Television

Heat Wave – Richard Castle

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Heat Wave Richard CastleTV meets novel reality with Heat Wave, the book Richard Castle writes while following Kate Beckett.  Heat Wave introduces us to Nikki Heat, a tough, guarded NYC homicide detective.  A local real estate tycoon is thrown off his balcony, and Nikki must rush to find the killer before he takes out anyone else, all while being shadowed by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Jameson Rook.  Rook is writing a piece on the NYPD, but has taken a liking for Heat.  She finds herself unwillingly attracted to the mischievous reporter, but how long can she stay distanced from him?

In the last month, my husband discovered and then “forced” me to watch all 4 1/2 seasons of “Castle” with him.  In about a month.  So after binging on the fun Nathan Fillion show, I decided to finally pick up the first in the Nikki Heat series.  These are all written by a ghostwriter but sold as Richard Castle;  there are even cute asides in the acknowledgements and Fillion appears on the back cover.  I didn’t expect a lot from a TV show tie-in, but Heat Wave is fun and entertaining, pulling you along with the characters and their crime solving goal.

I have to admit, if Richard Castle really wrote these I would expect them to be better.  There isn’t a specific problem with Heat Wave, it just is a bit simplistic and somewhat poorly written.  While the characters are fairly rounded and the tone matches what I expect from Richard Castle, they certainly aren’t an addition to some of the better crime fiction out there.

There are some funny little inclusions in the books, things that Castle experiences with the crew.  For instance, in the second novel, Naked Heat, it features a body snatching from a morgue vehicle just as it happens in the season 2 premiere.  You also get Detectives Ryan and Esposito in the form of Ochoa and Raley (though Raley might be a bit tougher than his TV show counterpart), and ME Lauren Parry who is a lot like Lanie.  Frankly, it’s pretty much what I would expect from Castle; including his friends while making subtle character changes but infusing them with the same brand of humor.  And it is just like Castle to make himself a Pulitzer Prize winner (twice) and Beckett’s Heat a little less guarded with herself.  Man can dream, right?

Heat Wave is definitely geared towards fans of the show, but may not stand well on its own legs.  That, I think, is where the tie-in fails.  It could have been a thick, substantial, gritty and fun novel to match what the TV show has told us about Richard Castle and his career.  Instead, there isn’t a lot to bring in the more discerning crime fiction crowd, though the book is fast-paced and very visual.

But, if you love “Castle” it is definitely worth a read and it’s quick enough that you’ll be finished within a day or two.

Rating: 6/10

Elementary – Pilot

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Network:  CBS
Day/Time: Thursdays 10/9 C
Premiere Date: 9/27

Main Characters:

Johnny Lee Miller – Sherlock Holmes
Lucy Liu – Joan Watson
Aidan Quinn – Captain Gregson

Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes update, with the classic detective now living in New York and solving crimes alongside his sober companion Joan Watson.

For those of you who are fans of BBC’s Sherlock, the announcement of the American update made us all wonder the same thing –  why not just broadcast Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman instead?  A lot of Holmes fans felt that Elementary was just a way Americans could take hold of another franchise and set it in the States.   Not to mention avoiding the licensing fees of importing a show with only three episodes per season.  To an American television audience, only 3 episodes is madness, and to an executive, that just doesn’t make enough money.  Add that they were taking the bromance and turning Watson into a woman, and the internet was abuzz all summer.

After watching the show now, I hate to say that there was nothing really original in it.  Johnny Lee Miller does a great Holmes, but while his manipulation and observations are intriguing, he is nowhere near as captivating as Cumberbatch or even Robert Downey Jr. on the big screen.  Instead, he runs around like mad, always on the hunt for some piece of a puzzle, and no different then the other two incarnations that are running alongside him.  Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes shows perhaps a touch more compassion and a touch less self-control, and yet that doesn’t even make him more appealing.

Lucy Liu, on the other hand, has perhaps the most preconceptions to break.  One of the main draws of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson has always been their deep friendship.  While Watson traditionally stands in awe of Holmes (especially in the books and in BBC’s Sherlock), they have also developed a partnership that puts them on more equal footing.  They compliment each other well, there is chemistry in their interactions.  I felt this was lacking between Liu and Lee Miller.  She seemed put out and annoyed most of the episode, and you do not get a sense that they really connected.  I don’t think making Watson a woman made a ton of difference; men and women can have deep, platonic friendships.  But I don’t think the actors are perhaps the best together.

It is hard to really judge a pilot, because each one is merely the beginning for a format that could be years-long.  However, other than calling the private investigator Holmes, I felt that there was not enough different in Elementary to make it worth viewing every week.  Even Aidan Quinn, playing the New York version of Lestrade, basically stood there and repeated his lines.  After watching the pilot, I find it hard to really view this show as anything other than CBS capitalizing on the popularity of Guy Ritchie’s fantastic film series and the cult following for BBC’s Sherlock.  I am sure that the show will run for awhile.  It has strong bones, a built-in fan base, and it plays up the weekly police procedural format that accounts for about 25% of shows on network television (if I really researched, that number would probably be higher).  Is it a worthy entry into the long-running Holmes cannon?  Not really.

Rating: 6/10 (Mostly because it was simply boring, not bad, just boring.)

Revolution – Pilot

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Network: NBC
Day/Time:  Mondays 10/9C
Premiere Date: Sept 17, 2012

Main Characters:

Tracy Spiridakos – Charlie Matheson
Giancarlo Esposito – Captain Neville
Billy Burke – Miles Matheson

Revolution takes place 15 years in our future, but a future in which all electricity has ceased to exist.  Without power, the world begins to crumble and lives change.  Ben Matheson might know what happened and how to fix it, but it will be up to his daughter and brother to find a way to turn the lights back on – or keep that power out of the wrong hands.

I did wonder why it took so long for the networks to jump on the dystopian bandwagon, and NBC really needs this to be a big hit.  And because they need it to be a hit, and it’s coming after the Hunger Games craziness, Revolution previews make it look very similar to some of the other dystopian fiction out there.  That being said, I also really wanted to love this show.  After all, when you throw J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau together you’re going to get great TV, right?

So so.  There are bones there of a great mythos, some interesting characters, and a good set-up to the show, but I am not sure where it is all going.  The main problem with the pilot, without spoiling it, it amounts to whether or not they would ever want the power turned back on.  If you think about it, that means millions of cars, planes, and other machinery would work again, all of a sudden.  In a world that has been turned over to savage militias, it would be quick, unlimitless power.

As to our central characters, Charlie is the now-grown daughter of Ben and she sets off to Chicago to find her uncle Miles and try and save her young brother.  Predictable things happen in the very short journey, including an introduction to a “complicated” love interest for Charlie and a short run-in with a few bandits.  But even if you can figure out what’s coming, it really is that ending that will draw you in for the series.

The acting in the show could be better, but I was kind of surprised by Tracy Spiridakos.  There was plenty of opportunity for her to take things over the top, and instead she played it low-key.  I really liked the way she interpreted things, and I cannot quite put my finger on what I would call her approach other than portraying the utter disbelief of her young character.  Thrown in a bit of naivete and youthful idealism, and I think you have her acting style.

Giancarlo Esposito was the other standout in this show for me.  Sure, he plays the “bad guy”, but Esposito proves that even the villains can have layers.  Here was another opportunity for an over-the-top performance, but instead Esposito and the writers’ portray Captain Neville with surprising subtlety.  Neville, an insurance adjuster before the blackout, is just a man that found a way to utilize his skills and just wants to get home to his wife and bed.  Or so he would have you believe.  On the face of it, he could prove to be one of the most interesting characters in the series (which would be no surprise because of Esposito’s abilities).

Revolution is a hard one for me to review.  I like pieces of it, but overall it will take a few more episodes for me to determine if the story will start to flesh out.  It is definitely worth giving the show a shot I think, and you can check it out for yourself at NBC.com.

Chuck – The Best Show You Weren’t Watching

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Chuck TV PosterLast night my favorite show on TV ended.  A show that my entire family would set aside Monday nights for, and while I was away in school, we would talk about the next day.  A show I got my fiance hooked on after just showing him the pilot.  A show repeatedly saved by loyal fans through Subway sandwich campaigns (you heard that right) and a Twitter campaign that has begun to ask questions about how accurate Nielsen ratings really are.  I am of course talking about NBC’s Chuck.  Starring Zachary Levi (some of you may know his voice as Flynn Rider of Tangled), Yvonne Strahovski, and Adam Baldwin (of Firefly fame), it was a show that defied genre.  Which is probably why it was always gaining fans, but never exploded.

The great thing about Chuck himself was that he was a nerd.  A normal, average guy who constantly felt he didn’t live up to his potential.  He started the show working for $11 an hour as a Nerd Herder in the Buy More (aka a Geek Squad member at Best Buy), and then his life changes forever when an old college friend sends him an email that literally downloads all of the government’s secrets into his brain.  The next day, a beautiful woman walks into the Buy More to have him fix her phone, and then asks him out.  For Chuck, everything in his life just got a lot more interesting.

We spend five years watching Chuck work in the CIA, first as an asset and then as a full-blown agent with killer moves.  But he was always grounded, always looking for a normal life and just wanted to finally admit to Sarah that he was really in love with her, not just cover in love.  But what was great is we got to know each of the characters well, and got to watch all of them grow.  Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) softens and lets herself trust and put down roots.  Casey (Adam Baldwin) grunts his way through many episodes, but he too is affected by his assignment with Chuck.  Add the difference in Chuck’s best friend Morgan (who was annoying in the first season, but grew to be indispensable) and even Chuck’s family – sister Ellie, brother-in-law Devon aka Awesome, and his parents – add to the realism of the show’s fantasy.  It was a character and action-driven show, which is what made it so amazing.

It still baffles me that more people weren’t watching Chuck.  It combined everything a good show needed:  action, romance, comedy, intrigue and mysteries, and quirky nerd culture.  Ok, I feel that a good show needs a little bit of nerd in it.  It had such a wide-range of characters that everyone could relate to one (though if you relate to Jeff and Lester, you might want to seek help).  The show also had one of the most likeable leads I have ever seen, and I can’t imagine anyone other than Zachary Levi for that part.

I honestly can’t remember another show I was this sad to see leave the air.  I don’t think there will be one that really connects with its fans like Chuck.  While it was wonderful for NBC to give us a last season to wrap things up, it’s still sad for the millions of us that watched that our weeks will not bring us a new adventure with Chuck and Sarah.

– For those of you interested, co-creator Josh Schwartz sums up here.

Grimm – Pilot

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Grimm posterNetwork: NBC
Day/Time: Fridays 9/8C
Premiere Date: 10/28

Main Cast:

David Giuntoli – Nick Burckhardt
Russell Hornsby – Hank Griffin
Bitsie Tulloch – Juliette Silverton
Silas Weir Mitchell – Eddie Monroe

Nick, a detective, gets a call to investigate a murder.  A young woman was torn to shreds in a park.  Originally they think it could have been an animal attack, but Nick and his partner, Hank, find a boot print at the scene.  Now they know they are on the lookout for a crazed killer.  Nick plans on proposing to his girlfriend soon, but he starts to see strange things, people’s faces change, and he can’t figure out what it is.  When his aunt shows up unexpectedly, she tells him that he is a Grimm.  Nick can see the fairy tale creatures that can hide from the rest of us, and he must hunt them or they will hunt him.  It doesn’t take long for him to realize that the murderer he’s chasing is something other than human.

I was almost as excited for this show as I was for “Once Upon a Time”.  I have always loved fairy tales, and the modern take has always been an interesting one for me.  So when “Grimm” was announced a few months ago, I was obviously excited.  I wish I could say it lived up to my expectations.  As more news leaked of the pilot, I knew that some critics weren’t as enthusiastic.  I agree with EW’s Ken Tucker that as long as “Grimm” avoids turning into a police procedural with fairy tale baddies, it could be really interesting.  The problem is I can see it easily falling into that trap.  Sure, fairy tale creatures such as the big bad wolves are more interesting than a normal psychopath, but there are enough CSIs and Law and Orders on our television screens.

While there were good moments (Wolf Eddie busting through a window at Nick just to warn him of his strength, then inviting him in for a beer), there were also some really unreasonable moments.  The worst for me was when Hank shoots our wolf murderer in the back multiple times as he’s running away without a weapon.  And at this point, they weren’t even sure if he had kidnapped the girl they were looking for.  (Bonus points to watchers if they noticed the Wolf Postman Murderer was Harold Krenshaw in “Monk”)  What I know of police procedures, you don’t shoot an unarmed man, you don’t shoot someone who’s running away, and you don’t shoot if you’re not even sure he’s guilty.  Honestly, as small a thing as this is, it took me out of the show and made it harder for me to enjoy it.  You as viewers know that he kidnapped the little girl, but Hank wasn’t even sure.  I guess if you watched it and had a different opinion, let me know.

I will say that the show is worth tuning in for a few more episodes.  This is aided by the fact that it’s on after “Chuck”, which if you’re not watching, you should be.  But really, “Grimm” was interesting and could continue to grow into itself and deepen with its mythology.  Nick’s aunt in particular has the potential to be a really intriguing character.  Let’s hope it finds its legs and builds upon its strengths.

Rating: 6.5/10

P.S. Bonus points to the gorgeous green scenery.  Makes me miss Scotland.

Once Upon a Time – Pilot

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Once Upon A TimeNetwork: ABC
Day/Time: Sundays 8/7C
Premiere Date: 10/23

Main Cast

Ginnifer Goodwin – Snow White/Mary Margaret
Jennifer Morrison – Emma Swan
Josh Dallas – Prince Charming/John Doe
Lana Parrilla – Evil Queen/Mayor Mills
Jared Gilmore – Henry Mills
Robert Carlyle – Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold

This show is perhaps the most anticipated pilot of the season.  Created by the same guys who did “Lost”, “Once Upon a Time” is a dual-timeline show where the characters of Fairy Tales are forced into the present world of Storybrooke, Maine.  Each character – Snow White, Prince Charming, even the Evil Queen, have been thrust into a life in Maine where they cannot remember who they are and their happy endings have been taken from them.  Except of course the Queen, who is now the Mayor and cast the curse in the first place.  Snow White’s daughter, Emma Swan, escapes the curse and is the only one who can save them from their sad lives in Maine.  Aided by her birth son Henry (who was adopted by Mayor Mills), Emma must help to save the fairy tale characters and give them back their happy endings.

The pilot episode has been touted for weeks.  Several critics got to watch it earlier and loved it, and I’ve been waiting to watch it.  Luckily for me, IMDb had the pilot available to watch a few days early.  I finally got the opportunity to sit down and watch it last night (I needed to lie down after a day of paintball), and I really liked it.  I didn’t love it like I was expecting to, but I think after a few weeks I’ll have a weekly addiction.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas were a little cheesy in Fairy Tale Land, but the tone of that world improved as the pilot progressed and the problems became real.  Maybe Happy Endings are just a bit too much cheese to start out with.  Goodwin was good as young Henry’s innocent teacher, and her very different character in Storybrooke was a great exhibition of Goodwin’s range as an actress.  Mary Margaret is afraid of the Mayor, without question, where Snow was nearly fearless.  I also rather liked Jennifer Morrison’s Emma, who tries too hard to push her son away but cannot help being pulled in by him.  Morrison (best known for her role on “House”) is a reluctant savior, but her reluctance makes you like her.  She is a woman of the world, not one who runs to danger, but you can tell she will take it on when she needs to.

For part of the pilot, I was playing “find the accent flub” with actors Carlyle (Scottish) and Jamie Dornan (Northern Irish).  I’m not sure what accent Carlyle was trying to use for Rumpelstiltskin, but a wee bit of Scottish was poking through.  To be fair to him, he does have a very thick accent if you’ve ever heard him just talk.  Dornan’s was light, but I couldn’t tell if he was going for an American accent or not.  If they want to use their accents, I’m more than fine with that.  I just hope they figure out which one they’re going to go with.

I found “Once Upon a Time” charming and intriguing, and will definitely be back for more.  I cannot wait for next week’s episode and to see where things are headed.  It should be a fun ride, and I highly encourage any fan of tales to tune in.

Pilot – Prime Suspect

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Prime SuspectNetwork: NBC
Day/Time: Thursdays 10/9C
Premiere Date: 9/22

Main Cast:

Maria Bello – Detective Jane Timoney
Kenny Johnson – Matt Webb
Brian F. O’Byrne – Detective Reg Duffy
Aidan Quinn – Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney

I’m a few weeks late watching and reviewing this pilot, but man, it was fantastic.  I think I’ve found my favorite new show this season, as well as the best pilot I’ve seen in a very long time.

Maria Bello stars in “Prime Suspect”, a series that chronicles the tough life of a female detective in the NYPD.  Jane Timoney is not soft nor is she cuddly; she is rough, gruff, and confident.  She has to deal with constant sexist remarks from her coworkers, and is always passed up for cases because of her gender.  When her colleague dies from a heart attack, she is given a high-profile case and a time to shine.  Except Detective Reg Duffy was best friends with the deceased, and would like for nothing more than to see her fail.

Watching this I would have to say this is the best put-together pilot of this season.  I watched it not feeling it was the first episode, but that the series had long been established.  It was probably helped along because “Prime Suspect” is a remake of the British series that starred Helen Mirren.  Having not seen that series, I could not answer for their similarities.  Whatever gave the show its leg up, it certainly worked.

Maria Bello melts into her character, so much so that even her weird penchant for hats and the word yea feel natural.  It didn’t feel like an actress, but rather watching a real person and their own ticks that make them who they are (I felt the same way with Viola Davis’s performance in The Help).  Jane is honest, which gets on many people’s nerves, but her honesty wins over the viewer.  She also does exactly what she needs to do in order to get the job done.  Just in the pilot, she deputizes a shelter security guard to gain his trust and information; she brings up past convictions to help her boyfriend gain custody of his son; and she asks for a dead man’s job the day after he dies.  The last one felt a bit much, but it wasn’t surprising at all that she did it, either.

I do wonder how true this is, whether sexism is still that prevalent for female detectives.  Most other cop shows don’t really touch on it (“Law and Order: SVU” will mention it, but rarely), and most crime fiction has opened up to a lead female detective.  But it doesn’t matter if it’s realistic, because the show is played so well.  You are never fully in Jane’s camp, because the writers let you see the others side’s point of view.  Jane is a carefully crafted character, so you feel sympathy for her, but she’s just annoying enough that you get why her colleagues are miffed by her.

A fantastic start to a hopefully long series, I felt this pilot could hold its own.  I know this show has been struggling a bit in numbers, so check it out, watch it, and then spread the word.  Of all the new shows I’ve watched this season (I haven’t reviewed them all), this one deserves to thrive.

Rating: 9/10