Friday, September 24, 2010

The X-Files: Unruhe (4.4)

While it does feature the return of the dreaded "Scully kidnapped and tied up" motif that has been resurrected repeatedly over the last three seasons, Unruhe is in fact pretty spectacular. Cribbing together the most successful elements of The Silence of the Lambs and several series classics like Irresistible and Grotesque, this is a wonderfully terrifying exploration into the mind of somebody left so mentally disturbed that he believes his horrific actions are actually beneficial to his victims.

Nip/Tuck: Dawn Budge (4.5)

You can almost forgive the show for it's contrived fast-forwarding of the Christian and Michelle relationship. If there's one thing you can expect from Nip/Tuck, it's rapid acceleration to get to a certain plot point. If you ignore their annoying professions of love for one another, you finally get to the storyline gold: Christian's interaction with James is vintage show. She's a beautiful older woman with maximum sex appeal, he can't contain himself -- if it weren't for the fact that she's a crazy blackmailer. Their scenes glimmer with sexual tension, and it's so, so awesome to see.

Undercovers: Pilot (1.1)

Alias, J.J. Abrams' first attempt at an espionage action drama, lived and died by its convoluted and ultimately unsatisfying mythology. While the show ranks up there amongst my favorite ever series, it was a little disheartening that it ended so abruptly with a conclusion that made little cohesive sense. However, the fun was in the journey. The destination just happening to be disappointing doesn't necessarily dent the show as a whole, for me anyway. I bring this up because Abrams and company have made a marked effort to make their new spy series wholly different from Alias, giving it a mission-of-the-week vibe and brightening up the tone, allowing for a whole lot of sexy banter and sexy action from its sexy, sexy leads. Sex sex sex.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nip/Tuck: Shari Noble (4.4)

There is a lot of sexual chemistry in the scenes between Christian and Michelle. Well, he's Julian McMahon, so I'm sure he'd have sexual chemistry with a jar of tofu, but that's beside the point. What these two have is an irresistible connection, and their scenes in this episode sparkle with banter and secret longing. Michelle's back-story is particularly fun in its soapiness (anything with high-class call-girls and sexual blackmail is a win in my very trashy book), while Jacqueline Bisset is a revelation as James. I don't know if it's the accent or the take-no-prisoners attitude (or, you know, the fact that's she so cavalier in the whole 'smashing paperweights into the faces of pretty young women' department), but she's the show's finest femme fatale since Ava. Rawwr.

Nip/Tuck: Monica Wilder (4.3)

The rapid deconstruction of Christian Troy has been one of the clearest character arcs so far this season. We've already had him questioning his own mind and spirit with his fear over his potential homosexuality, and now he's left questioning his body. A lot of media coverage was dedicated to the shower scene here, and it was pretty darn hilarious. Mike Hamoui is an obnoxious "physical terrorist", a man so vacuous that his whole life revolves around his body. He's Christian but even worse. Mario Lopez, nothing but a pair of washboard abs, was fine, and did exactly what the role called for. Namely, said washboard abs and some tight butt-cheeks.

Nip/Tuck: Blu Mondae (4.2)

Both Sean and Christian projected their own internal crises onto others in this episode, Christian most notably with gay-for-pay hustler Mitchell. Surely if Christian can 'cure' Mitchell's fluid sexuality, he'll know that it's also possible for himself, right? While it's clear that Christian isn't gay, it's telling that he's still so insecure about Faith's diagnosis from last episode. But I guess when he's never had a real relationship with a woman, it's unsurprising that he's questioning just who he is as a person.

Bonus - The Whole Truth: Pilot (1.1)

Maura Tierney is the definition of a great TV star. She commands the small screen with charm and power, and has been a regular on our TV sets for what seems like forever. It's also wonderful to see her healthy, kick-ass and playing a character far removed from her Abby Lockhart days. It needs to be said, however, that she is far too good for The Whole Truth. When this show inevitably goes south, I hope ABC throws even more pilot scripts at her, giving her a series that's actually worthy of her talents.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The X-Files: Teliko (4.3)

You're already battling against the odds by following an episode like Home, but this is surprisingly flat even for an uninspired standalone X-File. Howard Gordon creates a dialogue-heavy spook-fest without the spook, cribbing a bunch of elements from other, stronger episodes and attempting to shoe-horn in as many believable uses of the word "obfuscate", which I'm assuming really caught his attention on his word-of-the-day toilet paper.

The X-Files: Home (4.2)

In a particularly sweet moment in this otherwise horrifying episode, Mulder tells Scully that he never saw her as a mother. It's an odd piece of irony, since she's always been the more compassionate and protective of the two. In some ways, she does play mom to Mulder, in that she's always shouting down his outrageous theories and is always intent on sending him down the right track when it comes to their cases. What makes Mulder's comment all the more fun is that the one mother we actually see in Home is plain batshit. An archetypal "stern, protective, imbred incest mommy", if you could actually call that an 'archetype'.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bonus - Lone Star: Pilot (1.1)

Complex, sometimes plain unlikable protagonists have been a mainstay for cable television throughout the last decade or so, but it's still fairly new ground for the big-four networks. And when a network series does have an unlikable protagonist, they're usually of the black-humored, curmudgeonly kind, like the star of the very show that precedes Lone Star every Monday night: House. At the center of Lone Star is a man who we shouldn't really like. He's a con-man, somebody who is simultaneously betraying two women, somebody who has cheated probably hundreds of people out of money, land and power for almost all of his life. It's that complexity that, while hardly likable behavior, should at least create a dynamic protagonist for a new drama series.

The X-Files: Herrenvolk (4.1)

This is a stronger episode than its season three finale predecessor, but it's still a colossal infodump. Only with greater emphasis on the "dump" part of that word, since the information we get is little. It's more "ambiguous statements"-dump than anything else. However, Herrenvolk is a pacy little thriller, hampered by its contrived vagueness, but still acceptable.

Nip/Tuck: Cindy Plumb (4.1)

There has always been so much intimacy between Sean and Christian that it's unsurprising that at least one of them eventually attempts to understand said intimacy. With all the women that come in and out of their lives, their one remaining constant is each other. Their bond is greater than simply friends and arguably more important and affecting than the affection between two brothers. They're two sides of the same coin, akin with one another, and it makes sense for Christian to examine (and be terrified of) the importance of their relationship.

The X-Files: Talitha Cumi (3.24)

Season three's finale returns to the convoluted and shamelessly confused Colony/End Game two-parter, with emphasis once again placed on shapeshifters, clones and Samantha. However, and it sucks to say it because of how strong a lot of this season has been, Talitha Cumi doesn't go anywhere. It's a script frantically searching for some kind of point, with a cliffhanger that's ridiculously lame.

The X-Files: Wetwired (3.23)

Thematically, this isn't dissimilar to last season's Blood, another exercise in technology sending innocent people crazy. But while the first half of Wetwired tows the company line in the relentless paranoia of its characters and some suitably intriguing mystery, it suddenly develops into something far more interesting as soon as Scully is removed from the script, twisting into one of those unexpected detours down conspiracy alley.

The X-Files: Quagmire (3.22)

The best Darin Morgan episode not written by Darin Morgan, Quagmire is just a hell of a lot of fun. From the cool fishing-community locale to the townspeople dropping like flies, it's entertaining in its simplicity, while at the same time rewarding to long-time viewers with some wonderful interaction between our two leads, stuck in the middle of nowhere with time to kill. And that adorable fluff ball Queequeg gets eaten alive by a sea monster. How can you not fall in love with this episode?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bonus - Nikita: Pilot (1.1)

I'm essentially a rookie when it comes to Nikita. Haven't seen the original, haven't seen the lousy Bridget Fonda remake, only got through half of the USA spin-off series' first season. What I do know is my Alias, a series which if I'm correct owes a lot of its style and plot twist-upon-plot twist storylines to Luc Besson's original creation and its various updates. Nikita is framed a lot like Alias, with the dead fiancée (named Daniel here too, heh), good guys working to bring down a corporation from the inside out, hot chicks in leather. And while it, of course, isn't as smash-you-in-the-face-with-awesomeness-from-the-very-first-frame as Alias was, it was surprisingly decent. For the CW, at least.

Dirty Sexy Money: The Nutcracker (1.10)

Considering it was never intended to be a season finale, Dirty Sexy Money does a pretty good job at crafting a tantalizing teaser for next season, even if it doesn't necessarily follow through on its promises. While the continuing Nick/Tripp/Simon/Karen saga frustrates, there are enough enjoyable "moments" to make it at least entertaining, from Gina Torres' great cameo as Simon's ex-wife, to that great moment with Karen waltzing into The Nutcracker clearly disturbed by her recent actions.

The X-Files: Avatar (3.21)

It's reflective of how far the show has come in three years that it has the confidence to hand over an episode to a supporting character, especially one who we know so little about. That's part of the fun about Avatar. While the relationship between our two protagonists and A.D. Skinner is now at the point where they steadfastly support him and respect him as a colleague, a supporter and a friend, it's pretty surprising to discover little details that actually give him a personality outside of his stock character traits as a "higher-up ally to the leads". He's a Vietnam veteran, depressed, and in the middle of divorce proceedings. It entirely changes the character, and allows us as an audience to be moved by the events of the episode.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The X-Files: Jose Chung's From Outer Space (3.20)

Everybody knows the stock characteristics of an alien abduction. You've got the short little aliens with the enormous heads and giant eyes; the metal slab you're pasted to; the wacky sci-fi leather outfits you're dressed in; the mysterious men in black watching your every move. This episode, another Darin Morgan masterpiece, beautifully subverts those clichés, creating an episode that works not only as a comedy X-File, but also as another brave commentary on humanity and everyday people.

The X-Files: Hell Money (3.19)

I remember disliking this episode a lot when I first watched it years ago, so I was surprised that it turned out to be pretty good second time around. I've gained an appreciation of the every-once-in-a-while episodes where Mulder and Scully investigate a case firmly rooted in reality, and Hell Money was one of the those very cases. There were a couple of red herrings and representations of cultural urban legends, but nothing all-out supernatural this week.

The X-Files: Teso Dos Bichos (3.18)

Hahahahahahahah. Lord, this episode was stupid. Not since season one has there been an hour so lacking in anything resembling The X-Files as we now know it. The story is uninspired, the mythology as generic as it comes, and numerous contrived depictions of crazed violence and shocking murder try to fill in the gaps of a ridiculous script. It moves along at a brisk pace, but yeesh this one blew.

The X-Files: Pusher (3.17)

Based on Pusher and his first scripted effort Soft Light last season, it's clear Vince Gilligan is an "ideas man", creating an ingenious science-fiction idea and running with it. While Soft Light was in various ways flawed, Pusher's central idea works so well because Gilligan puts Mulder and Scully directly at the center of it, showcasing their compassion for one another during a nerve-jangling final act.

Dirty Sexy Money: The Watch (1.9)

While the storylines started last week (Lisa's anger, Ellen's ultimatum) appear to have been immediately and annoyingly retconned, The Watch did feature a whole lot of greatness, the show finally striking that emotional chord that has so far been eluded. This was most clearly seen throughout the last thirty minutes, with the revelations about Brian's paternity and his subsequent goodbye to his son.