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TV Diary: Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

TV Diary 7.20.14

Dear TV Diary,

First of all, I love that Principal Wood (D.B. Woodside) is on Suits now, and romancing Jessica (goddess Gina Torres). You know how I always love to see actors from the Whedonverse working together. And hey, they used to make-out on 24 a decade ago, so it’s a nice reunion. And speaking of Jessica, OMFG at her off-the-shoulder white dress. (See the photo above.) I have long said that Gina Torres is the most beautiful woman in the world, so there’s Exhibit Z. I mean, sure, as a partner in a law firm, it is crazy that Jessica is dressed like that for a day in the office; but if you were a costume designer whose job it was to adorn Gina Torres’s body in fabric, wouldn’t you have picked that dress too? Plus, even wearing a partially transparent white dress, while standing in a corporate law office, in that moment I still believed that Gina Torres was capable of saving the world and/or destroying it. Like some of the smart people in my Twitter feed, let us all take a moment and wonder why Gina Torres isn’t just the biggest action star in the world.

Jessica Pearson’s perfection aside, I have to admit that I have not been loving Suits this season. I went into the season unsure about Mike’s new job as an investment banker. I mean, the only thing more boring than corporate law is corporate finance. Plus, it seems like his new job is basically the same as Richard Gere’s in Pretty Woman; he buys companies, breaks them up into pieces, and sells them for their parts. I can just see this whole storyline ending with an existential crisis brought on by a hooker, where Walter Gillis is like “Mr. Ross and I are going to build ships together, great big ships!”

More important than the cartoonish elements of investment banking, however, is how Mike’s new job impacts the various relationships on the show. The answer? It sets up Mike and Harvey as antagonists, with Rachel caught in the middle. Ugh. I don’t like when Harvey and Mike fight, you guys! I’m a big baby and this is stressful. That said, my concerns were greatly mitigated in the latest episode, “Pound of Flesh,” which I LOVED. It was so entertaining from start to finish. The Harvey/Mike scenes at the hospital and the steakhouse were so good, and they gave me hope for the future. 

I really appreciate the emotional continuity on this show, as over and over again we learn that no incident or detail is forgotten. This was illustrated in the scenes referenced above, but also in Donna and Louis’s Shakespearean subplot. Donna’s speech about her dreams in the theater, and the way that Louis steps up to help her? Perfection. I love their friendship. And, of course, I love Harvey and Donna’s friendship, so when this Shakespearean performance provided an opportunity for Harvey to show up with flowers and a car to take her to the theater, it felt just right. Donna: “I didn’t know you were a Shakespeare fan.” Harvey: “I’m a Donna fan.” Donna: “You don’t have to do this. I know you have a lot going on.” Harvey: “The only thing I’ve got going tonight is you.” My heartstrings, they were pulled.

What the frak is going on with the mom on Chasing Life? I’ve seen the first 6 episodes of the series now, and Mama Carver has gone full-on crazypants. Let us not discuss her further. Instead, let’s talk about how delightful Leo is and how Scott Michael Foster is a total star. (Did you know that he has been cast as Frozen’s Kristoff in Once Upon A Time? I don’t watch Once anymore, but that is some excellent casting.) I love the way that Leo’s scenes are injected with both humor and pathos; he is the best.

Italia Ricci is also great, and I like April a lot … but April is also getting on my last nerve. All the lying has been driving me crazy, and just when she tells her family the truth about her cancer, she starts lying to them about her dad’s secret family. And just as she tells her boyfriend the truth about her dad’s secret family, she keeps lying to him about her cancer. Ugh. I know it’s still early in the season, however, so I will try to be patient. Try.

Surprisingly, I am actually really enjoying little sister Brenna’s storyline. In the pilot, I was sure Brenna would be the worst part of the show, but I am happy to admit that I was wrong. Her unconventional love triangle is shockingly compelling, as is her struggle with her self-imposed outsider status. Brenna tells Greer, “Kieran and I aren’t exclusive and I don’t define myself.” That was said on an ABC Family show by a teenager, you guys. I feel so proud.

When we first met Kieran, he of the tattoo parlor and the v-neck shirts and the sensitive poet’s soul, I was sure that he was wonderful and amazing and perfect for Brenna. But Chasing Life was just setting up for an epic bait and switch. Slowly, we have started to learn that this guy who seemed like a great match for Brenna, is full of philosophic pretension, while lacking in true human compassion and connection. When Brenna tells Kieran about her sister getting cancer, he starts ranting about government conspiracies like a wackadoodle. “There’s no way the government doesn’t know about this!” Listen, I’m not saying that government conspiracies aren’t a real possibility, but that is not how you help your girlfriend through a painful family crisis. And later, he quotes Socrates to comfort her. Shut up, Kieran!

Greer’s reaction stands in stark contrast. On the face of it, Greer is the popular blonde, a spoiled rich girl, and preppy goody-goody. On another show, she might be set up to be the clear villain. And yet she is the one who is truly sensitive to what Brenna is dealing with. And bonus: she has excellent taste in movies and fashion. Double bonus: she likes girls! Rather than relying on ancient Greek philosophers (Sorry, Socrates!), Greer offers a personal anecdote to Brenna to give her comfort. As Brenna herself admits, “That’s the first thing that anyone’s said that actually made me feel better.” Clearly Greer is the person who Brenna should be with right now. (I ship it, okay, and not just because that blond actress looks like Claire Holt.)

More bonus points go to Chasing Life for the fact that in April’s flashback, her dad is Angela Chase’s dad. And he still loves to cook! Oh, and there was an episode entitled “Clear Minds, Full Lives, Can’t Eat!” so the writers clearly have good taste.

Rectify is a show unlike any other on television, and I’m so glad that I finally marathoned it earlier this summer. What took me so long? (I am very, very stupid person, apparently.) But after such a stellar first season, the first few episodes of season 2 left me a little disappointed. I mean, they were very good, but it was hard to compete with the magic of how new and different everything was in the beginning. Those incredible first moments upon Daniel’s release, which were so powerful and moving, can really only happen once. Plus, Daniel was in a coma, so that hampered the show a bit, as I am not a fan of dream sequences. But after episode 204, “Donald the Normal,” I was like “Omigod Rectify! I love it so much, shame on me for doubting its amazingness!” That episode was so good, you guys.

First of all, Aldis Hodge! Excellent casting for Daniel’s BFF Kerwin’s brother. That scene when Daniel goes to visit his dead best friend’s family was incredibly moving, while also fascinating and once again touching upon one of the central conceits of the show. “Daniel’s not like Kerwin. He didn’t do nothing.” So says Aldis Hodge’s character to his mother. That statement felt absolutely true, and yet, at the same time, it once again brought up the question of Daniel’s innocence. Kerwin and his family’s utter faith in Daniel’s innocence is mirrored by Amantha—she has the same unquestionable faith in her brother, and yet this belief manifests itself in her in tragedy and pain, rather than hope. Of course, they all stand in stark contrast to the rest of the characters’ assumptions about Daniel—for almost everyone else, the specter of Daniel’s guilt hangs very visible, be it certain or questionable.

It’s no wonder why Daniel would want to escape his controversial identity for a day, and claim to be “Donald,” while at the art museum. The art museum scenes were a welcome bit of levity and sweetness, amidst the dark and depressing. Donald the bookstore owner was gentlemanly and charming, and I felt so happy to see him interacting with people that outside of that godforsaken town. Of course, the happy lightness couldn’t last forever, and Donald was forced to confront the reality of Daniel, after being recognized by a couple of truly horrible people. (Why are people so horrible, you guys? Don’t answer that.)

Things became even more intense at the end of the episode, when Teddy went to see the Sheriff. “It’s about Daniel … something he did … to me.” What?!?! Teddy told! He told Carl the whole “coffee grounds in delicate places” story, and wow. Weirdly, Teddy seems to understand what Daniel did, despite the fact he never seemed to care to understand his stepbrother. “This felt more a symbolic kind of thing. […] I’m not pressing charges. […] He wasn’t trying to kill me, he was trying to teach me some kind of sick lesson.” But why did he even tell Carl then? In Teddy’s words, he wanted the sheriff to know what Daniel’s capable of. Sheriff Carl: “The zebra didn’t change his stripes. […] I know what he’s capable of.” Dun dun dun.

On a lighter note, Witches of East End is back! I am so happy to have Aunt Wendy back on my television, along with this crazy show about witches who are the dysfunctional relatives of Thor. But back to Aunt Wendy. She met a cute EMT, whose pick up line was “If you want to get together some time, my number is 911.” Thank you, Lifetime. Thank you very much.

I was also happy to see (real life immortal) Bianca Lawson playing a mysterious witch from Santo Domingo. She’ll probably end up evil or dead since she’s the current obstruction in the Freya/Killian romance, but hey, at least she’s playing an adult without an accent, so it’s a partial win.

I have watched the first 4 episodes of BBC America’s The Musketeers and it may be relevant to your interests. If swarthy bearded men in floppy hats and capes, wearing studded leather and wielding swords and muskets, are relevant to your interests. Just in case. I’ve actually been reading the Alexandre Dumas’s book, upon which the show is loosely based, in preparation for the series, so this has been a fun dual experience. I have really been enjoying the book, which is surprisingly funny, so I wasn’t so sure what to think about the pilot. But I think the show keeps getting better, and will definitely keep watching.

I appreciate the fact that this brothers-in-arms story includes a number of intriguing female characters. So far they aren’t entirely well-developed, but neither are the guys … yet. Madame Bonacieux, (the absolutely terrifying) Milady, the Queen, and the Duchess of Savoy have all been set up as players in the events of the day, and I look forward to learning more about who they are as people.

I’m also impressed by the fact that The Musketeers series is addressing issues of race and slavery. Episode 103 featured Gaius Baltar dressed as a pirate, and working as a slave trader. Porthos was personally offended and horrified, and did not let the matter rest. Judging by promos for future episodes, it looks like we can expect to learn more about Porthos’s past, and his ancestry will continue to be important to the story. To be honest, Porthos was kind of a gold-digging asshole in the book, obsessed with his appearance. Show!Porthos is an improvement, and I absolutely love him. Howard Charles was well cast.

Of course, I’m also obsessed with Athos’s backstory with the murderous Milady. “Five years learning how to live in the world without her. What do I do now?” So much drama. And a big highlight of the first few episodes was musketeer surgery. Aramis and needlework are my OTP for life.

Another new series that I checked out last week was Finding Carter. To those of us who were in elementary school in the 90s, the storyline is reminiscent of The Face on the Milk Carton—a book that haunted me for years and caused a whole generation of children to be terrified that they were secretly kidnapped. The premise: A teenage girl finds out that her mother is really her kidnapper. She is forced to come to terms with her identity as a person she doesn’t recognize. She has a new name and must get to know the family that she never knew about. Kathryn Prescott is excellent in the title role of Carter (and it kind of blew my mind when I realized she was the same actress who played “Queen” Penelope on Reign).

Carter was raised by a young, hip Gilmore mom, so it’s a hard transition for Carter when she is forced to go live with her birth parents. One minute it’s “Oy with the poodles already!” and the next it’s “I’m going to have you followed when you leave the house and keep track of your phone usage!” Life is hard when your mom’s not Lorelai. Carter’s birth-mom, Elizabeth, is played by Cynthia Watros (I get sad about Libby getting shot on Lost every time I see her onscreen). Elizabeth is a detective, determined to make her daughter’s kidnapper/mom pay, and she never laughs, so Carter immediately dislikes her. It is very stressful situation and I feel bad for everyone involved.

But I haven’t even told you about the most important part. ALEXIS DENISOF IS IN THIS SHOW. AS A HOT DAD WITH A BEARD. Sometimes, the Universe is very kind to me. The Universe is like, “Hey, Lucia could use some more joy in her life. Let’s do something for her.” Thanks, Universe. Unfortunately, hot bearded Wesley David is evil in this show. Oh, who am I kidding? The evilness could make it even better. Carry on, Finding Carter!

While we’re on the subject of 2 hour pilots, I also watched WE tv’s The Divide. The pilot centers on the investigation into the murder of a family 11 years earlier. For the District Attorney, this case made his career, and he is deeply invested in making the man—whom he helped convict—pay with his life, as the court decided. For the girl who witnessed her parents’ and sister’s murder, she needs closure, desperate for the end to an 11 year nightmare. (And hey, that girl is played by Remy from Ravenswood! And she is excellent!) But for an aspiring attorney working for the Innocence Initiative, Christine, she sees this as an opportunity to right a terrible wrong. She looks into the case and tries to get the evidence reevaluated. The wider community is rocked by the reopening of old wounds, divided on racial lines, leading to violence both in and outside of prison.

Here is the official website description of the series: “The Divide is an exploration of personal morality and how all people–especially ambitious people–struggle with the shades of gray found in the absence of a simple, ordered moral universe. The show probes how truth coexists in the modern justice system alongside ambition, ethics, politics and race.” Deep stuff. And you can definitely tell that the show is ambitious and trying to deal with deep stuff. While not completely succeeding, I found the effort pretty impressive and entertaining. This is probably the kind of show your mom would want to watch. You should tell her about it.

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