Homeland, 2 Broke Girls, Suburgatory (16\10\2011)
These are the three shows which have survived the early season culling. New shows will debut though so keep checking back in to comment.
Homeland - 103 - Clean Skin
This was more solid stuff. When the focus is on the psychological the show really seems to have something.
The scenes where Carrie watches Brody and Jessica have "sex" are so interesting on several levels. One of which is just imagining your own reaction to such unedited voyeurism. Carrie tries to look away, acknowledging the inappropriateness of her vantage point but really, she can't help but keep watching. Those moments of intimacy are when we see Brody at his most damaged. He can't get close to normal sexual relations yet and you really felt for Jessica as he took matters into his own hands.
This episode did a good job of spreading the sympathy around the cast. In that scene you could see the struggle Jessica is going through. Our introduction to her was having loud enjoyable sex with Mike. Now Brody is back and all that warmth and pleasure has gone. She is also getting poorly treated by daughter Dana who also gets fleshed out here.
We hadn't seen the situation from her perspective until now. She is a typically rebellious teenager and now it's her mother's hypocrisy which rubs her the wrong way. Why should she be obedient and dutiful when her mum lied to them all and is now keeping secrets from Brody. The interaction between father and daughter also started to make me like Brody. His mature and peaceful approach to getting reacquainted with Dana was impressive and endearing.
Finally we see Carrie get sympathetic shading after the murder of her asset Lynne. It's only shading though because we know that Carrie would not have stopped pushing for information on Nazir. She desperately needs Saul to play therapist to her but he is understandably angry with her.
So all in all good stuff right? Yes. But then there was the plot part of this. Lynne is murdered, apparently for the grossly expensive necklace which the Prince gave her. The necklace is going to fetch a lot of cash which the Prince's handler is apparently passing on to someone for a sinister purpose. Howard Gordon (and others) who writes this show worked on 24 for years and there was a part of me that felt these plot developments fitted more into that world than Homeland's. My fears may be unfounded but the shots of Nazir's handler came inorganically to reveal the truth to us. They weren't a result of Carrie's investigation and I sort of felt like that was the only way major information would be revealed to us.
We shall see how the plot is handled going forward. The final shot is of a mixed race couple purchasing a house near the airport with cash. It would seem Brody isn't the single point of a plan, assuming he is involved at all.
2 Broke Girls - 105 - And the 90s
I actually laughed a couple of times during this though the comedy remains patchy.
My real question is does America have a problem with 'hipsters'? Seriously, if you are reading this I need your advice. The jokes about hipsters have been consistent throughout the show so far but this episode focussed heavily on them. Considering Whitney is based around a woman who mocks anything mainstream too (and Whitney Cummings writes 2 Broke Girls) I'm guessing this is just a fixation of hers.
From my perspective 'Hipsters' aren't a clear designation of person the way say 'Geeks' are in the world of comedy. To me the 'Hipsters' I see on TV look either like people who aren't cool trying to be cool or just well dressed people. In real life I've seen people identify themselves as 'Geeks' with varying degrees of seriousness but I've never heard anyone use a term that approaches 'Hipster.' If you are cool or well dressed you tend not to label yourself as one type of person. I've seen individuals mocked for trying too hard but not really groups of people.
Am I wrong? Do Americans really make this distinction in a way that British people don't yet? Or am I right in thinking that it's a term comedy people have latched on to to try and find an easy comedy target but that just isn't working very well. In this episode for example the 'Hipsters' were all willing to pay big bucks to be a part of something cool. If they have that kind of cash lying around they don't seem like 'Hipster' is what defines them. Surely they are just rich kids? Caroline's friends were amongst the crowd who turned up for the 90s party but they were clearly rich kids and not 'Hipsters.'
I'm confused about the definitions but I'm not confused about the comedy which nine times out of ten falls utterly flat. I should point out for perspective that Jeff Winger over on Community is someone who cares about appearance a lot and jokes at his expense make sense. If he is a 'hipster' then that term makes a bit more sense but I still don't see it as a group definition as Whitney seems to think it is.
Suburgatory - 104 - Don't Call Me Shirley
I'm going to stop writing about Suburgatory for now. I will keep watching because the show does have promise, however it has yet to translate that into either comedy or drama. This episode saw Tessa and Dalia team up to try and get our main character dispatched back to New York. I know that is the whole basis of Tessa's character but I was both slightly surprised and unimpressed by it as a story.
My reasoning being that we haven't actually seen Tessa suffer. Although we can guess that she misses her friends we haven't actually heard that from her. All we hear is her talk about surface things like take out restaurants or the noise of police sirens. The writers haven't established a sense of pain or misery in Tessa. Instead she has already made friends and her suburban neighbours are all pretty nice to her. Yes Dalia and her ilk are unpleasant but that hardly seems to bother the self confident Tessa.
That lack of emotion meant when Tessa formulated a plan to return to NYC I didn't even believe she wanted to go. That is a major failure of the writing. Clearly this is being pitched as a family friendly show and those kind of real emotions aren't thought necessary for a gentle comedy. I disagree. Without those emotions we are left with a pleasant but forgettable TV show and forgettable doesn't pay the bills. If anything changes I will be back. If nothing does I will stop watching.
Boss - 101 - Listen
If you don't know this new drama from STARZ has Kelsey Grammar playing the Mayor of Chicago, Tom Kane. Kane is diagnosed with Lewy Body, a degenerative disease which will leave him needing full time care within a few years. Naturally for a man used to being so powerful and in control, this is a terrible shock. We then see the world of machine politics he operates in as he prepares a shiny new candidate for Governor and deals with the broken relationships he shares with his wife and daughter.
As you would expect from a modern cable drama this was gritty and felt fairly authentic. There were moments of subtlety that I appreciated as Kane's daughter buys drugs or the ultra-clean candidate ends up sleeping with one of Kane's aides. It was also a good performance from Grammar who must be pleased to be doing something dark after decades of light sit coms.
However I didn't particularly like the show on first viewing. For a start it reminded me too much of Boardwalk Empire in tone and moral structure. We all know that politics isn't about being happy and smiley all the time but to see gangster-like behaviour in the first episode felt like overkill to me. At least Boardwalk Empire is set in a time when gangsters could operate more easily outside the law because modern Chicago doesn't seem like the place where someone's ears would be cut off for making a PR gaffe.
To be clear, I'm not saying that that isn't possible. What I'm saying is that to present a mutilation like that as just part of what running a modern city entails was a bad idea. If Kane is comfortable living with that kind of brutality then how are we supposed to feel sorry for him? He would put the smooth development of an airport ahead of any moral disgust at that act? It leaves me in the same position I am in with Nucky Thompson or indeed Don Draper (for three seasons anyway) where I don't feel like I have a reason to care about the central character.
That bleakness extended to all the other characters on display. No one stood out as good or admirable. They were all following their own paths of ambition or vice. It is possible to build a drama around that viewpoint (The Wire being the ultimate example) but there still needs to be a sense of light amongst all the grey. We shall see where the show goes and what tone future episodes strike but on first glance this doesn't seem like a show for me.