Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Reality Mini-Reviews

Breaking Pointe (Thursdays at 8:00 on CW)

Breaking Pointe goes behind the scenes of the Ballet West company in Salt Lake City. Touted as one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the country, we follow the on-and-off-stage drama of some of the corps just as their contracts for the upcoming season are renewed... or not.

Right off the bat, Breaking Pointe had me hooked on premise alone. I've been in the dance world, I know how the people are. Having said that... this show rings kind of false. Thus far there has been very little effort to show the competitive side of it all, which should be a big deal. The ballet's prima ballerina is Christina, an aging (and, I'm sorry, very unattractive) dancer; there is little focus given to her struggle to maintain when a talented up-and-comer, Beckanne, is offered a contract and some high praise from the company's director. Christina just floats by, loving her life with a laidback attitude that just doesn't create interesting television. So in order to make up for that, the producers have given a big chunk of the series' time to the dancers' personal lives and relationships, none of which are very interesting. There's Rex and Allison, a horribly mismatched couple; she ignores him and he pants over her. There's Ronnie, a macho hunk who just wants to be offered the title of "principal" despite the fact that he's been dancing those roles for year. And then there's Ronald and Katie; Ronald is Rex's brother, and his girlfriend Katie was not offered a renewed contract, so he must deal with her being away on auditions. It's all pretty boring and standard, like watching your high school lunch table re-enact their daily dramas.

I was expecting some Black Swan craziness. Nothing doing.

The Choice (Thursdays at 9:00 on Fox)

Just... don't watch this show. It's painful.

The set-up: Four "celebrity" bachelors sit in The Voice style chairs with their backs to the stage. Girls take the stage and get 30 seconds to impress them with their voice alone and turn around. Then they pick who they want a chance to go on a date with. Once all the bachelors have three contestants, they move on to a speed-dating round.

This show is so stupid. The contestants are all annoying and shrill, and they all look the same. If the whole point is to get guys interested with just your voice, why are all the girls perfectly white-toothed, straight-haired, made up, short-skirted bimbos? It's horribly anti-feminist and slightly disgusting, as if big girls or even just girls who don't look like fashion models aren't good enough to date these Z-list celebrities. Speaking of, I hadn't heard of half these "celebrity" bachelors. The pilot featured Romeo (formerly Li'l Romeo, a child rapper), DJ Pauly D from Jersey Shore (I'm sure that date ended well), an Olympic skiier (I don't know his name, and probably neither did the girl who ended up going on a date with him), and a soap star (who's probably single because the only women who know who he is are in their 60s and never leave their homes). Not even host Cat Deeley, so charming and wonderful on So You Think You Can Dance, can save it.

It's monotonous, boring, sleazy, and cheesy. Stay far away.

Take Me Out (Thursdays at 8:00 on Fox)

Again, just stay away.

The lesser-promoted companion to the equally-awful The Choice is this dumb little show. The Most Obnoxious Man on the Planet, AKA George Lopez, hosts 30 women who are lined up at a podium with the chance to date a man who is brought out for their inspection. If they don't like what they see and hear, they hit a button and they're out of the running for a date with the guy. Then the guy decides who he wants to go out with.

Just as offensive as The Choice, this time it's the men who are objectified and the women made to look like idiots. These idiotic guys, all chosen for their looks of course, are trotted out like cows at a county fair. In both cases, they end up being milked. The girls are all stupid, many becoming disinterested when the men express interest such horrifying things as camping and the outdoors in general.

With these shows, Thursdays has become a summer wasteland not worth the time it takes you to turn the TV on.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pilot Review: Longmire

Longmire (Sundays at 10:00 on A&E)

Longmire is just what I need on a Sunday night at 10:00. After a long work week, followed by a packed-busy weekend, Longmire is the warm milk/chamomile tea/Ambien of television, sure to put one to sleep in mere minutes and ensure a productive beginning to Monday mornings.

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is the sheriff of a sleepy Wyoming town. He's shirked nearly all his responsibilities for the past year, when his wife passed away. The whole town is worried about him, including his deputy sheriff (Bailey Chase), who is planning to run against his mentor in the next election; his new deputy something-or-other Vic (Katee Sackhoff); his daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman); and best friend Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips).

That's it. Longmire is the sheriff of a town in the middle of nowhere, and there are a bunch of people worried about him. Yes, seriously, that's the throughline of Longmire. The pilot introduces a by-the-numbers mystery about a dead man found shot in the mountains with a rare shotgun, as well as some tensions with a local Native American reservation. But it's not at all interesting. This is clearly A&E's attempt to cash in on the success of FX's Justified, a much better and more successful Western procedural (incidentally, both are based on book series). But whereas Justified has a complex central figure and enough action to string the more subdued scenes together, Longmire is simple and often seems interminable. The pilot ran over 50 minutes, and each moment was like staring a general store painting of a country landscape. Nothing really happens; there's no excitement, no challenge for the audience.

The performances are mostly one-note, particularly the one from leading man Robert Taylor. Taylor is an Australian actor best known for a supporting role in The Matrix. He plays Longmire by the books. He's every bit the stoic, unemotional, possibly-alcoholic, distant Marlboro man you'd expect from a show about a Wyoming sheriff. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) has some cute moments in the pilot's first few minutes, but she all but disappears in the episode's middle. Lou Diamond Phillips plays a Native American bartender trying to get Longmire back in the love game, but he doesn't get much to do either. That actually goes for the entire supporting cast; they are 100% given the backseat to establish Longmire as a character, even though there's not much to establish. Bailey Chase (Saving Grace) gets the most intriguing character, one that will hopefully develop well as a counter to Longmire, especially if they play up the betrayal angle of their relationship. The best scene in the entire episode is courtesy of Cassidy Freeman (Smallville) as Longmire's daughter, delivering the only emotion to be seen in the entirety of the pilot. She is delicate and careful around her father, and we get more of a sense of her character than of anyone else's in those few minutes.

I can't say that I recommend Longmire, unless you are looking for a TV show to put you to sleep. On that level, it's a success. But as entertainment, there's simply nothing to be found. It's all sweeping flatlands, snow-covered mountains and dusty roads set to a loud, twangy, obnoxious score. There's no substance, nothing to make me want to come back.