Let’s Make a Brand New Start

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I’m not what you would call a reality show junkie.  In fact, short of the occasional singing competition show, I rarely even dabble into the genre anymore.  I remember hearing the promos for Utopia almost a year before it actually aired.  Maybe it was the fact that Walden Two had been required reading for some of my psych courses in college or maybe it was the psych major in me, but the premise of the show was absolutely irresistible.

You put fifteen people in the middle of nowhere and leave it up to them to determine how they will survive.  They started these individuals off with nothing other than the absolute basics.  They had no electricity, no running water, very little food.  They were provided with $5000 and a dead cell phone as their only means of survival.

I must admit, I can’t really wrap my brain around the person that signs up for this for an entire year and calls this their utopia.  If anyone is asking, my utopia involves a debt-free life living in a cabin with a mountain view, private chef, and housekeeper.  It does not, under any circumstances, involve sharing a toilet with 15 people and showering with a water hose.  Just saying.

To be fair, these Utopians have turned out to be quite resourceful.  They wisely chose a diverse group of characters to add drama while also choosing individuals with different skills sets that would be able to contribute certain “talents” to the group.

There’s Bree the vet tech who helps with the animals when she’s not sleeping.  There’s Josh, the contractor who helped wire the electricity and is always building something though we never really see what.  We have Mike.  He’s a lawyer and he tries to be helpful though its difficult to  hold his head up with all his hair piled on top.  He’s got the Justin Bieber before he became a bad boy thing going on.  Sometimes when he throws his head I’m seriously worried he’s going to dislocate his neck or something.  If he did, Doctor Nikki would help him, I’m sure.

There are several other community members including a pregnant woman (Amanda).  I seriously think a psych eval is in order when and if she makes it out of there.  Something has to be off in your brain for you to have a choice, and choose to go into a place like this to have a baby.  Bella is a hippie chick who wants to live off the land to survive.  I’d like to see her banished back into whatever Woodstock Nirvana she came from.  I’ve seen a lot of of annoying people in my time, but this woman truly makes me want to go through the tv screen.

The other cast members are largely not worth mentioning unless you count Red who breaks away from the group every time he disagrees with a decision.  Bella could take him with her now that I think about it.

As a whole, the show has not lived up to its full potential.  What could have been an intelligent, social experiment is being overshadowed by petty, ignorant people.  While I had hoped the network actually wanted to produce a program that illustrated societal issues, it’s clear they are more focused on drawing in viewers by producing a Real-World-esque drama-fest.

Guess I’ll go read Walden Two again.

First Look at Selfie

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Somehow Selfie managed to escape my attention entirely.  I had never heard of the show until the early preview appeared on Hulu.  To be honest, this isn’t the type of show I normally go for.  It looked alarmingly similar to Suburgatory which, unlike a lot of people, I found annoying and tiresome rather than witty and cute.  In the interest of fair and unbiased reviews, however, I decided to give the show a chance.

The show begins with a brief introduction to our main characters, Eliza Dooley and Henry.  Sound familiar?  It should.  A tv show that harkens back to Pygmalion or what is more commonly known as My Fair Lady  automatically gains some credibility in my book.  I feel better–more hopeful–for a moment.

Eliza Dooley could easily be the most annoying main character in the history of television.  As someone that has watched more than their fair share of daytime tv, that is saying something.  Some of you may think annoying can be cute–like Reese Witherspoon’s character in Clueless.  Only in this case, she’s not.  She’s annoying like bad case of the sniffles or like the taste of Mexican food that won’t go away no matter how many antacids you take.

She has a voice that one can only pray is an acting choice because its tone and quality is much like the sound a door hinge makes when it is in desperate need of some WD-40.

Then there’s Henry…an actor whose face I recognize but whose name I don’t know.  He’s the only character on this show that seems to have a grip on reality.  He doesn’t understand Eliza’s (or the rest of the world’s) fascination with social media.

Both he and Eliza work for the same advertising company and, while Eliza is the top seller thanks to the length of her skirts and “the fact that her lipstick matches her thongs”, Henry’s success can be traced to the fact the doesn’t create personal relationships with others.

In his words, “I find it incredibly easy not to form personal connections in a city that only values wireless connection.”

Up to this point, I’m underwhelmed to say the least.  Eliza is on my last nerve especially with lines like this:

“I was hoping everyone had forgotten about my epic fail, or at the very least, would do like Elsa and let it go.”   Seriously?

As she walks around with her nose in the air and her head in the clouds, she seems oblivious to the fact that everyone hates her until she gets sick and texts her “friends” only to find no one comes through.

“Being friended isn’t the same as having friend.”  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a poet.

The next morning brings a confused, but no less snobbish, Eliza.  She has “legit hamster breath” (We get it, ok?  She’s a Valley Girl with the IQ of a tree toad) and she had no idea why everyone doesn’t fall over themselves to love her.

While in a business meeting with Henry and the rest of the staff, she has an idea. If Henry can rebrand a failed product, maybe he can rebrand her?!

This is actually painful to watch.

Henry agrees to take on the challenge of rebranding Eliza and I sigh heavily as I realize I still have half of this show to go.

But then, something amazing happens.  Eliza becomes human.  She sits at a wedding with Henry and watches with tears in her eyes as she realizes she may never have what the bride does.  The tough, annoying, grating exterior breaks down and you see a glimpse inside of a tortured teenager who desperately wants to be liked.

As the half hour draws to a close we begin to see what this show is truly capable of.  Henry and Eliza have a strange, irresistible sort of chemistry.  The kind of cute, hate you/then I love you kind of attraction that you’re drawn to.

Can a show succeed solely on the chemistry of two main characters?  I don’t know, but I’m intrigued enough to want to find out.

Sneak Peek at…

Forever

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You know that moment when you watch a show and you just know you’ve going to love this one.   Sadly, for me at least, that moment is usually followed by immediate cancellation.  If I love a show–really love it–it’s doomed.  My track record is scary…really.

Having said that, I’m cautiously optimistic about Forever.  It’s that good.  Think NYPD/Once Upon a Time/Sherlock Holmes.

The main character is Dr. Henry Morgan played by the uber yummy Ioan Gruffudd.  I don’t recognize him, but he’s talented, gorgeous, and he’s got a fantastic accent.

It turns out Dr. Morgan has a bit of secret.  He’s been alive for a really long time (200 years to be exact) mainly because he can’t die despite the fact that he manages to get killed a lot.

His predicament lands him in some interesting situations, so it’s understandable that he needs a confidante…someone he can talk to and lean on in times of trouble.  Enter Abe, Henry’s “Fairy Godfather” if you will.  We find out some interesting info about Abe towards the end of the show, but I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t seen the episode yet.

Dr. Morgan isn’t as happy about his immortality as you’d expect him to be and he spends a rather large chunk of his time working to determine how to break his curse.  When he’s not working his day job as the medical examiner for New York City, he holes up under Abe’s Antique Shop keeping records of his brushes with death.

Remember when I said this show was part NYPD…well, you need a cop for that and that cop comes in the form of Detective Jo Martinez.  We find out a bit about Jo throughout this episode, but most importantly we find out she’s become a bit suspicious of, and possibly taken with, Dr. Morgan.

The good doctor has managed to get himself involved in a train crash.  Everyone on board died (except him of course) which makes him the main suspect.  Luckily for the immortal Dr. Morgan, he’s not just a pretty face.  He’s also very, very observant.

Pretty woman on train- “You see a lot.”

Dr. Morgan- “I’ve seen a lot.”

Uh huh.

The show moves quickly.  Dr. Morgan works to  clear his name and quickly forges a friendship with Jo.  They team up to find the real killer and all is going along swimmingly until the cryptic phone calls start coming.

Someone knows Dr Morgan’s secret and they share his curse.

Dum..Dum..Dum…

Before show’s end, Dr. Morgan dies a few more times, Jo comes close to death, and we learn a little more about Dr. Henry Morgan’s beginnings courtesy of some well-placed flashbacks.

The show ends with some, all too appropriate dialogue.

“Henry, Are you ok?”

“I’ll survive.

Let’s hope so.  This show has the makings of a real winner.

First Look at….

Red Band Society

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You might think a show about a bunch of kids that lived in a hospital would be depressing.  You might expect to be in tears multiple times throughout the episode.  You might be prepared to hear dialogue that, although poignant, is a bit heavy handed.  You would be right.

The show begins with a voice which we soon learn to be the voice of, Charlie, otherwise known as “Coma Boy”.  He will be a narrarator for this fun-filled journey.

The show revolves around an interesting cast of characters….all of whom have depressing life stories.

Nurse Jackson runs the hospital.  There’s a heart of gold under that tough exterior, but it takes us a while to see it.  She tortures poor Brittany, who just wants to be someone’s “muffin buddy” and is almost cruel to other members of the staff.

Kara, the main recepient of Nurse Jackson’s wrath for most of the show, is a cheerleader who thinks the world owes her a living.  She’s clearly privileged and has everything money can buy….too bad money can’t buy her a functioning heart.

You’ve got Leo, the tough talking teen with cancer.  He’s lost a leg and he’s confined to a wheelchair.  Right now, he’s waiting to see if the treatment was successful.

Then there’s Jordi, a courageous, newly diagnosed cancer patient.  He’s preparing to have his leg amputated, hoping to stop the cancer before it spreads.

Dash, cystic fibrosis sufferer, who you might recognize as Astro (last seen on America’s Got Talent).  Guess that singing career didn’t work out for him.

Emma rounds out the group.  She’s suffering from an eating disorder which the show comes dangerously close to downplaying.  It’s revelaed she used to have a thing for Leo but, “now they only live to make each other miserable”.

These kids live in a hospital.  Miserable shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish.

As shows go, this one has the makings for good drama.  I’m a big fan of the “cleansing cry” and this show provides plenty of opportunities.  I’m just worried it may provide a few too many.  While this concept might make a great movie, I’m not sure it can sustain an entire tv series and, even if it could, I don’t know if my mental health could survive.

By time the teens have taken to the roof top for Jordi’s last hurrah befhore surgery, I’m already dangerously close to tears.

Leo hands out his red arm bands (clearly the inspiration for the show’s name) to his friends.  Each band holds a significance to him and, as he hands them to each person, he tells the backstory.  Sob fest #1

Sob fest #2 occured following a conversation between Leo and Jordi.  Jordi is getting ready to go in for surgery and he has some questions.

Jordi- “How bad does it hurt?”

Leo- “Not as bad as you’d think. What hurts most is not  that it’s [the leg] gone , it’s remembering that it was ever there.”

To be honest, the sobbing didn’t really stop after that.

I have to admit, the show isn’t what I expected.  The humor is smart.  The sadness is real and the stories are all too reminiscent of real-life stories we all know all too well.  I’m not sure if the show has legs.  I’m not certain enough people want to to tune in to get a bird’s eye view of their worst nighmares.

But, as Charlie tell us..

“People think when you go into the hospital your life stops, but they’re wrong–it starts.”

I, for one, hope he’s right.  This could be the start of a great show.

Flashback Friday #1

It’s not unusual for me to start watching a show because of an actor or actress. To be honest, most shows I’ve become fans of started out as “that new show with Wendy Moniz/Simon Baker/Frank Grillo/Nathan Fillion. I’m a fan of actors and I’ll gladly follow them from project to project when I admire their work.

As soon as I heard Wendy Moniz had joined the cast of The Guardian, I was all in. Thus began three seasons of gut wrenching emotion with some really pretty(and talented) people thrown in.

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The Guardian

Fallin–the name fit.

Nicholas Fallin had truly fallen from grace. He had the money. He had the job. He had the class, but he didn’t have what he wanted most–his family. Burton Fallin, his lawyer father, loved him, but didn’t know how to show it. His mother died of cancer when he was a young boy and he had no siblings. Above all, he wanted to be wanted.

After being convicted of a drug charge, he was sentenced to community service in a legal services center–the point in the show where the fun really begins.

Let’s recap–You’ve got an emotionally stunted, recovering addict on probation who is desperate for his father’s approval. You’ve got a workaholic father who has no idea how to relate to his son. You’ve got a Legal Services Program (LSP) that specializes in the most destitute, depressing cases on earth….What more do you need?

Romance–that’s what. Enter Wendy Moniz. Louisa Archer enters the show halfway through the first season and promptly turns Nick’s world upside down The. For the next season and a half we are treated to the “will they/won’t they” dance until we finally get an answer.

And that’s just the beginning.

The Guardian wasn’t your typical feel good show. It didn’t wrap up every episode in a neat little bow. The endings weren’t always pretty. Sometimes life happened. Sometimes people got hurt. Sometimes the court got it wrong. Sometimes things happened too late. But it always felt real.

Sadly, The Guardian came to an end at the end of season three.  In the three seasons the show aired, there were truly phenomenal moments from Simon Baker (Nick) and Wendy Moniz (Lulu). Dabney Coleman (Burton) and Alan Rosenberg (Alvin) also gave stellar performances. Their talent, along with some poignant writing from the shows creator, David Hollander made the show what it was. The finale was, what most people had come to expect from the show, honest, raw, and most of all–real.

And in a world of scripted reality tv, isn’t real a nice change?

The Guardian is available on DVD and through Netflix and Amazon Prime.

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program….

Remember me? Yes…Yes..It’s been a while. Life has a pesky way of getting in the way of the fun stuff, doesn’t it?! The truth is I’ve been crazy busy. While I’d love to sit back all day and gorge on tv, no one is offering to pay me for that yet. Until then, I keep my day job.

As my fantastic fellow tv addict has already informed you, we’re back…to stay this time! I’ll be dropping in later this week to catch you up on the shows I’ve been loving since my last post (RIP Betrayal).

Also this Friday marks the launch of a fun new feature at TV Tarts…Flashback Friday. This is a weekly feature we’ll devote to shows that we’ve loved and lost. The first post will be this Friday and will be courtesy of me!

Here’s a hint…

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Until Friday,

Lynn

Betrayal 1×2

If you read my post last week, you know Betrayal and I got off to a rocky start.  As much as I wanted desperately to fall in the love with the show, I was, at best, a little smitten.  I had high hopes for this second episode and, although it wasn’t perfect, it certainly was an improvement from the pilot.

Just a couple of things…

I don’t really need to watch Sara strip.  That might work for the male audince, but it doesn’t work for me.  Also, I’m more than a little disturbed by how happily Sara seems to remember her tryst with Jack.  Your uh…husband…is in the other room.  I understand life is complicated and everyone can make a mistake, but making this look like some kind of Sleepless in Seattle moment just doesn’t quite work for me.

At least Jack isn’t smiling about his betrayal.  I can handle his late night jogging session a little better…well…until he texts his little harlot and informs her that he can’t stop thinking about her.  Really, Jack?  Really?  You send a text message?  Why not just leave a written trail of clues.  You might be the worst cheating spouse I’ve ever seen….not that there is a best, but still.

Sara, honey–throwing the bra away doesn’t change the identity of the man you let take it off.

You gotta love the way people respond to Thatcher.  “We’re gonna need this room.”, the room magically clears.  Now that’s power.

Henry Thomas really is a phenomenal actor.  Watching TJ struggle with his own limitations as his father is clearly struggling as well is heartbreaking.

I must have missed my calling.  I need to be an informant.  Jack just loves handing out hundreds.

So Jack decides to come rolling in home and his wife is waiting for him.  Wendy Moniz is gorgeous as always and I’m so ready to see what they have in store for this character.  She clearly isn’t a fan of the Karsten family drama.

The Karsten kids join the mix to add to the family fun and this should provide the final element for an enjoyable happy, family moment.  Except it doesn’t–because this isn’t supposed to be a happy family.  That’s the issue.  I can’t figure out Jack–I can’t get why he and Elaine aren’t happy.  She seems to love him.  He seems to love her.  Why does he want out?  The writers need to give me a reason.  I’m clearly supposed to want Sara and Jack to be together, so you’ve got to give me a reason to dislike Elaine.  Last night’s episode just made me feel so incredibly sad for her.  She loves her husband and wants his time and attention.  Is that her crime?

I also enjoyed watching Wendy Moniz and James Cromwell together.  I’ve long been a fan of Moniz’ work and watching her go  head to head with Cromwell was great.  She can hold her own and, if the writers allow, she can rock whatever storyline they give her.

I have to give high marks to the writers for making us believe Sara was going to meet Jack.  I’d feel a lot better about the whole situation if I didn’t recognize the outfits they were wearing as the ones from all the promos of them kissing in trains.  <sigh>

All in all, the show isn’t perfect, but it’s interesting and I’m interested enough to stick with it for the long haul….if for no other reason than to see someone put a bullet into Sara!  🙂

Until next time,

Lynn