Law & Order: SVU – Season 9, Episode 1 – Alternate

September 26, 2007

I’m going to start this posting on a positive note. For the past few years not only has SVU been my favourite Law & Order but it is also one of only 2 procedural dramas in a world of procedurals that I watch weekly (the other is Without a Trace if you’re wondering). The characters are well defined, the stories generally compelling and the acting above par.

Which brings me to tonight’s episode and all I have to say is “ehhhhh”. SVU more than most thrives on “stunt casting” and when it works it truly adds to the show and when it doesn’t, like tonight, it really bombs. The storyline of a woman with multiple personality disorder (played by Cynthia Nixon) who kills her parents was frankly boring. Even the addition of her sister and the ending “twist” was way over the top to the point of being camp.

The “B” storyline where Cragen is replaced for a sum total of 40 minutes by Munch (although somewhat humourous – and a little nostalgic for you Homicide fans of old who remember Munch was competing with Kay on the Sergeant exam) seemed more time filler than anything else.

This by no means ends my relationship with the show or even puts it on my probationary list but it was definitely a disappointing start to the season.

Avi’s Episode Rating: C-

How Excited Am I for Angel Season 6?

September 21, 2007

If you haven’t heard yet, hot on the heels of the not only successful but also truly exciting Buffy Season 8 comic book comes the continuation of Joss Whedon’s other big creation. In November, IDW will release Angel: After the Fall which continues the story following the classic conclusion where Angel and the team prepare to “slay the dragon” and includes all your favourite Angel characters. Here’s the cover of the first issue:


Also, if you haven’t been reading Buffy: Season 8 and you’re a fan then you will soon have a chance to catch up. The graphic novel compilation of the first story arc will be released in October.  It perfectly captures the characters and effectively builds on the mythology of the show by finally answering the question of what happened after the Hellmouth was destroyed.  Check both out.

What I Watched on my Summer Vacation – Part III – TV News I Missed

September 7, 2007

Although I took a hiatus from writing about TV news, I sure didn’t stop following it.  Here are some of the big TV news announcements of the summer and my thoughts on them.

  • Veronica Mars Cancelled by the CW – Not a huge surprise but still a disappointment.  As much as I wasn’t crazy about season 3, especially the last few non-arc episodes, Veronica Mars was a great show.  I watched a couple of season 1 episodes this week now that it’s in syndication and all I have to say is that the first season truly was a brilliant feat in episodic storytelling and I’m going to miss it.  Of course what this paved the way for was…..
  • Kristin Bell joins the cast of Heroes – Fanboys went crazy at this news, myself included.  Veronica the superhero.  How cool is that!
  • The Sopranos ends with a black screen –  I admit I rewound the PVR a few times and swore at the TV.  At first I was disappointed with the ending but as I thought more about it I did appreciate the lack of closure as consistent with the uniqueness of the show.  Now a few months later I’m back to disappointed but still looking at the series as a whole it’s hard to be upset for long.  It will truly be remembered as one of the best shows to ever air.
  • Jericho gets renewed for a second season – After being cancelled by CBS, a network that has demonstrated little to no patience for a show that isn’t a procedural, a viewer campaign sending nuts to the network convinces the powers that be to renew the show.  I’m super happy about this.  After a very slow first half of the season (ironically, the half where the ratings were good), the second half began to kick butt with twists, turns, deaths and a compelling story that drew me in every week.  Even though it’s only been renewed for a few episodes to give it a chance this may be enough to ignore my initial bitterness and get me to watch a CBS show this year.
  • Battlestar Galactica is going to end after season 4 – I think it’s great that the show is already crafting an ending allowing it go out at the top of its game but I’m not ecstatic about the recent news that SciFi may spread the final 20 episodes over 2 years.  At this point I just want it to start.  January still seems a far way off.
  • Isaiah Washington fired from Grey’s Anatomy – Handled badly by all parties at the end of the day I just don’t care.
  • Emmy Nominations Announced – There isn’t much I can add to the confusion and outrage expressed by any one – critic, fan, etc – over the silly nominations.  No Friday Night Lights.  No The Wire.   No Lost.  No Battlestar Galactica.  Lots of Boston Legal and Two and a Half Men.  Do the nominators actually like TV?  I’m happy about the 30 Rock, Sopranos and Office nominations as well as Brothers & Sisters acting nominations.  Also not too disappointed by the absence of 24.  But what about The Shield and the brilliant Walton Goggins.  I guess this isn’t the year the Emmys become relevant.

Just a few highlights from the summer.  It’s great to be back.  My Fall Preview entries are coming next week.  Let me know your TV news highlights from the summer.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation – Part I – TV on DVD

September 5, 2007

After close to 200 blog postings last TV season I decided to take the summer off and recuperate. To all my regular readers who sent me notes wondering where I went, I’m sorry for the hiatus. It could have been worse – I could have been like Lost and taken a 9 month break or even worse like The Sopranos.

Now I’m back and raring to go for the new TV season. In the next couple of weeks I will unveil my Fall TV Preview Edition with my picks from the new crop of shows and my viewing schedule. In the meantime, here’s what I watched on DVD during my Summer Vacation.

Spooks/ MI5 : Seasons 1 & 2 – This is a series that has sat on my shelf for a long time now. As year after year went by and I got further and further behind I found it hard to dive right in but this summer I decided to take the plunge. I’m happy I did. It’s a great series even if it doesn’t exactly conform to my typical TV viewing habits specifically my general avoidance of procedural dramas where the episodes are stand alone. Spooks isn’t quite as stand alone as say a Law & Order or CSI as it has a number of subplots that continue from show to show but still the core plots are new each episode. What I think distinguishes it is the complexity of the stories where they seem to cram loads of story into each show and the flawed nature of almost all the characters which creates the feeling that anything can happen to them even if to date it hasn’t (I have 1 episode left in season 2). It was also kind of neat to see recognizable guest stars, particularly in the first season with Giles from Buffy and House himself. As much as I enjoyed the show the lack of continuity from episode to episode is still a factor that prevents me from feeling compelled to watch season 3 anytime in the immediate future.

Avi’s DVD Rating: B

Rome – Season 1 – I watched the first couple of episodes of Rome when it first aired a couple of years ago but the show was so dense that at a time when the new fall season was launching I didn’t have the stamina to watch it week to week. I recorded all of them and it went up on the shelf. Then over the last year I read and very much enjoyed the Emperor series by Conn Iggulden (yes, I don’t just watch TV) which made me crave more Caesar so this summer I decided it was time to finally watch Rome. The show definitely was as dense as I remember and at times was a little slow in the way its plots moved along. But just like The Wire about which I had a similar feeling years ago the show grew on me and watching the show episodes in a row only made me appreciate the richness of the storytelling and characters even more. I still haven’t started season 2 but may try and attack it before we get too far into the new season.

Avi’s DVD Rating: A-

Dexter: Season 1 – I read the first novel that the show is based on a couple of years ago, long before the show was announced, and enjoyed it. It was a quick light read and a unique concept – a serial killer hunting serial killers. Unlike some others who were concerned how David from Six Feet Under would handle the role, I knew he was going to be great and I wasn’t wrong. Him not receiving an emmy nomination is kind of disappointing. He really made what could have been an unlikable character, very sympathetic. The cliffhanger endings and the plot twists were excellent and I burned through the entire series in less than 48 hours. The supporting characters really enhanced the show. The only character I wasn’t crazy about was the sister but she grew on me as the show progressed. Bottom line is if you haven’t seen the show yet, you still have a few weeks to get caught up before season 2 starts and I highly recommend that you do.

Avi’s DVD Rating – A

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 5 – Last week I was browsing the September pay TV guide and saw that Season 6 starts next week. Usually I’m so on top of TV news that I can’t believe I didn’t know. Let me start by telling you I’m a huge CYE fan. I still remember watching the first episode and not getting it. I just didn’t find it funny so I never watched it until about season 3. I’m not sure what clicked but it’s like all of a sudden I got it. It was like Seinfeld in terms of unlikable characters in painfully awkward situations but amped up to 11. I don’t remember why but I realized upon seeing the listing that I never watched Season 5. This weekend I popped in the DVDs and went through the first six episodes. That’s a lot of pain for one weekend (the kidney episode in particular was hard to watch) but I plan to finish off in the next week. I’m definitely enjoying it but not as much as season 4. I’m going to give the show a preliminary rating but reserve the right to make a change when I finish the series.

Avi’s DVD Rating: B

The Muppet Show: Season 2 – I picked up this set for my son and watched about half a dozen episodes already and it was definitely as great as a I remember.  Elton John, John Cleese, Steve Martin, Low Rawls and even the amazing Julie Andrews all hit it out of the park as they perform alongside the Muppet clan.  As a father of young kids I have always pushed them to watch shows that I like or at least can tolerate instead of Barney, The Wiggles or any of the other shows that are pushed at kids.  Parents, if you’ve had enough of bad kids TV here’s the set for you.  Definitely fun for the whole family and a true show for the ages.

Avi’s DVD Rating:  A

Well that’s it for my return posting.  Tomorrow stay tuned for part 2 of What I Did on My Summer Vacation – the new TV edition where I’ll talk about shows great (Greek, Damages, Big Love, Entourage, Mad Men), shows less good (Rescue Me,  4400), shows horrible (Californication, John from Cincinnati) and reality TV (Canadian Idol, Big Brother).

It’s great to be back.  Hope you all had a great summer.

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 18 – Kennedy and Heidi

May 15, 2007

Is there anyone who watched last night’s episode who’s jaw didn’t hit the ground about 7 minutes in when Tony ended his nephew’s life.  Sure we’ve seen the tension between them escalate but to see it happen this way was as shocking as intended.  Unlike my comments a few weeks ago that Tony’s gambling problem was completely inconsistent with the character, tonight was dead on.  Tony has always been a narcissist who sees himself as the hero of his story despite the despicable things he does – whether it was “saving” Pi-O-My, giving his daughter the car from a degenerate gambler to “teach” her, killing Tony B himself rather than letting Phil do it – killing Chris to “protect” his baby is just par for the course.  I loved how he kept trying to get anyone to agree with him that Chris deserved to die and no one bit.

So does Tony remind you of anyone specific that brings the show full circle?  I’m confident that Livia’s spectre will be making an appearance in the final therapy session of the series.

Another great moment was AJ realizing that he’s not cut out for his father’s business, something Tony has known for a long time.  I still don’t think it’s going to end well for him.

Down to the final 3!

Avi’s Episode Rating: A

Rumors of Veronica Mars Being Renewed Continue

May 9, 2007

Michael Ausiello rumor hound extraordinaire is reporting today that prospects have improved for Veronica Mars to be renewed.  Between the cancellation of Gilmore Girls leaving a hole in the CW schedule and the apparently positive response from the CW president on the “Veronica joins the FBI” trailer that was shot, it looks like early reports of the show’s cancellation were premature.

As my regular readers know I’ve been a huge Veronica fan since its brilliant pilot episode and throughout its first season personally gave copies of my recorded DVDs to many, many people.  I haven’t loved this past season as much as the first two  and am still a little disappointed that they chose to abandon the arc format for the last few episodes.  Still, I definitely am not ready for the show to end yet and I’m personally encouraged by the change of direction next season and the new possibilities it opens up.  I’m still not sure how crazy I am if they drop the entire cast (specifically Keith, Logan and Mac) but I will say that if the show does drop the mystery arc model and goes to a mystery of the week format then I probably won’t be back next season.

I guess we’ll find out next week when CW officially announces its 2007-2008 schedule.

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 16 – Chasing It

May 7, 2007

If it was possible for me to enjoy this show in isolation, as a stand alone episode in the midst of its run, I would be raving.  The acting was as brilliant as we’ve come to expect from The Sopranos complete with Emmy award worthy moments by both Tony and Carmela.  The scene where he explodes at her ripping at every one of her insecurities while making her question the motivation for why she went back to him drew on the history of the characters and frankly many of the things that make them both complex and often cruel characters.  I could point to the character’s slow burn as Tony gets deeper and deeper into the hole as a combination of writing and acting that rarely has a peer in any medium.  I especially enjoyed the moments with Hesh (one of my favourite secondary characters) where Tony goes to escape from his pack of “murderers” only to find that even that place isn’t a haven for him.

So why am I disappointed.  It isn’t what you think.  I’m okay with this being one of the last episodes because I think this is all leading towards a resolution for the show despite the lack of killings that some critics seem to crave.  My problem is that this episode seems to be completely inconsistent with the past 6 seasons of the show.  From the first episode of the show Tony has always talked about the “f***in degenerate gamblers”.  They are his bread and butter as we found out from the Davey Scardino incident.  I just don’t see him falling prey to a gambling addiction given what we know about him and he knows about his business.  I completely by him as running out of money and living far beyond the means of someone in his profession ($3.1 M for the Stugats?) but becoming a gambling addict?  Despite his feelings of invincibility since being shot this storyline didn’t ring true for me.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A

Avi’s Consistency Rating: C

The Past Week in TV

April 27, 2007

This week has been a little crazy for me and I haven’t had much time to write so I’m going to instead give some quick hits on what I’ve watched and what I thought.

24 – That’s it.  Despite writing last week that I was likely going to stick it out for the last few episodes of the season after this week’s borefest I’m done.  There is nothing redeeming remaining about this show and there are enough good shows to watch that I don’t have to distract myself with this crap.  Avi’s Episode Rating: C-

Heroes – The reason I don’t feel a need to waste cycles on 24.  After way too long a hiatus (that felt even longer because of the amazing previews) Heroes finally returned with death, action, answers and another crazy cliffhanger.  As a comic geek I have to admit that I let out a “cool” when I heard Linderman give us his Watchman-esque plan to save the world.  I followed that with a “wow” as Linderman and Mrs. Petrelli alluded to their time as heroes likely in some form of Golden Age Justice League (or Justice Society for you fellow comic fans).  The death of Isaac, Claire meeting her father, Nathan as the future president – all great moments that set us up for the final scene of Hiro in the future and next week’s glimpse into the future.  Avi’s Episode Rating: A

The Sopranos – I liked the first 2 episodes of the season better but I enjoyed Tony and Paulie’s amazing adventure although it does sadden me to see Junior’s story really coming to an end.  I’m still going to stick with my prediction that Tony is going to retire before the season ends.   Avi’s Episode Rating: B+

American Idol – I didn’t watch the performances this week and only saw part of Wednesday’s telethon but I have to question the decision to bring back Kelly Clarkson.  Backed by the legendary Jeff Beck she pretty much puts all of the contestants on this season (and most of the previous ones) to shame.  The only one with any commercial potential to be the next Kelly Clarkson is Jordin.  End rant.  Another good moment was the Simpsons scene where they judge Simon which had me crying I was laughing so loud.  Annie Lennox was pretty good too.

I’ll get back to writing more regularly for the next couple of days.

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 14 – Stage Five

April 19, 2007

Watching this week’s great episode, I kept hearing Christopher from season 5(?) in the back of my head telling the now departed Adriana “My uncle Tony, the man I’m going to hell for.”  This episode brought the Tony-Christopher relationship front and centre with a surprisingly emotional Tony recognizing that his nephew hates him, even if it is subconsciously.  Even more in true Tony style, he sees it from his self-centred point of view, not recognizing why Chris would harbor any bad feelings.  This can’t end well.

This season has had multiple moments foreshadowing the end of the series despite the narrative moving seemingly slower.  The conversation between Tony and Carmine with Carmine refusing to step up and be boss choosing his happiness over the power.  The amazing Johnny Sack (may he Rest in Peace) wondering what legacy he will live behind in both his families.  Christopher pursuing a new career and staying away from his “family”.  Phil recognizing that despite his proclamations that it’s a younger man’s business he has ignored his obligations.  All of these threads are pushing the show to a conclusion that will never wrap the show up in a bow but will remain true to the complexity of the series.

Last week I made a prediction that Bobby will end up in jail before the season ends and that Janice would try and kill Tony. Like mother, like sister bringing the show full circle.   Other predictions seize on Tony’s statement last week (and in other episodes of the series) that the only ending for someone like him is “in the can or in the morgue”.

After this week’s show I am going to make an additional prediction about the ultimate end.  Tony is going to start to develop his succession plan.  I think between his conversations with Phil and Carmine, his realization that he can’t even maintain his relationship with his mentee and just the plain headache of it all, he’s going to start planning his exit.  Even getting his paper in the morning is ruined.  My guess is the next few episodes will have Tony preparing for his eventual retirement although I’m at a loss for who his successor will be.

How do you think the show will end?

Avi’s episode rating: A

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 13 – Soprano Home Movies

April 9, 2007

The beginning of the end.  So says all the promotional material for the last 9 episodes of what may be one of the most influential shows to ever air.  At the very least it made a network.

Well this episode sure isn’t going to satisfy everyone who complained that last year’s shows moved too slow.   Except for a couple of scenes it didn’t really advance any of the plots or give any indication that the show is headed for the end.  (Tony being arrested on a gun charge stemming from his running from Johnny Sack in the season 5 finale being the exception.)

But that is the beauty of The Sopranos.  It isn’t a plot driven mob drama but a detailed character study of a man and his two families.  Tonight’s episode had Tony and Carmela celebrating his 47th birthday with a trip up to Bobby and Janice’s lake house.  After some deep conversations about the paths that lie before someone in Tony’s business (dead or in prison), the foursome partake in a drunken game of Monopoly that leads to a knock-down fight between Tony and Bobby.

Chase uses the aftermath of the fight to remind us that Tony is still the flawed character he always was despite all the talk of his changing after being shot.  Carmela may say he isn’t vindictive but you can’t call what he did to Bobby anything but.

Maybe my expectations are just higher in these last remaining episodes but despite my enjoying the episode and the character moments I would have liked to see a little more plot momentum.

8 more to go.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B+