Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bring On the Glut

Between the new job and tight finances, I haven't been able to get to the shop as much lately. Thankfully, there's TV to fall back on... and with the success with genre shows such as Lost and Heroes, it looks like I may not even have to read comics anymore.

Bzzzzzzt!We watched the preview pilot of The Bionic Woman through our On-Demand service on Sunday. Possibly one of the shows we were most excited about in the new Fall line-up. Being of a certain age, we well remember the original from our childhood, and were eager to see what modern storytelling and special effects could be brought to bear to update it.

As is, I thought it was kind of weak. All the pieces were there, yet they stop just short of coming together as a satisfying whole. Jaime Sommers has been turned into a twenty-something bartender who has been saddled with the care of her younger sister after the death of their mother. Her boyfriend is a Reed Richards type, equal parts brillaint and clueless, who gets her mixed up in some black ops/super soldier program after an awful car wreck. There's also some business about a pre-existing, evil bionic woman and the boyfriends father that sets up some adversaries right off the bat.

I think the smartest thing here is the introduction of antagonists and certain central mysteries. That may be enough of a hook to keep viewers coming back. My quibble with the show (as is... we were wondering if the pilot we saw is actually the same one that will air tonight) is that the viewer never really gets an idea of who Jaime is before, or after, her transformation. (It looks like they're playing off the idea from the original appearance of Jaime in the Six Million Dollar Man where the addition of bionics made her a little unstable) There seems to be a strong question of whether the human or the machine is actually in charge, but it would help to know what kind of person she is to start off with. I found no real connection to Jaime before she got the upgrade, so it's hard to know what is at stake for her.

On the special effects front, it was a little unimpressive. The best bits were seeing the nanites (or whatever) at work when she first wakes up and later seeing through her bionic eye. I thought the eye thing was a nice tweek, that instead of just giving her telescopic vision, the eye scans around, Terminator-style, identifying potential threats. The fight scenes seemed a little muddled, and it didn't help that the NBC sanctioned soundtrack kicks into overdrive at these times.

Also, I think they should lose the kid sister. After the first ten minutes, I turned to my girlfriend and said "I don't know if I have the patience for this." To my disappointment, I may give this show a few more episodes to see if it develops along. It already feels a little too tinkered with, so my faith is a somewhat dimmed.

Say cheese!During the winter break last season, we just stopped watching TV entirely. There was nothing that we felt all that urgent about, except Heroes. Somehow we missed the first few episodes when is came back, and never caught up. We dumped in favor of getting the season DVD that would surely come out before the new season got started. I kind of glad we did that. A few weeks ago, we watched the whole Season 1 over a few days, and it definitely holds together well.

The show is a comic book readers wet dream, really. I know I'll watch this show now til the bitter end. I have a much longer post in me about the show, but for now I'm just looking at the season opener.

It's a quiet opener, really. It resets the status quo from the end of last season. Most of the characters make some screen time (except Niki and clan, which leads me to believe that DL may have bought it) plus some new ones. We find out most of the fates left in the air by the climatic battle in Kirby Plaza, though some bring up new questions. We have what looks like the begininng of the central plots for this season: a) the spooky guy referred to in last season as being worse than Sylar b) Hiro in feudal Japan and c) exposing the cabal of the older powered characters.

The highlights, for me, were: to see Parkman become competent at something, Claire and Noah struggling to live "normal, ordinary" lives, and the inclusion of more non-English speaking characters. It's basically the same structure as Season 1, with everyone scattered, slowly coming together as the threat makes itself known. I'm looking forward to more.

Don't steal my girlfriend, Journeyman!I nearly didn't watch Journeyman. It seemed like a limited concept, and with the rush to get these genre shows out, I couldn't foresee the awesomeness that it is. Bionic Woman might want to poach some of the writers from Journeyman, because they get the character stuff right. Without getting everything spelled out for them, the viewer gets just enough to flesh out these people.

It's a genre show, but it feels like a drama first. The main character finds himself getting hauled off to the past without any warnings or any direction. Meanwhile, while he's gone, his friends and family think he's got a drug problem. So, while trying to figure out if he's going crazy or if he's actually travelling to the past, he's also trying to save his marriage and career. It doesn't help that he's apparently had issues of loss, maybe a little drug abuse and who knows what else, that make everything he's trying to describe sound ten times worse. The show has a strong emotional component, with the time travel gimmick coming in a distant second.

I was already hooked by the time a certain reveal happens in the last 15 minutes or so. I won't spoil it here, but what I thought would be a series of random jumps to help out people in the past suddenly became something far greater and mysterious. It was one last little hook that will probably keep me for the rest of the season.