What Else Is On?

The return of “Inspector Lewis” on the Masterpiece Mystery! franchise over at PBS was pretty entertaining, with an episode 1 that really is about new beginnings. Granted, Lewis totally undermined the whole point of retiring (did he really believe Superintendent Innocent, when she asked him to help, that this was only to help? Or was she really just trying to keep brand-spanking new Inspector Hathaway from burning out, because the man seems so ready to lose it, even though his detecting skills are really awesome now). I couldn’t blame the ire of Dr. Hobson (the medical examiner who didn’t retire and is Lewis’ significant other) – Lewis could have given her the heads up that he missed investigating murders and weird family dramas (that are sort-of red herrings).

Oh, and there was a murder, with lots of red herrings. As usual. And, three bodies. It’s like no one in Oxford/Thames Valley realizes that Lewis and Hathaway must be the cause of the rise in crime, rather than just the ones catching the killers. (like how Batman inspired supervillains in Gotham).

“Gotham” – Episode 3 – “The Balloonman” – If I have to give a grade (and I like to not do that, because with a lot of shows, I start with a “B” and either add or subtract points before it’s still a “B,” because why else would I watch the show?): this episode is a B- (not lame enough to be a C, but awful close). A vigilante appears in Gotham, feeding on the faithlessness of Gothamites on anything resembling law in town. Only, it’s not Batman. And, really, the levels of lawlessness is pretty despicable: there’s the scene of a police lieutenant’s looking for his trophy at the precinct to beat the bleep out of a suspect in an interrogation.

Detective Gordon has the look of “what am I doing here again?” as far as letting it soak in that everybody accepts police brutality as a given (except for the righteous Gordon). And, the appearance of the Balloonman isn’t making things better: he uses a weather balloon to… kill the bad guys – the corrupt cops, the investors who steal others’ pensions, etc.; he’s the vigilante with understandable reasons, but unpleasant tactics. Yeah, not a Batman thing at all. But, the bitterness over the breakdown of legitimate government seems pretty authentic and well-drawn enough. Gordon and Bullock are still fun, as Bullock actually has some decent detecting skills, and Gordon is still trying to figure out who really killed the Waynes. Even Selina Kyle isn’t annoying me in this episode, because she’s only trying to survive to avoid going to juvie upstate (because who wants to go upstate?). She comes across as someone with some kind of purpose, even if it is that bare minimum one to stay alive.

Oswald Cobblepot is still annoying and creepy to me. He’s slowly getting back into the underworld of Gotham, as if he could not pull away from the mess and miss out on the craziness (putting aside that he totally did not listen to Gordon’s warning to not come back to town).  On the other hand, Oswald’s return at least confirms that Gordon didn’t actually kill him (which we viewers and Gordon already knew, but the ridiculous cops of the Major Crimes Unit don’t seem to understand, forget Bullock). But, as Oswald’s alive and ridiculous as ever, Gordon’s semi-promise to Falcone and Mooney is undermined and Gordon will be in a world of trouble. (of course).

Major Crimes Unit do not play it smart, asking questions, but… no proof? As Gordon observes, Detectives Allen and Montoya are acting more like Internal Affairs than Major Crimes people (no wonder they endear themselves to no one; what the hell is their arrest rate?). And, if the two think they’re somehow the “good guys” (as in the pair who are somehow holier because they’re somehow not corrupt or in cahoots with the mob like the rest of the police department) – well, the storytelling isn’t showing how they’re the good guys. Detective Montoya is irritating me.  I don’t think it’s the acting – it’s the writing. As Renee in the comics and cartoons, she holds onto her integrity – and becomes one of Gordon’s good guys. I’m not seeing how she has “integrity” here in her tv version: a lot of talk; no action.

Clearly, this is not a DC Universe where Gordon, Bullock, and Montoya are a trinity anytime soon. No, Montoya’s too busy telling Barbara that Gordon’s not trustworthy, but more as an attempt to get Barbara back in her life (and Gordon isn’t noticing something about his fiancee and the other detective? Hmm!). Not liking this at all; Renee doesn’t have to come off as a sainted figure, but neither she nor Barbara are looking brilliant (or at least Barbara has some sense: she’s going to stick with the fiance who’s trying really hard to be a good guy than the ex-girlfriend who evidently is not that good in her personal life – hmm! It doesn’t help that the actresses playing Barbara and Renee don’t have much chemistry).

The appearance of Sal Maroni – yep, that impending mob war is still just impending (so, maybe Gordon should just step out of the way and let them kill each other?). The Maronis of Gotham are interesting if only because their name is a reminder of one of the creepier (to me, anyway) Batman stories: “The Long Halloween” – how Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Dent join forces to fight the mob, and how the killer Holliday is making the mob war really crazy, Dent becomes Two-Face, and there’s a lot of killing (the Wikipedia entry there really reminded me that there was a lot of death). And, Poison Ivy tries to seduce Bruce therein (a very weird and stylized scene; maybe she did seduce him, but I think some hallucination was involved so…). I don’t think we’re going to get any of “The Long Halloween” on live-action broadcast network tv (prove me wrong, tv, prove me wrong!).

The Bruce and Alfred scenes are brief but great – Bruce is deep in boy detective mode, but not in any useful way (more like brooding as usual; will Bruce ever stop brooding?). Alfred is trying to get him to eat and exercise (their fencing scene was kind of cute), but it’s not clear if Alfred’s attempts are effective to get Bruce to be mentally healthier (like that’s going to happen). But, Bruce is already thinking far more sensibly than the Balloonman; Bruce isn’t keen on killing. A storyline that’s actually going somewhere, as far as development of a character goes! (something other than Gordon trying to hold onto the righteousness).

I really enjoyed the pilot episode of “The Flash” this week. There is a real sense of awe and fun, balancing the pathos. Definitely way better special effects/filming quality than the old “The Flash” series (technology has way improved since 1990!). Barry Allen believes his father was wronged for being found guilty of the death of his mother (which appeared to be due to a supernatural/unknown anomaly, but no one believed Barry on that); he struggles to find a right way to justice, since as a CSI guy, he has the smarts but not seen as the cop guy. And then comes the famous origins scene. And, it turns out that this is a DC tv universe where we have (Green) Arrow, as the non-superpower superhero guy, and a superpowered The Flash as the current pillars in a world in need of some superheroes, as opposed to the traditional trinity foundation of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Curious…

But, I like how “The Flash” hints at the campy (because The Flash is the campy one, compared to everybody else in the DC Universe). There’s even a – spoiler alert! – Linda Park (a character from the Flash family – i.e., the love interest of the 2nd Flash a.k.a. Wally West); Iris West is here, but will Barry get the girl?… and which girl? (maybe this really is a universe where Wally doesn’t get to exist – again – so who knows what will happen to those who were supposed to be in Wally’s life?).

I like that “The Flash” has some fun and familiar actors: Jesse L. Martin, now practically typecasted as a cop after years of “Law & Order”; Tom Cavanagh, as the mysterious Harrison Wells of STAR Labs – who appears to be mentoring The Flash for now, but … that mystery scene at the end.. because when there’s speed like that, there will be problems with the space-time continuum (the Flash has caused a lot of problems/been the solution to problems in the DC Universe). Of course, I still see Tom Cavanagh as Ed, the bowling alley-based lawyer. I just hope his character on “The Flash” isn’t one of those problematic (evil?) mentors (of which there are probably a lot out there).

Barry Allen has a nice brief scene with Green Arrow, who has a Batman-mode moment (I’m not much of a “Arrow” watcher, so really: I know he has always been the stand-in for Batman in comics and cartoons (other than his blatant liberal politics and his “my sidekick is a junkie!” factors), but since when did Green Arrow use the grapple hook as the BatFamily have used it?). Barry and his dad’s moment – worth watching! (especially because it’s actor John Wesley Shipp, the ex-Flash!). I don’t assume that a strong pilot episode means that a series will do well, but I’m really interested now.

I also caught a chunk of the season premiere of “Arrow.” Oliver Queen thinks life is going to be better, or he’s hoping it will. Then comes this interesting Ray Palmer guy (who may or may not be The Atom, but is currently played by Brandon Routh, who played an ok Superman/Clark Kent in the not-great “Superman Returns” movie). I don’t know. Ray Palmer/The Atom was great in the “Justice League” cartoon, played by the awesome John C. McGinley. (clip!). And, then came the distressing closing scene of the season premiere. Crap. I wouldn’t recommend that Oliver and Bruce ever get together to debate who has the crappier, tragic filled life, but their love lives are such jokes considering what happens to the women in their universes, forget their parents, siblings (semi-siblings), wards, and friends.

I’m not sure what it says about the “Justice League” cartoon and its DC Animated Universe (DCAU) awesomeness that I keep comparing everything on DC regular tv to that cartoon series (like this one scene, where Green Arrow and Red Arrow – a.k.a. Speedy, a.k.a. Arsenal – bantered while unsuccessfully fighting superbad guy without the rest of the Justice League’s help). But, DC does tv well, somehow, even though (as far as the live action, broadcast network stuff goes) it really shouldn’t work that well (I’ll see how it goes with “Gotham”; it needs way more).

Back to more tv viewing…

Remaking British TV

Speaking of tv, meanwhile, I checked out episode 1 of “Gracepoint,” FOX’s remake of “Broadchurch.” It was ok, but a lot of echoing of episode 1 of “Broadchurch.”

Also: I missed David Tennant in his Scottish accent; his flat American voice as Detective Emmett Carver wasn’t the same as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy.

Detective Ellie Miller, played by Anna Gunn (previously of “Breaking Bad”) echoed some of her original version (played by Olivia Colman). But, I’m really not yet sure about her as Ellie.

And the pain of the Solanos – well, it didn’t hit the same note as the Latimers in “Broadchurch.” I remembered how raw “Broadchurch” episode 1 was, so “Gracepoint” episode 1 just didn’t hit the same feelings for me so far – the sense of confusion, tragedy, and rage (even Ellie’s rage of not getting to be the lead of the investigation). I am curious to see how they’ll try to diverge from “Broadchurch,” since they have two more episodes of time to play with. (actor Nick Nolte – eh). So, it’s kind of hard to say how I feel about “Gracepoint” beyond saying, “eh.”

I think NPR’s critic Eric Deggans was right – someone who hasn’t seen “Broadchurch” might very well enjoy “Gracepoint.” As an “American” show, it felt higher quality than a lot of American crime shows and I did like seeing actor Michael Pena as the dad of the victim (definitely more for that feeling of American diversity and he’s turning into one of those character actors who keeps popping up).

The more I think about it, I’m starting not to “blame” FOX for wanting to try the remake of a really good show. And, anyway, as I said in a previous post, as a mystery series, “Broadchurch” was a little off the mark, and it wasn’t the best kind of mystery and wasn’t that unique – a more traditional British police detective like Inspector Lewis would have just as easily hate the media as Inspector Hardy and Sgt. Miller, but he would have solved the case in two hours and had more bodies piling up. My feelings about the first two episodes of “Broadchurch” weren’t that strong (I’ve seen other British detective shows that either took a weirder direction or wrapped things up far tighter – like for instance, the Inspector Lewis series), but it’s one of those shows where the journey got really gripping.  I’m really not sure how season 2 of “Broadchurch” will work, but I wonder if British shows are just weirder or more aggressive to go all in because of their shorter “seasons.”

It’s hard to say how American remakes of British shows do all that well – some adaptations do become successful (a whole bunch from the 1970’s, like “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and even “Sanford and Son”; and of course, there is “The Office”). “Prime Suspect” didn’t do well (but apparently, according to tv critic Alan Sepinwall, it got better as the season went on, but I wasn’t watching it and I had wanted to like it). The hard part for any remake is how to stand up on your own, or are you just a remake? It remains to be seen how “Gracepoint” will do, but maybe it won’t be so bad… Eh.

On the other hand, it’s another season of “Inspector Lewis” on “Masterpiece Theatre”! Lewis is going to un-retire to help Hathaway, who somehow got promoted to becoming inspector instead of quitting the police force (oh, no – he’s going to become Inspector Morse – alcoholic, sad but for his music – whatever his brand of music is, since it was something that looked like folk pop rock or whatever), and has his own sergeant.

It still amazes me how the Inspector Morse and spawned spinoffs has exploited the landscape of Oxford, England, and managed to make it the capital murder of England (and how Morse, Lewis, etc., still arrest people).  Some stuff can’t be remade, because of its time and place – Oxford, 1980s to now, gave us the Morse and spinoffs; I don’t know if a show works as well without its setting (so, no, I don’t think I want an American version of Morse, even his 1960s version).

Ah, television…

More Television Fall 2014 – Gotham Edition

So just few weeks into the fall 2014 tv season, and I’m already behind (nothing new).

Kind of impressive how ABC is riding high on its “TGIT” (that is, TGIF substituted by Thursday and three Shonda Rimes-produced tv shows).

I usually think it takes Episode 2 (or 3 or 4) for me to better assess a new tv show… Episode 2 of “Gotham” was ok, so I’ll continue with “Gotham” for now. Basic plot summary: Detectives Gordon and Bullock investigated a child (adolescent) trafficking case. Selina Kyle (a.k.a. future Catwoman) got swallowed into it, but her cat skills and wiles would get her out of it (not a spoiler; this is future Catwoman, after all). I liked the way Gordon and Bullock did their version of the good cop/bad cop: Bullock basically beats up the child trafficker abetter, telling him that Gordon, the better cop, was so mad about the subject that he was just going to stand there and let Bullock do some brutality. I guess it was in Donal Logue’s delivery: the line worked somehow. Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney was a little campy but it worked: she was still mightily pissed by the betrayal of Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot – and the godfather-ish Carmine Falcone would be keeping an eye on her, making her halt any moves to take over his territory and forcing her to continue the guise of loyalty to him. Hmm.

Oliver Sava raised a good point over at The A.V. Club: the struggle for “Gotham” is gritty vs. campy.  Fish Mooney is campy; the gritty is whether the crime gang war will get interesting or not. The show feels just a little schizophrenic: big cast, lots of storylines to play with, but no focus. (a little like, say, the first episodes of “Agents of SHIELD” to me). I’m not a Penguin fan, but his level of violence was … icky?  I can’t even describe it, but then again, I probably never remembered him as a slash and bash kind of villain.

The women characters were still not very impressive (they might need their own plot to become anything interesting). Barbara as  Gordon’s fiancee would have to find a better way to “help” him (squealing to the media about the child trafficking case when he asked her not to: eh, not the wisest of moves).  Renee Montoya and her Major Crimes Unit (not to mention the rest of Gotham PD) seemed to really think the worst of Gordon, but nothing has yet to come of it. (except to give Gordon stress).

The Bruce and Alfred moment – interesting (to me, anyway). The child trafficking case reminded me of how having adult Bruce would’ve been handy. The mayor of Gotham messed things up, by shipping the street kids to upstate (yeah, we all think that “upstate” is a solution). Had there been a Batman/adult Bruce: yes, Batman would have rescued the kids and beat the crap out of the child traffickers, but Bruce would have spent the money on getting the kids to schools, apprenticeships, and jobs, via a Wayne Foundation thing.

In the meantime, Bruce was the deeply troubled kid and Alfred’s version of tough love evidently wasn’t working.  Alfred turned to Gordon to give Bruce a perspective, and Gordon sensibly raised the whole “shouldn’t the kid be in therapy?” and Alfred was all “well, I’m abiding by the wishes of the Waynes to let Master Bruce figure things out” and “I don’t know how to raise kids.” Yeah, now we know why Bruce barely stayed sane by adulthood: the delicate balance of anger management, depression, and entitlement (because there were enough hints of spoiled brat Bruce) would be something hard to reach.

I know “Gotham” isn’t necessarily going to be the young Bruce show (or else he’d be older and we’d have “Smallville” all over again), but I have to wonder if just touching on the subject of young Bruce might be interesting because this doesn’t get shown often.

This week, I re-read “Batman: Court of Owls” Vol. 1 and read “Batman: Court of Owls” Vol. 2 (which I bought at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival) – and there was this scene where Bruce talked about how, as a traumatized kid, losing his parents, he went into boy detective mode and tried to figure out if a conspiracy killed his parents, and not a random “Joe Chill.” The flashback was eerie: the kid who speculated and placed himself in real danger, but for luck saving him. Adult Bruce then got his ass nearly pommeled by the Court of Owls over who would claim Gotham, but he fought back, partly thanks to his BatFamily’s faith in him (and Commissioner Gordon’s faith in Batman and the BatFamily).

Would this tv show go there? Not sure if the Court of Owls would be the right tactic (then again, creepy as hell authoritarians who think they control the town, pre-Batman – why not? hey, there has to be more than the mobsters and corrupt politicians). And, since I mentioned in the previous post about Gotham’s legal community: according to the A.V. Club, “Gotham” is bringing on Harvey Dent already? … this cast is getting large. But, then again, if you’re going to be filled with the cops and crooks, you’re going to want the lawyers, and in the Bat-verse, Harvey Dent is the most known of the lawyers (who has a ton of his own problems). Hmmm…

Stay tuned, BatFans…