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Unappreciated… or At Least Underused

February 24, 2011

There are many, many fine actors vying for high-profile Hollywood roles. Only a select few land these coveted spots, but there are many others who also possess the talent, drive, and dedication necessary to land them. It’s difficult to say whether the right choices are always made, because aside from the impossibility of measuring the unknown–the path (or actor) not chosen–there are far too many variables that affect the success of a movie, television show, or play…or even of a particular character.

That said: There are those actors I would very much love to see in more roles, and in more prominent roles. I don’t know them, so I can’t say whether they audition for much, or even want to. But they certainly possess a certain something that I’d like to see more of. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. The list is long; the following is a sampling:

Abdul Salis: You may have spotted this British actor in several films or TV series, especially of you yourself are British. His best-known role was on the UK-based TV show Casualty. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Love Actually that I can’t recall his character. What I do remember is his portrayal of Eugene Skinner on Flyboys (2006) opposite James Franco. And sure, I admired his handsome face and gorgeous skin, but let’s face it: man can act, too. Sure, it was a small role in the grand scheme of the film. Ironic, considering the film was supposed to be based on his character–an American living (and boxing) in France who joins the Lafayette Flying Corps. during WWI. But Salis made an impact. Not because he’s really the only black face in the film, but rather because his subtle but natural performance overshadowed those of the others in each of his scenes. I don’t know what sort of roles he’s seeking out, but somebody’s got to give that boy something with lots of camera time, and some meaty material into which he can sink his nice teeth.

Elizabeth Reaser: Okay, so this fine actress has been in quite a few things, but while I’m sure she likes the Twilight Saga payday, I’d love to see her in more endearing roles like she rocked in Sweet Land, or raw ones like her memorable guest stint as a battered rape victim on the short-lived FOX series Standoff. The point is, Elizabeth Reaser can carry not just a scene, but an entire film or TV episode, so some leading roles or more challenging supporting roles that get her more time in front of the camera would be welcome.

Eric Millegan: Three seasons after dear little squint Zack Addy was knocked out of Bones, his absence from the Jeffersonian lab is still rather glaring. On the merit of his Bones performances alone, Millegan should get picked up for something else that allows us audience to admire his talents–and admire them often. And if the roles require him to sing, all the better.

Miffy Englefield & Emma Pritchard: Lots of kids are cute. But Englefield and Pritchard upped the ante as Sophie and Olivia (respectively) on the 2006 star-powered chick flick The Holiday. Englefield has been busy with the UK series Casualty for the past couple of years. Meanwhile, Pritchard has no other film credits to her name. Granted, they are mighty young and may pursue other fields. But I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing either of them in upcoming projects, especially projects that actually reach America.

Paolo Montalban: He seranaded Brandy as Prince Christopher in the 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s TV movie Cinderella. Since then, he’s had some success with Mortal Kombat (over a decade ago) and very small guest roles here on there. But for all the cheese (and I’ll be honest–I liked the cheese) of Cinderella, he added a little bit of gravitas to his role, and gave us a glimpse at what has got to be a much deeper well of talent. The man is incredibly beautiful, sings rather nicely (apparently, I like the word “nice” today), and knows Kung Fu. Oh–and can act, too. So… why aren’t we seeing a whole lot more of him?
There are many others. Some (Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Giovanni Ribisi, Tony Curran, Kirk Acevedo, etc.) have had more success or a higher number of roles than those listed above, but are still, overall, very much underappreciated.

Who would you like to see more of on the big screen or on the little screen? How about any of the cast of the one-season-wonder Terriers?

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Musings

February 21, 2011

Sometimes my job is awesome. For example, I get to review a new book on screenplay writing by Pen Densham (who penned Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves among other things) called Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing (and Not Getting Eaten). Long title, I know, but so far, very good. He even sent me a signed copy with an encouraging little note when he heard that I myself try to write screenplays. I had to lay it down because I had the uncontrollable urge to write. I felt the creative juices welling up inside me, but, as always, when I set my fingers to the keyboard, the inspiration fights a losing battle to the absolute muddle my thoughts become. I attempt to write the tangled mess in hopes that the genius I am convinced was but a moment ago on the tip of my brain will somehow unravel itself on the page. I am always disappointed in this.

I sit here, noting that it is midnight, and yet time feels suspended. I wonder for the million-and-first time why I cannot bring myself to complete a project. Why can I not tackle that pivotal scene that needs a rewrite? If I did, I’d have a complete second draft. Perhaps I’m afraid that the second draft will not live up to my own expectations when finished, so by leaving it be it still has the potential to be an inspired piece of art. They say some are afraid not of failure, but of success. Is it possible to fear both? Simultaneously?

For years I held myself to an A+ standard. Then I reached college, and realized that I’d have to settle for B+. For years I was the brainy goody-two-shoes. Then I reached college, and noted that my brains, while sufficient, were not the most impressive in the bunch. This is not to say I thought highly of what intelligence I did have, only that I demanded a level of intelligence from myself that I may not have possessed. But this is where my always-active imagination caught my attention. Perhaps I was more creative than brainy. Maybe I was destined to be an artsy type. Not the kind that wears berets and sips organic tea and reads poetry that could not have even made any actual sense to the poet himself. But artsy just the same. I had always known the process by which one made practical use of one’s academic brain segments (take that, technical jargon), but how did one turn the creative bits into something real and something practical?

I wanted to be an actor. I’d been acting all my life. I wanted to write screenplays. I’d been imagining them all my life. Just not in front of anyone. My forays into acting had not been of my choosing, and were train wrecks at best. I’d written stories, certainly, but I’d pictured myself as a novelist, penning prose in the vein of Jane Austen; after all, British literature from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century was the best-written. But slowly I stopped reading as much and began watching more films, more television. Much more. And I mimicked the microexpressions, the voice inflections, the gestures, the postures, etc. I looked at the actors and said, “I could do that.” And, “I want to do that.” But, given my history, I figured I would be a disgrace to the profession. I’d be the equivalent of one of the sorry cases on American Idol who fervently claim passion for the art of singing, say they can imagine doing nothing but sing for a living, and have absolutely zero talent for it. Perhaps less.

Then I got brave and took an acting class. And to my surprise, I loved it. Even more to my surprise, I was told I actually possessed at least some measure of natural talent for it. But I wasn’t one of those kids who tried out for every school play, dragged their parents to auditions, and begged to get representation–all by the age of five. I wasn’t a theatre nerd. A nerd, but not a theatre one. I don’t recall envisioning my name in lights. I don’t recall envisioning my face in front of a camera, period. Not even as a journalist, which would seem the more obvious course for me. Besides–I’ve never been incredibly photogenic. (In fact, I evade cameras with enviable ease and creativity.)

I wasn’t auditioning my little heart out, working backstage at local theatres when I couldn’t get on stage, making films with my little filmmaker friends (didn’t have any), putting on skits or monologues for my friends. Two years after taking my first acting class, I still don’t. But you’re supposed to have passion, right?

Doesn’t that mean I should be rehearsing monologues daily? Poring over every book on acting and screenwriting that I can get my hands on? I still have my friend’s lent copy of Uta Hagan’s A Challenge for the Actor. Because I’ve barely started it. That isn’t to say it isn’t interesting. It is. So is Mein Kampf, which I tackle now and then. It’s fascinating. It’s a study of human nature and character, but also a look into history. And having graduated with a minor in history with a special love for military history, and having always loved the written word, I should race right through it, right?

I see fellow actors who pursue the craft with more vigor. Same goes for screenwriting. And I just can’t seem to figure out why on earth I lack the drive. Why on earth I lack the self confidence to just go for it. Am I lazy? Am I scared? Am I not meant to pursue this field? The latter can’t be so. I know it can’t be so. I’m not going to change. My mind is not all of a sudden going to stop creating stories or latching onto existing stories with an obsessive fervor. If that was going to go away, it would have when I transitioned from a child into an adult.

I don’t mean to leave God out of the equation. That’s just it. He is the Head of the equation. He’s every part of it. He made me the way that I am. He’s given me the dreams that I have. So somehow He will make the two work together for His glory and for my good, yes? I just wish I could stop slacking, stop being lazy and growing complacent in the meantime. And stop being so hard on myself, too.

But perhaps asking these questions, analyzing my situation, and smacking myself on the forehead enough times is somehow helping me. Perhaps one day something will click, or inspiration will hit me when I’m actually in a position to write it down or act it out. Perhaps I’ll suddenly dive headfirst into an opportunity that comes my way instead of dipping my toe in and deciding the temperature isn’t quite right.

I thrive when I’m challenged. I have vim and vigor and fight and fire. I accomplish the most when I’m up against a deadline. I’m most productive when I have a busy schedule to juggle. Maybe it’s all this rotten free time that’s paralyzing me. Maybe I have too much time to analyze and overthink and procrastinate. Maybe I have too much time to stress about too many other things.

I know I ought to update this blog more often. I know I ought to attempt to drive more traffic to it. I know I started it in order to join a community of people who love film and television like I do, to interact with them.

So maybe I ought to stop thinking and start doing.

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Show Renewals

February 20, 2011

Over in LA it’s “that” time of year: pilot season. You know what that means. No, I don’t mean we get to see some of our favorite actors take another stab at TV stardom. Or that we get to debate whether some off-the-wall TV series titles will change before the show actually debuts. Or that we get to scoff at the sillier show ideas–then eat crow when they become fall’s biggest hits.

I’m referring to the rather serious discussions taking place in big, all-important network offices. I’m talking about the shows we love that are on the bubble because of  less-than-satisfactory ratings–and the new shows that could bump them from the primetime schedule…permanently.

You might say, “NBC has already cut Undercovers and Chase. That opens up space for a couple of new series. And considering the faltering Office (which you know will actually stick around even though they need to replace Steve Carrell), the always-controversial Outsourced, and the didn’t-live-up-to-expectations-and-keeps-getting-worse The Event, and perhaps a few other underperforming newbies, shows with rabid fan bases–like Chuck–have got to be safe.

Not necessarily. But Chuck is great! Sure. So was Terriers. But it didn’t generate enough ratings for FX, who liked the show, and it was canceled. Same goes for The Good Guys, a hilarious hour of fun that FOX should merely transfer back to summer schedule instead of abandoning altogether. But FOX won’t. And as much as FOX looooves Fringe, if not enough of us love it, too–more to the point, if not enough people with Nielsen boxes love it enough to sacrifice an hour of their Friday nights in order to watch it live–it’ll fall victim to FOX’s infamous death slot. Fringe‘s fate concerns me most, primarily because of how much I love it, and how much will be unresolved should it meet an abrupt, season-ending cancellation. I really hate it when series end on major cliffhangers. (I’m looking at you, The Agency. Thanks a heap, CBS.)

Some shows (yay, Castle, Psych, and White Collar!) are breathing easy because they’ve already received next-season pick-ups. NCIS is another, although it was a no-brainer (except for a couple of not-too-worrisome contract negotiations). Doesn’t make me any less excited for another season. I love that show.

Others, like Bones (FOX) and The Mentalist (CBS), are more-or-less done deals. Makes me stress a little less, but I still won’t rest easy until they’ve got their official pick-ups.

It’s difficult to tune into a new show, whether it has a mid-season or fall premiere. Because it could be canceled. Sure, Lone Star‘s fate didn’t break too many hearts. You can’t get that attached in just two episodes. But Terriers? The Good Guys? You get a full season of wonderfulness and then BAM! Bye-bye.

It’s just business. It’s all about ratings. Advertising pays the bills on scripted television. It’s true, you might sour on a particular network that keeps cancelling shows you’re emotionally invested in. You may simply refuse to watch a new show that takes over the time slot of your axed favorite. But only for a while. The primetime lineup is a rotating door. And the networks aren’t too concerned about the few stubborn ones that will abandon (network) ship or refuse to give certain new shows a shot, because enough others will.

Then again, the TV landscape is changing. And with DVR and online viewing, and fewer people watching shows live, the networks are in trouble. Enough to change their ways? I don’t know. Why do some excellent shows fail to get the ratings they need to stay on the air?

The reasons are plenty. Perhaps the network does a terrible job marketing it. (Yes, NBC, I’m referring to your treatment of Chuck). Perhaps a writer’s strike gets in the way. The show isn’t mainstream enough to attract people en masse quickly enough. The show is too expensive to make. The show is in too competitive a time slot. The show received too much hype–that generated unreasonably high expectations. The timing just isn’t right with what’s popular or what’s going on in the world. Blah blah blah.

I’d love to create a network for canceled shows. Pick up a series or two each year that were unjustly or unfortunately canceled after only a partial season, one season, two seasons… And buy syndication rights for other shows that were canceled in the first few seasons. Perhaps throw in a reality series on what it’s like to create and sell a pilot… Lots of possibilities.

Until then, I’ll just have to suffer the loss of some exceptional series like everyone else. I’ll write to the networks on behalf of the ones worth saving. I’ll comment on the recaps and reviews. I’ll blog, and Facebook, and tweet. I’ll pester my friends. I’ll bat my eyes at Nielsen employees.

And I’ll daily check the “bubble scorecards.” Follow Michael Ausiello on Twitter to learn the fate of shows like Lie to Me (which I like, but don’t love), and Human Target (which has improved so dramatically that it deserves a third season on that merit alone). Shows that are on a network I love, but a network that only allots two hours of primetime scripted television each weeknight. Which means space is limited.

I just hope the networks realize that introducing fewer pilots and throwing more support behind shows they already air that are performing solidly if not wildly is maybe the smarter move for the time being. Pilots are expensive. And getting people to jump on the bandwagon of fandom for the newbies is a chore.

How about airing some marathons of shows they’ve already got on their schedule in order to pick up some new fans? How about showing the audiences they’ve already got that it’s worth their time to invest in a new series, because the new series will be given a fair shot? How about building that precedence? How about making certain all of your various series can be viewed online, so that people can not only discover them that way, but can also catch up on a missed episode when they chance to be out of town or unavailable when it airs?

And how about measuring viewership in all mediums? After all, you’re advertising quite a bit within the actual shows now.

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THE GOOD GUYS

November 8, 2010

Shortest post ever: PLEASE WATCH THE GOOD GUYS ON FOX FRIDAY NIGHTS AT 9/8c. Thank you. You won’t waste your time.

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Misc. TV Updates

November 7, 2010

Well, well, well. Undercovers… No, I can’t think of a clever pun. It’s too late. Er, early. Whatever! In any case, this is one series J.J. Abrahms won’t get to play with for long. I’m sad for the actors, as always, because it’s a tough business, and just getting to, let alone through, the first round of auditions for a TV pilot is ridiculously challenging. But, alas, the show is kaput. And sad though it may be, its early end does not elicit too much surprise. The acting wasn’t bad. The directing wasn’t bad. The writing wasn’t even bad. It just didn’t have that elusive X Factor. It just wasn’t quite entertaining enough. And without bending my brain to thinking about it more than I wish to, I couldn’t put my finger on what elements didn’t quite work, or what could have saved it. In truth, I haven’t even watched the past few episodes.

Oh, Terriers. Please tell me you won’t be the next victim. You’re just too darn good for FX to let a little thing like (inexplicably) bad ratings determine your demise. The very fact that I enjoy you so much speaks to your excellence, because I generally opt for less “raw” or “mature” material. I suppose I like stories that are a little lighter, a little happier. Dark and depressing is sometimes artistic and moving, but not so much entertaining. And I watch television to be entertained. But that’s just it: you are entertaining. The writing and the acting and the chemistry is incredibly compelling. If I knew how to draw more viewers to you I’d do so. In the meantime, I guess I’m resigned to watching you myself and hoping for the best.

Running Wilde: I know you have the adorable Keri Russell, and that Will Arnett is indeed skilled in his brand of comedy. But let’s be honest: you’re too over-the-top. No, that’s putting it too mildly, I’m afraid. You’re just not that good. Best of luck to you, but I’d much prefer you give Keri Russell a chance to find some better material; material that actually showcases her talents.

Raising Hope: I keep telling myself I’m going to stop watching you, and you keep sucking me back in. There isn’t any logical explanation for my liking you. You aren’t my prefered style of comedy. You’ll never be my favorite, I’m sorry to say. And unless my priority shows shift in the primetime lineup, I’ll never watch you live. But as long as you stay funny, you have an online viewer in me.

Outsourced: Sometimes you’re so ridiculous and, in plain language, stupid, that I don’t imagine I’ll watch the next episode. But then you go and drop into the mix something hilarious, and before I realize what I’m doing, I’m watching the week’s episode on Hulu. Then again, you are probably benefiting from my growing love affair with Bollywood and all things India. You have the bright colors, super outfits, fun music, and endearing accents that I find addictive. You also have the cliches, stereotypes, crude humor, and blurred boundaries that I generally avoid. I hardly know what to do with you. And I’m aware that reasons I tune in include Diedrich Bader (despite my dislike of his character), Manmeet (Sacha gets to me), and Asha (because, let’s face it, she’s the closest thing to normal on the show). I like to see our dear manager awkward, but I like more to see him learn and grow and mature and evolve. If he continues to do so, I’ll likely continue watching.

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Some TV Show Endorsements

October 16, 2010

I don’t know how many people read this blog. In all likelihood, very few. Especially considering the infrequence of posts. But for those of you who might, and who might give credit to my endorsements, here are a few from this TV addict:

MONDAYS

Chuck (NBC, 8/7c) – It’s a spy comedy packed with quirky, adorable characters, resolved sexual tension done right, fun action sequences, and plenty of gut-busting laughs. Our hero (Chuck Bartowski) is a lovable nerd-turned-lovable spy. A kickass, awkward, emotional, morally-centered, down-to-earth, nerdy spy. One who puts family first, actually got the gorgeous blonde with a license to kill (Sarah Walker), and values his friendship with his socially-clueless but loyal pal/co-worker Morgan Grimes. He even charms concern and friendship out of perfect American hero/soldier/spy Colonel John Casey. And he didn’t ask for any of it–least of all the CIA computer (intersect) in his head. The fans brought this show back from cancellation once. Let’s not let it get to that point again. It gets very little promotion. Up to you to give it a boost.

The Event (NBC 9/8c) – It isn’t perfect. And if you’ve read my last post, I’ve not watched LOST (nor have I watched 24), so I can’ t compare it to either show. It has a ways to go. But it definitely deserves better ratings than it has been getting. And with the appealing Jason Ritter driving the show, you’ve got at least a little bit of pixie dust to go on. It has potential. It’s complex, but it makes certain it answers questions before asking more. I for one don’t find the flashbacks annoying, and I for one am intrigued. At least they didn’t try to make the aliens plot some big reveal halfway through the season.

Lie to Me (FOX, 9/8c) – It got bumped up when poor Lonestar got bumped from the lineup after just two episodes (well written, well acted, but a little disturbing). For a show with a rather irrascible and unpleasant lead, it works improbably well. Lie detection expert Cal Lightman is a real son of a b****, but he manages to wander into likeable territory in dealings with his daughter Emily and esteemed colleague Gillian Foster. Supporting characters Loker and Torres are always fun to watch, but let’s hope Loker doesn’t actually leave the Lightman Group, because although Agent Reynold’s departure hasn’t really made too big an impact, Loker’s absence would leave a noticeable hole. One I don’t think the show can afford.

Castle (ABC, 10/9c) – Nathan Fillion is the best reason to tune in. And yes, I’m biased because of Firefly. But the show seems to be stepping it up a bit since the middle of last season, giving more depth and attention to the nice supporting characters and more personality to leading lady Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). It’s Richard Castle’s relationship with is mother and daughter that gives necessary heart to the show, and if nothing else, the show is more than sufficiently entertaining.

Hawaii 5-0 (CBS, 10/9c) – My remote takes me to ABC for Castle, but it gets precedence because it came first. And I don’t have a Nielsen box (sadly), so my tuning in to this newbie won’t help it any. But I catch it online. I’ve never seen the original series. I admit it up front. So I don’t know how this compares. But this remake is engaging and fun, and the scenery doesn’t hurt any. Besides, it has a roster of cool actors. That doesn’t hurt any, either!

TUESDAYS

NCIS (CBS, 8/7c) – One of my four priority shows for the fall (along with previously-mentioned Chuck, Bones, and Fringe). I didn’t get into this show (despite proddings from a friend–yet a different friend) until I was–surprise!–bored last August and could find nothing to watch on TV. I love the USA Network. Love. And they play lots of NCIS reruns. So fine. I’ll give it a shot. Bad for my bank account (had to buy all six seasons to prepare in just one month for the then upcoming seventh–which I also now own) but good for my addiction to television. A solid procedural with a cast of incredible characters that could very well be your own friends and explosive cases sprinkled throughout that make the otherwise very enjoyable episodes seem like child’s play. Mark Harmon’s Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is, in short, the man. Michael Weatherly is great as the endearingly annoying Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (and outstanding when portraying his serious side). Former Mossad assassin, Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), is both badass and hilarious. Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) is one tough and enjoyable geek. No one could portray the happiest goth girl you’ll ever meet, forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, like the awesome Pauley Perrette. And find me a person who does not simply love Dr. Mallard “Ducky” (David McCallum) and I just will not believe you. As for the man who manages to remain slightly shrouded in mystery, Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll), I always look forward to his next move.

NCIS:LA (CBS, 9/8c) – It’ll never live up to the awesomeness of its parent/lead-in show. The characters just don’t have the same level of appeal, nor the overall show the same chemistry or magic. But it’s shot in a rather appealing manner, sports some pretty faces, attacks some interesting cases, and is all-around entertaining. It has also set up some mysterious backgrounds for a few of the characters that give them plenty of future character-based material to work with.

Parenthood (NBC, 10/9c) – In a sea of procedurals (which I quite obviously love), it sticks out. And the ratings might not yet reflect it’s quality, but here’s to hoping that they soon will. I’m glad NBC has given it a second chance–aka a second season. Some familiar faces (like that of the ever-awesome Lauren Graham and the seriously funny Dax Sheppard and the eminent Craig T. Nelson) might draw you in, but the family relationships and family dynamic should keep you interested. Chaos ensues–sometimes approaching over-the-top but never quite reaching it–and I can’t relate to a huge and crazy family or to parenthood. But everyone can relate to some situation and some character. And the chemistry is certainly there.

No Ordinary Family (ABC, 8/7c) – I’m almost beyond the point of being distracted by the fact that Michael Chiklis was The Thing in The Fantastic Four. Most people probably know him best for The Shield, anyway. And Kay Panabaker looks so much like her big sister that I occasionally reflect on their Disney days. But this show is fun. Flawed, sometimes floundering a bit, and not always well-thought-out. But it’s fun. And it has potential to get better. And there are unresolved questions I’d like answered and mysteries I’d like solved before it’s cancelled. Hopefully, it’ll survive cancellation. Too early to tell.

White Collar (USA, 10/9c) – The second half of Season 2 doesn’t return until January, but boy-oh-boy I can hardly wait! It’s smooth, it’s witty, it’s funny, it’s engaging, it’s charming. Suave conman Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) fights against his past to help his unlikely new best friend FBI Agent (of the White Collar division) Peter Burke (Tim DeKay)–a straight-arrow family man with a down-to-earth wife and a dedication to his work. Not that he has much choice in the matter. But the friendship/partnership of Neal and Peter is the best on television (that is, between two platonic male leads). And Neal’s friend Mozzy is delightfully paranoid, among other things. So glad Marsha Thomason is back full-time as Diana.

Covert Affairs (USA, 11/10c) – I’ve always been on the fence with Piper Perabo, but she’s quite enchanting as Annie Walker, new CIA recruit who is trying desperately to figure out who she can actually trust and how to be a good sister and aunt in the meanwhile. Annie’s blind friend and co-worker Oggie (Christopher Gorham) is positively endearing, and I’m loving me some Sendhil Ramamurthy as the somewhat mysterious Jai Wilcox. USA is all about the fun shows. And this may not be its number-one exhibition, but it certainly is fun.

WEDNESDAY

Undercovers (8/7c) – It needs some finetuning, but the shots are good, and the actors are good, even if more unknown than most. The two leads might have names that are difficult to pronounce, but they are certainly attractive, and the show has some potential. If only it would last long enough to reach it.

Psych (USA, 11/10c) Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. And brilliant. The writers and the cast have a great deal of fun, and makes sure you have your share of it. Fake psychic detective Shawn Spencer (the underappreciated James Roday) and his best-friend-since-kindergarten Burton “Gus” Guster (the handsome and talented Dule Hill) partner with the Santa Barbara Police Department to solve muuuurders. And they do so with some of the best chemistry on TV. In fact, their friendship/partnership is on par or slightly elevated above the White Collar one mentioned above. If only I had that much fun at work. Then again, I’d get in a great deal of trouble, too–because these friends most certainly do. The supporting lineup is amazing, too, and the writing chock full of wit and pop-culture (especially from the 80s) references. A must-see. (back for second half of Season 2 in November)

Terriers (FX, 10/9c) – A little more mature, a little off-beat, but absolutely engaging. Well-written. Pushes the boundaries a bit. Anti-heroes of a raw and rugged nature. A procedural that doesn’t quite fit within the boundaries but is worht watching.

THURSDAYS

Bones (FOX, 8/7c) – Check my archives for a gushing endorsement. And ignore all the negative people who are currently irritated that leading man Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) has a girlfriend that isn’t leading lady Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (the lovely, talented, and underappreciated Emily Deschanel). This new chick is a nice temporary addition. And Booth will end up with Bones. It’s meant to be. And their will-they-won’t-they dance and incredibly obvious and crackling UST is not the only reason to watch the show. The ridiculously good-looking cast has four other intriguing and fun characters that are praiseworthy in their own rights. And the cases are almost always fascinating, the science really cool, and the bodies the best on TV.

Fringe (FOX, 9/8c) – Again, go back and read my rave review. But if you love science fiction, you’ll love this show. And if you don’t love science fiction, you still have a very good chance of loving this show. It’s brilliant. And it keeps you on the edge of your seat. It has a wonderful balance of touching personal relationships and fascinating science. It explores alternate universes, and gives you not one but two versions of all but one of the main characters.

Community (NBC, 8/7c) – You’ll have to DVR this little nugget of hilarity, or watch it online, because clearly Bones is priority. But certainly check it out. Who knew that over-the-top silliness featuring a rag-tag group of community college students could be so entertaining?

The Mentalist (CBS, 10/9c) – Let’s face it: Simon Baker is worth watching in almost anything. And yes, it’s another show about a fake psychic–but this one insists real ones don’t exist. And the premise and direction and tone and writing are in stark contrast to Psych. This here show is a drama–and a darn good one.

FRIDAYS

The Good Guys (9/8c) – Sadly, Human Target (which does not return until November and is another show worth watching, though not as good) was bumped up to Wednesdays. Good news for it. Bad news for The Good Guys, which is, in fact, a really good show. If only the ratings would reflect it. FOX’s Friday time slots are a proverbial graveyard. We know it. But maybe, just maybe, if people would give this riotous little gem a chance, it could survive. Starring straight man Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks, son of A-lister Tom Hanks) and funnyman Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford), whose ‘stache is practically a character of its own, this comedy has a unique style and a unique premise in the world of procedurals. Detectives Stark and Bailey are routinely assigned to the piddly cases–vending machine thefts, for example–but always clumsily stumble upon the big, high-profile cases that they manage to solve in unconventional, borderline-legal, dangerous, and bumbling ways that are rather clever and incredibly entertaining. Please watch!

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FRINGE (2008 – present)

October 16, 2010

The first time I found myself liking science fiction was when a friend introduced me to what is now one of my all-time favorite television shows (short-lived though it was): Firefly.

I never got on the LOST bandwagon–particularly because I didn’t hear about it until the series was already underway and I was too lazy and too booked up with other shows to take the trouble to catch up. I’ll get to it eventually.

I wish I’d started watching Fringe from its pilot. Sadly, I had the false impression that it was too creepy and graphic for my tastes. A (different) friend of mine kept insisting I give it a chance anyway. I ignored her for a full season.

Flash forward through the summer and the first two episodes of Season 2 in the fall of 2009. Bored. Sifting through shows on Hulu. Fringe? Why not?

Why not indeed! I raced through DVDs of Season 1 in a flash and added Fringe to my Thursday-night lineup–conveniently situated after another favorite, Bones

Fringe, in a word, is brilliant. It really hit its stride midway through Season 2, at which point it has grown in genius with each episode.

The Cast

Three foreigners lead an incredibly talented and diverse cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, Kirk Acevedo (Season 1, now recurring), and Mark Valley (Season 1).

Aussie Anna Torv has really stepped up her game this season, playing two versions of FBI Agent Olivia Dunham with conviction and apparant ease. She was very good in the first two seasons; now she is great–or even better. It’s all in the eyes, and she manages to convey a million emotions and thoughts with those tools alone. The first two episodes of Season 3 should get her some Emmy consideration. A slightly altered walk, a different expression in the eyes, a decided coldness when in soldier mode–subtle differences she adds to Alternate Olivia that make a world of difference.

Canadian Joshua Jackson has been in the business for quite some time, and he has never been better. Like Anna Torv, he’s certainly easy on the eyes, but it’s his acting that takes top marks. He takes the layers the writers give to Peter Bishop and weaves them together into a remarkable tapestry, showcasing the growth in his character with aplomb while giving us glimpses at his for-now dormant darker, rebellious side. His microexpressions and headshakes are fabulous.

If Aussie John Noble is snubbed again in the Emmy race (and indeed, in the Golden Globe race), it will be more mindboggling than Fringe‘s mythology. How the man can transition from rage to childlike meekness and excitment, from lucidity to insanity and back again in the blink of an eye is masterful–sheer art. He turns a once morally and ethically challenged brilliant scientist into an endearing, mentally unstable man who loves his son more than anything in the world. And then adjusts his posture, his expression, his entire demeanor to play Walter Bishop’s alternate-universe self.

Blair Brown is not a stranger to television, and she manages to humanize her mysterious Nina Sharp, fluctuating between a secretive and powerful businesswoman and a lonely and burdened woman who could actually have the world’s best interest at heart. Or does she? Blair, you are fascinating.

 Lance Reddick may never crack a smile as Agent Broyles, but his character’s job is grave and Broyles’s personal life fell apart because of it. Reddick takes a serious character and injects life into him. He’s serious, but Reddick ensures he is not rigid or flat, and that he makes for an essential member–leader–of the Fringe Division. And the subtle differences he gives to Broyles’s alternate are a credit to his skills.

Jasika Nicole does not have a lot of back story to work with for her Agent Astrid Farnsworth, but she makes certain Astrid is not just background. And the chemistry she shares with John Noble gives warmth to their characters’ working relationship. I hope we learn more about Astrid, because Jasika could surely stretch her talents even further. At least she gets an alternate character as well.

Oh, Kirk Acevedo. How we missed you. A regular cast member until four episodes into Season 2 when his character was killed off (well, his character’s body…go watch), he was a gruff and grounded delight. It has been wonderful having him back to play his alternate-universe Agent Charlie Francis. Acevedo gives Francis a pleasing mixture of tough, intelligent agent and interesting, considerate friend. I hope they can find a way to bring him back full-time. Anything is possible in the Fringe universe(s), yes?

The Relationships

Walter and Peter
Walter Bishop loves his son so much that he has traveled twice to an alternate universe to save him. Unfortunately, both trips resulted in grave consequences that are still being and perhaps will always have to be dealt with. And back when he was sane, he would not have won any Father of the Year awards. But he’s doing what he can to make up for it now, difficult though it is. And Peter, to make up for not visiting his father during the seventeen years the latter was institutionalized, has become the best caretaker anyone could wish for. Just when he was to the point where he could again call Walter “Dad,” a dark discovery blasts a giant hole in their progress. But the mending process is what is so poignant and beautiful; and we’ll be seeing a lot of that to come. The depth of feeling for one another is so obvious and so tortured that it never fails to be moving.

Peter and Olivia
If you think your romance is complicated, take a number. Just when these good friends finally take a step toward something wonderful, they get separated by an entire universe. To make matters worse, he doesn’t know it (and her infiltrating, manipulative alternate is doing her best to make certain he never will) and she, almost successfully brainwashed, isn’t aware of it either. I know not everyone likes the overused plot device of throwing two attractive leads together romantically. But really, if you are secretly fighting against an enemy the world at large doesn’t know–and probably shouldn’t know–exists and investigating scientific experiments that threaten human life as we know it, could you reasonably expect to maintain a normal relationship with someone who isn’t privvy to your knowledge, your awareness, your work? And if you’re daily working and fighting side-by-side with someone who is rather wonderful, and someone for whom you can’t help but care, can we reasonably expect they wouldn’t naturally fall for one another? Or at least give it a shot? I say no, we couldn’t. Could be the hopeless romantic in me speaking, but that doesn’t make the argument any less viable.

Walter and Astrid
Agent Farnsworth could never in a million years have guessed what she would end up doing when she joined the FBI. But, alas, she has for the past two-plus years been working alongside a mentally unstable, often-high scientist fresh out of the looney bin with an IQ off the charts and an obsession with food, dissecting animate objects and human hybrids that are not at all natural and assisting with experiments that are, if not merely dangerous, insane. The flip side of her duties as assistant is bodyguard and babysitter. And even though he can never remember her name correctly, she has formed a sweet bond with Walter that is touching and should be addressed even more frequently.

The Mythology

Forgive me. I never watched The X Files and as a relatively non-sci-fi person, I can’t point my finger to certain monster-of-the-week cases on Fringe and say, “I’ve seen this before.” And I don’t know details of the actual theories of mind control, spontaneous combustion, pyrokinetics(?), and alternate universes. They say–pulled from the Bible–that there is nothing new under the sun. But J.J. Abrams and company sure as heck try to create and explore something new. And perhaps some of it has been done before on televsion, or in movies. But that doesn’t mean a fresh angle, a fresh perspective, isn’t just as entertaining, or even more so. And the Fringe take on fringe science is definitely entertaining. It’s engaging, it’s fun, it’s breathtaking, it’s mindboggling, it’s insanity personified, it’s cutting-edge, it’s technologically and scientifically advanced, it’s mysterious, it’s emotional, it’s frightening, and it is, for fictional intents and purposes, believable. It even manages to be relatively cohesive and consistent.

And for a girl like me, it takes me on a journey through someone’s imagination–an imagination that differs so decidedly from my own rather vivid and active one. My stories are more or less confined to this universe–and to the laws of this universe. I might bend the latter a little, but the Fringe puppetmasters manipulate them in an exciting fashion I myself would never attempt–or think to attempt.

And for that–and for presenting it through exceptional writers, cast, and crew–I send a rather gushing thank you.

It isn’t perfect. No piece of fiction is–or even could be. But it’s near enough to warrant praise. If you haven’t given Fringe a shot, I encourage you to do so. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on DVD (for rent, likely, and for purchase). Season 3 is available for viewing on fox.com/fod and on hulu.com/fringe. We’re only four episodes in, and there is a three-week break coming up for the World Series. Fringe airs Thursday nights at 9/8c on FOX (just after Bones, which, if you’ve read any more of this blog, you’ll know I also highly recommend).