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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Are Good Guys Out of Style Even When the Story Calls for It?

Last night, Starz premiered its updated version of the Camelot/King Arthur story. It’s hard to mess that up, so it was still pretty entertaining, even though the people at Starz are total hacks, in our opinions. Spartacus? Bleck. Of course, the show doubles as an excuse for softcore porn, but that’s to be expected.

What was NOT expected was that they made Arthur an average, lame, sissy, spoiled-rotten, cocky, man-whore teenager. We get that he’s young. He may grow into a good man. But the first time we saw this incarnation, he was sleeping with his brother’s girlfriend, selfishly. The Arthur of legend loved passionately and was loyal. He was also pretty humble as a young man. So we were annoyed. Also, why they chose to go with that blonde guy from the Sweeney Todd movie is a mystery to us. We thought Kay looked and acted more like Arthur should. And what was with the little ‘stache? We hated that peach fuzz. Shave it off. Arthur should be hot, but there is little hope with this blonde Mr. Fish Face here.

We know that TV and movies are all about the anti-hero. The critics and elite think that a straight good guy is flat, preachy, or unrealistic. But we disagree. We think that there needs to be a good person in every show. Sandy Cohen in The O.C. and Mrs. Taylor in Friday Night Lights come to mind. They grounded their shows and gave us someone to root for. They weren’t perfect, but they were honorable. Most of the movies that people name as classics or their favorites have brave people doing the right thing. Rick’s choice at the end of Casablanca. Braveheart. The Shawshank Redemption. Forrest Gump. Saving Private Ryan. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. We like to watch people with honor, selflessness, and loyalty. The public enjoys the inspiration. It gets people straight in the heart.

We think that the industry has gotten cynical. They don’t think the good guy is a great character on adult TV shows, because they want to get to the bottom of real people and their struggles. We get that. We like it. Jack Bauer and Don Draper are fine characters. But why is there such a shortage of characters with honor? Who aren’t slutty? Who aren’t out for number one?

Maybe the industry doesn’t think people like that exist in real life, so it’s a simpleminded fantasy to make them up. To that, we reply with Gandhi, Sophie Scholl, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, all the good fathers in the world, this couple we read about that adopts special needs foster kids that no one else wants, that little girl in the news recently who pushed her sister out of harm’s way and lost her legs, that millionaire who gave away his fortune and went to live in a shack, couples who have been married for more than forty years, war heroes, great artists, and many more. How can you say they are not interesting? People who rise above the status quo and fight against falling into the easy current of society are the most interesting sometimes. We need the variety.

The morally bankrupt hero is overused. And if he has honor, like Russell Crowe's honest character in American Gangster, the industry decides to balance that out by making the character a sex maniac. Call us old-fashioned, but we still think sex is special and a big deal. Not that it's dirty, or bad, or shameful, but sacred. Call us grandmas. We don't care. We get that TV sometimes tries to force a more casual, animalistic view of it on the public. We think that just devalues romantic connections and human beings in general.

The legend portrays Arthur as an honorable and good king. That’s the heart of the legend. He was a king that was worth following; a king that Merlin backed because of how good of a leader he was. Merlin was talking about how the realm needed a leader like no other. Did he think he would get that in Arthur, who in the first few minutes showed himself to be arrogant, self-indulgent, and lacking self-control? He was pretty unconcerned about his brother's feelings. We expected Starz to AT LEAST let Arthur have honor. But no. Apparently that’s extinct on television these days, even when it comes to Camelot.

Disagree? Love the sexuality/nudity warming up puritanical America? Do you find a more fragile, selfish Arthur to be interesting? Let us know.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grey's Anatomy - Musical Episode review "The Song Beneath the Song"


Actually, it wasn’t that bad. The musical element worked fine. We accepted the explanation. We could see how it could have been emotional, if there had been more dialogue and better songs. Let’s break down what worked and what didn’t on the Grey’s Anatomy musical episode. Shonda Rhimes said she would like to do another musical episode. This is what she needs to fix.

The Good: Chyler Leigh was surprisingly good. Sara Ramirez was unsurprisingly good. Her cover of “The Story” was the best musical moment here, and probably the strongest part emotionally. The plot was also fine. The baby was a little gross-looking, but that’s what you get when you don’t wear your seatbelt, right? We loved Cristina one-upping Teddy. Thus begins what we will call The Teddy’s Ego storyline. We also loved Mark and Arizona finding some common ground through the struggle.

Plus, the voices sounded really raw, which means that they laid off the autotune. Glee, take note.

The Fixable: The worst things about this effort were the song choices. “How to Save a Life” was ok, but it didn’t sound that great. If it weren’t for the TRAGEDY, the sex sequence and the cute song accompanying it would have worked. Take a note from Glee: What works in a dramatic musical episode? Big, loud, aggressive numbers and powerful ballads. Not hippie, tuneless indie music.

Grey’s has had so much good music on the show. We can’t believe the songs they picked. The K.T. Tunstall one was especially boring. If it had just had the three songs mentioned, plus Lexie Grey’s “Breathe,” it would have been perfect. You should only use up time with songs if they are good. Also, the singing stopped drama from building. There should have been a few more scenes with talking to BUILD the tension and emotion that they were singing about. The songs should have been the catharsis.

We are ticked at Justin Chambers (Alex Karev) for not singing more. Apparently, he lied about not being able to sing, so there was no time to incorporate his voice into more of the episode. Did he take himself too seriously to participate?

Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt) had a voice that couldn’t decide if it was for rock, Broadway, or light opera. But hey, major props for effort/balls. The singing was decent. Much better than any of the guys in the Mamma Mia movie. His character was the LEAST likely of the guys to burst into song, in our opinion, since it’s such a serious character. But it looks like he was the only guy willing to really try. He directed an episode earlier this season, and now he did this. That actor seems down for anything. After all the complaining snots in the acting world, it’s nice to see someone who isn’t a prima donna.

And no McDreamy singing? What?!! No balls. Sara Ramirez needs to be on belt-mode when she sings. When she uses her quiet voice, it’s a little breath-y. Bailey wasn’t as good as we expected either.

Hey, at least they didn’t bring back Dead Denny and the ghost of Mandy Moore to do a number, right?

And were you not entertained?

Episode grade: B- for quality, A for effort

Thursday, March 31, 2011

American Idol - Elton John Night

Top 11 are equal in talent and likeability. So we’ve changed the way we vote. Whoever has the best performance of the night gets our vote. We’re gonna rank last night from worst-to-best in our opinions.

Worst: The judges: Steven Tyler isn’t adding any substantial, helpful critiques. Has the Tyler Show peaked too soon? And we are sick of having to hear Randy’s “Yo yo yo” signal the end of just about every performance. Only Jennifer Lopez is useful at this point. And that last sentence is one we thought we would never write.

Scotty McCreery - One-trick pony is right! We are really starting to dislike Scotty. He’s a country poseur. He doesn’t have his own sound, even in the country realm. If he came on the radio, Ern wouldn’t be able to tell him apart from any other country guy. He’s a copycat. Not only that, but last night’s song was pitchy. If he could reach for some high notes, that would be alright, but he refuses to (and maybe he can’t). We are bored with his “charming,” cheesy head swivels and his imitation George Bush laugh. Scotty, you bored us. Go home.

Jacob Lusk - Blah. And the last note was a little holler-y.

Stefano Langone - Man, this guy can’t catch a break with us. “Tiny Dancer” is a great song, but not a great song for him. We would have liked to hear a girl try this one. It was a breathy start and a disappointing second half. Not impressed.

Naima Adedapo - We actually dig the reggae version of “I’m Still Standing.” She consistently takes risks, and she wasn’t as pitchy as usual last night. We want her to stay. But she is ranked low because everyone else killed it last night.

Paul McDonald - Did both of us actually like a Paul performance? One of us has been overwhelmed with him from the get-go, but his tender sound is pretty good. We also like seeing him without a full band in the back (as another blog, TV Musings, pointed out).

Thia Megia - She has the most beautiful vocal tone of the competition, but the judges were right. She played it too safe last night.

Lauren Alaina - WE HATE "CANDLE IN THE WIND". And mullet dresses. But we liked Tyler’s crack about it: You keep singing like that and one day you will be able to buy the rest of that dress. Her reaction was cute too. Lauren has an amazing voice, but someone needs to pick her songs for her. She even went flat once last night, which is rare for her. We didn’t love it as much as the judges did. We want her to do another ballad; just not this one.

Pia Toscano - She ignored the judges and sang another ballad, but she promised to pick it up the following week. Who cares? Why mess with perfection? She can do the same boring old thing, because she does it well. Unlike Scotty.

Haley Reinhart - The judges crowned this the best performance of the night. True, the image of her in that very flattering dress, crooning on top of the piano was the most memorable image of the night. Her vocals, while still too growly during the big moments, were pretty perfect. We still love the way she dips down for the big notes, and we even like the way she plays up the sex appeal. It’s not slutty, tasteless sex appeal. It’s more subtle and classy than that. But we can’t help but think the show is trying to make her happen the way they were trying to make Julie Zorilla happen earlier this season. It’s not going to happen. They pumped her very typical Haley performance and they let her close the show. Still, it was good. Good song too.

Casey Abrams - A chastised-looking Casey with toned-down hair took the stage, and we wondered if he had lost his mojo after last week. Instead, he did what we were praying he would do: He took away the growl. It was weird at first, but then it got good. There was a little growl, but it was reasonably used. Damn Casey, we love you for finally letting us hear you sing. Keep it up. We want a mix of growl and singing, like Haley uses. Best performance of the night, because it was good AND a risk.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

News We Care About

In Treatment will not return for a fourth season. Ern is devastated. We have enough procedurals or shows that rely on action! Whatever happened to pure theatre, where two people sit and talk about a nice script? HBO came out with a statement: “It’s true that we have no plans to continue with In Treatment as previously formatted. However, we are in continued conversations with the executive producers to find another way to continue telling these rich stories.” Who on Earth knows what that means?

Gossip Girl awesome character Blair will get engaged before the end of the season (no lie). We are going to guess that she gets engaged to that prince character from the start of the season. We heard that he is coming back.

Glee guest star Jonathan Groff is coming back to Glee. (Remember, the Vocal Adrenaline star who dated Rachel?) We approve. Not only do we like him, but we think Glee owes us a satisfying ending to that storyline.

Body of Proof - Pilot

You know what we don’t need? Another medical procedural. Something else we don’t need? Another “Dr. Hunt” on TV. Not to mention another Dr. House type. Or another divorced couple. Or another mystery drama that wraps it up every week. We have Bones for that. And our Tuesdays were full.

So it comes as almost a complete disappointment that Body of Proof was good last night. We like having the events shown to us as the main character tells us what happened. Bones doesn’t do that. We thought it was a little lame the way the medical examiner kept following all the cops around to question the suspects. Do they do that in real life? Well, Bones does it, so we guess we’ve accepted the possibility enough to go with it on Body of Proof too. Star Dana Delaney is gorgeous, charismatic, likeable, and possessed of nice name alliteration.

We will watch again. Guaranteed.

Pilot grade: B+

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The United States of Tara - youwillnotwin

The United States of Tara premiered last night, and it’s already looking better than last season, which focused too much on Charmaine’s creepy pregnancy and poor Kate’s search for something to do. Also, while realistic, we didn’t enjoy Max and Tara’s affairs and marriage troubles. The news this year is that we are getting a new alter out of Tara, and that this one is going to be pretty evil. Awesome!

We already have an interesting new character. A professor of psychology at a college Tara is attending to finally get her degree. He’s funny, as arrogant as professors come, and it seems he is going to be a challenge in Tara’s life that doesn’t involve her horrible sister. Yeah, we are not Charmaine fans. We are not fans of Marshall’s little dye-job boyfriend either. He could do much better!

Most of the episode was normal and alter-free. A strength of this show is the way it saves the alters for dramatic moments so that we miss them. It builds suspense. Toni Collette has a gift of a role here. It would be so fun to get to play all of these people. We are particularly impressed with Buck.

We gasped aloud when Tara stabbed her wrist. We did not see that coming at all. We were so jealous of Tara when Shoshana came out to “pontificate” and help Tara with her paper. We need an alter who likes to pontificate about graduate school! Ern has a particularly nasty assignment due today and Leeard has 3 midterms over the next two days….Oh the procrastination wonders of a TV blog.

A strong start that will hopefully follow in the footsteps of season one, rather than the hot-and-cold season two.

Episode grade: B+

Monday, March 28, 2011

Shameless Season One

The last of our Sunday night shows has ended its season. Shameless went out predictably last night, but we still liked it. We didn’t really like all the DaddyzGirl nudity, but the plotline delivered. Now we are just left scratching our heads about Jasmine and where the show is going with that. Jasmine seems interested in being more than friends with Fiona.

What was good about this first season? It was consistently fun and entertaining. We also liked all of the characters and rooted for them. Except for Frank. Him we just liked to laugh at. The pacing was great. There were a few twists. But we so knew what Fiona was going to choose at the end. This is a family show, and many people would judge her for leaving all the kids with Frank. Wouldn’t it have been interesting if she HAD left for Costa Rica?

We know that Steve will be back, because he’s the main love interest, and Fiona still has to find out about his double life as “Jimmy,” right? But wouldn’t it be fun to see Fiona seriously date the cop for a while? We loved when Ian came out to his sister. And her funny reaction. We weren’t Emmy Rossum fans before this show, but now we are. She plays this part perfectly.

We also loved when Lip urinated on Frank. The finale had a suicide, a father and son sharing the same woman, kids potentially going to prison, break-ups, people falling in love, poverty, a kid coming out of the closet, a fight, dirty cops, and all sorts of things that sound melodramatic and depressing, but this show manages to make it all seem light and fun. This show was not a must-watch for us, and we would not have been crushed if it were canceled.

There will be a season two. It was a mild amusement on a night without much competition for us. We will be tuning into the next season. Over the summer, we are probably going to have to check out the British (and original) version of the show. Pretty good first season though. We can see this show having a long and good life on Showtime.

Season Grade: B+

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Show Grades for the Past Week (on episodes we didn't specifially review)

Parks and Recreation

Modern Family
Grey's Anatomy

Off the Map
The Office (Leeard thinks this was a solid A episode)

Being Human
30 Rock

Perfect Couples

Mr. Sunshine

A great week of TV. No C's!

The search that got this blog the most hits this week: "Limitless ending confused"

As are we all, world.