Saturday, May 26, 2012

THE WONDERFUL LIVES OF DESPERATION


After eight years of seeing four women and many more, who came and left, leading quiet and not so quiet lives of desperation, things seemed to come a full circle with the end of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. It was a perfect sendoff for the women of Wisteria Lane, as they all found new meaning in their lives, embarking upon new chapters, bidding farewell to the lane that they loved.


In the last few frames of the show, all the ghosts of Wisteria Lane watched upon Susan as she drove away—the first from the housewives to leave the street. And Mary-Alice’s calm, yet haunting voice was heard one last time, as she said, “…They watched her, as they watch everyone, always hoping that the living could put aside rage and sorrow, bitterness and regret. These ghosts watch, wanting people to remember that even the most desperate life is, oh, so wonderful…” And with that DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES was over. It was a poetic ending, as it reflected everything that the series had been about. And the beginning of the second part of the series finale played up just that, as it shed some light on the event that began the series—the end of Mary-Alice. She called it ‘the beginning of the end’, as Martha Huber made it her life’s mission to uncover her secret, which led to blackmail and suicide. The montage that followed, giving us brief clips of iconic moments from the series, like Gaby mowing her lawn wearing couture, Susan’s house blowing up, Bree taking out her rifle to interrupt George Williams’ singing, Lynette taking off her wig to reveal that she had cancer, and many more, coming right back to the bang that killed Mary-Alice…

THE FINAL STORY WINDS UP
Before that, we saw end of the story that was season eight. It was promised to us that the final season of the show would go back to the roots of the show. In view of the crime that the ladies had helped cover, the season premiere ended with Bree getting a blackmail note, just like the one that Mary-Alice had received. It was a shocking turn of events that began to take Bree through a downward spiral, as she slipped into panic, depression and desperation. While the minor story arcs continued to complement this central storyline, throughout, the writers stayed consistent with what this season was about, with chilling developments like Bree assuring Chuck that she would do anything to protect her friends, Susan’s art raising eyebrows, the hidden body going missing, the cops closing in on the mystery, Bree taking to drinking again and entering a life of promiscuity, Orson turning out to be the blackmailer, Bree attempting suicide, and so on. Meanwhile, Susan’s guilt, Carlos’ alcoholism, the downfall of Lynette and Tom’s marriage—all of it ended up connecting to the central story, in some way or the other.

And then it happened. Bree was arrested for the murder of Ramone Sanchez. The trial brought about several challenges for her. A promise to keep a secret was how the season began, and that weighed down heavily on Bree right before the finale when she was torn between Tripp pleading with her to reveal the secret, which would help her case, and Gaby expressing heartfelt gratitude to her for bearing the brunt of the crime that they covered. The second half of the trial in the finale saw a seamless coming together of Ben’s involvement in helping keep the secret, Renée’s exclusion from everything, and elements from the season gone by, like Bree’s suicide note. As things with the trial seemed to look down, it was engaging to see how Renée’s disgruntled testimony damaged the case further, how Gaby and Carlos argued about who should step in to take the fall to protect Bree, and how Tripp used information that Bree had volunteered to him in confidence, to try and win the case. In all of it, the humor, that the show had always been known for, was kept alive, with scenes like Gaby tricking Carlos out of an opportunity to confess his crime.

CONCLUSIONS TO MATTERS AT HAND
And then there was Karen McKluskey. The episode’s prologue was about her, which hadn’t been common throughout the series. Her insecurities about what her neighbors thought of her ended when they all volunteered to take care of her during her last days, which made her eventually decide to step up and protect them. Her heartwarming speech about how Wisteria Lane was a community of people who cared for each other and not just a ‘bunch of houses in the same place’ ended with dramatic flair when she said, “I entered the house, picked up the candlestick and killed the son of a bitch!” It was rather intense as she went on to explain how fear and adrenaline can drive someone to do much more than they’re capable of, using the same words that she had overheard Gaby speak, the previous night. That turned things around for the case, and all charges were dropped against Bree.

Part one of the finale ended with Tom professing his undying love for Lynette, in a perfect scene, in the middle of the street on a Wisteria Lane lit by streetlamps. Lynette eventually walking up to him, repeating the word ‘you’ to stress on who she was in love with all along, was beautifully written, as the moment everyone had been waiting for, since they’d decided to separate, finally came. Of course, in classic Lynette-and-Tom style, they had to have one final fight in part two of the finale before their happily-ever-after. And that happened at Renée and Ben’s wedding—the big event that formed the backdrop of part two.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The rollercoaster countdown to the end began with Susan revealing her decision to leave the street to help Julie raise her baby, after she’d earlier revealed, heartbreakingly, that memories of Mike in her house were making it too painful to live there. And enter: Katherine Mayfair, as dramatically as she first did when season four began. Loose ends began being tied up smoothly, as Lynette got a job offer from Katherine, Gaby got a huge promotion, and Susan began to put her plans to move into action. Elements from the first season being revisited, like Lynette facing snide comments by a former co-worker, who commented on Lynette’s complacency in the life she was leading, made for a real treat to watch. The funniest bit was the complete role-reversal between Gaby and Carlos—how she became the successful working woman, and he, the unsatisfied husband, who got gifts from her to make up for her absence. The highest point with that was when Carlos hired a hot female gardener, infuriating Gaby. All of it came together without any abrupt developments that didn’t make sense.

The humor continued with the events around Renée’s wedding. From Gaby stealing a wedding dress from her own store, to Susan stealing Renée’s limo to get Julie to a hospital on time, it was all priceless and classic DH! Finally at the wedding reception, Tom and Lynette discussed the future, deciding to move to New York, and Bree let herself have the happy ending she deserved with Tripp.


THE END
Then the heartbreaking last few moments of Mrs McKluskey’s life unfolded as Johnny Mathis’ ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ played. Porter came to fetch Lynette and Tom from the reception, as Julie was in labor to deliver his baby; Bree went running into Karen’s house as Karen breathed her last. Renée and Ben left the reception for their honeymoon, Susan and Lynette became proud grandmothers, Gaby and Carlos danced along with their daughters, Bree stood beside Karen’s deathbed, and that was it.

And just as it had to be done, the final scene before the epilogue was of the women playing poker, sadly, one last time. Everything about that scene captured the essence of the friendships they sharedthe very thing that made the show so special. And finally, as we saw where how their lives would take them away from Wisteria Lane, Susan’s final drive around the block showed us Mike, and all those who had died on the show, watching on. It was nice to see even minor characters like Mona Clarke and Carlos’ former boss who was murdered, among more significant characters like Rex Van de Kamp, George Williams, Juanita Solis, Karl Mayer, Beth Young, and then the most significant—Mary-Alice. Edie Britt was missed, definitely, as she had been such an integral part of the show for six years. It was just unfortunate that Nicolette Sheridan couldn't be there. The apt conclusion of even desperate lives being wonderful was followed by a fun eye-brow raiser, that almost spoofed the mystery and intrigue that had gripped us for eight years, ending it all in a seamless manner, with complete justice done, for everyone who loved the show.



Lines that I loved:
Gaby: ...So how do these other couples just waltz through life?
Carlos: That, honey, is because we're doing the tango!

Susan (to Julie): You know you've hit middle age when your memories become more important than your dreams.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

THE TELEVISION EVOLUTION 2012


Earlier this week, at the Upfronts ABC, The CW and other networks introduced their new shows for the 2012-13 television season, with very offbeat and interesting concepts, but a part of me feels that some of them might sound better as concepts, than they might turn out, when executed…

The thing about the shows being announced for the next season (2012-13) is that most of them that are generating buzz, already seeming like successes, are the ones that have completely different premises, or revolve around genres that are tried and tested. There’s CHICAGO FIRE (NBC), which is basically a drama involving a fire-fighting squad in Chicago, and all that goes down with the group of people, personally and professionally. Drama in profession has always worked, medical drama and crime undoubtedly being the most popular. That is why a CHICAGO FIRE sounds interesting, because it’s a genre that has worked and will always work, maybe with certain twists with certain shows.

The CHICAGO FIRE trailer:

That is, in fact, something that we’ve already seen, with crime shows that came after the CSIs and LAW & ORDERs of our time. There are crime shows involving psychics, forensic anthropologists, genius psychologists, etc. And now those twists are getting more twisted; not so much with crime shows and such, but even with more general genres (ironic that one should call it that!).

I think I can confidently say that today, a BROTHERS & SISTERS wouldn’t get picked up by a network, because the show had a very weak premise—a family drama with certain dysfunctions in the relationships. Today, the premise needs to be stronger than that for primetime TV, even though BROTHERS & SISTERS was picked up by ABC only about six years ago. Today, a simple high school drama won’t garner any interest, from networks at least. Even what will turn out to be a simple high school drama has to be packaged, and tweaked, for it to become a prequel to a hit TV show like SEX & THE CITY. In no way are the creators of THE CARRIE DIARIES (picked up by The CW) catering to the same audience (except for those youngsters, who’ll watch SATC on DVD today, ’cause they were too young to watch it when it was on the air). SATC is a brand that’ll sell and teenagers always want a high school drama to watch on TV. 

Even ABC's NASHVILLE, which is a simple drama, involving a family, has a stronger base—it's set against the backdrop of the country music industry. Packaging and creative treatment is definitely important to garner attention and a fan following these days. 

The NASHVILLE trailer:

Taking that to another level, there's THE NEIGHBORS, which is being called 'MODERN FAMILY, except with aliens'. It's another family-based comedy, set in a cul de sac, which isn't something new. But the bizarre premise of a family moving into a neighborhood of aliens is taking it a step beyond, arousing a certain amount of curiosity for its novelty factor. Also, the writers will have the opportunity to think completely out of the box while presenting the series. 


THE NEIGHBORS trailer:

And then there's bizarre of the drama kind. Trailers of LAST RESORT will show you how far-fetched concepts are getting. The show is about a group of submariners who are seeking refuge from the US because they refused to fulfill the command they got to blow up Pakistan. The refugees find a home on an island of ambiguous nationality among natives and prepare to fight against a larger conspiracy that the US government is building. Now while this might make an interesting movie, I almost dread the lengths that the writers might go to, in order to keep a series—about refugees fighting their country—alive. It could be a hit or it could just go terribly wrong. 
The LAST RESORT trailer:

And let’s talk about the most offbeat topics that form the backdrop of a few of the shows that will hit the TV screens this fall. Supernatural stuff works, and it has worked more so over the last few years. There have been shows like THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, SUPERNATURAL, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, etc, but the scope for varied topics within the genre is far from exhausted. There's 666 PARK AVENUE that is generating so much buzz. Besides the fact that it stars established actors like Terry O'Quinn, Vanessa Williams, Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor, it's the supernatural/horror factor that's working for it. That is the plus point, despite the fact that it follows the age-old formula of people moving into a haunted house (building in this case). The treatment may be different and the dimensions and subplots complex, but that is the basis. 
The 666 PARK AVENUE trailer:

And speaking about emerging popular genres, fantasy on television is still an up and coming genre and hence, a shows like ONCE UPON A TIME and GRIMM do well. In general, the fascination for fairytales has grown lately, with new film interpretations of Red Riding Hood, Snow White. And with the above mentioned shows being made, the genre is at its peak. That's why, The CW is confident about its modern interpretation of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which also starts this fall.
The BEAUTY AND THE BEAST trailer:

Beyond that, pop culture in general is a blanket deal. With the immense success of The Avengers, and the buzz being generated over the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, television is also catching up with the superhero genre. The CW has ARROW starting this fall and ABC is reportedly developing a series on The Hulk for the season 2013-14. 

The ARROW trailer:

So while the competitive ordering of new shows reflects the changing preferences of audiences, it's clear that simple and straight-forward family dramas, rom-com style sitcoms, and even profession-based dramas like crime and medical shows don't really interest networks without an unconventional twist or spin of sorts. But while I can understand certain niche genres garnering popularity, I'm not quite sure about the direction that completely offbeat and far-fetched concepts will take television. What will become of a show like LAST RESORT? How long the fairytale and superhero genres continue to be popular on TV? And what kind of spin will simple concepts like that of a haunted house get in order for them to be long-running series? These questions will only be answered with time as we discover television with a twist, this fall onwards. 


What do you think of the new concepts that'll hit TV screens this fall? Do you love or hate the emergence of the new popular genres? Share your views below…

Saturday, May 12, 2012

LATEST RENEWALS AND CANCELATIONS

tvTALKsnips

Earlier in the week, we learned that ABC had renewed GREY'S ANATOMY for a ninth season, while CASTLE, REVENGE and PARENTHOOD would also be coming back in the 2012-13 season. Here are a few more renewals and cancelations that were announced by major networks like ABC, NBC and The CW...

ABC

BODY OF PROOF (Renewed): I'm thrilled that it got renewed, because the show has gotten better over season 2, especially with episodes like the one that had the virus outbreak. The crime solving is also really good. I sometimes feel that the cases are more interesting that those on CASTLE even. Dana Delany does a good job, and the supporting cast has also become very likable.

PRIVATE PRACTICE (Renewed): I didn't think this show would do more than four seasons, but there's just something about it—perhaps indulging oneself by watching others' messed up lives—that makes it gripping. That's why I'm glad it's coming back for a sixth season.

THE RIVER, MISSING (Canceled): These shows had strong and promising premises, but something just didn't work. I'm not surprised by their fate.

PAN AM (Canceled): This has been my greatest heartbreak this season as far as canceled shows go. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was just such a pleasure to watch. The engrossing stories, the 60s setting, the relationships between the Pan Am crew members... It will all be missed. I guess here's where poor ratings overrule everything else.

GCB (Canceled): The show was packaged well, but the pilot itself lacked luster. It would have been a guilty pleasure at best—a show that you take with a pinch if salt.


The CW

RINGER (Canceled): It was convoluted and messy, but it was spicy, intriguing and fun. I wouldn't call it a great show by any standard, but it's a show that I'll miss. Sarah Michelle Gellar should get something more lasting soon.

HART OF DIXIE (Renewed): I've only seen the pilot of this one, and it didn't intrigue me enough to watch the next few episodes immediately. But now that it's been renewed, I think I might give it a shot.




NBC

AWAKE, HARRY'S LAW (Canceled): I hadn't started either of these shows, but the former sounded really interesting. The latter, I would've watched simply because it's by David E Kelly (ALLY McBEAL, THE PRACTICE, BOSTON PUBLIC) and because of the talented Kathy Bates. The cancelation of these two comes as a disappointment.

BENT (Canceled): The premise was weak, but it had Amanda Peet in the lead and I would've loved to see her on TV again after JACK AND JILL. What mainly worked against it, I think, is that it was too much of a 90s-style sitcom, which doesn't work now. That's what went against shows like BETTER WITH YOU and the Jason Biggs, Sarah Chalke, Judy Greer starrer MAD LOVE. I enjoyed both those shows and I'm sure I would've liked BENT too, but NBC had other plans.


What do you think of these recent cancelations and renewals? Which shows will you miss the most? Share your views here...