Sunday, 12 October 2008

These Weeks In TV Year II (Weeks 4-5) Part 2

Much as I don't want to derail this post with talk about a quality movie (i.e. Hairspray), I suppose I can make it more TV related by carping about Sky. Hairspray was as entertaining as expected (and ten million times the movie Dreamgirls was), though it was hard to tell thanks to the botched broadcast on both Sky Movies and Sky Anytime, which filled the film with so many glitches and bloops that it sounded as if it had been remixed by Aphex Twin. It was taken down from Anytime last night, as was Breach (which comes highly recommended solely on the basis of Chris Cooper's awe-inspiring performance). If Sky's technology is getting hinky, it's a bad sign. I've already had trouble with their Box Office downloads disappearing, and our Sky+ box has taken to crashing every Sunday morning. Is it our machine, or is there trouble at their end?

That's neither here nor there, especially as I'm here to make fun of Heroes and say good things about Mad Men.

Most Boring Side-Plot of the Week(s):

Is it Hilda Suarez's adulterous love affair with Eddie Cibrian?

Or Taub's mysterious relationship problems with his wife?

Or Daniel Meade's battle to keep his hideous son in America?

Or Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor possibly getting back together?

At least Daniel's son turned out not to be his son (a real shock), and Hilda's relationship meant we got to see Marc and Amanda losing their composure.

The other plots are just mogadon.

Biggest Badass of the Week(s) Century:

Check out The German. Last week on Heroes he totally staked his claim to being the most awesome villain since Kang the Conqueror, who, never forget, once destroyed Washington DC, an act so heinous it actually made Thor cry! First The German used his magnetic powers to draw some blinds. Just moments later, while we were still catching our breath, he cracked a safe, using those same magnetic powers to turn the dial instead of using his hands!

Ho. Lee. SHIT! Fuck you, Polaris! Eat donkey shit, Magneto. What have you ever done besides reversing the poles and other miscellaneous acts of supervillainy?

Even better, a little while later he totally neglected to use his powers to protect himself against a deadly superpowered punch!

Just amazing. I hope current X-Men writers Mike Carey, Chris Yost, Warren Ellis, and Ed Brubaker are taking notes.

Thematic Coherence of the Week(s):

The tenth episode of Mad Men, while maybe not as entertaining as the previous one, was still excellent, mostly because of the beautifully sustained theme of lost or recaptured youth and adolescence. Early on we see Betty's father recovering from a stroke, seemingly senile and prone to confusion. He mistakes Betty for his first wife, which upsets her enough to drive her into Don's arms, as she humps him on the floor like teenagers trying to elude their parents.

Her father, now trapped in his own adolescent state, threatens Don and makes a pass at his own daughter, which is surely the most shocking moment of the episode, if not the season, and beautifully played by everyone. This distresses Betty further, and she seeks solace in the arms of her old nanny.

Upon returning home she kicks Don out again, and then hangs out with that creepy-ass kid from the first season. Using his presence as an excuse to regress even further, she chills out with some Bob Kanigher madness

...and watches cartoons while sipping on soda like a kid.

Of course, her new friend might only be a kid, but he thinks he's an adult, visually represented by the t-shirt he wears, covered with Don Draper pheromones (which overpower every woman in the room, obviously). His creepy-ass desire for Betty shocks her back to herself, and she snitches on him to his mother, filled with regret at the loss of her fantasy. It could be worse, of course. She could be made to wear a bonnet.

Good stuff. It also made me realise that the theme of the entire season was youth (and young manhood) all along, with the odd dabble in cultural awakenings, which is what the 60s are remembered for. Perhaps there will be more of that in later seasons (I look forward to Don hearing Are You Experienced? for the first time). This year, though, we've already seen the introduction of Sterling Cooper's first youth consultants, Roger trying to recapture his youth by running off with Jane the Scheming Secretary, Freddy peeing his pants, Pete hiding from his adult responsibilities, and Jimmy Barrett being an impulsive brat (though that hides a calculating mind). Though we're not yet sure what a toll this disconnect will take on any of them, it's fair to say that it's not just Don's infidelity that has made the normally pristine Betty end up looking like this.

All of this childishness throws Don's behaviour into stark relief. Along with Peggy, he is more responsible and "adult" than almost everyone else on the show; they all think they're mature but they act like kids. Don is the alpha male (and alpha character) because he observes everyone else in the playpen from a position of behavioral superiority and relentless Draper-esque fury. The irony, of course, is that he never got to have a childhood, and is either angry at those who surround him because he is jealous of them for having that, or because their behaviour is totally alien to him, creating a confusion that fuels his rage. All this time Don is searching for who he really is, but maybe there's nothing to find.

Mysterious Theme of the Week(s):

While Mad Men brilliantly visualised the infantilisation theme in The Inheritance, Six Month Leave featured a curious motif that I really didn't get. Many of the main characters started their scenes lying down.

There's a possibility this had something to do with Marilyn Monroe's death, referenced at the start to the show...

...which would suggest that the characters are, thematically, being killed by the times they are living in (certainly Joan's repose is deathly, turning Roger's office into a tomb).

Also, there was a blood drive subplot, which could be a hint that all of the characters shown lying down are bleeding out, that their souls are grievously wounded.

Or they're just lazy.

Best of them was Betty's faceplant.

Oh Betty, if only I could send some Prozac back in time for you!

TV Return of the Week:

So great to see Francis Capra on TV again, after illness made his appearances on Veronica Mars sporadic.

He did a great job on that show, mixing youthful cockiness, insecurity, and machismo. Hopefully he'll get a chance to do the same on Heroes.

::sigh:: Never mind.

TV Return of the Week(s) That Didn't Involve Getting Killed Like A Totally Lame Punkass Bitch:

Xander Berkeley, a character actor I'm immensely fond of, appeared in The Mentalist as a folksy cop who helps our team track down the Redhead Killer, as well as becoming a suspect towards the end. Here he is being a big red herring while talking to Amanda Righetti, formerly Hailey Nichol on The O.C.

If this had been CSI, the killer would have been Berkeley, as the guest star is always the killer. CSI might be the superior show, but it does keep making that mistake. Ten points to The Mentalist, but if it really wants to totally win me over, it can come up with some complicated way to make Berkeley a regular. Automatic 10,000-point George Mason bonus.


Look! It’s Sara Sidle, come back to Las Vegas to attend Warrick’s funeral!

I see Jorja Fox is rocking the late-80s Ally Sheedy look. Shame it doesn’t suit her, because otherwise my late-80s smitten-adolescent self would heartily approve.

Beautiful Visual of the Week(s):

Ned bringing hundreds of bees back to life with the help of Chuck was the most memorable visual of the last couple of weeks.

I can imagine that the ladies who love Lee Pace (LL Lee P) would also agree.

Clever Visual of the Week(s):

House guest star Breckin Meyer, playing a crappy artist, is exhibiting symptoms of visual agnosia, which means his perception is distorted though he doesn’t realize it, leading to a clever cold open featuring a hideous portrait that he sees as normal. Later in the episode he is visited by two strange doctors…

…but they are actually Taub and Thirteen, their identities obscured by his ailment.

It’s not much to rave about, but in a mostly underwhelming episode, I was taking what I could get.

Ridiculous Visual of the Week(s):

Was it the sight of supervillain Knox activating his super strength by sniffing very hard?

Or unpowered Daphne being revealed to have a flappy-arms dash that does not scream Wally West so much as Dean and Hank Venture's various "Super Run Away!" moments?

Maybe it was the moment it was revealed she was running at superspeed in high heels.

Could it be the pirouetting Wall Street traders flying off in a scene that would otherwise have been supercool (a New York populated by flying people and speedsters)?

Or the ludicrous Men in Black stylings of Agent Glasses and Agent Sylar?

How about Suresh the Super Hoodie scuttling around his future lab like a verbose Phantom of the Opera?

Or maybe it was domesticated Sylar (sorry, Gabriel) hanging out with some kid named Noah and Mr. Fucking Muggles, who is apparently immortal?

Perhaps it's the future of fashion, which, to the horror of designers everywhere, appears to be lots of black...

...with black dyed hair a la Al Pacino...

...or,if that's not an option, the Young Republican look (thanks to Heroes semi-fan Diane Court for that observation).

Surely the strongest contender has to be Matt following his animal totem, a turtle (which seems to at least be intentionally funny, and an obvious way to keep him out of the way for a week or so).

I think by now you get my point.

Psyche-Tearing Visual of the Week(s):

It's either the removal of a drug-filled bezoar from Breckin Meyer's stomach...

...Meyer's grotesque swelling caused by anaphylactic shock...

...or this nightmarish image from Pushing Daisies, as a bee-coated assassin menaces Chuck.

A nice reverse of the final scenes of The Wicker Man, where, as everyone knows, bees will go for THE EYES! NO, NOT THE BEES! MY EYES!!!

And yes, there is still more to come (and I will happily admit I'm milking this to make it look like I'm posting more).

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