Friday, January 11, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: Moms vs. machines

Today's column reviews "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," which is suffering from a serious muscle deficit:
A helpful tip for the creators of future scripted series (if there are ever going to be scripted series again, what with the writers' strike that won't end): If you're going to name your show after a character, you really want to make sure that character is by far the most interesting one on the show.

"Bionic Woman" ran into this problem earlier in the season, with recurring guest Katee Sackhoff regularly wiping star Michelle Ryan off the screen.
Now, if you want to be technical, Sackhoff was playing another bionic woman, which gave that show's producers some cover. For that matter, if you want to be technical, the title of Fox's new "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" happens to contain that show's most interesting character.

It just ain't Sarah Connor.
To read the full thing, click here.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alan - Could you comment quickly on age appropriateness? Thanks in advance.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do you mean in terms of how old a kid should be before they watch, or in terms of how inappropriate the relationship between John and Sarah so often seems? I comment on the latter in the review. As to the former, it's like a PG-13 action movie, and probably with less cursing. However, the school shooting scene isn't something I'd want to expose a young kid to.

nicolars said...

I thought Lena Headey was wildly miscast from the beginning. It's not just that she doesn't have the right physique, it's that she looks much too young to be Thomas Dekker's mother. Now I know that Fox is fond of casting youngish actors to play the parents of teenagers on their shows, but this was a stretch even for them.

arrabbiata said...

Alan,

Related to the theory that the charisma problems suffered by Michelle Ryan and Lena Headey as possibly related to struggling with American accents- is there a reason why so many shows in recent years have gone this way with casting? I figure some of it is trying to capture some Hugh Laurie magic, but I wonder if there's more. Does it increase ratings when these series are shown in Britain? Do they think it will bring automatic positive critical attention? I don't think that American viewers care that much, if they are even aware of it. Certainly there are cases where the transatlantic casting for American characters works well (Anna Friel is a favorite of many who read this blog), but it looks like there are many potential pitfalls, too.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I wrote a story about the influx of Brits (and Aussies) playing American on this year's new shows back in July. Unfortunately, that was before I had a permanent archive for my stories, so I can't link to it. The short version is that it's largely because of House, which showed that (some) Brit actors could master the accent, that viewers would accept a relatively new face of a certain age, that casting directors didn't have to keep hiring the same dozen people who are in failed pilots every year, etc.

Of course, with most of the new shows this year with Brit leads flopping, I wouldn't be surprised to see the networks shy away from it whenever the strike ends and there's a new development season. Bring on more Jason Gedrick!

Stef said...

I always thought Summer Glau was super-freaky in "Firefly," so I can easily imagine she'd do a good job as an unpredictable automaton type. :-)

jim treacher said...

After Seth Cohen's mom, there's no such thing as "too young."

British actors are probably cheaper too, right?

Anonymous said...

I'm only slightly familiar with the first 2 movies, and not an action fan at all, but even with this review, I'm actually looking forward to watching this. Maybe it's the lack of alternatives as the scripted shows die out due to the strike. Maybe it's just the fact that it's a scripted show that isn't about cops, detectives, doctors, or hospitals. (I do like other SF shows, especially if they involve time travel.)

Alan, you seem somewhat torn here, too. Clearly the actress playing Sarah is lacking, but I don't get a "stay away" vibe from your review, either.

Carrie said...

I'll be watching this series simply because Garret Dillahunt is joining the cast in an upcoming episode (three, maybe?) and I would follow him anywhere. Such an interesting actor.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, you seem somewhat torn here, too. Clearly the actress playing Sarah is lacking, but I don't get a "stay away" vibe from your review, either.

Yeah. Headey and Dekker are both non-entities, and even the action scenes aren't that great, but it's not terrible, either. The lack of scripted alternatives will probably have me sticking around, along with an eagerness to see whatever weird thing Glau is going to do next.

dez said...

Bring on more Jason Gedrick!

I don't have a problem with that :-)

I'll probably watch at least the pilot, and if it's not too terrible, stick around until Garrett Dillahunt shows up. Loved him in "No Country For Old Men"!

Plague said...

Isn't this taking place between the first and second movies?

If so, wouldn't Sarah be on her way to becoming the ripped iron woman of T2?

Or is it between T2 and 3 and thus my theory falls apart...

Alan Sepinwall said...

It takes place after T2. John is a teenager, Miles Dyson's widow pops up in the pilot, etc.

Bobman said...

I always thought Summer Glau was super-freaky in "Firefly," so I can easily imagine she'd do a good job as an unpredictable automaton type. :-)

My thoughts exactly. Hell, in Firefly / Serenity she was basically an unpredictable automaton type, so it's not a far cry.

Plus, she's kinda cute.


...What?

on the dole said...

Alan, the inappropriate relationship b/w John & Sarah sounds to me like the most interesting aspect of the show. If Sarah's a young mom, and they're constantly on the run, with only each other to rely on and trust in, a near-incestous relationship kind of makes sense. And sets up interesting possibilities whenever either of them starts to get close to another member of the opposite sex. That said, I've seen the pilot and wasn't sucked in. Glau was definitely the highlight.

Dark Tyler said...

on the dole,

I think you're giving this show way too much credit.

Matt said...

Well, it sort of takes place after Terminator 2, but somehow ignores Terminator 3, since it's set in 2007, and Terminator 3 indicated that "Judgment Day" took place in July 2004. That sound you just heard? It's my head exploding.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Matt, the pilot episode explains exactly how T3 ceases to exist, and how this timeline works. I have a number of issues with the series, but they found a way to be consistent with all the films while at the same time dumping the one they didn't like.

on the dole said...

Dark Tyler,

I wasn't giving the show any credit at all (beyond Glau being an interesting presence). My comments on a near-incestuous relationship b/w John & Sarah were mere speculation, based on Alan's mention of finding that aspect present. I've only seen the pilot, and didn't think their relationship was interesting at all. I was just suggesting that an inappropriate relationship b/w them COULD be cool. Maybe I just like to dream big, especially when there's little else on TV these days.

dez said...

Matt, the pilot episode explains exactly how T3 ceases to exist, and how this timeline works. I have a number of issues with the series, but they found a way to be consistent with all the films while at the same time dumping the one they didn't like.

Can they do that with the "Alien" films next? Everything after "Aliens" blows goats.

jim treacher said...

But they're still making a T4 with Christian Bale as John Connor, right? My head hurts...

jim treacher said...

I had to IMDb Garret Dillahunt to place him. Yeah, that guy rules! I totally hated him in Deadwood (the first time, anyway), and he held his own against Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men.

Number Five said...

This is a bummer, since this was one of about four midseason shows that looked even slightly interesting. Hopefully Headey grows into the role, if not physically then at least intensity/acting-wise.

BF said...

No Earl Boen, No Peace!