Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Week in Summer TV

This week, my TV season fully transitioned from regular season to summer, with the finales of Glee and Top Chef Masters, and the premieres of two shows I thought I'd give one (and only one) episode each: Persons Unknown and Work of Art. I already discussed Glee, but here's my brief takes on the other three:

Persons Unknown sounds cool on paper: a bunch of people are kidnapped and put in a mysteriously empty village where they're watched by unknown people. Sounds a little like The Prisoner meets Lost, right? Well, if NBC hoped you'd think that, they didn't work too hard to make it known. I didn't hear about the show until the day of, which makes it all the more clear this is just typical summer burn-off.

But summer trash can still be summer fun. If there's any show Persons Unknown really resembles it's Harper's Island - CBS' attempt to do a weekly horror series that, well, didn't do so well. Like Harper's it's got kind of an intriguing idea, but also like Harper's it's undone by a rather C-level execution. By the end of the first hour, you don't really know anything about any of the characters, other than that they're all kind of annoying. And they don't really do much but wander around and yell "How do I know you're not THEM?!?!"

In the promo at the end, NBC's emphasized that the show will give you answers, and soon. But what they seem to forget is that people wanted answers on Lost so badly because they really cared about the questions. And so far this scenario just isn't quite creepy enough. Lost had the Monster and the polar bear. The Prisoner had the giant bubble and the question of why No. 6 resigned. Persons Unknown has grainy video footage and a bunch of Chinese guys saying "Please" a billion times a second. That's not gonna cut it.

No characters and weak acting and dialogue is one thing. But if this is gonna go for the campy guilty pleasure that is really its only hope, there's gotta be a bit more going on. I wouldn't mind watching another episode, but at the end of the day, I'd rather spend that time working through my TV on DVD.

Last night Bravo unveiled their newest entry into the Project Runway/Top Chef family: Work of Art. It's basically Project Runway with art instead of fashion. Take a bunch of wacky creative types, give them a mentor (but now with an accent!), and have them judged by a panel of experts in their field.

If "Project Runway with art" sounds good to you, you'll probably enjoy this show. Magical Elves make good reality TV, and it certainly feels like Bravo-era Project Runway. And unlike the Lifetime editions, this show actually does have some colorful characters and maybe even some talent (not that I'd have any idea).

But another part of me feels like this is to Project Runway what Top Chef Masters is to Top Chef: it's watchable enough, but it doesn't feel quite as right as the original. The new mentor doesn't have quite the spark of Tim Gunn, and the judges don't have the zing of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. I'm also a little iffy on the concept. The artists all get to work in their own media, so you've got painting vs. photography vs. photoshop. No wonder the photographers came out on top; which do you think takes longer?

Again though, the reason I can't get into it is I'm just not that into art. And I'm over Project Runway. Really, the only reality TV I want to be seeing is shows involving food. So while I'm not opposed to having this on in the background, if I'm watching Bravo this summer it's for Top Chef.

Speaking of which, Top Chef Masters aired its season finale this week, and we again saw one of the biggest differences between the spin-off and the original: everyone on Masters always makes good food. The finales are never about who's going to win; it's about watching a whole lot of food porn. So the fact that the three came so close in the end is no surprise; any one of them could have won. But it was nice that Marcus did. Guess I should try out Aquavit some time.

No comments: