The New Season Begins with Murder and Intrigue

17 Sep

If you’re anything like me, you spend the summer suffering from withdrawal symptoms like… I don’t know… going places and getting stuff done. It’s just not the natural order of things. My life should be spent in front of the TV, not being productive.

I admit, my views might be a little skewed. I am a TV junky and I freely admit that. I routinely watch shows that I don’t even like, just for the sake of zoning out for a while.

Now that the new TV season is starting, I’m like a kid at Christmas. Supernatural, Chuck, Fringe! I can’t wait for Friday nights. But before those shows premiere, there are a slew of fresh new shows debuting this season. I’ve seen a couple of them now and I will talk about them here.

 

First up is Revenge. This new series airs on ABC and stars Emily VanCamp as a woman named Amanda whose father was set up for a crime in the 90’s and sent to prison where he eventually died. Now, Amanda takes on a new identity and moves to the Hamptons where she plots to take down all of the wealthy types who ruined her family. I read the pilot script, which ABC made available on the Kindle and then I watched the pilot which they gave access to at the end of that script. Though things changed between script and screen and will change more for the final version of the pilot, I think that it’s fair to say that I have a pretty good idea what the series will be.

The cast is solid. For some reason, I just like Emily VanCamp in whatever she does. I don’t know why. The show also stars Madeleine Stowe who seemed to disappear from my TV screen for many years, and Nick Wechsler who I remember most from Roswell. Yes, I know, there is a big impressive cast around these people, but those are the standouts for me. I’m not entirely sold on Conner Paolo as the bad boy brother to Nick Wechsler’s character, but we’ll see.

I can’t speak much for the plot. I think that the pilot might have jumped to dessert before the main course when they showed us Labor Day weekend and then went back to before Memorial Day to start the series. I get why they did it, but I don’t think they needed it. Other than that, the pilot was enjoyable enough to make me watch the second episode when it airs (or several days after it airs, while I’m looking for something to fill my time) but they need to carefully control the intrigue and not go off in weird directions that just turn the show into Melrose Place.

 

The second series I’ll talk about is Ringer. The classical plotting and manipulation seems to be in this season. This series attempts to take some of the flavor from the Hitchcockian thrillers as well as the noir classics. I’m not sure that they fully succeed in either. Their ode to Hitchcock, with the bad CG background in the boat scene was a fail in my opinion. It just distracted and was not done well. Surely they could have made that look more natural, and I hope that they ditch the super blurry look whenever the twins are on screen together. The trick is to make us not notice that it’s the same actress playing both roles… Don’t draw attention to that by making it super stylized!

They didn’t capture the noir tone exactly either. A show that did this really well was Veronica Mars. On that show, you can see the heavy noir influence in the set design, the lighting and the camera angles. Now, this does not mean that Ringer was a failure all around. I’m just saying that their visuals need to be cleaned up as the series goes on. Decide what the look of the show is, and stick to it.

Plot-wise, the show has some interesting ideas to play with. It’s something that will need to develop over many weeks, so as with Revenge it’s hard for me to say how good or bad the series is from the pilot. There is a lot going on. Bridget is a recovering addict who used to strip and somehow seems to have allowed her sister’s child to die, causing a rift between the two. Bridget witnesses a crime committed by a super bad guy and is put into witness protection, but skips town to go boating with her estranged sister, Siobhan. Siobhan is the wealthy one who seems to have it all, except she vanishes from the boat and Bridget takes over her life, soon learning that her sister’s life was possibly even more messed up than her own.

Honestly, I could have used a little more easing into Bridget deciding to take over her sister’s life. It seemed a little odd to me, even with her circumstances. Maybe there were time issues or something, but I think they could have cut the drug addicted troubled teenage daughter from the pilot, bumped her back to episode 2 and explained how you get to a point where you pretend to be your supposedly dead sister.

There’s a great cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nestor Carbonell,Ioan Gruffudd, Kristoffer Polaha, and Mike Colter all deliver fine performances, as do the supporting players. If the series can build on the mysteries and the thriller aspects, it could be really enjoyable. However, the show could easily pull the Melrose Place spin of death, so it needs to be as careful as Revenge does.

It is nice to see a grownup show on the CW, besides Supernatural.

Of the two, I would say that Revenge might have had the tighter pilot. However, Ringer gave me more of a glimpse at what sorts of twists and turns we can expect without actually showing me the end of the season within the first five minutes. (though I expect there to be a twist of some sort which makes the glimpse that we saw in Revenge into something else entirely)

Did I need a thousand words to say all of that? Probably not.

 

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3 Responses to “The New Season Begins with Murder and Intrigue”

  1. Jhase September 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Agreed all around. I haven’t seen the pilot for Revenge yet, but its on my list because Emily Van Camp is just amazing to me. Everything she does seems to really work out. Her work on Brothers & Sisters, was amazing. I loved her relationshp with Justin before they turned her into a Bella type of character, but the beginning. Like when he went missing after that guy had praised him a hero.

    The way they instantly played off each other when she asked him if he had a drink. That one scene was powerful enough and reminds me why I love her. She’s just amazing.

    Ringer’s CG effects were terrible. I mean come on, this is Sarah Michelle Gellar. Star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series that didn’t really do well with covering up Sarah’s stunt double, but made it look so well that you didn’t care. They should have filmed on location in my opinion. The sad CG effects made the entire episode look very low-budget and quick to me.

    The set up, however, was interesting and fun. Very interested to see where they take this. I just want to know who the hell came up with a name like Siobhan. Its like the weirdest, yet most interesting name I’ve ever seen.

    Hopefully this show will last. Question, did you check out The Secret Circle? I’d love to hear your opinions on that.

    • authorkyleandrews September 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

      I got the impression that they were going for a Hitchcockian look with the CG work on Ringer, but it didn’t really work. If you watch early episodes of Supernatural, you see one or two where they have scenery outside of the car which looks like it was projected onto a screen like in old movies. It didn’t look great, but it didn’t distract from the story or detract from the series. It even fit with the series in a way, but I can see why they didn’t stick with that look.

      With Ringer, they really need to pull their look together. They have to decide if it’s Hitchcockian, or noir, or something more modern like Gossip Girl but with murder.

      I should make a whole other post about The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries. I am ashamed to say that I did watch them. I don’t think I can sum everything up quickly here though… I’ll work on getting those thoughts out soon.

      • Jhase September 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

        Why ashamed? I quite enjoy Vampire Diaries. Much from the very first season, which it started off insanely slow, each new season has potentially proven to get better. Season two was fantastic in my opinion. Nina Dobrev proves you can go from a popular show like Degrassi where the acting doesn’t have to be perfect if you convey the story right – to a storyline that takes true effort to pull off the character so that you make everyone believe it.

        Her portrayal of Elena and subsequently Katherine is just magnificent. Truly she is an upcoming star, as is with a lot of the other casts. Candice Accola I think I spelled that right, is one of my other favorites.

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