TV Eye

I’m on a roll- so here’s a relatively quick round-up of the recent American TV I’ve been catching up on. Once again, fear the spoilers…

HEROES: S1-E08 “Seven Minutes to Midnight”, S1-E09 “Homecoming”

Hype can be a dangerous thing- and one of the problems with serialised storytelling on TV is having to live up to the stuff you’ve promised. The most recent episodes of Heroes have managed to keep things rattling along at a pretty enjoyable pace, although when it comes to the much-vaunted “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” sequence, it didn’t quite manage to live up to expectation. This was probably due to the fact that in E08, we see Sylar utilise his powers at brain-consumption in a sequence that’s fast, brutal, and wonderfully icky, and yet in E09, it turns into a slightly clumsy slasher movie with Sylar taking an inordinate amount of time to slice open the head of Evil Bitch Cheerleader (although you’ve got to love the blood-spray). Having the confrontation between Sylar and Peter to be a bit more epic than a confused struggle and a plummet off a building would have helped, and the fact that Peter would end up picking up Claire’s regenerative powers was pretty easy to predict- but, while it’d be easy to be a little disappointed with this, and a little annoyed at how ridiculously long it’s taken to get the Mohinder storyline back on track (I think one episode of moping would have been more than enough), but there’s still plenty to enjoy in these two episodes. The interconnections are piling up, and with a Sylar-killing in Odessa, it’s easy to predict that Greg Grunberg’s cop will soon be crossing over into the main plotline. In fact, while the Sylar confrontation may have been a bit of a misfire, the consequences may be very promising- particularly if Sylar’s imprisonment doesn’t last very long (and of course, there’s the fact that we don’t know exactly how Claire’s fate ties in with the big plan- and whether even this was exactly what Hiro was warning Peter about, or just the beginning of the whole ‘Saving’ process).

It’s still Hiro who’s the absolute heart of the show, and it even looks like he may be getting his own tragic Gwen Stacy-style near-romance with Charlie the waitress. It’s fun, enjoyable entertainment that occasionally crosses the line into brilliance- there’s definite room for improvement, and I just hope they can keep building the show towards something pretty damn major at the season finale. Certainly, the whole interlocking ensemble is working very well (much better than Lost, whose habit of dropping characters for weeks at a time is getting a little vexxing), and even with the many weak links, it’s not long before more fun stuff is along. I just hope it doesn’t end up crushed by its own hype- it’s good, but there’s definitely room for it to be better…

STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP: S1-E08-E09 “Nevada Day” Part Two, “The Option Period”

Okay- I’m sold, and I don’t care who knows it. Studio 60 has its ups and downs, but the last two episodes have been rock solid, and make me genuinely happy that the show has at least gotten a full season commitment. Part Two of Nevada Day managed to combat most of the issues I had with Part One, and especially increased my respect for the brilliant work that Steven Weber is doing as Jack- pulling off a speech like the one he manages at the end of the episode is a talent, and there were plenty of moments where the comic energy was coming from the right areas. “The Option Period” was even better, and instead of letting the whole Ricky and Ron issue drag out for an entire season, they’ve wrapped it up and opened up a whole new can of worms by throwing the show into a different situation. It actually feels like the show is evolving, rather than simply serving up the same meal every week, and while the issues and problems aren’t necessarily going to depart, I’m going to enjoy seeing where it goes for the remaining episodes.

DAYBREAK: S1-E01 “Pilot”

Hands up who wants an action-movie version of “Groundhog Day”? Nobody? Well, the ratings flatline that’s followed the first couple of episodes of this mid-season replacement for the Lost hiatus would seem to confirm that- and while there’s a certain amount of gritty pulp action here, it’s hard to see this as anything other than 24-meets-Tru-Calling. Cop Taye Diggs finds himself framed for a murder and hunted down by mysterious blokes who like to interrogate people in an expansive underground mine- except that the day keeps repeating, and presumably will keep going until he finds a way of saving his loved ones and solving the case. There’s a potentially corrupt partner, a mean ex-partner (Adam Baldwin, once again playing scumbag to perfection), and plenty of running around- it’ll be fun to see if they can actually expand the concept, or if it’s simply going to get dangerously repetitive. One of the bigger challenges is going to be to get the central gimmick to mean something- otherwise, all the time-shifting in the world won’t make this look like anything other than another 24-wannabe. Time will tell…

UGLY BETTY: S1-E08 “Four Thanksgivings and a Funeral”

My guilty pleasure of the current season is maintaining the level of blissfull candy-floss that it’s managed so far, and is simply fun for fun’s sake. The actual plots themselves are very mechanical- particularly the one concerning Debi Mazar as a lawyer who may, or may not, be a confidence trickster- but they’re surrounded by such a surfeit of goofiness that it’s still brilliantly entertaining. Michael Urie and Becki Newton are wonderful as the bitchy workmates, but, as ever, it’s still America Ferrara who manages to keep this souffle of a show going.

JERICHO: S1-E09 “Crossroads”

So, as it turns out, the evil mercenaries didn’t hang around. Far from waiting until February Sweeps, they turn up the next episode and set off the Jericho townsfolk into thinking that doing an impromptu The Good, The Bad and The Ugly homage by blowing up a local bridge will do the trick of saving them. There’s a few fun moments here, but there’s also some exceptionally creaky dream sequences as Emily reaches what was supposed to be her wedding day and starts wondering if she secretly (shock horror) still fancies bad boy
Jake. The Eric Green love triangle continues to be as melodramatic as ever (now we have a preganancy bombshell to be dropped at an appropriate moment), and Jericho proves again that it badly stumbles whenever it leaves the big ‘mystery apocalypse’ plotline for too long, even climaxing with yet another rousing speech from the ailing mayor. More paranoia, less sentiment, please…

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: S3-E08 “Hero”

Galatica continues its slump, and while “Hero” is a definite improvement on last week’s misfire, it’s another show that emphasises the standalone plot at the expense of everything else. It’s also another episode that suffers from Star Trek plotting, and the number of times that people are essentially being conveniently forgiven for the sins of the past is getting somewhat difficult to swallow. The plot involving D’Eanna and her new experiments in suicide may be leading to something interesting, but we need some kind of major running plotline to give the show a kick up the arse- and with the next episode looking like a flashback episode that’s going to explain the rift between Apollo and Starbuck (a rift which, to be honest, has been barely mentioned so far), we’re still going to be stuck picking over the after-effects of the season opening. Colour me unimpressed so far…

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