Friday, September 21, 2007

Fall 2007 Continued...
I'm continuing to watch a few of the new shows, though next week will be the true test of what this season will bring (I think I have 19 things lined up in my PVR). So far, disappointed with Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, but will probably continue to tune in; loving having my ANTM back, despite the fact I think they're exploiting the medical condition of one character worse than they have before.

Now onto the dramas. The first new one I watched (okay... sorta watched) was K-Ville. It had an interesting premise -- cops in New Orleans post-Katrina having to deal with the extraordinary crime and the fact that very few cops want to come down and help them. It stars Anthony Anderson, who I LOVE LOVE LOVE on The Shield, but therein lies my problem. After only about 10 minutes of it, my husband said to me, "You know, The Wire and The Shield have pretty much spoiled me for cop shows" and I had JUST been thinking the same thing. When you've seen gritty, violent, disturbing, and brilliantly written shows like those two, anything from a regular network cop show is going to disappoint. This show was no exception. It had the cliches, the big "tearjerker" scene where both Anderson and his wife are crying over the fact she cannot live in the Big Easy anymore and he doesn't want to leave, a bloody murder in the middle of the day of someone who happens to be a friend of Anderson's, etc. And it was SO predictable that after half an hour, we turned it off, I deleted it, and removed the timer from the PVR. Bye, K-Ville.

Next up was Gossip Girl from the CW. I'd already gotten a review of it from a friend of mine who watches a lot of the same TV as I do, so I went into it skeptical but hopeful, which was pretty much her summation of it. And I felt the same way about it that she did. After about half an hour I was thinking, "Why do I care about these pretentious, shallow, rich, privileged kids who are so boring I'm falling asleep here?" But I didn't turn it off. And by the end of the show, I was actually looking forward to next week's episode. This is trashy soapy television, no doubt about it, with uneventful dialogue, stereotypical characters (including a dad who was in a 90s band and namedrops NIN and Trent Reznor), lots of love triangles, and kids who are so rude and selfish you want them all to fall into the Manhattan River. Yet I cannot look away. It's fun, thoughtless television. If you're looking for something to amuse yourself while you wash the dishes or want to veg out on the couch, this is it. It's great having Kristen Bell's voice on there (she's the voice of "gossip girl," the anonymous girl who runs a website about Manhattan socialites that has all the latest gossip and questions and secrets of these people, so the big mystery of the show will be who is gossip girl?)

So that's it for now, but next week I have Chuck, Journeyman, Reaper, Dirty Sexy Money, Cane, Bionic Woman, and the Ken Burns documentary The War, along with some others I'm sure I'm just forgetting. Nothing knocking my socks off yet, which makes me more excited to see Journeyman and Bionic Woman, which may be the only 2 I continue to watch beyond this first month. And of course the return of Heroes and The Office has me super-excited.

Maybe I'm a little jaded after having finished up watching Friday Night Lights' first season, which was phenomenal. The following contains no spoilers, so if you haven't watched it yet, please read on so I can try to convince you to. It's NOT a show about football. Football is in the background, just like ER does not require you to know how to intubate someone if you want to watch it. But football becomes a metaphor for so much going on in the show. The centre of the show is the Taylor family. Coach Taylor (played by the incredible Kyle Chandler, who pulls off this super-tough, crochety coach on the field but a gentle, quiet person who is extremely devoted to his family off) has just been brought to Dillon, Texas, to coach the high school team, The Dillon Panthers. The town's been through a lot, and economically is going through a rough patch. All they have is football. All they have is this team. The players on the team all have giant signs on their front lawns with their names, positions, and numbers, and as such they command respect, and you can imagine the townspeople genuflecting as they drive by the houses sporting these signs. Tami Taylor, played by the equally incredible Connie Britton (she is SO subtle in this role, yet is riveting every time she's on screen), is his wife, who has an amazing sense of humour and with whom everyone falls in love when they meet her. When she gets a job working inside the school, her character really takes off and we see what she's made of. Their daughter Julie is dealing with being the new kid, and having the eye of the quarterback on her.

The often loathsome, larger-than-life Buddy Garrity is the guy with the money, the biggest businessman in town (he owns a car dealership) and the main sponsor of the Dillon Panthers. Taylor quickly realizes that he will have to deal with Buddy every week showing up on the field, offering tips and suggestions (and sometimes threats) and that he can't kick him off. The power struggle between these two is one of the best things to watch in the season. His daughter Lyla Garrity is the head cheerleader.

Lyla is dating Jason Street (#6 in the picture), and he is THE best quarterback in the nation, and the one who will take him to state... until he doesn't. The first episode is closely based on the book and the movie, and if you've read or seen either, you know what'll happen to him. The characters on the team are all fleshed out: Besides Jason, you've got Smash Williams (#20 on the right), the loudmouth running back. His mom, who I mentioned in a previous post, has her hands full with this one, but he's a great character. Matt Saracen (second from right) is the quiet, nervous, jittery quarterback who has to step in when Jason Street is no longer around, and he's ill-equipped for the role at first. The season is filled with watching him slowly improve, while trying to come out of his shell. Hi father is fighting in Iraq, and he lives with his grandmother, who suffers from dimentia and is a full-time job for a kid who also has football and school to deal with. When he develops a crush on Julie, the coach's daughter, whom the coach protects like a fierce bear, the result is sweet, hilarious, and sad all at once. Tim Riggins (#33) is the show's hottie, the running back bad boy who has an alcohol problem, and is widely considered the guy most likely to burn out and be pumping gas in five years. But he has a big heart, and by the end of the season, we see what he's capable of.

The side characters provide just as much enjoyment as the main ones. My favourite is Landry, Matt Saracen's best friend. The best comparison I can make of the actor is to Matt Damon. (He looks so much like him I actually googled him to see if they were related; they're not, but he played the younger version of Damon in a film, which is no surprise.) Every time the show would cut to a scene with him and Saracen, my husband and I would be laughing before he'd even open his mouth. He provides the comic relief for most of the season, and there's no way to describe the way the actor pulls it off. His very matter-of-fact way of talking, his ego, and his wild imagination make every scene with him an absolute joy. It's such a shame that none of these actors were noticed at the Emmys, but no shock.

The show looks at family problems, poverty vs. wealth, teen alcoholism, racism, the burdens on the shoulders of most teens, the burdens on the shoulders of the parents of the teens, paralysis, uncertain futures, mob mentality, all couched in a show that appears on the surface to be about football. One thing we'd noticed by the end of the season was that the show loves to dodge your expectations: it's like that scene where Spike is standing in the cemetery making his big speech, "I'm gonna get you Slayer, you and your little friends better watch your backs because the Big Bad is back, and..." and then he trips and falls into an open grave, from which you hear him utter, "Ow." The same thing happens over and over here, though not played for laughs the way that one was. A character gives a big speech that should sweep another one off their feet, and the other one just looks at them, music stops, and they say, "Are you done?" and the speech doesn't have the desired effect. We think we're about to watch a "very special episode" about teen sex or something, and it turns out to be the complete opposite.

We started watching this show on September 9, and only watched it in the evenings after the toddler went to bed, and we managed to finish it by September 20. I urge everyone reading this to get your hands on the DVD and start watching, and you'll be finished by October 5, when the new season begins. This show is phenomenal, and ranks right up there with Heroes and The Office as the show I cannot wait to see in a couple of weeks.

And that's it for me for a while. My doctor has decided to induce me tomorrow morning, so I'll probably be missing from this blog for a little bit. (I will be home in time for the Heroes premiere on Monday, though... girl's gotta have priorities.) I'm hoping to do something small, even if it's just the title of the episode, and "Liked it" so that you could leave comments, because that was always my favourite part of the TV season -- reading what others had to say. Wish me luck, and happy TV viewing! (Get Friday Night Lights.)


Kristin said...

So glad you watched the show. I didn't like the pilot all that much until the last 10 minutes...but the show got better and better as the characters were fleshed out. I *heart* the gentle sweetness of Matt Saracen and his nerdy friend, Landry. Reminds me of a lot of high school kids I knew. Everyone feels so real. That is what I like best about this show.

Looking forward to season 2. I hope your encouragement to watch provides a few more viewers, so we can have a season 3!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Did you thank your doctor for inducing you in time to watch Heroes Monday night?

Get someone from your family to post here about little Claire Bear or Sawyer, cause inquiring minds want to know :)

I know everyone raves about FNL, but I REALLY, REALLY hate sports.

I think I'm just going to watch shows I already know I like, though I'll try Chuck because I saw a movie with Vik Sahay at the Film Festival and I liked him. He's supposed to be in it. (Hopefully more than Adam Busch is in Back to You, but that show sucks anyway).

All the best tomorrow morning.

Nikki Stafford said...

Kristin: I agree with you completely. I'll be tuning in to FNL every week, and it's as hotly anticipated in our house now as any of our fave shows.

Colleen: It really, truly, has SO little to do with sports. In fact, there are 22 eps in the season, and it wasn't until ep 19 that I said to my husband, "How come the running backs and quarterback are on the sidelines?" and he said, "Because just the defensive line is out on the field now" and I said, "Huh?" I have no clue about football -- none at ALL -- and just assumed the entire team was on the field for every play. He had to pause it and explain it to me, even though it had no bearing on the episode. You don't have to like sports (I don't) or even understand them to love this show. :)

Brian Douglas said...

Heroes returns tonight!

Anonymous said...

I can not wait for lost!