Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wacky Wednesday Wrap-up of Prime Time TV Premieres

It worked oh-so-well for the Monday shows, and so I thought why not do a recap of the premieres on Wednesday night. As always, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers for shows that has already been on national television.

Survivor South Pacific: Okay, this wasn't a season premiere, because we had that last week. I watched it last night, and so it just felt right to stuff it in with the rest of the shows (sometimes, you just have to do what feels right).

This was a far better episode than last week. The tribes are forming their alliances, and friction is beginning to mount between certain individuals. It looks like there is some great potential for drama down the road. At this point, there isn't one player who is in complete control of the game, and this hopefully means a lot more potential for big plays this season. Of course, Coach probably does think he is in control and calling the shots (actually, the smile at the end of the episodes guarantees that is exactly what he thinks), but Coach also thinks he is a Dragon Slayer, so you know.

It wasn't an amazing second episode, but it has given me a bit more hope that this season should be entertaining. The show is filled with some interesting personalities, and there are lots of chances for conflict (the driving force of the series). There were a few characters that got almost no TV time this episode, but that is likely more due to the nature of the show (you can only focus on so many issues and players). So, hopefully players like Country Music Whitney, University Mom Dawn, Papa Bear and Cowboy Rick get more play in the coming weeks.

There were some definite highlights from this week's episode. I'm impressed Ozzy walked away with the immunity idol despite having no clues -- remember when it was a big deal that Russell found the idol without any clues and now it happens almost every season? Ozzy also admitted to his past blunder of being voted off with the idol last time, and now realizes the importance of keeping it a secret (trying to do that should be entertaining). Cochrane trying to be a provider and useful around camp, but doing it in the most awkward and inefficient way -- the boy is definitely the comic relief. Brandon revealing to Coach he is Russell's nephew, and then Coach declaring Russell is his number one nemesis (a true Coach Moment). Coach causing all hell to break loose in tribal council, which led to some pretty impressive meltdowns and conflicts. Christine brought some pretty impressive aggression and attitude to this episode, which makes it a shame she is likely permanently packing her bags real soon. Jim trying to orchestrate the order of eliminations and be the mastermind of his alliance was entertaining, especially if it leads to his downfall real soon (I also found it interesting that he was trying pass himself off as the social outcast, despite acting like your typical jock).

I want to focus a bit more on Brandon Hantz. The man is one of the more entertaining characters in a while, and it is a pity I think his days are numbered. He is just an episode away from a potential complete mental meltdown. I'm entertained with his absolute obsession with Mikayla and how he feels she is a she-devil (though he keeps referring her to as the new Parvati). He also keeps on following her around like a puppy dog. He wanted to get rid of her so bad that he pulled a Russell type move, and then he ruined it all by admitting his own lie at tribal council. His conscious seems to stop him from being able to stick to any manipulative strategies but not before he makes the actual play first. He also has risked his longevity in the game by revealing to Coach that he is the nephew of Russell. It may have been fine, if it wasn't for the fact he essentially outed himself as being distrustful later on. He is so entertaining because he is having this great internal morality war, but it is causing him to self-implode. An implosion I look forward to seeing.

The second episode was far better than the premiere, and it has definitely set in motion the potential for more intriguing storylines.

Modern Family: My favourite sitcom returned with a double episode premiere. This premiere was far more entertaining and humorous than last year's. I remember worrying about how the second season would turn out, but after a slow start it ended up still being really entertaining. This season's premiere episodes have proven Modern Family is quickly getting back in its groove and has some pretty big potential for being outright hilarious. As always, it mixes that hilarity with a sweetness and warmness that is rare for a sitcom (it isn't overly sappy, and really adds to the show).

Lots of great stuff out of the double premiere. I loved how Phil excitedly announced that he and Claire were going to a dude ranch for their anniversary, and then a non excited Claire added, "with the whole family." Phil's constant attempts to impress Jay were entertaining as always, especially when he revealed he had been training for weeks to show off his cowboy skills. Dylan just getting hired as a rancher and then explaining to Hayley their relationship couldn't work because they come from two different worlds ("You're still in high school and I am a ranch hand."). The cowboy who kept giving each person a nickname, all of which were great (especially when Phil started calling his own wife by the name "Bossy"). It was a hilarious sight watching Jay ride to the rescue of Gloria -- on the back of Phil's horse.

The second parter offered up some more great moments. Jay 'interrogating' Manny about the locket, and then being relieved that Manny wasn't going to wear it. Claire going to extreme measures to prove she was right about Phil pushing her into the cans. Cam's flamboyant plan for announcing that he and Mitchell were adopting a baby boy. Luke knowing he was being tricked into staying in the attic, but wanted to do it anyway (he was fearful what the ants would do when the candy was all gone). The family suddenly realizing where Claire got her need to be right (psst. . . it's in the genes). Mitchell is happy that Cam is to blame for a problem with Lilly (he coddles her), and then finds out it actually might be his problem after all (doesn't like to share).

Cam and Mitchell are probably the best couple on TV. They've got great chemistry together, and they end up going through many issues that your usual couple suffers through. I also like that the more flamboyant male is also the athletic, sports lover. The couple does a great job of smashing stereotypes. This episode really demonstrated why they're a great TV couple.

It was a strong premiere, with countless great moments. I'm looking forward to future storylines like the adoption process and Hayley getting ready for college. It should be a great season and maybe the best one yet.

Revenge: It has been described as a modern day version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Amanda Clark, under the alias of Emily Throne, returns to the South Hamptons in order to get. . .well duh, revenge. It appears some naughty rich folks were responsible for framing her father and essentially ruining his life. She now wants to ruin the lives of each individual responsible.

It is an interesting concept, even though I can't see how it can go past one season (unless it is a long and drawn out revenge process). The show is told by having one main narrative along with occasional flashbacks to reveal more about each character or the storyline. The story actually starts with the murder of a rich family's son, but jumps back five months. It is the five months later where the main storytelling is, but it does several flashbacks to the main characters childhood throughout the episode.

The show has lots of secrets and ambiguous elements. The goal seems to slowly reveal things through occasional flashbacks. We still don't know the reason for the whole framing, but there seems to be an allusion to a possible affair in the past between Amanda's father and Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe). The episode did reveal enough to satisfy the first time viewer, but left enough out to make you want to return to find out more.

The show does seem a little schizophrenic though. It wants to be a smart and cerebral type thriller, and make the viewer have to think as things go on. At the same time, it seems to not trust a network television audience, and so it then feels like it has to spell things out. There were times were it just briefly hinted at something, but then later it outright shows you the answer to what it hinted at. It made for some frustrating moments where I felt my intelligence was being questioned.

It is a unique premise. It is attempting something a little bit darker. I think there is the risk of the show being full of unlikable characters, especially since everyone is snobby rich folks. Of course, the fact that everyone in this show has done something vile and evil, and so you don't have too many people to root for. You can see why Amanda desires revenge. She didn't necessarily come off as a really engaging and relatable character. Plus the show had a few plot holes, such as how a renter didn't know their tenant beforehand or why no one questions this girl who magically appears from nowhere (and is loaded with money despite looking fresh out of high school). For the most part, it is an interesting little thriller and you do want to find out some of the answers to the many questions. It is easy for a show to leave you with questions, but the key is to make them intriguing enough that you come back to have them answered. I think, Revenge did okay on its first outing, and at least, makes me what to find out more.

So far, none of the brand new shows have wowed me. None of them have been outright awful either, and I am willing to give each one another shot in a week. The returning sitcoms on the other hand have been home runs so far, and I look forward to seeing how their seasons will play out.

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