Friday, August 23, 2013

Random TV Stuff - 8/24/13

THE NEWSROOM (HBO) - Maybe this show will redeem itself in Season 3, after the 2012 election.  Ehh, who am I kidding?  Each episode will be about this or that "phony scandal." One week will be Will lecturing on why people are overreacting to the NSA overreach, then on one where the IRS targeting was not politically motivated...

We had one episode start with "Republican" Will McAvoy giving an Olbermann-esque rant against the GOP presidential nominees for not standing up for the gay soldier who was booed at the Orlando debate, and Jim continued to push the Romney campaign for specifics on his proposals, to the point that he and a handful of other reporters who want the "truth" get kicked off the campaign bus. Makes it look like Mitt had the worst presidential staff in history working for him.  You never see anyone on this show concerned about Democrats or Obama being specific or telling the truth, except for this fake Genoa story.

But that's just the politics of it.  We know where Sorkin stands on issues, and therefore where his "voice-of-reason" characters will stand. The journalists on here don't act like journalists so much as advocacy pundits.  Then there's the baffling subplot of Maggie's desire to go to "Africa" and report some news and stuff. "I'm going to go to Africa! There's got to be some news there, right?"

I imagine the season finale's going to have a heyday with how wrong the Romney side was with poll numbers. But you know, with that one, deservedly so.

The next episode saw the conclusion of the "Jim on the Romney beat" storyline, with Jim getting an exclusive interview with Mitt only to give it away to Meryl Streep's daughter.  The campaign manager had some world-weary wisdom for Jim on why campaigns are so maddening in their lack of information. I was just glad it was over.

We got the "Africa" reveal finished, so now we know why Maggie cut off her hair and dyed it.  We also had Will destroy an OWS representative on air with sound arguments, but then it spent the rest of the episode with everyone feeling bad about it and trying to apologize to her, partially because she had information on an unrelated story.

Next episode!  News Night with Will McAvoy.  The best episode of the season because it takes place in real time and so the usual Sorkin grandstanding doesn't have much room to worm its way in.

Next episode!  It all comes crashing back to Sorkinland when Jim and Neal find themselves at lunch with spokeswomen for Romney and Paul.  Of course Jim and Neal have giant monologue answers ready on why Romney and Paul are so inferior, and of course the Romney and Paul advocates are bad at arguing their side if they bother arguing at all.  We later get a montage of McAvoy news broadcasts that slamming conservatives here and there.  The character of McAvoy makes less and less sense the more you think about it.

Underlying all of this, though, is the pursuit of a fictitious story - possible war crimes committed by the US with saran gas in Operation Genoa.  It's the narrative hook of the whole season and it's the strongest part of the season.  It gives hope to what this series could be if it wasn't so concerned playing Captain Hindsight with how it wishes MSNBC would have reported the news the first time around.

OZ (HBO) - I only had seen one episode of this show, and it was the musical episode that ended with one of the inmates getting raped by head Nazi Vern Schillinger (JK Simmons).  But just recently I decided to watch the very first episode and very last episode.  For one thing, for all the guys who got killed during that series' six-year run, it was interesting to see how many were there from beginning to end.  Lee Tergeson, JK Simmons, Terry Kinney, Rita Moreno, Dean Winters, Kirk Acevedo, Lauren Velez among them, and then the only recently killed Ernie Hudson and Eamonn Walker. Also there the whole time was Harold Perrineau, narrator. Did he ever get to be part of the show, or did he really spend the whole series only addressing the camera?

I did it as a reference point because I'm also watching...

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Netflix) - It's like Oz, but in a women's prison, and it's a comedy. Heh heh.  It's actually very much so obviously from the creator of Weeds.

Taylor Schilling (Atlas Shrugged Part I) has found her breakout role as Chapman, a young woman sentenced to 15 months in prison for a drug crime she committed ten years ago. Once inside she finds out her former lesbian lover (That 70's Show's Laura Prepon), the one who named her, is in prison too. Chapman's terrified her fiance (Jason Biggs) might find out, and so the show is her trying to learn the ropes and survive her 15 months.

Each week we get a back story on another inmate.  Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek Voyager) plays Red, a Russian cook we later see got entangled with the mob.  The next week we see the back story on a trannie who was arrested for credit card theft shortly after his/her surgery.  And so on.

The show could do five seasons and stay within the 15 months, but I have a fear it's going to have something terrible happen in the season finale that extends her sentence. I guess I'll find out when I get there. I'm six episodes in.

In TV news:

- Brian Baumgartner (The Office) will be guest-starring on CBS's Mike & Molly this fall.

- Keith Carradine (Dexter) will be joining the cast of Fox's The Following for its second season.

- Randy Jackson announced he would no longer be a judge on American Idol, but he will be staying with the show in the capacity of mentor for the performers.  Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj won't be returning, leaving Keith Urban the only returning judge from last season.  It's possible former judge Jennifer Lopez will return.

- This coming season of Survivor: Blood & Water features previous players competing with their loved ones.  For example, this will be the fourth time that Rupert Boneham is playing, this time with his wife.  Previous winner Tina Wesson (Australia) is playing with her daughter, and previous winner Aras Baskauskas (Panama Exile Island) is playing with his brother.

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