Televisual musings

Gather ye round, fans of Tim Minear. I’m intrigued to see on Ain’t It Cool News that Tim Minear’s new show “The Inside“, in which I previously had not the slightest interest, actually sounds quite interesting. More details here. What originally sounded like a dodgy cross between Alias and The OC now sounds like a far more interesting and far darker show. Okay, the premise of criminal profiling is hardly innovative, but gritty police procedurals with a bit of character resonance certainly push a few of my buttons. Promising….

This leads me on to thinking that I haven’t had a decent discussion about the Tee Vee in ages. At the moment I be mostly watching: Battlestar Galactica, The West Wing, Lost, Law & Order: Lift InspectorsCriminal Intent, Carnivale, Alias, Stargate (both the good flavour and the bland one), and Enterprise. Here follows my spoiler-free commentary on a few of them – should anyone, y’know, care. πŸ™‚

Battlestar Galactica (S1, episodes 1 to 11) – I continue to be impressed and frustrated with this show in equal measure. Impressed because it’s dark, edgy and smart, with a great “look”, a fine cast and potential oozing from every pore. Frustrated because it seems oddly uneven, with derivative plots-of-the-week, and the characterisation largely running on the spot. Often an entire episode goes by without any of the characters having a really good, really meaty conversation about anything. They just “are”. While that’s a valid approach to characterisation I find it has a distancing effect, and the characters don’t really progress except in oblique ways. Maybe it’s the context of a populist SF show that’s throwing me; this same scattershot, loosely plotted approach works well in Carnivale, but seems unfocused in Battlestar Galactica. Having said all that, it’s easily the best SF show in production.

The West Wing (S6, episodes 1 to 10)- as I commented recently, in its sixth season the show is becoming increasingly a political melodrama rather than an issue led show. Luckily it’s a smart, well-written political melodrama with some appealing material and riveting scenes for long-standing regulars. In some ways it’s further from Sorkin’s show than S5, but in some ways it’s closer in characterisation. Those who hated S5 will continue to hate it.

Lost (S1, episodes 1 to 12) – here’s an example of a show which places characterisation front-and-centre, and it really works. The ongoing mysteries are intriguing, but it’s the insights into characters’ backgrounds and building relationships that make it compelling. Great writing, too.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent (S2) – it’s back on C5! Hurray! I’ve only seen the first episode of the new season (S2) but this is a highly enjoyable show. The hype would have us believe it’s about seeing the crime from the criminal’s perspective, but even a cursory inspection of the actual show will reveal that it’s basically Columbo, with Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in the role of infallible, quirky detective.

Carnivale (S2) – still to watch this, but I’m looking forward to it.

Alias (S4) – I’ve only seen the first two episodes but the show has pressed the big red reset button with such verve it’s hard to believe they think they can get away with it. The new status quo is actually full of interesting dramatic tensions and ironies, but I’m beginning to feel like I’ve seen it all before. Time will tell.

Stargate: SG-1 (S8, episodes 1 to 13) – I still really like this show, but hand-on-heart it’s not a patch on its old self. The writing is lazy and superficial, with very few episodes having the dramatic impact or high-concept SF that used to characterise the show. What saves the show is the effortless charisma of the lead characters and the occasional stonking episode, but really it’s coasting on its past successes far too much.

Stargate: Atlantis (S1, episodes 1 to 16) – This show is actually, finally beginning to grow on me. A bit. It’s still much, much too safe, and feels like a carbon copy of the original show with cheaper actors, but at least it’s beginning to develop a feel of its own.

Enterprise (S4, episodes 1 to 9) – In some ways this season has all the old weaknesses of bland characters, over-familiar situations, contrived plots and anti-climactic endings. In other ways, it’s a huge improvement – mainly because Manny Coto has turned it into a loving tribute to Classic Trek and a huge continuity-fest to boot. Okay, I’m an easy target for a bit of Classic Trek nostalgia, but it works, so I’m not complaining – Vulcans, Surak, Eugenics Wars, Brent Spiner, Andorians,Orion Slave Girls… I mean, how can they go wrong? πŸ™‚

That’s about it. At some point in the future I’m also looking forward to the return of Deadwood, The Dead Zone, and the three CSI shows. I also plan to read more books, and have a life. But you can’t do everything…

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