Thu, 17 Jun 2010
Spring 2010 TV: Thursday
For me, Thursdays on TV means four shows:
CSI was the first, and still one of the best, of the modern crop of crime detection shows on TV. It has clearly influenced a generation of its successors, and has become a part of our culture in ways many and varied. While it's true that I like CSI: New York a bit better these days, and it's true that even with the addition of the masterful Laurence Fishburne, it hasn't been the same since William Petersen left, it still draws me in every week with its blend of geeky forensics and gritty street crime.
Helgenberger, Eads, Guilfoyle, Szmanda, Hall, and Berman have been solid as rocks since day one, and I'd miss seeing any one of them. I have to admit that I was strongly moved by a scene this season in which one character (was it Jim Brass?) told Marg Helgenberger's newly-crowned team leader Catherine Willows that she wasn't doing a very good job. She acknowledged that it was true, and she wasn't sure why she couldn't do as good a job as Grissom had. The other character told her, "Grissom had one thing you don't have." She asked, "What?" And he smiled and said, "You." And that sorta opened her eyes, and let her give Eads' Nick Stokes more authority and leeway, and the team began to work better after that.
I mourned Petersen's passing, but I guess it was time for Grissom to seek new bugs to study, and time for Mr. Petersen to go back to treading the boards in the Windy City. Fishburne is more than big enough to fill Petersen's shoes, but so far they haven't let him. Dunno what's up with that. I really mourned Warrick's passing, not only because I really liked the character, but because I've been a big fan of Gary Dourdan ever since I first saw him in the fourth Alien movie. Jorja Fox, eh, I've liked her well enough since she was Jorjan Fox on ER, but something about her has always seemed ... I dunno, distant. Or something.
New additions Archie and Wendy and Henry are just fine with me, and I haven't been able to get enough of Sheeri Rappaport since she played the taciturn but libidinous Officer Franco on NYPD Blue. Wallace Langham is obviously a good actor; forgive me for not liking his Hodges, although that may be the character I'm not liking rather than the actor. I see from the IMDb that Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family did a recurring turn on CSI in its early years, but I'm sorry to say I don't remember him. The show is a common venue for upscale character actors, and occasionally some big-name directors like Friedkin and Tarantino, but even with its regular crew it's always worth watching.
So it's a legend, and is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it still has enough of the ol' zazz to make it to my A list every week.
The Mentalist is now finishing up its sophomore year, and continues to amuse and occasionally enthrall me. I had not seen Aussie lead Simon Baker before this series, but he does a great job here, and his American accent is almost flawless. I've never much liked Robin Tunney, can't say why, but she just hasn't done it for me in anything she's been in, starting for me with End of Days. But she can act, I'll give her that, and does a satisfactory job as the team chief. The rest of the cast is excellent, the dialogue and situations are amusing and just suspensful enough, and the premise of a "mind reader" who turns his skills toward solving crime is quite cute. Like its brother in charms, Lie to Me, the notion of somebody being able to tell what we're thinking even when we don't want them to know has a lot of appeal. Mentalist had some rather soggy episodes in the middle of this season, but the first season was good enough for me to cut it some slack, and while I haven't yet seen the final four eps of this season, they sound good, and the finale claims to make some hay on the "Red John" subplot. An A-rated show for me.
Bones is an up-and-down experience for me. When I think about the show, I think eh, why do I even watch it? Then I actually do watch, and I always enjoy it, so I keep coming back for more even when I'm not sure I want to. Frankly, I don't have much use for either of the leads, but the supporting cast more than make up for them. I was sorry when Jonathan Adams left, but Tamara Taylor is a more-than-adequate replacement for him, and brings her own skill and sexiness to the show. I was also sorry to see Eric Millegan leave, and I hope he's doing something interesting nowadays. Michaela Conlin is one of the prettiest women on Earth these days, T. J. Thyne is who I want to be when I grow up, and Doogie Sweets, er, I mean Mitch Weir, er, John Francis Daley, yeah, that's it, doesn't annoy me enough to be a turn-off. I still miss "King of the Lab", though. I'd like to rate this one a B, but I can't recall ever voluntarily missing one, so I guess that without realizing it, this is an A show for me.
Fringe is another show just finishing its second season. It wants to be The X Files, a show I adored in its early seasons, tolerated in later seasons, and had pretty much given up on by the time it ended. I watched the series finale, but gave the movie a pass. I used to curse Files when it failed to advance its Mulder/ET theme, and then curse them when they did. Still, in its day it was one of the most unusual and mind-bending shows on TV, and my wife and I used to discuss and reference scenes and episodes for days, weeks, even years after they'd aired.
Fringe has a similar flavor, but it seems the showrunners are avoiding some of the obvious traps that Files fell into, like just being way too damned mysterious for its own good, and falling in love with its own mythology. Fringe isn't quite in the same league as X Files, I think, but it does have some pretty whackdoodle storylines, it has the mysterious "Observer" and the whole glyph thing and the alternate-universe mythology, and the secretive and probably evil megacorporation, and where else can you see Leonard Nimoy from time to time! John Noble does a fine job as the man lost in his own mind, Anna Torv and Jasika Nicole are suitably yummy and competent, and poor Joshua Jackson doesn't seem to mind being thrown about by the winds of plot, being a hapless buffoon one moment and a hard-eyed mercenary the next. One of the main reasons I watch it, though, is because Lance Reddick is in it; I think he's fantastic. Lean, hard, and uncompromising, yet willing to accept the notion that, say, somebody has burst into flame, dissolved into a puddle, or grown steel horns, without batting an eye. I'll keep watching unless/until they get too wrapped up in their own mystery, or until Fox drops the axe. Rating is A, for now.
Yes, I know that FlashForward is, or was, shown on Thursdays, but it's cancelled now, and really never lived up to its fairly intriguing premise. I guess they wanted to clone Lost (which I've never seen, and never had an urge to see), and they failed both at that and at making an interesting show in its own right. Pity. A great waste of some fantastic acting talent, most notably the most excellent Courtney B. Vance, a smart and versatile actor and a helluva good-looking man who's never seemed to find just the right niche to showcase his obvious assets.
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