TV Question Qorner: family affairs, charisma vacuums, and my busted gaydar
I moved, I went to California for a week, and I've only just now started digging my way out from under a pile of season finales. And I have some questions. Answer them for me, won't you? Or just rant nearby, that's fine too.
Brothers & Sisters. How exactly does Kitty think it's reasonable to blame the estrangement in her marriage on Robert running for governor? It's not as though he woke up one morning after spending his adult life as a florist and decided to spend their life's savings on a quixotic quest to run the state; they met while she was working for him in his capacity as a politician. Yeah, okay, he lied to her about it — I would have too! She's being a pill about it, with no basis!
Why does either of them think it's a good idea to have the wife's brother, who works for the husband, mediate their separation? Why does anyone in the writer's room believe we'd buy Kitty running after the helicopter based on what amounted to a ten-word conversation with Sarah? What's with the slo-mo? We saw this already with Buffy and Riley; we didn't like it then either! And then moments later she's reminiscing happily on the bus about summer camp? Buh fuh?
Why do they have to get to "Justin proposes to Rebecca in front of the whole family" via "Rebecca has a bratty 'fiiiiine, I guess you don't want to marry me at all if you're not comfortable doing it right this second in Mexico when we've only been back together for 18 minutes' meltdown"?
Even if anyone did care about fucking Tommy, which: no, why does the entire family have to troop down there and "rescue" him? He's an adult, who left his family — both families — of his own volition; he's cleared of the charges, but he didn't come back, probably because he's a pussy. Who gives a shit? And are we supposed to find it touching that he's bawling like a little bitch to his mommy? "Oh I am so sad at the turns my life has taken as I am sitting here on this log oh boo hoo hooooooo!" Can that guy not go away and stay gone?
Would anyone like to peruse my proposed severance package for that greasy little creep Ryan? It involves a size nine and the seat of his pants; it does not involve Saul, and could someone explain to me why Ron Rifkin's agent can't throw a foot up someone's ass and stop this madness? This is the best you can do with that actor — "I feel ret-con-sponsible, out of overgrown left field, for the death of a character we never met, whose son is a character who not only needs, but is, a wedgie"?
I'm giving them two episodes next year to turn this shit around, but I don't know why I'm bothering, because I don't see how it can be done at this point. Bah.
Conviction. I didn't watch this when it originally aired, but figured that, as a Law & Order product, it couldn't be as bad as people said.
It isn't. It's worse. Now I find myself mesmerized by the badness, the absoluteness of the lack of flavor in either the writing or the acting. Even the few, the proud, the ordinarily competent members of the cast suck in Conviction — yes, Balfour too, in part due to the attraction his character is required to feel to Julianne Nicholson, who has all the sexual charge of shredded iceberg lettuce.
I'd only recently begun to question Nicholson's competence. She practically holds the patent on failing to register on Criminal Intent, but I never blamed her for that before; I blamed her awful haircut, and the show's insistence on pairing larger-than-life autodidacts and moody problem children with female partners who inevitably paled in comparison. (Erbe is the exception, but the effort is painful to watch at times.) But Nicholson's character isn't only a non-entity because she's onscreen with Noth or Goldblum, and we don't only not care about the failed attempt to give Wheeler depth via an extraneous pregnancy B-plot because nobody cared about her fraudster boyfriend back when the writers ripped him from the headlines of Anne Hathaway's life, so nobody's going to care any more now that said fraudster had implausible sex at least once with a dormouse like Wheeler.
No, we mostly don't care because Nicholson is not interesting onscreen. She's an adequate line-reader; she's not bad, she's not ugly, she just has no charisma.
Milena Govich is slightly less boring, by virtue of being many times more irritating. This is partly her fault and partly not; writers frequently fall into a particular trap when writing for a female character who enjoys postmodern, no-strings-attached sex, namely that they confuse writing a woman who acts like a guy in that way with writing a woman who acts like a guy who is a tactless dick. Inevitably, the actual guy is supposed to become enamored — she's hot and emotionally self-sufficient! dude-nip! — but the writing gives the actress all these blunt/borderline rude lines, so pulling the character back to "my apathy towards the social contract will play as tomboyishly fascinating because I'm so hot" is the best the actress can hope to do with it.
So that's the problem generally. The problem here specifically is twofold: Govich is not actually hot enough to get away with treating Anson Mount like a pesty piece of meat (she's fairly hot, but…not hot enough) (also: hee, "Mount"); and that bitchily challenging line reading is the only one Govich has anyway. I haaaaaaated her on L&O: Mothership; I hated her more than I hated Max Greevey, which was a lot.
But picking on Govich and Nicholson misses the point; every character on the show is a collection of only-on-TV behaviors and the sorts of clichés that manage not to seem realistic despite being clichéd, handed to seat-fillers like Jordan Bridges who have no hope of adding any dimension.
Fringe. Did anyone else have a really emotional response to the finale? I think it's probably just me.
The finale's revelation about their relationship aside, the Bishops have a weirdly sentimental effect on me that is (I should imagine) unique among the viewers. Joshua Jackson has always reminded me of my brother; he and Mr. S don't look anything alike, but Jackson is reminiscent of Mr. S, in a way I can't explain and that nobody else sees. (I couldn't moderate the more X-rated aspects of the Pacey threads on the TWoP forums for this reason. They'd start down that road of talking about licking his treasure trail or whatever damn thing and I'd have to IM Wing all, "I extra can't go there, please tag in.")
People I've mentioned it to will politely pretend that they sort of see it, but then say that if Mr. S resembles anyone famous, it's Seth Rogen, which is true, in its way, but again, it's not an issue of resemblance. Jackson and Stupidhead have similar noses, but it's not that, it's something else.
I'd forgotten about it until Fringe, where the man playing Jackson's father, bizarrely, is an inverse of that: John Noble does bear a strong resemblance to our father, albeit a hairstyle ago, but the character is his complete opposite. Whatever else is going on, I've liked watching Bizarro Science Dad going on about snacks and LSD, and then when the show went into the alternate-reality arc, it struck me as even funnier, because: seriously. They look the same, they dress the same, but if My This Reality Dad began caring that much about sugar cereals, we'd take him to the hospital.
Come the revelation at the cemetery, I said out loud, "Ohhhh, of course," and then the episode moved along while I felt annoyed that I won't get to see how that plays out until the fall, and then Nimoy came out of the shadows and the camera pulled back, and I knew immediately from the shape of the windows the building Olivia was in, and as the zoom kept going out and the Towers resolved on the screen, I just burst into tears. And it's not the first time. Fringe does these tableaux sometimes that kill me, like, "Here's a snapshot about finding family out in the world, and we put a little cello with it. Kleenex?" Yes, please. [hahhhnk]
I also cried at that X-Files episode, "The Unnatural," with Jesse L. Martin as the Negro League player. Sobbed, in fact, so maybe I'm just a weirdo. Call it.
Prison Break. Nobody else saw it through to the end, so I'll keep this short: all that, and he dies of a fackin' nosebleed?Jesus H., show.
Southland. The show doesn't seem to know, or have enough confidence in, what it wants to be yet; I like it anyway, because the cast is so strong, and it's nice to see a bunch of actors I enjoy getting lead-role time (Michael Cudlitz, Arija Bareikis), but the plot beats felt much, much too big for a show this new. It wants to hook people quickly, fine, but a big shoot-out and Officer Drunk Ponyboy going soapbox-derby bonkers on his partner and Tom Everett Scott getting Tom Everett Shott is too much for the finale of a mini-season.
And the writing doesn't need to go there in the first place, because the cast can work the nuances — and in a few cases, put in nuances the script might not have given them. Give the "now I will stare disapprovingly at my partner as he once again picks low-hanging grief fruit" moment to anyone but Regina King, it's going to play very obviously, but the writers trusted her to sell it, and she did.
I'll stick with it next year, in the hopes the show trusts the smaller scenes more and backs off the soapy (the "Moretta's sister is his daughter" twist, though played well, was not earned), the kooky (uch, Emily Bergl — fire your stylist, lady), and the tired (the cop's daughter's wild ways expose his hypocrisy? Come on: we've seen it before, and when Christopher Meloni is putting it over with more subtlety than you, you gotta call the editing bay and tell them to cut it).
The more-than-occasional ham-fistery makes it hard for me to understand, then, how I completely missed that the Cudlitz character is gay. I mean, I'd have gotten it by the finale, probably, but Jeff had to explain it to me a couple weeks ago."Uh, when he was in a gay bar?" Gay b– oh, okay. Did not get that at all. I see now that that guy was cruising him, but total strangers ask the credits cast leading questions designed to point up their emotional turmoil all the time; if they'd saddle the guy with an addiction to painkillers, I just assumed they'd go there with it too. But no, there I am in a bar, shouting, "Wait, Brenda Walsh's prom date is gay?"
Tags: Anne Hathaway Anson Mount Arija Bareikis break up already Brenda Walsh Brothers & Sisters Buffy C. Thomas Howell Chris Noth Christopher Meloni dial-a-cliche Emily Bergl Eric Balfour Fringe It's Log Jeff Goldblum Jesse L. Martin John Noble Jordan Bridges who exactly Joshua Jackson Julianne Nicholson Kathryn Erbe Law & Order: Conviction Law & Order: D'Onofrionics (tm Wing Chun) Law & Order: Mothership Leonard Nimoy Michael Cudlitz Milena Govich Mr. Stupidhead Prison Break Regina King Ron Rifkin Seth Rogen shut up Max Greevey shut up moving Southland TAKING IT PERSONALLY Tom Everett Scott TV X-Files