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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: Deception “Pilot” S1 E1

I’ve read a lot of reviews on the series premiere of Deception.  I had a conference call this morning and I was bored so I read reviews!   Just kidding boss…(not really.)  It was fascinating to see the early reports.  People either all out hated it or loved it and thought it was better than Revenge.   My opinion, somewhere in the middle.  I didn’t think the show was awful or incredible.  It’s a decent show that has potential.

The basic premise is Joanna Locasta (Meagan Good) is an NYC detective who was informed by her old partner and current FBI agent Will Moreno (Las Alonzo) that her best friend Vivian Bowers (Bree Williamson) has died of a drug overdose.  Since the FBI was already looking into the Bowers family for other crimes, he wants her to go undercover and infiltrate the family to see if she can find out what really happened to Vivian (both think she was murdered.)  He asks her because Joanna grew up with the family because her mother was the Bowers custodial manager and she and Vivian were best friends.  She agrees and the story begins.

We meet the Bowers family, the patriarch Robert (Victor Garber), the step-mother Sophia (Katherine LaNasa), troubled son Edward (Tate Donovan) and his “estranged” wife Samantha (Marin Hinkle), playboy Julian (of course he’s named Julian) (Wes Brown), and youngest sibling Mia (Ella Rae Park.)   Basically, everyone is a suspect (except Mia in my opinion) and they all have issues…drug, sex, something creepy and mysterious.  They’re nuts.  Who can you trust?   Absolutely no one!   Last night on Twitter, I went out on a limb to say that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn, eventually, that Sophia and Edward were the “good guys” on the show because they are coming across as the biggest asses right now.  However, if Sophia stayed deliciously nasty, I wouldn’t hate it!

There were many twists and turns for the pilot!  With the big one being that SPOILER ALERT……Mia is really Vivian’s daughter not sister……….SPOILER OVER.  And it confirmed the idea of something more sinister happening to Vivian when we see the close up of a wicked bruise on her check that has a distinct imprint on it and at the end of the episode we see SPOILER ALERT…….Julian hunched down and crying on the docks with a ring in his hand that matches the same pattern on Vivian’s face.  He then hurls the ring into the Hudson River………..SPOILER OVER.   We also see that Edward and Samantha are having issues.  I would go out on a limb to say they are separated over something Edward was alleged to have done.  They have their typical soap opera type cryptic conversation that leads to much speculation as to what the hell they are talking about. He also grabs her quite a bit, which I don’t like.  But she’s very afraid of him and he’s very aloof about life in general.  So what’s going on there?  The big question is can Joanna keep her secret about who she is, other than “Who Killed Vivian” of course!  We did have someone find out that she’s really a cop but he was killed before that storyline could have gotten really interesting.  But who killed him?  Is it the same person/people who killed Vivian?

What did I think?  I liked it.  Was it the greatest hour of TV I ever watched?  Nope.  Was it the worst?  Nope.  I was surprised how harsh some other critics were on the show.  It’s a nighttime soap so it’s going to be campy and silly at times.  I mean seriously?  Tate Donovan is Victor Garber’s son?  Did Garber turn 75 and I didn’t realize it or is Donovan really 40 years old?  I think not.  Garber’s 64 and Donovan is 50.  You do the math.  But this is not the first nor the last time there would be age issues on TV shows (see Kelsey Grammer and John Mahoney on Frasier.)   The one comment I saw in a few reviews that I agree with is that if you’re going to be a nighttime, campy soap, act like it.  Don’t try to be a serious show when you clearly aren’t.  And Deception does seem caught in a little bit of that “are we a serious show or a soap?”  Except LaNasa.  She got the memo.   And she’s great!  If Deception can realize who/what it realize is, I think the show will be fine.  I’m still not sold on Good as the leading lady yet.  She doesn’t command the screen the way Emily van Camp, Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, or Kyra Sedgwick can.  But I’m willing to give her a chance.  She’s good but not as dominant as I’d like her to be.

What did you think of Deception?  Will you keep watching?  Did you hate it as much as some of the critics did?

DVR Rating: 3 DVRs

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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: The Mob Doctor “Pilot” S1 E1

This will be a short one considering the ratings last night.  In my predictions podcast, I had The Mob Doctor as my 2nd runner-up to Guys with Kids as the First Canceled Show of the season.  Well, looks like that will be my first wrong prediction because I don’t think The Mob Doctor makes it past the 1st week in October.

The premise is great…a great doctor with ties to the mob having to keep her connection secret from her job and her boyfriend.  Because of this connection, she’s constantly having to cross the line of ethics with her work and the safety of her family.     Sounds awesome right?  Well, it’s not.

The biggest issue I had was that the baseline of the story was never really developed well because there was so much going on.  It was a mess.  With a show named The Mob Doctor, the first thing I want to know is how is she connected with the mob?  Now they did explain that her brother got into trouble with the wrong crowd so she agreed to do somethings for them to help pay back his debt.  But in the scenes with James Carpinello and William Forsythe, I got the impression there was a connection long before her brother getting into any trouble.  So what was it?   I would have liked establishing some clear connection in the pilot but that didn’t happen.  Forsythe made the comment when Jordana Spiro’s Dr. Grace Devlin was treating him in his home that she was always like family to him.  He was asking sweetly about her mother, they were quoting poetry together.  So how did that start?  How did they get this “friendship” started?   I don’t know how you don’t clearly lay that out in the pilot or at least give the viewers some insight into their relationship.

Then you have her chaotic work life where she appears to be one of the top doctors in the hospital.  She’s similar to Jada Pinkett’s Smith character, Christina, on Hawthorne, where she’s the best but she doesn’t follow the rules and she always bends them to get what she wants and everyone in the hospital bows down to her as a result, because she’s the best.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  But worse than that, was everything that went down.  First there was a boy she operated on and for some reason was pulled from that case.  Later the boy died because the attending dismissed her care notes and the following doctor followed the attendings instructions instead.  Oh and by the way, Grace and this other female doctor get along as well as Crystal Carrington and Alexis Colby.  Showing my age with that reference.  Then, she calls out said attending for his bad treatment to the chief of surgery and asks he be brought up to the review board.   She’s really making friends that Grace.  While all that is going on, the daughter of a friend of her mother’s, who’s 14, comes in and she’s pregnant.  Grace wants to terminate her pregnancy so her father doesn’t kill and she can still go to private school on an athletic scholarship.  QB1, her boyfriend, (also a TV reference not deeply entrenched in 80s flashbacks) doesn’t like this idea, especially not after she lies to the father and tells him it’s a ruptured ovarian cyst they need to remove.    Finally, Grace is doing a landmark surgery with the chief on a mob informant.  However, Michael Rapaport wants him dead and wants Grace to do it during the surgery or else he’s going after her brother.   I’m not kidding.  This was ALL happening in the pilot.   Talk about aggressive.  It was too much!  All that didn’t need to happen in the pilot.   I don’t think that much happened in the pilot of Lost.  And that was just her work life.

Cut to her personal life where she seems like she could care less about her mother, who is in remission from cancer.  And her brother is a little asshole who gives her nothing but crap during every scene they are in together.  Hey jerk off, you know your sister is the one who bailed you out after doing…whatever it is you did that the writers didn’t feel was important enough to share with us.  In the 7 minutes we dealt with her family, I hated the brother, and Grace went down a few notches in my eyes for being such a bitch to her mother, who seems a delightful woman.

So what’s wrong with the show?  I can’t tell if I like Grace or not.  All she did was run from her job, to her house, back to her job, to the mob garage, back to her job, back to her house, to a mob boss’ house, and back to her job.   Spiro must have lost 5 pounds just running from place to place in this episode.  At certain points she was very endearing and at others she was very distant.  I think she was trying to play tough but it really came across as confused and scared.  She seemed to be running around the whole time with this “what the hell is going on” look on her face.  It’s probably representative of how the audience felt watching this pilot.  And even thought there weren’t that many characters introduced, I still felt like I didn’t get a chance to really know any of them…except maybe Forsythe’s Constantine (great name for mob boss by the way.)  I think I liked him the most.  What does that say?  I’m rooting for the mob boss.  Yikes!

In all seriousness, the premise of the show is good, but the execution is terrible.  It’s all over the place and the characters have no identity.  It’s a lot like another recent show, The Cape.  And we all know how that turned out.  Sadly, I don’t think this show is going to have a chance to see if it can right itself and be the show it has the potential to be.  Especially not on FOX who is faster to pull shows than Usain Bolt is to running 100M dashes.  See, the references got a lot more recent by the end!

DVRs:  1 DVR

 

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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Go On “Pilot” S1, E1

I know we are going onto episode three tomorrow night but I’m just getting around to talking about Go On.  Go On is the return of Matthew Perry (again) to headline a show.  Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Mr. Sunshine failed miserably.  So will the 3rd time be the charm for Perry?  Not only do I hope so, but I believe it will be.

SYNOPSIS

Matthew Perry is leading man Ryan King…a snarky sports broadcaster who recently lost his wife in an automobile accident.  To deal with the tragedy of losing his wife, his company insists he enroll in group counseling.  The group is led by Lauren (Laura Benanti) who we learn has no background or expertise in psychiatry but has lost 40 pounds through Weight Watchers and became one of their leading motivators.  Joining Lauren is a calamity of characters with some wacky problems (like Sonya, who uses cats as a substitute for issues with her boyfriend) to serious issues (like Owen, whose brother is in a coma after a terrible accident and Owen really struggles with talking about it.)

WHAT’S WORKING

The cast is solid.  Perry is his typical charming, witty self.  I know there are many people who don’t like Perry because they feel he plays Chandler Bing with every roll.  But I don’t think that’s the case (see his guest role on The Good Wife.)  Perry is playing a beguiling, funny, witty, sharp character that was popularized by playing Chandler Bing.  And as a result, when shows are looking for someone to play a character with those types of qualities, Perry fits the bill perfectly.  It’s the same with Jack Nicholson.  If you need a womanizing asshole with a wise ass sense of humor, who’s better than Nicholson?   No one!  Same here.  And since I love Perry, I’ll watch him any day of the week.  He wasn’t what killed those last few shows….the writing did.  But that’s not the case here.

The rest of the cast is very complimentary.  It’s a fine line between quirky and lovable and annoying and stupid.  Especially when trying to write about a cast of people in group therapy for many different reasons.  It can’t be too sad, or sappy, or out there…then you turn people off.  But so far, the writers and the cast have done an excellent job of selling funny, weird, and sentimental.  I loved the scene in the second episode where Ryan takes George (who’s blind) to a Lakers game and Ryan is giving George the play-by-play.  George tells him to knock it off, because he’s driving him crazy, and to close his eyes and listen the game.  It will tell you all you need to know.  So far though, I like everyone…especially Anne, Owen, and George.

I read one review where the critic talked about this show having a Community feel to it.  And I think they’re right.  Community is about a common element bringing a group of people together who would never normally socialize with one another.  Go On has that same premise.  I love seeing all these different personalities meshing together.

WHAT’S NOT WORKING

Right now, not much.  The only thing I will say is that Benanti hasn’t had a chance to really shine yet.  So far she’s been rather boring…which pains me to say after watching her Tony Winning performance in Gypsy on Broadway.  She’s amazing!!   But in this role, she’s really dull around this wacky, motley crew.  It’s early, so I’m holding out hope she gets better as we get to know her more.

John Cho is also pretty wasted in his role.  He only shows up sparingly so I’m not sure what the direction for his character is moving forward.  Again, it’s early so they may figure something out.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I like this show and will keep watching it.  At first I thought the potential love interest for Perry’s Ryan would be Benanti’s Lauren.  After episode 2, I’m now thinking it might be his assistant, Carrie (Allison Miller) or we may have a bit of a triangle…even though there has been no indication of a romantic relationship between Lauren and Ryan yet.  It’s still way too early after the loss of his wife, but you know it’s coming.  But since I’m in no rush for that, just keep bringing on the comedy surrounding the therapy group and I’m good!

DVRs: 4 DVRs

 

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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: Veep “Fundraiser” – Pilot S1 E1

This will be a quick one because I HAVE to get back to work! Veep was awesome and I laughed constantly. Veep stars Julia Louis Dreyfus as a former Senator turned V-POTUS Selina Meyer. She is just starting to get used to her new position (she has her own flag you know!) and trying to focus on a Clean Job Commission that is causing quite a few headaches for her new staff: Chief of Staff, Amy (played by Anna Chlumsky), Director of Communications, Mike (played by Matt Walsh), Personal Aide, Gary (played by Tony Hale), recently poached Strategist, Dan (played by Reid Scott), Executive Assistant, Sue (played by Sufe Bradshaw) and annoying White House liaison, Jonah (played by Timothy Simons.)

Veep was laugh out loud funny, very witty, well paced, and extremely well cast. The thing that caught me most off guard was hearing ladies like JLD and Kate Burton dropping F-bombs during the episode! I’m so used to seeing both ladies on network TV so of course that language isn’t permissible. But I have to remember that they’re on HBO so they were letting it rip. JLD was in rare form and I mean that in a good way. She is incredibly funny and her timing is fantastic. I loved when she came out of a meeting after learning that Amy, who was supposed to sign Selena’s name on a card for a Senator who just passed away, signed her own name instead. Selena freaked out, sent coffee flying through the office, and scolded her people to get the card and fix it. She then calmed down and went right back in her meeting. The cast chemistry right out of the gate is really strong. You would think they’ve been working together for 4 seasons…that’s how well they were clicking. This is quickly going to become one of my must see TV shows, I can tell already!

I love TV shows about the White House and politics because I find it fascinating. And I really love when they are comedies. Mostly because politics and the status of our country is no laughing matter. It’s serious stuff. So I find the more serious the topic (in the right context) the funnier it can be. And that’s what you have with Veep.

Veep airs 10am on Sundays on HBO right after Game of Thrones (review on that coming soon.) You must check it out because it’s absolutely terrific!!! Again, sorry for the short recap but duty calls!

And by the way, did the President call? No? Ok.

DVRs: 3 1/2

 

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NEW SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: Smash “Pilot” S1 E1

I know I said I was on hiatus this week because of work.   But I had to pull away and forego my lunch break to talk about the show I was MOST excited for this mid-season (the other was Alcatraz.)   Smash was even better than the pilot that I watched last summer.  Which is silly to say because it didn’t change all that much (except for one scene that I noticed.)  But I watched it so long ago and I remember loving it, but I forget how incredible it was until last night.  I really don’t want to jinx poor NBC but…….could this finally be the hit show they have been looking for since ER and Law & Order went off the air?

I’m not going to get into a full recap but I’m sure they are out there but I will touch on the highlights.  The thing that surprised me the most about Smash is that you think this is going to be a show all about Karen Cartwright (played by Katharine McPhee) and her journey to the Broadway stage.  And while Karen’s character is the ingenue most people will want to root for, there are so many other levels to this story.  First you have Julia Houston (played by the wonderful Debra Messing) who is part of the creative writing team behind other Broadway hits and who is taking some time away from writing to adopt a baby.  I’m not going to lie, I could care less about this storyline.   The only good part about it, is that I get to see Broadway vet Brian D’Arcy James play her husband, Frank.  And somehow, someway, the producers HAVE to make sure that James sings!!!  Please!   But if they decided to do away with this storyline, I would be thrilled.  Unfortunately, Julia’s time off is short lived (much to Frank’s displeasure) because her partner-in-crime, Tom Levitt (played by another Broadway vet, Christian Borle) has been drawn down the path of creating a new musical based on a suggestion from his new intern, whom he has googly eyes for, Ellis (played by Jaime Cepero), who was reading about the life of Marilyn Monroe while house sitting for Tom.   Marilyn: the Musical is born.   I love that both Tom and Frank said “you could do a baseball number” since Marilyn was married to Joe DiMaggio.  More on that number later.

In addition you have a famous producer, Eileen Rand (played by the incomparable Angelica Houston), who is going through a nasty divorce and as a result her current project of a revival of My Fair Lady has been postponed.  So she and the man she has scheduled to direct My Fair Lady, Derek Wills (played by Jack Davenport) are now available to put all their eggs in the Marilyn: the Musical basket.  We learn that there is some bad blood between Tom and Derek, which could make this partnership slightly challenging.  We don’t know what started or caused the bad blood, but it has to be juicy (this is Broadway after all) and I can’t wait to see those onion layers peeled back!

Finally rounding out the cast is the biggest surprise in terms of character likability but certainly not in talent if you are a Broadway fan, is the woman competing with Karen for the iconic lead role of Marilyn, Ivy Lynn (played by the sensational Megan Hilty.)  I really thought the writers of this show were going to make Karen the likable person, the underdog that everyone is going to pull for while Ivy would be the bitchy, manipulative snake we would all love to hate.  But that didn’t happen at all.  I’ve already seen people say “Team Karen” or “Team Ivy” on the message boards and I think that’s a good thing.   (Team Ivy right here in case you were wondering.)  This show (and I’m talking Smash not Marilyn here) really hinges on these women.  While I think you could make each woman ambitious, you can make them both likable and make the audience torn on who they want to see play buxom beauty.  And I think the writers did that very successfully.  Two scenes really showed that last night.  The first was Karen’s scene at Derek’s apartment when he asks for a “private” call back and wants her to “do the sexy” right there in his apartment.  She excuses herself to the ladies room and while her eyes well up with tears, she pulls herself together enough to do what Derek wants her to do.   But she also stops him when he leans in for the kiss and says “Not gonna happen.”  You go Karen.  I’m not a huge McPhee fan (although you cannot deny her voice) but I couldn’t help but get in Karen’s corner after that scene.  I still don’t think McPhee has the acting chops just yet, but this scene showed she has the potential to get there because she played in beautifully.  The other scene was when Ivy was calling her mom to tell her about her call back for the role of Marilyn.  Hilty plays this scene so perfectly in that you know exactly how much her mother is blowing her off on the other end without ever hearing her mother speak.  You see it in Ivy’s face and hear it in her voice as it’s cracking.  Ivy’s a 10 year Broadway vet but has always been in the chorus.  This is her chance, her big break.  While I’m sure people will want to pull for underdog Karen, and I can understand why, I can’t help but pull for the girl who’s been breaking her neck in the chorus, who’s paid her dues, and is ready to take that next step.   Team Ivy!!!!!!

As for the musical numbers, there were some I loved, some I liked and one that was, meh.   The best number of the night was “Let Me Be Your Star.”   Both my husband and I said “Wow” at the end of that number.  This is where McPhee can go toe to toe with Hilty.  Vocally, these women are very different but can both sing the crap out of this song.  Where McPhee loses the edge, the acting.  You can tell Hilty has the Broadway acting experience because of how expressive she is during her audition, while McPhee just likes to stand there and extend her arms in the air all the time.  Edge: Ivy.  The two numbers I really liked were “Beautiful” and “National Pastime.”  Having said that, if National Pastime were just sung instead of choreographed, it would have gone in the meh column for me.  The song itself was ok but the choreography was terrific and Hilty pulled off Marilyn’s breathy flirtation with all the baseball players very well.   The meh song was “Never Give All the Heart.”  Now maybe it’s because it was just a snippet or just some one standing around belting out a tune, but it didn’t really pack much of a punch with me.

There has clearly been a line drawn in the sand.  One one side you have Derek and Karen and on the other you have Tom and Ivy.   Derek wants to create a star in Karen while Tom wants to support the woman who is ready for the next level in Ivy.  Julia and Eileen seem to be Switzerland at this point.   But I can’t wait to see who eventually gets the coveted role.  I think, it should go to Ivy, Karen could have a part in the chorus and be the understudy.  That’s my solution.   But as I mentioned before, the writers are going down the path of giving the audience the choice of whom to support instead of it being dictated to us, which is the smart way to go.  I think we’re still going to see some crafty sides to Ivy and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of that from Karen as well.  She may be “light” but she certainly isn’t stupid and is highly ambitious.

Ultimately, this show is about characters.  This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a Glee knockoff.  I would never insult the writers or cast by calling it that.  The only two similarities are that there are Broadway actors cast in the show and that there are musical numbers.   THAT’S IT.  This is a point I continue to drive home because other than teenagers who wouldn’t know good TV if it jumped out of their smartphones and bit them on the nose, NO ONE thinks Glee is a good show.  It isn’t.  I don’t want this to turn into a Glee bashing post (I’ll save that for another time) but I want people to give this show a chance.  I don’t want Smash to be lumped into the disaster that is Glee and people not watch it for fear of watching a terrible show.  Smash is a terrific show that has the perfect balance of plot and character development (something Glee hasn’t seen since early in its first season.) This is a show about the people who just so happen to be putting on a Broadway musical.  You don’t have to be a Broadway or Musical Theater fan to enjoy Smash.  If you like watching smart TV with a strong story and solid character development, you’ll LOVE Smash.   So you need to check it out for the next 14 episodes Monday nights at 10pm on NBC.

Now it’s your turn to tell me what you thought!

DVRs: 5!!!!

 

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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: Alcatraz “Pilot/Ernest Cobb” S1 E1

HALLELUJAH!!!  HALLELUJAH!!!!  Sing it with me people.  You know you want to.  Come on, your co-workers won’t mind.  They may look at you a little strangely but what do you care.  Finally, a premiere worth singing about!!!  Even if it is singing badly.   Last night, one of the more anticipated premieres aired and it didn’t disappoint.  There were two pilots I was most impressed with in the summer…one was Smash, the other was Alcatraz.   I was following the viewers comments on Twitter last night and most people loved the show.  There were some that thought it was boring and slow.  To that I say….are you crazy?  But the most common tweet was how this show could fill a nice void that a little teeny tiny show left when it aired its series finale over a year ago….Lost.  I mean come on…it has an island, it has a character named Jack who woke up lost and confused as to where he was, it has the eerie music, it has the “what the hell is going on here” vibe, IT HAS HURLEY!!!  I can see where it’s very easy to draw the comparisons.  But in all seriousness, that is where the comparisons end.

Alcatraz opens with a very simple premise…”on March 21st 1963 Alcatraz officially closed.  All the prisoners were transferred off the island.  Only, that’s not what happened.  Not at all.”  I appreciate when a new show lays it out for you right off the bat.  This simple statement clearly defines what this series will be about.  From here, the mysteries and curiosities unravel.

In the first hour, we focus on the story of Jack Sylvane (played by Jeffrey Pierce), an Alcatraz inmate from 1954-1963.  Originally, Sylvane was in prison for stealing groceries from a corner store.  Why was he on the Rock then if it was petty theft?   The corner store also sold stamps, therefore making it a post office and therefore a federal crime.  But when we see Sylvane in present day, he is on a killing rampage.  How does a man who was in prison for stealing groceries to feed his family suddenly become a cold-blooded killer?   More importantly, why in present day, does this man still look 45 years old?  He should be 85 and he looks 45!   He hasn’t aged since 1963.  After Sylvane’s killing spree, he is eventually captured and brought to a remote Dharma station in the woods where Emerson Hauser (played by Sam Neill) is putting them back in prison so he can question them about what they know.

The second hour focuses on Ernest Cobb, a sniper who transferred to Alcatraz because he wanted a private room.  In present day, he is picking off people (mainly young girls) one by one while repeating over and over again “47 slats in a picket fence…1 2 3 4 5….”  Ok.  Again we have another prisoner out and looking just as young as he did in 1963.  He is back to committing his original crimes (which stem from some mommy issues he had thinking his 16-year-old sister was getting more attention than him.)  He is also captured and taken to the Dharma Station.

Ultimately, it seems there is someone or a group of people who are managing the former inmates and guards.  When Madsen goes to arrest Sylvane and she asks why he’s doing this, he tells her he killed Tiller for personal reasons but he killed Flynn because “it’s what they told him to do.”  They?  Whose they?  The inmates are being controlled or directed to target specific people.  Flynn was a target.  I think after seeing the final scene in “Ernest Cobb” we can assume that Lucy was a target as well.   So who are these people?   Why did they take these 302 people in 1963 and what is their purpose?  What’s their goal?

The main protagonist is Detective Rebecca Madsen (played by Sarah Jones) of the SFPD who is ultimately transferred to the FBI at Hauser’s request to assist with the Alcatraz case.  Of all the characters in the show, Madsen is the weakest of the bunch, which is very worrisome in a show like this.  You need a strong character who dominates the screen and who we believe in 100%.  She needs to be tough, intelligent, fierce, feisty, and compassionate.  Jones exudes some elements of these traits, but not all of them and not very convincingly.  She comes across as a person trying to be tough and edgy but isn’t either of those things at all.  This is the part of the show that most concerns me.  She is supposed to be the driving force behind finding out what is going on.  But in scenes with Neill, she has issues matching his presence on-screen and he is so dominant that it’s hard to believe she has the power to stand toe to toe with him.  Now, maybe over the course of the series it will get better and she will become more of a force.  The question is, can people move past her weaknesses as a leading lady and still continue with the show?

Madsen’s partner is none other than one of our favorite Lostie, Hurley!  Dr Diego Soto (played by Jorge Garcia) is a renowned Alcatraz expert and resident genius.  He has written four books on Alcatraz and Madsen seeks his assistance on the history of the Rock as well as his expertise on the prisoners and guards.  While he seems to struggle with the death and danger of the job, he really wants to help and is intrigued by the mystery. As he states so eloquently “is anyone else’s head ready to explode right about now?”  Priceless.  But here is my biggest problem with Soto if I am supposed to buy into his character.  If he is really the foremost expert on Alcatraz, how in the world did he not know ANYTHING about this?  In all his years of research, he never came across what happened the day before Alcatraz closed?   That the prisoners and guards simply vanished?  It seems a tad unbelievable to me.  Unless….he is involved somehow.

Rounding out our main characters we have Hauser and Lucy (played by Parminder Nagra.) Hauser is an enigma, much like our storyline.  Sam Neill is perfect to play this role.  No one does creepy, matter-of-factness better than Neill.  At this point, we have no idea if Hauser is a good guy or a bad guy.  It appears as if he is someone with his own agenda.  We learned he was one of the cops who came to Alcatraz the day before it closed to assist with the transfer.  And he was just as stunned as his counterpart when the place was a ghost town.  So he has obviously been involved in this from the beginning.  But other than curiosity as to what happened that day, why else go to the lengths he has gone through to get these prisoners back?  Why build that security center (that looks like a Dharma Station) to house all these criminals?  Why keep what he knows from Madsen and Soto?  What is his connection with Lucy?   Why has he aged but everyone else from back then who was connected with this, hasn’t?  What is his end game?   How much does he know?   He seems to want these criminals captured but alive to question them.  He doesn’t appear to be the one behind what happened to the prisoners and guards but I’m not sure, yet, if his motives are pure.

I’m not sure what to think of Lucy, especially after she was shot in the chest!   But the really big twist at the end of the episode was that Lucy was also at Alcatraz in the 60s as a psychologist name Dr. Sengupta.  So that leads to a few questions.  Did Hauser know that or does he have no idea?  If he did know, then he knows about how people who were at Alcatraz at that time aren’t aging.  How did he get hooked up with Lucy?  Did he approach her or did she come after him?  My initial guess is that she went to him.  Is Lucy working for the person or group that is behind what happened to the people on the Rock or is she just simply working with Hauser?  I wonder if Lucy is going to be hanging around in present day (whether it be alive or in a coma) or if she will kick the bucket.  I have to say, it was quite shocking because I didn’t see that coming at all!

One of the other mind-blowing events that happened in the episode revolved around Madsen’s family and work life.  Madsen had a partner at the SFPD who was killed by a criminal they were chasing.  As a result, she never partnered with anyone after that and right when she was supposed to choose, she got the transfer.  As the case moved forward, we meet her uncle Ray (played by Robert Forster.)  Arthur Petrelli is in the house!!!  Madsen introduces Ray to Hurley and explains to him that her grandfather was a guard at Alcatraz.  Ray and Soto exchange a strange glance that she notices but brushes off.  Later, when Hauser is walking Madsen and Soto through the mug shots of who disappeared that day, she sees the picture of her grandfather, Tommy Madsen.  Madsen learns her grandfather wasn’t a guard at Alcatraz, he was a prisoner.  But that wasn’t the worst part.  What to know what was?   When she sees his picture, she realizes that he was the man she and her partner were chasing and his was the one who killed her partner.  Dun dun dun dun!!!!!!   Talk about head exploding!  I don’t know how hers didn’t….for SO many reasons.  But mainly that one.  This was a great addition to the original pilot.  The first pilot I saw, Madsen learns her grandfather was a prisoner instead of a guard, but there was nothing about her partner dying and her grandfather being the killer.  That scene wasn’t in the original but I’m glad they added it.

I really enjoyed the show last night.  I know a lot of people want to compare it to Lost and as we discussed, there are some funny similarities.  But there is one MAJOR difference….Lost was a show about characters, first.  The mythology came second, even though we may not have known it right away.  Alcatraz, at least right now, is all mythology driven with some character focus in the background.  And that’s ok.  I think the story is fascinating enough to keep it moving along and people interested.   The question will be for how long?

The smartest thing Lost did was say it had a finite shelf life.  6 seasons, that’s it.  I don’t know if Alcatraz has that, I’m not sure if it needs it.  But with shows like this, it seems important that the writers know the end game going into the series.  If they don’t, I think shows like these have a tendency to go off the rails and start to become something that it isn’t or worse, something that it doesn’t know what it is anymore.  When that happens, you destroy what was once good and you lose your audience.

In the first two hours, we have one hour about one inmate and the second hour about another.  There are over 300 people involved in this disappearance.  Surely we aren’t going to have 300 more episodes about each individual inmate or guard right?  I wouldn’t think so.  Therefore, the show will really need to draw on the mythology to keep it going or we are going to have to have more character study.  I’m not sure which direction is going in right now.   What I do know, is that I am along for the ride.

Alcatraz was a breath of fresh air in a pretty smoke-filled mid-season so far.  Actually, the new TV season as a whole, going all the way back to the fall, has been pretty stale.  Talking strictly new shows here, other than Revenge and Homeland, Alcatraz is the only other must see TV for me…at least so far.   I think if the writers can keep the storyline moving and hopefully Jones starts to come into her own, this show will be one of the best of the 2012 season.  Does the show have some issues…of course.  Does it need to improve in some areas…absolutely.  But is it better than a lot of other shows out there…your damn right it is.

What did you think of Alcatraz and will you keep watching?

DVRs: 4

 

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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: The Finder “An Orphan Walks Into A Bar” S1 E1

I guess you can’t really call this show the pilot since the pilot really aired last season.  But this episode officially kicked off the new series The Finder.

(Insert HUGE sigh here.)  I feel like I am being really negative so far this mid season.  I had to watch this episode 3 times because the two other times I tried to watch it, I fell asleep.  I really thought this was a boring case and I had very little interest in it. It surprised me considering how much I enjoyed the pilot episode last spring.  I know many Bones fans who watched The Finder last spring and hated it.  I wasn’t one of them.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  So you can appreciate my disappointment in this episode.  I tell you one thing, if this was the pilot episode last season, I might not have tuned in again.   But I will….especially since Sweets is on next week.

Right off the bat, the cast is strong.  Geoff Stults is great as former military man Walter Sherman, aka The Finder.  Walter has some brain damage from his time in the military but it has made him keely astute in locating people if not very socially awkward.  I’m glad the show revisited that issue because quite frankly, I forgot about it.  Although I’m not sure why he needs to have brain damage to be the way he is.  Can’t he just be that way?  If the idea is to show Walter as a more layered character than simply a dorky wacko, I guess I can go with that but I need more.  Hopefully we will get it.

Michael Clarke Duncan plays Walter’s partner and BFF, Leo.  The episode gave the impression that Walter basically saved Leo’s life.  Not in the literal sense but in the “my-ass-is-not-in-jail-because-of-you” sense.  Leo was telling Isabel about how Walter saved him from killing a man, therefore he owes him his life and would do anything for him.  Can you smell bromance?  I can!!!!  I am already looking forward to the backstory on their relationship and the story that Leo is referencing.

As for Isabel (played by Mercedes Mashon) she is a US Marshall who works with Walter and Leo although she isn’t always happy with the way Walter goes about doing his job.  I already like her much better than Saffron Burrows character and she fits the mold nicely.  Plus it’s always good to have some sort of legal enforcer working with you to keep you in line!

The only character that didn’t work for me at all was Willa (played by Maddie Hanson.)  I don’t understand what the point of her character is.  She’s staying with Walter and Leo in a trailer outside the bar and she’s trying to keep her nose clean, at least that’s the message she is trying to convey to her parole officer.  What she is ACTUALLY doing, is a whole other story.  She seems to be using Walter and Leo’s generosity to steal from them with some dumb sidekick I hope we never have to see again.  Leo is trying to see the good in her while Walter, at this point, sees nothing but someone suspicious and he has his eye on her.  So they have this grouchy, I-Hate-Life teenager living with them who is plotting to steal from them.  Like I said, don’t see the point to this at all and wish she would go away because I could care less about her.

As I mentioned before, the case was boring to me.  Maybe part of the reason why it was boring was because sometimes, they spoke so fast and so technically about what was going on, I couldn’t follow.  When Walter was explaining to Leo and Willa about the “Microwave Ovens” and how that impacted his flight, he explained it so quickly and garbled that he might as well have had marbles in his mouth.  My husband and I had to rewind that scene three times to understand what he was trying to say.  Usually if one of us missed something or didn’t follow, the other did and explains it.  But we’ve never had a situation where we both didn’t understand so many times.  Hey, it still could have been our fault…too many Sam Adams or what not…but I think the dialogue can be more clear.  There were many times I felt that they were speaking so quickly that it lost me….and this is coming from someone who has which show in their top 5 all time favorite, best shows on TV?   That would be The West Wing.   I figured if I could follow the West Wing, I can follow any show.

Am I going to watch The Finder again?   Yes.  Will I rush to make sure I watch it?   No.  But I will watch it.  Maybe it was this one episode and I’ll chalk it up to maybe I wasn’t 100% into it vs. the show’s issues…to be fair…but I am giving it another shot.  I think it can be a very light and humerous show with some solid drama mixed in.  But we’ll see.

DVRs: 3

 

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