Monday, April 16, 2007

Fox Monday dramas: Reversals of fortune

Brief spoilers for "Drive" and "24" coming up just as soon as I check my glove compartment...

Not that it's going to matter unless the ratings are significantly better tonight than they were for the Sunday premiere, but night two of "Drive" didn't do much to change my opinions, positive or negative. When Nathan Fillion's on the screen, it's a show I'd get stupid over. When Fillion's not around, it's a show I would forget existed. I mean, there's some decent stuff in the non-Tully portion of the race, this time Dylan Baker's daughter teaching him how to lie (and him revealing that he's known all along), but there's one part of the show that's playing for keeps and a good chunk that's just there to kill time and maybe have a laugh.

Since the "Lost" comparisons are so inevitable -- down to the shadow conspiracy playing a mind game with Tully in which they pull his old car out of their magic box (should I have titled this post "It's my car in a box!"?) -- it's interesting to note that, leading man-wise, the shows are polar opposites. Matthew Fox did fine at first on "Lost," but over time the writers have made Jack such an obnoxious, willfully ignorant, bullying prig that I think the bulk of "Lost" fandom would be happy if he got eaten by Smokey. There, though, the supporting characters are interesting enough to usually make up for him. Here, the other racers are necessary to support the premise of the show, but Fillion/Tully is so much more compelling than they are that I'd be fine if they were just faceless blurs. So which is better: a donut show where everything's okay but the guy at the center, or an Oreo show where the center's the only part worth eating? (Your mileage may vary on the cookie portion of the Oreo; choose your own mass-produced desert with a yummy filling and a bland exterior if you must.)

"24," meanwhile, has reached the self-parody portion of the season, wherein the writers repeat a lot of stuff that's happened before -- sometimes a few seasons ago, sometimes only a few weeks ago -- because they don't know what else to do and are hoping you won't notice. Wayne's in a coma, again. Jack goes rogue twice within the same damn episode. Etc. I figured nothing could be lamer than the hunt for Fayed, but Gordon, Surnow and company may just prove me wrong. Bring back the cougar, says I.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

See, that's what I get for posting to the other Drive thread too early. Fillion's in his own show with Kristin Lehman. The writing is a little crisper, the music is a little darker, and the stakes are much higher.
The only other character that comes close is Melanie Lynskey's Mrs. Patrakas. But she's written more deranged ("Maybe I should have shot you"; "Never touch the car seat") than driven, no pun intended. It's too bad, since Lynskey's brief turn on The Shield reminded people who might have forgotten Heavenly Creatures that she can pull off dark, intense characters.
Fillion's in a version of Frantic. Everybody else is in a version of Cannonball Run. Both films have their merits, but I find it strange to see them intercut.


Johanna said...

At this point, 24 feels like a sinking ship. I'm finding it really, really hard to care about the mission to save Audrey. I loved her character many moons ago, now I'm feeling meh about the whole thing.

I found myself rooting for the VP. No way in hell the POTUS would risk a nuclear war with Russia so he could save a CTU agent's girlfriend. I'm sorry, that's beyond stupid.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of the White House drama on "24" and just want all Rogue Jack, all the time. I'm easy to please in that regard.


"Drive" is silly enough fun to keep watching for awhile, but I agree that the parts without Nathan Fillion are a bit dull. I am looking forward to seeing some of the other drivers (or "red shirts," I'm guessin) come in and out of focus just to get "eliminated," but overall, I'd rather spend most of the time with Tully and minimal time on the others.

Louis said...

It's been obvious since the early going that 24's writers had no coherent plan for this season. This latest "twist" with Audrey really is more absurd than Teri's amnesia or that wacky cougar.

Plus, I can't stand Audrey. In my mind, Jack's judgment was called into serious doubt last season, when he chose her over Diane.

Anonymous said...

I gave up on 24 a few weeks ago, and your very funny call for the return of the cougar makes me feel like I made the right decision.

Anonymous said...

I actually feel dumber for having watched Drive last night. And I don't really get all the fanboy love for Fillion. But maybe that's because I thought Firefly stunk and found him incredibly annoying on Buffy. I wouldn't really care either way, though, if I found his storyline even remotely believable. But I just find it so incredibly stupid that I end up cringing through most of it.

Anonymous said...

And I don't really get all the fanboy love for Fillion.

Dude, don't be hatin' on the hottest Joey Buchanan evah! :-D

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's "Joe" Buchanan.


dark tyler said...

Drive did practically the same numbers as yesterday.

Still something like 33% lower than the Prison Break numbers, though.

TL said...

How did Vice President Cy Tolliver become the only reasonable public official on 24? Even the chance of giving the Chinese that russian phlebotonum (in exchange for a mid-level analyst to boot) is beyond stupid, and indefensible even is 24's bizzaro-world where national security officials gather annually to spend a day jeopardizing national security to protect their own family members. So much for not negotiating with terrorists.

Seriously, if Jack really wants to protect the United States, he needs to move abroad and take his various grudges with him.

Anonymous said...

For 24 to survive, I think they need to can everything but Jack and Chloe. Get rid of CTU HQ, CTU brass, the CTU politics, the CTU betrayals, et cetera. Heck, free Jack from CTU and Los Angeles together and put him in a different city, state, or country. Have him work for a private security firm in NYC. Have him do something else.

What was nice about Season 1 and the real-time formula was that it was new. Now, the writers are just as much prisoners as formula as any other show. These last few episodes have made Alias look like Sopranos. Gee whiz.

Alan, you have praised the show for knowing when to drop its dead weight storylines. But I think that is a double edged sword. In so doing, they are fast and loose with the narrative, rather than a more tightly crafted narrative. I think I would rather see 6 or 12 really good real time episodes and have that be it than 24 lame ones. But then they'd have to change the name of the show. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, dorian, I forgot :-D

Anonymous said...

Even Lost focused on Jack originally and the supporting characters were really unknown quantities. Of course, it was "Walkabout" and Locke that made Lost a watercooler show. I'd love to give this show some time, but who knows what Fox is thinking.

Anonymous said...

Well, you have to admit, the first episode of Lost was pretty freaking cool. It was hyped, but it was talked about thereafter. It may not have been LOOSSST!!! as we now know it, but it was a nice premiere.

Johanna said...

Couldn't agree with you more.

I've been screaming for years that they need to get read of CTU and move Jack out of LA. The show is called 24, not CTU.

I think moving Jack to another country would be fantastic. Heck, I'd even love to see him as a fish-out-of-water in middle America. How cool would that be if this season ended with Jack having to leave CTU like he did at the end of season 5 (I think?). Then we could pick up with Jack working as a mechanic in Nebraska who gets pulled into solving/stopping the next Oklahoma City type plot.

Or have a Three Days of the Condor-style twist where the entire office of CTU (except Jack, of course) gets killed and his identity is erased.

Something, anything, other than another lame season at CTU. This show has become a procedural, and not a very good one.

Chris Littmann said...

The sequence at the end was so poorly done, with him zooming in and out of traffic. I couldn't tell if it was supposed to look highly stylized or if it was just total crap from the effects department.

Anonymous said...

24's big problem at this point is that it kept us involved and entertained by constantly topping itself and now it just has nowhere to go. What's next? 12 suitcase nukes that also spread radioactive-enhanced super virus delivered by cougars trained to frame Arabs and target Jack's favorite SoCal hang outs?

There just aren't that many more rote events for Jack to tackle at this point. And combining them over and over willy-nilly isn't a great solution.

If they would consider shifting the paradigm just a bit it would really help. For example - had something like this season's actual events happened in LA, people would be in full out crisis meltdown mode. I'd love to see Jack having to deal with more of that kind of emergency. Primarily because he'd have to reach into his bag of tricks and try something other than threaten > torture > kill those in his way. After all, it’s still bad form to snap the neck of a terrified innocent civilian. Make Jack work more puzzles to save the day. We’ve taken his brutality just about as far as it can go – let’s see his intelligence and/or crafty nature brought to the forefront. You can still have the gratuitous explosions and squinty eye acting I promise.

Or they could just say eff it and go with a full scale alien invasion.

Anonymous said...

They really could have gotten some mileage out of actually showing the CONSEQUENCES of all those threats. A nuke goes off in Valencia, and the big issue of the episode is Chloe's ex's boozing? Give me a break. If they are going to nuke a town, show the aftermath.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, how was it that the liquor store wasn't looted already?

Anonymous said...

There's actually one classic 24 plot that hasn't been recycled : someone taking over CTU. Buchanan has now been running CTU for a Di Maggio-esque 18 consecutive hours.

Anonymous said...

Ack, don't jinx Bill, anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Monday drams, is anyone still watching The Black Donnellys online? This show is getting better every week. At this point, I actually prefer it to Friday Night Lights (also on NBC), as FNL, well acted as it is, tends to cook its high school characters in fairly stock soap opera pots. But while FNL is almost certainly getting a second season, there's no chance of that for "Donnellys." Too bad. I'd've liked to see the long-term plan.

Blankity-Blank said...

As opposed to stock mob opera plots? At least Friday Night Lights doesn't seem to be taking place in a place time hasn't visited since 1977.

I didn't realize it was online though, so thanks. Now I have to keep going.

Anonymous said...

from Blankity-Blank: "As opposed to stock mob opera plots? At least Friday Night Lights doesn't seem to be taking place in a place time hasn't visited since 1977."

Excepting the pilot, The Black Donnellys owes more to The Sopranos than The Godfather, but I can seee where the pilot may have fatally stamped the "stock mob plots" impression on too many viewers.

Setting the series in a neighborhood that time left behind doesn't mean the series doesn't happen in present-day. There are large decaying neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago, three cities I've lived in, that are exactly the same way, with houses and shops that haven't seen any upkeep for 40 years. Most of these neighborhoods are run by criminals too.

The time setting of the show is a small problem, though, in that it's supposed to be set 10 years ago, yet some props are too modern, most notably an important-to-the-plot cell phone with computer features they didn't have then.

And hey, I'm not saying I don't like FNL, just that if it came down to a choice between the two low-rated series for a miracle renewal (it won't), I'd pick "Donnellys."

Ted Frank said...

We just got to the pilot of "Drive" in our DVR, so we didn't learn until last night that we missed Hour #3. What happened?

My thoughts:

* I agree with Alan that Filion is much more compelling than everyone else.

* But I agree with Anon that the plot twists and structure make little sense. I tend to dislike plots that depend on an omniscient super-powerful shadowy conspiracy of hundreds of people who don't play by the rules, because it means the writers can get out of jams through a deus ex machina, and this almost invariably makes the writing lazy instead of well-constructed. I avoided Lost for the same reason: I just know the solution to the mysteries will be anti-climactic, and that's almost certainly the case here.

*There have been other plot holes beyond what anon notes. There haven't been any consequences to going 90 in Florida. Given that there's no time penalty for finishing twelfth instead of first on a leg, why ride someone's bumper at 90 mph in heavy traffic and risk an accident that knocks you out of the race? Why are people not already fully packed and in their cars waiting for the cell phone to ring for the second leg, especially given the possibility of sabotage?

I give it three stars, and will keep watching, since my patience will likely outlast the network's given the ratings. But you'd think with how much Fox promoted it they wouldn't have hidden that third episode so my DVR missed it.