Thursday, July 26, 2007

TV Pilots Part II plus Weeds Season Three and Californication's First Episode Reviewed

So, yesterday I promised that I would be back to talk about Weeds, Californication and The Bionic Woman. When I got home from work yesterday I didn’t think it was possible that I would get through watching all of them but luckily enough I did. That isn’t to say that there were not some minor disturbances (the appearance of the 2nd Mouse in the apartment, now confined to the Kitchen). But these were not enough to even keep me from catching the latest Rescue Me and Bravo’s Watch What Happens Top Chef special. Rescue Me was great as usual, and this weird mid season reunion show on Bravo was surprisingly entertaining.

Still, none of what I watched last night beats Weeds’ first three episodes of the upcoming season. As we enter the third season of MILF selling mayhem, Nancy Botwin’s (Mary-Louise Parker) life is in the shitter. At the close of the second season Nancy was held at gunpoint by gangster U-Turn and a crew of Armenian Drug Dealers all jockeying for their piece of her growth. Unfortunately Nancy’s son Silas (Hunter Parrish) decided that this was the time to convince his mother to let him become involved in her burgeoning business. To do so, he stole her complete crop and placed her and Conrad’s (Romany Malco) life in danger.
Season three picks up RIGHT where we left off. Silas is being taken into custody for stealing the Agrestic “Drug Free Zone” signs made by Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) while Nancy hangs on the other end of the phone line trying to find out where her son hide their crop. At the same time Nancy’s brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) is hunting down Shane (Alexander Gould) and his ex-girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel) who has taken the niave Shane along for a tour around the country. As these two storylines unfold such chaotic and hilarious actions occur that it is too much to recap. While the first two episodes of the new season are exact follow ups to the season finale from last year, the arc of the season really kicks into gear with the third episode. Without revealing too much, Nancy is facing bankruptcy, Celia is dealing with her divorce from Dean (Andy Milder) and Doug (Kevin Nealon) is lamenting over cheating on his wife. The one with the worst fate of all is Andy who seems to have failed at his quest to get out of military service. Despite losing two toes and going through rabbinical training, the weed-loving brother looks like he has been assigned a fate worse than death. There is no escaping the U.S. military.
So far, Season Three is shaping up to be a darker but still interesting arc in the lives of the Botwin family. Season two has set the bar very high, and while these first three episodes deal with the ramifications of season two directly, they lack the sharp humor that made last season special. Still a great show, Weeds will never fall off my radar, but at the same time I was hoping for more. With twelve episodes left in the season I have still have faith that the show will deliver.

Showtime’s other comedy, the new Californication, is a great companion show to Weeds. Similar in tone, this dark comedy does have a couple bright spots. Anchored by a welcome David Duchovny, the humor tends to stay very dry and frustrating. But occasionally there are moments of laugh out loud genius. One of these scenes occurs in a movie theater as Duchovny’s character Hank Moody asks a man to not answer his cell phone. The man does so and Duchovny gets so upset that he reaches forward and hangs the phone up. A couple of seconds later the man receives yet another call and proceeds to answer his phone! Having enough of this rude behavior, Hank engages in a brawl with the man. Ultimately, he wins and is greeted to massive applause by the thankful crowd in the theater. The real kicker to this whole scene, the movie playing on screen is based off a book by Hank, and Hank hates the film! Still, just the best way to express the fury that constant moviegoers feel when someone answers their phone in the middle of a dark theater.
The first episode of the show deals primarily with Hank’s recent writer’s block and where that may be connected to the mother of his daughter. A couple for a long time, Hank’s inability to ask for her hand in marriage has led Karen to leave Hank. Although they still meet frequently due to his custodial rights, Hank is pained to discover that Karen is engaged to her current boyfriend. Crushed and rejected, Hank continues his downward spiral, sleeping with multiple women and simply wandering through his days. Deadpan underlined with sadness, it is Duchovny that makes Hank work. Without his deft understanding of humor, the show could become a completely depressing mess. Instead, Californication has a lot of potential and could develop into just as strong a show as Weeds. Not there just yet, I will give the show a couple of episodes to grow. Part of the reason is because of the awesome way the episode ends. With Hank finally taking a seat at his keyboard and typing a word, we see it appear on our screen as it does his. Although the text is white and the background black, what is written, and the way it is written feels just right.

Finally, we get to the sixth pilot I have seen this fall. Highly anticipated for sci-fi fans, Bionic Woman does not live up to its potential. Executive produced by Battlestar Galactica’s Executive Producer David Eick, Bionic Woman had all of the potential to be a hit for NBC. Sadly, with this pilot, that potential is all but squashed. Awkwardly paced and unevenly scripted, this episode is a bit difficult to watch. Not necessarily bad, there are just too many leaps in logic and emotion that must be made to overcome the plot. Even though the directing style works well for the show, and the acting is relatively strong, there is just not enough here to make this a viable competitor come the fall.
Michelle Ryan is Jamie Sommers. Yet another Brit playing an American, Ryan’s ability to cover her accent is not as successful as Hugh Laurie. She maintains a decent American tongue, but occasionally catches a word or two in her native English accent. While Ryan’s performance as Jamie is decent, there is just nothing special about it. Sure she is hot and her character is compelling, but that is not enough to overcome the fairly flat performance given by the lead. This is a shame too, considering that Ryan can be really good. Most recently seen on Jekyll over on the BBC (and coming to BBC America shortly), Ryan’s performance on that show is what Bionic Woman should have showcased. Layered, her performance reveals a tough, bright and ultimately vulnerable woman in over her head. While Jamie is portrayed that way in the storyline of the show, Ryan is not able to showcase her strong performance skills. A pity.
The one really nice surprise from the pilot of Bionic Woman is Katee Sackhoff. Known to fans as Starbuck on Battlestar Galatica, Sackhoff excel as the original, mentally disturbed female bionic fighter. With a shadowy past, Sackhoff imbues her villainous killer with subtle sensitivity. Controlling the screen, it is a shame that she could not have anchored this series. It would have been different, but at least it would have been compelling.
A sci-fi story through and through, this modern day retelling of the 1970s television program features a pretty straight forward story. Jamie Sommers is involved in a vicious car accident and loses her right arm, right ear and right eye as well as her legs. Given a new lease on life due to an experimental army program, Jamie is now constructed of her organic tissue and robotic anthrocites. Simply put, Jamie is now a superhero saddled with personal problems.
As you can tell, I find this incredibly disappointing. I was hoping for much more than I got and for that reason I cannot really recommend the show. Now, the pilot is going to be refilmed and altered per reports from NBC. The deaf sister of Jamie is being dropped to make room for a young rebellious teenager. Similar in style to the deaf sister in the pilot, this is just one trapping that will only help the pilot when removed. Regardless, I am cautious about Bionic Woman, Isaiah Washington’s involvement in the show and the potential backlash towards Sci-fi series that this may cause.

Thanks for Reading.

Coming up soon: More pilots and my perspective on the BBC show Jekyll

On TV Tonight: Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares on the BBC America, AMC’s Mad Men, and Burn Notice on USA.

Also, don’t forget The Simpsons Movie this weekend. I can only hope it will be excellent.


Anonymous said...

Season 3 is awesome. I have seen all the episodes of the show.To watch complete seasons i have downloaded the show.To Download Weeds episodes go Ahead and download it.

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