Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So getting down to brass tacks: what are we watching this fall?

Sunday: "Dexter" and "True Blood"
Monday: "How I Met Your Mother"
Tuesday: "House," "Fringe," and "The Mentalist"
Wednesday: "Pushing Daisies"
Thursday: "The Office" and "30 Rock"
Friday: "Life"

Let's take a couple posts to look at how my favorites are holding up, now that we're deeper into their new seasons.

Oh, goddamn it. We might be in trouble. As the A-story between Dexter and D.A. Jimmy Smits gets more complicated and interesting, we’re getting smacked in the face by the "Dexter" Curse: increasingly annoying B, C, and D stories.

B! Deb is being lured into a relationship with an informant and an internal affairs investigation against a new detective; C! Angel feels lonely; and D! LaGuerta’s got some case that ties in with D.A. Jimmy Smits. At least LaGuerta’s plot will likely come back to the A-plot, but man, do I not care about Angel’s Lonely Cop Life - and I like Angel!

The problem with “Dexter” as a series is that the only interesting thing about it is the lead character – any time the plot checks in on the supporting crew, it turns into, well, a mediocre cop show.

I thought they learned this in season two, when they tied Deb with the FBI agent hunting her brother, and Doakes was instrumental to the plot's resolution. And this season started its side-plot promisingly, showing how Angel’s promotion has affected his relationship with the cops investigating Dexter’s accidental killing.

Really thought that would cover a lot of ground, but here we are with Angel getting busted by a cop undercover as a hooker, and Deb mysteriously drawn to a couple of dudes we don’t care about.

Come on, show, you’re better than that.

“Pushing Daisies”:
I love how much the characters’ psychological backstories are informing the emotional core of the show, grounding it in believable human needs even as the visual puns go hog-wild with easy nun and clown gags.

While, say, a car in a lake holding the bodies of 17 drowned clowns is wacky and goofy and all that, it’s the emotional themes of absent families and how that dictates the behavior of the characters that makes the show brilliant.

Even though he’s the lead, I still feel like Lee Pace doesn’t get enough credit for his portrayal of Ned the Piemaker. His closed body language and barely-disguised need for affection isn’t just a response to being in love with a girl he can’t touch. He’s becoming aware that his own childhood abandonment has affected him more than he’s realized, and it’s making for great, slow-build storytelling (since the audience has been shown his deadbeat dad will be returning soon).

And I won’t lie – the subtle references to Ned and Chuck’s unconventional sex-life crack me up. On ABC at family hour, no less! Good for you, show!

Quick update: every time I read a new recap of a "Heroes" episode, I feel really good about the decision to drop it. Just putting that out there, for those of you who keep watching. You know who you are. You don't need to feel that sense of shame every Monday at nine, people!

Next time: "Fringe" vs. "The Mentalist"! Stupid scheduling bastards have to make me choose?! Also: "True Blood": Annoying, pompous, or pulpy entertainment? Or is it all three?
Also, also: I'm watching "Life"? Really? I had no idea!

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