Monday, February 28, 2011

The X-Files: Unusual Suspects (5.3)

The Lone Gunmen have always had the potential to bug. Any kind of overly nerdy character is risky like that, their comedic characteristics potentially being overwritten in such a way that they become obnoxious. Even better, that shining the spotlight on such characters could backfire. Unusual Suspects is an odd episode in that it wasn't created organically, but to fill time. With David and Gillian filming the X-Files movie over summer hiatus, this episode was hastily written and shot pre-Redux, to allow our two protagonists time to finish shooting. Surprisingly, Unusual Suspects isn't an epic fail as a result. It's not exactly a work of genius like various other Vince Gilligan episodes, but it's pretty fun.

Nip/Tuck: Duke Collins (5.8)

I'm so over Julia and Christian. It's not surprising that they're overcome with lust once again (Julia just flies between him and Sean every season, anyway), but the sordid details of this particular storyline are ridiculously frustrating. In one corner, we have Christian blindly believing that this time is for real and that they're meant to be together, despite all the past evidence showing that this sexually dysfunctional threesome are destined to orbit around each other until the end of time. Then we have Julia, happy to lie to her frustrated girlfriend, and cheat on her with a dude. Julia with anybody is never totally convincing anymore, but I wish the show would at least try and not write everybody involved so horribly.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Charmed: Deja Vu All Over Again (1.22)

Time loop episodes are almost always guaranteed to be fun. Pretty much every fantasy series has played around with that formula, and this is one of the best variations on the idea. By turns, Deja Vu All Over Again is entertaining, enlightening and pretty darn heartbreaking. Plus it features the first use of that old Charmed stand-by: when in doubt, send characters flying into random glass objects located in the Manor. For real, they always do that.

Charmed: Love Hurts (1.21)

In the rush to the season finale, we have an episode where a lot of interesting stuff happens, only none of it is given the considerable weight it probably should have deserved. Power switching? Cool. Piper desperate to save Leo? Romantic. Darklighter stalking? Internal affairs? It's all pretty great, but a little rushed when condensed into forty minutes. It's also annoying that the Piper and Leo story didn't really drive the episode. I don't know if the writers hadn't figured out how important their coupling would be to the entire series at this point, but it's disappointing to see such a huge chapter in their relationship get the screentime brush-off.

Dirty Sexy Money: The Silence (2.4)

Nick George is officially an asshole. Despite ignoring her for the last year, putting his work ahead of his family and failing to convince her that he isn't interested in another woman, Nick bars Lisa from getting financial and status-based help from Jeremy in her continued quest to run her own art gallery. Sure, Lisa and Jeremy have a history, but it's out of line to expect her to deal with his continued dealings with Karen while at the same time forcing her to not see Jeremy ever again. I hope that the show is writing Nick like this intentionally, in the hopes of conveying that he's being 'corrupted'. Otherwise it would just be ridiculous...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The X-Files: Redux II (5.2)

Okay, so I was wrong about the unimportance of the vial. Redux II is a major improvement on part one, an episode that cuts the obnoxious voice-over, seems to have more of a drive and a purpose, and puts character before shiny action sequences. There are certain areas which stink, however, but the general quality of the hour makes it pretty fun. The episode is most successful in reshaping the series for the future, at least in regards to Mulder and Scully. Both experience major growth here, which should echo throughout the rest of the season.

Nip/Tuck: Dr. Joshua Lee (5.7)

Unlike so many other episodes which seem to at least attempt to parallel the personal lives of the doctors and their significant others to the patients they're treating, Dr. Joshua Lee has absolutely no thematic link between the various stories on offer. Here we have Nip/Tuck at its structural worst, with so many random elements thrown in that it becomes a chaotic mess of an hour spinning into a variety of directions. Miraculously, that doesn't dent the quality of a couple of those subplots, some of which are the strongest in a while.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Charmed: The Power of Two (1.20)

It's a little frustrating that an episode centered around Prue and Phoebe's relationship doesn't result in any real surprises. Prue's mad at Phoebe's lack of responsibility and the fact that she hasn't got a job while Prue's job is hanging by a thread due to all the demons they're constantly battling. And that's pretty much it. You would have thought the show could have created some differing dynamics between them, but it turns out there isn't a whole lot to explore. It's all pretty one-note.

Charmed: Blind Sided (1.19)

It's funny seeing all these episodes featuring the first use of a notable plot device, all of which would end up getting run into the ground over the following seven seasons. But, when this show was young, fresh and new, something like the sisters being threatened by an outsider who wants to expose their powers is remarkably effective. And it's also interesting to see the show coming up with some neat resolutions to the story, instead of pulling a ridiculous slice of retcon from their butts to wiggle the storyline away from a dead end.

Dirty Sexy Money: The Star Witness (2.3)

It was a positive decision to make Nick's reunion with his mother not as peachy as it could have been. Through great work by Peter Krause here, the full extent of Nick's anger was evident, how for thirty years he has felt betrayed by the one woman who is supposed to be there for him and love him unconditionally. Claire's excuses were ridiculous. So she didn't fit into that world... and? While it's hard to fully escape the Darling universe (just ask Lisa), you don't abandon your child to fulfill that desire...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The X-Files: Redux (5.1)

A funny exercise in the show dragging its feet, Redux is a pretty shameless retread of a half dozen other storylines, linked by ridiculous amounts of pretentious voice-over and re-used footage from previous episodes. I don't know if contractually the show had to have a two-part opener, but it's obnoxious that they dragged this out for one-hundred-and-twenty minutes. Don't get me wrong, there are certain elements that are fine (the hunting down of Scully's file in the warehouse, Scully's testing of the ice core samples), but when, in the end, Mulder's pursuit is rendered insignificant and Scully faints before she can prove anything, it's seriously stupid. Almost like a joke being pulled on us.

Nip/Tuck: Damien Sands (5.6)

It's important to note that Damien Sands does a great job at replicating an awful reality show. There's the obtrusive music that bashes you over the head with emotions ("This scene is wacky! This scene is sad!"), the shallow characterization (Horndog; Uptight Puritan; Experimental Lesbian) and the glorification of vacuous morons with an amazing lack of talent (the entire New York cameo, a guest appearance rendered entirely "who?"-worthy three years after airdate), as well as the obnoxious sound effects, ugly editing and poor attempts at a contrived 'story'. However, all of that doesn't make for a strong episode.

Charmed: When Bad Warlocks Turn Good (1.18)

This was an episode that always sent me to sleep when I was a kid. Watching it over again, I realize that it wasn't just my immaturity that stopped me from actually enjoying the thing. After a run of great episodes, Charmed delivers its first real disaster in a while, with an episode featuring guest characters about as interesting as a box of hair, and a mystery that is almost shocking in how ridiculously uninteresting it is.

Charmed: That '70s Episode (1.17)

Charmed was always a series which bathed in its own sincerity at times. This is especially true whenever the Halliwell's long-gone mom is brought up. In later seasons, it was an excuse for Rose McGowan to do that annoying 'talk-really-slowly-and-shed-a-tear' thing she does. It's always been an odd dichotomy in Aaron Spelling series. You have the boobs and the hot chicks and the sexy outfits, and then the most-of-the-time undeserved moments of cynical weeping or trite 'messages', like the show has completely bypassed the boundary-pushing escapism of late-'90s WB TV and settled into Touched by an Angel territory.

Dirty Sexy Money: The Family Lawyer (2.2)

The responsibility entrusted to Nick is at this point entirely ridiculous. This episode in particular sees him handling Leticia's arrest, then representing her as a lawyer, planning Ellen's funeral and deciding which Darling sibling should inherit the kingdom, while later he's entrusted with the job itself. Throw in the boat and the birthday party last episode, and literally everything is revolving around him. I don't actually blame Brian for hating his guts. He seems to get the attention that absolutely nobody else in the actual family gets.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The X-Files: Gethsemane (4.24)

There's been a clear divide between Mulder and Scully over the last couple of episodes, made even clearer by the hovering specter that is Scully's cancer. This woman is dying of a fatal disease, and Mulder is too busy chasing theories and digging up alien corpses to really care. It's pretty sad. There was a wonderful moment here with Scully's brother attacking Mulder for not being there for her. Scully realizes that she's all alone, and hasn't got an answer to her question. Her behavior throughout the finale is intriguing. She allows herself to be dragged away from a family get-together; she's happy pursuing bad guys and getting injured, despite her illness. Is it a way to try and overcome it? To prove that it's not affecting her? Or is it because she's so isolated that she hasn't really got any other choice?

Nip/Tuck: Chaz Darling (5.5)

Matt and Kimber's descent into meth-ravaged junkiedom was played pretty well here. Both characters are easily manipulated, and both have exhibited major dependency issues in the past. So it's unsurprising they've gotten addicted to drugs. Kelly Carlson had a great monologue this episode in which she poured her heart out to her old porn boss, telling him how she's spent her entire life seeking some kind of meaning, and how she's always ended up falling into bad situations. Christian, cocaine, The Carver, Scientology, now meth. Like Christian this season, she's also prostituting herself, but for very different reasons. While Christian does it for validation, she's doing it for drug money. It's pretty depressing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Charmed: Which Prue Is It, Anyway? (1.16)

This is a great Prue episode. Rewatching Charmed, I've come to the conclusion that she's probably the least likable of the sisters, and comes across as both overly controlling and uncontrollably bitchy and annoying. It also bugs that at this point in the show she's ostensibly written as the 'lead' and gets total story dominance most of the time (the same happened with Phoebe right after Shannen's departure). However, an episode like this explores the different facets of her personality, and goes some way in explaining exactly why she is the way she is.

Charmed: Is There a Woogy in the House? (1.15)

This is one of my favorite episodes, and it may have something to do with how simple, almost cliched conceits were made fun, intriguing and pretty ingenious. For one, we have yet another hour in which a Halliwell sister is possessed by evil. At the same time, the episode hinges on the oldest of sitcom-style storylines: "the boss coming round for dinner". As a result, Is There a Woogy in the House? (extravagant title and all), is a wildly uneven but most importantly an entertaining thrill-ride of a Charmed hour, and one of the best of the first season.

Dirty Sexy Money: The Birthday Present (2.1)

A lot of the promotional materials for the second season of Dirty Sexy Money made it clear that the show had retooled over the summer hiatus, the abandoning of several shot and completed season one episodes and the re-writing of future storylines all improving the show as a whole. In general, it had become more the melodramatic night-time soap opera it was intended to be. The season premiere showcases the series has a clear, better focused drive to each of the character's stories. If I remember correctly, this is quickly derailed as the season progresses, but we actually seem to understand everybody's motives right now, which is more than could be said for season one.

The X-Files: Demons (4.23)

This feels a lot like treading water before the finale, since it doesn't reveal anything of note. While the idea isn't developed, the possibility that the Cigarette-Smoking Man could be Mulder's real father is at least raised again. At this point, we're clearly all aware that something in the milk ain't clean for the Mulder family. His father was pretty distant and mysterious, while Mulder's mother is a suspicious nightmare, all ambiguity and a clear involvement with the conspiracy hoodoo. And notice how Mulder couldn't even look at her during their confrontation? It was a pretty uncomfortable moment.

Nip/Tuck: Dawn Budge II (5.4)

In its later years, Nip/Tuck had a huge problem with three 's' words: Sex, shock and sensationalism. In the show's pervasive craving for headline-grabbing madness and boundary-pushing wackiness, it lost its soul. Rarely do we get a story that is both as sensationalist as it is sad, but that arrived in the form of Christian's encounter with his latest client. Gwen was a woman who engaged in life-threatening sex play, to subconsciously try and bring back her deceased mother and sister. It was a haunting and tragic story, with the insanity of the minor details being eclipsed by how sad this woman actually is.