Lunchtable TV Talk: Forever & Second Chance

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TV is saturated with shows that tell some variation of the immortality/reviving someone from death story. Some are better than others. The two most recent (at least that I bothered to watch) – Forever and Second Chance – couldn’t be more different. (Penny Dreadful crossed into this category to some extent, but it is an entirely different… monster. And it suffered greatly from a huge buildup that led to a rushed and unfortunate, low-satisfaction ending after three unhurried seasons.) Like Dreadful, both Forever and Second Chance ended up prematurely cancelled – in their cases, after a mere single season.

Forever, starring the charming Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd – who made a star turn in the latest season of UnREAL – in the lead and Judd Hirsch – who has recently made his curmudgeonly mark in The Goldbergs and Maron –  in an excellent supporting role, actually had the story and the writing to make the idea of a man who can’t die – and keeps “reanimating” after every death. In the form of flashbacks we find out how he got immortality as well as piece together his relationship with Hirsch and so on. Flashbacks can be the most grating part of many shows, but they were effective in Forever because they helped give us a piece of the puzzle. The show was engaging enough that we wanted those pieces.

Second Chance, though, apart from the presence of Tim DeKay (of White Collar fame)… did not deserve a first, let alone, second chance. It was this improbable concoction of improbable stories and people. Loosely crafted around the Frankenstein theme, it was all over the place. I would describe how except that it is not worth my time or yours. Especially since it’s over before it really began.

What fascinates me is the constant urge to resuscitate this idea of bringing the dead back to life or creating some form of immortality, especially when all the cultural works about everlasting life show that it is often more painful than anything else.

Photo (c) 2010 James Adamson

TV: The understated villain

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Does anyone remember the TV sitcom Dear John? Newly divorced John Lacey (Judd Hirsch, appearing these days in Forever) joins a support group, which is full of its own oddball characters. But the most memorable character is the slimy, would-be “ladies man” “Kirk” played by Jere Burns. Back then, who would have thought that Burns would show up just about everywhere as shady, menacing villains who appear so unassuming that they just slip under the radar? In the last decade, Burns has turned up in these kinds of roles so many times I can’t count. When I caught his turn in Bates Motel, I had to think, of course, of his long-running role in Justified playing exactly the same kind of criminal and his equally surreptitious bad guy role in Burn Notice. (He has also turned up in roles, such as in Breaking Bad, as Jesse’s rehab group leader, but these roles are not the ones in which Burns shines.)

I love this guy.

Lunchtable TV Talk – Forever: Cop immortality

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Why is the idea of immortality appealing? Better yet, why is it so appealing to make one-hour, New York-based law enforcement procedurals that center on an immortal player? Forever, starring Ioan Gruffudd, as a medical examiner who cannot die, entertainment value aside, is not the first of its kind. New Amsterdam, starring Game of ThronesNikolaj Coster-Waldau (see Scandinavian men of TV), came first – way back in 2008.

What is the appeal? And why this appeal within this particularly genre?

Not resoundingly loved and on the bubble as to its renewal, this is one of those shows that I improbably like. It could be the appeal of the lead, Gruffudd. It could also be the combination of the present-day appeal of Judd Hirsch and the nostalgic reminder of Hirsch at his best back in the years when Taxi was on TV. Off the subject – my brother recently wrote to me basically out of nowhere to command: “Think of the Taxi theme song.” I asked why. His response: “Because it was funny.” Haha. He did not remember a whole lot about the show and had no idea that the show’s theme song was called “Angela”. As a semi-complete encyclopedia about TV shared that info as well as discussing specific episodes of the show, trying to trigger his memory.

I cannot really explain how or why – but I enjoy this show, even if I don’t think about it much or analyze it. It’s just nice filler.

Sweet TV

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