I’m going to review three of the new(ish) TV shows that I’m watching here. Two of which are clearly right up my usual alley, and one which I take no responsibility for having seen.
WARNING: there will be some spoilers here. Admittedly, since I’m watching these on a time delay, and haven’t actually seen more than the first two episodes of two out of three of these shows, so those spoilers should be pretty mild.
I’ve not actually read a lot of the Green Arrow comics. I read all the books Kevin Smith wrote when rebooting the series a few years ago, and I watched a small part of the Smallville episodes that worked the character in, but the new series has nothing to do with Smallville. I guess what I’m saying is, I can’t actually tell you how true to the comics the show is being, as I’m not super familiar with the source material myself.
Anyway, of the three shows I’m going to talk about here, Arrow is by far my favorite. I’ve only seen the first two episodes, but I’ve been very impressed.
For a start, the action is great. Much better than most TV shows manage. They’ve clearly got some great fight choreographers, and are also pretty good at keeping jump cuts to a minimum, so it’s pretty easy to follow what’s going on.
I think one of my favorite aspects of the show is how damaged they’re willing to let their main character be. He spent five years living alone (as far as we know) on an island, fighting for his survival. He comes back to civilization and is quite clearly pretty messed up by it. Sure, some of it is an act to protect his burgeoning vigilantism, like when he acts like the alcoholic playboy he used to be, but other parts are not. Oliver Queen obviously doesn’t know how to interact with his family anymore, from his younger sister who turned to drugs, to his mother that remarried in his absence. The recent Batman movies are a clear inspiration for the series, so it’s also nice that they gave him a family to come back to at all, rather than just being the last member of the Queen clan.
The show is full of interesting characters. Stephen Amell does a great job as the main character, completely selling both the callow dick he used to be in flashbacks as well as the driven man he’s become since. I think my favorite has to be his would-be bodyguard, Diggle, who Oliver keeps evading so he can go out and do superhero things. He’s quite clearly smarter than he lets on, and I really think it’s only a matter of time before Diggle figures out what Oliver is doing. Not to mention Walter Steele, the man who married Oliver’s mother, played by, oh, let’s just go ahead and call him Dr Moon from the wonderful Silence in the Library Dr Who two-parter. And rumor has it that another Dr Who alum, John Barrowman, is going to have a recurring role coming up. Really, even if the rest of the show wasn’t really doing it for me, I would totally hold out long enough to see what was going on with whatever character he’s going to be playing.
Plot wise, it’s doing a great job of sprinkling in a larger, ongoing arc having to do with some vast conspiracy with bad guy of the week episodes, as Oliver basically does a Robin Hood schtick. I’m genuinely curious to see what happened to Oliver on the island, how he learned to fight, and how the notebook got filled up with the names of Starling City’s worst.
It’s funny, but when they were showing Oliver’s empty grave in the second episode, I couldn’t help but notice that it said that Oliver was born in, like, 1985. I’ve gotten to the point where the main characters of action shows are supposed to be younger than me. Of course, he’s still played by someone two years older than me, so I guess I’ll just have to cling to that.
There is one thing I’m not super wild about, and that’s the interior monologues the show occasionally falls back on. Amell does the best he can with the lines he’s given, but it’s painful. The first episode opens with him being rescued, and immediately goes into a voice over bit about he’s coming back to clean up his city. It is super awkward. It’s use in the second episode is a little less painful, and they mixed it up a bit by later having him talk to his father’s grave, which points to the obvious solution. They really need to let someone in on his secret so he can just have actual conversations with people about this. Expository dialogue may not always be great, but it’s almost always better than expository monologue. My vote is for Diggle. Really, there’s only so many times he can put the guy in a sleeper hold and then run off to fight crime before he starts getting wise. Of course, since I’m a couple episodes behind at this point, this could already have happened. I hope so.
Boy did I really want to like this show. It’s got a lot of great actors and characters, an intriguing concept, and a proven show runner. Pity the end result isn’t as fun.
Quickly then, the quality of action dropped off markedly from the first episode, but that’s to be expected when you had Jon Favreau directing the pilot. After that, eh, not so great.
Eric Kripke made Supernatural, which, by all rights, should have been terrible, into a really awesome, fun, funny, and complex show. Of course, I’d also give partial credit to Ben Edlund for that, but that’s just because I’m a huge Ben Edlund fan.
I can’t make myself care about the main girl on the quest to find her younger brother. She’s kind of a blank slate.
I am impressed by the production quality of the show. Shows that are long road trips can be expensive to shoot. Supernatural has it relatively easy since it all takes place in the real world. Well, sort of. Revolution has to find new post-apocalyptic settings every week. That at least is impressive.
Quick thought about the big bad: What kind of idiot has his own last name, and some dorky symbol he came up with for it, tattooed on his arm? That’s, like, the kind of tattoo idea that an eight-year-old who is super proud of his family would come up with, and is exactly why eight-year-olds aren’t allowed to get tattoos.
Really, the main problem with this show would have to be its basic premise. It’s one thing to turn all the power off, and even another thing to keep it off, but Revolution goes way too far. They even acknowledge it early on, with one character (who, I’m sorry, is way too young to have been a Google millionaire) talks about how it’s not just the power going out, but the basic laws of physics changing. But it’s not even internally consistent. No cars work anymore? Really? Because there are plenty of cars that should still work fine in a world without electricity. Like, even if the starter isn’t going to work, it’s not like internal combustion suddenly stopped doing its thing. After all, they still have bullets, and, you know, fire.
Basically, unlike Arrow, where my eyes light up whenever a new episode pops up in our Hulu queue, those four to five most recent Revolution episodes are just sitting there, slowly approaching their expiration dates, and it feels like it would be a chore to watch them.
Yeah, this is the surprising one. I didn’t really mean to watch it, Elisabeth had it on downstairs while I was playing Guild Wars 2, and I couldn’t help but pick up some stuff. This will probably be the most spoilerific review, because I don’t care.
For starters, I’m not really clear why, when they acknowledge early on that there’s already been an unsuccessful Broadway show based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, they think theirs will be different. I know they had some reason, but it’s already gone from my mind and never mentioned again in the show, like it was the writers’ trick to bypass that obvious question show they could do a TV show about a Broadway show based on MM’s life anyway. That being said, the musical numbers they’re coming up with aren’t that bad, they’re just still not part of anything I would want to watch.
Some of that might have to do with what a terrible role model Marilyn is. Yeah, she had style and certainly made her way up to something from nothing, but she’s also pretty famous for sleeping around and having debilitating substance abuse problems. So… yay…
They do an admirable job of working around the fact that an actual Broadway show would just be written for years before anyone started trying out by saying they’re workshopping the thing, but it still seems to be moving at a ridiculous pace, all so they can get musical numbers in their TV show in episode one.
Mostly it’s just the characters. It’s like the writers of this show want you to like only one character, the innocent small town girl who wants to be a Broadway star, and have no problem with you placing all the other characters on a wide spectrum that has apathy at one end revulsion on the other.
The next most sympathetic character would have to be Anjelica Huston’s Eileen Rand, who regularly throws drinks in her ex-husband’s face, which actually is not necessarily a bad thing, as he’s clearly a dick, it’s just that it doesn’t always seem called for at the exact moment she does it.
There’s one of the play’s writers, Julia Houston, who is trying to adopt a daughter, and who we kind of like, right up until we find out she had a massive, cliche riddled affair.
There’s the other writer who, besides being gay, does not seem to have a whole lot of defining characteristics at all.
And there’s his assistant, who the show makes us first hate for putting a reel of them demoing a song on youtube, then we forgive him because it generates a lot of good buzz. But now we hate him again because his friends have convinced him that because he vaguely got the two writers thinking about MM in the first place, he should be entitled to credit. Basically, he comes off as a spineless jerk that blows in whatever direction the wind takes him. Now it looks like he might blackmail writer 1with the aforementioned affair and blah blah blah who cares?
There’s Jack Davenport, who I’ve loved since the first time I saw Coupling, but here he’s playing the director, an opportunistic lech who puts the moves on innocent ingenue under the guise of helping her prepare for the audition. His character is handled poorly all around. Before he’s even on screen, writers 1 and 2 are discussing whether or not to have him direct, and writer 1 is for it, and all writer 2 can dramatically say is that he’s “A TERRIBLE PERSON!” and leave it at that. I think they just didn’t want to reveal why he was a terrible person until he put the moves on Katharine McPhee so it would be a big surprise or something. But, since they couldn’t just have the other characters pretend he doesn’t have a history of sleeping with impressionable young nobodies, they have to have them talk about it, but not actually say why he’s a terrible person. For some reason Rand doesn’t seem to care at all. Anyway, then he sleeps with the other girl trying out for the role, and let’s talk about her now, okay?
She sleeps with the director, in a move that totally made it look like she knew exactly what she was doing, and then later is talking to a friend and is all, “Do you think he gave me the part because I slept with him?” Uh, yeah, dipshit.
Also, one of the Jonas brothers showed up in one episode, playing himself, I think. I don’t know why.
Finally, there’s writer 1’s son, Bobby. Bobby is extremely troubling, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve gone through many phases. At first I thought the character was supposed to be mentally disabled in some vague way. Then I thought maybe the actor playing him was just making some really weird character choices. Then there was a really odd speech he had about how his future adopted sister is somewhere in China, and they have to go and get her, like, right now. This came off as extremely creepy, and gave rise to my new theory: the character was originally intended to be much younger. Like, eight or nine, and not played by a 22-year-old. I think they wrote that speech for a younger character, then aged him up, but were too attached to the sweet little speech they’d written to throw it out. Coming from a small child, saying we have to go to China and rescue some unknown future sister could be kind of endearing. Coming from someone who looks like he should be in college, it is decidedly less so.
In summation, Yay! for Arrow! Whatever for Revolution. Stop, just… just stop for Smash.