The story of how I watched the pilot of Prime Suspect (US)

Once upon a time several months ago, I watched the pilot of “Breaking In” and took notes as I went along.  It was fun to do and people seemed to like it, so I am going to do this again for several Fall 2011 series premieres.  I will allow myself to look things up, but for the sake of purity of first impressions, I will not go back and watch it again before writing this.

Please note that it is spoilery in nature, as it is my recap of the entire show.

In the interest of full disclosure, screenshots were apprehended after this entire piece was written.

The only thing I know about this show going into this is that it is based on the UK Helen Mirren show of the same name, which I never watched.

Famous-looking blond actress (Maria Bello) is running through a park in the late fall or early spring, coughing a lot.  Maybe she recently quit smoking.  She seems miserable.  She just hocked up a lugie.
She calls her man friend, and the second he answers the phone with his accent we know she was just in Central Park. He confirms my suspicions that it is not, in fact, that she is out of shape that she is so miserable, but that she just quit smoking.

She is still on her cell phone with the dude when she hails a cab.  The window in the cab is down and it is blasting music.  She tells the cab driver (apparently from some Eastern bloc nation) to turn down the music and that it is broken.  She presses some screen on the back of the front seat that has a touch screen with weather on it.  How futuristic!  The cab driver is a cell phone too, and is being kind of a dick.  He lights up a cigarette and she loses her shit and throws up a gun against the plexiglass.  He flips out and stops the cab, which thankfully has no other cars around it so no accident ensues.  With her other hand she slaps a badge against the glass.  The cab driver flicks the cigarette out the window, and is understandably upset with the psycho hose beast in the back seat.

Pay attention, cab driver!

In the first two minutes of this show we have established that the protagonist is a lady cop who just quit smoking, is rude, and kind of a bitch.  Delightful.

Next scene a detective rolls up to a fancy townhouse, is given gloves and has a voice so scratchy he makes Tom Waits sound like Barry Manilow.  He heads up to the penthouse suite and there’s a dead lady on the floor with blood Jackson Pollocked all over white furniture.  Always white furniture.  Do rich people actually have white furniture or just on TV so it looks good under the blood?  Man, it is on the ceiling and everything.  Where’s Dexter Morgan when you need him?

It is determined that children were in the closet for the duration of the grisly murder, and … one of the  three detectives declares he needs to take a dump.  Oh my heck, that is damned classy.

Next scene, everyone’s back at the station.  Nonsmoking lady cop is at her desk, which seems to be in the middle of a fort made of file boxes. The detectives from the crime scene, who all seem to have eaten sandpaper-coated gravel flakes for breakfast, are discussing the male neighbor who found the body, and was friends with the husband who is a surgeon who is apparently very hard to get a hold of.

Lady cop overhears and, as her character has so far predicted, is super pissed off.  She bitches at them because her name was supposed to be next in line and so she should have a case and not them right now, since it is her turn on the board.  It sounds like this is not the first time such shenanigans have transpired.  Also, the names on the board are the first time that anyone’s name has been mentioned on this show at all.  The detective who took the dump at the crime scene house then calls her Jane, and explains the chain of command when a homicide is called in, and essentially blames it on the Sergeant calling the homicide detective of his choosing, who was not her.

As soon as she was assigned to the case, the boxes disappeared.

 

Aidan Quinn comes in, looking like he had a rough night, and Det. Jane wants to talk to him.   The most graveled of the trio of man detectives is named Jay, and he calls his daughter Rosie for her 4th birthday phone call.  In Aidan Quinn’s office, Jane is pissed, and the victim of being the girl in a fort made of file boxes, while all the boys are playing in a fort made out of Awesome Homicide Investigations!  No girls allowed!   Now she is being sent off on a field trip to Brooklyn to pick up the personal affects of some dude they’ve got cuffed up in an interrogation room.

She deputizes some guy at a shelter maybe?  Fly over of the city and we hear news report that the murder from the beginning of the show also included a rape, and the neighborman is being questioned.  Serial rapist/stabber (one-man Group W bench?) in the 20 block radius of the murder, and Det. Jane surmises they may be related.  However, the other guys think she is a stupid girl so why would that make sense?

Back from the commercial break, and we get a glimpse of Jane’s home life.  Looks like her man has a son named Owen from a previous marriage, but Owen can’t spend the night at her house because of the horrible harpy ex-wife doesn’t want cell phones or guns or TVs that are not wall-mounted (what?!) near the kid.

Back at the station, two of the knuckle-headed detectives are in Aidan Quinn’s office, and they’re all sitting around drinking whiskey out of jelly jars.  Aidan Quinn reprimands them for stealing Jane’s case because she was a pain in his ass, and explains she got the job in this department by being a good cop, not by doing it with her boss, or whoever the other detectives are winking and nudging about.  Jay goes off on this tirade about how lady detectives only want to screw over good cops and how Jane is just another one of them and then goes into convulsions like he is being voodoo dolled in the heart.

This is what Mad Men doesn't show you about drinking whiskey at work.

 

Come back to the office, and Jay Keating had died from his heart attack while being prepped for surgery.  Looks like he should have been nicer to Jane.  So, now that he’s out of the way, Jane goes into Aidan Quinn’s office to get Jay’s job.  Aidan Quinn looks like crap because he’s been at the hospital all night with his dying friend, and so really, Jane’s timing could have been a little better.  You know, now that I think of it, the scene with Jay singing to his little daughter over the phone for her birthday was totally a first scene handkerchief.  I feel kind of dumb for not realizing he wasn’t going to make it through the episode.  So obvious!

Jane brings all her extra guns to her dad’s house, which is incredibly beautiful, by the way.  Real wood paneling with built-ins, incredible detail … I want to live in that house.  While she’s there we learn that her dad is Irish, everyone loves a pint or four, Jane quit smoking because her dad might have cancer, and she got the job leading the townhouse murder investigation.

I am now half way through this show, and I really just don’t even care that she got the job because she is boring and unlikable, and it is predictable.  I can tell you right now what happens in the second half, then I’ll watch it and we’ll review my score card.  Ok, here we go:  her instincts were correct and the serial rapist/stabber is the same person who did the townhouse murder.  Was it the neighbor-man?  Maybe.  Either he was doing the other rapes because he had the hots for his neighbor and then it escalated because he is a wack-job, or he didn’t do any of it at all.  Maybe it was the dad.  Jane solves the crime with hard work, dedication, and being a bitch, and earns the respect of the other detectives.  Owen gets to stay at her house since she properly mounted all the TVs to the wall, and everyone is happy even though the kid may be more than she bargained for as she is not a mom type.  Her father doesn’t die today, but he might later this season.

Here’s how I fared:

  • Serial rapist/stabber did the murder: Yes.
  • Was it the neighbor or the dad?: No.  It was a guy that she deputized dude from the beginning of the show.
  • She solved the crime with hard work, dedication, and being a bitch:  yes, yes, and yes!
  • Earned the respect of the other detectives: Eh… definitely not one of them (Det. Duffy who was Jay’s partner I think), but yes on some of the others.
  • Owen gets to stay at the house:  He’s coming over Thursday, thanks to Jane being a bitch!
  • Her father doesn’t die: No, he does not.
The bullies don't like your pretty pretty hair, Jane.

Based on the pilot, this show is about gender politics, with a side of crime solving.  It’s a bit weary of a topic, but Maria Bello is a strong actress and pretty to look at, so this show may actually do pretty well, with the additional star power of Lt. Aidan Quinn and the continuing conflict between Jane and Duffy.  I might watch it again, but there are a bunch of other shows out there where I can get my crime procedural fix without being made uncomfortable by all the stereotypes about women, both in general and about strong women in particular.

 

The story of how rewatching Lost is the new Lost

Yes, I am about to talk about Lost. I know that no matter my audience, a bunch of you are probably all, “MEH!  Lost sucks because the ending was totally bogus!  They wasted six years of my life on bullshit!  Because of the last episode!”

The way I reckon it, Lost is a cat you adopt from the pound (or, kitteh jail, as I like to call it).  You don’t know how old it is, so it has some mystery.  You have some great times, and also from time to time the cat might puke in your shoe.  Overall though, good times with kitteh!  Then it dies. A horrible, gross, sudden death.  Yeah, you knew it was coming but yeeesh – you didn’t know it would be like that.

Some people will say “Screw cats!  They die and break my heart!  NEVER AGAIN!” Which is fine. That’s a huge blow when you have invested love into something and then it just keels over.  However, other people, like myself, appreciate all the good times with that kitteh, and choose to remember that over the horrible end.

That being said, dear reader, please take into consideration that my love of Lost was unblemished by the end, and I have, as Damon Lindelof suggested, moved on.  (By the way, click that link and I dare you not to be moved by Michael Giacchino’s incredible talent.)  I will adopt another cat from the pound, hoping to find the love and companionship I enjoyed from the previous pet.

I could easily regale you with my favorite parts of Lost, what made it so special for me, how it was not just a TV show but also a community, but that is all for another time.  The time now is to look at what TV networks do in order to attract the meandering Lost fans in their hour of vulnerability.  (And yes, it is a long hour.)

So, because of the incredible success of Lost, all the other networks are trying desperately to find The New Lost so they can also make a jillion dollars.

The so-called Lost clones

Persons Unknown

This show was canceled after the first season of this NBC show, so you may have forgotten it already.  But hey, our buddy Jonathan Frakes directed a bunch of episodes, so it was worth a watch. Now I see they are calling it a mini-series. I didn’t notice that before but maybe it’s always been the case. Ok, I’ll give it that pass for not surviving past the First Summer After Lost.

I think out of all the “clones” I may have enjoyed this one the most (no, not because of Jonathan Frakes – I found that detail out later).  It was not terribly Losty, but it was very interesting.  A handful of strangers from very diverse backgrounds find themselves plucked from their everyday lives and imprisoned in a strange ghost town with the potential to kill themselves or each other.  One of them is Cameron from Ferris Bueller.  He may be a wonderful adult actor by now, with grey hair and the whole bit, but he is still Cameron to me.  Did I mention their every move is followed by cameras from every angle?  Well, yes, that is happening, too.

Some moments are predictable, and maybe it is hard to tell where things are going, but I found the cast to be very good, and really, the plot is intriguing.   The whole thing is the brainchild of Christopher McQuarrie who you may remember as the writer of The Usual Suspects and my complete love, The Way of the Gun.

While this show is pretty danged cool, it was canceled, and has not yet been released on DVD.  Expect release date?  Unknown.

 

Flash Forward

I think a lot of people thought Flash Forward was going to be the show after Lost ended. After all, there were what – three Lost alums on there? Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), Sonya Walger (Penny), Kim Dickins (Cassidy)… The rest of the cast wasn’t too shabby, either. The premise was interesting, too – everyone in the world passed out at exactly the same moment, and saw the future. Neat! Why would this happen?! I want to find out!

Well, this all sounded like a good idea, until you realized the sound you were hearing was a collection of the worst American accents ever combined on one television program. This together with the spiffy scifi potential of What It All Means crushed by overwhelming government conspiracy drama (not to mention the protagonist actually being a major douchebag), sent ratings into a downward spiral and the show was canceled. Oh well.

The Event


The Event is sort of an interesting show. I find myself watching it most weeks, but I can’t say I care about the characters. There are plenty of twists and impossible situations and creepy weirdness that might make Fox Mulder raise an eyebrow, but it just isn’t compelling.

Terra Nova

Instead of ordering a pilot and seeing how it goes, Fox ordered 13 episodes of Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova. This show, premiering this fall, starts in the future when we have screwed up the Earth so bad that scientists have figured out how to send people into the past to “get it right.” Of course, it won’t be all Jurassic Park all the time, but I would be kind of ok with it if it was. I’m interested to see how this comes out.

The alternative

Re-watching Lost


warning: the video above is spoilery if you haven’t seen all of Lost
I’m about half-way through season two of my rewatch, with a friend who was a Lost virgin. It is pretty awesome, actually. I look forward to it every week more than I do any current show. It is fun because I while I know what happens, I am noticing new details I hadn’t before. The whole-show knowledge really enhances my viewing, especially since when the show was current, I was getting really into it, with podcasts, ARGs, and the Lost community at large. I have my very own Apollo bar, for pete’s sake. Neat, right?

Lost changed TV for not just the viewers, but also for the industry itself. Companies want to cash in on the potential of a passionate following, but it is pretty unlikely that any TV show will be as unifying for a long time. Similar to how the Sopranos really started an era for TV shows on premiere channels, Lost has done something that people will still be scratching their heads to figure out how to replicate for a long time. In the meantime, the box set is pretty danged cool.

The story of how you helped Japan through knitting

Hello there!  Instead of making fun of TV, I am making a plea to you, the reader, to help my nerdy friends and I help Japan. After all, they invented most of the stuff you love, like Nintendo, sudoku, Toyota Corollas, hojicha and  several dozen varieties of daikaiju.

My primary existence on the Intarwebz is as the administrator of an online knitting competition for geeks called Nerd Wars on a site called Ravelry (which is 2 parts yarn/fiber/pattern database and 1 part social networking for fiber enthusiasts).

This month, Nerd Wars competitors have been challenged with doing things to help Japan.  They’ve purchased knitting and crocheting patterns from designers who are sending proceeds to the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, they’ve made direct donations, they are sending handknit socks directly to Japan, and they are donating items to be auctioned off on eBay.

I am here to ask you to help.  There are some beautiful items on our eBay auction.  They are all either handcrafted, or knitting-related, and more items are being posted every day.  Click the button to go directly to our listings.

Bid today!  Help Japan!

One of these items may make a great gift, or bid on it for yourself.  100% of the proceeds will be going to Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund – a Global Giving Project.

Plus, where else can you get a handmade plushy Captain Malcolm Reynolds? (Here’s a preview – the auction will be up in a couple of days so keep checking back!)

The story of how I sat through the pilot of Breaking In

I decided I would watch the pilot for Christian Slater’s new vehicle on Fox, “Breaking In” and take notes as I went along. I will allow myself to look things up, but for the sake of purity of first impressions, I will not go back and watch it again before writing this. Please note that it is spoilery in nature, as it is my recap of the entire show.

In the interest of full disclosure, screenshots were apprehended after this entire piece was written.

The pilot starts with a cool-looking dude (Cameron, played by Bret Harrison) walking around his college campus. The music playing is apparently “I Love College” by Asher Roth, but all I heard was “I danced my face off” which is a little bizarre. Anyway, you can tell this kid Loves College. He is fist bumpin’ guys, looking a hot co-eds over his sunglasses, the whole bit. He then meanders over to what appears to be the largest concentration of wooden benches I have ever seen on a college campus. He gives a dude a piece of paper revealing the password to the creative writing professor’s computer. I think the recipient of this slip of paper is from The Whitest Kids U’Know, Trevor Moore.

fistbump!
We're cool college kids! Yeah!

So Cameron goes into his dorm room and whaaaa?! There’s Christian Slater, sitting at Cameron’s desk, smoking a cigar! How can you do that? So stinky and smoke-detector unfriendly! He explains his name is Oz and he runs a security company where people hire him to break into their companies to discover weaknesses and abate them, I guess. Some sassy pretty, mid-20s brunette is there too (played by Odette Annable), sassing Cameron along side Oz. And Trevor Moore is back, as he is Josh, an employee of Christian Slater, too, and was a plant in Cameron’s French class. I am pretty sure Christian Slater is wearing a rug. His forehead is as epic and shiny as we’ve grown to know and love over the years, but the hairline looks real weird. He also looks significantly younger than the last crappy TV show he was in that I never watched.

With a forehead this massive and shiny, of course I wear shades All The Time.

Within a few moments the entire origin story of the show materializes, being: Cameron is some kind of supergenius with computer hacking and manipulation, having hacked his way into college and full-boat scholarship, and two adjacent dorm rooms to himself (he said he was twins. Ok ….), and Oz has blackmailed Cameron into being an intern at his company.

What else has materialized is really abysmal joke writing. It is cheap humor, which thinks it is more clever than it is. Oz is supposed to be quick and witty, but comes off as someone pretending to be smart but actually using words they don’t understand the meaning of.

The next day, presumably, Cameron goes to work at Contra Security. Which fits in nicely with last week’s podcast. Cameron comes in and is instantly accosted by his new coworker, the black MegaNerd. Except, that while he is dressed as Han Solo, making Wookiee noises and saying how excited he is about DragonCon, I just don’t buy it. He is too socially adept and, well, cool. He does not commit to the dorkiness, and so I find this character to be wildly unbelievable.

Next follows a Family Guy-esque montage of hazing pranks that the blerd (actual character name: Cash) plays on Cameron that would impress both Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute, as they are all over the top. Just like the blerd himself. If you like flashback or tangential montages, this is your show. They just keep on coming. And, as the episode goes on, the ridiculousness continues to ratchet up. Desk cemented to the ceiling? That is nothing. Blerd got his job when Oz was hired to remove him from the property of William Shatner, who he was stalking. Of course! An obsessed weirdo is a perfect addition to any corporate team!

There is another coworker who I guess is supposed to be in HR or a receptionist or something? She has a really weird mouth and kept talking about cookiepuss and how that is supposed to indicate to me “ice cream cake” but it doesn’t and I am confused and disturbed. A running gag is introduced of Cameron’s personal history of being pantsed, as illustrated by another flashback montage.

There is a potential love interest on the show with the sassy brunette Melanie, who is the company safe-cracker. However, just as Cameron attempts to ask her out, her boyfriend shows up in a yellow Hummer, wearing Uggs. I thought those were for girls? He is Michael Rosenbaum, who was Lex Luthor on Smallville nine thousand years ago. His name is Dutch and he made Melanie a little house out of matchbooks collected from every restaurant they’ve been to, and he makes mad bank by selling clean pee on the Internet. Delightful fellow, really, and Cameron’s heart is soundly pooped on.

Look at how bleached his vetical bangs are. Sign of true love.

Now that all the expository and character information is out of the way, they are going to do some work! They have to steal a car from a place and some Mission Impossible style heist things.

You brought extra batteries for this helicopter, right Ninja?

Of course, the plan doesn’t work as well as they like, and Cameron and Trevor (who has Great Deals of Animosity toward Cameron) must work together to fix the problem to make Oz proud, and also work out their issues so they can be happy by the end of 22 minutes. Of course they do, with bad jokes all along the way. There is the slight potential of cleverness on the edge of a lot of the things they do and say, but it is executed so … absurdly and over the top, that it loses its cred almost immediately.

I am not sure how I feel about this… it feels like a bit of a mess, but I think it just not be my type of humor. It left me … confused. The last frame after the credits explained everything to me, though. Happy Madison Productions. That explains everything!

I knew I recognized that humor style from somewhere...

The story of how I learned to love Bob’s Burgers

I fully expected to hate Bob’s Burgers, the seemingly only non-Seth MacFarlane cartoon program on Sunday nights on Fox.  The animation was weird-looking, the premise was thoroughly … meh.  I watched the pilot episode and was uninspired.  It just seemed kind of stupid.  I was not alone in this early assessment, with such journalism stand-bys as the Washington Post and New York Times’ reviews indicated the half-hour cartoon was “pointlessly vulgar and derivatively dull.”

Then I watched the second episode.  And the third.  I began to look forward to the episodes.  Very much.

At first I speculated, “It is because of Kristen Schall and Eugene Mirman!  Their voice talent clearly carries the whole show!  It is only because I truly wish it was the Kristen and Eugene show that I will sit through this doo-doo!”  I had fallen madly in love with Schaal during the two glorious seasons of Flight of the Conchords on HBO, and I am the proud owner of a Eugene Mirman comedy record.  And he was also on Flight of the Conchords.  Huh.

Of course, there is also the voice talent of H. Jon Benjamin, the titular Bob.  To me, he will always be the voice of Ben on Dr. Katz, the doctor’s loser son who painfully flirted with Dr. Katz’s weird red-haired receptionist.

Now, despite the title, and the obvious fact that I am building up to how I now enjoy the program, there are problems.  Animation-wise, it needs more in-betweens.  If I watch too carefully (as in, give it undivided attention instead of watching while knitting), I feel like the lack of in-betweens from just Bob’s mouth moving could throw me into seizures.

The silly names (last names such as Belcher, Fischoeder, etc.) and focus on fart jokes draws in a very young crowd, but the subject matter can be quite adult and inappropriate for kids.  It’s subtle though, and I think it could be difficult for parents to discern if this is more geared toward the Simpsons demographic or the Family Guy crowd this program finds itself sandwiched between in the line-up.

Also, sometimes the show is just gross.  Not funny gross – just gross.  And, none of the main characters have chins.

Sure, there are other problems, but there are also plenty of fancy newspaper reviews that can tell you all about them.  I am not a fancy person, so it works better for me to focus my grump on the characters having no chins.

So, as I watched those subsequent episodes, dodging epileptic animation and chinless teenager masturbation jokes, I slowly developed a fondness for this weirdness.

From the guest voice talent (such as Kevin Kline as Mr. Fischoeder the landlord, pictured here)

to the muppetesque facial expressions

to the deadpan insight into the thoughts of people like me

Bob’s Burgers has sucked me in. Even the bizarre voice casting of Bob’s wife and oldest daughter has grown on me, as the obvious man voices in themselves add to the depth of character.

I’m not going to go into the cast, or the premise of the show, as it is pretty self explanatory after about eight seconds and you can get that from any other review or commentary. I will tell you, though, that Louise (voiced by Kristen Schaal) is far and away the best character on the show. The screaming, the scheming, and the take no prisoners attitude, softened by the occasional reminder that she is in fact just a little girl, is brilliant.

I also learned/noticed/wikipedia-ed recently that the seven degrees of Bob’s Burgers extends beyond Flight of the Conchords. The show’s creator, Loren Bouchard, also was the creator of Dr. Katz. As mentioned above, H. John Benjamin did voice work on Dr. Katz. As did Laura Silverman (the receptionist, also mentioned above) who made a cameo on the Art Crawl episode of Bob’s Burgers. Her sister Sarah Silverman made a cameo in the same episode. Steve Agee, a regular on the Sarah Silverman Program did the voice of a transvestite hooker in Sheesh! Cab, Bob? episode of Bob’s Burgers. He was also in Children’s Hospital with Megan Mullally who was in the Art Crawl episode as well.

And while I continue to mourn the loss of King of the Hill, I am happy in the fact that Jim Dauterive who executive produced and wrote many episodes of that show, is now lending his skills in the same areas on this one. (Just like David Herman who has done voices on both shows.)

I guess what it comes down to, now that I consider this, is even though this a new show, it is rife with familiarity. And familiarity is reliable and tasty. Just like Bob’s Burgers.