Mini Reviews: The Mindy Project, Elementary, Vegas, and Last Resort

M: Hi all, we’ve decided to do a big post with a bunch of mini-reviews for some of the shows we said that we were going to check out in the Fall TV Previews (click here for the Sunday preview, which has links to all the others).

E: Spoilers a plenty below – be warned!

The Mindy Project

E: I thought this was fairly cute.

M: I disagreed, and didn’t last the entire episode.

E: Though I’ve never watched The Office, I immediately warmed to Mindy Kaling.  There’s something weirdly comforting about her squeaky voice.  And Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorite movies; I love the idea of the smart single girl looking for love like she’s seen in the movies.

M: Two things there… never having seen her on The Office, in my opinion, helps you to warm to her. Her character was so grating on that show, and so much of it seems to be in her personality. So even though she wasn’t as grating in this, she reminded me so much of the times that she was. Second, looking for love like she’s seen in the movies would be one thing, trying to force movie-love into reality is different. Though I did like the line about being unsupervised at college meant that she could watch rom-coms whenever she wanted.

E: Me too!  I like her chirpy best friend, played by the sunny Anna Camp, even though I find it moderately unlikely she’d have a child that age (or, if she reproduced that early, only one).  They’re supposed to be 28, right?  Very few people in that age group start their families right out of college even if they get married that early.

M: This is fiction, remember?

E: Which doesn’t mean it has to be dumb.

M: No, but it does mean that it does not need to strictly abide by societal averages.

E: I don’t know yet how I feel about her coworker Dave, the would be guy’s guy, but Mr.E and I got an amusing conversation out of his dating criterion that the man has to be ready to leap out of bed with a baseball bat when things go bump in the night.  Mostly because the things that go bump in our house are our children falling out of bed.

M: I had bailed at that point, but Dave provided the one line that truly cracked me up in the 20 minutes that I did watch when he, at the mention of quibbling sister favorite Downton Abbey “What the hell is this show and why is everyone talking about it!?!?” Oh, and my kids still go bump in the night, too. Even the 12 year old.

E: My least favorite element of the show is her relationship of convenience, let’s say, with hound dog coworker Jeremy. And of course we’re not supposed to be happy about that arrangement.

M: Yeah, that was a factor in my changing the channel.

E: And I have to admit, I forgot to watch the second episode.  We’ll see if I can get on the ball to check out the third.

M: I, however, will not be making that effort, unless I hear really different things from people I trust.

Elementary

E: I found this a huge let down, and let me tell you why. CBS is packaging this show as a comedy, with witty repartee, just like the excellent British revision, Sherlock. It’s not like Holmes has to be funny – Jeremy Brett wasn’t remotely – but the last several incarnations have been, and with Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson, well, I was expected the show to use their natural gifts.  Instead I heard gloomy music, and saw a lot mental illness, tragedy, and a single funny line (“Google. You can’t deduce everything”) which had been played for laughs in the commercials instead shadowed by Liu’s response to it.

M: I had an interesting conversation with a friend about it, where we basically both had the same exact feel and take on the first episode, yet I was disappointed and he was quite pleased. See, like you I had elevated (I won’t say high) hopes, where as he was expecting dreck. We both found it to be one the average side.

E: Even the commercial for the upcoming episode makes it look like a comedy. Damn it, CBS! If you’re not going to deliver on that, stop promising it so I can try to get used to what you’re giving me.

M: Unlike you I didn’t expect, nor do I want, a comedy. I want a great detective, and if there is some witty banter along the way that’s good, but I want a great story of who-dun-it and how’d-he-figure-that-out. It felt to me too much like it was trying to be The Mentalist, and to me if you’re going to put the name Sherlock Holmes in it then no offense to Simon Baker and his show that I thoroughly enjoy, but it had damn well be better than The Mentalist.

E: I’m not saying I wanted it to be The Mentalist, but I suppose Sherlock (which is humorous and deadly serious and smart) has spoiled me.  I guess I was expecting more banter along the way and less doom and gloom.  Something, I don’t know, a tiny bit more zippy, something clever, some sense of the thrill of the chase.  Miller’s wacky and tortured at the same time (something that can work brilliantly – witness Dr. Who) and I don’t feel like the show knows quite how to aim him.  That said, I enjoyed Dallas Roberts’ villainous husband (not because of the role but because of what Roberts did with it), and Aidan Quinn’s solid LeStrade-by-another-name. Call me a purist, though, but I hated that Watson found the clue that solved the case. Not that Watson isn’t supposed to be valuable, of course, but she’s not supposed to notice things that Holmes overlooks.

M: As for the case, it was lame. Through the episode there was one real suspect. There was a prototypical “throw the audience off track” fake suspect, and when he was gone who were we left with as possibilities? Uh, that would be the husband, or as I called him, Miles from Rubicon. Lame. It’s Sherlock Holmes, we deserved better. I’m not bailing yet, but it’s not going to get many more chances if it stays at this level, and that’d be a shame.

E: Update – after episode two, I’m ready to bail.  I solved the mystery when Sherlock did, and I wanted the show to be trickier than that.

M: Haven’t watched the second installment yet, but that’s not a good sign. Like I said, it’s Sherlock Holmes, I expect more than I do from most detective shows. Might not be fair, but they’re exploiting the name to draw people in, so there.

Vegas

E: Now here’s a show I was convinced I wouldn’t like, and only decided to catch at the last minute because of it’s ridiculous abundance of excellent cast members. I’m so not into the gangster thing, or the Vegas thing, or the brutal violence thing. But gosh darn it, this show was good.

M: I agree, I really liked the pilot. Very solid introduction, good set of characters, good set up. The mystery in the first episode was a heck of a lot better than the case Sherlock had to work on in his premiere, so it had that going for it, too. And come on, Dennis Quaid riding a horse down the Las Vegas strip, literally riding into town to save the day… who doesn’t enjoy that?

E: Ummm….. no one?

M: I liked the set up with the mayor being an old army commander of Quaid’s, and of Trinity being his lifelong neighbor now turned ADA. For a corrupt DA, no less, also nice. As expected Jason O’Mara was solid and a good presence, and the interactions between Chicky and Quaid shone. The thing that really reeled me, though, was the scene at the end when Quaid went to see the previously accused boyfriend and offer to help him out. I don’t know if I was expecting much heart from this show, but if they can keep it up they’ll have a very well balanced hit on their hands.

E: Now two episodes in, I’m still really pleased.  Some of the violence bothers me, and if I were Trinity I’d so be flirting with O’Mara rather than Quaid – but all in all, it’s smart, it’s well paced, it’s well acted and exciting.  Good stuff.

Last Resort

E: Okay, now this I really liked.  Do I know how they’re going to sustain this plot, this level of tension, through an entire TV series run? No I do not.  But I don’t care.  As long as they can keep this up, I’m there.

M: I agree, the pilot was REALLY good. I expressed the concern about sustainability in our preview, and I still have it, but I’ve seen plenty of big budget movies that weren’t as good as the pilot.

E: I like Scott Speedman, pining for his wife; I like Jessy Schram (of Falling Skies and Veronica Mars) as the devoted wife. I like the sexy scientist, and I like Bruce Davison showing up as a good guy for once. I like the NATO scientists, and I like the Dollhouse operative masquerading as a bartender. I wish the female officer wasn’t so obviously unsure some of the time, but I like the glints of steel that shine through. Andre Braugher, of course, is just crazy enough as the captain with a conscience.

M: Starting at the end of your list, you know that I’m a sucker for anything that takes its lead from Ronald Reagan, so it has that going for it. Braugher is, as always, terrific. As Mrs M commented, his voice is up there with James Earl Jones, and the man can flat out act.

E: Oooh, he really does have a great voice, doesn’t he?

M: That he does, and is just a great actor. Now, I don’t know Speedman (not a Felicity or Underworld aficionado), but he was good, and I agree that the pining for his wife (who we’ve all liked since VMars) was a very nice touch. The “sexy scientist” seemed over the top to me, and while I liked the actress on No Ordinary Family and even The OC, I found her to be one of the few shallow parts of the show… until she realized the news she’d broken to Bruce Davidson.

E: You watched The O.C.?  Sorry.

M: Only occasional bits and pieces, and for (not despite) the cheese factor. Like watching CSI: Miami as a comedy, it made all the difference.

E: I guess I liked the change of pace she brought (even though of course it was pandering – “let’s make the technical exposition more exciting by having a hot girl deliver it in her underwear”) and I liked her sense of attack, the way she figured out immediately what happened and had the courage to call an Admiral on it.   And then her compassion when she realized he didn’t know.

M: Speaking of which, I thought that was the best performance I’ve seen from Davidson. I really bought his grieving father, and uncontrolled tears when he found out his daughter was still alive.

E: Yes.  I hope we get to see more of him, working within the system to find out who’s essentially staging a coup.  That’s the most interesting and exciting part of the show, I think; the moral dilemmas. How do you live when the world’s gone crazy? Especially people (like the Admiral, like the Seals, like the sub crew) who’re used to severe discipline. Will it break down?

M: I agree, and if the way they wrote and acted them in the first episode is any indication, it will be a good show. That said, I think the dilemas in this episode may not be able to be topped throughout the season. I mean, they had to determine if they would fire nuclear weapons based on a back up, but confirmed order. They had to determine what to do when their captain was relieved of command, yet they still did not have confirmation of the orders. They were shot at by their own country (in my opinion, the intention all along of the people orchestrating this, understanding that they would not fire unprovoked and unconfirmed, and the missile could be blamed on Pakistan, leading to a “righteous” response) and had to figure out whether or not to surrender, to fulfill the original order, or what. They fired a nuke at the capital of their home country, and had to determine if they would detonate it. The only things that can come that are that big in the rest of the show would be to fire another nuke, and they’ve gone through that decision three times now, doing it once. As for the island, in the previews for next week, or at least upcoming episodes, they’re back on the sub and under water, so that may not be an issue for long.

E: And why does that Navy Seal blame himself? What has he done? What started this catastrophe? I do want to see more of the war with Pakistan, and the fallout from so many nuclear attacks. (Although, maybe it’s because we live near the sea, but when Speedman said oh, great, the nuke went off in the ocean and it won’t hurt anyone, all I could think was, um, hello, what happens to the fishing industry up the entire Eastern seaboard? I’m going to try not to dwell on that, though.)

M: And I will skip right past it. I definitely can’t wait for them to go into more depth about the conspiracy and cause for the whole mess. It was very quick, so I’m not sure everyone caught it, but on the TV in the captain’s quarters in the beginning there was a news clip about Impeachment proceeding getting ready to start, so clearly there is a LOT going on back in DC. Clearly some of the crew and Seals are involved, too. I don’t know why the Seal is blaming himself, or if he knows that he’s confiding that to a Dollhouse agent, but like you I want to find out.

E: Great point. When I heard the premise of this show, I somehow did not expect that the island the crew colonized was already populated!

M: Neither did I!

E: I’m intrigued by that. How will the soldiers mix with the locals? Not easily, if the local boss’s actions are anything to go by.

M: So many possibilities, so regardless of concerns over how long it can last or what it would be like to live in a world where someone in our government was capable of trying to sink one of our own subs and start a nuclear war, I’m happily on board.

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8 comments on “Mini Reviews: The Mindy Project, Elementary, Vegas, and Last Resort

  1. C says:

    You guys have a funny way of defining the word “mini,” I think. But no one should expect a Quibbling Sibling to be brief 😉

    I have to disagree about Elementary. I don’t think it’s very Holmes, but I rather liked it anyway, the second episode more than the first. It’s not a knock-out by any means – I had definitely been hoping for more jokes – but neither is it a failure. I’m sticking with it for the time being.

    • E says:

      Well, it would have looked comparatively mini if there weren’t four different reviews. 😉

      Mr. E’s not ready to give up on Elementary, but I was annoyed with the obviousness of the insight provoking moment. And I’m just not invested enough in their fractious relationship. I hardly have time for the TV I already watch, so honestly I’d rather cut things off my list than add them.

      • C says:

        Only the review of Vegas actually looks short 🙂 As to Elementary, I totally getcha on the no-more-shows-unless-they’re-great thing. But for me, it comes on right after Parks & Rec and I haven’t added any other new shows to my repertoire (and in fact have dropped an old one or two) so I’ll stick with it a bit to see if it sharpens up.

  2. MMGF says:

    The Mindy Project isn’t anything I’m committed to, but it’s an easy nothing-else-on-let’s-see-what’s-on-demand 1/2 hour time killer. So, I’ve seen all 3 or 4 episodes that have been on, and the first episode seemed nothing like the others. The others have been a little funnier, the characters less annoying. FWIW.

    (And, while I haven’t seen Elementary yet, I feel like it’s aimed more at people like me, who don’t have any pull towards traditional Sherlock Holmes programming, who wouldn’t go near the BBC or be interested in the PBS version. A slightly-dumbed-down or just more widely accessible version, if you will? Again, haven’t seen it yet, so maybe that’s just me.)

    • E says:

      The last thing I think of you, MMGF, is dumbed down!

      And, blast, I really ought to be recording Mindy. Except I’m overwhelmed with the amount of stuff on my dvr. (TGW leaves a lot less room for other shows!)

  3. C says:

    By the way, I meant to say before – Aidan Quinn’s character on Elementary isn’t “LeStrade-by-another-name” — in the canon, Inspector Gregson is another Scotland Yard detective Holmes works with on occasion (who he thinks is better than Lestrade).

    • E says:

      Oh, thanks for pointing that out, sis. I guess I shouldn’t coast on my 6th grade obsession with the books and just read them already…

  4. The Presidentrix says:

    Did anyone else watch Last Resort and think, ‘this is really good, and the good that it is is Battlestar Galactica good?’ It seems to have a lot of the same merits: conscientious military personnel in an untenable position, one almost self-sustaining ship against a whole world of uncertain hostiles, fathers and their lost children, old loyalties cemented in dire circumstances, temptations to mutiny – even crew members in a fire fight for the first time.

    My cable was out for the first couple of weeks of big premieres, and my schedule is such that I rarely get to watch television when it first airs, so I didn’t see any commercials for Last Resort and therefore a) had no idea that there would be any commandeering of an island, which made it quite an exciting and unprecedented development, and b) only heard about the show through my sister, who casually mentioned watching and really enjoying something she called simply ‘Submarine Show.’ (This is the sister that I was never, ever able to talk into trying BSG, mind). So naturally I watched the first couple of episodes on-demand a week or two later and couldn’t resist texting her: ‘I liked it a lot, but you do realize it is basically Battlestar Galactica?’

    Not that I’m objecting, mind. I don’t find it derivative, just very much in BSG’s tradition.

    I also don’t dislike Elementary, though I don’t get the feeling it’s really Arthur Conan Doyle-flavored at all or anywhere near as gripping as the BBC Sherlock. In fact, my liking it probably mostly has to do with how much I always realize I like Johnny Lee Miller, every time he turns up again.

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