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Pilot Review: Can Gotham Survive Without It’s Batman?

GOTHAM: Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot.   ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Lavine/FOX
GOTHAM: Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Lavine/FOX

Batman prequel series, Gotham premiered last week in America to strong audience of over 8 million viewers, but how many will stick around in a Gotham that doesn’t have it’s Batman?

As it is with pretty much every re-telling of the Batman origin, Gotham starts off with a scene most familiar to fans of the DC comics hero – Martha and Thomas Wayne brutally gunned down in a dark alley by a man in a ski mask, sparing the life of a young Bruce Wayne.  It’s been done many times over though Gotham offers us  a slight twist on the traditional story with a young Selina Kyle, perched high on a ledge on the buildings above, to witness the tragic event.

One could be forgiven for thinking that following this start, the rest of the show will just go with motions, being utterly predictable and boring but thankfully, this is pretty much where the ‘what we know’ ends and we’re opened up to a new representation of Gotham, this time, living life before Batman.

The city itself in Gotham is dark and moody and filled with an assortment of unsavories, much like the Gotham seen in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film though thankfully, it’s not as kitschy. Those familiar with the world of Batman will delight in seeing nods to known characters including Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), Ivy/Poison Ivy (Clare Foley), Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) and of course Bruce Wayne/Batman (David Mazouz)

There’s also possible winks to future characters including Batwoman (James Gordon’s fiancee Barbra Kean, played by Erin Richards) and even the Joker, but to-date, it’s only speculation.

A young James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), recently new to Gotham, is finding out the hard way that his idealistic views of crime and punishment are no where to be seen in a police force that’s filled with corruption. He’s taken to solve the Wayne murder with drunkard partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) who happens to have connections to the underworld and local mob members who may have information that may help solve the murders.

As Gordon, Ben McKenzie starts off solidly with his woe-is-me eyes as he struggles to maintain his morality in a city that has none.  Logue’s Harvey Bullock is a weary and dreary detective, too caught up in the darkness that has enveloped Gotham.  Bicondova and Mazouz don’t really have much to do in the pilot – there’s some tears, some climbing, some ‘let’s feed stolen milk to some stray cats so you know i’m future Catwoman’ – it’s meager stuff – at the moment.

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In this image released by Fox, Robin Lord Taylor, left, and Ben McKenzie, are shown in a scene from “Gotham” (Jessica Miglio / AP)

The ones to watch however is Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney and Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot aka the future Penguin.  As power crazy night club owner Fish Mooney (Mooney is a character created for the show and not from the Batman world), Pinkett-Smith shines in pretty much every scene she’s in, chewing through lines and swinging baseball bats all whilst still maintaining perfect nails and harsh one liners.  While Gotham, it seems, is  trying to eke out the camp factor, Pinkett-Smith’s Mooney is the perfect playoff, possibly channeling a 60’s-Batman era Eartha Kitt.

Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot is just downright deranged.  The first moment you see him you can tell he’s got more than a few screws loose up top as he takes pleasure in being offered the chance to take a baseball bat to a thief.

Gotham is aiming high, hoping to lure in those new to the world whilst trying to keep dedicated Batman fans happy.  It doesn’t seem like an easy task..asking Batman fans to watch a show that’s about Batman but doesn’t star Batman…asking viewers to tune into another comic-come-TV-series…yet as a whole, Gotham actually works as a dark and slightly erratic drama about one man’s mission to rid his city of corruption and crime while peppering the scenery and story lines with weird and unusual characters.

Gotham premiere’s soon on Channel 9.

8/10

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Pilot Review: The Mysteries of Laura

Debra Messing leads the new series The Mysteries of Laura
Debra Messing leads the new series The Mysteries of Laura

1940’s DETECTIVE COMICS OR A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH?

Is it a comedy?  Is it a drama?  Is it a hard-edged police procedural?  These are the questions I found myself asking while watching the new The Mysteries of Laura starring Debra Messing and Josh Lucas.  Mysteries follows Messing as homicide detective Laura Diamond who is a woman with a lot on her plate and not enough time to eat it all.

Laura’s juggling a busy work schedule as a detective trying to solve murders with mothering twin boys possibly possessed by an almighty demonic force and a soon-to-be-ex husband (Josh Lucas) who can’t bring himself to sign those divorce papers.

The mix of cop show meets family comedy meets personal life drama is an uneasy mix within Mysteries that often feels jarring and forced, not really knowing which direction it really wants to focus on.  One minute Detective Diamond is resolving a hostage situation by shooting off the perps ear the next she’s wiping blood up with a baby wipe and returning a worn bathing suit before arguing with hubby about how he is never around when it comes to her demonic brats who by the way spend time peeing on each other.

If you were to separate the genres smashed into this one show, some of it would work and some wouldn’t.  Frazzled and over worked mum juggling twin brats with a less than involved husband (who also cheated) sounds like a decent drama or even dramedy.  Homicide detective trying to solve murders – it’s been done a million times over so I get why the career was thrown in, but as a whole, the murder case Laura and partner Billy (Laz Alonso) are working on and how it’s given to us is quite possibly a story line once featured in an episode of Scooby Doo and by the end, when the killer is revealed, the final result actually feels quite farcical and you’re left wondering why the need for so much focus on the cop aspect of Laura’s life, like are the writers so forced on trying to establish that yes, Laura Diamond, in 2014, is a mother and a woman with a career?

Stepping back, what does work within Mysteries is the chemistry between Messing and Alonso.  The two work great as a team and there is enough spark there to possibly push for a work romance story arc. Watching the two together felt like there could be a Castle meets Bones air about the show but that was destroyed when we were brought back into Laura’s world of cheating husbands and unruly children.

In the end, the problems seeping out of Mysteries is the tone of the show and what it brings to viewers.  Debra Messing…we all love her, though is she believable as a hard-nosed homicide detective…I’ll leave that up to you.  The family drama with a side of murder solving and over-the-top hijinks…perhaps if Mysteries was more thrilling in it’s murder cases and less on the family life…or the other way around, there could be something to work with.

Debra Messing is a win though the aimless script is a loss.

Rating score: 6 out of 10

Update: Oct 2nd – It get better.  If you managed to make your way through the entire first episode, you’ll be pleased to know that Mysteries does in fact get better.  By the end of episode 2, you’ll notice there’s a shift away from Laura’s home life with her evil twins and more focus on the crime/career/husband aspects with the show.  The weekly murder mystery is still a little kitschy but there’s an additional mix of some darkness thrown just to ground the show a little bit more.

Reviewed: Karen Gillan’s ‘Selfie’

Karen Gillan in ABC's 'Selfie'
Karen Gillan in ABC’s ‘Selfie’

To be honest, when the networks announced the long lists of new shows they picked up for the upcoming Fall season, ABC’s comedy titled ‘Selfie’ and staring Karen Gillan did not even ping on my radar. I knew of it, but the premise and the early release trailer did nothing for me.  To me, it was being touted as a social media savvy and utterly vapid valley girl has humiliating moment and tries to go humble.

Well, that pretty much sums up what Selfie is all about, but after watching the pilot episode, I think i’m going to be a bit more nicer about the show than other reviews have been.

Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) is a pharmaceutical sales rep who relies more on what her online followers are doing, hash-tagging and liking via vine, instagram, twitter, Facebook etc etc etc than dealing with the actual real life people around her.  Attached to her phone like a drunk to a bottle of whiskey, she’s what I imagine Clueless’s Cher Horowitz to be like had she been created in this technologically advanced era.

Sashaying down the isle of an airplane, we’re first introduced to Eliza where every meme, lol, yolo, hashtag and Valencia filter is thrown at us to ensure that we know Eliza is a ‘millennial’ and that we shouldn’t really like her, plus she’s snagged herself an upgrade and she’s messing around with her co-worker – whom she finds out is married. It’s then the plot is switched up and we’re manipulated to feel sorry for her when she ends up covered in her own vomit (it’s a slow motion liquid mess of a scene that almost had me dry retching) and it’s captured on multiple cameras and subsequently uploaded to every form of social media available – including Google +.

Searching for help from her online cheer-squad, Eliza quickly learns that she doesn’t actually have any real friends.

Thankfully, there’s the non-sexual and non-threatening  co-worker and anti-any-form-of-technology Henry Higgings (John Cho) just around the corner willing to fix her and turn her into a respectable lady capable of migrating into society without the need to constantly take a selfie.  If you hadn’t worked it out by now, Selfie is an attempt at taking the classic My Fair Lady and throwing a Mayfair filter over it to make it accessible to a younger audience – sort of what Clueless did with Jane Austen’s Emma – but no where near as effective.

Not that Selfie is really that bad.  Sure, there were a mass of quotes spewed out of Eliza’s mouth (including and not restricted to  “BF BS. Got played like Flappy Bird. Mortified.com.” and “make like Elsa and let it go”) that were enough to make me a) glad I’m in my mid 30’s and will never have to speak like that and b) wonder how someone who actually talks like that finds themselves employed, but there were a few moments I let out a very hearty laugh – Henry Higgins “What makes you confused?” Eliza Dooley “Plus sized skinny jeans, I mean what the?!”

Check out a clip below

Selfie premiere’s on Sept 30th on ABC.

Less Girls and More Accessible, Please Like Me Season 2

Josh Thomas is back for a second round of Please Like Me. Source: Provided
Josh Thomas is back for a second round of Please Like Me. Source: PivotTV/ABCTV

I wonder how many reviews of Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me will use the phrase “yes Josh, we really do like you”?  In fairness, after watching the first two episodes from season two that were available for preview, the saying is more than warranted.

Unlike Please Like Me‘s first outing, which saw too much crammed into the meager six episodes offered up, we’re brought back into Josh’s hectic and awkward world but this time, the feeling is much more paced and easy with familiar faces including Tom (Thomas Ward), Claire (Caitlin Stacey) Niamh (Nikita Leigh-Pritchard) and mum Rose (Debra Lawrence) already fleshed out enough for us to willingly allow new characters like new housemate Patrick (Charles Cottier) and potential love interest for Tom, Jenny (Charlotte Nicado) to enter this frenetic world we’ve been waiting to come back to.

This frenetic world that Josh has created is filled with house parties, unrequited love, adventures in baby sitting, self depreciation, mental illness, awkward conversations with parents, discussions of penis size, unexpected visitors and probably the most uncomfortable “saddest recount of losing your virginity” competition that has ever existed – and this is just in the first two episodes.

Thomas, just as he did in season one, manages to mix his quirky awkwardness with that of a young man we’ve come to root for with an effortless flair and is now taking the foot off the “i’m not good enough” pedal just enough that the feeling of self sorrow that surrounded Josh in season one is lessened in this second outing.

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Josh isn’t the only character to have undergone some personal development between seasons. Best friend Tom has a new-found confidence with women, probably his way of dealing with the departure of girlfriend Claire to Germany, that see’s Tom more confident in his approach and confident of achieving his goal.  Even Niamh has undergone a change  – gone are her nagging and manipulating ways now replaced with a girl who’s less assured and assertive.

The standout so far, without a doubt, is Debra Lawrence as mum Rose.  The erratic and unstable episodes caused by her bipolar disorder are spot-on and as Rose struggles to deal with doing what she’s told and doing what she wants is a battle that will affect those closest to her. The first time we see Rose this season is a scene that lets us all in on just how far downhill she has gone since the death of Aunt Peg.

In it’s first season, Please Like Me found itself being compared to Lena Dunham’s self penned series Girls – a comparison that was likely and to a point correct, but now, Please Like Me feels a bit more real and accessible than Girls ever was.  A scene that see’s both of Josh’s housemates preoccupied with hookups while Josh is stuck babysitting in the lounge room is a scenario that many currently in or have lived in shared accommodation can identify with.

It’s been a long awaited and very much welcome return for Please Like Me and Josh Thomas to our screens, and yes Josh, we do like you!  Anyone that can bring Denise Drysdale back to our screens and uttering obscenities is someone I will always like!

Please Like Me – Season Two begins Friday August 8th on Pivot and Tuesday August 12th on ABC2.

Reviewed: The Killing Field

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Rebecca Gibney and Peter O’Brien Inspect a Murder Scene on Channel 7’s The Killing Field. Source: Provided

When a 15 year old girl goes missing in a small country town resulting in the discovery of the work of a serial killer who do you call?  Jane Halifax of course!  Well actually, it’s Detective Eve Sergeant, but they’re both played by Rebecca Gibney and they both have the same kind of job.

Showing that the local police force in the fictional town of Mingara are a bunch of complete dimwits, Detective Inspector Lachlan McKenzie (Peter O’Brien) lures his old partner (professionally and romantically) Eve Winter to help him find the missing 15 year old Becky who disappeared after leaving a party and determine whether the case is linked to the five bodies recently found in a mass grave.

They are joined by Detective Senior Constable Bridget Anderson played by the impressive Chloé Boreham and Detective Senior Constable Dan Wild played by an underused Liam McIntyre and the four in their designer black suits stride into Mingara and immediately make an impact with the beer soaked and unpleasant residents of the small country town.

Without sugar coating it, the main issue with The Killing Field is that it feels like an over-extended weekly crime episodic show.   It’s like we’ve just been thrown into a special movie length one-off where we have already established a relationship with Eve Winter and understand why she’s removed herself from field work, why she has to be lured back and know and care about her past relationship with Lachlan McKenzie.  It’s this lack of lead character development that can feel somewhat jarring when it’s suddenly thrust at us the first time we meet Winter and McKenzie.

Of course, Gibney, cropped hair and business suits, plays as well as she can as the damaged Eve Winter.  There’s a clinical and detached air about her that feels like an homage to DCI Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren, Prime Suspect) but sadly, Eve Winter, instead of presenting as a powerhouse authoritative figure instead comes off as slightly smug and self-righteous when interacting with potential suspects and Peter O’Brien…well, he’s there, but he’s given as much screen time as the supporting players and his Lachlan McKenzie only seems to be there to distract Eve with inappropriately timed flirtations.

But not all is lost.  As a standard, run-of-the-mill police procedural, The Killing Field should offer enough to keep eyes on the screen until the shocking end. A small country town, a missing girl, a mass grave, mob mentality and a complete set of shady characters – enough to keep you guessing who the killer is until the reveal…it’s got the foundations just not the fortification.

Having watched enough Hannibal-Criminal Minds-CSI-SVU etc etc, The Killing Field aims high but falls short of the standard set by previous outings in the genre, but that said, I enjoyed what was offered to me and happily watched right to the end – even if some aspects of the characters and story lines were frustrating (a suspect is literally paraded around town in-front of local bogans resulting in a rather confronting situation) and it was good to watch Gibney finally shake off the warm and happy shackles of Julie Rafter.

And, there is talk that this movie will be used as a jumping off point for a new series (under a new title as The Killing Field refers to this particular case), which should fit this premise much better and allow for better character development and back story.

The Killing Field airs Sunday night, 8:40pm on Channel 7.