Fall TV 2008, part 4

Here I was thinking that this fall premiere season was going to be boring simply because all my top shows (Lost, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Medium, Dollhouse, Burn Notice) were not coming until mid-season, but now I’m writing a 4-part post about new and returning shows. Go figure! Well, this will be the last part. There are a few more new shows to come and a few more shows to return, but you’re on your own for those.

My Own Worst Enemy

This show is so Alias, it’s not even funny (which is a good thing, because we’ve already got a funny spy show called Chuck). The Jekyll-Hyde premise is that Christian Slater stars (yes, it’s his TV series debut, let’s move on …) as Henry the mild-mannered corporate consultant by day, and Edward, the super-spy by night. The twist is that Henry doesn’t know he’s Edward — at least not until he finds himself switching personalities in the middle of a mission in Russia. Alfre Woodard stars as Edward’s cold-hearted boss (a kind of Arvin Sloane if he were a black woman, and not as evil — at least not yet). They’re a secret government agency specializing in split-personality sleeper agents, so when Edward/Henry gets his wires crossed, it’s a bad day at the office for Alfre. As I mentioned, this show is very reminiscent of Alias. There’s even a secret elevator (complete with retinal scan) leading down to the lower levels where the in-your-dreams spy tech and operations centre is housed (complete with brainy Marshall-esque support guy). Henry’s shrink (played by Saffron Burrows) even looks like Jennifer Garner, complete with dark hair and bee-stung lips. In the first episode, there isn’t yet a family connection to the spy game as there had been in Alias, but given that Henry’s wife is played by the smokin’ Madchen Amick, I predict that it won’t be long before we see her revealed as more spy than a soccer mom. Until then, I’m loving the show. It fills that Alias-shaped void. (4.5 out of 5)

The Office

There were cliffhangers aplenty last season: Jim and Pam’s engagement was put off by the engagement of Andy and Angela; Phyllis caught Angela cheating with Dwight; Jan showed up pregnant with a child that was probably not Michael’s; Ryan was carted off to jail for business misdeeds; and Michael possibly found a soul mate in new HR girl, Holly. There’s already been a couple of new episodes of this season and things are off to a great start. Things are as funny as they have ever been in earlier seasons, and less crazily over the top. It seems that they’ve rediscovered some of the office-based humour that was their bread and butter. Jim and Pam’s story gets moving, and Michael continues to mess things up with Holly. In one episode there is a simply hilarious scene where Jim tortures Dwight by making all kinds of erroneous statements about Battlestar Galactica within Dwight’s hearing, but he can’t take the time to correct Jim even though he clearly wants to for fear of being considered a thief of company time. It’s a riot for a geek like me to watch! (4.5 out of 5)

Merlin

This one’s a BBC production that is scheduled to make its way over to NBC. It’s the story of the adventures of a young Merlin. I’m enjoying it so far, though the stories are definitely on the less-sophisticated side. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a Xena, but it’s definitely no Lord of the Rings. The purists will probably cringe at all the changes made to the legend, but it’s not the Camelot-meets-Smallville that I feared. So far there has been mercifully little teen angst. However, the fact that King Uther Pendragon (played by a humourless Anthony Head — Giles from Buffy) has banned all magic from Camelot on pain of death, is great for the special effects budget, but kind of hampers the fantasy storytelling a bit. Michelle Ryan (star of the failed Bionic Woman series from last year) has also made an appearance as a recurring nemesis to Arthur. It’s definitely a fun series and worth a watch, but mostly if you’re a fan of the genre (4 out of 5)

Eleventh Hour

Another British adaptation, this series is about a super-scientist employed by the FBI to solve mysteries of an advanced scientific nature. This quirky super-expert concept has become a bit of a genre all its own, with shows like House, The Mentalist or Fringe all picking up the vibe. Rufus Sewell plays the main character serviceably well, but I like Patrick Stewart in the original version much better. It’s a bit tired how these super-experts always seem to know the answers, and their guesses are as good as gold. If they’re relying on the character drama to keep this show afloat, I think it’s time for life-preservers. Hopefully the cases will be a lot more interesting themselves (3 out of 5).

Cartoons: Wolverine & The Clone Wars

Wolverine and the X-Men is a slightly grittier (as much as kids shows can be) continuation of the X-Men story. The team is scattered after an attack that renders Prof. X comatose and North America is controlled by a mutant-persecuting government (see? gritty, right?). The animation isn’t bad (for non-Asian), and it’s cool to see Wolverine as the team leader. Given the sudden dearth of good cartoons for non-kids, any X-Men fan should check this one out. (4 out of 5)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the ongoing series that continues from the underwhelming animated film. The stories are definitely better than the movie was. Each half-hour episode is a better fit than the drawn out movie. The Anakin Skywalker of the tv show even has a better sense of humour than the one portrayed by Hayden Christensen. The animation is slick, but the look of every character as computer-drawn marionettes takes a bit of getting used to. (4 out of 5)

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2 thoughts on “Fall TV 2008, part 4”

  1. I have yet to watch Merlin, but I intend to soon. It looks pretty good, I hope they lean towards the Marion Zimmer Bradley type of Arthur legend as opposed to, well every other version.
    I’m especially enjoying The Clone Wars, it’s mostly becuase I’m watching it with my 6 year old nephew.
    I might watch Wolverine and the X-men at some point, not anytime soon, maybe in the winter doldrums.
    – izi

  2. Don’t get your hopes up for a reinvention of Merlin. It’s really just a show that uses the characters and background very loosely. Mists of Avalon, etc. is way more sophisticated than this series.

    The Clone Wars show does seem great for kids to get on board the Star Wars bandwagon. I think if you’re an X-Men fan you’ll enjoy Wolverine and the X-Men, but it’s not a must-see.

    Thanks for your comments, izi.

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