21 September 2006

Kill 'Em All: More New TV

Yesterday I told a playwright-friend about the new DVR in my life. He gave me a look of such pity and horror.* But I'm way past being ashamed of liking TV. In college I went through a phase of guilt - compared to Anna, who only uses her TV set for foreign films from Netflix, I must be some sort of heathen, right? (Anna also cooks lots of interesting food and has all sorts of neat espresso machines and is incredibly dilligent and smart.) Of course, this is tied in with issues of general laziness - do I watch a repeat of Good Eats or clean my room? (Or learn French or write a story or read Shakespeare or go to the gym**...) But aren't I just KILLING MY BRAIN? No. I'm relaxing my brain, sometimes. I'm entertaining my brain. And I'm having a good time. (I'm not even getting into the Steven Johnson arguments here. In part because I'm often too lazy for the brain-working stuff or scared of the big explosions and biological weapons those shows tend to include.) But I'm not a worse person for this. And I'm still a good enough dramaturg, so wipe that look of horror off your face and write me a play.

So - yay TV! Right? Well, sort of. Because the new shows continue to suck! I've been staying out of the theatre-blogoshpere to-do about the LA Times article about TV writing as a haven for playwrights, so entirely separate from that - why are so many new shows so bad? Why are the funny ones not funny, and the serious ones all rip-offs of Lost and 24? I mean, must they all have story arcs that last a whole season? (And I love me my Alias through-lines, but things at least happen in each episode.) Must they all be mysterious? And must the funny shows be... not? I know art isn't easy, but can it really be so hard? If it is... well, stop filling space with the bad ones.

Last night was Kidnapped... and America's Next Top Model. Kate pretended to be all ashamed when I walked into the living room, but I was totally psyched. It's no Project Runway, and the show's gone downhill the last couple of seasons, but it's still totally fun. Especially when you have DVR and can fast-forward through the catty bickering and just watch the challenges, shoots, and judging. So that was fun. And then there was Kidnapped. A show I watched entirely because it features your favorite strange/strangely-attractive "downtown" actor and mine, James Urbaniak.*** In black leather gloves and a trench. Walking up to a guy on the Bad Penny bridge and pssht, shooting him with his silencered gun. Which he holds in his black leather gloves. Hot. I wish he had the Thom Pain glasses again and could maybe cut his hair, but he's on TV and not just in a cartoon, so I won't ask for too much.

But the show? Maybe it's because I wasn't listening too well - had to explain to Kate just who James Urbaniak was and why we were watching a show just for him - but did anything happen in this show? I mean, yes, the kid got kidnapped, but it's called "Kidnapped," so that doesn't count. Around 40 minutes through we started speculating about the season's projected arc - follow this one kidnapping, or get a new one each week, with Jeremy Sisto saving each kid around 10:55? Knowing that James Urbaniak's in the whole season (or at least many episodes - he claims to peak around episode 9), it's at least the same bad guys**** doing the kidnapping, so a one-napping arc seemed the most likely. And sure enough, nowhere near close to a resolution at the end. (24 anyone?) Now I've never actually watched 24 - not a big fan of the explosions and world-ending tension - but I imagine that after one episode, with its crazy high stakes and awesomeness, you're usually feeling a strong need to see what happens next, right? That's usually how TV shows work - they're either so good or so clif-hangery that you want to come back for more. But Kidnapped? If I didn't think James Urbaniak might bust out the silencer again, I'd be gone. There's so much damn mystery - why was the boy kidnapped, who was his mother talking to on the phone, what enemies does the dad have who might want to do this, will there be a location shoot in Providence because the older daughter goes to Brown? And the tension between the characters - Jeremy Sisto versus the rigid FBI guy, the rigid FBI guy versus the not-a-moron FBI guy, the parents, the kids, the ladies-- and will Audra McDonald sing? (Really just the important questions.)

Of course, it's getting lots of really good reviews, and James Urbaniak has two (cute) babies to feed, so I hope the show does well. I just also hope it gets better.

*I don't remember if this was before or after I went off on him for bringing the Kabbalah into our office because if you're not a learned Jewish man over 40 or something and you touch it, you die.

**If only the personal TVs at the gym got the Food Network...

***I would have included a photo, but I couldn't choose between this and this.

****Did I not mention that he works for the bad guys? He does. He's evil and it's hot.

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