Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weeds: Taking jumping the shark to a whole new level

I have been watching Weeds for a couple years now. I started around the third season and have been following ever since. When I started watching what pulled me in was the dichotomy between Nancy the housewife/drug dealer living in the picture perfect cookie cutter town. This juxtaposition is what held my attention. It is what drew in the initial audience.

So when Nancy and the rest of the Botwins moved to San Diego in the fifth season, I continued to watch because the core themes were carried over into the new setting. Then the season got out of control. Mexican drug lords, tunnels under pregnant women fashion stores, and coked up Cecilia.

When that season ended I had no idea where the series was going to go. Apparently a road trip was needed. So the Botwins took to the American roads on a Jesus mobile RV. More nonsense ensued. Nancy started growing hash in the washing machine in the RV. It was like my parents' forced motorhome roadtrips but on crack. Similar to my parents' roadtrips, their adventure ended in metro-Detroit.

I don't know if you could call what Weeds is doing "jumping the shark" but it sure is getting close. The season ended as expected, no spoiler alerts here, but the season finale didn't really open up much room for story development after the final scene.

Queue seventh season. Three years later, and now the Botwins are living in New York City, living the city life. I won't lie, I am enjoying the latest season, but much of it just seems contrived. Everything is working out way too well for the drug dealing family from Agrestic. With only a couple more episodes left, I expect shit to hit the fan real soon. There will probably be some kind of explosion, houses set on fire, something to get the Botwins so close to "jumping that inevitable shark" but hold back a little longer to make room for another ridiculous ninth season.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Zooey Deschanel does TV

"The New Girl" is a refreshing take on the female/male friendship. Especially in a current cultural obsession with "friends with benefits", The New Girl shows that males and females can still have genuine friends that don't include sleeping with each other.

Zooey Deschanel as the main character Jess is the obvious vehicle that moves the show. Most of the comedic parts are centered on her. The storyline is about her rebound from her cheating boyfriend. This isn't surprising seeing as she is the reason why most people, especially guys will tune in to the show. Although strong male characters would be nice.

Yes, it is just the pilot episode, but asking for atypical guy characters isn't asking for a lot. We have the recently dumped 'i don't care about the world' bartender. The 'I can't talk to women' personal trainer. And finally the corporate financial douchebag. It is like the writers were given a formula for what characters needed to be added to the series. A similar thing was done on the most recent take on the male/female friendship on "My Boys". I may have been the only person that watched that show, but the male characters brought something to the story. So far, these male characters are just props for Jess' story.

Jess is a strong character. She is quirky, nerdy, everything that any guy obsessed with Zooey Deschanel is going to want when choosing to watch the show. It works though. Jess can create her own theme song and it is believable. She can walk up to a stranger at the bar and say 'hey sailor' and no one thinks it is contrived. Jess is able to walk the fine line of pretty girl playing "ugly" but still leaving room for potential character growth. But do the male characters have the same potential?

By the end of the episode, the friendship between Jess and the boys starts to build. They start to care about her and want to help her get over her ex-boyfriend. The corny but still endearing "Time of Your Life" rendition at the restaurant shows that these secondary characters aren't the focus for character development; the friendship is.

That is what I expect from the coming episodes of "The New Girl". The only thing I can hope for is that the writers don't create a storyline where one of the guys falls for Jess. Although, this seems somewhat inevitable. Until then, I will just enjoy Jess' random singing outbursts because hey, I do it too... a lot.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hey MTV, I actually like Awkward!

Awkward is by far my new favorite show. At first I tried to compare it to every other American teenage melodrama. I described it to be as a cross between My So-Called Life and Daria. The Daria part only lasted for an episode. Yes, she was an outcast like Daria with strong wit, but unlike Daria, she wanted to fit in.

That is what makes Awkward such a strong show. It doesn't have amazing writing, even though it is quite witty and intriguing. It doesn't have amazing acting, even though Ashley Rickards brings out the quirky yet endearing character of Jenna. It doesn't even have a great premise. What Awkward does that separates it from the rest of the scripted shows on MTV, is that it brings together all of these features and blends them beautifully.
In a cable television age where half hour comedies are a thing of the past, Awkward is able to tell a compelling story in the 20 or so minutes it's on the air. MTV doesn't even fall into its usual trap of giving away too much of the story in its excessive amounts of preview commercials before the episode airs.

Awkward doesn't bring anything new to the table that wasn't already established before with other teenage shows. It just carries on a tradition for success that will always pull in an audience. It won't be the answer to the early ending of My So-Called Life, but it does rely on a lot of the features that make My So-Called Life so memorable. Awkward is like if My So-Called Life got a witty comedic second chance. Hey, they even gives an homage to MSCL's Tino, but constantly referring to a never seen but important character Ricky Schwartz.

As the first half of the season ends, I am excited to see what the second half brings.