Friday, April 25, 2008

The Shape Of Things To Come (For Thursday Nights)...

Last night marked the first post-strike episode of two surreal dramas that, are although very different in their make-up, share the similarity that when they initially debuted, I wrote them both off as being campy and ridiculous. Surprisingly enough, though, I actually started to get into one of them in last year or so, and with the face of television looking quite different in the aftermath of the WGA strike, I may even take up with the other. Times, my friends, they are a'changing!

With the WGA strike lingering as long as it did, shows returning to the 07-08 lineup to finish up already-in-progress seasons have had their orders cut short. Lost, for example, was supposed to have eight episodes to answer questions about which the audience has been theorizing since season one's finale. Unfortunately, they will only get five, and with one down as of 11:01 p.m. last night, there are still a lot of things to wrap up in the short four hours left of season four. Ironically, though, they are on a strong track, and it almost pains me to say this, but it appears the strike did some good for the drama that was pissing more fans off than it was satisfying with its "give a little then take three steps back" approach to suspenseful storylines. By having a smaller number of episodes, the writers are now forced to cram each forty-six minute episode chock full of information; they can no longer afford the daytime soap opera-like dramatic pausing and answering one question with another question.

"The Shape of Things to Come" featured all of the film-like action Lost fans who have been there since day one have come to expect: deaths (though of minor characters) ran rampant in the first episode after the hiatus, as did explosions. However, they also crammed a lot of information into the episode, including character notes about Rousseau, the smoke monster, what happens to the Oceanic Six when they're off the island, and who shot Karl. It was an adrenaline-pumped episode the way in which ABC promos always claim but usually fall short; this time, there was so much going on, audiences were wide-eyed, on the edge of their seats, and practically giddy with anticipation of what will be revealed next. Kudos are well-deserved; they took a shitty situation and spun it into gold (and ratings).

Sadly, though, the opposite seems to be the case for once-timeslot rival Supernatural, whose season opened with the idea that one of the two brothers was set to die in twenty-two episodes. Since the strike stripped them of almost half that time, it has now become a mad dash to save Dean, and some of the individual "cases" they would normally investigate are being forced to take a backseat to the much more emotional arc of the brothers. Though it is their relationship that ties everything together, even the most unbelievable aspects and keeps them grounded, the show is forced to become a bit more one-note for the rest of its third season just to get them to where they need to be emotionally, as well as physically, for the start of the fourth season.

Beyond that, Supernatural's first episode back just proved lackluster and oddly too reminiscent of a previous season's fan favorite "Hell House" co-starring A.J Buckley and Travis Wester as wannabe paranormal investigators. If you remember correctly, at the end of "Hell House," Sam and Dean sent them on a wild goose chase to Los Angeles after prank calling them and posing as a producer interested in making a show around what they do. Unfortunately the joke seems to be on the Winchesters, as Thursday's episode of "Ghostfacers" showcased those boys actually shooting their own show... only to have members of their crew picked off one by one by something in the mansion in which they are filming. The whole episode was a giant callback to the seventeenth episode of the first season-- in fact, when the first stills were released a week prior to the airing, I was convinced the webmaster had accidentally pulled from the older episode—as well as being a testament to the kind of “in the moment” reality style Blair Witch began and Cloverfield and Quarantine are continuing.

For those who were already fans of Supernatural, “Ghostfacers” probably offered a few chuckles and some fist-pumping moments, but the episode certainly did not win over any potential new viewers (unlike Lost’s “The Shape of Things to Come”), as much of the show’s usual wit and snark got lost behind the grainy, shaky infrared. Such technical “style” does not a masterpiece make, nor does it seem "hip" or original in today's "do it yourself" videos of YouTube. For a show that relies on thrills around every corner, sadly, Supernatural came back with not a bang but a whimper (though on a side note, I will admit that it did run circles around the stone mess that was Cloverfield!).

One slightly disappointing episode is not, at this stage in the game, enough for me to give up completely on my Colt-toting, Impala-driving Winchester boys. I am willing to admit that maybe I had built up their return so much in my mind that nothing could have satisfied what I had already concocted in my own imagination. Then again, 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, even an early 2000s Cold Case didn’t disappoint, so Kripke, consider yourself warned: I’m rooting for you, but my love of Jensen can only transcend so much ho-hum creativity.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

you know what's really cool about lost? the other's camp is my childhood camp. And the hotel in Tunisia? The YWCA downtown where i first took ballet classes. Ah home!