Orange is the New Black

I almost didn’t give Orange is the New Black a chance, based simply on hating the title. It suggested to me that we’d be watching “Elle Woods Goes to the Big House.” I envisioned a main character who would apply for dispensation to wear Manolos with her jumpsuit, or teach her cell mates whatever is the 2013 equivalent of the bend-and-snap.

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A show about a woman going to prison, produced exclusively for Netflix, could as well go the other way: all rape-y and terrifying. Also not something I was eager to embrace.

Somehow, this show–evidenced by the pilot–pulls off a delicate balance of realism, drama and humor. I was surprised at how much I laughed. More amazing, it actually made me, an average middle-class white woman look at the central character, Piper (Taylor Schilling), and think, “That could be me.” If, somehow, I had done something in my past that came back to bite me in the ass, I would totally go on Amazon and buy books to prepare for prison. Continue reading

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Castle

castle pilotIn this postmodern television landscape, a lot of shows are attempting the meta; Castle does meta as well or better than any show on TV. At the moment there are four books available (in the real world) by fake author Richard Castle about fake detective Nikki Heat, based on fake detective Kate Beckett, which have real reviews on Amazon by the likes of real mystery writer James Patterson. There are also a couple of books featuring Rick Castle’s earlier character Derrick Storm, and a comic book, Palace, about (if I have this straight) an actor who played a detective on TV and then used the knowledge gained to become a real detective. Can Nathan Fillion, private dick, be far off? Continue reading

The Good Wife

The central character in The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick (Juliana Marguiles), doesn’t speak a word for the first three minutes she is on screen, but we learn a great deal about her. The first thing we see is her hand, clasped in that of a man. The two people walk to a podium in front of a sea of faces and cameras. It takes only seconds to paint the picture: Alicia, pale and drawn in a conservative grey suit, is the husband of a disgraced public figure. Her husband, Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), the State’s Attorney of Illinois, has been caught up in a sex scandal and resigned. Alicia stands dutifully beside him, the “good wife” the title has promised us. Continue reading

Bones

I must start by saying this is my favorite show currently on TV. It’s funny, suspenseful, well-written, and demands some level of viewer commitment to follow, to say nothing of the eye candy.

What I love about the pilot is it doesn’t feel like a pilot. Special Agent Sealy Booth (David Boreanaz) and Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) have worked together before. They don’t like each other much, but there is respect, and none of that weirdly forced sexual tension usually found on shows where a man and a woman are partners. (Suggestions of romance come later for these two.)

We meet secondary character Angela first. She flashes her boobs to a clerk for information at Dulles airport. Brennan is flying in from Guatemala, where she was identifying remains in a mass grave, and she gets detained by Homeland Security for having a skull in her bag. It turns out Booth is behind this embarrassing little episode. He needed to snatch her up to help with a potentially high-profile murder case.

And, we’re into the week’s (largely forgettable) mystery. Do we care who murdered a congressional intern? Not really. Do we care how this seasoned FBI agent and genius scientist are going to work together? Hell yeah; the show is now in its fifth season.

Always with this show, the B Plot is far more interesting than the A Plot. The A Plot serves as a backdrop on which to paint character traits. In this mystery, for example, we learn that Booth is tactful, even reverent, when dealing with a victim’s family. Bones would rather lay out all the facts, feelings be damned. But nothing about these character development tactics is unique to the pilot. With every episode, the characters grow. In my opinion, Booth and Bones’ relationship doesn’t even begin to hit its stride until episode 15, when Booth saves Bones’ life for the first time.

We get briefly introduced to the other “squints,” Jack and Zach, and their boss, Dr. Goodman, who only lasted one season. We have plenty of time to learn about all of them.

The pilot gives us one quintessential moment to hang onto throughout the series; indeed I believe it was used in commercials for the show throughout Season 1. Booth: “C’mon, we’re Scully and Mulder.” Bones: “I don’t know what that means.” She doesn’t. Her ignorance of pop culture is used as a joke again and again. Oh, right, the pilot also includes Bones’ ex-boyfriend showing up to reclaim his TV. We see that Bones isn’t likely to miss him or it.