Tag Archives: Keith Carradine

Dollhouse – “The Public Eye” / “The Left Hand”

“The Public Eye” / “The Left Hand”

December 4th, 2009

“Everybody’s got a past – it’s the future [viewers] care about.”

Writing about Dollhouse is like riding a bike – the show has never suffered from a lack of ideas, making even its weaker episodes (once it got ahold of its identity) fascinating to discuss. However, there’s something inherently unsatisfying, in theory, about getting back onto that bicycle when you know that you’re about to run out of road, and in a very short period of time this bike is going to be absolutely worthless to you. So much of what I do here at Cultural Learnings is about contextualizing episodes in the past, present and future of any particular series, and in the world of Dollhouse that future has become a swift cancellation which could come as soon as early next week should the ratings from tonight’s two-hour block of episodes be so disastrous that FOX is willing to risk the wrath of fans as opposed to the wrath of advertisers and replace the show with reruns.

And yet, there is something about where this show finds itself mid-way through its second season that I find far more compelling than I should. I know this show is going to end, and yet there is something about the show’s view of the future that has turned its futility into an asset of sorts. It’s almost as if we’ve already reached the end of the road, but instead of a sheer drop the show is offering a lengthy kill on which we can simply coast down the hill with our hands off the handlebars feeling the wind in our face and taking those last moments to think about what was, what is, and what will (or would) be. It’s almost as if cancellation has freed Dollhouse from certain expectations, and what we get from this point forward is about what we take from the material rather than what the material necessarily says in and of itself.

As such, “The Public Eye” and “The Left Hand” are both really great hours of television not only because they’re well-executed in terms of basic plot and character, but also because through the wonders of a DVD bonus feature we as an audience are perfectly situated to understand the ramifications of what is going on here at levels that go beyond the immediate to a future that we might never be able to see but that we are able to vividly imagine in ways that allow the show to survive beyond the certainty of its fate.

Continue reading

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Dollhouse

Dexter – “Dex Takes a Holiday”

dextertitle

“Dex Takes a Holiday”

October 18th, 2009

After missing one episode while I was in New York, and having another one delayed by a DVR failure, I’ve finally caught up with Dexter’s fourth season. Ultimately, both episodes were an improvement over the premiere, although they suffered from similar problems. The show’s decision to place Dexter into the suburbs and into a family life has made for an odd shift in tone. In some ways, it’s a return to first season storylines, with Harry Morgan recurring to remind Dexter that he’s deranged and that he can’t truly have a family. However, the show spent two seasons largely ignoring that story, and something about the way the show played them in a comic light early on has robbed the show of some of its teeth. Just as we see a legitimately intriguing new serial killer who creeps us out, Dexter’s storylines have felt like bad thrillers (the vandal scenario) by comparison.

What “Dex Takes a Holiday” does better is to marry Dexter’s predicament with less of an awkward identity crisis and more of a profound identity crisis – whereas consequences before have been a teenage girl thinking Dexter is being lame, and for Dexter’s suburban dream to suddenly turn into something less than Cleaver-esque, this week posed a far more extreme question in a direct fashion which lacked in subtlety but connected thematically. The episode had its problems, but by literally shipping off Rita and letting Dexter act burdened by inner emotions and not halogen flood lights it really brings into stark contrast the potential of this character.

The problem is that it required sending the family away, a luxury that not every episode will have, and a factor which even an intriguing twist at episode’s end can’t exactly overcome.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Dexter

Season Premiere: Dexter – “Living the Dream”

dextertitle

“Living the Dream”

September 27th, 2009

“It’s already over.”

I have always made the argument that Dexter, slowly but surely, has turned into the pay cable equivalent of 24. However, until watching “Living the Dream,” I had always considered it a sort of referential shorthand for me to say that I’m not amongst those who consider the show in the same league as more complex cable series. After watching the show’s fourth season premiere, however, I’m now convinced that the show is intent on proving me right.

It is a show driven by a single lead character whose personal struggles form the basis of emotional investment. It is a show where each season features a different “threat” that the lead character needs to respond to. It is a show where the supporting characters are interesting when interacting with the lead, but mind-numbingly boring and pointless when left to their own devices. And, perhaps more importantly, it is a show where the similarities between seasons begin to feel repetitive, resulting in its negative qualities becoming that much more apparent in subsequent seasons.

I would be fine with formula if I felt that the formula was actually resulting in a show that made good on the first season’s premise of a vigilante serial killer coming to terms with his morality and engaging with “The Dark Defender.” However, the fourth season is shaping up to continue the trend of the third season, drawing most of its interest from an implausible scenario whereby a national serial killer happens to have originated in Miami, just as every terrorist attack seemed to happen within driving distance of Los Angeles on 24, than from what that means for Dexter.

And while Michael C. Hall will continue to be fantastic in a storyline played more for laughs and convenience than anything else, the show feels as if it is rebooting every time they start a new season. And for a character once defined by the haunting of the past, and by a complex set of characteristics I do not feel have been significantly examined to be undermined, to have only as much past as the show decides he should, is to find a show moving further away from a complex character study and closer and closer to a serialized action thriller with a strong central character and nothing else to show for it.

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Dexter

Going Through the Motions (with Style): John Lithgow cast for Dexter Season 4

dextertitle

Going Through the Motions (With Style):

John Lithgow and Dexter Season Four

I am, without question, a Dexter contrarian. I like the show, don’t get me wrong, but when everyone was jumping up and down at the end of its second season I was frustrated with a lack of finish. When the third season was ramping up and getting everyone excited, I was observing a few too many similarities in the way that Jimmy Smits’ character, Miguel Prado, mirrored Season 2’s primary focus of Dexter’s attention, FBI Agent Frank Lundy. By the time they got to the Season 3 finale, I had more or less given up on ever liking the show as much as ever, and penned what I consider to be the definitive statement of my frustration in my review of the episode.

In that review, I conclude the following:

“But what “Do You Take Dexter Morgan?” reminds me, against my will, is that this is a show with limitations, one which in the introduction of Jimmy Smits shed more light on its weakly developed supporting cast, and in its slow start made us stop and think “what other directions could this show be taking that would be more dramaturgically interesting” for a few episodes too long. In those moments, I know exactly why I jumped on that drunk, hungry, and entirely innocent TV viewer: Dexter could be a better show than it is, and the third season was filled with warnings that the show seems unaware of its recurring problems.”

So with news that John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun, Harry and the Hendersons) has been cast in a key role in the upcoming season which begins on September 27th, and that a particular familiar face will be returning (I’ll leave that beneath the jump as it’s a bit more of a spoiler), I can’t help but feel that Dexter is just going through the motions, repeating patterns that give us a single strong character dynamic while robbing the show as a whole of a chance to actually develop into a show on the level that the series aspires to.

[Note: the below post spoils who his character is, and the basic plot of Dexter’s fourth season – if you want to be surprised, stop reading.]

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Dexter

Summering in Deadwood: “Deadwood” (Season One, Episode One)

DeadwoodTitle

Summering in Deadwood: “Deadwood”

Season One, Episode One

For those of you who don’t know, I came into television fairly late in life: rather than a lifelong obsession, my love for television really only arrived in 2004, with Lost and Veronica Mars amongst other shows providing a sudden awareness of the breadth of television available. Sure, there had been a few shows that had been appointment television before that point, but suddenly there was a desire to watch everything that was out there, a desire which eventually drove me to start this blog and, well, the rest is history.

However, in the process, there have been shows I’ve missed, a problem that takes longer to rectify when you’re watching so many shows currently airing and perhaps worst of all, also dealing with commitments to the real world. A lot of these shows happen to have aired on HBO: being both young and Canadian, my access to shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, or The Wire was limited by resources, and there just wasn’t the drive to start catching up on them. Now, however, I find myself entering into a critical discourse wherein these shows (in particular The Wire and The Sopranos) are scarily prevalent, and so I’ve felt obligated to play catch up, and have picked up the DVDs whenever I’ve spotted a sale. As a result, last year I caught up on Six Feet Under (well, until I got frustrated and stopped mid-5th season), and spent a whirlwind few months with perhaps the best piece of television I’ve ever born witness to, The Wire.

This summer, after an informal twitter poll confirmed what I was likely to choose if left to my own volition, I shall be confronting the fourth part of this HBO twenty-first century grouping, David Milch’s Deadwood. It’s a show that I’ve heard extremely good things about, but also one that I am fairly ignorant of: I knew the basic premise, and knew the actors from various roles since the show ended (supposedly) prematurely, but my sense of the show’s general direction or message is pretty well a clean slate. I feel as if that’s a pretty good way to go into the series, although one that will admittedly make this post and others potentially less interesting for those who have already seen the show.

Summering in Deadwood is not going to be an overly formal review format, outside of my usual verbosity; I don’t expect I’ll review every single episode, focusing instead on likely some quick Twitter notes and reviews of the episodes which stand out for any particular reason, whether they be plot, character, or some sort of response which feels as if it is worthy of some discussion.

And to start things off, “Deadwood” is certainly worthy of some discussion.

[WARNING: I haven’t seen the show, and have not gone beyond the episode being written about – as a result, PLEASE refrain from spoiling anything to follow, although some subtle teases are allowed presuming they don’t ruin any surprises to come.]

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Summering in Deadwood