Sunday, February 19, 2012

Battle of the Sci-fi Pilots: Touch Versus Awake

It's that time of year when the mid-season pilots are premiering, and if you've been watching FOX and NBC, you've likely seen promos for Touch and Awake. I was intrigued by these shows because they both feature science fiction premises. While neither of these shows are actually currently airing, both have already previewed their pilots. FOX's Touch aired its pilot at the end of January, but the show is set to actually premiere on March 19. NBC's Awake released its pilot last Thursday and is set to premiere on March 1. While the premises of the show aren't really similar, there are few enough sci-fi shows on network television that I think it's fair to compare the two. Having seen both pilots, I'm going to do just that.

Widower Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) is having trouble connecting with his mute son Jake (David Mazouz), but he starts to suspect that Jake is using numbers to communicate. These numbers bring about unlikely connections, and it appears that Jake can see things that others can't.

The Good: 
Part of my motivation for watching Touch stemmed from the fact that it comes from Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes. As an avid fan of Heroes' first season, I was hoping for something similar. In that manner, Touch didn't totally disappoint. Much like Heroes, it portrayed a wide variety of people around the world and then began to bring them together. This was an interesting aspect, and I liked the way that the storylines connected.

Additionally, I appreciated that there were some likable and familiar faces among the cast. Having never watched 24, I'm not really familiar with Kiefer Sutherland's work. That being said, there's something likable about him (although it may partially be that Kiefer is a super fun name to say). As a recent Doctor Who fan, I was excited to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw who I recognized as Tish Jones, Martha's sister. Although I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't recognize him until I did a quick IMDB search, What I Like About You's David de Lautour had a small role in the pilot of Touch as well.

The Bad:
Probably the biggest issue I had with Touch is that the pilot was cloying sappy. The show was so desperate to make me feel sorry for Sutherland's character and his son that it didn't quite feel genuine. For a show called Touch that's about the connections between people, I really failed to connect with any of the characters. They seemed more like sob stories than actual people.

Another issue I had with the pilot is that it was honestly kind of dull. I think I paused the episode 2 or 3 times before actually finishing it. While the idea of kid who knows things that he shouldn't is somewhat intriguing, it's just not that interesting to watch. I'd take Heroes-esque superpowers over that any day.

Will I Keep Watching:
When I first finished Touch's pilot, I thought that I might watch a couple more episodes to see where the show is going. However, the more I think about the pilot, the less I'm motivated to watch any more of Touch. Even writing this review, I was kind of surprised at how negative I felt towards it. It wasn't completely irredeemable, but it wasn't very interesting either. As I have plenty of shows to watch at the moment, it's doubtful that I'll keep watching.

When It Airs:
You can currently watch Touch's pilot at Hulu or on FOX's website. The show officially premieres on FOX on Monday, March 19 at 9/8c.

After suffering a car accident with his wife and son, police detective Michael Britten (Jason Issacs) finds himself switching between two realities every time he goes to sleep. In one reality, his son is alive and his wife is dead; in the other reality, the reverse is true. Additionally, Michael's different cases in the two realities start to bleed together.

The Good:
I thought Awake's pilot was a solid start to the show. The premise is definitely intriguing and is a large part of what hooked me into watching the show, but it's not the show's only strength. I think Awake's cast was chosen well, and they all, particularly Issacs, put forth good performances. There was some sentimentality in the pilot in dealing with the deaths of Michael's family. However, it felt naturally derived from the plot rather than tacked only solely for the sake of stirring the audience's emotions. I felt connected enough to the main characters that I could feel bad for Michael's and his family's pain.

One of the best aspects of the pilot is simply that it made me excited to see where the show is headed. I want to know what's going to happen; I want to find out why Michael's experiencing two realities. It's a good sign when a pilot stirs curiosity in its viewers.

The Bad:
I don't have many complaints about Awake's pilot. I suppose the two cases that were featured were somewhat generic. As the pilot set up the show's slightly complicated premise in addition to featuring Michael's cases, however, I suspect that future episodes will improve in this aspect. To be honest, I'm just assuming that they're going to keep a crime-of-the-week aspect to show, but I don't know for certain.

My only other issue is that it became slightly confusing to keep the two realities straight. However, it wasn't too difficult, and the fact that Michael has different partners and wears different colored bracelets in each reality helped greatly.

Will I Keep Watching:
I'm going to answer this with a definite yes. I am slightly skeptical of how the concept of Awake will work past the pilot. The show could certainly lose its luster and focus over time, but I'm just going to hope the writers have inventive plans for the rest of the series. I'm certainly interested to see where the show is going, and I feel like I'm going to have some fun speculating about Awake.

When It Airs:
You can currently watch Awake's pilot at Hulu or on NBC's website. The show officially premieres on NBC on Thursday, March 1 at 10/9c.

 Bottom Line

I think Awake is a much superior show to Touch, and it's the only one of the two that I plan to keep watching. I found it to be a much fresher, genuine, and intriguing show. Particularly with sci-fi shows, it can often be hard to tell where the show is headed by simply viewing the pilot. However, judging solely by their pilots, Awake is going to be worth your time far more than Touch is.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: 7x16, "The Drunk Train"

Last week's episode of How I Met Your Mother, "The Burning Beekeeper," was pretty bad. It was clear that the segmented format of the episode was an attempt to recreate the magic of an episode like "Brunch," but it was almost sad how much it failed to do so. With "The Burning Beekeeper" fresh in my mind, I didn't have great expectations for this week's episode, "The Drunk Train." Perhaps it's partially because my expectations were so low, but I surprisingly really enjoyed "The Drunk Train."

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS © 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This week's storylines featured the following pairs: Barney and Ted, Lily and Marshall, and Robin and Kevin.

Barney and Ted received the title storyline, the drunk train. In addition to Barney and Ted's attempts to capitalize on a train full of drunk girls, there was also a focus on Barney's infatuation with Quinn, a girl who's smart enough not to fall for his tricks. Barney and Ted being paired up often leads to some pretty fun storylines, and this episode was no exception. The drunk train bit was fun, and it's the kind of storyline I could see fitting into an episode from some of the earlier seasons. I particularly liked Ted's realization that the key to the drunk train is to "get drunk." (Side note: Between "This ain't my first word search" and "Last week, I went out with a girl whose favorite band is Glee," Ted had some great lines tonight). The "girl who's wise to Barney's lines" storyline feels like territory that the show's covered before (Nora springs to mind), but I thought it worked pretty well. Quinn was likable, and I liked the reveal that she knew so much about Barney because she works at the Lusty Leopard (I had to rewind that last scene to make sure it wasn't just one of Barney's fantasies).

The Lily and Marshall storyline was cute, albeit a bit forgettable. I enjoyed the absence of Lily's father because his character has become overused. I can't quite remember if he moved out in the last episode or if he was just missing for this episode, but either way, it was a good move not to include him in "The Drunk Train." The look forward to Lily and Marshall post-baby was interesting, and I'm curious how their characters are going to handled once they become parents.

The first comment I'd like to make about the Robin and Kevin storyline is Hallelujah. Kevin and Robin's breakup was probably the best thing to come out of this episode. I have nothing against Kal Penn, but I'm of the fairly common opinion that Kevin has been this season's Zoe. Both characters dragged down the show and were much too unlikable to appear in as many episodes as they did. It's a credit to Cobie Smulder's acting that I felt so bad for Robin despite my joy at what is hopefully the end of Kevin. I think their breakup was handled really well. I love that Robin was open and honest to Kevin, and it was refreshing there wasn't any wacky sitcom shenanigans involved in their split.

I'd be remiss if I didn't address that scene between Robin and Ted near the end of the episode. I'm not quite sure what to think about Ted's declaration of love, but my gut reaction was "not this again." I've always liked Robin and Ted together, and I think they made a really cute couple. However, it just seems like the show's treading water at this point. We already know the Robin's not the mother, and they've already even briefly revisited the idea of Ted and Robin. It seems odd that Ted would express feelings for Robin when they broke up for similar reasons to those that Kevin and Robin broke up for. Ted's outburst could have several different outcomes, so I'll wait to see what happens before fully making a judgment on the scene. Still, I'm somewhat skeptical about it.

Did you watch "The Drunk Train?" What are your thoughts on the episode? How do you feel about Kevin and Robin splitting up? What are your thoughts on Ted declaring his feelings for Robin? If you want to share, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In Medias Res: 90210, 4x14 "Mama Can You Hear Me?"

In Medias Res is a post in which I watch a current episode of show that I haven't been following. Thus, I start in medias res or "into the middle of things." This allows me to give an outsider's perspective on the show.

This is my second In Medias Res post. It's been almost a year since my first one on The Event, and I thought I'd give it another go. For this post, I've chosen the most recent episode (it's no longer the most recent, but it was when I started writing this recap) of 90210 that's available on the CW website, "Mama Can You Hear Me?" I think I watched part of one episode a couple of years ago plus I've seen some promos, but I really don't know much about the show. All my screencaps are from That's about all the pre-recap info I want to cover. So in the words of Coolio in the "Keenan & Kel" theme song, "Aw, here it goes..."

Luckily, the previously segment gives me a glimpse into the show. It features the following things: cheating or perhaps faux cheating, a break-up, baby drama, Lexi aka Lindsay (depending on if you're a Vampire Diaries or Gilmore Girls fan), and a "no, I don't know her" that's filled with double meaning. It's certainly not enough to catch me up completely on all that's gone down in the infamous ZIP code, but it's a start.

I'm going to take a guess and say that Naomi gets a lot of screen time.