Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall 2010: The Event, Hawaii Five-0, Boardwalk Empire

Monday night, 8:45 p.m.

I was standing in my kitchen finishing up the dishes as my husband walked into the living room (the kitchen is open concept looking into it). Suddenly, an ominous beep sounded from the other room. My husband turned, perplexed, and looked at me. I smiled knowingly.


I’m sitting at my desk at work, editing a manuscript. I think, Hey, my iPhone is almost out of juice. I should sync it with my computer and charge it at the same time. So… I do.


I’m scanning Zap2It for all of the fall premiere dates while putting together my blog post on what I plan to watch this fall. As I’m doing it, I think I should probably put the times into my Outlook calendar just so I don’t forget them.

Monday night, 8:46 p.m.

“What was that?” asked my husband.
“Just my phone telling me The Event is going to start in 15 minutes.”


Last night saw the series premiere of The Event and Hawaii Five-0, two shows that I was excited about… but still a little wary. At this point, many of my friends have given up on new shows and wait for the summer DVDs, figuring it’s better to watch it that way (I agree) and they also won’t get hooked on anything that will be prematurely cancelled. But when you write about TV, you’re kind of stuck with watching them as they happen. I’ve decided to watch the first episodes of a lot of stuff (including things I didn’t have on my list, like Lone Star, Blue Bloods, and Undercovers) and then dump them unless they really grabbed me.

While I might not get a chance to write up each one individually, I’m hoping to write up something at the end of the week that talks about each ep and just gives it a thumbs up or down. But because three big ones were starting on two consecutive nights, I wanted to talk about them here.

The Event was always at risk of being the next FlashForward. Big flashy trailer, lots of build-up, everyone talking about it, huge opening… and then, wah wah wah…. Of course, I can’t tell after the first ep if it will have the blah factor after a few episodes, but I can say what I thought of last night’s. To do so, I’ll just tell you the conversation my husband and I had afterwards … after which he said, “You know, we should do a TV podcast together!” Since he’s SUCH a TV snob, I think that would be awesome. I can be a snob, too, but I’m also open to shows like Big Bang Theory, whereas he has a strict “NO LAUGH TRACK” policy in his life right now. He also believes that after The Wire and The Shield there should never be another cop show, so he watched Hawaii Five-0 with some trepidation.

I’ve always been bothered by the overuse of the trope of showing the end, and then going back several hours to show where it began so you can lead up to what you saw at the beginning, knowing where it’s going to end up. It’s like reading a mystery novel: someone dies at the beginning, and the detective has to go back in time to lead up to what happened and why. But in the case of TV, usually the answer to the mystery is about as banal as the situation I recreated above. Alias used it too many times, and The West Wing got to the point of ridiculous in its second and third seasons with it. But The Event seemed to take the idea of non-linear and just said, “Hey, if people are OK with TV shows jumping around in time a lot, then let’s make it SO INCREDIBLY BIZARRE that they will need to write out a graph just to keep track of everything!”

Thankfully, I have been well trained by Lost not to need said graph, but it still got to be a little ridiculous. At one point I said to my husband, “Wait… are we still 8 hours ago or is it 13 days?” “I have NO IDEA.” “Maybe we’re in Before Christ times.” “Possibly.” (After the show there was much, “two hours ago!” joking around.) My favourite was the first – 23 minutes ago… coincidence that they chose a Lost number? I THINK NOT!

But the time wonk aside, I thought the show was rather compelling. Who is Sophia? Why is she being held captive at some compound in Alaska? Who are the “they” she referred to at the end of the episode? How the HELL did a Cuban guy ever become President?? (See, in Canada, Cuba doesn’t have the same resonance of pure evil that it seems to have in the U.S.; I went to Cuba in 2006 for my brother’s wedding and when I mentioned it off-hand to a couple of American friends, they reacted like I’d gone to North Korea, for god’s sakes.) How did the girlfriend disappear, and how did the hotel computer system get changed so they never existed on the cruise ship? How did Sean find out about Mike’s directive to fly that plane into the President? Did the surfer dude with the cast and his crazy girlfriend have anything to do with everything happening? (I think it’s obvious they did, so how do they fit in?)

There were also touches of a LOT of other shows I’ve seen before. The font used on-screen to show us the time seemed very similar to the one used on 24. The way they mention they’re in Alaska again and again on-screen like we can’t actually figure that out for ourselves even though they mention it in the dialogue and have already told us once that that is Alaska reminded me of how many times on FlashForward they had to show the future visions (speaking of which, I ended up deleting all of FF that happened after the hiatus due to a lack of caring, but I’m still curious to find out what happened and why…). There was also the FF element of jumping around in time and showing various stories of people all coming together. There’s a wormhole at the end, which made me think of Lost and Faraday’s bearing and it even made the whoosh sound that we’ve heard over and over on Lost to signal a flash of some kind.

The acting was good. The dad flying the plane was on Aliens in America, and was really REALLY funny on that show (I still miss that show). Jason Ritter was great. And I’ll watch Blair Underwood in pretty much anything. So I did enjoy it, even though it didn’t feel particularly original or unique.

Hawaii Five-0 was more fun, that’s for sure. From the opening theme song, which is barely changed (if at all) from the original version, which brought me to my feet dancing all over the room doing cheesy 60s dance moves (LOVE THAT SONG) to the immediate chemistry between Danno and Steve to James Marsters as the villain (YES!!!!!) to Jin and Sharon (YES YES!!) to the intrigue of the opening, this was more than your average cop show. We get a bit of background for each of the two main characters, and even the secondary characters get a backstory that makes us immediately sympathetic to them. I think I enjoyed this show a lot more than The Event, even though The Event intrigued me enough to check out a second episode. And since we didn't see Marsters' body in the water, could I please assume geekily that he might be back?? I hope so!

But here’s a question for y’all: Was anyone else playing “Name that Lost Location” throughout the episode?? I love having another show set in Hawaii.

So, after these eps, I was happy to say it was two for two on some solid new premieres. I was happy with both of them. But then I ask myself, “Enough to watch them every week?” … and I’m not so sure. I’m not dying for next week’s episodes yet. I don’t care enough about them to mourn their loss if they were cancelled tomorrow, but then again, not many shows can grab you from episode 1 to actually care about the characters that much.

Well, except maybe for Boardwalk Empire. Sunday night saw the premiere of HBO’s new series, and it was FANTASTIC. Steve Buscemi is long overdue to helm his own show, and he does a brilliant job playing Nucky Thompson. From the introduction of Al Capone (why did I not see that line coming??) to the recreation of 1920s Atlantic City, which makes me want to go back in time and become a Flapper, to the depiction of the slum area of the poor pregnant woman and her abusive husband… this show made me care about everyone. I thought Michael Pitt put in a great performance, and Kelly MacDonald was similarly mesmerizing. It was reminiscent of The Sopranos, mostly because of the setting (Tony would often have his meetings on that same boardwalk in Atlantic City, and I think it was the S3 premiere where he thought he saw the dead fish talking in Pussy’s voice, and he was standing on that same boardwalk) but also because of this tortured main character. He runs the show, but he has his vulnerable moments. But he’s merely not a retread of Tony Soprano; his problems are entirely different. There are two moments where we see him stop in front of store windows and look in, once into a shop where babies are in incubators, and another where a psychic is doing a palm-reading and she looks up and glares at him. He seems to be the ultimate insider, and yet in these scenes he’s on the outside looking in, as if these shops hold something that he lost. Interestingly, we see a glimpse of Nucky’s dead wife in a photograph of none other than Molly Parker, dressed in period costume much like she wore when she played Alma on Deadwood. I’m not sure why they would use a well known actress to appear in a photograph, other than to suggest we’ll see a flashback of how she died or their life together at some point, and Parker will be playing that role.

The direction was magnificent in this episode as well; Martin Scorsese, the executive producer of the show, directed it, and it looks like it… the episode took on the look of a movie, and it felt like one, too. By the end of the episode, I wanted to know what’s going to happen to Jimmy and Margaret… that scene where her husband beat her while her little girl cried and cried broke my heart. How will Nucky help her now that he’s done what he did?

Most importantly… this show had OMAR LITTLE in it. Does it get any better than that??? No.

Of the three episodes, Boardwalk Empire was hands-down the winner. I can’t wait to see next week’s episode, and if I never see another ep of The Event or Hawaii Five-0 I won’t be disappointed. That said, I think H50 is a fun show, and one worth tuning in to see when I can, and if The Event can live up to the largeness of its lead-in, it might be a better show than I’m giving it credit for here. But once again, the cable network won out.

Did you watch last night’s new shows? If so, what did you think?


Ashlie Hawkins said...

I also watched The Event and H50 last night (Chase and Lone Star are waiting on my DVR). I thought about the same as you - The Event was interesting enough that I'll keep watching for a bit, and see where it goes. H50 seems really fun, but I don't know if it's going to be a "must watch every week" kind of show, or if it will become a "pop in and out when the timing works" kind of show. Time will tell. While I'm super excited for Boardwalk Empire, we don't have HBO at home...still haven't won that battle with the hubby. Although, he's very keen to see Boardwalk Empire and loves Eastbound and Down, so maybe that will be changing soon!

Austin Gorton said...

I haven't had a chance to watch Hawaii 5-0 yet (and no HBO...boo) but I thought the Event was rather better than I was fearing.

I was hearing SO MUCH bad stuff about it that I was expecting it to be terrible, but I ended up liking it.

Granted, I'm a sucker for big conspiracies, temporally-jumbled narratives and meetings where the Army and the CIA try to convince the president of something.

I liked Jason Ritter, a lot of which was helped by the freaky scenario of finding your girlfriend missing and all record of your existence on a cruise ship wiped out, as well as the ominous-from-the-get-go hipster couple that befriended them.

And I'm most intrigued by the detainees in the Alaska camp: are they superhumans? Aliens? Something else? I want to know!

It definitely felt like the first part of a two part pilot (I wonder why NBC didn't premiere it a week earlier as a two part event for The Event) and some of the temporal jumping around WAS comical (I laughed after they gave us the "13 Months later" timestamp, which ended with the president saying he wanted to go to the prison and cut to the plane landing in Alaska; I wondered where the "12 Months, 3 weeks ago" stamp was) but I'm definitely in for a few more episodes, at least.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I went to see Catfish for free last night, though I was home in time for Castle.

Fascinating movie. Badly mis-marketed.

Fred said...

I'm torn about The Event. First, too many commercials, breaking the continuity, and whoever placed these ads did so mostly to annoy viewers. Obviously things I did like about the show. But there was also a lot of times when I felt I could go and make a sandwich and not care about what was happening. As when Jason Ritter and his girl friend hooked up with the surfer couple. Even the scenes with the girl friend's family was dull.

The flashing around in time got to be a bit annoying. A case of fabula/sujet as in Momento. And with the repeating scenes almost from inception, it suggested whoever directed this had seen Run, Lola,Run once too often.

Another annoyance,the showrunners couldn't settle on a formula. Were they focusing on different locations,or focusing on characters? The focusing on place/locale is reminiscent of X-Files and Fringe, but these shows use substantial dialogue and mystery/clues for each location. The focus on character is like LOST and 24, but reduced to mere snippets. Overall, this sense of confusion made it unclear which drove the plot.

The quality of filming and dialogue was also problematic. The show's signature was an over-abundance of extreme close up shots. As well the lighting conveyed a flat appearance in some shots. The richness of visuals found in HBO and highly rated programming was absent for the most part. Finally, dialogue was so poor I felt I was watching some teen-day time show.

Why did I like the show despite my complaints? Largely due to it being plot driven, than character driven. It's themes were"man in peril" and "conspiracy theory" (think of Hitchcock's North by Northwest). While the show's pace was slacker than 24, it did move quickly forward, and given that it relied on well-known cinematic themes, the viewer could easily make out what was happening. The focus on a single protagonist in peril allowed this viewer, at least, to easily follow the course of the action.

The other good thing about the show was the promise of sci-fi with the mysterious 49 others held in Alaska. (Here the show's writers have taken a page from BSG by making dialogue fit topical issues of the day). However, I am guessing these 49 were abductees by aliens/future humans, have been mysteriously returned, and since then have been held in a secret government base. They will be the key to understanding the mystery behind the show, providing valuable clues and help explain the alien technology. Sadly,this may be one of the strengths of the show, but we'll see. Fringe has handled this better with Walter and Peter giving us key information, especially in Walter's humourous manner.

So will the show survive? Well, if V is back, why not this? But if the showrunners give into the excesses which we've seen in the pilot, then I'm not so hopeful.

Everyone is hoping for another LOST, but we already have it: Big Bang Theory.

--The Others: Sheldon, Raj, and Howard.
--The crazy woman, survivor: Sheldon's mother.
--The Smoke Monster: Will Wheaton.
--Jack: Leonard.
--Kate: Penny.
--The Other Woman: Leslie Winkle. And it's all about the physics of the universe, or Sting Theory as opposed to Double Quantum Gravity.
--It even has its own Daniel Faraday: Dr. Smoot.
--Ms. Hawking: Leonard's mother.

Ergo, it is shown the one show equals the other with laugh track. QED.

Efthymia said...

I only watched Hawai 5-0 (Daniel Dae Kim, James Marsters, William Sadler - even if it was for a few seconds - Hawai... how could I not?). I thought it was quite fun, I especially enjoyed Scott Caan as Danny, but I get your point about not worrying whether you miss an episode or two.
Then again, would you really risk missing a James Marsters reappearance? (What are the odds of him becoming a series regular? - Ah, the delusional wishful thinker in me...)

yourblindspot said...

I must admit, I was fairly meh about 'The Event.' I thought it was perfectly passable, but nothing about it really seized my interest in the way I was hoping. I'll certainly give it a few more episodes to do so.

Followed that up with 'Lone Star,' which I thought was very, very good -- the story is compelling, the characters are instantly sympathetic (which was my biggest concern with this show, considering the fact that the lead is essentially a big fat lying cheating thief, but dude nailed it, I thought, and I ended up liking him a lot in spite of myself), and I have no idea how they're going to keep all those balls in the air for a full television season, so I'm really looking forward to seeing where they go, and how quickly it all falls apart.

First ep of 'Boardwalk Empire' is waiting in the dvr. Yum...

WV - broping: momentary drunken sexual contact between dudes

The Question Mark said...

No HBO, so no chance of ever catching Boardwalk Empire until DVD season.
Both The Event and Hawaii Five-0 looked really cool, but I never got around to seeing them because I was working. I'm still mourning the loss of FlashForward; I was really getting into the show, and despite its little annoyances here & there, it had a decent storyline that kept me coming back week after week. Unfortunately, I didn't even get to see how it ended :(
I also never caught the end of V, although I saw the first four or five episodes and it wasn't too shabby. Anything with Laura vandervoort and the lovely Dr. Juliet Burke will have me tuning in for the Beautiful Blonde Factor alone.
So far, my line-up for this year looks like it'll involve Smallville, V, No Ordinary Family, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I'll try to throw in H50 and Event as well.

Anonymous said...

Lost + 24 = The Event

Sopranos + Mad Men = Boardwalk Empire

Are there no more original ideas?


PS - We don't think Cuba is evil, we just feel sorry for them.

Page48 said...

As much as I love catching up with Boomer and the boys of Wolfram & Hart, I think I got H50 out of my system with one episode. One and Done.

I thought "The Event" was worthy of a 2nd date, but it's too early to talk about commitment.

M9 EGO said...

Nik , being the UK we will have to wait and see if SKY pick them up but having watched the trailers on Youtube both look very good, I'm keeping a look out for them.

Batcabbage said...

I didn't downloa- uh, watch The Event or H50, because frankly they didn't interest me at all. But Boardwalk Empire may be my new favourite show. Steve Buscemi is a genius, so's Scorsese, and Kelly MacDonald has been one of my favourite actresses since Trainspotting (and she cemented my opinion of her in No Country, quite possibly the last utterly perfect movie I saw). Nik, I completely didn't see Stephen Graham's character being Capone either, but I thought it was a great twist. I'm already itching for the next episode. Let's hope HBO don't f**k it up and actually keep making this series that's got me addicted after one episode.

VW: combi - what we Aussie's call Hurley's Dharma van.

yourblindspot said...

@Batcabbage -- 'Boardwalk Empire,' having received the best premiere ratings of any series in the history of the network, has already been greenlit for season 2. If it makes you feel better. :)

Batcabbage said...

@Yourblindspot - THANK YOU! Yes, that totally does make me feel better! :)

Gustavo Brunetti said...

You remember Scott Patterson from Aliens in America but don't know he is famous for being Luke from Gilmore Girls? That's MADNESS!

Marianne said...

The Big Bang Theory doesn't have a laugh track, it's recorded in front of a live audience. :)