Thursday, May 27, 2010

Best of the finales

The end of the TV season just wrapped up, and so before it drifts too far away, I thought I'd do a brief recap of my favourite finales. I'm not reviewing Republic of Doyle because that was back in April. But if I had to list it, I'd put it in the middle.

1. Chuck - It's not that Chuck is the best show on television, because it's not. But it's consistently fun and, most importantly, the writers realize when they've pushed something as far as it can go and it's time to change stream.

So when the Intersect 1.0 has gone as far as it can, they bring in the 2.0, which allows Chuck to go from wallflower to Neo ("I know Kung Fu" was an awesome line from the season 2 finale). After 2.5 seasons of keeping Chuck and Sarah apart, they decided to make them spies in love, and it works. When Casey can't be grumpy with Chuck anymore, they give him Morgan to boss around. Oh, and they give him a daughter, who Morgan flirts with, making Casey even more cranky.

And when the Buy More plot is feeling strained, well, at least it went out with a bang.

So the Season 3 finale was great. There was suspense, humour, good action, twists and some genuine peril as you were pretty certain one character wasn't going to live (alas, Scott Bakula). Plus, the big show down between Chuck and Shaw to the song "Blaze of Glory" as covered by Jeffster (not as good as their version of "Mr. Roboto" from Season 2, but still...) was pretty fantastic.

So it was great fun. And if they had wrapped it up, I would have been perfectly happy. Chuck has the girl, quits spying, is happy and is surrounded by friends and family. Except there is a twist in the last couple of minutes that means I can't wait for next season. Plus, there is the secret involving his mom. I side with many online who argue Kate Jackson (Charlie's Angels, Scarecrow and Mrs. King) clearly should play her. Considering how good the show has been at casting guest stars, I would think it's a given.

2. Fringe - I enjoy how some people are annoyed because they could see the "twist" minutes before it happened. Dudes, I saw the twist the episode before it happened. Who cares. Fringe doesn't do the big cliff hanger suspense endings. They do the quieter mindfuck endings. The end of season one had Olivia wake up in an alternate dimension where the World Trade Center is still standing. This season, the Olivias get switched up - with ours in a cell in an alternate dimension and the "Altivia" scheming in ours.

Also, if you're going to have two characters get romantically involved, then at least sticking one of them in a jail in an alternate dimension is an interesting way of keeping the two of them apart. The writers of two of the shows further down might want to take note.

Anyway, it was fun. The little touches in the alternate dimension (the comic book covers were cute) and the scenes between Leonard Nimoy's William Bell and John Noble's Walter Bishop were such a blast I'm bitterly disappointed Nimoy is retiring. I hope he reconsiders, but if he doesn't at least he went out on a high note. And the line "This is the 77" couldn't have been delivered any better if Arnie had delivered it. It's a classic, but you really need to see the scene to appreciate it.

Fringe is consistently the best show on TV right now and Walter Bishop is its most tragic character. Noble manages to find a way, just about every week, to break my heart. You know it's not going to end well for him, but you kind of hope, despite all the horror he's unleashed, that it does. Now that's good acting. And good writing.

3. House - Some people hate the non-procedural episodes, but I do enjoy switching things up from time to time, even if the patient of the week was at risk of losing her leg, something House could clearly relate to. It was a perfectly fine episode for the first 45 minutes or so. Then, in the last 15 minutes, Hugh Laurie found another gear. He went from resigned, to shocked, to numb, to furious, to the absolute depths of despair to, finally, a ray of hope. In 15 minutes. It was a freaking acting class in action.

And it was the last couple of minutes that sold it. The quiet little scene between Cuddy and House. I like that they finally brought them together. After six seasons, keeping them apart was getting tiring. As for Cuddy being with such an obviously screwed up man and that doesn't make sense, yeah, like we don't all know people who are involved with people they know is a huge mistake. Brains have little to do with things when the heart is involved. "I love you. I wish I didn't, but I do." Perfect.

I'm curious to see how it works, and doesn't, next season.

4. Human Target - I kind of like this show, despite the fact I kept managing to miss it. But I like the actors quite a bit. However, I don't know if your last show of the season, when you're on the bubble of getting renewed (miraculously, it did), should be a flashback to how Chance became who he is now (although the Lee Majors cameo was freaking cool) and having one of the main characters get kidnapped. It was an odd, ballsy, but not entirely well constructed hour. But hey, I'll swing back next season to see what happens for the few episodes Fox gives it until they swing the axe.

5. The Amazing Race - All I will say about this is if they make this show much dumber and easier for the contestants then you're going to need to fail an IQ test to make it on the show. Seriously, watch the first couple of seasons. Those challenges were bloody hard and scary. This season, not so much.

6. Castle - A perfectly fine episode involving the murder of a spy, or was he?, gets mired into the will they or won't they hook up subplot they've been building hard the last few weeks. Which is stupid on behalf of the writers because they're not hooking them up yet, since it's only the second season and the shadow of Moonlighting still haunts shows like this. And we know they're not going to hook them up yet. So we're all sitting back waiting to see how the writers are going to sabotage the two of them from being together.

And it's done with Castle's ex-wife walking in right in the middle of Beckett's big confession and announcing she's going off to his summer home with him while Beckett's co-workers look on with sad faces. And it's so sad and contrived I wanted to find the writer who suggested it and beat them. That's the best you can do? It's a hack piece of writing. Castle is a fun little show, I understand. I know it's not The Wire or anything, but I really would like it if the writing wasn't so obviously bad in this case.

7. Bones - On the upside, not as bad as last season's horrific dream sequence episode. But that's about it. A pedestrian murder case involving a hoarder with Bones and Booth and the rest of the cast considering the future and agreeing to all meet up one year from now, where they can hit the reset button. Many people say Castle is just ripping off Bones, which is fine because Bones is ripping off Moonlighting, which ripped off...well, you get the idea. But Castle staff might want to take a hard look and ask themselves if they want to be like Bones at the end of season five. The answer is no.

But we're five seasons into Bones and, boy, is it starting to feel its age. Maybe the "one year later" revamp will give it a chance to pump some fresh blood into the show. I hope so because there's not much life left in these old bones...

Last Five
1. Magnificent - U2
2. Texico bitches - Broken Social Scene
3. The other side of summer - Elvis Costello
4. Hold me in your arms - The Trews
5. Pussy-whipped Satan (comedy) - Bill Hicks

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