Monday, July 13, 2009

Evil, Orgies, and Growing Up

Finally, Entourage returned for the summer last night. HBO is obviously gunning for a big Sunday night with True Blood, Hung, and Entourage. Hung, I'm still undecided about, as it's got this annoying habit of starting at the end and flashing back to reveal each episode. I don't mind non-linear storytelling, as long it's done well. (Pulp Fiction) But it can also be a shortcut to try and keep the click-happy viewing public engaged by putting the climax upfront and then making us sit through the build-up. The problem with this trick, when it's done repeatedly, is that it's needed only if the episodes are consistently THAT boring in the build-up. Also, the "hook" or climax had better be good enough to keep me watching to see what caused it, and I'm not sure Hung is doing that. But it's happily (and luckily) sandwiched between Blood and the boys, and not only is Thomas Jane still cute, but Jane Adams is interesting, so I may as well give it a shot. I just hope it doesn't become a chore, the way that Weeds and Nurse Jackie feel.

Those two shows are definitely living off audience goodwill. Weeds at least culled its own goodwill with a few very funny seasons, but Jackie is leaching off the goodwill of Edie Falco and The Sopranos -- and neither show is delivering.

Entourage, of course, has built up gallons of good will over the seasons, and it has cemented itself as a thing of summer. The first episode wasn't bad, but it did coast a bit. There were a few funny bits, and they've thrown down the gauntlet for the season, as the whole first episode was hinting at the end of this protracted adolescence for the guys. Drama was hard at work, Turtle was in a good relationship, E was managing his now successful company and thinking of moving out on his own, and even Vinny took a huge step toward independence by finally getting his driver's license. As if that's not enough, Lloyd is finally making his stand and demanding Ari consider promoting him. I remember high school graduation, and how bittersweet it all was, because while everything was good and it was exciting to commence onto bigger and better things, it was also sad because I knew nothing would ever be like high school again. Friends would drift apart and move away, and we'd start doing things instead of fucking around at the beach for days on end. Seeing Vince come home to his empty house was a bit sad, like going home after the prom. He's back on top in the town, but here he was, all alone. Luckily, they didn't play this heavy-handed, as it IS Entourage and it wisely knows its place as a COMEDY. And I assume we can sidestep the sad thing of friends drifting off, considering this season's tagline is simply "life changes. friends don't."

Even luckier, True Blood also knows its place, particularly in the most recent episode written by Alan Ball himself. It's not a drama, it's not a horror show, it's not a comedy. It's all those things. Admittedly, the horror barometer dropped this episode. In fact, I don't think I had to turn away from the screen due to squick factor even once. But the comedy was high and Ball got the ball really rolling.

Prepare yourself, because the following sentence is one that I never thought I'd type, and you probably didn't either. I'm really a little sick of the orgy scenes. Gah! Can you believe it? A little part of me actually died at having to type that! But that's how good Blood is overall. Unlike Hung, which has been using the jumbled timeline to build more interest, Blood has been exquisitely good at keeping each episode ended on a cliffhanger, picking up the next one at exactly that spot, and then keeping the tension/action superbly taut. But for three episodes in a row, we've gotten prolonged orgy scenes, and they were really starting to weigh things down because it just wasn't new. FINALLY this episode we got not only the orgy, but an epic sex scene between Tara and Eggs as that crazy vibrating bitch finally revealed something new, too. And, instead of just sex and dancing in a Matrix 2 rave-like manner, this time the orgy goers started doing face plants in plates of sandwiches and eating dirt. I can give that a thumbs up.

Something else I give a thumbs up? Whoever does the makeup and lighting on this show is top notch. I mean, I know we're dealing with pretty girls to start with. And they've always used the lighting in an almost film noir way in this show. But all I know is this -- if any female is asked to appear on this show, she should say yes immediately, because they are going to make her look supernaturally beautiful.

I've had enough of the crappy curls on Sookie so far this year. It's made her look a little over-made-up, but I did love the hell out of her fancy yellow traveling outfit this week. So Sookie.

But it was the boys who stole the show. From LaFayette's regenerated libido-laced dance to Jason Stackhouse laying down the ultimate in idiot logic at church camp. When his nemesis tries to end the hilarious discussion about who the first biblical vampire was by simply saying, "All I know is that you can count on God to make sure evil gets punished," Jason was able to shut him up with this gem: "Oh yeah? Then how do you explain Europe?" So beautifully Jason Stackhouse.

And, finally, I have to succumb to Vampire Bill. From threatening sweet Hoyt with "Are you going to leave or do I have to throw you out? Of a window! That is closed!" To slyly telling Sookie, "I am a vampire. I am supposed to be tormented." I have finally come around to Stephen Moyer's deadpan deliveries and lack of contractions. He, more than anyone else, cracks me up. He had me last year with his damn Frescas for guests, but this year I'm getting quite a charge out of him. Maybe it's because he's the resident "Johnny Drama" of the show, constantly beleaguered, always played the bitch by Eric and Jessica and whoever else. But he has this strange delivery that I guess maybe only the Brits can master, cause he really does remind me a bit of Cary Grant when he says offhanded shit like, "I will need your credit card number" and it cracks me up. Well, you know, if Cary Grant was painted in white chalk, wearing fangs, and was a Louisiana southern gentleman-come-deadly predator. And I love when people call him "Vampire Bill" instead of just Bill. And this episode, Ball wrote him the best lines to bring out his wry humor while still sticking it to him at every opportunity. Him trying to navigate the tutelage of his young progeny Jessica is just comic gold, as is watching her struggle to not only grow up, but grow into her new life, er, or, undeath.

I am just so glad the holiday is over and we get our Sunday nights now. Of course, I'll probably pitch a fit once Labor Day rolls around. Not just because it is a bittersweet time -- both fun with the big picnics and parties and fireworks (though probably no orgies at casa DiPlacido -- probably), but also sad because it is calling an end to the fun of summer, but mostly because it will once again interrupt my addiction, and I'm just not grown up enough to handle it.


Donna said...

Wonderful commentary as always! Hey, when you're in our business, orgies do get boring, don't they? But the question is, how do we get invited on to Blood so we can get the makeover? Maybe if they had a contest for an erotica scene....?

I can't wait for "Mad Men" in August. Might even have to go buy a Joanie skirt and blouse at Banana Republic, lol.

SusanD said...

Hey Donna! You know, Alan Ball had Susie Bright on Six Feet Under! I STILL have not caught up with "Mad Men." It's at the top of my list when winter rolls around to start watching it on DVD.