This is the fourth and final part 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.
Country: USA | Genre: Crime/Drama | Seasons: 7 (2008-) | Status: Returning
The Mentalist is a police procedural series which created by Bruno Heller, who is also the show’s executive producer. It follows the story of Patrick Jane, who, as a paid consultant, aids the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in homicide investigations with unorthodox methods.
The Mentalist follows Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, an independent consultant in a fictionalised version of the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) based in Sacramento, California. Although not an officer of the law of any sort, he uses skills and knowledge from his former career as a successful psychic medium (which was a ruse, as he does not believe anyone actually has psychic abilities) to help a team of CBI agents solve various crimes, with the hope of one day bringing the murderer of his wife and daughter to justice.Wikipedia
We’ve seen 2 seasons of this show so far. It’s main lead is Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), a smiling, charming, good-looking fellow with a penchant for noticing details and traits noone else would notice. He’s a bit like a Sherlock Holmes that way and can also be direct and provocative, albeit in a very different way than Gregory House.
Some episodes really shine when it comes to showing how adept Patrick Jane is, but there are also exceptions where he feels like a bystander. Needless to say, these are also the most boring episodes. Sometimes he sets up a cunning trap or a magic trick that surprises both us and the antagonists in the end of the episode. Often the writers does a good job of hiding this until the final revelation.
Especially in the first season the show suffers a bit from the common problem where only the lead is interesting and the rest of the team seem a bit stereotypical, but this does improve in the second season. There are even a few episodes in that season where things really get interesting, so hang in there if you think it starts a little slow.
One thing I can’t help but think about every time I watch an episode, is how relaxed and happy Patrick Jane usually is. This is a guy that had his wife and daughter murdered by someone that hasn’t been caught (some episodes revisit this storyline), yet he mostly behaves like it never happened. We expect his type to be like this of course (it fits his personality and makes the show interesting) but it also feels a little unbelievable. If I had a wife and daughter murdered like that, it would probably take me half a lifetime to get this much on top again.
While watching this with my family, my mother are often annoyed by the way Patrick Jane always keeps his hands in the pockets of his jacket. I also noticed a few similarites with Columbo. There’s no doubt in my mind that the writers had a good look at this TV show. Both are charming but also annoying, stick to the same clothes, and drive around in an old car. Patrick Jane has a very different personality of course, but it’s always funny to see where these inspirations spring from.
Country: USA | Genre: Crime/Drama | Seasons: 6 (2005-2010) | Status: Canceled
The show focuses equally on the relationships among Don Eppes, his brother Charlie Eppes, and their father, Alan Eppes (Judd Hirsch), and on the brothers’ efforts to fight crime, normally in Los Angeles. A typical episode begins with a crime, which is subsequently investigated by a team of FBI agents led by Don and mathematically modelled by Charlie, with the help of Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) and Amita Ramanujan (Navi Rawat).Wikipedia
The cases in this TV show are the standard police procedural stuff with a team of stereotypical FBI agents debating solutions unrealistically fast and rushing to crime scenes. If this was the only part of the show, I would have left it a long time ago.
Luckily, the FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) has a brother who is a fantastic mathematician, and he often joins the team to help out with crazy theories, models, probabilities and calculations. Every time he gets an idea it is typically explained as a computer animated metaphor.
The mathematician discusses the problems with his colleagues at CalSci, or with his brother and father at home. These are often the most interesting scenes in the episodes. The mathematician, Charlie Eppes, is played by David Krumholtz and he does a very convincing job of being a genius that really knows his stuff. You’re almost convinced that the actor himself knows a few things as well, but it’s probably all smoke and mirrors. Also the relationship between the two brothers and the father is warm and reasonably convincing, and the house that they live in looks really cozy.
The problem with shows where the dialogue is really fast is that if the storyline is not very engaging (or nothing happens to the characters on a personal level), I tend to lose the thread. The earlier seasons had this problem and made some of the episodes feel boring. Luckily the later seasons shake things up and involves the characters in ways that makes for much more interesting episodes.
Country: Canada | Genre: Science Fiction | Seasons: 1 (2002) | Status: Canceled
Odyssey 5 revolves around a set of people on a routine spaceflight of the space shuttle Odyssey, on August 7, 2007: four astronauts, a scientist, and a television news reporter. However, during the course of the flight, the Earth rapidly dissolves into a fiery ball and suddenly implodes. A non-organic being called the Seeker rescues them. He offers to send them back in time five years (and therefore to present day, at the time of the series), so that they can prevent the disaster. In a twist, their consciousnesses are sent back and not their physical bodies, as physical time travel is impossible.Wikipedia
A promising science fiction TV show that barely lasted one season. The unrestricted dialogue and the actors were great, and the music was also surprisingly cinematic and suspenseful. If there was ever a crime almost comparable to Firefly for cancelling a TV show, this would be it. Not only was the show cancelled, it was also cut right in the middle of a cliff hanger. If you can muster having to see a story without a proper ending, you could do much worse than check this one out.
At least you should check out the eyeopener of a pilot, where the team is introduced while on board a space shuttle orbiting the Earth. Shortly after, a truly awesome event of astronomical proportions happens that will make you forget about your boiling pasta – Earth implodes! Soon after, the team is treated to a scene that looks like something out of Star Trek. They have their minds time warped back five years to prevent the terrible event.
After the team (three men and two women) arrives in their bodies five years earlier, they get together and try to figure out what could be behind it all. There are scenes dealing with personal problems (usually about knowing what will happen in the family) but also a lot of suspense and science fiction. Unfortunately it also feels like the main story doesn’t really get anywhere.
Although all the actors are good, I really have to mention two of them for really adding something extra to the show. The first is of course Peter Weller as the leader of the team and the father of Neil. It’s great to see a powerful presence like him in a show like this. The other actor is Sebastian Roché as Kurt Mendel, the slightly pessimistic scientist with genuinely funny wisecracks. I really liked his “classic” type and would like to see more of him as that sort of character.
Country: USA | Genre: Action/Drama | Seasons: 4 (2005-2009) | Status: Ended
Prison Break revolves around two brothers; one has been sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, and the other devises an elaborate plan to help his brother escape prison.
The first season follows the rescue of Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), who is accused of murdering the brother of the Vice President of the United States. Lincoln is sentenced to death and is incarcerated in Fox River State Penitentiary. Lincoln’s brother, brilliant structural engineer Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), is convinced of Lincoln’s innocence and formulates an escape plan. In order to gain access to Fox River, Michael commits an armed robbery which results in his being sentenced to Fox River.Wikipedia
The first season is absolutely fantastic. Don’t worry about it being one of those prison movies where they act tough and beat each other up all the time. There’s a lot of dialogue, planning and trickery, which makes it feel like it was slightly inspired by Clint Eastwood’s Escape from Alcatraz.
But if you want my advice, stick with the first season only. Just pretend that they live happily ever after. The following seasons are not a disaster, but they don’t feel like having been planned out the same way. There’s a lot of running around (hunting a MacGuffin, getting captured, escaping, etc.) and it just feels like they’re trying to build on a show that was only designed to work well in the first season. Lots of parallel stories switching forth and back, and it’s stressful like in 24.
The third season does goes back to the original theme of breaking out of a prison again, but even then you’re wanting for the “cool” Michael Scofield that knew exactly how to break out. Even worse, bad guys turn good in contrived ways. The worst example is probably Brad Bellick (Wade Williams) which actually felt natural as a prison guard, but as he gets fired in the beginning of the second season, he chases after the inmates and eventually becomes part of their team.
If you do intend to watch all four seasons anyway, know that it does end with full closure. We also thought that Robert Knepper as “T-Bag” was a joy to watch all the way.
Country: UK/Italy | Genre: Historical Drama | Seasons: 2 (2005-2007) | Status: Ended
Rome is set in the 1st century BC, during Ancient Rome‘s transition from Republic to Empire. The series begins with Julius Caesar‘s conquest of Gaul, and concludes with the death of Mark Antony and the rise of the first Emperor Augustus. The plots focus on two soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, who find their lives intertwined with key historical events.Wikipedia
If you haven’t seen this show yet, perhaps you’re wondering what kind of show it is. Is it an epic tale with great battles, blood and heroic accomplishments; kind of like Gladiator or perhaps Troy? Or is it more like a drama with betrayal, politics and personal problems like I, Claudius? Well, it’s more akin to the latter, although there are a few minor battles as well.
This is another show where we only watched one season. It’s beautifully filmed and looks expensive, there are a lot of recognizable names, and it seems to respect the historical facts that it portrays. It even surprised us with unrestrained nudity. You can put that magazine down now – you’re going to see the full monty in this one. Several times.
Yet, we couldn’t help but feel a little bored. We were hoping for a little more action and adventure instead of the politics, the arguing in the senate, the mother cunningly manipulating whenever she can, and marital quarrels. It’s especially a lost opportunity when it comes to the two soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, as they are certainly made of the right hero material.
Another thing that disappointed us slightly was that it didn’t quite feel epic enough. There’s indeed a big set piece with streets and a market place, but even then you barely see a few temples in the background. In the one season we saw, not once did we gasp in awe to a scenario like the ones we saw in Gladiator. Perhaps it’s a little unfair to compare a TV show to a blockbuster, but since this is about the Roman Empire, we were kind of expecting such imagery.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Country: USA | Genre: Science Fiction | Seasons: 2 (2008-2009) | Status: Canceled
The pilot episode is set in 1999 and introduces Sarah, her son John, and Cameron, a Terminator that has been re-programmed to protect John. They are being pursued by a Terminator, Cromartie, sent back through time to assassinate John and also by FBI Special Agent James Ellison. During the pilot, Sarah, John, and Cameron make a temporal leap to 2007. Cromartie suffers extensive damage while trying to kill them, but begins repairs to his endoskeleton and artificial flesh and continues his search for John in 2007.Wikipedia
The Terminators, the action and the effects are surprisingly true to the movies. The make-up is identical, the bad guys moves in the same way, they are just as threatening, murderous and fatal, and you even get to see the liquid Terminator type convincingly rendered with CGI. There’s also the trademark musical notes such as the down-sliding tone when a Terminator gets too close.
There’s a lot of running away, settling in a new place and trying to avoid getting noticed, then getting noticed anyway because of a sub plot. Some episodes have boring side stories that clearly feels like a filler, but just as you’re afraid that the action goes missing, a Terminator arrives and shakes things up a bit. The show really tries never to go stale.
The team we follow consists mainly of John and Sarah (of course) as well as a female “skeletal” Terminator (played by Summer Glau) and Derek Reese, a soldier sent back from the future. The actors all play well, but somehow I didn’t find John or Sarah convincing. In the second season, John gets a haircut and strangely that helps accepting him as a young John Connor.
I kept having problems accepting Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, however. She didn’t feel like the right type. To make matters even worse, they even had a supporting character at one point that was exactly the same type as Linda Hamilton from the movies: Sonya Walger. They should have cast her as Sarah Connor instead, but perhaps the actor was too busy playing Penelope in Lost.
Waking the Dead
Country: UK | Genre: Crime/Drama | Seasons: 9 (2000-2011) | Status: Ended
Waking the Dead is a British police procedural crime drama series produced by the BBC featuring a fictional Cold Case Unit comprising CID police officers, a psychological profiler and a forensic scientist. Each story is split into two hour-long episodes.
The programme follows the work of a special police team who investigate “cold cases”, usually murders that took place a number of years ago and were never solved. The team uses evidence which has just come to light, as well as contemporary technology to examine previous evidence. Trevor Eve portrays the workaholic and often eccentric Peter Boyd on whom plotlines are often centred.Wikipedia
This police procedural show could be construed as Britain’s answer to American shows with a likable team, such as CSI, Criminal Minds or NCIS. We follow a team of five, investigating cases reopened long after they were left unsolved. There’s a lot of the same stuff as we see in American shows such as quick cuts showing an event while it is being discussed, evidence being scrutinized with the latest laboratory tools, meetings around a table pondering theories, etc.
But where this British show really excels is the realistic dialogue, the display of feelings and the personal involvement. In American shows, the team are often like bystanders just observing and solving the crime. In Waking the Dead, however, the leader of the team, Peter Boyd (Trevor Eve), is sometimes emotionally involved or have personal problems that gets entangled with the case.
Peter Boyd sometimes have a bad temper, but Dr. Grace Foley (Sue Johnston) – a psychological profiler with nearly 30 years of experience – is often able to talk some sense into him when no one else can. Also Eve Lockhart (Tara Fitzgerald) is interesting as the forensic pathologist, since she’s really the only part of the team that does what CSI is known for. A one woman orchestra.
That’s the end of my series about TV shows. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts and opinions about them. I’ve also considered making a post about various mini-series, but I haven’t made a final decision yet. Would you like to see something like this?