Every week, The Signal will be offering up a Friday Roundup: a collection of mini-reviews, TV news, interesting links and varying television-related thoughts that weren’t big enough to merit a full post on their own. In this inaugural edition, Editor-in-Chief Robert Lackie will lead the charge on this premiere edition, with the rest of the group planning to add their two cents starting next week.

Reviews, Thoughts and Other Ruminations

Glee: Two episodes this go round: the sleepy, sentimental yet excellent “Home” and the “Hell-o” style slipup “Bad Reputation”, both of which, while being on opposite ends of the scale tonally, confirm one thing for this viewer: This show, despite being worth an hour every week, is far too disappointing for the spoiled. The music of “Home” when sneak-peeked a week early was a fantastic, but in-episode often felt awkward or oddly-placed, and Kristin Chenoweth’s much-anticipated return was largely wasted; meanwhile, the hyped Puck/Rachel reunion in “Bad Reputation” turned out to be largely a tease and nothing more. This, combined with my deep wishes for the show to have a consistent, strong tone and worthwhile comedy and drama every week that are continually dashed, has made watching Glee a mixed experience for me. But, damn, I will sit through a bunch of “Hell-o”s and “Bad Reputation”s at their most frantic and yet oddly formulaic for a story as touching and strong as the Finn/Kurt/Burt/Carole story, or the fantastic songs, of “Home”. Here’s hoping for a strong run as we approach this end of season, as in my count the show is tallying 2-2 —  the excellent “The Power of Madonna” and largely good “Home” vs. the hyperactive and exhausting “Hell-o” and “Bad Reputation”. But if next week’s “Laryngitis” involves a scheme from Sue and Will giving the Glee club yet another of his assignments, I’ll begin worrying. Fingers crossed.

Canterbury’s Law: I grabbed up the six produced episodes of this 2008 legal drama when it first aired, but having never been an E.R. fanatic, Julianna Margulies wasn’t enough of a draw to sit me down to watch it. Having been impressed by her work in The Good Wife (the first legal drama in ages to draw me in, more on that below), I finally gave the pilot a shot yesterday. Though it was decent, I can definitely see why it had trouble gaining traction; Elizabeth Canterbury is less of an easy fit than Alicia Florrick would prove to be for Margulies two years later, and isn’t as strongly established as she could be. The rest of the cast, barring Ben Shenkman‘s Russell Krauss, are mostly nonentities, and Krauss spends much of the episode being aggressive and irritating. The conflicts and thematic elements are worth engaging with, but the pilot does what a lot of legal/medical/cop shows do and telegraph everything pretty quickly. That said, I’m betting a lot of the above are issues of pilot-itis, and may very well watch episodes two through six.

Treme: David Simon’s new HBO series is as much a mystery to me after four episodes as The Wire was, but what helps this go around is that it’s much more accessible and character-based. The series isn’t really about anything other than New Orleans: the music, the culture, the life of a city that needed to fight to stay alive after the storm. The plot threads are unconnected except in how they show life for the people there, and the stories are often engaging even if, unlike most television shows, there isn’t an overarching map visible of where everything is going. For now, one has to be content with watching Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) stand at a funeral of a close friend while being barred from speaking, or LaDonna (Khandi Alexander, free of the shackles of CSI: Miami) struggle between her home in New Orleans and the place where her family has settled in Baton Rouge, or the jealousy of busker Sonny (Michiel Huisman) that girlfriend Annie (Lucia Micarelli) is a better musician than he. Somehow, perhaps because this cast is doing excellent work guided by an even hand, these more quiet, more subtle stories actually draw one into them, rather than (as it would be if done wrong) leading to one questioning why the stories are told in the first place. The show is anchored in a sense of place, and as someone who first dreamed of going to New Orleans only months before Katrina hit, its a pleasure to visit even from my computer up here in Toronto.

The Good Wife: Decided to catch up in this surprisingly engaging legal drama starring Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, betrayed wife of state’s attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth). This show is much better than it should be, considering its origins as a legal procedural with a tawdry ripped-from-the-headlines throughline; this is because the writing is excellent, the cast is sharp, and the serial elements are well-paced. The cases are network-TV predictable, but the show does use them in a satisfactory way to draw one in. Meanwhile, Alicia herself is a formidable lead: sympathetic, strong-willed, filled with complicated questions about what to do with her life. She both acknowledges her own desires while trying to be fair to her family, neither a saint nor completely selfish. The episodes I watched this week, from 1×16 (“Fleas”) to 1×20 (“Mock”), chronicled Alicia’s final disillusionment with her husband and attempted rendezvous with boss Will (Josh Charles). Margulies is fantastic in these episodes as she finally stops bending to the wishes of everyone else as she realises that she doesn’t necessarily have to forgive Peter, and perhaps she doesn’t want to. She faces off both with her husband and his panicked associate in separate scenes, walling herself off from the legal drama encaspulating their lives with a simple, “I don’t care”. The closing minutes of 1×19, in which she freezes out Peter completely and plots a date with Will in front of him, is only the latest strong scene between Margulies and Noth over the course of this season. The entire cast is worth watching, though: Archie Panjabi is electric as firm investigator Kalinda, often the best part of the weekly legal drama; Matt Czuchry‘s Cary could easily be the same sociopathic rich boy as Logan from Gilmore Girls, but is instead a sympathetic and loyal co-worker despite having every reason to ruin Alicia (as they are competing for the same position); Josh Charles is exactly as fantastic as he was in In Treatment‘s premiere season, which is what made him a major draw for me to tune in here in the first place; Christine Baranski is excellent as always here, often flitting between deadpan hilarity and drama within an episode; and even Florrick kids Makenzie Vega and Graham Philips make interesting third-tier characters from pretty small roles. Though I never thought I’d see the day when I’d declare a legal show one of the season’s best newcomers, here I must eat my words. Excellent show.

Hey! It’s That Guy!: Television Without Pity caught on to this before, but it still amuses me every time I come across someone I’ve seen before and can pinpoint exactly where. This week, I encountered Carrie Preston as Elsbeth Tascioni in The Good Wife, but from the moment she stepped on screen I recognised her as Sister Katrina from Wonderfalls 1×04, as a nun who had lost her faith. That episode was great, as it showed an example of how a series can tackle the idea of faith without being terribly heavy-handed or rooting for either side, something I hadn’t seen much of to that point. I also got a chance to see Swoosie Kurtz in Chuck; one of my favourite H!iTGs, she wowed me first when I saw her in Lost 1×19, “Deus Ex Machina”. There was something really interesting about how Kurtz played the role that I checked her out in Pushing Daisies (which shares a creator, a castmember and continuity with Wonderfalls), where she was just as good.


Renewal, Cancellation and Pickup news… It’s looking like we’ll be getting a second season of FX’s Justified (Deadline Hollywood Daily, 03/05/2010), we won’t be getting one for ABC Family’s 10 Things I Hate About You (Variety, 29/04/2010), andNBC has picked up J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers (Deadline Hollywood Daily, 03/05/2010), drama The Event and comedies Outsourced and Love Bites (Deadline Hollywood Daily, 07/05/2010).

Columbian adaptation of Grey’s Anatomy, A Corazón Abierto, is a big hit in its premiere (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 28/04/2010). Anyone who can find us a english-subtitled copy of the trailer (or an episode!) will be forever beloved by The Signal.

Elizabeth Perkins has exited Weeds after five years, no doubt realising her character was played out a few years ago and seeing opportunity in movies. Meanwhile, heavily-praised Justified guest star Walton Goggins has been upped to series regular, and it sounds like standout background players Naya Rivera and Heather Morris will be Glee regulars next season as well.

The third season of In Treatment will feature Debra Winger, but not Diane Wiest, whose character broke ties with Byrne’s in last season’s finale.

One Response to “FRIDAY ROUNDUP!”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] “This show, despite being worth an hour every week, is far too disappointing for the spoiled. The music of “Home” when sneak-peeked a week early was a fantastic, but in-episode often felt awkward or oddly-placed, and Kristin Chenoweth’s much-anticipated return was largely wasted; meanwhile, the hyped Puck/Rachel reunion in “Bad Reputation” turned out to be largely a tease and nothing more.” – R. Lackie, “FRIDAY ROUNDUP!“ […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: