The Week in TV: Sept. 8th–14th, 2013

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This is the time of year when I get bogged down with all the series I follow. Some shows fall by the wayside while others get picked up if word of mouth or marketing is strong enough.  Obviously I can’t devote a post every week (like with Bates Motel or Under the Dome) to every show I watch. So here’s a new weekly series I’m going to try my best to work on as the fall TV season unfolds.

I’m already off to a semi-bad start considering this was meant to go up Sunday. But I’ll try my best in the future to post these when I intend them to be posted.

New Episodes

This section covers the episodes I watched of shows that aired a new episode this week.

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Breaking Bad – 513 – To’hajiilee

Airdate: Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Watch Date: Monday, September 9th, 2013

In a few days I’ll be uploading Part 2 of The Obsessive Viewer Podcast’s 3-part series on Breaking Bad’s final episodes. If you don’t like our voices or if you don’t want to wait, here are my thoughts on the episode.

Holy shit. I’ve been struggling to find a better example of perfectly built tension in a TV show. It’s been a week and I still can’t think of one. I had some reservations about the episode’s end, but it’s small potatoes compared to the build up.

I have been very vocal about how Breaking Bad is the best show on TV. Throughout this final run, I’ve only had my opinion strengthened. I don’t have a clue how they will end it but I am confident the series will end in a very satisfying way.

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Boardwalk Empire – 401 – New York Sour

Airdate: Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Watch Date: Monday, September 99h, 2013

I love this show. I truly do. I feel like Boardwalk Empire doesn’t get quite the recognition it deserves. Then again, it’s a complex gangster drama set in the roaring twenties, by definition it may only fit a niche. But there’s more to it than its genre and setting. The show has a vast array of extraordinarily well-written characters. It’s so densely packed with great acting, drama and violence that I truly believe it could be on the air for many more years without going stale.

Last week, the series premiered its 4th season. “New York Sour” set the stage for what I’m sure will be a great season. The show is coming off the heels of a spectacular 3rd season. I was a little worried about the quality going into the premiere. The standout performer last season was the villain of the season, Bobby Cannavale’s Gyp Rosetti. I was slightly worried that his exit from the show would leave a void in the series.

My concern was unfounded. As I said above, there’s no shortage of story or characters in this series. The premiere had plenty of action, setup and violence. There are several things worth noting about the episode.

  • I’m very excited about the possibility of a season featuring more Chalky White. I’m a big fan of Michael K. Williams from The Wire and I’ve been excited for his character to shine in this series. Dunn Purnsely’s arc in this episode was shocking and intriguing. I hope it carries throughout the season.
  • I like seeing Brian Geraghty (The Hurt Locker, Jarhead) in the series and I’m very interested to see where he goes from here.
  • Gillian Darmody seems like a bit of a weak link in the show right now. She’s going down a dark path but I almost feel like she could have been cut out and replaced with an update on what Van Alden’s been up to.
  • Stephen Graham as Al Capone is one of the best things about the series. I love seeing the evolution of the character each season.
  • I assume Jeffrey Wright’s introduction will be in the next episode. I’m very anxious to see what the writers have in store for him. He’s a fantastic actor.

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Under the Dome – 112 – Exigent Circumstances

Airdate: Monday, September 9th, 2013

Watch Date: Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

You can read my full review of Under the Dome’s penultimate episode here. The cliff notes version of it is that Exigent Circumstances was an overall good episode but not enough stood out to really make for a good penultimate episode. It was really good to see Big Jim at the height of his power, though.

I’m genuinely interested in what’s in store for tonight’s finale and next season, as well.

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Sons of Anarchy – 601 – Straw

Airdate: Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Watch Date: Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Ah, so here we are. The bloated premiere episode of Sons of Anarchy’s penultimate season is the reason I started this weekly column. After watching it, I felt the urge to devote an entire post about it. I’ve done that once before, though, and felt like it wouldn’t do me any good to rehash old negativity.

Instead, I’ll voice my premiere gripes here.

I wasn’t going to watch this show anymore. Sons of Anarchy is, simply put, a soap opera about outlaws who I think the audience is supposed to care about. I haven’t cared about the plot in two seasons and the only reason I watched the premiere was because the media baited me by talking about the “controversial” event in the season premiere. I can’t talk about it any more without spoiling it, so be prepared.

 

SPOILERS FOR SOA – 601 BELOW

 

As the characters meandered through a lackluster plot and boring season setup, we saw a well-dressed kid walking around Charming. He kisses his mom goodbye and pops up here and there throughout the premiere. It’s not until the end that we find out what his deal is.

He shoots up his school using a gun that was given to a member of Jimmy Smits’ crew who happens to be banging the mother of the kid. It sets up the season well, I will admit, given that this will have far reaching consequences for the club and likely turn Charming and everyone else against them. Rightfully so.

My problem with it, however, is that it reeks of opportunistic storytelling. Kurt Sutter has stated that it’s been in the works for a while and that it needed to happen to usher in the story’s 3rd act.

That’s all well and good, but I can’t help but notice that season 5 ended in December. On December 14th, Adam Lanza shot and killed more than 20 people (mostly kids) at Sandy Hook Elementary School. For weeks this horrific tragedy dominated the news cycle. I can’t help but think this happened to be around the time Sutter and his writers were spit-balling ideas for their shows second to last season.

I’m not the kind of person who gets squeamish or offended at ultra violence played out on television. But having the kid in Sons of Anarchy shoot up his school just felt like the writers were trying too hard to be edgy and topical in a series that frankly doesn’t have the platform to be taken seriously as being either of those things.

I had a lot of other problems with the premiere that all contributed to me deciding (for once and for all) to finally drop the show completely:

  • Jax seeming to make a deal with Pope’s guy about giving them Tig once Clay is dead is literally more of the same crap from last season.
  • There is nothing about Clay’s storyline that interests me in the slightest bit. His character ran out of storytelling tread 2 or 3 seasons ago.
  • Donal Logue as a troubled man investigating the club is, like everything else in the series, boring. Showing us that he has demons only serves to make him look like an archetype. It’s stuff we’ve seen in pretty much every antihero series. It reminds me of Van Alden in season 1 of Boardwalk Empire, only with no trace of good or even competent writing.
  • Tara is in jail and………zzzzzzzz

Ending the episode with a shot of naked Charlie Hunnam banging Kim Dickens deserves its own paragraph. Its placement at the end of the episode only solidifies my opinion that this show is just a soap opera. It tells the audience that they should care more about an outlaw cheating on his wife than they should care about a kid shooting up a school.

The closing shot seemed like a way for the show to hook in and appease any new viewers who only watched the show for a peek at the guy who is going to play the lead in the Fifty Shades of Gray movie.

So this is probably the last you’ll see from me when it comes to Sons of Anarchy.

 

Rewatches, Catch Ups and Independent Viewings

I’m nearly always rewatching a series, catching up on a show I’m behind on or going through a show I’ve never watched before from the beginning. This section is devoted to those viewings.

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How I Met Your Mother: Season 5 and Season 6

Airdate: 2009-2011

I sort of “accidentally” stumbled into my How I Met Your Mother rewatch. I started it on Netflix a while ago just to have something on in the background while I ate my dinner in the morning (working nights will do that to you) or while I edit the podcast each week or update the blog. But being that it’s one of my favorite shows, I inevitably got hooked again.

This week I flew through the back half of season 5 and the first half of season 6. I feel like season 5 is the show’s peak. You can actually say that about a lot of television. There was a lot of hate geared toward season 6 and after watching it a few times since it aired, I have to say it grew on me.

By no means is it my favorite season, I wouldn’t even argue that it is a particularly strong season. But there are flashes of the show’s strengths sprinkled throughout it. Those flashes are enough to carry me through the season while I watch it in bulk.

I’m an episode or two away from “Bad News.” It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series and I’m equally excited and nervous to see it again.

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The Newsroom – 201 – First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

Airdate: Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Watch Date: Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here and including something I watched the week before the one this post is supposed to cover. I’m giving myself a pass, though.

I was a big fan of The Newsroom’s first season. I think Aaron Sorkin is one of the best (if not the best) screenwriters working today and the young cast seemed very eager to impress. So it’s a little bizarre that I waited so long to start season 2.

I don’t really have a justification for it. I’m pretty sure my rushed Breaking Bad rewatch and my PS3’s untimely death contributed to it. But that’s neither here nor there since I finally started it.

I liked the premiere a lot. I love the foreshadowing. It put me on pins and needles to see what is going to happen. It was a strong premiere that made me wish I hadn’t waited so long to start it. I’m looking forward to what the show does with Occupy Wall Street and the election. I’ll probably fly through it this week. Hopefully.

 

Miscellaneous

Here’s where I throw in anything TV-related that happened this week that doesn’t fit in the sections above and/or isn’t big enough to call for its own blog post throughout the week.

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Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season (blu-ray)

Purchase Date: Friday, September 13th, 2013

On Friday I was on a search for the soundtrack to Memento so I could include it in last week’s episode of the podcast. It wasn’t available anywhere digitally and so I figured I’d give Best Buy a shot. It was more of an excuse to take a break from editing and gawk at the blu-rays on display.

I went there expecting to entertain the idea of buying the first season of Boardwalk Empire on blu-ray. For three years now, I’ve resisted buying the seasons individually. I wanted to wait until the complete series set was released and then splurge on it. Oops.

I ended up buying the set. I was riding a post-premiere high from Monday and figured I might as well buy the seasons. It would give me more of an incentive to rewatch the series after season 4 ends. I already watched most of the special features and I am already impressed.

Every episode has an enhanced viewing option that has pop up trivia and occasional picture-in-picture commentary by the people behind the scenes. It gives some insight into the series. There’s also a couple documentaries about Atlantic City and Prohibition-era speakeasies. They both feel like a History Channel production (when History is true to its namesake topic, that it) and are very interesting.

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Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season (blu-ray)

Purchase Date: Friday, September 13th, 2013 

I couldn’t resist picking up Game of Thrones. I watched a bit of the blu-ray at a friend’s house a couple months ago and I’ve been anxious to add it to my collection ever since. I haven’t had much of a chance to go through it yet but I’m planning on cracking it open soon. I know there are a lot of great content and enhanced viewing features in it. It seems like HBO really put in a lot of effort for this release. Soon enough, I’ll buy season 2 (and then, of course, season 3) and I’ll have plenty of stuff to tide me over until season 4 premieres.

 

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5 responses to “The Week in TV: Sept. 8th–14th, 2013

  1. Pingback: Trailer Tuesday: True Detective (2014) | The Obsessive Viewer

  2. It’s really a shame about SOA. As I mentioned in your other article, I loved seasons 1 – 4. I still think season 2 is the best season of the show. With season 5, and now this, it feels like the show has become a parody of itself. It has devolved into “what gross or bizarre event can the writers come up with this week.” People biting off their own tongues, people getting drowned in bathtubs full of urine, someone getting raped in prison, torture porn, etc. Kurt Sutter is trying so hard to sell this show with blood and violence, which he brags about over Twitter and YouTube. He fails to realize that blood and violence don’t make for interesting characters or well written stories. It feels like we are treading the same ground over and over at this point and there’s no real story other than the writers slapping together various plot threads, none of which are particularly interesting or relevant. I miss that sense of brotherhood between the characters and the focus of their relationship with one another and the community of Charming. The characters and the relationships have become so stale. Sutter and his desperate attempts to shock us each weekly instead of delivering a good story have grown really tiresome. Honestly, I think SOA has become a bigger disappointment for me than Dexter.

    It looks like I’ll be looking for a new show to get invested in, especially with Breaking Bad ending so soon. Do you recommend Boardwalk Empire?

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    • Thanks for the comment, Frank! Yeah, it is a shame about SOA. You’re definitely right, the show peaked with season 2. A part of me watched this season’s premiere solely because I hoped that Ethan Zobelle would return. But that’s not the case. And with one season left after this one, I somehow doubt that loose end will be tied up.

      YES! Sutter is absolutely trying to use gross, extreme violence to hook viewers instead of writing compelling stories and characters. I get the impression that he has this idea of the show that’s not at all what it actually is. I distinctly remember when season 5’s premiere date (September 11th) was announced, he tweeted something to the effect of “I think enough time has passed that we can make this date about something good.” I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it really sounded like he thought his show could somehow heal the country. It’s a soap opera! LOL.

      I never got into Dexter but I know there’s been a ton of disappointment toward it as of late. My friend Mike wrote a piece about it for the site that summed it up really well. (And I see you’ve already read it, hahaha.) Anyway, it’s so hard to find a good show and be comfortable enough to commit to it longterm.

      That’s why buying Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones last weekend was kind of a big deal for me. It’s been a long time since I committed to buying a series season by season. But I’m confident the quality of both those shows will be consistent.

      Having said that, I absolutely recommend Boardwalk Empire! After Breaking Bad finishes, Boardwalk Empire will be my official pick for “best show on TV.” It’s dense with very rich characters and a fascinating world informed by history. It’s a Prohibition gangster show, what’s not to love? They’re in season 4 now, 1924 in the timeline. I honestly feel like it could go all the way to (I think) 1933 when Prohibition is repealed and not get stale.

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  3. Pingback: The Week in TV: Sept. 15th-21st, 2013 | The Obsessive Viewer

  4. Pingback: The Week in TV: Sept. 22nd-28th, 2013 | The Obsessive Viewer

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