Ashton Kutcher in 2 and a half men
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Season 2011

2 and a Half Men. I watched this out of curiosity because of all the press that Charlie Sheen got. One of the advantages of being a nobody is that when you lose a job nobody except your family and friends have to know. Public figures get public humiliation. Ashton Kucher, who has never impressed me, continues to be unimpressive, and the show continues to be lewd and crass.

Before I go on I’m going to get something off my chest. A common meme that makes the round of the cop shows, and of some comedy shows is the Russian mob and Russian hookers. Now, while the Ukraine is not technically part of Russia, it was under Russian domination and Russian control under both the Czars and the Soviets. I worked with several women who came over from the Ukraine, and I have a nodding acquaintance with their families. They worked as programmers and systems people on government contracts, and were dedicated employees. Their husbands work in a variety of jobs, and one woman’s daughter has become a doctor, and her son is off in Berkeley studying. I don’t know of any hookers, sluts, or mobsters in any of the families. Maybe I’m naive and blind, but I’m sick and tired of Hollywood slandering Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians, or whoever as long as they come from the former Soviet Union. Find some new fall guys.

2 Broke Girls. This one featured jokes about the Russian mob and a Russian hooker, which is what set me off. Cute girls talking dirty. Not too great.

New Girl. Zooey Deschanel in a comedy. Girl moves in with three guys on a platonic basis. Not terribly funny. Usual run of the mill slut jokes, sex jokes. Zooey needs to get a new haircut. Update September 28, 2011 For Some reason this show has already received notice that it will get a full season. End Update.

Another aside. I grew up in the 1960s. I turned 15 in 1960, and I liked long hair on girls when it became fashionable a few years later. Maybe I’m living too much in the past, but it seems to me that girls with long hair back then got better haircuts, and their hair had more shape to it than it does now. Now it’s just a mess of string hanging past the shoulders.

Unforgettable. The gimmick here is that the female cop has total recall. Unfortunately the premiere had another use of the Russian slut meme. Fortunately this is only background to the victim’s story, and not an integral part of the episode. Poppy Montgomery is another starlet who has been victimized by deranged hairdressers doing bad impressions of 60’s styles. The back story to Ms. Montgomery’s character is that her sister was killed, and she has blocked that day out of her mind while having total recall of all other days. The story managed to be fairly interesting.

The Hour. This came on earlier in the summer, and just finished up this week. You can view it, if you’re interested, via on demand. The BBC has acquired a reputation, at least among American members of the VRWC, of which I count myself a member, as being leftist, and borderline anti-semitic.* This series is set in 1956 at the time of the Suez crisis and the Hungarian uprising, and I don’t think it does anything to dispel that idea. It concerns the workings of a news magazine similar to 60 Minutes. Unfortunately, there is not a single member of the cast, either as a character or as an actor, who gains your sympathy and who is likable. Avoid as you would exposure to yersinia pestis.

Luther. Despite it’s unfortunate name, which comes from the detective, not the revolting character of 1517, this product of the BBC is actually quite good. It stars Idris Elba as a London homicide detective, and Ruth Wilson as a killer. The relationship between the two is interesting, and makes for good viewing. Elba conveys a good deal of intensity, and Wilson, despite her lamentable flaw, wins you over in a strange way. This is worth seeing. The first season is available via on demand, and the second season starts on September 28 on BBC America.

The Playboy Club. This has gotten a lot of bad press because of the “scantily clad” bunnies. The costumes of that era, however, are not much more revealing, in terms of percentage of exposed flesh, than the one piece swimsuits of the era, and a bit more modest than the bikinis. What is bad is the improbability of the series. Mobster gets killed by bunny’s high heel in bathroom. Come on. That doesn’t happen. Plus they somehow manage to get rid of the body, and clean up the blood so that four or five pints of icky, gooey blood magically disappear. Amber Heard is the bunny around whom the story revolves. She falls into the category of SIHM (Standard Issue Hottie of the Month), however, she doesn’t really do anything for the heart, whatever her glandular appeal. Update October 4, 2011 This is the first cancellation of the season. 3 episodes was enough. End Update.

Whitney. Someone on IMDB was taken aback to find that the star, Whitney Cummings, is only 29. He thought she was closer to 40 or older. The series is another celebration of sluttishness, and it’s not funny.

Grey’s Anatomy. This got off to a good start, but I wish they would dump the editorializing in favor of abortion. They risk alienating their audience. Of course, a lot of people to whom I send notices about the blog probably are already not watching it. What I can’t understand is that this is Christina’s second abortion. She’s a doctor, and is married to a doctor, and they both work in a hospital where they have access to gynecologists, and they can’t come up with a better means of contraception than abortion? The writers for this and Private Practice really want to push what Mark Shea sarcastically calls “the sacrament of abortion.” There was a scene in which Meredith tells Christina that if she doesn’t want the kid because she’s not going to be a good mother then she should go through with the abortion because Meredith’s mother was such a lousy mother, and she mistreated her. This cried out for someone to say, “Meredith, so what. You managed to get through college and medical school. You’re a doctor. You’re married. You’re determined to be a good mother to your adopted daughter. You’ve helped a lot of people. You want to deny this kid the same possibilities. Get real.”

Prime Suspect. Four years ago a woman ran for vice-president. This year a woman is running for president. The Secretary of Homeland Security is a woman. (A remarkably ugly and repulsive one, but still, nominally, a woman.) The Secretary of State is a woman. Three Supreme Court justices are women. Up until recently the speaker of the house was a woman. Do we need a show that tells us that strong, capable women are victimized by evil, nasty men who are part of an old boy’s club? Back when I thought I could get an academic job, I would sometimes wish for an illness that would wipe out whole English departments so that I could get a job. In the case of the heroine of this series a colleague dies, and she asks for, and gets his job before he’s even buried. I’m afraid that’s pretty despicable even to me.

Charlie’s Angels. A remake of the show from the 1970s. In the original show the girls were cops who rather than being given jobs doing serious work were assigned traffic duties, or school crossing guards. Charlie’s agency actually gave them a chance to do something closer to meaningful work, and was, despite the accusations that it was about jiggly things, a form of liberation. The new show has a cast of angels who are all being given second chances. The girls are pretty, and so far there hasn’t been a plot with Russian hookers/mobsters. It’s not great, but if you’re not using your brain cells for anything serious when it’s on, it’s okay. Update Oct 16, 2011. This one’s been cancelled. End Update.

CSI: NY. This is our favorite of the bunch of CSIs. The season premiere was centered around 9/11 and the team’s memories of the day. Sela Ward has been in it for a year now, and we (the wife and I), like her better than the Greek girl she replaced.

Free Agents. Kathryn Hahn (Lily from Crossing Jordan) and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy, and the sexy neighbor from the Taster’s Choice coffee commercials) and Hank Azaria (The Simpsons) star in this comedy. It’s not terribly funny, and Kathryn Hahn is not my idea of a romantic leading lady. Pretty much another celebration of the slutty lifestyle. Update Oct 16, 2011. This one’s been cancelled. End Update.

Up All Night. Moderately funny comedy about a stay-at-home father and a working mother. Father is a lawyer, and as usual an utter incompetent. There’s an annoying female boss played by the unattractive Maya Rudolph. You won’t miss anything if you don’t see it.

Person of Interest. Jim Caviezel (Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) and Michael Emerson (Ben Linus in Lost) star in this story about a CIA operative who teams up with a billionaire to intervene in people’s lives. It’s probably not too believable as far as some of the action sequences go, but as was pointed out long ago you have to make a “willing suspension of disbelief.” If you’re willing to do that, it’s reasonably entertaining. Michael Emerson brings an emotional intensity to his role. In the hands of someone else it might seem ludicrous, but he’s a good fit.

Revenge. The opening episode was a bit confusing. It derives from the same template as The Count of Monte Cristo, a story of revenge upon the people who have wronged the heroine.

A Gifted Man. This is a story about a surgeon who is haunted by his dead wife. She’s supposed to teach him about what it means to be a complete human being. For some reason television writers, who have no real religion, can’t introduce devout Quakers, Episcopalians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, or some other religion into their scripts when they want “spiritual” characters. They introduce westernized Buddhism, as opposed to actual Mahayana or Theraveda Buddhism, or some “new age” nonsense. Numbers sent Larry to a monastery for retreat. I thought for a while that it might be Franciscan or Carmelite or Trappist, but it was a Buddhist monastery. This series introduces a shaman as a spiritual guide/healer. Fortunately, the new age stuff is kept to a minimum.

Pan Am. I’m not a frequent flier, and I didn’t fly until 1978 when I was 33. I’m afraid that I never saw the attractive stewies portrayed in this series, and I never had the fancy meals that were served on New York-London flights. The series portrays a time when TSA was not even a thought, as opposed to the malignant tyranny that is, and when getting into that airborne coffin was more fun than it is at present. It centers on the adventures of a flight crew that includes one Marxist (Cristina Ricci), a stewie who also works for the CIA, and a French girl who appears to be over the age limit of 32, but is, in real life, 28. The series has a problem at the very outset in that terrified, liquored up passengers in a flying cigar shaped coffin are not very interesting, unless some disaster is impending for that flying coffin. In the first episode they solved the problem by having a series of flashbacks that gave the back stories for some of the crew. One good point of the series is that soundtrack uses popular music from the era. As far as I can tell it’s by the original artists. Overall I’d say it’s a watch once, and then forget it series.

Hart of Dixie. Okay, as a Hart I had to see this one. Rachel Bilson, at 30, is probably in the right age bracket to play a 4th year medical resident, though she is prettier than most doctors I know. The basic storyline is that a New York doctor inherits a medical practice in the deep South, specifically Alabama, and moves there to take up practice as a GP. It’s similar in theme and treatment to Doc Hollywood. As you might expect there are the usual quirky Southern characters. Now I’ve never spent any length of time in the deep South, so I can’t speak with any kind of real authority, but I didn’t get the feeling that the show was putting down Southerners or patronizing them, and that’s a nice change. It’s not as heavy as Grey’s or Private Practice, and it doesn’t have an annoying twit like House, so it’s light, pleasant fair.

Suburgatory. This is supposed to be a sitcom about a teenage girl and her divorced dad who move from NYC to suburbia. The poor girl sees suburbia as a form of purgatory, hence suburgatory. She encounters a variety of perfect moms with enhanced breasts, perfect teenaged girls who hate her for being different, etc., etc. It manages to overlook the fact that cities like Detroit are dying, and that other cities like New York or DC are run by incompetent, or power hungry pols who cannot deliver decent schools, or keep the cities livable. People move to the suburbs because they don’t want to send their kids to the public schools in the cities, and they falsely believe that the suburban schools will be better. They move because they think the county fathers will be less corrupt than their big city counterparts. Unfortunately a pol is still a pol, and all the good ones were born between 1732 and 1809. This show is the product of people who think that those of us in “flyover country” are uneducated incestuous racist morons. If The Hour was the television equivalent of the bubonic plague, then this is the equivalent of Variola major (smallpox) or Virbrio cholerae (cholera).

How to be a Gentleman. Wimp takes lessons in masculinity from gym owner. Not funny. The only redeeming feature is the presence of Mary Lynn Rajskub from 24, but she’s not enough to redeem this wretched refugee from a locker room. Update Oct 16, 2011. This one’s been cancelled. End Update.

Asian women, particularly those from India or Nepal are showing up with greater frequency on the tube. Unforgettable has Daya Vaidya, a Nepalese beauty, as a police officer; The Good Wife has Archie Panjabi, from India, as a private investigator; Royal Pains has Reshma Shetty, of Indian parentage, but raised in England and Virginia, as a physician’s assistant. Indira Varma was prominent in Rome and Human Target, and Navi Rawat was a co-star on Numb3rs. None of their characters are working in call centers, or as prostitutes. It’s a welcome trend.

Terra Nova. This is the one with the dinosaurs. It starts off in the future when the cancer of the liberal dream has neared its final metastasis. The government has apparently succeeded in killing off trees to print multiple copies of a hundred million page tax code, and the air quality is so bad that people have to wear rebreathers. Joe Biden’s longing for a restrictive child birth policy has been realized, and families are limited to two children. Violation of the policy can land you in prison. So naturally the lead character, a cop, played by Jason O’Mara, has a third child. Another liberal fantasy, that of John Lennon’s Imagine, has apparently also been fulfilled as there appears to be “no religion.” At least no religious objection was voiced in what I saw. Somehow or other a fracture in space-time has been observed, and there is a movement to send people back in time to solve all their problems before things go bad. The past is the middle to late Cretaceous era of 85,000,000 years ago, a mere 20 million years before the big asteroid is due to hit. Now there’s a major problem right there. Time travel is one way only. Once you go to the past, you can’t get back. So how did the folks that went and discovered it, get the message back? (Another problem is that they aren’t too accurate in their dinosaurs. They’re in the Cretaceous period, and they hear an allosaurus. The allosaurus is a Jurassic era dinosaur that had been extinct for 70 million years.) The leader of their brave new world is your typical fascist clone. The problem with the old world was greed, blah, blah, and more blah. So you have the unelected leader who has superior insight into things, and will be running their little world. There is also a scene where cute brontosaurus/brachiosaurus dinos nibble on branches held by a little girl. (The brontosaurus, or apatosaurus as he’s now known, was, like the allosaurus, extinct during the Cretaceous. The brachiosaurus was also a Jurassic dino.) A twenty or thirty ton dinosaur with the IQ of a congresscritter is inherently dangerous, not cute. Unfortunately, the show is slow moving, and the characters are uninvolving. We gave up after about 35 minutes into the 2 hour premiere. It’s not evolved enough to make it to even a virus. At best it’s a bunch of amino acids that haven’t gelled into DNA.

Homeland. This is a variant of The Manchurian Candidate. Rather than Frank Sinatra as the intelligence officer with nightmares from his time as a Chinese captive we’ve got Claire Danes as the analyst, and she’s got a mood disorder, possibly bi-polar. I expected some political bashing, but it wasn’t in evidence in the pilot episode. There are scenes of brutality in which the returning Marine relives his treatment at the hands of his Iraqi captors that may be too much for sensitive viewers. There are also scenes of sexuality. The story is not dull, and it moves at a decent pace. The puzzle is whether the returning Marine is a hero or a terrorist, and whether the analyst is crazy or right, or both. It’s worth seeing.

Once Upon a Time. This is a variant of the fairy tales that we knew and loved as children. The hook is that the characters have been sent into what we consider the real world. Lana Parilla, who has been in several series before, shines as the evil queen. I usually go for blondes, but this raven haired bad girl is quite good.

Whitechapel. This is on BBC America. A modern British cop has to track down a serial killer who is imitating Jack the Ripper. This is much better than The Hour. You can see it via On Demand, or you may be able to find downloads on iTunes, or the BBC America site.

 * Some people make a distinction between anti-semitism and anti-Semitism. I can’t keep the distinction straight, so I will use either more or less interchangeably. In either case it means anti-Jewish prejudice.