What I'm Watching: Fall Season Spectacularrrr.
Ahh, autumn. The leaves are turning, the weather is getting chilly, kids are planning how to scare people for candy, and new tv shows start. And there are quite a few genre shows this year that are worth talking about. Or are they?
First up is an odd pairing. Heck, even being a pairing just makes it all the more odd. Sarah Michelle Gellar is back on tv with a new show on the network that made her a household name, with Ringer. She plays dual roles of sisters that could not be more different. One is a successful socialite with a husband, charity work, and a life. The other is a stripper, an addict, and on the run from the wrong side of the law, and the right side, as they want her to testify against a mob boss. She runs straight to her twin sister for help, whio then promptly ends up dead. Seeing the perfect place to hide and the perfect life, Brigid takes the place of her sister. And that's when trouble starts. This has some clear soapy bits to it, but the over the topness of it all, and the whodunnit nature also gives it a little bit of a giallo bent, but only barely. Ringer is ok, to be blunt. It is way over the top in the way you would expect any good soap to be and the plot often makes little to no real sense or logic, but the cast is pretty decent. It's a pleasure to watch any of these actors, but the actual writing leaves a little something to be desired. It could get better, but overall it is way more soap opera than engaging mystery. Worth checking out if you're a fan of SMG, but missable for the cheese.
And not to be outdone by one twin swapping story, ABC Family has joined the fray with one of their own, the Lying Game. This one does not have the same strength of cast as Ringer, nor is the writing as sharp. Yeah, and I was pretty harsh on the writing of Ringer. Most of the cast is unknowns, or might as well be. Only Adrian Pasdar has any real name recognition, although Helen Slater is in there too. Even then, they've got a lot to carry. The story is about two high school age twins whom have only recently discovered each other after being seperated since birth. They're looking for their mother, and trying to figure out why they were given up. Sutton, the rich bitch of the pair, goes off to find their mother, and makes Emma take over her life to cover for her. Just why this elaborate ruse is necessary is not made quite clear for some time. And that is a problem. The mystery is a little too mysterious, even to the audience, and the show tries to make the mystery of who their mother is and why she's missing, into the biggest mystery of the universe, to the point of some super conspiracy, stolen property, frame jobs, and more. The show does finally get around to elaborating on just why this all is, but it's not fast in coming, and rather than deal with the actual mystery at the core of the show, it would rather blather on about teenage angst and relationships that have almost little to no actual bearing on the plot. So much filler. There's something here, but overall, Ringer is the better of the two twins.
Something completely different is Scifi Channel's Paranormal Witness. The channel has become quite well known for its ghost hunting series, but this time, it's different. It's stories of the supernatural, from ghosts, to aliens, and hauntings, and bifgoots. They are supposedly true stories by real people, and dramatised on the show to show the audience what happened. It's Unsolved Mysteries for ghosts. The format is decent enough, and the stories have been intriguing, and even downright spooky at times. But at the same time, it is very easy for a sceptic to poke holes in the stories. I can't figure out every single detail (Aside from just saying "Everyone on this show is lying! LYING!!") but enough can be explained away with rational explanations and critical thinking. Others might have better luck with the details. But even besides that, the stories are decent enough. I take it as listening to ghost stories around a campfire. You know they're likely not true, but they can be engaging enough. If you like some good spooky stories, it's worth a look.
Something more normal is the new CBS show, Person of Interest, starring Jim Caviezel, and Michael Emerson. In a nutshell, the show is Batman without the capes. It's not a perfect comparrison, but I think it works. JC plays Reese, a former special forces operative who has fallen on hard times, and gets recruited by Finch, a man who designed the super duper version of Carnivore. It watches people and faces, using the network of cameras now around NYC in the wake of 9/11. It sorts through all that data and reports on imminent threats to the population. But the government was only interested in major threats to large numbers, not the little people in ones or twos that the system also recognised as being in danger. Finch was unable to take that burden quietly, so recieves a list of social security numbers that the Machine has flagged as in danger, and uses his resources and Reese's skills to stop bad things happening to good people, that the government considers to be 'unimportant'. The premise is solid, unique, and has just enough room to do a usual procedural type show but where the crimes are stopped before they're committed, but also you can see the larger plot lurking in the background, and how things could get much more intense and 'mythology arcish' in the near future once they've set things up. Amazing actors with some decent action, and solid writing. Currently my pick for show of the year.
On the other end of the spectrum is A Gifted Man, about a dickish surgeon played by Patrick Wilson, who is visited by the ghost of his dead ex-wife, to try and make him softer. Picture House with less interesting doctors, less interesting writing, and increased moralising and preaching about how good we should all be to each other. Meh. Another good cast, but the writing is just so blah, and the plot is not that great. I passed after a single episode. If he was visited by more ghosts, instead of just the one, who may or may not be real (The latter making you root for a crazy person...ok.) then it might be something, but there's just nowhere for this show to go, other than making the jerk more fluffy and nice.
And somewhere in between the best and the worst, is certainly Terra Nova. After we've ruined the planet, we discover a rift in time and space, that enables us to travel back in time 85 million years to try and get things right. Or possibly to just fuck over the planet a second time. The concept is great, and there's some good actors, but don't come here looking for good science fiction. The rift is very convenient, the time travel hurts, and the story is more about the factions of humanity and OMG dinosaurs! than any real science. If things aren't solved by technobabble, then things are solved by convenient deus ex machinas, like in the third episode when a memory wiping disease is cured simply because there's a root that someone conveniently had that just so happened to stop him from losing his memories. Handy. But the show is ok, and has moments, so it isn't a total waste. And the cast that's good is Very Good Indeed, so I keep watching for now. It has potential, but so far they're squandering it. Fingers crossed that they sort out what's wrong quickly.
And that wraps up my look at the new shows that caught my interest. Did I forget one that you like? Or hate? Or did I just forget one, because I have a terrible memory? That last one is very likely. If I remember someone I forgot in this post, I'll get around to it when I post about Once Upon a Time and other stuff later, since that hasn't premiered yet. And sadly, as much as I really want to see Grimm, I just can't, as it is up against too many other shows. Sadness. I'll try my best to watch it someday, but for now it remains a mystery.