Lunchtable TV Talk: Lucifer

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A few years ago, I had an ill-advised entanglement of sorts with a British guy, and the smarmy voice and overly confident, cheeky accent on the Lucifer lead reminds me so much of him and his shenanigans. He, king of “bobbing and weaving” his way through life, whether by his own wits or by manipulating and using other people, has rather turned my general views on English people from pleasant to … well, puke-inducing. Listening to them makes me feel sick – especially if they sound like this. When the lead actor says, “Previously on Lucifer…” at the start of each episode, I cringe. This was reason number one for not giving Lucifer the time of day.

But then add to it, reason two for not wanting to follow the show: the female lead, Lauren German, who is one of the worst, least believable actresses on TV today. This lack of skill could be disguised to some extent in German’s previous role in the ensemble cast of Chicago Fire. She did not have the carry half the load of the entire show… and she does not succeed in carrying half the load here either. Tom Ellis as Lucifer sucks all the oxygen out of the room and thus is the undisputed star. And the surrounding constellation of supporting actors also outshine German – from Kevin Alejandro as German’s character’s ex-husband and fellow detective to Rachael Harris (best known to this point as Louis Litt’s Harvard-obsessed former love, Sheila Sazs, in Suits) as Lucifer’s therapist.

I won’t get into the crime-of-the-week, procedural nature of the Lucifer show or the supernatural doubts of the Lucifer character. Lucifer, in the end, is the only reason to watch. Somehow, he is engaging as a classical narcissist (much like my own British “friend”). Eventually you have to break away lest you get swallowed whole.

I had not really thought much of this show in a while (it’s away on summer break), but I was driving home recently and a song came on, one of the gems that my own British Lucifer-wanna-be created, that made me think suddenly of this sneering, lascivious sounding “Previously on Lucifer” intro. Suddenly I was thinking about how my manipulative British acquaintance so readily mirrored TV’s Lucifer in his insistence and demand, in his attempts to lure innocents down his own dark paths. I shuddered, really, remembering spending time with this person – even though I never traveled down these paths, I’ve seen and heard about the people who have. I don’t think I need a TV show that echoes that experience. Nevertheless, when Lucifer returns next week (Sept 19th premiere), I will probably end up watching. God help me.

Photo (c) 2005 by Sophie.

Lunchtable TV Talk – The Returned – I am not returning

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I like seeing Battlestar Galactica alums in current TV shows, but for every Grace Park kicking ass on Hawaii Five-0 or Katee Sackhoff solving crimes in an equally kick-ass fashion on Longmire (am I alone in being beyond relieved about Longmire being saved by Netflix after its merciless killing at A&E’s hands?), there’s something sort of dreadful, like Tricia Helfer (and Michael Trucco) in the rightfully short-lived Killer Women – or Aaron Douglas in The Returned. These misfires aren’t the faults of Helfer, Trucco or Douglas. The shows they’re in just aren’t good.

I am always impressed with Aaron Douglas – and his performance in The Returned is as good as any of his work. It’s just that the show doesn’t quite cut it. I have not seen the original French Les Revenants but tend to believe the original source material usually can’t be beat or recreated (with notable exception – I was quite taken with the US version of The Bridge, for example). The Returned, at its most basic, is about individuals who return suddenly from the dead and the effects this return has on the community in which these resurrections take place. Five episodes in, I don’t really know what’s going to happen but am not interested enough to care.

I love some of the actors in the US version of The Returned. I’ve already cited Douglas; Jeremy Sisto is masterfully diverse; Kevin Alejandro is a pop-up-everywhere kind of guy. India Ennenga is not bad either – her role in HBO’s Treme explored (as much as that giant ensemble of loosely intersecting stories could) teenage grief and identity. Oh, and I almost forgot – the inimitable Michelle Forbes! She dominates (in a good way) everything she’s in – had nearly forgotten her Battlestar connection. She almost makes me want to keep watching The Returned… but not quite.

But I don’t have enough time to keep watching things for which I don’t feel either love or hate. Just a few actors I happen to like isn’t reason to tune in. I’ve chronicled my hate-watching and desire to give up some of the shows, like The Following, that cry out for ridicule. I’ve also written about shows I love. But the mediocre middle ground, where shows like The Returned live, isn’t a place I want to spend more time.