Category Archives: Tv Show Reviews

My-So-Called-Life Series Review

 

Today, shows about teenage life seem to be a dime a dozen.  A few are good, but most are mediocre or worse.  In 1994 however such shows were a rarity.  Besides the excellent Wonder Years, there was the so-bad-its-good Saved By the Bell and the super soapy Beverly Hills 90210. Then in 1993, Winnie Holzman, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz came up with something truly original: A show that delved much deeper into what it means to grow up in the most turbulent years of your life. Instead of corny dialogue, pretty faces and window-dressing locales, the show would focus on the day to day big and small problems that we all deal with at that age.

My-So-Called-Life follows the exploits of 15 year old Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and right from the beginning, we are introduced to a character we can all relate to.  Angela isn’t perfect and the show never makes her out to be.  She has her faults, but they are ones we can all identify with. As it happens, there have been some major changes in Angela’s life.  In an attempt to start redefining herself, she’s dyed her hair  “Crimson Glow”, pushed aside her best friend Sharon (Devon Odessa), and has started hanging out with perpetual outsiders Rayanne (A.J. Langer) and Rickie (Wilson Cruz)

Transition is probably the word that best describes Angela’s life.   Along with branching out on the kind of friends she has, she’s also trying to figure out who she is and what her stance is on things in her life.  Her relationship with her parents have dramatically changed.   In her fathers eyes she has changed.  He no longer recognizes the young woman who’s breasts have come between them.  The young girl is gone,  replaced instead with someone beginning to test the limits of her independence.

Standing against the grain of this burgeoning independence is her mother Patty.  Though wonderfully played by Bess Armstrong, Patty comes across as a shrill mother and wife.  She’s her husband’s boss which has been causing a fair amount of problems in their marriage, to the extent that Graham is contemplating an affair.  As a mother, she’s constantly fixated on how Angela’s behavior is primarily meant to “provoke her”, whilst simultaneously hating that she is treating her daughter the same way her own mother treated her.  Daughters becoming their mothers is something brought up on more than one occasion in the series.

Of course there has to be a boy in Angela’s life.  His name is Jordan Catalano and Angela spends a fair amount of time just spying . . . errr I mean looking at him from a distance.  In Jordan, Angela has poured all of her romanticism and idealism which of course could never be lived up to by anyone.  It’s wonderful to see Jordan changes in her eyes as the series progresses.  He’s a mythical object for her affections that takes on real form, substance and faults.

Tinged with a sense of naïveté and whistfulness, Angela’s narration/internal monologue is at times funny, thoughtful, profound and best of all, her thoughts sounded like the those of a real teenager.  For many teenagers who watched the show, it felt like the writers were in their head.  It didn’t end with Angela’s narration either.  The dialogue was often intelligent and sharp but thankfully lacked the hyper-articulate verbal exchanges that would come to dominate Dawson’s Creek only a few  years later.

One of the best things about the show, and something that still is  not done well enough to this day, is showing parents as real people as opposed to caricatures.  Angela’s parents Patty and Graham were shown in a fair light, and due to Claire Danes work restrictions due to her age, the writers had to create bigger roles for the adults.  It became an an unexpected benefit.

We got a chance to see a real marriage on screen.  It wasn’t something from a Norman Rockwell painting.  It was messy, strained and full of pain.  Patty and Graham were probably happy once, but time, children and circumstances have dulled that happiness considerably.

For the most part there were no “after school special” episodes that dealt with hot button issues.  These issues were simply weaved into the everyday life of the characters which made for a much more satisfying and realistic experience.  For instance, Rickie was the first full time character who was bisexual, thought the series took great pains to make sure his depiction was realistically portrayed.

Whether it was Rayanne’s long-running battle with alcohol and drugs, Graham’s infidelity, or Angela’s newfound sexual awakening, the series kept everything grounded in realism.  More often than not these things were not the overt issues that other shows would have brought attention to.

My So-Called Life won four Emmy’s, but sadly lasted only one season.  The show went up against 4 top ten shows that year in it’s time slot and never got the backing from ABC it so richly deserved despite widespread critical acclaim.  In short, it was cut down way before it’s prime.  However, on the upside the show never jumped the shark.  It never stayed on the air too long.

My So-Called Life is by far the most realistic portrayal of teenage life I have ever seen whether were talking about the big screen or silver screen.  More shows would do well to examine the show and find a way to emulate or even blatantly rip off the show.  Although the “big issues” don’t hit as hard now because things like sex and homosexuality are far more common and accepted, they haven’t lost their overall impact and deft touch.

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Chuck: The Complete Third Season Review

*Spoiler Warning*

Anyone who watches chuck knows by now that we are lucky to have ever had a third season.  Although season two was a great season, the show failed to get back the viewers it had in it’s first season and the fate of the show rested with the fans.  To show their support, fans bought truckloads of Subway sandwiches and in doing so convinced NBC into renewing Chuck for another season.  Maybe that’s why season three feels like a love letter to the fans.  We gave everyone who works on the show another year of employment.

For those who may have forgotten, season two of Chuck ended with an Intersect-free Chuck deciding to upload Intersect 2.0 so he could be with Sarah.  He found out that without the Intersect, she would be reassigned and leave.  Now with the newly upgraded Intersect, the real surprise at the end was that Chuck could actually fight now.  In a homage to The Matrix, where needed skills were immediately uploaded into your brain, Chuck’s new Intersect allows him to do pretty much the same thing.  Need to know Kung-Fu?  Suddenly your a killing machine capable of taking out a dozen guys all by yourself.

This Chuck is no longer a liability, but at the end of the season Sarah asked Chuck to run away with her to be together.  So it’s a surprise when we see Chuck not with Sarah at the beginning of season 3, but washing out of CIA spy training in Europe.  He may have new abilities, but Chuck is still not really a spy.  Washing out sends Chuck back home where he seemingly spends months laying around the house while Ellie and Devon grow concerned.  He attempts to call Sarah who appears to be with a new man.  Is she reassigned?  No, it turns out she’s on a mission and undercover, but her resentment towards Chuck is evident.

Eventually however, the team forms again and resumes CIA missions but with a new member to the team.  Super agent Daniel Shaw(Brandon Routh) has been flown in to head the team to make it more efficient and to help turn Chuck into a real spy.  To do that he needs to ween Chuck off of Sarah and Casey.  Routh is excellent as a man of many talents and secrets, however his angle as a love interest for Sarah feels a bit forced at times.  As Shaw is introduced, we simultaneously get a new love interest for Chuck in Hannah(Kristen Kruek).  While Kruek and Levi have a nice chemistry together, Routh and Strahovsky don’t quite gel as nicely.

With only a 13 episode order for season 3, the producers and writers had little time to waste, so nearly all of the initial 13 episodes ranged from good to exceptional.  Early episodes dealt with Devon who learned about Chuck’s spy life last season, getting sucked into a mission and found that while it might be fun to imagine yourself as a spy, actually being one was far different.  We had Stone Cold Steve Austin guest star in a great episode titled “Chuck versus First Class” where he meets Hannah.

Throughout the season it’s obvious that there is more to the Shaw storyline than meets the eye.  In one of the best reveals in the shows history, early on Sarah recalls her “Red Mission”.  These are like the right of passage missions for agents in training because it’s the first mission in which they are assigned to kill someone.  Sarah fears that killing someone for the first time will change Chuck forever and tells Shaw about the worst day of her life when she had to kill a woman despite not wanting to.   The way the scene is presented, we assume it’s not meant to be anything more than a tie-in to Sarah’s fears for Chuck, despite knowing that Shaw’s wife was killed years ago on a mission.  The setup works perfectly and it’s revealed that Sarah’s mark was Shaw’s wife.  As you can imagine, when he eventually finds out, he takes it badly.

This big reveal illustrates that Shaw’s real purpose all season was in the creation of a bad guy.  After NBC decided to renew Chuck, an additional 6 episodes were ordered and Shaw, who was killed off in the original season finale was brought back in the same way as Agent Bryce was in season 1.   This time he was uploaded with the same Intersect as Chuck, and a true rival and villain was born.  It mirrors in many ways Lex Luthor’s gradual fall from grace.  The season long arc and storyline revolving around Shaw is very satisfying in it’s conclusion.  The great thing about it is that the writers hid it so well that it wasn’t until he turned bad that you could see the thread throughout the season.

One of the best things they did in season 2 was revealing Chuck’s secrets to Devon.  It began the blurring the line between Chuck’s spy life and normal life.   That blurring continues this season when Chuck is forced to tell Morgan his secret.  It’s been a long time coming and it is nice to see Chuck be completely open with his best friend.  Other than the Buy More friends, that leaves Ellie as the only major person in Chuck’s life who is still in the dark.

Among the other new and returning characters in season 3 are Mekenna Melvin as Casey’s unknown teenage daughter and Scott Bakula as Chuck’s father Steve Bartowski.

A big part of my love for season 3 is the long-awaited union of Chuck and Sarah.  When Shaw was first killed and the season was supposed to end, Chuck and Sarah finally came together.  However, with the extended season we got a chance to see them as a fully functioning couple despite the spy stuff.  That amazing chemistry that Levi and Strahovsky share really seems to bloom and shine even brighter somehow in the last third of the season.  The “will they, or won’t they” setup for a couple is compelling if done right, but regardless of the quality in the writing, acting and chemistry departments, you can’t keep that train going forever.  If you do, you risk losing audience members who get fed up with waiting.  It’s something that the Fox tv show Bones has struggled with until recently.

Despite a particular formula that Chuck has, one of the reasons I feel the show is so strong each season is due to the fact that it’s been on the chopping block so often, that they have one reserved each year just for the show.  The writers and producers have had to pull their best ideas and story lines and use them immediately instead of saving them for future seasons that may not have come.

While season 2 explored the deeper mythological aspects of Chuck, season 2’s aim is to delve deeper into the emotional core of it’s characters.  However in another great twist, a revelation about Chuck’s childhood and his father’s work is used to great effect.

With Chuck and Sarah seemingly together now, Morgan actually starting to grow up and emotionally resonant twists and turns, season 3 of Chuck really takes the cake for me.  It continues to be one of the wittiest and outright fun shows to watch on all of television.

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Chuck: The Complete Second Season Review

The first season of Chuck was like a male fantasy come true.   A computer geek manages to become the most important person in the world with both the NSA and CIA’s intelligence files uploaded into his head.  Oh, and his CIA handler is an angelic hottie who can kick almost anyone’s ass and appears to genuinely like Chuck.  I’d say that a certain Nerd Herder’s life is looking up.  The problem is that the intersect is keeping him from the girl of his dreams.

Despite a truncated season due to the writer’s strike, Chuck managed to get the go ahead for a second season.  With months of extra time to craft the storyline for season two and a 22 episodes order, the writers found a way to come up with a season that managed to upgrade nearly every aspect of the show and let supporting characters have a chance to steal some of the spotlight that season one just didn’t have time for.

Season two begins where season one left off.  Bryce Larkin, long thought dead since the pilot is revealed to be alive and well.  The problem however is that with Bryce back, the blossoming relationship between Chuck and Sarah comes to a screeching halt.  Bryce and Sarah were together prior to his supposed death and his return brings up complicated feelings.

Other threads running through the season include Chuck’s attempts to get the intersect out of his head, the return of his missing father, enemy organization Fulcrum’s attempts to build a new Intersect, and the goings on at the Buy More where Chuck works to maintain his cover.

Where season one was mostly just stand-alone mission episodes, season two takes great pains to expand it’s horizon.  There are certainly enough of the stand-alone episodes, but mixed in are episodes that deal directly with both the overall mythology of the series, and the plot threads that run throughout the season.

Along with more complex story arcs, and better missions, the writers really begin to add layers and real depth to the characters.  Each character is given his own chance to really shine, and supporting characters like Lester(Vik Sahay), Jeff(Scott Krinsky), Ellie(Sarah Lancaster), and Devon”Captain Awesome” are given much more screen time.  They make it count too.  There are even times when the surreal happenings of the Buy More are more interesting than the mission storylines.

Season two also began to blur the lines between Chuck’s spy life and his real life when Devon learns of his secret.  Watching Devon nervously try to keep the secret from Ellie is hilarious.  Chuck also finds lying to Ellie and the ones he loves about his absences to be extremely difficult.

As in the first season, the relationship between Chuck and Sarah is the main thread that runs through the season and indeed the entire series.  It’s a relief to see that the chemistry between Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovsky is just as potent as ever and they use it to good effect.  There may be a few too many long glances at times, but these two tortured lovers who long for one another is pulled off to great effect.  Actually it’s quite amazing how well the writers have managed to put complicated and believable obstacles in the paths of these two.  It can’t go on forever of course, but for now it’s done well.

There is a veritable laundry list of excellent guest stars in season two including Gary Cole as Sarah’s long lost father, Dominic Monaghan as a crazy rock star, John Larroquette as a washed up womanizing spy, Jordana Brewster as Chuck’s former college girlfriend Jill, Chevy Chase as an evil head of a corporation(and his best performance in years) and a surprisingly good Nicole Ritchie as a member of Fulcrum.

As usual, Josh Schwartz fills Chuck with a non-stop plethora of pop-culture references including Missle Comman, Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, Transformers: The Movie, and many many more.

Season two also has some twists and turns that some other island-based, smoke monster filled shows would wish they had.  These game-changing episodes really push Chuck further along as a show.  While it may have started with a gimmick, the writers knew they had to really up the ante and craft a season that would service the show in the right ways and it did just that.

There may not be a more “fun” show on tv right now than Chuck.  It’s a show that embraces it’s own surreal and often unbelievable premise.  Despite this premise, the show focuses on the most important aspect; the characters.

Chuck may  not be for everyone, but those who fall in love with it, will probably be faithful right to the very end.

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Chuck: The Complete Season 1 Review

Anyone who watched The O.C.  and liked it, will probably admit that what made the show appealing was it’s sly use of pop-culture references, geek comedy as well as beautiful locales and bikini clad cast members.  Indeed, The O.C. was at it’s best when it mixed sweetness, wit, and an unwillingness to take itself too seriously.  All of those ingredients mixed together to charm audiences.  Thankfully, The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz has taken all of those aforementioned ingredients and mixed it with an action-packed spy show to create Chuck.  

The premise to chuck is simple.  Bryce Larkin, a former college friend and roommate who happens to be a CIA agent, steals The Intersect; a combination of both the CIA and NSA’s intelligence files on virtually everything.  In danger, he sends these files to the only person he can trust, Chuck Bartowski(Zachary Levi). Chuck opens what he thinks is a birthday email to find a hypnotizing video encoded with millions of government secrets which all essentially upload directly into Chucks brain.  Thus begins the end of Chuck, just an employee at the Buy More (a Best Buy ripoff) and the start of  his journey into the dangerous and shadowy world of espionage, secrets and lies.

The problem is that Chuck’s head is now the most valuable and dangerous thing in the world.  Enter drop dead gorgeous CIA agent Sarah Walker(Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA killing machine John Casey(Firefly’s Adam Baldwin) who become tasked with keeping Chuck alive, and using his newfound knowledge to take down rogue agents, assassination attempts, bomb threats, etc.

So now the general pattern is that each week Chuck “flashes” on something.  It might be a person he sees or a symbol or name that jolts his memory.  These “flashes” usually set off a chain of events that lead inevitably to Chuck being held at gunpoint, or his mistakes putting Casey and Sarah in danger.  Of course they manage to get out of these tight situations, but part of the fun is watching how they do it, and still get their mission accomplished.

Despite all of the spy missions, gunplay and hilarious comedy that make up most of each episode, Chuck is really the story of an ordinary but kinda geeky guy who falls in love with the perfect woman, and what a woman.   Sarah is simply a stunner there is no denying it.  She’s like an archangel, both beautiful and deadly.  But beyond that beauty and ass-kicking ability,  is a wonderfully intelligent woman who wants more than the spy life.  It’s possible that before she met Chuck, she had no idea that what she wanted, was some thread of normalcy in her life; a boyfriend or husband who she could be honest with.  No lies, no secrets.

It just so happens that Chuck is the person she falls for and the chemistry between Zachary Levi and Yvonne Stahovski is unbelievable.  They make the “will they or won’t they?” aspect of the show believable and exciting to watch.  Watching these two dance around one another probing for what the other is feeling is sweet to watch.

Besides Chuck, Sarah and Casey’s, there is a whole host of other wonderful supporting characters as well.  There is Morgan(Joshua Gomez) Chuck’s weird, but lovable best friend, Chuck’s sister Ellie(Sarah Lancaster) and her boyfriend Devon ‘Captain Awesome'(Ryan McPartlin), and of course Jeff(Scott Krinksky) and Lester(Vik Sahay) who are two of the creepiest and brainless people I’ve ever seen.  Those two should get medals for their brilliant work.

As I said above in my review, Chuck is a show that does not take itself too seriously.  I’ts primarily a comedy first and an action/spy show second.  The joy is in the great characters, hilarious shenanigans and of course, the love story blooming between Sarah and Chuck.

As Chuck, Levi is perfectly funny as a man who is in way over his head, and yet his geeky nervousness and wit manages to charm Sarah.

Casey and Morgan who provide some of the shows comic relief are nevertheless given their own story lines and moments that let them shine.  “Captain Awesome” is just as great as any character on the show and McPartlin appears to be having a ball playing the character.

One of the few complaints I have about the first season is the “freak of the week” episodes.  Due to the writer’s strike, there are few episodes that deal directly with the ever evolving mythology in the show.  Without those kind of episodes, the repetition of the episodes pattern can wear a little thin, although with only thirteen episodes, it’s not stretched to far.

Overall, the first season of Chuck is a real winner.  Those looking for a show that can make you laugh and find thrills in fighting and chase sequences will love this show.  Like an appetizer at a restaurant, this season will on whet your appetite for season two.

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Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series Review

Friday Night Lights(NBC)

Friday Night Lights stands as one of the greatest dramatic shows ever on television.  

H.G. Bissinger wrote a book in 1990 called Friday Night Lights:  A Town, A Team, and a Dream about the 1988 Permian Panthers and the town whose love, hopes and prayers were linked to the team.  It’s considered one of the best books ever written and in 2004 a critically acclaimed film was made.  But the story had so many possibilities that producers decided to take a shot at adapting it for the small screen.

The television version of Friday Night Lights is set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas.  High School football in most places is followed but not obsessed over, but in Dillon it’s a way of life.  Nearly all residents of the town live and breathe football 365 days a year and live vicariously through the success of the team.  Women watch the games while getting their hair done in the salon, and the local Panthers radio show is on everyone’s station.

Friday Night Lights  uses football as a backdrop, but ultimately the show isn’t about football, it’s about life.  At least that’s what I say to people who have either never watched Friday Night Lights, or never even heard of  it.  Much like My-So-Called-Life, Battlestar Galactica, firefly and other all-time great gems that went unnoticed, Friday Night lights is a show that never managed to attract the major audience that many thought it would going into it’s first season.  That it managed to stay on for five seasons despite a small audience, remains one of the few examples of shows whose quality is so astounding, that not even network executives have the heart to destroy it.  After it’s third season, NBC struck a deal with Direct TV that allowed the final two seasons to air on their network.  It was a saving grace.

The core and heart of the show belongs to the Taylor household. Coach Eric Taylor(Kyle Chandler), his wife Tami(Connie Britton) and their daughter Julie(Aimee Teegarden).  During the shows five season run you find out that the Taylor family has done quite a bit of moving over the years as Eric has gone up the ranks of coaching positions.  A year here and a year there, the family is akin to a military family who moves from base to base many times.  It’s no wonder that neither Tami, nor Julie feel any real sense of joy at being in Dillon.  To them it’s just another stop on the train.

Throughout the shows five seasons, Eric and Tami provide what I believe to be the best portrait of a real marriage I have ever seen.  They had their squabbles and fights, their intimate moments, their own small crisis’s and of course the difficulty of raising a teenage daughter to top it all off.  Through it all however, both the writers and actors managed to make their love and marriage real, but also kept everything grounded in reality.

Grounded in reality.  I guess that’s a good way of describing half of what made the series so great.  With the exception of one season two storyline, the entire series felt like it could be happening in your own small town.  Plot lines and dialogue were exceptional, often honing in on the more intimate problems and crisis that plague both young and adult lives rather than the bombastic and over-dramatic stuff we are often forced to digest in other shows.

The other half of what made Friday Night Lights so exceptional was that everyone wore their heart on their sleeves.  Of course there were at times deceptions and lying, but most of the time it wasn’t malicious.  Instead people were simply trying to do the best that they could in whatever situations or circumstances they found themselves in.  Like in real life, most of the time we lie or deceive the ones we love out of shame for something we did rather than because we want to hurt them.  Friday Night Lights never lost sight of that.

The show however wasn’t just about the Taylors.  The cast is quite extensive, but other notable characters include star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter) who became paralyzed in the pilot of the first season; young and timid Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) who is the backup quarterback and now must face the pressures that come with the starting job, and dating Julie, coach Taylor’s daughter;  Tyra Collete (Adrianne Palicki) a beautiful but damaged girl who’s arc over her years on the show is one of the best.  She falls into a somewhat unlikely on again, off again relationship with Matt Saracen’s best friend Landry Clark (Jesse Plemons) who helps her to achieve goals she never thought she could.  Then there is Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) the head booster who’s daughter Lyla starts dating Jason Street before moving onto his best friend Tim Riggins.

It’s possible that Tim Riggins is the best character throughout the run of Friday Night Lights.  He and his older brother Billy(Derek Phillips) are on their own.  Their parents gone and Billy trying to take care of the both of them.  Tim’s a wreck, and his path to adulthood is filled with ups and downs, but there is not a single character on the show who can light a candle to Tim emotional journey from carefree adolescent, to actually attempting to be an adult.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Friday Night Lights is not really a show about football.  Football revolves around these people, not the other way around.  The show is really about dreams.  Everyone in the show has them.  Some want to stay in Dillon, but many want to get out and see what’s on the other side of the next hill.  It really becomes apparent in the last couple of seasons, but it’s really been there all along.

Friday Night Lights has alot of  highly emotional and powerful moments.  These moments are often dramatic, but not over-dramatic.  There was Jason Street’s career ending injury and it’s aftermath, Matt Saracen’s grandma with early onset Alzheimer’s, his father’s death and so many more.  Some others were as big, but most were small crisis.  Each one however seems like it’s been constructed just in the right way so that it oozes an authentic, intense and often painful or joyous quality depending on the situation.  Most shows often err on the side of too much and it shows.  There is a fine line between dramatic and melodramatic and Friday Night Lights has shown the ability to see that line clearly most of the time during it’s run.

What makes the show wonderful was the simplicity of it’s messages.  There were no after school special episodes to plague the show.  Sure, there were pregnancies, drug use etc., but it was shown as a part of the fabric of the lives of these peoples.  No Bob Saget to sit down one of these people on his knee  and tell they why it was bad, bad, bad that they did whatever they did.  That was Full House, this is a much better reflection of real life.

I urge anyone who reads this review to watch this show.  I can’t express enough just how amazing it really is through words, so at the end of this article, I’m going to post a clip that might be able to give you some insight as to how excellent it is.  And like I said, even if you don’t like football, even if you hate it, you might just still fall in love with Friday Night Lights.

During the show, the there are two terms uttered often during the shows run.  “Texas Forever” was often said by Tim Riggins who wanted nothing more than to stay in Dillon, have his own farm and live the good life.  The other was Coach Taylor’s favorite quote.  He said it at the end of practice, during half time and when it was needed most:

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”

I think we could all do just fine by living by that motto.

This first video shows the opening scenes of the pilot.  You get to see some of the major characters.

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Fringe Season 1 review

Fringe(Fox)

Olivia Dunham: Anna Torv

Walter Bishop:  John Noble

Peter Bishop:  Joshua Jackson

Phillip Broyles:  Lance Reddick

Nina Sharp:  Blair Brown

When Fringe premiered in 2008, many people found it to be a passable program through it’s initial few episodes.  The show borrowed  heavily from The X-files and the comparisons between the two were understandable.  It took the show a little while to find it’s own substance and rythym, but after that the show became progressively better and by seasons end it was apparent that there were good things to come.

The show stars Anna Torv as FBI agent Olivia Dunham.  A series of circumstances in the pilot put her in a situation that exposes her to something called the pattern; a web of catastrophic events happening all over the world which the FBI is attempting to investigate and hoping to find some way to stem the tide of chaos.

Dunham find a former scientist named Walter Bishop who once ran a lab at Harvard, but is now in an asylum for a death in his lab almost two decades ago.  It seems that Walter did experiments for the U.S. Government in areas of fringe science and these global events may be connected to his research somehow.

Using Walter’s estranged son Peter Bishop(Joshua Jackson) as a means to free Walter, the three become a team and weird family unit as they solve cases and find ways to uncover the mysteries of this pattern and it’s larger meaning in the fabric of their lives.

As mentioned above, Fringe’s first season felt like an updated version of the X-files.  It seems that initially, both shows fought to balance “freak of the week” episodes with ones that delved deeper into the central mystery of the show.  In it’s first season, it is understandable that some fans thought this show brought nothing new to the genre.

Looking back now however, I now understand that the need for so many “freak of the week” episodes was to give the show the foundation necessary to show the effect Walter’s past decisions have brought upon our world, and how we are paying for them all of these years later.  Of course this is all in hindsight, but now that we are three seasons into the show, season one seems even better in retrospect than I thought at the time.

Of the three leads on the show, Anna Torv has show the most growth as an actor since the pilot.  For a portion of the first season, her performance was wooden at times.  It played into her character, so it wasn’t completely unsuccessful but she is now a much better actress.

John Noble is by far the best actor on the show and I think the best working on television today.  He alternates between lunacy, warmth, denial and self-hatred and does it better than almost any actor I can think of.  Walter Bishop is a unique character and one for the ages.

For Joshua Jackson, I think he deserves a special medal.  In season one he delivers a good performance, but at times almost feels like the third wheel.  He spends most of his time babysitting Walter and doing little else except getting Walter licorice or milk shakes.

If you have not seen Fringe yet, I implore you to put down whatever you are doing and find some way to watch it.  The series only grows more confident as the seasons progress.  Watch season one however, because every great story has it’s starting point.

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The Spotlight reviews Sherlock S1 E1: A Study In Pink

If Gregory House were a detective in the literal sense instead of the medical one he plays on House M.D., he would probably be Sherlock.


I heard about Sherlock months ago and when I also heard that it was getting smashing reviews, I figured that I would have to at least give it a shot at some point to see whether all of the fuss it’s been given is worth it.  Well, it is.

At 88 minutes, Sherlock’s introductory episode is more like a movie than a show and that is a decision I am glad they producers and writers agreed upon.  In an episode where we will be introduced to our two soon-to-be BFF’s, a normal hour long episode(42-50 mintues plus commercials) would be poison.  In any Sherlock mystery there needs to be adequate time for it to unfold, so we are thankfully given enough time to get to know our two new characters as well as they murder they are investigating.

If I were to attempt to compare Sherlock to anything on television, I would say it’s a combination of CSI and an Agatha Christie mystery with a big dollop of hilarious British humor.  For instance, there is a point in the show when Sherlock is examining a dead body for clues.  Because his mind is racing so fast, instead of relying on heavy expositional dialogue either within his own mind or with his colleagues in the room, we get white text that flashes on the screen like wet, rings are clean, nails are chipped, is rache, rachel or rache(german for revenge).  It’s a great technique for a show such as this.

While the mystery is good, it’s the characters that stand at the forefront.  First we meet John Watson(Martin Freeman, The Hobbit) who has recently come back from a war in the middle east.  He’s a doctor, but it appears that he was shot and regularly meets with a therapist who believes his symptoms to be at least partly psychosomatic, and therefore temporary or in his mind.

After running into an old friend, Watson is introduced to Sherlock(Benedict Cumberbatch) in a lab who is looking for a flatmate.  As we learn eventually in the episode, Sherlock is a sociopath.  He’s extremely logical, has a photographic memory and is off the charts in terms of intelligence, but he’s also not good with humans and their emotions.

As my blurb above says, I think of Sherlock as a younger, British version of Gregory House.  Sherlock has little understanding of emotions it seems.  At one point in the show, he mistakes Watson as sending him gay signals.  Another shows a young female lab assistant who is certainly coming on to him.  He notices the addition of lipstick, but not the obvious flirtation.  He also has en ego as big as House’s and wonders aloud several times what it must be like to be so much more stupid than he is.  Does it make their lives easier?

Sherlock gets Watson to tag along on the case as a medical professional and before long they are a full blown team.  The chemistry between he and Watson is palpable which is obviously necessary for a good show.

One of the best things about Sherlock, is that there appears to be no winking or ribbing towards the camera.  The writers and actors take the work serious despite playing two present day versions of famous sleuths.

For the most part, the writing is smooth, funny and lacking in sentiment.  It possess that great British sense of humor and a great deal of Americanization in the production and technical aspects.  It looks as though real money has been poured into the production which shows.

I cannot comment on the other 2 episodes of the series since I haven’t seen them, but this is quickly becoming a favorite show of mine after only one episode.  I give this a big thumbs up and advise anyone to watch it and be enthralled.

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