I watched a few shows last week, mostly new fall dramas that caught my interest. I already posted a brief review of CW’s Ringer and NBC’s The Playboy Club. Here are my thoughts on five more shows. I will watch two of them again; the rest are not worth my time.
Person of Interest
CBS, Thursday 9pm
I enjoyed this show, though I had been hoping for more narrative complexity. Person of Interest seems to follow the same episodic pattern as most weekly crime shows. No overarching meta-narrative is present as of yet. Jim Caviezel plays John Reese, an ex-government agency hitman, slowly drinking himself to death until the enigmatic Finch (Michael Emerson) intervenes. Finch used to work for the government as well; he invented a ‘machine’ that drew information from a myriad of surveillance methods (wiretapping, email records, security cameras) and separated people into two lists—those of ‘interest’ and those that were not. The idea behind this 1984 surveillance is to stop another 9/11 occurring, but as Finch suggests, the non-interest list results in thousands of ‘common’ murders and kidnappings, eating away at society’s numbers. So he partners with Reese as dual vigilantes of a sort—one geeky and wealthy, the other street-smart and violent to stop these awful events from happening. The surveillance angle is intriguing. I’m curious to see whether the show develops the surveillance motif into social commentary or merely uses it as visual filler.
NBC, Thursday 10pm
Unfortunately, if you watched the preview for Prime Suspect you essentially watched the entire pilot. Maria Bello is dynamic and wonderful to watch, but the script is average. The plot is average. Prime Suspect is just another average cop show. Not having worked for NYPD, I don’t know whether the sexist, male-dominated workplace is still an issue for female officers. If so, Prime Suspect offers a window into the struggles that a woman faces in a male-dominated profession. This show is definitely character-focused, rather than department or crime focused. I might watch another episode for Bello, but I probably won’t.
ABC, Sunday 10pm
This was the shocker of premiere week. I really enjoyed Pan Am. Yes, its score recalls that of Remember the Titans, full of self-grandeur and bravado. Yet Pan Am offers an engaging set of characters and sophisticated, multi-layered plot. This might not hold up over the next few episodes, but the pilot presented an ensemble of six characters—all employees of Pan Am—and provided flashbacks for further character development. Unlike The Playboy Club’s unsubstantiated claim to be ‘all about’ female empowerment, Pan Am heavily focuses on its four female leads, granting them more screen time than their male counterparts.
I do wonder if ABC is offering viewers a replacement to Desperate Housewives, which started its final season this year. For my own amusement, I matched each of the four women from Pan Am to her Desperate Housewives equivalent. The French, sex-hungry Colette (Karine Vanasse) provides the same exotic air as Gabrielle; doe-eyed beauty queen Laura (Margot Robbie) effuses the same suppressed emotion as Bree (though Laura actually runs out of her wedding in the pilot instead of waiting nearly two seasons before emotionally cracking, like Bree). Maggie (Christina Ricci) is not as airheaded as Susan, but they share a certain fly-from-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude. And Pan Am’s Kate (Kelli Garner) balances family trials (sister competition in this case) with her work (both stewardessing and undercover spy work for the U.S. Government), like Lynette. Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch. Still, it’s four differing women on an ABC drama on Sunday nights. Makes one wonder.
Of course I cannot ignore the interactive Twitter game that NBC has created for Pan Am. Every time you mention #PanAm, you collect points (er, rather ‘air miles’) on an interactive map. The further you fly, the more eligible you are for giveaway prizes. I know it’s a way collect viewer information and spread brand content (for goodness’ sake, I researched this tactic for the past six months), but I cannot help but want that adorable Pan Am bag. So retro. Sigh…nostalgia sells, as does vintage appeal.
FOX, Monday 8pm
Disappointment. Total disappointment. Terra Nova begins at the dawn of the 22nd century, and mankind has exhausted the Earth’s resources. The cities look strikingly similar to Blade Runner (minus the number of Asian food carts) and the only hope of human survival resides in a trippy time vortex that sends people back 85 million years to prehistoric dinosaur-land. With Spielberg serving as one of the executive producers, I had high hopes for this time-traveling/futuristic programme. Unfortunately, Terra Nova tries far too hard. For a show that depends upon secrets and mystery, the two-hour pilot released too many details too soon. Unlike Lost—which introduced far more questions than answers in its two-hour pilot—Terra Nova announced its secrets with a loudspeaker, thereby emptying out all future mysteries and relegating the show to predictability. All is not right in ‘Paradise’. Someone from the future has sent an expedition to Terra Nova for its own ‘purposes’. Enigmatic, geometric sketches on rocks are attributed to the missing son of Terra Nova’s commander. And it is mentioned that the ‘real’ reason for Terra Nova was the fact that whoever controls the past, controls the future. Right there are at least four major plot points that could have been stretched out over several episodes—even the entire season. In comparison, the introduction of the ‘Others’ in Lost did not occur until the tenth episode; the mysterious hatch was not introduced until the eleventh. Terra Nova relies too much on special effects (which bizarrely results in dinosaurs that look less realistic than 1993’s Jurassic Park) and family drama. I won’t be watching Terra Nova again.
Oh, and Charlie’s Angels.
ABC, Thursdays 8pm.
I endured the first eight minutes before closing my browser. The horrendously poor dialogue hurt my brain.