Saturday, February 17, 2007

TV: Week in Review

Lost has never been better than the last two episodes, both of which introduced new twists on the flashback structure. I also saw Studio 60 (maybe the best episode yet, but still nowhere near West Wing or Sports Night), Ugly Betty and 30 Rock. If people want to talk about this week's TV, including shows I should be watching, do it in the comments to this post. I will have a few words to say about Lost in the comments.


Geoff Klock said...

Oh, I also saw House.

Desmond’s ability to see the future is a great complement to the show’s structure, which uses flashbacks as he uses flash-forwards. This episode introduced a great twist on the flashback structure, as Desmond was AWARE he was flashing back, aware of the island and the hatch and so on. Last week we had a flashback of an Other, and now this. Lost is looking very fresh.

From a screenwriting standpoint, Lost is always great, but this one was especially great – a host of little details – the scotch, the football game, the guy with the cricket bat, the red paint, the photograph, the guy with the red shoes – all appear only to be called back later in important ways. Watch Back to the Future, considered to be one of the best screenplays of all time – that establish and call back thing is all over the place. It makes you feel like everything is important, structured, necessary, thought through.

The twist at the end of the episode about Charlie was, as Brad said to me, the very definition of “surprising but inevitable.” You don’t see it coming but when you see what it is it makes perfect sense. Unlike, say, Xorn is Magneto.

A quick word about Ugly Betty: Sara and I noticed how quickly secrets get revealed: at the end of last week’s episode Daniels mother admits to Betty she killed someone; at the top of this week’s one Betty tells Daniel. Betty is heartbroken because her guy is with someone else; she tells him in the middle of this episode rather than keeping it to herself. I cannot tell you how many times Sara and I watched Buffy and got frustrated with the way characters don’t say anything to one another, causing all these problems that would be solved if they just spoke out loud; on Studio 60, for example Jeeter should have just TOLD Lucy why he is cancelling on her, would have saved him some trouble. I know these secrets are there to build tension, but Betty manages to keep the tension up without frustrating me with people acting dumb.

Patrick said...

One of these days I'll give you my little analyis about Lost and Post-Modern narratives. Best after a couple of beers.

The highlight of my week was watching House pulling the tapeworm of the teenage girl. The episode two weeks ago was the best one since the season finale.

Geoff, do you ever find yourself loving fictional character as a character but utterly despise them as person? I'm like that with House.

Marc Caputo said...

I loved "Lost" this week for those reasons but others as well; it teases that the show could be turned on its head - like the show (which is now 1/2 way through its intended 5-year plan could soon be revealed to have a completely different agenda. When this show is great, I don't mind any twist - take me, I'm yours.

I'm still cautiously hesitant about "Studio 60" - I think I see where Sorkin's going and even if I'm wrong, he at least gives me 2/3 of an enjoyable show most weeks. I like how the show began with Matt at high point and Danny at his lowest - and now, subtly, almost, we've reversed that. I still think Christine Lahti's character is coming back to triangle up the Jordan/Danny thing, but even if not, I'm in for the long haul.

However, wasn't the "he's not really there" of the writer (Batali) a little ham-handed? I saw through it almost immediately. But then, I wondered: is it bad writing when I (who have spent MANY years watching and reading great writing) can figure stuff out?

Also, I subscribe to Warren Ellis' email/blog and he fired off one about TV - I thought he was hit or miss about things, but he's always fun to read. I'm going to forward the mail to you - you can do what you want with it; I don't want to hijack the posts.

Geoff Klock said...

Patrick: consider telling everyone your theory here; this post should be up once a week, so you can put it here when you feel like it. I sounds very interesting.

I am going to have to respectfully disagree with you about House: I thought the one from two weeks ago was one of the worst episodes of TV I have ever seen. It was like something out of "Monologues for Actors", like a exercise from a playwright, rather than an episode of television. I liked this week's ep a lot better.

I think House has a lot in Hamlet in that respect: a very bad guy, but readers love him.

Marc: it was Ham-Fisted. No way around it. I think everyone saw that when the girl said sometimes you see things that are not real, if not before then. That's just poor writing. Sorkin's audience is people who watch a lot of TV: that's why its a show about making a TV show.

Hijack the posts -- I think people would like to read Ellis on TV, since we are mostly comic book people.

Marc Caputo said...

To all: this is Warren Ellis' "Bad Signal" e-mail/blog on TV. You can subscribe to it through his website - I just did it (about 9 months back) for news on Planetary. He's fun to read in this context.

I'm getting heckled for not writing
these, now.

You'll note I also stopped talking
about American TV. At this point
in the season, almost everything
has lost me. I bailed on BATTLESTAR
but will come back for the season
end, where they usually pull their
shit together. I bailed on STUDIO
60, but then Fraction suggested I
look at the most recend one, so I
caught up, and, boy, was that a
mistake. I've got from disappointment
to just raging hatred of this show.
I went off at length about this to
Kelly Sue on The Engine, in the
But its hiatus has been moved
forward, and, you know, there's a
fair chance it'll never been seen
again, and I'm okay with that. The
sad thing is that Matthew Perry,
Amanda Peet, Brad Whitford and
Steven Weber are all terrific in it.
Sarah Paulson continues to make a
good fist of being wildly miscast and
having to spew the most ridiculous

The Sarah Silverman Program was

The ROME writers enjoy fucking with
those of us who know the history --
and even if you don't, the drawn-
out wait to find out if Atia would be
poisoned was marvellously done.
Vorenus losing his shit was a pure
joy: nothing that week stood up to
him destroying an icon and yelling
"I am a son of HADES! I fuck Concord
in her ARSE!" He's a superb
character study: he so wants to be
a good man, but his times and his
conservative Roman morals
absolutely prevent it. Pullo is an
animal with compassion. Vorenus is
a civilised man born without it. And
I have to say that David Bamber,
as Cicero, should get an award of
some kind this year. Like Richard
Schiff in WEST WING, he makes the
act of simply thinking an event of
intellectual sorcery. You can see
him sculpting sentences in his head
in real time. He's helped by some
fine writing, but there's some serious
acting muscle there.

The history's being compressed and
twisted a bit, sure. But so was

LIFE ON MARS' first series was a bit
too cute for me -- I bailed out 3
eps in -- so I haven't bothered with
the new series.

Couldn't get through the first ten
mins of the DRESDEN FILES pilot.

24's current season started off as
a truly maniacal piece of sf tv, but
has at this point fallen apart. I
expect to bail after I've watched the
most recent ep, unless they pull an
ingeniously tortured rabbit out of
a hat.

Geoff Klock said...

Thanks Marc

For the record, my feeling on the blog is this: the posts are mine, the comments yours. You cannot hijack the comments because they are yours to do what you want with. If you do something so horrible I have to delete you I will, but at this point I am not worried about that.

Dougie said...

I gave up on Lost mid-way through Season 2. I thought it was plotless,soporific and self-indulgent. If it had been about a mismatched group surviving a plane crash, I might have stuck with it but I got tired of black smoke and magic numbers.
The guy who plays Desmond performed with the same community theatre group that I work with

Marc Caputo said...

That guy is fantastic. There was a great piece of meta-text working last season. Cusick (who plays Desmond) had a 2-3 episode stint on 24. His name was Theo Stoller (umlaut understood) - an anagram for "The Lost role".


Pat Moler said...

For the past couple weeks House has been good, but not God like as it usually. This week's episode put it back on track, I feel. It wasn't anything shocking or innovated in the ep. Just a good ep. The last few before it have been decent, but were more experiment than anything, I thought. Trying new stuff and such.

Also, Does anybody else feel that Chase is very much like a young House? He's not as cynical and rude, but close. He has investigative skills second only to House. He had an unloving father. This similarity gives Irony to Cameron offering a strickly sexual relationship to Chase. Saying he's the least likely she fall in love with. Some what proving House was right when he said she was only attracted him because he was like a sick puppy.

I also watched Bones. Good, but not outstanding. I'd like to know when Stand Off is coming back. That show is good.

Oh, and off-topic I picked up a copy of the Best of Alan Moore from DC Comics. It includes 15 of his best stories while working for DC. Including the Killing Joke. You should check it out sometime.

Patrick said...

I liked "One Day, One Room" because it genuinely reflected a conflict of worldviews. The writers made neither Eve or House a staw man and didn't make either one "right."

I liked the irony at the end of the episode that while House got his way (she had the abortion), he admitted he wasn't sure he had done the right thing.

ZC said...

I was a bit bothered by the whole abortion/god argument in that episode of House, but that's mostly as an atheist teenager who wastes time on internet forums, so there were a few times where House would say make an argument and I'd just wince. Wow I sound pretentious.

Aside form that I liked that particular episdoe a lot. It was a bit clunky, since the writers were clearly trying something new (the episode was less medical and more character, which gleans no complaint from me).

Interestingly, 24 had a very "Xorn-Is-Magneto" reveal this season, revealing that Graham (did he show up before last season with the other bluetooth buddies?) is in fact Jack's brother. It sticks out as Xorn-Is-Magneto to me--a revelation so completely absurd, nonsensical, off the wall, etc, that it's in many ways a stroke of genius.

I always felt that the Xorn-is-Magneto reveal was one of THE best reveals in comics. Sure, under a fine microscope it falls apart, but to be honest I always thought Morrison sold it quite well when the reveal itself happened. "A man in an iron prison. A star for a brain? I kept thinking it was too obvious, but still you missed it." And in the world of monthly comics, tha'ts all that's really required, as far as I'm concerned.

Though I admit I am easy to please. Heh.

Madd_Hadder said...

I gave up on House during the horrid David Morse story-arc and Lost got annoying to watch because I just got to frustrated, but I find that on DVD it is so much more fun to watch.

I can't understand the appeal of Ugly Bette just yet, but I have only seen a few episodes. This weeks episode was crazy predictible to the point I was saying exact dialogue before it happened.

I am willing to follow 24 where ever it goes because it has proven it can work its way out of really bad storylines.

I know I among the minority who really enjoys Studio 60 and I am ok with that.

Every week Veronica Mars becomes more and more a tv I am going to love for many years, either with new seasons or replaying on dvd.

I am also watching Heroes, Smallville, Supernatural, Bones and Grey's Anatomy.

Coligo said...

House, Betty and Lost are all shows I've tried on for size but they just don't fit me.

I'm with Madd_hadder on Studio 60, I continue to enjoy it and the latest episode really worked for me.

I suppose I should also admit to be one of those sadomasichists who keeps watching Heroes everyweek. It's good fun but its popcorn tv, I am suprised J.M.S hasn't called t ask exactly how much they liked Rising Stars though.

I'm watching Scrubs season six too, but I'm having increasing trouble. Like last season it seems to be really inconsistent even within the same episode, scenes of utter tosh followed by something of pure brilliance. Its a shame because Scrubs used to be must watch TV.

Matt Brady said...

Warren Ellis is right on the money with Rome. It's been great this season. And I agree that the guy who plays Cicero is one of the best parts of the show. You can see my blog for more commentary.

Somebody mentioned Veronica Mars, which I'm resisting watching because I don't want to get obsessed, but my wife loves it and convinces me to watch every once in a while. I'm impressed by how accessible the show is to people like me who have watched very little of it. Good writing. And, I gotta say, I hope she breaks up with her boyfriend (again). That guy is a tool.

Geoff, did you see that Joss Whedon directed this week's episode of The Office? He didn't write it though. It wasn't really any different than most episodes of the show, but there were some vampire references. Interesting (and funny!).

Geoff Klock said...

ZC: we will be looking at the Xorn is Magneto twist in the issue by issue analysis. I am not a big fan as you may have figured out.

Matt Brady: No I did not know that Whedon directed the Office. I am going to have to check that out.

neilshyminsky said...

maybe it's too late to respond about Lost, but while i liked the episode for structural reasons, i disliked the bit about death and desmond's inability to beat it. this is the plot to an absolutely horrid string of teen-horror flicks called Final Destination. the explanation that the woman (who i always refer to as 'Data's mom', since that was her role in Star Trek:TNG) gave actually sounded like it could have been lifted directly from one of those movies. so that irked me somewhat.

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: yeah, I noticed that too, and it bothered me initially as well. Final Destination is especially bad because so many of my students think it is the best series of horror movies of all time. But Lost pulls from all kinds of bad sources, so I will forgive it for now. It all depends on what they do with it I guess.

James said...

Lost: Wow, loving this season (it feels like a new season since coming back from hiatus). Desmond feels very Doctor Manhattan now. Since his ability to tell the future in the flashback comes from having lived the events before, does this mean he's now lived his entire life? It's great to have twists on the flashback structure, which were starting to feel stale and arbitrary - the latest episode was almost entirely spent in a flashback within a flashback, and I didn't mind one bit. I enjoyed all the allusions this week; we got the Matrix, Lord of the Rings, the Wizard of Oz, and "You're a good man Charlie (Brown)*".

Trying (and failing) to impress a lover's father - usually involving employment by the father - is becoming a recurring theme. We've seen it with Jin, Charlie and now Desmond. Anyone I missed? I wonder if it's coincidence, accidental self-plagiarism, a personal issue for one of the writers, or something that's gonna pay off later.

*"Brown" is slang for heroin. I'm probably reaching, but still... fun.

Studio 60: I've just caught up with (nearly) all the episodes since hiatus. I'll hold off on critiquing the whole show until I'm up-to-date, but there's some good points in this thread. The keeping of secrets is indeed frustrating and infuriating (and something Lost has been especially guilty of in the past - mysteries are artifically extended because the jerks on the island don't collate their info). The Tom and Lucy thing was ridiculous sitcom/Saved by the Bell out-of-character idiocy. Tom lied to Lucy just because Chandler told him too, like Ross lied to Rachel just because Chandler told him too. Stupid!

The other recent story that annoyed me was the Simon Stiles/Darius thing. If we were supposed to be on Simon's side (as Chandler's complicity would suggest), then Sorkin completely screwed it up. It doesn't matter whether his stance is valid or not, he conducts himself like a complete wanker. It doesn't help that D.L. Hughley is the weakest cast member, but it's largely the (overly cautious?) oblique script. Also, isn't Stiles rewriting history when he keeps claiming to have given Darius his shot? Stiles took Chandler to the club, but it was Chandler who wanted Darius, right? I may have that wrong.

Whew, this post is late and long. Sorry!

[Repeated references to Matt Albie as "Chandler" are purely to annoy Coligo. Love you, buddy!]

James said...

Oh yeah, Lost again: The return of "Make Your Own Kind Of Music" was very nice.

sara d. reiss said...

studio 60 can suck it. it has become so tedious and predictable that I have started focusing on parts of the plot that , in a normal sorkin world, wouldn't bother me. Like the utter unprofessionalism (not to mention left-field randomness) of that blond lawyer chick and the tenuousness of that whole plot. Because she was stuck in there so obviously as another roadblock in the "matt and harriet show" her entire existence bothered me. No wait, the whole show is bothering me. There isn't a single character left on that show that doesn't piss me off...