Full House

I recently decided to start watching Full House from the beginning. Not sure what prompted the decision, but so far (I’m in season two) I’m glad I did. That being said, I feel like I have been a bit disillusioned. Little is the way I remember it:

  • Danny was not always a neat freak (in season two he vacuums the regular vacuum with a smaller one, but before then he does nothing like it)
  • Stephanie did not say How Rude! until halfway through season one
  • Jesse doesn’t say have mercy until even later than that
  • Even the lyrics to the theme song aren’t as I remember (it turns out they changed slightly over time)

I was surprised to find the first few episodes super emotional. If anything, the premise of this comedy is shockingly depressing–Danny’s wife dies, leaving him to care for his three daughters alone–but the show manages to strike a balance with this sadness by bringing in rocker musician Jesse (Danny’s brother-in-law) and stand up comedian Joey (Danny’s best friend).

Watching Michelle (the Olsen Twins) grow up is also fascinating. We literally see them go from silent baby to walking and talking toddler and beyond. It is strange to see someone actually play their own age on television. Though they never look unhappy on the show, Mary Kate apparently regrets her childhood years on set.

I find myself appreciating DJ much more than before–she is the one who pulls in the tears most because she is the only one old enough to understand the bigger picture of what is going on. She is old enough to truly understand that her mother is gone and express those feelings. Eventually Michelle and Stephanie grow up to be a part of this story too.

Farscape

As a fan of Claudia Black, I was excited to learn that she was a key member on Farscape. I never saw this show while it was on the air, but as it was listed in many Top 10 lists for best Sci-Fi shows, I decided it was time to check it out.

John Crichton goes into space to create an experiment, only to be sucked through a wormhole and deposited elsewhere in the galaxy. What he finds there is a living prison ship transporting prisoners who may not be guilty, captured by Peacekeepers who may not be concerned with peace. Here is where his adventure begins. As he attempts to find his way home, he meets many aliens and makes a handful of powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to catch him and extricate the knowledge that he manages to acquire along the way.

I have always loved stories about the development of a hard-hearted character who becomes more human (think Seven of Nine from Star Trek, Cara from Sword of Truth, Grianne Ohmsford from the Shannara series, etc) so I was all too happy to watch the journey of Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun as she is forced to reconsider the solider’s life she has always known when she gets stuck with Crichton and the prisoners.

The show has a lot of characters, some better than others. Pilot, who has a symbiotic relationship with the living ship, Moya, has one of the more interesting, if less often touched upon back stories. If there was one thing I could have wished for on the show, it would be more about him. (Which is difficult since he cannot really go anywhere since he is actually attached to the ship itself.) Rygel and Chiana were two of my least favorite characters. They barely developed over the course of the show and were mostly just annoying and selfish (Rygel was a former dictator who was deposed by his cousin and only cares about money and material objects while Chiana is an escaped Nubari that had the potential for an interesting storyline with the her brother is leading but instead spends her time obsessing over sex).

I’m not sure that I would list this as my favorite sci-fi show but I certainly did enjoy it and wished for the series to go on for longer.

Wildfire

I’ve found myself surprisingly impressed with ABC Family shows so when I saw that this entire show was up on Hulu, I naturally decided to try it. I also have a bit of a dislike for horse shows (thanks to a few particularly bad incidences, such as Misty of Chincoteague) so I was a little doubtful. This show did a good job of removing my dislike.

Wildfire follows a girl who was in a correctional facility and is given a second chance when a horse racing family takes her in as a stable hand. Eventually, she becomes part of the family and becomes a jockey.

There are some things about this show that I particularly like:

  • The time the show spent on Kris’s family in particular was very strong. we come to understand how she might have ended up in the juvenile detention center and why she might make bad decisions in her life.
  • Her issues when it came to trust in herself and others was particularly clear and understandable. After making so many bad decisions for herself and being hurt by so many people, it is only natural that she would be hesitant to trust even when people seem to have only ever helped her.
  • There was an interesting competitive/friendly dynamic happening between the Davis and Ritter farms. On the one hand the Davis family would stop at no cost to become the dominant stable. On the other, the Davis children could not help but become entangled with the Ritter family. This push and pull between family and friend/love loyalty added stakes to every aspect of the show because to win in on area meant losing in another.

There were some things I did not like:

  • Kris’s relationship with Junior felt forced in the beginning and rushed in the end. It seemed strange that she would fall for him, that he would change personalities so quickly, and that their wedding would happen so fast. It almost makes me wonder if they were likely to succeed long-term.
  • There was so much more potential in Kris’s backstory than what we got. We could have used more about Kris’s family–seeing her mother a second time, maybe learning about her father. I would have liked to see her go home at some point (not permanently, just to confront her past head on).

Ultimately, I enjoyed this show. It isn’t ABC Family’s best, but it is a step in the direction that the network has taken recently to become more current and popular.

The West Wing

I’ve made a long list of shows that I want to watch from beginning to end (some that I have seen before, some that I have heard are excellent but have missed for some reason) and the first on this long list is The West Wing. Somehow, I completely missed this show while it was on. To be fair, I wasn’t even in high school when it started. but now that I’ve finally gotten the chance, I know what I was missing out on.

The West Wing follows President Jed Bartlet and his staff as they navigate the politics, drama, and disasters that happen when you run a country. Though the politics plays an enormous part of the show, the characters are what truly makes it great.

  • Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen)- The principled, ever hopeful and all but unstoppable president. Most of the time the president is astounding us by his unshakeable faith in mankind and America, but meanwhile, he was keeping an enormous secret from the American people: he had remitting relapsing multiple sclerosis. His illness adds another layer to an already inspiring and complex person. His wife, Abigail, who helped him cover up his illness thanks to her doctor credentials, is an essential part of his character. She is strong and opinionated (played by Stockard Channing).
  • Leo McGarry (Josh Spencer)- the chief of staff (and later democratic nominee for vice president) and the moral center of the show when the president could not be. One of McGarry’s struggles throughout the show was his alcoholism and later, his health issues. [Spoiler: Spencer died in the middle of the final season and the show did an excellent job of handling his death tastefully and emotionally.]
  • CJ Cregg (Allison Janney)- originally press secretary and later chief of staff, Cregg was easily one of my favorite characters on the show. Maybe it was her quick wit or her unshakability despite everything she had to deal with (being kept in the dark before briefing the press, the president’s illness, multiple security leaks, etc). Her biggest personal trials included her father’s alzheimer’s and her romantic life.
  • Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff)- Communications director and perhaps one of my least favorite characters on the show. I think I disliked him for the same reason his ex-wife did: he was too sad all the time. He was very sweet with his twins and seeing him coached by Kristin Chenowith to be the new press secretary when Cregg becomes chief of staff was pretty funny, but that’s about it.
  • Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford)- Deputy Chief of Staff for Bartlet and later Campaign Manager and Chief of staff for the next president, Josh was the cocky sort of ladies man. I say sort of because he didn’t really seem to quite know what to do with the women who were attracted to him. (One particularly fun relationship was between him and Mary Louise Parker’s character, Amy Gardner, though we always knew he would end up with longtime secretary Donna Moss.) despite his arrogance, he’s a fighter and does not easily give up. He fought an uphill battle to secure Matthew Santos the next presidency.
  • Donna Moss (Janel Maloney)- originally senior assistant to Josh, she later becomes a spokesperson and then chief of staff to the first lady. Donna is another enjoyable character on the show. Donna’s main story lines revolve around her interactions with Josh but she’s always been able to hold her own against his craziness.
  • Charlie Young (Dule Hill)- he starts off as the personal aide to the president but ultimately becomes deputy special assistant to CJ when she is chief of staff. Charlie’s mother was a police officer killed in the line of duty and gets a job to help care for his sister. One of his biggest plots revolves around his relationship with the president’s youngest daughter Zoe which leads to hate mail and an assassination attempt. he is another one of my favorites.

Some other excellent actors, who were not in the show for the full duration, include Rob Lowe, Joshua Malina, Mary McCormack, Kristin Chenoweth, Jimmy Smits, Alan Alda, Emily Procter, Janeanne Garofolo, Matthew Perry, Lisa Edelstein, Marlee Maitlin, and Mark Fuerstein. The list is long and the amount of people we must deal with and remember is even longer. Where this normally bothers me in any other show, I didn’t mind the large cast here. It made it more believable because these were real positions that would be filled in a real White House, rather than combining people for simplicity’s sake. Plus, anyone who has every become anyone seems to have been on the show at one point or another.

As the show tried to transition out of the Bartlet presidency and into the next president, the show seemed to lose some steam. It was split between the current president and the presidential campaign, which meant dividing our attention between the cast we had come to love and all the candidates for president plus their campaign staffs. But though at first this was annoying, the new characters grew on me and eventually I found myself really liking Matt Santos and his wife Helen and truly caring about the outcome of the election that had originally felt like a distraction.

The West Wing ended up being one of my favorite shows that I have seen in a long time. I can only hope they make another show like this sometime soon.

Everything Stargate

A month or two ago, I went on Hulu in search of something to watch. I stumbled upon Stargate SG-1, which I have never watched but which, had all ten seasons up (until sometime in January, so anyone interested best start now). It’s one of those shows that has been on for so long and somehow I’d never seen it, so I figured now was as good a time as any. (Actually, I distinctly remember being turned off by the guy with the gold on his head and never giving the show a chance, but no need to get specific.) Anyway, it turns out, I quite enjoyed the show, going through all of it and its two counterparts (spin offs: Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe) and have just caught up to what is, apparently, the last season of SGU and possibly the entire series as a whole.

I’ve decided to discuss the show by individual seasons, as that is the easiest way I can think of it.

SG-1: The original cast, specifically Sam, Daniel, Teal’C, and O’Niell (plus Hammond and Dr. Frasier) are easily the best gelling of the casts. Not that I disliked Mitch (O’Niell’s replacement), Quinn (Daniel’s temporary replacement), Dr. Lamm (Dr. Frasier’s replacement), or Landry (Hammond’s replacement), but they never quite worked for me the way our original and longest running quartet plus worked for me. And at times I quite liked Valla, though I question her being placed on SG-1. Especially because it is odd to see five instead of four.

What I loved most about the series is they way they took myths about Gods from different cultures and explained how they came about. Sure, there were the Goa’uld pretending to be Gods in order to enslave people and use them as hosts, but there were also the Norse Gods, portrayed by some friendly grey aliens (so Roswell is real!) as well as some gods on other planets who weren’t what they seemed.

There was also the surprises, such as with the Nox, who are anything but what they seem, technologically and otherwise. With the Goa’uld ability to take over a person with little or no sign (plus mind control and the many other entities that could take over a person’s mind and/or body), you never quite knew who to trust.

Whether or not I agree with the idea that people couldn’t handle knowing that aliens are out there…is mostly besides the point. They deal with the issue a few times, but it is rarely actually addressed as a true debate and is more an issue of the Stargate people making sure the secret is kept.

The most surprising aspect of the show is how much it concerns itself with politics and corruption. This is a theme that runs through all three series of the show. There are always people/governments/organizations who want to subvert the Stargate program and the technology procured for their own purposes. Sometimes, they truly believe they are doing the right thing. And sometimes you can’t help but wonder if the seemingly more fanatic groups might be right, even if just a teeny-tiny bit…

Sometimes the show got goofy. Sometimes it even made fun of its own goofiness (Sam’s on screen love interests always die, Daniel always dies, TV shows made about the show itself within the show, etc), which is always appreciated. Perfect quote:
I’m thinking I can back-sell it and say you were beamed out at the last second. [Martin]
Is that not too convenient? [Teal’c]
Not if you hang a lantern on it. It’s a writer’s term. Another character points out how convenient it is. That way the audience knows I intended for it to be convenient, and we move on. [Martin]
But for all it’s goofiness, there are some serious moments. The way they dealt with Dr. Frasier’s death, for one, was extremely well handled.

The only thing I wish they had done, was kill someone off on the main cast for good. It was a little too (dare I say it) convenient, that the cast, especially Daniel, was always brought back to life after he died. There was never a concern for serious consequences because no one we really cared about ever actually died. Which seems surprising considering how powerful some of the people we were dealing with were.

I greatly appreciate the way they bring in characters from previous episodes, either by mention or by actually bringing them in. For example, we see Sam bond with Cassandra, the little girl whose home was destroyed by the Goa’uld and though Sam isn’t the one to adopt her, she comes up a few more times and is mentioned even more often than that. (There was a little disappointment that we never got confirmation of a Sam-O’Niell relationship, but not exactly a surprise either.)

The biggest question I had from this series stemmed from a set design choice. Specifically, doesn’t it seem like an odd, even poor decision to have open flames all over a spaceship? Forget the whole issue of what if you’re attacked and one of the flames gets knocked over…isn’t it an unnecessary stress on life support? Wouldn’t you want the power on your ship running efficiently and not having to make up for the fact that fire is eating up oxygen all over the ship?

Atlantis: It felt like they couldn’t quite make up their mind about who should star in this series. The original cast was John, Teyla, Rodney, Aiden, Weir, and Beckett. Then they replaced Aiden with Ronen, Beckett with Keller, Weir with Sam, and Sam with Woolsey. For that reason the cast never seemed to gel quite as well as the original SG-1. Not all replacements were negatives. I liked Weir a lot, but wasn’t sorry to see Sam join the cast. However, I was very unhappy to see Woolsey join the cast (I loved Robert Picardo on Voyager, but I could not stand his character on this show) and felt that the characters too readily accepted him replacing Sam. I absolutely loved Keller (maybe I’m just a Firefly sentimental–ps anyone notice that her eyes are really close together?), but again didn’t particularly want to see Becket go. Ronen and Aiden were pretty interchangeably whatever for me.

I love how much crossover there is between the different series. Atlantis probably has the most crossover with characters and storylines since it overlapped with SG-1. (I remember watching SG-1, hearing a reference to the Wraith, and thinking, “wait, who are the wraith?”) There are constantly references to things we saw in one series with the other, particularly with communication stones and matter bridges, not to mention a Goa’uld moment and a few Asgard and Replicator surprises.

This show also couldn’t seem to handle letting their characters die, bringing them back over and over in one form or another (anyone else think it was weird that Repli-Weir looked different than original Weir and no one commented on it?), though we did finally have to let go of one main character. Personally, I would have been okay with getting rid of Rodney. He never grew on me because I could not handle his arrogance (even if it was legitimate at times). Though I did love seeing him and Ronen compete for Keller’s affections. That was pretty cute in its way.

The Wraith problem was resolved a little too quickly in this show. I mean, it took like 8 years to finish the Goa’uld (and that wasn’t even completely finished since they had all those Ba’al clones running around). But by season 3’s end, most of the Wraith and the replicators were done. I know Sam is good (that Rodney ever thought he would be put in charge…) but still.

Biggest issue with the series: It always felt like there was supposed to be something between Teyla and John that somehow didn’t materialize and then suddenly, there’s Kanaan and she’s pregnant. And everyone kept talking about how it was so obvious, the way she talked about him etc. Had she ever mentioned his name before?

Universe: Here the cast is a lot more stable (granted the show was only two seasons), if also somewhat larger. The one thing this show lacks is a really charismatic character. Scott is the closest we see, but his introduction (sex with fellow soldier, Vanessa James) somehow seemed off. I know that this show is meant to be grittier and darker than its predecessors, but perhaps they overdid it a little with this cast. I dislike Chloe who seems sort of personality-less to me and there are too many unstable-seeming characters otherwise (Young, Rush, Greer, even Wray but in a different way). We don’t really get to know TJ well enough. Eli is the other character that draws you in and he does a pretty good job (I was devastated by the loss of Ginn, but maybe because I liked her more than the rest of the cast), but it also seems a little too easy for him to do everything. I know he’s a super-genius, but really, he has never seen alien technology before.

This show is reminiscent of Voyager, which immediately gives it a special place for me (you know, the whole stranded in the other side of the galaxy, trying to get home thing). Even more fascinating is that, where Voyager had Janeway as an obvious and able leader, Universe has no one who is quite fit to lead. This leads to constant battles for control of the ship, especially when Stargate Command back at home, along with the IOA, attempts to give them control. I’m surprised by the fact that there has been less rebellion against the folks back home. Even in Voyager Janeway strayed away from proper protocol and she was super concerned with the Federation’s rules. Only once did Young say “I’m not taking commands from people on the other side of the universe” and he still ended up doing what they wanted.

It makes a big issue of justice and authority, which is fascinating given their circumstances and while I am not entirely clear on when they figured out how to work the communication stones, I love the way they utilize them to bring the characters back home every so often. I’m not sure that the impending threat of a Lucian Alliance attack works the way they want it to, but otherwise, I love hearing orders come from Earth, always daring for the moment when someone says, “let’s be honest, I’m never going to be back home again, I don’t care what you say. and if by some chance I do make it home, I’ll say I had a nervous breakdown or something for extenuating circumstances.” i wonder why they never propose a multi-leader situation, where Young is in charge of security, Rush (or maybe someone else) is in charge of technology, and Camille (or a voted on representative) represents the rest, so that they can discuss things that are more general lifestyle issues (such as should anyone be allowed to stay behind on the planet) and should some, if any, of the Lucian Alliance people be allowed out of confinement, etc. It’s also funny that Young gets angry when Scott says he should have been informed that the only way to break David’s mind control was to kill him and bring him back. He’s all, “so you will only obey me if I explain myself?” and I’m all “soldiers aren’t supposed to let their commanding officers murder people just because they feel like it, so in this case, yes, you should be explaining.”

We get our SG-1 favorites every so often, which is always nice, though I dislike how O’Niell is represented in this season, forgoing all the rule-breaking for right that we have gotten to know him for.

I personally love this darker series, even though I don’t particularly love the cast/crew. It’s such a shame that it’s getting cancelled this early on, when it had so much more potential for a story (though the plan for Destiny to go looking for aliens that pre-existed the creation of the universe…eh). At least we have half a season (and perhaps a movie or two) to look forward to.

Arrested Development

The first time I tried this show I didn’t like it at all. Maybe I was just too tired to appreciate it. Maybe I just needed more time to get used to the characters. Whatever the reason, I was not interested at all. Then I came home and my brothers and sister kept talking about it so like with so many other shows, I figures I would have to try it again. Now I’m loving it, and have made my way through a season and a half, courtesy of watchxonline.com.

Arrested Development is about a rich family that falls apart after the father is arrested for numerous misdeeds. In truth, the family was falling apart before that because they’re all crazy. There’s George Senior, the dad. Oscar, his identical twin brother who is pretty much a bum. Lucille, the mother of the family who is overprotective and overbearing. Gob, the oldest brother who is obsessed with magic tricks. Michael, a single father and the only responsible family member. Michael’s socially awkward son George Michael who is overly studious and secretly in love with his cousin. Lindsay is Michael’s twin sister (Portia de Rossi), she loves campaigning for causes and is very lazy. Tobias is Lindsay’s husband, an ex-psychologist, failing actor, and a never nude (which is exactly what it sounds like). Maybee is Lindsay and Tobias’s rebellious and sneaky daughter. There is Buster, the youngest Bluth who is the most developmentally stunted thanks to Lucille’s attention. And I suppose we could count Anyong, the Asian boy that Lucille adopted when she wanted to teach Buster a lesson. (Anyong means hi, no one actually knows what his name is.)

Michael is forced to run the company in his father’s absence and mistakes. The family has so many financial problems that he has only a staircar (think the stairs for private planes) as transportation but his family seems not to understand this and continues living as though nothing has changed. Lindsay married Tobias in an act of rebellion so their marriage is always iffy.

The comedy is really off-beat, sometimes in your face and sometimes subtle. I think Portia de Rossi is my favorite part of the show (she’s fantastic on current show Better Off Ted) and wish there was more of her in the show. Of course, this is the show where we first meet Michael Cera, playing George Michael (so funny to see him so little!!!)

Anyway, if you’re looking for a show to watch, this is a great one, especially since there are plans for a movie in the works.

Kyle XY- Final

Well, now I’ve seen it all, at least as far as the show goes. With only ten episodes in season 3, we didn’t get very far, and we of course ended off with a cliff hanger (much like Angel and Dark Angel). What will Kyle do to Cassidy? Was Cassidy lying about his relation to Kyle? Who will Kyle choose?

I personally hate cliff hangers. If a network is going to end a show, end it. Granted, sometimes they hope the show will get picked up again, they didn’t know they would be canceled until after the season had been written, or, if they’re a little lucky, they’ll manage a movie out of it like Serenity and Dead Like Me. Let’s face it though, there’s no plans for either option. (Has ABC Family ever done something like that?)

I’m disappointed with the whole Kyle-Jessie relationship. Again, it’s just so predictable. I’d have preferred Jessie to grow and move on, realizing that having the same birth story doesn’t necessarily mean you’re soul mates. Also, why are they so hyper aware of each other? I would have liked an answer (a scientific one) to that. Because just being born the same way doesn’t explain it. If there were more of them, would they all feel that way?

The Andy-Josh thing was so sad. I almost hoped for a Topanga-Corey resolution (despite how ridiculous that one was).

A lot of the questions we’re left with get answered to some extent or another on the ABC Family website, though I find a good number of the answers unsatisfying. For example, Kyle’s life would find him alone and working for the betterment of humanity. The idea that a hero can’t have someone to share their life with is such an unhappy one and considering how quickly Kyle can solve problems, unnecessary. Superman had Lois Lane. Scott Summers had Jean Grey. And it would be one thing if Kyle were fighting off super villains all his life but ending world hunger doesn’t require secrecy.

There’s also something supremely frustrating about the Kyle-Amanda relationship. If it was Amanda’s music that attracted him, then anyone who could play well would garner the same attention. I hate relationships built on “she’s so pretty” or “wow, she plays music so well.” They’re so superficial and not about the people. Whereas Declan and Lori as well as Andy and Josh, for all their issues, have a solid foundation and personalities that matched up over time.

But while the cliffhanger was frustrating, season3 certainly carried some high impact with it. (Amanda’s kidnapping, Jessie’s revelation, Mark’s secret connections, etc.)