Arrow

Dear Arrow Writers,

I really like your show. Please get rid of the voiceover.

~A Fan

Advertisements

Born to Dance

As a sucker for all TV shows involving dance, I simply had to check out this new show. Laurieann Gibson sure has been making the rounds of the television world. In addition to The Dance Scene on E!, choreographer Laurieann (best known for her time on Making the Band) is also heading up a new show called Born to Dance on BET. The show is a dance competition in which Gibson searches for the best dancer–the winner receiving $50,000.

The biggest problem with this show is the number of dancers that start off the competition (20, few of which have gotten enough time for us to recognize in any significant way that does not involve their hairstyle) and the lack of clear elimination standards. It seems sort of arbitrary to how Gibson is feeling.

Each round, they work on two styles (last week’s was ballet and hip hop), perform the number they have learned in small groups, and then Gibson decides (with perhaps some consultation with her assistants) which two dancers will leave.

The most interesting part of the show, predictably, is watching Gibson’s version of tough love and passion–which usually means bringing dancers to tears and then saying something encouraging to make them feel at least a little better. We saw this same thing on Making the Band, Dance Scene, and whatever other random shows she has been on.

So far, the show doesn’t compare to America’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance, but to tide you over until those shows come back (sadly, So You Think You Can Dance just ended), it is fun to see some good choreographer and some bigger drama.

Friends with Benefits

NBC latest summer comedy follows five friends in search of the perfect significant other. There’s Ben and Sarah, close friends who talk incessantly about sex and hook up on the side, plus three others (a romantic, a hot bartender, and a guy who has only distinguished himself in that he doesn’t think people should hook up within the group and likes cougars–or perhaps just will take sex where he can get it).

After two episodes, I have not been able to learn who the other characters were (as evidenced above, I wasn’t even able to learn their names). I’m not sure how I feel about Sara and Ben, the two characters we do know. Perhaps we need to get to know them better before we decide if we should like them. Sara is a doctor with everything set in her life except her love life–she is desperate to find her significant other and outs up with a lot of ridiculous dates to do that. Ben is more of a player who finds silly reasons to break up with girls. We don’t know what he does for a living or anything else about him. The lack of explanation (how they became friends, what the group dynamic is, what everyone does for a living) is the problem with the show. Or at least the biggest problem. For comparison:

  • How I Met Your Mother we learn immediately that Marshall and Ted are roommates and best friends from college, Marshall has been dating Lily (a schoolteacher as we see almost immediately) for years and is about to get engaged, we see how Barney and Ted met (Barney is a womanizer who always wears suits), and Ted (who is obviously a romantic) meets Robin (a reporter) in a bar after she moves to New York–all of this is established naturally within the first seven minutes.
  • Friends has our main characters sitting in their usual haunt, Central Perk, where we find that Ross is getting divorced, Phoebe is eccentric, Monica is looking for love, Chandler is a joker, Joey is a womanizer, and Rachel has just run out on her wedding (and is obsessed with shopping) and becomes Monica’s roommate when she has nowhere else to go. Monica and Ross are siblings and Rachel went to high school with them. This is also established in the first seven minutes.
  • Big Bang Theory we find out that Leonard and Sheldon are science geniuses/socially inept nerds who live together and they meet Penny when she moves in across the hall. (This show takes longer to establish the wider group of characters but these three are the core relationship of the show so it is the most important part of the show.) Raj and Howard only show up 14 minutes in, but they are quickly established as more nerds (with Howard obsessed with women and Raj silent).

Noticing a comedy pattern here, at least when it comes to friend-centric comedies–someone new comes into the picture, changing the group dynamics in some way. But Friends with Benefits doesn’t establish the group dynamic, how it is changed, and who everyone is.

The jokes are sort of eh, can’t think of any that really made me laugh out loud. It is clear that NBC doesn’t care all that much for the show–the late summer start date, Friday night schedule, virtually no promotion. It doesn’t help the show that a movie of the same name is in theaters at the moment. I wouldn’t count on this show being renewed.

Against the Wall

Lifetime’s newest foray into scripted television comes in the form of cop procedural series Against the Wall. Abby Kowalski comes from a family of cops, but when she passes her detectives’ exam, the only opening is in Internal Affairs. As someone determined to forge a career in homicide, Abby takes the opening (she needs two years before she can move into homicide), despite the fact that IA is hated by cops and will not be well received by he family.

Sure enough, her father stops talking to her and her bothers shut her out. Her mother tries to be supportive but it is difficult in a hostile home. Abby meanwhile has little social life and a lot of quirks (she is particularly clumsy and her only foray into a relationship is a secret affair with her brother’s partner that is nothing more than late night sex).

Though there is potential for exploration into a sector of the police that is often ignored and greatly disliked despite their necessity, all we see is some hostility. Perhaps going deeper into the idea that “we protect our own” would help matters. The show is the same as any cop show, though it lacks the complex characters to really back that up. (Abby at least is about as complex as a spoon.) It also doesn’t help that she has so many brothers it is hard to keep anyone straight. There are hints that her father had a run in with IA, which could be an interesting story to explore. The characters could use more fleshing out, the plots a bit more surprising. Overall, it is a fun hour, but it will not be topping any must see lists any time soon.

Lost Girl

SyFy’s latest international acquisition (if you consider Canada international) is Lost Girl, a popular Canadian series about a girl who has lived her life on the run because of her…condition. When she sleeps with someone they die. When she runs into others with unique abilities of their own, she learns that she is not human. She is a succubus and there is a complex world of Dark and Light “fae.”

The show has a few unique aspects to it that make it particularly interesting:

First and foremost, Bo, the main character, is bisexual. Considering how rare this is on television, especially in America, this makes for a particularly unique story. There are only two such characters I can think of offhand who are not simply gay or experimenting (Captain Jack Harkness of the recently imported Torchwood and Max of Make It or Break It).

Secondly, the world of the fae is interesting because although the two sides are Light fae and Dark fae, Bo is aligned to neither side and despite these the seemingly obvious division of good and bad, it is quickly clear that things are not divided so simply as that.

Finally, a succubus is not a common fantasy character on TV. The only other fleshed out succubus character I can think of offhand is Andie Bates on The Gates, who was only just beginning to discover her abilities. More often, a succubus is the bad guy in a single episode of a series.

The acting is probably not the best acting I’ve seen, but the story lines make up for this.

Web Therapy

Web therapy is about self-obsessed therapist Fiona Wallice who has created a new form of therapy–video chatting for three minutes. She hopes this will encourage her patients to get to the point quickly and allow her to treat more patients and thus earn more money.

I wasn’t sure what I would be getting with this show. Honestly, I had tried out the web series and found myself not thrilled. It’s not that it was bad, per se, it just didn’t have quite enough depth for me. It felt like it sacrificed story for laughs. When they announced that it was coming to Showtime, I had hopes that maybe they fleshed out the stories and went beyond the literal therapy sessions. I do love Lisa Kudrow after all.

What I found was a show that just felt like the web series strung together with a couple added scenes. There wasn’t enough depth to Fiona’s character (and too little screen time for anyone else to get to know them either).

After watching the first half hour episode, I knew I would not be watching any more. It is exciting to see web shows being given real consideration and being brought to primetime, but unfortunately, this one does not do it for me.

Awkward.

MTV’s newest foray into the half hour comedy follows Jenna Hamilton through her trials and tribulations in high school. She starts out as something of a nobody but after an accident garners some unwanted attention in school, she finds herself at the center of attention.

Like with the network’s series The Hard Time of RJ Berger, Jenna has a mother who is more obssessed with sex and good lucks than being a mother with good advice. The school guidance counselor is little better. (Only Jenna’s father seems to be at all sensible though he is hardly in the show so it barely counts.)

In school Jenna must contend with the boy she likes who slept with her and then ignored her and an overweight cheerleader who is out to get her (though the reason is unclear at first).

The show is funny and clever in a way that its other recent TV shows have not been lately. I can’t pretend to love the voice overs (meant to be lines from Jenna’s blog “Awkward.”), as I generally dislike them unless they are extremely well integrated into the show. But aside from that, I don’t really have any complaints.