A Collection of Pop Culture Thoughts

Posted on March 5, 2014

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We’re rolling over our TV viewing now, with some shows wrapping and some starting up, so I’m going to review as much of our TV viewing as I can remember.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We still watch. We still want to like the show. We still don’t, and one of the stars calling people who stopped watching “quitters” hasn’t endeared it to us more. The reality of modern life is that there is a lot of competition for people’s attention. It used to be that you could spend a season getting your feet under you, and that was okay. The first several seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation weren’t that good, but twenty years ago you could get away with that if the brand-owner (Paramount in that case, Marvel in the current case) was determined enough. Now you can’t get away with it.

Quality issue aside, fans have this idea that every Joss Whedon show was awesome from the first episode. That’s just not true. Buffy the Vampire Slayer took at least a season to get good, Angel had a major cast overhaul in the first few episodes, and Dollhouse never really got its legs under it. Firefly was the exception, and the Whedonites were hoping for another Firefly.

Almost Human

I hope this show never slows down and figures itself out.

I recognize that Almost Human is getting by on charm. I also recognize that like a lot of the ’80s sci fi movies that it emulates, it has big ideas that are never completely fleshed out.

Some of that may be the way Fox insists on showing the episodes out of order. I know that I found American Gothic much less interesting after I go the DVDs and watched it in order.

If they ever stop to flesh out those ideas, the show will get stale. Run with it, people! Keep the charm and the action coming!

Community

It has ups and downs. I’m still watching.

Dads

This show was a weekly guilty pleasure. It just didn’t pull in the ratings, which is too bad for all the women in the cast. As much as I love Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green, the women of this show are break-out stars and we need to see more of them.

Dracula

The problem with a super powerful main character is that he actually gets things done. Once he accomplishes his goal, what’s the rest of the series about? So they put the brakes on the action and drag everything out. If you can’t tell, let me be clear: I lost interest.

I wish they had let Dracula charge forward, come up with reasons for his technology not to change the world and for him not to get Mina, and then jump the series ahead 50-100 years with a mostly new cast. Then he could start his process over again, trying to find and win Mina’s latest incarnation. Then at least things could happen.

Enlisted

I want to like this show. It’s about the Army (I served, 1988-1992), and it stars an actor that I like.

I may be the only one who doesn’t like it, I don’t know. To me, an Army veteran, it feels insulting. The military is shrinking as our overseas deployments are ending. It shrank after the First Gulf War, too. When that happened, it didn’t matter if you were a good soldier, NCO, or officer. Injured? Out you go. DUI? Out you go. Can’t make the height/weight standards? You’re out. Can’t pass the physical training requirements? Gone.

And yet this is a show about a whole platoon of marginal (at best) soldiers who act like their duties are a mild inconvenience for their hijinks.

Franklin & Bash

In June of 2012, I wrote about how and why we liked this show. I also expressed some reservations.

We watched another season. They brought in Heather Locklear as a partner, and it turned out that Stanton Infeld was using the boys to stave off a takeover attempt.

As good as Heather Locklear was on the show, I missed Garcelle Beauvais. She was fiercely intelligent and independent, and kept everyone on their toes.

Oh, who am I kidding. What I’m really talking about is how this show about two white guys working for an old white guy and competing with a white guy got even whiter. Granted, Dana Davis and Kumail Nanjiani are still on the show, but come on. Southern California is not as white as this cast is.

Which leaves me with reservations about the upcoming season. I hope it’s good.

Grimm

We binge watch this OnDemand every couple of weeks. It’s still a lot of fun, but I think it must be hard for new fans to find their way in. A recent two-part episode was a little disappointing, I will admit. I hope the rest of the season is better.

Haven

They managed to bring back Audrey in an interesting way, and in the process re-wrote all the rules. No one knows, anymore, how to end “the Troubles.” My hope is that they have a way to end the series well.

Intelligence

How bad is it? People say The Blacklist is better than Intelligence. Considering how trite and dumb the former is, that’s pretty bad.

They can’t decide how the chip works. They write the main character as dumb. It’s just painful to watch.

I feel bad for Meghan Ory, Marg Helgenberger, and Lance Reddick. They are very talented people turning in obviously good work and they deserve a better show.

Seriously: Could we please get a show about Marg Helgenberger’s character kicking ass by being smarter than the patriarchal establishment in which she works?

Justified

The first season or so, this was the smartest show on television. Even before Elmore Leonard had passed away, it seemed like a show that was pretending to be itself. It just wasn’t as smart.

This season has already earned some of my forgiveness, because Waylon is having to face the music for being such a loose cannon asshole.

The show’s creators have decided that this will be the last season. We will watch it through to the end, partly out of loyalty, and partly because we have no idea what’s going to happen next.

The Michael J. Fox Show

Cancelled? Boo. Mike’s already got a new gig on The Good Wife? Yay Mike!

It may be that the stress of carrying a weekly show was too much for Mr. Fox. It may just have been the ratings. I don’t know. I only know that I liked it, and I will catch the remaining episodes when NBC airs them.

Perception

This show is about a neuroscientist (Eric McCormack) who gets talked into helping the FBI by one of his former students (Rachel Leigh Cook).

Frankly, I’m a little tired of the eccentric genius trope. It’s too easy to be smarter than they are. Perception takes a different tack. The genius on this show is delusional. We went a whole season watching this show without realizing that his girlfriend existed only in his imagination.

There’s a lot here to like, including some great relationships between the characters.

Person of Interest

I have concerns about this show.

First, this is another show that has gotten whiter. With the loss of Taraji P Henson, there’s an awful lot of white bread being served every week.

Second, the cast seems to be bigger. It used to be Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) against the world. Now Fusco (Kevin Chapman), Root (Amy Acker), and Shaw (Sarah Shahi) all seem to have stories competing for screen time.

Third, and probably as a result of having to cram so much story into 42 minutes, a lot of the action now happens off-camera. We see Mr. Reese entering a confrontation, then the show cuts to another storyline or POV, and then we see the aftermath with Reese smirking over it. Granted, Caviezel gives good smirk, but I want to see some ass-kicking.

We’ll see.

Psych

I’ve been talking about Psych for four years now. I officially put it “on the bubble” three years ago. And yet it’s in every TV round-up that I write. I think I’m starting to lose credibility, even with myself.

I won’t have to worry about that much longer. This is the final season for the show, as they announced before the Winter Olympics started.

They’ve clearly decided to go for it all in the last season, with great guest stars and real changes in relationships. Shawn and Juliet survived him telling her the truth about his fake psychic schtick, but she’s following their captain up to the Bay Area. Lassiter is the new Santa Barbara police chief. Gus quit his job after investigating the death of a man who lived a very similar life, and Gus decided he needed to live before he died.

I’ll actually be sad to see it go.

Ripper Street

I said that we would watch the new season on BBCA, and we are. One episode in, so far, and not much to report except that I’m already intrigued by the internal police rivalry.

Rizzoli & Isles

We’ve watched this show about a Boston homicide detective and her forensic pathologist friend since it debuted. It’s all about the relationships, now, and we watch out of loyalty. It’s not the worst thing on TV, but I wouldn’t recommend you start binge watching it or anything.

Sleepy Hollow

Has the new season started yet? Because I would like the new season to start now. NOW, I tell you!

Sleepy Hollow and Almost Human are similar in that both embrace the crazy and both get by on charm.

Yes, both shows can be dumb at the time, but a show that can genuinely surprise me, with dumb or smart or scary, is a show that I want to watch.

Supernatural

Love the actors, bored with the show. To be fair, they’ve entertained us for nine years. That’s a track record to be proud of, but it’s time to go.

A lot of people think the show took off when it started the whole war between heaven and hell, but I think that’s when the cracks started to show. The show is insulting to everything that doesn’t fit into its cryptic Christian mythos.

I plan to stop watching when the spin-0ff starts.

The Tomorrow People

This show, unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten consistently better, episode after episode. It might be the best genre show on TV right now. How it got on the CW, I have no idea, but don’t mess with it.

Warehouse 13

It’s the last season for this show. When the season starts, we’ll watch out of loyalty. I’m hoping they follow Psych’s model and go all-out for the end.

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Cable

We’ve been lucky enough to get access to both Black Sails (STARZ) and True Detective (HBO) for free, through the OnDemand service of Comcast Cable TV.

Both are excellent, but not for the faint of heart. Black Sails is unsparing in depicting the brutality of life as an eighteenth century pirate. True Detective has invoked a number of horror tropes in a gritty look at a fictional Louisiana murder investigation that covers fifteen years.

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Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis passed away on February 24, 2014. He died too young. He made an enormous contribution to pop culture, with movies like Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, and Groundhog Day.

That is an amazing body of work, all by itself. I love him just for those. He will always make my life better because those movies exist.

What frustrates me is the way my social network keeps talking about him like we lost something, or like we’re missing out on what he was still contributing to pop culture.

If we’re more honest, Ramis was a bit of a dinosaur. All of his popular movies were made with guys like John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, and (especially) Bill Murray. After Ramis and Murray had an on-set disagreement during the filming of Groundhog Day, Ramis’ work was never the same.

He did Analyze This, Bedazzled, Analyze That, Year One, and some cameos in other movies. He had a tremendous output for about twenty years, and then not so much. He was a dinosaur in the sense that his writing worked best with that certain group of actors.

I don’t want to shit on the man’s legacy, because his legacy is pure awesome. I’m just saying that we will always have that legacy, and my social network was overwhelmed by nostalgia.

Rest in Peace, sir.

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Posted in: Movies, television