Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heroes Season Three Review

I waited a couple of days after finishing Heroes to really let that finale sink in and to try and avoid hperbole. But before we dive into my review, let me just say, I am unintentionally ruining Heroes. Every time I write on this blog that I don't want something to happen, it does. For example, (SPOILER ALERT! FOUR CAR ALARM!) when I ended the last post saying that "Adrian Pasdar as Sylar-as-Nathan just isn't enough," I didn't realize I was actually describing the big twist ending to the season. Although looking back on it now, I should have.

I said before that I thought the episode "1961" was like a class in what's bad about Heroes. It felt true then. But after watching the season finale, "An Invisible Thread" is actually everything that's wrong with the show. If you had asked me, even halfway through that episode, if I was going to watch Season Four when it started up again this Fall, I would have answered with a resounding "YES!" Heroes, for all its faults, was an enjoyable show, and as long as that continued I didn't see any reason to give up on watching Zachary Quinto, Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia exploited for their hotness on a show that squanders their talents.

But... then the finale happened. And while I'm still not ready to completely give up on Heroes, I'm starting to understand better why all of us did in the first place.

The finale supposedly wrapped up all the craziness that's led us to this point, from Sylar's near-God-status and identity crisis, to Nathan's quest for redemption, to Angela and Noah Bennet realizing that The Company, for all its faults, was actually doing a neccessary job (plus a lot of other stuff, including Hiro and Ando and Claire doing things... but none of that is super important).

About halfway through the episode, I reached a gulp worthy conclusion. The show simply couldn't continue as it had been, with Sylar playing villain but still being the most compelling part of the show, and it also couldn't turn Sylar into a good guy again. He'd done way too much bad by this point and he was way too in love with his own evil for redemption (for the past few episodes, Sylar's been joy incarnate in his villainy. Torturing Claire by ookily hitting on her? Creepy, yes, but villainy at it's most villanous). Although I actually enjoyed "I Am Sylar" (the season's penultimate episode, in which Sylar uses his brand new morphing ability to change, Psycho style, between his mother and hisself in a quest to maintain his identity), it was becoming increasingly obvious that Sylar's power was getting too extreme for his own good. Now he not only can't die normally, he couldn't even be killed using the one proven method for Claire-extermination: stabbing in the back of the brain stem.

This has always been a problem on Heroes, and in superhero stories in general. You can't let your hero (or villain) have infinite power; it eliminates the tension. If your hero can't be beat (or your villain can't lose) then there's no question. It's why Superman has kryptonite, Green Lantern has the color yellow --> in fact, I'm willing to bet it's why Hiro and Peter (the only two characters close to Sylar in terms of power) lost their abilities this season, only to regain them in a lesser form (Peter can now only hold on to one power at a time, and Hiro can pause time but not fold space). But Sylar? Why, the hunger just kept driving him forward to acquire new powers all the time. It seemed that he had no choice but to commit some identity saving suicide (or power purge) at episode's end, since such an unstoppable force of evil clearly couldn't be allowed to continue to exist.

MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

Or... the show could take a page from Dollhouse or the comic Identity Crisis. You see, at episode's end, Nathan dies, right before he can start undoing all the damage he did (damage which apparently only Nathan can undo, by flying around like Superman). And so Angela Petrelli and Noah Bennet, already set to start up The Company again, prove Noah's famous line, "I'm comfortable with morally grey" and force Matt Parkman to mindrape Sylar and implant Nathan's memories. They then wake up Nathan/Sylar and set him down the path of righteousness.

There are many, many things wrong with this, but I'll try to hit the big ones:

1) Mindrape = wrong. Very wrong.
2) Mindrape= rarely permanent.
3) It doesn't really seem necessary. Sure Nathan would be helpful in the overall fight to undo all the bad he did, but he's not the only one who can do it.
3) Noah's argument "if you don't do this, Nathan will have really died," brings up a whole bag of philosophical issues that this show has nearly the inclination nor the ability to address. And if you're going to deal with heady philosophical issues, don't use it as a cheap excuse to-
4) Keep Sylar around so that you can have Zachary Quinto appear whenever he wants to, but also swing it so that you can have the character exist without the actor. I will be the first to admit that I watch for Sylar first, anything else a far away second, but I would have preferred that character get a proper goodbye death than some lame ass storytelling device.

but most importantly

5) NOAH BENNET SHOULD BE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT YOU CAN'T KEEP SYLAR ALIVE. Forget everything else. Forget how cheap and lame this is. Forget how wrong it was of the characters, how sick a deformation of their grief, and how unnecessary it is to the plot. It was also such a stupid move on Noah and Angela's part that when Sylar inevitably bubbles up to the surface (since, I don't know, what if Sylar/Nathan gets particularly pissed off one day and realizes that his hands are starting to glow with radiation? Or tries to fly and realizes that he can't because, hello, Sylar never took that damn power?!) I will be happy to see him pull the good ole two fingered brain slicing.

I didn't even get into how annoying it was that they hid the climactic fight between Peter, Nathan and Sylar from us (budget cuts, Heroes? Well then just don't have a climactic fight at all, don't pull that kind of malarkey), or how stupid just the simple fact of Nathan's death was, but this review is already much longer than the episode deserved.

Episode Grade: D
Season Grade: B- (Honestly, this should probably be lower, but I just can't bring myself to grade down something that amused me so much)

Does This Sound Like A Good Idea?



CBS, the network that enjoys the fruits of very little labour every summer with their guilty pleasure reality smash Big Brother, is at it again.

There Goes the Neighborhood premieres Sunday, August 9 at 9pm.

The idea is this:

It's family-friendly Big Brother, basically. In order to win $250,000 (half the BB prize money), 8 families in suburbia will compete each week against their neighbours to remain in the competition and win luxury prizes. In each of the 7 episodes of the competition, one family will be eliminated until only one is left standing.

But here's the catch: the entire neighbourhood is surrounded by a 20 foot wall. They won't have access to the outside world, no Internet, no phones, no nothing. The family members will have to turn to each other for everything from survival to strategy to simple entertainment.

And the whole thing is being hosted by America Idol season 3 finalist Matt Rogers.

CBS and executive producers Mike Fleiss (The Bachelor, High School Reunion) and Jay Bienstock (The Apprentice) swear that it's "truly a social experiment".

What do you think of this newest reality show offering from CBS? post in the comments below.

Casting News

LAW & ORDER: SVU
Jack & Bobby matriarch and wife to My TV favourite director Tommy Schlamme, Christine Lahti will be joining the cast of SVU as a new Assistant District Attorney. The brilliant actress is almost enough to make me actually watch the procedural ("almost" being the key word).

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
Former Sopranos star and Joey flameout Drea de Matteo will be the newest series regular on Wisteria Lane as the vixen head of a the new italian neighbours. Wil she measure up to the dearly departed Edie Britt?

THE STAGE
It seems that he'll be joining the Broadway revival cast of Lend Me a Tenor (premiering in February) but first, TR Knight might succeed in winning me over for the first time in his career by taking on the incredibly complex role of Leo Frank in Jason Robert Brown's Parade in Los Angeles.

My Bachelorette Breaking Point

That's it! I've finally had enough with Jillian Harris (or, as E!online has dubbed her, "realitart").

The girl is absurd. First of all, I haven't watched a season of The Bachelorette since Trista but are they all really so, how to put this nicely,... tarty? Jillian is as forthcoming with her physical affections as the icky Jason was, though with her I'd argue that it comes from a different place. It seems to me that Jillian is either incredibly full of herself or has no sense of self worth- it's definitely one of those two extremes. In between comments about how she's "such a good person", "incredibly honest" and "so hard working and motivated", Jillian asks constant questions like "am I your type" and "are you really here for me"? Add that to her inability to distinguish who to put her trust in and her tendency to throw the guys who really care about her out the window and it's clear that Ms. Harris' self confidence is definitely out of whack (whether it's because she thinks she's too good for the good guys or that she doesn't deserve them, either way, it's not healthy).

After this episode, I've finally come to recognize something that's been brewing for many weeks now- I severely dislike this girl. I think she's selfish yet pretends not to be, I think she's got bad taste, poor judgement and is, for lack of a better word, a "realitart".

That said, of the 4 guys she has left, I'm quite fond of two and have a definite TV crush on the other (I've decided to pretend as though Wes doesn't exist, it'll be better that way).

In tonight's episode, Jake (who was cut last week) reappeared to valiantly warn Jillian about the girlfriend that everyone knows he who shall not be named has (he even named her, it's Laurel). And though I appreciate that he was "doing the right thing", I think perhaps Jake took his hero complex a bit too far this week, coming off a bit cartoonish in the process. And after 5 hometown dates in which Jillian was grilled uncomfortably by Kiptyn's mom, ate dinner with every female relative Wes has and celebrated Reid's 30th birthday with his family, the boring Jesse was sent home alongside my beloved Michael (who not only had the best family but confessed that he must have really loved "the girl" in his heartbreaking exit interview). But, TWIST TIME, Ed came back! A favourite of mine who was never given quite enough screen time to fully steal my heart, Ed left a couple weeks ago under threat of losing his job. This week, he turned up on Jillian's doorstep asking for her to take him back (no mention of what happened with his job). Naturally, she invited him to the rose ceremony to heighten the tension. But then she ultimately gave him the rose; that makes a final 4 of Reid, Kiptyn, Ed and he who shall not be named.

I like Kiptyn, I always have. His family, though a little intense, was sweet and smart and funny and down to earth. They drink fancy wine and covet their lasagna recipe and sing the blues (literally), I love them. And Kiptyn has always had fantastic chemistry with Jillian, though the sound of his voice drives me a little crazy.

I also like Reid. I barely knew who he was until last week but he's incredibly cute in his glasses, his dynamic with his family is wonderful, he's delightfully neurotic and he completely won me over when he powwowed with the train employees when left alone during last week's group date. How sweet is it that he had a coffee with the crew and asked their advice on date attire!

But, of the remaining guys, I'd choose Ed. Sure he left, but it was mighty brave to come back (and by the way, in this economy it's just plain stupid to leave your job for a hypothetical relationship on a reality show, of course he left!). He's also the cutest of the lot (though that's strictly in my opinion), is remarkably smart and has a low key sweetness to him that I find incredibly endearing. I'd pick him, that's all I'm saying (which means that she probably won't, because she's a little nuts).

IN OTHER BACHELORETTE NEWS:

Fan (and My TV) favourite from last season's The Bachelor (and Dancing with the Stars finalist) Melissa Rycroft is finally engaged (to someone who's not Jason Mesnick, thank god). Tye Strickland, an old friend of Rycroft who became more than a friend after Mesnick dumped her on national TV, proposed on Friday and she accepted.

In other Rycroft news, Melissa is now a Good Morning America special correspondent for the summer- way to spot a good thing when you see one ABC, that's 3 shows Ms. Rycroft has lit up with her hundred watt smile.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Absurd Moment of the Week



The enthusiastic disco number at the end of Valentine; complete with killer dance moves, obvious voice dubbing, quite a bit of swagger and a sprinkling of fairy dust!

Love Survives... for a little while

I don't know how I managed to miss such crucial information but somehow I didn't know that my favourite early cancellation of the season was making a reappearance on TV this summer.

So imagine my surprise and delight to find that a new episode of Valentine had appeared on my PVR.

Starting last night (June 28th), The CW has started airing the final 4 episodes of the schmaltzy lovefest that was once my favourite new show of the fall.

Starring the psycho lady from Dexter, Taylor Townsend and that guy that's in everything, Valentine is an unremarkable show that mysteriously manages to effect one's mood more thoroughly than most.

With Valentine joining the lineup of the dearly departed being briefly resurrected for a couple weeks in the sun, I've got to say that this year's summer TV might just be some of the best there's been in years (Valentine, Pushing Daisies, Kings, Eli Stone, Samantha Who, Better Off Ted... it's a bittersweet farewell tour).

Catch Valentine on Sundays at 7pm on The CW.

A Post Privileged Post

After you've recovered from the incredibly sad (read: ridiculous, wrong and simply unfair) cancellation of Privileged, don't despair that you may never see your favourite cast members again.

It seems that the adorable Joanna Garcia (Privileged's leading lady) will be heading to the upper east side to romance one Mr. Nate Archibald. Her 4 episode Gossip Girl arc will kick off in the season premiere, giving us all even more incentive to watch.

Not a guest stint to be missed.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Some Happier News


Ana Ortiz, who plays Betty's sister Hilda on ABC's Ugly Betty, gave birth to her first child, a baby girl named Paloma Louise Lebenzon, on Saturday afternoon.

Ortiz and her husband Noah Lebenzon married in June 2007 in Puerto Rico.


What a Crappy Week: goodbye to another familiar face

After the deaths of the prince of late night (Ed McMahon), the queen of the 70s (Farrah Fawcett) and the king of pop (Michael Jackson) earlier this week, you can now add the king of pitchmen Billy Mays to the tragic list.

The familiar booming voice of Billy Mays has been convincing television viewers to buy products like Oxy Clean and Mighty Putty since 1993. With his smiling bearded face and signature thumbs up, Mays was considered the best salesman around.

He was found dead in his Florida home this morning, June 28 2009.

His documentary series Pitchmen is currently airing on the Discovery Channel at 10pm on Wednesdays.

Psych!

This week, thanks to my parents' desire to watch pretty much every television show imaginable*, I stumbled upon the USA television show Psych. Psych follows the exploits of Shawn Spencer, who pretends to be a psychic but who is in fact a daddy-issued slacker with a keen sense of observation. He teams up with Gus (his best friend whose main power is his "super sniffer"), and together they form the fake psychic, real detective agency Psych, and work with law enforcement to solve crimes. Law enforcement doesn't exactly love being grouped with a psychic, but they (to varying degrees) tolerate and even enjoy their antics.

Psych's a procedural crime drama, and so in a lot of ways it's interchangeable with other "someone from outside the force teams up with the police to solve crazy, wacky crimes" shows (see also: Bones, The Mentalist, Castle, Monk...). But it's a very enjoyable hour long television show that, especially during the summer, is more than worth the minimal effort it requires from its viewers. Mostly, this is thanks to James Roday as Shawn and Dule Hill as Gus. Their adorable, wacky, odd-couple chemistry and fast paced, witty banter makes the show worth watching. Plus, they dress up in funny outfits and Shawn hits on everything that moves.

So if you're bored this summer, but not looking to get into something heavy, check out the light, airy, cute USA hit Psych (a couple of season 3 episodes are currently up on Hulu, and normally I'd say that you can't just skip to Season Three of a show, but one of the great things about a show like Psych is that it's not really much of a problem. I went from Season one to Season Three and honestly couldn't have told you, except for Maggie Lawson's hair cut, the difference). It's not the type of show that requires you to dig deep into themes and motifs, but it does provide endless quotable material and engaging characters and easy, enjoyable giggles.

* Seriously. They just finished October Road.

Oh and also, James Roday's vocal inflections and facial mannerisms are freakishly similar to Zach Braff's. Early Zach Braff. Which makes him adorable.

Aaron Paul: double duty


Easily my favourite thing about AMC's edgy and critically adored series Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul as scruffy drug dealer Jesse Pinkman is a study in detailed character acting. Everything from his ever-roving bloodshot eyes to his restless hands to his frantic speech patterns make Jesse come to life as the palpably conflicted and complicated character that he is.

But what's interesting about Jesse, Paul's most revered role to date, is that the actor so disappears into him that he is never recognized as that character. Paul says that while walking down the street, if he's noticed at all, he's recognized for his other (and much less lauded) current TV role, as Scott on Big Love.

The well-kept and low key actor much more closely resembles Sarah Henrikson (Amanda Seyfried)'s sweet and conservative fiancee than the bumbling meth head he plays so convincingly on Breaking Bad.

On Big Love, Paul plays the unexpectedly controversial Scott with amazing subtlety. It's hard to believe that one actor can embody two such opposite characters so effectively, but Paul does it with finesse, making both the intense Mormon and the misguided druggie into incredibly relatable and lovable characters. Starring opposite the incandescent Amanda Seyfried on Big Love and the famously genius Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul somehow manages to steal both shows on a regular basis.

It's impressive to play one multi-faceted TV character with praise-worthy brilliance, it's absurd to play two at once.

Heroes 101

I recently wrote some semi-nice things about Heroes. And I stand by them. All of them. Even the things that were nearly immediately contradicted by the show itself. I’m two episodes away from ending the season, and I’m really excited to see the finale. (Sylar’s episode ending “and nothing will ever be the same” gave me goose bumps). And I’m sure I’ll be talking in depth after that about the interesting things I think that Heroes does thematically.

Still, though, I’ve got to say, The episode “1961” (where Angela finds out the full story of the death of her family) could be used as the one and only course material for What’s Wrong With Heroes 101.

Step 1: Introduce a new character and immediately make them essential to the plot, despite our feeling no real relation to the character (in this case, Angela’s sister, Alice). See also: Maya (and her couple of episodes twin brothers), Speedster, Daddy Petrelli, Daddy Parkman.

Step 2: Try to provide a backstory for a character that is really just cheap pathos and sentimentality and doesn’t really add anything significant to the plot, yet devote a whole episode to it. (here, Angela’s guilt over her sister. And sock buying.) See also: Sylar and his mommy/daddy issues, Elle and her Daddy issues, Nathan and his wifey guilt

Step 3: Squander the implied epicness of the storyline. (Here, the whole Coyote Sands thing seemed show changing and awesome, but instead provided little more than a slight impetus for a Petrelli clan reunion and some stupid Angela back story) but see also: Hiro in Japan, the first season finale, Sylar and Elle’s whole relationship.

Step 4: Weigh down the plot with excessive melodrama and monologuing, and completely lose any sense of humor it ever has. (Alice’‘s stormy histrionics, Angela’s weepy monologues, Mohinder’s fear of his dad’s evil, even Peter and Nathan’s dramatic sibling rivalry). See also: Daddy Petrelli, Matt Parkman’s grief, Maya’s evil eyes.

Step 5: Don’t have Sylar on screen all episode. (Yeah… I don’t know if Zachary Quinto was off promoting Star Trek or something, but he was sorely missed, and seeing Adrian Pasdar play Sylar-as-Nathan wasn’t as much fun)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Girly Rant

This weekend I sat down to watch the (awesome) movie Star Trek for the third time (yes, yes, I'm a dork. Let's move on). And, not for the first time, I marveled at the epic awesomeness that is JJ Abrams blockbuster success. A large portion of that success has to do with its two leads (Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine) and the awesome charisma and chemistry they bring to the screen. And it got me thinking about how badly I want to be Kirk and Spock. They're an epic duo, best friends through thick and thin, a friendship so important that future-Spock was willing to risk the success of the Earth saving mission just to maintain it. Kirk and Spock belong together throughout time and space, and their friendship brings each to new heights.

Which got me thinking of other best buddy pairs throughout time. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Jason Segel and Paul Rudd. Turk and JD. Ted and Marshall (or, alternately, Ted and Barney or Barney and Marshall). Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Gus and Sean. Lennon and McCartney. Pretty much every buddy cop movie of all time. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. Buzz and Woody. Hiro and Ando. Hell, I just finished the series of Rome, and Vorenus and Pullo were the ultimate, toga-clad bromance. These are friendships so deep that one would die for the other, kill for the other, and give up for the other (in Rome, they do all three!). They are world rocking friendships that go deeper than mere romantic love. They propel their personal stories, provide motivation for the men involved, and help the stories themselves to reach appropriately elevated levels of gravitas.

They're also, you may well notice, all guys. Truly epic friendship on the level of Kirk and Spock is almost exclusively the purview of guys. Once I started thinking about this, I realized that, forget about the epic part, examples of true female friendship were actually harder than you would expect to come up. I can't think of a single television show of note that doesn't feature at least one strong male friendship. Not so for female characters. More often than not, female characters within television and movies are defined almost entirely by their relationship to the male characters in their lives. Sometimes this means epic friendships involving girls are with a male compatriot (see: Wallace and Veronica, Willow and Xander, Zoe and Mal), but more often than not it means that the single important relationship in a female character's life is a romantic one. Notice I didn't even say "single most important relationship;" far too often, there simply doesn't exist any relationship between female characters.

Where there are epic, life changing, boundary crossing, no-limits inter-female relationships, they're almost exclusively limited to between family members. I can think of very few relationships in this world to threaten the supremacy of Lorelai and Rory, but that's mother/daughter and the cultural zeitgeist certainly has no problems imagining women as mother. Similarly, the all chick extravaganza of Charmed was formed entirely around the relationships between the three main women, but this was all sisters. On Heroes, Angela Petrelli and Claire Bennet probably have the closest to a good relationship, but that's all about the grandmotherly concern.

I don't mean to whine, although I do think it's ridiculous that female friendships are so often pushed to the side in writing (and more often than not it's just plain lazy. Where there are female friendships, one tends to be an annoying sidekick character and conversations are almost exclusively an excuse for one girl to spell out her feelings about a guy). What I'd rather do is celebrate those strong female friendships that do exist and can rival that of Kirk and Spock, and ask all of you guys to do the same. In compiling my list, I couldn't come up with a single friendship that I was able to list without a caveat, but maybe you'll be more successful. After the list, I provided my judging criteria, so before you add your own thoughts in the comment section, check there to see if I disqualified it for one reason or another.

1. Thelma and Louise- This movie is held up as the ultimate example of feminist movie making in a lot of circles and it's the closest thing to a female Butch and Sundance. Their friendship is the one positive in a life filled with negatives for both women, and they both draw strength and bad assitude from it. Watching the two women go all rogue together, and find enough self-actualization to be outlaws, is about as empowering and cool as it gets. They've even got the epic/tragic thing down.

2. Xena and Gabrielle- These two would be number one if it weren't for one little caveat, which, for the record, was actually a large portion of my motivation in writing this post. But I'll save that for last. Xena and Gabrielle were epic by any measurement. They fought the dark forces of the world together, weathered loves lost, evil enchantings, child bearing, and all manner of mischief thanks to Joxer the Mighty together. Either would have happily died for the other, bled for the other, killed for the other, and they were often given the opportunity to do so. On top of that, they had a sort of oddball chemistry that brought out the best in both of them. So why weren't they number one? Because of one little thing: the series ultimately turned theirs into a romantic love. Don't get me wrong, it made sense (I recently rewatched early Xena episodes and was hit over the head with the none-so-subtle lesbian subtext), but it made it so that I can't count Xena and Gabrielle as the most convincingly awesome epic duo. In the end of the story, we don't need to be told that Barney and Ted actually covet one another's body in order to believe their epic friendship; we're able to just accept that these two guys believe that "without you I'm just the dynamic uno." Still, for many, many years, the adventures of Gabrielle and Xena were every bit as epic, cool, and legend (wait for it) dary as one needs.

3. Serena and Blair- Hear me out. On the surface, Serena and Blair seem exactly like what I'm complaining about. They're bitchy to each other, catty about each other, and far more often than I would like, ditching each other for male companionship. But they're also, by far, the most important relationship on the show, and many of the storylines are built around the powerhouse awesomeness that is Selair (I tried to do the cutesy couple thing. It didn't work). On top of that, and the real reason that Serena and Blair make the list, is that they have fun together. Remember when they randomly stole clothes from Blair's mom during Season One and then just spent the day taking goofy pictures all over NYC? That was friendship, baby doll, true and simple, the type we rarely get to see girls having. It wasn't dramatic or boy-oriented, it was fun and freeing and brought out the best in both up tight Blair and dramatic, care free Serena. And the rumblings felt through out the Gossip Girl universe whenever the two shall part is enough in and of itself to make me keep them on the epic list.

4. Buffy and Willow- I debated for a while putting this on, since technically there exists a group dynamic between Buffy, Willow and Xander that's essential for both the show and for Buffy herself, but then I remembered one very important scene. There's a moment in Season Three right after Buffy gets back from hiding out in LA where Willow is clearly mad at Buffy and not talking about. Buffy, being her usual self-centered self, tries to apologize for causing Willow worry by disappearing, when Willow breaks down and admits that she's just as annoyed at Buffy for not being there for her. It's not just about the worry about having the slayer for your best friend, it's about the simple fact that her best friend wasn't there to help her sort through her feelings about her blossoming magical talent, sex with Oz, and being a senior. It's one of the truest moments I've ever seen on a show that was full of amazingly true moments, and it felt very much so like what friendship feels like. It's not all clearly articulated positions and good guys and bad guys; sometimes it can be about insensitivity and emotions. This moment is echoed often throughout the series, such as Willow and Buffy rappelling down the wall in The Initiative and talking about the big changes Willow's gone through in the season, and helps to reinforce just how important this relationship is to Buffy. Plus, if you've read the comics, you learn that the Willow/Buffy relationship is just as important, epic and dangerous as any of those boys up there.

5. Veronica and Lilly- Everything about Veronica was defined by her relationship with Lily and the way that Lilly helped her to overcome being shy and to be more comfortable with herself. On top of that, it was for love of Lilly that Veronica went from preppy over-achiever to bad ass PI. But of course, Lilly was dead, so much as I might want to celebrate the relationship, and I do think it's all sort of epic awesomeness, at the end of the day we've still got a Veronica whose closest relationship is the (all types of awesome in his own way) Wallace Fennell.

For the record, I've got nothing against guy love. In fact, if anything, I like it a little too much. Give me a good story about two interesting dudes who like nothing more than each other's company, and I'm a happy girl. I'm just saying it'd be cool if we could get equal girl love.

Judging Criteria:
  • Epic. Legendary. Adventure-having. (in other words, not just the person our female protagonist bitches to. For a true Epic Kirk/Spock level friendship, both girls have to be awesome/interesting in their own right and the plot of the show has to be at least partially motivated around their relationship, not just around their support of each other when other things fall apart). They have to be willing to move mountains, not to mention inconvenience themselves for each other, and ultimately, it has to feel like this platonic friendship is at least as important to each of them as is true love (I was going to say more important, but since I believe Marshal and Ted are totally epic, and Marshall definitely loves Lily as much as he loves Ted, it had to be amended).
  • True friendship. This kind of goes along with epic, but the friendship has to be more than bitching about guys, or supporting each other about guys. It has to legitimately feel like these girls have interests in common and a friendship that has its own demands, needs, and, most of all, fun.
  • Post-high school. This one was a little more dicey, but since I think children's television is actually much better at having girl friends than adult television, but that said friendships don't reach the emotional pathos of adult male friendships, the line between the two became too dicey.
  • Not family members. It's not revolutionary to show a woman's ability to relate to her family members. In fact, in "the family" is a very comfortable place for society to put women. So, sorry Gilmore Girls, but I've got to take a pass.
  • Not "groups." Although still relatively rare, female groups of friends (gaggles, if you will) are occasionally presented on television, and are even occasionally very, very strong. But Kirk and Spock exist outside of the crew of the starship Enterprise, and Woody and Buzz have a friendship way stronger than those with the rest of the toys. The thing that is remarkable about these friendships isn't just that they are so close; it's the exclusivity of it. This means that although I actually think the very best thing about Sex and the City is the fact that these womens were friends through thick and thin (and that this is actually one of the better portrayals of female friendship in television and film history) and that their friendships were equally important to the plot of the show as was their relationships with guys, I couldn't include Carrie and... anyone on the list.
  • Modern. It's not that I don't think Lucy and Ethel were good friends, it's just that I didn't really feel qualified to talk about them. Plus, I was more interested in the state of current popular culture than earlier culture.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rediscovering Heroes

Remember back in 2006? A simpler, more idealistic time. George W. Bush was still president. The top grossing film was Pirates of the Carribean. Twitter was something that one went "all a-". And there was this brand new show, name of Heroes, that got so much buzz and good will that it seemed poised to take the rabid-fan-base crown from Lost and Buffy? And for one, glorious season, popular culture was happy to follow along with the X-Men-esque exploits of Mohinder, Peter and Nathan Petrelli, Nikki/Jessica, Hiro Nakamura, and The Cheerleader who needed saving (in order to save the world). And although the big season finale payoff was never as big as it seemed like it needed to be, all seemed poised for an even better season two.

But Season Two felt lost, aimless, and missing so much of the fun of Season One. It had a complicated virus/time travel plotline, a bangs-less Peter, and some Guatemalan chick whose eyes turned all Willow-esque and then she killed people. Although I made it through the season to the better-than-average season finale, it didn't leave me with a lot of faith in either the show or its promise. In an over-crowded television viewing season, I was happy to let Heroes slip through the cracks. Honestly, it just wasn't that good a show.

But... as Kelly will happily attest, I'm a sucker for genre shows. I can't tell you the number of dramas/dramedies that I've given up on (Grey's Anatomy, for one) and only given a passing thought to over the years. But... I'm addicted to genre television. Even not very good television. So although I was fully aware that Heroes would continue to disappoint me again and again (the common theme in Heroes criticism is that it continually squanders its potential and just when you think that it's going to get good again, it sucks), I sat down to devour Heroes Season Three.

I'm going to do a full "season in review" after I've finished, but right now I want to talk about the good things about Heroes. Because despite all of its many, many, many flaws* (and believe me there are a lot), there's a lot of good stuff inside Heroes.

Sylar- Okay, yes it was partially my innate calling towards genre shows that brought me back to the Heroes fold, but it was also a little movie called Star Trek and the eye-brow raising sexiness that was the Number Two commander of the Starship Enterprise. Zachary Quinto is just a damn fine performer, and although Sylar's arch rarely makes sense (Super-villain turned mama's boy turned daddy's boy turned the Clyde to Kristen Bell's Bonnie), Quinto's extraordinary talent helps sell every nonsensical moment. And he continually gets the comedy in his scene (especially those with Bell) such as the moment when the two realized that all their special-abilities have disappeared.

ADDENDUM: Kristen Bell. Elle is kind of a stupid character. After her and Claire bond, and Claire basically saves her life, she turns on her with almost no motivation. Her and Sylar bond over trying to overcome being monsters, and then all of a sudden she's trying her damndest to help him go off the abstinence-only policy Gabreel's been following as far as villainy is concerned. I'm not sure what's coming next for the electric blond, but I will say this: despite how stupid this character is, I love her. Bell is a damn fine performer who continually shows her ability to outshine her material (anyone else see The Pulse? No? Probably a good decision). When Quinto and Bell get together, it's like an awesome explosion of charisma. I'm aware Kristen Bell (and for that matter Quinto) is way too big a star to stay on the show forever, but my interest will wane as her (and his) character arch does. Also, the Elle and Sylar stuff is the clsoest this show has to an epic lovestory.

Nathan Petrelli- Adrian Pasdar has a similarly onerous responsibility in that Nathan Petrelli has, within the course of the three Heroes seasons, betrayed everyone he's ever cared about, completely shifted his moral compass (or lack thereof), and had sex with both Nikki/Jessica and her twin sister Tracy (which is ooky). But Pasdar somehow sells it, from his pouty lips to his defined jaw, and it helps to make Nathan seem like he actually has a defined character. On top of that, the brother chemistry with Milo Ventimiglia provides Peter Petrelli with his best scenes. That character never seems more real than when he's with his brother and dealing with all the familial problems inherent therein.

Its Sense of Humor- I was going to originally applaud the use of Hiro and Ando to provide much needed comic relief, but I actually think that often that's a bad crutch that the writers use to set off otherwise craptastic episodes and although I find it funny, I wish they were more true to Hiro's character arch. That being said, the show is at its best when it finds the hilarity in all of its situations. The show has a lot of great actors and occasionally really good writing, and it occasionally does a really good job playing with the superhero conventions (in particular, the early Season repetition of "Nemesis!" at The Speedster by Hiro and Ando was super cute). And it makes me more willing to deal with the melodramatics and strange plot turns of the rest of it when I have scenes of Matt Parkman trying to talk to a turtle (or Seth Green and Breckin Meyer as goofy comic book store employees).

More in depth plot and character analysis at the end of the Season, but for now, I just wanted to throw some Heroes-related positivity out there. I think one of the reasons people hate on the show so much is because it seems so rife with possibility, but for me, upon lowering my expectations, I found a surprisingly fun, goofy, occasionally frustrating show that consistently features good performances.

*My least favorite thing about Heroes is the way it has completely taken the claws out of the most powerful story telling device: death. Death means nothing on Heroes. With the exception of Isaac Mendes in the first season, characters continually "die" only to have it completely rewritten in the next scene.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another Dose of Obsessions This Week


- Ryan Reynolds

- Big Love season 3 (with special love for Amanda Seyfried and Chloe Sevigny)

- Neurotic Reid, puppy dog Michael and magnetic Kiptyn on The Bachelorette

- Blue Jays shortstop and leadoff batter Marco Scutaro

- So You Think You Can Dance's Kupono, Jason, Caitlin, Jeanine, Phillip and Evan

- Gabby and Tom's friendship on Desperate Housewives

- Network TV on summer weekends

- Bell and Starbucks team up to provide everyone with 2 hours of free wireless everyday

- Lots of comments on the blog, our new facebook ads and a new writer (Tim)

Obsession of the Week

Triple Sensation on CBC

Season 2 of the Canada-wide search for the next big musical theatre sensation kicked off tonight with the first round of auditions in Toronto. So far, 6 amazing dancer/singer/actors have been invited to masterclass.

A must-see for any musical theatre lover, Triple Sensation really is a talent showcase like no other.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Truly Bloody

Last fall I started watching True Blood simply because I had a free month subscription to HBO. Every Sunday night I was accompanied by my 5 roommates as we were all oddly drawn into this ridiculous show. "Sookie is mine!" became a popular phrase in this apartment. Sadly, as the weeks progressed the roomies started abandoning the couch until only two of us were left. For most, True Blood seemed to be losing it's initial appeal. Bill was way too creepy to take seriously. Sookie and Jason were far too stupid to take seriously. The obsession with vampires in and of itself could not be taken seriously. But then something amazing happened...upon recently re-watching the series I realized that the show actually doesn't want to be taken seriously. This may seem obvious but it's really a necessary observation if you ever want to truly enjoy the show.

Season 2, which started airing last week, pokes even more fun at itself than season one. And I freaking love it. Last night's "Keep This Party Going" was hands down the best episode yet. The writing has taken a much needed refresher course and it's both wittier and more dramatic than it's freshman season. There are four characters who were introduced last season that have made a reappearance and are really adding to the quality of the show: Jessica, Eric, Pam, and Maryann. Jessica is the recently sired vampire who essentially is Bill's irresponsible adolescent daughter. Deborah Ann Woll does a tremendous job of acting both eerily evil and annoyingly immature. She brings a much needed laughter to the series which would definitely be lacking without her. The most recent episode found Jessica mourning the separation from her family and using her emotions to manipulate Sookie into bringing her home. There were a tremendous amount of touching moments between Sookie and Jessica in which Sookie compared Jessica's separation from her family to her own aunt's death. Not surprisingly, the man who brought us Six Feet Under once again dealt with loss in an honest and heartbreaking manner.

Maryann is the mysterious life-couch-esque woman who is helping Tara change her life around. All we know about this character is that she once had sex with Sam, she beats her butler/servant, and she vibrates. Last night we also learned that she has some sort of power over others as the entire bar broke into a while orgy and dance party. My guess would be Maryann is a kind of goddess or new mystical creature we have yet to be introduced to in the world of True Blood.

My absolute favorite part of the new season is Eric. He was introduced as the vampire sheriff in Louisiana and was the closest thing to the big bad of season 1 (other than the human serial killer of course). This season Eric is coming to the forefront a bit more. He kidnapped Lafayette in order to find out some information about V dealing in Dallas, tore a man to shreds, and got a sexy new makeover. We still haven't seen much from his sidekick Pam but every time the two are on screen together you can expect pure entertainment. They are in almost every respect True Blood's equivalent of Spike and Drusilla...and damn it works. Watching them devour Lafayette at the end of the episode was kind of amazing. I only hope that they listen to their victim's pleas to turn him into a vampire. Now that would be the most bad ass threesome ever.

While all the other story lines are intriguing as well, what stands out the most this season is the amount of blood and gore. True Blood has the advantage of airing on HBO and because of that the audience can actually see the brutal deaths that plague the characters. Unless I'm watching a surgical drama, I never turn my head away in disgust, but last night I most certainly did. It was bad enough to watch Eric rip out a man's organs and eat him, but then you had to watch Lafeyatte rifle through those organs to begin his escape. Hands down the nastiest thing I have ever seen on television...but as a fan of horror, it was a homeroom. Way to live up to the title.

If these last two episode's are a taste of things to come, then pour me some more True Blood.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Vs. Edward Cullen

For a long time, I've wanted to do a side by side match up of BtVS and the Twilight series (it's pretty obvious from reading the books that Stephanie Meyer, their author, was heavily influenced by heaping helpings of classic WB shows like BtVS and Roswell, but its extra-specially influenced by the Buff) and it looks like someone on these here Internets beat me to it. This thing is racing like wildfire around the Internet, as semi snobby BtVS fans can show the way that the show really helped to put a stake in the anti-feminist tropes many see as inherent in the Twilight series. For the record, I don't go quite that far (check out MY MOVIE REVIEW for more details), but I did like watching the straight talking badass that is Buffy give Edward Cullen an earful and (eventually) a stake-full for all his creepy, smelling-you-iness. Even if I felt like the whole feminist argument behind this (basically that Buffy is better than Bella) could easily be argued the other way if we used more Angel evidence instead of the over reliance on Spike scenes, I really enjoyed this match up. Mostly, it's just funny.

Merlin Revamped

Summer is a time for barbecues. Summer is a time for beaches. Summer is a time for sunshine and relaxation. Summer is a time for tans and vacations. Summer is not typically a time for quality television. Any given summer the percentage of reality tv I watch is somewhere around 99%. This summer is hardly the exception as I've spent countless hours watching horrible/amazing reality shows (Jon and Kate Plus 8, The Bachelorette, So You Think You Can Dance, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Kendra, 16 and Pregnant, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Cake Boss...just to name a "few"). Because of this I'm much more willing to hop on board for any new series that premiers in the summer. In the past, there haven't been many scripted shows which premiered in the summer that I actually stuck with; however, there are the few rare exceptions (here's looking at you The OC). So last night I decided to give Merlin a try.

In case you haven't seen the previews, Merlin is the reimagined story of the great sorcerer. The main difference between this retelling and others is that it takes place when the all-powerful sorcerer is a young, disrespected , and slightly dorky young adult. The premiere begins with Merlin arriving in Camelot to live with Gaius, the court's physician. We quickly learn that Merlin has some magical powers and his mother sent him to Camelot because he was drawing too much attention to himself in his small hometown. Oddly enough we also quickly learn that King Uther (played by Anthony Head!) has outlawed all magic practices in Camelot, on penalty of death. Now, why Merlin's mother thought sending him to Camelot was a good idea is beyond me, but I can look past that. The episode really gets interesting when Merlin stumbles upon a bullying knight. The two begin to argue and surprise: the knight is none other than Prince Arthur. The first episode results in Merlin secretively using his magic to stop a vengeful witch from killing Arthur. King Uther rewards Merlin for saving his son by making him Arthur's man servant (and yes, he actually calls Merlin a man servant). Merlin (and myself) questions why this is a reward but episode two finds Merlin actually enjoying his new position.

Of course no television show would be complete without a little loving and Merlin clearly has a love rectangle in the works. Merlin is easily infatuated by a lady in the court, Morgana. Morgana however has her eyes on Arthur. The fourth participant in this rectangle is Morgana's maid Gwen (as in Guinevere, the once and future wife). Gwen takes a liking to the adorable Merlin, and interestingly finds Arthur despicable.

It's hard to watch this show without making the obvious comparison to Smallville. Both stories are a retelling from much early on. Both clearly have to do with one's destiny. In Smallville the voice of Jor-El informs Clark that he is destined to do great things. In Merlin the talking dragon (yup, you read that right) tells the sorcerer-to-be that his destiny is to protect Arthur. Both shows also play with the audience's understanding of the mythology in order to create jokes (just as Lois is disgusted by the prospect of dating Clark, Gwen ironically asks, "who’d want to marry Arthur”). I'm not entirely sure if this comparison bodes well for the show or not but it definitely needs to be addressed.

Easily the best part of Merlin is the chemistry between the title character and Arthur (played impeccably by Colin Morgan and Bradley James). The banter between the two is both humorous and adorable. This is the second time I used the term adorable and really that's what these two actors are. It's hard to watch a scene between the two without smiling. To be fair, all the male actors were wonderfully cast...I'm still waiting to decide about the females.

All in all, Merlin is more of a family drama than anything else. So far it's quality television but it'll take a few more episodes to make a solid judgment. Check it out on nbc.com if you missed it. If anything Merlin is an hour of childish, escapist fun.

Greek: At World's (And Season's) End

I love the television show Greek. I love its soapy ridiculousness. I love its good natured adoration of ridiculous theme parties and fraternity pranks. The more it (like Cappie) relies on its charm and smarts to help it coast through a television season, the more I love it.

Which is why I can't wholeheartedly endorse this season's finale "The End of the World." One of the things that distinguishes Greek from Gossip Girl is that on Greek, the ante doesn't have to be continually upped. Things don't need to get more ridiculous and Dramatic every week. In other words, Serena doesn't have to kill anybody.

And while the season finale didn't exactly go to that extreme, it did over-focus on Casey/Cappie/Max dom, which, on top of being predictable, was also a little dull and really off tone for this fun show. Casey and Cappie are at their best when they're engaged in witty repartee, not melodramatic monologues, and Max is such a good guy (I mean, seriously, he remembered her damn lipstick while he was away!) that I had a hard time enjoying any of the Casey and Cappie stuff before she fully ended things with Max. It was, to quote from the shows parlance, a "douche move" on Casey's part, and showed disrespect to both Max and Cappie. That being said, Spencer Graham is consistently fantastic as Casey. Her huge eyes near-constantly on the point of bursting into tears all episode, she really helped to undercut the poor decisions and selfishness of Casey all episode.

Some other developments in the Season Finale had me all sorts of happy. Specifically, Ashleigh. Too often, Ashleigh is only a sidekick to Casey's drama (one need only look at her episode ending perch on a rooftop with Cappie to know that she is often only important in what she can do for Casey). But this episode showed her verbally asskicking Frannie (not quite a roundhouse kick to the face, but still pretty bad ass), and finally, mercifully, telling off Casey for acting like a loser who can't stand to be alone for five minutes:

Ashleigh: Now you're someone who sits around pining and making lists and second guessing your choices. God, paging Dr. Grey... no wait you are more like Joey Potter. No you're worse. You're the F-word.

Casey: Don't say it.

Ashleigh: Felicity.

Casey: You bitch.

Ashleigh: See? That's Casey Cartwright. Toughen Up!

While I still wish that Ashleigh would get a more compelling love interest (her current boytoy just seems to show up and tell her how awesome she is and then make out with her for a few moments), it was nice to see some character development in a girl who's too often shifted to the side to make way for her more melodramatic cohorts.

On top of that, nearly every scene with Dale and Calvin was brilliance tonight. As the two joined a two-man purity pledge (Dale: You'll be the first gay purity pledge! Calvin: Sure I will...) to keep them from the embrace of their respective tempters, we not only got to see hot Dale-on-Cougar action, but also Dale trying to pretend to be Calvin's boyfriend. The show continues to thrive on the strength of its subplots.

Cappie and Evan's budding friendship is also a nice change of pace. There's no reasons for these two guys to be enemies anymore, and Cappie brings out the absolute best in Evan's character (even when they were fighting, Evan was never as much fun as when he was trying to out think Cappie).

Exhibit A:

Evan: Great party douchebag.

Cappie: Thanks numbnuts.

Oh yes, Rusty also had a storyline tonight. It turns out all this girlfriend-having, party-throwing, Liberal Arts-exploring has really put a crimp in the resident nerd's academic style. The show set the groundwork for next season, with Rusty skipping out on a necessary all night study session to go and enjoy the end of the world with Jordan. I find it hard to enjoy this storyline, and although I like the idea of Jordan, I really hope they don't keep up this "girl or school" dilemma for too long. For one thing, it's a false choice, and I truly believe Rusty could do both. And for another, it's basically the same storyline Rusty had all first season between school and the frat, so it already seems stale.

So where does this finale leave us? Max and Frannie are departing, seemingly for good. Cappie better man the hell up and put an actual new development in his epic love story with Casey. Rebecca hasn't done much more than look hot and help Casey and Ashleigh scheme for about three episodes (or since she was a lesbian). Evan's enjoying life sans trust fund. Casey might actually have to be (GASP!) alone. Rusty's facing academic meltdown. Dale's looking pretty close to breaking that purity pledge. And Calvin? Calvin's enjoying some ill-advised face sucking with his roommate/frat brother.

Oh CRU. I'll miss you!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sad and Strange TV News

Starting with the sad, Emmy-winning/nominated actors Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Studio 60) and Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) filed for divorce on Friday; August would have been the 17th wedding anniversary for these parents of 3. Whitford (a TV favourite of mine) can next be seen alongside Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under), Amy Acker (Dollhouse, Angel), Fran Kranz (Dollhouse), Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) and Tom Lenk (Buffy) in the 2010 thriller The Cabin in the Woods, written by TV hotshots Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) and Drew Goddard (Buffy, Angel, Alias, Lost).

As for the strange, be sure to head to your local theatre to see the typical but sweet (and surprisingly funny) romantic comedy The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Office fans will be in for a shock when they encounter an exuberant Oscar Nunez playing a role very different from the dead-pan accountant he portrays in the NBC sitcom.

Skins: Series 1

The problem with being a television fanatic as well as a pop culture fiend is that you often run into spoilers regarding your favorite series. Without seeing even a single episode of the most recent season of Grey’s Anatomy, I already know some of the major story lines (Izzie’s brain cancer, her reunion with Alex, George’s departure/death, the big proposal). I knew that Alan Tudyk was the doll-gone-wrong Alpha before he even appeared on Dollhouse. Most recently I unfortunately learned that Nancy Botwin is pregnant without even seeing a single episode of season four (let alone season five). Needless to say, spoilers tend to, well, spoil things.

Because of this I decided to try out a series I knew barely anything about: Skins. Going into this series I only knew two things: 1/ Dev Patel was in it and 2/ it’s about sex. What I discovered was a refreshing series full of unexpected storylines and an intense cliffhanger.

It’s hard to review this series without giving away those dreadful spoilers but I shall do my best. Essentially, you take a tight-knit group of British teens, throw in some sexual tension, add a bit of serious life lessons and you get Skins. Notice only “some” sexual tension. As it turns out, while sex drives most of the plotlines, the series tends to focus more on the gradual formation of intense relationships rather than the lustful hanky panky.

The group of friends is made up almost entirely of your stereotypical teens. Sid Jenkins (the main character) is a slightly dorky, physically unappealing virgin. Sid’s best friend is the morally corrupt Tony who serves as the resident popular stud. The two friends find themselves in a somewhat love triangle with Tony’s girlfriend Michelle. As the typical “hot” lead, Michelle lacks a large amount of substance. There is barely anything appealing about her until half-way through the series. Essentially, Tony dates Michelle but Sid has a massive crush on her and Michelle is fully aware of said crush. The supporting casts consists of Maxxie (the out and proud homosexual), Chris (the typical fun guy), Anwar (Dev Patel’s Muslim character who manages to balance his religion with his horny teenage life), and Jal (the sage of sorts who essentially exists only to give her friends advice). If these were the only individuals offered by the series I probably would have stopped watching after a few episodes. Luckily, the heart and soul of this quirky British teen drama is Hannah Murray who plays the delightfully individualistic Cassie Ainsworth. Initially it seems Cassie’s only here to fill in the best friend role for Michelle. But this spacey blond with an eating disorder really carries the entire show. Cassie may have a drug problem early on, she may not eat anything ever, and she way look and act like a Mary-Kate Olsen knock-off, but gosh darn it the girl’s got some serious likability. Once you look past the annoying anorexia storyline you see Cassie for what she really is: a surprisingly mature teen who, like most, just wants to be loved. Cassie throws herself into the love triangle, without really intending, and this results in a horrendous amount of heartbreak. Luckily for us, Cassie isn’t an emotional, self-pitying teen so we get to see her subtly deal with her emotions.

The biggest flaw with Skins is the depiction of the kids’ parents. Don’t expect to find any Sandy Cohens in this group. Instead we have a bunch of self-obsessed parents who the audience is clearly supposed to blame for how their kids turned out. The parents themselves are typically too busy with their own lives to really care about their children. Cassie’s stay far away from her rehab center and would rather paint nude portraits of each other than drive her daughter to the doctors. Tony’s want to have some family time but easily give up because they don’t know how to talk to their children. Michelle’s mother is so involved with her new husband that she offers no sympathy for her own daughter’s heartache. I can live with some unrealistic storylines (and trust me this series has several) but I don’t buy the parents-are-to-blame-for-everything scenario. The only real villains in this series are the parents (unless you argue that the arrogant Tony is simultaneously everyone’s friend and enemy…which you could definitely argue). However, Skins saves its own ass by (finally) introducing a good parent in the season finale. To elaborate on that would be far too spoilerific so that’s all you get.

The best thing about Skins is the gradual progress of all the relationships and storylines. Occasionally the writers throw in random plots which came out of nowhere, but they clearly knew where they were heading with the entire first series. The real success of the series is that even though the writer’s knew where they were going, I was left kind of clueless. Maybe this is because I knew nothing about the series or maybe it’s because I wasn’t wholeheartedly invested until about half-way through, but it took me a few episodes to realize that it wasn’t Sid’s crush on Michelle that drives the plot. Instead, to keep the viewer’s watching, the writer’s rely on the superb acting skills of Hannah Murray to portray Cassie’s gradual infatuation with Sid. Sid and Cassie’s relationship is almost in complete opposition to the other strong relationship in the series: Maxxie and Anwar. Cassie and Sid meet during the premiere episode and slowly get closer as the series progresses. Maxxie and Anwar are best friends at the start of the series but gradually grow apart. Sid and Cassie can’t be together because Sid loves Michelle. Maxxie and Anwar can’t be friends because Maxxie loves men and this is against Anwar’s religion. The finale of series one is almost too good to be true. The two relationships are somewhat resolved and the individuals involved learn exactly what it means to love. There’s never a doubt that Cassie loves Sid or that Anwar and Maxxie love each other, but it becomes a question of whether or not that love is strong enough to bring them together. For a show seemingly about horny teens who only want sex, these four characters teach us that love is really the most powerful thing in this world…even more so than the libido.

This seems like a good point to address another accomplishment of this series. It’s not often on television that a platonic friendship between a gay male and a straight male is portrayed. Typically gay men have their female friends, their boyfriends, or the straight males who magically go gay for them. For a while I worried that the friendship between Anwar and Maxxie would turn into something more. I was concerned the tension between the two was a result of some sexual confusion on Anwar’s part. Luckily, the writers did something absolutely unheard of: they took sex completely out of the equation and portrayed a shockingly realistic (yet uncommon) friendship between two polar opposites. I applaud them for this.

There are so many wonderful moments in this series which need to be addressed in full (I didn’t even mention the student-teacher affair between Chris and Angie) but they also need to be experienced first hand to appreciate. Give Skins a chance and let it play out a bit before you make judgments. It isn’t until the episode “Michelle” that Skins really comes together. Somehow the episode which focuses on the least intriguing character managed to make me really commit to the show. That’s a sign of damned good television and I can’t wait to watch series two.


Some memorable quotes to end:

“I didn’t eat for three days so I could be lovely.”- Cassie

“It’s like a fucking episode of The OC in here.” -Chris

“Sex plus power equals fun”- Tony

“And I’m really really sorry for being a slut okay!” -Maxxie

“We have so much in common….depression….self-loathing.”- Cassie and Simon

“Of course I’m fucking ashamed of you.”-Angie