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Friday Journal - tv

I don't normally do TV reviews, but considering that TV is getting more hours of my attention than books these days that seems unfair. So, since I'm stuck at home while the handrailer (yes, a word) replaces spindles in the banisters, and had some thoughts last night after watching the final episode of...

Supergirl Season 1 - 20 episodes

Charming YA SF in comic (graphic novel) mode, more than a bit sentimental. Brian has fond memories of Marvel comics and enjoys picking up on the canonical references, which I can't. And I get (at least some of) the celebrity culture jokes, which he doesn't. But we both find it whiles away an enjoyable hour when we are in the mood. Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl is charming in both personas, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen is one of the prettiest and nicest men ever, and Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant rocks. All the main characters work for me, though some of the lesser were a bit off. The laws of physics take a bit of a beating, which is fair enough because this is a comic. But if you want women as independently motivated adults to save themselves and the world while being amply supported by (mostly) beautiful men and not too much of the kissy kissy you could do a lot worse. As sf fantasies on tv for women go I like it more than Charmed or Stargate SG1, and although at best it is not as good as the best of Buffy it generally comes off better than the worst. We will be looking for Season 2 when it comes out (in the US in October).

Elementary Season 1 - 24 episodes.

This is a bit odd, I think, but maybe that is just me. It is yet another take on Sherlock Holmes, this time with Sherlock wrestling with his inner demons in New York, and the sidekick is Dr Joan Watson. Again, Brian has detailed knowledge of the literary roots for reference, in the Conan Doyle stories and many of the homages. I have read some of them, but was never that much bothered. Both of us watched Sherlock recently, and having come to dislike that rather a lot we watched the first episode of this with some apprehension. But we found it quite different and liked it enough to carry on.

Each episode of Elementary features Sherlock and Watson using specialist knowledge and deductive reasoning to solve murders, and each episode advances the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, though the balance between murder and relationship varies from episode to episode. If I had to guess I'd say that across the series about a quarter of the dialogue is between Sherlock and Watson about their personal preoccupations and the relationship between them, and about a third between them about the case-of-the-week, with all the rest of the characters and exposition fitted into the remainder. Brian likes the deductive reasoning. I like the relationship and tensions between Sherlock and Watson. Both of us like the speciailist knowledge. I'm not sure the mix actually gels together all that well. In particular, there is usually one or more set pieces where someone, usually Sherlock but sometimes Watson or one of the policemen, explain to the murderer what they did and why - this often comes across as hurried and unconvincing. Nevertheless, I enjoy each episode, although I'm not blown away.

I enjoy the way the characters are drawn. Sherlock is very stiff and abrupt, and speaks in (more-or-less) British grammar, which I like both as a reference to the original stories and as a way of characterising him. He wears tight formal shirts with button-down collars when he's out and about. At home we see him working out doing strength exercises: crunches and planks. Watson, by contrast is a native New Yorker, speaks in soft tones, and is very fluid and flexible. She wears workout gear at home, and does yoga. She goes out in mini dresses with soft cardigans and high heeled boots.  I like Watson well enough, and don't actually like Sherlock very much; but then, you are not supposed to.

Most of the sets are pretty standard (for tv) urban exteriors and interiors. But the two spend a lot of time in the brownstone house they share, and here the camera lingers, sepia toned, on wooden floors and and the pattern of light and shadow from the sun, tv screens and fire; on Sherlock seated with his back to the camera tracking five tv screens simultaniously; on Watson framed in doorways or seated cross-legged on the hearthrug, back to the fire. Think Dutch interiors paintings: Vermeer and the like. I've found that the images stay in my mind long after the dialogues and plots are forgotten. Like Breaking Bad, the visuals are a major reason why I have been happy to stick with the series, and maybe even tip the balance between staying and leaving when other aspects do not quite convince.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
29th Jul, 2016 11:03 (UTC)
Elementary is fun, and most of the actual mysteries are much better than Sherlock, though sometimes a bit too reliant on "murderer concocts an insanely complicated plan and doesn't think it through properly" tropes.

Supergirl and Flash will probably be my favourite American TV shows next year, especially now that Person of Interest has ended.
29th Jul, 2016 12:38 (UTC)
I have Person of Interest and Flash on the list for investigation now that we have a Supergirl-sized hole in our schedules. But we also want to go and watch the rest of West Wing - we stopped for a rest at the end of Season 3 a few months back and it would be good to go back to it.
29th Jul, 2016 14:55 (UTC)
Let me know if you need to borrow any of The West Wing - I have the full run of DVDs.
30th Jul, 2016 09:26 (UTC)
I think we have the full run, thanks.
30th Jul, 2016 06:53 (UTC)
I'd stick with Elementary; I think it's one of those rare shows that gets better as they introduce more layers.

On the other hand, I am totally superthingie'd out, and m'poor wife has to watch S'girl when I'm not around.
30th Jul, 2016 09:28 (UTC)
We're already into Season 2.

I know what you mean about 'superthingie'd out'. I bailed on the X-men films several films ago and Brian and daughter watch those without me. But I can manage Supergirl - small bites, relatively, and not quite so vested in destroying cities while superheroes fight.
30th Jul, 2016 16:37 (UTC)
Oh yes to Elementary.

We enjoyed Supergirl on the level of the pretty!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline M

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