overthinking the idiot box

October 17, 2005

Rejected Column Titles: "Kirk Wouldn't Stoop That Low", "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot," "Resistance is Futile," and "some sort of Locutus pun?" This one goes out to all the nerds in the hizz-ouse.

Holographic wow
Well, you can't have a Lost or Battlestar Galactica every year...

The six new network TV shows, from worst to best.
by Alison Veneto

6. Night Stalker
I'm a bit biased. I really don't like Stuart Townsend. He looks like a woman. And he's never shown himself to be a particularly talented actor nor a charismatic one. (Compare: his Lestat in Queen of the Damned to Tom Cruise's in Interview With A Vampire. This is why one of them is famous and the other is 'Charlize Theron's boyfriend'). And I've never watched the original Kolchak, I don't even know the premise.

But the premise in this show at least is that Kolchak (Townsend) is a crime reporter who has recently transferred to Los Angeles for no reason that is ever explained. He is being investigated in his wife's mysterious murder by a creepy FBI agent. At his new paper he teams up with sexy, outgoing Perri Reed (Gabrielle Union) — also a crime reporter. They investigate weird cases all while trying to ultimately figure out what strange creature killed his wife.

Anyway, I'm watching this show right now and I'm only 15 minutes in and I've already started writing this review. I have to do something as I'm incredibly bored.

The horror is generally shown in the dark accompanied by lots of screaming. And then sometimes shots of the aftermath. It's seriously not scary. Compare this to the unforgettable images from Supernatural of women's twisted bodies stuck to a ceiling on fire.

It wants to be the X-Files (especially with writer/producer Frank Spotnitz on board) but the Kolchak and Reed characters are neither complimentary or interestingly contrasting. The show is just not well shot, the dialogue is often cheesy and the story line is simply not all that compelling.

And don't get me started on the plot holes. This is easiest the biggest clunker of the season. It'll be the first one cancelled.

5. Invasion
I've watched this show on more than one occasion since it's on after Lost but I think it's the most overrated show of the season. It's just boring. Nothing ever really happens and none of the characters are interesting. It moves at the speed of molasses. After sitting through a thrilling action-packed hour of Lost, it's even more of a snoozer. The set up about the aliens and the military and whatnot is perfectly interesting, but what they've done with it is subpar.

Ok, let me back up. Invasion starts during a hurricane. We have a park ranger (Eddie Cibrian) and his news reporting lady (Lisa Sheridan). He has two kids (Evan Peters and Ariel Gade) from a previous marriage to Doctor lady (Kari Matchett) who now lives with the sheriff (William Fitchner) who I believe has a daughter himself (Alexis Dziena). Yeah. And this doesn't even include the conspiracy theory-loving geeky lazy brother.

Anyway, the hurricane brings the aliens (or vice versa), they seem to live in the water and there is an implied 'of the body snatchers' in the title.

This show is getting good ratings for being after Lost. The visual style is bland. The acting is bland. The characters are bland. The opening hurricane episode could have easily had the impact of the first episode of Lost but it didn't have the craft or the talent. I think this show actually gets less interesting the more it reveals about the characters and the plot.

4. Supernatural
Dad and Dean (Jensen Ackles) are carrying on the family tradition of hunting down the bad supernatural whatnots. It started after the mysterious death of their mother who burned to death while stuck to the ceiling of the house. But Sam (Jared Padelecki) wants the normal life. He's living with a nice girl, going to school — he has different goals. But when Dean shows up to say that Dad's missing, he's tempted back in. And when his girlfriend burns like his mom, he's back in for good.

The fact that Jensen Ackles name is Dean is very weird. Every time Jared Padelecki says Dean I think he's talking to himself (it was his character's name on Gilmore Girls). They put this show on after Gilmore Girls to get his following — the least they could have done was change the character's name! It's distracting.

With a writer like John Shiban (X-Files, Enterprise) and a director like David Nutter (the best TV director working today) this show has a better pedigree than it deserves. It isn't anything special, but it does what it needs to being a WB show. The boys are attractive. The banter is plain but effective enough. The central mystery is somewhat interesting. And the horror aspects of the show are decently effective for a prime network show (they can only do and show so much). It's certainly not the next X-Files or Angel, but I wouldn't make fun of someone who watches it regularly.

And more importantly, it has some potential. If they handle it right it could be an Angel. Or maybe more a Dark Angel (which starred Jensen Ackles and was at times directed by David Nutter). Good luck hunky boys, I think you could really go somewhere.

3. Surface
Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell) is our science hottie who sees something unusual on a deep sea dive. Dr. Cirko (Rade Serbedzija) is the old eastern Europe expert on such things. Miles (Carter Jenkins) is a kid who is wake boarding at night and encounters...something and Rich Connelly (Jay R. Ferguson) is diving with his brother when said brother is killed by a similar 'something'.

These are our characters, all of who have encountered our mysterious sea monsters and whose lives are all forever changed and whatnot. The biggest failing of this show is that it took the entire first episode to set this up to the detriment of having anything interesting actually happen. That and the fact that right until it premiered the show was called 'Fathom'. That confused me to no end.

Lake Bell, Jay Ferguson, Rade Serbedzija — this show certain doesn't have the star power of some of the other shows. Who are these people? (Although I admit, I know who both Lake "Boston Legal" Bell and Rade "that Eastern European Guy" are) But for lack of name recognition, the acting isn't terrible. Lake Bell breathes more life into her character than all the characters on Invasion put together. And better production values than all the shows on this list. The underwater photography was pretty lovely.

The good production values and a somewhat intriguing premises buoys this otherwise derivative show. As my list here constantly asserts, being well made can get you farther than a clever concept. This show could easily fall apart, but we're still at the outset and I'm still interested. So we'll just have to see what happens. Plus being set in water at least helps distinguish it from the other 'probably aliens' shows out this season (or does it?).

As a side note is "today begins a new regime" what your parents would say to you when you were in trouble? That was a bit silly.

2. Ghost Whisperer
Melinda Gordon (Jennifer Love Hewitt) sees dead people. They talk to her and want her to help them do what ever it is that's keeping them from crossing over. She tries to ignore them but her kinder side takes over. She has a hunky man (David Conrad) who is going to marry her despite this. Aw.

In the pilot episode, we see some familiar faces as guest stars — Wentworth Miller, star of Prison Break as the ghost and Balthazar Getty, the Vaughn replacement on Alias, as the guy he's trying to contact. I like these gentleman, they began to weigh out the JLH factor. And I found JLH surprisingly tolerable. I didn't really ever watch Party of Five but I did watch Kids Incorporated and the short lived "Byrds of Paradise" so I think I'm just used to seeing her on TV.

Now, why in the world did I rate this show so highly? I can't say I understand it myself. It's not particularly serialized and the premise is silly, not to mention been done, but this show is better than it deserves to be. I read a great review of the show in the Chicago Sun-Times where the reviewer was also shocked that he reviewed the show so well (3 1/2 out of 4 stars).

This show adeptly went from comedy to melodrama without a blink, helping the entertainment factor. If it's your time of the month it's a verifiable tearjerker. It's just superbly well done and craft can go a long way on a show. This show is so easily digestible that you'll hardly know an hour has passed.

I'm sorry, it's true, this show is a great pill to relieve work day stress. As a side note, I've seen an episode and a half of this show and it's far and above the episode and a half I'm seen of Medium. Psychic throwdown ladies. I'd watch that.

1. Threshold
It starts with William Mapother, formerly only known as Tom Cruise's cousin, but now is known solely as Ethan from Lost. He's being so friendly and it's weirding me out. But at least he's not friendly for long....

Dr. Caffrey (Carla Gugino) is the government's worst case scenario specialist. And she's brought in to enact her plan entitled 'Threshold'. Her military contact and object of her sexual tension is Cavennaugh (Brian Van Holt). Carla Gugino still weirds me out because I've seen Center of the World but I have nothing much against her otherwise.

Her plan includes the government more or less capturing specialists to help in the research. These will be the cheeky supporting characters and they include the little person from the Station Agent and Data (Brent Spiner) from Star Trek. The show also co-stars Charles Dutton. Not bad.

So it would seem that the appearance of a 4 or 5 dimensional alien ship caused men on Ethan-from-Lost's ship to go native. In episode 1, our crack team investigates.

They find faces deformed like The Ring, odd patterns like Uzumaki — the J-Horror influences are a definite plus (whether intentional or not). And they try to figure out what happened before the North Koreans arrive.

This is definitely the most sciencey of the new sci-fi shows, which is a plus. And it's bitter too — to paraphrase: 'you wanna know what was on the top story the day the rover landed on Mars? Britney's wedding in Vegas.' Tee hee. Americans don't care about science.

This show has some real potential. It doesn't talk down to you, the characters are memorable and well drawn and we'll enjoy guessing whether the aliens are friendly or hostile. Just as much as we'll enjoy guessing whether Gugino is going to get it on with the military fella or not. And so much science. And cynical, sassy supporting characters. Not to mention they have total nerds working on this show like Brannon Braga and David Goyer. Potential galore.

The Final Analysis
At the moment, I'm not planning on adding any of these shows to my regular viewing rotation. I will probably continue to keep the TV on after Lost as I have and Invasion will play on it. Whether or not I'll be watching it is another thing completely. I would watch Threshold, but I will not stay home on Friday nights to watch Threshold. I'll probably pick it up though if it's still on in January as I'll already be home to watch Battlestar Galactica.

But I will stick to speculating on the mysteries of Lost for the time being.

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Return to Season 2, Episode 3.