Thursday, September 30, 2010

‘FALL PREMIERES’ IN INDIA, Part II

As September ends, I’m rounding up ‘Fall Premieres’ in India, with Brothers & Sisters S4, which started last month, and is only a week away from getting over.

A Defining Season
When Brothers & Sisters first started, I enjoyed it for the kind of show it was (I love stuff that’s heavy on emotions and all), but I didn’t see anything great in its story. It seemed like just another family drama, and I didn’t think it would last very long. While the family drama bit is still true, I’m really glad that it’s still on air, already in its fifth season on ABC in the US, because, as I’m watching S4 currently, I feel that the show has evolved and come into its own in a beautiful way. I love most of the characters, and I’m enjoying seeing where their lives are taking them. The season began with Sarah dealing with being a middle-aged single parent, longing for a companion; Kevin struggling with trying to start a family with his partner Scotty; Justin trying to find a balance between making his relationship with his fiancĂ© work and trying to build a career in medicine; and Tommy was dealing with failure and issues with his ex-wife regarding the custody of their daughter, until he left. However, what seemed to be the focus, this season, was Kitty battling cancer and preparing for a major career in politics.

While on that, after seeing Kitty and Robert’s marriage going through a harsh phase last season, this season has really seen their relationship grow into something beautiful. I enjoy seeing all the lovely Robert-Kitty moments; the two have even become one of my favourite TV couples! Another evolution I’m loving is the role of Holly Harper in the Walker family and the Ojai Foods business. She and Nora have become really fun to watch; from not being able to stand each other, they’ve come a long way, and can even have pleasant moments together, like when they were arrested for stealing Dennis York’s car! Nora herself is my favourite. I know she’s an overbearing parent and interferes with almost everything; but that’s what moms are, and I love her for being exactly what she is. I think Nora is one of the most real characters on television, brought to life beautifully by two-time Oscar winner Sally Field.

Coming down to, what I would call, the ‘second act’ of the season, the attention has turned towards yet another secret kept by William Walker, one that is known by Dennis York, who’s viciously trying to steal the company and the fortune that he stands to gain. The drama that came about with him blackmailing Nora has been one of the highest points of the show, for me. Tommy returned, and in a strange way, the family was reunited. The two-part episode with the flashbacks revealing the characters’ back-stories was good for understanding them better, and a pleasure to watch, as one got a glimpse of the earlier days of the sibling bonding. Kevin was thrown into the mess, when he became the reason for the blackmail. Even as I could empathise with his back-story, I still wasn’t convinced about the way he reacted to the situation, blaming his mother, who had only tried to protect him. That being said, I don’t think his reaction was a departure from his character, as he has always been overtly negative and irrationally sensitive, with an unwillingness to see reason. I never did like him much, and as touching as it was to see him make his peace with Nora, I'm still not warming up to him.

With that being put to rest, we have four more episodes to go before this season ends, and I’m looking forward to big things from it. Hopefully the Walkers will solve the Narrow Lake mystery and see some returns from William’s investment. I do hear that the finale will be shocking, but for those who haven’t read up, let’s just leave it at that, and talk about it next week, after watching it!

(Brothers & Sisters airs Monday to Thursday, 10:00pm on Zee Cafe)

COMING SOON: A commentary on the latest season premieres, as I watch them

Sunday, September 26, 2010

‘FALL PREMIERES’ IN INDIA, Part I

So September came, and while I’m yet to watch all the big season premieres, I have been following older seasons of two shows; seasons that have only just made it to Indian television. September saw the premiere of Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty (both, S4, which is the final season for the latter).

Ugly no More
Let me start by saying that Ugly Betty has never been among the shows that I really look forward to watch; it’s just something that’s fun in parts and is worth watching when it airs. Right from S1, I didn't find it all that exciting, and with each season ending, I found that there wasn’t much more that they could do with the show. And just as well, the show has ended. Its final season makes me understand why, even better. I mean, what started as a story about an unpopular misfit in a work place, became just the opposite of that.


In the fourth season, Betty has achieved what her contemporaries who mocked her couldn’t. She may not be very less ugly than she was in the beginning, but she does have quite a fan following. For an ugly misfit, she certainly has had a bevy of good looking, nice, and even successful guys falling for her (Henry, Gio and Matt!). And, to top that, she’s best friends with the most important person in the office—co-owner of the company and editor-in-chief of Mode magazine, Daniel Meade! She’s the go-to person for everyone around, including the woman who runs the company, Claire Meade. So what’s special about her story now? She’s yet to turn into a swan, maybe, but her life seems near perfect! (I think her final transformation into a swan will happen when her braces come off, if they do at all. It’s ridiculous that she’s had them on for almost four years. You don’t need to be an orthodontist to know that no one has braces on for so long!)


Now don’t get me wrong... I’m all for evolution of a show and its characters, but when the entire premise of the show has changed, I won’t really call it evolution; I’ll say that the show has gone off-track. Besides that, the content, in general, is gimmicky and a little too eccentric at times, and I find Betty rather annoying. Among the positives, there have been a few episodes that I really liked, for example, I loved the episode in the Bahamas and the one when Betty and Hilda both think they’re pregnant. Also, this season, I’m really enjoying the bonding between characters I never really saw as being friends, namely Marc and Betty, Marc and Daniel, Marc and Justin, and Amanda and Claire. Yes, Marc features a lot on that list. He's real fun to watch, especially when he's with Amanda. They're my favourite characters; always fun to watch! And, of course, Wilhelmina Slater is always awesome. Vanessa Williams brings an incredible energy to her role as Slater this season as well, and she is one of the things about the show that I'll really miss. (However, her being a part of Desperate Housewives S7 does offer some consolation.)

All said and done, I’m not very sure, but maybe the idea of the show was to show how Betty goes from being a misfit to the centre of attention, achieving big things. Even so, I do think the show had run its course, and it was time to end. More on this, once I’ve seen the finale.

(Ugly Betty airs Friday to Sunday, 10:00pm on Star World)


COMING SOON: ‘Fall Premieres’ in India, Part II (Brothers & Sisters S4)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

IT’S ALL IN THE NAME

Review: Parenthood Season 1
Parenthood is about exactly what its title implies, but this show is definitely not boring and preachy like some self-help book on parenting; it’s something that anyone can relate to, at any age. Here’s what I thought of Season one...


Earlier this year, when I first saw the promotional photos of Parenthood, the new family drama on NBC, I immediately thought of ABC’s widely popular Brothers & Sisters, and I presumed it would be similar. Like Brothers & Sisters, I thought Parenthood would be a show about a large family of several grown up siblings, dealing with life, as their parent/s deal with their own issues. It turned out that that only loosely defines what Parenthood is all about. Yes, the setting of the show is pretty much the same, but this one’s more about, well, parenting.

Set in Berkeley, California, the show starts when Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls) moves back into her parents’ home, with her two teenage kids from a failed marriage. While she’s dealing with having to start life over, without financial security, and a roof of her own, she’s also dealing with having had to tear her kids away from their lives back in Fresno. On the other hand, there’s her younger brother Crosby (Dax Shepard), who’s dealing with an impending commitment, but also soon finds out that he has a five-year-old son, with whom he decides he wants to have a relationship with. Julia Braverman (Erika Christensen, Swimfan and Six Degrees), the youngest of the siblings, has a happy marriage and a successful career as a lawyer, but still needs to deal with not being able to be there for her daughter all the time. The oldest of the Braverman siblings is Adam (Peter Krause, Six Feet Under and Dirty Sexy Money), who’s pretty much the glue that holds the family together, but has to deal with a sometimes difficult teenage daughter and a younger son who has Asperger syndrome.

As the Bravermans deal with the various challenges in their lives, it’s also essential for them to raise their kids right, as they make sacrifices to be there and do what needs to be done, putting their children’s needs above anything else. While the siblings mostly get along, besides the occasional squabbles, they reflect the values of family that hold them together. Being there for each other, in their times of need are important to them, but sometimes, there’s a conflict between that and their children’s needs. Of course, there’s a lot of drama and emotions run high in almost every episode, but at the end of the day, they all seem to come together when the importance of family overshines everything else. If you’ve been in a family with protective parents, siblings and cousins you can’t always get along with, spouses who tend to question your priorities and commitment towards them, and children who don’t seem to realise that you hold their best interests at heart in everything you do, this show is for you.

Season one of Parenthood brings you to understand each character with reasonable depth, as you get familiar with their ordinary lives that put them through extraordinary circumstances and situations, always presenting them with hard choices. Relationships are consistent and characterisations are strong, and even as the plots aren’t always gripping, each storyline is well played out, as everything leads somewhere to mean something, big or small. The show doesn’t succumb to illogical and forced premises, just to give characters importance, as the writers seem to know how to do justice to everyone’s story and make everything relevant. The portrayal of relationships is splendid, as each actor brings to the table a very impressive level of honesty to their roles. Lauren Graham is endearing as the woman who’s desperately trying to hold her life together, when nothing seems to make sense. Erika Christensen plays strong and stable, yet vulnerable in a perfect manner, and Dax Shepard convincingly dons the role of a man trying to escape a grown-up life in vain. However, it’s Peter Krause who is most outstanding, as he plays the good Adam, the one to whom your heart goes out to, through all the conflicts he needs to tackle. Among the younger generation, Mae Whitman does a fine portrayal of Sarah’s daughter Amber, and Max Burkholder as Max, the kid with Asperger’s, is very believable. Craig T Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, who play the parents, the head of the Braverman brood, play a small, yet significant and sincere role. And Monica Potter plays Adam’s wife Kristina with finesse.

The storytelling is heart-warming, and every now and then, you’re presented with “Aww!” moments, which remind you of all that you share with your family. Furthermore, the theme is beautifully represented by the opening credits, which show baby photos of all the characters, while Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ plays, throwing you into a nostalgic trip of your own. The show made quite the impression on me in just 13 episodes of S1, and as I wait to start watching S2, I hope it gets all the credit it deserves and isn’t cancelled before its time.