Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Summer TV Recap

Due to a combination of fatigue and schedule, I neglected to recap TV shows I watched over the summer. Shameful I know, but I'll half correct that failing now. More with an overview of the series rather than individual recaps though. Those will start up again with the fall TV schedule. A notable absence from this list is Game of Thrones which everyone tells me was the best show of the year, which I have no trouble believing given what I've been watching. Sadly I just haven't managed to squeeze it in between work, study and another activity I'll hopefully post about soon.

Reviews, mostly spoiler-free, after the jump.


This wasn't really over the summer but I was watching it all along without bothering to write about it. It's about the murder of a young girl and follows the investigation by two detectives (Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman) while also featuring the mayoral campaign of a person of interest and the bereaved family. The consensus from people who talk loudly and think others crave their opinions is that after a good start, The Killing stagnated into a boring, contrived mess. The way the finale ended especially pissed off a lot of folks.

Some of their criticism, such as never really getting a sense of who the murdered girl Rosie Larsen or why Detective Linden (Enos) cared so much. There were also real detectives crying about how "That would never happen!" concerning certain aspects. The latter is pretty self righteous. Patriots would never admit it, but cops make mistakes and errors in judgement all the time and dealing with families of murder victims with whom you empathize is always tricky. Further to that, how many shows really are accurate? The most important thing is entertainment value. Realism is an added bonus. The cookie cutter scenarios of CSI and the like where the case is cracked in a day and a half are hardly authentic.

As to the former... it's a slow burning show that rides on atmosphere. Some aspects would be out of place. I'm not going to try and defend it from every charge, but an inherent risk with a show of this kind is the necessity to maintain the mystery structure. Like a video game where you need to discover the existence of a room before you can open the door and enter, revelations need to be rationed out. This insatiable hunger for answers turned people of from Lost as well. Sometimes there aren't any and that's ok.

Standout episode: 11, Missing. In this one more than any other we really got a good look at the characters of Detectives Linden and Holder, focussing almost entirely on them as it does. Overall that was a strength of the show, to examine their behavior and personality in a subtle manner. This episode was less subtle but the tension was all real.

the Killing isn't on par with the best shows currently out there, Mad Men, Dexter and so on, but it holds its own and isn't as terrible as critics would have you believe. I will admit though that the last few minutes of the finale worried me and the start of the second season needs to be flawless to justify it.


Camelot, the legend of Arthur, King and uniter of England. The pilot shows Merlin plucking him from obscurity to install him at the run down castle of Camelot and goes on from there as he attempts to spread his influence across the land. Oh boy. I always hoped this would get better as it went along but it never really did. It started off ok, with lots of drama, action, variations on old myths but it was never really built upon. We'll talk up the good first; Joseph Fiennes as Merlin and Eva Green as Morgan were the reason I kept watching. Their demeanour and delivery fit the setting and the atmosphere the show should have had perfectly. That atmosphere being hamtastic, vast and epic in scope. The show instead felt small-scale and low budget, something that never should be the case when you have sword fights involved.

As James astutely pointed out, Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur has a whiny face. The depiction is also very inconsistent. We are led to believe that he is by turns juvenile but has a spark of brilliance in him. Most of what we get is him being dull and sage and around Guinevere, simpering. Guinevere herself whose actress I cannot recall the name of, such was the impression left on me is also a weak character though that may be symbolic of the time period. Often unsure of herself, I kept hoping Morgan would slap her. Clive Standen as Gawain is ok but Kay, Arthur's brother is anonymous and I often found myself forgetting who he was supposed to be.

Standout episode: 8, Igraine. Actually, this is the only episode lacking Eva Green but Claire Forlani does a great impression of her after Morgan learns how to shapeshift. With most of the episode centered around Merlin and Morgan, we did not have to spend too much time with the more useless characters in the cast.

Despite it being mostly terrible, I'm a little sad to see that the show got cancelled because I really did like watching Fiennes and Green. Hopefully they have found/can find new projects soon.


I had a hard time getting into this show at first, it did get better as it went along. Ultimately this show is going to be driven by its mythology because not one of the hundreds of characters is remotely memorable. I was kind of interested in Dai (Peter Shinkoda) because he is Asian but he's really little more than a glorified extra. It's not that the show didn't do everything they could to garner interest in their stars (besides writing properly for them).

Whenever a character would be obviously feeling a surge of emotion, there'd also be a stirring chord in the score. There was an obvious and 100% manufactured sexual tension between Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and Dr. Glass (Moon Bloodgood). Mason's eldest son whose name I can't remember because there are three Mason sons and kept getting confused as to who was who, also has his own romantic subtexts bubbling in a very anvilicious fashion.

The action actually was strangely boring too. It was all very professional military and while it was frequently mentioned that there was a conflict within the 2nd Mass. between military affairs and care of civilians, there was never really a sense of the civilian struggle. Much like Anne did not attach a photo of her child to the wall of lost and deceased because she did not have one, we don't have much to attach ourselves to as the horrors on screen tend to be visited on, as Carmela Soprano would call them, professional killers. That is perhaps the nature of a show depicting post-apocalypse but the result is ironically dehumanized.

Standout episode: 8, What Hides Beneath. An episode that did have some humanity to it as part of the improvement the show underwent as the production team got their feet underneath them. In particular Weaver (Will Patton) very gruff up to this point does not change at all but does have the source of his pain revelaed bit by bit. There are also a pair of game changing twists that are almost casually revealed and barely explained but thrilling nonetheless.

While the first season was a little disappointing overall, I'm hopeful that the show will continue making strides in its second season as we discover more about the aliens and their intentions. The only downside of course being that Mason and Glass are now apparently a couple. I expect their relationship to be by far the most boring aspect of the show going forward.


It seems like they're still trying to deny it, but this show is very, very heavily influenced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The first seasons of both these shows are not the best in retrospect but I'm not confident Chloe King can ascend to the heights that Buffy did. It's partly hampered by the odd fact it's on ABC Family. What that really means is unclear but I'm not expecting the result to be high drama. Chloe King is a girl who on her sixteenth birthday discovers she is a Slayer Mai, and not just any Mai but the "Uniter", a member of this cat-human hybrid race with nine lives and an important role to play in prophecies. A lot of the show was faintly silly and predictable and there are so many moving parts I'm not sure where to start.

Considering the ties to Buffy though, there is really only one place; the dynamic of the three friends, the super and the norms. Skyler Samuels as "Uniter" Chloe is a delight all the way through and the main reason I stayed with the show. Ki Hong Lee as nerdy sidekick Paul is great comic relief when given the opportunity and they work really well together, natural with the same kind of relationship onscreen that you could imagine them having off-screen. Grace Phipps as third wheel Amy though almost feels like she is in the wrong show. I want her to work because it's so rare to see AMWF couples on TV, but there's just something about every scene she is in that doesn't quite feel right.

Perhaps it's because they threw all these other characters into the mix with their only common element being Chloe. While Chloe is running around trying to make time for everyone, noone else really gets a chance to establish themselves as they are not only separated into their various cliques but are actually quite annoyed to have to mix. The most jarring is creepy (to me anyway) Brian, a college dropout who seems to desperately want to get into the pants of 16 year old Chloe. Brian is probably meant to be 19 (which is still a little creepy) but he looks and behaves older. It's not quite the same situation as Buffy/Angel either because while Buffy presented older, Chloe King is her age and talks and acts the way girls her age actually do.

Chloe's Mai bodyguards are the real problem though, as they act as a substitute for her existing friends and sideline them. While that's part of the point, their grounding in the plot and mythology makes scenes Chloe has with best friend Amy seem like an afterthought. Speaking of the Mai, it's not worth listing all of the problems with them; suffice to say too much information is given all at once about them so it's hard to retain it all and theres not a part of it which feels remotely organic. Not to mention that the villains are regularly holding idiot balls and can't seem to make their mind up from episode to episode how best to deal with Chloe. In one episode, it's explicitly mentioned they would like to kidnap her and keep killing her until all her lives are depleted, in others attempts on her life are merely one hit wonders so to speak.

Standout episodes: There really wasn't one episode I could pick out and say "that one!" though I do note with interest that episode 9, Responsible was written by Mere Smith. This episode has, paradoxically, a plot twist involving a new friend of Chloe's that is not only entirely ludicrous but also completely obvious from the offset. Was this really the same Mere Smith who penned such classic episodes of Angel as "Untouched" and "Loyalty"? I know the writing process is murky and people's names can get attached to teleplays they might not have actually done the bulk of the work on but still!

It's still up in the air whether this show will get renewed or not. I kinda hope it comes back because even though I have not been particularly kind to it here, it did have a particular charm about it that only comes from shows with teenaged girl leads.


A changeup in the format this season; rather than looking for an employee, Sugar was looking for a business partner. It's an old joke, but about time too, because who really wants to work for Amstrad? Sugar, who I refuse to refer to as "Lord Sugar" as the old egomaniac evidently forced all the contestants to, was not consistent with what this actually meant because while citing many times his need to evaluate people differently based on this new criteria, hucksters like Jim still managed to coast through multiple boardroom visits based on his charisma and appeal to the cameras.

A lot of my curiosity and support this year was focussed on contestant Susan Ma, who was frequently bullied by other team members despite often being the best and/or most astute worker. She was also mocked and abused by the general public for an unflatteringly edited musing on whether the French liked their children (although, y'know, they are French...) While keen to point out that she born in China and the terrible conditions she and her mother lived in while there, she does not appear interested in exploring her East-Asian heritage which is disappointing. Blessed with a unique moment in the spotlight she instead seems content to allow the status quo remain in place for a forgotten, heavily stereotyped minority.

The real star of the show was eventual winner Tom Pellereau who myself and Iden both picked out within mere minutes of the first episode starting. With his long, thin neck and statement that "underneath these glasses lies a core of steel", we both instantly exclaimed, "Superman!" He never failed to disappoint with his wild ideas and ramblings and he is probably the most memorable, if not necessarily capable victor yet.

That said, this show may be running out its string. Sugar is always tough to take but with Karren Brady all over the show too, the judging panel is becoming insufferable. I'll freely admit that a lot of my distate for Brady is a direct result of her horrible self-serving weekend column in the Sun. Despite their successes, hearing these two dole out business advice is no less than grating. Also, and this is probably hypocritical of me given my haughty ignorance of other reality shows, there was a distinct lack of running conflict, no Sayid vs Tuan, no Kristina vs Kate or Stella vs Baggs. I'll probably be back on this train when next year rolls around though.


Season 17 was fun as always but honestly I don't remember a lot about it. The big challenges that really define the appeal of the show just didn't seem as captivating this year. High points were a visit from F1 champ Sebastian Vettel and the awkward return of Ben Collins. Must do better next time.


It's not quite over yet, there is still one more episode to go but I'm ready to class this as one the very finest seasons of the show and perhaps any comedy - it has just been a complete riot from start to finish! The best of a fantastic batch of episodes was 6, The Hero, guest-starring Ricky Gervais. The only negative preventing a platinum grade was the appearance of Wanda Sykes and Rosie O' Donnell, occassionally recurring guests who I just cannot abide. Both of them though, happily, were thoroughly bested by Larry in their respective showdowns though - maybe I should bump it up?

That wraps it up for now. Check back soon for the start of fall TV! I will be reviewing How I Met Your Mother, House M.D., Gossip Girl and Community. I probably will also continue with 30 Rock and Glee, schedule allowing. Other shows TBA.

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