say that everything changes. The storylines that began at the end of last year (Sookie’s troubles with Bill, witches in Bon Temps, werewolf politics, Jason’s relationship with Crystal, werepanthers in Hotshot, and more) will likely all be important plots in season four. 

The anticipation is killing me. Perhaps a True Blood seasons past marathon is in order. With HBO Go, a new service for  cable subscribers, you can watch any episode of any HBO show online. It’s not available for Time Warner yet, but if you have another cable provider, you should look into it. It sounds pretty cool. For my part, I think I’ll queue up the DVDs on Netflix old school style, and try to ease my True Blood withdrawal symptoms.

44 reasons to watch Fringe

      

It’s President’s Day. To celebrate our 44 commanders in chief, I am proud to give you 44 reasons to watch Fringe, in random order.

  1. It’s critically acclaimed, if you care about those things.
  2. The tough-as-nails yet still sensitive leading lady, Olivia Dunham.
  3. The father-son bond between Walter and Peter.
  4. Walter’s affinity for psychedelic drugs.
  5. Walter’s affinity for vinyl records.
  6. Nina Sharp, the one-armed wonder of Massive Dynamic.
  7. The floating location titles. I know it’s a small thing, but I like them.
  8. Agent Broyles possesses scene-stealing strength of character in both universes.
  9. The juxtaposition of old and new technologies — a manual typewriter enables communication between universes.
  10. In the alternate universe, blimps are the predominate method of air travel, something any Akronite should appreciate.
  11. Astrid. Or is it Asterisk? Either way, you’ve got to love her ability to relate to Walter.
  12. There’s a cow in the lab.
  13. “Over There: Part Two” was the ultimate season-ending cliffhanger.
  14. The show has more emotional depth than any sci-fi show I’ve ever seen, except maybe Lost.
  15. Trent Reznor remade “Zero-Sum” for a Fringe promo, arguably the best trailer for a TV show ever made. Watch it here.
  16. You’re sharp enough to suspend disbelief and have a good time.
  17. You’re suspicious enough to believe that some of this could be true.
  18. You appreciate a good milkshake.
  19. Leonard Nimoy as William Bell, the head of Massive Dynamic, a powerful global corporation specializing in Fringe science.
  20. Anna Torv as Olivia.
  21. Anna Torv a Fauxlivia.
  22. Walter Bishop is probably the best mad scientist since Dr. Frankenstein.
  23. Yet, Walter is so fragile, so deeply aware of his flaws, that you can’t help but feel for him.
  24. There is romance for the lovers of love.
  25. But not too much romance.
  26. The special effects are top of the line. No cheesy CGI here.
  27. There are new cases almost every week, so you don’t have to know the mythology to start watching.
  28. But, the mythology is really intricate and cool, so you might want to go back and watch old episodes.
  29. It’s a serious drama.
  30. But Walter makes you laugh at least once an hour.
  31. You like blondes.
  32. You like red-heads.
  33. We’ve only just begun. Three seasons in, Fringe has barely tapped into the ethical questions raised by Walter, Massive Dynamic and the alternate universe.
  34. It’s The X-Files, on steroids.
  35. What else are you going to watch on Fridays?
  36. It’s not just for nerds.
  37. But if you are a nerd, you will appreciate the glyphs and symbolism. My favorite one being the apple with the foetus inside.
  38. It comes to us from J.J. Abrams, creative genius behind Lost.
  39. But it’s not a Lost wannabe — Fringe has its own mojo.
  40. Forget everything you know about Joshua Jackson from Dawson’s Creek.
  41. Two universes are better than one.
  42. Especially when each universe has a set of fully developed characters.
  43. The Fringe “Noir” episode, “Brown Betty.”
  44. If you don’t watch this excellent show will be canceled.

Been a long time since I blog and rolled

Let me get back…the months of December and January are pretty slow in the TV world, and pretty busy in the real world. So I’m sorry for the prolonged blog absence. I’m still here, though, with a short post as I get back in the swing of things.

I’ve been watching The Vampire Dairies, 30 Rock, The Office, Big Love, Bone, Fringe and Jersey Shore, all of which have been awesome as usual (more on those later).

I recently added Parks and Recreation after a weekend-long Netflix marathon in which I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

Watching this season of Parks and Rec with the eternally good-looking and surprisingly funny Rob Lowe has only confirmed my love for this show. I even have the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness hanging in my cubicle at work. I especially enjoy the blocks for weapons, woodworking and welfare avoidance. My favorite thing about this show is the flawed, yet lovable, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler. Even when she’s screwing up, she always means well and she legitimately loves the bizarre cross-section of Pawneeans (Or is it Pawneeites?) who turn out for her city forums.

Does anyone else watch Parks and Rec? If not, check it out. Leslie is like a better, more likeable version of Michael Scott. In fact, the show reminds me of early episodes of The Office, when the writing was still fresh and the cast was still fun.

10 girl crushes: My favorite ladies of TV

I just love the wit and wisdom of Dr. Temperance Brennan.

                                                                         

On the way to work this morning, I was thinking about Bones. That got me thinking about Dr. Brennan, and how much I love her character, which got me thinking about some of the other cool ladies on TV right now.

My co-blogger, Mark, has said that we are in a Golden Age of TV. I tend to agree – there are so many good things to watch right now. Part of the appeal of many of the shows I watch is the strong leading lady. It used to be that such strong women on TV were few and far between. Of course, the ‘90s gave us Dana Scully and Buffy Summers, two monoliths of TV womanhood. But to my knowledge there has never been a time when so many women dominated the tube. And the great thing about these leading ladies is that they are such diverse characters – gone are the days of the token strong-willed woman trying to eke out a living among the boys. Here are some ladies of note.

  • Dr. Temperance Brennan (aka Bones, of Bones) – Leader of squints and lover of guns, she’s a highly objective scientist who blows away the stereotype of the overly emotional woman.
  • Annie Walker (of Covert Affairs) – This rookie CIA agent doesn’t need a partner to take down the bad guys in her way. She’s spunky and fresh, not your typical tough girl, and she’s a one-woman wolf pack.
  • Fiona Glenanne (of Burn Notice) – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You build bombs. You rescue boys. You kill bad guys. You have impeccable style. You have such a sharp sense of humor.  And I love the way you say, “Shall we shoot them?”
  • Debra Morgan (of Dexter) – She’s hot mess when it comes to the opposite sex, and she’s got a mouth like a sailor. In seasons past, her vulnerability bordered on annoying, but this year she has really come into her own.
  • Liz Lemon (of 30 Rock) – LL is the funniest woman on TV, simply put. She’s a proud nerd who’s not afraid to admit to wearing a bathing suit as underwear. Need I say more?
  • Margene Heffman, Nicki Grant and Barb Henrickson (of Big Love) – Three very different women (who I am counting as one, polygamist girl crush), married to one man. In four seasons, each has shown strength of character and vulnerability. The complexities of their relationships to one another go beyond the challenges of polygamy, and delve into the differences between each one’s ideas of what it means to be a woman, wife and mother.
  • Caroline Forbes (of Vampire Diaries) – Not the obvious choice from this show (that would be the main star, Elena), but I really like Caroline. And what’s more, I think she’s a good example for young ladies. Last year, she was shallow and mean. But over time, her character grew (and changed into a vampire) into a much deeper person capable of true friendship, love and compassion. This season, she has weathered her change with grace, and even stepped up to the plate to help Tyler handle his own change. She’s a nice example of how a young woman can transcend the cliques, gossip and stereotyping of high school.
  • Olivia Dunham (of Fringe) ­ – Olivia is a smart agent who follows her instincts. She not only solves mysteries in our world, she crosses to other universes as well. She is a fascinating character, capable of great emotional depth as well as detachment.   
  • Myka Bering (of Warehouse 13) – Myka left her gig with the Warehouse at the end of last season following the debacle with H.G. Wells. But if you ask me, the empathy she showed for H.G.’s loss added a new dimension to her previously businesslike demeanor. But don’t get me wrong – I have always appreciated her focus on being the best agent she can be, and putting that before her personal feelings.
  • Pam Swynford De Beaufort (of True Blood) – Again, not the obvious choice, which would be Sookie Stackhouse. However, I just love Pam. Classy and ruthless, she is equally commanding in the pleather Fangtasia costumes as she is in her two-piece pink suits.

Dear Thursday TV,

Elena escaped the clutches of Elijah, but this is just the beginning.

This note is to thank you for an utterly satisfying evening.

First, you served up a fresh episode of The Vampire Diaries on The CW, complete with a brand new villain, Elijah (after all, Katherine needs to cool off in the tomb for at least an episode). Not just any villain, he’s a super sexy, seemingly invincible vampire with a seriously cruel streak. And you gave us a very bittersweet scene between Damon and Elena, a scene that we’ve been waiting for since these two met. Swoon. To top it off, you gave us a blossoming romance between Jeremy and Bonnie as well as a newfound bond between Caroline and Tyler.

Second, you gave us new episodes of 30 Rock and The Office. What can I say? If I had to pick my favorite character on TV, it would be Jack Donaghy. He needs DIHC, and he’ll take it any way he can get it.

Then, you served up one of the best episodes of Fringe to date. Olivia began what promises to be an arduous journey home, with Peter as her spirit guide. Nowhere is the expertise of the show’s writers more evident than in an episode like this – which seamlessly weaves together overarching mythology with a single-episode storyline. In this case, Olivia and the Fringe team investigate someone who broke out of the amber, only to find that twin brothers have pulled the classic switcheroo, thereby leading Olivia to consider the possibility that she has switched places with her doppelganger.

Lastly, you ended the night with a new episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I have yet to watch it, but I know it will be funny, so thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

Your ever-devoted, Thursday-night, couch-potato friend, Andrea

TGIT

Jack Donaghy, Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for General Electric.

                          Thank God it’s Thursday. All week long, I keep busy by going to the gym, watching re-runs of NCIS on USA Network, and catching up with Burn Notice on DVD through Netflix. It’s a pretty sweet existence, to be sure, but I’m always waiting. For what, you ask?

Waiting for Thursday at 8 p.m., when The Vampire Diaries starts and a full night of great TV begins. In addition to finding out what’s going on in Mystic Falls, tonight I’ll be tuning in for The Office, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Jersey Shore (no judging).

Fringe, another great Thursday night show, is taking a break for the World Series and won’t be back until next week. If the previews are any indication, the real Olivia might finally escape the alternate reality and face her doppelganger. Wow – just re-reading that sentence makes me feel like I have finally reached the pinnacle of Mount Nerd. Nevertheless, it’s an amazingly good show.

30 Rock is also taking a break tonight, presumably to make time for something NBC calls “Scared Shrekless.” Sounds like a most unworthy replacement to me. Speaking of 30 Rock, could it get any funnier? A week later, and I’m still laughing about Jack’s line, “I have to go tell Rachel Maddow that only one of us can have this haircut.” And the live episode from two weeks ago was pure genius.

Mea culpa and fall TV

Fringe is back for another great season, along with a host of other shows.

It’s been a long time, and I have to apologize for my absence from Remotely Entertaining. With a full lineup of fall TV, a tidal wave of work and more than a few social calls, it’s been tough to find time to write in the last couple weeks. Kudos to my co-blogger, Mark, for keeping things fresh.

Wow! What a fall lineup we have. Here’s what I’m loving:

  • Fringe – Every season seems better than the last. Last week’s premiere delved into Olivia’s predicament on the other side, and set the stage for another very interesting season. In interviews, I’ve heard the show’s writers say that they intend to fully develop the alternate characters, rather than simply setting them up as ne’er do well dopplegangers. Next week, I’m hoping for a good monster of the week, as this show does mythology and one-off episodes equally good.
  • 30 Rock – You’re my pube shirt. Enough said.
  • Boardwalk Empire – We all knew this would be great, and guess what? It is. From the excellent cast (particularly Steve Buscemi) to the directing and writing to the costumes and sets, this show is nothing short of enthralling. It’s no surprise that after one episode, it was picked up for a second season.
  • Dexter – To be sure, it was a depressing first hour of Dexter on Sunday. With Rita gone, Dexter is definitely off his game. Deb is trying to pick up the pieces whilst sleeping with Quinn (who is quite nice, I might add), and the kids are a wreck. From week to week, I can never predict where this show is going, but I’m on the edge of my seat the entire time I’m watching.
  • Vampire Diaries – This show hit the ground running, and the twist of Caroline becoming a vampire is a great one. Also, I love that Damon continues to be a bad guy and I was genuinely shocked when he snapped Jeremy’s neck in episode one. The werewolf element is also promising, and the show has a unique mythology related to its supernatural elements.

Like I said, there’s lot to watch right now. I also have a few new and returning shows that I’m not loving as much, but I’ll save that commentary for another post.

Fringe: An A+ season finale

William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) and Walter Bishop (John Noble) try to create a jam to keep the door between worlds open on last night’s season finale of Fringe.

Blerg! I am still reeling from the season finale of Fringe. I have been saying for two years that I wish Olivia and Peter would develop a romantic connection, and just when they finally reveal their feelings for each other, Olivia’s doppelganger pulls the classic switcheroo. And now the real Olivia is locked in a cell with Walternate as her wicked warden. BLERG!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved this episode, and a good cliffhanger is an awesome way to end a season. I’m pretty sure that all Fringe fans were in nerd heaven the last two weeks with so much going on between the two worlds – I know I was. I just want more.

I was especially impressed by the development of William Bell’s character (played by Leonard Nimoy) in this episode. I remember an interview with Nimoy a few months ago in which he said if the role wasn’t beefed up, he wouldn’t be continuing it. Although I think last night may have been his final episode with the show, they definitely used it as an opportunity to humanize his character and resolve some long-standing issues in his relationship with Walter.

I was also glad that it wasn’t a “kiss and make-up” type of ending with Walter and Peter. They have a complicated relationship – they always have. And it would be unrealistic to easily forgive Walter’s transgressions. So it’s good that Peter is going to have to work through this betrayal on his own time. I think this relationship is the real heart of the show, and the moral tug-of-war between Walter’s mad scientist persona and his good-natured side continues to be intriguing.

I am curious if Olivia’s doppelganger is going to have a lengthy stay next season, or if Peter will figure it out right away. I sure hope he figures it out quick, but who knows how they are going to get back to the alternate universe without the real Olivia and the other cortexiphan kids. Blerg!