IR TV Review: TRUE DETECTIVE [HBO-S2]

truedetective_season-2“True Detective” bases itself in creating a noir style of world. While many people reserve their judgments on the first viewing, I wanted to see the second episode at least6 to allow a perspective. With last season, I binged watched one night in NYC after seeing Colin Farrell’s “A Winter’s Tale” with about 4 episodes before I headed off to the bar at 2am for a nightcap. Interestingly enough a year or so later, it comes around full circle with Colin in the lead for the second season here. Despite his attempt to create balance, these kind of dark characters are what Colin does best…guys that want to go the high road but fall tempted to their base natures while searching out redemption. This is true of all the characters in this series. In the first 2 episodes, Colin’s is the most pronounced which is why the impact action at the end of the 2nd episode has such effect. If they stick to their guns on it, it shows a great presence of mind with the writers and an interesting movie by Farrell to regain some cred. “Miami Vice” is the last time he progressed deep and entrenched himself and, as a result, that performance has a definitely degree of soul. He went into the backwaters of Ecuador and the DR with Michael Mann while Jamie Foxx opted out. Different people. Here you can see a little bit of that edginess peeking through. Colin is more controlled but he, like Gary Oldman, when properly poised, can do great things. And with Colin, the older he gets the better he gets. Oldman, by comparison, had it right from the start.

In this series, Colin plays a cop in a subsection of downtown/east LA that seems to be under the thumb of questionable figures and is able to keep his head just above water. An aspect of his former fiancée getting raped and her having a son anyway screams dysfunction and Colin embodies it. Not his fault in terms of the character…just a side effect of life. On the other side of the sheet is Vince Vaughn’s gangster who is trying to go legit. It is nice to see this side of Vaughn again but he is not as edgy as he could be. At one point in the second episode you start to see his fangs come out, if all goes well, the animal will rear its head and that is when Vaughn will shine. He needs a resurgence and this will present it. Rachel McAdams’ character is flawed but has the possibilities to be the strongest of them all. When she subtly calls Colin’s character out at one point, it comes off as sly, intelligent and spot on. She does have a immense dark side that shows in different ways whether it be raiding a house where her sister is doing web cams legally as an “art piece” or her research into a suspect who was into escorts. You can see her slipping and that is intriguing to do. This iteration of “True Detective” does not shy away from the darker edges of LA or the near bottom feeders who exist there. People there want to do good (a large part of the main characters are cops) but they just can’t get above water. The use of location is also exceptional too. This is the underbelly of LA that you don’t see or usually see from a different angle (even Malibu).

The last of the main characters is Taylor Kitsch’s motorcycle cop whose deeper seat relationship problems show that the devil is in the details. His character is not as well defined in terms of personality traits in the first two episodes but hopefully his character will unravel in the best possible dramatic way. “John Carter” wasn’t his fault as it was not a bad film. Its timing, like “Tomorrowland”, was simply wrong. “Battleship”, of course, is another story. And in Season 2, even supporting characters are great from Colin’s boozy would be partner (Bruce McGill is that you?) to Kelly Reilly as Vaughn’s better half/black widow partner. The reality is that her character can likely cause some widespread carnage. We’ll see. The first two episode of Season 2 of “True Detective” is a different animal than its predecessor and will be held under the microscope with infinitely more scrutiny. While the former had the element of surprise and Louisiana, it is a matter of time to whether LA can stand up to the challenge. So far though, it is working.

B+

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – REBELS – S2 PREMIERE [Disney XD]

REB_IA_8807The key with “Star Wars: Rebels” has always been connection the emotional impact and nostalgia of the old series, bridging the mythology of the prequels and leading them towards the new films. If there is one thing that Disney knows, it is synergy. But what really seems to be working well here is integrating also the lifeline of “The Clone Wars” animated series with the new storylines. As dense and political as that series became, what it did do was immensely humanize Anakin Skywalker, specifically his relationship with his Padewan Ahsoka. The first episodes of season 2 of “Rebels” adequately pushes that.

REB_IA_8316There is a great reveal moment in the premiere episode but is interesting in that the series gives the audience a leg up on the proceedings that the main characters in the series do not possess. It creates a interesting quagmire for this season, one that unfortunately can only end in tragedy. That said, it creates stakes for the series and gives it more dynamic perspective. Strangely enough, the series is on XD which is more tween oriented and this is definitely a multi generational show through and through. The balance of force between Ezra and Kanan continues to work well especially in a face off with a certain Sith. The different consequences of actions though ring in eerie parallel, especially the burning of a place called Tarkin Town and the aspect of the Sith using “compassion” as a rebel weakness to his advantage.

REB_IA_9043The concluding showdown of the episode brings to mind the inherent strategy of thinking outside the box as in the original trilogy. At certain points you do feel it veering into military and political turmoil but the key in this series is always to bring it back to the main characters and with this season specifically: Ahsoka. “Rebels” has found a great crux of perception but needs to keep building. But with supervising director Dave Filoni as usual at the helm (like he was with “Clone Wars”), the course is in good hands.

Real World Mythology & Grand Progression: Returning Television – Summer 2012 – Part I

Hour-long mythology set within the real world needs to increase its bounty by stakes. Without something truly lost, nothing can be gained but its intensity can’t be fake. While some of the following shows continue to show a penchant in the writer’s room in their willingness to take chances, a wrong step can mean cancellation. The grand progression allows that the following four shows exist on cable where their fate is a little more plausible. Overall though, “Burn Notice” jolts most with a necessary ploy that lifts its possibility yet again.


Burn Notice  Nothing hits home as much as family so in order for the series to graduate, the stakes must become higher without losing a sense of tension. Beginning the season with Fi’s imminent degragation at the hands of authority focuses Michael’s penchant away from professional importance to personal survival. In working through this texture and maintaining the status quo, the show maintained its execution. However, with the death of a family member, a whole new psychological angle surfaces that completely changes the tone. This single act is what heightens Michael’s resolve and the fact that he is guilty and to blame is not lost on him. The requisite end game plays that betrayal, whether intended or not, carries a large price tag, even if its true importance does not become specific until later. For this reason, the viciousness in Michael begins to cloud his judgment which is what the show needs because thereby a character starts making mistakes.


Royal Pains  The evolution of this show requires a decided amount of intrigue while still keeping the stakes progressing. While this is not as life threatening as the aforementioned “Burn Notice”, the conflict to some degree should be there (even if it is more domestic). Oddly enough with this season, the progression becomes more the ascension of Evan and the conflict of brotherhood. Hank seems to have a higher calling but is held back by both his moral center and his lack of ambition per se. Evan, because he has a girlfriend who is both highly placed and accessible (a very rare commodity), finds traversing the line a bit easier. Hank’s love life, by contradiction, seems to become a bit of a noose around his neck. Though Mark Fuerstein plays it with a little abandon, it tends to feel forced as does Henry Winkler’s inclusion (despite its obvious comedic value). The balance to Evan’s element comes in the form of Divya, the physician’s associate, simply because she is suffering the same crisis of class that Evan is but moving in the reverse. The intrigue of the series wants to center around Boris (played with aplomb by Campbell Scott who understands the necessity of gravitas) but unlike previous seasons, its stakes don’t carry as much weight.

The Glades Using the aspect of a long distance relationship as a distraction for Matt Passmore’s uber-focused Jim creates an interesting dynamic that points to his survival in more ways than one. For something to truly affect him, something needs to be undeniably lost. In his relationship with Callie (who has moved to Atlanta at his motivation for a job), there doesn’t seem to be anything chemical to attach them. There is a stronger connection between him and a visiting bureau chief: Jennifer Stark. She is there to evaluate him but her tantalizing and alluring beauty tempts him though he doesn’t act on it. However, her approach seems too obvious to be realistic. The actual act would need to be more clandestine. The team, including Carlos and their intrepid intern, have a nice balance going but the investigation of Jim’s effectiveness, especially his inablity to be on the witness stand because of his methods, mirrors a similar problem “The Finder” faced on FOX before it was cancelled.


Covert Affairs Watching Annie Walker traverse what she believes the CIA is and knowing the balance between using an asset and being conned has always been the angle of the show. What continues to be interesting about watching her and Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham) is how their human failings affect their true CIA effectivenss. Like any other job, it is all about how one reacts or doesn’t react under pressure. Annie is a lonely soul who wants connection but her skill set and her ambition drive her into situations that she more and more can’t control. Her arc with Russian would-be spy/mercenary Simon carries risk because you can tell there are feelings on both ends that can only end badly. Her actions will continue to harden her and will either get her sister or Auggie killed in the process (most likely by the CIA) which might bring up a whole new can of worms, for her, as a mercenary. Auggie’s psychological development (especially with him going into the field as well as his turning point when he is captured by pirates with his would-be fiancee) points to a larger ghost hanging below the surface. His mandatory counseling and inability to directly connect with Annie (especially with her going off-book with another division) creates tension but her loyalty to her is unwavering.

IR Television Review: MAD MEN [AMC]

The tendency of people to find themselves again always seems to reflect in some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Don Draper of “Mad Men” is no different. In trying to affect his own sense of moral center, he is moving against who he really is and not what he is appearing to be. After the jump in years which made intuitive sense, the ideas of the entire agency begin to show the motivation of who they want to be. Pete Campbell, the newly fulfilled partner in the firm, wants to create the perfect view of what life should be in his eyes but, in doing so, feels even emptier than what Don has become. In doing this parallel storyline with Pete’s fading morality and belief in what is really definitely shows the dexterity of Matthew Weiner’s writing. The progression of “Mad Men” is cyclical but also universal: one always wants what they don’t have. This is especially true in high-competition industries.

The handling of the female lead story lines, particularly Joan and Peggy through the season, shows two characters moving towards the same center from completely opposite directions. Joan starts off the season as a new mother trying to adhere to her place but realizing that this is against her nature which she promptly rectifies at a certain point. Peggy’s ambition, like everyone, reflects in how much she is needed and what she has learned. When she comes to a life change (which also inter-played with her decision in an earlier season arc), she makes the right decision. At one point, she and Pete intersect and the slight moment created is just enough to show the cycle.

Don meanwhile, in this deck of cards, is trying to be the doting husband and be supportive in what ways he couldn’t with Betty because of the secrets he is hiding from her. His wife, albeit 15 years younger than him, knows all his secrets and he tries to stay in line but anything that is familiar can eventually get boring which eventually strays his thoughts. The intention of the closing of “You Only Live Twice” shows that life renews itself but creates the same temptations. The use of different emotional components like Don’s supposed hallucinations of one of his old conquests coming back to haunt him shows that the ghosts are still there. Like Pete who is experiencing his similar problems of year past, the belief of redemption is steeped in thoughts of middle-dom which does not suit this world. Life is short.

A-

IR Television Review: Continuing Boundaries & The Human Medium: Returning TV Shows – Spring 2012 – Part II

The advent of a plethora of continuing animated shows distinctifies the approach of the genre but, beyond the procedurals, there lies a grand amount of live action situations (cartoons if you like) that can get the boundaries bumping on good ol’ Earth. Granted many of these shows that can balance humor and drama are harder to come by but USA tends to keep on top of it as highlighted by their sophomore show “Fairly Legal” while a cartoon like “Bob’s Burgers” exemplifies using the medium to reflect real human intentions albeit with longer foreheads.

Ugly Americans As much as the lead character Mark wants to help people, he ultimately gets sidetracked by the element of pursuit that trumps all others: sex. In expanding their comfort zone outwards, the creators decide to switch Callie for an episode to a guy (ultimately so she can infiltrate the underwater kingdom of Atlantis) which creates an element of unease as Mark’s girlfriend (being a demon) doesn’t understand such things. Ultimately the idea becomes that pollution begets pollution. The aspect of upper and mis-management becomes a more particular case when, through the aspect of a bad stand up routine, Mark becomes the head of the company only to find out a grand amount of misspent money to celebrate employees birthdays. While not as mythological, “Americans” does find its footing but it is becoming harder for it to stay there.

South Park The application of social niceties never quite circled into Cartman’s realm but with the continuing thought here the balance between notions of genre and ripped from the headlines precedence seems to unbalance at the weirdest of times. While the bullying aspect might in fact be explored in deeper structure at a different time, the idea of Cartman as both a would-be emissary as well as the town’s worst nightmare seems to be prevailing whether he is racially profiling a relationship while also posing as gay or spearheading the most simple squandering based episodes about the new trendy kind of streaking to do. Despite this, the extremeness of the novelty is wearing off, even with an intrinsic spot on element about the TSA where inspectors are placed in bathrooms after an over-reactive mother dies on the toilet when her son doesn’t put the toilet seat down.

Thundercats Building the mythology involves the cats moving through worlds and not just staying on the ground. The evolution and pursuit of this is the key in making the series more epic. The use of the different animal classes whether it be dog, cat, bird, rat or beyond start to form an element of the hierarchy which gives the storyline much more gravitas beyond the literal threat of Mum-Ra. What is starting to happen is an evolution into a notion of “Spartacus” with Lion-O acting as that stalwart which has come into more specific focus when a new female cat who is a fighter in the arena becomes part of their clan. The infiltration of this storyline is subtle in the way it necessitates itself. However even the use of Lion-O going through different trials into order to win his life back after he mistakenly dies hints at a notion of theology which crystallizes even more when they have to take to the skies which is where their destiny lies, mystical rock or no.

Fairly Legal The tantalizing effort of mediator Katie seems to grow on a person. She can be a tad annoying but ultimately completely into control of her facilities. Last season seemingly portrayed an idealism of her being the pursuer instead of the pursuee in terms of her imploding marriage because she was so off her rock and focused on herself. There is no doubt that Katie is a selfish person at heart but her flaws (like the characters on many other USA Network shows) points to a fact of redemption. The idea that her resolution would come from a man who just has about enough regret as a spider shows the fire that the writers are playing with. It works in texture enough until it needs to be acted upon. Adding in a political race with Katie’s former husband as running for the contested DA seat creates some extra tension. What wins this viewer is simply Katie’s ability to be herself even in what should be a weighty legal world. His scenario to prove a legal point to her legal partner (and would-be suitor) using sexual teasing to prove a point is both intoxicating and heavily annoying which is what makes it work.

Bob’s Burgers The continuation of such a low-key show defies expectation but this little engine that could has done what “Allen Gregory” and “Unsupervised” cannot: a searing animated show that can still be funny without losing its irony or resorting to overdone sight gags. Whereas in “Archer”, H. Jon Benjamin is the star of the show, here he is the voice of reason; it is the kids with their intensive lack of sense and morality (or, in one case, too much of both) that propels the ideas. Whether it be looking for treasure in a soon-to-be-demolished taffee factory (which makes good reference to “The Goonies” with Cyndi Lauper even singing a modified theme song for the end credits) to Bob becoming a would-be hostage negotiator with his burgers, the irony is all too available. His kids are attention grabbers who will use whatever means they can to hog the high life from Bob who, beyond his simpleton view, means well.

IR Television Review: Design Infrastructure & The Narrative Lens: New TV Shows – Spring 2012 – Part II

Finding different intonations to set genres against requires different elements of design and character infrastructure which becomes harder and harder with the extensive formulaic elements progressing through the TV landscape. Whether it be the medical drama or the lost adventure, the key becomes seeing it through a different lens or narrative construct which will allow the audience to see themselves in a brand new light.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series With “Clone Wars” setting the bar high in terms of visual excellence on Cartoon Network, it is undeniably a highlight to see this incarnation doing so well. Succeeding in ways that the feature film failed on because of its need for mass market appeal despite some lofty possibilities in the attempt reflects the purity. Beyond the journey set up, which is what lifts the series,(using an almost “Star Trek: Voyager” construct), is that it forces the creators to think outside the box and create a new world with rules aside from what the Guardian lore creates. Mixing Hal Jordan with a monster Lantern who lives by a rule of discipline and adding a Red Lantern always on the verge of betrayal keeps an interesting dynamic moving, not to mention a neat AI perception of a ship that happens to look like RL’s slain wife. For a Saturday morning show, it is a bit dark but also deep on mythology. The most stunning aspect by far is how complete the look is with some of bigger set pieces (like a starship falling into a black hole) culpable to anything on “Clone Wars”.

The River Bringing a found footage angle to network television is a tricky thing because much depends on the scare factor which is hard to function on a network (this one is on ABC). While, in certain scenarios where it is about what you don’t see (like LOST) it works to its advantage. This set-up works partially on this element but the pay off is not apparent. For what it is so far, its premise is engaging. What provides it with a solid ground is the flashback personage of Bruce Greenwood as a TV famous biologist who goes into the jungle to search for a lost “angel”. His found camera footage in the wilderness including the warding off of the “demon” and his refusal to kill his dog to avoid sacrificing his humanity is exceptionally compelling. The surrounding elements watching these journals but also the attacks from undead perceptions lack a degree of depth or tension creating a vessel and a void which definitely has potential for greatness but is not quite there yet.

A Gifted Man Approaching the medical environment with textures of paranormal influence is not unusual with ideas of guilt versus moving on. This series tries with good emotional weight to take this on but with a limited amount of perceptions to feed the fire. While the death of his ex-wife in a car crash resurfaces in heart transplants and the definition of love in the re-emergence of his high school sweetheart who eventually suffers from a life ending concussion has repercussions, the idea of what the lead character finds necessary to learn feels unstable and not very telling. Patrick Wilson tries his best but almost over-emotes the necessary beats to make an audience connect.

Two Broke Girls Using the vapid intentions of “Sex & The City” writer/producer Michael Patrick King on a network sitcom is both engaging and slightly worrying simply because the line becomes much more maligned just because of the nature of the beast when one moves between pay cable and network passing over basic cable entirely, While some of the jokes play dirtier than normal for network, it does play to the honesty of the characters. Kat Dennings’ slacker slut-type is perfectly in control of her facilities and understands her position but knows when to take risks even though she knows she might fall on her face. The actress sometimes plays it too hard because her sweetness in real life shows through while her cohort, more unknown to the public, is seemingly and paradoxically the more transparent of the two. The attempt focuses on a trajectory for these girls yet the most telling scenes (which at times are not used enough) are the moments in the diner where the true facts of life ring strongly.

IR Television Review: Hidden Masks & Pushing Characters – New TV Shows – Spring 2012 – Part I

Continuing the mix with pushing animation and eccentric characters, using tried and true methods sometimes works with mixed results whether it be sketch comedy gurus attacking the tenants of high school or a succubus finding her way in a coven of vampire. The shows structured here explore the hidden masks between the ideas of identity and coming to terms with who people want or expect you to be.

Unsupervised The only problem in being the second animated show at FX is that you have to be compared to “Archer”. While the series functions as a modern day “Beavis & Butthead” with heart, it comes off less snarky and more white trash than its older brother. While this undeniably is the background of the show, its insistence feels too earnest. The overweight side friend is too cool for school and the home-bound desolation of the kids is almost depressing. One light within the circumference of the series is the pyromaniac special needs kid, who it seems is based on one of the creators’ friend. He is snot nosed and hilarious. At one point in an episode which involves the lower echelon of students whose classroom is represented by a cargo container, his screams for help are both funny and slightly sad, so the connection is made. The balance of crash and temperament is a “touch-and-go” policy here so the line tends to manipulate the audience week to week.

Napoleon Dynamite The animated continuation of the popular independent movie by comparison plays much more innocent but with a texture of knowing on network. The fact that it is the exact same cast from the movie definitely distinctifies it. The difference is the kind of weird stuff Napoleon talks about in his head which before were only spoken daydreams are now adventures he can actually have whether it be a full-blown wrestling match or leading an army into battle. The texture seems to play with the right sense of tongue-in-cheek angle and the banter is every bit as witty though like the film, Kip steals the show because he is the most unlikely hero that has the cahones to start trouble even if it causes him pain. It always makes his “Hey!” and “Owww” even funnier.

The Finder Creating another private eye in Miami but one without the same charm or social interaction as say Michael Weston in “Burn Notice” or the lead investigator on “The Glades” pushes a little bit of credibility within this yarn depending on his level of clearance. Headquartered in a bar off the edge of the Everglades with a chaperone and omen like Michael Clarke Duncan wearing his best tropical shirt can brighten any day especially when cocktails are added into the mix. Like “Unforgettable”, this investigator uses a sixth sense to permeate his clues which distinctly don’t work in the aspect of modern forensic crime fighting because guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The ladies within the cast give some gusto from a Federal Agent who finds the investigator irresistible (if not a little weird) to a female juvenile delinquent the crew takes under their wing because she has something to offer. The narratives which include girls in trouble at local clubs mixed with NASA scientists and long-festering betrayals have their moments but the building of attachment to characters which continues as a plot ploy when the FBI sends a psychologist to gauge the importance of what the lead protagonist does seems more to engage the audience than the character itself.

Lost Girl Mirroring notions of “Being Human” whereas monsters exist in the real world as roommates just trying to get by, here the lead character is a Succubus set out on her own trying to survive until people begin to take notice of her special talents. The humor reflects more to a show like “Warehouse 13” in the aspect of an eventual sidekick/roommate who is not part of the clan but can offer a viewpoint of this world where throats are slit but the people don’t die. Our succubus keeps below the radar for the most part but brokers her deals as she can. At times, it seems all too domestic which makes sense if the series is trying to connect with alienated younger viewers. The forbidden love of sorts between a vampire and our lead character is one of mutual lust and energy. Only at full potential can a succubus fully work her magic. While there is not an overwhelming tension that creates an unbending mythology, the series does deliver on its seeming underworld, lurking just below the surface where, like in the real world, people are just trying to carve out (literally) their own slice of life.