Tales from the Cultural Wilderness Journal

Friday, September 30, 2005

New Season Ratings

[Previous entry: "DVD Review - Hex"]

Finally, tonight, the last of the shows I planned to watch (and the couple I stumbled in to without really meaning to) aired. And I'm ready to rate them on how swiftly they'll die. These ratings have nothing to do with what I personally think of the show (well, okay, that has a little bit of influence), but more how I expect the ratings to hold up and the networks to stick with. And we know the networks are keen to cull the herd after the total collapse of Head Cases - 2 episodes; didn't Skin manage to last 3 last season?

So, in reverse order (from least likely to most likely):

Number 11: Prison Break. Of course, it helps that they've just signed the agreement for the show to run to 22 episodes after it's initial half-season order, but this has been a great show so far, and although I expect the concept to dry up pretty quickly after the escape it'll easily last up until that point.

Number 10: Numbers. After not watching the first season, I stumbled on this and was thoroughly entertained. Good cast, good use of math (its amazing when a hit show can survive based on a usually dull subject), and the only weak spot is the preceding shows - if they don't hold up on a Friday, Numbers might struggle, but it got off to a good start for the death night of the week.

Number 9: Invasion. In the post Lost slot, this is pretty much a sure thing to last the season, even though it's completely rubbish.

Number 8: Ghost Whisperer. An absolutely perfectly pitched pilot, and great ratings for a Friday, Jennifer Love Hewitt should manage to pull in the viewers for a few more weeks. And with the network managing a reasonable line up on the night, they should be able to keep viewers around.

Number 7: Threshold. The weak point in the Friday night lineup. The death of this one might make the deaths of Ghost Whisperer and Numbers more likely, but as long as two of the three shows hold up, the third should just about stick around.

Number 6: Supernatural. Yes, it's rubbish. Yes, it appears to be going nowhere very, very fast. Yes, most of it has been done before. But with Charmed on its last legs, the WB need a replacement skiffy show, and they'll probably stick with it for a while yet. You never know, the writers might be able to find something original in the tired premise, but they probably need to expand the cast to do it.

Number 5: Charmed. A weak opening, and a show in its last season, can we really expect the WB to keep it around for the full year? I'm guessing we'll lose this one unless things seriously pick up.

Number 4: Surface. Please, giant mammalian aquatic creatures from outer space, come to the surface and eat the cast! Two episodes (that really should have been aired as a single part if they wanted to keep the audience interested) and I don't like anybody. The baby CGI creature is nice looking, and I'm glad we finally got a look at the darned thing, but this isn't very gripping...

Number 3: Bones. No chemistry, still. And a police procedural amidst a morass of the darned things. Please, either kill it now or bring in sister Zooey to provide some eye candy!

Number 2: Criminal Minds. Now, I really like this, and it has Mandy Patinkin, the guy out of Dharma And Greg, and A.J. Cook going for it (what is her first name anyway?). But can we really sustain a show about behavioural scientists for a full season? A lot of the second episode felt like they could have dropped it in to Profiler without pause.

Number 1: The Night Stalker. Dead On Arrival. Probably the worst skiffy pilot of the season, I'm not sure even I want to come back next week, so I can imagine how the casual viewer is feeling. Please, ABC, kill this now and put us out of our misery!

There'll be more actual reviews coming, but just in case the networks get trigger happy, there's my take - now I can see how I do (considering I usually completely misjudge these things, I doubt I'll get many even close).

[Previous entry: "DVD Review - Hex"]

Monday, September 26, 2005

DVD Review - Hex

[Previous entry: "New Season - Supernatural"]

Sold to me as "The British Buffy" this was a suprising blind buy. In usual British fashion, it's a series of only 6 episodes, or rather 5 including a feature length pilot, and it appears that series 2 is currently airing, so it at least survived the cliffhanger ending.

Hex focuses on the life of Cassie Hughes, a final year student at a stately boarding school. The boarding school is using a stately home, whose original owners made their fortune on the slave trade, and the lady of the house got involved in voodoo. A lot of this historical background is going to impinge on Cassie's life (with her unknown father and insane mother) as the series progresses.

Things start simply enough - Cassie finds a voodoo urn, and accidentally gets blood in it. Then she starts having dreams of the lady of the house and the bad things that happened all those years ago. Her only clue to what's going on is the word "AZAZEAL" carved on to the board where she found the urn.

Fortunately, the headmaster (Colin Salmon), in his Giles role, has a close, if slightly strange relationship with his A-Level students, and is happy to answer Cassie's questions, explaining that Azazeal was the leader of the Nephilim, a host of 200 fallen angels that God cast in to the Abyss. However, the mysterious guy who's stalking Cassie doesn't appear to be in any sort of abyss!

Cassie is something of an outcast, with Thelma, her lesbian roommate as her only real friend at the school. However, when she starts exhibiting supernatural powers (telekinesis, pyrokinesis), she finds a way to ingratiate herself with the in-crowd.

To fill the Buffy comparisons, we have our superpowered hero, Cassie; her lesbian best friend, Thelma; her knowledgeable teachers, David as headmaster, and Roxanne as the literature teacher; the dark stalking guy in Azazeal - the only thing missing from an initial view is a Xander archetype, but Leon fills the class clown role. Of course, there are some differences - the headmaster appears to be playing some sort of first-person shooter on his laptop when Cassie comes to talk to him!

This show doesn't pull many punches - we've got fingernails pulled out and girls hanged, we've got smoking, sex, alcohol, and teenage pregnancy. Of course, with a show with this many teenage girls in Britain, it's a fair bet a number of them smoke, and as last year students, the staff are accepting of the fact that these students can legally drink and have sex. Of course, when you're dealing with fallen angels, teenage pregnancy isn't going to be particularly pleasant!

Lets be fair - the special effects budget doesn't run very high here - no-one walks through the ghosts, in fact they go out of their way to avoid making contact with the living; possession by the Nephilim is indicated by bloodshot eyes; and the closest we get to serious effects are the positively goofy looking Azazeal in his true form. Fortunately we only really see that in the pilot.

So how is it? It's a little dark, and I'm surprised where they went with the end of the series - I was expecting a nice tidy wrap up rather than unleashing hell-on-earth. I was also surprised by the death of the best friend in the pilot - yes, okay, she's back as a ghost and they needed to show that the bad-guy was playing for keeps, but it was still unexpected. It'll be interesting to see where they go with it in series two... and please give it more episodes to play with!

Biggest peeve - inconsistency of ghostly interactions with the living world. Thelma is frequent to point out that she can no longer touch Cassie, but she ducks out of sight on anyone who might catch sight of her (except when they're watching the footie), and she can rewire plugs, raid vending machines, and look through school records to discover Cassie's father. She can also intrude in people's dreams and give them erotic lesbian fantasies, which provides a humorous moment when she gets tired of intruding on Cassie's dreams every night!

So overall a good show, that really didn't need the Buffy comparisons. Between this and Sea Of Souls, we're getting some good supernatural shows out of the UK at the moment. Now I just need to see if the new Doctor Who series is any good!

[Previous entry: "New Season - Supernatural"]

New Season - Supernatural

[Previous entry: "New Season - Bones"]

Wow! Positively the creepiest pilot I've seen in a long time, Supernatural kicks off with a bang. It's a much darker show than I was expecting - the death of the mother and girlfriend are rather more disturbing than I'm used to from the WB. And even the A story with the Woman In White has some creepy scenes (the scene towards the end with the two children taking their revenge was seriously nasty).

Of course, we've also got the ongoing thread of what happened to their father to deal with, but the show is going to live or die on the success of their monster-of-the-week format. And after a successful first episode, there's a not so successful second, with a wendigo stalking people in a forest. They need to stick to more human monsters, as when we finally get a shot of the creature, it's seriously weak. Up until that point it was pretty good however. I presume in future weeks we can also expect the "it's a creature - no, it's a human monster" episode, where the heroes go in guns blazing but have to back off and leave it to the feds to deal with.

If anything, this feels a bit like a Millennium retread - it's as dark as some of the episodes of that show, although with the mystical element ramped up, and we've yet to see any real mythology for the show - are we in a relatively Christian mythology with a few creepy critters lurking in the darkness, or are they taking a generally agnostic view of the supernatural along the Buffy lines?

Jensen Ackles is good here, much darker than we last saw him in Dark Angel, and much more like his first season Ben character than the lighthearted Alec he played in season 2. But Jason Padalecki still has to grow on me - he hasn't been very good so far, even considering the fact he had to carry most of the pilot on his shoulders.

It's a WB show, so it hasn't got to pull in huge ratings to survive, but it's up against House on Fox, Amazing Race on CBS, and Commander-In-Chief on ABC, while NBC are hoping their comedies will provide some variety. ABC's show will probably die a swift death, especially with the star pull of Geena Davis pushing up the budget, and Supernatural does fit with the WB's general mystical theme, but I'm not sure the Gilmore Girls is a good lead in for such a dark show.

So my general feelings - too dark, and it'll struggle, but I expect the WB to stick with it. They've pretty much bet the farm on this one and don't have anything in the wings to fill the slot, although they could bring forward one of their midseason dramas.

In other words, I'll need to reevaluate this one in six weeks or so to see how it holds up. It'll almost certainly be around until Christmas, but I'm not sure how long it can survive beyond that. Will it remain dark and scare off many viewers, or will it end up degenerating into supernatural parody and retread ground covered by Charmed? Or can it find a fresh take on this subject matter?

[Previous entry: "New Season - Bones"]

Sunday, September 25, 2005

New Season - Bones

[Previous entry: "New Season - Prison Break"]

Not originally on my "shows to watch" list, it managed to fit in to the scedule ahead of Supernatural, so I gave it a chance. It's basically yet another police procedural, with an antisocial forensic anthropologist (the titular Bones), paired up with a downtrodden FBI agent.

Firstly, it took me two episodes to spot that the lead was the sister of the hottie from Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and only by spotting the same surname in the titles and looking her up.

Secondly, David Boreanaz appears to be playing "lighthearted Angel" here. Of course, there still have to be a few moments of dark brooding, but they seem to be leaving most of that to his antisocial co-star.

But more than anything - YAWN! This has been done before, and with more chemistry between the leads. Is there enough room on the schedule for yet another police procedural (the networks seem to think so, as there's still three or four new ones this season)? Or are people going to stick with the ones they know and not bother with a new one?

Currently however, it has a pretty good time slot - a couple of comedies, a couple of reality shows, NCIS and Gilmore Girls. It might have been smart for Fox to have swapped it with House, so they've got the lead in from that successful show to prop it up, but then I wouldn't have watched it.

More worryingly, Fox's current schedule has it moving to an hour later once House ends and American Idol comes back - which means it'll clash with Supernatural.

My current verdict: Bones will stick around for most of the season, but won't get renewed for next year. And I'll probably stick with it for most of its run based on my feelings over the WB's show - see the next new season review for that one...

[Previous entry: "New Season - Prison Break"]

Friday, September 23, 2005

New Season - Prison Break

[Previous entry: "Insurrection and Wonder Woman"]

Yes, my laptop crashed and wiped out a week of synopses, and I didn't feel like rewriting them, so I kind of lost interest. I do have synopses for most of the time since, but they're very patchy, so I'll use them when I have nothing else to cover.

But first, the 2005-06 TV season has started, and I'm on early death watch. So lets take them as they appeared on screen. Which means starting with Prison Break.

Smart move one - it's only 13 episodes, and looks to be pretty tightly plotted, so we can expect the escape from the prison to play out by the end of the season.

Smart move two - who on earth are these people anyway? No pretty people here - even Robin Tunney is looking fairly dowdy. The hero is a fine upstanding man who'll do anything for his older brother, who they keep in the background enough that his previous perfomances as John Doe and Dracula don't harm his performance. The other prisoners are a motley crew of evil, sadistic, stupid, and downtrodden. And mysterious government agents are always a useful addition when they're willing to go to any lengths to cover stuff up.

Smart move three - the tension reveals. That tattoo scene in the pilot was fantastic, and the cutting toes off with garden shears was suitably nasty that we know things aren't going to be smooth.

Bad move one - if they escape by the end of the season, where does the show go? Can we really run for several seasons with bad guy secret service agents covering up a crime and escaped convicts on the run trying to prove their innocence?

Bad move two - is the wayward son of John Doe really necessary? It's tired, it doesn't appear to be going anywhere, and gah, it's boring.

Bad move three - only thirteen episodes? And they use two for the opening night, and they'll probably use two for the finale night, so we're only getting 11 weeks of show. Is that enough for people to come back in a year's time?

Now, it's getting great viewing figures, so I think we can safely conclude it'll survive to the end of the season, and it's lush enough that they'll want to recoup some money, so there'll be a reasonably swift DVD release. My guess though is it'll die swiftly next season as it loses its way completely.

[Previous entry: "Insurrection and Wonder Woman"]


Search entries:

Powered By Greymatter

[ Registered! ]