Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Old business: Doctor Who, Ugly Betty and Survivor

Spoilers for, in order, "Doctor Who," "Ugly Betty" and "Survivor" after the jump. (And, out of curiosity, anybody here still watching "Dexter"? Now that Showtime's caught up with the episodes I've seen, I may add it to the rotation next week.)

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I'm a "Doctor Who" newbie, having come to the show late in the Eccleston season. I Netflix'ed the Tom Baker "City of Death" DVD, but haven't had much time to watch it -- and, besides, it doesn't feature either Sarah Jane Smith or K-9. So, in theory, I shouldn't be the target audience for such a continuity-heavy episode as "School Reunion" -- yet I was more moved by it than anything on the show since The Doctor cured all the gas-mask people in "The Doctor Dances." All that I really needed to know was that Sarah Jane was the Rose of the early '70s, and Elisabeth Sladen's performance did the rest -- with some support from David Tennant, who actually made me sad that the tin dog was about to die. A really touching meditation on the difficulty of living a normal life on Earth after getting a chance to see the entire universe. And, for added value, Anthony Head was having himself a fine old time vamping it up as the head baddie. The only thing I didn't like at all was Rose's reaction to Mickey becoming a companion. Don't keep stringing the guy along if you're clearly that over him, okay?

"Ugly Betty" is now three-for-three with episodes where Betty breaks down crying and either quits or offers to before Daniel talks her out of it. There's a TV-producing philosophy that says you have to essentially re-do your pilot a bunch of times in a row, both for the benefit of viewers who missed the first episode and to help reinforce the characters for everyone else. But I feel like we've seen enough of that device for a while. Also, while Betty's hoochie makeover was an obvious attempt to derail any questions of why she wouldn't start dressing better with the new job, I can't totally suspend my disbelief yet. After all, why wouldn't Daniel -- who needs her brain but also realizes that her image is a potential distraction -- just hire her a personal shopper for an afternoon or something? But if I can buy Clark Kent's glasses as the ultimate disguise, I can go with this for now.

I've delayed so long saying anything about "Survivor" because I'm not sure what I have to say. As I wrote last week, once they got rid of the racial component, a lot of the air went out of this season for me. I think the casting's been pretty good (loved Jonathan The Actor heckling Probst's punny play-by-play, followed by Jeff's lemon-sucking face), and I even like most of the challenges (the climax to this week's IC was one of the more intense ones we've had), but I'm feeling "Survivor"ed out at the moment. Maybe after they cut loose a lot of deadweight -- starting with this week's double-elimination -- I'll feel more into it, but for now, not so much.


Joel said...

The "Queens makeover" got to me a little, too; instead of making her at least moderately classy-looking like her sister, they go overboard with the hair and makeup and the nails. But I think that's just the cartoonish nature of the show in general.

I also think that the reason why Betty doesn't want to get a "Mode" makeover is that she's not completely comfortable in that world and doesn't think she'd be comfortable looking like everyone there does.

Anonymous said...

Still watching and loving "Dexter" over here, as well as "Survivor." And the plot device on "Ugly Betty" doesn't bother me because that show is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Ugly Betty is essentially a formula show. Such shows only works when the execution of that formula is flawless, or close to it.

The show is quite earnest, and the lead is great, but ultimately, I'm not sure this show, as is, can last. In the movies, a good exeuction of a common, feel-good formula(e.g. Bend it Like Beckham, My Big, Fat Greek Wedding) more easily because it's a single shot. Trying to sell it week-in and week-out, the way you have to do on TV, is tough.

As for Dr. Who, I'm amazed at how well this incarnation has replicated the previous ones. It has the campiness down. It even manages to have, at times, special effects that are clearly intentionally made to look corny(take, for example, the suction cup that comes out of the Daleks to suck people's faces). I'm convinced they're doing this as a tip of the hat to the older versions, which had some corny effects, although it wasn't quite as intentional.

The show also manages to inspire child-like awe with some of its storylines, much like the previous versions. They really managed to capture the spirit of the series.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Showtime's Free Weekend, I got to watch a couple of the Dexter episodes and being a big fan of the books, I was really surprised and happy at how well adapted it was to small screen. I'll be looking forward to the DVD set.

Heather K said...

Hilda (Betty's sister) is not moderately classy looking. Did you see the embroidered/patterned jeans? She maybe isn't straight street wlker like Betty's outfit was, but she isn't classy--not moderately, not at all.

Joel said...

I was just comparing Hilda to the cartoonish makeover Betty got. I'm assuming that Hilda brought Betty to her stylist, so you'd think she'd get the same results.

But, no, she doesn't look classy compared to the Mode crew.

If Betty wanted to turn to a family member, she should have turned to her nephew Justin. He's probably got a better fashion sense than both his aunt *and* his mother.

Anonymous said...

please add Dexter- I love it and want to read your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I think the Queens makeover disaster gives the show a reason to delay Betty's fashion awakening. The TWoP recapper suggested that Betty doesn't want to try to look better because she's afraid it won't make a difference -- that she'll find out she's not capable of looking stylish. Makes sense to me, and it will be doubly true after her experience in this episode. I love Betty but she was clearly born without the fashion gene, and I think it makes sense that she'll stick to her comfort zone and do the best work she can without risking another humiliating makeover experience.

That having been said, I hope we don't get another "Betty wants to quit" scene this week.

Toby O'B said...

It's so much fun reading various posts by people just discovering these episodes. And especially when they are so new to most of the entire canon.

Sarah Jane Smith was my first Companion, when I first found 'Doctor Who' back in the last 70s.

And you never forget your first....

Ross Ruediger said...

Alan -

I'm stoked to read or hear your reaction to "City of Death". The villian of the piece is played by Julian Glover whom you may recall from IJ & The Last Crusade as well as The Empire Strikes Back.

Toby -

I feel for the people whose first ~wasn't~ Sarah Jane.

Anonymous said...

Dexter is probably my favourite new show of the year, and the only one with a narration that doesn't make my teeth itch (i'm looking at you, Meredith Grey...)