Monday, January 14, 2008

TV Thoughts: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Friday Night Lights & Cupid

First of all, the best show I'm watching right now is one that was canceled years ago, although there is a developing remake by the original showrunner. That showrunner is Rob Thomas, also creator of Veronica Mars, and the show is Cupid, starring Paula Marshall and Jeremy Piven. I loved it when it was on, still hate ABC for canceling it, and when one of my favorite critics, Alan Sepinwall, started doing "Strike Survival Club" and writing up episodes of Cupid, I started re-watching. They're all on Youtube, and the links are in Alan's column, I highly recommend doing the same.

Friday Night Lights is *this* close to dead to me. I feel about it the way I felt about Heroes Second Season, except that Heroes First Season was nowhere near as good as FNL Season One, and FNL Season Two, for all its missteps, is not as catastrophically bad as Heroes Season Two was. That said, the gap between what I liked about season one and what I like about season two seems about equal. It's not just the misguided Landry murder subplot, either. Now that that's done, we're having equal bits of nonsensical melodrama and a distressing lack of one of the most interesting characters on the show, paralyzed former QB One Jason Street. Even worse, no Street means no Herc, and that's just a damn shame.

But the stories are just so un-engaging. The Smash "who will he choose/should he choose" college story never quite made up its mind about the point it was trying to make, and the resolution seemed to come out of nowhere. I'm not sure how his picking TMU because they pressured him into giving him a verbal commitment is more pleasing to his mother, who last I recall was trying to get him to go to school for something other than football. I'm not sure when all the women on FNL became flighty, or mean, or uncertain, either. Jessalyn Gilsig did a great job with the role she was given, but that character was ditzy or right depending on the needs of the story, rather than as an outgrowth of the character. It was distressing to see Tami turned from the strong woman she had been into the second banana in the Taylor home, and even more distressing that they seemed to be going out of their way to make us hate Julie.

I mean, in season one, Julie was the smart one, distinguished by a healthy sense of skepticism about the importance of football vs. academics, and then she was half of a perfect cute couple with Matt Saracen. While her youthful rebellion in the opening part of season two was distasteful, it was believable... but they keep pushing it too far. Having her mope around and act all hurt because Matt had moved on when she behaved like an absolute brat makes her seem incredibly selfish. Having her not speak up for Tim Riggins when he was basically thrown out of the house for trying to help her was unconscionable. Sure, she eventually came around and confessed, and I can *buy* her being reluctant to tell her dad the truth, but it makes her look like a weaker character, and the character already looked weak-willed and selfish enough. The girl needs a storyline where she doesn't look like a brat, and soon.

Then there's Riggins and the drug dealer's money, which can only lead to another misplaced crime type subplot. Basically, while there are occasional scenes that work, and still a ton of good actors on the show, the overall direction the stories are moving in, and the melodramatic upshift in tone, has turned it into a completely different, and much weaker show. I'm *this close* to taking it off the Tivo season pass list... if there weren't a strike on, and there were more shows competing for my attention, it'd already be gone. Being the only game in town only gets you so far, though... I can use those 45 minutes to read or play videogames or surf the Internet instead.

The same thing applies to Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was stronger than I expected but still not great. They've completely miscast the main role, aiming for hotness rather than toughness, and that's a huge, huge chink in the armor. To her credit, Lena Headey does her best with the role, and has some good badass moments, but Linda Hamilton had the look and feel of a completely crazy badass in the movies, and she's just not on par with that.

Summer Glau as a new kind of Terminator is great casting, and she does a good job, even if I spent the whole time thinking "Wait, if they've got liquid metal terminators, why not send one of those back instead of another more limited physical model?" Their casting for the main male Terminator and John Connor is fine, at least so far. But someone over at Alan Sepinwall's board mentioned Katee Sackhoff, and now that's all I can think... man, what an awesome Sarah Connor she would have made.

The show is OK... I'm curious how they can get an ongoing narrative out of the setup they've had, which is basically a re-do of Terminator/T2, which really nailed the concept to perfection. In fact, I was thinking as I watched the first episode that somebody *really* liked T2, and they were just doing a TV budgeted version of it (bad idea). But then the whole time travel thing came up, and I thought that was a clever twist.

However, I can't help but think about the inconsistencies in the mythology whenever I watch or read a Terminator story, and it bugs me. In the original movie, time travel was experimental and rare and blowed up, and it really wasn't supposed to be used again. Now it's so common that they built a backup time travel device in 1963. In the second movie, they sent an outmoded T-800 because it was all they could manage. Now they've gotten their hands on some kind of newer model. And in the second movie, they had created this advanced liquid metal terminator, but now they're back to sending standard model T-800s back. Which might make more sense if the liquid metal was some kind of prototype, and they sent dozens of T-800s instead of just one, or if they had some kind of shift in the formula. But in a lot of ways, it seems like they're trying to emulate the cool parts of what has gone before without realizing that part of what made it cool was that it was new and unique, not a retread of something we'd seen before.

I dunno. I'll give it a few episodes to prove itself, and it did launch stronger than I thought, and I'm curious what exactly their ongoing status quo is going to be... but my fear is that it's going to turn repetitive real fast.

No comments: