Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best 2012 had to offer

No fancy intro.  Just a nice list.

1.  Game of Thrones
Every year, thefutoncritic.com does a top 50 episodes of the past year.  Usually it focuses on season premieres and finales, and usually it makes some colossal screw-ups.  This year, if anything other than "Game of Thrones'" masterful penultimate episode, "Blackwater" wins top prize, it's just another travesty.  The entire episode was one long battle, but it was packed full of action, humor, drama, character and suspense, that the entire hour may have been one of the finest episodes in television history.  And that pretty much sums up the second season of "Game of Thrones," which has become only the second show in my viewing experience, since the invention of the DVR, that I have to watch the night it airs (the only other one was "Lost").  By far, this is the show I look forward to watching the most every week, and almost every scene not involving Denaerys is riveting.

2.  Breaking Bad
It says a lot when a show enters into the discussion with "The Wire" as the greatest show of all time, surpassing even "The Sopranos" in many camps.  The greatness of Heisenberg and Co. is that the show is unafraid to do seemingly anything.  Really, this is what all shows should aspire to do, because its fan base so rarely questions its choices, knowing that Vince Gilligan knows what he is doing, and that his story about the downfall of Walter White is just that.  And that at the end of the day, while we may not get an happy ending next summer, we will get a satisfying ending.

3.  Mad Men
It's easy to forget how great this show is, how much fun it is to sit back and listen to the rich characters just talk to each other.  Like Gilligan, Matthew Weiner is in complete control of this show, and there's hardly a character or a line of dialogue that is not important in some way.  This past season, we even saw a fundamentally different Don Draper than the womanizing over-confident adman that we have seen since the beginning of the 60s, but everyone was ok with this, because this is television, and characters change.  And characters die.

4.  Justified
When other lawmen are impressed by something you say because it's so bad ass, you know you've said something worthwhile.  Which is exactly what happened when Raylan Givens dropped a bullet on Wynn Duffy and said, "the next one will be coming faster" and the FBI agents investigating him laughed and said that's pretty bad-ass.  This is "Justified," the home of the best written dialogue on television.  So much so that every Raylan Givens-Boyd Crowder scene is must-see-tv.  Season 3 of "Justified" was better than the first two, which is saying something.  Somehow they managed to introduce more great characters to flank Raylan and Boyd, and you could go down the line and name the people you want to see more of, but yet don't want to because then there would be less Raylan and Boyd.

5.  Boardwalk Empire
When a show makes a decision to kill off its most popular character, it makes you do a double take.  But then something interesting happened.  "Boardwalk" got better.  And whether the writers had to take more chances without Jimmy or whether they were just able to flesh out more of the characters without the Nucky-Jimmy relationship, the show began to really solidify itself as a mobster drama.  Capone is coming into his own, Lucky Luciano (whom I didn't even realize was a real person) is beginning to figure things out, and all the historical people don't just feel like shout-outs.  Where the show will go in season 4 is anyone's guess, as it seems like Nucky is stepping away from the limelight for a bit.


6.  Person of Interest
It's a credit to the show that they have managed to make their 4 leads so likeable.  Especially the two main men, Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson.  They have developed a great and believable chemistry together, and although the main antagonist has a poorly named and not threatening moniker (HR), it at least has Lester Freeman in charge.

7.  Homeland
Perhaps the most maddening show on television.  Chuck Klosterman is right, that something always has to happen.  Whatever "Justified," "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" do properly in terms of dialogue, "Homeland" does the complete opposite.  The characters never have truly interesting conversations (with the exception of the Nazir-Carrie Islam vs the West one), and in fact, the ones between Brody and Carrie are almost fastforward-worthy.  Maybe should have been lower, but the first half of the season is still very good.

8.  Luck
Perhaps a little low, but that's because it didn't get its deserved second season.  Which is unfortunate, because we all wanted to see where Ace was taking this.  And more importantly, we are all a little worse off because David Milch is not in our lives.  Perhaps he should have stuck with "Deadwood" instead of insisting on his alien surfing show.  Would things have been different?  Whatever it is, it seems like Milch has a problem finishing his works; could we not have had a second season with less horse racing?  They could even continue to be at the track, but just not show the racing parts.  People would still have watched, and only occasionally said, "Where are the horses?"

9.  Revolution
This show is not very good, I concede.  But I will also admit that I looked forward to every week just to see what happens.  And the parts about the world immediately after the blackout are actually pretty good and interesting.  But there has never been a show that I wanted the main character to be killed so badly as I want that dopey Charlie, who is such a bad actor and completly pointless.  I also believe that this show leaves more on the table than any other show right now, as its potential is one of the highest of any show.

10a.  Dexter
Not even sure what to make of this show any more.  The writers this season killed off Pullo and the rest of the Koshka Brotherhood, then made Hannah the big bad, or something like that.  Or was it LaGuerta.  Mike was killed for no reason, and Louis was killed for even less of one.  Then Doakes was brought back for a pointless flashback, maybe because the actor had nothing to do since Dexter's best season, season 2.

10b.  The Walking Dead
Actually a pretty decent season, and some captivating parts, and definitely its best season to date.  Which isn't saying much, because the first 2 seasons were borderline unwatchable.  For season 3, the show abandoned character and instead went for zombie killing, adding the poorly acting Governor in order to add a bad guy that acts with strange motivation.  Why does he want to kill Rick?  Why did Merle kidnap?  Why can't everyone just be happy where they are and try to live a life where they try to kill zombies or find out what happened?  Or is this the point of the show?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dexter Season 7 Finale

I thought I remembered Doakes being ripped, but it turns out he was more fat than anything.  At least according to the flashbacks we saw.

Ahh, those flashbacks.  Has there ever been a more useless series of looks into a character's life than the ones on Sunday's episode of "Dexter?"  They changed the character of Dexter to fit into his current character, as the original season 1 Dexter would never drop his guard like that around Doakes and jump around a crime scene.  He just didn't do that sort of thing.

But now that Maria is the world's greatest detective, I guess anything is possible.  Or should I say she was, since Deb killed her for some reason.

Why did she have to pull the trigger at all?  Couldn't she have just let Dexter do it and that was that?  Why go through the whole crying thing to show that she cared about Dexter?  We know that.  We know she would protect Dexter.  So why did she have to kill Maria?

This season was wholly unsatisfying, and it seems to be a case of a show that has just run its course.  So what, now Dexter is going to fade into the sunset continuing to do what he does, with no one looking into him, and in fact, with no one left at Miami Metro.  Maria's dead, Matthews was forced to retire, Angel is retired, Mike is dead, Doakes is dead.  Of all the detectives who have ever been there, Quinn is the only one left standing.  And Masuka.  But he's a blood guy.  And Deb.

So what happens now?  Are all Dexter's ladies brought back for the next season?  Lumen, Hannah, Deb.  Lyla and Rita are dead.

I know I'll stick around, I just don't have that same sense of excitement I did when the show was at its best.

Homeland Season 2 Finale

I'm going to stay this right now, if "Homeland" wins the Emmy for Best Drama for its recently completed second season, it will be a major upset.  And that's without having seen any of the contenders that will be airing in the spring and summer.

That's not to say that the second season was bad.  In fact, the first half of it was very good; well-written, tight, well-acted, interesting.  It was must see television every week.

Then something happened along the way, and I can't even point to what.  It wasn't the misguided run-over-the-homeless-lady plot that was borrowed straight out of "Friday Night Lights" DO NOT REPEAT bag.  It wasn't Carrie working for the CIA, but at the same time not working for them.  Was she ever hired back?  Was she paid?  How did we let this happen?  It wasn't Abu Nazir, the world's most famous terrorist, being able to sneak into the country undetected just because he shaved his beard.  I would have liked to see him wearing one of those glasses with the fake mustache and bushy eyebrows.

It wasn't because of that, but it may have started there.  Then we got Brody video chatting with Nazir, Nazir hanging out in an abandoned mill, Nazir getting shot and killed in the most anti-climactic bad guy killing of all time.

This led directly to the bombing of the CIA at the end, killing Walden's entire family, Estes, and everyone else at the memorial (but not the President, because thankfully, he wasn't allowed to attend his right hand man's own service.  He must have not been allowed, because I can't figure out any other reason he wouldn't be there).  I have no problem with that bombing, as it seemed like an actual act of terrorism, unlike the killing of Walden.  But the way it was set up seems to leave a lot to be desired.

So the bomb was in Brody's van.  Which we all saw him park in Lot C.  Then presumably, at Langley, someone was able to move his van without being detected by any video cameras and park right next to the window where the service was being held.  Keep in mind that this is the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.

This is where the show struggles.  They ground everything in reality, but then something so outrageous happens, that it makes you question everything else that has come before.  The second season has had a really difficult time with this balance, and it has suffered because of it.

My main struggle with the show, though, is the Brody-Carrie relationship.  By all intents and purposes, this is the main relationship of the show, and the one that is necessary for pulling in viewers.  But for some reason, I have a problem feeling sympathy for an affair between a terrorist and a crazy analyst.  I can never tell if they're playing each other, or if there are actual feelings (and maybe that's the point, and I concede that that is well done).

Add that to the fact that Brody is a terrible father, hasn't been there for his kids, and made the kids' other father, Mike, move out, and it is harder and harder to find someone to root for. 

I hope the third season isn't too much of a stretch, and I hope the characters don't find themselves in a position that stretches the imagination.  I'm sure we're in for a long bout of trying to clear Brody's name in the CIA bombing and trying to figure out who did actually do it.

Here's a hint: check the video cameras in the parking lot.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Golden Globe Reactions

Every year, the Hollywood Foreign Press demonstrates to the rest of the world (or to the people who care) how little they actually know about television.  This is great, because I am convinced that only about 12% of them have ever seen a show from the past year.  But they sure can google them and find out who is involved, and then make an educated guess.

So let's go through the nominations.

Best Drama
“Breaking Bad”
“Boardwalk Empire”
“Downton Abbey”
“Homeland”
“The Newsroom”

This past year, 2012, may have represented one of the greatest year of television creativity, possibly since the dawn of man.  Although many of those early caveman creations didn't survive, I still can't imagine they would make a run at 2012 as a top year.  "Breaking Bad" is now entering the discussion with "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" as the best show of all time, and it may have inched ahead of "The Sopranos."  "Boardwalk Empire" just completed an outstanding third season which many had written off before it had even aired because it had killed off its most compelling character at the end of season 2.

And that's where the good nominations end.

If this list had been released 5 weeks ago, no one would have said a thing about "Homeland," which was doing just great; plot was compelling, acting was above par, and everything about the show was clicking.  Then the CIA let Brody, a known terrorist (at least to them), wander through the Vice President's house alone and VIDEO CHAT WITH THE NUMBER ONE TERRORIST IN THE WORLD (not the number 2 terrorist, though.  Vladikov would not stand for that.) and then text him later.  Meanwhile, no one knows this is happening.  And then Abu Nazir hung out in an abandoned mill, knowing full well that people knew he was there.  So they killed him in one of the most anti-climactic terrorist killings of all time.

"The Newsroom" borders on the absurd, and I can't imagine even the people who love the show believe that it is one of the 5 best shows on tv.  But it has Aaron Sorkin as the showrunner and stars Jeff Daniels.  And was once Dumb.  Or Dumber.

I have never seen an episode of "Downton Abbey," but that's because it doesn't look very good.  So I could say it shouldn't be nominated and still probably be right, I just don't have anything to back it up.

The list of shows that gets snubbed is the real crime here.  "Mad Men" has never dipped in quality, even in a dark season like this past one.  "Justified" will never get its due (no pun intended, even though that clearly works) and its small audience will consider themselves lucky to be blessed by Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder.  But the real victim here is "Game of Thrones," which gets ignored for unknown reasons, but probably having to do with me endangering people's souls.  You just can't have that.

Best Comedy
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Episodes”
“Girls”
“Modern Family”
“Smash”

This list is so bad it's laughable.  "The Big Bang Theory" is the highest rated show on television, so we're going to go with the fallacious conclusion that if it's popular, it must be good.  "Episodes" stars Joey Tribiani, so that must be good, too.  No one even watches "Smash," but something has to replace "Glee" as the overhyped musical show that is terrible on the list.  "Girls" tried to be the new "Sex and the City" but ended up trying to be too smart for its own good, and alienated a lot of people.

So let's just ignore "New Girl," "Parks and Recreation," "Community," and everything else out there in favor of more mediocre television.

But really, let's just be thankful that "Whitney" didn't get nominated.

And before we finish up, let's hold a small candlelight vigil for the great characters on television who don't have a nomination to warm themselves by the fire:
Troy and Abed.  Tyrion Lannister.  Boyd Crowder.  Nick Miller.  Jesse Pinkman.  Richard Harrell.