Tag Archives: Butterflies

Haven – “Butterfly”

“Butterfly”

July 16th, 2010

The second episode of any series is often more telling than its pilot, as it represents the writers’ first chance to give an indication of where the series goes beyond the original concept. This is especially true with shows like Haven which rely on a combination of serialized elements and procedural components, as you start to see the balance take shape when freed from the more blatant exposition required in a pilot.

The two tests that I have for episodes like “Butterfly” are the Serial Extension test and the Procedural Competency test: the former looks at how the show expanded its serialized elements in order to keep viewers intrigued to see the series and its characters evolve, while the latter looks at how it constructs its stand-alone case in order to serve both those serial elements and our general entertainment. I wouldn’t say that, at this early stage, one is more important than the other: we may be enticed to stick around longer should the serialized storyline come together in an interesting fashion, but we’re more likely to quit earlier if the show just isn’t engaging in the stories it will tell in the majority of each episode.

I think that “Butterfly” passes the Serial Extension test with some spooky terminology and a sense of history, but it fails the Procedural Competency test: while certainly not the worst hour of procedural television I’ve seen, the dialogue just isn’t capable of selling this material, and the story’s conclusion is unbelievable not because it involves magic, but because the episode failed miserably at engaging me within its resolution, leaving me skeptical that the series can execute on the small tidbits we’re getting on the serialized front.

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Series Premiere: Kings – “Goliath”

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“Goliath”

March 15th, 2009

The reasons for Kings’ failure to garner anything above a downright abysmal debut on Sunday night are a literal smorgasbord of criteria. Originally planned as a midseason replacement for ER before that show has its run extended when its ratings stabilized early in the season, Kings instead gets a mid-season launch at the worst possible time. Viewers haven’t taken to any of NBC’s new shows, and even its returning shows are struggling to stay afloat, so there’s no “What’s on NBC tonight?” to drive people to a new series. Airing on Sundays without a lead-in is yet another punishment, but unlike a show like Dollhouse, which can count on some substantial Friday evening DVR use, one doesn’t feel like Sunday night is bound to get the same level of uptick. And with Jay Leno set to take over five hours of primetime, the chances of the show garnering strong enough ratings to get itself a second season were slim to none even before the rather embarassing numbers came in.

But let’s throw that out the window for a moment and consider that, while up until last evening this was the only context for Kings in my mind, giving the show’s pilot a chance creates a substantially different reaction. While at its core the show emerges as a sort of monarchical soap opera, there is something in the show’s setting and its subtle compexities which gives it an air of something deserving of more than four million viewers, or at the very least a spot on a network where four million viewers would be considered a success. Led by Ian McShane, the cast is up to the challenge of getting through a lot of exposition in these two hours, setting the stage for an epic war that seems more than vaguely familiar the more we go along, but with more than enough shades of grey in characters’ motivations to create the kind of volatile instability that could sustain an audience.

Unfortunately, it’s an audience that didn’t even show up the first time around.

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