Category Archives: TV

Boss (tv review)

A rare and incurable brain disease. An ambitious journalist snooping too deep. A Native burial ground blocking the expansion of the O’Hare airport. Schools hiding mouldy walls and ceilings. An estranged family.

This, all in one of the mayor of Chicago’s days.

Seems interesting? Starz just started broadcasting a new show called Boss.

The first episode sets out a deep and complex plot that has much promise. Municipal politics has never been so captivating.

The main character, Tom Kane (played by excellent Kelsey Grammer), is the kind of person you love to hate. Despite a deep love for his city, he’s had to compromise with the private sector to keep the city (and his career) going.

In the background, there’s his family: his cold but ambitious wife and a caring daughter (a priest and drug addict) who’s the only one to see something’s wrong with her dad.

The episode gets all these plot points across in the space of an episode and hints at further complications. There’s a ton of new TV out there but I think this one is worth it. It has already been renewed for a second season.

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Revenge (review)

It might be a coincidence that I picked up Le Comte de Monte-Cristo at about the same time as the TV show Revenge started on air, 4 weeks ago.

Revenge is about Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne, a woman whose father was wrongly imprisoned and who, after getting out of the mental institution, goes on a quest to avenge her father.

Set in the fashionable and wealthy Hamptons, Revenge is obviously a remake of Monte-Cristo… and yet it’s not a bad thing. The format of television is perfect for stories that require a bit more time to develop, and I’m liking the show a lot so far.

The actors are convincing as people who all have something to hide. From Emily who’s living under a new identity, to Nolan who knows who Emily really is, to the Grayson family who all have pretty big skeletons in their closets.

Revenge on this scale is a slow process and the pace of the show depicts that perfectly. Every one of Emily’s moves are calculated, every word she says part of a plan. The story arc is well established from the first episode on–the role of the show is to fill us in. I really enjoy shows that have a particular story to fulfill: it helps maintain the focus on what’s really important.

After a month, I’m still very much liking the show; and as I am reading Monte-Cristo along (in French, too, thank you very much), I can see how the writing team adapted the novel to modern life while maintaining the basic premise: what’s the ultimate cost of revenge?

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Pan Am (television review)

After 2 episodes of Pan Am, my overall impression can be described as the happier, more innocent version of Mad Men.

You need to be in a certain frame of mind to be able to watch Mad Men, but there’s no such need for Pan Am. The cinematography looks like the cover of a magazine (which I think underlies the importance of the Life number that starts it all) and the characters are easy to get to know, bubbly and charming.

I also appreciate any American production that features Québec actresses (in this case Karine Vanasse) and find great pride in seeing people from home successful in a market outside Québec.

There are good things about the show: it embodies the hopeful side of the 60s, with better and faster communication around the world and the space race. There’s a somewhat “hit-you-over-the-head” female empowerment message (“this is a new breed of women”) and the men are slightly less misogynistic than in Mad Men.

However, the female empowerment thing sometimes feels a bit vapid and artificial, a little like the stewardesses; despite the show’s best efforts to put interesting and relevant stories forward, I still need a bit more depth from the characterization. Everyone, especially the ladies, sometimes do feel like magazine covers.

I haven’t given up on it yet, but I expect to see some more interesting stories and bit more challenge to the women empowerment theme–this week has provided some of it (with the always frank Christina Ricci), but really fails to grapple with the real issues behind gender inequality.

For your entertainment, here’s a 1958 video featuring the iconic waitresses and selling the new clipper jet (which is the clipper jet our four fictional stewardesses work on):

What are your thoughts about Pan Am?

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Terra Nova (s1ep01-02) (review)

I’m a sucker for science-fiction, so when I heard about Terra Nova, I couldn’t pass it up. The idea of humans living among dinosaurs is an old one (at least as old at H.G. Wells) and Terra Nova puts a new twist on it.

Plot

In 2149, when the planet is so polluted that people cannot even breathe freely anymore, scientists find a tear in the fabric of space and time (why isn’t the Doctor there?) and are sending people back to the Cretaceous period of an alternate-reality Earth to start human civilization anew. Dinosaurs and a group who broke away from the main colony (known as “sixers” from being of the sixth group of colonists) are the main dangers on this new paradise.

The show follows one family, the Shannons, whose father Jim (Jason O’Mara) escaped prison to join them on Terra Nova and whose parents broke the law by having a third child. Freed from sanctions because of Elizabeth’s (Shelley Con)–the mother–skills as a doctor, they try to put their broken family back together on that new and strange world.

Here’s a sneak peek of next week’s episode, “Instinct”:

 

Review

The characters seem interesting even if I don’t quite feel attached to them yet. The leader of the colony, Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) seems a weird and not quite believable mix of a military man and an idealist. Although he doesn’t shirk from using weapons, he’s a bit too hopeful to my taste.

The Shannons are a bit too stereotypical for now (although I suspect that this will change): the mother is a motherly doctor who takes care of the poor, the father is a cop who likes to break the rules, the eldest son is a rebel who doesn’t like to admit that he’s just like his dad and the daughter is a budding scientist (who will probably end up being super important in unraveling the mysteries surrounding the strange markings on the rocks of Terra Nova).

The special effects are good enough but lack finish. The dinosaurs are nice (we’re FAR from Jurassic Park!), but the landscape scenes are too obviously fake. The “save the kids” plot was a bit too predictable, but there’s the seeds of a good story arc that unfortunately reminds me a bit (too much) of Outcasts (sadly cancelled).

In fact, Terra Nova seems to me like an alternate version of Outcasts: instead of another planet, it’s an alternate universe; there are no dinosaurs in Outcasts but there are strange wind storms; there’s a group who broke away from the main colony, and there’s a mystery embedded in the rock of the planet.

I’m going to keep watching because I like sci-fi, but I hope this isn’t going to become Outcasts US.

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Downton Abbey (s2e01)

If you haven’t heard of Downton Abbey, you must know it was all the rage last year as the first season gathered 9.2 million viewers in England alone (and achieved success in the US as well when it was broadcast on PBS).

In a nutshell, the plot concerns the life of a landed family and its household in Edwardian England. Featuring amazing actors such as Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Penelope Wilton, the show had immediate appeal to my and my roommate back in Edmonton, as we were both Victorianists.

 

Critics have raved about the show; it snatched the title of most critically acclaimed show away from Mad Men.

As period dramas go, Downton Abbey is near perfect: gorgeous costumes, absolutely wonderful acting and beautiful writing. However, it has been criticized for being overly conservative and for celebrating passé British values such as imperialism, status quo and the old idea of “everyone in his place”. It does sanitize and beautiful a rather ugly period of history where the aristocracy was desperately trying to keep its ascendency over the new commerce and liberal classes. I admit that I see a lot of this; the big problems of the late Victorian period are sugar coated by putting the setting in the countryside instead of the city.

Last year, the show ended rather dramatically as England declares war on Germany to start the First World War. The first episode starts with scenes of the trenches in the midst of a battle.

Mary’s situation has worsened now as a marriage with Matthew, the heir to the Grantham estate, is out of the question. He shows up at Downton with his new fiancée, a lawyer’s daugther from London. Sybil decides to become a nurse and participate in the war efforts in an attempt to relieve her family of taking care of her financially.

There wasn’t much about Edith this week, except her usual bitchiness and her inept driving. There are new domestics and the usual upstairs-downstairs shenanigans. O’Brien is still the same old bitter lady’s maid hungry for power, even without Thomas who’s gone off to war.

I hope this year’s season keeps up with the quality television we had last year. I’ll keep up with the show and post reviews from time to time!

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This Week on TV–Part 1

So if you don’t already know, I watch a lot of TV. Even though I’m more or less keeping to my diet during the week, I catch up on Friday nights and weekends because I can hardly bear to not be up to date when a new week starts.

This post is going to be pretty long because it’s a general overview of the week, but I’ll be a bit more choosy as weeks go and focus on particular shows.

Three of my favourite summer shows are winding down to an end: Alphas, Eureka and Warehouse 13.

Alphas  took a while to get used to, but I’m really starting to get attached to the characters. The storyline arc with Red Flag shows a lot of promise and I’m curious to see more characters crossing between Warehouse 13 and Alphas.

Everyone who watches the show know that Eureka has unfortunately been cancelled. And as much as I enjoy the lighthearted tone and the great chemistry between the actors, I wasn’t as interested in it as I used to be. The mission to Astraeus just seems, I don’t know, trivial. No big enemy to fight anymore, and the secret of their jump to the past is more or less out.

Warehouse 13 remains one of the most interesting sci-fi I’ve seen since Battlestar Galactica. I got in the show while it was in its second season and I’ve developed an interest in the characters. As a Victorianist I love the steampunk aesthetics and how objects don’t need to be alien to be powerful. The new story arc involving Pete’s mother (named Jane, I suppose as a wink to the actress being Janeway from Voyager) and the guy named Sykes who wants to take the Warehouse down seems interesting. I hope it carries on next season.

I don’t watch Hawaii 5-0 with much attention but I’m glad that things have been cleared up and corrected and that the team is now back together. The ending twist was shocking! Let’s see what happens this fall!

I didn’t really like Charlie’s Angels. I don’t know, maybe it’s because the idea of a mysterious man controlling three hot women bothers me. I was bored after 10 minutes. The acting was superficial and the story slim. I didn’t care about the ladies at all, nor did I care about their “mission”. I don’t think I’ll be watching again.

Glee is starting to get on my nerves. Last year’s “theme of the week” structure really lost me and the premiere fell a little flat. Rachel still wants to be a superstar, Finn is still kind of a loser and Quinn’s “transformation” just doesn’t ring true. I think I might give it up this season.

I’d heard some interesting things about New Girl on Twitter this week and the buzz wasn’t wrong: it’s a quirky, funny show that’s well-written and amazingly acted by Zooey Deschanel. I really want to get to know her more and see her navigate the waters of single life!

The Fades is a new British show that also has a supernatural element, although I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s dark and deals with death–those who pass and those who are stuck on Earth. British television takes a bit longer to develop, but it seems promising.

Now if you don’t watch Community yet, you should totally get on that. I’ve been in love with the show since I started watching it. It lost a bit of its steam last year but I have high hopes that it’ll be interesting this year again. This week’s premiere was stranger than usual (and Community is a bit strange most of the time) with references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and a musical number à la Glee as an opener, but I’ve heard between the branches that there might be a Jeff and Annie romantic story this year… stay tuned!

Two new sitcoms caught my eye: Up All Night and Free Agents. Up All Night is about new parents, where the mom is the one working and the dad stays at home. Hilarity ensues as daddy (played by Will Arnett) tries to be a good dad and the mother manages the narcissistic and attention-whory star of the women talk-show she produces. As for Free Agents, what I really like about it is the sharp writing. Happening in the world of PR, where first impressions are paramount, I appreciate the sarcastic “behind the scenes” approach.

Since there are a lot of other shows this week, I’ll write up the rest in a second post for tomorrow. What did you think about the new premieres this week? Anything caught your attention?

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The TV Diet: Day 5

I didn’t update my TV diet last night, and I’m sorry about that. It was for an excellent reason though: I got a call from a very old friend whom I hadn’t spoken to in 11 years. That trumps TV and blogging so much.

In the end though I didn’t get to watch that much TV. I watched Thursday’s Big Brother and an episode of Craig Ferguson, but that’s about it. I’d just started Burn Notice when I got the call.

Lesson 3: TV is never as good as real people

Television sometimes become such a big presence in our lives that they end up replacing human interactions. We can have them by proxy, watching others’ scripted love, friendship or hate stories and imagine ourselves in whichever one we like best. It’s not real life.

So now that it’s the weekend I am allowed to binge as much as I want to, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do right now.

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