On the Box
As with last year, I'm not sure what I think of Once Upon A Time. The fairy-tale show is entertaining most of the time, but it does skew a little toward pantomime from time to time. There's a good cast in place, even if some have taken more of a backseat this year. I'm a sucker for anything with a longer story arc. Yet, I often find myself distracted during episodes, and I find it hard to think of it as a really good show.
Still, it isn't all confusion where Once Upon A Time is concerned. Here are eight things I think I know about the show ... (Warning: spoilers follow.)
Those writers really like their surprise familial relations. OUAT creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were on the writing team on Lost - and I mention this because they seem to really like those "Woah, he/she is related to him/her?!" moments. For example, it was revealed last week that Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is Henry's grandfather. Remember how it was revealed on Lost that, woah, Jack is Claire's half-brother?! Same thing happened there. Do you suppose Kitsis and Horowitz just bounce family ideas back and forth across the writers room? "Hey, what if Regina is related to Tiny?!" and "Woah, and what if Grumpy/Leroy is their cousin!"
They need to invest in a new green screen system. We upgraded to a brand new 55" Sony Bravia at our place a few weeks ago* ... and Once Upon A Time's CGI-drawn sets only measure up slightly better than an old episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. C'mon guys, step yo' CGI game up.
Cheesy characters come perilously close to ruining this show. Fortunately, we only have to contend with characters like Tiny (the giant, played by Lost's Jorge Garcia) and Grumpy/Leroy (Lee Arenberg) on rare occasions - because they are absolutely no fun at all. The episode we spent with the giants, which ended with Tiny finding a new field in Storybrooke where he could plant magic beans, was probably the worst of the season. But it isn't just minor characters ...
Expectations are a funny thing. It's hard to get them just right. Too often we set our expectations for something too high, and end up disappointed (nearly everyone who saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is nodding right now). If you set your expectations too low, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. I'm pretty sure this is why I keep enjoying episodes of True Blood.
There is the rare occasion where something meets our irrationally high expectations. I reckon the fifth season of Breaking Bad - which started last night on SoHo* - is one recent example. If you're in love with a show, your anticipation levels for the first episode of a season can be through the roof. Lucky, then, that the fifth season opener is an absolute cracker.
(Warning: spoilers from last night's fifth season premiere of Breaking Bad follow.)
The writers on Breaking Bad - led by creator Vince Gilligan - sure are a savvy bunch. Instead of trying to cover off as much as they possibly could in the first episode since the death of Gus Fring and the first really successful plan Walter White has ever concocted, they drill down on solving a relatively minor problem and focus on the changes in our leading man.
The laptop caper was a great way to reintroduce the show, and gave a pretext to bring the key cast - Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) - together again. The use of magnets to destroy the information on Gus' laptop, and the execution of the plan, is inspired, a testament to how clever the writing is on this show, and a joy to see play out.
Three season finales aired last night - How I Met Your Mother finished its eighth season, New Girl finished its second, and horror-thriller The Following wrapped up its first. Now, one of these three finales made me angry. So angry, in fact, that it may have put me off the show entirely. Can you guess which one?
(Warning: spoilers from the finales of How I Met Your Mother, New Girl and The Following follow.)
New Girl didn't make me angry. I don't even know if it is possible to be angry at New Girl; that show seems to be made of equal parts happy and hilarious. The second season has been fantastic, one of the funniest shows on television. The Nick-Jess storyline has been handled well. And I'm excited for a third season.
The Following didn't make me angry either. I enjoyed the first couple of episodes of its debut season, but around mid-season it became clear what The Following is and how it would proceed; using twists as a way to move the plot along is a nice trick once or twice a season, but it becomes comical when every episode begins to depend on that turn. I probably won't bother tuning in if/when it returns.
How I Met Your Mother, though ... I'm still fuming about that one.
After sitting through the worst episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that I can recall watching, coming in a season that has actually been pretty good (at least by CSI standards), I'm ready to announce the long-running crime series as the most inconsistent show of the year.
(Warning: spoilers from the latest episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation follow.)
In case you missed it, this week's instalment had the team chasing a killer basing a series of murders on a 16-year-old poker hand: grief-stricken murderer Katy was avenging the suicide of her father, Bowe, who killed himself after being cheated out of victory in a 1997 poker competition; a group of players, dealers and groupies were responsible for his devastating loss, which resulted in Bowe hanging himself from a set of monkey bars in a public park.
It might sound like typical CSI fare, but this was a particularly groanworthy hour of television. The episode opened with a poker player murdered in a hotel elevator - and I almost checked out after it was revealed that the murder weapon was a playing card which had been flicked from the hallway as the elevator doors closed.
Hey, I've seen people flick playing cards across a room. I've also seen people get paper cuts. Slicing open a jugular with an ace of clubs seems like a bloody giant test of believability.
The American networks are in the middle of Upfronts Week, the time of year when they announce new schedules and tell us all what is in store come September.
It also means we get a first look at their new shows for the coming television season. Check out the list of new shows for NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and The CW, or take a look at this handy slideshow of most of the new shows, and tell us what you're excited to see. Here are 13 new shows I'm looking forward to:
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Remember how awesome The Avengers was last year? Well, ABC does! And they've created a TV show to remind us for an hour every week! Clark Gregg returns as fallen (?!) agent Phil Coulson, leading a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives as they investigate strange, comic book-related phenomena. I can't wait for this show. Check out the trailer here.
Almost Human (Fox)
Kiwi hunk Karl Urban (as I discovered recently, no relation to singer Keith Urban) and Michael Ealy play detectives in this buddy cop show with a difference: we're in the almost-near future and Ealy's character is an android. Remember that Will Smith movie I Robot? OK, so think that, only the robot is also a cop. Formulaic it might be, but the trailer looks like a bit of fun and I like Urban (and producer JJ Abrams) enough to give it a chance. Check out the trailer here.
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