Monday, January 26, 2009

Masterpiece Classic: The Season of...Misery?

I'd never read Tess of the d'Urbervilles before it aired on Masterpiece Classic early this month, although I had a vague idea of its storyline. I'm planning on reading it now but reading the book after seeing an adaptation generally isn't that ideal. Regardless, I did really enjoy this production...well, as much as one can enjoy something that's this relentlessly depressing.

Of course, this isn't the fault of the adaptation. It all starts all happy enough, with a teenaged Tess dancing in the fields and glimpsing a handsome young man. But it really all goes to shit pretty fast. The "villain" in the story is manipulative, obsessive, and stalker-ish Alec d'Urberville, played pretty creepily by Hans Matheson, who the New York Times (of all publications) called an "19th century Chuck Bass." (More like pilot Chuck Bass though, not Blair-and-Chuck Chuck.)

But the supposed good guy, Angel Clare (ok, did clergymen back then really give their sons ridiculous names like Angel??), isn't all that wonderful either, as he's obsessed with the idea of Tess being "pure" despite the fact that he had a premarital affair too. Angel is played by Eddie Redmayne, who's not really all that conventionally good-looking but he was alright. Tess is played by Gemma Arterton, and I was pretty impressed by her for the most part. At the end though, when Angel returns, she was a little less convincing and I'm not sure I really bought her rage, but the story is just so devastating at that point anyway. Depressing!

Moving on to another destructive love story, a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights aired for the past two weeks. I actually read this book for the first time last year without ever having seen any movie versions of it. The book was actually pretty surprising to me, especially knowing that it was written by a young single woman in the 1800s. The characters are just all so passionate and wild and living by their own rules, it's kind of jarring.

I thought this adaptation brought the story a little more down to earth, which was both good and bad. The supernatural stuff was nearly all cut out, but the characters were slightly more likable. In the book, I found Catherine to be really willful and a little crazed, Heathcliff vengeful and bitter to the max, Edgar kind of a wimp, and Isabella very naiive. But this adaptation tempered all that a little. It also changed around the narrative structure a bit, starting with the second generation's part of story before flashing back to the "main" love story.

Tom Hardy, who's apparently something of a heartthrob in Britain, plays Heathcliff, and I thought he was very good, though I don't have other portrayals to compare him to. He was best in the scenes that take place after he returns to Wuthering Heights after a 3 year absence during which he somehow made a fortune and became a "gentleman." His wildness is sort of converted to something more sinister and sadistic and it's definitely creepy. Charlotte Riley does an ok job as Catherine...she didn't play her as as crazy as I thought she would be and the famous "I am Heathcliff" speech was kind of underwhelming. But Andrew Lincoln (from Love Actually!) makes Edgar more of a man, and the younger generation makes their story worth paying attention to. And I loved the visuals of the two houses standing isolated out on the moors, though they too, were kind of depressing...

To end with a bit of humor, here's a hilarious post comparing the older generation in Wuthering Heights to the Dwight-Angela-Andy situation on the Office. In a bizarre way it's actually kind of accurate.

Also, there was someone on TWOP who said that she always thought of the younger generation in Wuthering Heights as the older, more damaged versions of the trio from the Secret Garden. I'd definitely never thought of it that way but that's a pretty apt comparison too, espeically if you've seen any film adaptation of the Secret Garden, where people seem to invariably imagine a future love triangle for Mary, Colin, and Dickon. Mary is the orphan (young Cathy), Colin is the spoiled, sickly cousin (Linton), and Dickon is the hardier, less refined neighbor (Hareton). I mean, there's no mention of romance or anything in the book (it's a children's book after all) but I've always been on Team Dickon myself, since I had a little crush on him in my favorite movie adaptation (the 1993 one) where there was this cute little scene with Mary and Dickon making eyes at eachother on a swing in the garden while a jealous Colin is like, "Hey! HEY!" And I mean, Cathy and Hareton end up being soulmates and getting married, so there's precedent, right??

Saturday, January 17, 2009

BSG and 24: they're back!

Watch out, spoilers for Battlestar Galactica and 24 below!

Just some quick thoughts:

First off, Battlestar Galactica. I can't believe that there's only 10 episodes left, but I have to say they're doing a good job of actually providing answers. Of course, so far, those answers only lead to more questions, but it's definitely getting interesting. I actually really appreciated that they revealed the fifth Cylon this early. I think that no matter who it ended up being it would be a little anticlimactic, but the more I think about it, the more I kind of like that it's Ellen. And all the other revelations...the thirteenth tribe was Cylon? The final five lived on Earth 2000 years ago? Kara's actually dead? And then there was Dee. It was obvious something was up since they began the "previously on" scenes with her when she hasn't really been featured in a long time. I kind of knew she was going to die but the way it happened was just...chilling.

As for 24, I wasn't too sure of what to expect from this season, since I hadn't even finished the last one and I didn't like that Tony was being brought back from the dead to be a bad guy, but I have to say I'm pretty happy so far with what's going down. I mean, Jack, Tony, Bill, and Chloe, all my favorite characters in the 24-verse, working together? AWESOME! I'm also pretty amused by the addition of Janeane Garofalo as the FBI version of Chloe. I wonder if a Chloe-Janis faceoff is coming? I'm also liking Agent Walker and hope she gets brought into the plan soon. I'm not so sure about the White House personnel's just all kind of dull compared to what's going on with Jack. Although, that Agent Gedge is kind of cute, is he the new Aaron Pierce?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New winter TV

There is SO MUCH new TV premiering in the next couple of weeks, and an annoyingly large number of them are on Mondays. WTF? What I'll be watching:

1. Battlestar Galactica. Final season, all will be revealed??

2. 24. It's been quite awhile, and I never finished watching the last season of this show, but I kind of liked the Redemption special so I'm definitely planning on watching. I'm a little upset about Tony coming back from the dead and being evil though because he was one of my favorites. I'm secretly hoping he won't turn out to be truly evil?

3. Damages. Originally I wasn't too keen on a second season of this show, but Glenn Close is so damn good I can't complain.

4. Kyle XY. I can't really explain my love for this show...perhaps it's just the teen sci-fi aspect that isn't found elsewhere on TV anymore. In any case, I'm super excited, especially with reports that it'll be more action-packed.

5. Scrubs. Now on ABC, also possibly the final season? What can I say, it's just kooky and fun and the only medical show I watch.

6. Dollhouse. The new Joss Whedon show with Eliza Dushku. It sounds pretty out there, as one would expect from Joss, and it's been doomed to a Friday night timeslot on FOX, which definitely has no qualms about canceling shows right away, and at the same time I wonder if it's been hyped up too much. I remain optimistic though and I can't wait.

7. Friday Night Lights. The season has already been airing on DirecTV but now it's finally coming to NBC. I think it's likely this is the last season but really I'm just thankful we got to a third one at all.

8. The Bachelor. I know, I'm ridiculous. But I really did like Jason from the last season of the Bachelorette....I thought he was truly decent and it sucked that he got down on one knee to propose and then got rejected. I think it'll be interesting to see how he deals with being the one to have to date multiple people now because he seems very honest and genuine. God knows why I still have hope that he found someone for real when the show's track record basically sucks.

9. America's Best Dance Crew. I don't think I mentioned it but I went to the live tour this past fall and it was really pretty awesome. I wasn't a faithful viewer either the first or second seasons but I might tune in this season. Especially with reports that Dominic and Hok from So You Think You Can Dance season 3 and their crew might be on it.

10. Bromance/The City. Yeah, it just gets worse. But I woke up at 3am last night and couldn't sleep and found Bromance on the air. And it was just really kind of hilarious. (Apparently this show and Momma's Boys were both developed by Ryan Seacrest. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that nugget.) As for The City...I stopped watching The Hills last year because I just couldn't handle Speidi anymore and all of Lauren's self-righteous friendship drama was becoming intolerable, but I always liked Whitney. That said, I'm kind of surprised she agreed to headline her own show because she was always a bit guarded about her personal life. Now she's inviting this weird level of manufactured-ness into her life...I mean, Olivia Palermo is apparently a pretty well-known New York socialite who was basically cast on the show to be Whitney's co-worker, and Whitney met Jay, her Australian musician love interest, on camera and had to kind of ask him if it was ok to have their relationship chronicled on reality TV. Which makes me kind of wonder if he really likes her or if he just wants to be on TV?

11. Big Love. Hm, I haven't finished watching the last season of this show either, and honestly sometimes all the stuff with Roman and Alby and such loses my interest but at this point I'm basically invested in the characters so I will probably keep up.

12. Reaper. Does anyone remember this show? I thought it kind of grew into its own towards the end of its first season and I'm glad it's coming back.

Plus new season of The Amazing Race, Masterpiece Classic, and all the other shows I watched this DVR is going to be super busy and thank goodness for and other online streaming!