Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Switched at Birth', 'The River', 'Ringer', 'Unforgettable', 'Parenthood', and 'Southland'...

TV Talk for Tuesday, February 7th 2012

Switched at Birth (ABC Family, 8pm) - S1, Ep16: "Los Dos Fritos" - Adrianna (Ivonne Coll) is my new favorite. At the end of last week's episode, anyone who sympathized with Bay (Vanessa Marano) spewed some pretty heavy anger Adrianna's way for potentially deporting Angelo (Gilles Marini), and yet tonight, when introduced to the other grandmother (Meredith Baxter), we got a taste at what real negative action against family was. I loved the parallels between Regina (Constance) and Kathryn (Lea Thompson) in how they had trouble relating to their mothers tonight. She all but disowned Bay upon meeting Daphne (Katie Leclerc). It's one thing to be swept up in the uncanny resemblance to Kathryn or want to get to know the girl who was stripped from your life for the past sixteen years, but she blatantly ignored Bay from the get-go, writing her off as a stranger simply because they didn't actually share a bloodline. It was just cold. Though I do like the point she was bringing up about nature versus nurture-- that's what's so fascinating about this show-- but I hated the bigoted approach she took. And I do also think Bay dodged the bullet getting the art book instead of that Kennish family cameo. Sure, it had sentimental value or whatever, but no sixteen year-old is going to wear a broach! Daphne did the right thing, giving it back, for a handful of reasons. Speaking of jewelry, Simon (Maiara Walsh)'s tirade over a missing watch was just another notch in the "I hate Simone" belt. No, really, I hate Simone. Whether or not she's actually just molding Toby (Lucas Grabeel) is not the issue here. I actually like his new sound and want him to break out of Wilke (Austin Butler)'s non-talented shadow anyway. Simone just irks me. Maybe I sympathize with Bay more than I realized; maybe she just seems like the typical rich, popular girl who really has no substance; maybe I just find it distracting that she barely moves her jaw when she talks so it always looks like she's gritting her teeth, even when she overcompensates by smiling through the words. She poisons her own well! As far as friends go, I miss Bay's "I assumed he was gay" ex-boyfriend! And I really miss Blair Redford! Thematically, the community service storyline served to tie together the two halves of the "very special episode" dealing with prejudice-- but only as a device. There was nothing organic about the way all of a sudden Daphne was slapped in the fast with where she used to live and how far away she is now. It really shouldn't be an issue of geography or the color of one's skin; the issue the show should have addressed was the fact that in Daphne's move, she seemed to have cut off old friends. She didn't have to do that; she just got sucked into this new life. If there's anything to feel guilty about it, it's that-- not a new zip code or white-washed group of friends. Oh and speaking of friends: WHERE THE HELL WAS EMMETT (Sean Berdy)!?!?!?! I would have forgiven all the out of nowhere teaching moments if the episode featured Emmett.

The River (ABC, 9pm) - S1, Ep1: "Pilot" - You know, I didn't catch it at first, but the way Tess (Leslie Hope) is so desperate to get her son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) to go with her down to the Amazon to hunt for the missing and presumed dead Emmet (Bruce Greenwood) seemed a little too advantageous. I mean, I know she loved him, being his wife and all, and I know she didn't want to give up on him without seeing a body and knowing for sure one way or the other if he was really dead or maybe just run off somewhere, but I couldn't ignore the payday she seemed to be desperately seeking. Maybe I'm reading too much into one little throw-away line, but I felt like I had to with this show. Though it is impeccably produced and creatively shot (all sense of motion sickness aside), it still relied a bit heavier on the thrills and scares and "what was that?"s around every corner than on really letting us get to know the characters. So far Lena (Eloise Mumford) is the most interesting to me, but also the most of a riddle. Sure, Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) has the most profound connection to the land-- or lack thereof, so to speak-- but her spiritual connection requires a suspension of disbelief that I'm not yet sure I want to extend. Plus, I get this "creepy little girl ghost" vibe from her, so... Lena, on the other hand, is complicated for other reasons: she clearly has a history with this family from the time of her youth, and yet there is a contention between her and Tess that seems to imply an affair. Maybe not a physical one-- if Emmet saw her as a daughter that would be icky-- but he certainly cared a lot about her-- enough to bring her into his inner circle of trust with his tapes, anyway. It seemed very clear that he left her-- and Emilio (Daniel Zacapa), and perhaps even his regular producer-- behind for a reason: because he sensed the dangers lying in front of him and wanted to ensure the safety of those he cared about. That's why it made it so hard to connect with the angry, kind of bratty Lincoln-- clearly his father left him behind time and again to protect his son, and his son just wanted to sulk over self-entitled abandonment issues rather than see the bigger picture. It should be interesting to see how these blue butterflies play in (ironic that just yesterday ABC dealt with a blue butterfly of a different kind on Castle; how's that for synergy!?) because it appeared clear that something is watching over this crew and inhabiting these beings, but it remains to be seen if this something is out for equal protection or to do them in. This "found footage" style show may not be a "pick them off one by one" type-- though I'm not entirely convinced it's not considering quite a few of these characters feeling nothing but expendable already, especially A.J. (Shaun Parkes). He already exhibited quite selfish behavior in preferring to get the shot over helping Lena, and he became visibly scared when encountering that thing on the deck, so he is a liability in a number of ways. And Lincoln already has it out for him. Actually, on second thought, I do think we should expect the actual death toll to rise while still not being sure of Emmet's own fate. But if Emmet is not dead-- if the reason he was able to transport himself into Jahel through that blue butterfly-- then a lot of what we've already seen so far will be cheapened.

Ringer (The CW, 9pm) - S1, Ep12: "What Are You Doing Here, Ho-Bag?" - Only one minute into this episode, and I was already severely pissed off. I was actually holding out hope that Siobhan (Sarah Michelle Gellar) would tell Henry (Kristoffer Polaha) the truth right at the top-- you know, how they promised last week-- so that they could return to their now not-so illicit affair while Bridget (Gellar) fell harder for Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd). So when she didn't at first I smelled another Gemma fake out. Why try to be so complicated, Ringer? Why must you tease something, take the characters somewhere else, and then just bring them back to the same point? Are you so hard-up for story you have to drag it out? Or do you just like wild goose chases, in addition to red herrings? I hate birds, so you're not winning me over like this. Poor Henry can only yell "I don't know what's going on" time and again, and then when he finally knew, he wasn't allowed to say anything. I don't know why he puts up with it, either. I know he's a little bit broken-- his career's in the crapper, his wife is dead, the booze doesn't help-- but have a little self-respect! "Soft" Siobhan didn't work for me, either. Though the show established that she and Henry were really in love, for the first half of the season we didn't get to see the ins and outs of that. Instead, we saw a very hardened, take no prisoners Siobhan acting ruthlessly and out for revenge. It was one-note, but it was consistent, and so it seemed easy to accept that was who she was. To go back and show this other side of her now without provocation feels inorganic and honestly not entirely real either, as if she is putting on a show in a new way. Sometimes she has to dress up in pearls and couture to carry out her plans, sometimes she has to slip on a leather trenchcoat and grab a gun, and tonight, apparently, it was all scarves and tears. Ho-hum. Especially considering her bi-polar turn in the next scene, on the phone with Justin Bruening. It felt like the twins were blurring the line between each other a bit tonight and not necessarily intentionally. I'm not going to lie, I was kind of hoping that pawn shop guy was setting Siobhan up so that when she walked out of his store with $15,000 in cash (!?), she got mugged. However, the addition of Andrea Roth was all sorts of spicy and fun. It certainly lent insight into Juliet (Zoey Deutsch), who I never expected to care about at all but is quickly climbing to my favorite character, and it set up a nice new obstacle for Bridget, while Henry's jumped-to conclusions made
a fantastic, if temporary, new obstacle for Siobhan. Why did it take so long for Machado (Nestor Carbonell) to run fingerprints? And really, at Siobhan's insistence? That's ridiculous. She should be worried her prints actually turned up at other nefarious sites; she has a much quicker trigger finger than thinking. But really, I'm sure the writers just knew if Machado insisted on printing Bridget earlier, when Gemma's disappearance turned up tons of suspects, there'd be no show anymore. Maybe that's being saved for the finale. So other than Catherine, there was a whole lot of "Who cares?" to this episode. The stuff within the prison felt choppy-- as if inserted as an afterthought-- and almost unnecessary since it's not a thread we've followed all the way through. Sean Patrick Thomas popping up in a fun reunion (cameo?) but ultimately being just another one of Siobhan's underused men, and a plot revolving on a $150,000 ring? Please, even the kids of Gossip Girl think that is ostentatious. I guess my main frustration is as it always has been, though: Bridget and Siobhan are twins, right? So when they were kids they probably lied and covered for each other or tricked people once in awhile with who was who, and yet every time they are faced with an action of the other, it's as if they have completely forgotten they have a counterpart in the world, and they completely freeze. If anyone was actually paying attention to them, the simple confusion in their tones would be a dead giveaway that something is amiss. When Bridget does it, it's forgivable since she thinks Siobhan is dead, but she's a much worse offender of the "deer in headlights" look whenever faced with something Siobhan should clearly know that she doesn't. Come on, twins keep each other's secrets; they're better liars than that! I'm all for trying to make a once-liar sympathetic but not stupid!

Unforgettable (CBS, 10pm) - S1, Ep14: "Carrie's Caller" - Usually I hate it when procedurals have a serial killer taunting a member of the team. I mean, how often does that happen, really? But I'm glad this show has finally introduced an additional long-arc to Carrie (Poppy Montgomery) trying to figure out who killed her sister. She is stalled on that front, so we needed something more than just the case of the week. And this episode gave us a lot more. First of all, the banter between her and Al (Dylan Walsh) is getting more playful, and now the team around them is expanding in the quirky line, as well. The addition of Jane Curtin certainly shook and spiced things up while laying groundwork with the promise of some kind of twisted politics to come. Why mention her previous run-ins that resulted in a cushy desk job and then reveal Carrie's taunter to be a high up judicial official if the two won't have a connection down the line? Without a connection, the timing, let alone the addition of Curtin in general, just seems unnecessary. It took five months for Carrie to get initiated back as a detective, and it took five months for the show to hit its stride in terms of being a real contender with the other CBS procedurals, but I think this episode may have solidified its place. If for no other reason than finally adopting the biggest name guest star theory. He may have fooled the lesser detectives in the squad, but James Urbaniak couldn't be hidden from me, even under a baseball cap and terribly glued on facial hair, and I'm eager to see him play with Carrie some more. Oddly, it felt like Urbaniak planted the seed and acted as a precursor to Kevin Williamson's new pilot, though that one is for a competing network. Maybe I just have pilot season on the brain, though, and am drawing parallels where there should be none. Still, it should be interesting to see how the wide (read: not as twisted as me) audience reacts to such dark material. I think it's a step in the right, outside the box, direction-- especially for procedurals. But Unforgettable seems to be one and done with it right now, probably only bringing out this big gun storyline during sweeps.

Parenthood (NBC, 10pm) - S3, Ep15: "Politics" - Everyone on this show is too adorable for words (minus Jasmine). Adam (Peter Krause) finally fully embracing the Luncheonette and the entire music industry vibe by wanting to basically poach someone else's client was adorable (in its own way); Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae) and her "my baby brother" speak was adorable (in the traditional way); Sarah (Lauren Graham)'s interest in Mark (Jason Ritter)'s high school whatever was adorable (in a surprising way); Bob Little (Jonathan Tucker)'s weird post-it note anecdotes about people were adorable (in a quirky way)-- and yes, a little politician creepy. It's been so long since this show was last on that I almost can't remember if I've pointed this out, but Bob creeps me out. Even his name is smarmy and serial killer-y, and I know Amber (Mae Whitman) is attracted to him, too, but it doesn't really make it okay that he promoted her to work directly under him and then made his move. In the dark, silent office with only the glow of a really old iMac (!). Scandal! Well, actually it really did feel like a scandal because as much as Amber seemed to like him, she got so shifty and uncomfortable afterwards I was getting serious "forced himself on her" vibes. Like more than just she's thinking she was promoted for wrong reasons but something actually happened. Reading too much into it? Perhaps-- especially when she was okay when he showed up to her apartment (which, also, was creepy)-- after watching Ringer I might just be on alert. But his hair is too slick, and his eyes are too beady, and he doesn't really move the muscles in his face when he plays emotional chicken with Amber! I want to like him, but it's hard. And I love Tuck. It's just when you dress him up as a politician... And then there was the lo scandalo of how Amber called her aunt by "Aunt" Kristina (Monica Potter) in the office. Unprofessional on its own. This episode should have been under a different name. And also how Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) automatically assumed "serious relationship" for her daughter meant they were talking about marriage. It's so indicative of her generation, and the look on Sarah's face when she didn't want to correct what it really meant was so indicative of her generation. It's the little, simple, everyday moments like that that really sell this show for me. Sitting down later with Sarah and Mark and all of his friends, not much of substance (meaning to push the plot along) was said, and yet you didn't need anything more than the look on Sarah's face as she gradually realized how much being in a relationship with Mark might be changing him-- or her worst fear: holding him back. I love that this show can take its time and unfold stories naturally because it makes the emotional payoff so much more effective. But I hate that it's setting her up for heartbreak. He does want to travel; he wants kids, but he doesn't want to choose. And considering Ritter has booked another new pilot, he may not be sticking around this show long-term. So help me, if he knocks her up and then leaves... The only story right now that I would say the emotional payoff is not happening for (yet) is Julia (Erika Christensen)'s adoption process, and I really hate to say anything against that story because it is one I have championed from the beginning. Perhaps because it is so seldom told on television, though, it is deserving of that much more scrutiny because it is single-handedly shining the spotlight on the process and therefore has a big responsibility to do it right. Zoe (Rosa Salazar) is a scary example of a potential birth mother because of how she flits back and forth with her presence in their lives. She was easily swayed by her boyfriend earlier, and now her own pregnancy hormones are doing a number on her, and she isn't mature enough to be honest and just talk it out with Julia, so she picked up and walked out without a confrontation and then put her off with non-committal, dismissive answers. Julia is being set up for heartbreak, and she really should be smart enough not to put all her eggs in Zoe's basket. I know she's leading with her own emotions, but honestly, she has to protect herself and her family. Everyone is attached to Zoe and this unborn baby; it will be utterly devastating if they have to start their search all over, this next time a little bit more jaded about the outcome. That is never good for anyone, least alone me, who is watching this show hoping for a success story to give me better hope about my own chances.

Southland (TNT, 10pm) - S4, Ep4: "Identity" - Let's hear it for the girls, am I right? This episode was so strong for both Regina King (even if we still don't know who the damn father is!) and Lucy Liu that it almost felt like a different show. It's hard to juggle as many cases and characters every week as Southland does, and this season the focus has been so heavy on the job that it was a nice change of pace to get to be a little more personal, and a little more analytical with these women. I hate to sound old-fashioned or sexist, but I really do believe that a woman in a male dominated field like police work has a different experience, and I appreciate the acknowledgement, despite these two being seen as equals by their partners. The juxtaposition with Sammy (Shawn Hatosy)'s tender care over the dog he shot (really, Sammy!?) worked well to prove that it's not just the women who refuse to be completely hardened by this job. The cops of Southland certainly give a good name to the job itself overall. Yet, after so much silence and mystery from Tang, I, for one, was waiting to get to know more about her and her back story. Only being around for one season or not, if you don't get to know her, there's no reason to invest in her relationship with Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), and it looks to be a pretty important one. Getting even just the smallest taste of who she is, when she revealed a nugget about her father's Marine past to him in the car, means she is getting comfortable enough to open up to him. She's been through a traumatic experience, and so this is the perfect step. Unfortunately it won't be enough to convince her to stay long-term, but that doesn't negate the progress by any means. With Lydia, though, the stakes felt a lot higher because she has no plans to abandon her job (she said as much like three times in the episode as it was), and learning she is pregnant is a game-changer for her future. Every time she runs or hops a fence or tussles with a suspect, I'm going to worry about the baby. Every time she chooses to strap her badge to her belt and not tell anyone she is having a baby, I am going to worry about the baby and her future on the force. I know she doesn't want to be stuck behind a desk-- she has worked too hard and come too far for that-- but I think it might be what she needs to ensure proper attention and care is paid to protecting this child in utero the way she will undoubtedly do once it is born. Her mining different women for their "takes" on motherhood was sad, but honesty what cut me up the most was the homeless veteran's instance that it wasn't him in the IDs that Tang and Cooper so painstakingly made for him. It was a simple moment, and a pretty quick one in the grand scheme of things, but it was so powerful to see this man who was once the cream of the crop not want to believe how far he had fallen. I'm sure in his eyes he's still as neat and tidy (if not young) as when he dressed in the uniform, and I think when Tang and Cooper approached him after knowing who he was, they really should have saluted him. But they respected him in other ways, and that is good enough for me.

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