Saturday, October 18, 2014

Criminals Are a Superstitious, Foreshadowing Lot

I’m going to get this out of the way right at the beginning:  I’m a huge Batman fan, but I hate seeing his origin story.  The reason is because I’ve seen it so. Many. Damn. Times.  And now, come to your television and mine, is Gotham; yet another origin story for Batman.  And as the TV Sluts most dedicated comic book nerd, I’m here to break it down for you.  Fair warning: I’m getting Bat-nerdy ALL OVER THIS MOFO.  I won’t feel badly if you need to turn back now.

I"m so desensitized to this image that for all I know, this could be from Modern Family.

The saving grace of this take on Batman’s origin is that it is told through the eyes of a young Lt. James Gordon, the man who will one day become Gotham City’s famous Commissioner of Police.  As we see how Gordon will eventually become the paragon of law and order, the show is promising to focus more on the development of the various rogues and ne’er-do-wells that will eventually becomes Batman’s famous villains than on the Dark Knight himself.  As such, it’s sort of Batman without the Batman, though a young Bruce Wayne is a regular character.

The first episode sets the stage for us with a variety of characters good, bad, and ambivalent react to the shocking murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the wealthiest couple in the city and, obviously, parents to young Bruce.  We see the reaction to the crime from the three different factions of people Gotham has laid out for us: the police investigating the crime, the mob factions who see it as a potential leverage point, and the people caught up in between, most of whom have rather familiar names.

They're like the Brady Bunch.  With more secrets.  And darker clothes.  

And that’s where Gotham earns a lot of its nerd street cred right off the bat.  Seriously, you guys, there hasn’t been a finer collection of Easter Eggs in one place since the last White House Easter Egg Roll.   All the mainstays of the Batman universe are here:  Sarah Essen is Jim Gordon’s captain.  His partner is Harvey Bullock.  The CSI-guy who helps them understand the ballistics of evidence is Edward Nygma.  Bullock and Gordon, who work in Homicide, are envious and jealous of two other cops always showing them up from Major Crimes, ReneeMontoya and Crispus Allen.  And that’s just the police force.  The show opens on a teenage Selina Kyle just learning how to be a thief.  The daughter of a mob lackey is a young Poison Ivy.  Mob boss Fish Mooney’s underling is none other than Oswald Cobblepot.  Right off the bat (heh), your Batman geeks are SQUEEE-ing all over the place.

The risk for the show, then, is how to tell a major story that everyone knows, how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, with this many characters, most of whom are the ones that are usually in the periphery.  Gotham aims to tackle that problem by running largely like a police procedural with an emphasis on the job that James Gordon has fallen into as the Last Good Man in Gotham City.  We can only presume that the deeper stories, already starting to be seeded in the pilot episode, will begin to fill in the holes that a Law & Order: Gotham would be unwilling to.

So how does it do in its first four episodes?  All told, not too bad.  Let’s start with look and feel.  Production value is high and the show looks slick.  The show gets a lot of free atmosphere simply from filming in New York rather than Los Angeles or Vancouver and as such, Gotham City looks and feels real.  New York is stylized, blending the actual architecture of a gritty city with enhanced fantastical elements to give it a more gothic feel.  The skies are always moody, the streets are always dirty.  To a comic book nerd like me, it looks very close to how Gotham City is supposed to look.  Denny O’Neil, one of the all-time greatest Batman writers who help shaped the character, once described Gotham as looking exactly like New York below 14th street at 10 minutes past midnight on the coldest, wettest night in November.  The show has followed that lead, effectively making Gotham City a character in and of herself.

So how about the story?  Wisely, the central mystery that we’re given (who actually killed the Waynes?) is carried through the first four episodes without being overbearing.   The show is devoting much more time to showing how corrupt Gotham City is and what it means to try to keep this city, built on a precarious system of checks and balances between the warring crime families, the police, and the emerging underclass of citizens who are taking matters into their own hands, from falling into chaos.  The writing itself is, for the most part, good while obviously trying to find its pace and hit its stride, a common issue for new shows.  Some truly clunky dialogue in the first episode is thankfully significantly improved by the third, which gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.  (Though for the sake of full disclosure, I would watch this show no matter what just because of the topic.  I’m a sucker.)   

This course of action is not uncalled for in my case. 

The performances vary from middling to fascinating.  Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock and Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot in particular steal just about every scene they’re in.  Taylor lets his proto-Penguin be sleazy and slimy while at the same time making you want to know more about this kid who is so clearly set on a bad path.   By episode four, Oswald has already started to become a minor player in the nascent gang war that has started to erupt since the death of the Waynes.  Likewise, Logue nails Harvey Bullock as the cop who is just going along to get along in a city as corrupt as Gotham is, despite the fact that underneath it all he really wishes he could make a difference.   The actor having the most fun with a role, however, is clearly Jada Pinkett Smith, cast as a mid-level mob boss named Fish Moody who nominally is in service to Carmine Falcone, the head of the most powerful mob family in Gotham, but scheming to improve her own station.  Watching Jada Pinkett Smith as she Eartha Kitts al over her scenes is legitimately fun.   And while Ben McKenzie is solid as James Gordon, it’s hard to get too creative with a hero character who has to carry all the action.  His best scenes so far have been playing off young Selina Kyle, cast here as a street orphan who’s ridiculously talented at getting by on her own.  (Selina is perhaps the character that the writers have nailed most solidly.  Every line she has absolutely sounds like something the 13-year-old version of Catwoman would say.)


That kind of devotion to the comics without being hemmed in by them is part of what makes Gotham so enjoyable for me.  The writers are playing with any number of nerdy references: Gordon and his Fiancé, Barbara, live in a curiously lavish penthouse apartment with the main feature being a huge clockface that doubles as a window.  Comic readers know that this couple’s future daughter, who becomes Batgirl, is frequently drawn in her own high-tech apartment in a prominent clocktower somewhere in Gotham.  Episode four revolves around a development deal to bring back the abandoned Arkham Asylum.  (A map showing the neighborhood even refers to the area as “Arkham City.")  Characters meet at the corner of Fourth and Grundy.  The dancers at Fish Moody’s night club are dressed curiously as harlequins.   There's even a struggling comedian who auditions at the same club.  (The producers have stated that they will tease exactly who becomes the Joker over time, and likely ambiguously owing to the ambiguous nature of the character's origins in the comics.)  

A Batman TV show has been something of the Holy Grail for both networks and Warner Brothers for some time.  For as popular as the character is, there are a dozen reasons why the last time Batman was on live action television, he was played by Adam West.  And while Gotham bears no resemblance at all to the 1960s Batman, fans of the Bat universe will be more than pleased to see it brought to them each week.  Whether or not it can win over more casual viewers is now the question.

Gotham airs Monday nights at 8pm on Fox.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Shows Yayayaya...

Hello, my children. How are you wayward delinquents today?  

Here are three shows that have been somewhat occupying my attention in recent days and weeks. 


You know that I love me some MUHDUH mysteries. Normally, I watch British mysteries, including the delightfully wacky Miss Marple series. That said, I am probably the only person on the planet who hasn't seen Broadchurch, and I am thus intrigued by the American incarnation of the David Tennant series, Gracepoint. So, if you're reading this post and hoping it will contain a comparison of Gracepoint to Broadchurch, culminating in the hipster assertion that the American version WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS THE BRITISH VERSION, I advise you to quit this post posthaste and make some artisan cheese to assuage your frustration. Maggie Cats has written her take on Gracepoint, so I shall add my two cents.

I watched the season premiere of Gracepoint and I was pretty engrossed, and that's saying a lot since I have the attention span of your average house cat. I am stoked for all things British, but thus far I cannot say that Gracepoint is better or worse than the British version.

The plot is pretty simple and will be familiar to those who have seen Broadchurch.  David Tennant stars in a role based on his role on Broadchurch. He portrays Emmett Carver, your stereotypically grizzled and disillusioned detective. Carver has a Past that is haunting and threatening to catch up with him.  Butting heads with him is Detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn), who learned she had been replaced by Carver when she returned from family vacation. So there's already tension there. From Wikipedia:

Detective Ellie Miller is upset when Emmett Carver is assigned as lead detective while she was on vacation. Carver's first case is a cut barbed-wire fence. Twelve-year-old Danny Solano goes missing, and his body is found at the base of cliffs overlooking the local beach. Beth Solano sees her son's body on the beach and breaks down. Having known the Solanos for years, Ellie deals with her own personal struggles as well as the Solanos'. A crime scene officer says the crime scene was altered to look like an accident, and the pathologist says Danny was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. Carver and Ellie disclose the cause of Danny's death to the Solanos, and Mark identifies the body. Ellie's nephew and ambitious reporter Owen Burke extracts information from Ellie for a Twitter report, causing tension with the police and upsetting the Solanos. Ellie takes the blame for Owen's action. Carver is asked if he wishes to withdraw from the case, but he does not. Renee Clemons, reporter for the San Francisco Globe, arrives in town without her supervisor's permission to try to get an exclusive on the death. Beth visits the crime scene with Ellie, and Ellie expresses her grief to her husband Joe. Ellie tells their son, Tom, about Danny's death, and he then secretly wipes his mobile phone and computer to remove evidence. Owen unwittingly provides Renee with a link to Chloe Solano, and CCTV footage shows Danny skateboarding down a street on the night of his murder. Ellie notes that Danny's phone and skateboard were not recovered at the crime scene and are missing. At a press conference, Carver urges anyone to come forward if anyone they know is behaving differently and remarks: "We will catch whoever did this."

This is one of those shows that you either commit to and follow through to the end, or you give up after the first couple of episodes. It's only 10 episodes, so the usual multi-season formula so common in American series is being put to the test here. It will be interesting to see if the British series formula works in the United States. The first episode was actually pretty engrossing, and I will continue to watch it unless it completely goes off the rails. It's my understanding that Gracepoint is a point-for-point copy of Broadchurch, so is that a good thing or a bad thing? Will they change things up and do a musical episode? I hope so. I guess Fox is trying to cash in on this critically acclaimed drama award-winning stuff. We'll see if that pans out for them.

"Just get back in your Tardis...or mope around your castle...or sweep a chimney...or something."

I enjoyed the pilot because it was full of intrigue and I like intrigue. Also, being from a small town in the Midwest has given me a healthy appreciation for small-town hypocrisy, Dirty Little Secrets kept by "elite" members of the social hierarchy, and community tragedies revealing cracks in the idyllic veneer. It's sort of my milieu. Yes, I used milieu in a sentence.

British Columbia stars as Northern California.

Gracepoint airs 9 p.m. EST Thursdays on Fox.

Inspector Lewis

Okay, so ITV and PBS totally LIED about last season being the last season ever of Inspector Lewis. It was probably just a conspiracy to get us all to go console ourselves with Endeavour, which is great, don't get me wrong, but ZOMG Lewis & Hathaway. 

Our conclusion: The pints were MUHDUHED. We MUHDUHED these mofos.

It is really good to see Hathaway and Lewis back together solving MUHDUHS again. At the end of last season, Lewis (Kevin Whatley) was set to retire and go shack up with and/or marry the Lady Coroner, Laura Hobson. A disillusioned Hathaway was quitting the force to pursue that most common of affluent white people past times, to Find Himself.  Anyway, Hathaway decides that himself done got founded and returns to the Oxfordshire PD, as Detective Inspector Hathaway. Superintendent Jean Innocent asks Lewis to return as a consultant, even though he is retired. For plot reasons. It is called Inspector Lewis, after all. Continuity, people. Continuity.

Hathaway has a new underling, Detective Sergeant Lizzie Maddox, A Lady. I ship them.

Other than the changes, it's the same academic MUHDUHS and high-jinks in the homicide-laden Oxford.

Inspector Lewis generally airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on PBS. 

The Paradise

As you may recall from my post last year, I was all aflutter about The Paradise, BBC's answer to ITV's Mr. Selfridge and Downton Abbey.

"Okay, so. For this scene, girls, think Clueless."

I am including it in my post about MUHDUH because THE BBC MUHDUHED THIS SHOW. They MUHDUHED IT.  

I'm not sure when and where this crime occurred. I think it happened when the BBC realized they could tart up trashy soap operas with crinolines and a few bustles and call it art. THANKS DOWNTON ABBEY. The Paradise has lost its soul. I think mayhaps the writers are searching high and low for material. The show is still pretty good, but it's not AS good as the first season. Perhaps its just the sophomore curse, but BBC of course canceled the show so there will be no season 3 of The Paradise. More Big Brother UK coming to a tele near you, Britons. 

After Moray and Katherine Glendenning's marriage plans fell through at some point after the end of last season, she (Bitchtits) banished him to Paris and away from his True Love, Denise.

Denise and Mr. Moray have consecrated their luvz for one another (not in that way; get your minds out of the gutter) so as they are no longer gazing longingly at each other over a window dressing 

I want you to dress me like one of your French girls.

the tension between them has lessened somewhat, shall we say. Since Bitchtits is now married to a philandering gajillionaire widower, and is no longer overtly trying to rape Moray, the show has had to create drama elsewhere. I was underwhelmed by the season premiere, and I was left perplexed by the second episode of the season. 

A couple of new characters have joined the cast. Katherine aforementioned hubby, Tom Weston, is a psychologically scarred war veteran whose first wife died, leaving him with his young daughter, Flora. Katherine has decided that Flora makes a nice pet, so she has showered her with attention and fripperies and furbelows from the store. Since Moray ended up losing the store ownership to the Glendennings, to whom he owed money, Katherine and Tom now own the store, since Katherine's father died. Weston constantly cheats on Katherine and brazenly makes passes at everything in a skirt, including shop girl Clara, and Katherine is probably scheming to destroy Moray while pretending to have forgiven Moray for his betrayal and to also destroy Denise for a-stealin' her man. Yeah, yeah. Katherine says she's reformed but considering how batshit crazy she was on Season 1 I'm guessing she's got something up her finely laced sleeve.


Another new character is the scullery wench/cook/token Cockney, Myrtle. Myrtle works in the kitchen at The Paradise and shouts at everyone loudly in an accent indicative of the lower social orders. She generally looks unkempt, sweaty, and as she is working class, she is more than a little bit slutty, indicated by her low-cut frock, messy hair, and boobs jacked to Jesus.

Don't 'it me!

Anyway, I will continue to watch and see it through to the end/death of the series. I'm sorry to see the series go off the air. It had a solid first season and this season is entertaining if a bit silly.

Catch The Paradise on PBS. It generally airs on Masterpiece on Sundays, but as always with PBS, check your local listings.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 3!

The hits keep on coming, and by "hits" I mean shows that will likely get cancelled in another few weeks. Sorry for the delay in this latest round-up of capsule reviews, but I'm doing my best to make it up to y'all by being particularly clever and insightful with this latest batch.

That last part is a total lie, btw. You get your usual tired jokes and awful puns. You know you love it.

Anyway, let's get to it!

Selfie: The internet decided that this show was going to be terrible months before it even aired. After all, the main character, Eliza, is pretty much a walking example/cliche of everything that is wrong with our narcissistic, self-involved, tech-obsessed culture (despite being portrayed by the delightful Karen Gillan from Doctor Who). And based on the first 5 minutes, which were to be perfectly honest, horrifying, I would agree with the internet. But then a weird thing happened: Eliza (and the show) displayed some moments of genuine pathos that hit me in the gut. And then all of a sudden, I was rooting for Eliza to get her shit together and you know, become a real and likeable person.

Selfie is based on the play Pygamalion (though you are probably more familiar with the musical, My Fair Lady). In this version, Eliza seeks out the "rebranding" skills of her coworker and marketing expert, Henry, to teach her how to connect with people and make real friends...rather than just friending people on social media. What is surprising (and smart) is that Henry isn't set up as an all-knowing perfect example of normal humanity. In his own way, Henry is just as incapable as Eliza when it comes to making connections, so you know--they'll be able to learn from each other. I know, it sounds lame and it's definitely not an original idea, but Karen Gillan and John Cho are inherently likeable and I'll keep watching for now.

Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn they ain't.

Bottomline: If you can look past the vulgarity, there's some real meat and emotion to this story about the difficulty of connecting with others in our self-absorbed culture. Karen Gillan and John Cho are also both great in their respective roles. Selfie airs Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC.

Gracepoint: The consensus on this one seems to be a general feeling of "....but why?" For those not in the know, Gracepoint is an Americanization of the British mystery series Broadchurch, about the murder of a young boy in an English village. In typical BBC fashion, the British version was nuanced, well-acted, and focused on not only the whodunnit aspect of the story, but also the secrets everyone in the small town kept from one another.

Usually when a British import is adapted for American television, people who are fans of the original wail and rend their garments lamenting how much worse the US show is in comparison to the British one. That's not the case here--Gracepoint is similarly atmospheric, similarly well-acted, and well, similarly everything good about Broadchurch. In fact, THAT's the problem. Gracepoint appears to be almost a shot for shot remake of Broadchurch--including the brilliant long tracking shot in the early minutes of the first episode that introduce the main players in the mystery.

They even got David Tennant to reprise his role as the police detective in charge of the investigation,  playing the exact same character, just with a cheesy American accent. Of course I don't know if the show will have the same killer as the British version, but to be honest, I'm not going to stick around to find out. I've seen this story already. I understand wanting to adapt the story for an American audience, especially given the high quality of the original, but as someone who has seen both, you gotta give me something new to keep me interested.

Even the actors are like, "why are we here?"

Bottomline: If you haven't seen Broadchurch, Gracepoint is a dramatic and intricate story about a murder  in a small town with excellent acting, atmosphere, and twists and turns. If you have seen Broadchurch, then you've also seen Gracepoint. Gracepoint airs Thursday evenings at 9:00 on FOX.

Manhattan Love Story: It's cute. It's too cute. It's another one of those annoying romantic "comedies" where he's a handsome bro, she's an adorable and quirky gal with bouncy curls, they're not perfect but they might just be perfect for each other!

Gag. Me.

It's too bad both the leads in this show are so annoying, because the supporting characters, especially girl best friend Amy (played by Jade Catta-Preta--a dead ringer for Lady Gaga when she looks normal), are actually really funny. But I don't think I can get past the cute. It's just trying too hard. Both the leads showed some promise of actual personality, but I'm not sticking with it to see if those hints of promise are explored.

Oh, and if I see one more show where the writers/producers try to make a gorgeous woman seem more "real" by having her unable to understand how a smart phone/email/Facebook work I am going to lose it and Hulk the fuck out.

She even bites her lower lip. You guys, I CANNOT EVEN.

Bottomline: Plays up every current rom-com cliche and the supporting actors deserve way better. Manhattan Love Story airs Tuesdays at 8:30 on ABC.

The Flash: One of my favorite pilots of the season, The Flash has a sense of fun that can be lacking in Arrow (don't get me wrong though--I love Arrow) but still maintains enough action and drama to keep your eyes glued to the television. It passed the smart phone test--meaning I wasn't reaching for my phone to fiddle with it while the show was on. 

But it's not all fun and games, there's also an underlying sense of stakes and peril; I wouldn't be surprised if some of the characters from the pilot get bumped off in the coming season. Special bonus points for giving Tom Cavanagh a role he can really bite into (is he a good guy? A secret Evil Mastermind? I don't knoooooow!) and putting Jesse L. Martin back on my tv. Do you think he will sing in an upcoming musical episode? God, I hope so. This is a short review, but that's because I don't really have anything negative to say. The Flash is just good old-fashioned comic book fun. 

"Wheeee, I'm super fast! And bouncy!"

Bottomline: The Flash impresses with its ability to combine the fun of superpowers with a real sense of darkness and danger for the characters. One of my favorites of the season, The Flash airs Tuesday evenings at 8:00 on the CW.  

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Scariest Thing on Television

You guys.  I was seriously just about to post my promised review of Gotham (coming right up, I promise!) when a quick cursory fact check via Twitter informed me that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, creators of Nip/Tuck, Glee, and, my personal favorite, American Horror Story are spinning off the latter show into a new franchise that just may be the scariest thing on TV; reality television.

And by that I mean actual reality television, not the scripted Kim Kardashian stuff.  The new series? An anthology in the same vein as American Horror Story that will try to do for the weekly true crime genre what AHS has done for the weekly horror show.  The new series will be called, seriously, American Crime Story and season one will be the O.J. Simpson story.


I'll be honest that I thought this was some kind of April Fool's Day joke when I came across it, but low and behold it is, in fact, real.  The creative team behind AHS (season four debuts tomorrow.  Jesus, I have a lot of writing to do...) have been "looking for the right property that could serve as an extension of the American Horror Story brand."

This may not be a crazy idea.  An anthology series about America's most notorious crimes would certainly fit the bill in terms of expanding AHS's franchise brand.  AHS has already shown itself to be very willing to tell stories in multiple time periods and presumably the format would allow Murphy et al to visit any significant true crime from all of American history.

That's the good news.  My worry is that we're going to get a series about stories that are already overly sensationalized by the team that brought us Glee.  Subtle is not their bailiwick.  And while I don't think a poorly filmed take on O.J. Simpson is likely to do anything like, say, restart the L.A. riots, I do worry about how well the show will be able to present these stories, especially if the aim is to do them as true crime and not as the kind of "true crime" we saw in season one of AHS with the Black Dahlia.  As dramatic as murder is in real life, Hollywood has typically felt for some reason that it isn't sensational enough. That kind of sexing up of history will be harder to pull off in cases like O.J. Simpson, which is a story that existed in the era of modern news, but it will be significantly harder if season two is the Lindbergh Baby.

American Crime Story will air on FX sometime in 2015.

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 2!

Another week, another post with some capsule reviews. You see all the time and energy I am putting into this for you people! IT'S ALL FOR YOU.

Anyway, hit it!

Gotham: Clovis is going to give you a full review (and possibly recap?) for this one, but I'll just say a few words. So far, it's been my favorite pilot of the season: stylish and with enough originality to distinguish itself from the other comic book adaptations and Batman stories we've all seen. The focus here is on Jim Gordon, a new detective at the Gotham PD, who is in the extreme minority of the police force with his sense of "ethics" and "justice" and "not killing everything in sight." Sure, we get a look at the murder of Mommy and Daddy Wayne and Gordon forms a bond with a young Bruce, but right now that's secondary. The real focus is on Gordon is battling the rise of Gotham's most notorious villains. 

Fans will immediately notice the future Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin, but the real baddie is Fish Mooney, a nightclub owner and power player in Gotham's underworld. She's played by Jada Pinkett Smith in a brilliant performance that was one of my favorite parts of the pilot. Fish is smart, badass, and with just enough camp and fun to make you root for her--while also knowing she is a horrible person. Gotham is the battle ground for Mooney and mobster Carmine Falcone who are locked in a fight for control of the city's criminal empire....while Gordon does his best to protect the people caught in the middle. Oh, and I would be remiss to not point out that Ben McKenzie is also great as Gordon. He reminds me of Russel Crowe in LA Confidential, but without the simmering rage. Gordon just wants to do the right thing. In Gotham though, nothing is ever going to be simple. 

Bottom line: Gotham is a dark and stylish comic nerd's dream, with great performances, a solid concept, and stories that will be fun to watch unfold.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8:00PM on FOX. 

Forever: I had very low expectations for this one; I figured it was another procedural with a medical examiner teaming up with a cop to solve murders. But darn if I didn't actually enjoy it. Perhaps it's because Ioan Gruffudd is all dashing and British and I remember him fondly from the BBC Horatio Hornblower movies (we'll pretend The Fantastic Four never happened, mmkay?). Or maybe it's because the show has Judd Hirsch, one of my favorite Jews. But really I think it's because there is enough of a mystery with the main character's, Dr. Henry Morgan, immortality that I find myself intrigued.

"What was that, Maggie? Did you say 'immortality??'" Why yes, I did, gentle reader. Thank you for noticing. You see, Henry can't die. Well, more accurately, he dies but then comes back almost immediately. Reborn at the same age, naked, in a nearby body of water. This has been happening for 200 years, so it's understandable that Henry has become somewhat obsessed with death; hence, his job as a medical examiner. He's also kind of a Sherlock Holmes--super observant, but not in an asshole way. In a more "OMG stop being so charming or I am going to slap you" type of way. He might be a bit too charming. It kind of bugs.

Anyway, the first two episodes had ok central murders to solve, but the real mystery is about Henry and why he can't stay dead. Add to that mysterious messages from someone who claims to share the same condition....and yes, folks, Consider me intrigued. I'll keep watching, though the first episodes' ratings weren't stellar so I'm not expecting this one to be around for long. 

Bottom line: A surprising solid show, though the mystery of Henry's immortality is way more compelling than the standard "murder of the week" storylines.

Forever airs Tuesdays at 10:00PM on ABC. 

Black-ish: Oh, man, I soooo wanted this to be good. I love Anthony Anderson and the ads made it look like it could be a biting satire of suburban culture and how it seems to erase all distinctions among people. Unfortunately, the pilot relied way too heavily on lame humor based around racial cliches and stereotypes. Though I will say the last 10 minutes were somewhat entertaining and I really enjoy the actress who plays the wife/Mom (and is also a doctor, yay!). I might give it another shot to show some more of the promise demonstrated in the later minutes of the pilot, but if the next episode is more of the same, I'm out. 

Bottomline: A disappointing pilot that might be redeemable if the focus shifts to the family rather than the lame racial stereotypes.

Black-ish airs Wednesday nights at 9:30 on ABC.

Madame Secretary: Another show I found surprisingly good. I thought that this was going to be some kind of lame overly sappy drama about a woman doing it her way in the cut-throat world of Washington politics, and while there is some of that (watch out for the cheesy slo-mo at the end of the pilot episode), it actually fills the void left by The West Wing pretty well. There's lots of walking and talking and political maneuvering. While the work Tea Leoni does as the Secretary of State probably steps outside the realistic bounds of the job description, it's still interesting to see inside a cabinet post that I don't know that much about.

So far the supporting cast doesn't leave much of an impression, except for Bebe Neuwirth and Zeljiko Ivanek ,who are both most excellent character actors and always elevate any material. I'm sure the writers will try to give the younger staff members some kind of sexy side plots, but whatever. It's CBS. It's not like they have the same demographic as The CW so I hope we don't go too far down that road. Anyway, I'll stick with it unless the schmaltz starts to outweigh the actual drama.

Bottom line: Promising political drama about a female Secretary of State who is more comfortable working outside the official channels, but has to learn to play politics or may herself with the Chief of Staff as an enemy.

Catch Madame Secretary Sundays at 8:00PM on CBS.

How to Get Away With Murder: This show is ALL ABOUT Viola Davis. She is amazing. Whenever she is on screen, the show is riveting. Whenever she is off the screen it's....well, not. No offense to the other cast members but they can't hold a candle to Davis.

Davis plays law professor Annalise Keating, who teaches Criminal Law at some mythical law school. She is also a partner at some random criminal defense lawfirm (because in tv land, defense attorneys have time to work two full time jobs) who hires a few of her first year law students to assist with her sensational murder trials. You know, like in Legally Blonde.

Ok, sidenote. I am a lawyer. However, I am not going to harp on the inaccuracies of how law school and the legal profession are depicted in this show. We all have our areas of expertise and I am sure some people have trouble watching fictionalized accounts of them; however, I am pretty good at turning my brain off and not letting it get to me. Let's just state for the record that nothing in this show--whether we're talking about law school, the courtroom, or the law firm--is realistic, and leave it at that.

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see a character like Annalise Keating on television. She's brilliant, tough, manipulative, and kind of an asshole. Also a woman. And also really complicated. While she has many weapons, the writers and Davis infuse enough realism into the character to avoid making her a mustache-twirling villain. She's like the onion and/or parfait of prime time television.

How many times have we seen depictions of white dudes who are jerks, but command respect because of their smarts and their looks. And guess what? Annalise Keating is the same--but she's a lady of color. You could reverse gender cast almost any of the characters on this show without any problems, and I think that's kind of cool. I can't overstate how great Viola Davis is in the role and she is the clear reason to watch. The plot is intriguing (there's a lot of flashbacks so if you get confused with time jumps make sure you pay attention) so that's a point in it's favor, but Davis is completely compelling.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast (especially the law students, led by Alfred Enoch from the Harry Potter movies who is waaaaay out of his depth) doesn't hold the attention as much as Davis. But really, who could? I'm on board as long as Davis and the twisty plot live up to the promise of the pilot.

Bottom line: One of the better pilots of the season, Viola Davis is amazing in the lead role of Professor Annalise Keating, who pits her lamely stereotypical law students against one another in a competition for a few coveted spots in her criminal defense firm. But everyone has secrets...including the students, who find themselves covering up a murder of their own.

How To Get Away With Murder airs Thursday evenings at 10:00PM on ABC.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Season 2: A Mac Attack review

Remember last Fall when we all waited breathlessly for the premiere of SHIELD? And then the internet was like blah blah blah I hate it or blah blah blah I love it or blah blah blah I only watch things based on DC Comics? But then we stuck with SHIELD and it got really awesome in the Spring after the new Captain America movie? Well, even if you don't remember any of that--the second season of SHIELD has started and ready to weigh in on whether things have improved or gone down hill is Mac Attack. 

Warning: Spoilers. 

Let's begin with the TL;DR. I liked it, but it wasn't amazing. If my cousin is more indicative of the general audience than I am, the changes will be, on balance, positive.

I personally didn't like them. That said, this whole review comes under the caveat that In Joss We Trust, and also that the show is (in my opinion) supported by the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, so there's no question but that I'll keep watching it. In short, it's less "great" and more "good" now. 


Director Coulson. What's up with him? He used to be Superman, in that he was the paragon of hope. Nothing could ever change his innate nature, his trust in himself, in his mission, in the ultimate goodness of humanity that had to be protected at all costs. Towards the end of last season he went through some stuff that made him darker for a while, but he seemed at times to be fighting to maintain that belief, even though he admitted it was faith. I sorta wish they'd found drama in other places and let this one thing be the solid foundation of the show, but at least then it was still an interesting conflict. Now... he just seems sorta waffling. He cares about his team, but he wants to take risks, and he'll stay in the shadows but look towards the light... It's more "real", I suppose, but also more boring. They could have achieved the same effect by introducing outside pressure (like from Melinda) that forces him to act that way, while maintaining the interesting parts of him. I'm not saying it's not a valid character choice, but it's a downgrade from what he used to be. 

I know people wanted more shout-outs to Marvel Canon. Here you go. Absorbing Man.

Here you go, canon fans. ... And ladies. 

I actually like how they're doing this. Pick a bunch of D-listers, take the name and power, then do your own thing with it. I would still have been in favor of an even more original, unique take, but if it keeps my cousin happy, I'll take it. I really think they threaded the needle on this one. They're giving the people who want this to be just an extension of the comics 90% of what they want, and giving people like me, who want something new and think the comics are a hot mess, 90% of what we want. Neither side is totally happy, but both sides keep watching.

Anyone who actually thinks Lucy Lawless's character is dead, raise her hand. Sidenote, that was a LOT of trust on Absorbing Man's part that rubber is immune to the Obelisk.

So... big dangerous mission, we're gonna take the risks, we need to win... and they get, what, a cool jet? To replace the cool jet they can't use anymore? We'll risk EVERYTHING to... maintain the status quo.

Seeing Skye in the field doing a good job with guns was a nice change.

Absorbing Man's trick of using the glass to turn invisible and draw in the guards was smarter than I give that character credit for.

Their handling of Talbot was masterful. Saving/kidnapping him, demonstrably wanting to get one thing out of him while secretly getting another thing, playing him like a puppet... add this to the fact that they have the team all doing each other's jobs (Skye's in the field while Trip's running computers) and I'm starting to suspect they poached some of the Leverage writers, which would be a huge positive in my book.

A few things I hate. 

The show has gotten stupider. Ontology is following intent, and that's always a bad thing. Absorbing Man had about a 45 second headstart on Agent Xena. How could he possibly have known where she was going, AND gotten ahead of her? And I don't totally agree with the physics of the crash. Perhaps they'll fix it later, explain that one of the mercenaries was a traitor or this Doctor Evilface dude was tracking them via GPS and somehow had a vehicle for Absorbing Man that was faster than a speeding car trying to go as fast as it could in a straight line on an empty road. If this is not at least referenced in the next episode (how could he POSSIBLY have gotten there in time?) I will be greatly disappointed.

Ward's imprisonment, he'll only talk to Skye, he's got an agenda and will attack psychologically. Skye is initially hesitant to meet with him and acts aggressive at the start. We, the audience, will slowly gain sympathy for him while Skye does. This sympathy will cause conflict between Skye and the people Ward's actually hurt, like Fitz. His ultimate betrayal of Skye's newfound trust results in his escape, while still somehow leaving potential room for his true redemption. Sorry, already saw the second season of Alias.

Absorbing Man's guards see him gone, so they immediately open the door and walk into the room. Because apparently they got kicked out of the Evil Overlord's Legion of Terror. I get that we were supposed to believe they weren't as good at being guards as SHIELD agents would have been, but did they have to be suicidally, mind-numbingly stupid?

A lot of potential. 

A lot of things weren't addressed in this premiere. I'm not against this, I think they did cover a lot, and I can't think of what I'd suggest they give up in order to cover these other things. I am looking forward to them finally being addressed.

Does Skye think of Ward, the man who trained her, when she's out in the field kicking ass with guns now? 

Melinda. We got almost nothing with her, though I love the complexities of her arrangement with Coulson. He's in charge of her and the mission, she's in charge of him as a resurrected half-alien. And they're both good enough at what they do to make this complicated relationship work. Mostly. Check in more often, Coulson. Don't be that trope.

I'm glad they've basically gotten rid of Fitz and Simmons, they were the show's crutch. I liked them as characters, and I'm glad they're still on the show, but they would just magic-science every problem. Now the characters will have to solve problems with skill and cleverness, and not just, "I've analyzed this and here's a magic antidote".

It was awesome seeing Carter's shout-out, odd that she calls it the end of Hydra, yay she's with the Howling Commandos. And interesting tie-in, now we know why "mysterious artifacts" are called 084's. It's these subtle details that really flesh out the world. This is why I will always keep watching.

A Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in was asking for too much; I can't think of a reference I would have actually liked, anyway.

From Risks above; too often, "take a risk" gets translated in TV to "try something that seems dangerous but then win big and get everything." I like that there was sacrifice. Things went wrong, costs were paid, but they got something for it. Tension. Yay.


"He can absorb the properties of whatever he touches, we don't know how." A foreshadow to the 'age of miracles' from the end of Winter Soldier? Is this the beginning of a tie-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron?

The Obelisk, when activated, has runes on it like Garett and Coulson draw. Obviously a Kree artifact.

Oh, and a female lead changed her hair-style. I think I'm supposed to care about that, it prolly says something deep and meaningful about gender roles. I don't really care.

Wow...what a searing indictment, wavy hair?

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 1!

Last week marked the official start of Fall premiere season, as new shows began airing on the major and cable networks. I managed to catch three shows; one was ok, one was great, and one I liked, but I'm not sure about. Are you intrigued? Let's get to it!

Z Nation: This zombie show airing on SyFy was one of my top 5 most anticipated new shows of the season. After watching the pilot though, I have mixed feelings. During the first 10 minutes or so, I was really disappointed. The whole thing has the grainy look and feel of a typical SyFy low budget Saturday night movie. You know the ones I mean--something like "Giant Mosquitoes Attack!" (which I think was actually a movie they aired several years ago).

But then a funny thing happened...the show got good. The budget and amateur direction didn't improve, but once we got into the actual story and met some new characters, I found myself impressed by the performances and the concept. And the zombie attacks were frequent, creative, and had awesome kills. I also respect that the show isn't afraid to cross the line. A bus full of school kid zombies? Done. Oh, and a zombie baby that chases around the characters and is shown gnawing on a person's intestines? DONE. This is not for the fair of heart...or stomach.

As if I needed ANOTHER reason to be grateful I don't have kids.

Bottomline: If you can get past the low production budget, there is a compelling concept and good performances in a zombie show that is not afraid to go for the gross-out.  Z Nation airs Fridays at 10:00PM on SyFy. 

The Mysteries of Laura: Debra Messing is back on NBC as a NYPD homicide detective who solves murders while juggling her responsibilities as a working mom. She has twin boys who are trouble-makers (they get kicked out of their pre-K school for misbehavior) and she is going through a separation/divorce from her cheating husband. He claims he still loves her...but can she ever trust him again?

She's taking bad guys down with whatever's handy...even a nerf gun.

Look, here's the deal. This is a good show. There is nothing wrong with it and it's essentially a cop procedural combined with a dramedy about the main character's personal life. And that's fine if it's your bag, but it's not mine. Other than Law and Order: SVU when I'm traveling (or drunk), I don't have much use for procedural dramas. So while there was nothing about The Mysteries of Laura that was bad, it's just not a show that I am particularly interested in. But if you enjoy procedural dramas, Debra Messing, or shows about ladies doing it their way, give it a shot. 

Bottomline: An enjoyable cop procedural centered around a woman who must reconcile her obligations to her family and her responsibilities as a homicide detective. The Mysteries of Laura airs Wednesdays at 8:00PM on NBC.

Red Band Society: This show was not even on my radar until it aired, but I loved the pilot and fully intend to keep watching. I saw a lot of comparisons between it and Glee, and I think that's fair--except Red Band Society is way better. There's no singing, but there is voice-over, characters who embody teen archetypes with a twist, and snappy clever dialogue with insults flying fast and furious. 

The show is about a group of teenagers who are semi-permanent residents of the fictional Ocean Park Hospital in LA. They have various maladies: cancer, an eating disorder, heart problems, cystic fibrosis, etc. There are also some adults in the mix, most notably Octavia Spencer, who plays the pediatrics nurse everyone is afraid of, but who actually has a heart of gold. But: YOU GUYS. You know who else is in this show??

Wilson Cruz, aka Rickie from My So-Called Life!!

I know, I know, a lot of you are thinking "who?" But MSCL is one of my favorite shows of all time and Rickie was an amazing character, not to mention one of the first gay teen characters on television. Anyway, whenever I see him in something I get really excited. So I hope Red Band Society is popular so he can keep working. 

The show has that same edgy and black humor as Glee, but is less shallow with more substance and heart. The subject matter is also understandably more serious; in the pilot the "new kid" is about to undergo surgery to remove his leg (because of cancer? I think?). Anyway, I can't lie--I teared up at the end.

Bottomline: A wickedly funny drama that successfully balances typical teen trials and tribulations with more serious subject matter. Also watch for the interesting adult characters and the tv trope of the"family of choice." Red Band Society airs Wednesdays at 9:00PM on FOX.

Coming later this week: capsule reviews of Madame Secretary, Forever, Black-ish, and How to Get Away With Murder. I also expect Clovis will have some thoughts about Gotham...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Kids are Alright

It’s no secret that I am, at my core, a nerd.   Specifically, a comic book nerd.  As Maggie Cats mentioned last week, I am seriously excited about the wealth of comic book properties that we’re going to be seeing on TV this year.  And while television may just be echoing the notion that movie studios have already picked up on, namely that comic book properties can make for big hits, that doesn’t make it any less cool for what we’re about to see every week. 

I’ll be talking more about this new Valhalla that we find ourselves in later, but before the ginormous comic book television extravaganza begins next week with Gotham, I decided to go back and rewatch one of the only television mediums that for years has been safe for superheroes – cartoon shows.  Particularly, one of the single best superhero cartoon shows ever to air on television, Young Justice.

"Don't you...forget about me..."

Young Justice can be loosely understood as the adventures of the teenage sidekicks to the bigger DC Comics superheroes.  In practice, the show merged characters and stories from two different comic books, the Teen Titans franchise (which also has had several of its own cartoon shows) and the eponymous Young Justice series which was a short-lived early ‘00s book that was essentially Teen Titans by a different name.   The stories are more or less similar: teenage superheroes, by and large the protégés of stalwarts like Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and Martian Manhunter, are brought together both to help each of them be around other young people like themselves and for training with the implicit understanding that, due to the dangerous nature of saving the universe all the time, eventually each of these young heroes is probably going to have to take over for their mentor someday.

And that point right there illustrates one of the reasons why Young Justice was such a powerful show, cartoon or otherwise.  The show is premised on the notion that teenagers are living with a sword of Damocles having over their heads constantly and preparing themselves for their mentors and family to one day be killed.  That’s some heady stuff to load onto a cartoon show.  Young Justice gets away with it by introducing characters that are not only well-written, but are also treated seriously.  The show wasn’t afraid to go to pretty dark places conceptually, even if it always did so with a sense of adventure and humor firmly attached. 

They actually smothered Superboy with a kryptonite pillow right after this scene. 

Even if you’re not a big comic book fan, you’re going to find familiar characters here.  Superboy and Robin are both leads, as is Speedy/Red Arrow who is familiar to anyone whose watched Arrow.  Rounding out the cast are Artemis, another Green Arrow protégé; Miss Martian, young cousin of J’ohn J’onzz, Martian Manhunter; and Kid Flash, the resident speedster.  The team is led by Aqualad, an Atlantean who is struggling with his own inner issues.  Other characters like Wonder Girl, a teenaged Zatanna, and Rocket fill in on missions. 

The thing about watching Young Justice that makes it such a rewarding TV show is the level of sophistication it takes in long-form story telling, something that is usually unheard of in what is nominally a children’s show.  In order to make that format work, characters have to change and evolve over the course of several episodes, which is exactly what they do here.  In contrast to most superhero cartoon shows, the status quo is almost never returned at the end of any given episode.  In every case, something alters the story or the way the characters interact with each other, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.   Because the writers treat the characters respectfully, they have secrets and fears as well as desires and hopes.  In other words, there’s pathos in them thar superheroic hills. 


All of which is part of what makes the story behind Young Justice so heartbreaking.  The show only ran for two seasons from 2011 to 2013 when Cartoon Network abruptly canceled it.  Fans were understandably flummoxed; the show had enjoyed critical acclaim and was performing well.  It wasn’t until after its cancellation that writer and producer Paul Dini stated in the media that the reason for cancellation was because Cartoon Network feared that the show was becoming too popular among teenage girls.

Let’s unpack that for a moment.  A critically acclaimed TV show, performing well with a solid fan-base gets cancelled by its network because the network fears that rather than hit the target audience of teenage boys, girls have started to like the show.  I could see the argument for more girls tuning in; the show featured several female leads (Miss Martian, Artemis, Zatanna and others) who were heroic, well written, fully-fleshed out characters.  Young Justice passes the Bechdel test pretty well.  Note that they didn’t say that boys weren’t watching any longer – just that more girls had started to pick it up.  According to Dini, the network was concerned because “girls don’t buy toys” in addition to being worried that boys would start to view the show as a “girl’s show” if they learned that too many girls were watching.

"That is some BULLSHIT..."

If Dini’s take on this is accurate, it’s a brand of shortsightedness that is, in addition to being ridiculously misogynistic, is also ridiculously wrong.  I dare anyone to go to any ComicCon out there and not see girls buying toys.  (Even if the network’s assumption that girls didn’t buy toys was correct, what would stop them from branding the items the girls did buy with their product?)  I also completely blow the bullshit whistle on the idea that boys will stop watching shows about Batman, Robin, Superman, Green Arrow and the rest of the comic book world because they think girls may watch those shows too.  I just don’t think that boys are as simple-minded as networks apparently think they are.

In the end, what we get is a brilliant TV show taken off the air before its time.  Whether that has to do with a network’s backward thinking or not, it still leaves a Firefly-esque hole in my nerdy little heart.  In any case, do yourself a favor and check out Young Justice if you want a nice base-layer of comic book-y goodness ahead of the deluge of shows that we’re going to see this fall.  It will give you a new appreciation for a ton of old characters and introduce you to new ones that you’ll want to know more about.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teddy Roosevelt Was Hawt, You Guys

Yes, hi. It is I, Arsenic Pie, returning like a bad rash to my blogging duties and a mobile device near you. It's not my fault there's zilch to watch on teevee and that I've been throwing my entire music box collection at the TV due to its inanity. Everything smashed gloriously. I feel better.

ANYWAY. I'm here to educate and edify you about the PBS Ken Burns documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Parts 1 through 4 will have aired by the time that this is posted. This was well-timed to fill the gap left after Season 2 of Drunk History ended. I bet there's a lot of overlap between those two audience demographics.

The takeaway? Teddy Roosevelt was fucking hot.

Earnest young presidential hopeful. 

Wearing ironic sideburns before it was cool...or ironic. 

Okay, maybe that's not all that's interesting about the documentary, but I had no idea that TR was a total hottie. Why don't they teach this in history class? I feel this is a failing of our school system. More people would pay attention to history if they knew that TR was featured the My Daguerreotype Boyfriend web site. I really do feel this to be the case. 

I like documentaries. They do the thinking for me so I can just sit and watch them and shove Jimmy John's into my mouth. 

Like Burns' previous documentaries (The Civil War, Prohibition, The Dust Bowl) , The Roosevelts is crack for the history buff. The format is very much like other Burns work you may have encountered. Narrated by Peter Coyote, the main content consists of compiled photographs and moving pictures, accompanied by letters, newspaper articles, and other writings given life through the narration of actors who have either been nominated for an Oscar or have done so many Ken Burns documentaries that they comprise a significant portion of their acting CV. Paul Giamatti, whose career goal it is to play all of our shortest and fattest presidents, voices T.R. Edward Herrman, mainstay of the History Channel back when it the voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And as Eleanor, Meryl Streep.

I bet she went on and on about how I was her role model.

Parts 1 and 2 focus on the early years of the two branches of the Roosevelt family which produced presidents -- the Hyde Park branch and the Oyster Bay branch -- and which were united when FDR married Eleanor, Teddy's niece, in 1904. The first three segments also give a detailed look at the beginnings of TR's and FDR's political careers, as well as a surprisingly honest examination of the main players' private lives. Teddy suffered immense personal tragedy as a young man, and triumphed over the physical limitations he had as a young boy. Especially interesting was the documentary's discussion of the honestly messed up relationships FDR and Eleanor had with their parents. FDR's mother Sarah seems as though she was quite the overbearing MIL from hell to Eleanor, and Eleanor's childhood was marred by an alcoholic and absent father, and a beautiful but cruel mother, who ridiculed her young daughter for not being "pretty."

Whatevah. I'm totes gonna grow up and live in the White House. Cha-ching!

Speaking of role models, I hope there is more to come about Alice Roosevelt. She seems hilarious and awesome. I wish to hear more about her engaging in more scandalous activities, such as smoking cigars at gambling halls and flirting with married men. Holla!

Being a debutante can suck it. 

As usual, check your local PBS stations for air dates and times. You can also binge watch all seven episodes online at and through other various and sundry streaming services.

Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling are totally going to get into fisticuffs for my biopic. Dicaprio is so out! Heheheh.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The True Death

Our long, sexy, national nightmare is over.  This past summer, perennial WTF generator True Blood finally met the True Death and concluded a seven season-long run on HBO.  And while I can’t say that I’ll really miss the show, I am going to miss always knowing that there was something on TV that would make me shake my head and mutter, “well, okay…” 

True Blood started ridiculously strong back in 2007.  In an era where every single story emphasized the misunderstood, sympathetic, chaste, teenage nature of vampires, True Blood’s malicious, randy bloodsuckers were a breath of fresh air.  There was no “romantic” staring into each other’s eyes scenes, no “they just don’t understand us” soliloquies set to classical music.   You got the sense that the entire cast and crew of the show read about 30 pages of an Anne Rice novel and said to themselves, “well this is boring as hell” and then immediately got to filming a butt sex scene while covered in blood.


Because the show’s mission was always to showcase adults, the initial storylines functioned as a mature, if telegraphed, metaphor not for growing up or some other theme ripped from Joss Whedon’s notes, but for social issues like racism, anti-gay bigotry, and the American South’s continuing struggles emerging into the 21st century.  (Sorry, southern readers.  You know it’s true.)  And while the show was never subtle about its issues (the opening credits featured a billboard sign reading “God hates fangs”), it made up for its lack of grace with original storytelling and fresh visuals that hadn’t been used before.  If you haven’t seen the show, the first time a vampire is staked it will make your mouth fall open. 

The first season featured an erstwhile murder mystery as a framing story to introducing us to a world where vampires have “come out of the coffin” (what is this thing you call subtlety?) and organized, more or less, under two factions – those who want to integrate into society and live among humans thanks to a new synthetic substance called True Blood that mimics human blood thus negating the need for vampires to feed off humans, and those vampires who still believe that they are the superior race and that humans should be subjugated, not cohabitated with.  Later seasons ran with this tension, showing more and more about how vampire society worked and the ways in which the rest of the world had adapted or not, including the rise of “fangbangers” who are humans who have a sexual proclivity with vampires and drinking blood and even vampire-focused legal offices that only operate at night and help vampires who have been undead for many years figure out what their legal rights are to property owned while they were living.  Add that to a healthy dose of graphic sexuality, and you're at least going to be entertained for an hour each week. 

Did I mention the ho-yay?

All of this world-building made for fascinating watching.  Even as the show began to jump off the rails around its fourth or fifth season, seeing how the creators imagined how the most mundane aspects of everyday life would be managed in a world where vampires were real (a specialty airline service with UV-blocking windows caters to the vampires who wish to travel abroad) was always still interesting.  And if you couldn’t get into the subplots involving werewolves, fairies, shapeshifters, or witches, you always at least had the recurring southern gothic drama between the townspeople of Bon Temps, Louisiana, to keep you occupied. 

Unlike the characters, however, True Blood was not destined for an eternal life and began to age.  Plotlines got more and more ridiculous, the show developed an unhealthy tendency toward melodrama such that the speechifying and campy grandstanding of the later seasons stand in stark contrast to the more nuanced and, at times, genuinely scary first few seasons.  Where the first two seasons played with the audience’s expectations about reality and mystery, the show in its later life preferred to keep strictly to over-the-top plot contrivances and characters behaving like characters instead of people. 

An assemblance of well-developed, three-dimensional characters that were sadly never seen again after season three. 

Nothing is more illustrative of this trend that season seven’s insistence upon finding a way to bring lead characters Sookie and Bill back together.  True Blood was premised on the story of diner waitress Sookie Stackhouse falling in love with Bill Compton, a nearly 200-year-old vampire who is the first of his kind to make himself known to humans in his small Louisiana town.  Sookie and Bill remained the show’s primary couple for the first three years before starting to breakdown in season four.  By the start of the final season, it is well established that both characters have moved on, however the writers couldn’t resist the chance for an easy bookend and piled on the nostalgia to create a final story arc where both characters realize that they are Meant To Be or something.  This is particularly remarkable considering that neither character in the novels that serve as the show’s source material ever comes to any similar consideration.  Thanks, Hollywood. 

The final season is slightly mitigated by sheer number of Easter Eggs tossed in to appease long-time viewers.   The return of several fan-favorite characters, as well as the reunification of several others, helped to send the show off properly even if several other major characters, Tara and Alcide being the two most prominent, are given some of the most abrupt write-offs in the history of television.

So Hail and Farewell, True Blood.  I won’t miss your convoluted storylines, but I will miss Eric.  I won’t miss your unfortunate tendency toward saccharine storytelling, but I will most definitely miss Pam.  Actually, thinking on it, Pam is the thing I’m going to miss the most.  Someone get Kristin Bauer van Straten a pilot, STAT.  Meanwhile, I remain confident that television audiences have not lost their taste for WTF programming.  In any case, Salem is going to have some large, bloody shoes to fill.

Oh, Pam.  You can keep sassing me/slitting my throat for another ten seasons.