Saturday, January 24, 2009

TV Update: 3 Season Premieres

Spoilers ahead.

Battlestar Galactica: I'm tremendously glad to see the return of one of my favorite shows, but the first two episodes, while they haven't been bad, have just kind of been... there. There have been a few shocker moments, mostly in the first episode: Starbuck finding her crashed ship containing what appears to be her own charred corpse inside; Dee blowing her brains out; Ellen Tigh being revealed as the final Cylon (maybe -- I'm not sure I'm ready to swallow that one yet); Tyrol learning he's not the father of his child. And, to the delight of shippers everywhere, Adama and Roslin finally did the nasty. But there hasn't been much real forward progress. The political machinations of the Council just don't grab me, and Gaeta's fomenting mutiny rings false (though I certainly wouldn't blame him if he put a bullet in the back of Starbuck's head). In all fairness, after the letdown of Earth, it's realistic that the fleet would be reeling in bitterness and depression, and mostly spinning its wheels. But I'd like to see a little movement next episode, please. Hell, at least let us see what the Cylons are up to!

Lost: Another returning show I'm thrilled about. The two-hour premiere was packed with action and dizzying revelations. The island is skipping around in time? Neat. Sayid kicks a bunch of ass? Super. Sun totally rubs Kate's face in the fact that she basically let Jin die? Cold. Ana-Lucia appears to Hurley, and lets him know "Libby says hi"? Whoa. There were a couple of bits that I didn't even understand until doing some internet research. I had forgotten about Miles' ability to see/hear ghosts, so I didn't initially get how he found the dead boar in the jungle. And I didn't recognize Ms. Hawking, played by Fionnula Flanagan; I had forgotten her original appearance, when she laid out Desmond's destiny for him in season 3. I assumed she was Faraday's mother when she appeared at the end of the episode, talking to Ben. (And who knows, maybe she is.) But, despite all the cool things that happened, I was slightly disappointed. There was forward momentum, there were great character moments. I just never really felt utterly blown away, as I always am following Lost premieres and finales. I think my expectations were a bit high, because really, these were two great hours of television. I'm being greedy, asking for anything more. And yet, here we are.

The United States of Tara: Toni Collette is absolutely amazing in this new Showtime series as Tara, a suburban housewife with multiple personalities. (I don't even want to get into what the proper technical term for her disorder is; you know what I mean.) It's truly an incredible performance -- performances. She's utterly different as each personality she inhabits; her facial expressions, the cadence of her speech, her walk and body language. It's more than enough to make up for the several forcibly quirky Diablo Cody-isms peppered throughout the script (Collette can even sell a line as absurd as "I hate you for not fucking me" with an immature pout and a petulant exit). I loved Cody's Juno, but her dialogue can definitely be a hindrance to connecting with her characters. To her credit, both in that film and on this show, her characters are strong enough to transcend the occasional gibberish line, and to sell their emotional reality. What I especially love about Tara, beyond Collette, is the way her family accepts and supports her, even when they're frightened or confused by her (especially her "Buck" persona, a belligerent redneck who derides Tara's son with homophobic name-calling, yet also leads a standing ovation for Tara's daughter's ballet recital). It's a compelling familial dynamic, one not often seen on TV, where even in family sitcoms the characters do nothing but sling put-downs back and forth. Tara's family is completely messed-up, yet fully functional. I loved the first episode of this show, and can't wait for the new episode tomorrow.

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