Thursday, November 23, 2006


Show of hands: Is there any
Jericho fan on Earth who awaits each episode eagerly because he can't wait to find out what's happening with Eric and April?!

Remember when I wrote about Thing-o-phobia? How networks hate it when their shows are about what they're supposed to be about? So Windfall isn't about the lottery, it's instead a long, boring study of a marriage breaking up.

Well, now we have a show about the end of the world. But to give it some zazz, they keep dwelling on... a long, boring study of a marriage breaking up.

(Rule of thumb: if your show's about the Apocalypse, you really don't need to "add drama." The movie Testament was fairly dramatic, don't you think?)

Beyond that, no offense, but the guy who plays Eric may be the least interesting and charismatic person I've ever seen on television. Whenever he's on screen, I see the color draining from my TV and feel the joy draining from my life.

Meanwhile, some genius decided it would be a good idea to hire Gerald McRaney, who was so mesmerizing on Deadwood... and then have him literally sleep through, like, five episodes. I'm not kidding: he was asleep!

I really want to like this show, and I keep watching because I keep hoping the good parts will start soon. But they keep making wrong choices. (IMHO)

For example, last night Chinese-labeled packages were parachuted in, full of food and water. So was a generator, which was stolen by bandits who live outside of town (don't ask). Immediately, Skeet Ulrich warns everyone that the food may be poisoned, and Mayor McRaney quarantines the stuff. An argument breaks out. Some people in town eat anyway.

Then (here come the bad decisions) the food turns out to be okay, the generator gets stolen back and gives the town Christmas lights, a couple kisses, and an absentee Dad makes it up to his kids. (Oh, and a character who is good one week and evil the next turned good again, just so we would feel bad about the character's death. I didn't.)

Now, here's what I would have done instead, and you tell me if it wouldn't be more interesting: A few defiant town members eat the food (as did one character we love, who didn't know about the ban). The generator gets stolen before they can use it.

As they plot to get it back, there is a massive explosion outside of town. The generator wasn't a generator at all: It was a huge bomb that blew when it was switched on, and half the outlaws are dead and the others need help, but most of the town doesn't want to help them; a moral crisis ensues, and on Thanksgiving no less. Meanwhile, those who ate the food put on their "uh oh!" faces. Was the food poisoned? Will they die next week? Will they save the injured outlaws? Will the outlaws, injured and without food or water, go all Mad Max on the town? If the Chinese are hostile and have unlimited air power, how will the Jerichonians survive? Will it lead to a dozen interesting cliffhangers for next week's season finale?

I would watch that show, what about you?

(By the way, it must have been infectious, because
The Nine and Day Break, both shows I like a lot, also seemed to be playing a game of "What would be the least interesting choice?" at every turn last night. And the only thing that consistently bothers me about Day Break is that Taye Diggs keeps trying to find a way to explain his predicament, in roundabout sentences, and finally gives up when the other person doesn't get it. You or I or anyone in the world would simply say, "It's like I'm living in Groundhog Day!" and the other person would instantly understand the concept.)

One more Jericho quibble, and this isn't Jericho's fault, it's CBS's. Has anyone else noticed that CBS shows just look... well... crappier than the other networks' shows? Not the writing, I mean the physical look of the shows.

I mean, compare Lost to Jericho. The former is stunning and lush and rich-looking, and the latter is washed out and looks like six extras standing around some empty land in Bakersfield.

Matthew Fox... or Skeet Ulrich? Naveen Andrews... or the guy who plays Eric? Terry O'Quinn... or the guy who plays the other guy running for mayor? It's all just so bland and cut-rate.

Even compare, say, the rich look of the Law & Order shows to the bland Hardcastle & McCormick look of Numb3rs. Or compare Medium and Heroes to Ghost Whisperer. Or House to 3 lbs.

(The exception is, of course, the CSI shows, but I credit that to the look of those shows having been established by Touchstone.)

I mean, you could put a show in front of me and not tell me what network it's on, and I know I could probably tell you whether it is or isn't a CBS show. Think about it: Does Justice look like a CBS show? The O.C.? The Nine? No. But Close to Home sure does.

Even compare the look of Conan's show to the look of Craig Ferguson's. It's like an entire network is being shot with camcorders.

I hope a cinematographer or someone else with the technical savvy I lack can explain if I'm seeing things, or if there truly is a stylistic difference between a lot of CBS shows and better-looking shows on other networks.

By the way, I've been awfully rough on CBS, but it's only fair with all the CSI and Criminal Minds plugging I've been doing. And I hope all the networks -- and all of you -- have a very happy Thanksgiving. Everyone should. Even that guy who plays Eric.


Anonymous said...

One CBS show that looked and sounded stunning was Rockstar.

But I agree with everything you said about Jericho. I keep wanting to like the show on the premise alone but I can't stand the idiotic melodrama.

Anonymous said...

You're still watching "Jericho"? I checked out during the pilot after the mayor guy turned to the town and said, "You broke my heart. Don't do it again."
Uh huh.
See ya.

Hardcastle Fan said...

Hardcastle & McCormick was a well-written, well-acted, awesome show cancelled way before its time. Do you really thinks it fair to compare a show from the 1980's to a show with today's production capabilities? You were probably in diapers when it aired anyway.

gina said...

I don't watch Jericho, but I understand what you're saying about CBS shows in general. It's like they're still using the same production values as Murder She Wrote.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend checked out during the pilot as well. I'm still trying to like it.

peeky said...

true, and i'm bored by night-time soaps. a night-time soap with armageddon as a backdrop. a night-time soap with a hospital back-drop. etc. etc. bleh.

Michael Markowitz said...

anon: Rockstar did sound stunning, it's true... and Brooke Burke certainly looked stunning... but I think if you compare the bright, polished, crystalline look of American Idol to the cramped, dingy, are-there-no-janitors? look of Rockstar... I mean, all IMHO

anon #2: I know, I'm either an eternal optimist or a glutton for punishment. They have one more episode to deliver or else I'm out. And as for the mayor guy warning the town not to break his heart again? In no time flat, they did.

hardcastle: try not to miss the point. I agree with you... I was implying that in the years since H&M, production values and techniques have improved, and a modern show shouldn't look like that.(or like Murder She Wrote... good call as always, gina) If I complained that a modern sitcom looked like The Honeymooners, would you think I was insulting The Honeymooners? Calm down. (And for the record, I'm in diapers right now.)

anon #3: I predict the #1 cause of breakups in 2006 will be Jericho. So be careful. Still, your boyfriend is very lucky to have someone so patient and forgiving. I hope he appreciates you. All us viewers of Jericho should wear St. Jude medals in honor of our devotion to a lost cause.

peeky, I am so with you. Aren't armageddon and hospitals and so forth inherently interesting? Why feel the need to "jazz them up"?

When Titanic came out, I loved it of course, but I had to wonder why in telling the story of a monstrous tragedy and the deaths of 1500 of the most celebrated and colorful people of the 20th Century, it was necessary to devote half the film to a boy-meets-girl story about two fictional characters.

In TV it's worse, because it's always the same handful of stories:

*the marriage dissolving

*the mom fighting for custody and/or running from an abusive ex-husband

*the workaholic dad who doesn't spend enough time at home with his kids

*the rebellious teen

*the Alzheimer's parent and/or the still-traumatic memory of watching a relative die a slow death in the hospital.

*the institutionalized sibling or spouse

*the conflicted homosexual

*the adult haunted by their childhood of abuse

*survivor of a tragic drunk driving incident

*substance addiction

*kid killed

Now take any or all of the above and mix 'em all together. And you still have something LESS INTERESTING than a nuclear holocaust or a group of lottery winners or doctors or cops or FBI agents or whatever.

That's why I love shows like 24. The problems are ACTUAL problems, AND they further the plot. What a concept!

norm said...

In theory, I think a huge earth shattering event can be made more "real" and/or given scale when there are average human events to give it context.
It could also be an interesting shift of focus...going micro instead of macro.
An example would be the Canadian film "Last Night".

But...judging by the comments here,(I haven't seen the show), Jericho isn't pulling it off.

Michael Markowitz said...

Norm, you've got to watch this show, if only to see how much I agree with you. That's why I specifically mentioned "Testament"... After the "macro" of "The Day After" came "Testament" which depicted the micro, with heartbreaking and powerful results. Not as heavy, but also great, was "Miracle Mile."

Taking big events and depicting them in the micro is a GREAT way to create something unforgettable. The difference is that in shows like Jericho and Windfall, the characters keep ignoring the macro AND the micro and focusing instead on the minute and mundane.

The Apocalypse would present huge challenges and emotional issues for a family, but not if they keep dwelling on the ordinary shit they were dealing with before the bombs fell, and missing the big picture. Honestly, they're squabbling on Jericho about divorce papers and pregnancy and infidelity instead of on STARVATION and FALLOUT and GENOCIDE.

There was actually a scene this past week where the barmaid chuckled about how it's good that she's managed to keep the bar open for business. WTF??? I mean, shes working shifts and closing up and everything. It's the Apocalypse, people! You don't have to earn money anymore.

And who's drinking there?? I'm sure after the end of the world, the first thing I'd do is make sure to trade now-worthless currency for a night of cocktails and darts.

(It would be as if there were a scene on Lost where they all found their carry-on luggage, so they could finally sit down and balance their checkbooks.)

I should mention that there is an irresistible upside to the show: The always-beautiful, always-talented Alicia Coppola. Her character here proves that being one of the last men on Earth would indeed give any dim yokel a shot at scoring with a babe.

norm said...

Sorry I missed your reference to "Testament" .... I was careless.
But, at least we agree.

As a side note, I wanted to mention, I'm having problems accessing your blog.
At work I can't get it any more and at home I can get it sometimes if I fiddle with it...and I have to read and post quickly before it cuts out.
It looks like you've added a new feature and my wife says our browser (is that the right term?) isn't up to date enough to handle it.
She also suggested I try Firefox(?) instead of Explorer.

Michael Markowitz said...

The only feature I can think of it the preview. To show you how responsive SAM is to its most valued readers, I've removed it. See if it works better now.

And please please please stop using Internet Explorer. Switch to Firefox. You'll sleep better. (Plus I firmly believe that if everyone stopped using IE -- and therefore became bot-proof -- the amount of spam we all get would be reduced by at least half.)

norm said...

Cool... I can read you at work again.
But, I feel guilty for holding you up because I'm living behind the times.
I'll switch to Firefox at home. (where I have a choice)

Michael Markowitz said...

No guilt necessary. One of the benefits of having a small-but-select readership is personalized service.