The intention of “Titans” as with many superhero mash-ups is the structure of family and trust. The themes of betrayal seem to weigh heavily from Season 1. But again the structure of the Titans themselves is based on the aspect of evolution in terms of how the characters see themselves and what they might become. Dick Grayson as the first Robin and the paradox of Nightwing understands this but he has trouble coming to terms with it. Raven, as she will be called, is based in the function that her destiny is pre-set by her father Trigon. Like Hellboy, the structure is the ideal of choice against a greater crushing possibility. The intended perspective of the Season 2 premiere, without giving too much away, is that motivation and misplaced guilt becomes a bigger proponent than the eventual endgame. The Avengers as a reference definitely works on this principle because those heroes, like these, are defined by the choices they make. The interesting diametric here is how to portray this while keeping the themes and mining the subconscious. Raven does this in a particular way with thoughts not unlike how Beast Boy can change his form. It is a matter of instinctually knowing how to connect with people without controlling their mind. Granted in a similar way to “Grimm” many of the characters here tend to make the same mistakes, either because of ego or the nagging embers of naivete. “Trigon” as a first episode in this second season understands the shortcomings of its key parts but also how it can grow. The idea becomes one of choice but also of transcendence and loyalty. “Titans” can grow as a series if its characters continue to understand and intercede that they are more powerful together while still addressing the darkness that makes them different.
With his ongoing interaction with George Lucas and Star Wars, Seth Green and his cronies at “Robot Chicken” have been put in the envious position of both admiring the Star Wars pantheon but also being able to make fun of it. With “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III”, the balance becomes more dynamic with the aspect that while the spoof element are distinctly in play, some more dramatic elements of sorts are being explored. Situated almost as a biopic in reverse with the Emperor in addition to the manic channel change progression thrown in, there is more a narrative progression to the proceedings than ever before.
Beginning with the song “Teenage Wasteland” as Palpatine is being thrown to his death, the episode takes on a vast gamut. The great homages are there. One particularly reverse engineered one is a take off from “A New Hope” where Ben informs Luke after his Aunt and Uncle died that he has a new Sandcrawler. It cuts to the Crawler jumping a chasm just like the Ferrari jumped a hill to John Williams’ music in “Ferris Buellar’s Day Off”. Another that definitely works to this aspect is when Vader gets his suit at the end of Episode III. Instead of becoming melodramatic, it turns into a disco across the Death Star with some new music cues which plays undeniably funny.
Some of the more dry and dark somber comedic tones plays in three separate sets. One involves two Stormtroopers accidently setting fire to Owen & Beru’s place on Tatooine. Luke’s relatives come out engulfed in fire, screaming while the guilty stormtroopers try to sneak away. Another is when Luke is filling up at a space gas station. The person pulling in next to him is the Ice Creature whose arm he cut off during the Hoth Excursion. The use of moving cameras and POV is the most advanced element of technical work yet. It is also very Stephen King-ish in its delivery with some actual emotional connotations. The last segment of note in this pantheon is when a Stormtrooper accidentally kills an Ewok in the forest. When he tries to put the bear out of its misery, he causes it more pain. It turns out all his friends walk in on the violence. Again very interesting dynamic which hopefully translates to the “Star Wars” project Green and Lucas are developing for future production.
At nearly an hour long, the project is undeniably ambitious. The addition of actual Star Wars cast members like Billy Dee Williams and Ahmed Best obviously adds credence in addition to Seth McFarlane (who creates his own odes on “Family Guy”) who voices The Emperor with a bit of Stewie to boot. The third special of Robot Chicken in its ode to “Star Wars” is both interesting and flawed in a great way which makes its intent all the more realized.
“Castle” is predicated, like many of its predecessors, on the nature of the chemistry of its two leads. The key ideas revolve around how to keep the texture going without giving into it. Danger helps in spades in that it creates an upper register. The angle that tends to work is placing the characters outside their comfort zone. At the end of Season 2, that motif, with the lead characters intertwined in other relationships, seemed to satisfy that. In returning in the Season 3 opener [“A Deadly Affair”] the effect seems to be more castrating than anything. The intent, it would seem, at a certain point, would be to allow Beckett the ability to untangle herself from her own neurosis. This is a similar quandary that befits Mika and Pete on “Warehouse 13” but the inherent difference is that their drama seems to have mythology unfolding behind them on the aforementioned show. “Castle” needs to bring the problems of last season with unfettered consequences to bear allowing the emotions to spill at a certain point without consummating whatever connection is being made. It is a hard balance. The unraveling basis one should look to is “Northern Exposure” where a similar instance occurred between the lead characters of Joel and Maggie. Again, their chemistry was palpable and, for a while, they found a chance to save it in the texture that the lead female couldn’t wrap her mind around the relationship because it affected her independence. That is inevitably the case here as well. Castle himself is broken in many ways. Beckett likes to fix things which inevitably will cause whatever puzzle they make together to smash into a wall. While the new season at the inset doesn’t seem to answer these questions, it continues to show the boundaries being broken down but ignores others (like Castle’s supposed Hamptons relationship). Life is fickle and especially with Castle’s luck, it will come back to bite him.
“Terriers” [Wednesdays/10pm] has the structure of a comedy but in many way plays like a broken record. Like the aspect of “The Cleaner” on rival cable network A&E, the leads in this new series from FX are wholly broken and that is what makes them interesting to watch. The darkness might play a little too raw for some viewers but it becomes about the balance between the humor and the brimming drama. Donal Logue plays Hank, an ex-cop seemingly bent on his own destruction in very improbable ways. Like a Fisher King doing good deeds on his road to calamity, there is a throughline that points to something bad happening along the way. Michael Raymond James, late of “True Blood”, brings alot of brevity as his would-be partner Britt who has problems of his own. Having talked to Michael at Summer TCAs where he revealed that he and Donal crashed in the same house while shooting the first season [which had already been fully shot], what works the best is the easy going manners between the two of them and how that is balanced by Laura Allen who plays Katie, Britt’s girlfriend.
Over the first three episodes, the sense of Hank’s self-destructive sensibility also begins to affect everyone around him as if he has begun to form a deep black hole where some good is done but ultimately a price is paid. In the third episode which co-stars Olivia Williams, the morality and mortality of Hank begins to take a more realistic turn. Ted Griffin, who wrote “Oceans 11” and created this show, knows how to mix humor and drama but having Shawn Ryan, who worked on FX’s “The Shield” and recent a season of Fox’s “Lie To Me” as show runner shows an interesting balance. Like “Sons Of Anarchy” but with less operatic overtones, “Terriers” has the possibility of great television simply because it understands that human nature is about high and low points wherever they exist. Out of 5, I give it a 3.
With the kidnapping of Jax’s son in last year’s finale of “Sons Of Anarchy” [Tuesdays/10pm], the question became one of sanity and structure within the club. Either the VP would fall apart or he would step up to the plate again. The interesting element about the first two episodes of the new season of “Sons Of Anarchy” is how much Kurt Sutter understands the psychosis of Jax (played with quiet and rage-filled solitude by Charlie Hunnam), who is a man on his way to ruin at an eventual point. Like “The Godfather” story of biker gangs [which I made reference to in the first season], the key within this story is loyalty and betrayal. While the essence of Clay’s involvement in the killing of his father still brims on the edges of Jax’s mind, the kidnapping of his 8-month old son at the end of last season brimming into the initial episodes of this season begins to pull him apart. He was the strong one and what is interesting as the possibilities unfold is how people change around him.
Katey Sagal’s character Gemma, who is engaged in problems of her own, is being kept in the dark which is going to have vicious repercussions in terms of trust. Maggie Siff’s character Tara who is Jax’s girlfriend also is really coming into her own. The transformation is allowing her to become the matriarch-in-training which is ultimately the irony of this series. It is the women who will ultimately pull the strings. Charlie Hunnam continues his journey as this man, this former boy searching out answers. He knows right from wrong. He knows the code. He is conflicted. He begins this season by trying to push Tara away but there is also a hesistancy which ultimately could get him killed. Jax is the character through which people from their homes see this world. As an actor, you can see Hunnam’s method progression. He lives this entire mode of thought. Having met him when he made “Green Street Hooligans” long before “Sons”, there was always that intensity in him much like Heath Ledger. This is what fuels “Sons”. Seeing Jax in the shower in almost utter catatonia because of the supposed loss of his son Abel (not a random name choice) balanced with a later moment in Episode 2 where Clay (the stoic presence of the great Ron Perlman) tells Jax that he knows what he is feeling but he has to give a show of power and confidence to “The Club” shows the other core element at the heart of the show: the psychology of power. “Sons” continues to surprise with exceptional verve in the opening episodes of its 3rd season. Out of 5, I give it a 3 1/2.
The Kids In The Hall always had an irreverancy and one would figure the more they grow up, the less insane they would become. Not true. With their new miniature series “Death Comes To Town” on IFC, the guys are back to doing what they do best which most of the time involves playing in drag to the nth degree. The reasoning behind their success is that they play real women and not the idealized versions. The girls here are cruisin’, bruisin’ and generally getting in trouble through their own idiosyncrasies.
The initial set up is based around Mark McKinney playing Death with a big cod piece and riding into a small town on his badass scooter. There is something undeniably wrong with the character which is what makes him so funny like a drunk cousin who doesn’t really know that the job isn’t being done right. The timing with the Kids is still inevitably on track. In the first two episodes, the pacing is moving and it is not like a bit of time has past. While they have been touring, the last time the Kids were on TV was 15 years ago. The satire also in terms of women’s lib, the obesity problem and other socially relevant issues are still decidedly low tech but wonderfully vigilant.
Unlike other comedy shows that try too hard, the Kids still seem effortless as if they just got their video camera together and went out and shot themselves fooling around. Granted it is much more professional than that but the vibe that made them so groundbreaking is still there. Young performers could learn alot from these guys who have become seasoned veterans but have not lost their style or edge in the least. “Death Comes To Town” simply reinforces their resolve.
The aspect of a Jerry Bruckheimer procedural is based in its element of intelligence and slickness of vision. Returning to the area which has served him well in the guise of “CSI: Miami” as well as the earlier “Bad Boys”, the medical genre gives it a different angle in the poise of “Miami Medical”. While many medical shows place themselves in the jumping possibilities of its doctors, this show feels a little bit more raw in its perspective, especially in relation to its surgery scenes. It is intensive without being too gory or overwhelming. This is balance by the sheer will of three specific characters.
The first balance perceived is between Lana Parrilla and Mike Vogel. Parrilla was exceptional in “Swingtown” on ABC while Vogel’s biggest interim so far was in “Poseidon” opposite Emmy Rossum. There is an inherent energy flowing between them that jumps out at you even from the pilot. What gives it its balance is the fact of Jeremy Northam as the elder but extremely daft lead doctor who just has a sense of brevity to him but not enough to place your finger on its origin. The essence of his pep thoughts on the roof simply almost do not fit yet they do.
The high production impact of the first minutes of the pilot are meant to draw you in but unlike “Trauma” on NBC which was just going for the big thought, the characters from what can be perceived here are much more rich. This is inherently apparent from the get go. The location of Miami which is the gateway to South America also give the series a rich perception and difference of culture. However other series have had this element and have not worked. Despite this, “Miami Medical” shows its possibility from the inset. While Bruckheimer’s other freshman show “the forgotten” seems not as grounded, “Miami Medical” is a shot to the heart because it is pure and effective in what it is. Out of 5, I give it a 3.