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Episode 63 is here and in it, Eve and I pull out a few select TV shows from the Fall 2016 TV schedule to discuss what we like, what we don’t like and where we see them going.

Standards for TV viewing

Like you, Eve and I can be picky about what we want to watch on the fall TV schedule. For both of us, we want sympathetic characters. I personally don’t like the “antihero,” I want my main characters to struggle with morality, not discard it all together. In particular, I like loyalty. Eve looses interest and gets bored with TV shows where she can’t develop a connection. This is easier to do when you are dealing with an ensemble cast. I don’t think either of us would disagree, though, that an ensemble cast can generate some spectacular TV though! For me, NCIS‘s ensemble has done a great job, despite some cast turnover.

Neither of us mind more adult aspects of viewing, but it really does need to serve a purpose to the story. With the rising prominence and production values of premium cable  TV content, there a many good new series out on those channels. The problem is that these channels are subscription content, so they have different standards by which to abide. Things like nudity and sex are, to put it mildly, significantly more commonplace. Similarly, on the broadcast TV channels, there is a glut of shows that focus on scandal and sex (though in a less graphic, more suggestive format). When this is the case, it is far easier to target a market that seeks titillation rather than storytelling. When that line is clearly crossed, a show will usually be ejected from our TV viewing schedules.

Conviction

Premise:

Former first-daughter and bad-girl socialite Hayes Morrison is blackmailed into heading up a politically ambitious DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit.  

What’s good:

Conviction is a good example of an ensemble cast that is developing well. It’s not for lack of talent, though. Hayley Atwell and Shawn Ashmore (who I mistake for his twin brother, Aaron Ashmore) both have experience working in the ensemble heavy world of superheroes, and Eddie Cahill came out of great ensemble casts with CSI:NY and Under the Dome.

Conviction is an interesting spin on the law and order/crime drama. The purpose of the Conviction Integrity Unit is to examine the less open-and-shut convictions of the New York DA’s office and ensure that justice was served. It has some very fertile ground in which to grow their story lines.

What’s bad:

Unfortunately, Conviction is leaning a bit to the scandalous side with a sexual tension between Atwell and Cahill’s characters, as well as an overpowering (if understandable) element of scandal driving Atwell’s character. There have been some forays into back stabbing as well, but it seems the team has passed the loyalty test, so far. If they choose to have the Morrison character continue in little bits of insult and denigration, then that test may be set up for failure. If the show follows the path of so many ABC TV shows these days, it may not remain on our viewing lineups.

Additional Discussion:

For me, I was looking forward to one of my personal favorite story lines, the redemptive arc. The Morrison character is set up well for it, but I’m concerned that instead of redemption, she might just change to a slightly less destructive, but still selfish behavior.

One of the things they make a point of in Conviction is that when they reopen a case for evaluation, they make it a point to notify the victims in that case. This helps to remind the viewer that it isn’t all just about law, order, and justice; there are people who have been hurt. Sometimes, those are not necessarily nice people. It is a good reminder that even the nicest, most giving of us is guilty of seemingly constant sins against the Creator. We are all convicted and justice is complete and total destruction—THANKFULLY, for those that accept His sacrifice, the justice we deserve has been satisfied when Jesus Christ took or sins upon the cross with him and died.

Lethal Weapon

Premise

Grieving widower (and suicidal) Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford), a cop transplanted from Texas to Las Angeles, teams up with aging police detective Roger Murtaugh, who has a beautiful family. Remake of the Mel Gibson movies.

What’s good

The creative team got it right. They’ve snagged the elements that make the Lethal Weapon series fun, and they made them their own. The TV show cast has great chemistry, with Damon Wayans very believable in the role of Roger Murtaugh matching line for line to Clayne Crawford’s portrayal of Martin Riggs. The TV series presentation is allowing piece-by-piece revelations into Martin’s Rigg’s psyche. This starts with the opening scene of the pilot that shows how he rushes to the hospital to join his wife who was in labor with their first child, only to discover that she and her baby were killed on the way to the hospital. It’s really serving to help establish a sympathetic link to the partner that might be a little more out there. Even without the background story, though—it’s fun to watch. The banter and one-liners are enjoyable. It really does a great job playing homage to the Glover-Gibson films without feeling rehashed. Both characters are really being presented with unplumbed depth, and we really want to see both what happens next and what has already happened.

What’s bad

The only complaint that I’ve had has been that the plot design and writing seems to have been a little canned, taking a backseat to the dynamic relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh. This may even be the right creative decision—it just made me roll my eyes a little bit with each cliche. Happily, they are less and less common with each new episode.

Additional Discussion:

The TV show is handling both PTSD and clinical depression very well, showing both, not as illnesses to be shunned, but as real, pervasive things that affect both every day and extraordinary people. More importantly , they are showing how folks dealing with these issues live normal lives.

Family and community have both featured prominently as well, and it is all the more potent due to Rigg’s backstory. He struggles with the dichotomy of both desperately wanting the family experience and being terrified of facing the pain and heartbreak that family has come to mean for him. In a later episode, after Rigg’s has been slowly accepted as a type of crazy uncle, Murtaugh yells at Riggs to stay away from his family. Despite Riggs’s face going completely unemotional, the impact it has on the viewer is impressive.

MacGyver

Premise:

Young Angus “Mac” MacGyver creates a clandestine organization within the U.S. government, relying on his unconventional problem-solving skills to save lives.

What’s good:

Nothing, really.

What’s bad:

The TV show fails on so many fronts: science, ensemble, writing. It might be an understatement, but neither Eve or I liked it.

Timeless

Premise:

A team of three (historian, soldier, and geek) chase a bad guy back through time in an attempt to prevent him from changing history (and the present and future).

What’s good:

Not only do we like the period costuming and the sets, but they don’t forget that sometimes what the 21st century thinks is a period costume doesn’t turn out to be quite right. Either way, this TV show is doing a good job providing a window through which we glimpse U. S. history, both the good and the bad, in a grander cinematic sense. It may not be “History Channel” quality of historical introspection, but it is still worth considering.

What’s bad:

The problem with almost every time travel portrayal is that it has to deal with how action (and inaction) affect the personal timelines of the characters. It’s nearly impossible to maintain consistency in the extent of the effect, and that gets pretty distracting.

Another thing that has distracted us is that, despite the ubiquity of religion in U.S. historical culture, there hasn’t been any religious mention or reference, no backdrop or character or imagery in the TV show. It raises the question: was this a conscious creative decision?

Additional Discussion:

The idea of time travel can be a sticky one for Christians. How does God view the idea of time travel? How might He handle changes to the timeline? Even if there is an infinite number of timelines from an infinite number of possibilities, God is infinitely more than capable of handling the possibilities.

If you’d like to check out a good Christian fiction trilogy dealing with a time-traveling plot to assassinate the Apostle Paul check out Randy Ingermanson’s City of God trilogy.

Designated Survivor

Premise:

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is the “designated survivor” during a State of the Union address and becomes POTUS after an attack on the Capital wipes out all three branches of government.

What’s good:

The TV show has a very, very strong lead in Keifer Sutherland. The very premise of the show opens a lot of doors the writers can go through as there are so many aspects to investigate. How would America respond to an attack that blows up the capital and nearly every member of the sitting government? Who actually carried out the attack? Would an attack of this magnitude foster worse racism than we saw 15 years ago?

The TV show has also done a really good job showing how this relatively regular, moderately dysfunctional American family has to deal with their lives being completely turned upside down.

What’s bad:

As with any show set in U. S. government, it is hard to not be blatantly partisan one way or the other. Designated Survivor is no  different. They seem to be making an effort to stay as non-biased as possible, but partisan politics is a reality in Washington, and if you trying to portray a government without the politics, no one could suspend their disbelief enough. The show has to have villains, though. The villains, so far, seem to be card carrying members of the GOP. I’m still holding out hope that party lines will not be portrayed as the line between television good and evil.

Additional Discussion:

As a general rule of thumb, the secularized media tends to present the world in fiction as a world where faith has no place and humanity’s only hope is self-rescue. That’s okay, though, since we have it in us to fix all of our problems, they tell us. This is why we work to produce Are You Just Watching?—we want to provide a scriptural counterpoint to the secular media. It’s entertaining, but we can’t let it desensitize us to the truth of Scripture and how we are called to live through Christ.

I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:15-18)

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What did you think of Fall TV 2016? We would like to know, even if just your reactions to the trailer or the topics we shared in this episode. Or what general critical-thinking and entertainment thoughts or questions do you have? Would you like to suggest a movie or TV show for us to give a Christian movie review with critical thinking?

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About the Author
Disciple of the Christ, husband of one, father of four, veteran of the United States Army and geek to the very core, Tim remembers some of the 1970s and and still tries to forget much of the 1980s. He spends his days working as a Cisco technician in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and too many nights in the clutches of a good story, regardless of the delivery method.

One comment on “Fall TV 2016 – AYJW063

  1. What you said about “anti-hero” is something that’s been really bothering me lately.

    In Once Upon a Time, there are characters called “heroes.” One of them is even called “the savior” (for various reasons). Instead of making that character someone to look up too, they’re making the character like any average person. Recently, that included out-of-marriage sex.

    That really bugs me, not because of the moral choice itself, but because it seems like “heroes” and “the savior” should hold moral values higher than the average person—something viewers can aspire to achieve.

    I remember a similar issue with Smallville that frustrated my wife and I enough to quit watching for a while. Clark Kent, whom the producers themselves said something like, “we wanted to give everyone a hero they could look up to,” then made many moral decisions at or below common moral standards.

    I get that producers want to make characters relatable. But they are not role models to inspire better decisions.

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