Television, The Drug of The Nation

Okay, so we’re now several weeks into this year’s fall television season and I’m honestly disappointed. I rarely watch the thing to begin with, having only one or two shows that inspire, entertain and engage me, but this year I decided to make an effort and see what all was out there and I’ve come back feeling somewhat empty. It’s all fluff. There really isn’t anything new this year that is compelling, original or even remotely funny. I find myself blasé about the whole thing.

Of the new shows that I’ve bothered to watch that originally caught my eye when I was looking at the previews, none have managed to even remotely live up to their potential.

Reaper – The show about a twenty-something loser who finds himself working for the devil as a bounty hunter is annoying, lame and unfunny. Most of all it’s been done before and done better. The show was called Brimstone and had a similar premise albeit darker theme and an absolutely brilliantly devilish portrayal (pun intended) by Jon Glover (Lionel Luther on Smallville if you kids need a scorecard). That show had great portrayals by great actors and a deep engaging story that was ahead of it’s time in regards to multi-arc storylines (such as we see today on Lost and Heroes). Reaper is just a pale, watered down fascimile of that story blended poorly with an half-assed caricature of the the slacker mentality “plaguing today’s youth”.

The best friend of the main character is so over-the-top in his slacking ethic that it’s a shock that he ever finished grade school let alone high-school. He’s a caricature at best and he has an annoying co-dependent personality that makes me want to kick the living shite out of him for the next thousand years. The Devil is a bad cross between George Hamilton with a really fake tan (which is saying something for Mr. Hamilton), a Mafia Don and a Vegas Lounge Act. Not an ounce of unique personality to be found at all. Gah… the less I say the better.

Next we move on to the remake of the Bionic Woman. It is just another attempt at the everyman becomes super-spy genre. It has a pedigree of course, a popular 70s television series that could serve as a strong story link or source material but it seems that in re-inventing the show they’ve pretty much disregarded most if not all of it. Unlike Battlestar which had the same late seventies sci-fi campiness about it and embraced the plot while re-inventing it, Bionic woman just steals the name and that’s it. Gone are the cool sound effects while running. Gone is the whole mystique about cyborgs and artificial limbs. With the leaps and bounds of modern technology, what was portrayed in the old series as wishful thinking at best in the new show just comes across as maybe something that is quite plausible 20 minutes into the future. It’s lost it’s edge. After we’ve seen Robert Patrick morph in the T-1000, A girl with some fancy fake attachments just doesn’t seem all that special anymore… And I’m sure that the cosmetic surgery subculture and our increasing acceptance of body modification has also played it’s part.

In my opinion, about the only thing going for this sad remake is Michelle Ryan, the leading actress. Namely because she’s damn good looking, but I also know she’s got some good acting chops as I last saw her in that wonderful British show known as Jekyll. Sure it has Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar) as an evil bionic woman, but it just seems like she’s wasting time till the next episode of Battlestar starts shooting.

Next we move on to Journeyman. About a modern day reporter who involuntarily leaps through time and alters other peoples lives for the better. The show tries. It really does and I give it credit for that but it just hasn’t grabbed me yet. I’m still waiting for reasons and explanations that aren’t forthcoming. The overall plot just plods along and we’re left watching the debris of a marriage falling apart because of a husbands unreliability and a guy who leaps through time and manages to talk to his time-travelling ex-fiance who won’t tell him shit. It’s very frustrating. It has potential, but it needs to pick up the pace. Right now it’s just a poor man’s reimagined Quantum Leap without the humourous byplay between Sam and Al.

There are two shows that while not 100% perfect are, in my opinion, slightly better. I’ve been enjoying Chuck and Pushing Daisies

Chuck is another slacker/loser twenty-something working in a Best Buy clone store who just happens to have all the information in the spy agencies of the US subliminally imprinted into his brain when his ex college roommate emails it to him. Another everyman turn spymaster tale. This one manages to convey the 20 something apathy a little more realistically and has a little better characterisation. It still has one really annoying factor that makes me want to drop kick it into next week… the best friend. Again the portrayal is way too over the top and while not a slacker as the Reaper sidekick is, he’s desperately co-dependent on the main character. I can understand some level of this to justify character interaction and motive but it just seems that it’s taken to an extreme. He’s got a full on man-crush on his best friend and I keep on waiting for them to strip down and start quoting sam and frodo love sonnets to each other. No human being can be that blind to the situation. I’m a geek. I know geeks. None of us would ever be that stupid. After the first awkward moment and realization we’d accept the rejection and adapt. The guy is a fucking idiot.

The rest of the cast is actually pretty enjoyable to watch though. The titular hero has a healthy balance between geek awkwardness and regular adult and his two handlers are equally up to the task, the female CIA agent posing as his girlfriend, is the typical geek guy’s dream and she plays well with the geek with a goddess for a girlfiend dynamic. My personal favourite though is his other Handler an NSA agent played by Adam Baldwin (that’s Jayne from Firefly kids). He rocks. He’s got that same sort of smarmy cockiness that Jayne had and he plays well off the others, often coming up as the dopey straight man. Hell, I even like Chuck’s well-meaning older sister. She humanizes him and makes him more believable as a person (plus she’s pretty nice to look at). It’s just that sidekick that…. Gaaaaah!

Pushing Daisies is just odd. It’s a fantastical tale about a man with the ability to bring the dead back to life. There are rules of course, 1 touch gives life, another permanent death and if he brings something back for more than 60 seconds then something else has to die instead. It’s a surreal tale complete with narration, anally accurate depictions of people’s age (to the second) and a vibrant colour palette that just makes the whole thing quirky and odd. The Piemaker (as the main character is referred to as) solves crimes with his friend, a detective by bringing them back to life and asking them who killed them, or what they did with the investments, etc.. He also has to deal with his childhood sweetheart whom he returned to life and is deeply in love with but can never touch, for fear of making her dead again.

At first I thought the show was just odd and not really worth my time. The bright, surrealist colours seemed to put me off and I just wasn’t sure if the premise would work but the more I watch the more intrigued I am. I can’t say I am hooked as there is something about it that I still find off putting but it’s interesting enough for the moment. I’ll just have to wait and see.

So on the whole this season’s crop is poor at best so for right now I’m sticking with Heroes and waiting for next spring to bring me new seasons of Lost and Battlestar.

4 thoughts on “Television, The Drug of The Nation

  1. No. You’re waiting for spring to bring you new episodes of the Doctor, because nothing else comes close.

    Seriously though, I’ve never seen a minute of either Lost or Battlestar. And I haven’t started watching the new season of Heroes yet.

    And I haven’t started watching Jekyll or Life on Mars either.

    What’s wrong with me??

  2. Actually it’ll probably be the second season of Torchwood before the Fourth of Doctor Who, but either would be fine with me. One might even say FANTASTIC!

    If you’ve a choice between Lost and Booblestar (I still call it that), go with the latter. Lost was good the first season but the second fell a little flat in my opinion. I think because it almost became too labyrinthine and there was too much build up and not enough follow through on plot threads.
    Battlestar on the other hand, just delivers straight up. Semi-hard science and the brutal reality of interstellar survival against a seemingly insurmountable foe of your own making. Plus the cast is great. Don’t think about the old series, just go into it with open eyes and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I had preconceived notions when I first watched it and at first I came away disappointed, but then I rewatched it and I saw the amazingness that was the Battlestar. It’s worth it.

    As for LoM and Jekyll. You’re a wanker. You NEEEEEEED To watch both already. Get off yer arse and do so.

  3. Yeah, I was gonna mention Torchwood, but I couldn’t remember how impressed you had been with it.

    I doubt that I would go into Battlestar with any preconceived notions, as I’m not exactly a die-hard fan of the old series (though Face as Starbuck (or vice versa) was very cool).

    And yeah, I do need to watch those series. But then, I haven’t watched anything lately.

  4. I liked Torchwood. The early episodes were just that, early episodes but it gained a decent cohesion near the end. Plus the second season is to have 3 or 4 episodes with Martha in it so it’ll be somewhat interesting.

    What I wasn’t a huge fan of was the Sarah Jane Adventures, namely because there was no K-9. Well that and it was overly simplistic, saccharine crap. Sonic Lipstick? WTF!

    I really keep hoping that Dirk Benedict will guest on the new BSG because you’re right. Face is damn skippy. Sadly I doubt that will happen because of his long standing feud (read: loathing) with Richard Hatch (the original Apollo) who is on the show. Still I can hope.

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