Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Film Yap: Week Three TV Contest Results

As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every show that was suggested to him during one weekend. He’ll watch 2-3 episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Saturday on The Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV related prizes.

Lie to Me

Previous Relationship: When the show premiered, I really liked the idea of the show. Knowing scientifically if someone is lying can be really cool, especially if you have a wildcard character who knows all of the tricks. I watched the first two episodes and I thought they were fine, but I had no urge to continue.

I watched Season One, Episodes 4-6 “A Perfect Score”, “Love Always”, and “Unchained”

And…? Oh man. This is way worse than I remember. There are several fundamental flaws with the show. The team itself doesn’t make any sense. They work in a giant multi-million dollar office with dozens of TV screens. All they do is consult. People hire them to see if someone is lying. So once they get past the initial conference with the suspect, why are they still working on the case? They’re acting as detectives for several days per case even though they were only hired for a small part. Also when you accuse someone of lying, that doesn’t mean they should automatically be arrested.

Most of that can be stretched to be a decent procedural (not my favorite subgenre). The bigger problem is the show’s pacing. The lying doesn’t work. Most of the actors who are supposed to lie aren’t talented enough to pull off the subtle motions required by the script. Then the team of human lie detectors dramatically halts the plot to over-explain every single subtle motion. Then the subtle motions are repeated by a flashback. It becomes unbearable.

Throw in a bunch of boring cases, flat characters, and wasted potential by having Tim Roth as your lead and this makes for three dull episodes. I hope the show gets better as it smoothes out some of these problems. I know one of my favorite TV writers, Shawn Ryan, was hired to be a temporary showrunner during the second season. I don’t know what he could do though.

Will I continue watching? Nope

Grade: 2 Yaps


Previous Relationship: One of those shows I meant to start, but never did. I like the original Ron Howard/Steve Martin movie. Peter Krause is an actor that I will always check out what he was doing, but my schedule got away from me.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot”, “Man Versus Possum”, and “The Deep End of the Pool.”

And…? This is a really likable show. There are plenty of actors that have a natural charisma about them. They all work well together making a believable family. It’s familiar, but it can still be something special. It’s all about how well they can continue their plotlines.

Individually, most of the storylines are compelling. I like Krause as the father who learns his son has Asperger’s and what that means to his wife and daughter. Dax Shepard is finally allowed to act like a real character by being the brother who struggles with commitment and finds out he has a son. (Shepard is also really good in the independent film “The Freebie”.)

Yet the scenes that work the best is when all of the family is together. I like the older siblings goofing off outside of the school while some of them smoke pot and others pass. It’s the best way to reveal chemistry and small character decisions. It shows why the family is worth investing the time in.

Will I continue watching? The friend, who recommended this series, lent me the first season. I plan on watching the rest before returning it to her. (Thanks Sara!)

Eli Stone

Previous Relationship: Despite having seen Season One, most of my memory of the show is from watching LOST. For its two years, it always aired after my favorite show so my friends and I had this ridiculous resentment towards it because if those commercials were saying it was coming up next, we only have a few minutes left of crazy jungle adventures. My mom was a big fan of the show and I watched her DVD of Season One and was charmed. Never started Season Two and then it became lower priority once it was canceled.

I watched Season Two, Episodes 1-3 “The Path”, “Grace”, and “Unwritten.”

And…? I was thankful of the season recap at the beginning of “The Path.” Basically Eli is a lawyer who has these visions (typically in the form of eleborate musical numbers) that encourage him to help people. Sometimes they are warnings like a giant earthquake or sometimes it’s telling him what case to take on. These episodes take on the mythology with shaky ground. There are a lot of Hero’s Journey steps in place and an interesting plot device of a book that can tell the future.

I typically prefer the mythological elements of a show, but the writer’s aren’t that good at covering it. The premise is limiting and their magical book ends up being burned by the end of the episode anyway. What it can accomplish is a sweet tone. It’s all about lawyers turning down money and trying to help people. It’s about faith and love and George Michael. Sometimes that causes for hokey dialog, but usually it’s a nice change of pace.

However, the character of Eli is flimsy this season. Jonny Lee Miller is a very talented actor and I’m sorry I missed his exciting Frankenstein performance earlier this year. When you have a show about accepting faith and goodwill and you have a character constantly risking his professional career to push those points, it shouldn’t be so grumpy about it all the time. Every first act shouldn’t be him trying not to take the case when this is his chosen lifestyle.

Will I continue watching? Sure. Only 10 episodes left. I’ll take my time though.

Grade: 3.5 Yaps

Brothers & Sisters

Previous Relationship: I’ve seen one random recent episode when I was over at my friend’s house. It seems fine?

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Patriarchy”, “An Act of Will”, and “Affairs of State.”

And…? I probably shouldn’t have watched this so close to “Parenthood.” Both of them are about older siblings with different relationships. I almost have no choice, but to compare them.

This is much worse. There are only a few storylines with actual plots attached. Each one is poorly written and out of their depths. There is an embezzlement scandal with their father and Ally McBeal is on a political talk show, to the frustration with their family. Everything from PTSD to homosexuality to basic relationships feels amateurish. There is a good cast including Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths, but they can’t rise above flat material where everyone looks embarrassed.

Will I continue watching? I would have liked to see Rob Lowe, but I’m not going to make it that far. No more for me.

Grade: 2 Yaps

Friday Night Lights

Previous Relationship: I’ve read the book, seen the movie, and the first season. It’s one of my family’s favorite show but I just lost track of it. By being in the same house with them for a few months of the year, I have been spoiled on a few major upcoming plot points.

I watched Season Two, Episodes 1-3 “Last Days of Summer”, “Bad Ideas”, and “Are You Ready for Friday Night?”

And…? In the first scene, Saracen is talking to Landry by the pool in their typical naturalistic dialog. It was so funny and real, that I suddenly missed the entire show. The show created a place that was so genuine that it barely feels like a TV show at time. The only cracks in the show are when it’s obviously a TV show. Like when Landry murders someone and hides the body. Oh boy.

That bad decision aside, there is still plenty to love. Whenever Coach Taylor speaks his mind, I’m nodding along out of respect. I even like it when Julie is acting like an annoying high school girl because every choice she’s making is very believable for that age. Even though everyone says this is the weakest season, there is a ton of stuff that completely works for me.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

Keeping Up With the Kardashians

Previous Relationship: I knew of the show and I knew there was a spin-off. That’s it.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “I’m Watching You”, “Managing Mom”, and “Brody in the House.”

And…? What the hell did I just watch? Now Jersey Shore is a horrendous show, but at least I understand what it is. I don’t know what this is. This is the worst edited show I have ever seen. Of course, it’s staged but that’s expected of every reality show nowadays. This is…something new.

For example, in the first episode Kim is nervous about appearing on The Tyra Banks Show because they’re going to talk about her infamous sex tape. She says she wants a public forum to talk about what she really feels. She is saying that on her own TV show and then proceeds not to talk about what she really feels. She just makes jokes about how she was horny. Then when they show the clip from Tyra, I have no idea if she accomplished what she wanted to do.

I hate all of these people. I don’t know what most of them do all day and I just watched three episodes about their lives. In the worst episode, Kim’s mom, Kris, messed up yet another scheduling so Kim thinks about getting a new manager. She auditions new people in her mom’s house because…I don’t know. When the new manager-to-be asks what Kim wants to do with her career, the show cuts away because I don’t think anyone knows why she’s a celebrity. Then Kim tells Khloe to tell Kris about the managers to teach her a lesson. Kris then yells a lot, changes her answering machine to an angry recording where she tells the world Kim’s personal cell phone number, and then spends a day in the spa ignoring all of her children. This was, of course, to teach Kim a lesson. Despite being the worst manager, Kris keeps her job.

I hate these people.

Will I continue watching? Hell no.

Grade: 1 Yap

Hogan’s Heroes

Previous Relationship: I knew the basic premise and I’ve seen the great movie “Auto Focus”.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “The Informer”, “Hold the Tiger”, “Kommandant of the Year”.

And…? One of my all-time favorite shows is M*A*S*H. I’ve seen every episode; Hawkeye’s blend of Groucho and pain was a major influence on my writing. It’s unfair, but this show is no M*A*S*H and I really wish it was. Hogan is a POW during World War II. He’s up against incompetent Nazis as he tries to rescue Allies and hurt the Germans. Oh yeah, it’s a comedy.

Having a POW comedy is not easy and tonally the show works at being a light show. Yet it could be so much better than that. There’s no threat or danger in this situation. If it was funny enough, I’d allow it but it always appeared cleverer than it really was. Bob Crane is too smug because it feels like he’s always winking at the camera.

This was one of the shows, I was really looking forward to but this hasn’t aged well.

Will I continue watching? Nope.

Grade: 2.5 Yaps

Green Wing

Previous Relationship: The friend that recommended this one showed me a few funny clips.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Caroline’s First Day”, “Rumours” and “Lodgers”.

And…? Oh, I love British shows. My theory stands that there are only 15 working British actors because they all appear in the same shows. This has Black Book’s Tamsin Greig, Coupling’s Sarah Alexander, Spaced’s Mark Heap, and Episodes’ Stephen Mangan just in the main cast.

Since it’s a mad comedy set in a hospital, it’ll be easy to compare this to “Scrubs” but it’s more like “30 Rock.” It’s not so much about believability, but having a lot of jokes in the time span. There is a wide selection of the comedy spectrum, from the more humanly neurotic Caroline to the utterly insane Sue White, who may occasionally screech random noises or dress up like a “Nazi from a film.” It all fits because everything is funny.

They’re witty, absurdy, silly, and sexual usually all in the same scene. The only fault of the show is that it overuses its speed-up/slow down editing and 50 minutes does feel a little long for this type of show. That said, I like it when a comedy equips great comedic talents and gives them a great platform to show their range.

Will I continue watching? Of course. The whole series is on Hulu.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps


Previous Relationship: Whenever I talk about my love of LOST and Doctor Who, someone always brings up Supernatural. During a free trial to Netflix, I watched the first disc and liked it. I didn’t love it, but it had some cool parts. Then, like so many other shows in this series, I just never picked it back up. UNTIL TODAY.

I watched Season One, Episodes 5-7 “Bloody Mary”, “Skin” and “Hooks”.

And…? If I just watched “Skin” and “Hooks” I would give it a good review and then let the show drift away again. Yet, I started with “Bloody Mary” which is a crazy good episode. This is what I want from the show. It was clever, but most of all it was scary. The show has a distinct style with its drained color correction. This particular episode used that to really terrifying effects all the way up to the satisfying conclusion. It’s a more visual show than I ever expected.

This is The CW’s version of The X-Files as two brothers drive around stopping any supernatural threat while they try to find their missing father and solve the murder of one of their girlfriends. That means it’ll be monster-of-the-week with the occasional mythology episode to forward the plot. These were all of the former, but they were each good. I like them blending different cultures to find stories from. Even though the leads aren’t the best actors, they are serviceable. They don’t work beyond the range of handsome young investigators who will wield a weapon (meaning the shapeshifter episode wasn’t the best use of them) but they know how to be moody without being annoying.

Will I continue watching? Yes. Will I be caught up to Season Seven anytime soon? No. Need another summer for that. I do really want to get to Mark Pellegrino as the Devil.

Grade: 4 Yaps

Next week, I will try my best to finally finish this experiment. I have 12 shows left including the beloved “All in the Family” and “Hill Street Blues”, the overrated “Modern Family”, and obscure “Nathan Barley” and “Beast Wars”.

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