The balance between drama and humor as well as the real world and animation forms the in-between element of what resonates with audiences in an overall fashion. Examining five more structures of possibility, certain ideas of shows continue to gestate, some with resounding consequences but others settling somewhere between the aspirations of what they are trying to accomplish.
Chaos An action series on a rogue CIA operative team (as envisioned by exec producer Brett Ratner) has possibilities. Entering into South Korea or angling arms dealers in Eastern Europe has viable DNA. While the team does create some interesting textures (especially in relation to Tim Blake Nelson’s assassin spy), the energy does not have the raucous chemistry needed for such as outing (like “Burn Notice”). This is not to say the function of the series is not burgeoning but with such lofty goals in terms of scripts (even using a base of Vancouver), the production value needs to resonate with the scope of the show. It does this more often that not obviously gleaning for a more rogue “NCIS” but striving with a sense of depth that does not quite take hold just yet.
Sym-Bionic Titan Taking leads from the mechanoid anime of the 80s and making it your own is not an easy task but creator Gendy Tartakovsky who found a new way of looking at the Star Wars universe is no stranger to challenge. Optimizing both 2D and very subtle 3D animation tools, he creates an adventure that is both familiar and new, bringing to mind some of the aspects of the old Gerry Anderson adventures. Granted the family dynamic that forms Titan between two orphans and an omniscent machine grounds the material as much as one can without falling into melodrama (which is a weakness that befalls “Evangelion” by comparison). Titan’s strength revolves in its use of pacing and cinematic structure without belittling its core younger audience yet it still commands respect from its older viewing crowd.
MAD This new interpretation of the landmark magazine comes at a crucial time in its evolution when the print medium it had worked with for so long is crumbling in inherent disrepair. The problem is that the long pane material that served its pages so well (even recently with “Mad Men”) is very difficult to imagine on-screen. Instead using cutouts similar to certain elements of “South Park”, it is able to play out as a more parody-style show. But unlike “Robot Chicken”, whose audience is up a bit later, MAD has to key in to a prime time “Clone Wars” demo which both helps and hinders. While certain parodies of “How To Train Your Dragon”, “Bourne Identity” and “Toy Story 3” have potential, it is the shorter form spurts like the well-regarded “Spy Vs. Spy” that really shine in the format. Time and evolution of a certain style will tell.
Breaking In The continuing prevalence of using humor as an offshoot to spy hunting actually resonates fairly well within this context of a security firm who is hired by high-end clients to test their weakness. The undeniable goof is that most of this team despite their different skill sets doesn’t emote the kind of searing brain-busting skill needed to effectively close these kind of operations, save for Christian Slater who, finally on TV, seems very comfortable in his own element. His character Oz doesn’t overwhelm the proceedings but is easily the most watchable aspect on the show. The one distinction that is missing though is a sense of scope. Within a smaller context, the show has possibility but it needs a more far-ranging structure (somewhat like “Chuck”) to give the stakes a little more resonance. The intuitive element of the romance between hacker lead Cameron and street smart Melanie, which is thwarted with comedically rich but narrative reducing Dutch (played with relish by Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum), has potential but ultimately doesn’t add the necessary texture of the story.
Human Planet While “Planet Earth” and “Life” made the animal experience very vivid, the idea of the human condition does not differ in too extreme of a way. The only drawback, despite the interesting notion of what is being seen, is that our understanding of human beings might be too familiar. The most extreme aspect involving the building of a massive treehouse by native locals who are naked is perhaps the most jarring but mostly because of the notion of technology staring them in the face. The other percolating elements such as monkey hunting and whale slaughter in less developed societies shows the primal nature that fuels us despite any notions of superiority. The human race is animals by nature but with a preconceived idea of family which brings us together. This point is solidified with the story of a Tibetan dad who takes his daughter and son on an extremely dangerous trek to simply attend school. That more than anything distinctifies the Human Planet.