Soap Opera Weekly: 10/21/09

It looks like last night was my last time watching the rebooted MELROSE PLACE, because the clichés are so overwhelming that it feels like I’ve seen it all before.

Let’s start with Riley’s adventures in modeling. Designer Anton V. supposedly chose Riley as the…er, face of his his jeans because she’s real” and “not a model,” but then he dispatched her to a photo shoot where she was given the standard fantasy makeover that transformed her into a standard-issue model.Instead of “real,” Riley looked real fake, just like any other model. And why did Anton hire photojournalist Jo Reynolds to shoot a campaign that looks like every ad, ever. (The returning Daphne Zuniga has a nice gig over on ONE TREE HILL, so she probably didn’t need the work). When a half-naked Riley stormed off the set, it proved she has really big principles! But then again, Anton liked the photos (of course), so she’ll take the $10,000 anyway?

Perhaps Riley’s plot was a cliché for the same reason that her fiancé, Jonah, was dispatched to the famous Paramount Pictures lot to meet a megaproducer Andy, who “loved” everything about his film — and only wants to change everything! Oh, Hollywood, you’re all the same!

Which is the problem. Everything about this MP is more of the same. Apparently the-powers-that-be are banking on the target audience of preteen girls being so young they have no frame of reference for a nighttime soap beyond 90210, GOSSIP GIRL and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Well, the legendary newspaperman H.L. Mencken famously noted, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” (He didn’t know from Nielsen ratings, though…)

Finally, I leave you with the laugh line of the night, courtesy of Colin Egglesfield’s Auggie: “Riley, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s kind of impossible to hate you.” Uh, no, it’s not. It’s actually quite easy to hate Riley. And her little show, too.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 10/14/09

I’ve been sort of watching THE GOOD WIFE; I have it on so I can listen and occasionally glance at it while doing other things, but my colleague Mala has really been stumping for it, so I made the effort to pay attention to last night’s episode — and was rewarded with an interesting story of suspected jury-tampering.

Alicia Florrick is the titular character; her state’s attorney husband was jailed following a public sex scandal, and Alicia was seen grimly “standing by her man” at his press conference. Star Julianna Margulies is a very appealing actress who imbues the wronged wife with an amiability that really works. The show’s premise is original, and Margulies runs with the character. Alicia shows more than a little vulnerability, but projects a facade of competence and dignity that keeps her from looking silly. The big question is obvious: How could she not know? Was she that oblivious? Was she just a stooge? Alicia asks herself those same probing questions with every home video and gift she reconsiders.

As a bonus, the-powers-that-be are able to find intriguing legal storylines to go with the interesting characters. Alicia has returned to her career as a lawyer and — surprise, surprise — she’s pretty darn good at it. Her compassion for the victims in cases is often the key to victory. (Gee, wonder where that comes from?) But the cases also take lots of legwork, and luckily Alicia meshes well with “in house” investigator Kalinda Sharma (portrayed by British actress Archie Panjabi). Kalinda boasts a more streetwise, edgy persona. Alicia also works with Cary, despite the fact that actor Matt Czuchry (ex-Logan, GILMORE GIRLS) looks too young to be a law student, let alone a litigator. Margulies seems to have a real connection with LAW & ORDER vet Chris Noth, who plays her crooked, incarcerated hubby Peter. (Hey, what’s not to like about SEX AND THE CITY’s Big and ER’s Carol Hathaway hooking up?) I like that Peter is still in the picture as a kind of Yoda peddling a jaded insider’s view of the way the game is really played. Alicia resists the Dark Side because she wants to be…y’know, good.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 10/13/09

I was all set to drop HEROES when, just in the nick of time, this week’s episode turned out to be pretty good.

If HEROES was in the public consciousness at all, it was because this episode featured Hayden Panettiere‘s Claire getting kissed by her roommate Gretchen (played by CALIFORNICATION’s Madeline Zima). So that happened — but in the context of the story, it was actually rather creepy, because Gretchen had been exhibiting stalkerish behavior, and her explanation was that she’s “crushing” on Claire. I’m going to keep an eye on this plotline and see where they take it.

The story that made this week’s episode memorable concerned Peter and Emma bonding when he absorbs her synesthesia power, enabling him to see sound as light. Ironically, this low-key plot contrivance actually made the show look more like a comic book than all the previous super-powered battles combined. The ability to see sounds aped the visual language of a comic book, where sound is represented by wavy vibration lines or onomatopoeia. HEROES showed Emma and Peter perceiving sound as a cloud of multicolored lights, and the two characters were able to connect on a deep (and quiet!) level. (Emma’s power reminds me of X-Men’s Dazzler, but she converts sound into light.) I definitely want to see where this relationship goes.

Meanwhile, Sylar was in Baltimore, getting the third degree from Ghostbusters‘ Winston Zeddemore — I mean, Ernie Hudson. Hudson played Warden Glynn on OZ, which was set in Baltimore. Sylar decided to kidnap his pretty therapist with the odd accent, just like Bruce Willis did in 12 Monkeys (which was also set in Baltimore). That led to the reveal that the Sullivan Brothers carnival can literally travel from place to place. Talk about a roadshow!

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Soap Opera Weekly: 10/6/09

The unquestioned hero of HEROES right now is consulting producer Bryan Fuller, who wrote this week’s episode, “Acceptance.” Fuller’s superpower appears to be the ability to grasp these characters and express what makes them great. He has a particular faculty for Noah/H.R.G. and Claire. Fuller wrote the legendary “Company Man” episode back in season one, which crystallized the previously mysterious H.R.G. and arguably made HEROES the breakout hit it (briefly) became. Fuller also deftly emphasizes the camaraderie of Hiro and Ando, making the pair believable buddies. In fact, I think Fuller has a firmer grip on these characters than even creator Tim Kring. (Fuller has imagination to spare: He also created WONDERFALLS and was an executive producer on PUSHING DAISIES.) I never like Tracy except in the stories Fuller has written (see “Cold Snap”). And he also delivered us from the ill-advised Sylar-in-Nathan-form plotline. Does this mean fans will not get to see Adrian Pasdar die in a season finale for once?

This week, I was initially on the fence as to whether I would even watch HEROES. The episode took a little time to build steam, so I was seriously considering abandoning it in favor of the Packers/Vikings football game. But then, something clicked — right around the time Noah and Claire were sharing bowls of cereal and discussing the possible application of bag-and-tag skills to selling lumber. That did it; I was roped back in. H.R.G. may be an ultracompetent field agent, but he’s an all-too-human fish-out-of-water (er…so to speak) on the home front. I don’t want to minimize the contributions of Jack Coleman here; when Noah told Peter that he just didn’t have it in him to get tangled up in another adventure, I really believed him. Coleman meshes especially well with Hayden Panettiere, and H.R.G.’s scenes with his “Claire Bear” always feel like the most realistic relationship on the show (followed by Hiro/Ando). But Fuller is not merely the master of human scenes; he also excels at thinking through the implications of superpowers. Just because Hiro can travel back in time does not mean he can save a man from himself, as Hiro’s funny/sad encounters with the hapless, hopeless Tadashi proved. I hope HEROES does not let Fuller escape.

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V Redux: It Came From Madison Avenue

The new version of V is designed to be a reboot, but tacking on the conventions of our current TV landscape calls attention to the familiarity of the concept. Of course a little of this is part-and-parcel of being a remake, and thus unavoidable, however, everything that is being ladled on top is also all too familiar. V feels like we’ve seen it all before because we have seen it all before. Literally.


Morena Baccarin

This time around, the idea is, when 21st-century aliens invade, they will not come as warriors, but rather as marketing agents. They will invade via advertising, with pamphlets, white teeth, long legs and tight butts. And a subtle message of inclusiveness and the common good. Heck, the Visitors were even offering “universal health care” — red meat for TV talking head Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), if only he hadn’t compromised his morals in exchange for ratings. Blast!


It was clever to cast Morena Baccarin (ex-Inara, FIREFLY/Serenity) as Anna, the beautiful public face of the Visitors; Baccarin also played Adria, the beautiful public face of the invading Ori cult on STARGATE SG-1. And, well, the Visitors are practically setting themselves up as a cult, to the point of recruiting confused young people. Getting Laura Vandervoort, whose big break came playing the alien Supergirl…er, Kara on SMALLVILLE, for Lisa was another sly casting move, as was bringing aboard Joel Gretsch (as Father Jack), who knows a thing or two about alien abduction after starring on THE 4400. Oh, Alan Tudyk used to play Wash alongside Baccarin on FIREFLY. Gee, one begins to understand why everything feels familiar, even without seeing ALIEN NATION before or District 9 this summer.

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