Regular network, commercial TV doesn’t get a lot of love from me anymore. It’s not that I’m not interested in some of the shows, and it’s not even that I don’t ever watch anything. Instead, it’s just that I don’t have time to watch them in the old-fashioned “normal” way. I guess this is like many people nowadays.
For me, the issue is just one of scheduling. First of all, I’m not living in America, where the TV schedule was a bit easier to get a handle on than it is in Australia. Secondly, I don’t get to watch that much TV in Australia in my normal life just straight off the TV. So a lot of my TV viewing comes in watching stuff online on the Australian TV network’s websites, or buying something off iTunes, or even catching things while I’m flying (thank you, extensive in-flight entertainment systems!)
So lately, in various ways I’ve caught a few episodes of a few shows, all of which are already cancelled. This is both a blessing a curse, I guess. On one hand, it’s always a little sad when a show you like is cancelled. On the other hand, there’s something sort of encouraging when you know that a show you are just spending on time on isn’t going to go on forever. And of course, sometimes it’s a blessing thing because the show itself isn’t all that good.
Here’s a run down of what I’m talking about, in descending order of enjoyment.
History: 2 seasons, from 2006-2008, 38 episodes total.
Amount viewed: Three episodes
Venue: Purchased on iTunes
Premise: House meets Jerry McGuire, but with lawyers.
Comments: Sebastian Stark is a ruthless defense attorney who is smarter than his city’s prosecution and regularly gets accused criminals set free. When an abusive husband that Stark helped later kills his wife, he has a crisis of conscience and loses his drive. He then takes a job working for the District Attorney’s office, prosecuting the same time of criminals he used to defend, even though it means working for his former nemesis, DA Jessica Something. He becomes the head of a task force is made up of a group of young lawyers he in equal measure abuses and schools in the ways of lawyer-ing. Meanwhile, his personal life is complicated when his 16 year old daughter surprises everyone by moving in with him, in spite of the emotional distance between them.
I’ve seen the first three episodes of the show (a bit of a “test buy” off of iTunes) and have enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s formulaic, of course (as is all procedural television, by definition) but it’s an engaging formula with a good cast. James Woods is one of those quiet achievers of an actor who has always garnered a lot of respect but not major popular recognition, and so it’s good to see him headlining a TV show (even one that wasn’t terribly successful). The supporting cast all seem pretty good, although I’m not yet enthralled by any of the young assistant lawyers (I’m trusting that they’ll grow on me).
Incidentally, the show is full of a lot of familiar faces from various science fiction / superhero television series. DA Jessica ??? is played by Jeri Ryan, who essentially starred in the last four episodes of Star Trek Voyager as Seven of Nine. She’s a good presence but hasn’t had too much to do yet. One of Stark’s lawyer team (the purposely unlikeable one) is played by Sarah Carter, who I’ve been watching as Maggie on Falling Skies. The main guest character in Episode 2, who apparently goes on to be a recurring presence in the show, is played by Henry Simmons, who plays Mac in Season 2 (and beyond) of Agents of Shield. And Stark’s daughter is played by a young Danielle Panabaker, who features as Caitlin Snow in The Flash.
It was Panabaker and Ryan’s presence (as well as James Woods) that drew my attention to the show in the first place. Jeri Ryan hasn’t had all that much to do in the first three episodes, and is more of a supporting player than a co-lead than I originally thought. But Danielle Panabaker has been a really pleasant treat. I’ve not been crazy about her on The Flash, but in Shark she does a great job as Julie. She has a memorable moment in the opening episode where she tells her father that she’s chosesn to move in with him (rather than move with her mother to the other side of the country) because she knows if she does not do this now, they will never really know each other. The interesting dynamics helps make making the relationship between father and daughter one of the most trustworthy aspects of the show.
Verdict: My three episode trial run has earned the show a purchase of the rest of the first season from me. It promises to provide solid viewing enjoyment, while not being so brilliant that I will truly regret its passing.
History: One Season, from 2014-2015, 22 episodes total.
Viewed: Three episodes
Venue: International flight
Premise: Henry Morgan is a brilliant and determined crime-fighting medical examiner…who also happens to be immortal!
Henry Morgan is a mysterious 200 year old immortal…who also happens to fight crime as a medical examiner for New York City!
(The show can’t really make up its mind)
Comments: I guess technically Henry Morgan isn’t immortal, because he can and does die. It’s just that whenever he does, his body disappears after a minute and he wakes up naked and alive in a nearby body of water. He doesn’t understand how or why this happens to him, and his efforts to find out the nature of his condition are part of the series’ overall story.
One of the biggest draws of Forever is seeing how many popular television conceits it can smoosh into one series. In addition to those mentioned, there’s the fact that Morgan’s long life has also given him Sherlock Holmes-level observation and deduction skills. There is his proto-romantic relationship with the attractive female police detective that he works with, but whom he carefully keeps his secret from. There is the regular use of flashbacks to fill in the details of Henry’s long life, always revealing moments that are thematically connected to the episode’s mystery-of-the-week plot. There’s the brief moments in each episode given to the development of the (I assume) season long plotline about the mysterious voice on the end of the phone who creepily tells Henry that he is also an immortal. It’s like a dozen other shows have been diced up in a blender and mixed together into a tasty salsa.
But still I’ve enjoyed the show. Henry is played by Ioan Gruffudd, who played Mister Fantastic in what we hope will soon be the 2nd and 3rd best Fantastic Four movie ever made, and was a bit more impressive in the title role of Hornblower. The only other really notable cast member (although the ensemble is fine) is Judd Hirsch, who plays Henry’s adopted son and confidante, who of course now oddly appears to be much older than him. It’s a bit of casting that helps the show to feel a bit more respectable.
Verdict: The premise is absurd but still engaging. The mysteries are competent but routine. If it floats back in front of my eyes, I’ll watch more, but I won’t be spending any money on it.
History: 1 season, in 2014, 13 episodes total.
Amount viewed: Six and a half episodes
Venue: Watched on a plane that didn’t list the episodes in any particular order, which meant that other than the one entitled “Pilot”, I had no idea where in the series’ short run I was. As it happens, it turns out I watched them in the right order! Also, we started landing so I had to turn it off in the middle of one episode.
Premise: Modern day riff on Pygmalion / My Fair Lady, with a slightly uptight advertising executive attempts to educate and change the image of a selfish saleswoman that he works with.
Comments: The days when cast members on Doctor Who could complain that they couldn’t get any work after leaving the show seem to be well and truly behind us, and Karen Gillan (formerly the time traveling Amy Pond) starring in Selfie as sex- and self- and social media-obsessed Eliza Dooley was certainly the biggest draw card for the series for me. Really, it was the only draw card, since the trailer for the show really looked uninteresting and unfunny. And in this case, the trailer didn’t lie – the show’s mediocre storytelling and humor were well-represented by the advanced media.
Why, then, did I keep watching? Well, remember this was on a plane, I was tired and looking for something that I could consume in easy non-demanding bite sized chunks, and the occasional working moments made me interested if there were going to be any more. Plus, I figured I wasn’t likely to watch the show in any other circumstances (although, there is still the flight home coming up).
The problem with Selfie isn’t the concept, which is as good as that for any other sitcom. And it’s not really the cast. Karen Gillan isn’t as funny as I’d have liked, but she’s adequate, and John Cho (Sulu in the new Star Trek movies) is a nice presence as the modern day Henry Higgins (“Henry Higgs”). The supporting characters take a while to come to life but eventually I was enjoying them well enough, especially David Harewood as the crazy boss.
No, the problem is the writing, which fails to deliver either consistent laughs or enough emotional connection to the characters to watch them slowly get together (as they are clearly intended to). In spite of some occasionally enjoyable moments (like the time that Eliza tells Henry that having haters online is a sign of having made it, and he replies that in real life having haters means that people hate you) Eliza isn’t sympathetic enough to be likeable and not abrasive enough to be funny, and there is far too much reliance on her sexuality to make her someone you can really care about.
Verdict: In a brain dead state like at the tail end of an airplane ride, I might watch more. But then again, I might not.