Yeah, I know I’m a little late for this but I wanted to give some of these new shows a chance to find their legs or lose them as the case may be. Of all the new shows I’ve picked up this year, only one was bad enough that I’ve already quit watching it.

Anyways, let us begin!

Hawaii 5-0

This one is a surprise. I checked it out because I like Scott Caan a lot and have fond memories of Boomer from BSG and of course Jin from Lost (Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim). Alex O’Loughlin was good in his short time on The Shield, also. So the pedigree is kind of what brought me in but I didn’t expect much. It’s a pretty light show and sometimes has totally awful dialogue (usually spake by the two Asian characters, actually). The good stuff is in the action, the interesting setting, and the banter especially between O’Loughlin and Caan. The two of them have an easy chemistry that is like the white version of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the Bad Boys movies. I, being biased, also like Caan’s character for being a devoted weekend dad plagued by a disagreeable ex. I can relate, buddy.

Like I said, a major point in the show’s favor is the action. Each episode is almost a mini-movie with several smaller set pieces and usually one big one for the climax. It’s pretty villain of the weak so far, but they’ve had good guest stars like Norman Reedus, James Marsters (also seen in Caprica) and even Petere fucking Stormare.

But, the villain of the week thing isn’t going to carry the show forever. They will eventually have to have a larger thorough-line. There’s also that Dae Kim and Park’s characters are underwritten. Dae Kim is playing a guy who is older than he is and it makes his old time war stories come off a bit weird. He is also given the very worst dialogue and although there’s stuff to mine from his “was he or wasn’t he” dirty cop background, I hope they find more to do with his character. Park is the tough girl rookie who is often reduced to seduction and damsel in distress. Seriously, she needs rescuing in at least 2 of the 3 episodes I’ve seen and although she usually uses rescue as an opportunity to get some beats in, it’s a bit of a weird device.

As a side-note, Park is like way too skinny. What the hell happened to her?

Anyway, in the final analysis I like this show enough to keep watching it for now. If it doesn’t dig a little deeper, I don’t think I’ll stick with it in spite of how likable the cast is. Sharing out the love with the Asian supporting characters might be a good move too since the show takes place in a very ethnic part of the USA and feels very white-bread because of the leads.

Verdict: We’ll see if it sticks with me. I wouldn’t currently recommend it to anyone who isn’t a fan of the cast.

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The Event

This is the one show that I quit pretty fast. It is aspires to be fill the hole left by Lost. Only where Lost had sensible pacing, strong characterization, and an interesting framing device (the flashbacks), The Event feels like a half-baked intention on wheels. It wants to hit some magic formula that will capitalize on Lost while also “improving” on it in terms of audience expectations. Now that “answers” has become part of the discourse about entertainment media, you have pandering TV showrunners and writers assuring “fans” that there will be “answers” and the whole thing is just ridiculous.

The cast isn’t interesting, either. Not enough time is spent with them and because of the demands of a disproportionately plot-driven show, there’s an over-reliance on unrealistic cliches which mar the smaller, non-plot focused scenes. There’s also the comic book-style skips back and forth in time which reminded me of Brian K. Vaughn and demonstrated how that shit just doesn’t really work off the page. It has calmed down, but they are still bouncing us around disconnected scenes to try and peel back layers of arbitrary “mystery”.

It’s just kind of a misguided mess that may find itself in the 22 episodes it has for its first season, but I sincerely doubt it. Like so many shows trying to out-Lost Lost, I don’t think it has long to live. I will not pick it up again unless/until I hear definitive word that it’s vastly improved.

Verdict: Awful. Definitely an uphill battle from here.

Terriers

This one comes from FX, those blessed souls responsible for other great television from Rescue Me to Sons of Anarchy (that rhymes!). Terriers is less of an ensemble and more of a character study of a small but intimate cast. It’s essentially a more blue collar version of something like Hawaii 5-0 but instead of slick crime-fighters we have a couple of schlubs partnered up as unlicensed private detectives who can’t seem to keep personal and professional separate.

Donal Logue is a guy you’ve seen in bit parts here and there, my favorite being the henchman he played in Blade. He’s never been a very big deal to me, but here he brings some serious game. He infuses Hank with a sort of wounded decency. A former alcoholic, and a former cop, Hank’s the kind of guy who should be sitting in a bar day in and day out trying to relive his glory days or at least mourning them. Instead, he’s out there clean and sober and trying to make a difference in whatever small way. Michael Raymond-James was a sorry loss on True Blood but has found a great place to show people what else he can do with this show. A likable if slightly skeazy guy, Britt is like a mirror of Hank’s. He was a thief but is now more or less reformed and instead of trying to get back some of what he lost, he is basically trying to put as much distance between himself and that as possible.

This sounds like the roots of an epic crime drama with deep characterization but Terriers is too relaxed for that. What makes it kind of unique is that, in spite of the seriousness of some of the things they deal with, Hank and Britt never seem to lose their underdog chutzpah. They take everything in stride with a winning sense of humor. It’s almost like if Californication were a detective show (with less debauchery).

Terriers is a winner (even Leanne likes it) and will probably gain more appeal in a year or two the way many FX shows have. Of course, you should be watching it now to help make sure it has its chance. I don’t know what kind of ratings it’s pulling but I’m sure it can’t hurt.

Verdict: A show with major heart and humor. You shoud be watching this.

No Ordinary Family

This one is a surprise. I thought from the trailers and concept that it was going to be awful. It is not awful. No Ordinary Family is the most obviously successful execution of concept of any show on this list. It may not be as ambitious or as subtle as others but it’s basically doing exactly what it’s trying to do and hoping you enjoy it. The concept is simple: The Incredibles: The TV Series. If you’re sick of comic books or non-comic book superhero stories, this isn’t going to work for you at all. Basically it’s like Heroes without the stupidly huge ensemble, the crushed dreams, and horrible awful writing.

No Ordinary Family is taking its time building up a mythology. For now it’s happy just being about a somewhat dysfunctional family working out its problems through the metaphor of superpowers. It’s not particularly orginal nor is it clever (though it will have time for that I’m sure), but it’s not trying to be. Which is an odd thing to praise. I guess the reason I like it is that it isn’t aiming at mediocrity nor at reinventing the wheel. It’s got a narrow target and it’s doing a good job of hitting it.

It helps that I really like the cast. Julie Benz has been one to watch since her Buffy and Angel days. Michael Chiklis is fucking Vic Mackey. I’d watch the man in anything and here he gets to be this ridiculously enthusiastic superman. The show also smartly sidesteps family melodrama and lets problems resolve themselves in a basically straightforward way. Yeah, there are going to be some tangled plot threads that take their time unraveling when the audience is kind of wishing they would just go there already (I’m looking at you, JJ! Stop your lies!). Mostly though, this is light on the drama and heavy on the action and comedy. The show is not shy about superpowers the way Heroes was. No opportunity to show Chiklis breaking shit by accident or jumping up buildings is spared, and same goes for the surprisingly sharp speed effect for Benz’s character (who is basically Mama Flash).

I don’t know how well No Ordinary Family is going to do among my peers and I kind of hesitate to recommend it. I think people will want to see it as cheesy, unrealistic, and maybe even redundant (given The Incredibles). And I’m not really saying it’s not any of these things. I’m saying that it’s a show that knows what it is and is okay with that (unlike The Event) and thus, so am I.

Verdict: The big surprise of the year. If it keeps this up while developing its mythology and basic concepts, it’ll be a keeper.

Sym-Bionic Titan

I love Samurai Jack so watching Genndy Tartakovksy’s new show was sort of an inevitability. Of course, I was never into Dexter’s Lab or Powerpuff Girls so it’s not like being into this one was inevitable. Thankfully, Sym-Bionic Titan is in many ways a step beyond Samurai Jack and is a better show for the distance it puts between.

Basically a giant monster show with a distinctly Japanese sensibility, it also deals with your standard selection of awkward growing up stuff including family dynamics and high school. Being more dialogue-driven than Jack, this could have put me off seeing as it’s getting harder and harder for me to relate to the high school experience as delivered by popular media. That said, the extra dialogue presents an opportunity for the show’s sense of humor to let us know that it gets the cliches and is using them for a reason.

And this is a funny show. Especially Octus.

The show’s plot is about a planet called Galaluna where this evil general has joined forces with various dangerous aliens and launched a campaign to take over the world. He’s been mostly successful but there’s a rebellion and the king sends his only daughter, and a symbol of hope for the remaining rebels, off to another world with a young soldier and a strange robot. He stays behind and gets captured and periodically interrogated by General Modula (who has a great villain voice, man).

Lance, the young soldier, is impetuous but brave and pretty intense. Illana, the princess, is caring and naive but also practical. Octus is sort of the brains of the group, which is an interesting choice. At school, Lance is the dark and intense bad-boy all the girls swoon over and all the guys want to be, especially the downtrodden ones who take all the bully/clique shit Lance won’t. Illana is an oddball pseudo-hippy/ster who tries really hard but is largely ignored. She’s preppy and the kind of person to whom school spirit is a religion. Octus is the constant observer of human behavior, and has a double role both as an unusually fridge-shaped nerd and the middle-aged “father” of his “brother and sister” charges. Watching Octus try to master fatherhood is one of my favorite things in the show. Especially the bit where he tries to translate conflict resolution learned from talking animals in a kids’ cartoon to help Illana and Lance settle their differences. Hilarious.

Although the look of Galaluna and its people seems heavily influenced by WW1-era Europe, both the princess and Lance have powered suits they can activate. Merging with Octus due to “hidden protocols”, they can form a giant fighting robot called the Titan. As a unit, they battle various monsters sent through a rift in space-time by Modula. Every episode features a new problem and a corresponding threat from the monsters but only 6 episodes in the show is already sowing major seeds for arcs and subplots down the line. Because of its simple, familiar premise and episodic structure, there’s a lot of room to play around.

I’m really excited about this show because it’s a bit more ballsy than Samurai Jack in some ways. In this, it is heavily implied that there’s serious collateral damage and loss of human life due to the alien attacks (which wouldn’t happen if not for the presence of the Galalunans… though this hasn’t quite been touched on in the show yet). In addition, there’s some downright unsettling shit going on. In one early episode, a mind-reading creature is employed by Modula to get secrets from the Illan’s father. This creature is this horrible squid-like thing and it literally forces itself down peoples’ throats in order to get in their heads. It’s fucked up and I bet it scares some kids.

Verdict: Probably a niche show. Lot’s of people will ditch at “animated” and the rest will at “high school”. That’s a shame but for those who could get into this, it’ll be rewarding.

Boardwalk Empire

Last but resoundingly not least, we have this little cherry courtesy of none other than Martin Scorsese. Boardwalk Empire is impossible not to applaud. It’s a stellar production on every level and has big things in store for it especially due to the clout and breathing room it’s built-in audience is going to afford it. This is a show that’s primed to fill the gap left by The Sopranos (which I’ve sadly not watched yet) and thus, there’s a legion of audience that were already primed for it. That’s without even factoring in Scorsese’s pull or that of the impeccable cast.

Ah, the cast. I love Steve Buscemi and it’s awesome to see him sink his teeth into a leading role like this. His Nucky Thompson is the kind of gangster people love. He’s the kind of morally ambiguous crook that you can’t help but root for. The other huge notable is Michael Pitt as Jimmy, which is a character and performance that shows you why this guy is going to be a big deal (if he isn’t already). Even though he’s been awesome in unsettling roles like that of Funny Games, it sort of made sense in his career trajectory. The guy has almost always played weirdos (oh, and Kurt Cobain kinda). But this is the role of a lifetime and he’s owning it.

I could write another 5 paragraphs lavishing praise on every element of this show but it’s completely unnecessary. You’ve already heard it’s good. If you’re not watching it now, you will be in a couple of years when everybody is talking about it. If they aren’t already (and I suspect they are).

Verdict: Pretty much destined to be this year’s big prestige show. You can probably feel pretty safe expecting great things.

Be-deep, be-deep… that’s all folks!

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