While not surprising, the new TV approaches in the Spring season have a decidely genre bent with some hits and misses. Caprica leads the pack with a sense of history which makes it undeniably poignant while Modern Family takes a real bent approach to humor. “Justified” and “Human Target” have Elmore Leonard and DC Comics backgrounds respectively but still need to find their true voices while “Legend Of The Seeker” trails behind simply because the way it was conceived falls in a smaller and retreatable category, by no production fault of its own. Clear cut elements and effective programming possibilities.
Caprica The essence with a spin-off is creating a crux of tension that feels dexterious which is not easy after making something as layered as “Battlestar” no matter how convoluted the ending might have become. The reality here is just the opposite. The aspect of terrorism is brought to the home arena. The structure is ingenious at times though perhaps a bit overplayed. The entire progression balances the ideas of two fathers and two daughters. The paradox is existing one side in real life and the other in an artificial reality. Alessandra Torresani who plays a girl whose ghost is trapped in one of her father’s creation gives a very distinct vision of what happens later. It becomes a tale of revenge of one angry girl which will eventually bring down an entire civilization. The reality is that this simplistic vision weighed more complex by everything around it makes this an apt companion piece for “Battlestar” though it takes a bit more insight.
Human Target Christopher Chance is like the Indiana Jones for the 80s sect. While not as purely intellectual as someone like Henry Jones Jr., he does have his uses though the standards become a bit brutish. The good angle is that with exec producer McG behind the wheel, it has a good feeling of maintaining a certain throughline. This is based on the fact that if it was just Mark Valley, formerly of “Fringe”, the series would not have legs. it is the inclusion of Chi McBride (late of “Pushing Daisies”) and the irrepressable Jackie Early that gives this team a bit of the lopsided “A-Team” vibe though a bit more dysfunctional. Some of the interactions specifically between Valley and a female FBI agent that he keeps screwing over have a nice cadence to them while other stories (like that of a washed up wrestler) seem quickly pushed together. The great element is that CG makes it possible to show global hopping without actually doing it. McG understands production value and the necessity of the audience’s beliefs of where they are. So far the show has done a good job of maintaining the status quo.
Justified After the show (initially called “Lawman”) had to give up that title to a recently defunct show, the odds seemed a bit stacked against it in specific order. However, the pedigree of Elmore Leonard would seem to play to that end. While Timothy Olymphant’s Raylan is bad in most essences, the one thing that seems to be missing at times from this series is Leonard’s trademark ice wit. While traces of it remain, one hopes the ante is increased in specific order. Certain angles like a judge with a penchant for back alley fun behind the cowboy saloon show that this structuree is not completely lost. Graham Yost, who wrote “Speed”, keeps the show on track but the velocity though workable needs to settle in gear and speed up.
Legend Of The Seeker The texture of this series unlike its similar younger sister is more in the frameset of “Xena”. Using the same structure and the backdrop, it is effective for sword and scorcery but for the overall tangent of the love story and the quest, the problem becomes one of two much verbage and not enough substance. The constant element of the “Mother Confessor” and certain other slang simply does not bely the actual narrative. When the series gets into the simple dark drama, it does alright but like the ill-fated “Flash Gordon” series, the problem becomes emotional connectability which beyond certain moment with Kara, the would-be Xena clone, the drive of the series does not overconnect. Also with the open arena of pay cable moving into this genre with both HBO and Starz working the series, the saturation is encroaching. Spartacus: Blood & Sand” by Renaissance, the same production company and producer in Rob Tappert and Sam Raimi understand the marketplace which makes it all the more interesting since ABC Studios (the same one behind “Lost”) didn’t put it on an ABC affiliate but rather syndicated it.
Modern Family The key is making a mockumentary based reverse-comedy sitcom is the saturation of the market. The Office did it first understanding the necessity of slapstick and true drama but had at times a lack of connection. “Parks & Recreation” is set in a surreal world but has begun to find its connections but still within a singles ravaged environment. What “Modern Family” has, despite some pacing issues, is a different approach in regards to family. What is interesting to note is that when played against this different backdrop, the stakes are obviously higher and a little bit more almost somber despite their obvious jabs at humor. Whether it is the father being lured to adultery by a former girlfriend or a mother trying to show off her children to a former female competitor to a remarried older man trying to find a balance between his overweight Latino stepson and his gay life-partnered son, the drama that unfolds is real and persistent which gives it a basis. While not difficult to watch, the idea is that it plays so close to the bone that the approach might be too much for some viewers.