The TV Obsessed Week In Review: Smash, Awake, Alcatraz

I finally caught up on the shows that I missed, so I have reviews for most things I’ve watched, in addition to shows from last night, so I have thoughts and two Mondays worth of shows.

Southland’s ratings this season have been even lower than the last, and the last renewal was already a surprise for TNT which regularly gets much higher ratings for original, scripted shows. The ending this season didn’t provide too much closure, as there were plenty more places the show could have gone, but through these four seasons, I think we got a lot out of each character. I think a large part of this season’s success was Lucy Liu. While it may have seemed like stunt casting initially, she quickly proved her worth

Awake’s ratings have been the toilet, but it’s a far better show than Touch, which airs on the same night, has similar vibe, and almost three times the 18-49 ratings. The show does what few are able to do–bring out poignant, meaningful moments without seeming forced. Detective Britten’s problems with his wife or son, in alternative realities, blend nicely with the crimes he’s solving.

Grimm hasn’t exactly broken out of its formula yet–and the scenes with the captain and the Hexenbiest blonde remain out of place due to their serial infrequency–but the greater usage of Nick’s girlfriend actually puts some things at stake. Now, it is a bit late, considering the fact that Nick’s aunt warned him at the beginning of the show. But it’s better than nothing…

The second season of Breaking In, oddly enough, isn’t about breaking in. With the Megan Mullally and Erin Richards, it’s primarily about the office where lots of funky stuff happens. It seems like there isn’t anything central to the show anymore, just a bunch of characters hanging around doing what comes to their minds.

Bones: Booth and Bones have been insufferably stupid the whole season and last night was no exception. It was actually the worst we’ve seen them, Bones refusing to go to a hospital and walking around–even wading into a crowd of inmates–minutes before going into labor, and Booth being stubborn as usual. It’s sad to see them like this, arguing unreasonably now that they are together.

Game of Thrones: I’ve read a tad more than half of A Clash of Kings so I think I have a pretty good idea of what will happen for most of this season and what’s going to happen to the characters. Like the beginning of the book, the second season of Game of Thrones doesn’t have too much action or wild twists. It sets the situation up, with all the intricacies, and lets it all hang there. So here’s where we’re at. There are four people in Westeros who’ve declared themselves kings: Robb, Joffrey, Stannis, and Renly, who we’ve yet to see. Stannis we’re introduced to in a couple scenes, along with Melisandre, his priestess/sorceress. Daenerys also thinks she’s king, and is following the comet out into the wasteland, Jon Snow is beyond the Wall along with Mormont and the rest of them, and Tyrion shows up at King’s Landing. In terms of plot development, not much happens, mostly threats and insinuations, but there is the richest and dept to the world that we’ve come to know

Potential spoilers for the book ahead, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip ahead. About the differences between the book and show, I realize that the place where I’m at currently in the book may cloud my impressions. Certain characters, Cersei and Joffrey mostly, in the first episode are more prominent–and more dangerous–than I’d remember; however, this may be because they become marginalized as the book progresses and that’s what is most fresh in my memory. Or perhaps these traits are actually more important at the end of the book, which is why the writers on the show are emphasizing these traits now. In terms of easy comparisons, the Melisandre scenes are reversed in the book and Craster parts are more dense. I don’t know if they’ll be staying at Craster’s Keep in the next episode, but I liked the part where they talk about how Craster stays safe and what he does with his sons. Perhaps the biggest part added were Robert’s children being killed on screen (well, maybe a hair off screen), versus the dialogue in the book where it’s revealed. The visceral effect is much needed in television and was a great way to end the episode

With no Betty in Mad Men’s season premiere, the second episode of the season spent quite a bit of time on her, using January Jones’s pregnancy for a plot about Betty becoming fat. Now, I can imagine this not being the original plot envisioned, but it fits well into the episode. Betty relents at the end of the episode and eats Sally’s sundae, indicating that she has changed and accepts it. Likewise, Don comes to terms with his age and age difference with Megan. We also got lots of Peggy, who is more awesome than Betty, and it was fun to see her navigate between Don, the potential new hire, and Roger.

The Killing got huge backlash at the end of its second season and for good reason. The series began with two detectives investigating a murder. This would if fine–if they didn’t have a new suspect each week with irrefutable evidence of guilt. Inevitably, these suspects were all cleared at the beginning of the next episode without much being learned. Instead of layers of new evidence, it was mostly just irrelevant information placed beside each other. Then at the end of the season, after cycling through numerous people, they came upon Richmond, who was a big figure through the course of the season, but never a prime suspect. They got him with a photo–later revealed to be faked by Holder–and then Richmond got shot. In actually getting to the bottom of what happened to Rosie, the entire season, all 13 episodes, was pretty much a wash.

The second season of isn’t that much different and the premiere felt like a breather before heading back into the same pattern. There’s this new angle of a larger conspiracy at work and someone leaving Rosie’s backpack at the Larsen’s doorstep, but any of these things could have happened in the first season. There is nothing to indicate why this had to happen at this time, no real sense of progression. Instead, it was the same resetting we saw numerous times last season.

Spartacus ended its season with a total bloodbath much like it did the first season. Everything that happens demands a new setting and characters in the next season. Capua isn’t even anymore, and it’s time for Spartacus to turn to Rome. All the villains from the first season–Batiatus, Lucretia, Ilythia, Galber, Ashur–are dead, and some good guys–Oenomaus, Mira–are dead. Shockingly, Lucretia was actually batshit insane the entire season, hiding her true intentions for Ilythia’s baby. She cuts the baby out, grabs it, and leaps off the edge of the cliff.

You can always count on Supernatural for good acting, and that’s what DJ Qualls brought in his second appearance as Garth. The Bobby ghost stuff was again awkward at best. The writers kill him off rather randomly, give him an entire episode, constantly hint at him being a ghost, and finally show him as a ghost. What’s the point?

Fringe took a trip into a past–going diagonally back in time, I would say–to revisit a case that happened in the season one, but never in this world. By the end of the episode, we get a whole new group of people, cultists who want to advance mankind through mutations. I’m again wary of yet another new development, but the episode was interesting enough.

Nikita has built up so many enemies that Amanda and Ari’s quick fall from grace doesn’t dampen the momentum the show has build up. Percy’s return to power shows how much more he understands than Amanda, that it takes more than tricks and manipulation to win. The clear difference between the two is that Percy pretends to care about Division and its people. Amanda, on the other hand, showed a blithe disregard for their lives and was never careful with her words. She seems to have forgotten that she is one person and everyone else has guns as well.

Community’s return to the blanket fort had a much different approach than the first time. Instead of an event to bring people together, it drove Abed and Troy apart, sparking underlying feelings about their friendship Troy has been harboring. The Subway story reminded me of Better Off Ted and the funny ways a corporation can dehumanize its workers, and of course it means the show is getting good money for the product placement.

The Secret Circle is easily the most interesting when it’s dealing with serious witch problems, when there’s actually a chance of someone getting hurt. The relationship stuff all feel superfluous, especially when the characters can bust out elixir plot devices whenever they want. Blackwell has gotten more interesting, though, so that’s something.

The Vampire Diaries is doing everything it can to keep Klaus alive and it’s tedious. I get it, he’s a charming guy who can dish out one-liners with the best of them. But as a villain, his time is up. He’s menaced the town, menaced Elena, menaced her friends, and hit on Caroline. He’s done these things multiple times with the same recognizable pattern. We know about his past, how cruel he can be, but also how persuasive and manipulative he can be. What more is there to him that forces the writers to keep spinning the wheels week in and week out? The new “twist” is that killing one Original kills the entire bloodline he/she sired, so killing all the Originals means all vampires die. And even if they don’t know Katherine’s bloodline, Tyler is for sure from Klaus’s.

The third season of Justified has been pretty hectic with all the different factions vying for control without bringing too much attention upon themselves. Then Quarles snapped, which put more wrenches in everyone’s plan. That led to last week’s episode in which thugs from Detroit showed up, and they weren’t even the ones who dealt with Quarles in the end.

Castle seemingly has these weird, unreasonable rules seemingly set in stone. 1) Episodes can be cleanly divided between serious and non-serious episodes. 2) A potential Castle and Beckett relationship is never explored unless it is a serious episode. So, like clockwork, last week’s episode sets up a situation where Castle is ready to spill his guts to Beckett, but–surprise!!!–Ryan interrupts him right before he gets the words out. Then Beckett, in the process of an interrogation, lets slip that, even during trauma, her trauma to be exact, people remember everything, and Castle hears it all. It’s gimmicky, awkward, and not fun at all.

This week’s episode was a bit different. It was neither funny nor serious. The detective work was put into the background, so Beckett could be silently disgruntled about Castle. In other words, it was a pure relationship episode. And as one might expect, it was a turd. Now Castle has his blond and Beckett goes on a date with Scotland Yard guy. Once again, the writers create some stupid reasons why they can’t be together for no apparent reason. It’s been four seasons of semi-flirting and SERIOUS episodes–it’s time to move things along.

The biggest problem with Being Human this season is that it was no longer a show about three supernatural beings living together. More, it was about three supernatural beings doing their own things and crossing paths occasionally at a central location. While it’s too late in the season to fully redeem the season, last week’s episode showed how good the show can be when their living situation is put in danger and the characters are forced to make tough decisions.

This week’s episode went back to the three separate stories format, but the stakes were heightened in the run up to the season finale next week. Josh’s plot, which has been the best this season, was the most potent, combining the aspects of Aidan and Sally’s plots. Like Aidan, Josh loses his love and like Sally, he it was a result of his actions. While I liked Julia (and Natalie Brown, who played her), what happened to Josh will make a large impact on him.

Alcatraz ended its first season, and it wasn’t terribly impressive. The action was pretty good and learning about Lucy was nice, but it was mainly the same things we’ve seen before, only with a larger budget. With the low ratings, I’m not expecting another season, nor do I really care. Mainly, the characters never came to life. They were pleasant, nice people, to be sure, but never terrible interesting. We got to learn about them–mainly the facts about them you could write on a piece of paper–but nothing more, no reason why we should care about them.

The thing about Smash that bothers me the most is the makeup of the characters and their likability. There are plenty of unlikable characters–Ellis, Julia, Michael, Ivy sometimes, Julia’s son due to his annoyingness–a fun villlain-y type in Derek, Tom and Eileen who are mostly agreeable, and Karen who is written to be absolutely perfect. So the episodes swing wildly from WTF character to WTF character–from Ellis, who is seemingly pure evil yet with no coherent plan at the same time, to the other spectrum, Karen, who is always friendly and never objects to anything. The main thing that has held the show together has been the plot, the Marilyn musical which miraculously kept all these characters. With the musical stalling these past few weeks, however, the show hit a low point, trying to focus on the characters instead. Although some of it worked–Julia’s scenes, some of Ivy’s–most of it was reinforcement–Michael being a scumbag liar, Ellis scheming–and then the downright awkward–Ivy and Karen singing together.

Tags: , , ,