Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yes, I Watch ... Survivor

I confess.  I watch Survivor.  I fact, I've seen all but one season of the series, often cited as the first "reality" program (experts would give that credit to The Real World, which I would agree with), certainly the first big one.

I'm not proud to say I watch "reality" - again, note the quote marks - TV.  I am fully in favor and support of scripted programming (although much of "reality" TV is indeed scripted ...) and always will be.  I guess I defend the shows of the genre I do watch - Face Off, Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, etc.- because of the sub-category they fall into: competition shows.  I do NOT partake NOR support the awful existence of anything Kardashian or Housewife or Shore or ... sorry, just threw up in my mouth a little.

Let's move on.

So, yes, I watch Survivor.  It is still a great experiment in social interaction and behavior.  They always manage to assemble a group of people that bond, plot, scheme, clash and ultimately irritate each other while being necessary evils for each other in the fight for the $1 million prize.  There usually is a key villain and an underdog to root for. 

And you'd think after 26 seasons - yes, there have been that many - the contestants would know that betrayals and back-stabbings are part of the game and therefore not be surprised and angered by them, but damn if they don't bitch and complain about it each and every time!  Really??  Especially the players who claim they're huge fans of the show can't believe when an alliance falls apart or a tribe member lies to them to get ahead.  That's will surely happen again this season - taking place in Caramoan - more so than usual being that this is another rendition of "Fans vs. Favorites." 

They did this "special edition" back in Season 16 and are revisiting the theme again. For the "Favorites," they bringing back a collection of alumni that made an indelible impression (let's just say the crazier or more outspoken, the better).  This season is doing the same, picking players that stood out.  I don't remember all the names but I do remember certain things:  Saggy-Pink-Underwear Guy, Russell Hantz's nephew (Russell is by far one of the best villains in Survivor history, played twice but never won), Nerdy-Manipulator Guy, and the Bitch (sorry, there's usually more than one).

The last time, the so-called "Fans" were disappointing.  I mean, if they truly knew the game as much as they claimed to, they would have faired much better (I don't remember who did win - I never do, really - but I don't remember too many fans making it to the end).  But it made for an interesting mix.

I'm just glad they got rid of that stupid Redemption Island thing.  Did not work.  This is one of those shows that, despite how long it's been on, doesn't need to tweak or deviate from it's original formula.  Let the cast speak and act for themselves.  They'll create the drama and tension all on their own.

I will say Jeff Probst is very good at his job as host.  He knows how to expertly push the gamers' buttons and get them to say things they maybe wouldn't, or tip their hands earlier or more openly than they would ever want or plan to.  Don't think they could do Survivor without him.

Go ahead.  Roll your eyes.  Believe me, I do too.  But I'll still watch - and be annoyed - and shout at the TV - and say "Really??" about a hundred times.  I just gotta see who Outwits, Outplays and Outlasts this time.

That's what guilty pleasures are all about.  Forgive?

Catch Survivor's 26th 2-hour season premiere tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS.  The show then airs every Wednesday at 8.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review - The Americans

I finally got around to watching the pilot for this new FX spy drama, which maybe tells my excitement for the show.  Don't get me wrong, the premise is interesting: KGB agents living undercover as Americans to spy on the U.S. during the Reagan era to get advantage in the Cold War.  And I like stars Keri Russell (Felicity) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters - is he ever going to get to speak in her real voice?  He's British ...) as the lead couple Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings.  But admittedly the premiere has been sitting on my DVR for a couple of weeks now, and today I finally watched it.

Overall, it was a decent pilot.  In the first minutes, it looked a lot like an episode of Alias (still to date one of the best spy TV series EVER) - Russell's Elizabeth, clad in nothing but lingerie and a wig, is seducing a government official, obviously to obtain important intel.  But whereas Sydney Bristow would have knocked the mark out before completing the deed, Elizabeth goes all the way ... and later shows her distaste for it.  But, as is driven throughout the episode, she is 100% committed to her job and Mother Russia and will do what is necessary.  The mission comes first.

Husband Phillip gets his job done, too - gotta say, these attractive, unassuming people are surprisingly convincing as ass-kicking toughies - but is more ambivalent about it.  In fact, he has quite taken to the American way of life and brings up more than once his desire to live his pretend American life - children and all - for real, which would involve the deadly art of defection.  He's even willing to make a deal with another defector, Timoshev (David Vadim, One Life to Live), who they captured on orders in the beginning of the epsiodes, to get enough money to disappear into the wind (little did Phillip know that Timoshev raped Elizabeth decades earlier during her "training" in Moscow.  Don't worry, Timoshev gets his just desserts from both later ... ).

Complicating matters further for the Jennings is their new neighbor Stan (Noah Emmerich, The Truman Show), who happens to be an FBI agent working in counter-intelligence.  Seems Timoshev, prior to his defection and subsequent disappearance, blew the whistle on the Russian-agents-living-among-us operation, provoking the government to step up and take action.  The rub? These agents look like us, they speak better English than we do, and they are set up with huge settlement packages so they can blend in within quiet, upscale neighborhoods.  Stan's coworker Chris (Maximiliano Hernandez, Ringer) doesn't buy it, but the investigation is pushing forward.

One particularly tense moment - which I'm sure will become a pattern throughout the series - happens when Stan comes by to borrow jumper cables from Phillip.  Of course the cables are in the trunk of the car where Timoshev is tied up and gagged.  But Phillip calmly retrieves them and closes the hatch just as Stan walks up to the trunk.  Whew!  Yeah, you knew the outcome and it wasn't particularly that tense, but I'll be nice.


Phillip's desire to flee and Elizabeth's unyielding loyalty to her country does create a nice conflict that is dynamic, thanks much to the talent of the leads.  You can see that the affection is very one-sided ... she's just not that into him.  That is until he kills Timoshev in her defense.  Apparently that's a turn on for Elizabeth, and suddenly it's hot sex in the back seat of the Olds post body-dumping.  Ah, romance ...

But because the op has been potentially exposed, Elizabeth and Phillip's job is going to be harder to pull off, which sets up the dramatic drive of the show for the rest of the season.  Their kids (Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati) are oblivious to who their parents are, but you can predict at some point one of them is gonna stumble onto something ... they always do.

The show takes place in 1980 and it was cool to see some nice details: the super big sedans, high-waisted Guess jeans, a typewriter (!) and a rotary payphone (!!).  They don't seem to be focusing too much on the fashions of the era (like The Carrie Diaries is doing over on the CW ... that takes place in 1984 and fashion plays into the story big time), but these little touches are cool. And the soundtrack for the show is pretty cool and helps support the action, of which there is much (like I said, Russell and Rhys really kick ass, very believably).

Not sure if I'll commit to this series, but I'll certainly give it another couple of episodes before deciding.  But I do recommend checking it out for yourselves (the pilot should still be available online and FX tends to replay eps a lot).  And with Margo Martindale (Justified) appearing soon and guest stars like Richard Thomas (remember him from The Waltons?), things might get more interesting ...

Bottom Line:  K-G-Be ready to give The Americans a chance.

The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Supernatural is Back!

Okay, I know this happened a few days ago but I don't care.  I've had this time to bask in the glow of knowing my boys are back!
 You regular TV Tourists - and those who know me personally - know that Supernatural is my favorite show of all time, but that this season I have been wrestling with ... not ... loving it.  Believe me, hard to type, harder to say.  After all, this is the show that can ... could ... do no wrong, never crossed any lines, never jumped any sharks and kept me cringing year after year waiting, hoping for renewal, living in fear of cancellation.

Series creator Erik Kripke had a five-year plan for the show, and it played out marvelously.  Then writer/producer Sera Gamble took over for I guess what fans have called two rocky, weaker seasons.  Still, I stayed loyal and defended the show to the hilt.

Relieved to have the show renewed once again for an amazing eighth season - and a move to Wednesdays from the dreaded Friday night where it resided - and actually thrived (for the CW, anyway).  A long summer wait and the premiere was finally here.  We had been left with Dean (Jensen Ackles) in Purgatory, Sam (Jared Padalecki) topside and totally alone.  I knew a reunion was set within the premiere and I waited with baited breath.

It came.

I watched.

And wasn't elated.  I couldn't believe it.  And as the season went on, I found I wasn't aching for each new ep, I began picking apart plot points, not loving the stories taking place.  Most of all, I missed the brotherly relationship.  Oh, they had divided them time and time again, but I never felt the separation more than I did this season.

I realize this may be out of context for many of you, but trust me, the show was not on par with the one I have loved from day one.

But after the winter break, things changed.  The last few episodes - including a hilarious reappearance by guest star Felicia Day (she appeared in season 7) - have been great, the pinnacle being "As Time Goes By" which aired Wednesday.  It was reminiscent of seasons past, featured a glorious recap with flashes all the way back to season one, a welcome return of patriarch John's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hunter journal, and a  revived mythology that kind of lost its way but now sits poised to take us all on a thrilling new path (can't say much more because I have friends/fans that haven't caught up yet).
 Trust me, peeps, when I say, Supernatural is back, and I couldn't be happier!!  May I say to new showrunner (and past writer) Jeremy Carver:  keep it up!

"Smell you later, bitches!' - Felicia Day's character Charlie in "LARP and the Real Girl."

Supernatural airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW.