TV Rants and Raves 1.23.13: Get Hype
Posted by Dimitri Dorlis on 01.23.2013
Rants and raves about Netflix's clever promotion of Arrested Development, the series premiere of the serial killer thriller The Following and more!
Welcome to TV Rants and Raves. I am your host, Dimitri Dorlis.
Wait, two weeks in a row? Let's just jump in and try not to jinx it.
TV Rants and Raves
The Following, or Kevin Bacon Does Television
I don't think it'd be dishonest to say that The Following is the most hyped TV series to premiere this winter. After all, this is the television show that finally got Kevin Bacon to do TV, so there had to be something good about it. But, the wasted potential is too glaring.
Let's stay positive to start, because there are a lot of positives here, starting with Kevin Bacon. The man is a tour de force on this show, and his acting alone single-handedly saved some spots of the pilot. Not to say the rest of the actors are bad, but many of them are just there. Bacon has the most fleshed-out character out of anyone coming out of the pilot (yeah, he's the main character, but still), and part of that has to do with the nuance that Bacon has bought to the character. Even when he's not saying things, his body language during scenes helps flesh out the character. There's also some good things going on with the pacing. Serialized dramas like The Following tend to drag things out in an attempt to meet a certain episode range (I'm looking at you, The Killing). Thus far, The Following has been moving though plot points at a breakneck speed, which is certainly better than the alternative, plodding style that could be happening.
The big problem with the show, though, is how shallow it is. By that, I mean that this show is all about giving you all the information and keeping nothing in its back pocket. There were some genuine mysteries that could have been explored, like the events on the night of Carroll's first capture, or the letter Carroll sent his wife. Instead, everything gets explained via flashback in the first episode, and the only mysteries we have left are who the members of the cult are, and how Kevin Bacon managed to seduce Natalie Zea. I kid, but this is backstory that could have been fleshed out over the course of a season. And, even though I commended The Following for its fast pacing, that doesn't mean you have to have a million things happen each episode. Realistically, you could have ended the first episode with Maggie Grace's character (who, by the way, is grossly misused in her apparent one-time guest role) getting kidnapped, and build the second episode around trying to find her. There was just a ton of clutter for an episode that didn't need it.
Here's another thing that bugged me: the graphic nature. Part of the story leading up to the debut of this show has been about Fox trying to mirror what makes shows on AMC, FX, and HBO popular, and one thing Fox executives kept coming back to was the graphic nature of shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. That's a bad sign for The Following, however, as the show is more concerned with producing shocking moments than doing the other thing that those shows do so well: tell a compelling story. I don't have a problem with blood on TV, but shows like the Walking Dead tend to use violence as a means of storytelling. The Walking Dead is about the people and how they're dealing with living in this new apocalyptic wasteland. The violence in the The Following just seems to scream "Man, look at all these dead people! They sure did die in interesting ways!" It's violence for violence's sake, and it's not what I wanted to see from the show.
All that being said, there are glimmers of hope in this show. The Following is able to build suspense exceptionally well, and there are still some fun directions for this show to go. But it would help if the show toned it down a bit and focused on telling a great story.
Girls are icky and disgusting
But we love them anyway.
Girls is a pretty controversial show. On one hand, people hate it for being self-centered and self-involved. But that's why I love the show, honestly. I'll explain.
Girls is a show about a bunch of 20-somethings fresh out of college and trying to make their way through New York. Most of the characters are shallow and think they're God's gift to the world. And you know what? It's great. It's an feeling that resonates with me, and really with a lot of people of my generation. We've grown up with a ton of things given to us, and, like in Girls, we're learning that life won't be as easy as we thought it was. Creator and star Lena Dunham understands this perfectly, and it shows in how the characters are written, especially in this new season. For example, Marnie gets laid off from her art job, and then is told during an interview that art curating is a dying business, and that she probably doesn't have what it takes to make it. Similarly, Hannah shows her new boyfriend (Donglover in a guest role, which helped to satisfy my need for more Community) her writing, and he responds that her essays are fine, but don't say anything. For Hannah, who's thinks she's right 24/7, this is unacceptable, and she gets into an argument that ends her new relationship.
These people are also fickle, which fits who they are at this stage in their lives. Marnie and Elijah (who now believes himself to be bi) have sex, and then struggle with the ramifications of their actions, Hannah jumps between liking and hating Adam, Soshanna goes from hating Ray to jumping back in bed with him. Surprisingly, the least fickle person so far this season has been Jessa, who is still blissfully in love with Thomas Jane following their surprise wedding at the end of last season.
What impresses me the most about this show is how realized the characters are. Most shows tend to define their characters by their relationship to the main character. Girls did that while introducing the characters, but at this point in the show, it's easier for me to talk about the characters by describing who they are and their personalities than by saying what their relationship to other characters is. Even more impressive is how young the writers on this show are, and how strong their grasp on the characters are. Some shows will have characters who just seem to be spinning their wheels, but each character on Girls has their own storyline and are doing their own things, but are also able to mix into everyone else's stories flawlessly.
The show still isn't perfect, by all means. The Hannah/Adam relationship continues to take strange turns, and takes up way too much time in each episode. Hell, I get that Hannah is the main character, but she's involved so much in the story that it occasionally doesn't give enough room for the other characters to breathe. And eventually these characters will have to do some growing up. If anything, this season has shown that all the supposed growth we saw last season was all superficial, which is a good storytelling device for the now, but the show isn't strong enough yet to just be about terrible people.
- Special The Following thoughts: I'll be more surprised if someone doesn't turn out to be part of the cult at this point.
- I was going to do a special sports segment about the Manti T'eo saga, but then I realized that we've all forgotten that a fake girl is dead, and we shouldn't joke about such things.
- But seriously, it's ok Manti. I make up girlfriends all the time!
- ABC just cancelled Don't Trust the B, which means JVDB is once again out of a job. These are sad times, indeed.
- I say this because the season 2 premiere where they buried Dawson might be one of the best 30 minutes of comedy I've ever seen. I DON'T WANNA WAIT! FOR OUR LIVES TO BE OVER!
- NEXT WEEK WE TALK ABOUT PRETTY LITTLE LIARS BECAUSE I HATE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!
- Also next week: Ben Piper returns to talk about Fringe, which helps to partially answer the question of who were the four people that watched Fringe every week.
And now, it's time for a segment we like to call Good Idea, Bad Idea.
Netflix becoming the masters of subtle promotion - If you were a big fan of Arrested Development, then you already knew about the new season coming in May to Netflix. Hell, you probably know about all this other stuff too, but this isn't about you anyway. Netflix has been doing some really subtle stuff in regards to promoting the show, beginning with an increase in their Netflix Instant catalogue. How? Well, all of the fake TV shows and movies that appeared on the show, including Scandalmakers, Les Cousins Dangereux, and Boyfights, all showed up in Netflix Instant. Of course, they all linked back to the Arrested Development page, but all the shows got synopsis as if they actually exist. Recently, another little easter egg has popped up in the form of a blue handprint. If you search for the word blue, you can occasionally see a blue handprint on the side of the search, which redirects to the scene where David Cross blue himself for the first time. Personally, I hope they never stop this.
Alphas is cancelled, SyFy finishes its shift away from good things - This isn't the worst idea, btw. Alphas did have some downright awful ratings for the budget that the show had. The bad thing is that this was the best show SyFy had, and will supposedly give way to more reality-based television. I understand why Syfy would make the move, but the followup doesn't pose a good sign for a network that has been moving further away from the sci-fi roots that built the network.
The Non TV Segment Of The Week
SoCal Regionals were this weekend, which means I got super hype about fighting games all over again. Then someone showed me this and I lost it.
I miss Lost.
And I almost didn't get to this this week, but Adult Swim just released the unaired Dexter's Laboratory episode Rude Removal. This is for you guys.
That's all for this week. Leave a comment, or even send an email, and we'll see you next week.