“The Hills”: Season 2 Review

Since my mid-season review, The Hills just kept getting better. Even though the second season trailer contained a hint of the growing split between best friends Lauren and Heidi, I didn’t think it would cumulate into the two ultimately not speaking to each other.

Unlike at the end of season 1, the show was renewed for a third even before the season finale aired. Thus the editors were granted the opportunity to create a cliffhanger – namely, the result of Whitney’s job interview. I like the inadvertent parallel of Heidi and Spencer’s new living arrangements with Lauren and Jason’s summer accommodation storyline last year. Will season three open with a newly single gal too? I also have to say that the shot of a penseive Heidi in the side mirror of the moving van as she departed was so perfect you have to wonder if it was pre-planned.

Lastly, echoing a frustration all viewers must share, how can Heidi remain with Spencer even after his blunt playboy confession? On some level, young love can explain some of her tunnel vision, but there comes a point where the sympathy becomes exasperation at her naïveté, blindness, or at worst, docile acceptance of his cheating tendencies.

If the recent Lauren/Jason sex tape scandal or Heidi’s breast implants and rhinoplasty gossip are any indication, there will be much to follow even before season 3 airs.

“Laguna Beach”: Season 1 Review

As I’ve been immobile over the last few days, I’ve finally had the time to watch, from beginning to end, the first season of Laguna Beach.

In contrast to season 2, the drama really wasn’t as entertaining, and the storylines were slim – reduced to the Kristin-Stephen-Lauren love triangle. As a whole, the season demonstrated an expected learning curve for its inaugural year, as in my opinion, it didn’t hit its stride on manipulative editing, music selection, and episode-to-episode cliffhanger creation until the penultimate “The First to Go” (including a heartbreaker of a scene between Kristin and Stephen, who surprisingly end up as the show’s emotional anchor).

Other thoughts:

  • I was impressed with Trey’s thirst for activism, especially in the face of Laguna’s stereotypical consumerist culture and seemingly apathetic climate.
  • Though they weren’t billed characters, I really hoped to see more of Dieter and Jessica (as a couple or as individuals) – before Jessica’s descent into the land of the jealous and needy in season 2 (and really, how cute was Dieter’s prom-posal?).
  • I loved Lo(!) and thought she was edited to be one of the most grounded girls in Laguna.
  • I enjoyed the “foreshadowing” of Lauren’s interest in fashion (the producers really couldn’t have set up The Hills better if they tried), but I really can do without hearing her utter the phrase “best friend” ever again.
  • Based on the deleted scenes, the editors really could have highlighted Trey and Morgan’s college selection processes, especially since they were both initially rejected by their first choices. This would have been a great opportunity to expose the very impressionable 14-16 sect of the audience to post-secondary applications, but this plotline was likely shafted in favor of more time for the aforementioned love triangle.
  • For anyone who hasn’t had a gander at the DVDs, they are worth a look purely for the sequence of “Laguna Beach Interviews” on the third disc. Questions such as “What does hooking up mean?” or (to Lo), “Did you ever tell Lauren to just get over Stephen?” are granted a mock-serious tone with its white-on-black panel display format.

Some may think I wasted precious hours of my life, and while I will admit that an entire season in two days was a bit much, Laguna ultimately shirked my need for painkillers.

“Prison Break”: Season 2 Review

Based on my excitement early on in the season, I don’t think the rest of the episodes this year fulfilled the expectations that I had built up. I don’t know if I like the fact that Michael ended up, full-circle of sorts, back in prison. Nor am I sure about the descent into science fiction or X-Files territory as Megan said (if that’s what the white-light was supposed to allude to). And poor Kellerman…it took a while for me to believe that his 180 degree turn was genuine, but Paul Adelstein really sold the performance at the end.

Even more disappointing, TPTB at FOX decided to renew the show for a third season. It’s really hard to take the show seriously now when it is common knowledge that Prison Break was conceived as a 44-episode run – all subsequent material is a stretch. Though I guess I really won’t be able to judge the quality until it airs, and the creator, Paul T. Scheuring, is right to some extent about how networks tend to commodify successes, and I’m sure he will do the best that he can with the opportunity he has been given (from a recent panel interview – scroll down to 8:51pm).

The long wait until the fall begins…

“The Hills”: Mid-Season Review

While I’ve been following the show closely, I haven’t felt the urge to post about The Hills so far this season. Most of the plotlines, including Heidi’s pregnancy scare, Lauren and Brody’s flirtations, and nouVogue‘s intern supreme Emily have been quite unexceptional.

But with last night’s intense fight between Lauren and Heidi, I think the season has found its legs and resonating moment. Though the tension has been building over the last few episodes, it erupted today in Lauren’s ultimatum – Heidi’s choice between her boyfriend or their friendship.

Beyond boy dramas, Laguna Beach and The Hills have both had their share of female cat fights and clique wars. But there’s something about best friends at an impasse that is relatable on a very raw, personal level – voyeurism at its best, with situations playing out in a suspended reality. Producer manipulation and editing aside, it’s just darn good reality television.

I can’t wait for next week!

“Prison Break” Fall Season Review

I’ve never been partial to shows on the basis of a beautiful cast, but it is difficult to overlook Prison Break‘s smokin’ hot men, arguably the most attractive group assembled in recent memory. I mean, Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell and Amaury Nolesco (Sucre!) all on screen simultaneously? Kiefer may be hot, but he’s just one man.

Besides FOX’s monopoly on the pretty, they seem to be doing well with the serial drama concept as well, first with 24 (sixth season to start January 14th) and now Prison Break.

After the “Fox River 8” escaped, I was sure the show would not be able to recover. Little did I know what the writers had in store. Not only did they introduce the determined, ruthless and legally shady Alexander Mahone (played by the amazing William Fichtner), but they also chose the route less traveled with Sara and Michael’s relationship – the yellow brick road shouldn’t come without further discussion of Michael’s betrayal. But best of all, the story has begun to explore the morally and ethically grey areas induced with the release of several guilty inmates along with the innocent ones. I can vouch that the dialogue arising in my beloved forums are darn interesting.

Now for the downside of the season – it’s on hiatus until January 22. What’s a girl to do?

“Studio 60” Reprieve

I was getting ready to write a post titled “In Memoriam: Studio 60” when NBC officially granted the flailing drama a full season on Thursday.

I loved Aaron Sorkin’s previous effort, The West Wing. I quote the show incessantly, compare moments in real life to scenes in an episode, and talk about the characters as if they were actual people. But that’s it – the world Sorkin created was so rich, so palpable, and so true that it’d be a wonder if the audience wasn’t affected in such a way. The characters were three-dimensional, not stock in any sense, and developed gradually over time. Moreover, the political forum was a medium that allowed issues to be brought up and debated, so education ended up an appropriate and inadvertent byproduct of the show.

By contrast, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip seems to be on a mission to force the viewers to not only like the characters, but also to bow down to high-brow television too. The show’s “Big Three” are part-stereotype, part-political touchstone: Harriet is the liberal Christian entertainer, with values that continuously conflict with Hollywood expectations; Simon is the black comic who grew up in the ‘hood, with interest for equal representation behind the scenes; and Tom is the young actor from the Midwest with a brother in Afghanistan and parents who don’t understand his career decision. Critics and the general public alike have chastised the show for being too pushy and pedantic, overindulgent in its adoration for itself. Who really cares about the ratings of a sketch-comedy show, or whether or not a politically incorrect piece makes it on air? Whereas West Wing‘s POTUS dealt with an assassination attempt, impeachment, genocide and terrorism, NBS network chief Jordan McDeere frets over censors, negative publicity, and signing the next bit hit.

Despite my criticism, it hasn’t been all bad. My favorite scene so far is a tender moment between Matt and Harriet, the show’s will-they-or-won’t-they couple, underscored by a lute version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” Lovely.

I will continue to watch simply because it’s Sorkin. However, I do hope that the talk about the show coming down from its pedestal is true – Studio 60‘s longevity depends on it.