24 Season 7 episodes 1-5. Sara is right -- after season one every season of 24 is essentially a remake: Bauer is the one man who can save America, willing to go outside the law and torture to save everyone, some pansy liberals are trying to slow us down, there is a mole, main guys are undercover and hated even though they are trying to do the right thing, hard decisions are made in the line of trying to keep your cover to get to the main target. Season Five was the best season of 24, the one that worked the best, and I think it is time to go at this concept another way maybe. Still watchable, but dumb -- this has the makings of a bad season so far. I wish Tony had been the bad guy for longer, or the whole time. That had more legs. Also one of 24s main problems is they kill off likable characters faster than they replace them -- I am not sold on any of these new people. The best part of the show was always the RETURN OF X, and they have very few characters that can do that. Plus they do not want to lose the audience who has maybe not seen all the earlier seasons.
Battlestar Galactica's "A Great Notion." I usually hate stories that are unrelentingly grim, but this was so bleak I was laughing, as you would at black comedy or Beckett or gallows humor. Mostly I admired the fact that the writers were willing to take the idea of the 4.0 cliffhanger and spend a full episode dealing with the fallout. It was a good example of what Zizek calls the second death: you lose your civilization, but the full impact of that does not register until you lose the hope as well. (HIs example was of a woman whose husband dies -- she is actually handling it ok, until their beloved dog dies as well). One thing BSG does really well is COMMIT. The acting was superb -- apparently Olmos went around depressing everybody about how the show was not going to survive the upcoming writers strike, not because he believed it was true but to aid everyone in capturing a bleak mindset for their characters. He also ad libed the "main vein" line, which is stunning. I love this show -- it is not a guiltly pleasure, or even, I would argue a geeky one -- because it puts character and acting first, and in this regard has more in common with the Wire and Deadwood than Star Trek or Star Wars or Star Gate or Star Whatever. I found the advance of the mythology to be a little weak, which may be my fault -- they introduced major shifts in the status quo by revealing the fifth Cylon and discovering that the 13th colonies were organic Cylons, but, because I was a little in the dark on what the status quo was in the first place (I had to remind myself what the status of the 13th colony was in their minds -- quasi-Biblical myth?) some of the impact was lost. I think the writers wanted me to be stunned by the revelations, but I was more scratching my head.
LOST, Season 5, Episodes 1-2. Since the last season of Lost ended I have seen all of The Wire, the Sopranos, and most of Deadwood, and all of BSG. I think those shows are so good, the robbed me of some of my LOST enthusiasm. I enjoyed the start of Season 5 basically and it had some great moments -- "Why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch?" Hurly throwing a Hot Pocket at Ben, Hurley summarizing the events on the Island ("He had to push a button every 108 minutes or ... well I was never very clear on that"), the room in the basement of the church with the 70s computer at the Foucaults pendulum, Sun and Kate talking about Jin, Neil getting hit by a flaming arrow. The skipping record idea is a good one because it will allow us to get the history of the island -- maybe all the way back to the four toed statued by the end, and it promises to always give up something new, to shake things up constantly. But the dialogue in episode one was really bad -- especially with Halliwax in the cold open talking about time travel with the construction worker. "There are RULES" is weak sauce, especially since there sort of aren't and also because the rules are very much a writer's room problem that I would like to remain behind, but not IN, the actual dialogue. There were a lot of scenes of tension where you could not see someone's face but my group was calling out who it was correctly before they were revealed, even Anna Lucia. And I was not that invested in the emotional story of the lie because I was never super clear why they had to lie -- or how lying was supposed to protect the people back on the island from Widmore since the island moved. I thought the point about "Whatever Ben says, do the opposite" -- and they fact that it WORKED -- was dumb since the point of Ben's character is surely to anticipate that reaction and counter it -- say something that will make you do the opposite, make you think you are going against him, when doing the opposite is exactly what he wants. I was upset when he told the woman at the end he had lost Hurley -- sure he should have said "Hurly is locked up -- exactly where I want him [LOST logo; credits]." But my main problem with this season was that the goal seems wholly passive -- in order to save everyone on the island, the have to get to the island -- and then just stand there? No one has even raised the question of "and then what." Ben indicates they will never come back but what they are supposed to do there is very unclear -- and if I had more of a sense, or even a sense that any character cared about the question, I could care about them more.
By the way, since several viewers are unclear on this -- the old woman was Mrs Hawking from Desmond's time travelly flashback in Season 3 episode 8. I am also putting money on her being Daniel's mom.
UPDATE: I forgot something funny Brad said to me on the phone: "So if a person is standing next to a tent when they movie in time the tent disappears but their clothes stay and also if you give someone a compass then that goes with them?" This could be a complaint but this kind of pulpy silliness I have come to LOVE from Lost -- it is typified in the Constant, which I am starting to think is the quintessential Lost episode in the way it uses time travel sci fi to just tell a love story and does not get hung up on how it would actually work.