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Last night television reviews: The Cape, Shameless, Episodes


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The Cape

NBC’s new superhero show is hard to rate. It’s horrible. As in, not good. But it’s also entertaining, and not always in a “so bad it’s good” way. The Cape is at its absolute worst when it attempts to create sentimentality or portray embarrassingly serious moments (NY Mag has the “Ten Most Awfulsome Lines from The Cape for your viewing pleasure). Some of the casting choices are ludicrous: Ryan Wynott plays Trip Faraday with such ham and with such contorted facial expressions that you’d wonder how he didn’t get the part of a young Man in Black in “Across the Sea.” And Summer Glau adds absolutely nothing with the character of Orwell besides her curse on television shows. It’s not like she has a lot to work with, however; the dialog relies on stereotypes and unintentional humor.

Yet the show isn’t without some merit. Especially when it attempts wit. Or at least attempts to be truly humorous and light-hearted. I’m going to buck the trend and say that David Lyons makes a fine hero even if his Australian accent slips up here and there. He’s lock-jawed and has the build to adequately and believably kick-ass. And in one of the best moments from either episode, he shows charisma while delivering a cape-tastic smackdown on some local hoodlums. That scene in particular has sold me on the show for at least another few episodes; I know that Wheeler has the ability, at least in moments, to combine wit, humor and beatdowns. Just stop trying to make it serious. Your main character has a cape. A cape.

C-

Shameless

Showtime’s new show certainly lives up to its name. Based off of the British series of the same name, it certainly is unlike most Showtime shows and works… to a point.

Shameless attempts to portray a poor, just-tryin’-to-get-by family that comes together through moments of spontaneous happiness and love even in the face of adversity. This is the part of Shameless that I’m not too keen on just yet. It’s too expository and panders to stereotypes that typical Showtime viewers might have about people in lower socio-economic statuses. The beginning in particular will elicit eye rolls: Do we really need to see them collecting money for an electric bill? We’ve already established that they’re poor, and there are much more nuanced and sophisticated ways to make the same statement.

The parts of Shameless that do work are the individual aspects; or at least, when characters move away from their family unit and into their own personal struggles. Lip in particular shows the most promise for in the pilot: smart, witty, but also a bit dangerous and without living up to his full potential. The apple scene is easily the best part of the first episode. What apple scene? Just watch. You’ll be grinning, mouth agape, wondering how the hell this is supposed to end. And no other words besides “awesome” accurately describe its outcome. And even though Fiona and her new beau run the risk of becoming too much of an overt statement on class division, subtle moments temper that potential commentary.

It’s an interesting idea that has the potential to run of its energy fairly quickly. Still, I’m in this for the long run.

B

Episodes

Having Episodes premiere on the same night as Shameless must mean something self-referencial from Showtime. I’m just not sure what that something is yet.

A team of a BAFTA winning comedy come to America to adapt their show. The network doesn’t quite get it. Hilarity ensues. Kind of. It’s surprisingly one-dimensional from a network like Showtime: “Writers goooood, network baaaaaad” is the Neanderthal message at the core of Episodes. And while it does provide some funny moments (keep your eyes on the network’s head of comedy) it doesn’t actually translate into something that original or entirely humorous.

Of course television writers love to write about television writing: it’s what they know. It’s why Shakespeare wrote about stagecraft in Hamlet or why story-within-a-story shows like 30 Rock or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip exist.  And while there are plenty of horror stories on how network executives just don’t “get it,” creating a one-dimension series like Episodes ironically seems to cater to the humor level of the typical network sitcom. Bring it to another level, Showtime. I know you can.

B-

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