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.


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.

Natural Legacy & Prevalent Viewpoints: Returning Television – Fall 2011 – Part II

The nature of legacy shows resounds in their ability to highlight and enhance without losing what they were in earlier incarnations. “Two & A Half Men” has been the most prevalent viewpoint in the last year with the departure of Charlie Sheen and eventual replacement by Ashton Kutcher but approaching characters like Batman and the vastness of the Star Wars universe holds its perils as well.

Batman: Brave & The Bold Interacting with the lore and mythology of other characters within the guise of Batman allows the creators to show and gauge the interest of fans (or the writers themselves) of how interesting certain backstories run. Highlighting lesser known vintage characters like The Atom or exploring the essence of sequel prowess with Green Lantern’s handling of Star Sapphire shows the possibility of them  against those backdrops without having to worry about logic. However, something like traveling through time to save different incarnations of Batman so he can exist in the current timeline is straining belief but the creative team knows that this is a chance to go off the rails before the next series inevitably return to darkness.

The Clone Wars Making the mythology more vast and intrinsic without overcoming the basic nature of the universe it has a created is a daunting task especially when you are writing the backstories of several of the species in later films. What this show tends to do, in short order, with adequate results, is create a depth of structure where the features just laid the ground work. Two story progressions this season so far show this both with the “Water War” progression with the Gungans and the Mon Calamari which dictate certain emotional responses in terms of war structure. By contrast, the episodes with General Krell where he displays a lack of empathy and regard to the clones results in a mutiny of sorts that creates a microcosm of battle command in its simplest form wrestling the idea away from being purely Jedi=centric.

The Big Bang Theory The indiosyncrasies of the core bunch continue to grow but what Chuck Lorre has learned to do is spin moons within the planetary configuration of the core five specifically with Howard’s fiance and Amy, Sheldon’s would-be girlfriend. The show has always been about social inadequacy and how technology and simple awkwardness make the possibility of these people connecting even more so. By changing the dynamic, especially with Penny, the idea becomes more of a wingman persona with all these people moving out in different directions on their own while still remaining a core group with varying circumstances and results.

Two & A Half Men In resurrecting the show after the unfortunate inevitable departure of Charlie Sheen, one would have thought it would be disastrous without him. The way however the writers have maintained shows a distinct undeniable truth that the writing, if done in a very specific way without negating or denying Sheen’s influence and still having a snarky but not mean edge towards its former star, shows an effective overhaul. You realize how key the bumbling mannerisms of Jon Cryer truly anchor the show and magnifies the everyman quality of it. Ashton Kutcher’s character is not a Charlie Harper but takes on a more cool quality from creator Chuck Lorre’s other show “The Big Bang Theory” in that certain qualities can be good and bad. An especially good two episode arch involves Alan (Cryer) and his worst day as well as a psychotic break where he reverts and tries to emulate his brother. It is neat because it addresses the good and bad sides of Charlie Harper while showing empathy. It might not be the Charlie show anymore but it does show that it can survive with dignity and darkness without him.

Intrinsic Enhancement & Angular Balance – New Television – Fall 2011 – Part I

Identifying and enhancing the note of the female antagonist is always an interesting play in order to appeal to the broad demographic but with female leads dominating most of prime time, the angular balance remains making them intrinsic and funny without reverting to a basic standard. Whether it be a retribution-fueled socialite in “Revenge” or 60s-era flight attendants modulating woman’s lib and society with a sense of style, this new crop of shows shows a diversity of vision.

Revenge Using an often used idiom of coming back to take out those who caused your childhood misery is the focus of many a literature and/or crime novel. The key becomes having the resources to pull it off. The lead characte rin this show tries to move back to her original stomping grounds and takes out [figuratively and financially] the people responsible for her father’s death. The soap opera touches of class structure and ideas of romance try to maintain a balance despite an overarching banality to the narrative. Creating a more intrinsic and keen viciousness within the air of a mask-oriented society is a keen art but the access remains within getting your hands dirty while looking great doing it without losing a sense of purpose.

Unforgettable Using a forensic style playback of someone’s memories to create a structure of investigation is a little far fetched but, of course, it depends on the psychology used to make it work. While the texture here has the balance of elements of “Prime Suspect”, the red-haired renaissance of the lead gives the series a bit of verve but has the possibility of wearing itself out as a “forensic light” because everything that the woman sees is immediately circumstantial. However, the idea is to do the investigations in reverse is clever but necessitates the eliminates the idea of probable cause. While there are some good moments, the progressions suffers from similar pains of “Life On Mars” which had a good hook but required too much suspension of disbelief.

Pan Am In following the perception of “Mad Men”, it seems interesting to approach this angle of intrigue and world travel through the notion of flight attendants but the ideal is that Pan Am was very different than air travel of today. Granted the through line is very soapy at times but the use of music and exceptional production value raises the bar. The characters, despite their perceptions, at times seem ambitious yet still virtuous in accordance with the times. The use of specific locations that definitely fall between the beaten path like Haiti and Rangoon definitely balance the idea of more urban destinations like London and Paris. Christina Ricci leads the pack blending a tongue-in-cheek modern virtue that almost puts her at odds with the backrgound she is against but her pinpoint accuracy on what the character believes in resolves any distance. While hanky panky among the ranks, women’s lib and the civil rights movement do intersperse in the stories, the episode progression still resolves to a lighthearted tone. The key is making the relationships and bonds stronger so that when they are eventually torn apart, the emotions will run high.

Up All Night With Will Arnett having less-than-optimum luck with his last two comedy pilot outings, it is great to see him settling in a notion of family comedy that he definitely knows something about. The key of course is a great partner. Despite the initial crank up time, the chemistry between Arnett and his on-screen wife Christina Appelgate, together raising a baby daughter, feels natural especially in their young fun singles-grown-up kind of way. With the addition of Maya Rudolph (who has the most kids in real life of any of the cast members) as a cross between J-Lo and Oprah with as many man problems as necessary to fuel a comedic actress of her like, the balance tends to work because the realities and what the characters want (especially since Arnett is playing Mr. Mom) with their ideas of life before and after baby are exceptionally pinpointed with a grand amount of tongue-in-cheek lunacy.

Underlying Ideas & Conceptual Reintegration: Returning Television – Summer 2011

Human fallacy and the thematic machinations of animation rarely move hand-in-hand except in the process sometimes of summer. Affecting a change in structure especially within drama and comedy is tricky, especially if one is not sure about the outcome. Staying with the norm only can work so far before the entire concept has to be thrown on its head, not in terms of tone but in the breaking point of the characters and what they consider as normal.

Penguins Of Madagascar The leftovers continue with their intensive functionality despite a bit of overactive silliness. The episodes are not as much spy-oriented as they are situational with the exception of the mythology-based Uncle Nigel episode though that ends with the emasculation of Private. The best revolves around Rico when the other three compadres end up stricken by herring food poisoning. The pacing becomes more reminiscent of a “Tom & Jerry” cartoon while an episode with King Julian being moved to the petting zoo for a bit is nothing if not funny as the lemur provides the inherent balance of the show which still has a fresh functionality.

Burn Notice Heading into the summer, just as Michael Weston was about to insure himself within the FBI, his handler in Max turns up dead. In between maintaining different possibilities for his friends and dealing with everything from militia to Serbian smugglers, the trails keep leading in and out from who he thinks actually is trying to subvert his reintegration into the CIA despite the fact that the “company”, especially his new contact Agent Pearce, thinks his crew is a detriment to him. The notion of reveal, especially in Michael’s misguided focus and perception, threatens to undo everything this burnt spy has worked towards. While last season seems to indicate a lack of vindication on the burn notice, its possibility and the double-cross element here rises the story structure back to its necessary level to keep the series both critical and entertaining.

Futurama Finding new and interesting ways to interact the space-time continuum is timeless for these characters. Ever since returning, they have 10 years of odd technology and pop culture to catch up on. Unlike something like “The SImpsons” plus with the allure of basic cable, the series can go as far as it wants to but smartly keeps in touch with its core audience of smart but still dumb. The aspect of the Fry/Leela relationship is placed in a contextual space which allows it to grow but, as usual and to great avail, whether it be increasing his processing power to become godlike to cloning himself and drinking all the alcohol on Earth, Bender is still the man, or clunker (as he would enjoy).

In Plain Sight In approaching a life such as those of Marshalls, especially one as cantankerous as Mary, going from 0 to 100 might be a way of life. However in dealing with Mary McCormack’s real life pregnancy, the writers were thrown a curveball. Granted it gives more humor and a distinct push out to the female audience members but it also creates an interesting dichotomy which permeates through different episodes. Someone like Mary would look at all the options but she seems to just let it go like she did the moment of passion she had with the would-be father. While this might be explained later, it creates a paradox of character which in general changes the complete direction of the show. Whether it is for good or bad is simply in reflection more so of the ratings but from a character point of view, its possibility limits the options available.

Natural Evolution Mindful: New Spring 2011 Television Shows – Review – Part III

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.