The fiancée pointed out to me today that one of our new favorite shows, Life on Mars, will not be surviving to season 2. This is a real shame; though it was a remake of a classic UK show, we’d grown really fond of the series.
In fact, there have been a lot of good shows on television this season; for the first time in a long time, I’ve actually found much of my weeknights filled up with good television viewing. Quite a few of these shows, however, are wavering in the ratings and could share the fate of Life on Mars. I thought I’d do a post about, and a general appeal for, those shows I’ve fallen in love with in recent months/years:
Life on Mars. I hadn’t really bothered to watch this show until last month, but once I did, I was immediately hooked. This quirkly cop show is about a 2009 police detective who, after a traffic accident, finds himself inexplicably in the 1970s. Episodes are a mixture of gritty/humorous crime drama and weird sci-fi strangeness. A stellar cast makes the show mesmerizing, especially Harvey Keitel as an effective, on-the-edge police lieutenant and Michael Imperioli as a sexist police detective firmly entrenched in the 1970s.
Notable scene: (Imperioli is about to kick a suspect who is lying on the ground; Keitel stops him.) Imperioli: “Boss, he killed a guy!” (Pause.) Keitel: “Okay, but just one.”
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I really had my doubts about such a show. After Terminator 3, I was convinced that the concept had been irretrievably broken. I became more optimistic, however, when I learned that the series would be considered part of an ‘alternate timeline’ from T3; i.e. T3 never happened! The show itself follows Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), her son John Connor, and a ‘friendly’ terminator from the future played by the infinitely charming Summer Glau, as they seek to thwart the creation of the computer system Skynet and the nuclear apocalypse it brings.
If the show had simply followed the ‘terminator chases Sarah & John’ formula of the three movies, it would have gotten tired very quickly. There are multiple conspiracies afoot, however: human resistance members from the future have come to stop Skynet, and terminators have been sent by Skynet to infiltrate the highest echelons of society to make sure that it gets built! In addition, there are hints of ‘rogue terminators’ in the future which are trying to destroy Skynet themselves! The show is dark, moody and reflective, and sometimes slow going, but it maintains a great atmosphere of impending doom and shows us the psychological effect that this knowledge has on the characters.
Notable scene: In the season 1 finale, FBI agents raid the hotel room of a fugitive, not understanding that the fugitive is a near-unstoppable terminator and that they’re all completely doomed. The scene is scored, and ominously foreshadowed, with the haunting Johnny Cash song, “When the man comes around,” which is fittingly about the biblical apocalypse.
Leverage. Fortunately, this show just got renewed for a second season, but the fiancée and I were very worried about it! This caper series is most concisely described as ‘an Ocean’s 11 a week’, in which a team of criminal specialists play Robin Hood and scam the rich and powerful of society who have hurt innocent people. The show is very light-hearted, and relatively formulaic, but it is a very good popcorn entertainment. The cast members are all exceedingly likeable, and are headed up by the still-way-cool Timothy Hutton, and their chemistry makes for a lot of very funny moments. The capers are sometimes a bit unbelievable, but put in a little suspension of disbelief and you’ll have a good time!
Notable scene: Eliot Spencer, martial artist on the team: “What smokes crack and screams like a little girl?” (Question to a drug dealer just before Eliot makes a mess of him.)
Burn Notice. As far as I can tell, this show isn’t in any trouble, but I just want to rave about it anyway! It is about a CIA agent named Michael Weston who gets ‘burned’ — declared a security risk — and forced to stay in Miami, doing odd spy-like jobs until he can use every trick he knows to figure out who ‘burned’ him. The show is very realistic and gritty but maintains a light-hearted tone throughout. My favorite part are the voice-overs by Michael: in every ‘spy tactics’ scene, Michael calmly explains the psychological and technical tricks he uses to get things done. The show is just wrapping up season 2, and has held my interest throughout.
The supporting cast is excellent, too: I originally started watching the show because Michael’s best friend, Sam, is played by the coolest actor in the world, Bruce Campbell!
Notable scene: (Michael is driving his car off-road, backwards, in an attempt to avoid police pursuit.) Voice-over: Airbags are great for surviving crashes but they make some evasive maneuvers tough. Gone are the days when you could run through a stand of trees without a face full of nylon. Of course anything you used to do head-on you can still do…but it’s a little hard on anyone who’s stuffed in your trunk.