Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Winter TV Preview

Here we are at the beginning of 2012, and new shows are upon us.  I've chosen four new shows to try out...

"Alcatraz" on FOX is another J. J. Abrams production.  This one stars Jorge "Hurley" Reyes.  The music is composed by Lostie Michael Giacchino (one of the better composers).  It also has at least one LOST writer.  So, yes--we have another show with tons of LOST connections.  Could be good.  Could be bad.

I've already watched the first hour, and it was pretty decent.  The premise is that 300+ people disappeared on the day that Alcatraz "officially closed."  Their transfers and deaths were faked.  Then fast forward to the present when these people start coming back one at a time.  Each one is a dangerous criminal that no one knows exists.

The man in charge is played by Sam Neill--you know, the guy with the really evil grin from "Jurassic Park" and "Event Horizon."  He does his evil grin in this show as well, but it's so hard to tell what kind of person he is.  The writers will probably keep this from us until some cool reveal down the road.

In the pilot, we get to see the fictional inmate Jack Sylvane emerge.  At first we're led to have sympathy for the guy, but then he starts brutally killing people.  By the end of the episode, we're not sure what to think about him.  Could he actually be an nice guy doing an evil man's bidding?

Then again, with all my talk of good vs. evil, I can already tell that this is one show that's going to say, "There is no good vs. evil."  Sometimes it works, and sometimes not.  My main concern about this show is whether they're going to do the "Smallville weird of the week" thing where we see a new character appear each week, and he kills in his own special way.  If this is the case, I won't last very long.

But for now, this show has my attention.

Next is "Touch," also on FOX.  The premiere is this coming Wednesday.  It's another one of these stories in which patterns exist everywhere, and it's possible to predict the future.  As an actuary (a mathematician who predicts the future by studying patterns in the past), I find this concept very intriguing.  Compare with "Persons of Interest" where a super-computer can predict a violent crime coming; or "Knowing" where a child can see the patterns and determine when and where a large number of people are going to die; or "Minority Report" where a trio of pre-cogs can see the patterns and predict premeditated violent crimes.

All of these stories have one thing in common: the entity giving the information is somewhat incapacitated: autistic, a closed back box, etc.; and someone else has to interpret somewhat incomplete data, fill in the gaps, and save the day.  In the case of "Touch" it appears that Keifer has the potential to go Jack Bauer on some baddies.  If not at the beginning of the series, it'll eventually get there later ... just watch and see!

As a mathematician, I do have one complaint with this trailer, which appears to come from the pilot episode: 3:18 on March 18 in school district 318?  These are too many coincidences coming together with no good reason.  If every episode is going to be like that, then I'm going to start wondering: what superpower is making all these coincidences happen at the same time?  And can the boy not see a disaster if the coincidences don't occur?  We'll see, but for now I plan to watch.

The struggling NBC has introduced "The Firm," a sequel to John Grisham's novel of the same name.  Josh Lucas plays Mitch McDeere, Tom Cruise's role in the movie.  The show continues 10 years after the movie/book leaves off, when McDeere does what?  Yes, he SIGNS UP WITH ANOTHER FIRM.  You think he'd learn.  Now, not only does he have his old enemy's son chasing after him, he now has problems with this new firm, which also happens to be corrupt.

After seeing the two-hour premiere, this is what I liked.  As with other Grisham novels, the lawyer stuff feels a lot more authentic than some of the more popular "Law and Order," and other similar shows.  The terminology seems to be more consistent with the minimal law training I've had as an actuary.  I know this leads to less sensational TV, but I prefer the real stuff.

I also like the conspiracies and the guns and the chasing.  This stuff isn't quite so real, but without it, I wouldn't watch, and would stick with my sci-fi shows.

One concern: the pilot had two different stories going: the chasing/guns/conspiracy; and then there was that teenage murderer case that took up over an hour.  That part felt a lot like "Harry's Law," a show I don't watch, but hear a lot about.  It was an interesting case and all.  It did help to establish that McDeere is a good, honest, kind-hearted lawyer.  But other than that, THE CASE HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MAIN STORY.  If further episodes are going to be like this (weird case of the week), ... see my concern for "Alcatraz" above.

And one last complaint: Tricia Helfer is anorexic both in build and in acting ability.  Her monotone is monotonous.  But I've quickly learned that if I imagine her as an evil robot, the show becomes easier to watch.

By the way, this show is already considered to be doomed, with monstrously low ratings for the pilot.  (Did anyone know it was on?)  But since the show was sold for so cheap, and NBC has no better options for Thursday night, this show will be around for a while.  I'll give it a couple more episodes, myself.

Last on my list is the animated "Napoleon Dynamite."  Yes, it appears that 3 of my 4 new shows are from FOX.  Weird!  I watched the first two episodes, and they were freakin' hilarious--even more than I had expected it to be.

This show is a lot like the movie of the same name.  It includes the entire original cast.  The humor is the same.  Only with cartoons, it seems you can go a lot farther with stuff that just can't happen.  For example, some zit medicine falls on the classroom floor and turns it transparent, as you can see in the trailer.

As an added plus, this show is so tame that my kids can watch it without getting offended.  Yes, FOX's Animation Domination now has a show kids can watch.  That is, if you don't mind people looking awkward as they walk around in their underwear.  Just remember, the writers are Mormons, and how bad can they get?  :)

In addition to these four new shows, I'll continue to watch these shows now back in progress:
Once Upon a Time
The Simpsons
Person of Interest
The Office
Chuck (ending in a couple of weeks)

Coming back in February:
The Walking Dead

Other shows down the road include Syfy Summer (start date still unknown):

Warehouse 13
Eureka (last season)

Also coming back later:
Falling Skies (summer)
Doctor Who (fall)

Maybe coming back sometime:
Terra Nova (looking more and more probable for renewal)

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