Monday, August 23, 2010

You Mean There are Other Shows on TV Besides Angel?


(David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel as Special Agent Seeley Booth and Dr. Temperance Brennan, on "Bones")

My TV viewing is pretty much hit and miss since I work such crazy hours. My M.O. is to sit down when I have some time to kill, turn on the TV and see what's on. When I spot certain shows, I usually put down the remote and start watching.

Bones. I didn't care for Bones at first, but once I found the right episode I really started getting into it! It was hard for me to admit this for a while, but if David Boreanaz is remembered more for his performance as F.B.I. Special Agent Seeley Booth than as Angel, the Vampire With a Soul, I won't have a problem with that.

What attracts me the most to great TV shows is the quality of both the writing and the ensemble acting. I don't know Bones well enough to be able to figure out which season I'm watching most of the time, but I can generally say that I like the "later" seasons better than the "early" seasons. However, I've seen some outstanding Season 1 episodes and some not-so-great later season episodes. Regardless, even the more mediocre Bones episodes are better than just about anything else on television.

I understand that Bones is still pulling in decent ratings and will start its sixth season starting later this year. My only concern is that it seems like sometimes network executives will get bored with a series and may decide to cancel a show even it's still pulling in OK numbers. Any fluctuation in the ratings can be used as an excuse to pull the plug on a series. Even though Bones pulls in a respectable number of viewers, it's not a top, top show in the rankings, which would seem to place the series a little farther towards the edge of the chopping block.

My favorite actors include David Boreanaz (of course), T.J. Thyne as Jack Hodgins (I adore him), Tamara Taylor as Camille Saroyan (I look up to her character as a role model because of her professionalism, though I do like the few intriguing looks we get of her colorful personal life), and John Francis Daley as Lance Sweets (for the "wise beyond his years" aspect of his character).

I'm liking Eric Millegan as Zach Addy more now than I did initially, but his character is just a little to Rainmanesque for my tastes. I also don't like what the producers did to his character. His whole melodramatic story arc seems entirely out-of-place in the series. I thought Michaela Conlin started out kind of weak as Angela Montenegro, but I'm finding consistently good performances from her in every single season. I might have just initially seen Conlin in a couple of her lesser episodes at first. I adore how Angela is so open and direct, but sometimes I find her to be a little too sure of herself and her opinions. I enjoyed Johnathon Adams as Dr. Daniel Goodman, but his character was just a little too physically and emotionally distanced from the rest of the team. Nonetheless, he always completely backed up his employees whenever they came under fire from outside forces.

Which leads us to a giant puzzle for me, Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan ("Bones"). This is the one instance where I feel that I really need to see the entire series in order to see if I can spot any sort of character development with her. Brennan seems to be all over the board as to whether she can open up and communicate with people on a steady basis. I've seen some emotional vulnerability in Season 1, and I've seen her act like an unfeeling robot in later seasons. She's at her best when I can sense that there's more to her than meets the eye, but sometimes I just flat out don't find that in a lot of her performances. I can understand that Dr. Brennan has a unique personality and is definitely not a people person. I just need to consistently feel that she's also an interesting and complex character.

Finally, of course I need to talk a little more about Boreanaz as Seeley Booth. Initially I thought Boreanaz looked like he was a little hamstrung by his character, in that it appeared he wanted to break out and do more things. Now I'm finding that Agent Booth is absolutely the perfect role for Boreanaz. He's bright, funny, and self-deprecating, yet deadly serious and hard-ass when he needs to be. My absolute favorite moments in the series are when Agent Booth walks into obviously hostile territory (like when he's meeting with a bunch of heavy metal heads) and shakes things up. It satisfies a lot of our fantasies about being able to physically dope-slap all of the idiots and assholes we're forced to deal with on a daily basis. It appears to me that Dr. Temperance Brennan is the main character on "Bones", while David Boreanaz is the actual star of the show.

Ghost Whisperer. Even though Jennifer Love Hewitt's series about a woman who can communicate with ghosts is a bunch of sentimental schmaltz, I absolutely adore the show. (Though even I admit that the endings can get a little too syrupy at times.) I love Hewitt's wardrobes, I love the sets, and I particularly love the New Englandish-looking fictional town that the series is set in. Grandview, New York looks like a former mill town that went into a long period of decline, but came back when the Yuppies and the real estate bubble arrived at the same time.

I never faithfully tuned into the show every Friday night on CBS, but I didn't have to since at one time it seemed like I could catch an episode every time I turned on the TV. In addition to CBS, I've seen Ghost Whisperer on CBC, Ion, SyFy and possibly at least one other network. I wonder if the series suffered from over-exposure, which caused it to be canceled a few months ago when the ratings took a dive? Regardless, about two months ago I came down with about the worst case of bronchitis I'd ever had in my life. While I was recuperating I was hoping I would be able to get caught up on a bunch of Ghost Whisperer episodes. Unfortunately, the series didn't seem to be airing almost continuously like it had been just a short time earlier. I couldn't help but wonder if the show's cancellation had anything to do with its drop-off in syndication airtime. (Though I admit that doesn't make much sense.)

Again, I like the writing, the story lines, and the ensemble acting. Ghost Whisperer was actually an anthology series, in that it could draw from an endless well of story ideas to match up with the main theme of characters working to overcome personal tragedies in their lives in order to move on. Melinda provided the framework and the continuity for the show. I think the series faltered a bit when it became too cosmological (think of "The Shadows"), or when it tried to get too fancy with their story arcs (like when Melinda' s husband Jim died but didn't quite go away.) Mostly I appreciate the "beginning, middle and end" aspect of the episodes, where I can spend an enjoyable hour watching the show and then get on with my life.

Ghost Whisperer
also had a strong ensemble cast, and I particularly like David Conrad as Melinda's scrumptious husband, Camryn Manheim as best friend and confidante Delia Banks, and Jamie Kennedy as the quirky, decidedly non-heroic Eli James. I didn't dislike any of the other main characters, but there was an unfortunate jump-the-shark moment in the series when Melinda and Jim's son Aiden was born and the series started time-jumping around.

Supernatural. This is my least-watched show of this group, probably because I'm usually not sitting on the couch when it airs on TV. (I seldom record shows because I never get around to viewing them.) There are a lot of great things going for this show, including great storytelling (at times), appealing leads (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester), a certain blue-collar grittiness that creates a nice contrast to some of the more glamorous LA-based shows, and the road warrior element where we always look forward to more dangers that lurk just around the next corner.

I don't know too much about recurring characters on the show, but I do like Jim Beaver as Bobby Singer, for providing us with his brand of down-to-earth grittiness.

Unfortunately, the negatives in Supernatural outweigh the positives for me. I'd probably make more of an effort to watch the show if I liked it better. For one thing, Supernatural's way too gory for my tastes, which makes me appreciate the WB Network executives even more whenever I think of Mutant Enemy staff members complaining on DVD commentaries about how they were forced to hold back on the blood in Angel. Another thing, and this is the show's main drawback, is that there are too many dull story arc episodes. By that I mean I'm watching everything totally out of context, and there seems to be a lot of dialogue where people will gravely intone about the many Highly Significant Things that are going on, which you couldn't prove by me since I have no idea what's happening. The best episodes are the slam-dunk, here's the bad demons, here's Sam and Dean killing the bad demons, and on to the next. I'm sure it's a wonderful show if you faithfully watch each episode in the proper sequence. It just doesn't work for a casual viewer like me.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've been trying to catch up with episodes on Hulu and on The WB, but the gods have been conspiring against me. The WB just recently dropped Buffy from their lineup a few weeks ago, and Hulu will be showing Season 1 episodes until the end of September. To further complicate things, Hulu has a tendancy to change their broadcast dates around, with the end result being that I still have not seen a majority of Buffy episodes from Season 2.

My understanding is that online sites are only broadcasting Buffy episodes from Seasons 1 - 3. I've seen all of Seasons 1 and 3, so all I need to do is concentrate on finishing up Season 2. When I'm finally finished with the first three seasons, I'll have to figure out what I'll do next.

I adore Buffy and I can understand why the series seems to be better-loved than Angel. The story lines seemed tighter, and the characters seemed more cut and dried, with the end result being that the show just seemed to be a lot less murky and aimless than Angel. I have a lot of questions about Seasons 4 - 7 of Buffy, not the least of which is, will I love or hate Dawn? I look forward to a lot more great viewing ahead of me.

Closing and Idle Thoughts. I didn't realize until I started watching Charmed in syndication about five years ago that I seem to be a fan of the supernatural/fantasy genre of TV shows. Before then, I just thought I was enjoying good television!

Maybe I never completely outgrew fairy tales, but I think I can trace a lot of my interests back to when I read T.H. White's The Once and Future King when I was about 13 years old. I was intrigued with how an author could be bold enough to completely turn the more traditional tales of King Arthur upside down and add his own unique spin.

The novel is probably most famous for the first part, "The Sword and the Stone", but it was the second part, "The Queen of Air and Darkness" that really struck a chord with me. There was just something terribly fascinating about the beautiful and evil Queen Morgause, who used her magical powers to, among other things, seduce her half-brother King Arthur. I haven't read the book since I was about 18 years old, so I think I might have to find a new copy somewhere. (My old copy is in about 12 different pieces somewhere in my basement.) I'm sure the book will mean a lot more to me as an adult than when I was a teenager.

Bones is another show that has great guest performances. I particularly enjoyed Ryan O'Neal's stint as Brennan's fugitive/bank robber/murderer dad. I'm beginning to think that O'Neal's talents may have been considerably wasted during his career as a handsome leading man in the 1970's.

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