While we await the return of Dexter, shown above, here are some comments on new shows this fall. This will be updated as new shows are watched.
True Blood—The vampire movie has spawned a sub-genre. The vampire who is tired of being a vampire and wants to do good. The vampire usually has a complicated romantic life that involves a human. Examples include Forever Knight, Buffy, Angel, and Moonlight. New Amsterdam, while not about vampires, used a similar concept. True Blood is the latest example of the genre. Anna Paquin has grown up, and plays the human love interest. The vampire is another of Hollywood’s forgettable brooding young metrosexuals. Since it’s on HBO there is some nudity, a lot of foul language, and some grizzly detail. Doesn’t appear to have enough compensating virtues to make it worth watching on a regular basis.
Raising the Bar—Metrosexual lawyers and their love affairs. There’s the standard quota (SQ) of black, gay, female hottie, male hottie, and rich guy in the group. You’ve also got a crazy judge. The group is less interesting than the group on L. A. Law, and two episodes is enough.
Fringe—A new one from J. J. Abrams. Starts with a plane landing, rather like Lost, but there are no survivors. Conspiracies and a mysterious organization, rather like Alias and Lost. Good looking people. A babe who periodically peels down to her undies. (She’s not up to Kate on Lost, but so few are.) This may get involving, but it’s a bit early to tell. [Update October 19, 2008—We’ve watched some more episodes. It is emerging as a favorite new show.]
Do Not Disturb—This is a seriously unfunny sitcom with Jerry O’Connell. It is set in a hotel, and as far as I can tell features the requisite SQ. I gave up about half-way through. [Update October 1, 2008—The show has been canceled.]
Spain…On the Road Again—There is too much ego here, and not enough of either Spain or cooking. Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mario Batali are two of the four journeyers. I am afraid that I’m not one of Miss Paltrow’s admirers. She is too skinny, too politically correct for my taste.
The Mentalist—I’ve got a problem with the star, Simon Baker. He reminds me a little too much of Captain Preppie in Crock. I’ve also got a problem with what may be the show’s atheist agenda. I don’t know if it really has one, or if the creators are setting it up for a debate, but the contrast between Patrick Jane and Grace van Pelt is a little cliched, and it’s cliched in a way that is wrong. Patrick is portrayed as atheistic and a rationalist. Grace is religious, probably evangelical, and inclined to gullibility. Grace believes in psychics and talking to the dead because she is an evangelical. This, however, is not necessarily true. While Christians, including evangelicals, may believe that psychics, communicating with the dead, etc., happens, they may also believe that while it might be possible that it doesn’t actually happen. They might also, if they are really thoroughly grounded, accept that spirits exist and act, but also recognize that the spirits must be tested to determine if they are from God or not. In that sense your believer is more skeptical than your non-believer. Non-believers also tend to be more credulous than believers. I don’t know too many religious people who don’t like Western medicine, but Bill Maher, who is in Religulous, doesn’t believe in it.
Bones—I watch this one because my wife likes the books. She tells me that the character in the books is nothing like the character in the show. Frankly, I can’t stand Temperance Brennan in the show. Her flatness of personality, her literality, and her failure to respond in emotionally appropriate ways are irritating. I also have the whole atheist agenda thing to deal with here as well.
Dancing With the Stars—Why on earth did they put Cloris Leachman on? Let’s face it, for guys this show is about watching hot women wearing very little shake their bodies in entertaining ways. Who wants to watch an 82 year old shake her hip replacement?
Worst Week—Worst program. Inane situations and unpleasant people. I suppose some of this stuff could be laid at the door of Aristophanes and Rabelais, but at least Aristophanes managed to be funny while he was being obscene.
Valentine—Ancient Greek gods help modern mortals find true love. Okay, how does this concept work? Are we supposed to sign on to the idea that the Greek gods are real, or do they somehow fit in with Judeo-Christian monotheism? In Star Trek: TOS and some books by Steve White (Forge of the Titans, Blood of the Heroes) the Greek gods are alien beings who are taken for gods. The alien being idea is easier to consent to than the ancient gods are real idea. The show is silly, but the actors (well actresses) are attractive.
Sanctuary—Unfortunately Temple Drake (as incarnated by Lee Remick) is not in this one. This is standard Sci-fi channel fare with monsters, pseudo-science, etc. It is extremely silly, and not very intriguing, or scary. The Sci-fi channel only has one program that I actually enjoy, and that’s Eureka. Battlestar Galactica, as I’ve indicated here, here, and here, is not one of my favorite shows. Edward James Olmos is in the same league, as an actor, as Avery Brooks, both have a limited range, and neither can deliver a line correctly. The officers seem to be more strutting peacocks than real military men, and the stories have so many deficiencies that it’s pointless to list them.
Kath and Kim—For some reason this got a good review in the Washington Post (WaPo). Kath is supposed to be a 40 something mother, and Kim is her 20 something daughter. Molly Shannon (Kath) is 44, and looks older. Selma Blair is 36, and manages to fake the 20s. Kim has been married a short time, and moves back to her mother’s when she finds out that she is expected to cook and clean. Now at this point I was almost totally alienated. Are we supposed to find this immaturity endearing? I don’t. Every time K & K have a conversation it turns to clothes. Are we supposed to find this shallowness appealing? I don’t. Ultimately something like this comes down to whether or not you want to spend time with the people on the screen. I don’t.
Eleventh Hour—Back in the early 60’s, about 1963 or 1964 there was a program with a similar name. It dealt with psychiatric cases. This program deals with biological crimes, such as cloning humans, which is evidently illegal in the US. The pilot episode dealt with a person who was trying to clone his dead son. 19 aborted babies were buried and dug up. Now here is where I experienced some alienation. The main character referred to babies as fetuses. Now this is technically correct, if you’re doing medicine. Most people say baby. You wouldn’t translate Elizabeth’s speech in Luke as “the fetus leaped in my womb.” There’s a point here that Orwell made in his essay on Politics and the English Language, using fancy words, in this case medical terminology, rather than the short, abrupt vernacular, covers up the reality of what is happening. To say “I aborted the fetus,” covers up the reality conveyed by “I killed my baby.” There is an attempt to cover up and deny the biological, physical, and emotional reality of the act. A few minutes later one of the characters says that the aborted babies are medical waste. Again that may be true, but the fact that the courts regards them as such says a lot about the courts. Now it is possible that by exposing this fact to several million people there may be a grassroots swell of sentiment against this denigration of the human person, but I doubt it.
The program may turn out to be fairly decent. It’s worth watching a couple of times to see how it does. [Update October 19, 2008—This one is also emerging as a regular show for us.]
Life on Mars—CBS seems to be having an infatuation with 1970s. This summer they had on a show called Swingtown, which was set in 1976. Now they’re doing this one, which is set in 1973. Jason O’Mara is a familiar face from numerous guest appearances (The Closer, Gray’s Anatomy), and finally gets a series of his own. The thesis is that he’s been transported by a blow to the head to the 1970s. Now, if I recall correctly, Mark Twain originated this device back in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, so it’s hardly a new ploy. Gretchen Mol is attractive, and most of the cast appears capable. What I can’t understand is why anyone wants to revisit the horrid ‘70s.
Life—I must have missed this one last year. I just caught an episode this season. The plot centered around a psychology or sociology professor who was running an experiment with students. Twenty students were grouped into prisoners and guards. The whole experiment thing had been used on Veronica Mars during its last season. The VM episode was inspired by a real life experiment. The main problem is that the people simply are not that involving. As with Kath and Kim there is simply no reason to want to spend time with them.
Knight Rider—The SQ has been revised a bit here. There aren’t any gays/lesbians, but there is the Hot White Chick, the Hot Black Chick, a cute, perky, somewhat geeky Asian Chick, the dominant boss, and so on. This show is a remake, or, as some like to say, a reboot of the show from the 1980s. I recall watching then, but can’t recall that I ever was terribly involved in it. This version is pretty much the same as the old one with the incredible plots, and the pathetic attempts at science. Not worth watching.
Crusoe—This is supposed to be based on Defoe’s novel, which in turn was based on the experiences of Alexander Selkirk. Since there was only Crusoe and Friday in the novel, there is no SQ in the principal cast. There is the problem of the cast though. Crusoe is impeccably coiffed and his hair appears in a sort of elegant disarray. His teeth glisten thanks to the regular use of his rotary toothbrush. He should be showing the signs of a few years of neglected grooming. Then there is the problem of his Rube Goldberg inventions. Would one or two men, even over several years, be able to build all that stuff? As I recall the book, and it’s been between 40 to 50 years since I read it, Crusoe managed to put together some rudimentary shelter, and scavenged some supplies from the ship, but he didn’t have a nice treehouse, and a gadget for juicing oranges. Georgina Rylance, who played Judy, was winsome and attractive, but she’s only scheduled for two episodes according to IMDB. Other than watching it for her, it’s not worth the bother.
My Own Worst Enemy—It opens with a spy movie cliche, sexy girl and spy in bed; girl turns out to be killer, and shoots the spy. The spy, of course, was on to the girl, and did the old pillow trick. Spy shoots girl. So that’s not too promising. The main premise is that the spy is a separate identity hiding within a normal guy. This multiple personality is induced by a government agency to provide the spy with a cover. Now the closest I’ve ever come to working in a secure environment were a couple of jobs that required low level clearances, but I seriously doubt that spy agencies can or actually do that sort of thing, and most of what real world spies do, based on the cases that have been made public, is pretty dull. As for the whole electronic interface with personality and brain function, I doubt it. So no “willing suspension of disbelief” for me. (I’ve got no problem with the Bond books or movies, but that doesn’t have the gee-whiz electronic personality modification thing that I find hard to swallow.) Christian Slater deserves something better than this to revive his career.
The Ex-List—A couple of seasons ago a show called Emily’s Reasons Why Not was heavily hyped. It lasted one episode, one of several shows, the most notorious being Turn-on from the late ‘60s, that have achieved that distinction. I thought this show, which appeared to have a similar premise, would do likewise. So far, it’s lasted 3 episodes. Elizabeth Reaser was most memorable as Alex’s crazy girlfriend in Gray’s Anatomy. Here she’s not crazy, but the premise, that she has already met her destined love, but he’s someone she’s already rejected, is rather silly. What’s disquieting about the show is that apparently she hasn’t just dated a large number of guys; she’s slept with a large number of guys. She also seems ready and eager to sleep with any number of her exes. So the show deals with female promiscuity, and it does so in a way that suggests that it is a male fantasy.