Author: John Paulsen (Page 1 of 79)

Caprica: Season 1.5

When “Caprica” first premiered, I wondered (out loud) if anyone was really clamoring for a prequel to the “Battlestar Galactica” story and outlined the obstacles that the series faced at the time:

“Caprica” has the same challenge that the “Star Wars” prequels had: Everyone knows how it turns out. The question is whether or not the history is compelling enough to outweigh the certainty of the story’s outcome.

The two-hour premiere was solid, but the plodding start (lots of death and mourning) and uneven storyline made it something of a tough watch for many “Battlestar Galactica” fans. In fact, our own Ross Ruediger gave the Season 1.0 DVD set just two stars out of five:

With “Galactica,” we rooted for the characters because they were fighting for survival. With “Caprica,” there is nobody to root for, mostly because the characters are nearly impossible to care about and their struggles are negligible. It was probably too soon to mount another lengthy chapter in the “Galactica” concept. I don’t think creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick had enough distance from the original series to be able to see this one clearly. It was also too soon for viewers, who weren’t clamoring for this new story, having been exhausted by the ride that was “Galactica.” The series feels as though it was put together solely to capitalize on a brand name, and not because there was actually a compelling story to tell.

I was willing to forgive the slow start in the hopes that Moore and Eick would be able to pull it together for the long haul. As it turns out, the series was canceled before the final five episodes even aired, so we now have the Season 1.5 DVD set to review. It contains the final nine episodes, along with a plethora of special features, including deleted scenes, cast and crew commentaries, podcast commentaries and more.

Having finally watched the entire run, I’d only recommend the series to “Battlestar Galactica” (and easily pleased) fans who are interested in finding out how and why the Cylons were created and how they became sentient. Most of those fans have probably already watched the series, so I’m not sure what subsection of sci-fi fans this review really speaks to. There’s no doubt that “Caprica” is a disappointment when compared to its predecessor, but those expectations were probably impossible to meet from the get-go.

For those fans that lost track of the show after the first nine (or thirteen) episodes, it’s worth finishing, because Moore wisely ramped up the action and intensity in the final hours and provided a five-minute “Shape of Things to Come” epilogue that quickly shows what happened to the main characters in the “Caprica” story, answering a few of the lingering questions along the way and providing some closure for those that need it.

Despite excellent acting from its ensemble cast (especially Polly Walker, who is positively loathsome as Clarice Willow) and the trademark Moore production values, “Caprica” was done in by largely unlikable characters and a meandering storyline that took way too long to get moving. The conflict between the humans and Cylons in “BG” was clearly drawn, but over the course of 18 episodes, I never really understood why the two religious factions in “Caprica” (monotheists and polytheists) hated each other so vehemently. Seeing as this was the crux of the plot, it’s understandable why “Caprica” failed to capture an audience as devoted as its predecessor’s.

“Terriers” is getting good

I had high expectations for FX’s new series, “Terriers,” which was created by Ted Griffin, the writer of “Oceans Eleven” and “Matchstick Men.” It stars Donal Logue, whose work I enjoyed on “The Knights of Prosperity,” “Grounded for Life” and “The Tao of Steve.” He’s a talented actor who can play both the lovable protagonist and the arrogant asshole. He plays a former cop (and recovering alcoholic, sigh) Hank Dolworth who now works as an unlicensed private detective. His partner in crime is a former thief (played by Michael Raymond-James, who first hit my radar as the serial killer Rene on “True Blood”) and the two work together on shady cases in Ocean Beach, California.

The first couple of episodes were just okay, as Logue’s character spent a lot of time worrying about his ex-wife, her new fiance and their old house that was up for sale. The writing wasn’t terribly tight, either. After he ‘bought’ the house, he was able to move in before escrow even closed, which definitely doesn’t happen in real life.

Anyway, I stuck with the series, and in the fourth installment a previous job reemerged and took over the storyline for two more episodes, getting the investigators in some deep doo-doo in the process. The arc felt an episode of “The Shield,” where Vic Mackey had to spend two hours trying to clean up a mess that he created…if it were written by Elmore Leonard.

Like “Oceans Eleven,” the show moves at a fast pace and I enjoy how it camps out in the grey area of life with a serialized format — like the rest of FX’s stable of shows (specifically “Rescue Me,” “The Shield,” and “Justified”). This isn’t a story about a man in a white hat taking on a bad guy in a black hat. Just like Tommy Gavin, Vic Mackey and Raylen Givens, Hank Dolworth is a complicated man, and it typically takes him more than an hour to work out his issues.

So if you elect to give “Terriers” a shot, or if you already gave up after the first or second episode, stick around until the end of the fifth episode, and then make up your mind. Other than “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Event,” the fall season doesn’t seem to have much to offer in the realm of new dramas, but “Terriers” deserves consideration.

“Persons Unknown,” I hate you.

All will be revealed by the end of summer.

Yeah, right.

First of all, NBC didn’t even broadcast the third-to-last episode. It apparently ‘debuted online,’ whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. If you want to cancel a series, fine, but don’t skip an episode without anything resembling an explanation.

Anyway, I finished the final hour of “Persons Unknown” last night and I was disappointed, to put it lightly.

All along, the series has been spotty and uneven, leaving me with my eyes closed and head shaking as Character A does this or Character B does that. Casting decisions were also sketchy. I could handle Cameron from “Ferris Bueller” as a corporate magnate because Alan Ruck can act. But the choice of head baddie (Joanna Lipari) was a head scratcher. I had an eighth grade English teacher who was ten times as menacing. Then the Doctor from “Star Trek: Voyager” shows up as a corporation board member with a thick mane of white hair and a take-no-shit attitude. Part of Robert Picardo’s shtick is that he’s bald. Seeing him with flowing locks of white hair is just going to make the audience laugh. Is that really what they were going for in the last half hour of the season/series?

And what the hell happened between the second to last episode and the last episode? Last we left them, the gang was bouncing around in an overturned van with the least competent ‘man in blue’ in the company (which is why they give him corpse duty, apparently) and suddenly Janet is in a hospital, Charlie and Bill are speeding down a highway in a stolen car, Moira and Erica are in Morocco (Morocco, really? WTF?), and Graham has been captured with no explanation as to how any of this happened.

All will be revealed.

What was the point of the program? They imply that the ‘winners’ move onwards and upwards, but to what? Joe supposedly won his first contest, and he ended up in Round 1 again. Ulrich went from being a badass manager type to a blubbering idiot after Janet batted her eyelashes a few times, and we’re supposed to believe that this program chooses the best and the brightest? (And really, was Janet that hot?)

So since I don’t really know anyone else who watched this show, I googled the show’s title and the first result to come up was an article entitled, “Is the ‘Persons Unknown’ Finale the Worst Series Finale Ever?” I literally laughed out loud.

We’re supposed to be rooting for Janet, who is just a mom who wants to get home to her kid. After finally getting out of the town, we see her trapped in a hospital, only to escape and finally reunite with her daughter. Her mom’s henchman is supposed to be ‘driving them to the border’ yet they stop at a seedy hotel so that they can sleep — why didn’t they just sleep in the car? The henchman said he’d be ‘right outside’? Keep moving!

No matter, it was just a plot device to get Janet asleep so she could wake up dramatically in the other hotel. We even get a shot of Joe waking up in (could it be?) the same hotel. Well, they’re back in the program, but at least they have each other.

Nope.

Joe is with a whole new group of guinea pigs, and Janet’s ex-husband, who apparently impressed the head baddie (still not one-tenth as menacing as my English teacher) enough to earn a spot in the program. Don’t worry about his girlfriend, who is trapped in a cage somewhere next to Ambassador Whatshisname. Meanwhile, Janet and the gang find themselves on a big ship in the middle of the ocean.

The end.

Good premise, terrible execution.

All will be revealed.

I hate you.

True Blood 3.8 – Making Up Is Hard To Do

This episode was one of the few in the series that didn’t begin with a legitimate bang. Bill had just saved Sookie’s life, and all that was left was Sookie’s (screaming) reaction when she saw Bill again. Nobody in that hospital room was about to die, so after Sookie settled down and ‘broke up’ with Bill, life went on. Bill doesn’t really explain why he went crazy on Sookie’s blood, but she explains it away later (to Jason, I think) saying that Bill was near death and couldn’t control himself. Um, okay.

This episode was written by Raelle Tucker (her 6th of the series) and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, who is an experienced director but hadn’t directed an episode of “True Blood” before. The show always has several balls in the air, but it felt especially scattered in this episode. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that anything actually happened.

Everything else was just setup for that final sequence or for some episode down the line. For example, there was Arlene’s vision of Rene, which literally had no impact on anything else that happened in the episode. I’m sure it was entirely necessary, but it only made the hour feel all the more frenetic, and not necessarily in a good way.

So let’s hit the high points. To me, the most interesting storyline was Eric’s continued infiltration of the King’s trust. He was playing both Russell and Talbot in order to put himself into position to avenge his family’s death. He had to flirt with Russell and get down and dirty with Talbot to get there, but he certainly got there, and it will be interesting to see what happens to him now that he’s staked Talbot. It’s not like he can blame it on someone else — both Russell and the bodyguards knew that they were together that night.

Eric’s actions essentially saved Bill’s (and Sookie’s, by proxy) life, because Russell felt Talbot’s death and flew off into the night just as he was about to put Bill out of his misery. The fight at Sookie’s house was intense, and she’s lucky that Bill and Jessica (who just went through a sweet combat training experience at Bill’s house) showed up to help. When Jessica ran outside to chase one of the werewolves, Bill was left with the choice of following her or going upstairs to save Sookie, and he chose Jessica, possibly because he had to, being her maker and all. Once Russell left, Bill went upstairs and he and Sookie made up in a big, big way.

Meanwhile, Jason’s relationship with Crystal takes another turn when she shows up at his place soaking wet after running away from her betrothed. One can only assume she and her kin are werewolves, and Jason’s confrontation with her father is only going to put him squarely in their cross hairs. But my main problem with the storyline is Crystal’s assertion that she had never been out of Bon Temps — if that’s the case, how in the world did she not at some point cross paths with Jason Stackhouse? In a small town, that would seem to be entirely impossible.

Other than Sookie’s flirtation with Alcide, everything else that happened this week seemed to be swirling about on the fringe — Tara’s strange recovery, Lafayette’s mom and Jesus’s arrival, Sam sending his own mom away, and Holly, the new waitress.

Taking a step back, I can see how some might compare the romantic triangle between Sookie, Bill and Alcide with what apparently goes on in “Twilight,” but the books that “True Blood” were based on were published a full four years earlier. So, if anything, “Twilight” is a watered down version of “True Blood,” not the other way around. (I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying that the “True Blood” story came first.)

Anyway, Will Harrris will be back at the keyboard next Sunday, so my time steering the ship has come to an end. Moving forward, while some have been critical of the third season, we have all the makings for a strong finish. (Namely, one crazy, pissed-off, 3000-year-old vampire.)

True Blood 3.7 — A New Authority

My esteemed colleague, Will Harris, asked me to cover the “True Blood” blog for a couple of episodes while he does his thing at the TCA press tour. So before we move on, let’s go ahead and lower those expectations.

Lowered? Good.

First, there’s the issue of Lorena, who is about to kill Sookie in the woodshed. (That sounds a little like some backwoods version of Clue, doesn’t it?) Lorena marvels at how good she tastes, underlying the ongoing question of the third season — just what is Sookie Stackhouse?

Bill manages to jump Lorena and hold her down while Sookie stakes her. Killing off a minor, yet important character is always an interesting way to start an episode, and it looks like Lorena’s hold over Bill is finally over.

There were a couple of scenes in the episode where Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” would have been an appropriate soundtrack. First, to get off the King’s compound, Alcide had to kill Cooter and lock his ex-girlfriend in the shed — instead of putting her down, which will no doubt come back to bite him, pun intended — before loading Sookie, Bill and Tara up in the truck to get them the hell out of Dodge. During the escape, he kills another werewolf, which will only serve to embolden the pack’s desire to track him down.

The other jailbreak was Sam’s adventure to the dogfights, which have to be one of the most despicable ways to spend a sunny afternoon. After cheering him on when he let all of those dogs loose, I laughed out loud (literally LOL) when he convinced that Rottweiler that he’d be far better off making a run for it than standing there snarling at him.

One question that I have with regard to Tommy’s involvement in the fights — why doesn’t he just shapeshift into the biggest, baddest pit bull in Louisiana?

Back to the truck — Sookie offers up her blood to Bill, and he partakes — oh man, does he partake. It’s obvious that her blood has an effect on Bill, because he doesn’t have any recollection of what happened when he comes to. Funny that Lorena didn’t have the same reaction — it must be something specifically about Bill, right?

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