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Person of Interest (2011)
Person of Interest - I'm Hooked
"What happens when the one thing that keeps you centered in the world is suddenly taken from you?" Even after the first episode we know very little about the characters. We have Mr. Reese, played by Jim Caviezel, who is a former government agent torn down by the loss of his girlfriend. Michael Emerson, formerly the contagonist Ben from Lost, is an eccentric billionaire genius, Mr. Finch, who created a super computer to isolate and identify potential illegal activity. Mr. Finch seeks out Mr. Reese in an effort to prevent the crimes being ignored by the computer he built.
The new CBS pilot, airing on Thursday's, is the latest brain child of Producer JJ Abrams of Alias, Fringe, and Lost fame, and Jonathan Nolan, the co-screenwriter with his brother Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige, and the upcoming Man of Steel. First impressions, this is a cross between Burn Notice and Minority Report.
The show's tether to reality is the very real reaction of the world to the events of 9-11. It is said that there is not a square block in the city of New York City that is not covered by some sort of surveillance camera; big brother in the big city, right? Well it takes this premise to the extreme, whereas Finch's computer is able to predict major crimes and the people involved by watching the real life scenes of the city unfold. As this computer was created to isolate major terrorist threats, it was also programmed to discard anything that does not fit the spectrum of focus.
Mr. Finch realized that the discarded data is as valid as the focus data, but on smaller crimes. The challenge being, the computer only provides one detail to the events it has witnessed, a social security number.
The premise seems confusing, but is in fact very simple and brilliant. Mr. Finch has a social security number. He does not know the what, where, why, or even how the person attached to the identifier is involved. All he knows is that the computer tagged them as a person of interest. This, of course, will have to make it through the three episode test. However, I can say right now I am hooked. I do not want to give too much away, but the writing, acting, and directing is brilliant. They have taken a movie style drama and turned it into a television show with endless appeal and possibilities.
The characters have been set up in a strong base as well, lots of secrets to reveal, but enough for the audience to identify with. The pilot episode also set up the branching of other relationships, such as a dirty cop who is spared in return for his assistance in the future. There is also a clean cop, played by Taraji P. Henson, who wants to know who the hero solving these mysteries is.
One of the high points of this show is the lack of violence. I remember when I was a kid watching the A-Team I thought it was all violent. As I look at them now, I realize that no one ever died on the show. If they did it was usually at the beginning and never shown. The case is the same here. All of the 'victims' are shot in the leg. The two deaths that did occur were barely shown, and left more to the imagination and then confirmation in dialog. This is a refreshing change of pace. I am not one to knock violence. The world is violent. The truth is it takes a lot more skill to not kill someone with a gun, which for me is not only an intelligent writing, it is also a sign of story focus.
So I am giving Person of Interest a high mark, and hope that you will give it a try. It is definitely worth a shot.
The Power of Glee
There have been a lot of conflicting opinions about this break out hit. I have to admit I had my doubts about its staying power. We all know the viewing audience can sometimes be fickle in their tastes. Glee thus far has proved its ability to not only feed the hidden Gershwin in all of us, but also make us laugh, cry, gasp and surprisingly, think.
With a fairly unknown cast the ensemble of actors definitely embrace their individual roles and have fun in the portrayal. The character of Sue Sylvester the common villain in every episode is layer with conflicts of who this person really is and why acts the way she does. All of the characters are well rounded and layer in shades of gray. No one is ever an absolute sinner and no one is a saint.
On what other show can you see an impressive recreation of the classic Donald O'Conner number "Make 'em Laugh' and Gwyneth Paltrow leading and shaking to the sensor approved Cee Lo Green song "Forget You".
In a back drop where a variety of themes can be explored It's characters are bigger than life and yet grounded in the reality of a high school setting. The writers have done a brilliant job in weaving socially relevant topics such as personal insecurity, sexual bigotry, and the current 'hot topic' of high school bullying into the mixed genre without a misstep.
Glee offers positive reinforcement of individuality and walking against the grain. The singing and show-stopping numbers work as an alternate expression of the shows main themes, constantly reaching out and supporting its realistic values. Glee doesn't expect you to be perfect. It expects you to be you and that is something we all need to experience.
One of my favorite things about this show is that it is the one time during the week my whole family (three kids ranging 5 to 16 years old) will sit down in the same room, laugh, banter and enjoy. If Glee succeeds in nothing more than bringing families together for one hour a week, I would say every episode is worth an Emmy! Please check the Prime Time TV Forum for links to clips from tonight's Glee.
Have an opinion? I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts with me, post your comments or questions to the Prime Time TV Forum Listed at the bottom of the page.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art69493.asp
Burn Notice (2007)
Burn Notice Sizzling Season Finale
In the first two-hour Burn Notice season finale, the writers and actors did not disappoint. There were moments I was fearful that it was the series finale as they were wrapping up a lot of story points. Thankfully my fears were relieved by USA's promotion of the shows return in Summer 2011.
The main character, Michael Weston, is a burned spy, working to find the men who got him expelled from his life. He, along with his militia happy girlfriend, Fiona, best friend Sam, chain smoking Mom, Maddie, and a fellow burned spy Jesse work to find the men and the reason behind Michael's expulsion.
The undercurrent for the episode, and the show, is Michael's struggle with what he was born to do versus the people he loves. Being a spy, as Michael explains, is not a social activity. It is a solo affair leaving little room for any life beyond the next assignment. When Michael is burned, he is forced to set up shop in Miami. To make money, as all of his assets have disappeared, Michael starts helping people with unique challenges. (i.e. Missing family, blackmail etc ). The rest of the cast joins him and the 'work' reestablishes his previously lacking relationships with family and friends.
The writers brought back two of our favorite villains for this season's cliffhanger Larry, Michael's psycho ex-spy buddy and Tanner an unstable underworld player. Michael bested both of these villains in previous episodes, however they return together for double impact. Effectively adding tension, impossible situations and choices the cast must navigate through to survive.
This episode directly addresses the now established rift between the two worlds. When Michael finally resolves the mystery of his burn, his spy life is dropped back into his lap for the taking. The cast of characters all know what this means, including mother Maddie and love interest Fiona.
The people in Michael's life are strongly opposed to his return to life as a spy, and fight his insistence at every opportunity. When push comes to shove their loyalty and love wins out and they will stand beside him to the bitter end. In a twist that writers rarely use, the self confident, emotionally resistant suave operator is stripped away revealing Michael's emotional attachment to the life he has built and the people he loves.
The two episodes are brilliantly tense, emotionally shaking. Action packed, commercial cursing fun. When the credits roll you are left wondering what is going to happen in June when Burn Notice returns. Which will Michael choose? The life of a spy, or the life he has built in Miami? I, for one, can't wait to find out.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art61474.asp
Men of a Certain Age (2009)
Men of a Certain Age
The media blurb for this show is three college friends, now adults remain close as they work through the trials of life. Yawn, right? Wrong! This show is much more than the standard shallow melodrama we see so often during Prime Time.
The journey of men who happen to, in odd circumstance, be friends. All in their mid to late forties, each character's plot line meshes with the others in sort of dense soup one experiences in real life.
Terry, portrayed by Scott Bakula, is a 'think I could' have a career B movie actor. He is handsome, charming, flirtatious and egocentric.
Andre Braugher is Owen, family man, good guy, and bread winner. The twist with Owen lay in his job as a car sales man at his father's dealership. Owen wants to be his father's son. Owen's father wants his son to be someone else.
Joe is portrayed by funny man Ray Ramono. After his wife tells him that she needs to 'move on' Joe's painful transition from married to divorce includes a gambling addiction, re-introduction to the singles world and life without his kids.
In truth this is probably one of the most brilliantly painful shows to watch next to the former ER. The three main characters have a unique depth rarely seen or accurately portrayed outside the commercial cinema. Plots and dialog are sharp, quick witted and realistic giving the backdrop of almost reality television.
The three characters while each unique all face the same questions. Where is life going? Have I made the right decisions? What am I leaving behind? What have I given up? The life truth everyone of us faces is written and portray in the actions of these three ordinary men.
The subtle yet realistic barriers these men face are a wonderful strong example of amazing writing. When you watch a character stumble, and you wince, a connection has been made. It tugs, pulls and in turn challenges you to think about your own life in the context. Surprising performances by all three actors warrants an Emmy nod at the very least. If you have not given this show a shot, I highly recommend it.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art4448.asp
Pretty Little Liars (2010)
Pretty Little Liars
Every show has a certain amount of "buzz" associated with it. It is part of the package. In the beginning all shows are "outstanding", "a joy to watch", and or "intriguing and captivating". It is few and far between that the show lives up to the hype. Especially when you are talking about an angst ridden teenage drama like "Pretty Little Liars".
So there is a formula associated with the teenage serial drama. You have a range of characters, from the meager to the outstanding and everything in-between. All are dealing with the reality of being a teen when you really want to be an adult. This formula combined with heartthrobs and sufficient acting will inevitably bring in the swarms of teenage girls who deal with their own realities through the fantastic characters of the show.
Admittedly, I fell into this formulaic trap when I was a teenager. Although then it was called "Beverly Hills 90210". So now that we know what we are up against lets look at the results.
ABC Family has succeeded in building a fairly large and loyal following in recent years. The breakout was "the Secret Life of an American Teenager", a well written show that is a brilliant cross between "Seventh Heaven" and "90210". The mastery of the show is in the balance of realistic situations in the flare of adolescent romance. It is critically acclaimed and wears the ABC Family name well.
I first heard about "Pretty Little Liars" with the hype of the series premiere in June 2010 and I will admit it caught my attention if only as a swing from the recognized core of the ABC base. The name itself reeks of rebellion.
The next time I heard about it was two weeks ago when it came out of my ten year old daughter's mouth. She returned from her dance class on the evening of the premiere going on and on about this show and how the girls were all giggling and talking about.
Walking into the premise of the show, I had to smile at the bravado of the plot. Four popular, beautiful high school friends, Aria, Spencer, Hannah and Emily have a secret. Apparently something happened to the fifth little liar, Alison and no one is fessing up to anything.
So there is your launching point, and here we go. My initial thought was unique characters. We have a lesbian curious beauty with a gentle heart, an serious over thinking genius who wants to be carefree but can't, a complex Selena Gomez cutie in love with a teacher, and a daring, once spoiled but inventive blonde that wants to be a brunette. Then there is Alison, yes, Alison. A Denise Richards look-a-like, bitchy smile and all, is the epitome of all that was envied in every high school.
So we have interesting characters; a definite plus for keeping my attention. We then have the current plot line unfolding while the 'alternate' plot line is also revealing itself via individual flashbacks. The kicker for me is the tiny text messages that make you sit up and say WTF? The show is complex in a challenging algebraic way, but somehow sustains its youthful vibe. This keeps the context from getting too far down in the muck of ugliness.
This is where the show works, the balance of black and white. It gives the viewer enough to keep you riveted and entrenched in the story but not so much that you walk away with a heaviness of a straight drama.
So far so good. Now I need to get caught up in the who's, what's, where's, and why's, of this season so far ( I have missed a few episodes) but I can say I am looking forward to the hours of titillating drama ahead, and I will be back next week with a full report.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art5494.asp
V - the Series Return
I am a child of the eighties, so when I discovered they were redoing the series "V", I was both terrified and thrilled in the same moment. Thrilled that someone was going to have the guts to bring back an awesome classic, but terrified they were going to ruin it.
For those who are unaware, "V" began in 1983 as an eight hour long mini-series, back when the mini-series was as close to a movie you could get without going to the theatre. There were some awesome mini-series back in the day, but it has since moved beyond prime time to paid cable, but that is another article all together.
"V" is a depiction of what happens when an alien race arrives here on good old planet earth. The genius of the original series was its parallels to Nazi Germany back in the thirties and the forties. Complete with bureaucrats, a snooping investigative reporter who knows too much, and the forming of a resistance when the scientific community is systematically ostracized, suppressed, and all but extinguished.
The original series was such a success it spawned mini-series sequel in 84 as well as a Prime Time show in 1987.
In the latest version of this cult classic they have maintained the basic skeleton of the original premise, but have also taken dramatic license in respect to the overall plot. Given current technology the possibilities of where they could and will go with this series are endless, if done correctly.
So far, the casting has been adequate, having secured a few familiar faces, including Elizabeth Mitchell aka Juliet from, "Lost", and Scott Wolfe, Bailey from "Party of Five". So I was all set to be wowed and awed, and I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is interesting and they have kept enough ties to make it still remain familiar. I did however set it to DVR and stopped watching. Life got busy and it wasn't something I couldn't live without.
Well I may be changing my tune pretty quick. The preview seen of the season ahead definitely got my attention. To the point of where I saw it and asked my husband to rewind so I could see it again. Holy killer, nasty, scary teeth Batman! As my son would say, "that's awesome". I am ready once again to be wowed. They have set the bar pretty high, having successfully integrated C.G.I. technology so flawlessly that they have you reminding yourself there are not lizards living among us. Well, not that we know of anyway.
Unfortunately, the WOW preview that got my attention may very well be a last ditch effort on the part of ABC to grow viewership. According to tvseriesfinale.com, ABC announced that they cut their season episode request for 'V" from thirteen to ten. There was no explanation given, but cutting episodes is never a good sign. V is pairing up with similar genre and just as interesting, "An Ordinary Family". This coupling could pull viewers in as a double whammy. With the exit of "24" and "Lost" the only notable mid-season premiere that would have any negative impact is Fox's American Idol.
True Science Fiction has long been an outcast from the Prime Time line-up. We have forgotten the days of Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica, and Buck Rogers, having shifted them to their own channel. I sincerely hope "V" sticks around for a while. I would love to have my kids look back in fond memory, as I do, at this open genre of imagination, possibilities and adventure.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art3151.asp
I am not an American Idol fan. Ever since Katharine McPhee was chosen over Chris Daughtry, I stopped watching, surmising that people in general are not bright. This is nothing against anyone who loves American Idol and waits in heady anticipation for it's annual January premiere. To each his own. The show itself changed the face of Prime Time as we knew it. Idol was the first to make a January premiere a big deal. Many followed such as Alias, Lost, and 24. This was something that wasn't done before. January premieres were looked at as the shows that got a reprieve when the network's original choice flopped. Now January premieres are as anticipated as the start of the TV Fall Season.
That being said, after the Daughtry fiasco I shunned the show on principle. My kids and husband continued to watch faithfully, and I would give my two cents but as a whole I haven't been paying attention.
Recently there has been a huge overhaul to the shows judges. With the exit of first Paula Abdul and then the infamous Simon Cowell, we have rolled through two judges thus far. Ellen DeGeneres took her turn at the hot seat, but was unable to replace the cruel intense opinions of Cowell, and Kara DioGuardi was a less than amusing replacement for Ms. Abdul.
This year, both DeGeneres and DioGuardi have taken an exit and Idol has officially jumped the shark. The announcement of the new judges was surprising. First, of course, was the shock factor, and second, how the heck did they pull it off?
Steven Tyler , the lead singer of Aerosmith, and Jennifer Lopez, aka J-Lo, have stepped forward as the new judges. I admit I was intrigued. Not in a "wow that is really cool I want to watch" way but in a "wow this is going to crash and burn".
So we, along with 26.2 million viewers, per The Nielsen Co., watched the two-hour premiere. Was I impressed with the new judges or any of the contestants? No, were you?
First off, Tyler and Lopez are not fascinating to watch. They are soft, nice and way too happy when auditioners enter the room and are star struck into laryngitis. Tyler, while I worship him as an artist, spent more time checking out girls asses than critiquing auditioners. Lopez was a giggling school girl, blushing and looking away, like she got caught staring at a cute boy.
It isn't entirely their fault. The caliber of quality singers arriving to audition has dwindled over the years and you can only do so much to keep your ratings. By the way, The Nielsen Co. has also reported that Idols ratings were down 13% compared to last year.
While Idol was once the leader in reality competitions and has no doubt paved the way for breakthrough artists like Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Pickler, and Clay Aikin, it's time seems sadly, to this reviewer, to be coming to an end.
The only ray of hope is an amazing rise of contestants which is what made the show a success. Whether it is Tyler, Abdul, Lopez, or Cowell, judging is irrelevant if your audience could care less about the people being judged.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor
The Fox thriller from the genius mind of JJ Abrams is rolling along pretty good this year. On of the things I think JJ and his clan have learned from their experiences with Lost is that why we want to wonder what is going, on you have to always give us a cookie to keep up coming back.
While Fringe started of pretty rocky, it has come along way recently, and has found a good mix of intrigue, interpersonal relationships, mind blowing science, and plenty of the ever amusing Walter Bishop. The characters are well grounded, and the relationships are complicated. The most unexpected move the writers recently made was the blossoming romance between the two main characters, Olivia and Peter.
The Fringe team were questioned several years ago if this could be a possibility, and their response, via Entertainment Weekly, was a resounding no. "I see Peter and Olivia more as a brother and sister with a truly bizarre father figure three broken people, coming together as a dysfunctional family,"- Joshua Jackson, Entertainment Weekly.
Peter and Olivia's romantic relationship has become one of the show's main complications. Specifically in recent events, where Peter became intimate with Faux Olivia from an alternate universe. While unbeknownst to him, the real Olivia was trapped in the alternate universe pining for him.
In the more recent episodes, Firefly and Reciprocity, I was reminded once again why I really enjoy this show. Firefly became notable with the guest starring performance of Christopher Lloyd, as a aging rock and roll musician, who is given a message by one of the observers-time traveling beings that can be found 'observing' at many of the important events in history. via his deceased son.
In Reciprocity, our theme line is revisited when Peter comes face to face with the doomsday machine that only he seems to be able to control. As says in the title of the episode, it seems that while the machine functions off of Peters energy, the machine may be feeding negative energy back to him. On a side note, Olivia reads the computer diary of Faux Olivia, and discovers that Faux Olivia had indeed begun to have feelings for Peter.
Fringe, while a step beyond the normal drama, is reminiscent of the X-Files, and I love it. I have always been a Mulder Scully die hard fan, and JJ Abrams has recaptured that dark intrigue that propelled the show along.
I have some predictions for the remaining season. While Peter and Olivia are at a crossroads, I predict that Peter will continue to spin out of control, and only Olivia will be able to pull him back. Walter, in his quest to protect his son, will be given a choice and he will make it, relying on Peter's love for Olivia to save them all. It is irrational and over the top, but here's the thing. While I am a huge fan of Fringe, it unfortunately does not have the following it should, and will most likely be axed this season. I predict this with no joy, but realism. There are just too many good shows to watch, and Fringe doesn't quite make the grade for the average viewer. So to all of you Fringe fans, enjoy it while it lasts, for its departure is unavoidable.
"Do you know what you are putting into our bodies? Death, delicious strawberry flavored death." - Walter Bishop, "Northwest Passage"
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor
Bones - Will they or Won't They?
Booth and Bones, Mulder & Scully, and Lyman & Moss. If you got the last reference I am impressed. What do all of these dynamic duos have in common? All have chemistry, so much so that from the first episode on the viewer is always asking will they or won't they.
In the series Bones, partners Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan solve murders. She uses science, and he uses his street wit and superior detecting abilities. It sounds sluggish. However, the on screen pairing of David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel created sparks from the very beginning. Her portrayal of Bones' dry, egocentric wit, and Boreanaz's use of his natural charm mash together into a gooey wanting of coupling. For a while it went back and forth. He loves her. She is attracted to him. Always the subtle references and back handed comments about love, friendship, relationships, and life.
The writers took a leap in probably the worst thought of season finale ever, where they bring two similar character together in Booth's head while he is having brain surgery. It is something we are all trying to forget. Booth has since struggled with these feelings, eventually admitting them to Bones. She brutally tells him that she does not feel the same, and they go off on hiatus for the season.
So now Booth has someone new, and Bones is realizing that she may have let the love of her life slip away, a back and forth.
While the angst is appealing for a while, it is getting rather tedious. The will they or won't they, has gone from what is going to happen, to get it over with already, will you? I think they are adorable, and the show, while steady in the ratings, is inevitably going to falter, and I for one would rather experience them together then have it be the season or series closer.
The charm of Booth and Bones is their mutual respect and witty banter. The cases are interesting, but lets be real. We watch the show for the characters. In the coming episodes they are promoting Booth's impending marriage proposal to his current flame Hannah.
Again, will he or won't he? Are we going to drag this all the way down the aisle, or will Booth come to his senses? Will Hannah get a call to leave on assignment, and ask Booth to go with her? So many cookie cutter choices, what's a writer to do? Don't get me wrong. I like Bonesreally liked Bones when the serial killer's head blew off two episodes ago. I like Dr. Sweets, Angela, Hodges, and the ever revolving cast of interns. I enjoy the banter and the chemistry between Booth and Bones.
I like it. I just don't love it.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art26762.asp
Breakout Kings (2011)
A squad of U.S. marshals team up with ex-cons to work together on tracking down prison escapees.
This is the premise of the drama series on A&E. I saw a few previews and decided to give it a shot. Opening scene is a prisoner counting as he hangs onto the underside of the bunk above him. He finishes at 230, writes it down, and the scene changes. Okay, I am intrigued. The opening sequence goes on to show this particular inmate collecting license plates and eventually making a very clever escape.
After 72 hours, the odds of finding an escaped convict drops to less than 5 percent.
Ray Zancanelli, the arresting officer of this escaped criminal, is put together with Agent Charlie Duchamp, an officer from a department called Criminal Program Analysis. The two of them are put in charge of this new task force, using selected fugitives to help find escaped and dangerous fugitives. The incentive, all participants are moved to a minimum security prison and for every convict they catch, the justice department will shave time off their sentence, one month per criminal caught.
We are then introduced to our cast of criminals. Shea Daniels, aka the entrepreneur, a suave street business man. Dr. Lloyd Lower, a former child prodigy and behaviorist, with a nasty gambling habit that somehow got him 25 years in jail. Last, but certainly not least, is Philly, literally the beauty queen of con artists.
Pretty cut and dry, straight forward, Cop/Criminal + Criminal= Suspense.
Well, not quite. The glint of hope I found in this program's trailers was the witty writing. Not just a few lines here or there, it is prevalent throughout. The characters are highly developed in just the pilot, revealing bevels in the road previously unbeknownst to the viewer, adding additional tension even in the end. The biggest being the revelation that the "cop" is also actually a con. Each character has their own "thing" early on, and it is subtly pulled through the end of the story. Overall, an outstanding pilot, putting all the elements in place for a break out hit in line with "The Closer", "The Shield", and "Burn Notice".
However, I am concerned. While I became hooked on the pilot, in researching the series itself it looks as if it has already hit some road blocks. The first being immediate cast changes, namely the exit of the beauty queen con-artist, and the entrance of a new female cast member. Also, looking at the canned episodes, it seems we might lose the cop and the agent within the first five episodes. This information is all via IMDb, so the data could be fractured, but it does cause concern for the viewer who already has a full DVR. This being the case, we are going to put it to the three episode test. My husband and I will give a new show three chances to hook us in and join the DVR list. The logic being, if you can't convince us in three, it is not going to be worth our time. There are always exceptions to the rule but they are rare. I have high hopes for the show as it has huge potential. We shall have to wait and see.
Amy Romine BellaOnline's Prime Time TV Editor