Christmas Challenge: Tru Calling

TRU CALLING: 2.06 “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…Again”

This is kind-of a different episode to review for the Christmas Challenge. This episode was never aired. The final episode of the short-lived series, it only lives on the second season DVD set. But it’s a holiday episode and a good episode of a good show, so I wanted to make sure it hit the list.

Tru Calling was one of my favorite shows when it aired. It hit around the same time period where networks thought viewers wanted supernatural help — you know, things talking to people, where they started doing strange things just to help the world a bit. Joan of Arcadia, Wonderfalls, heck even Ghost Whisperer land in this set of shows, and you have no idea how dismal it is to realize that the one that took off was Ghost Whisperer. Man, I miss Tru Calling.

This episode just enforced it more. And you must remember, this is a Christmas episode. But not in the way you think. Yes, there was a dead Santa, but instead of having a “Ho-ho-help me” (their joke, not mine), we had a cadaver who has been dead for a while asking for help. What’s more? Tru actually has to get some help of her own from her arch-nemesis Jack.

Tru’s storyline was standard Tru Calling fare, but the entire episode was set at Christmastime, even landing Tru and Jack at Christmas Eve service and a pre-Hangover Zach Galifianakis in a Santa suit, trying to impress his new gal pal Carrie. The best part of the episode had to be Davis handing out gifts for kids, but since he couldn’t get hold of the late Santa’s bag of toys, he’s forced to hand out what he could find. As one kid asks for a ferret, David hands him a bone saw, telling him he can use it to cut…wood. So what does the next child ask for? Super-excitedly, a bone saw! Instead, she got a splatter guard. Dexter would be pleased.

Sure, the episode goes to the cliche side when the entire team — including Jack — end up at Tru’s for Christmas dinner, but hey, she’s in the Christmas spirit.

Ok, so Christmas aside, let’s really talk about this episode. If you haven’t seen Tru Calling or if you’re a fan that hasn’t seen this episode, you might want to skip down to “Recommendation,” because I’m going to go all story-arc on you. This episode was huge! It all starts with Harry discovering that his father is working with Jack, something we found out at the end of the first season, but the team has been blind to. The day unfortunately rewinds and they cover their tracks. In the end, we discover how close Davis is getting to Carrie, Jack and Richard’s mole. We may have known that already (I can’t remember, but I think we did), but the big news here is that Davis trusts her enough with Tru’s secret. This is bad news all the way around, and her quick glance to the boys with a slight nod of the head is just showing us how dangerous she really is.

Then there’s poor Jensen, who True saved in a previous episode. He has a new appreciation of life (and Tru), but a side comment from Jack indicates that he’s not ready to let that death go. Jensen’s in trouble.

But you know what? We’ll never find out what happens! This episode had the classic setup of a fantastic mid-season finale and never returned. I actually yelled at the end of my viewing this episode…and I was rewatching it and knew what was coming. I’m heartbroken all over again. But I’m glad I knew it all.

Recommendation: For a true Tru Calling fan it’s required viewing. If not for the Christmas feel, for the development of the series. Then have your self a merry little sobfest as you think about what could have been.


Character Deaths on TV

Please note this might include possible spoilers for shows that you haven’t seen before–both past and present shows.

The most recent episode of The Vampire Diaries has really caused a lot of chat around the web about the freshman series. And honestly, who can blame them. To kill of a character that was in the prime of a storyline takes guts. And apparently executive producer Kevin Williamson has them.

In a recent interview about the show, Williamson said the following:

No one’s safe on this show. We’ve reached the point when we’re watching TV that there’s no jeopardy, no risk, no stakes, when we know our lead characters aren’t going to be killed. Well, that’s not true on this show. I’m starting with the supporting characters and I’m working my way in. Everyone’s going to die on this show. This is a show where characters you love may die, and it’ll be unexpected and shocking, so get ready for it. It’s as simple as that. And [Vicki] was the first casualty.

I love it. What balls! And honestly, I feel like that’s the failure of so many shows: the fact that they’re afraid to do anything to lead characters.

It’s not that I’m a fan of aimless death of characters. Without a purpose, there’s no reason to do it. Or, on the other hand, if it’s just a publicity stunt, that’s a waste of a viewer’s time (and usually, not as big as you’d think).

From someone who’s a fan of Joss Whedon’s work, there’s clearly a bias on my end toward character death. He knew how to do it, when to do it, and how to do it with the most emotion involved possible. Taking the death of Tara McClay alone–it was a heartbreaking moment that really turned the character of Willow. Right as we were growing more and more attached to Tara overall.

And then there was Doyle from Angel, another risky move by a freshman series. But without his death, who’s to say that Cordelia’s story would have progressed in the way it did. No visions? Plus, Whedon took the extra risk: to kill off a new character–one who’s name was recognizable from Roseanne fame–only a few episodes in. Sound familiar, Vampire Diaries?

I feel like that’s even more of the struggle. It’s one thing to kill someone off, but what if they’re someone that people love? Well, that just makes that much more of an impact.

No, I mean the actor? What if people love the actor?

Welcome to Heroes. Heroes made a great move by creating an ensemble cast filled with new names and famous ones. The problem is, they won’t get rid of any of them. Sure, there’s a death this year, and there have been before. But no one ever leaves. Now the show is more unruly than ever before!

The problem is, some people think a show is quality because of its actors. In some sense, it is. But there are also directors, writers, producers–and entire treasure trove of people that come together to watch a show. Sure, actors might bring a viewer in, but substance keeps them watching. I didn’t stop watching Joan of Arcadia because they killed off Judith. I didn’t stop watching Tru Calling because they killed off Luc. I kept watching because I knew something must be coming that made that death worth it.

And House? Having a doctor commit suicide when you didn’t even know something was wrong gave the show the turning point it needed to get House as a character out of his rut and developing as a person all over again.

So yes, I’m a fan of character deaths, and I adore that Vampire Diaries has jumped in with both feet, knowing that they’ll risk it all. They’ll risk characters lives. It’s a dark show. They should! And Williamson has a point: If you can’t be scared for the people you care about, how can you be invested in a show like this? Something has to be at stake.

Pardon the pun.

Summer starts at ‘The Lake’

THE LAKE: Episodes 1-4

Have you been catching up on online series? It’s been hard. In fact, I think it was one of those things I wanted to do at the beginning of the summer, but I got all wrapped up in summer series instead. They’ve been incredibly impressive!

But the WB has been publicizing its new series, The Lake. A teenage drama that is directed by Jason Priestley. Now, ultimately, I don’t want to trust Jason Priestley because I naturally assumed that he’s seen the future and is trying to make sure that innocent people die as fate would have it (Tru Calling, anyone?), but I decided that for tonight, I would check it out.

I have to admit, I don’t understand why this show just started. It’s clearly a summer show. I mean, a bunch of kids–well, families–come to the lake for the summer. That’s the plot so far. The WB is releasing four episodes at a time every Monday, so you’d think that they would have started in June, not August. I mean, school’s about to start. It’s the opposite of summer.

Anyway, so far, nothing has really happened. People seem to have coupled off: the established couple, the psuedo-couple/best friends, and the newbies with the crush. Of course, our main girl, Olivia, seems to have a crush on the taken boy, but that seems to have disappeared after the first couple episodes.

And let’s talk about her for a second. Will someone tell me who she looks like? Right now, she’s reminding me of a cross between Kristen Stewart, Jodie Sweetin (yes, back when Full House ended–it’s the teeth, I think), and the girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp version) who is rejected by a squirrel. It’s kinda bugging me.

Annnnyway, I wish I had more to report. This show seems to have a slow start. Apparently, something has happened to Olivia to make her want to escape and be a “normal girl” for a while. I wonder if something happened to her parents; maybe they were killed. She said they were in Florida, but something seems odd with that comment.

Then there’s Luke’s sister Shelby, who is staying at his grandmother’s house and all knocked up. They’re keeping it a secret, of course, and Shelby doesn’t remember how it happened. Rape? Drugs? Alcohol? I guess we don’t quite know yet.

Madison just discovered that Shelby is there, but I guess it’s still up in the air as to whether she knows why. I guess I’d have to get into episode five before discussing that.

There really isn’t much else to say. I guess I was expecting more secrets and lies after seeing web series like Prom Queen and Sorority Forever. This could even have some sort of mysterious feel like Hidden Palms. But maybe that’s not the kind of show it is. I guess I just have to watch more to see where it’s going.

I do chuckle to see that Olivia’s aunt is Amber from Clueless and was also in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She’s actually being nice in this series. Meanwhile, if you take a look at Madison’s step-mom, let me know if you recognize her.

Maybe next time I’ll reveal where I’ve seen her before…if you don’t tell me in the comments below.

I forgot how much I like ‘Raising the Bar’

One of the risks of a show’s hiatus–whether it be summer or otherwise–is that a show might be forgotten. That’s why so many shows end their seasons with cliffhangers. Who shot J.R.? Are George and Izzy going to die? Buffy killed Angel and left Sunnydale–for good?

Of course, with newer shows, it’s harder to do that, since you’re not 100% sure they will be brought back. I mean, I think we’ve all had our own pain of getting completely wrapped up in a storyline, just to find out that it’s been cut and you’ll never know (Tru Calling, Joan of Arcadia… Bah.).

Anyway, one show that went the safer route (if I recall correctly) was TNT’s Raising the Bar, which returns on June 8. And I remember how I liked this show. That it was quality television with good characters and good writing.

But I forgot how much I liked it. Last night, I was able to catch and episode and a half (sorry, House Hunters ate up one half an hour), and it just reminded me how good the show is. How much I really do like everyone in it.

It completely reminded me how must I like Jerry and Bobby. Together or not, I like them. I’d completely forgotten about Bobby’s crappy husband, and how he was so horrible to her. And even though it appeared her was out of the picture by the end of the season, I really hope we get to see or find out more.

And I totally underestimated how horrible Judge Kessler is! I mean, I remember her being harsh, but what a horrendous b*tch! She won’t give Jerry a chance for anything, and yes, he does push her buttons, but still.

And I forgot how much I don’t like the blonde (whose name I am completely blanking on right now). The way she stretches things to work in her favor. And her boss! Her boss! He’s horrible! But then again, that makes you have some sort of reaction to the show, which is a strength in my book any day.

Oh, I can’t wait. I’m a bit nervous because they’ve cut Jerry’s hair–let’s not make him too straight-laced, alright?–but I think he’ll be able to be his unruly self. It’s just one of those shows that surprises you. It looks like just another courtroom drama, but then it’s so much better.

So if you haven’t checked it out, go look and see when reruns are airing. And then catch the premiere June 8 at 10:00.

Are you dead or alive? I can never decide.

KT wonders whether you believe in ghosts. Raked wonders if Tru Calling was finally renewed by FOX.

DOLLHOUSE: 1.10 “Haunted”


Okay, here’s the thing.  Margaret goes through a long, painful process to have her brain scanned by the Dollhouse because she’s been scared all her life that someone will kill her for her money.  But, as Adelle says, Echo’s body is only ever a loan for Margaret.  So yes, that’s all very well that Margaret has the Dollhouse as backup in case of murder, but all that backup gets her is a chance to play detective and the dubious pleasure of hearing what everyone really thought of her.  She thought this was a good idea why, exactly?

Paranoia.  Okay.  Character trait.  Whatever, moving on.

Here’s the other thing.  Uh, where are the police?  Surely the son couldn’t make it look so very natural that the police have given up on this mysterious death already?

Nitpicking aside, I do like a good who-dunnit, and I thought that this one succeeded at laying out the evidence so that I could think back and say, yup, it all adds up.  And wasn’t it fascinating that Margaret’s son (who, I assume, had been working on Wall Street as his mother wanted) guessed Echo’s identity because he was a client of the Manhattan Dollhouse.  That’s the first we’ve seen of how word of Dollhouse’s existence circulates among the super-rich.  That also suggests that when Echo told Ballard in “Man on the Street” that there are 20 Dollhouses out there, she was giving him at least some real information.

But this week – oh, Paul.  You’re completely divorced from the main plot yet again (though the preview for next week suggests that won’t last).  Although Mellie continues to be charming, their sex scene was every bit as disturbing as I’m sure it was intended to be.  And Paul’s self-flagellation is not going to stay interesting for long.  However, despite my “he snuck into the FBI building…how?” skepticism, I did like the scene with his former colleague, Loomis.  I liked her when she appeared before and I think she would be a good partner for Ballard – someone to help him but also keep him a little more grounded.  Interesting visual in which the search results pop up and then disappear, but I’m not sure what we’re supposed to infer from this.  Is someone out there digitally watching the search and suppressing that info just as the results are coming in?

Topher and Sierra’s play day was adorable.  And of course Adelle would understand that Topher needs a little companionship from time to time, given what we learned about her in the last episode.  It was interesting to me that Topher didn’t seem to care which doll became his buddy; a contrast to Adelle – it seemed to me that the Roger program belonged specifically to Victor.

Speaking of Victor and Sierra, I think I have to say that Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman continue to out-act Eliza Dushku.  I like Eliza, and I don’t think she’s a poor actress at all.  But… Enver and Dichen have been putting out some really stellar performances and have been doing a great job of making each imprint seem like a completely different person, and I think they deserve some recognition for that.

Tangent from nowhere:  I wonder what the Dollhouse does to give its actives necessary physical characteristics.  I’m talking about Victor’s horse buyer character – if his hands didn’t have lots of calluses and a certain amount of dirt under the nails, wouldn’t be that be a flag to other horse people?

And although I liked the main plot, it seemed odd in such a short season to have a stand alone episode this close to the end.  I wonder if there are more clues here than perhaps we realize.  Did we ever learn where Adelle met Margaret?  Something related to Adelle’s former job, which Margaret might have given funding to? Or perhaps a thematic contrast is being set up: someone who didn’t come nicely back to the Dollhouse to be wiped.  Total speculation here, guys; I have no idea.

Raked’s thoughts after the jump.

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Unpredictability: A Surprising Concept

Wednesday’s always a tough day to post, especially now when Fringe isn’t being aired and Presidential announcements take up an hour of primetime. So instead of recapping or finding shows to watch just to post a review, I thought that I’d just kick around some thoughts that are bouncing about in my head.

Particularly, unpredictability. If you’ve noticed, I seem to be currently enthralled with a show called The Best Years. It’s a drama for teens involving a freshman college crowd. In other words, I’m not their key audience.

And honestly, when I first heard about it, I just figured it was another college show. Just like Greek or Saved by the Bell: The College Years. I’m sure you can name some others. Sorority Forever, even, just without the mystery. The only difference is that this one’s from Canada.

And maybe that makes all the difference. As I’m watching, more and more outrageous things keep happening, one right after the other. I think I’ve seen four seasons of Dawson’s Creek storylines happen in just eleven episodes of The Best Years (that’s right, I haven’t even finished the first season yet). JC and I were discussing it, and he asked if Canada was known to make such over-the-top storylines, and I have no idea. (The only other Canadian show I’m familiar with is Life with Derek, and it’s not quite this insane.)

But I think that’s the reason that I’m hooked. It’s so over-the-top, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s completely over the top. As soon as I think Sam and Trent will live happily ever after, you find out he’s an addict. As soon as you think that a fight is just a fight, someone gets hit by a car.

Let’s look at another show, Ghost Whisperer. This show, I was 100% skeptical of its quality. Not to say it’s the best show on television, but it certainly gives us a new way of looking at it. I was sure that Jim would die. I was sure that he’d hang around as a ghost or he would just disappear. What I didn’t expect was for him to jump into another body, live as someone with amnesia, only to have a near death experience and remember his life as Jim again. It’s all about twists and turns that you don’t expect.

So what of it? Everything has twists and turns, true. I mean, shows are based on having general twists and turns just so that you can keep the show fresh without predictability. For example, in Tru Calling when you find out some background on Davis: twist. When the game changes for Tru, and you suddenly don’t know whether the person she’ll save will live or die: turn. You have to have them to keep shows alive (Tru Calling, unfortunately, being an exception).

And then there’s the twists and turns that happen in every episode. This is mainly seen in procedurals, where you think you’re following the killer and then you find out you’re not.

Unfortunately, some of these twist and turns become as predictable as the shows that have none. When you’re watching a procedural and they think they’ve caught the killer at 9:30, you know that somehow they’ll find out it’s someone else. You might not know who yet, but you certainly start looking before the twist happens. And honestly, even though the game changed in Tru Calling, you start thinking that way and each show has it’s ups, downs, and ultimately a pattern. (Of course, if the show had continued on, maybe we would see that change–but you get my point.)

The jarring, eye-opening moments where writers actually look to see what people will think and go in another direction is where the unpredictability and newness lies. It’s not that they go in the opposite direction (Jim dies and is gone forever) or the direction most would assume (Jim becomes a ghost). They find that one direction not yet traveled (Jim jumps into another body). It changes the course of the show while also keeping you guessing. Many a time I assumed Sam Jim Jim Sam would leave, eventually coming back after a season finale cliffhanger. If you’ll notice, my predicted line didn’t happen.

I think the error of some shows nowadays is trying to find that little known direction. Sometimes shows get too lost in their story arch–or lack of one, in the case of procedurals–that the jarring moments that intrigue the audience gets lost in the shuffle. That, or they just decide to play it safe as opposed to switching it up a little.

Sure, some shows get hurt by the jarring moments–Heroes coming to mind–so a cast that can go with it realistically is really necessary, but ultimately, writing should step it up to see where they can go. But you can’t wait too long. Don’t change it up just because ratings are going down (Joan of Arcadia). If it’s too late, it can be too convoluded to follow.

Anyway, I’m not sure my post has reached it’s conclusion in a manner to which I’m pleased, but I’ll sum it up here: You know those shows that tend to stick around and you just don’t know why? Perhaps it’s just a bit of that unpredictability–the freedom to move away from perception–that keeps us all intrigued. It’s not enough just to do a twist; you need to be aware of what the audience will expect that twist to be and how it will pan out.

So test out a show or two that you’re skeptical about. Then come back and let me know if something changed your mind. Was it too predictable or completely off the wall? Will you come back for more?

The glorious world of publishing…kinda

CASTLE: 1.01 “Flowers for Your Grave”

I fell asleep mid-Heroes last night, so you’ll have to wait for that review. Fortunately, I did wake up in time to see Castle.

(Actually, I had no idea I fell asleep in Heroes until I realized that Sylar was not holding a stuffed rabbit anymore, and people with guns were bashing in doors. I figured I might have missed a step there. But back to Castle…)

I’m going to be honest. It was a wee bit hard to watch. I’m in publishing in my non-Raked life, and I’ve never been in such a glorious surrounding for a launch party. Maybe I just don’t have someone as glorious as Rick Castle on my list. I wonder if James Patterson has such glorious parties (btw, LOVED his cameo–can we bring him back week-to-week?).

Are authors really that popular? Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Stephanie Meyer is battling people off with a stick (it’s pretty easy, they’re all in the 4- to 5-foot height range). But mayors of towns? Can she really call in special favors to get FINGERPRINTS ASSESSED? I mean, don’t get me wrong. Celebs get special treatment. But I want to hear the truth of an author getting such special treatment.

So the show had its moments. Rick was funny sometimes, though he was a little over the top at times. The one thing I actually expected him to do was throw his shoe at the bad guy and he didn’t even do that.

As for Kate, she was dull as bricks. Not even a ton of them. Those might actually be interesting to watch someone drop. No, she was dull as, say, three bricks. Rick nailed her on having a past–someone she loved died and was never caught. Congratulations, Rick. You watched Crossing Jordan. And Bones. And Tru Calling. And probably about forty other procedurals out there (plus some, considering that Tru wasn’t really a procedural).

The thing is, I’m really bored with procedurals. I thought this show was going to have a twist–that all the murders were based off his books. By the end of the episode, we found out that only the first episode really had this uniqueness and that from here on out, Rick’s just hanging around while they find the bad guys in many other crimes. The same old regular procedurals we see every day, except this time, we’ve got a funny guy. Oh, and he’s writing about them Doogie Howser style at the end.

Honestly, I just seem to have lost any originality. Or, rather, the originality was used up in the first episode. Finding a woman under a pile of flowers was creepy and unique–and now it’s over.

So I guess I’ll give it another shot. I’ll try it out for another episode or two. I’m going to be honest, though. If it weren’t Nathan Fillion (man, Monday is the night for Whedon alums, huh?) playing Castle, I wouldn’t be continuing to next week. So we’ll see what happens. But I’d like to hear your thoughts, too.