Terra Nova aired its double-sized finale this past Monday and it is still unclear whether the show will return to the air (hence the finale promotions said "See how it all ends!"). So did it take another 85 minutes to convince you of what CC2k's TV Editor Phoebe Raven already diagnosed eight weeks ago: that Terra Nova makes us all out as bad people?

Two weeks ago I gave a run-down of some of the new Fall TV shows I thought were worth watching and I included Terra Nova on this list. I already noted that I was intrigued mainly by its badness and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I should have issued a warning against watching Terra Nova. Here is why.

There was no new episode of the show last week to make me come down harder on the show, but everything I had seen up to that point (5 episodes) could merely fester in my brain. What I am really upset about is that in theory Terra Nova could be a great show about human nature, but instead it chooses to be a banal procedural. Factoring in how much the show was hyped beforehand, could it be that Terra Nova has given me a case of anticipointment?

Given the premise, there were a lot of things I hoped Terra Nova would address. When you start out with humanity basically having destroyed the planet Earth and looking for a chance to start over and do it better, you really expect there to be issues of political and ecological importance to be raised, don’t you? (Side note: does anyone remember that show Earth 2? That was kinda like that, at least in the beginning.) What I really wanted to see from Terra Nova was how they would use all the advanced technology and all the knowledge they had gathered from humanity’s first failure to live a sustainable existence to go into trying again, now that they had found an alternate universe in which such a chance exists.

Yet what Terra Nova gives us is a world in which the technology is merely a neat side note and really people behave as irresponsibly, destructive and deceitful as ever. The alternate universe of Terra Nova is just another frontier to be conquered, without any regard as to how the presence of humans alters this world. Instead of a lot of solar panels, responsible farming and a political structure that isn’t based on the rule of The Ones With the Most Weapons, we get a “Case of the Week” procedural in Terra Nova that is neither engaging nor particularly clever.

Every week there is another mystery to solve that this “Brave New World” throws at the settlers and every week they solve it by using the same expansionist, machismo, first world, arrogant measures that haven’t worked out for the human race back in “The Old World” already. These people really haven’t learned anything from their failures and it makes me mad.

I have nothing against Terra Nova being a family show, I am not calling for more action or more mature content here. In fact, it could be such a pleasure to see how the parents try to raise their children with a different consciousness, explaining to them why things in the Old World didn’t work and what everyone decided to do differently this time around. Then the children could grow up to be responsible, harmonious inhabitants of the New World and truly give humanity another shot. But none of this is happening, the adults are the same bullies they have always been, relying on guns, reconnaissance and manpower to “defeat” the jungle and the archaic creatures and even fighting amongst themselves (see the Sixers).

So either both the producers and writers of Terra Nova have a really pessimistic view of humanity and basically want to tell us that even if we did get a chance to start over, we would still mess it up because humanity is just not capable of being “good”. Or they simply haven’t thought about the statement they could make about humanity with their show.

I am disappointed that a show that is all set up to explore the nature of humanity, morality and dignity isn’t giving any of these issues the time of day and instead rewards people for breaking rules (see Jim) and is satisfied with being a procedural set in the world of Jurassic Park. The whole show is stuck in 1994, it seems, and I had truly hoped television had come further than what Terra Nova is making it seem. Thanks, Fox, for providing me with a serious dose of disillusionment on that front.

Even a TV addict like me sometimes has to admit that the substance of my usually happy abuse can get a little more than overwhelming. Specifically I am talking about the plethora of new shows launched this fall in an effort to make up for the resounding failure of almost all new launches last season. At times I was so far behind all this “shiny new television” the networks were churning out, I contemplated just sticking with the shows I already watched and not adding any new ones to my roster.

But between House being the disaster it has become, HIMYM being as annoyingly elusive as ever, Grey’s Anatomy dabbling along with far too many baby storylines and Bones and Cougar Town sidelined until November, I really had to flesh out my viewing schedule.
So I delved into “the new” and four weeks into the Fall Season, here are some of the new shows I plan to keep watching.


Homeland (Showtime)
I refer you to my previous column for all the original reasons I could come up with after the pilot, all of which hold true three episodes in.


Hart of Dixie (The CW)
Hart of Dixie has the distinct advantage over “that other new CW show” (Ringer) that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fluffy, it’s bubblegum and it’s stylish. How could it be any other way when Rachel Bilson is involved? Sure, the South is painted in broad stereotypes, but they are inoffensive enough to be entertaining. Hart of Dixie doesn’t bite off more than it can chew either (like Ringer does). It’s just about a young doctor moving to a small southern town and trying to gain acceptance and respect there while being adorably clumsy and not afraid to take a few detours in order to protect her patients.
Someone on Twitter said this week we shouldn’t go all “Y’all should watch Hart of Dixie, it really is good”, because The CW is promoting it as their “new hit show” anyway. Seeing as how it already got a full season pick-up (as did Ringer), that’s probably true, so if you like inoffensive, sweetly medical shows, you know where to go.

Up All Night (NBC)
This is supposed to be a comedy starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, although it’s not particularly funny. NBC is struggling big time these days, their ratings are so far down, I can’t even come up with a metaphor for it anymore (seriously, their original programming was beaten be re-runs of other shows on USA last week), so to NBC Up All Night is a success. They’ve already canceled what was supposed to be their “big hit” this fall season, The Playboy Club, so you can see why they’d be trying to hang on to anything remotely resonating with the audience. And to be fair, Up All Night has found its footing from the uneven pilot. Its opening credits make me want to tear my eyes out (stop trying to pound your premise into the viewer’s skull in twenty seconds! It’s not so complicated that we won’t get it otherwise), but I enjoy the more light-hearted approach to telling parenting stories in comparison to that other show NBC has scheduled, appropriately named Parenthood.  
Applegate and Arnett make a cute couple and although I could do without the wacky characters from Applegate’s fictional job, Up All Night perfectly fits into my Comedy Wednesday. And has taught me how to properly play peek-a-boo, that could be useful some day.


2 Broke Girls (CBS)
Even though this show is much more obviously a comedy than Up All Night (it might be the laugh track giving the former away), I have less reason to stick with it and may in fact stop doing so in the foreseeable future. The racially insensitive stereotyping that goes on at the 2 Broke Girls’ fictional workplace is much, much less entertaining than the broad caricatures at the Up All Night workplace and are, in fact, the show’s weakest link. I would enjoy 2 Broke Girls perfectly fine if it actually went with the promise its two central female characters hold: one sassy girl with street smarts and a talent for baking things and one spoiled girl from money with the business education to make a profit off those baked goods. Instead these two broke girls keep a horse in their backyard and offend more customers than I have ever even seen come into a run-down NYC diner. Plus, I have been waitressing as an odd job while in school for too long to not be annoyed by how grossly incompetent these two “waitresses” are. I mean, they ALWAYS ignore food on the serving counter and all they ever seem to do is “marry the ketchup”. I do enjoy Kat Dennings, her decidedly non-stick-figure-esque appearance and her crude sass, but I am gonna need a bit more to really like 2 Broke Girls. Lucky for them, there’s not much competition in their time slot.


Pan Am (ABC)
This show owes its conception entirely to the success of Mad Men and people’s apparent fascination with The Sixties, when life still seemed easy and consumerism was patriotism at its best. NBC’s The Playboy Club tried to cash in on this nostalgia as well, but I’ve already told you how that turned out. Pan Am does a couple of things right: it looks perfectly stylish and beautiful, which is what we expect from nostalgic television and it taps into a legendary franchise, just like Mad Men tapped into the legendary world of New York advertising. However, Pan Am tries too hard to please everyone and therefore gets lost between spy stories, power struggles and indistinguishable locales. Sure, it’s fun to think these stewardesses are somewhere new and exciting every week, but it also bereaves the show of the chance to develop a setting that tells a story in and off itself. The Berlin, Singapore, Paris and Burma don’t add anything to the show, because our protagonists are largely confined to hotel rooms and pool sides, hence the whole show feels like a wild goose chase at times. Similarly, we are still chasing after most of the characters, which haven’t been shaded for us properly, with maybe the exception of Colette, who got a very culturally sensitive character arc in episode 3.
I can’t help but think that there is a good show buried in Pan Am if it realizes that its core audience will always be women, and that therefore the sexism needs to be addressed in a certain critical way (of which we have seen glimmers when Cristina Ricci’s character “stabs” a male passenger for coming on to her). The spy storyline on the other hand, while useful to position the show in the cultural paradigm that is the Cold War, is really boring and keeps separating the character of Kate from everyone else, when really the strength of Pan Am should be its ensemble’s dynamic.
Given how low Pan Am has been flying in the ratings, I am awaiting ABC’s decision on its fate fairly soon. I believe moving it from the highly competitive Sunday night might help things a bit. Will Mad Men remain the only Sixties show on the air?


Terra Nova (Fox)
This show received so much upfront buzz at the beginning of the year when it was screened, that was almost enough to turn me off it forever. But I gave it a chance and I am oddly intrigued. By its badness. The show has so many plotholes, I can’t even count them. And that is in every single episode. The central family is still largely unlikable, even though I do appreciate Jim Shannon’s occasional Bond-esquian quips. And don’t even get me started on the bad dinosaur effects. I am not one to bemoan the production values of television against movies, because I believe you can make a whole lot of awesome television without needing millions of dollars for it, but if you are going to go for something as grand as dinosaurs, your effects had better beat the ones from the original Jurassic Park from 1993.
Fox is marketing Terra Nova as a family show, so of course there is plenty of teen romance thrown in, which is infuriating to all us non-teenagers, but not for the reason you might think: it’s not that we hate teenagers, annoying as they can be, it’s that we hate TV teenagers, because they have been unrealistic and utterly useless for way too long now. I think the problem is that most TV writers don’t actually have teenaged children themselves, or else they could write those characters better.
Terra Nova does have the novelty factor on its side (as in there is no other comparable show currently on the air), which is what helps its ratings remain somewhat steady, but if it was set in the Lost universe, teenage son Josh would have been eaten by the Smoke Monster three times already, and justly so.


Some of the above mentioned shows may yet fall off my Watch List, especially when Bones and Cougar Town return in November and I get busy with the Holiday Season.
I have listed a few more shows and my attitude towards them below, but let me extend this invitation to you: please let me know which new shows made it onto your Watch List and why and also tell me about the drop-outs. Stories of failure amuse me, which is why I love Sheldon Cooper so much.


New shows I have not yet watched: Revenge, A Gifted Man

New shows I gave up on (for various reasons of badness): Unforgettable, Prime Suspect, Person of Interest, Whitney, Last Man Standing

New shows I would have given up on, but they were already cancelled anyway: The Playboy Club, Charlie’s Angels, How to Be A Gentleman, Free Agents

The second season of Showtime's Homeland is currently airing and threw out a gamechanger in its fourth episode. Reason enough to look back at why CC2K TV Editor Phoebe Raven called Homeland the best bew show on television way back in Season 1. 

I try not to be “one of the herd” too much and just repeat what other TV critics have been saying all day, every day, but sometimes there are those instances when it seems that all of “us critics” come together and sing the same tune of praises for a certain show. Such is the case for Showtime’s new drama Homeland, a show universally liked by critics, which premiered this Sunday to great numbers on the pay TV channel (1.1 million viewers, highest debut for a show on Showtime in eight years).

These numbers are noteworthy for two reasons: One, the pilot episode was available online and On Demand before the actual on-air premiere, but that didn’t hurt viewership much.
Two, Sundays are days of stiff competition, CBS having moved their hit The Good Wife to Sundays this season, as well as HBO rolling out Season 3 of Hung and AMC throwing another stellar episode of Breaking Bad out there. So Homeland did more than alright for itself.

Yet the reason I got on the bandwagon of singing Homeland’s praises early (I called it this season’s best new show, period, no contest, on my Twitter the other day) has nothing to do with the hype that picked up over it in the past week. I came for one man only: Damian Lewis. You may remember him from NBC’s gone-too-soon cop drama Life two seasons ago, or you may remember him from HBO’s acclaimed miniseries Band of Brothers, but you definitely remember him. He’s that ginger-haired guy you never believed was English until you heard him speak in his normal accent. (You’re not the only one, his co-stars on Band of Brothers didn’t suspect his British descent for weeks while on set.) (My personal favorite appearance of him was in the independent movie Keane, which you should most definitely check out.)

In Homeland Damian Lewis stars as a Sergeant of the US Marine Corps, who returns home from Iraq after having been a prisoner of war for eight years. Opposite Damian Lewis is the very-blonde Claire Danes, who I had almost forgotten existed, I hadn’t seen her in anything for so long. She plays a CIA agent, who receives a tip from an Iraqi informant that an American POW may have been turned against the USA and is now in league with Al Qaida in planning more terrorist attacks on US soil. But she’s also mentally unstable, so whose story are you going to believe?

Both Danes and Lewis deliver excellent performances in Homeland (the supporting cast is outstanding as well, Morena Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin first and foremost) and instantly sell you on the emotion, the tension, the mystery and the air of fear the show delivers. The notion of national fear is one of special importance in the text of Homeland, the show gives off a very claustrophobic vibe and makes it hard to breathe while watching, which is precisely what it should be doing, given the subject matter. And hey, I am European and even I can’t breathe easy when watching Homeland, so I can only imagine what it feels like for the average American viewer.

But don’t be put off by this! Don’t think: “Why would I want to watch something that makes me feel panicked and stirs up unrest?” Watch Homeland precisely because it does that, because it touches on issues that are lingering just beneath the surface of every single news item you watch or read, every second conversation you have with a friend or a coworker, every trip to a national landmark you make, every instance you run into heightened security measures. America is not the nation it was eleven years ago, and Homeland takes a good, hard look at why that is, while not forgetting that it’s a TV show that is meant to keep you glued to your seat. At its core Homeland is an extremely well-made mystery thriller, made better only by tapping into contemporary anxieties and modern day politics.

Little by little, flashback by flashback, conversation by conversation, the viewer learns more about what happened to Brody in captivity, what Claire Danes’ Carrie Anderson has been up to and lived through, why a situation can never be called black or white and just how humongous a job it is to try and protect an entire country from any possible evil that might befall it, especially when you have failed before. Homeland really does its best to dissect the American psyche in the Age of Terror, without forgetting that at the end of the day, these are all people involved in this most personal of battles, therefore striking the perfect balance between introspection and entertainment. You can’t ask much more of a TV show than what Homeland delivers.

Again, let me come back to Damian Lewis and his indispensable excellence. The scene where his character, Sgt. Nicholas Brody, arrives back in America and sees his wife and two kids again for the first time in eight years is one of the most moving pieces of acting I have seen all year, in either television or movies. And it’s not because it is laden with tears and dramatic music and sappy dialog, on the contrary. It’s because it is awkward and heartfelt and deliberately short that it has such an impact. After seeing that scene, you want to like Brody, you want to believe him, you want him to have a quiet, peaceful life from now on.

Damian Lewis, like few other actors, is able to inspire that compassion in you instantly, only to go ahead and shake it all up a few scenes later, when Brody and his wife are alone in the bedroom after eight years of uncertainty, torture and desperate hope. Lewis gives you a man you want to trust more than anything but you should always fear a little, the perfect combination of traumatized soldier, lost soul and suspicious behavior. Even if everything else surrounding his performance in Homeland wasn’t stellar, Damian Lewis alone would be worth tuning in for. Fortunately, the surrounding factors are just as good, so there really is no reason I shouldn’t give you the resounding recommendation to tune into Homeland next Sunday. When you hear everyone talking about it in years to come, don’t tell me I didn’t give you a chance to get on the bandwagon early. You’ll only have yourself to blame if you let this one pass you by.







Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra", Episode 17 below.

Topics include Person of Interest, The Playboy Club, Terra Nova and Suburgatory.



 Join the discussion by commenting below or following us on Twitter: @cc2konline and @PhoebeRaven!


Don’t act surprised, you knew it was coming, my inevitable review of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s new show Ringer. As a Whedonite and Buffy-holic, how can I forgo commenting on SMG’s return to the small screen after so many years? I’ve managed to hold off until I had seen at least two episodes, but that’s the best I could do and now it’s time for my thoughts on Ringer.

Although I really wished it wasn’t. Because I don’t have a lot of nice things to say, no matter how much I might want to. As almost the entire Buffy fandom, I am one of those people trying very hard to like Ringer, because we want good things to happen to the stars we love. The only good thing I can say about Ringer so far is that its premiere gave The CW its highest ratings in three years, but those numbers still weren’t even close to anything Buffy or Angel delivered back in the day and not as high as some at The CW headquarters were hoping for.  The “teenage network” is struggling these days overall and they were hoping Ringer would be a break-out hit from the start. It’s not.

So let’s start spreading the blame. The premise isn’t terrible, although we’ve seen it before. SMG plays twins Siobhan and Bridget, the latter soon assuming the identity of the former, after she thinks Siobhan to have committed suicide, in an attempt to escape a criminal she, Bridget, was supposed to testify against in court.
Don’t worry, if that is too complicated for you already, Episode 2 (and I am assuming subsequent episodes) have a nice, trite little SMG monolog in the beginning, explaining exactly what happened. Heavy-handed? You betcha.

The symbolism is also more than heavy-handed (paralyzed-handed?), especially in the pilot episode mirrors (or reflective surfaces) keep appearing everywhere and there are very noticeable issues with the green screen used when SMG has to star opposite herself. Episode 2 dialed this back quite a bit, to no general effect of improvement, but the problem of SMG actually not being two people still makes the show look very predictable and boring in those scenes where she has to encounter herself as the other sister. We get to see a lot of cross-cutting and over-the-shoulder-shots, a technique even the most basic drama shows have been moving away from, because it is so conventional and so easily spotted as lazy scene blocking.

Ringer’s biggest problems, however, lie in the script and pacing of the plot. The show simply piles on way too much way to fast and tries to get by on the supposedly shocking twists it throws at us every ten minutes. Two episodes in Bridget as Siobhan has already managed to escape disaster and discovery more times than I can count, not to mention she has already killed someone and now has to cover up a murder, while the cops, who are looking for Bridget, are already knocking at her door and crashing parties she is throwing with Siobhan’s husband.

Siobhan, on the other hand, didn’t kill herself at all, but seems to have been a real bitca in her every day life. She is pregnant and has escaped to Paris, where she is making mysterious phone calls that sound conspicuously like she is ordering her sister to be killed. Not to mention that the guy Bridget as Siobhan killed in New York was actually an assassin sent after Siobhan.
And I haven’t even mentioned yet that Bridget is a recovering alcoholic, who is responsible for killing Siobhan’s first child, a son, in a car accident.

Is your head hurting yet? Yes, we have found out all this and more in just two episodes, so I have to wonder: where is Ringer planning to go? They have already fired so many weapons in their arsenal, the show runs the risk of becoming campy and contrived (even more than it already is) very soon. Of course there is something to be said in favor of balls-to-the-wall storytelling and not holding anything back, but simultaneously this means that Ringer will become very complicated quickly, making it all the more unlikely to gain viewers that haven’t started watching in Episode 1. This should be a major concern to The CW, because maintaining an audience – if not building on it – is the number one factor for the survival of any TV show. Missing one episode of Ringer may very well leave viewers so confused that they will give up on the show, the exact opposite of what you would want to happen.

Finally, I can’t help but spreading some of the blame on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s sandwich as well. It’s still early in the show, but she doesn’t have me convinced that she actually has a firm grip on the two characters she is supposed to be playing. Part of the intrigue of the show, naturally, is that we can never be sure which one of the sisters we are actually seeing at any given moment – or at least I think that’s what the intrigue is supposed to be. However, in most scenes it is quite clear who we are seeing, so I would like the two characters of Bridget and Siobhan to be more distinct from each other, something SMG should be able to accomplish with her acting.  

I have to say that in the few scenes we have seen her be Siobhan I have enjoyed her more than as Bridget, because the character of Siobhan is so evil and cunning, it brings back glorious memories of SMG’s character in Cruel Intentions. As much as I love Sarah Michelle Gellar when she is the lovable, relatable, good-hearted girl, I think I love her even more when she is sly and bad-ass. For right now the two sisters are separated by the Atlantic, but I fear the day that Ringer has to reunite them, as inevitably it must, because their plans run crosswise, because that will lead to so much green screen chaos I can already feel the eye cancer coming on.

At this point I can’t even recommend a fix for the problems Ringer has. There quite frankly just might not be one. Maybe if the whole concept had been approached more from a The Usual Suspects’ kind of angle, keeping us in the dark about one sister entirely and setting in just when Bridget first assumes her sister’s identity without actually telling us that’s what she is doing, the show could have worked better.
Right now I am at a stage of praying for anything good or daring to happen on the show, because I really, really want to like it and I want only the best for SMG. Ringer, sadly, is not it.

Some weeks these columns are easier to write than others. This week’s column practically writes itself, because the Emmy Awards were handed out Sunday night, so really all I have to do is give you my opinions on the winners and who I think was robbed.
But I don’t want to take the lazy way out, so I will start off with a look back on “The Road to the Emmys”.

Basically, I was tired of the Emmys before their airing even approached imminence on the programming schedule. As a result, for the first time in years, I didn’t even watch the actual Emmys telecast. *gasp* I know, how can I rightfully call myself a TV columnist and then not watch “television’s biggest night of the year”? Especially now that I live in the US and wouldn’t even have to stay up all night in order to catch it?

The reasons are manifold, one of which being that I don’t yet own a functioning TV here. I own a TV set, but it is not hooked up to the Dish Network in the building yet. And since there was no live stream offered on the internet, I resolved myself to tuning into my Twitter feed about an hour into the Emmys telecast. Since I follow a lot of TV critics and TV lovers, I got the play by play there, complete with commentary, which ranged from “love this” to “hate this” on any given topic of the night.

Incidentally though the very same people I follow on Twitter who gave me the meta-insight into the Emmys were also the people responsible for my Emmy fatigue, precisely because many of them are professional TV critics. In effect this meant that all the way back in, I wanna say, April I got extensive Emmy coverage from them and tons of links to “this is who I predict will get nominated, but this is who SHOULD get nominated – What do you think?” articles. Opinions varied heavily in almost every single category and the fan comments didn’t make matters any better.

Then the actual Emmy nominations came out in May and immediately I was flooded by 1) links back to the original prediction pieces of each TV critic, either with a message of “See, exactly like I predicted” or “They got it wrong, let me tell you who should have been nominated” or 2) by links to “reaction pieces”, in which the respective TV critic explained which of these nominations the Academy got right or wrong.
Yeah, I already didn’t care anymore.

It was beside the point that I was ecstatic some of my favorite TV shows and actors (Friday Night Lights, Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant and Game of Thrones) were nominated or that I was a little begrudged that Sean Bean didn’t receive a nomination, seeing as how Peter Dinklage will have more chances to win an Emmy in later seasons, whereas Sean… well, you know.
Everybody was chiming in on the Emmy debate and it made me ever more reluctant to try and yell louder than the crowd, especially since my yelling wouldn’t yield any results anyway.

And as if all of this wasn’t enough to induce serious Emmy fatigue, then the hype picking up again to a racket the closer the telecast drew was. I couldn’t count the “en route to the Emmys” tweets in my feed if I tried.
It’s curious how these “new media” can be a blessing and a curse. Most of the time I quite enjoy the diverse chatter my Twitter feed offers about all matters of TV. It’s only when my entire feed unifies into one screech about a single topic that I wish I could drown out the sound completely.

But, since I am your resident TV columnist, I will give you a short run-down of what I managed to grasp and what my reactions were to this year’s Emmys.
Apparently red was THE color to wear on the red carpet – someone must have sent out a memo – and Julianna Marguiles dress reminded some people of a robot from a sci-fi movie I haven’t seen and Katie Holmes is still a robot herself.

Moving on to the actual awards, here’s a list of all the winners (and I have noted who pulled an upset win against whom):

Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in “Modern Family,” ABC

Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy in “Modern Family,” ABC

Michael Alan Spiller, Halloween, “Modern Family,” ABC

Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman, Caught in the Act, “Modern Family,” ABC

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS

Melissa McCarthy as Molly Flynn, “Mike & Molly,” CBS

“The Amazing Race,” CBS

“The Daily Show with John Stewart,” Comedy Central

Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Justin Timberlake, NBC

“The Daily Show with John Stewart,” Comedy Central

Jason Katims, Always, “Friday Night Lights,” DIRECTV (upset win over Matthew Weiner, The Suitcase, “Mad Men”, AMC)

Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, “Justified,” FX Networks

Martin Scorsese, “Boardwalk Empire” pilot, HBO

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, “Game of Thrones,” HBO (upset win over everyone, because he’s in a genre show)

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, “The Good Wife,” CBS (almost an upset win over Elizabeth Moss as Penny Olson, “Mad Men”, AMC)

Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor, “Friday Night Lights,” DIRECTV (upset win over Jon Hamm as Don Draper, “Mad Men”, AMC)

Julian Fellowes, “Downtown Abbey (Masterpiece),” PBS

Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, “Downtown Abbey (Masterpiece),” PBS

Barry Pepper as Bobby Kennedy, “The Kennedys,” REELZCHANNEL (throw-away win of the night, upset win over Idris Elba as DCI Luther, “Luther”, BBC)

Brian Percival, “Downtown Abbey (Masterpiece)” Part I, PBS

Guy Pearce as Monty Beragon, “Mildred Pierce,” HBO

Kate Winslet as Mildred Pierce, “Mildred Pierce,” HBO

“Downtown Abbey (Masterpiece),” PBS

“Mad Men,” AMC

“Modern Family,” ABC

I was more than a little delighted that Friday Night Lights proved to be once again “the little show that could” and snatched two awards, even though I was devastated that Connie Britton didn’t win as well, making Mr. and Mrs. Coach the ultimate TV couple of all time. There was some outrage on my Twitter feed about Kyle Chandler not thanking Connie in his acceptance speech, since she was the other half of the couple, but it turns out he did thank her, only his audio was already cut off. (His real-life wife and kids were also cut out of his speech, btw.)

FNL pulled an upset win in both the Writing and the Lead Actor category against Mad Men and this had a lot of people up in arms, because Mad Men’s “The Suitcase” was arguably the finest hour of television not only last year, but in many years. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I loved seeing FNL win much more than I would have enjoyed Mad Men raking in more awards, because it already is such a hyped show. This is deserved in part and I am not one of those suffering from excessive backlash against the entire show because its creator Matthew Weiner is milking every dollar out of it that he can.
The Emmys are supposed to honor specific hours of television that were submitted for consideration in a particular year, but the reality is that the members of the Academy most likely have seen more of the shows than just the nominated episodes and vote on their general impressions more than the ones drawn from specific episodes. Hence, Friday Night Lights was given two awards in retrospect as a small token of compensation for four years it went completely overlooked.
Should the Emmys work that way? In an ideal world, no. But the Oscars work the exact same way and as long as we have actual humans doing the voting, this is how award shows will always work.

Here’s the thing though: as a character, I have always loved Coach Taylor more than Don Draper (he is actually my favorite TV character of all time) and I do believe this is in large parts because of Kyle Chandler’s portrayal of him. So I am more than 100% on board with Chandler taking home the Emmy, especially since Jon Hamm will have more chances to snag himself one.
And hey, Mad Men still won the Drama category, so there is that.

One of the more upsetting categories was the one for Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, where for some baffling reason Idris Elba didn’t win for his riveting, bone-chilling, absolutely undeniable performance in the BBC/BBCAmerica series Luther and instead Reelzchannel’s (seriously, this must be the most ridiculous channel name ever) The Kennedys was honored in the form of Barry Pepper. Not that I have anything against Barry Pepper personally, but just ponder this thought: The Kennedys now has more Emmys than The Wire.
How can you not be upset about this?

Some other general observations gathered from my Twitter feed about the Emmys as follows:
The telecast aired on Fox, yet not a single Fox show was honored.
ABC brought in the most awards (five), but they were all for a single show, Modern Family.
Breaking Bad would have swept a lot of categories, had it been eligible for nomination.
“Hallelujah” should never be played on television ever again, especially not during “In Memoriam” segments.
Matthew Weiner is Kurt Sutter’s hero.
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts – Can’t Lose!




Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra", Episode 16 below.

Topics include Sons of Anarchy, Necessary Roughness and America's Next Top Model.


Join the discussion by commenting below or following us on Twitter: @cc2konline and @PhoebeRaven!

Just as Fall TV is getting ready to kick off, some of the summer shows are airing their season finales (or in some cases, like Entourage, finally going off the air for good). So I got to thinking about finales in general and about what makes a good finale and what makes generally entertaining television. And I came across one thought over and over: these days in TV the stakes aren’t high enough.

Remember the whirlwind that followed Ned Stark’s death on Game of Thrones earlier this year? How saddened and outraged and deeply affected most people were (even the ones who had read the books and knew what was coming)? That’s because this was a death unexpected and major. It broke the coddling barrier TV often presents us with. I went into detail about how good a job Game of Thrones did in general of breaking with expectations, but recent events on TV have made it necessary for me to expand on my point and demand of TV writers and makers that they raise the stakes once again.

Which TV events make this expansion necessary? For example the (Spoiler Alert) scene in True Blood’s Season 4 finale with Eric and Bill burning at the stake. Yeah, no, not buying it. While True Blood packs a lot of carnage on any given day (and mostly provides instant cures as well), I didn’t believe for a single second either Eric or Bill were going to die. Even though, had I seen some of the later scenes of the finale before this vamp burning, I might have bought into it. (More on the True Blood finale in the podcast below.)
But really True Blood is a show that won’t work without either Bill or Eric, so there is no way I could see either of them dying. See, that’s the fallacy though. I – and therefore I assume you too – have been so coddled by serialized television to expect the main characters to be always safe, no matter how dire the situation, that I am unable to buy into the heightened tension such moments of danger are meant to provide and can't even physically imagine a show without these major characters, even though I am certain you could make it. And make it well, too.

I am aware there are plenty of “major character deaths” one could bring up in an effort to diffuse my argument, but I am willing to bet for any actual death you mention, I can name at least two scenarios – probably within the same show – in which major characters have seemingly been in life-threatening danger and yet came out alright. It’s a go-to device for oh-so-many shows, especially the action dramas, and it is the more tiring move of all. If nothing else works, let’s put some of the major characters in danger.

It’s old-fashioned storytelling, is what it is. Everyone knows I am the biggest Buffy-enthusiast and –apologist out there, but one thing that bothers me now when I go back to it, are the many episodes in which one of the Scooby Gang was put in seemingly mortal danger, when we all knew Buffy was going to save the day. Granted, Buffy handled these scenarios often-times with a little more oomph than other shows, because subsequent episodes would deal with the fall-out of such life or death situations nicely, which is something such shows as Bones, for example, continually cop out of (remember any fall-out from Hodgins and Bones being buried alive? Yeah, me neither.)

Buffy has been off the air for a decade though, and it was always more of a teenage-demographic show anyway, so it seems to me TV should have grown up by now and figured out ways to raise the stakes without having to pull the same old stunts over and over.
Remember The Vampire Diaries' finale in May? Did you really believe Damon was going to die? I didn’t, not for a single second.

Supernatural/fantasy shows such as The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Supernatural and even The Walking Dead are even more at fault here than any other show, because they trade in blood and horror and shock value, yet they too seldom really cash in on the hype they try to create. Of course there are reasons for this and they are manifold, not the least of which is that no network (especially not a broadcast network) would willingly accept the lead actors changing every season or two. The audience wouldn’t accept it either. Or would they?
I maintain that if a show is truly well-written, then it would gain viewers instead of losing them by killing of a major character, simply because the viewers need to keep watching in order to grieve with all of those characters who are left behind.

I know I demand a lot from my television, I always have. I don’t want my show to just mollify me and make me happy. I want to be emotionally involved, I want to have my heart broken and I never want to already know what’s coming next. It’s a lot to ask, especially in an age where it feels every story has been told a million times and it’s hard to put a new twist on anything. I just feel that lately a lot of TV and film lacks the ambition to want to be more than it currently is. And lame moves like putting Callie in the middle of a hostage situation on The Glades or putting Sam in the hands of a known mobster and killer on Rookie Blue just make me insanely mad instead of entertaining me.

Most shows have a track record of always tying everything up in a neat little bow, hence I don’t trust them to ever truly make a gutsy move and kill a major character off. And if you’re not planning on doing that anyway, then please don’t make all of us go through the motions of pretending you are. Seriously, don’t these writers bore themselves to death writing scenes we have all seen a thousand times before?

Maybe I have just watched too much TV and have become cynical over the years. Maybe I want substance where others want light fare. Or maybe the low expectations audiences seem to have nowadays just feed right back into the lackluster writing we seem to get, because we don’t demand anything more.

Come on, Fall TV, kill off Owen Hunt, James Wilson, Angela Montenegro, Damon Salvatore or Javier Esposito, I dare you!



Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra", Episode 15 below.

Topics include the season finales of True Blood, Rookie Blue and Combat Hospital, as well as a Haven/Buffy quiz!

Join the discussion by commenting below or following us on Twitter: @cc2konline and @PhoebeRaven!

Since I devoted an entire Television Collision post to my low expectations of Season Four of True Blood, I thought it was about time to I went back to my initial reservations now that 10 of the 12 episodes of the season have aired. Be warned, there are SPOILERS AHEAD for Episodes 1-10 of Season 4!

I have to say I am much more entertained with Season 4 than I was expecting to be, it is certainly an improvement over the highly messy (plot-wise) Season 3, albeit the first few episodes of S4 starting out slow.

I went into some more detailed reactions to the first few episodes of S4 in the Podcast Extras at the time, but to briefly recap, especially the trip to “Fairy Land” left me icy cold. For the huge budget True Blood has, you would think they would be able to come up with better effects for the Magical Land of the Fae.
Be that as it may, the time jump was also not handled very well. It was an issue for about a minute there that for everyone but Sookie almost a year had passed, but it was quickly forgotten and didn’t really bear heavy on the new emerging storylines.

But Season 4 has a few good things going on, first and foremost Amnesia Eric. I also went into detail about this in my Podcast Extras (you are missing out if you are not tuning in, seriously), but a part of me just wanted to keep Eric in his helpless, childlike, gentle state forever. In a move that has me all conflicted about its implications, Sookie cured Eric this past Sunday though and now we have yet another “all-new Eric”, because he remembers everything, but the gentle Eric is also still in him. This has me very excited, since Eric is by far the most intriguing character to me, but the way his “cure” came about was a little too “deus ex machina” for me.

It’s a good point to drive home that Sookie has no real way of controlling some of her fairy power, but it comes along all too conveniently sometimes. Someone she loves is in danger and – BOOM – she can shoot lightning from her finger tips. The show desperately needs to explore Sookie exploring her powers and trying to gain control of them, because that would be a very powerful weapon at her disposal and given how she just loves to throw herself into the middle of trouble, you’d think it’s a weapon she would be all too eager to try and learn.

In my pre-Season 4-premiere post I had complained about the way some of the species are handled and some of those complaints have gone away. I still think the werewolves are pretty laughable, especially in their chauvinism and simple-mindedness. There are ways to combine the primal instincts of a wolf with the sentiments of modern humanity. I would advise reading Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson book series on lessons how to do that.

However, Season 4 delivered on one wish I had for the show: an all-out Battle of the Species. I wanted blood and mayhem and the way that Tolerance Festival turned out and with that geekasm-worthy last image of the “Vamp Gang” in their fighting gear at the end of Ep 10, my lust for chaos is being satisfied lately.
The witches still get on my nerves, because they have their motives all twisted, so I have nearly no quarrels with the vamps wanting to blow them to bits, but I guess that just means I am not as good a person as Sookie, who needs to be with Eric, period.

Poor Sam is still a bit too disconnected from the main storyline for my taste, but at least he gets to interact with Alcide and some of his shifter friends, which is a vast improvement over the solitude he had to endure last season. And darn it all, if that death scene of Sam’s brother wasn’t heartbreaking, then I don’t know what. One of my favorite moments all season, even though I hated the brother a good deal of the time, just like Sam. But deep down inside, we all cared. That was the point.

What I don’t care about at all is the whole Hoyt – Jessica – Jason love triangle. I don’t buy the attraction between Jason and Jessica at all, it all came about a bit too sudden and too clumsily for my taste, but for the life of me I can’t think of a good use for Jason’s character anyway, because he is just so damn useless most of the time in his human weakness (both mentally and metaphysically speaking). In the face of that realization, I almost forgive the move of sticking him in that anti-vampire church/cult, at least there he had a purpose, even if it was a crappy one.

Generally the show still suffers from having too many subplots that only marginally intertwine, even if a demon-possessed baby is kinda fun to watch. And one other thing has started to bother me as well: the opening credits. They are too long and all too familiar by now. I DVR the show and I always, always skip the opening credits. Which is a shame, because the opening credits are supposed to set the tone for a show, but I feel they are no longer fitting True Blood at this point.

If I was to rank the seasons of True Blood so far, Season 4 would be my second favorite right behind Season One, simply because of all the juicy Sookie-Eric scenes we got to see, which were a long time coming and which the majority of fans had been rooting for, it seems. I enjoy Season 4’s witches more than Season 2’s Maryann, because the S4 witches have a clear, somewhat logical goal (“Kill the vampires, they are evil”), whereas Maryann was by all means just batshit crazy (“Let’s build a giant statue of body parts and have orgies underneath it”). And I don’t even want to go into the mess that was Season 3, even the best moment of the entire series contained in it can’t save the disjointed collage of storylines Season 3 presented.

So all in all, Season 4 of True Blood is doing pretty well in my book. How about you? Have you been enjoying the Sookie-Eric lovemaking on a bed in the woods while it snows? Or were you cheering when it looked like Bill was going to drive a stake through Eric’s heart?
Did True Blood catch a second wind or is it running out of steam? Sound off in the comments below.




Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra", Episode 14 below.

Topics include Louie, Web Therapy, The Challenge: Rivals and Project Runway.


Join the discussion by commenting below or following us on Twitter: @cc2konline and @PhoebeRaven!

The Glee Project is the newest cog in the wheel known as Glee, the insanely successful FOX series that has taken over the globe.  Oxygen’s newest reality show was one that sought to give average teenagers the chance to star in a seven episode arc on Glee, a dream for any aspiring singer/actor/dancer.  While the series give audiences a group of fun and dynamic kids to root for, the show’s finale pulled a major cop-out that leaves audiences and this writer in particular, to question the motives of show creator Ryan Murphy in several ways.

AMC's smash hit Breaking Bad is kicking off its fifth season in two weeks. Time to revisit CC2K TV Editor Phoebe Raven's take on why the show is good, but wholly unlikable.

More than any other basic cable channel in recent years AMC has established itself as a place for quality dramas (FX might be the only channel that can give them a run for their money), its cornerstones being Mad Men and Breaking Bad. I have gone on the record many times with my love for Mad Men – even though I do agree that Matthew Weiner is milking it for more than he might be worth – but I have not yet addressed my thoughts regarding Breaking Bad.

The reason for this is simple: I have only recently caught up with the show. I had watched a couple episodes of the first season, but then had lost track, so before this summer’s Season Four rolled around, I brought myself up to speed. One thing is obvious: Breaking Bad is a high-grade television show. It qualifies as “critically acclaimed” in pretty much any category you can name, from the acting, to the direction, to the cinematography. And yet…

I am still not sure I actually like Breaking Bad. Sure, the storylines are interesting and keep twisting in unpredictable directions, but I have a very hard time connecting emotionally with any of the characters. Their universe and life experiences are so far removed from anything I can relate to and when I actually do have an emotional reaction to the characters, it is mainly one of dislike or even disgust. In some cases, like with Walter, that’s precisely the point. We are watching the journey of a respectable high school chemistry teacher to despicable drug lord. It’s fairly obvious we are not supposed to like Walt, we are meant to be offended and outraged by some of the things he does, even if at the bottom of it all we may understand that he is just trying to provide for his family.

There is some humanity left in Walter White, but it is fading fast as he becomes deeper and deeper involved in the drug trade. His partner Jesse, on the other hand, for a long time was the only character I could muster up some sympathy for, up until the point he started using again and threw wild drug parties at his house. While I understand this was a reaction to him having to look someone in the eye and shoot them point blank, it also turned me off the character a little bit, because it portrays such weakness: instead of voicing how much killing someone is weighing down on him, Jesse reverted all the way back to the escapist junkie he was when we first met him in Season One (in which he was originally supposed to die). There is some hope for Jesse, as Mike, the Drug Boss’ right hand, takes Jesse under his wing and makes him realize he can actually be useful (whether that is by way of a ruse or not), but the fact that Jesse stays loyal to an egotistical douche like Walter, who keeps putting him down, is annoying to me.

Walt’s wife Skyler, meanwhile, has just been dealt the shittiest hand of all characters. She keeps pointing this out herself, but no matter what she does, she always ends up being “the bitch wife”, because she has to fix a lot of the mistakes Walter makes, so her family will remain safe and the IRS won’t come bursting through the door. The character has become a little more likable to me ever since Walter filled her in on his illegal drug activities, but her passive aggressive ways of just leaving for a day without notice or simply shutting Walter out even when he wants to actually talk truthfully piss me off to no end and I can understand why Walter would think it might have just been easier to keep her out of the loop completely.

Everything I have listed above makes me glad it looks like Breaking Bad might get a definite end date, as in the show will have a fifth season and that will be it. There is talk of it moving to another network and continuing, but I hope that doesn’t happen. Not because I am against good television (Lord help me!), which – I can’t stress this highly enough – Breaking Bad most definitely is (see, I can recognize the quality of something without necessarily liking it myself), but because I think the show can benefit from having that final episode looming in the near future. It will give the whole interwoven webs of storylines more urgency. Clearly all of the characters are on a journey to transformation (Walter is on the road to becoming Scarface, basically), but the most satisfying television is always when we get to actually see the results of such transformations.

Furthermore, given how careless Walt has been with some of his illegal activities and the subsequent cover-up, it is highly unbelievable that the DEA will not sooner or later knock on either his or Jesse’s door once again, especially since Walt’s brother-in-law is a DEA Agent (albeit disabled these days). I would hate for Breaking Bad to stretch my suspension of disbelief to the limit and go on for another five years. I’d much rather see it all come to a boiling head and a big, sad, messy ending, because there is no way this story can end well for anybody.

There are a million issues about morality, family, loyalty, strength and weakness one could discuss with Breaking Bad as the basis, it is by all means a nuanced show. But the fact that it has elicited very few emotions in me, because I can’t connect with any of the characters, makes it more of an intellectual viewing appointment to me than one my heart cries out for. How about you?




Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra", Episode 13 below.

Topics include Against the Wall, Friends with Benefits and Haven.


Join the discussion by commenting below or following us on Twitter: @cc2konline and @PhoebeRaven!

Summer TV is about to kick back into action , so CC2K takes a look at back at Phoebe Raven's comparison of lawyer shows Franklin & Bash and Suits, both of which are premiering their second seasons in the coming weeks.

This summer I didn’t make as much of an effort to watch all the new summer shows as I have in previous years, I focused more on returning shows like Hawthorne, Royal Pains, Louie, Haven, The Glades etc. But of the new shows I caught, two were legal dramas starring lawyers, USA’s Suits and TNT’s Franklin & Bash. I like one more than the other and it has to do with how these shows paint their lawyers.

Suits is about a young guy, Mike, who has such a good memory that he specializes in taking tests for other people, be it the SATs or the bar exam, while he himself has dropped out of college. And for some reason he lands himself a job as a low-level lawyer (do you call them interns, like in medicine?) as the assistant of the hottest lawyer in NYC, Harvey Specter. I forget how exactly this comes to be, but does it really matter? (It had something to do with Mike fleeing from some drug thugs and ending up in the ballroom of a hotel where interviews for the new lawyer interns were being held.)
Harvey knows Mike is not a real lawyer, but the rest of the firm doesn’t. And then you have the Cases of the Week and your formula is complete.

Franklin & Bash is about two misfit lawyers – Jared Franklin and Peter Bash – who used to work on their own, taking on any weird and outlandish case they could find. But their innovative courtroom tactics quickly get them noticed by a big law firm and so they are hired there to handle the especially weird, complicated or tricky cases. Peter used to date one of the State Attorneys, but they broke up and now she is marrying someone else. And Franklin & Bash also employ two other misfits, Pindar, who has a phobia of everything and hates to go outside, and Carmen, who wants to become a lawyer but has a criminal record. Add in an eccentric boss at the big law firm and your formula is once again complete.

So what distinguishes these two shows and makes one a pleasure to watch while the other one reminds you just exactly why lawyers have a bad reputation?

Franklin & Bash is a fun, light, summer show. The two lead actors Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar have great brotherly chemistry between them that works well for all the witty, geeky banter they have to throw around. These two dudes have a routine, they have inside jokes and they host awesome parties at their bachelor pad every week (including sexy ladies in the pool). If they think it’ll work in their favor, they’ll bring light sabers into the courtroom as a means of demonstration. They think outside the box, they get themselves in trouble, but at the end of the day, you want these two guys in your corner.

Suits can’t decide what it wants to be. It wavers between a highly stylized version of a legal procedural and a college drama about friends stuck in a situation they are trying to get out of (Mike’s best friend is involved in dealing drugs and keeps dragging Mike into trouble). Mike’s boss Harvey Specter is like the poor man’s Don Draper, as in he has the gelled hair and the sharp suits, but he has only a fraction of the panache, and that’s not a result of him not being allowed to drink and smoke on the job. While Don Draper does a lot of non-chivalrous things on Mad Men, he has two excuses: for one thing, it’s the Sixties and men were still allowed/expected to be chauvinistic playboys and two, Don Draper hides a melancholic heart behind his devilish good looks. Suits’ Harvey Specter on the other hand tries his damndest to come off as if he couldn’t care less, he’s unsympathetic towards his clients and he loves making deals that get him a lot of money, even if they might be morally iffy.
He might be just as brilliant in his respective field as Don Draper is and in the way he has taken Mike under his wing he displays a little bit of good will, but generally Harvey Specter is an unlikable bully and a sleazeball – exactly the kind of big, corporate lawyer in expensive suits who give all other lawyers a bad name.

Furthermore, as much as actors Gabriel Macht (Harvey Specter) and Patrick J. Adams (Mike Ross) try, their chemistry just doesn’t come off as effortless as the one Meyer and Gosselaar have in Franklin & Bash. Part of that is owed to the fact that Suits deals with a boss – assistant relationship, while Franklin & Bash stars two equal partners, but that is not the whole answer to the problem. If Suits included a little more about Harvey’s background, it would alleviate a lot of the problems I have with this show. Right now I don’t care about Harvey one bit. Where I always hope and pray that no one finds out Don Draper’s secret and he can keep his job and keep succeeding, I almost want Harvey Specter to fail, because he is arrogant in such an annoying and slimy way, it’s kind of impossible to root for him, no matter how sympathetic one might find his protégé Mike (and he’s not very sympathetic either, I think).

It also doesn’t help Suits much that it airs en bloc with Burn Notice on Thursdays on USA, since Burn Notice is such a candy-colored, typical summer show, while Suits’ palette is a lot more black, gray and beige tones and the show has an air of “this is serious work we’re doing here, the law is important”.
Franklin & Bash doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is designed to be and even though high stakes cases are portrayed here as well, this fact isn’t stressed add infinitum. Also, the opening credits theme song on Franklin & Bash ("Mixture" by Pete) takes the cake for “Favorite New TV Theme of the Season besides Game of Thrones”.

So if you only have time for one more legal procedural on your TV dance card, pencil in Franklin & Bash and leave Suits hanging in the closet.





Need more TV coverage?

Then check back next Tuesday, when the Television Collision hits full speed again and a new episode of the Podcast Extra will go live!


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