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Posts Tagged ‘Moderate to Strong TV Series Recommendation’

Today’s TV series review is for the seven season / 151 episodes / 115 hours total viewing time, drama / crime-police / mystery series: “The Mentalist“.  The show stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane (the Mentalist) and Robin Tunney as Agent Teresa Lisbon (his long suffering boss / side-kick”Watson”).  There are three other “main” supporting characters:  Kimball Cho (played by Tim Kang), Wayne Rigsby (played by Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (played by Amanda Righetti).  The series originally aired between 2008 and 2015.  I viewed / “streamed” the series over several weeks in 3-to-4 episode chunks.  Some spoilers follow, so if you are intending to watch this series, do so before continuing this review…
The basic premise is that a “reformed” con-man / fake psychic (Jane) assists law enforcement (the California Bureau of Investigation [CBI]) with solving crimes (mostly murders).  Because the CBI is a state law enforcement unit, the crime is generally on California state property or CBI involvement is “requested” by someone with sufficient political influence to warrant the notice of the CA State Attorney General.  Sometimes this aspect is a REAL stretch…  and then has to be narratively explained away by dialogue.
The main character – Jane – has highly developed observational skill, exceptional memory skill and high intelligence which combined with his years as a con-man / magician / fake psychic allow him to “solve” each case in intuitive (sometimes illegal) ways – much to the discomfort of the supporting cast (professional law enforcement officers).  Jane becomes involved with CBI after recovering from a nervous breakdown following the brutal murder of his wife and daughter by a serial killer (“Red John”).  Red John’s modus operandi is “generally” a rape, disembowelment and then throat slitting of his (mostly female) victims.  Red John is a cult leader type criminal, generally following the “Dr. Moriarty” character type from the Sherlock Holmes genre.  Lisbon is Watson to Jane’s Sherlock.
The series has two over-arching series themes:  the developing romantic relationship between Jane and Lisbon and the developing friendship(s) between Jane and the rest of the law enforcement supporting characters.  Within this there are also three main seasonal story arcs:  seasons one through three are single episode murder mysteries developing the two main arcs.  Seasons four, five and half of season six are devoted to both episodic crimes and the hunt for Red John.  Red John is revealed (and killed) and then the last half a season six and all of season seven is Jane assisting in various FBI cases.  Season seven is an abbreviated season of only twelve episodes.  All of the other seasons are twenty-one plus episodes. Most of the series is based in Sacramento.  Post-Red John, the series moves from CBI to FBI and is then based from Austin, Texas.
So, is this series any good?  Has it stood the test of time?  How is the acting?  Is the show realistic for leadership, psychology or law enforcement?  And, finally, is it worth investing 115 hours of your life?  In order:  yes, mostly, poor to excellent, more often than not, so-so, “I sure hope not”, and yes.
More specifically, overall, this is a VERY good series.  It is as predictable as any police procedural:  crime, investigation, resolution.  It is mostly predictable for character development – but at a surprisingly / interesting slow pace and then – bang – your in rapids, and then – back to slow pace.  The series ends “happily” from a romantic perspective it is well rapped up – the two main couples wed.  So, bottom line, the good-guys win and live happily-ever-after.
Test of time / acting / theme portrayals:  As a police procedural – I hope not.  As a romantic drama, yes.  As a “Sherlock Holmes” genre, so-so.  In practically every episode, some person’s rights are either ignored or aggressively violated.  This is morally acceptable because the team is putting very bad people (mostly men) behind bars (or killing them).  No matter how honorable the character starts in their role, they are always corrupted by Jane and the concept of acting for “the greater good”.  On the romantic side, a big part of every drama is how long can you maintain the sexual tension between the main characters.  Although obvious from the first episode, both main relationship arcs are well developed.  As a super-sleuth / Holmes procedure series, the show has problems, but it (the show) still works because of the believability of the actors in their slowly developed / multi-layered character portrayals.  The portrayals of most of the bad-guys are mostly flat and one dimensional, but there are notable exceptions.  As the series progresses most of the other (non-super-genius) characters say:  “This is what Jane would (would not) have us do…”  For me personally, I found the various depictions of leadership styles / personalities to be one of the most interesting aspects of the series.  The whole gamut of leadership from criminal to sainted is represented and the strengths and weaknesses of the various styles is examined, critiqued and accepted or rejected.
Investment:  I feel there has been an on-going transformation in home entertainment happening over the course of my lifetime.  The progress is roughly equivalent to that of written literature.  In writing we have daily comics, short stories and comic books, short-moderate-long books (texts and novels), books series and encyclopedias.  In TV, the corresponding genre would be animated / cartoon shorts (multiple stories in a half-hour show), episodic stories (half-hour to hour long shows), movie length (90 minutes to mini-series [sub-30 hours of total viewing time]), and seasonal arcs (episodic, but with 3-5 minutes devoted to long-term character / story development), and then generational shows / series.  I consider “generational” series to be any series over 15 years / seasons – so, most day-time soap operas and multi-series franchises (“I Love Lucy“, “The Simpsons“, “StarTrek“, “Law & Order“, “NCIS“, etc).  I (personally) do NOT consider game shows to be “generational” series, even though many have gone well beyond 20 seasons, because they are normally not re-watched after the initial viewing.  Although, there is now some give on this characteristic, too, as you can “watch” some of the prior episodes (on TV-history channels).  The point of the “re-run” (though) is to view the contestants (famous personalities from yesteryear) and not viewing the contests, themselves.  At any rate, I would put a seven seasons series in the “War & Peace” – lengthy story grouping, but not in the generational level group.
Final recommendation:  This is a moderate to strong recommendation for an initial viewing (see caution later), a low to moderate for re-viewing in its entirety and a strong to highly for individual episodes (if you develop a favorite character or mini-story arc during your initial viewing).  For me, 100-plus hours is almost certainly too long to spend re-watching the entire series. I purchased my “series-bundle copy” on steep discount ($30 as I recall), at which price this a bargain for entertainment value – even if only viewed once – $.25 per hour or $.20 per episode.  One note of caution:  there is the occasional swear word used at least once per season and there are repeated scenes of victims injuries (almost one per episode), so this is not appropriate for viewers under 12 years of age.
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On This Day In:
2021 Press On
Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This
2020 AMA
Still Shiny
2019 Things That Go Bump In The Night
Hoping I’m Careful
2018 I Must Be Truly Wise
2017 My Sensei
2016 The Worst Sin
2015 Rules Of Thumb
2014 A Prayer
Orange October (IX) – Giants Lose Game 2 In Bullpen Collapse
2013 Complacent Reality
2012 Two-minute Sex
Just Staring, Why?
2011 A World Of Difference

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The Punisher” (2018 – Season 2)  —  series review
Caution:  “some” spoilers in this review.  If you intend to view the series, stop now…  You’ve been warned.  Also, much of this review is the same as / similar to my review of season one.
This is a Marvel Comics Universe “TV” series appearing on NetFlix.  The “Punisher” character was introduced in the (recently cancelled) “DareDevil” series (in season two) – and pretty much took it over – and this review is for the second season of his (the Punisher’s) series.  Basically, (in season 1) the family of a military expert is killed and he takes revenge against the killers.  He leaves one guy, who he promises (“threatens”) to come back for.  Blah, blah, blah.  Segue to season two…  So, now the guy who survived season one escapes from the mental hospital and the Punisher has to finish the job.
Ok, that’s pretty much what I expected from the end of season one…  And, it’s almost what you get in season 2.  The thing about the “Punisher” series is it is NEVER about the dozens of people he kills.  It is ALWAYS about “justice” for the guys behind the violent criminals.  The ones who are actually pulling the strings.  (And in this series, discovery means execution.)  In DareDevil, it was finding out who had his family executed.  In season one, it was about who actually did the executions.  Because that season ended in a non-fatal way, the antagonist could be a returning villain, but they could not be the “main” baddie.  Like season one, a new string-puller has to be introduced:  in this case a husband and wife team who use religion to make themselves wealthy and powerful.  And, then they have a puppet (on a string)…
This season, the series still stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher, Ben Barnes returns to the second season as Billy Russo (Frank’s wartime friend who was the bad guy in season 1), Amber Rose Revah returns as Dinah Madani (Homeland Security Officer), Corbin Bernsen and Annette O’Toole as Anderson and Eliza Schultz (the “real” bad guys for this season), Josh Stewart plays John Pilgrim (the hyper-violent “religious” puppet of the Schultz’s), Giorgia Whigham plays Amy Bendix (the “innocent” who must be protected by Castle), Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle (the Vet “do-gooder” medic), and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (a carry over from Daredevil).
The season is dark but not as dark as the first season.  Literally.  There just seemed to be a lot more daylight / outdoor scenes.  But the killing is mostly done at night or in darker / indoors lighting.  (I think it’s meant to be a metaphor, but it’s easy to make this type of show more sophisticated than it really is:  always remember, it’s “just” a comic book adaptation.)  The series continues to try to deal with a host of issues, “BIG” philosophical issues, from right and wrong, to innocence, vigilantism, friendship, personal loss, and a rather bizarre attitude that “justice” almost always ends with violence – particularly gun violence.  While the depiction of gun violence is pretty accurate, the depiction of physical recovery remains essentially: “and then a miracle happens.”  There are scars, but recovery (from blows, gun shot wounds, knife cuts and broken bones) is almost instantaneous.  Like I said:  comic book…
Does it work and is it any good?  If you like this kind of thing (same as season one:  explosions, excessive violence, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, lots and lots of guns and gun fire, and did I mention explosions), and I do, then you’ll continue to enjoy this series.  And, I did.  The question was:  is it any good and was it better than season one?  Everything I said about season one remains true:  “As a comic book adaptation, it is very good.  As an action / adventure / who-dun-it, it’s pretty good.  As a realistic portrayal of armed and unarmed combat, uh, it’s a comic book…”
Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  This season is rated higher than season one because they let the actors act more and kill / maim less (slightly).  In typical Marvel fashion, Billy Russo “almost” becomes a sympathetic character as we are introduced to his childhood and his earlier relationship with Castle.  Again, the series is definitely for mature audiences ONLY.  It feels strange to say (admit) it, but I (again) enjoyed the acting and the story more than I did the violence.  I particularly enjoyed the four part twist at the end of the season.  This was a better season and I hope Marvel and NetFlix give “The Punisher” another season to see where Castle’s wandering takes us.
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On This Day In:
2022 A Happy Realization
2021 Is Science Cumulative?
We’re Aging With Time
2020 Where #45 Is Leading The Republican Party
2019 Your Own Blog Posts
The Man With A Code
2018 Choose Goodness
2017 Developing Translations
2016 Think Like A Hero
2015 Reductionism
2014 Gravitation, n.
2013 Ups And Downs
2012 Nerd Heard – And Good-Bye
Your Continuum
2011 Career Tips (Part 2)

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