Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday Night Lights, Last Season

Okay, how many of you thought Friday Night Lights had been cancelled for good? Yeah, me too. So I was really surprised to see a commercial two weeks ago announcing the final season! Of course, we fans know what "final season" only too often means: loose ends tied together in crappy ways that betray everything about the show (yes, Lost, I'm talking about you). But then, by the time the "final season" rolls around, most shows have already lost their way and "final season" just means one last round of paychecks.

Friday Night Lights has never lost its way though. So what would the "final season" mean? I was nervous and anxious and hopeful as the opening credits rolled for the premiere. And then I was surprised:  I'd never imagined last night's episode would be so poignant, so elegant.

It's late summer in Dillon, with school about to start. One of the first scenes is of Tim Riggins and his bumbling brother Billy. Tim's still in prison, his guilt-ridden brother rambling during a visit. Prison has made Tim depressed, bitter, simmering in anger. A heartbreaking contrast to the last time we saw him, Tim the valiant, willing martyr. He doesn't say much but he does ask his brother not to visit him so often. It's the last time we see him. The rest of the show focuses on Julie Taylor and Landry Clarke; they're preparing to leave for college, saying their farewells to Dillon and childhood. These scenes are so real, I found myself thinking about that time in my own life, personal remembrances riding along the fictional. Again, I marvel at the excellent direction the actors receive, lines delivered naturally, in full context to individual lives.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Upstairs Downstairs 2010

I had misgivings when I heard they were doing a new Upstairs Downstairs series. In fact, I was fully prepared for disaster. Or at least boredom (I have to confess I was bored with Downton Abbey, which was so lifeless).  But I'm watching the first episode now and I'm glad to say that I had nothing to worry about. The script is subtle and witty, the cast marvelous. And, thank god, no endless expositions about the house's history or about European history in general. The cast is quite good too. The most marvelous Keeley Hawes is the lady of the house. Jean Marsh has returned as Rose. And one of the series creators, Eileen Atkins, is now in front of the screen as the formidable Lady Holland. And to my surprise, Art Malik and Anne Reid are part of the series too! So wonderful.

I found the initial opening very poignant. I even got goosebumps hearing the theme music as the credits rolled. And seeing all the misty memories in Rose's eyes—oh, my. Eileen Atkins broke my heart too, her Lady Holland a kind of Auntie Mame antithesis. My only criticism is that some of the incidental music is just too reminiscent of Midsommer Murders. Anyway, it's wonderful to have something to look forward to on Sunday nights.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Breaking In

I'm right in the middle of watching Breaking In and I am so excited because I finally have a TV show I can write about! I'd been watching promos on Fox for the last few weeks and I wasn't having high hopes, but wow! Great writing, great cast!

So the setup: college student Cameron (played by Bret Harrison) gets coerced into working for a shady security firm. He's surrounded by crazies, naturally. My favorite crazy is Cash. He's played by Alphonso McAuley and he's brilliant. Bonus point: Alphonso has great chemistry with Bret (Bret played Sam in Reaper—I loved that show). The best dialog of the night was between Cash and Cameron and it went something like this:

Cash: I'm going to have sex with this candy bar. Give me some sugar, baby.
Cameron (grimacing): That doesn't look consensual.

Wish I'd written that!

Bret also has great chemistry with Odette Annable, the girl who plays love interest Melanie. Surprising how many shows cast actors with no chemistry. Of course Melanie has a boyfriend, played by an outrageously funny Michael Rosenbaum (Lex in Smallville). I've always adored Michael Rosenbaum so I was surprised and thrilled to see him suddenly pop up.

Hope the show only gets better!