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Tag Archive: Ringer


Orphan Black - Sarah at train station

Review by C.J. Bunce

From the first scene of Orphan Black you can’t help getting reeled in.  Although the pilot opens with a woman walking in front of a passenger train, the world of a street urchin instantly is propelled like a freight train into strange, new territory for fans of action and sci-fi.  Not since last year’s pilot for NBC’s short-lived series Awake were we so quickly certain a series had to be added to the must-watch list.  That’s saying something since there have been so many new series to try on this year, series like The Following, Cult, and even the more recent Bates Motel that have already started to stack up in the viewing backlog.  With series like Lost Girl, Psych, Arrow, Continuum, Grimm, Dallas, New Girl, and now Doctor Who back from hiatus locked-in the must-see TV realm, Orphan Black is pretty much a late but welcome entry, especially to the sparse Saturday night line-up.

Orphan Black changing appearances

Orphan Black has a completely cool look–big city, edgy, dark places, with an equally cool lead in Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany.  Maslany, who has a bit of the look of actress Summer Glau, plays a Brit who encounters what could be her twin at a train stop in New York City, but it’s all filmed in the not-quite-the-same looking streets of Ontario.  The women look each other in the eye and this is so well filmed you don’t question that these are two separate people despite Maslany playing both roles.  The pilot manages to take some extraordinary circumstances and render them believable, a rewarding feat successfully handled, due to good acting and a story that answers every question the audience could ask, and each question real people in these situations would ask.

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By the borg.com Writing Staff

As the spring TV season winds down, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect back on this season’s viewing, looking at what ultimately made our “must watch” list, and what didn’t.  Look back to see our reviews, then check out our weekly lineup!

Let’s start with what didn’t make it for us:

  • The Firm.  Although we enjoyed the performances, and the overall series mystery seemed intriguing, the focus on courtroom melodrama bogged this one down.  The fatal moment, though, was an episode in which the Rules of Criminal Procedure were so wildly distorted as to kill any suspension of disbelief.  Note to courtroom drama writers: We’ve all watched twenty years of Law & Order.  You need to step up the writing if you want to succeed.
  • Terra Nova.  This series just lost us.  The pilot was serviceable and showed us the great potential the ideas behind this series had, but episodes quickly devolved into a weak combination of weekly world-destroying strawman threats (yawn) that just felt more and more incredibly contrived, and a confusing (and, IMO, un-needed) effort to create a dark, mysterious, earth-shattering plot with shadowy characters and alignments similar to the epic Lost.  The last two episodes we watched (in January) were literally painful to watch, mainly due to the largely wasted potential that a time-traveling colony in the Cretaceous era. WeI’ve heard that the last few episodes in this season showed promise, but we won’t be tuning in unless we hear some positive buzz on the show once it starts again in the fall.
  • The Killing.  This is the only show that Jason can remember where he actively rooted against it succeeding.  The first season treated viewers with such contempt for their intelligence, after a promising pilot and first couple of episodes, and that means any resolutions for the plot or characters are unimportant.

Hanging on by a Thread:

  • Once Upon a Time.  This one is still nabbed weekly by our DVR, but we missed a couple of episodes during the holidays and never bothered to get caught up again.  There was nothing really wrong with it; we were enjoying it–but other series (see below) bumped it from the tight nightly schedule.
  • Ringer.  See OUAT, above.  The ongoing soap opera gained momentum after the midseason, but ultimately fell victim to things that held our attention a little bit more.  Escalating outrageousness and cringe-inducing (in a good way!) plot twists raised the stakes for the series, so this one deserves a marathon to get caught up.
  • Falling Skies.  Our review of this summer series here at borg.com remains unchanged; we saw great potential, and though the series had its issues, it also had its positive aspects, and we’ll be tuning in this summer when episodes resume on TNT on June 17th at 9pm Eastern Time.  Hopefully the second season comes out with a bang and delivers on this series’ massive potential.  And you can catch a promising glimpse of the season opener here.
  • 30 Rock.  One of the favorites of past years, it isn’t at the top of viewing lists anymore, though if the episode focus is on Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, it can still be magic.  Because it only streams on his computer, it is tough for Jason to watch now.

So, what are the big winners this season at borg.com?

Lost Girl.  We are loving this lighthearted adult urban fantasy!  Satisfying world building based in European fairy lore combines with strong performances by the supporting cast to make this a weekly guilty pleasure.  It’s like Buffy for grownups–what Angel was trying to be, only done right.

Awake.  Launched in the same Thursday night time slot as The Firm, (which also hosted another fine debut series, Prime Suspect), this paranormal crime drama only gets better.  Jason Isaacs makes a compelling lead, and the series writers have wisely increased the genre stakes for the series, giving it extra pull.  They’re teasing the paranormal plot out very slowly, but when the moments hit, they pack a wallop.  We’re looking forward to seeing the mystery build.

Grimm.  Elizabeth’s personal favorite this season!  After a compelling pilot, this series has taken a while to get going.  But, as with Awake, they’re finally starting to really build the ongoing genre plot, adding complications to the established “monster murder of the week” formula.  New characters and a stronger focus on the otherworldly underbelly have given Grimm a much-needed boost, and we were happy to see that it’s been picked up for another season!  Friday nights just haven’t been the same without Chuck.  One thing we’d like to see more of, please: strong women characters.

New Girl.  C.J.’s favorite comedy of the past ten years and favorite series of the year.  He still cannot believe each episode is only a half an hour, since the writers crammed so much into each show.  Zooey Deschanel’s Jess is as put-upon as any classic female comedy lead in the Mary Richards variety, and is as brilliantly funny, smart and zany.  The supporting cast only got better throughout the first season, but the funny stories didn’t really explode with humor until they finally linked-up Max Greenfield’s Schmidt with Hannah Simone’s Cece.

Psych.  Still occupying the top spot in our must-watch lineup, the second half of the Psych season really delivered.  From beginning (the great season re-opener guest starring Cary Elwes) to end (that CLIFFHANGER!), with very few missteps in between (not sure what to make of “Let’s Do-Wop It Again,” with Shawn in the hospital and minus Keenan Thompson), all around, the show’s still got it.

The Walking Dead.  The second season of this series just got better and better, with deeper storylines, clever surprises, and a real aura of uncertainty around favorite characters survivability.  And the season finale was one of the best of the year (Michone!!!).  It’s the one series I simply cannot wait to resume in the fall.

Community.  This is Jason’s only show he will watch in real time.  The characters keep developing and adding depth and when the writers create a personality quirk, it is in service of character and not the story of the week.  He would visit the Greendale campus (and did as a background extra) to see all the characters, but attending Greendale would be the worst decision of his or anyone’s life except for those that want to learn to make a diorama.

House, M.D.  After Dr. Greg House (Hugh Laurie) drove his car into Dr. Cuddy’s home we thought this series was pretty much done for.  We still had doubts that we’d need another season after House’s prison stint.  Then BAM!  This last season is on par with the best of its eight season run, especially because the writers have let Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) be Wilson, Chase (Jesse Spencer) be Chase, and Russian bride-in-name-only Dominika (Karolina Wydra) almost make it as House’s single perfect mate.  Although Charlene Yi and Odette Annable are fine as Drs. Park and Adams, the show still struggles with the one note Cameron/Thirteen replacement role.  We wish we had Amber Tamblyn back.  Although Omar Epps’s Dr. Foreman pretty much vanished, Peter Jacobson’s Dr. Taub continues to amuse to the bitter (?) end.

Fairly Legal.  Although we’ve fallen behind thanks to new diversions like Awake and Lost Girl, the sophomore season of this unusual, lighthearted legal drama continues to entertain. Star Sarah Shahi is cute and engaging (although we liked her better as a cynical cop in Life and as Gus’s adrenaline junkie girlfriend in a guest spot on Psych), even if her harried approach to life gets a little exhausting.  We’re hoping for a bigger role for Gerald McRaney this season.

In Plain Sight.  We’ve let the final season of this solid crime drama get backed up on our DVR, but from what we’ve seen so far, they’re going to round the series out nicely, with the same sharp dialogue and complex relationships that have given this series staying power despite a history of scheduling mishaps.  It’s nice to see Tangie Ambrose (Agent Parmalee) get a stronger role, Tia Carrere is always fun, and all things considered, I think everyone prefers baby Norah to Jinx and Brandi.

Parks and Recreation.  April Ludgate, Andy Dwyer and Ron Swanson continue to be three of the best characters on television.

A few other shows we’re thinking about, but haven’t mentioned here before:

  • Surburgatory. Jason has no clue what makes this interesting.  He laughs and that’s a big part.  The supporting cast (Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell (SNL) and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is just so, goofy and fun. Mostly, it is earnest father and daughter relationship of the two leads, Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy.
  • Modern Family.  The second season of this award-winning series was side-splitting.  Better than the great comedic actors and fantastic use of the “mockumentary” format is the terrific writing of the scribes behind the show, particularly Jeffery Richman  & creator Steven Levitan. The stories of the three households making up the dysfunctional Modern Family intertwine effortlessly to create the funniest half-hour on network television.
  • CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).  After a dozen seasons in the bag and numerous cast changes, CSI could easily be slipping off of most people’s radar, especially with the mid-season exit of long-time favorite Marg Helgenberger.  And though it will never likely recover the viewership it enjoyed when William Peterson was on the cast, the new additions of Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue has been a breath of creative fresh air.  After missteps with recently departed cast, especially the badly conceived Dr. Ray Langston character portrayed by the excellent Lawrence Fishburne, the series seems to be back on an even keel and cranking out the crafty, clever alternative plotlines to the rote procedurals currently on the air everywhere else. Amen.
  • Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.  Only four episodes in, but having James Van Der Beek play a cartoon version of himself, keeps paying funny dividends.  If that lasts, this will be a keeper.
  • Mad Men.  Jason got rid of his cable and finding this show in a legal manner can be tough, but he knows it is worth it.
  • Archer.  Jason says, “Give me the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in crazy spy situations or give me death!”
  • Bob’s Burgers.  Jason says, “Give me the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in crazy burger joint situations or give me death!”

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Everyone here at borg.com is a loyal fan of Warehouse 13, and we eagerly waited for Season 3 with excitement and just a *leetle* bit of anxiety (Will She or Won’t She? regarding a return for Joanne Kelly, after Myka quits in a…well, to tell you the truth, we can’t really remember why she quit, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with H.G. Wells and a pitchfork). Thank goodness, all that uncertainty was put to rest by the season premiere (July 11, 2011, “The New Guy”) and a Comic-Con confession by Eddie McClintock (Agent Pete Lattimer) that the whole Myka quitting drama was just a ratings stunt (whew!).

Ahem.  But while that got our hackles up just a little, that maneuvering did make room for potentially interesting additions to the cast, notably “New Guy” Agent Steve Jinks, as well as priming audiences for larger-scale storylines.  As we mentioned in our review earlier this year of the Leverage premiere, raising stakes for your characters and creating bigger, more meaningful plotlines is usually a good thing. And bless their hearts, Warehouse 13 gave it their all this season.  From turning our beloved Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall, The Dead Zone) into a maniacal supervillain bent on exacting revenge from… Captain Janeway? (Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek Voyager) (Wait a minute–what?) to throwing Claudia at poor Agent Jinx in an over-the-top BFFE crush that only the writers really understood, to a literally explosive finale involving yet another reincarnation of series favorite H.G. Wells (this one presumably the last, as Jaime Murray is now a regular on Ringer… although with H.G. Wells and Warehouse 13, you never can tell).

By now you may be thinking that’s a lot of balls to juggle–even for the W13 gang–and you’re right.  It got a little hard to follow, and there were some missteps that took the series away from everything it had always done so, so right: the punchy camaraderie of the core cast, and the zany artifact hijinks that delight demented history buffs everywhere.  Something seems to have fizzled in the brilliant, squabbling-siblings chemistry between Myka and Pete, and even the artifacts got a little strained, having me occasionally roll my eyes instead of giggle maniacally.  I also found myself a little frustrated with some of the world building, as the addition of Kate Mulgrew as Regent-slash-Mom Jane Lattimer expanded the role and history of the Regents.  Case in point: There is already a thriving network of Warehouses, so what’s with this super-secret Regent Vault?  You need a better Warehouse for even worse artifacts?

Yeah, yeah, yeah… but because I do love this show and all its wackiness (that’s, by the way, meant to be praise here) I’m going to go on the record as saying I think all of that is just growing pains.  It’s Season 3–time to spread wings and see what happens when you leave the nest, and there are bound to be some bruised feathers.  And, to be sure, there were some standout moments this year. As Warehouse hacker-turned-techie-turned-trainee-turned-full-fledged-agent Claudia Donovan, Allison Scagliotti proved her mettle again and again this season, as her role was expanded in almost every episode (note to producers: Scagliotti is brilliant, but let’s remember this isn’t The Claudia Show), and although I personally didn’t feel we saw enough of Agent Jinks to share in the pathos of his death (or, um, potential undeath?  But we’ll have to wait for Season 4 for that!), Scagliotti managed to single-handedly carry the emotional weight of that entire plot thread, and she did so completely convincingly.  I almost thought I knew Jinksy enough to miss him, too.

The finale itself (the Sept. 26, 2011 two-parter “Emily Lake/Stand”), particularly the last act, was splendidly zany in the best W13 tradition–from a deadly chess game-slash-guillotine you have to cheat to beat, to a perversely-timed acting-up of random artifacts, to a startling and unexpected fate for mysterious Warehouse guardian Mrs. Frederick (which opens up marvelous possibilities for Claudia for next season), to the gutsy, glorious decision to destroy the whole warehouse, Search for Spock-style… I’m finding myself all geared up and ready for Season 4!  Only now I know all my gang is still right where they should be (well, minus Mrs. F and her iconic beehive–not, of course, to be confused with the other iconic beehive, the one from “Queen for a Day” that nearly destroyed Pete’s ex-wife Amanda Lattimer’s wedding  [Jeri Ryan/Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager, if you’re still keeping track of the crossovers!] wedding).  Wait.  Gotta catch my breath there.

Anyway, as mildly disappointed as I was with some of this season, it’s still Warehouse 13, which is still more fun than almost anything on TV, and my disappointment is merely a sign of how wonderful the show truly is–anything that can inspire fans to feel invested in the fates of the characters is doing pretty much everything right.  And I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Season 4 can annoy me, too!

P.S.  We loved chatting with Saul Rubinek at Comic-Con this year…

Review by C.J. Bunce

(With spoilers)

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a dual role as estranged twin sisters in her new series Ringer on the CW network.  The “ringer” in the title is presumably Gellar as sister Bridget, who ends up as a pretender and “dead ringer” for high-class sister Siobhan.  The difficulty for Gellar will be getting viewers to forget she was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The pilot episode featured non-stop plot twists, so many that it the show is very engaging, but begs the question: Can the writers keep up the momentum, or will this ultimately fall flat like Buffy co-star Eliza Dushku’s overly hyped but short-lived series Dollhouse?

Ringer plays more like Gellar’s early soap opera work but there may be more here to stick around for.  As Bridget, the focal character of the series, Gellar shines as a weatherbeaten survivor of one or more 12-step programs, barely making it in the world, and currently plea bargaining a prostitution rap in exchange for turning states’ evidence on a local crime boss.  But Bridget is smart and clever and concocts a plan to go away with a long-lost sister, Siobhan, who no one in Bridget’s current world knows about, a classy and smarter sister who is wealthy and has a seemingly perfect life.  But Siobhan too reveals a more vulnerable side and we slowly learn her life is in shambles in various ways.

On a boat ride the sisters bond but Siobhan drugs Bridget and by all accounts Siobhan throws herself overboard.  This leaves Bridget to step into her life like in The Riches or Dave, but Ringer is no comedy.  Bridget learns her sister had a dysfunctional relationship with her husband, played by Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Fantastic Four).  She easily takes to her sister’s best friend, only to learn her sister (and now she) is having an affair with her friend’s husband.  Yet we get the feeling she likes Siobhan’s husband and could make her new life work as his wife.  See the soap opera-esque branches starting to form?

As almost an afterthought she learns the problem behind her sister’s marriage: their son must have met some early death. This is befuddling and we only know this from a brief reaction to a snapshot on a shelf.  Wouldn’t this son have come up in a prior conversation?  We must assume this was also held back for some reason as part of Siobhan’s planned death.

To leave us further hanging, Bridget picks up the phone to learn her sister’s test results are back, Siobhan was pregnant, and Bridget repeats this aloud so now her new husband thinks she is pregnant.

But wait–there’s more.  We see a last-minute murder attempt on Bridget’s life.  And the person behind the hit?  Flash to Paris, France and here is the real Siobhan, alive and well after all.

  

Ringer will be the ideal star vehicle for Gellar and opportunity for Emmy glory.  She gets to play a down-and-out fish out of water with Bridget, and Bridget’s opposite in jet setter, fashion forward Siobhan, both caught up in this complicated web of deceit, with Gellar onscreen for every minute of it.  Do they pay actors twice for playing two roles?  Do you think Gellar asked her agent this question?  (Buffy would have).  Viewers will find themselves asking:  which sister is Gellar more like in real life?

Except for the huge Buffy fan base that is eager to see the next new Gellar project, the cards are stacked against any show like this being successful.  Will each episode be about lies built on other lies, with Bridget skating through all the barriers thrown at her?  How long can that story last, or will they play up the soap opera plotting to make this go on forever?  With most series cancelled abruptly we may never learn where the story will end.  Ringer’s producers and writers will need to offer more than twists to keep viewers watching.

That said, episode one pummeled us, along with character Bridget, with a lot of material to digest.  Gellar’s acting is more nuanced than her Buffy days, and what she has to offer new each week is what will likely keep viewers coming back for more.