Timeless

tSo, here’s the premise. There’s a time machine. A bad guy steals it and goes into the past to do mysteriously bad things. The government (which just found out about the whole time travel thing fifteen seconds after us viewers) are taking initiative and putting together a team to go back in another time machine to stop the bad guy. The team includes a historian (who knows way too much about history) and a military dude (who is way too calm about everything) and a techie to drive the machine (who is way too black to not have bad things happen to him in the past).

The cast is engaging enough, and the past is well realized. In this episode, they go back to the 30’s and experience an alternate version of the Hindenburg disaster. I was equally intrigued and annoyed by the ominous statements of the bad guy, implying that he has knowledge of the future. I get that they’re setting up a multi-episode (maybe even series-long) mystery to pull in the new viewers. But it’s so obvious and so cliche nowadays. I’ll definitely watch some more episodes, but if they don’t show that they have some tricks up their sleeves, it’ll be a second- or third-tier recording on my DVR.

All in all, a decent show. Of course, it has some of the drawbacks that most time travel stories have. They want actions in the past to change things, but they don’t want them to change things much. I don’t want to give away any last minute twists, but when the historian returns from her jaunt and goes home, things are dramatically different… except she lives in the exact same house. What-the-what? (Even Back to the Future got that much right.)

Even more perplexing, when the bad guy went into the past, his actions should have propagated through time to impact our heroes. How can the historian remember the “original” timeline? She wasn’t “protected” by some technology. The instant the bad guy exited 2016, everything would be different, and whatever the bad guy did would be the actual history, as far as our heroes know. (They wouldn’t know the history as it was altered again by the heroes, of course. They would know history as if the bad guy went unthwarted.)

Time travel is super tricky in even the contained environment of a movie or a book. Making it work in a TV show is a challenge. 12 Monkeys seems to understand how to do it. I have less faith in Timeless.

Persona Shuffle

I don’t watch a hundred shows on TV. I probably check in regularly on about a dozen of them nowadays. Which is why it’s even more telling that I saw this one very specific and unusual story arc on three shows: a character who “dies”, then returns from the “dead” with a completely different persona. The mechanics of each were pretty different, but the results were so similar!

First, Grimm, which remains one my favorite current shows. Last season, after having turned Nick’s girlfriend, Juliette, into a Hexenbiest (a kind of ugly, magic-wielding witch) and, subsequently, watching her moral compass go berserk, she was shot in the chest with some arrows. Then, after a few episodes this season, she was revealed to have been “reconditioned” in some way. She still has her Hexenbiest powers, but her Juliette personality is superseded by another persona, named “Eve”. In this case, the new persona allows the show to rehabilitate a previously evil character.

Second, there’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the finale of the show last year, the once-seemingly-heroic, then revealed-to-be-evil Grant Ward was crunched to death. And then he was brought back to life by an alien presence (subsequently named “Hive”). Hive is superevil, so this repurposing of Grant Ward wasn’t a method of rehabilitation, more an amplification. Unlike “Eve”, who doesn’t want to delve into her Juliette memories, “Hive” is all about using Grant Ward’s memories to screw people over.

Last, there’s Gotham, on which a character named Theo Galavan is killed, then brought back to life through some science-fictiony means. The process is nascent, and so the guy’s personality appears to be missing. Hugo Strange (his “rescuer”) finds a portion of Galavan’s own personal belief system to implant an identity into the guy, an avenging spirit knows as “Azrael”. Galavan’s memories start to intrude, which doesn’t really make the guy any more or less evil. It served more as a complication for Strange.

Not to be too spoilery, but since these shows have all finished their season, I’m not too worried about it, there’s also the fact that two of these characters exited stage left through the same method: big explosion.

It’s just funny how similar these three unrelated shows were this season.

2015 Fall TV Pre-Review

It’s that time of year again. The time when I put my blog writing skills to their most difficult test and… Who am I kidding? This thing takes ten minutes. I spent way more time on my Interstellar review. Okay, here we go:

Sorry

Angel from Hell (CBS) – I like the idea of a possible supernatural being on the show. (Anyone else remember Cupid?) But something about this just screams “6 episodes and out.” Sorry, Jane Lynch and Maggie Lawson.

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris (NBC) – Every few years someone tries to revive variety shows. I doubt this is going to be the one to stick the landing. Sorry, Neil Patrick Harris.

The Catch (ABC) – I do not like Shonda Rhimes. Sorry, Mirielle Enos.

Chicago Med (NBC) – Don’t watch Chicago Fire. Don’t watch Chicago PD. Won’t watch this. Sorry, S. Epatha Merkerson and Oliver Platt.

Heartbreaker (NBC) – Looks like a pale Shonda Rhimes ripoff. Sorry, Melissa George.

Scream Queens (Fox) – A show designed to look like a slasher film. Meh. Sorry, Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts.

Shades of Blue (NBC) – Kind of the inverse of The Shield. Won’t be watching this one either. Sorry, Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta.

Let’s Try This Again

Coach (NBC) – Okay, revisiting an old series can be painful, but the original Coach wasn’t high art. It was just plain funny. I hope this one will be too.

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (CBS) – You know what? If I liked Criminal Minds, I bet I’d be on board with this show where they travel around the world. And Sinise is awesome. Sadly, though, this isn’t my scene.

Heroes Reborn (NBC) – I’m so very there. It may be a mess, but I’ll get to see Masi Oka as Hiro and Jack Coleman as HRG again. That’s all I need.

Limitless (CBS) – A follow-up to the Bradley Cooper film (and I believe he’s going to be in a cameo), the premise is intriguing enough for me to watch the pilot.

Minority Report (Fox) – This one came out of nowhere. I liked the world the Spielberg film created. I don’t know if they can maintain it, but I’ll give them a chance to try.

The Muppets (ABC) – Rebuilding the old Muppet Show as an Office style mockumentary is kind of brilliant. I hope it works.

Rush Hour (CBS) – The rare movie-to-TV translation that makes a huge amount of sense. I’ll definitely check this one out.

Uncle Buck (ABC) – Another reasonable movie-to-TV adaptation. But it sounds a little cutesy for me.

Bland Comedies, Anyone?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW) – Do I need to read the synopsis to know I won’t be watching this? No, I do not.

Dr. Ken (ABC) – Hm. House reimagined as a sitcom, with the guy from those Hangover movies. No thanks.

People Are Talking (NBC) – Oh, marriage. It is a rich mine of comedy gold. That I won’t be watching.

The Real O’Neals (ABC) – “Surprising truths” are revealed about a Catholic family? Is there any doubt the main character is gay? Is there any doubt this will be boring?

Superstore (NBC) – This sitcom seems like the kind of thing I would not mind watching if it’s on and there’s really nothing else to watch. I mean, like, nothing.

Telenovela (NBC) – Sounds like a cute premise. Still, though, not interested.

People Showing Up Out of Nowhere

Blindspot (NBC) – Jaimie Alexander is pretty awesome (and not hard to look at), so designing this show where we have to look at her naked body all the time is brilliant. I like a good mystery, so I’m hopeful.

Crowded (NBC) – Empty nesters have to deal with grown kids moving back in. And their parents too? Hilarious! No, not hilarious. What’s that other thing? Not hilarious.

The Family (ABC) – Politics and mysterious lost children? Seems a little too crazy for me.

Game of Silence (NBC) – Legal shenanigans and mysterious lost children? Seems a little too crazy for me.

Grandfathered (Fox) – And the “Clearly the Title Came First” award goes to…

Bland Dramas, Anyone?

Code Black (CBS) – Remember when ER started and it was groundbreaking? That ground is now broken.

The Frankenstein Code (Fox) – Basically, this is the TV procedural version of the Ryan Reynolds movie Self/less which is coming out later this year. Snore.

The Grinder (Fox) – Oh, Rob Lowe. You have had a strange and wonderful career. Also, some stinkers. This looks like one of the stinkers.

Life in Pieces (CBS) – An anthology show about one family. Weird. And not interesting.

Lucifer (Fox) – Well, it’s got name recognition. But this is kind of the ultimate anti-hero show, isn’t it? I’m wary about it. Maybe I’ll check out the pilot.

Oil (ABC) – I think when they used the phrase “ruthless tycoon” in the description, that’s when I lost interest.

Quantico (ABC) – This feels like a one season and out show. How do you sustain a show about new recruits and a mysterious mole beyond that? I’ll give it a shot, though.

Rosewood (Fox) – I think when they used the phrase “top private pathologist” in the description, that’s when I lost interest.

Wicked City (ABC) – What is it with the anthology series? Can’t we just have characters that we love for years on end?

Whuuuuut?

The Bastard Executioner (Fox) – A sword-wielding action series? Always worth a look.

Containment (CW) – The Last Ship meets Under the Dome. With a dash of 24. Sounds like too difficult a task for a show, but I’ll watch the pilot.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW) – Will this crazy superhero mashup work? I don’t care. It’ll be fun. Also, Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell together again? Awesome.

The Guide to Surviving Life (Fox) – Uh… I don’t get it. So I won’t watch it.

Of Kings and Prophets (ABC) – This is wild. I know my Bible well enough to imagine this could be awesome. Or a huge snooze. I’ll watch it to find out.

Little Big Shots (NBC) – A variety show…with kids. Did someone find my “Worst Show Ideas Ever” file and send it to Steve Harvey?

The Player (NBC) – Wesley Snipes? I don’t care what the show is about. I’m there.

Supergirl (CBS) – Yes. Absolutely, yes. I just hope they’re able to work out the inter-network crossover deals with The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.

You, Me and the End of the World (NBC) – This looks like Rob Lowe’s way more fun series this season. I hope it doesn’t suck. Because it might just suck.

You the Jury (NBC) – Live civil cases decided by the audience. This is my pick for the Worst Show of the Year.

2014 Fall TV Pre-Review

We interrupt this (surprisingly successful) experiment in linking movie reviews with a discussion of the upcoming fall TV season. (I also apologize for the extremely late nature of this post. But, late or not, post it I shall!)

I admit, my TV viewing habits have dropped off dramatically. (Fatherhood, natch.) I looked back over last year’s post, and realized how many things I said I’d watch, and I never watched. (Sorry, Sleepy Hollow. I promise to think about catching up later.) So, this time I’m not going to track down previews. I’m just winging it, old-school!

Hat tip to the Internet for the show descriptions. (I honestly can’t remember where I pulled them. Please don’t sue me, Internet.)

A to Z
NBC
Premieres: Thursday, Oct. 2 at 9/8c

A student of the How I Met Your Mother school of television, A to Z is a romantic comedy that chronicles a relationship from beginning to end, à la 500 Days of Summer. (I think HIMYM was true lighting-in-a-bottle TV. Any attempt to recapture that magic is likely doomed.)

The Affair
Showtime
Premieres: Sunday, Oct. 12 at 10/9c

Told from alternating male and female perspectives, The Affair examines the emotional and psychological effects of infidelity on two different marriages. (Downer alert. Do not sign me up.)

Bad Judge
NBC
Premieres: Thursday, Oct. 2 at 9/8c

This single-camera comedy stars Kate Walsh (Private Practice, Fargo) as Rebecca Wright, one of L.A.’s most respected criminal court judges. (What is the sound of no hands clapping? Cancellation. That’s what… Who am I kidding? This’ll probably be the next The Good Wife, another show I don’t watch.)

Black-ish
ABC
Premieres: Wednesday, Sep. 24 at 9/8c

Created by and starring comedian Anthony Anderson, Black-ish explores one man’s efforts to establish a cultural identity for his family after he discovers his children don’t have one. (They get points for attacking a relevant social issue. And there’s Laurence Fishburne, too! A definite maybe.)

Constantine
NBC
Premieres: Friday, Oct. 24 at 10/9c

One of many comic book adaptations this season, Constantine is based on the DC Comics series Hellblazer. Welsh actor Matt Ryan stars as the titular John Constantine, a seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult who abandoned his campaign against evil after failing to save a young girl’s soul from hell. (I liked the Keanu film. I plan to try this one on for size based on that alone. Could be a nice pairing with Grimm.)

Cristela
ABC
Premieres: Friday, Oct. 10 at 8/7c

Loosely based on comedienne Cristela Alonzo’s life and stand-up routine, this family sitcom opens as the title character enters her sixth year of law school and takes on an unpaid internship at a law firm where she’s frequently mistaken for the help. (Hmmm. Racial issues central to a sit-com. I sense a Theme of the Season coming…)

The Flash
CW
Premieres: Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 8/7c

The CW’s highly anticipated Arrow spin-off stars Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, who becomes the fastest man alive, aka The Flash, after an explosion at the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator bestows him with superhuman speed. (This is one of the few I’ve seen a trailer for. Looks cute, but largely disposable.)

Forever
ABC
Premieres: Monday, Sep. 22 at 10/9c

Ioan Gruffudd stars as New York City medical examiner Henry Morgan, who harbors an unusual secret —he can’t die. (I like Gruffudd, and the premise is interesting. I’m worried that the balance of case-of-the-week procedurals won’t mesh well with mythology-building-backstory. But never say never, right?)

Gotham
Fox
Premieres: Monday, Sep. 22 at 8/7c

Described as the origin story of future Gotham police commissioner Jim Gordon, Gotham is Fox’s effort to get in on TV’s comic-book craze. (This is probably my favorite of the new shows, at least based on some of the footage I’ve seen. As long as it feels mythic as opposed to soapy, I think it could be awesome.)

Gracepoint
Fox
Premieres: Thursday, Oct. 2 at 9/8c

When a young boy is found dead on an idyllic beach, a major police investigation gets underway in the small California seaside town where the tragedy occurred. (For people who weren’t depressed enough by The Killing (or Twin Peaks, for that matter). I expect I’ll watch the pilot. The tone will determine my level of interest. Good cast, though.)

Happyland
MTV
Premieres: Tuesday, Sep. 30 at 11/10c

MTV’s newest scripted teen drama exposes the soapy inner workings of one of the country’s most popular theme parks, revealing the less-than-magical reality of what goes on behind the scenes. (This actually looks interesting… except for those three little letters: MTV. Can they produce content relevant to a 46-year-old? I mean, now that Death Valley is gone.)

How to Get Away With Murder
ABC
Premieres: Thursday, Sep. 25 at 10/9c

Shonda Rhimes continues her push toward world domination with this legal thriller, which stars Viola Davis as a serious-as-the-death-penalty law school professor whose attractive students vie for her approval and a desk at her prestigious law firm. (I respect Rhimes and do not begrudge her success. But, man, I don’t like her shows.)

Intruders
BBC America
Premieres: Saturday, Aug. 23 at 9/8c

Based on Michael Marshall Smith’s 2007 book The Intruders, BBC America’s newest series stars Doctor Who’s John Simm as Jack Whelan, a former Los Angeles cop who has relocated with his wife (Mira Sorvino) to the Pacific Northwest in search of a quieter life. (Interesting. Another vague homage to Twin Peaks… Maybe that’s the Theme of the Season!)

Jane The Virgin
CW
Premieres: Monday, Oct. 13 at 9/8c

Come on, it’s all right there in the title: Gina Rodriguez stars as a young woman named Jane, and Jane is a virgin! (I’m going to assume this skews too young for me.)

Kingdom
DirecTV
Premieres: Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 9/8c

Originally titled Navy St., Kingdom is a family drama set in the bruised and bloody world of mixed martial arts. Created by Byron Balasco (Detroit 1-8-7), the series stars Frank Grillo (Prison Break) as Alvey Kulina, a legend in the sport and the owner of an MMA gym who’s looking to develop the next generation of fighters. (Yeah, I’m going to ignore this one completely.)

Madam Secretary
CBS
Premieres: Sunday, Sep. 21 at 8/7c

Tea Leoni plays a former CIA agent whose former boss, now the president of the United States (Keith Carradine), asks her to take on the role of Secretary of State after an accident claims the life of the office’s previous occupant. (The number of shows that I like that use the government as a backdrop is rather small. But I like Leoni and Tim Daly. And I do miss The West Wing something fierce.)

Manhattan Love Story
ABC
Premieres: Tuesday, Sep. 30 at 8/7c

This new comedy uses the power of voiceover to broadcast the internal monologues of a New York City dude (Jake McDorman) and a Midwestern transplant chick (Analeigh Tipton) as they navigate an awkward first date and subsequent budding romance. (If I had more disposable time, I’d probably give this a try for the gimmick alone. However, I don’t.)

Marry Me
NBC
Premieres: Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 9/8c

Happy Endings’ David Caspe is the writer behind this rom-com about a couple (played by Ken Marino and Caspe’s real-life wife Casey Wilson) who are well on their way to tying the knot. (I loved Happy Endings, so this gets an immediate shot.)

The McCarthys
CBS
Premieres: Thursday, Oct. 30 at 9/8c

A loud-mouthed, sports-crazy Boston family (aren’t those things redundant?) is at the center of this multi-camera sitcom based on the life of series creator Brian Gallivan. (Ha-ha! People from Boston are jerks! Skip!)

Mulaney
Fox
Premieres: Sunday, Oct. 5 at 9/8c

Stand-up comic and former SNL writer John Mulaney does his best Jerry Seinfeld impression as a comedian who lives and works in New York City and whose pals (Nasim Pedrad and Seaton Smith) and wacky neighbor (Elliot Gould) like to butt into his life. (Because trying to recapture the magic of lightning-in-a-bottle shows always works so well.)

The Mysteries of Laura
NBC
Premieres: Wednesday, Sep. 17 at 10/9c

Things at NBC are about to get Messing again! This lighthearted drama brings Will & Grace and Smash actress Debra Messing back to the small screen as Laura Diamond, an NYPD homicide detective who spends her days cleaning up the streets and the rest of her time cleaning up after her rambunctious twin sons and soon-to-be ex-husband (Josh Lucas). (If that title wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the description of he show. Blurgh.)

NCIS: New Orleans
CBS
Premieres: Tuesday, Sep. 23 at 9/8c

Why should Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles have all the fun? The Big Easy gets its own iteration of TV’s most-watched drama, with Scott Bakula, Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan, and C.C.H. Pounder solving crimes on Bourbon Street and beyond. (I wonder if my fondness for Bakula can get me past what is likely to be an extremely by-the-numbers procedural?)

Red Band Society
Fox
Premieres: Wednesday, Sep. 17 at 9/8c

Set in the children’s ward of a Los Angeles hospital (and narrated by a kid who’s in a coma), Red Band Society is a coming-of-age drama that follows a Breakfast Club -esque group of patients as they such face life-changing (and life-threatening) challenges as cancer and heart defects. (You really can’t pay me enough to watch this.)

Scorpion
CBS
Premieres: Monday, Sep. 22 at 9/8c

Based on the experiences of real-world genius Walter O’Brien, Scorpion is about a bunch of nerds who form a team to solve some of the world’s most complex problems. (Seems very promising. Like the cast, love the premise.)

Selfie
ABC
Premieres: Tuesday, Sep. 30 at 8/7c

Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) drops her adorable Scottish accent to star in this modern spin on Pygmalion that takes place in today’s social media-driven world. (I’m not a Whovian, but I do like John Cho. Worth a shot.)

Stalker
CBS
Premieres: Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 10/9c

This violent and shocking thriller from The Following’s Kevin Williamson has already drawn plenty of pre-air criticism, and with good reason. It follows a division of the LAPD that deals with stalkers, voyeurs, and love-obsessed weirdos who target mostly women, often with deadly results. (I like both Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott. But if it gets too Criminal Mindsy, it might turn me off.)

State of Affairs
NBC
Premieres: Monday, Nov. 17 at 10/9c

Former Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl is making her grand return to television, whether you want her to or not. In this political drama, she plays a top CIA attache who’s tasked with one heck of a job: put together a briefing for the president (Alfre Woodard) to assess the greatest threats to national security. (I suppose if Madame Secretary isn’t doing it for me, I could try this one. But I’m not hopeful.)

Survivor’s Remorse
Starz
Premieres: Saturday, Oct. 4 at 9/8c

This basketball comedy… (We’ll just stop there. Next?)

Utopia
Fox
Premieres: Sunday, Sep. 7 at 8/7c

In this experimental reality series based on a Dutch format, 15 contestants — of varying backgrounds and temperaments, of course —are thrown into the wilderness to spend an entire year building their own society with their own rules. (No. No. NO!)

Z Nation
Syfy
Premieres: Friday, Sep. 12 at 10/9c

Syfy goes after the Walking Dead crowd with this action-horror series about — what else? — a group of survivors trying to save humanity after a zombie apocalypse. But this show’s ragtag group (including Lost’s Harold Perrineau, Southland’s Tom Everett Scott and Road Trip’s DJ Qualls) aren’t traipsing around the Southern countryside. Instead, they are trying to get the only person unaffected by the zombie plague from New York to California, where a viral lab hopes to turn his blood into a vaccine. (I find this to be an interesting take. And since I’m so over The Walking Dead, why not?)

24: Live Another Day

I was a big fan of 24. It was definitely destination television for me. Even when the stories drifted into the ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Season 6), it was still entirely enjoyable.

24ladIt’s been a long time (four years, I think?) since the show made it’s final bow, and now, seeing this new iteration, I am forced to come to the following conclusion: this is hard to do. I have seen several shows that have tried, in some form or fashion, to replicate the sort of all-action, all-grim-determination, crazy-plot-twists-every-week formula of 24, and none have come close. (The shows that spring to mind are The Event, Prison Break and Crisis. I’m sure there are plenty more that I never bothered to watch.)

For this new season, the story has been trimmed down to twelve hours, so, in some sense the title is a lie! Not that I mind. It was usually around the twelve hour mark in past seasons that you could tell the writers were casting around for the next arc. Now, we get one good twelve-hour arc. And what a doozy it is! We have:

  • Jack as a fugitive from the US government
  • Chloe working for a guy who is part Anonymous, part Julian Assange
  • A CIA operative trying to prove her mettle after her husband was found to be a Chinese spy
  • President Heller trying to negotiate a critical treaty while fighting off dementia
  • The Chief of Staff (who is also the husband of the first daughter!) trying to maintain control of a spiraling diplomatic disaster, and…
  • A machine that can take control of US death drones

And that’s just in the first two hours. Dang, I love this show so much!

My only question is, with only twelve hours, will they have the opportunity to make their usual one joke per season? Here’s hoping.

Once Upon a Time / Grimm

I don’t usually return to things I have already reviewed, but with TV shows, there’s always the possibility of growth, of improvement. And, really, how often did you watch the pilot of a show and know, for sure, it would be awesome? (For me, that’s Lost and The West Wing. Maybe Friends.)

But, way back in 2011, there were two shows that had, on the surface, very similar premises. I pre-reviewed them as follows:

Once Upon a Time (ABC) – Okay, fairy tale characters are real, but they’re in our world, and have forgotten who they are?  Sounds like an extremely mediocre idea for a movie, and a terrible idea for a TV show.

Grimm (NBC) – Fairy tale creatures hunted down in a dark procedural.  This one could be fantastic.  Or fantastically bad.

Just for grins, let’s look back at my picks for the most promising shows:

Terra Nova (FOX) – If this isn’t your Must Watch Show of the new season, either you haven’t heard about it, or you don’t like fun.

Alcatraz (FOX) – J.J. Abrams, Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, and mysterious goings on at an abandoned prison.  Cancel anything you like (other than Terra Nova) and get me this show immediately.

Wow. I am terrible at this. Neither of those shows even completed their first season. Yikes. Okay, back to the topic at hand.

Then, after Grimm and Once Upon a Time actually premiered, and I had more to say. Basically, the pilots of both gave me hope.

Now these shows are both deep into their third seasons, and I’m kind of stunned by how much I like them both.

First, Once. This was masterminded by a couple of guys from Lost, and the pedigree is rather obvious. Most episodes include a fractured timeline narrative, with one of the principle characters featured in both the present and the past stories. The show doesn’t have the acting (Josh Dallas? Really?) nor the writing, nor the sense of destiny and doom of Lost. But it certainly has the complexity and the weirdness.

On one hand, it’s really a cash grab by Disney, trying to profit off of all of these properties they own the rights to. Let’s recap what previous works are represented by characters on this show:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Cinderella
  • Peter Pan
  • Mulan
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Frankenstein
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Rumplestiltskin
  • Pinocchio
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Robin Hood
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • King Midas
  • Knights of the Round Table
  • Hansel and Gretel

There’s probably more. That’s what I could come up with. What’s fun about the show is that they have no problem adjusting these stories to fit the show’s needs. The “Beast” that Belle falls for is Rumplestiltskin. He’s the one who taught Regina (the Evil Queen) the magic she used to disrupt Snow White’s happy ending. Also, Regina’s sister is the Wicked Witch of the West. Incidentally, this Wicked Witch’s first flying monkey was a transfigured Wizard of Oz. The big bad for the first half of the third season? Peter Pan… who is Rumplestiltskin’s dad.

It’s just nuts. But they also have the smarts to write some of these stories out as “done”. Ariel and Eric have had their happy ending. The Darling family is finally out from under the thumb of Peter Pan. Etc. Some characters have hung around somewhat past their usefulness. (Prince Charming? Really?) But the through line of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) as “The Savior” is pretty well done. And any scene with Rumple (Robert Carlyle) is a winner.

The other thing I enjoy about the show is how important the female characters are. So much of the drama is about motherhood. (Sound like the flip side of any other show?)

Where Once Upon a Time mines countless other works for characters and plot lines, Grimm has only gotten better the more focused it is on the mythology it has built.

Grimm was created by some folks with Buffy the Vampire Slayer experience. This show has the same kind of layered mythology as that one, but, thankfully, a more carefully moderated tone and a wider selection of character voices. Recently, the smartest thing Grimm has done is pull more and more characters into the world of the Wesen. Yes, the show has veered off to have subplots in Europe, as a weird, international secret war is brewing between “The Royals” and “The Resistance”, but all roads continue to lead to Portland. Even as Nick, our resident Grimm, is busy protecting the public from murderous werecreatures of a bewildering variety, he also has to navigate this larger world of agendas and dangers, and, most importantly, traditions.

This is where the show reaches a higher level of awesome for me. The traditions of this hidden world are often horrifying. Grimms are “supposed” to kill Wesen on sight. Wesen are “supposed” to maintain their ways, regardless of the march of progress (or how many people have to die as a result). The Royals are “supposed” to be in charge. Every one of these traditions is up for grabs in just about every episode. That’s why the relationship between Nick, the merciful Grimm, and Monroe, the vegetarian Blutbad (werewolf) is so evocative, and, at times, hilarious.

I can’t say I have any idea where Once Upon a Time is heading for the rest of the season, but I am already really looking forward to Monroe and Rosalee’s wedding!

Sherlock Holmes Analysis – Holmes

Well, I was distracted by… life, I guess. Now I’m back with the first of two more posts in my Sherlock Holmes. For this one, I select my favorite Sherlock.

Holmes Lite

Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: CI) — A great performance by a great actor, but Goren was more about reading people and seeking a confession than he was the simple act of deduction. As a Holmes, there are better ones.

James Roday (Psych) — There’s something wonderful about a detective who has no demons except a little bit of daddy issues. Shawn is always wild and crazy and hilarious. For him, the deduction is almost incidental to his antics.

Tony Shaloub (Monk) — For years, Adrian Monk was the most interesting example of mental illness on TV. From his OCD to his multiple phobias to his longstanding love (and grief) for his dead wife, this was a character for whom getting up in the morning was a victory. Watching him then also solve crimes and often put himself into jeopardy to do so? It made the whole experience that much more affecting. I miss that show.

Hugh Laurie (House) — There’s simply no better Holmes Lite than Gregory House. This misanthropic drug addict was impossible to look away from. He never quite veered into anti-hero territory (well, except for that car incident) so we didn’t mind rooting for him, despite the terrible way he treated his patients, his subordinates, his superiors and his one friend. House couldn’t resist a mystery, any mystery. The disease of the week might take up most of his time, but he was so much more invested in understanding every little personality tic of his proteges. The show may have stayed past its welcome, but House himself was never less than fascinating to watch.

Holmes Proper

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) — I will, no doubt, be in the minority when I say this… Benedict Cumberbatch is not the best Sherlock Holmes. While his performance is stellar, his take on the character (or, really, the writers’ take on the character) is odd. He’s a sociopath. Or has Aspergers. Whatever the case, he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of empathy. And while that makes for some awkward and hilarious moments, it also makes for a less engaging hero. His single-minded focus on not being bored makes his (required) fascination with Moriarty and Irene Adler almost tacked on. He does these things because he is “Sherlock Holmes”, not because of the character than he portrays. I love the show, but I can’t say Cumberbatch is better than…

Johnny Lee Miller (Elementary) — This performance is more nuanced, and perhaps more real than any of the Holmes Proper performances. Unlike most of the other takes on the character, and probably because this is US television, this Sherlock is a recovering addict who harbors real regret for his past actions. (There’s a hint of that in Sherlock, but only a hint.) His fondness for Watson is real, including a mentoring aspect that is also missing from every other version. For all these reasons, he’s more palatable as a week-in-week-out TV hero, generating 22 episodes a year. But he’s impish and eccentric and (of course) clever and egotistical. He is, however, not extremely any of these things.

Robert Downey Jr. (Guy Ritchie films) — This is what Sherlock Holmes should be. He’s a brutal fighter, unbelievably smart, endlessly pranking, loves a good costume, and maintains a sense of justice while being fascinated by the crimes he investigates. He shares traits with many of his doppelgangers. He needles his housekeeper and Lestrade and Watson like House. He reads people instantly like Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. He’s as funny as Shawn Spencer, and, at times, as insane as Adrian Monk. His is the best of the Adler romances and the best of the Moriarty clashes. There are better Holmes/Watson bromances out there, but Downey/Law do a great job nonetheless. The only real downside is that we only have two films with this incarnation of the character. I can only hope there will be more.

Coming up next (hopefully soon), my pick for the best overall adaptation!