So I returned to the office today to find two overflowing USPS bins full of mail waiting for me. Several hours of unpacking and viewing later (interrupted briefly so I could write up my interview with "Jekyll" writer Steven Moffat for tomorrow's paper), I... well, I still have a whole lot to catch up on, not to mention treats that I would love to watch (the complete "A Bit of Fry & Laurie" box set) if I ever had the time.
But I'll comment on a few shows I got a chance to look at that have already aired. Spoilers for, in order, "Big Love," "The Kill Point" and "The Bronx Is Burning" (plus a question about "Damages") coming right up...
I have a very ambivalent relationship with "Big Love." I admire it, at times even really enjoy it, but as I've mentioned in the past, I always feel held at a distance from it. (This led to much marital friction in the ramp-up to press tour, as my "Big Love"-loving wife complained that I never got into that show and yet was zipping through my screeners of "Tell Me You Love Me," which she hated.) I would be happy if I never had to see another Juniper Creek scene again, as I find all those characters far too broad and thin for a show with such high ambitions. And, frankly, Bill Henrickson himself gives me the creeps. I think that's supposed to be the point of the character, that Bill Paxton is giving an uncompromising performance, and that Bill has to be written this way to make the stories of the wives -- the heart of the show, and the reason I keep checking in despite my dislike of the rest of it -- work, but I wish that could be accomplished in smaller increments of screen time.
All that said, the latest episode was really quite something, absolutely living up to the "Kingdom Come" title. The Roman vs. Hollis action happened largely off-stage, and Roman even took a few bullets at the episode's end. (Though, of course, the direction made note of the fact that he was shot in three potentially non-fatal spots; much as I'm in a hurry to be rid of him, I suspect the writers will stick ol' Roman in a coma for a while and then bring him back in a big way in season three.) Bill grappled with the wives on the issues of free time, adding a fourth wife, and the impact that living the principle is having on their children. (Jeanne Tripplehorn in the scene where Barb hears her son's thoughts on polygamy? Amazing.) When the series moves away from the political gamesmanship and sticks to the nuts and bolts of trying to fit this lifestyle into a modern American life, it can be pretty great. Now that I'm home and at the same point in my viewing as the rest of the audience, I'm going to make an effort to blog at least a few more times before the season's over.
I'm not completely caught up on "The Kill Point" -- the Spike screener I had in my luggage only featured the pilot, so I'll have to track down episode two with the DVR -- but I really liked what I saw, and not just because there are so many "Wire" actors in the cast. (So far, I've got four: Michael Hyatt (Brianna Barksdale) as the SWAT commander, Michael K .Williams (Omar) as the sniper and J.D. Williams (Bodie) and Leo Fitzpatrick (Johnny) as two of the robbers.)
Bank hostage dramas are one of those genres (like underdog sports movies and "12 Angry Men" rip-offs) I'm a sucker for, so much so that I laughed when I realized the father and son in the bank are named Sabian. (Not sure if it's an intentional hat-tip, but Kevin Spacey's character in "The Negotiator" was named Chris Sabian -- a name repeated by every character in that movie so many times that I have to assume it was in Spacey's contract.) There are certain obligatory tropes to the genre, and the pilot handled a bunch of them nicely: the breach gone bad, the push-pull between negotiator and hostage taker and, especially, the "Dog Day Afternoon" moment where the hostage taker gets the crowd and/or media on his side. I could do without Donnie Wahlberg's grammar fetish (I was fine with it as a quirk until he made an underling waste valuable time confirming the apostrophe thing), but unless there was a massive nosedive in episode two (no spoilers, please, though comments on quality are fine), I think I'm in this thing through the end.
Finally, "The Bronx Is Burning" lapped me last night. I had seen the first three episodes before press tour, but while episode four was airing last night, I was in the actual Bronx watching every player but A-Rod hit a home run. Fortunately, the massive mail pile included episode four, so I watched it a few minutes ago. Same basic opinions -- the Son of Sam stuff feels totally extraneous, the mix of actors and archival footage is clumsy, and Turturro's really good -- with one caveat: while I was enjoying Platt's Steinbrenner in the first few episodes, he's starting to feel a little too cartoony, even for Boss '77. Also, I'd have to check my copy of the book (or my tattered copy of Steve Jacobsen's "The Best Team Money Can Buy"), but I don't recall Lou and Thurman's pep talk with Steinbrenner taking place on the night of the Blackout, or that Billy drunkenly interrupted it. (I could be wrong on the latter point, I admit.)
UPDATE: Whoops. Almost forgot that episode two of "Damages" (which I saw a few weeks ago) was on last night. Thoughts?
What did everybody else think?