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.
“Welcome to Haven”
July 9th, 2010
Haven was filmed about a half hour away from my current location in the suburbs of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and so there is a certain novelty to watching the premiere and seeing familiar locales. I worked for three summers driving around the province putting out traffic counters, and so I not only recognized Lunenburg (which doubles as Haven) but also the roads which they drive to get to the town, or the intersection where the main action seems to be located. As a result, Haven came to life for me in a way which kept me engaged – it’s too bad, though, that I’m not sure many other viewers could say the same.
The title of the pilot seems to imply that the series is coming from the perspective of the town, that there exists a fully-formed community which we are being welcomed into. However, the structure of the series is such that Haven is only what Emily Rose’s workaholic FBI Agent needs to see, and what the pilot is forced to establish to suggest that there exists a series about this town. While there are plenty of hints that there is something deeper afoot, and that this place holds a history which could hold meaning for our protagonist, there are no small moments which help define Haven and its residents, no local colour beyond archetypal newspaper men and supernaturally-motivated residents.
We are only shown what they have decided we should see – the result is a functional pilot which fails to excite me in any fashion than the sheer novelty of seeing familiar locations on my television screen, although that novelty and my appreciation for Rose will likely keep me watching for a while.
When I was on the train home from Montreal, I had with me screeners of the first five episodes of a Canadian show, Showcase’s Cra$h & Burn, that had never particularly been on my radar (primarily because I don’t actually get the channel in question). The reviews had been lukewarm upon its release, to the point where I had not included the show in my drive to watch more Canadian television.
However, watching the show on the train proved to be an interesting experience. If you had told me going in that the show would present itself as part Better Off Ted (Workplace Satire!), part The Wire (Corruption, and Clark Johnson!), and part Six Feet Under (People Die in the Cold Open!), I probably would have raised my eyebrow faster than ever before, but Crash & Burn is an interesting little dramatic experiment which plays with elements from all these shows. It is not as successful as any of them, struggling early on with the weight of having its hand in so many cookie jars, but it gets a lot of points for going for it, and achieves a sense of dramatic weight and purpose around the midpoint of its first season which makes me anxious, at some point in the future, to finish it.
Unfortunately, the period where I was putting my life back together after my 21-hour train ride took the life out of me, so I nearly neglected to write about the show in time for this post to seem, well, timely: the show’s first season finale airs on Thursday, February 18th, at 10pm ET. However, being a heavily serialized drama, I would suggest, if you get Showcase, you could perhaps wait and see if they start repeating episodes (or check them out at Showcase.ca), because in the end I think it’s worth seeing from the beginning.