Saturday, October 7, 2006

Diana's Adventures In TV Land: New Seasons

A bit late, because I've been waiting until all my marked series had at least one new episode out.

Veronica Mars: It's good to know Rob Thomas is so dependable when it comes to strong season premieres. For the third time in a row, "Veronica Mars" begins with a captivating episode that hits all the right marks: the teaser (re)introduces our titular protagonist and lets her demonstrate her sharp wit and formidable detective skills, and then we segue right into a fantastically well-written blend of mystery, snark and good old-fashioned drama. As always, Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni and Ryan Hansen deliver stellar performances, but special finger-snaps go to Tina Majorino and Chris Powell. The former rocked the hell out of the long-awaited Dick/Mac face-off without saying much of anything, and the latter portrayed newcomer Piz so adorably that my Maggie Beckett Syndrome didn't flare up at all ("Sliders" fans will peg the reference, I'm sure).

One quality that makes "Veronica Mars" stand out from its contemporaries is the fact that its creators learn from their mistakes. The "season-long mystery" format worked perfectly well in the first season, and not so well in the second - rather than risk failure again, the writers made the admirably bold decision to restructure the series as a sequence of smaller, more compact story arcs/mysteries. Also, last season saw the introduction of Jackie Cook, an obnoxious twit who ended up being so irrelevant I had to look up TWoP recaps just to remember her name. This time, Piz and Parker are presented as likeable and sympathetic from the moment we meet them. It's preferable to me wishing I could gnaw Tessa Jackson's face off week after week.

A minor complaint: I'm sick to death of the Fitzpatrick storyline. On the other hand, if this show were perfect it'd probably be cancelled by now, so I'll endure it. :)


Heroes: I'm a bit anxious here. Quite frankly, "Heroes" seems to be a very ambitious and interesting project, and I enjoyed the first two episodes very much... but I can't help thinking about the last ambitious and interesting project I liked. We all know how "Lost" turned out.

On the other hand, the distinct lack of J.J. is a big advantage, so who knows? I love what I've seen so far: an ecclectic mix of characters and powers, solid acting, inventive criss-crossing of subplots... and Santa, if you're listening, I want a talking Hiro doll for Christmas. :)

Bottom line: Cautiously high hopes. Let's wait and see what happens.


Smallville: Good lord, is this still running?! Times like this I wish I knew a "Summon Doomsday" spell. Oh, Dan Jurgens, if only you worked in TV and hadn't spent your Superman-killing mojo already...


Supernatural: Hmm. Okay, I think the premiere should have served as last season's finale, because it's all about the loose threads: the Colt of Contrivance, the John/Sam feud, and Dean's complicated feelings about death all serve to underscore and complete plot points raised in the first season. Things end in this episode, the protagonists are irrevocably changed, and that emotional climax would have made an excellent pre-summer farewell. As it stands, there's no time to really process what's happened: the first episode wraps things up and a week later, we get new beginnings, new recurring characters and a new perspective in the wake of tragedy.

I have to admit my sharkey-sense was tingling after the premiere - it occured to me that they might be setting up a "Sam isn't really Dean's brother" twist. Which is just dreadful. Granted, there's nothing to substantiate my faint hunch besides John knowing "the truth about Sam" and refusing to tell him; that just sends me shrieking into Soap Opera Land. Still, I'm reasonably convinced Eric Kripke and friends can do better than that, so I'm probably way off-base.

In any case, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are still devilishly pretty, and I remain fond of their characters, and Alona Tal's finally bringing some estrogen into the mix. I doubt anything short of ixnaying the aternalsfray will have me ditching "Supernatural" anytime soon.


Nip/Tuck: Every few months, I tune in and try to determine whether Christian and Sean have fucked yet. Sadly, that's about the only thing about "Nip/Tuck" that has me even mildly curious - sure, Julian McMahon spends a lot of time naked, but even his extreme rowr-ness can't get me to watch this crap on a regular basis.


Drawn Together: A recent discovery, though it's been around for a while. My boyfriend hates it with a fiery passion, but I just can't get enough of it! :) I love the central conceit - an animated parody of a reality TV show, complete with confessionals and the occasional challenge. I'm equally impressed by the many targets "Drawn Together" hits simultaneously: reality TV, superheroes, Pokemon-style anime, faded sex symbols, Hanna Barbera cartoons and effeminate video game characters (because you just know Mark Foley whacks off to pictures of Link from "The Legend of Zelda").

Sure, the humor can get very crass and revolting (especially when Spanky Ham is involved), and in that respect it's not dissimilar to "South Park". But the kids from "South Park" aren't particularly amusing - the humor derives from relatively normal kids in bizarre and abnormal situations. By contrast, the cast of "Drawn Together" is made up of some very hilarious analogues that have clearly been given some thought: Clara, for example, is a typical Disney Princess... except she's also a Christian fanatic and an ignorant racist, because of the environment in which she grew up (oh, and an evil witch turned her vagina into a tentacle monster). Captain Hero is strongly reminiscient of the Timm/Dini design for Superman, except he's a walking bundle of neuroses, masochistic tendencies and general idiocy. It's all very entertaining.

What's more, I was genuinely surprised by the degree of self-awareness: lesser writers would be content to trot out the stereotypes and walk away, but when Clara is sent out to stop a Jew from poisoning the well, she finds he's just tossing in water purification tablets. Critics who vilify the series for its offensive material miss the point - it's the Archie Bunker paradigm, we're supposed to ridicule the stereotypes themselves rather than the minorities they represent.

And being really, really funny certainly helps. :)


Lost: Yeah, right. Like I'd put myself through that again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, you get a dynamite suppository.