TV Shows: Thoughts & Opinions (Part 2)

This is the second part (of four) in a blog series about what shows I’ve watched and what I thought of them. Just a few remarks for each of them. The text will be with only minor spoilers, so it should be relatively safe to read this in case you’re curious about shows you haven’t seen before.

TV Season Boxes

Don’t miss out on Part 1 with an introduction as well as opinions about 24, The 4400, Alias, Battlestar Galactica (2003), The Closer, and Criminal Minds.


CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Crime Drama | Seasons: 15 (2000-) | Status: Returning

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as CSI: Las Vegas) follows Las Vegas criminalists as they use physical evidence to solve grisly murders in this unusually graphic drama, which has inspired a host of other cop-show “procedurals”. An immediate ratings smash for CBS, the series mixes deduction, gritty subject matter and popular characters.Wikipedia

We’ve seen 9 seasons of this wonderful show with likable characters searching for evidence at crime scenes. This is almost the exact polar opposite of 24 – a calm and relaxing show where several scenes with no dialogue shows the evidence being scrutinized while the composer of the show demonstrates his latest masterpieces (these shows must be heaven for composers).

Most of the seasons are of a high quality with great acting, lighting and stories. There are a few exceptions where we thought CSI: NY was better that particular season, but for the most part the show is top quality. Season 7 even has a main story involving a miniature serial killer that builds scale models to reflect each crime scene – an intriguing story with creative camera angles.

CSI

A nice and refreshing change is that not all murders are homicides. Some are actually suicides or just mere accidents, and it’s great to see these variations on the old theme. On the downside, we’ve noticed that a dead child in a family would often have been killed by one of the parents; typically the mother. This happens so often that it actually becomes a cliché.

There were many excellent episodes and it would be hard to single out one of them. Many fans would no doubt mention the two episodes directed by Quentin Tarantino (Grave Danger) which was indeed very exciting. One of our favorites was Ending Happy in season 7. The victim in this episode has been exposed to a fascinating amount of attacks that could all be the reason for his death, but in the end the episode surprises with a wonderfully silly explanation.

Note that the first three seasons are shown in the old 4:3 television aspect ratio. 16:9 is used from the fourth season and onwards.

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


CSI: Miami

Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Crime Drama | Seasons: 10 (2002-2012) | Status: Ended

Inspired by the top-rated series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami follows a South Florida team of forensic investigators/police officers who use both cutting-edge scientific methods and old-fashioned police work to solve crimes. Horatio Caine heads the team of investigators while working crimes in the steamy tropical surroundings and cultural crossroads of Miami.Wikipedia

This is truly the black sheep of the three CSI shows. I actually liked this show in the beginning and later, long after I noticed its many problems, I kept being naive and continued to watch the show anyway. I finally had enough after 7 seasons. Don’t ask me why I didn’t stop earlier.

In short, the show is way too stale and unbelievable. Perfect models as murderers and saturated colors are in abundance. It’s like watching a live action version of a CSI show that was intended to be a cartoon. The characters are very stereotypical and predictable, sometimes lack emotions, and we also found most of the characters to be pretty uninteresting. Especially Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Procter) is like watching a mannequin interviewing suspects.

CSI: Miami

At least Lt. Horatio Caine is somewhat entertaining in the beginning because of David Caruso’s taciturn acting and peculiar mannerisms, but even this gets boring after a while. The corny one-liners in the beginning of the episodes quickly grows old too.

David Caruso acts in a way that just grates in the long run. He rarely looks into the eyes of the person he is talking to. Instead, he just looks to the side; presumably so that David Caruso can read his lines from a board. Most of his lines are short and cool (sometimes he even repeats a few words just for poignancy), and his body language is plain and predictable. A few rare scenes requests a sad moment, but David Caruso barely makes a sad face. No tears, no nothing.

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


CSI: NY

Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Crime Drama | Seasons: 9 (2004-2013) | Status: Ended

CSI: NY (Crime Scene Investigation: New York) was the second indirect spin-off from the veteran series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and directly from CSI: Miami during an episode in which several of the CSI: NY characters made their first appearance. The third edition to the CSI franchise follows a New York City forensics team/police officers headed by former tough Marine Major, Det. Mac Taylor.Wikipedia

Fortunately, the third CSI spin-off show in New York is almost as good as the original Las Vegas show. The characters are generally better than in CSI: Miami (both as actors and as interesting personalities) and you can feel that the writers have more fun with this show. The main reason for this is of course Gary Sinese as Det. Mac Taylor. Gary Sinese is a great actor that can handle a lot of dialogue, he appears cool and competent, and doesn’t shy away from a lot of action as well.

The show actually felt like it had a few problems in the first season. It used a filter to create a bluish atmosphere in New York, and Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper) didn’t really seem at home as the medical examiner down in the cellar. In the second season, Sheldon Hawkes was promoted to be part of the CSI team which was a really nice and logical move. Dr. Sid Hammerback (Robert Joy) became the new medical examiner, and the show eventually used normal colors.

CSI: NY

Sid Hammerback is not your typical medical examiner. He has a habit of oversharing, and we were quite amused by his weird disassembling glasses. Another thing we’ve noticed is that he goes through quite a lot of drama – he almost dies several times. Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo) loses his glasses in season 5, which we thought was a bad move. The glasses helped making Danny Messer feel different from the characters of the other CSI shows.

Ironically, I think CSI: NY has the weakest music of all three CSI shows. Bill Brown made the excellent main theme for the PC game Anachronox (which I really liked a lot) but I’m not quite as impressed in CSI: NY. Often the sessions with no dialogue (where a CSI examines some evidence) plays a piece with far too excessive drum tracks on top. Of course it helps giving the spin-off show a style of its own, but I would rather have had music with relaxed or no percussion.

One of our favorite episodes (among the 5 seasons we’ve seen) is Snow Day – the last episode of season 3. It’s packed with action and suspense and almost feels like Die Hard “Light” at times.

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


The Dead Zone

Country: USA/Canada | Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense | Seasons: 6 (2002-2007) | Status: Canceled

The Dead Zone, aka Stephen King’s Dead Zone (in USA) is a science fiction/suspense series starring Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny Smith, who discovers he has developed psychic abilities after a coma.

Small-town teacher Johnny Smith is involved in a car accident that leaves him comatose for approximately six years. After regaining consciousness, Johnny begins having visions of the past and future triggered by touching items or people. Johnny also learns that his fiancée, Sarah, gave birth to his son in the interim following the accident, but has since married another man.Wikipedia

Johnny Smith is played by Anthony Michael Hall (the guy from The Breakfast Club) in this version of Stephen King’s novel. I actually thought he fit the role nicely and the special effects showing how he perceives a vision is well done.

I watched all six seasons and thought it was a reasonably entertaining show, but the first season was indeed a bit weak. Especially an episode where a town believes Johnny is a witch (Here There Be Monsters) is downright annoying. In the end of the first season, politician Gregory Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery) is introduced together with a sinister main story. This gives the show some of the vigor and energy that was lacking. The show was canceled after six seasons, but luckily the last episode does end on a relaxed note for Johnny and Sarah to give the illusion of closure.

The Dead Zone

I actually had to get used to Sheriff Walt Bannerman (Chris Bruno) as I felt the actor was a bit detached. Later, I totally accepted him. Either the actor had to get used to the role or I simply got used to the way Chris Bruno acts. An actor I was very happy about right from the beginning was Nicole de Boer as Sarah (which I knew from season 7 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). She just felt so natural and was perfect for the role. Also Sean Patrick Flanery as Greg Stillson (the guy that played young Indiana Jones) had a dedication and recklessness that suited the role perfectly.

Episodes I really liked were The Hunt (I liked the idea of Johnny actually being hired to help a team of soldiers – I wish they had done more of that) and Shadows (Johnny must stop a man from killing Bruce and setting Johnny off – good suspense in this one).

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


Dexter

Country: USA | Genre: Crime/Suspense/Drama | Seasons: 8 (2006-2013) | Status: Ended

Dexter is a drama series that centers on Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a forensic bloodstain pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer.

Dexter structures his killing around “The Code of Harry”, a body of ethics and procedures devised by his adoptive father Harry Morgan (who was a Miami cop) to make sure Dexter never gets caught and to ensure that Dexter kills only other killers. Harry also trained Dexter in how to interact convincingly with other people despite his dissociative mental illness, which Harry believed to be sociopathy.Wikipedia

This is a truly amazing show that comes with all my best recommendations. I’ve seen 3 seasons so far and the writing has been top notch in all of those. There’s a lot of characters each with individual problems not necessarily tied to Dexter’s own story at all. The show is not afraid to create tension, confrontations and awkward situations to keep you from always second-guessing it. Sometimes this makes me slightly uncomfortable, but in a really good way.

Another reason I like this show so much is the style. Dexter (Michael C. Hall) narrates almost all his scenes as if he’s thinking out loud, and it works really well. I’ve always liked this kind of narration and it also fits well with the nature of the beast; it allows him to explain his behavior. The show also uses steady cam with clear lighting and colors in almost all shots – my favorite way of filming. There is no restriction regarding the language either (the F-word is used a lot by his sister).

Dexter

The writers of the show has gone through a lot of trouble to ensure that although Dexter is indeed a serial killer, there’s a lot of redeeming qualities about him to make us like him and his actions. First of all, Michael C. Hall is of course a great actor; likable and good looking. Dexter is fond of children and would never hurt them, and his adoptive father trained him to only kill bastards that really deserves to die anyway. This gives him a tint of a vigilante or superhero with a secret identity that not even his own sister is aware of. Furthermore, his killings are usually shown in a subtle manner – typically no more than the camera shying away while hearing the victim screaming.

Describing the show could perhaps give the impression that you can just watch any episode like e.g. CSI, but a season is actually a contiguous story that works best when watched chronologically.

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


Dollhouse

Country: USA | Genre: Science Fiction/Drama/Thriller | Seasons: 2 (2009-2010) | Status: Canceled

Dollhouse is a science fiction series created by writer and director Joss Whedon. The show revolves around a corporation running numerous underground establishments (known as “Dollhouses”) across the globe which program individuals referred to as Actives (or Dolls) with temporary personalities and skills. Wealthy clients hire Actives from Dollhouses at great expense for various purposes. The series primarily follows the Active known as Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, on her journey towards self-awareness.Wikipedia

The idea with child-like “blank” agents that can be programmed for any role is ingenious. To begin with the show hints at turning the idea into something like Alias, i.e. dangerous and intricate spy missions. That would have been a great procedure. Unfortunately, the show spends more and more time back at the Dollhouse facility as certain dolls becomes more self-aware and there’s an increase of internal conflicts, drama, intrusions, fights, etc.

Dollhouse

All that happens in season one is not necessarily a bad thing per se, it just feels like it should have been spread out over several seasons instead of just using it all up in the first season. If it had been spread out, perhaps there have been room for some of the external missions I was yearning for. In the end it felt like a mess and I stopped watching it after the first season.

Another thing that irked me was that some of the actors were unconvincing. Especially the ex-FBI special agent investigating the Dollhouse felt like he was only in it for the money. That being said, Alan Tudyk arrives in a later episode as a crazy architect with all kinds of strange phobias, and he does a great job with it. Lots of funny dialogue there.

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


Firefly

Country: USA | Genre: Space Western | Seasons: 1 (2002) | Status: Canceled

Firefly is a space western series created by writer and director Joss Whedon. The series is set in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system, and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of Serenity, a “Firefly-class” spaceship.Wikipedia

Sadly this show didn’t earn enough ratings and was canceled after barely one season (15 episodes). If there was ever a severe crime against television greater than anything else (even greater than the cancellation of the original Star Trek show), this would be it. It was an excellent space western following a wry team on a small spaceship. No doubt the Millennium Falcon and its captain Han Solo was used as inspiration, but it worked and the show was well written.

Firefly

Just as you get used to the characters and start really looking forward to more episodes, it stops. A movie was later released as closure, but it was not enough. I know I’m not alone when I say that we’d really, really, really like to see this show resurrected. We really would.

So, if you like space TV shows you should of course see this if you haven’t already. Just don’t do what I did and watch the movie first out of curiosity. It’s not so much because of spoilers; it just might not make you care for the characters. I had to see the show first for that.

epguides.com | IMDb | TV.com | TVRage


In TV Shows: Thoughts & Opinions (Part 3), I will be covering Fringe, Heroes, House M.D., Jericho, Lie to Me, and Lost.

6 comments on “TV Shows: Thoughts & Opinions (Part 2)

  1. First of all, another interesting read. Personally I much prefer CSI:NY over the other two, feel the characters in it has way more depth. CSI:LA recently tried switching out some of the cast, but I just thing it’s too dead to get it up and running anymore… and CSI:Miami… well, David Caruso kinda symbolizes everything wrong with that one :p.

    Dollhouse… well, I’d say give the second season a chance. Ye, I wasn’t that impressed with the FBI guy either, but at least in second season you get a few more appearances by Tudyk, which is always nice ;).

    And Firefly… well, great show, followed by a rather crappy movie… not much to add about that 🙂

    Dexter? Like it, but sometimes it feels like it’s using the f-word and other profanities as too much of a crutch. Well, season 4 and 5 were nice as well, so you’ve got something to look forward to 🙂

  2. Tudyk is certainly one reason to reconsider watching the second season of Dollhouse. But the part I loved was before he revealed his true identity. A lot of funny moments there. Isn’t he just a bad ass in the second?

    I’m also slightly disappointed with Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) in the 9th season of CSI. Grissom was much more interesting.

    Especially the sister is really abusing the strong language in Dexter. And now that we’re talking about Dexter. Lately, while watching some episodes in the 4th season, I’ve started getting slightly annoyed by one trick the writers seem to abuse way too much: Calling up Dexter while he’s in the middle of something. Preparing to bag the victim and get rid of him? Oh, let’s let Rita call him up in the middle of that with a really important issue that needs his IMMEDIATE attention! 🙄

    Apropos profanity in TV shows, ever seen The Wire? I only watched a few episodes, but there is one very amusing scene where they’re deliberately abusing it:

  3. Well, while definitely more prominent than in the first season, Tudyk isn’t exactly a regular in the second season either. But you get to see an interesting new side of him. Also, during the second season Dollhouse goes from “disguise of the week” toward a much more season long conspiracy. Of course, in your case this might not be a good thing, but I really thought the second season was just heating up as they killed it :). Oh, and since you seem to like Whedons stuff, make sure to watch Doctor Horribles Sing-A-Long blog, it’s only 3 “episodes” of about 15min each, but bloody hilarious.

    Without giving any spoilers, I can promise you this: the end of the 4th season of Dexter definitely brings some major changes to the series, for better or worse and I kinda liked the direction the 5th season was taking things.

    The Wire? Nope, haven’t seen… atm I’m drowning in other shows I’m trying to keep up with 🙂 This year had some great new arrivals, especially liking Hawai Five-0 and Game of Thrones (maybe because I haven’t read the books?), and also liking Nikita and Camelot, though Camelot’s definitely taken a turn for the worse. One show that comes to mind as something you might like is the UK show Spooks, I love the unpredictability in it not to mention the tension :).

  4. Unfortunately I know what happens in the end of the fourth season of Dexter. I was a “fan” of a Dexter page in Facebook, but the morons there just gave it away like everyone already knew it. I immediately removed the page after that. I then dared to criticize the page on my wall, but someone just answered back that it was my own fault and that I should be careful next time. 😯

    Anyway, really looking forward to Game of Thrones too. I’ve heard good things about it, and there’s a Dane on the cast list. :mrgreen:

  5. Well, unfortunately they are kinda right; if you’re following a show from DVDs you really shouldn’t be checking out web fansites and similar, because they’re bound to talk of the latest plot developments and spoilers that have taken place on TV which is usually at least a season ahead of DVDs… Gah, that turned into a clumsy sentence :p

  6. Now that I think about it, it’s probably hard to avoid 100% when there are lots of comments coming from everywhere on Facebook. That will teach me not to “like” fan pages for TV shows that could have twists like that.

    That’s easier to deal with in the forums I visit; either they use spoiler tags or I can sort of sense when I get too close to dangerous posts and then just leave for later.

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