Wednesday, November 04, 2009

So I watched the premiere of V Tuesday night, and I have mixed feelings. As a huge fan of the original series, I was kinda let down. In the original, we see the Visitors arrive, tell us that they are here to be our friends and to help us, and then see them doing just that. We gradually get hints that things aren't quite as simple as they seem, with reports of people disappearing mysteriously, and word of a conspiracy of scientists being bandied about. Finally, we learn the true nature of the Visitors when reporter Mike Donovan sneaks aboard their ship and sees them eating rodents, and then gets in a fight with one of the aliens and rips their fake human face off, revealing that they are actually big-@$$ lizards.

(I wrote all that without looking anything up. Nerd!)

In this new version, we see the Visitors arrive, and they tell us that they are here to help us. We hear news reports that they are giving us cures to all sorts of diseases and stuff, but we don't really see them working with humans. We see humans who don't trust the Visitors, but aren't given any concrete reasons why.

The first time we spend any real time with the Visitors, it's their leader telling a news reporter to not ask any questions that will paint them in a negative light. We also see a meeting of an underground resistance against the Visitors (all of whom have either witnessed, or know someone who has witnessed, something that makes them aware that there's more to the Visitors that meets the eye, even though we don't see any of that evidence). At the resistance meeting (and it's not clear what they're resisting, since we haven't seen what the Visitors are actually doing) we are told that the Visitors are not as human as they appear, but are actually literally lizards in human clothing.

Then there's a big fight, and we see Visitors with their skin ripped, and it's really shocking. But not as shocking as it might have been if we hadn't just been told five minutes earlier!

That's my big problem with last night's episode: a lot of telling, not showing. It was slick and well-acted, and I like the idea that the Visitors have apparently been around for a lot longer, infiltrating humanity before going public. And a coworker, who had no history with the show, was really surprised at the actually revelation that the visitors really were lizards. So maybe it's just the baggage I brought with me that hurt my enjoyment of the show.

Regardless, now that the big reveals are out of the way, the show needs to forge its own direction. So I'm going to give it a few weeks to see how I feel about it before I decide one way or the other.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Getting away from the whining about human nature in my previous post, here's what I'm watching on TV on Tuesdays:

On CBS, I watch NCIS. While the cool kids probably don't consider it hip and edgy, I've been a fan since the very beginning. (And when I say "very beginning," I mean I saw the characters in their very first appearance in a two-part episode of JAG, another favorite series.) I like the crime stuff okay, but I could get that from any number of shows. I watch NCIS for the characters.

As soon as I'd heard that Mark Harmon was going to be the lead, I was probably sold on NCIS. He's one of those old-school TV stars, like James Garner or Robert Conrad, who just seems to slip effortlessly into the roles he plays, and totally owns the screen when he's on it. As NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, he epitomizes cool on TV like nobody else I can think of. He's such a force for calm and reason on the show, which really helps sell it on those occasions that he explodes into righteous anger. He also balances the zanier, more extreme characterizations of the other members of his team, and it's those characters that make the show so watchable.

This season, NCIS is joined by spin-off NCIS: Los Angeles. It would be easy to dismissively say, "It's just like NCIS, only in LA," but I'm happy to say it's not quite that simple. Like the parent show, it's got a distinctive visual style, and it's got the same sense of humor. But instead of dealing with a team of characters, it pretty much focuses on a pair of partners, played by Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J. The interplay between them is like watching a fun buddy movie. It doesn't have a complex, twisty mythology involving time-traveling islands or anything but, like Castle, which I talked about last week, sometimes a show can keep you coming back by giving you characters you want to spend time with.

The third Tuesday night show I'm watching is also new this season, The Forgotten, produced by CSI/Pirates of the Caribbean/Big Explodey Action Movie guy Jerry Bruckheimer. It's a crime/procedural series about a group of civilians who try to identify unidentified victims of crime after the police no longer have the resources to devote to now-cold cases. And it's got that Jerry Bruckheimer TV series dark, moody, broody look and feel to it.

It's also got Christian Slater as the lead. I like Christian Slater just fine, but that wasn't the selling point. No, it was a combination of Michelle Borth (from the HBO series Tell Me You Love Me) in the cast and Stephen Gallagher as writer/producer that got me watching. Gallagher has written books and other TV shows that I've really liked, most recently creating last season's short-lived Crusoe. And Michelle Borth is hot.

I can't say I've completely embraced the show in the same way I have NCIS: Los Angeles or other new shows this season. I watched the pilot, skipped the next episode, but came back the following week and have stuck around since. What keeps me interested, I think, is the focus is more on identifying the victims and learning who they were than on solving the crime. Instead of focusing on forensic detail, we see the characters talking to people to learn about the victim as a person. That feels just a little more positive and interesting to me, and that's what keeps me coming back.

As I write this, I haven't seen the premiere of the remake of V but I'm totally planning on watching it. I loved the original V miniseries as a kid, and this one is produced by Scott Peters, creator of The 4400, another much-missed favorite. Plus it's got Elizabeth Mitchell, Morena Baccarin, and the chick who played Supergirl on Smallville. So, you know, totally there.
Sunday before last, my car got hit from behind while stopped at a stoplight. By a guy in a big pickup truck on his cell phone. With his kids in the car.

As of today, his insurance company still hasn't gotten a hold of him. So I'm in limbo until that happens. And, before anyone asks, I was stupid and didn't call the police when the accident happens. I figured nobody seemed to be injured, our vehicles were driveable, and the police have better things to do with their time. And, before anyone asks, I realize now that was stupid, and will probably end up causing me huge frustration and problems.

I hate that we live in a world where the police aren't just there to protect us against crime and enforce the law. We need them to make people do the right thing, to just stand up and be honest.

The other day I was driving down to the insurance place to have the damage to my car appraised. The freeway on-ramp is metered, and there's a carpool lane for cars with more than one person in them. And as I sat in the line of cars waiting to get onto the freeway, I saw one car after another zip down the carpool lane with only one person in them. And that's when I think I snapped. Or just broke.

I try to be a nice guy. I try to be polite and courteous and follow the rules. And what's the point? People push in front of me in lines, they race past me on the freeway, they get whatever they want in stores and restaurants and wherever because they know that if they push and shove and shout they can pretty much bully the rest of the world into giving them whatever they want. And they know that, because it totally works for them.

A friend of mine told me that she's reading a book that says just that: if you raise your kids to be polite and caring and to follow the rules, they're just going to get screwed later in life, because nobody else is raising their kids like that. And that upsets me on a fundamental level.

Don't get me wrong; being who I am has benefited me in the only ways that are really important. I have people who respect and love me because I'm not a pushy jerk. Lura wouldn't be with me if I was that sort of person.

More importantly, I can live with myself. Maybe I feel bad or tiny or powerless because I can't even get a fucking store clerk to back me up when I ask people to not cut in front of me in line, but I'd rather feel all those things than how I know I'd feel if I pushed in front of people or treated them badly. And I'd rather live with the frustration of getting stepped on all the time than the knowledge that I had chosen to be a jerk.

But that doesn't make it any more fun.