The Regularly Scheduled TV Show Blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Arrested Development 3.01, Kitchen Confidential 1.01, Prison Break 1.05: A Trip to Reno, A Chopped Finger and Fitz

Monday nights are quickly becoming one of my favorite nights of television. And it’s all thanks to FOX. They presented Arrested Development, Kitchen Confidential and Prison Break. Arrested was great, Prison Break was good and I am pretty sure you can guess which show was lackluster. Read on for more details.

The Arrested Development premier picked up where it left off from the finale of the second season. The episode dealt with the disappointment Michael felt when, as a child he was left behind and never taken by George Sr. to the cabin the family owned. And, in another attempt to not be like his father, Michael sets out to spend some time with his son, only to realize the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This episode was great in the fact that, although it continued the plot lines from last season (such as Tobias leaving Lindsay or Maeby kissing George Michael) and continued them well, the show was self contained.

Talking with many people who don’t watch the show or who have caught only a couple of episodes, their most scathing critique of the show was that if they just didn’t know what was going on. And I’d tend to agree with them. Some of the plot lines, although summarized by the narrator rather well, still leaves some viewers in the dark who haven’t seen all of the episodes. And that’s why this episode shines. Most of the punch lines were self contained in this show and it was encapsulated well in the 30 minutes of the episode. The writing is still top notch, such as when Lucille beats Buster silly while he sleeps only the find out he isn’t in the bed and says, “That was a free one.” Or the great gag repeated throughout the show of the son waiting on the doorsteps with the fishing pole while the father regrettably informs him that something has come up and it just ain’t gonna happen today. The pacing of the time spent on each character and storyline was superb, never leaving you asking, “What’s going on with so-and-so?” The fact that the story line required Michael going to the cabin with his son and yet somehow all of the characters (Steve Holt!) are tied into the storyline and they all end up at Reno is just awesome. Great pacing, plot and writing all around. A really good beginning to the 3rd season.

Sandwiched in between Arrested Development and Prison Break was the pilot episode of Kitchen Confidential. Essentially the memoirs of a phenom-chef who had it all and squandered it and now has to win it all back, the show could be summed up with one word: clichéd. The writing left a lot to be desired, the plot of the pilot seemed rushed and felt like it would have done better in an hour and the acting was spotty. But the show was intriguing nonetheless. You had all your stereotypical characters, which the main character and chef Jack Bourdain assembled MUCH too quickly (which we all know I hate, see: Prison Break Pilot). The plot was decent for a pilot (Jack has to assemble a crack kitchen staff to open a restaurant in 3 days and do it well to save his career) but a little tame considering that a pilot is essentially your first and sometimes last chance to nab viewers.

The supporting cast were your typical bunch consisting of the cocksure English bloke, the token Asian guy good with seafood, the pastry chef who appears to be a confidant of Jack’s, the newbie chef no one respects, the antagonist in the floor manager who is skeptical of Jack’s abilities and reputation, the ditz hostess and the old wise restaurant owner who still believes in Jack. Seriously, the cast couldn’t get any more clichéd. But a clichéd cast doesn’t mean a bad show, so long as the writers get a little bit more imaginative with the plot lines and gags. One chopped off finger doesn’t count as a good gag. I’ll give this show a few more chances since it had promise. I don’t know if the ratings did well but considering it follows, in my mind, one of the most well written comedies on TV at the moment, let’s hope the writing gets better.

Finally, we have Prison Break. This episode was good as well, save for a few forced moments. The episode focused on the key elements of English, Fitz or Percy. These words are on Scofield’s tattoos and, through conversing with Abruzzi, Sucre and Lincoln, we learn a choice must be made between the three. It is only toward the end of the show when Scofield is on the roof timing the police cars that we realize they were talking about the streets which surround the prison. And it is shown to us that Fitz is the street which has no police response when there is a breakout at the prison.

The tension of this episode was odd. When we are in the prison with Scofield, with him climbing through the walls, trying to find his way around while under the clock to get back to his cell in time, the tension is insurmountable. There is no way not the feel jittery and nervous and I especially felt queasy when I saw the guard open the door at the end of the hallway with Scofield apparently trapped. In my mind, this is what makes this show great. We know prisons are built to keep people in and know that if Scofield gets caught once, it’s all over. Knowing that getting caught once is all it takes for this plan to fall apart is what keeps the tension there for me each week as we figuratively knock down one wall after another in the prison.

However, when the show cuts to the other aspects of the show, namely the conspirators attempt to muscle the warden in accepting the transfer order and the investigation of the surveillance tapes. These aspects of the episode were weak, especially considering the great cinematic tension we get while Scofield scopes out the prison walls. While I realize that these aspects of the show have to develop so that there IS a show once they break out of the prison, I just wish they would do it in a more… suspenseful manner. As it is right now, when we cut to the conspirators vs. Veronica, it seems that the show goes into cruise mode. The show drags whenever we cut from the prison and I just wish the writers would do more to make this storyline a bit more exciting. Right now, they are just relying on all the old clichés from other conspiracy shows/movies.

The warden storyline was a bit more dramatic but we all saw it coming. We knew what the warden would do the moment he was confronted by the conspirators about the skeletons in his closet; he would budge and deny Scofield his transfer order to only, at the last minute, come in and do the right thing. What else irked me was the “final” walk Scofield went on before his transfer, when he was paraded in front of all the players in the break out. The walk was too contrived and too forced for me to feel anything at that time. It could have been due to the fact that I knew the warden would come in and save him, killing any drama in that walk. It just didn’t work for me. Overall, an average show saved by the dramatics of Scofield in the prison walls and the whole, “We’ve got a runner!” business. I am really glad they made it a step further in the break out and that the show isn’t stalling out. I really am waiting in anticipation for the next show to see how much further we get to breaking out of the prison. I just hope I’m not waiting for the breakout of the prison like generations of TV viewers were waiting for Gilligan and the rest of the Minnow to get off that damn island.

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