Survivor: Fiji – Finale

May 14, 2007

I stopped watching Survivor pretty early during the fall season.  The formula just stopped working for me and I’ve been pretty uninterested the past few seasons.  I started watching Survivor: Fiji at the beginning of the season and after a few episodes decided to drop the show.  Then something happened.  I decided to watch an episode mid-way through and found this season to be one of the most entertaining in a long time.  A good cast really does make the difference and a few new twists like multiple hidden immunity idols and some remixing of the teams didn’t hurt either.

I’m not going to write too much except to say congratulations to Earl with a unanimous win.  Once Dreamz screwed over Yau-Man and presuming Earl wanted to have a shot there was no other outcome.  Yau Man would have beat anyone so it’s hard to blame Earl for not keeping him in at the end.  Cassandra wasn’t going to get points for not doing anything and Dreamz lied to everyone.  I liked the twist of 3 finalists and I think the final jury presentation was one of the best in the show’s history.

I also have to say congrats to Survivor for giving us a hell of a season – the likes of which we haven’t seen since the show’s heyday.

Avi’s Season Rating: B+

Capsule Reviews: ER and Survivor

October 23, 2006

I’ve fallen a bit behind in my TV viewing the last week and as much as I’d like to do long reviews and recaps I’m going to do some shorter ones over the next day or 2 to catch me up.

ER – Season 13, Episode 4

Another great episode. I don’t know what’s up with this show but 13 is shaping up to be a very lucky season number for this show. As recently confirmed, because of a ratings resurgence, the show which was originally supposed to air uninterrupted this year now will follow it’s normal on-off pattern over the season. I don’t care too much about ratings but I will say that the show has had a creative resurgence that merits the higher ratings. This week’s episode introduced the always excellent Forest Whitaker (robbed from a deserved Emmy nom and a win for his work on The Shield) for a 4 episode arc as a patient who is suing Dr. Kovac. The episode did a fantastic job flipping back and forth between the characters’ testimonies in court and flashbacks of what happened in the ER, alternating perspectives as it went. Whitaker and Visnjic are to be commended for portraying their characters as simultaneously sympathetic and culpable with the clear message that regardless of who the jury favours neither of them are coming out of this winners.

Avi’s Episode rating: A

Survivor – Cook Islands, Episode 6

It’s been 13 seasons and although I know a lot of people wrote this show off a long time ago I’ve stuck with it, until now. I can’t attribute this change to a single factor but a whole bunch of things. I’ve written in previous posts about the increasingly uneven balance in any given episode between challenges and the character dynamics that originally drew me to this show and this remains an issue. I thought this week’s episode where both teams are forced to kick off a team member is a cheat on the basic rules of the game – losing teams kick people off, not winning teams. This isn’t a twist, just a cheat. Also, I really don’t care that much who wins or loses. I watch the show and 20 minutes later I can’t remember who gets kicked off. This isn’t a good sign.

Here’s the most important reason I’m dropping Survivor. There are way better shows to occupy my time with. In addition to the shows I watch week to week, I have an entire queue of past shows that I’ve recorded but have yet to watch. All of these are better than Survivor.

Avi’s Episode Rating: Irrelevant

Capsule Reviews: Survivor, Ugly Betty, The Nine, Lost

October 17, 2006

Survivor: Cook Islands – Episodes 4 & 5

After a promising start that emphasized the social game over the last few seasons’ increasingly complex (not in a good way) and lengthy challenges, we had 2 episodes that returned to the excesses of the past.  Of a 43 minute episode, more than 20 minutes was spent in challenges.  There’s nothing else to say.  If this continues another week, I’m dropping this show.

Avi’s Episodes Rating: B- 

Ugly Betty – Episode 1 and beyond

I finally got around to watching the first episode which is also the last as far as I’m concerned.  I would end this article right here except I have to express my confusion as to what the critics who are gushing over this show are seeing that I don’t.  Let’s start with the concept which I don’t think is enough to sustain a crappy movie let alone a weekly show – ugly girl works in fashion industry and shows that brains and inner beauty are more important than superficial appearances.   Nothing wrong with the message but this show takes this base concept and makes everyone in the show mean.  Now I admit I don’t work in fashion or pretend to care about fashion and maybe I’m naïve but I find it hard to believe that any workplace is as unprofessional as this one.  Even if I’m wrong about the fashion industry or even society in general, this show takes it one step beyond reality and common decency and mixes in even worse dialogue and background music.  Even despite these issues, I like to give new shows the benefit of the doubt and would have watched one more episode, until the last 5 minutes.  The big reveal that the believed dead editor of the fashion magazine is still alive, attached to a machine and conspiring with Vanessa Williams’ character to take on the CEO and his son (Alan Dale and Eric Mabius who both deserve way better) took this show into ridiculous soap opera territory and made me erase the remaining episodes off my PVR.

Avi’s Episode Rating up to the Last 5 Minutes – C+

Avi’s Episode Rating after the Show – D

The Nine – Episodes 1 & 2

 If you’re not watching this show, go right to ABC’s web site and get caught up.  The premise is a simple one – 9 strangers are held hostage in a bank robbery for 52 hours and emerge as different people who together now share a unique bond.  The mystery of what happened in the bank unfolds in short clips over each episode as the story follows the characters in the aftermath.  The cast is a “who’s who” of TV actors in particular the great Tim Daly (I miss Eyes) as the detective with a gambling problem who stepped up as a hero during the crisis, the understated Chi McBride as the bank manager who has bottled up everything that happened to him and his daughter, the ever dimpled Scott Wolf as a surgeon (like his former older brother now on Lost) who last episode killed the hospitalized bank robber and finally the outstanding John Billingsly as the formerly suicidal man who becomes a hero and finds a new lease on life.  There’s a lot going on and I don’t know how they can keep the show going for more than a year or 2 but I don’t care.  It’s a great show and I don’t know why more people aren’t watching.  Go watch now!!!!

Avi’s Episodes Rating – A-

Lost – Season 3, Episode 2

I enjoyed this week’s episode much more than the season opener.  Sun and Jin’s back story was great and answered the question (maybe) from last season whether Sun’s pregnancy is an island miracle or the result of an infidelity.  Kate and Sawyer’s chain gang adventure was lots of fun ending with Sawyer’s assessment of the Others’ troop strength.  It was good to see Sayid the hunter back in action and I appreciated the irony that generally passive Jin could be more dangerous than Sayid if he wanted.  Finally, the ending with Ben holding out to Jack the possibility of returning home made me hopeful that the show may actually have an ending.

Despite all these good things it finally hit me 5 minutes into this episode my issue with Lost.  The thing I like the best about this show is also what in my opinion is its biggest weakness.  I love the complexity of the show, the sprawling cast, the numerous mysteries and the large canvas where so many things are simultaneously happening I can’t wait to see what happens next.  The problem is with a cast roster that takes the first 10 minutes of the show to unroll most characters don’t appear week-to-week.  The huge mysteries and sweeping storylines unfold at a pace that I find frustrating when it only runs 22-24 episodes a season.  I want more.  I want to see all the characters every week.  I want lots to happen every week.  Unfortunately it’s just not possible in a network TV show.  To be clear, I’m not going anywhere.  I do, however, increasingly understand why some people like to wait for the DVDs where these issues become less obvious.

Avi’s Episode Review – A-

Capsule Reviews – Thursday Sept. 28

October 1, 2006

Survivor: Cook Islands – Episode 3

For a great take on this episode read Alan Sepinwall’s review where he suggests that the season should have worked in reverse, they should have mixed the teams first and then split them by race.  Instead the “social experiment” turned out to be much a do about nothing.  I am, however, liking the renewed focus on the social dynamics of the game over the challenges.

Avi’s episode grade: B+

Ugly Betty – Episode 1

I still haven’t watched this but my wife wanted me to take back her endorsement of this show.  She woke up the next morning and told me that after thinking about the show, she didn’t enjoy it afterall.

Nicole’s episode grade: C

Shark – Season 1, Episode 2

Let’s see how close I was in predicting the pattern of this show last week:

  • I’m the greatest prosecutor ever. I eat defense lawyers and even lawyers on my own team for breakfast.  – Check and check
  • My daughter hates me.  – Check
  • I might lose this case so I’m going to wallow. – Sort of, I got the “might lose” part right but not the wallowing
  • Watch me pull some new evidence out of my ass and win. – Check
  • I’m the greatest prosecutor ever. I eat defense lawyers and even lawyers on my own team for breakfast.  – Check
  • My daughter kinda likes me.  – Check
  • The End – Check
  • Final verdict: The show wasn’t horrible despite the formula (always great to see one of my favourite character actors Zeljko Ivanek) but I’m overloaded with TV so this one’s gone.

    Avi’s Episode Review – B-

    Survivor: Cook Islands – Episode 2

    September 25, 2006

    I think the producers must have heard my complaint because this episode had what I used to like about Survivor – lots of team dynamics and minimal challenge time. The last few years it seemed like Survivor was 10 minutes team interaction, 30 minute challenges, 6 minutes tribal council. This episode limited the challenge to 10 minutes and instead focused on the players. This is the right episode mix and is the way to get you to know the characters.

    The thing I still don’t understand about all reality shows is why the contestants don’t actually watch the previous seasons before going on. There is nothing else to explain the Latino team’s decision to intentionally throw a challenge so they can boot someone they don’t like. Anyone who’s watched Survivor knows that in the early episodes it’s a game of numbers and it’s stupid to reduce your numbers intentionally. Even if the guy is lazy, it’s still better to have him there for challenges than to not have him.

    At this point I think the Asian team is going to dominate especially now that someone from that team has the immunity idol. My early pick is Yul. Something about him (besides the idol) make him a favourite to go to the end.

    Avi’s episode grade: B+