Digital Polyphony

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More TV Show Reviews (Pt 2)

Posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:30 AM

More Television Show Reviews (Pt 2)

 Click Here for Part One

Part Two of a quick recap of some shows. Unlike Part One, most here are brand new and picked up for more seasons and not nearing their end any time soon.


Ray Donavan


After a slow start, Ray Donavan slowly begins to form itself in to a hell of a crime thriller. You wouldn't think it, especially given the way it sets itself up as just a "fixer in Hollywood" tale. But it turns much more than that, and turns much more darker than you'd expect. This is one of those shows I kind of sat on for the longest of time for no reason other than that I just didn't know enough, but quickly turned in to something incredibly compelling. You might be doing the same, actually. It's not a show that's easy to "sell" to someone, but once you sit and watch it, you'll be glad you did.


Liev Schrieber plays Ray, and he has always been an actor I've enjoyed a great deal, going way back to the Scream movies. I think my favorite role of his was as Orson Welles in RKO 281, but most people probably know him his smaller roles. He's rarely the "leading man" because he's always been great as "that guy."


With Ray, he's the leading man and he's surrounded by fantastic character actors. Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, James Woods, Lee Drexler, Denise Crosby and Elliot Gould just to name a few. Voight is probably the big "scene stealer" though. He really plays (and hams) his character up. But getting to know all these people and Ray's world and the past they all share just brings it all to life, I'm just glad a calm, collected actor like Schrieber is able to guide us through it all. In a way, he fixes some of the show's shortcomings.


The biggest shortcoming is that a lot of people in this show are easy to hate as much as they are to like, including Ray himself. One minute I will despise his wife, Paula, but then the next (especially when she calls Ray out on his BS) I love her. One minute I'll hate his brother, then the next love him because he's a pretty lovable guy that just does stupid stuff. One minute I'll loathe Voight as Mickey, but then see something in his eyes that makes me turn the corner.


The show loves to play with your expectations of these people and this world and I think that's a lot of fun. It's not the best written, but it's the one with a certain energy and tone that it seems to hit spot-on. Maybe call it a "guilty pleasure" ala a Hell on Wheels or something, another show with larger than life characters that I enjoy but at the same time wish they'd get some better writers. Ray Donavan is a show that I have to recommend highly. It has a great blend of thriller and dark comedy that really sets it apart from others of its kind.


Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5

As a Gif

You may not think it, but you'll end up binge-watching and not realize you've lost a day.




Attack on Titan


When it comes to Japanese animation, I'm picky. Very picky. In fact, I haven't really sat and just watched an animated series in quite a while because, and I hate to say this, a lot of it just started to become uninteresting to me. They were never particular well written, the plots were often cool but the characters left me cold, or I just got tired of the sameness of it all. Brooding teenagers. Trying too hard to be cool.  Animation often hit and miss. I like Anime, but I don't love it. Something needs to be particularly special for me to really get in to it.

As with any show, I always give it a few episodes to "grab" me. If you've read my last blog, the standard is three episodes. It needs to just draw me in, it's as simple as that. If it does, it has me. Bleach, Inuyasha, that newer Ghost in the Shell, Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist. All of those are supposedly great shows but I really couldn't get past a few episodes without being annoyed, bored or just unentertained (though I am wanting to give Fullmetal another shot, I just couldn't stand the main character).

So yeah. I'm picky. But that doesn't mean I don't give every show a fair chance. I've heard great thing about Steins and it's next on my list. And if you want to know some I do like: Lupin if you want to go old-school, Hellsing, Cowboy Bebop, Black Lagoon, Trigun, Death Note, Kino's Journey to name a few....then you have all the movies.

Ok, I've actually seen a lot of anime, apparently.

Well, if you haven't been able to tell, there's a lot of friggin anime. So when I decided to sit and give Attack on Titan a shot, I wasn't sure what to expect. There's some good anime that everyone recommends that I couldn't get in to.

But I damn sure got in to this one.

I realized that the reason some of those other anime's maybe didn't do much for me is because they lacked a "surprise." In other words, I felt as though I had seen variations of them already or that the stories were just too uninspired to really surprise me. Attack on Titan was able to surprise me. Plus it looks gorgeous.

The world mythology is fantastic, the animation, especially towards the end, is absolutely gorgeous with some fantastic moments I can honestly say I've never seen before and the story is willing to do what I think a lot of those that I couldn't get in to didn't seem able to do: be bold, be daring and take some risks (see Dexter above).

There are some episodes that absolutely don't work, but when the show is working (the final few episodes especially for this Season), it's absolutely outstanding. It had me from the first episode up to the last with only a couple in between I felt were stagnant or uninteresting. It explains its world incredibly well, the characters are well-rounded (though some certainly stock) and it's able to hit those emotional-beats with action that get you all goosebumpy. I haven't really enjoyed an anime in a long time, it seems, and I'm happy to say I've really gotten in to this one. There's a lot of friggin anime out there, but this is a great one to get in to.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 As a Gif

Despite some standard anime cliches, it's fun, gorgeous and insanely entertaining.



The Following

Eight episodes. That's how many I gave it before I just had to bow out of this show. Perhaps I was spoiled by Hannibal (you can read that here) in terms of new thriller/cop/serial killer shows, but The Following tested by patience and eventually broke me.


Despite my giving any and every show three episodes to "get" me, as in to tune in / binge watch and so on, The Following succeeded. The first few episodes I have to admit, I was hooked. I liked Kevin Bacon. I liked the premise. It was working for me.


Then it hit a wall. Or, maybe, more like a freight-train T-boning a semi truck. Like a thunderous herd of buffalo on the plain, the awful started to roll in. It began small, as though distant, but soon those hooves grew louder and louder and, eventually, it all started to trample a potentially great cat-and-mouse procedural show.

And that's it. I really don't have anything much else to say other than that the writing has, just after a few episodes, turned it from a potentially cool thriller of a show to a contrived mess of plot devices, deux ex machina and cliche.


Rating: In fairness, I couldn't finish it, so I won't rate it. Going by the first 8, let's say the first 4 I'd give a 3.5 out of 5 and the last four episodes a 2 out of 5 with the eighth a zero.

 As a Gif:

Potential, but bad writing killed it.



The Newsroom

I'm not going to lie, I probably haven't had this much apathy for a show since...well since probably Boardwalk Empire's second season, The Walking Dead's second season...Homeland's second season...

Yeah, see the trend? What's with mediocre second seasons?

This was going to be my initial response.

But by the end, it all started to come around. Maybe I just finally admitted that The Newsroom isn't as clever or socially aware as it likes to think it is. When it's dealing with topics and ideas, it's great because it's more or less a Sorkin soap-box. But when it needs to deal with characters, arcs, relationships or, well just writing them as real people, I wonder if Sorkin can actually write real people at all.

The dialogue is always great, the ideas are there, but the setting doesn't quite work as well as it did in, say, The West Wing, to bring out authentic and genuinely believable people to the pulpit and making those ideas and that dialogue feel a bit more "human." Instead of people in The Newsroom, we have straw men and walking cliches and all talking with the same Sorkin voice which then turns them all in to uninteresting two-dimensional characters: everyone has issues, everyone is really smart and everyone has a lot to say, but none of them feel real to me.

That's not to say that actors are to blame, they're all quite good, actually. Jeff Daniels is the best I've ever seen Jeff Daniels, a lot of the quality coming from the fact he's playing a newsman and therefore his soapbox moments feel a part of his character and therefore he fits in to what the Newsroom is. Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr, Sam Watterston (especially), Alison Pill and the rest also do a great job, but they have so little to their characters to really work with. I suppose it makes the fact that I like them and can distinguish them that much more impressive in regards to their work: they're memorable not because of what they say or do but because of how the actors act. Yes, even Olivia Munn, who is surprisingly good in this show yet has one of the most uninteresting characters on it.

I think most people gave the first season a "pass" despite that shortcoming because it was a short, first season. Season 2, though, only confirmed that it wasn't a fluke: the characters and their personal problems are the least interesting thing on the show.

But when it comes down to it, The Newswroom isn't so much a creative and clever show, ala Sorkin's West Wing, but is merely a commentary on society told through characters that all think and act the same. When it does that, and you approach it as that, it's a damn good show. But when it doesn't do that, and you have to deal with dumb dating plots, love-triangles and shoehorned engagements with people you really know nothing about, then it's at it's very, very worst. In terms of how to approach it when it does that, I think most people just write it off and say "let's just go back to the good stuff, please."

Final Rating: 3 out of 5

As a Gif:

Not the show we wanted or deserved...but the one we had to settle with.


So that's it as far as TV updates. There's a lot of television out there and I'm sure I'll do another update at some point. Plus all the movies. And there's some games. Ah...good times...

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