Like many on the web, I like to drop in on reviews and discussions of my favorite TV shows to join in a community of people who seem to like a show that I like. Unlike many on the web, for a while, I actually did something about it.
Back in 2001, one of the hot TV sites was ScoopMe! While it was originally WBscoop (meant to review shows on the WB), that purpose grew. At the time I was keeping up with several shows, and a message was posted by the editors looking for people interested in auditioning to become substitute reviewers (when the regulars were unavailable), with that possibly leading to a steady gig. We were to pick a show and right up an analysis in a sytle to what was on the site. Me, ever the overachiever, sent in two: one for CSI, and one for Charmed (I’ve included those auditions below).
A couple of weeks went by. There was some staff disagreement that I never got a full story on, and a few of the reviewers quit. Four shows were available, one of which was Enterprise. Being a Star Trek geek since the original show was being first-run in the 60s, I of course played it cool and said ME! ME! PICK ME! ME-ME-ME! OH PLEASE…PICK ME!!! Owing to the total subtlety of my approach, I got the gig as regular reviewer for Enterprise starting on the tenth episode of the season…just a week away (though I did do a practice review of the current week’s episode just to get up to speed).
So, for eps 10-26 of the first season, and all 26 episodes of the second season (plus one episode of 7th Heaven to fill in a reviewer gap), I’d watch the episodes, type up a synopsis, and then write up a “substantial” review. For the first several weeks, this was a piece of cake, but then my work situation changed. I would be working very long days on Wednesdays (Enterprise’s regular broadcast day), often until well after the show had aired. So I would have to drag myself home and do the review (or take a nap and do the review) so that it was available by about 5am the next morning (the more-or-less deadline for Wednesday night shows). Going into season two, the grind wasn’t so much fun anymore.
The decision to continue and do the third season was taken from my hands as ScoopMe! was gobbled up by TVTome—which later got gobbled up by TV.COM. So, that was that. Almost two seasons as a TV reviewer. It was interesting and instructive. I guess that it’s cool that the synopsis part of my reviews (though not the analysis) is still at tv.com…at least as of this writing.
I do still like to drop by sites on the web that have reviews and discussions. Frankly, I’d have a hard time getting to enthuse about many of the shows I like otherwise (except in my own blog space, of course). My experience with Enterprise made me really sympathetic to what reviewers are asked to do, often with no pay other than a by-line. The ones that do it well will always have my gratitude. But what about those few that sort of blow it off? Don’t I feel like taking up the reins sometimes? I have to confess that I do…just a little. But then I remember being dog-tired from work and having to spend a couple of hours putting together something coherent before deadline. And that’s why you don’t see me volunteering to do it again for someone else.
Still, I’d hate to think that my tiny contributions were gone forever. Yes, most of my synopses (uncredited) are there, but it was the analysis that was the fun part to do. If not for my own archives, they’d have disappeared into the ether. So, since I have this nice and shiny blog space, I’m reposting them just as they were sent off to ScoopMe many years ago. A couple of them I still like. (Links should be at the end of this post. When complete, they should go up through the end of the second season’s episodes.)
And now…as promised…my audition reviews that were sent to the editors of ScoopMe 0n October 5, 2001:
But I’ll Lose My Security Deposit–
Of course, the entire effort is to put oneself
Outside the ordinary range
Of what are called statistics.
Your child is away at college, and then she disappears. Kidnapped? Raped? Murdered? You need answers. You need closure. The police tell you that if you just wait, they’ll help.
And then they tell you your daughter’s dead because some butterfly in Brazil flapped its wings (why Brazil? Isn’t the butterfly usually in China? I digress…)
One of the reasons C.S.I. is so good is that it isn’t afraid to break out of the formula. Sure, the Criminalistics team pretty much wraps everything up by the end of the episode, but sometimes they throw us a curve. This time, they throw us a lot of red herrings — possibly even a tin of sardines. And maybe even a huge one at the end.
First we get the frat guys. I didn’t think they were involved — from the beginning it seemed like they were more intent on swiping the towel from the co-ed coming from the shower.
Then we follow a guy carrying a pizza box down the hall. I thought for sure that he’d discover the body a la Law & Order. Instead we end up in the victim’s dorm room, waiting for a cab — followed closely by a shot of a nefarious-looking man sitting in a car in the rain.
And we’re off…
Time after time, Grissom and company hits a dead-end. At first it looks like Grissom finds an important clue in the dorm room. The camera zooms in microscopically like it does whenever we’re seeing something important. After Grissom tastes it (ewwww), it turns out that it’s minty toothpaste being used as spackling. Red herring #1
The frat guys were “borrowing” items as a prank. Like I said, they didn’t seem very dangerous. Red herring #2
The ballplayer was a credible suspect for a couple of minutes. After all, he had slipped the ex-roommate a roofie and then raped her. Unfortunately, he had an ironclad alibi. Red herring #3
But then, a stoke of luck. On the campus surveillance tapes, there’s a car. A car with the missing girl’s hair. A-ha! A clue!
The professor who obviously tries to help the freshman women in his courses improve their grades as much as possible, was amazingly calm at being a suspect. His biggest fear was his wife finding out. Red herring #4
Surprise, surprise, the wife already knew about his indiscretion. All of his indiscretions. But Paige was different (the current ones always are — not that I know anything about that). The wife just wanted to have a nice little talk with the alleged chippy. After the car yanks out some of Paige’s hair, the wife gets all apologetic and courteous. Red herring #5 (making the car red herring #6).
Then the biggest clue of all — they find Paige’s body. It’s in a block of compacted garbage. The first thing that ran through my mind was, “Las Vegas compacts it’s garbage and warehouses it? Who knew?” I mean, that’s just totally weird. Yeah sure, the dead body, but the city compacting its trash into garbage bails? Even now it’s freaking me out. Then again, maybe it’s a homage to “Top Secret!”.
The ME declares that Paige died before her Omar Sharif impression. This leads them back to the dumpster where they find evidence of a second suspicious car. One that hit the dumpster. A-ha! The driver obviously hit Paige, and then dumped the body. Happens all the time. But not this time. Bummer. Red herring #7 sort of.
Then Grissom goes all plot devicey. Instead of Occam’s Razor (all things being equal, the simplest solution is most often correct), he decides to use chaos theory — small unrelated events can have unpredictable future consequences.
He constructs a scenario that because of a broken spring on the trash chute door (which I suspected would be implicated when Catherine almost got eaten by it), Paige lost her trash can, when went down to the dumpster to retrieve it. The second car hits the dumpster, accidentally injuring Paige, causing her to fall into the dumpster to die.
The parents don’t buy this. Someone’s to blame. The universe didn’t just randomly take their daughter.
And they have a point which leads us to the biggest red herring of all: Grissom’s solution. We had the benefit of seeing Paige up until she was about to leave. She’s waiting for the cab. It arrives and the cabbie calls her cell phone. She’s coming right down. She goes for her bags. And then (according to Grissom’s theory), she suddenly decides to take out the trash.
Did I miss a page? I know that she wanted to get her security deposit back, but I hardly think that a full trash can will make a difference. And was this really the best time to do it? Think about it — she has to make a plane. There’s a cab waiting. She decides a full wastebasket will void her security deposit and decides to empty it. Then she loses it. So, with the cab still waiting, she goes down four flights to the back of the dorm to retrieve the can. In the rain. Planning on then going back up four flights, grabbing her bags, going back down four flights to take the cab that would still be waiting (yeah, right).
That one inconsistency is keeping me from maximum enjoyment of this episode. Grissom’s solution was a good one. It fits the evidence. But it doesn’t quite fit. Did Grissom miss one, despite the evidence? Are we being set up for a future episode when it’s discovered that Grissom isn’t infallible?
Halliwell ex Machina –
The big question following Shannen’s leaving the show was would the show survive without Prue? I think yes. It will be different, but yes.
The season premiere gives us the rest of the returning cast behaving according to their established natures. Piper still thinks like the middle sister. Phoebe tries to walk in big sis’ shoes. Leo is functionally befuddled. Cole doesn’t want to put Phoebe in danger (how many times can he say that). Darryl is noble. With this core, the show will survive.
So, if the show survives, can it do well with Rose/Paige?
If this double episode is any indication, then a I’d say qualified yes. It’s clear that Rose doesn’t have Paige down quite yet. There are times, especially when she’s with Holly and Alyssa, that she seems to be acting. I think that’s understandable. It’s difficult to come into the middle of a show. Besides, it might actually work to her benefit.
I was one of the proponents of the “give Prue a different body” method of working around Shannen’s departure. In retrospect, unless you get an amazingly capable actress (which I didn’t see in this episode, sorry Rose) it wouldn’t have worked. Rose has a chance to make Paige into a strong and unique character, and I’m willing to give her that chance.
The way that the WB site spilled the beans on Paige’s introduction made it seem like she was more proactive in finding her sisters. I liked how it actually came to be. Paige did look, but didn’t find the evidence compelling enough to actually commit to making contact. Still, she wanted to feel connected, and so hung out at P3. That was a good enough explanation for me.
It seemed like our Paige Matthews actually has an OK life. Judging from the personalization of her cubicle, she’s had her Social Service job for a while, even though her boss is too cheap to promote her. She talks on the phone to her extended adoptive family. Her apartment is a little low-rent, but she’s still waiting for that promotion, after all.
While I like the scene with Sister Agnes, I think the most touching moment was at the end, when Paige got to meet Patty — and the Elders (I guess “Powers That Be” is now reserved for Angel) allowed Patty to solidify so she could hug her daughter. Or maybe Patty has that ability as a special “sorry we let you die” power.
Paige’s own power is perplexing. An orbing telekinesis that she can use on objects and herself. While the telekinesis part seems a little slower than Prue’s because of the orbing effect, overall it seems more powerful. After all, if she sees danger coming, she can just orb out. I’m a little phased by how quickly she got proficient with her power. Think back to the first episodes of the series and how long it took the Charmed Ones to get a measure of control, much less kick-ass power. It begs the question, when Paige’s powers grow, how powerful is she going to become? (And when is Phoebe going to get a truly useful active power? She’s starting to look kind of wimpy during these magic skirmishes.)
Well. That’s the good. It was all I was expecting from the episode, and it was delivered to my satisfaction. But then we had the plot devices.
So, what’s with the Source? Did he watch the Star Wars movies too many times? There was the not-quite-deep-enough voice. The asthmatic breathing. And did anyone miss the parallel from “Return of the Jedi” when Phoebe was being electrocuted while Rose was struggling with which side of the Force to fall?
And how about the Oracle telling the Source that if Paige could be turned, she’d be a powerful ally? If that’s not Vader telling the Emperor the same about Luke, then I’ll have to turn in my Geek of the Universe badge.
Ever since they gave the Source a face… well, nasty red hands, anyway… he doesn’t seem like nearly as big a bad as when he was an omnipresent amorphous entity. Now he just seems like a slightly-harder-to-kill demon and nothing more. Over all it feel like the whole good vs evil paradigm has been weakened because of it.
Now he’s nothing more than an evil overlord with all of the intelligence of Ming the Merciless. You want to assure your power? Kill Paige, don’t try to turn her. Kill the remaining Charmed Ones while the Power of Three is no more. How is this the Source of all evil if he’s satisfied with a defanged enemy instead of a vanquished one? Conversely, aside from Cole, the Charmed Ones have no qualms about vanquishing demons.
But he’ll be back. As will, probably, Inspector Cortez. Was I the only person happy to see the Inspector trapped in a hell pit? If the Source were as scary, then maybe I’d have been on the edge of my seat.
Cortez had a chip on his shoulder from the git-go, and with no real explanation. He seemed to take the doctor’s and Prue’s deaths far more personally than did the Charmed Ones and their friends. Then there was the flagrant disregard for due process (for which I blame the writers). Argh. I’m getting all worked up again. Best to move on…
I was annoyed that Phoebe’s return was pretty much tossed aside. We can gather that with Cole’s help, Leo rescued Phoebe from the Source. And that’s about it. Phoebe had a contract that was voided by the killing of Prue, but that was skipped. It had the stink of writers having been trapped in a plot point they couldn’t write themselves out of, and so didn’t even try. Perhaps it was for the best to just move on, but I felt cheated.
And what was with the tilted camera in the manor? Yes, things are askew, but there was no need to resort to a cheap cinematic trick.
One last gripe. Several times Piper recited the spell to make spirits appear. You’d think that she’d have memorized it and wouldn’t have to read it out of the BoS each and every time. In three years you’d think that this would be one of the spells they’d have down.
Still, I was more pleased than displeased about the episode. The actions and character of Paige were less contrived than I feared they would be. While the same can’t be said for all of the exposition put in to explain it all away, I was content to endure it to get us going into the season. I’m looking forward to seeing how Paige develops (no pun intended about the next episode), and how she, Piper, and Phoebe start to bond. I’m going to miss having Prue around, she was one of my favorite Charmed Ones after all, I think that the stage is set for some entertaining adventures to come.