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Monday, January 17, 2011

Last Week in TV #17

First, a couple housekeeping notes. Next week's "Last Week in TV" post may be briefer than usual, late or non-existent as I'm traveling most of this week for work and won't be able to watch as much TV. Second, I should have a post about last night's Golden Globes show up tomorrow.

Now, on with what I watched on TV last week.

The Cape: Pilot/Tarot (Series Premiere)

Because I'm a comic book nerd, I'll give any show featuring super-powers or other trappings of the genre a shot. The Cape, unfortunately, is not very good. At least not yet (and there's little to give me hope it'll get much better). After sitting through four long years of Heroes in which the writers tripped over themselves to substitute the word "abilities" for "super-powers" and did everything they could to avoid anything resembling a comic book-style, super-powered slugfest, I can certainly appreciate The Cape's approach to it's more fantastical, comic book elements. That the main character is a superhero called the Cape who trained with carnival performers to use his cape as a weapon while battling a maniacal mastermind called Chess with flunkies straight out of Dick Tracy or Batman is presented earnestly, without any of the irony, commentary, deconstruction or even shame that colors so many recent comic book-inspired stories.

What worries me more about this show is that there already seems to be on a distinct lack of competence for more basic TV elements. While this show has the potential to get the superhero stuff right, it seems to be dropping the ball when it comes to simple plot/editing/characterization construction (Heroes never quite succeeded at either). The pilot episode, for example, is extremely rushed (the main character goes from being an honest cop in a crooked town to a newfangled "privatized" cop working for a corporation to framed for the crimes of a super-villain and believed dead within the first fifteen minutes) and the concept is overly-cluttered (at least for now, it seems rather pointless for the Cape to have two Alfreds in the form of Max and Orwell).

Then there's the little things: I can certainly suspend my disbelief (I am a comic book fan after all) so I can buy the conceit that a domino mask somehow disguises someone. However, I find it pretty hard to believe that Chess never recognized the man he'd framed and believed dead whilst fighting him in the first episode despite that man not wearing a mask. Or that during that fight, the Cape's hood never fell down, not even during backflips. Or that the Cape watched his funeral, half-hidden behind a tree not fifteen feet away from his grieving wife and son in broad daylight without getting noticed. By anyone. Or that he survived the explosion that killed the police chief even though his organs should have been liquefied. Or that the Cape's wife was apparently a lawyer, which we randomly learned in the second episode after she argued with another lawyer for a job (after that scene, Mrs. Teebore turned to me and said "Oh, so she's a lawyer? It would have been nice to learn that BEFORE this scene...").  

I could go on (and for those of you that watched, feel free to add your own list of mistakes and "huh?" moments in the comments).

Any one of those things I could overlook, especially if the stuff around them was exemplary (which is not the case here). Every show has plot holes, or makes concessions for the sake of drama, style or budget, but add them together and what I see is a show that doesn't care enough to get the little details right, that is too concerned with its big moments to make sure the little ones work too. What I see is a show that seems far to similar to Heroes for comfort.

V: Red Rain (Season Premiere)

Honestly, I think the only reason I'm still watching this show is to see how bad it gets before it's inevitable cancellation. When the best moment of your season premiere is an opening dream sequence featuring the horrific death of a character no one likes but the creators of the show, well, you have problems.

The biggest problem this show has (amongst many) is a lack of direction. We're starting in on the second season, and we still don't know why the Vs are on Earth or why they're intent on maintaining the charade of benevolence. What little forward motion there has been in the plot has been in minor threads: the birth of Ryan's baby, Erica's destruction of the soldier eggs. We still don't know what the stakes are, beyond vague rumblings of "the Vs are up to no good". When last season ended with Anna deploying the ominous "red sky" over the planet, it seemed like the Vs were finally dropping their act and we'd get some forward momentum in the plot.

But then halfway through this episode Anna turns off the red sky and tells the world it was meant to help heal our world's environmental problems, effectively re-establishing the previous status quo of the general population buying the V's BS. Yes, we learned that red sky was actually subtly altering humanity to make us compatible breeding stock for the Vs, but that is just another example of the show using a minor plot to simulate forward momentum while the show itself continues to tread water. Just more of the same when the show desperately needs a shot in the arm, even to make it worth watching from a "how bad can it get?" perspective.

Modern Family: Our Children, Ourselves.

Not much to say about this one, a bit of a down episode, in which two of the three plots (Mitchell and Cam's and Jay and Gloria's) were standard sitcom fare which relied too heavily on the characters poorly communicating with each other for laughs. I did enjoy the revelation that Claire and Phil share a love of bad movies (Claire: "Any sequel three and higher". Phil: "Oh, yeah, usually get a new cast around five; that's where the magic really happens"). Phil can be such a goof and go so broad sometimes that it's easy to wonder why the relatively straight-laced Claire is married to him; little things like that go a long way towards helping the characters' relationship make sense and seem real. Also, I loved Luke flinging food at Alex while she was doing her compulsive jaw thing ("She's gotta eat! I did it out of love.") and Phil reaching out during the 3D movie.

Cam: Tell me all about Mitchell in high school. Did he have a beard?
Tracy: You’re looking at her.

Phil: Kind of like if you combined the jaw strength of a crocodile and the ink-spraying abilities of an octopus!

Top Chef: We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

This is the first episode since the premiere in which I'm not disappointed in who went home. Of all the people on the bottom, I'd have been bummed if any of them went home except the two that did (yes, even Fabio, though mainly because if he went home, he likely would have taken Marcel or Richard with him).

The challenge itself this week was fine (and I didn't mind a little break from the quickfire) but the whole team aspect of it seemed random and more trouble than it was worth. Basically, it seemed like an excuse to get the group split up amongst the boats. After that, with no direction given, the various teams all did their own thing, creating three different approaches to the challenge amongst the four teams. As a result, it seemed like a more uneven playing field than usual.

Finally, as much as I was dreading it after the preview last week, I thoroughly enjoyed a clearly-hammered Marcel angry-rapping whilst pounding Bombay Sapphire straight from the bottle.


  1. oh my god, the Cape was just AWFUL! We couldn't even get through the first two eps- we waited for Summer Glau to show up, but even she couldn't save it, so we quit shortly after. Some things that we hated:
    We were immediately aware of the fast pacing
    -he doesn't wear a mask! wtf- you're trying to hide the fact that you're a dead man, yet you go visit your son without a mask and don't disguise your voice (or even hide your face)- his son should've recognized him. Hell- the convenience store clerk should've recognized him as he's ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE PAPER and on tv

    -the son is a horrible actor- he has no emotions or facial expressions

    -the overuse of the single tear effect

    -When he first met Orwell- he's in the middle of stopping this horrible shipment, then he sees Orwell and just abandons his current mission to go to her home? good job caped crusader- the city is now safer because of you

    -the last thing that we saw (before we quit) was him falling out of a ten story window, somehow using his cape to slow his decent, then Orwell immediately picking him up- and SOMEHOW the french poisoner manages to get down to street level in time to punch out their window. the Cape used GRAVITY to get down that fast- how the hell did he get down there?
    ugh- just awful.

    we haven't watched V since like episode 2- even Wash couldn't save it (huh- there seems to be a running theme here with Firefly actors and crap tv shows. sad)

    Thanks GOD Jamie is gone! god- took too damn long. Marcel is still an ass- and i loved how Tre realized it this episode. Also, i like how Dale admitted to going to Anger Management Classes

  2. yeah, anne said everything i was going to say. We just could not get through the cape. It was just terrible.
    It was ripe with cliches as well - including the spying on the funeral from behind a tree - visiting son who thinks he's dead and all that junk.
    BUT! we were having a discussion about how i theorize that a good 75% of new superheroes die on their first outing as said superhero and Anne pointed out that i should write a story about that so i'm trying to think of some way to use it. we'll see

  3. @Anne: All good points about the Cape. The whole "falling out the window and then the poisoner is there immediately" thing stuck out to us, too.

    we haven't watched V since like episode 2- even Wash couldn't save it

    Well, that's good, especially since Wash didn't last much longer than those two episodes.

    @Falen: BUT! we were having a discussion about how i theorize that a good 75% of new superheroes die on their first outing as said superhero and Anne pointed out that i should write a story about that so i'm trying to think of some way to use it. we'll see

    I'm intrigued. Let me know how that goes.


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