Thursday, May 25, 2006

A big TV week

Late May is always a busy TV time for me. The television shows that I have been keeping up with all year are wrapping up the season. Some shows go off the air for good. Both things happened this week. And both shows involved J.J. Abrams. But let's take care of the final goodbyes first.


First, it's goodbye to Alias, the show that was too improbable to believe and first and only got crazier as the seasons added up. It brought Jennifer Garner to stardom, solidified J.J. Abrams as a power player in Hollywood and singlehandedly made it okay to talk about latex miniskirts and outrageous wigs in public again.

I remember five years ago when the first commercials for the show came out. It seems a bit complex and not your usual TV fare. But, for whatever reason I can't recall now, I watched the first episode. I was quickly hooked by the unabashed craziness of the plot and the willingness of Jennifer Garner to put any outfit on and do anything to keep the plot moving.

Sydney Bristow's early years were all about taking revenge upon the evils of Arvin Sloane, who lied to her, killed her fiance (Danny!), imperiled her friends, and sent her on crazy quests for mysterious 14th century Italian artifacts created by that Da Vinci clone, Milo Rambaldi.

Eventually, and much more quickly that I would have predicted (was it really halfway through season two?) the secret terrorist/anti-government front agency of SD-6 was brought down to Sydney and her boring love interest (CIA "handler") Michael Vaughn. From there, Abram's show floundered to find a purpose, or what people in the Joss Whedon universe call "the Big Bad"--that seasonal antagonist that drives the plot and the heroes to do that heroic thing that they do. After SD-6 was taken down and Sydney and Vaughn kissed in the ruins, the show's decline began--just like the Maddie and Dave's sexual relationship destroyed Moonlighting so many years ago.

But . . . BUT . . . before that decline into regular CIA work, the arrival of Nadia, the "rehabilitation" of Sloane, the creation of APO, the Prophet 5 story, and the endgame resurgence of Rambaldi, there was . . .

. . . the Super Bowl episode!

That, my friends was the absolute apex of Alias popularity. And it wasn't just because it featured Garner in not one but TWO sets of lingerie (on a plane at 20,000 feet no less). It was because it came on after the Super Bowl, guaranteeing it a huge lead in audience. And believe me, people paying attention KNEW that lingerie was figuring prominently in the first ten minutes of that episode.

Anyway, the show never commanded that kind of buzz or audience again. But it was always a fun way to spend an hour each week--at least those weeks and months that ABC decided to air it.

I'll miss the preposterousness of the plots, the costumery, the insanely complicated fact that government spooks had to travel the work at the drop of a hat and yet could leave their lives behind at a moments notice and be "wheels up" in 45 minutes, ending up in Katmandu in the blink of an eye. I'll miss hearing people use the word "task" as a verb--as in "Marshall, I'm tasking you to decrypt the Department of Defense's website and use NOAA satellites to track Dimitri Khurshchev."

So, I'll miss Alias. It brought us Jennifer Garner who both saved us from the original Bennifer and punished us with Daredevil and Elektra.

Relive the (gories) and glories of the show's best villain--outside of Sloan [and also Arvin Clone] with this YouTube video montage of "the Francinator". Thanks to EW's Popwatch for the link.


Now . . .

Onto last night's season-ending episode of LOST.

I've gotta say, I loved it. And it was great fun to gather with friends at Flipper's house to watch and eat great food.

The episode itself was great, I thought. Much occurred, and much was left to be discovered next season.

For a basic plot rundown, EW does a nice job. For a slightly more satirical recap, you can always rely on the crew at Television Without Pity.

I enjoyed the episode greatly, including the podcasting shout-out with the Hurley Bird and many other things besides. I've talked over a lot of this with coworkers throughout the day, so my ability to be fresh with it now is sadly lacking . . . but the questions I can think of that must be answered at the start of next season are:

  1. Will Michael and Walt actually escape the Island? [ANS: NO! Michael's overwhelming desire to do anything to save his son won't free him. The fact that he turned on his Flt. 815 cohorts to turn over Jack, Kate, and Sawyer to Henry Gale's Others won't give him the freedom he wants for His Boy. My prediction . . . an accident--real or engineered--at sea will kill Walt and force Michael to return to the Island. There he must struggle to choose between the Flt. 815 survivors he betrayed or live with the Others for protection.]
  2. What will happen to Jack, Kate, and Sawyer? [ANS: I've got no clue.]
  3. What did happen to Sayid, Jin, and Sun? [ANS: Last we saw, Sayid had uncovered the fake Other encampment while Sun and Jin were in Desmond's boat off shore. I have no idea where they ended up.]
  4. What is the fate of Desmond, Eko, and Locke? [ANS: Well, Charlie survived the Swan Station's release of magnetism, so I am hopeful that these three will survive as well. Well . . . Desmond could die and I wouldn't be that upset about it, but I really don't want Eko and ESPECIALLY Locke to die. There is still too much unexplained argument about where the experiment is being conducted.]
  5. Speaking of Charlie . . . what was his deal at the end by the fire? [ANS: Once of the most upsetting moments in the whole two hours was Charlie's demeanor after the catastrophe at the Swan Station. He arrived back at the beach, a bit bruised and bloodied, a bit deaf in his ears, but pretty ebullient, considering. He didn't seem at all worried about the fate of Eko and Locke. Now, I know that Charlie hasn't been the best of mates with them lately, but basic human decency demands that he care a bit more about their overall safety than getting it on with Claire by the fire. Lynda has the best answer of all . . . in reaction the accident and the pain from the burn wounds, he secretly retrieved a hidden Heroin Mary statue and doped up before finding Claire at the fire. It is entirely within Charlie's' character to have saved a statue or two separate from all the rest that he threw into the ocean; and it would explain his detatched, almost giddy personality at the end.]
  6. While were at it . . . is the Swan Station for real or not? Is the Pearl Station the REAL Skinner Box experiment? Which Orientation film is telling the truth? Why do those pneumatic tubes deliver the notebooks into the middle of nowhere? [ANS: I was all ready to believe that the Pearl Station film proved that the Swan Station to be a hoax. But Desmond's story seems to indicate that the Swan Station is sitting on some serious electromagnetic problem. Seeing the 108 minute timer begin to implode like that was pretty powerful. And those piles of neglected notebooks is pretty damning evidence. But are both stations just layers in a much larger, even more complex scenario? Search me . . . for now anyway.]
That's it, I guess, for the major questions. I'll admit that this episode might have single-handedly convinced me to purchase the Season Two DVDs when they come out. I really enjoyed it.


Finally, there is some other interesting LOST-related news. Action figures! I admit that I am very excited about this story. I am "of a certain age" meaning that I grew up when Star Wars action figures were all the rage. While I never collected a ridiculous amount of them, the idea of an action figure was a defining thing of my youth.

What I'm saying is that the phrase "action figure" resonated in my childhood brain. And besides, these toys look pretty cool from the one we can see right now.


So, writing all of this has taken me the better part of the night. Tomorrow, I'll post on non-TV related things that have caught my attention recently.

Until then, thanks for reading.


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