Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Week in TV: September 20 - 24

This past week was a big premiere week for a lot of new & returning shows.  Overall, it was pretty good.
I was most excited to see the return of Chuck, and while the season 4 premiere itself wasn't mind-blowing, it showed just how well the writers are keeping the forward momentum started back in the season 2 finale.  From the previews they showed after the episode and some spoilers I've read online, I get the feeling I'm going to like the direction the show takes this year.  I like that Chuck & Sarah are truly together and will remain that way all season (and hopefully the duration of the entire series) and that the will-they/won't-they nature of their relationship is finally over.
Hawaii Five-0 was the last show I got around to watching but had the 2nd best episode of the week.  I don't know if I'll retain interest in a procedural cop show week after week, but they had an impressive premiere.  I still don't see how they pulled off one stunt in which the main character does a running slide across the trunk of a car while that car is simultaneously rear-ended by another car -- and with the slider looking like the main character, not a stunt man.  My guess is there was some CG work involved, but it sure looked seamless.  In addition to the stunts, the story, characters, performances, casting, dialogue, and scenery were all good too.
Parenthood remains strong.  There’s not even much I can elaborate on.  In general, I just love the actors, the characters, and the storylines so far.
Fringe focused it's season 3 premiere almost entirely on the over-here Olivia stuck in the over-there universe.  Consequently, there wasn't enough time with over-here's Walter or Peter to give the episode sufficient quirkiness or heart.  However, the cab driver character that helped Olivia evade her captors helped out in the heart department by becoming a trusted sidekick, even if he was forced into it.  Supposedly, the show is going to alternate episodes between the two universes, so next week we should get more time with the over-here Walter & Peter and the over-there Olivia (a.k.a. Bad Olivia, Bolivia, Not Olivia, Nolivia, Faux-livia) who's secretly embedded herself over here.
Warehouse 13 ended its 2nd season with an episode that had a goofy plot, the disappointing revelation of the H.G. Wells character as being neither good nor evil but just plain insane, and the equally disappointing split between Pete and his girlfriend played by the gorgeous Paula Garces (who may replace Lauren Graham as having the best hair ever).  Maybe the split isn't permanent and she'll return next season.  I hope so.  Despite the goofy plot, I've come to appreciate the show for its quirky characters, increasingly frequent comic relief, and occasionally clever dialogue.  The characters have also bonded well enough that they feel like a family.  Myka leaving Warehouse 13 is no doubt temporary, but it made for a nice bit of tension at the end.
As for the other shows...  Undercovers seems to have potential.  Cougar Town is no better or worse than it was before.  The Event was pretty good although a little boring until the end, many viewers have complained online about the story bouncing around in time too much, and I think I may already have a plausible theory as to what the big "event" is.  House was well-acted, well-produced, and well-directed as usual, but I just don't buy the new romantic relationship between House & Cuddy.  I hope it hasn't jumped the shark.  I continue to have a love-hate relationship with Glee, and the season premiere was all over the map.  I really don't think the writers quite know what to do with the characters, but they're determined to take them in completely different directions every single episode.
My ranks & scores for this week's shows:
01.  (A-)  Chuck  (season 4 premiere)
02.  (B+)  Hawaii Five-0  (series premiere)
03.  (B+)  Parenthood  (s2 ep02)
04.  (B)  Fringe  (season 3 premiere)
05.  (B)  Warehouse 13  (s2 ep12, season finale)
06.  (B)  Undercovers  (series premiere)
07.  (B-)  Cougar Town  (season 2 premiere)
08.  (B-)  The Event  (series premiere)
09.  (B-)  House  (season 7 premiere)
10.  (B-)  Survivor  (s21 ep02)
11.  (B-)  The Colony  (s2 ep09, penultimate episode)
12.  (B-)  Kate Plus 8  (s1 ep04)
13.  (C+)  Glee  (season 2 premiere)
Best Moments:
  • Chuck:  A captured & tied-up Sarah trying to type an urgent text message to Chuck using her toes.
  • Hawaii Five-0:  Several mind-blowing stunts, most involving vehicles, but the best one being the trunk slide explained above.
  • Parenthood:  Adam walks in his front door to see his wife consoling a sobbing friend who’s going through a separation, that woman’s son jumping on a trampoline indoors, and his own son being hyper and making constant noise with an annoying whistle.  Adam just backs out quietly, goes out to his car, reclines the seat, and listens to the radio.
  • Parenthood:  Adam comes home another night to see his house messy but empty.  A note from his wife says she’s taken the kids, including the annoying trampoline kid, out to eat so that he can have some quiet time.  He reclines on the sofa with a beer and starts to watch TV but realizes something isn’t right.  Next, you see his family at the restaurant, and Adam walks in and joins them.
  • Fringe:  Even after Olivia let him go, the cab driver still hung around to see what happened to Olivia.
  • Warehouse 13:  Claudia starting to cry because Artie got shot.  They really are forming a pseudo father-daughter type relationship.
  • Warehouse 13:  Pete getting emotional and not being able to hear the rest of Myka's resignation letter after she calls him the best big brother she never had.  They could have gone the romantic route with Pete & Myka, but I very much prefer them continuing with their relationship being more like brother & sister.
  • House:  Any scene involving Cuddy without her clothes on (and, there were several).
  • Glee:  The short cheerleader with Down Syndrome (I think) delivering some hilarious commentary during Finn's embarrassing audition for the Cheerios squad.
  • A "You Again" commercial during Glee:  Betty White, co-star of the new movie "You Again," saying, "Okay, I'm going to level with you...  Glee Club was for dorks."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Top "100" List of Greatest TV Characters of the Last 20 Years (Well, The Top 38 I've Finished Ranking So Far)

A few months ago, when Entertainment Weekly published their list of 100 greatest characters of the last 20 years, I started making my own list of best TV characters.  I had to stop because I got so bogged down in my own grading system that I found it too hard to narrow down to 100 and then properly rank them -- without driving myself crazy.  When I last left off, I had only nailed down the top 38.

Now, the TV Guide Network has assembled their top 25 greatest TV characters, but you have to watch to learn who they picked.  So, I thought I'd publish my list, even if it's not finished yet.  I don't have 100 ranked yet, but I have more than TV Guide.  So, below is my top 38 all-time best character list.  Maybe, I'll actually finish the list some day.  And, if I do, I can't guarantee the top 38 will still be in this same order.  But, for now (and yes, I am a geek)...

38.  Ranger Marcus Cole  (Babylon 5)
37.  James "Sawyer" Ford  (Lost)
36.  Attache Vir Cotto  (Babylon 5)
35.  Chief of Staff Leo McGarry  (The West Wing)
34.  Attorney Douglas Wambaugh  (Picket Fences)
33.  Detective George Francisco  (Alien Nation)
32.  Colonel Jack O'Neill  (StargateSG-1)
31.  Dr. John "J.D." Dorian  (Scrubs)
30.  Benjamin Linus  (Lost)
29.  Hugo "Hurley" Reyes  (Lost)
28.  Admiral William Adama  (Battlestar Galactica)
27.  Rory Gilmore  (Gilmore Girls)
25.  (tie)  Judge Henry Bone  (Picket Fences)
25.  (tie)  Dr. Juliet Burke  (Lost)
23.  (tie)  Dr. Jack Shepherd  (Lost)
23.  (tie)  John Locke  (Lost)
22.  Press Secretary C.JCregg  (The West Wing)
21.  CIA Agent Chuck Bartowski  (Chuck)
20.  Detective Vic Mackey  (The Shield)
18.  (tie)  Dr. Sam Beckett  (Quantum Leap)
18.  (tie)  Attorney Ally McBeal  (Ally McBeal)
17.  Captain Malcolm Reynolds  (Firefly TV series / Serenity feature film)
16.  Dr. Gregory House  (House, M.D.)
15.  Attorney John Cage  (Ally McBeal)
14.  Attorney Allan Shore  (The Practice & Boston Legal)
13.  Lieutenant Worf  (Star Trek: The Next Generation & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
10.  (tie)  Lieutenant Commander Data  (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
10.  (tie)  Constable Odo  (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
10.  (tie)  Luke Danes  (Gilmore Girls)
09.  Commander Susan Ivanova  (Babylon 5)
08.  Security Chief Michael Garibaldi  (Babylon 5)
07.  Captain John Sheridan  (Babylon 5)
06.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard  (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
05.  President Josiah "JedBartlet  (The West Wing)
04.  Lorelai Gilmore  (Gilmore Girls)
03.  Ambassador Delenn  (Babylon 5)
02.  Ambassador Londo Mollari  (Babylon 5)
01.  Ambassador G'Kar  (Babylon 5)

And, without listing the individual characters, the remaining candidates for a future top 100 will likely come from the following additional shows:

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Commander-in-Chief, Crusade, Fringe, Highlander: The Series, Jericho, Leverage, Men In Trees, Moonlight, The O.C., The Practice, South Park, and The 4400.


So, who do you think are the best TV characters???  Where do you agree or disagree with my list?  Let me know.


And, in case you're wondering what my overly-analytical, super-neurotic grading system is...

Using Apple Numbers (the Mac version of MS Excel), I kept a spreadsheet of my list of characters, the shows they were in, my grading categories, etc...

 - I listed the total number of TV seasons in which each character appeared in one or more shows
 - I listed the number of TV movies and/or feature films in which each character appeared in a separate column
 - I graded each character on a scale of 1 to 13 in the following five categories (with 13 = A+, 9 = B, 5 = C-, 1 = F, etc.)

  • Significance:  How significant was the character to the overall concept and/or story arc of the show.
  • Depth/Eloquence:  How "deep," emotional, multi-faceted, and/or articulate was the character.
  • Character Development:  How much did the character grow, change, improve, evolve, devolve, cope with, or have their backstory revealed.
  • Performance:  How well did the actor/actress play the role.
  • Like-ability:  How likable, cool, relatable, honorable, or humorous was the character.

Lastly, the Overall Weighted Score for each character was, rounded to two decimal places, the sum of the following:
  • 6 X Significance
  • 5 X Depth/Eloquence
  • 4 X Character Development
  • 3 X Performance
  • 2 X Like-ability
  • 1 X Longevity  (square root of # of TV seasons plus square root of # of movies, rounded to 2 decimal places)

I let Pages do the calculating & sorting for me.  All I had to do was plug in the numbers.

Ambassador G'Kar from Babylon 5 got a perfect score of 13 in the "big 5" categories and a decent 3.97 in Longevity, for a total of 263.97.  I made him the standard bearer because there was no way he wasn't going to be in the #1 spot.

Lead characters (Pres. Bartlet, Vic Mackey), "captain" type characters (Picard, Sheridan, Mal, Adama, O'Neill), and characters for whom a show is named (Lorelai & Rory Gilmore, House, Ally McBeal) automatically got a 13 in Significance.  Because they each represent the culture of an entire race, I also gave 13s to the three main alien ambassadors from Babylon 5.  Usually, if a non-lead character was part of an ensemble but in the opening credits for most seasons, they got somewhere between 10 & 12 in Significance.

In Depth/Eloquence, only G'Kar and Boston Legal's Allan Shore got 13s.  Londo Mollari, Delenn, Lorelai Gilmore, President Bartlet, Captain Picard, and Judge Bone all got 12s.

In Character Development, only G'Kar and Londo got 13s.  Delenn, Sheridan, Worf, Luke Danes, Odo, Locke, Jack, Sawyer, Rory Gilmore, Willow Rosenberg (Buffy:tVS), and Duncan McLeod (Highlander: The Series) got 12s.  And, yes, I struggled with whether to give Worf a 12 or 13.  With his other categories high, a 13 in Char Dev pushes him into the top 10, which I felt was crowded enough already.  But, part of me thinks he still deserves it.

For Performance by the actor/actress that played them, I gave 13s to G'Kar, Londo, President Bartlet, Ben Linus, Juliet Burke, House, Allan Shore, and Admiral Adama.  I gave 12s to Delenn, Lorelai Gilmore, Vic Mackey, Ally McBeal, Picard, Data, John Cage, Emily Gilmore, Sam Beckett, Capt. "Mal" Reynolds, and Judge Bone.

For Like-ability, I only gave 13s to G'Kar and Dr. Juliet Burke (in retrospect, I may have had Lost fever at the time), and I gave way too many 12s to list.  (If I ever try to finish the top 100, this may be the category I need to go back and tweak the most.)  Characters meant to be obnoxious, annoying, morally ambiguous, or downright villainous got low to mediocre scores in Like-ability, but characters like Sawyer, Douglas Wambaugh, Ben Linus, Vic Mackey, House, and Londo Mollari still made top averages thanks to high scores in other categories.

And, the winners of the Longevity Score were:
5.32  Lt./Lt. Cmdr. Worf  (7 seasons ST:TNG; 4 seasons ST:DS9; 4 feature films)
4.74  Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Stan's dad from South Park  (14 seasons; 1 feature film)
4.73  Capt./Major/Lt. Col./Col. Samantha Carter  (10 seasons Stargate: SG-1; 1 season Stargate: Atlantis; 2 DVD movies)
4.65  Most of the cast of Star: The Next Generation  (7 seasons; 4 feature films)
4.61  Kenny from South Park  (absent one season compared to the other boys)
4.58  Teal'c from Stargate: SG-1  (same as Samantha Carter minus the year on Atlantis)
4.45  Dr. Beverly Crusher from ST:TNG  (same as others except absent in season 2)
4.41  Dr. Daniel Jackson from Stargate: SG-1  (same as Teal'c except absent in most of season 6)
4.00  Captain John Sheridan from Babylon 5  (4 seasons; 3 TV movies; 1 DVD movie)
3.97  G'Kar, Delenn, Garibaldi, and Dr. Franklin from Babylon 5  (5 seasons; 3 TV or DVD movies each)
3.83  Col./Gen. Jack O'Neill from Stargate: SG-1  (8 seasons; 1 DVD movie; not counting the Kurt Russell version from the feature film that started the franchise)
3.74  Leopold "Butters" Stotch from South Park  (14 seasons)
3.65  Londo Mollari from Babylon 5  (5 seasons; 2 TV movies)
3.61  Tweak from South Park  (13 seasons)
3.46  Chief Miles O'Brien  (5 seasons ST:TNG; 7 seasons ST:DS9)