TV Question Qorner: Midseason Report Card A-B
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.)
Tags: Al Sapienza America's Next Top Model Amy Carlson Blue Bloods Boardwalk Empire Donnie Wahlberg hairdon'ts It's Log Jennifer Esposito John Ventimiglia legendary facial hair Len Cariou Michael Shannon Milena Govich shut up Tyra The Sopranos Tom Selleck TV Will Estes