At least until the end of next week, I’m continuing the trend of telling you five things about the shows we’ve been watching here at chez Nix. As always, your comments are welcome!
Criminal Minds Season 1: 03-16
This first season moves on apace – with Bones and CSI taking a backseat for now in the procedural show stakes. I do wonder whether we’ll go off it when Mandy Patinkin leaves next season. Anyway, five things:
The scenes where Gideon is stuck back at HQ are played down somewhat, but a lot of fun, mainly due to the exasperation he causes for the wonderful techie Garcia, and his inability to remember who she is. Exceptionally sweet is his warm smile and his line: “Her? Oh, she’s great!” when asked by his colleague to go easy on her.
I continue to not entirely be convinced by Ellen. Of all of the characters, she is the one written with the least consistency, and the one who – despite being pushed front and center in every single episode as the “capable female agent” I’m still not buying as a useful member of the team.
However, we are now as fond of the of the team as we are many of our favourite characters from other shows. Girl One is attracted to Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan, and can even manage to go a whole episode without referring to Patinkin’s Gideon as Inigo Montoya. And though Thomas Gibson as team leader Hotch is clearly stoic housewife eye-candy, there has been enough background information given on him in these last few episodes to flesh him out a little, and make him a more believable head investigator.
Despite the similarities, Dr Spencer Reid – played by Matthew Gray Gubler – is a much more developed and human character than his counterpart Zach in Bones. This isn’t down to the actors – though both do great jobs with the roles – so much as the tone of each show. Bones is a much more cartoony proposition, despite it’s often graphic visuals and sharp writing, but the characters, especially Zach, are written a lot broader than those in Criminal Minds. This is great, though, because otherwise Zach and Reid would be much too alike.
Of course, the show is still great, but hasn’t managed to maintain it’s perfect record, for me at least. My one bugbear with it isn’t bone-deep, but it has become quite persistent, quite quickly. Somewhere around episode 11, for some reason the show-makers decided to start using camera filters and POV shots to “capture the mind of the killer”. The quotation marks are mine – though I don’t actually know what the thinking behind using this technique out of the blue was, and it might just as easily have been “a few years down the line, this guy will start watching it, and using this fuzzy camera shit will drive him to distraction! Let’s DO it!”.
Whatever the thinking, it’s an unneccessary dumbing down of a show that was doing a pretty good job of restraining itself from falling into the usual traps of daft TV. These scenes don’t ruin the show, but they do seem a little pointless and gimicky. And I’ve recently decided that the monster/killer POV shot is an anacronism anyway. I mean, thanks to Raimi et al for coming up with it, but we’ve seen it enough, now, and I think audiences might be becoming immune to the trope.
CSI Season 9: 06 – Say Uncle
A slight reprieve on the old forensics-lite complaint I raised about recent episodes – they used them a bit here. They also broke out my old favourite – the plastic rods for working out bullet trajectories. There’s a particularly gruesome moment where they are shown extruding from the bodies themselves – which look better here than I’ve noted in recent episodes, but I wish they’d get over the whole “eye” thing.
Also nice having Hodges in the field a little more. He’s a great character, who has grown as the show progresses, but it’s an indication of how little lab-focussed stuff there’s been this season so far that they have to move him into the field to get him on screen.
Decent enough mystery in this one, with a couple of twists and turns to it, only hampered slightly for me by the fact that – and this is going to sound terrible – the two young-ish male Korean suspects that they had looked near identical, at least for the short times that they were on screen.
Good to see James Kyson Lee – Ando from “Heroes” – in this episode, however briefly, as an interpreter. His appearance was totally low-key. Having someone from such a well-known show make a cameo like that always seems quite cute to me, because it suggests that he just wanted to work on CSI, no matter the role – it makes showbusiness seem just that little bit less unfriendly.
There’s a little bit of friction between Gil Grissom and new girl Riley Adams here, and though it fits the events of the episode, it’s a little uncharacteristic of their relationship so far. I guess it’s either the show’s way of trying to remind us that she’s the new girl on the job, and as such needs to be brought in line by the team’s leader, or trying to indicate that Grissom is changing. Either way, it didn’t distract from the fact that she’s doing alright as the first proper new insertion into the team since Sara Sidle back in season 1.
And it’s clear that Grissom leaving mid-season isn’t going to be sudden or unsupported. So far, the main focus of the season has been about Gil losing his way, and we’ve had a lot of Grissom “firsts”. This episode’s got perhaps the most pertinent one – throughout it, he has been more affected by the plight of the story’s young victim/suspect than we’ve ever seen him, and in the final scene, he turns to Brass and admits that he was sorry that they had solved this one.
This is a complete contrast to his mantra throughout the show’s run, that you go where the evidence takes you, and that you don’t let it get personal. Far from being inconsistent, though, it’s definitive of the changes that his character is going through, and it’s a brave move on the part of the showrunners to encode what is essentially a cast-change into a show’s whole half-season like this.
It might make for far too morose television, if William Petersen wasn’t so damn good at his job, and so damn watchable.
Actually, going back and typing in the episode name just made me wonder – though “Say Uncle” as a title is relevant to the crime being investigated here, I wonder if it isn’t also a reference to Grissom’s surrender to his growing discontent?
The Office Season 3: 09-12
Michael has three girlfriends in the space of these episodes, and though Girl One struggled to make sense of Jan’s attraction to him, she hasn’t yet seen how quickly it becomes apparent that, against all odds, Michael is the better-adjusted one in that relationship.
“Why did he have to be black? That’s so stereotypical…” Michael’s discomfort at the potential problems of having an ex-convict in the office who is also black are brilliantly observed. But not as funny as his attempts to show his employees that the office is better than prison.
Kevin rules over many of these episodes. He’s easily one of my favourite things about the show. Him and Stanley. And Phyllis. Plus, y’know, of course, Pam and Jim and Dwight.
Michael’s alright. In fact, I came to the conclusion the other day that you aren’t really supposed to laugh at Michael, as much as you are supposed to both recognise and feel uncomfortable about him. This is more of a tightrope in the US show than it was in the UK one – David Brent didn’t have to earn his place in the show for nearly as long as Michael Scott does, which I think is why every now and then they’ll throw you a human moment for Carrell to work with.
With Brent, we really only got those at the end.
Pam crying by herself in 0912 is just heartbreaking, and it’s testament to these actors, and their writers, that when Dwight comes and comforts her, it remains awkward, but is also totally poignant and believable. Despite, you know, it being Dwight. He goes from a vengeful and protective “Who did this to you?” to “I guess you’re PMSing pretty bad, then, huh?” in the space of two minutes.
Other standouts – Jim and Dwight as an actually pretty awesome sales team, Toby’s little boy “…why?” when Dwight snatches his gift package and Pam’s subsequent gift to him, Karen’s terrible hair, and Andy’s not-subtle-at-all subtle attempts to turn Michael against Dwight.
The IT Crowd Series 3: 01 – Hell
Channel 4 scheduling made the return of this a little bit of a damp-squib. Putting it on at 10 on a Friday night meant that all of the people that I’d expect to be texting each other about it as it was broadcast, or talking about it online, were either out at the pub, or had dropped off before it started.
Yes, yes, I know, this being the age of “watch when you want”, everyone will get to see it eventually, but there’s no need to force the point, and while I expect that it’ll still be discussed come Monday at work, that’s hardly the sort of respect a show that has been as good as this one should have been shown.
Having said that, this wasn’t a particularly strong episode. The jokes that there were were still pretty strong, but the balance of the episode was slightly off, and though both Matt Berry as Douglas Renholm and Katherine Parkinson as Jen are great, starting the series with an episode that focussed on storylines for them at the expense of Roy and Moss, who are the real humour-generators of the show, felt like a misstep. Rich Ayoade in particular is tragically under-used in this one, which is a shame because his subplot had a lot more potential than Jen’s. And the final shocking pay-off of Jen’s storyline doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, even by the often surreal standards of the show, and of Graham Lineham’s ouvre.
Still, Douglas’ slap of his advisor across the desk was perfect – an attempt to calm a hysterical man who clearly isn’t hysterical or in need of calming. There’s also a great moment with a gun, that for a second looked like it was going to mirror his father’s bowing out at the beginning of the second series.
Speaking of which, absolutely brilliant to see Chris Morris reprise the role for this episode. I love that guy!
I’m not too worried about this slightly flat episode, though. Traditionally the ratio in an “IT Crowd” series is around four outstanding episodes to two average ones, and an average Lineham is still pretty good TV. At the very least, it’s good to have them all back!
Batman – Brave & The Bold Season 1: 01 – The Rise Of The Blue Beetle
This new series came a little out of the blue, and was an absolute shock to the system! It’s based on the old comic series, “Brave & The Bold”, which month on month teamed Batman with a different superhero from the DC universe.
This is one of those shows that works because of the talent and care that has gone into making it, because if someone described it to me before I saw it, I’d have thought it was the worst idea in the world. It takes Batman back to the 60s (70s?) Adam West version of the character, which I’m preconditioned to loathe by twenty years of having my favourite medium openly mocked.
But what this show is, first and foremost, is the most fun one can have with a television.
I just don’t know what Warner Bros are up to. There are two marketing peculiarities about the release of this show.
For a start, it comes on the back of the singularly most grim version of the Batman since “The Dark Knight Returns” with Nolan’s movie, and couldn’t be a more different take on the character.
And the first character that they have paired the grinning Batman up with is one whose monthly book has just been cancelled – the Blue Beetle.
While the show is a delight, as a cross-marketing exercise, it seems mistimed!
The production design is lovely, with slick, contemporary animation that manages to evoke the smooth and cinematic style of the Bruce Timm series, as well as having the look and feel of a neat mix of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko comic art.
And the humour is great, with a lovely light touch that belies the randomness of the plot. There’s plenty of stuff to love in here – there’s even a wonderful homage to the old TV show, with Batman walking up the outside of a building with a rope. If you can get past the breakneck pace at which the show unfolds, there’s plenty of sharp writing and little details for an adult to play around with.
This is not the grim and posturing Batman that we’ve got so used to over the years, but, you know, we’re grown ups – we should be able to reconcile the different versions of the character in our heads.
The fact is that kids are certainly going to. All this talk of continuity, consistency and canon is entirely an adult’s need to quantify and control narrative – children don’t need that. If something doesn’t make sense to a child – and let’s face it, most things don’t, because kids are retarded – they’ll just reshuffle it around in their heads and invent stuff until it does.
And a child that can’t do that kind of inventing is one that needs to have their imagination stimulated, which shows like this will be great for. God, I actually can’t wait for the next episode. That’s silly, isn’t it?