Fall TV 2012: Week Four

After the week-of-few-premieres, we wrap things up mostly with The CW and its “big” premieres. After having given up on Smallville halfway through its run, I think I would probably have overlooked The CW (I’m not exactly its target demo) if not for The Vampire Diaries, a show which I also gave up on until it got a whole lot better and more exciting. Now I greet each teen-friendly, supernaturally-tinged new series with a little bit of hope that it might turn out to be something a little more up my alley. Fool me once …

The Vampire Diaries

So to start off with, The Vampire Diaries is coming back after a pretty uneven season. For me, season three had some moments, but for the most part there were too many villains and each time they introduced one, they would try to reform them and make them less-evil until they were like one of the gang (at least until another plot twist was required). Of course, the season four premiere picks from the game-changer at the end of last season whereby [spoiler alert] Elena (Nina Dobrev) herself accidentally became a vampire. Since transitions to the undead life are usually intense, moody downers, I think they tried to mix it up by dealing with another cliffhanger and a new plot element. With Klaus occupying the body of Tyler (Michael Trevino), the race was on for Bonnie (Kat Graham) to use her all-purpose magic to get him out. Meanwhile, the town itself was in upheaval as a new baddie, Pastor Young (played by Michael Reilly Burke) took over the Council and captured all the known vamps, including our main characters. With a bit of a twist ending, I don’t think Young is the long term enemy here, but there’s probably going to be some kind of larger conspiracy going on (though I’m not sure what bigger villain it will lead back to). As they have developed most of the sprawling cast of characters over the seasons, I feel like they really need to refocus. There’s too much going on and too many separate stories. Besides the central love triangle, I thought they other strength of this show (especially to a CW audience) was the friendships. They should try to bring that back. Lastly, having been jilted by Elena, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) seems to be going dark again. While I like Bad Damon, I don’t like that he only seems to go there when he can’t get the girl. To me that’s lame. We’ve seen enough brooding vampires, let’s see a Damon with (no pun intended) some bite!

Arrow

Most people probably see this new series, which reinterprets the adventures of the comic book hero the Green Arrow for teen-friendly television, as a cross between TV series Smallville and The Dark Knight movie series. From what I’ve seen in the pilot, that recipe is pretty accurate (with a dash of TV’s Revenge thrown in). Stephen Amell (and his abs) stars as Oliver Queen, a rich playboy who returns after being shipwrecked and presumed dead. He brings with him all kinds of physical skills and family secrets (including a hit list of enemies) which lead him to create secret identity as a bow-wielding vigilante. So far, this show is not anything new and was done better by so many of its inspirations. I found the romantic subplot of a reunion with ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (played by the CW staple, Katie Cassidy) fluffy and distracting. I hope that, like Christopher Nolan’s Bruce Wayne, there will be an interesting character to be found in Oliver Queen. Despite the annoying Smallville-style, dark-yet-colourful lighting (which I hate), the action sequences in the pilot episode were well choreographed and well executed. I’m looking forward to more of those elements to set this show apart.

Beauty and the Beast

I heard Kristin Kreuk, who plays the lead character, Catherine Chandler, in this loose reboot of the 1980s series of the same name, remark that this shows was not very much like the 80s show. To that I say (in an appropriately poetic tone), “Therein lies your problem, dear Kristin.” I loved the 80s show, but this new version is terrible. I’m not exactly sure what the vision behind this show is, but for starters, they take the central idea of the original Beauty and the Beast story and toss it away. Vincent Keller (played by an unbeastly Jay Ryan) can be scary looking and brutal when angered (y’see, he was the subject of some mutagenic experiments), but most of the time he turns back into a CW hunk (albeit with a scar on his face) with nice hair and a surly disposition. Traditionally, the beauty is supposed to fear him and struggle to get to know him beyond his hideous appearance in order to fall in love with him for real. In this case, even the most superficial girl would probably go for this brooding bad boy! Overall, there seems to be almost no creativity involved here. All they’ve done is take a typical CW cast of pretty young things (Catherine and her hottie detective partner are bantering over crime scenes like gossip girls) and loosely draped it on the skeleton of a unique 80s show. Why couldn’t you have left this one well enough alone, CW?

Nashville

Another new show that seemed promising going in, Nashville tells the non-CW-yet-still-soapy, cliché story of two female country music stars. Connie Britton (last seen on American Horror Story) plays the veteran Rayna James and Hayden Panettiere (the cheerleader who saved the world on Heroes) plays the young superstar Juliette Barnes. Rayna’s career is on the wane, Juliette’s is on the rise, but the record company wants them to tour together. There are all kinds of predictable backstage dramas as Rayna tries not to give in to compromise (since all veteran female singers are fierce and strong) while Juliette acts bratty and slutty (since all rising stars sleep and scheme their way to the top). Sadly I don’t find any of the large cast of characters (which includes parents, husbands, bandmates) very likeable and I don’t feel interested in their stories. However, there’s also a relatively un-connected substory about a musician and a young poet/singer. It’s almost jarring how their budding love story is very small and intimate while the other storylines are broad and melodramatic. I’m not much of a country music fan, but I was hoping this might be more of an intelligent drama that transcended its particular context. Oh well.

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