Season Two’s Cult of Personality
April 24th, 2010
You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.
When a show is making the transition between its first and second seasons, personality is perhaps its greatest asset. If you’re going to be creating new stories, and if you tied off a lot of the show’s loose ends in the previous season, you’re creating a situation where suspense and anticipation are replaced by creation and expectation. These are different beasts, and if you’re not ready to fully commit to a fast-paced serialized series then your best strategy is to use your show’s personality in order to “weather the storm,” so to speak.
What Buffy the Vampire Slayer does early in its second season is use personality as its ultimate goal, if not necessarily doing so in a straightforward or consistent fashion. The show has always been about its characters, and our attachment with the series’ strong but somewhat uneven first season is likely based on Xander’s wit, or Willow’s pragmatism, or Giles’ cantankerousness, or Buffy’s hidden vulnerability. However, while the second season does continue to rely on Xander’s one-liners or Giles’ dry sense of humour, it is not content to coast by: starting with the premiere, “When She Was Bad” and extending into “Halloween,” the show puts each personality under a microscope in ways which verify the importance of personality to the success of this series on the sides of both good and evil.
“Nothing But the Blood”
June 14th, 2009
I may not be a “real” critic, but there are times when I feel pressure to cover a particular show based on my position as a reviewer of television. There are shows that I don’t watch that don’t bother me in the least if I don’t discuss them, but there are others that present a particular challenge. When the entire internet, and many of my twitter followers/followees, became entranced by HBO’s True Blood, which was unexpected considering that I had watched the show’s pilot and had seen little reason to continue watching, I felt like I should at least be willing to give the show another shot. The first time around, I just wasn’t on board: the show was not living up to its admittedly intriguing concept, and that was enough during a busy fall for me to give up on the show.
But then some things changed: the show added a number of guest stars of interest (Alexander Skarsgaard (Generation Kill), Michelle Forbes (Battlestar Galactica), Lizzy Caplan (Party Down), amongst others), the ratings grew, and the hype for Season Two seemed to be legitimately beyond “It’s about vampires, so it’s awesome!” As a result, I spent part of this evening reading some recaps (although considering they were from Television Without Pity they weren’t so much about plot), and then watching the repeat of last season’s finale – yes, just earlier today I said I wasn’t going to blog about the show, but I grew bored and had some time to kill this evening.
The result is that I went into “Nothing But the Blood” still somewhat confused about what people are seeing, a lot confused at just how whacked out this universe is, but intrigued enough to be willing to see how this premiere would turn out. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I leave just as confused about everything, and just as disappointed that this isn’t the show I wanted it to be when it first premiered.
“I’m Not Wearing That Girls Leotard!”
March 1st, 2009
The major change that we’re getting during this season of The Amazing Race is that there is no rest for the wicked – while before there were often legs which were constructed so as to require no planes at all, staying within one city or one country for a second leg, this year they’re mixing things up. Just as quickly as the racers had flown into and raced around Germany and Austria, the teams were back on a plane to Bucharest, Romania, and off for another leg of their adventure. It’s something that is going to catch up with teams very quickly, the spectre of killer fatigue preparing to play an even more substantial part in this race than in years past.
Unfortunately for one team this week, though, it’s not early enough yet for this to start to happen. And when it comes down to flying at the start of the leg, there are various problems that can crop up, and when things add up just wrong for you the leg isn’t going to give you a chance to catch up – there’s no suspense in this one, and it’s a sad story for a team that really didn’t deserve to go home at this stage.
But this isn’t to say that this is a momentum killer for the season, in fact quite the opposite: there is still plenty of heartwarming moments from Mel and Mike, finally a chink in the armour of too perfect Kris and Amanda, some redemption of sorts for two all-female teams who proved they’re not quite as incompetent as we first thought, and one team even gives the editors a freebie to be able to make it seem at least theoretically competitive. It’s a very even field right now, and despite the unfortunate loss there’s a lot to look forward to.
Fall 2008 Pilot Preview
[As per pilot screener regulations, this is a preview and not a review. The content of the series may change between now and the show’s official airing, so all thoughts are of a preliminary nature pending said changes. For a full review, tune in for the show’s September premiere.]
Having recently made my way into Six Feet Under’s fifth season, I’ve started to better understand the work of Alan Ball. That HBO series was known for its dramatic performances, its death-riddled plot points (Seriously, a lot of people die), and also its inability (for better or worse) to keep a consistent tone. One moment you’re laughing at two characters, and the next you’re getting punched in the face by a cold reality. It’s a visceral television experience, and one that I’m still kind of torn on. I’m capable of appreciating the work I’m seeing, but there’s something that keeps me from really engaging with it, likely out of fear of “getting hurt” in the process.
That left me at least mildly tentative heading into Ball’s latest project, an adaptation of the Southern Vampire novels by Charlaine Harris. HBO’s True Blood is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a young waitress with a special power who is making a living in an exciting time for America. Vampires have “come out” as it were, emerging as real citizens with their own lobbyists after the Japanese were able to manufacture synthetic blood that “suits their dietary needs.” It’s a strong setup that seems like it’s got a lot of broad potential, but it’s intriguing to see that its trajectory is far more fantastical than I had imagined.
And that, I think, is a good thing considering Ball’s history in television.