Wednesday, November 02, 2005

TV: Not bad for a fall season

After a total computer meltdown and some health issues, I'm back with another batch of mini-reviews, this time for the television series I've been watching this fall.

Surface: Sea monsters bigger than aircraft carriers are swimming around in our oceans, and somehow nobody's noticed. This show has two concurrent plot lines, one of them a shameless, blatant rip-off of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the other a shameless, blatant rip-off of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. It's charitable to call its premise, that the presence of "sea monsters" somehow could trigger an enormous, planet-busting geological event, laughable. There's also a government conspiracy conducted by guys who look and sound menacing but aren't smart enough to be dangerous. On top of that, there's not a likeable character in the bunch. Someone scuttle this garbage scow. Please. Grade: F

Invasion: In the wake of a devastating hurricane, alien creatures are taking over people in a small Florida town. Interesting characters and premise, but the creepiness factor is low, and the plot lines of individual episodes and the overall story arc move with such glacial slowness that I'm starting to lose interest. Step up the pace a little, and it could be really great, but at this rate, we'll never know what happened to that little town during the hurricane. And the length of time it's taking for this town to recover from the hurricane makes FEMA's response to Katrina look efficient. Grade: C

Threshold: Aliens are "bio-forming" humans, turning us into them. Another batch of interesting characters, and the most interesting premise of the lot. But once again, the creepiness factor is low (unless you find gore creepy, and I don't). Most episodes have followed a disturbingly familiar track and focused far too much on technobabble--the show's working much too hard to be slick and cool. On the plus side, I've finally regained my respect for Brent Spiner as an actor. Grade: B

Ghost Whisperer: Should've been titled Touched by a Psychic. I can't take this much syrup on waffles, much less TV. Grade: D

Bones: A forensic archeologist and an FBI agent solve crimes by studying, well, bones. David Boreanaz is playing the role of Special Agent Seeley Booth like "the lighter side of Angel," but somehow, it works pretty well. The stories have been engaging so far, but two things bug me: First, the series is working really hard at developing romantic tension between the two leads, and there's just not that kind of chemistry there, and second, Emily Deschanel's character is too abrasive to be believable, much less likeable. Nobody this socially inept can make it in a large institution like the "Jeffersonian Institute," where playing a political game is likely to be a survivial strategy. Grade: B

And about some returning shows...

Alias: Why am I still watching this? Of course, the mystery of why I ever watched it always has been a large part of its appeal--it's easily the most totally implausible series on television. But the novelty's fading, in part because I had a lot invested in the previous set of characters, and I'm not sure intriguing implausibility is enough to make me spend the time to learn to love a new set. If they had killed off Marshall, instead of Vaughn, I'd have more time on my hands on Thursday nights. Grade: Incomplete

Stargate: SG-1: I love Ben Browder, and I really wanted to love this retooled version of the show. But the episodes in the first half of the season have been so cheesy and goofy that I just can't manage anything but a great big yawn. King Arthur? Come on. Stop fooling around, and convince me the Ori are villains worthy of SG-1's steel. Grade: D+

Stargate: Atlantis: I never thought the Wraith were scary villains, and they're even less so now that the folks on Atlantis managed to thwart their invasion with relative ease. It's never a good idea to make the villains look too incompetent--it takes all the fizz out of the conflict. The Atlantis team certainly can handle better, and they deserve it. Grade: C

Lost: Flirting with getting too weird to be fun anymore, but not quite over that edge yet. Saving the world by typing a code into an old Apple computer every 108 minutes? Hmm... But the notion that the island is a kind of purgatory in which the characters all have to resolve their personal issues and find redemption is becoming more and more appealing, and the producers are doling out just enough little bits and pieces of information at just about the right pace to keep it interesting. Still one of the most intriguing shows on the air in a long time, and even the irritating characters are fascinating studies. Let there be weird. Grade: A-

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2 is evidencing a disturbing tendency to develop interesting plot threads...and then inexplicably drop them unresolved. On the up-side, they certainly left us with one hell of a cliffhanger, and the stories and the dynamics between the characters remain riveting. Episodes in the first half of the season have raised fascinating questions about the nature of humanity--and I'm all for anything that on TV that makes people think a little. The guessing game--who's a Cylon and who's not--is still loads of fun. By my count, we've now seen six of the 12 models (Number 6/Shelley Godfrey, Sharon Valerii, Leoben Conroy, Aaron Doral, Simon, and D'Anna Biers). Personally, I hope they don't reveal the other six too soon--keep us guessing, please. Grade: A-

Not bad for a TV season--there's only one real barking dog in the bunch, and it's been a while since I could say that.