Monday, September 21, 2009

simply more season openers

so i started writing the previous post last monday, and it took a week to post because the carpenter redoing the basement door decided to cut our cable and "fix" it with electrical tape, ensuring that our cable, internet and phone were completely out for over two days, and then we had out of town guests for the rest of the week.

so, even though it took me all weekend, i've finally caught up with television that aired last week.
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monday's premiere:

"gossip girl"
oh, upper eastsiders how i've missed you and your ridiculous parties. and even more ridiculous clothing. and utterly ridiculous lack of plot and character development. "reversals of fortune" feels like a transition episode from start to finish, the gang is recovering from their summers and are eagerly anticipating their falls, and the show tries to balance recapping everyone's summer with some teasing of storylines to come, but it's just not that good at it.

here's what we know:


blair and chuck are together and still going strong. even as they struggle to make their relationship work for them. blair and chuck are unique, and for them to work as a couple, they can't be quite like just any other couple. their attraction to each other is a bit twisted. blair looks prim and proper but she isn't sweetness and light, she loves chuck because he can express the darkness that she represses. their relationship cannot be totally vanilla for them to work as a couple. [granted because it is essentially a teen show on a teen network it skirts around the possibilities.]


nate can't help being boring. he's caught up in a romeo-juliet type plot with the daughter of a rival political family. but at least he's pretty.


serena looked gorgeous in this peach-colored gown. except she was also a little overdressed for the occasion [a polo match]. she is also involved in some crazy scheme to get her father's attention by misbehaving and having her photograph plastered all over the tabloids. carter baizen also has something to do with it, but they chose not to let us in on the secret just yet.


rufus is stuck with the van der woodsen and humphrey kids in the hamptons, and his look of confusion here accurately reflects his state of being throughout the episode.


eric and jenny continue to be adorable together. it's just too bad that they don't have any sort of interesting plot line.

tuesday's show:


"90210"

the second episode of the second season continues to demonstrate the show's improvement. "to sext or not to sext" further expands on the relationships developing on the show, and for once, it's not that focused on romance, but rather on the friendships.

naomi, adriana, and silver continue to be besties, in the most ridiculous way possible. they are observing the boys trying out for the surfing team, and preening on top of naomi's car.

the boys are also adorably excited upon making the surf team. they are also instant buddies in a way that defies explanation. liam needs a haircut.

meanwhile at the blaze, navid tries to make things interesting but ends up being forced to interview teddy and act like a jealous douchebag. ade is appropriately upset with him, though if she stopped being angry at navid for a second she would realize that a little reassurance from her would go a long way. [in the background you may spot rumer willis, beginning her guest stint as a student at west bev.]

wednesday's show:

"glee"
i'm going to admit that i didn't love "acafellas" as much as other people. i think because i enjoy the characters interacting, and not all doing their own thing. there were a couple great moments. and i think jayma mays is amazing as emma. her understated performance and the tension teeming between her guidance counselor and matthew morrison's spanish teacher is hot.

i did also love seeing victor garber and debra monk as mr. schuester's parents. [ok, i admit, i can't remember his first name.] i really hope we'll get to see garber sing a song or two at some point. he usually plays such a badass that his musical theater background is easily forgotten.

thursday's premieres:

"the office"
office gossip spins out of control culminating in the big reveal of jim and pam's pregnancy. what is great about the reveal is that michael spreads it as a falsehood to hide the fact that he accidentally spilled the beans on stanley's affair with his physical therapist. but because michael is inept in all things, he bungles his revelation by masking it with fact, and all hell breaks loose at the office. it's up to jim and pam to salvage the situation. and they do. of course, they can't stop michael from revealing stanley's affair to his wife and the last shots of stanley bashing in michael's car were priceless.

"community"
in the opening moments of the show, we are given the stereotypes of people who attend community college. these stereotypes inhabit the cast, and in an unlikely series of events all end up in the same made-up study group run by joel mchale, a lawyer who has been disbarred for faking his credentials. he tries to con his way through community college and into a fellow student's pants, but all of this manages to backfire on him. because it seems that this time, he'll actually have to work hard to succeed at something. and somehow the premise works. mainly because the characters are funny.

abed is my favorite so far. but they all have their charm and i will keep watching to see if the show can keep up with all the comedy. in a nice touch, after numerous references to the breakfast club, the pilot episode is dedicated to john hughes' memory.

"vampire diaries"
ok so not technically a premiere, but the second episode picks up pretty much where the first one left off. this time there is more damon. ian somerhalder is the most interesting actor on this show of pretty people. in part because his character is so juicy, but in part because he is actually more than just a pretty face. he is completely different from every other role i've seen him play. and he seems to be having fun with it.

stefan needs to lighten up a bit. otherwise, he's just a boring goody-two-shoes who happens to be a vampire. [i might have to admit to having a thing for bad boy vampires: spike, eric, and now damon are all on the list. angel and bill, and now stefan don't do much for me as the dark, brooding vampire filled with nobility. blah.] i also happen to like jeremy. in part because the actor is steve mcqueen's grandson, and i think it's possible i just like the actor more than i like his storyline.

this show really works because of its eye candy. because so far, story-wise it hasn't done all that much. but i'm giving it a chance, because sometimes it takes a couple episodes for the stories to really gel. at least that's what i'm telling myself.

images courtesy of cwtv.com

Sunday, September 20, 2009

simply blood and gore

it seems that vampires are all the rage, no? so after a summer of avoiding "true blood" [for no specific reason, dh and i just never got our act together.], i spent the weekend catching up on the show just in time for the season finale. and what a season it was.

watching it almost all in one go, i think, gave me a sense of what worked and didn't work this season. in list form, here are my thoughts on season 2 of "true blood":


1. maryann and the zombie-eyed orgies
one of the challenges i face when i watch this show is that i really love the books. and i've read the books. so going in i knew that maryann was a maenad. what alan ball did with the character expanded on what happened with that character in the books. and it did give tara a significant storyline for the season, obviously an area that ball will tend to have more creative license with, since her character in the books is almost tertiary.


the story about maryann was the frame for the whole season. this was the season's over-arching mystery: what is up with maryann? and ultimately, the answer to that question wasn't really interesting. seeing the bon temps townfolk get zombie-eyed and have crazy, orgiastic sex [including, apparently, the sodomizing of a pine tree. i ask how can one sodomize a pine tree? isn't a pine tree lacking in parts that one would be able to sodomize?], wasn't interesting after the first two times, especially since the naked girl parts were all displayed by cute, youngish girls, whereas the naked boy parts were all displayed by old fat men. not cool hbo. not cool.

when the vampire queen of louisiana, sophie-anne, finally tells bill how to solve the problem of the maenad, i kept hoping that maybe she told him the wrong thing. i wanted her to be wrong or to have willfully misled bill because something more dramatic than making maryann believe that the ritual worked this time needed to happen. and while sam's "sacrifice" and sookie's reactions were all dramatically compelling, it still was a big letdown.


2. dallas and the nest of vampires
so i've been to dallas. in fact, one of the worst trips i've ever taken was to dallas. i had a cab driver who accused me of being an fbi profiler trying to pin a murder charge on him and the adam's mark hotel checked someone else into my room--while i was clearly using it! i've never quite forgiven the city for these things. and i also hate that america's team is considered to be the dallas cowboys. i am not a fan of the cowboys. i wouldn't be married if i were.

anyway, the trip to dallas for sookie and bill isn't exactly a success, what with all the kidnapping, near-rape, suicide bombers laced with silver, and general creepiness associated with the newlins and the fellowship of the sun [more on them later]. but where the book concentrated the action on the events in dallas, the dallas interlude on the show was much shorter.

spending a little more time on the vampires--the politics, the hierarchy, the opposing factions--all of that stuff is dramatic and can serve as a metaphor to any number of social groups. learning more about isabel and stan, and where they stand in the vampire pecking order, and how that compares with eric's position, would have been nice. godric isn't eric's maker in the books, but it i thought that particular change worked well within the realm of "true blood" the show. it gave us insight to another side of eric.

a side very much worth seeing.


3. fellowship of the sun and other kooks
in the books jason never joins up with the fellowship of the sun, but if he had, well, i don't think things would have turned out much differently. the character of jason is fascinating, in the books he is petulant, selfish, and has a real mean streak. in the show, he is dumb as bricks, self-absorbed, but has a good heart at the bottom of all that prettiness. his relationship with sookie is much more contentious in the books, sookie is more critical of her brother, even though they do have as little to do with each other on both the show and the books.though they did have some sweet moments this season.


tv jason means well, he is just easily distracted from the path of righteousness. and abstinence is certainly not his strong suit. watching the interaction between the newlins and jason, it was obvious that "god" was going to point sarah toward jason's pants [or rather what's in jason's pants]. and it was also clear that reverend steve and his wife exist on completely different wavelengths. this is highlighted in one of their last appearances on the screen this season, and i can't help but think that they'll be back and just as dysfunctional as ever.

all this being said, the light of day institute stuff, the plan to "force" godric to meet the sun, wasn't as fleshed out as it could have been, but was also kind of boring. luke was possibly the least interesting character they could have introduced, and his death by suicide bomb had little impact because he was a jackass competing with jason half the time, and an earnest lost soul the other. gabe was also introduced clumsily, and as boot-camp instructor, reverend steve's lackey, and near-rapist he had a thankless role, but the character could have been developed with a little more depth.



4. the young lovers: hoyt and jessica
one of the great things that alan ball has done with the show [even though i am occasionally frustrated by this] is to treat the source material as a roadmap. he hasn't been afraid to put his own spin on things. and the calculated risk of introducing jessica paid off big time over the course of the second season.

deborah ann woll does an amazing job playing jessica, who is at times a petulant, rebellious teenager; a naïve young woman forced to adapt to difficult, life-altering circumstances; and a person capable of monstrous things, who needs to learn to control her baser impulses. when they first introduced her in the first season, i thought it was a terrible idea. but she won me over, and her sweet, tender romance with hoyt fortenberry has done a lot to counter a lot of the violence and ugliness that comprises the show's dna.

there is something so pure about first love, and the fact that it is first love for both these characters, makes the journey for them that much sweeter. but they have some tremendous obstacles ahead. hoyt's mama is a force to be reckoned with, the fact that she's kept her boy so tied to her apron strings that he's reached the age of thirty without having sex is pretty amazing, especially considering he is close friends with jason stackhouse, the sex machine. he is such a mama's boy that even as she insults him and jessica, he can't bear to shut her up, and quickly comes to her defense when jessica bites her.

it's a tough scene, and it is completely understandable that jessica wouldn't have been able to control that impulse. and it's not surprising that hoyt choses his mother, she's been the main woman in his life for so long. it's not until mrs. fortenberry reveals some horrible things about hoyt's father that he is even able to stand up to her. it's only then that he choses to seek jessica out, but it might be too late to save their relationship.

because jessica is still reeling from the realization that she will forever be a virgin. her first time with hoyt will be the first of many first times. and this knowledge makes her a little crazy, as does her fight with hoyt. when we last see jessica, she's feeding off a trucker at a rest stop after having told him she's a virgin. it's an act of rebellion, it's seedy and repulsive, the complete opposite of her first time with hoyt. and the scene at the rest stop is nicely contrasted with a scene showing us that hoyt has gotten all dressed up, he's bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and knocks patiently at jessica's door ready to ask for forgiveness.

forgiveness given and granted will be the thrust of their story next season. because the obstacles keep rising up between them, and how they cope will make for an interesting turn of events.


5. eric is awesome
i still say there wasn't enough eric. alexander skarsgård is delightful as the sheriff of area five. this season we learn more of eric, he is a manipulator, an enforcer, and a loyal friend. he's been a vampire for so long that he has little empathy or time for regular humans, but he in his efforts to help godric he is forced to be in touch with his feelings. godric, sheriff of the dallas vampires, is his maker. it is a complex relationship between a vampire and his maker, and unlike bill and lorena, there is a deep love between godric and eric. they've known each other for at least a thousand years.

this connection humanizes eric. at one point, while helping sookie escape the fellowship of the sun, eric and sookie have the following exchange:
sookie: he's your maker isn't he?
eric: don't use words you don't understand.
sookie: you have a lot of love for him.
eric: don't use words i don't understand.
eric may not understand love anymore, but it is obvious that he feels it for godric. and as he continues to struggle with his fascination with sookie, it will be interesting to watch how he handles emotions that he hasn't been in touch with for a long time. [a key indicator that he feels something for sookie is when he is discussing bill and his human with sophie-anne.]

ultimately, there wasn't enough eric in the season finale. the show works best for me when it's dealing with vampire stuff. and while i understand why the focus on bon temps, and know that the were and shifter stories will pick up next season, the show needs more eric. a LOT more eric.


6. and they're cousins: tara and lafayette
in a major departure from the books, lafayette is kept alive. but after being held hostage by eric as a punishment for dealing v [vampire blood], lafayette has lost some of his pizzazz. tara has also lost her pizzazz after discovering that the psychic who performed an exorcism on her and her mother was a big old fake.

the cousins have a pretty rough season of it. tara is inextricably caught up with maryann the maenad, and lafayette needs some serious recovery time from dealing with the vampires. with a little help from her friends, tara is released from the maenad's influence. but lafayette is not necessarily as lucky. released as part of a deal by sookie, eric forces him to again trade in v, which is later revealed to be part of a plot by sophie-anne and maybe something bill has unfortunately mixed himself up in.


7. sophie-anne, the capricious vampire queen of louisiana
as played by evan rachel wood, sophie-anne is child-like, frivolous, and likely full of mischief. we discover early on that sookie's cousin hadley is living with her. which will very likely play into future seasons' storylines. when bill goes to see her, it is unclear whether or not she is simply toying with him. when she dismisses bill for eric, we discover that she enjoys wielding her power. as the head vampire of the state of louisiana, eric and bill have no choice but to submit to her whims.

when bill threatens eric over what he believes to be eric's trafficking of v, he doesn't realize how deep the waters he is stepping in are. eric, we discover, is trafficking v on sophie-anne's orders. not only that, the blood that he is trafficking happens to belong to sophie-anne. this opens up the suspect pool to bill's disappearance in the closing moments of the season. is it eric? is it sophie-anne? eric acting on sophie-anne's orders? or is it the spurned lorena?

the black gloves could mean it was either a vampire wielding a silver chain or just a general criminal covering their tracks. and the fact is, i'm just hoping we get a little less bill and more eric as a result of whatever happened.

[i'm not even going to talk about the proposal.]

images courtesy of tvguide.com

Saturday, September 12, 2009

simply watching the new season begin

ah, it's back. network television in the fall. professional football. reasonable weather in new england. these are all good things.

this week started off light, giving just a small taste of the fall television goodness to come, but i think that was a good thing considering i essentially stopped watching television this summer. [i'm not one to turn on the t.v. and flip. i'm the absolute opposite of a channel flipper and happen to be very lucky to not have married a channel flipper. we lose track of the remote so often in our household we wish it would come with a pager from the cable box. why hasn't anyone invented that yet?]

anyway, so this week the cw premiered about half of its fall schedule and fox premiered "glee" [if other channels premiered things i don't know about them, the aforementioned lack of channel flipping and the fact that most of what i watch i schedule on the dvr and watch when i'm in the mood to.]

anyway, here are my thoughts on the premieres i watched this week:

1. "90210"
so last season i definitely had a love-hate thing going on with this show. i watched the first couple of episodes and then decided that it was incredibly boring. so i deleted it off the dvr, but then i read about how it was getting better so i checked it out again and kind of got into it, and since i wasn't watching anything else on tuesdays at 8, i figured i might as well. but then i forgot to watch the last two episodes of the season, which were apparently spectacularly ridiculous.

but i was excited to put it back on the dvr, and i really enjoyed the season premiere. it finally feels like it is becoming the show it always aspired to be. the new season opened at the close of summer, but did a good job of making sure that the repercussions of the season finale were still being felt. one thing that was slightly weird was the close friendship between naomi, adriana, and silver, but i really enjoyed seeing them as friends, and am willing to overlook that it doesn't exactly follow that they would be that close.


sometimes it is easier to forgive these things when i think back and remember high school. friendships were so fluid then, the ones that last, the ones that survive college and life and marriage and divorce and all the crap, those friendships are worth treasuring. but high school is such a strange moment in life, when you look back on it, it's as if you were a part of a sociological experiment that you never agreed to participate in. that is probably the reason it provides so much fodder for drama and comedy and story on television, and reliving it again with the beautiful people on the television screen is always enjoyable.


"90210" has a new showrunner who is committed to making a show that fulfills its aspirations. and i think that so far, so good. from what i've read online the second episode of the season improves on the first. and the first was already an improvement on last season. if only they could dump lame annie [poorly played by shanae grimes], though they've definitely moved in the right direction with her character. she's no goody-goody anymore, and her "brenda-fication" can only be good for the show. shanae does okay at snide, bratty teenager, but she can't really emote much else.

annalynne mccord, as naomi, is being dressed less like a forty-year old woman, which can also only help. [the fug girls often refer to her as drunkface, and sadly her acting often causes her to pull said face into use.] she's best when she's not trying so hard. let jessica lowndes [adriana] and jessica stroup [silver] pick up the slack on the emoting and the show is a million times better. luckily as the former drug addict and pregnant teen, and the bi-polar girl who filmed a sex video with her [now-ex] boyfriend, respectively, they do have the meatier stories.


the introduction of teddy [pictured above], will also be good for the show i think. i like his chemistry with silver, and will be interested to see where that goes. especially since teddy was the sole witness to annie's hit-and-run from the finale. he has an agenda at west beverly, and i can't wait to see it play out. elsewhere on the guy side of things, dixon, navid, and liam remain, and their relationships with the girls are definitely in flux at the moment. but i think it is a good thing. the boys need to interact on their own, what made the original flavor 90210 work was the enduring friendship between the guys. the girls switched allegiances weekly, but brandon, dylan, and steve, and sometimes david, were fast friends. and you understood why these people stuck together. the new version needs to work on forming some stronger relationships between the guys in order to succeed too.

2. "glee"
this show actually premiered after "american idol" last year, but i didn't watch it then. and throughout the summer i've read a ton of good things about it, so i decided it would be worth checking out. as a former glee club member, how could i not watch a show about glee club? though having watched it, i don't know about you guys, but my glee club was never quite like the one on this show. we existed to supply music at church and hold an annual spring concert, these kids aim slightly higher than that.


as i watched the first two episodes of "glee" last week, i was stunned by how much i enjoyed the show. i think what makes it work, is that it is so different from anything else on television at the moment. the way it tells stories is unique, and i really like how you [as viewer] shift from the leads' point-of-views seamlessly, learning a little bit about them [in each segment] that none of the other characters know. the colors are bright, and the show is imbued with a note of surreality, a hint of sadness, and a burst of unrestrained joy that reminds me of "pushing daisies" without the saccharine-sweet cuteness.

the story at the heart of the show hails back to the breakfast club [with labels adjusted slightly for the times] but you have the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal [well, okay, let's replace criminal with the gay kid] forced to spend time together for one specific reason. there's a dash of footloose in there as well, and some heathers in there for good measure.

ultimately, the fact that it isn't that original a story doesn't matter, because it's the way the story is told is what makes this show work. and i will definitely keep watching.

3. "the vampire diaries"
so many comparisons have been made between this and twilight and "true blood". but i don't think that it is fair to compare "the vampire diaries" to "true blood" and whatever similarities it shares with twilight, the fact remains that the source material for this show was written well before stephanie meyer wrote her first book.

vampire diaries isn't anything new or groundbreaking, but the leads are all such pretty people.




[ok the girls are also pretty.]





how can anyone resist? i don't have a lot to say about this show as yet, other than i thoroughly enjoyed the pilot. and that knowing that the creative genius behind "dawson's creek" is behind this, means that we can only expect some amazing teen angst. and boy, am i looking forward to it!

photo credits: cwtv.com and fox.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

seriously romantic: a few old favorites

i've been reading a lot lately. my dvr will attest to this, i have over a month of "general hospital" episodes, almost the entirety of season two of "true blood" [there are only two episodes left], and well, i still haven't watched the finales of "dollhouse" or "fringe" [and i really like these shows, well excluding "general hospital" which i love to hate or something like that]. so anyway, i've been reading a lot lately and viewing nothing at all and i keep feeling like i have nothing to write about except with the ten+ books a week i've been reading i have plenty to review.

i want to adhere to a more frequent posting schedule, and once fall tv kicks up i hope to get back to a regular routine. but in any case here are a few of my favorite romance/chick lit reads:


1. something borrowed by emily giffin
i know girls who hated this book. they couldn't get past the fact that the main character, rachel, sleeps with her best friend's fiancé, dex. and though i understand that reaction, the fact that rachel isn't perfect, that she and dex do selfish and hurtful things, that the love story as it develops in this story is far from ideal, are all reasons why i absolutely love this book.
rachel, who is the book's narrator, doesn't shy away from acknowledging that she is trying to justify the unjustifiable. she recognizes that she is not being a good person. but she is also incredibly sympathetic, and as you read the novel you are so very clearly on her side. but darcy, the best friend, isn't completely unsympathetic.
her flaws may be played up more during the course of the story, but there are reasons she and rachel are friends and if she isn't simply a terrible human being who deserved to get cheated on, neither is she so totally and completely innocent of wrong-doing. we get to see her side of things in the follow-up to this, something blue.
me, i like shades of gray. the murkier the better. my sister-in-law could never read this and be okay with rachel's actions, because she has been cheated on one too many times, that to even consider this happening to her with her best friend would be devastating. but i think it would be too easy to say that rachel and dex are in the wrong, that isn't the story being told here. the story is that love can be found at the most inconvenient times, in the most inconvenient places, and when these things happen, you have to make a choice. and sometimes following love is the selfish choice, but it is also the correct one.
i can't say how many times i've reread this book. it's one of my favorite plane reads. i also happen to love the book design, i think all books should be so well-designed.


2. devil in winter by lisa kleypas
i don't know what it is about sebastian and evie, but i love their story. this is another book that i've started re-reading as soon as i finished.
we first meet sebastian in it happened one autumn, where he plays the dramatic foil to marcus, earl of westcliff. our last glimpse of sebastian in the closing moments of that novel, he has been beaten up by westcliff for nearly raping lillian. needless to say that in the opening moments of devil in winter you are surprised by the fact that he seems to be the hero of the tale.
but what a hero he is. devil in winter is a story of redemption. even though the series is focused on "the wallflowers" in this book, evie clearly takes a back seat. that isn't to say that she isn't interesting or compelling. in fact, i would say that evie and daisy were my favorite wallflowers, though daisy gets the edge because she's just more vibrant. that's the problem with evie, she's sweet and giving and kind, and not at all vibrant. but her chemistry with sebastian is unbelievable. and amazingly she is the one that melts the ice in his veins.
through evie, sebastian gains a new direction in life. instead of losing himself further in vice, instead of surrendering his soul to waste, sebastian learns that love has a place in his life. what could be more romantic than that?
nothing.

3. his wicked promise by samantha james

historical novels that take place in medieval times [this one dates to the 13th century] aren't really my favorite, but this is one of those books where i enjoyed the characters and the story so much that it didn't really matter when the book was set. glenda and egan have a spark between them. but glenda, still grieving for her husband and stillborn child, isn't prepared to open her heart to love again. and egan has been in love with glenda since she first arrived to be married to niall mckay.
now that i think about it there are some similarities in theme between this and when he was wicked an old favorite i've talked about several times before. i guess we know what my kind of story is. actually all the books on this list are stories of finding love in complicated, unexpected places and making it work.
that's what egan and glenda do. there are plenty misunderstandings: a marriage of convenience, an unexpected pregnancy, miscreant neighbors, kidnapping. but ultimately, love wins out. and that's all this girl wants to see.