The Good: The Librarians
The Librarians is high atop my guilty pleasure list of TV watching. Yes, it can be cheesy and ridiculous, with sometimes embarrassing special effects, but it's so much damned fun. It reminds me of syndicated American adventures like Hercules and Xena, crossed with Canadian gems like Relic Hunter.
I was a bit worried when the producers began talking about a darker tone to season 3, fuelled by the Egyptian God of Chaos, a significant escalation of magic in the world, and government interference from the newly implemented Department of Statistical Anomalies. Based on Sunday night's season premier, those worries can be put to rest. Sure, the episode was a bit darker, and there's definitely a sense of doom/dread being set up for the season, but that was all balanced with the cheese and the humor we've come to expect.
The horrific, Doctor Who-like take on Night at the Museum to open the episode was a lot of fun, and they made good use of the museum setting throughout. Sure, it's stretching the willing suspension of disbelief to have the old submarine stationed outside operational and fully armed, but Ezekiel and Jake geeking out over it is infectious, and you can't help but cheer as it's cleverly put into action. The brief song-and-dance number was pure cheese as well, but the characters knew it, and it made perfect sense within the context of defeating chaos.
As for that new X-Files twist, it not only makes sense (magic is a bigger threat than terrorism, so at some point the government had to notice), but it was well-played. The agents themselves were appropriately inept, allowing our heroes to escape, but Vanessa Williams is clearly being set up as a legitimate foil for Flynn and Eve. So long as the series doesn't go down the road Buffy did in season 4 with The Initiative, and keeps the two worlds separate, I think it might add a new dynamic to the show.
Of course, we're only one episode into the new season, but I can honestly say I smiled the whole way through.
The Bad: MacGyver
The original MacGyver is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Dad and I watched it every week when I was young - it was one of those rare shows that successfully crossed generations. As much as I have always held out hope that Richard Dean Anderson would one day be offered a chance to return to the role, I always dreaded the idea of a recast/reboot. When news came out that the pilot episode of the new series was scrapped, and a new showrunner brought in to start over, it was hardly encouraging . . . but there were a few glimmers of hope.
I liked the idea of adding George Eads from C.S.I. to the cast, and I was encouraged by the addition of Peter M. Lenkov as the new showrunner, given how much the wife and I enjoy his reboot of Hawaii Five-0. I wasn't encouraged enough to make it a must-watch, mind you, but I did set up the DVR.
Well, a mini binge-watch of the first three episodes, and I can confidently say that the new MacGyver is just as disappointing as I feared. The first episode successfully distracted me with its clever nods to the original series, but nostalgia isn't a recipe for long-term success. The second episode fell flat, and the third was so ridiculous, I deleted the series from the DVR and feel entirely comfortable never watching it again.
So, what's wrong with it? Well, for starters, the casting is horrible. Mac himself isn't as bad as I had feared, but George Eads is all wrong for Jack Dalton, and as clever as the gender-flip of Pete Thorton might be, Sandrine Holt has zero personality. Don't even get me started on the entirely unnecessary injection of awkward humor with Justin Hires (and I actually liked him in the Rush Hour reboot). Second, making Nikki a traitor just felt all wrong, and set the wrong tone for the series. At first glance, the trademark inventions are fun, but they very quickly started getting ridiculous, not to mention outright impossible. To make matters worse, the on-screen captions just dumb the show down to an embarrassing degree. Really? That's a paperclip? Huh, never would have guessed.
Turning a one-man show into a just another team-ensemble isn't the worst thing the new show has done, but making it a gun-laden, explosion-filled clone of NCIS:LA is. Really, swap Mac and Jack for Callen and Sam, and the two shows are interchangeable. Don't get me wrong, I like NCIS:LA, but I have never once mistaken it for MacGyver. There has been serious gunplay in every episode, and Mac seems to have zero problems with it. That's a serious betrayal of the MacGyver legacy. Finally, as my curiosity turned to suffering, I noticed how contrived the storylines are, and how they toss logistics out the window for the sake of the story. When Pat hopped a plane from LA to Venezuela AND managed drive into town, all in less time than it took the actress to walk between sets, AND conveniently arrive at the exact same moment as the bad guys stationed outside . . . I was done.
The Ugly: Criminal Minds
Criminal Minds has long been one of those shows that the wife and I watch every week. The quality has been going downhill consistently over the last few seasons, to the point where we're generally multitasking as we watch, but the recent casting changes have put a final nail in the coffin for me. No matter whose story you believe, the firing of Thomas Gibson just sounds petty and ridiculous. The show was already missing Derek, but the leadership void with Hotch's absence was quickly ad painfully obvious, and the lame way they've written him out (off screen, mind you) would be comical, if they didn't try so hard to make everybody else overreact to the news. It was a move that reeked of desperate laziness, and which showed a complete lack of both understanding and respect for the character.
Losing two key stars would be a blow to any show, but replacing them with Emily Prentiss, one of the most annoying characters in the show's history, whose original exit story was so prolonged, so ridiculous, and so out-of-genre for the show that it actually started the quality decline . . . well, you just know it isn't going to end well. Add to that the unnecessary addition of that guy without the sunglasses, who was always standing behind David Caruso in CSI: Miami, a character who only seems to exist to raise the brooding testosterone content, and I am quickly becoming bored.
Actually, it goes beyond bored. As we watched the last episode, I realized I was hate-watching it with a passion I previously only reserved for the atrocity that was Under the Dome. Little things that I normally overlook began to bother me, For instance, why do they insist on awkwardly pinching a loose glove between their fingers to pick up evidence? They're gloves! They're made to wear on your hands! Your fingers conveniently fit right inside! Also, how is that other characters seem to have this supernatural ability to pick up subliminal content from phone conversations they're not a part of? One character no sooner hits disconnect, and the others are already talking about how and where to track down the new suspect (by name!) who they've never heard of before.
Also, as much as I love Kirsten Vangsness, even the all-powerful, super-speedy, uber-hacker-extraordinaire Chloe O'Brian from 24 would call bullshit on Penelope Garcia. I mean, this woman can hack internets, intranets, and darknets in less time than it takes to run a fingerprint. She has crazy-ass search algorithms that can find you based on your mother's shoe size, father's favorite junior hockey team, your favorite childhood teddy bear, and what episode of Star Trek was in syndication the day you were born. Oh, and she does it all with what looks like a bad version of OS/2. Hopefully nobody ever introduces her to Google, or none of us will have any secrets left.