Friday, November 11, 2011

new tv shows

An early-term report on the new tv shows I've tried watching this fall:

Ringer. Sarah Michelle Gellar, looking not much older than she did at the end of BTVS, plays two identical twin sisters, one of whom is impersonating the other. This is not a premise for a stable ongoing series, but for a plot-driven, end-oriented miniseries, and after some eight episodes, I'm still not sure which it's going to be. The plot keeps getting more convoluted each week, which almost keeps my mind off the inconsistencies and unaddressed questions of exactly how alike in appearance or personality the two sisters are supposed to be, and whether it's implausible that people like, oh, say, the impostee's husband aren't going to notice the switch, whether the fact that he didn't know his wife had a twin sister makes any difference, and whether that changes when he finds out she does. The fact that SMG is one of those "all her characters are essentially the same person" actors doesn't help, though she's not as far out of her depth as Eliza Dushku was in Dollhouse. Watching the impostor, who's supposed to be the bad sister but is really the good one, taking blame for and trying to repair the wrecked personal life of the impostee (which she didn't know about when she took the job) is potentially interesting, and so far the plot twists and multiple levels of deception are keeping me hooked. To date, neither sister has gotten mixed up about who she's supposed to be (the impostee is hiding out and impersonating someone else altogether), which they would do if Donald E. Westlake had been writing this.

Once Upon a Time. Small town in Maine is inhabited (entirely? apparently so) by fairy tale characters who've been sent there and had their minds wiped by evil queen, who's seen doing this extensively, and tediously, in lengthy flashbacks. Their designated outside rescuer is an incongruously slutty-looking (and -dressing) woman who learns she is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, spirited away at birth just before the disaster, and dragged in to the plot by her own ten-year-old son, given up at birth and adopted by the evil queen, now posing as the mayor of the town. Like Ringer, this is a miniseries concept, not an ongoing one, because the only plot drive is, when are the characters going to find out they're fairy tale creatures and when is Ms. Shrek going to save them from the swamp? Note also that Ringer has a high concept expressible in eleven words, a proper length for a high concept, while to explain this one took eighty words, not counting the snide comments. I liked the first episode, but halfway through the second episode the arbitrary fairy-tale rules and the "hey, I'm emoting here" acting got to be too much and I abruptly stopped, leaving many unanswered questions. Like: If they've all been in Maine for thirty years and nobody's aged, hasn't someone noticed this? Hasn't anybody moved in or out of town? How can there be children? The protagonist boy has aged from birth to ten while living there, so how does he fit in? And above all, if the evil mayor/queen doesn't know that Ms. Shrek/Slut is Snow White's daughter or indeed anybody special at all, why did she adopt her son and bring him in from outside? It seems a strange thing for a monomaniacal villain to do.

Grimm. More secret supernatural, except this one really is the premise for an ongoing series. Portland (OR) cop learns he is mystically-chosen slayer of - I'm not quite sure what - werewolves, apparently. Concocted by former Whedon minions, so unsurprisingly feels a lot like Buffy. You've got the protagonist who apparently should have learned his destiny long ago and is now desperately trying to catch up. You've got the Giles mentor figure (his aged, dying aunt); you've got the Angel figure of the reformed monster who provides expository lumps; you've got the Scoobie buddy; you've got lots of local color from the setting. Above all, even more clearly than in Buffy, you've got a world simply infested with evil inhuman creatures who pass as ordinary people, and our misunderstood hero is just about the only person who can reliably unmask them, confidently penetrating their firm and otherwise convincing denials, or even sometimes their unawareness, that they are actually agents of evil. Does this premise remind anyone else of the attitude of Commie-hunters in the Joe McCarthy days? Nevertheless, I've enjoyed the two episodes I've seen so far, and will probably continue watching at least until David Levine makes his cameo appearance.

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