Monday, November 17, 2008

Building the Not So Perfect Beasts

The great thing about cable TV shows is how good they can be, how different from regular network fare. Quirky and kinky, demented and delicious. But the downside is they also have incredibly short seasons. HBO and Showtime's shows typically run 12 to 13 episodes a season, often with extremely long lag times of over a year between seasons. If it's Californication, which overstays its welcome pathetically quickly, that's a good thing. If it's Entourage, after the season they're ending, it's not shattering. But the truly vampy, campy True Blood is going to be sorely missed over the winter, as will the equally sinister, though slightly less bloody Dexter.

I love David Duchovny, but the novelty of his charm really can't pull the crass Californication out of the dreary mire of bad TV any longer. And whatever they pay Jeremy Piven, and Rex Lee, on Entourage should really be increased. Because those two did manage to keep that rapidly sinking show afloat this year. Ari and Lloyd just don't get old, and they've got me wishing that Doug Ellin and Co would consider branching out. Shows age and I know it's generally a death knell when they're forced to bring on new characters. But I have really lost the capacity to give a shit about Vince and his posse this season. The worst part? I even sort of like Eric now, but it's only in a bland way. But the whole season of Vince getting ground down just didn't play, possibly because he was such a bitch about some of the circumstances, and possibly because it just got too over-the-top and redundant. We saw brief of flashes of Ari with a couple of his other clients. Jeffrey Tambor was hilarious, and even the smarmy Mark Wahlberg appearance was a relief. (If they want to do clever meta-funny, they need to bring on Donny Wahlberg and have him face off with Drama. Now that'd be wink-wink funny, and probably funny.) And though Seth Green again juiced up the show with some ridiculous antics for an episode, on the whole, as this season closes, I find myself wishing Ari would find another movie-star wannabe or two and then they could show us those people and their posse as they navigate Hollywood from the shallow shores to the rocky reefs in even shallower shores.

I still want to love the boys, but they've hit levels of stupidity, vapidity, and just downright self-centered meanness this year that frayed my patience for their shenanigans. Drama, don't cock-block Turtle! Ever!

Oddly, nearly all the characters on True Blood fray my edges, too, and yet I'm still riveted because the plot pulses along, and it's precisely everyone's idiocy that allows the twists. Anna Paquin's Sookie, I can forgive a lot. Frankly, I like that she's got such a hard bitch edge under that sweet exterior. And considering the level of trauma she's suffered, and her young age, I can even go along with her fatuous self-involvement. It's not an attractive trait how utterly involved with herself she is, but it's fairly accurate and allows her swings in emotion to keep things with loverboy Bill tense. But this week pushed the envelope of believability: Bill's on trial for murder and she gets huffy that he's been unavailable to serve her needs for two whole days so she flings herself at Sam, even though she knows that he's taken up with her best friend. And her best friend? Tara could be lying in a ditch dead, but neither Sam nor Sookie seem too concerned about it. And yet, it feels not so much like convenient writing as actually in-character actions from these two to behave this way! So I can go with it!

And as for Bill, I've finally warmed to him, probably because he's finally getting put through the wringer. He was forced to be a "maker" last week as punishment for his murder of another vampire. But his baby-vamp Jessica turned out to be even more of a monster than you'd expect for a vampire, in the most hilarious way.

Not only does he have to frustratedly deal with Jessica whining about hunger and calling him a dick, but then he returns home to find Sookie making out with Sam! I love it. I love it nearly as much as I love Lafayette, who's rapidly vying with Lloyd for my favorite Sunday night side dish.

And when it comes to creating monsters, it's not just Bill who took the protege-plunge and had his creation come out a little icky. Over on Dexter, Jimmy Smits has taken a creepy turn to send shivers up my spine.

This isn't exactly new territory for Dexter. Season One was all about Dexter coming to grips with his identity and accepting the solitude it'd bring him, and then discovering kin and kind in the ice truck killer. Then, in season two, we had the British invasion where Dex thought maybe crazy arsonist Lila could light his fire and understand him. Neither of those experiments turned out so well. So this season, we've got Jimmy Smits as ADA Miguel Prado, and he's got a dirty little hidden agenda. Hoping, again, for camaraderie and understanding, Dex allowed this guy to insinuate himself into Dexter's life waaay too deeply. As disturbing as it is to have James Remar ever be right, Dex should've been listening to his dearly departed dad on this one, but, luckily for viewers, and for Prado's bloodlust, Dex has started training another killer. But, much like Bill's Jessica, Dexter's protege just goes a little over the edge. (Let's hope over on Entourage, Ari's new agen-pal played by Gary Cole is even half the disaster these two have parented!) I think we all know exactly where this is going to end up for Dexter, but that hardly matters. How it gets there is all the fun. I just wish there were more episodes of all this crazy killer madness.


Sticky Elbow said...

Am watching both "Dexter" and "True Blood" as well. Although, I didn't see the close of the current episode coming, now the dots are all in placed. Each season of "Dexter" telegraphed the final sequences, but the fun is watching them unfold. Undoubtedly, although we know what's going to come, there will be something unexpected. That's what I enjoy most about the series, the exhilarating turn that happens around episode 10.

As for "True Blood", that's a crazy ride. Although, Amy deserves better for the insane bitchery she displayed in the past 2 episodes. I wanted more than an whimper of what she got. The introduction of 2 new characters (lady godiva) and the new protege, I hope ties in with next season, the way "Six Feet Under" did. I'm expecting one hell of a cliff hanger for the last episode.

SusanD said...

Hey Sticky,

Amy DID deserve a much more splashy death. She had gotten quite fun with her insanity! And you're right, of course, it will end on a cliffhanger, which I'm dreading. I hate season cliffhangers, particularly on HBO shows, but with this show, that's how they're going to do it.