Hi ! Here is my report on the shows I watched this summer, or that I am watching right now or that I will watch by the end of the year, and because it's quite long I split it in 5 parts (and the last two will only be written in mid-December).
- Part I - My Summer (Saturday, November 5).
- Part II - My New Shows, Part 1 (Tuesday, November 8).
- Part III - My Returning Shows, Part 1 (Wednesday, November 9).
- Part IV, My New Shows, Part 2 (Wednesday, December 21).
- Part V, My Returning Shows, Part 2 (Thursday, December 22).
As I subtly implied in the title of the topic, it's just my opinion, I don't intend to be fair or impartial in my general reviews, in which I never give away huge spoilers on the season I'm reviewing, in case people who have not yet seen a season of a show want to see my opinion without having some twists ruined, like revealing Entourage was all Arnold's dream (that's not true).
I'd very much love it you comment to agree or disagree with me, and if I manage to get you interested in a show that I love, I'll be very happy, that's why I'm doing this !
- Part I is about all the shows (both comedies and dramas) that I followed weekly this summer.
- Part II will be about all the freshman series launched this fall that I follow weekly (mostly comedies).
- Part III will be about all the new seasons of returning series that I still follow weekly (mostly comedies).
- Part IV will be about all the freshman series that I will catch up on during the next 7 weeks (mostly dramas).
- Part V will be about all the new seasons of returning series that I will catch up on until Christmas (mostly dramas).
As for the ranking, I chose thumbs to represent my excitement. It becomes must-see TV when it gets two thumbs up, so it is obviously really outstanding work if I give three thumbs up. One thumb up is a show worth trying but nothing exceptional overall, one thumb down is a disappointing show not worth watching, I give two thumbs down when it is plan awful, and you don't even want to know what it takes for me to have three thumbs down.
Without further ado, here are all the shows I watched this summer and the appropriate ranking I gave them :
: Breaking Bad season 4, Curb your Enthusiasm season 8, The Big C season 2 and Wilfred season 1.
: True Blood season 4, Damages season 4 and Futurama season 6 part II.
: Rescue Me season 7, Louie season 2 and Ugly Americans season 2.
: Entourage season 8 and Web Therapy season 1.
: Falling Skies season 1.
And now, for the detailed reviews, in order of my appreciation :
: Breaking Bad season 4 (thriller, AMC, 13 épisodes) :
It is still the best drama on TV, an unquestionable masterpiece done with such passion, inspiration and talent, that is just admirable. This summer, it has been a compelling hour of television every week, and throughout the season it kept on building towards the most climatic, epic ending I've seen in a while. I've read some mixed critics regarding the slow pace of the first episodes of the season (minus the suffocating, pleasurable premiere) and even though it might be true, that's never been a problem for me on that show, because the characters can do the most random, boring things and Vince Gilligan will find a way to make it awesome... except for Marie. If I have to find one flaw to the beginning of season 4 it would be her, but she's been bugging me since episode 1.01, there's no reason it would've changed now (episode 4.03, focusing on her and her kleptomania, was not exactly the most interesting episode of the season, and when she watched Hank poop or yell at her it wasn't exciting either, the writers don't know what to do with her most of the time). And is it me or has Anna Gunn done a lot of surgery since season 3, because her face looks frozen. Well, at least Skyler has more (interesting) things to do this season, her stories are more connected to Walter's than ever and that's nice. Anyway, besides Marie's scenes, Breaking Bad is the best show on TV, one of the very best shows I've ever seen, and season 4 did not make me change my mind on that. I love what the writers have done with Jesse, in particular his relationship with Mike and Gus turning him against Walter. And Walter has a fantastic evolution, too, I'm impressed to see how far he's come, and how believable it is. Seeing him be very proud of himself, bragging at the dinner when Hank thought Heisenberg was dead, that was brilliant and yet coherent with what we had seen of him lately, it shows how much he's changed. He now has now no problem with killing, he's more than crossed the line to stay safe : meeting Gus and accepting to work for him in his facilities was like flying too close to the sun, killing Gale to avoid being killed because he was not necessary anymore to Gus was a turning point and season 4 kept on pushing things towards the most impossible situations. Walter cooking meth in an RV to gain money to give his family because of his cancer seems so far now, and his evolution never felt forced. Walter has to be one of the most nuanced character that I've ever seen. The season became really thrilling around episode 4.08, and the last 3 episodes are the most intense hours of TV I've seen all year, period. Since episode 4.13 seemed like a Series Finale in some aspects, I wonder how the last 16 episodes of the series will play out, but I sure as hell can't wait to find that out next year.
: Curb your Enthusiasm season 8 (comedy, HBO, 10 épisodes) :
In my opinion, it is still the best comedy in production. Such creativity and such virtuosity in the find and handling of various storylines throughout each episode, it just keeps on impressing me. After 7 seasons, we all know how it works, after a few minutes you can sometimes guess the pattern of the episode you're about to watch and you can sometimes see some gags coming, but that's not a problem at all since each time it was as good as you expected it to be. Each episode of Curb your Enthusiasm takes me on a journey and I sometimes totally relate to Larry (is is weird that I, as a 19-year old guy, have the same mentality as a 63-year old ?). Each time, Larry finds hilarious subjects of everyday's life and he approaches them the best way possible. What a treat it was to watch 30 minutes of pure comedy gold each Monday morning this summer. Years go by but Larry David is as funny as always. The storylines he comes up with are inspired, smart and hilarious. This season was as good as the previous ones, I can't single out a season in particular as the best one, they're all terrific, same for the 10 episodes of this seas,. Sure, episodes 8.02 (with the association of women) and 8.07 (with Rosie O'Donnell and the bisexual) were a little disappointing (although the vibrating car in episode 8.07 was hilarious), but that's nothing. I laughed my ass off every time. Having Larry in New-York was nice (besides, it allows a Ricky Gervais/Larry David confrontation, which is obviously delightful). LD can't stop, he just can't, the most talented comic writer of our times/the keenest observer of our society needs to do a ninth season !
: The Big C season 2 (dramedy, Showtime, 13 episodes) :
What a season, and what an ending... it achieved to convince me this show has the most lovable characters and one of the best cast on TV. Season 2 was even better than season 1, which I thought would not be possible. It's incredible how much The Big C puts you in a good mood, it makes you feel good, it simply makes you want to live. It truly is an inspiring show and I can't say that about many series. And this positive message is neither cheesy nor sickening, it just always feels right. Laura Linney's acting is pitch-perfect, as always, but what struck me this season is Paul (Oliver Platt), I learned to like him because if there was a downside to season 1, it would be his character (well, his status did change towards the end of season 1, that might explain that). And like in season 1 where I cried at the end of the last 2 episodes, I cried at the end of episodes 2.12 and 2.13 as well. Saying that I finished the season completely stunned would be an understatement. Everybody should watch that show but only a few people do, sadly, and I really feared the cancellation reaper a few weeks ago, but thankfully Showtime renewed the show for a third season, shortened (10 episodes instead of 13) but I'm just happy it'll be back. I can't wait for next summer to discover The Big C's winter season, which promises to be dark.
: Wilfred season 1 (comedy, FX, 13 épisodes) :
What an excellent surprise. Truthfully, I expected this show with a extremely unusual pitch to collapse after 2 or 3 episodes because of a lack of ideas, but no, the stories were rich, inventive and crazy during the entire season. They handle perfectly the basic premise, which I thought was original but above all hazardous : a depressed lawyer tries to kill himself (I can relate to that), fails to do that (or did he ?) and starts seeing a man in a dog suit when everyone else sees a regular dog. It could've been the gateway to tasteless, vulgar humor... but no, in the end, the humor is good and ubiquitous. The three main cast members (Elijah 'Frodon' Wood, Jason Gann and the adorable Fiona Gubelmann) are all perfect, and, on the top of that, there's an amazing lineup of fantastic guests. And not only is it a very funny comedy, but it also develops its main plotline quite nicely throughout the season, and it all ends with a huge cliffhanger, having a major impact, which makes me very impatient to see what's next. I didn't expect this show to be that good from start to finish. Major props, David Zuckerman.
: True Blood season 4 (fantasy, HBO, 12 episodes) :
After a slightly disappointing third season (I didn't like the first 3 episodes and I'm not a fan of how things ended in the last 2 episodes but episodes 3.04 to 3.10 were truly great), Alan Ball has delivered a fourth installment that might just be the 2nd best season of the show, behind the fantastic season 2. Having avoided all spoilers and trailers, I had no idea what the major plot of the season was when I started, I wasn't enchanted by the witches at first and I'm glad I was wrong because season 4 has proven to be a quality season, the witch threat was interesting. After Denis O'Hare who had been an awesome Russell Edgington in season 3, this season is marked by Fiona Shaw, playing convincingly a weak person suddenly gaining power, realizing how good it is but failing to control it or to understand how easy it is to abandon yourself to it. Eric's special 'status' was a breath of fresh air in his dynamic with Sookie, lots of comical moments were brought by his sudden innocence. And Jessica was as cute and charming and lovely and beautiful and dazzling as always. On the downside, I was disappointed by Andy, this season was not great on his side, the writers dragged his V addiction over 11 episodes, it just felt unnecessary, repetitive and plain useless most of the time. Also, I was not a fan of the Lafayette/Jesus storyline, except when the first one was haunted by the ghost. But all in all, this season of True Blood was a darn good entertainement. The multitude of twists and turns in the last minutes of episode 4.12 promise a fifth season very... political, and I like it.
: Damages season 4 (thriller, DirecTV, 10 episodes) :
What a great surprise ! Even though seasons 2 and 3 were as bad as they were stupid (mediocre evolution (or sometimes almost no evolution at all) between the 2nd and the 12th episode + idiotic outcome in both cases) and filled with guest-stars as 'prestigious' as looking like they were there to get a big check, season 4 manages to be truly great from start to finish (well, not exactly actually, some outcomes in episode 4.10 are pretty stupid but it's not a downright piss-take) ! In season 4, the two big guest-stars are John Goodman and Dylan Baker, and I'm really pleased with their interpretation and their characters, they're both really interesting and playing convincingly with talent. They're nowhere near as good as Ted Danson/Zeljko Ivanek in season 1, but still, it's much better than what we had in the previous two seasons. The story ? Well, unlike season 2 and especially season 3, this time it was catchy (an unauthorized mission in Afghanistan led by a private army working off the record for the CIA went south) and it evolved quite nicely throughout the season (even though it felt like the flashbacks in Afghanistan were shot in the backyard of the writers' place, no sepia filter or grainy aspect could hide that cheapness, and the poor editing (a recurrent pattern regarding flashbacks/flashforwards in this show) of those sequences didn't help). The Patty/Ellen relationship is still incoherent given what happened in seasons 1 and 2, but since someone rebooted both Patty and Ellen's brains in episode 3.01 (otherwise they can't have scenes with both leads in the same room, which is problematic), I guess it still doesn't bother the writers. The last scene of the season is supposed to be a cliffhanger, apparently, but without spooling anything, I don't really see how much of an impact it can actually have on season 5, which I'm very much looking forward to since Damages won me over again this summer. Season 4 was not as good as the perfect first season, but it was truly great and nothing like seasons 2 and 3.
: Futurama season 6 part II (animated, Comedy Central, 13 episodes) :
Great Futurama episodes this summer. The first half of season 6, broadcast during summer 2010, had some outstanding episodes (6.07, The Late Philip J. Fry, is brilliant) but mostly some good and average episodes, but this new bunch of episodes had pretty much only very good episodes. Benderama (6.15), Law and Oracle (6.17) & All the Presidents' Heads (6.20) are among the very best episodes of this summer, and the last episode (6.26, Reincarnation) was fantastic, original and bold, it ends this season in an incredibly original way, visually speaking. I hope they'll try some other experiments like that in season 7. I don't really have anything else to say, except that Zoidberg rocks, Bender is my role model and Futurama is still one of my favorite animated comedies, next to Archer and American Dad.
Rescue Me season 7 (dramedy, FX, 9 episodes) :
Rescue Me, or how to make a great Series Finale. The first 7 episodes broadcast this summer are like the previous 10 (season 6) : they clearly show a distinct improvement over seasons 4 and 5 (the less Tommy/Sheila scenes the better the episodes are, how odd, it's almost as if the quality went up as soon as crazy Sheila didn't necessarily have a sex scene with Tommy in each episode… they should've realized that years ago). That being said, episodes 7.01 to 7.07 may be decent and fairly enjoyable to watch but they're not genuinely good. Episodes 7.08 and 7.09 changed that. How can you not bow in awe in front of the quality of the penultimate and the last episode ? What they did, it's just awesome. Episode 7.08 was right on spot for humoristic scenes (it had been a while the show had not been that funny) before a breath-taking ending. And on the last episode of the show, Leary and Tolan proved they still have the skills they showed weekly years ago. The writers showed they could still write very emotional scenes, and hilarious ones, always filled with great dialogues. And beyond that ability to blend pure comedy and serious drama (a mix perfectly handled in episode 7.09), the dialogues, that's the real strength of Rescue Me. When the stories went AWOL in seasons 4 and 5, the dialogues still were well thought-out (even if their purpose was to serve crappy plotlines). And as much as I may have tackled on Denis Leary's ability to act in dramatic scenes over the years, I have to admit he rocked in this last episode (perhaps because for the first time in a long time, there was gripping, outstanding material to work with). Sure, Rescue Me should have ended sooner, Sheila has always made me want to click on the fast forward button and the mediocrity of seasons 4 and 5 exasperated me but in the end, seasons 1 & 2 and on a lesser extent seasons 3, 6 and 7 will leave me with great memories. I'll miss the assholes from the 62 truck. And as a tribute to Rescue Me, here's a video of the opening credits of the show, one of the best openings ever :
Louie season 2 (comedy, FX, 13 episodes) :
I think the raving reviews regarding Louie are a little disproportionate. Yes, Louie is a good show but let's not exaggerate, there are much better shows to make you laugh and there's no need to look any further than its 10pm buddy, Wilfred, which I think is much funnier. Sure, I always smile during an episode of Louie, but this show often has a sad, bitter tone. And having 2 separated, independent stories within a single episode (that was the case for most episodes this season, and in season 1 as well)… let's just say I'm not a fan. The truth is, there's only one episode this season where the main storyline made me genuinely laugh at multiple times throughout the episode, and that was the one on the anti-masturbation girl (episode 2.08, by far the best of the season, Louis CK showed all his comical talent in this episode, rather than in other episodes where his sad slices of life often made me feel down in the dumps). That being said, each episode featured very funny bits : the stand-up scenes at the beginning and the end of the episodes, now that's funny, that's actually sometimes laugh out loud funny. But if the stories between those two stand-up scenes were as funny and were written with the same will to make people laugh, that would be better.
Ugly Americans season 2 (animated, Comedy Central, 10 episodes) :
The truth is, I never intended to watch this show, but since it aired alongside Futurama, I found myself looking for info on the show and in the end I thought there was a little potential in a show where the hero's roommate is a zombie, where his girlfriend is a demon and who works at the Departement of Integration, reinserting monsters in society. That pitch promised at least a few original moments, so I caught up on the first season in June. I wasn't convinced right away, I didn't laugh at all during the first 4-5 episodes. Hopefully, I didn't give up on Ugly Americans and eventually, the show became good. When I finished, I jumped right into season 2 in July, and it was pretty much the same level of quality : far from must-see TV, sometimes lacking jokes but nonetheless pleasant to watch, with likable, unique main characters. Also, what I like about Ugly Americans is the supporting cast, those characters you rarely see a lot of, but they grow on you. One must compare the comparable, I know, but it reminded me of The Simpsons, where there's also a huge secondary cast and most of the time they appear very little but you know they're here and they help building a universe to the show. In Ugly Americans Doug the fearful panda is hilarious (and yet he never says anything, it's all sobs and little expressions). Regarding main characters, Leonard the wizard is the funniest character, he's like the Kramer of the show if you will, I love that guy. Granted, Ugly Americans is not essential viewing but there are original situations throughout the episodes, anyway it's definitely worth a try.
Entourage season 8 (dramedy, HBO, 8 episodes) :
Entourage, or how to make a horrible Series Finale. What a failure, I can't believe it. The previous 7 episodes were average, decent, generally fun to watch, but the last episode is just plain awful and it diminishes even more my esteem for this show, which actually never stopped falling down since the beginning of season 5. Sure, there have always been good episodes here and there, and a very enjoyable quality bump on the last 4 episodes of season 7. Speaking of that, now that I see what season 8 has turned out to be, what was it all for ? I mean, the ending of season 7 promised good, solid, original grounds for this final season. But in the end, it sucked all the way, nothing worth saving (not even Ari !) : Turtle and his vain storylines trying to make us believe his character can exist by himself and not only by being Vince's lapdog, it kept being a joke this season (after the tequila, the clams) ; E and his endless issues with Sloan were boring as shit (Entourage is no CW teen drama but during those moments it sure looked like it) ; Drama and his conflict with Dice Clay who wants more money for their animated CBS show Johnny Bananas wasn't uninteresting in itself but that was enough to last 3 episodes and they stretched it out throughout 6-7 episodes. But the worst of them all is definitely Vince, turned Mother Theresa and unconditional lover ?! He already was the shallowest character since day one, but now he has really become a pain in the ass, despite starting to become interesting once again from episode 7.06 to 7.10. Given how poorly the scripts were written on the last 4 seasons, I am convinced there is no subtext in the epilogue, no subtle criticism of the shallowness of Hollowood. It's just a completely inappropriate happy ending (in its nature, because I never doubted everything would end perfectly for everyone). It's a stupid, poorly led, inconclusive happy ending, soapy telenovela-like. Because the truth is, if there's no Entourage movie (and as of now nothing is official), then they will really have fucked with us. And it's not like the writers were caught by surprise : it has been known since September 2010 that season 8 was going to be the final season. It doesn't look like a final episode to me (and it doesn't look like an episode of Entourage either). Other shows with plans for a feature movie (24) wrapped up their final season on a series finale that works well whether there's a feature movie afterwards or not. Here, it just doesn't work. Thinking about it just pisses me off, it really does, because I once was a huge fan of Entourage. Anyway, unlike Rescue Me, Entourage completely screwed up its way out. Remains a show with redundant stories but often extremely fun to watch (sometimes only because of the cult character that is Ari Gold), especially seasons 2, 3 and 4, easily the best three seasons of the show and the only ones I really love. Goodbye, boys.
Web Therapy season 1 (comedy, Showtime, 10 episodes) :
Meh, it's pretty irregular. What we have here is extremely dry wit but the thing is I rarely laughed or even smiled. I got where the jokes/awkward moments were, but most of the time it wasn't funny, just plain awkward. Perhaps one of the issues bugging me was that I have zero empathy for Lisa Kudrow's character, she's so cold and the show is so bitter that you can't remotely start to like this venal, selfish, self-centered woman. The only thing that could make a scene work was, in fact, completely up to Fiona's interlocutors. My personal favorite was Fiona's mother (who never loved her) played by Lily Tomlin. She appears several times and she's hilarious, I hated her in Damages but here she really has a great character. The scenes with the real shrink were pretty great as well. But sometimes, it really was hard to watch an episode from start to finish without stopping, I may have a problem with the concept of the show. It's original, clearly, and it sometimes works but it's also quite boring. Sure, there are plenty of great guests (Courteney Cox, Rachida Jones, Jane Lynch, Alan Cumming) or great regular character like Victor Garber's, Lily Tomlin's or Maulik Pancholy's. But in the end, the dialogues are so bitter that they forget to be funny. The finale is one of the best episodes of the season and allows this first bunch of sessions to end well. But will Showtime pay to edit another bunch of sessions next summer (Web Therapy being a webseries - I actually don't know how people did before Showtime's version, for a webseries it's very serialized, the 25-minute format is more appropriate imo (despite my lack of interest)) given the anemic ratings, I'm not sure. If they don't, I won't be sad and I don't think I'll check out the remaining webisodes, even though I heard there are amazing guests. If they do, if there is a season 2, I may give it a try but only because of the lineup, and I'm hoping Lisa Kudrow pulled off a more successful mix of bitterness and humor in them.
Falling Skies season 1 (sci-fi, TNT, 10 episodes) :
So that's the epic sci-fi series from Steven Spielberg (well he just gave his money, it's not like he wrote or directed anything, clearly, given the result) ? Put in a nutshell : it sucked. Pretty much nothing interesting happened, there was too much patriotism, no actual risks taken and no actual writers hired... it's a long list of flaws. So let's start with what I liked in Falling Skies : the second part of the 90-minute pilot and episode 1.06. That's it. 2 episodes out of 10, that's not much. I had a hard time with pretty much all the main cast members (except Seychelle Gabriel, but it's not because of her acting skills) : Moon Bloodgood is exasperating, especially when her character has to express emotions (the scene where she runs off yelling and crying in a hallway to splatter alien blood on a paper sheet, it was both funny and appalling) ; the gay dolphin portraying Noah Wyle's oldest son was also seriously lacking acting skills, no charisma whatsoever but they clearly didn't hire him for that. The other two sons of Wyle's character got of my nerves, too, this show is too PG to portray realistic relationships between people, it's crazy. And what's up with the kid infected by a Skitter spin (the one whose father was killed) ? He looked like the aliens probed him, given the look on his face most of the time. The military leader (Will Patton) is not as bad as all of them but there's not much to brag about either, actually only Noah Wyle is doing a decent job, despite his character being annoying : "my son, where is my son, I'm gonna go get my son, I want my son"… your son can go to hell ! It reminds me of V with Erica who was also worried sick about her son (who also was as charismatic as a dusty, broken broom), it turns out alien invasions do come with a nauseous resurgence of family values. I'm not against it, it makes sense to be close to your relatives in desperate times, but Wyle's character only talks about that in most episodes so it gets frustrating. And the Season Finale ? Anti-climatic, with a very low budget (what's up with the final explosion, it was more funny than impressive… except on the makeups and a couple of mechs every two episodes, I don't really see where they would've spent the money, and certainly not in acting classes) and stakes I couldn't care less. The cliffhanger is probably supposed to shock us and make the viewers look forward to season 2, but I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna watch. No matter how good the alien makeups were, nothing ever felt authentic on this show, whether it's the relationships between the characters, their emotions or their dialogues.
And tune in tomorrow for Part II : My News Shows, Part 1 !
Hi ! Here is my report on the shows I watched this summer, or that I am watching right now or that I will watch by the end of the year, and because it's quite long I split it in 5 parts (and the last two will only be written in mid-December).
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