Monthly Archives: May 2011

Veronica Mars – Complex and Sassy

Wow. I’m just five episodes into this show, and already it’s blowing me away.

I first remember hearing about Veronica Mars on TVLine’s renewal scorecard page. The very first paragraph read:

TV’s queasy season has arrived. From now until late May, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW will determine which shows will be back next fall and which will be join Tru Calling, Heroes and Veronica Mars over at the MIA Network. (MIA is fictional people; stop scouring your on-screen channel guide now.)

I bookmarked the page and checked back frequently for updates (maybe once a week at first, but eventually every day around April and early May). I knew Tru Calling starred Eliza Dushku (Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Echo from Dollhouse), and I had the first few seasons of Heroes (watched the pilot, but the hand down the garbage disposal still makes me grimace and has deterred further watching), but I had no clue what Veronica Mars was.

The show popped up on my radar a few other times over the past months. I noticed it on the resume of several Whedonverse alums, particularly Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia on Buffy and Angel) and Alyson Hannigan (Willow on Buffy and Lily on How I Met Your Mother).

But it wasn’t until I read somewhere that the humor and dialogue on the show was very similar to Buffy that I knew I had to try it out. I had just completed my goal of watching every episode of every Joss Whedon show, and I needed something to fill that particularly quirky niche. And I was delighted to find out that Netflix had all three seasons of Veronica Mars on watch instantly.

The sassy nature of the show captured my interest immediately. But then the show continued to unfold new layers, and I knew I’d stumbled across something special.

On the surface, it’s a show about a saucy blonde going to high school in southern California (ditto for Buffy).

On an episodic level, Veronica’s dad is a private investigator, she helps him out with cases, and she finds some of her own (modern take on Nancy Drew).

Then the show delves into her character backstory. Less than a year before the show’s start, Veronica was dating Duncan Kane and was a part of his group of friends. Now she’s forced to keep seeing them at school, and they alternately ignore or belittle her. This ties into the show’s theme song, “We Used to be Friends.”

And then we find out Duncan’s sister Lilly, Veronica’s best friend, was murdered the previous October. At the time, Veronica’s father was sheriff, and pursued Duncan and Lily’s father as his chief suspect. Mr. Kane – rich, powerful, and beloved in the community – told the media and Keith Mars was ousted as sheriff. Veronica’s mom left town.

If that wasn’t enough, we find out that things don’t add up with Lilly’s murder. And Veronica’s mother may have had an ulterior motive for leaving town.

And this is only five episodes into the show!

Kristen Bell does an excellent job playing the various facets of Veronica. She can switch from pensive to spunky to flirty and back again easily. And while Veronica has plenty of Buffy-like sass, she also has Willow’s brains. Percy Daggs III plays Wallace, a Xander-like companion I hope the writers will give more to do in future episodes. Teddy Dunn plays the brooding Duncan Kane well, and keeps reminding me of a young Shane West.

I have a feeling I’m going to be upset about this show’s cancellation.

 

Side Note: While trying to figure out what to call this show’s genre (if anyone has other suggestions than my choice of “mystery” feel free to mention them!), I came across this quote from Joss Whedon about Veronica Mars:

My peeps and I just finished a crazed Veronica Marsathon, and I can no longer restrain myself. Best. Show. Ever. Seriously, I’ve never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn’t making, and maybe even more than those. Crazy crisp dialogue. Incredibly tight plotting. Big emotion, I mean BIG, and charsimatic actors and I was just DYING from the mystery and the relationships and PAIN, this show knows from pain and no, I don’t care, laugh all you want, I had to share this. These guys know what they’re doing on a level that intimidates me. It’s the Harry Potter of shows. There. I said it.

What I Will Watch in Fall 2011

Now that CBS has finally posted its fall 2011 schedule, I have a good idea what I’ll be watching come September. Most of the time, of course, I will watch shows online the day after they air, but if I get a chance to watch them live, this will be my schedule.

 

Sunday

8PM – Once Upon a Time – ABC

This fairy tale meets modern life sounds like it has promise, and I love the promos.

 

Monday

8PM – How I Met Your Mother – CBS

8:30PM – Two Broke Girls – CBS

9PM – House – Fox

10PM – Castle – ABC

Chuck’s move to Fridays and House’s move to 9 finally makes my Mondays conflict-free (though I imagine Chuck’s ratings would have greatly improved with House’s move – seriously, is it any wonder the show wasn’t doing well against BOTH House and HIMYM?). Two Broke Girls sounds interesting, and will nicely fit in my half-hour gap.

 

Tuesday

8PM – NCIS – CBS

9PM – NCIS: Los Angeles – CBS

9PM – Ringer – The CW

CBS was smart not to mess with its Tuesday domination. Both shows had awesome finales Tuesday night, and NCIS: LA was finally renewed yesterday. I was a bit worried that they were going to off Jimmy Palmer in the NCIS finale, but Los Angeles ended with the more dramatic cliffhanger, making me anxious for season 3. I will have a hard time deciding what to watch at 9, but the CW’s terrible online viewing experience may tip the scale toward Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Ringer.

 

Wednesday

8:30PM – Suburgatory – ABC

8:30PM – Free Agents – NBC

I will be checking out these two shows solely for their Whedonverse alums: Suburgatory features Alan Tudyk (Firefly and Dollhouse), while Free Agents stars Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Merlin).

 

Thursday

8PM – The Big Bang Theory – CBS

8PM – Community – NBC

8:30PM – How to Be a Gentleman – CBS

9PM – The Office – NBC

9PM – Bones – Fox

9PM – Person of Interest – CBS

Thursdays are still full of conflict. As usual, I probably will watch The Big Bang Theory live and Community on Hulu when both are airing new episodes. How to Be a Gentleman sounds promising, and I probably would have checked the show out anyway even if it didn’t perfectly fill a half-hour gap (the promo, however leaves a bit to be desired). Watching Bones will depend on if I catch up on back seasons of the show over the summer. The Office’s penultimate episode of season 7 proved that the show can still be hilarious without Michael Scott, so I plan to keep watching. Jim Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Passion of the Christ) stars in Person of Interest, and the sneak peek was excellent.

 

Friday

8PM – Nikita – The CW

8PM – Chuck – NBC

9PM – Grimm – NBC

10PM – Blue Bloods – CBS

It seems a bit odd, having such a solid line-up of shows for a Friday night. Blue Bloods has proved it can hold its own on the evening, but its family vibe makes it a more likely choice for those who stay in Friday nights. I suspect the young-adult-aimed Chuck won’t do as well, but since it’s the final season of the show the numbers aren’t as important. And it’s pitted against fellow action show Nikita, which also doesn’t seem like a good Friday night fit. Grimm has a tough shot against both a cop show and TWO speculative fan favorites, Fringe and Supernatural (which even I may be watching instead if I have time to check them out this summer).

 

USA’s Psych typically counts as a summer show, it doesn’t sound like it will be starting until August or September this year (since it’s cable, I won’t be watching it live, though). There are a few other shows on the major networks and some mid-season pickups I also plan to check out if I have time.

Chuck – Versus the Cliffhanger

Spoiler alert: If you have not yet seen the season 4 finale of Chuck, you’ll want to do that before you read any further.

The penultimate episode of this season would have been far more traumatic if they hadn’t played a promo that showed Sarah alive and, not exactly well, but hanging on. Even worse of a spoiler was the clip of the wedding. The device seemed to kill instantly when it was used previously, but it could have simply knocked them unconscious (they were referred to as dead, though).

The quest for the antidote kept the finale moving at a brisk pace, and Chuck doing everything he could to save Sarah made this a nice counterpart to episode 9 of this season (Chuck Versus Phase Three), when Sarah did everything she could to save Chuck. I loved seeing Volkoff return to his former self, and I hope he will show up in at least a few episodes of season 5.

And Chuck lost the Intersect again, which I think was a good move by the writers. Chuck is a great spy without it. He’s picked up some combat and undercover skills, he’s great at planning missions, and his interpersonal skills have saved the day countless times. He can easily lead the group.

Morgan having the Intersect should make season 5 a hoot. Many comments on Hulu seemed to hate the idea, but I think it allows the show to explore new paths while also paying homage to season 1. I’m curious how Alex will take the news, and how the team will change with Morgan going from sidekick to both muscle and research.

Season 5 will be the final one for Chuck, and it feels a bit sad but right (though I’m hopeful they’ll extend the 13-episode order to a full season). The show has had a great run, but the original core elements are coming full circle. Chuck and Sarah are happily married, and I don’t want their relationship to mess up just to create conflict for future episodes. The fish-out-of-water aspect of an ordinary guy being thrust in the spy life doesn’t exist for Chuck anymore – he is comfortable with who he is and what he does (but that aspect will get a fun twist with Morgan next season).

The hints at next season’s mission make it seem like one that will tie the entire show together – fitting for a final season. And the mention of Steve Bartowski makes me think I may be right about him still being alive.

HIMYM – Challenge Accepted

Spoiler Alert: You probably won’t want to read this post if you haven’t yet watched the season six finale of How I Met Your Mother. If that’s the case, go to CBS.com to watch, then come back here to weigh in on the episode!

As Neil Patrick Harris mentions in an interview, this episode really isn’t as much the climax of season six, but rather more of a teaser for season seven. The climax of the season for the show’s main character, Ted, came in the previous episode, as his and Zoey’s differing views on the Arcadian came to a head, ending their relationship. Ted tried to side with his girlfriend on the issue, but finally had to be honest with himself and admit he wanted the building torn down. Zoey’s reaction was to play her recording of Ted saying the Arcadian should be saved, which (mini-rant here) was a completely horrible thing to do. Of course viewers knew that Ted and Zoey’s relationship would never last, and I for one am glad to see her go, but her willingness to betray her boyfriend like that sinks her down to the level of Ted’s awful college girlfriend, Karen. The fact that Zoey kept the recording all these months just adds to the premeditated way she decided to win at all costs.

In “Challenge Accepted,” pressures regarding the new building cause Ted to debate getting back together with Zoey. Robin and Barney try to prevent that from happening, and in the process get some much needed closure on their own relationship. The episode (nearly 2 seasons ago) where they broke up I consider one of my least favorite episodes of the entire show, especially since Ted’s caricature of how they let themselves go in the relationship was so extreme that it didn’t even seem like the real Barney and Robin.

The two do manage to talk some sense into Ted (aided by a ride from Ranjit), ending the Zoey plot arch and setting things up for Ted to meet someone new in season 7. The demolition of the Arcadian restates this metaphorically.

Of course, since this is the season finale, as soon as Lily starts throwing up you KNOW it’s not food poisoning, so that aspect of the story fell a little flat (you knew Marshall had nothing to worry about). Adding a baby to the group should be interesting.

And I’m glad that Nora has returned to the show, and that Barney seems willing to do whatever it takes to win her back. Those two seem perfect for each other.

The final scene of the episode, a leap forward in time to the wedding where Ted will finally meet his future wife, was amazing. All along I’d assumed that the wedding where Ted is best man would be his friend Punchy’s. Then Lily comes out to where Ted and Marshall are talking and tells Ted the groom needs him. They walk inside to see the groom – and there stands Barney.

Season 7 can’t get here quickly enough. Wait for it . . .

NBC’s Fall 2011 Lineup

So after the grim news of last week’s cancellations, NBC looks toward the future by announcing its fall lineup. Out of the new shows, The Playboy Club, Whitney, and Up All Night don’t interest me at all based on just the descriptions. I watch so many crime dramas a show needs to offer something unique to catch my attention, and Prime Suspects’ hook about a woman trying to break into the boys’ club of a police precinct makes me yawn.

Grimm, on the other hand, offers a storybook twist – bringing fairy tale villains to the world of crime scenes and witness statements. Does this plug sound at all familiar: “The last of a long line of chosen ones must fight legendary creatures few others know exist while maintaining a normal life and keeping the presence of the creatures a secret”? My mind instantly drew parallels to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it’s not surprising that two of the show’s creators helped produce Buffy and Angel. The cast doesn’t have any big names to draw viewers, but hopefully they will bring in some geekdom guest stars. It’s also in the Friday night death slot, but has a decent lead-in show with Chuck. This year’s cancelled supernatural show meets cop drama, The Cape, also followed Chuck. Here’s hoping Grimm will do far better than The Cape (though I’m trying not to get my hopes up, since The Cape had Summer Glau and Monday nights, while Grimm does not). I also would love it if Grimm got a taste of Buffy-inspired humor.

NBC’s other new show, Free Agents, didn’t catch my attention with its premise as a comedy about two coworkers, one recently divorced and the other who lost her fiance, and their fumbling attempts to get back into dating. But their boss is Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and King Uther from Merlin)! The previews confirmed that he keeps his accent, and there was even a brief mention of Sarah Michelle Gellar in one, which tipped the show into “definitely watch the pilot” territory. And since I lost one NBC workplace comedy with the cancellation of Outsourced, it seems only fitting that NBC should provide another.

The unscheduled pickup, Awake, also looks good. Jason Isaacs plays a man caught between two alternate realities. In one, his wife died in a car accident. In the other, it was his son who died in the accident.

In addition to dumping Chuck and Grimm onto Friday nights, NBC made another schedule error by keeping Thursday nights annoying and choppy. They kept Community at 8, which will conflict with The Big Bang Theory if CBS keeps it at the same time, and then plunked Parks and Recreation between it and The Office. I hate half-hour gaps of shows I don’t like between shows I like. But at least they’re providing some worthy substitutes for the shows they axed.

Renewals, Cancellations, and Finales

Wow – tons of shows are getting renewed or cancelled this week, and many are airing season finales. I keep checking for news and getting a rush of joy or sadness, and sometimes both. This year I dived headfirst into many new shows, and quite a few of them got cancelled.

Before this year, only two shows I watched as they aired had been cancelled with only one season – Fox’s 2009 summer medical drama, Mental (I had only started watching it at the urging of my sister) and another summer show, NBC’s excellent modern retelling of the story of David, Kings. (I watched the best-known one-season show, Firefly, years after it was off the air.) I picked up 3 new shows in 2009-2010 regular season: Community, NCIS: Los Angeles, and V – all got a second season. Even the two new shows I started watching in summer 2010, Covert Affairs and Rizzoli & Isles, will be back this summer.

This year I watched 6 new shows: The Cape, Detroit 1-8-7, Blue Bloods, No Ordinary Family, Outsourced, and Nikita. As of this moment, four have been cancelled, and the other two haven’t been renewed yet.

A quick recap of the verdicts on this season’s shows, by network:

ABC

They kept Castle, one of my favorite shows, but cancelled the three other shows I watch on the channel – Detroit 1-8-7, No Ordinary Family, and V. Of the three, I was most surprised by V’s cancellation. The show was intriguing, with an excellent cast, and the short seasons helped keep the integrated storylines comprehensive. I started watching it for the sole reason that it starred Morena Baccarin, aka Inara from Firefly (Alan Tudyk, aka Wash, was also in a few episodes). With this season’s finale ending the life of one of the most annoying characters on the show, I had high hopes for season 3. Too bad.

CBS

They seem to be waiting to see what the other networks do, as they haven’t revealed many verdicts. But I’m confident they’ll bring back the two not-yet-renewed shows I watch on the channel: Blue Bloods and NCIS: Los Angeles. NCIS, How I Met Your Mother, and The Big Bang Theory have already been renewed.

Fox

I’m only current with one show on the channel, House, and its renewal is hardly a surprise (it will likely be the final season, however). I’m glad they renewed Bones (on season two now and loving it!) and Fringe (hoping to try it soon), though.

NBC

I was shocked to find out less than a day after watching the season finale of Outsourced that they’d cancelled the show. I was really looking forward to season two. The Cape was dead as soon as they shortened the episode count from 13 to 10, but I plan to get Bear McCreary’s soundtrack to the show. The other Firefly alumni show, Chuck, has been picked up for a 13-episode final season (I love Chuck, but as more and more of the show’s characters move toward domestic bliss, I can see why they’re deciding to end it.) And of course, Community and The Office got renewed. Community’s finale does raise the question of whether they’ll bring back one of the main characters for season 3. And does the show have a 4 season limit due to the college setting?

The CW

I only watch one show on the channel, Nikita, and there’s no word yet on whether it’s been picked up for season two. I really hope so. My lineup needs more shows that focus on the overarching story instead of individual episodes, and the last few episodes of Nikita really kicked things up a notch.

In conclusion: Networks really seem to be abandoning rookie shows this year. I hope that space goes to other high-quality scripted shows and not endless rehashed versions of reality and competition shows.

And my other wish for the 2011-2012 season – don’t air The Big Bang Theory and Community in the same time slot!

Outsourced – Awkwardly Funny

I started watching Outsourced and I kept watching Outsourced for one primary reason – India. I love Indian culture and I enjoyed learning more about it and laughing along the way.

The Indian/American culture clash that this show is built on is heightened by the type of call center Todd Dempsey comes to India to run. They sell American novelty items, and so the employees have to understand American culture to be able to sell them well. So instead of Todd just gradually becoming more familiar with India, the culture clash goes both ways.

This does end up making the show a bit more raunchy than most I watch. Fellow “fish out of water” call center managers Tonya and Charlie don’t help things, either. The type of humor and the workplace setting does make this a bit of “The Office – in India!” (it even followed The Office on NBC originally) and Todd tends be an affable blend of Michael Scott and Jim Halpert.

The show has gotten a bit of bad rep for being racist, but I don’t think it is. Outsourced makes fun of America and India, and in the end, respects and celebrates both cultures.

And the diverse selection of vibrant characters also make the show a joy to watch. Outrageous Gupta steals every scene he’s in, Rajiv adds much needed backbone to episodes, and shy Madhuri has many unexpected talents.

Here’s hoping NBC decides to bring the show back for a second season!

NCIS – Baltimore

I had no idea what NCIS was when I first did a search for it in January 2009. A friend had it on a short list of favorite shows on Facebook, and I’d never heard of it before (things like that happen when you don’t get any TV channels at your house). Though I prefer to watch shows from the beginning, I didn’t have Netflix then, and Hulu’s options at that point were pretty limited (I tried watching one of the few first seasons they had – My Name is Earl – and could barely make it through each episode). So I watched one of the newly aired episodes of NCIS, “Roadkill,” and fell in love with the show.

Yes, the crimes were interesting to solve, but what I loved most about the show was the team. Charming DiNozzo with his annoying pranks and hidden depth. Probie McGee with his mad computer skills and tenacity. Mysterious Ziva with her killer reflexes and unfamiliarity with American idioms. Wise Ducky with his keen insights and longwinded stories. Energetic Abby with her Goth looks and thirst for Caf-Pow. And the glue who held everyone together – Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

I went looking for more episodes of NCIS. Never have I watched a show more out of order than this one. CBS had all of the currently airing season 6 up on their website, so I continued watching new episodes as well as watching the start of season 6. Youtube had dozens of episodes uploaded, so I found clumps of consecutive episodes and began watching season 4. And season 1. I eventually bought seasons 1-5 and filled in the final missing pieces, finishing every episode by watching the end of season 3 in mid-September 2009, less than one week before season 7 began.

The latest episode of season 8, “Baltimore,” dives into the past for the previously untold story of how Gibbs and DiNozzo met, and how Tony went from being a Baltimore homicide detective to being an NCIS agent. The flashbacks add relevance to the current investigation into the murder of DiNozzo’s old partner.

While the episode had many treasures, from the origins of Tony’s Mighty Mouse stapler to Gibbs giving him his first head slap, and while it also brought to light not just one, but two “new” Gibbs’ rules, one thing didn’t ring quite true. I couldn’t quite see what it was about DiNozzo that caused Gibbs to invite him to NCIS. With Kate, McGee, and Ziva, it was much more clear why Gibbs wanted them on his team. They were gifted. Outstanding. Motivated.

Anthony DiNozzo, however, seems to play the role of everyman and jokester in the show (not unlike the role Xander plays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, come to think of it). He’s not the “best” at anything – unless you count movie references – and seems to spend a good portion of his time goofing off. Yet he’s unflinchingly loyal, and his unorthodox methods often give results when others fail. As Tony himself puts it in “Truth or Consequences” (season 7, episode 1), “I’m the wildcard. I’m the guy who looks at the reality in front of him and refuses to accept it.”

Yet these things that make DiNozzo such a great member of the team aren’t very evident in the flashbacks of “Baltimore.” You see his unique interrogation style (and it doesn’t show if Gibbs even sees that) and his ability to read people. That void in the story, plus my added anticipation for this episode, meant that it didn’t wow me. It was good, but not one of NCIS’s best episodes (the aforementioned “Truth or Consequences” is one of the best episodes, and a great introduction if you’re new to the show).

On another note, the latest NCIS: Los Angeles episode, “Plan B,” did impress me (to be fair, my expectations for NCIS are much higher than they are for NCIS: LA). Deeks is really starting to overtake Callen as the star of the show. And I sincerely hope the rumors about Hetty not returning for season 3 are false. Hetty is to NCIS: LA what Abby is to NCIS – the heart of the show.

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