Monday, November 29, 2010

Lie to Me

Anyone else out there watch Lie to Me?  I started watching during the first season because the concept was interesting, stayed during the second, but I've mostly bailed on this third season.

The show revolves around world-renowned deception expert Cal Lightman.  His firm is hired by various companies, law enforcement agencies, and private citizens to find the truth about some event/crime.  He has a crack team of experts to analyze body language and micro-expressions to determine if someone is lying or not.

The first season was a bit uneven, but overall very good.  In an early episode, Lightman hires an airport security officer, Ria Torres, a natural expression reader who just needs a little training.  She is the audience surrogate who usually gets the explanation of the emerging science of micro-expressions.  Another one of Lightman's proteges is Eli Loker, a young man who practices what he calls "radical honesty" (telling the truth all the time).

Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Terriers) came in as show runner for the second season.  Under his guidance, the science aspects were downplayed a bit, but the characters got more depth and the stories were more cohesive.  We see more of the interaction between Lightman and his daughter.  His relationship with his business partner Gillian Foster is explored more.  One thing I missed during the second season was Loker's radical honesty subplot was dropped completely.

After the second season, Ryan left to oversee Terriers and his new Fox show The Chicago Code.  The new show runners have taken the show in another different direction.  Torres and Loker have been almost completely marginalized and Lightman's micro-expressions are treated as an afterthought.  Mostly, he badgers his targets until they get pissed off at his antics.  Many of the episodes I've seen end up with Lightman in a life-or-death situation with the villain who confesses everything and gets hauled away by the police.  I can see that on any number of television programs across my TV dial.

Each of the three seasons of Lie to Me have been almost completely different shows.  I may watch a couple more episodes in case the show's just in a funk, but without the micro-expression hook, the show is nothing more than another procedural with a cantankerous lead.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Terriers: Quid Pro Quo

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for TERRIERS.

I am thankful for creators Shawn Ryan and Ted Griffin.

I am thankful for Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, and Laura Allen.

I am thankful for F/X airing this awesome show (and hopeful that won't make me take this item back).

I really don't have much to say about last night's episode.  It was such a gut punch...again.

Zeitlin bails Britt out of jail and asks him to retrieve the disc Hank has of Zeitlin threatening reporter Laura.  Throughout the episode we don't know if Britt is on our side or on the side of the villains.  Hank enlists the help of a councilman to take down Zeiltin, but it turns out the councilman was in Zeitlin's pocket.  He turns to Jason, Gretchen's new husband, for expert advice on what the Montague group's endgame might tragic results.  The episode ends with Hank standing in front of a trunk full of guns.

Maybe by next week's season finale I will have caught my breath.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Firewall, by Henning Mankell

An IT super genius dies from a heart attack near an ATM outside his apartment. Two teenagers are charged with the brutal killing of a taxi driver. As Inspector Kurt Wallander investigates these two seemingly unrelated crimes, he stumbles across a sinister conspiracy that threatens the world's financial system.

This is the second Wallander book I've read (after Faceless Killers earlier this summer) and it's based on one of my favorite of the BBC adaptations. Wallander himself in an interesting, yet flawed character. But the Wallander novels are more police procedurals than thrillers (like anything by Crais or Lehane), so we get more detail on the investigation and putting the puzzle together than learning about characters outside our hero.

I don't know if it was the nature of the story or the fact that the translator was different, but I didn't find Firewall as gripping as Faceless Killers.  It took a good 80-90 pages to kick in, but then it chugged along.

It was good and I'd read a Wallander novel in the future, but there are a lot more authors I want to read before I come back to Mankell.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terriers: Sins of the Past

"It's in the past.  Maybe that's where you should let it be."

Last night's Terriers had two main threads running through it. First was the case that ruined Hank's career, partnership with Gustafson, and marriage. The second was a continuation Britt's downward spiral which started last week with his breakup with Katie.

Laura Ross, the reporter Hank rescued last week, shows up at Hank's house as he's helping Britt move in. She tells them that she solved the case that got Hank fired. We flash back three years earlier to Hank interviewing a suspect in a serial rape case: Britt. Early on he's convinced that Britt is innocent and Billy Whitman (the rich guy whose car Britt tried to steal) is the actual rapist. He mentions Whitman's name to Gretchen who tells him she dated Whitman in college and to back off. Hank, fueled by booze, becomes convinced Whitman raped Gretchen and goes way overboard pushing it. We can see now why Gretchen was so pissed when Hank brought her the information on Jason's past.

As the investigation continues, Hank goes further and further off the deep end - mostly because of his drinking. As a present-day parallel, Britt finds a picture of Katie and a classmate and is convinced he's the one Katie slept with. He tracks the classmate down, beats him up, and gets arrested. Past-Hank gets dragged into interrogation by Gustafson because Mark wants to know if he planted evidence in Whitman's trunk to frame him as the serial rapist.

At the end, Hank and Mark close the rapist case and Hank visits a still drunk Britt in the holding cell. Britt boasts to Hank that he found the guy Katie slept with and laid quite a beating on him. Hank says he's not the guy, he knew Katie screwed up and told her not to tell Britt. Britt tells Hank to get lost.

I talk a lot about Donal Logue's performance as Hank (which is stellar again tonight0, but Michael Raymond-James was superb tonight. You felt all of Britt's highs and lows and commiserated with his devastation after finding out Hank knew of Katie's infidelity. This show has some great writing, but it's also a great actors' showcase.

A lot of reviews call this a "buddy detective" show.  Considering how strong the Hank/Britt chemistry is, the description is apt if misleading.  Normally anything with "buddy" in the title is jokey and fluffy.  No other "buddy" show delivers the heartbreaking pathos week in and week out that this show does.

In next week's previews, it looks like sinister lawyer Zeitlin approaches Britt with a way out of his troubles. Does he accept the help and permanently rip apart his relationship with Hank? Or do the two of them join forces to take Zeitlin down? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Terriers Day at Spinetingler

The folks over at Spinetingler mag are having a Terriers day. They've asked a bunch of people to provide short articles to pimp the best show you're not watching (a phrase I have used myself on numerous occasions).

First up is Dave White with "The Lies and Mistakes of Hank Dolworth". We have pieces promised from the prodigiously profane Nerd of Noir, author Sandra Ruttan, and several others for later today.

Go.  Read.  If I haven't been able to convince you to watch the show, maybe one of them will.

MST3K Friday: The She Creature

"Guess the stain and win a prize."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Terriers: Asunder

"I need a drink, more than ever in my life." -Britt
"I don't." -Hank

Like the last two installments, Hank and Britt are apart for the majority of the episode. But, like last week's "Pimp Daddy", this worked. Last week, Hank got himself disinvited to Gretchen's wedding, but Britt and Katie still went. There's tension between the two of them because Britt found a pregnancy test, but Katie hasn't said anything about it because she's not sure it's his kid. She eventually admits it and tells Britt why she didn't tell him sooner. Britt is obviously devastated and breaks up with Katie on the spot. I can only imagine what his reaction will be once he finds out that Hank knew.

Speaking of Hank, he's having a hard time keeping it together on Gretchen's wedding day. He's super tempted to break his 543 days of sobriety (which is something I was worried about at the close of last week's ep). He goes as far as ordering a scotch in the hotel bar where Gretchen's wedding is being held. Before he indulges, he goes to the bathroom to splash some water on his face (a suggestion from his sponsor). While in the can, he overhears Ben Zeitlin plotting a new nefarious deed. Spurred to action, Hank forgets his drink, bugs Zeitlin's suite, and rescues a reporter in the process. His actions, however, have put him back on Zeitlin's radar.

Turns out the Montague project wasn't part of a Max Bialystock scam (I didn't think that was likely, but it would've been fun), but more of a Chinatown-style land grab. Zeitlin had one of his clerks file paperwork to form a corporation that's bought up a lot of Ocean Beach land. Faking contaminated soil at the Montague site was nothing more than a way to drop the sale price and get the acreage for a song.

Terriers continues to bring it week in and week out. We've seamlessly hooked back into the larger story arc which will probably continue to the end of the season. Great performances all around. You really felt Britt's heartbreak when Katie came clean about her odd behavior. Katie was clearly in a lot of pain and wanted to do anything to take her actions back. Hank's need for a drink was palpable, and I was certainly relieved when he found a case to distract him on the day he needed it most.

I heard that the numbers ticked up a bit last week. It might not be enough to save it, but we'll keep trying. Keep Hulu-ing, DVR-ing, and talking about the show. Every little bit helps!

Update:  I almost forgot.  There was a nice write-up of Terriers on yesterday by Matt Roush.  Check it out here:  link.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sons of Anarchy: Season Three So Far

 "The true outlaw finds the balance between the passion in his heart and the reason in his mind. The solution is always an equal mix of might and right."  -John Teller

I've only talked once before about Sons of Anarchy, and thought this might be a good time to mention it again.  I used to say it was the best show on TV (that was before Terriers), and now I still think it's one of the best.  To be completely honest, I'm not 100% thrilled with this season.

At the end of season 2, Jax's son Abel was kidnapped by their IRA gun supplier.  This season, Able gets taken to Ireland and the Sons follow.  Jax and Clay put aside their differences (much like they did to avenge Gemma's assault) and work together to get the baby back.  In Charming, Deputy Hale's brother is simultaneously running for mayor and leading a group of businessmen to buy up parts of town and bring Charming into the 21st Century.

**Here we get into slight spoiler territory, so be warned***

A lot of people aren't thrilled with this season.  Some think it's because there's not as much violence and it's a lot quieter.  For me, I think it's because for the majority of the season, the motivations of the Irish characters was mostly unknown.  After last night's episode, things got a bit clearer.  Why was the priest holding back Abel?  Turns out he made a promise to John Teller that he wouldn't let Jax grow up in the club.  He couldn't keep his promise to JT, so he's going to try with the grandson.

One thing I liked about the first two seasons was the struggle between Jax and the club.  Was SAMCRO a criminal organization involved in gun running and murder-for-hire?  Or was it an extended family that allows its members to live off the grid for the most part?  To feel the freedom of the open road and experience life as a unfettered spirit?  And after Father Ashley's talk with Jax last night, those themes seem to be back in play.

I understand how avenging Gemma's assault and finding Able would force Jax and Clay to put aside their differences.  I get that.  I would expect nothing less.  But the tension between stepfather and stepson has been almost entirely absent.  You would expect some of the animosity to still bubble below the surface even as they work together.

Kurt Sutter obviously has a story he wants to tell.  He doesn't want to keep going over the same story in the same kind of arcs.  That's great because even great shows can grow stagnant if they don't take chances.

Even though I'm not as rabidly in love with this season as I was the first two, there have been some great moments (Hale's death, Gemma and her Dad, Jax and Stahl).  I'm willing to go along with whatever ride Sutter wants to take us on.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Terriers: Pimp Daddy

Terriers knocked it out of the park again this week.  It didn't have huge moments like some of the earlier eps, but it was a nice, quiet episode with lots of "real" moments.

Like last week, Hank and Britt spend most of the episode apart, sharing only two scenes that I can remember.  Unlike last week, the show had more of its standard pacing instead of the breakneck speed we saw with the Britt in Mexico storyline.  This show seems to be at its best when moving at a slower pace.

With Hank still on the DL (that's disabled list, for you non sports fans), Britt takes up a case on his own. the nephew of Hank's physical therapist was robbed and Britt offers to look into it.  Turns out the kid hired a hooker who took his money and split before "completing her end of the transaction".  Michaela, the hooker, explains to Britt a very good reason why she ran away.  Later on, Michaela tracks down Britt and hires him to help find the killer of a friend of hers.

Hank is supposed to be resting, but he gets a call from their lawyer, Maggie, telling him she got a hit on the name he was running a background check on.  Turns out Gretchen's fiance changed his name about 20 years ago.  When he was a teenager, his parents were accused of molesting children at a daycare center they ran.  While Jason, the fiance, was never implicated, there were always rumors and suggestions.  Hank confronts Jason, who offers no explanation, then goes to Gretchen.  Jason had already told her of his past and she is resentful of Hank butting his nose in and disinvites him to the wedding.

The script is credited to Shawn Ryan and Kelly Wheeler, and it's a good one.  The standalone story is compelling and very nicely done (especially loved the resolution with Britt and Michaela going to see the murdered friend's parents).  We see Britt finally getting up the nerve to propose to Katie.  We see Hank still struggling with Gretchen's remarriage.

And once again, Terriers is not afraid to show our heroes performing less than heroic acts.  Earlier in the season, Hank forges a signature on his mortgage application about 30 seconds after his client commits suicide.   Hank is hurt that Gretchen doesn't see his heart was in the right place telling her about the molestation charges against Jason and lashes out with "I'm glad we weren't able to have kids."  Ouch.

There are four episodes left and it looks like we're getting Gretchen's wedding and a return of the Montague story next week.  I'm still hopeful to get a second season, but the show's ratings haven't improved.  Watch it and tell your friends, your family, and your pets to do the same.