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Home » Culture and Criticism

TV Question Qorner: Midseason Report Card A-B

Submitted by on October 24, 2011 – 1:40 PM9 Comments

ANTM: All-Stars. I had tagged out of the show a few cycles ago because I couldn't take Tyra's unleavened self-aggrandizement. It's still egregious, but because the girls have gone through the process before, she can't talk to them — and by extension the audience — quite as grandly as she could the customary crop of eager neophytes. (It's hard to get your grand on in that wig. Maybe comb it once a week or something? What's going on with that thing? Changing it up is great, but you can do that without stapling a cocker spaniel to your head.)

The judging even made a sort of sense, for a while, until Isis went home, and then it's like, Alexandria and Shannon in the what now? I have no quibble with casting for drama. We all live in the world. But 1) neither of them is really creating any, and in fact they both seem actively to avoid it (yeah, Shannon's a pill, but after the premiere, we've barely seen even that); and in that case, it's time to acknowledge that 2) neither of them photographs in a special way. Shannon is a handsome woman, but she looks her age. Punt. Alexandria, I don't even know. It's partly how she "styles" herself at judging, but something about her bone structure…she reads stumpy and undercooked to me. She takes the occasional good photo, but the make-up does most of the work, and at last week's panel, oo-fah with the scraped-back hair and that dowdy silk button-down box on the top. This is the kind of model I expect to see in the Hanes factory-seconds catalog. Punt.

Blue Bloods. My parents sucked me into this one, another strong cast in another about-average procedural: Tom Selleck, Tom Selleck's mustache, Len Cariou, Donnie Wahlberg, and my girl Espo. I love Jennifer Esposito. It's a good show for having on and not having to pay close attention to, which is often a good strategy for dealing with the show's main problems: 1) it thinks it can do comedy a lot better than it actually does it; 2) Will Estes is cute, but his default "gulp!" serious-scene mode gets tired in a hurry; and 3) it's a prime offender with a TV/movie trope I've come to despise viscerally — the cop's wife who is constantly pouting and complaining that his job is too dangerous and/or time-consuming.

The Blue Bloods version is particularly irritating; I don't enjoy Amy Carlson in most of her roles, including this one, but primarily it's that her character's husband, Danny, isn't just a cop. He's the son of the police commissioner and the grandson of another one, his older brother was a detective, and his sister is with the DA's office. There is absolutely no possibility of marrying the guy and thinking you can nag him into going into security consulting; he is police, surrounded by and raised by police, which you had to have known by your second date, so get over it or marry someone else. Why do writers insist on going there? "But it's a realistic confli–" You know what, yes, it's realistic, but not everything that's realistic is interesting. "Accurate"…"compelling"…not synonymous.

The show now seems poised to hook Jamie (Estes) up with a junior mobster's little sister while he's undercover. The IMDb isn't shedding any light on whose cousin the "actress" is there, but she wasted no time blundering across the very wide, very bright line between "sassy" and "twatty" in classic Milena Govich style, after we had to listen to her gargle the sheet music for "Hallelujah," which God bless that song but no mas with that on TV for at least a decade. The whole arc looks like a shitshow, frankly, because: see above. Estes's rendition of pants-shitting fear is pretty convincing, but it's only got the one note, and asking the guy to play a character who's undercover and has to give us at least two things in every line reading…not sure that's going to work out.

That said, Selleck can really sell this baroque crap (the Blue Templar thing didn't sound doable either, but he worked it out), and the showrunners came from The Sopranos, so we'll get to see Artie Bucco as Jamie's undercover liaison and Mikey Palmice running his own family.

Boardwalk Empire. It's very very good, but not quite great, and I can't put my finger on what holds it back. It's as though it thinks it's "supposed to" be and do certain things, because it's an HBO show, or a period drama, or whatever the neurosis is. The last couple of episodes have felt less constrained, though, like it's trusting its strengths at last; there's more momentum, but there's also a willingness to showcase the compositions, the stories within the stories that don't necessarily "move the ball" (Richard Harrow's ruined face, ruined life…the visual does the work for you). The plot-centric scenes feel less hurried and pro-forma. It's also gotten better about not hitting the jangly notes so hard; mistaking quirks and oddities for character development is an error I hope they can correct for by the time this season wraps up. I like Michael Shannon enormously and he's doing the best possible job with that arc, but a) we get it and b) it's not really working in the context of the rest of the show. Honorable attempt, but: wrap it up and send it off already. (Lucy too, obvs. Worst.)

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9 Comments »

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Gotta agree with the "wife can't understand why he cares more about the job then his faaaaaaaammmmilllyyy…." GAHD, shut up. I have no doubt that the spouses of our protectorate members have a really tough time just dealing with their version of everyday reality, but this trope is just insulting, and as you said, not even interesting.

    Wouldn't it be great to have a spouse that's totally INTO their partner's job, to an unhealthy degree? Like, they get off on it or just thrill at the idea of being so close to a "hero" or whatever? Maybe not realistic but a heckava lot more fun to watch.

  • attica says:

    Dear me, I had to break up with Boardwalk Empire 20 minutes into the second ep of the season. I love the art direction to bits, I love the sumptuous costuming (and I want, like, all of the hats), but it seems like the art direction and actual characters are in two different worlds. Everybody looks spiffy, but nobody behaves in a manner that suggests said spiffiness is organic. Plus, it got to a point where the line of 'the characters are all misogynist fucks' and 'the show is a misogynist fuck' blurred past recognition for me. All of the women characters, who had meager yet actual arcs last year, were reduced to standing around fretting over whatever. (Maybe that's picked up since I left. I hope, for all the actresses' sakes it has.)

    I don't share your affection for Shannon; he pulls all the wrong strings in my spinal cord. I'm avoiding the well-reviewed Take Shelter because of him. Pitts needs to get stronger hair product; his flopping hair has annoyed me since The Dreamers. Richard Harrow is a terrific character which I'd enjoy seeing more time spent on, but sadly, not at the expense of everybody else.

    I do share your annoyance with the 'wife complains about hubby's job' trope. It's omnipresent and tiresome. There is a whole universe of stuff to harangue a spouse about — let's see some of those!

    I'm less in love with this season's Dexter, but that's been salved by how awesome Homeland is so far.

  • attica says:

    Jen S 1.0: I've heard of an actual thing called "Badge Bunnies". Chicks who cruise for cops because they dig just that aura. Cop groupies, if you will. So, not unrealistic!

  • Liz says:

    re: the wife. Heck, I'd settle for a nice stand-by-your-man performance in public following the hero action, followed by a quiet scene of hysterics in the ladies room/shower later. You know, realism. (trust me, I high five him when he comes home on an adrenaline rush after he gets to be the hero, then quietly freak out in a corner somewhere when I get a minute alone. Oh, yeah, and hug the heck out of him every chance I get. Also, the life insurance premium is going to make us broke.)
    See Army Wives — those gals get it right with the support for their men and the freaking out alone/to each other.

  • Tylia says:

    I wish I could quite Tyra et al, but I can't. Partly because I know what I'm getting with the show, and partly because my husband's impression of Tyra's "Who stays and who goes speech" that he does every episode is priceless and it must stay in my life. I love my husband.

    I completely agree that both Shannon and Alexandria need to be punted. They are both adding absolutely nothing and their photos are so blah I'm completely over them. If Laura or Allison doesn't win the whole thing, I might consider punting the show in its entirety.

  • Dorinda says:

    a TV/movie trope I've come to despise viscerally — the cop's wife who is constantly pouting and complaining that his job is too dangerous and/or time-consuming

    YES AAAAAAAGH. It is such a common go-to for cop shows, and by now it just feels so. Effing. Lazy. It often seems to go hand-in-hand with criminally-underwritten female characters, too… 'Don't know what to have your Flat Wife Persona #1 Say? Try This!'

  • Kara says:

    a TV/movie trope I've come to despise viscerally — the cop's wife who is constantly pouting and complaining that his job is too dangerous and/or time-consuming
    I hate this too (although I don't watch Blue Bloods). I say all the time: you have to know who you're with. If you marry a many-times-generation cop, you are married to a cop. End of story. If you want a dude with a safe office job, you should have married a guy with a safe office job. Same with people who are married to surgeons and complain that they're never home. It's a pet peeve of mine (in media and in life) when people date or marry people who have qualities or jobs they know they dislike, but they try to change them – who are you to change someone?

    Boardwalk Empire was brutal this week. I am loving Harrow and hating Lucy, but I've hated Lucy since minute one. I have a visceral loathing of Paz de la Huerta, and once she has that baby, do we need Lucy around? She already feels like she's on a different show.

  • ct says:

    The Boardwalk Empire debate I have in my head every couple of weeks
    Michael Shannon is so great (so so great. see Shotgun Stories), but Michael Pitt was Henry "my duckface is better than your duckface" Parker in Dawson's Creek.
    I just can't take it.

  • Lisa says:

    As I am old and have no life, thus thrusting myself squarely into CBS's wheelhouse, I watch Blue Bloods. Or as *I* call it, The Danny Reagan Show.

    I was excited when it began, because hey, who doesn't love 'em some Selleck? And I was interested to see how they were going to weave a DA sister with cop brothers and commissioner father into story lines that maybe — JUST MAYBE — might be different than all the other Cop Shows out there. Well, they didn't. And they can't, apparently. But yet I watch, because damn if Will Estes doesn't look like America, like he fell off a WWII recruitment poster. Mama likey.

    I started watching Boardwalk Empire back in the summer, and got caught up right before the Season 2 premier. I don't *love* it, but I like it. It does intrigue me, though, and that keeps me coming back.

    RE: Law Enforcement Significant Others. There is no greater example of this than Winona on Justified. I mean, she divorced him ONCE ALREADY because of his job, and now that they're back together (uuggh) she's STILL with that shit? Shut the eff up. (My bias may be that I haaaaaaate the actress, so grain of salt and all that.)

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