16 May 2009

Evaluation of season finales I've been watching - no spoilers

I love watching television online, as Annie recently pointed out, this is my last round of season finales. From now on I'll have to refine my television viewing into shows I'm prepared to pay for the season on DVD, as online viewing is not currently available outside the U.S. Alas, I'll have to be doing meaningful things with my time.

In tribute to my favorite thing to do while I'm working, here are my responses to the shows I watch (some of which I love) that ended their season in the past week or two.

Lost - As always, they do an excellent job of giving us the satisfaction of some consolidation of story lines and answers to plaguing questions, but also gave us some great twists. In classic Lost fashion, the final moment gave us no clue of what next season might bring. I would say this is a must-see, but if you watch Lost, you've seen the finale. If you don't watch Lost, it wouldn't make any sense to you anyway.

CSI - There's overlap between the Lost and CSI finales, because the character of Jacob in the Lost season finale is in this finale, oddly enough. Pretty standard episode overall.

CSI:NY - The CSI franchise seems to have a tradition of one series killing off a main or main-ish character every season. This was CSI:NY's year. They've had a pretty great season, and a pretty great finale. I highly recommend it.

The Office - Such a phenomenal finale. In a season that seemed a bit erratic and more plot driven than character driven, the finale was really satisfying. Lots of great character stuff, lots of laughs, and a great Jim&Pam moment for the close of the season, as per usual.

30 Rock - Good, regular episode, only way you'd know it was a finale was that there were a kajillion celebrities in it.

Parks and Recreation - I feel like episode six was better than episode one, but because it was basically a teaser season, this barely counts as a finale. The season is getting better as it goes, so if it gets more episodes next year, I'm confident it will be even better.

Hell's Kitchen - It's no secret that I'm a sucker for reality TV, so I'm not even going to apologize. This finale was entirely non-dramatic, which speaks to the quality of the two final contestants as chefs. The only suspense was which of them would be chosen as the winner of Hell's Kitchen. My front runner wasn't chosen. The end.

Fringe - This is another J.J. Abrams show that I've been watching all season. The finale was decent, although not much better than a regular episode. Interesting to see Abrams' take on a show that is more about the episode, like traditional television series, than the season, which has been more the trend in recent years with reality television and shows like Lost and 24. Finale was pretty standard to the series.

Dollhouse - I've really enjoyed this show from Joss Whedon, which does an excellent job of bridging the episode vs. season trend. The season finale gave some very satisfying conclusions and confrontations, but left only minor intrigue to carry over to next season.

Bones - Extremely disappointing. Last week's episode was so good that I was excited for the finale. This season has been extremely erratic, with some phenomenal episodes sandwiching horrible "shark-jumping" episodes. If they had just added the final forty-five seconds of this weeks episode onto the end of last week's episode, I'd have been thrilled.

House - As is standard for the House finale, the medicine was secondary to House's character development. It was pretty reminiscent of last season's finale, actually. It was good, not great, all leading up to the final moment of pandering to the viewers by dissipating some sexual tension.

Heroes - Oh, so good. Last season was both abbreviated and disappointing, so it was nice to have a good season and a good finale. Every finale of Heroes is a conclusion to not only a season, but an entire chapter of the show. It also concludes an entire time period in the chronology of the show, so there's generally a ton of closure, with a teaser for the next season. Both the closure and the teaser were excellent. If you bailed on Heroes last season, watch this season. It's worth it.

Friday Night Lights - So flipping good. This is the only show I watch that is purely sentimental drama, and the reason I watch it is for the character development (and the football). I was really curious how they would be able to carry through to next season with so many of the important characters graduating from high school. (Please no Boy Meets World college edition!) They had one or two nice twists to keep me interested for next year, as well as maintaining the lovely, touching relational devlopments that the show is known for.

Lie to Me - This is hands down my favorite new show this season. I secretly wanted to be an FBI profiler for a while when I was in college, and this show totally gratifies that part of me. I love the science of it, and I love the varied crime applications, and I love the characters. I additionally loved the season finale for tackling a pretty inflammatory issue with nuance and creativity.

Medium - They really accelerated into the season finale, so I to see what they did with it. It was kind of like the added one more episode onto the end of a great season. I wish they had ended it with the second to last episode, although it was a totally quality finale. Bonus of a guest appearance by Jeffrey Tambor.

Celebrity Apprentice - I actually didn't care for this season. The celebrities I enjoyed watching got booted, like Herschel Walker and Bryan McKnight, and the two most abrasive people, Joan Rivers and Annie Duke, became the finalists. I think I'm done with this show, because I'm tired of reality TV shows that reward the most self-serving contestants. The end of the finale was a bit of a surprise to me, I have to say.

Kings - New show based extremely loosely on the life of David in the Bible. I'm ambivalent after initially really enjoying it. I appreciated the fantasy aspects and hoped for good things, but I'm not really that excited anymore.

The Chopping Block - New reality TV show along the lines of Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen, but it's a team competition with chef and a front-of-house person. I like Marco Pierre White, the chef and star, but the show is a gratuituous knock-off of all the other reality TV shows, and it doesn't do enough to set itself apart. The finale was a bit surprising, but only because the front-runner totally blew the last challenge.

Still to come on Hulu/Netflix: The Biggest Loser, 24, Numbers

06 May 2009

No photos, please

So I didn't bring a camera on this trip. Most of the time I forget to carry it or the battery is dead or the memory card is full or whatever else is wrong, but on this trip I purposely forgot.

Over the past few years I've become better at journaling about the small things in my life. Initially the journals were sent to my boyfriend in Kenya so that he could have a window into my daily life. I would paste coasters from pubs and movie stubs and postcards and things into the journals as a pictorial and tactile connection. In February I finished the last journal I'd started for him, but finished for me. The relationship ended, but that practice didn't.

So I'm in the habit now of saving maps and brochures and church bulletins and free postcards from businesses and I cannibalize them to represent my experiences. Usually they accompany a note, small or large, in my own handwriting about my response to the experience. I write down sermon notes and phone messages and driving directions and deep thoughts and quotes, and lately, I've begun sketching.

On NPR yesterday there was a man talking about how drawing is one of the only things we stop doing when we realize we're not professional-level good at it. We still play sports just for fun, we still pull out the guitar, we still do lots of things we're not great at just to enjoy them, but we rarely draw. I loved hearing that message because I've been drawing more and more lately, from sketches of tattoos I'd like to get to people I remember from Africa to making my co-workers at Lahash draw our images of the Kingdom of God.

All this to say that yesterday, instead of taking photos in the Everglades, I drew. They're not beautiful or clever, but they're not terrible either, and I realized something. As I stood in one place sketching a bend in a canal or an alligator four feet away, others came along and snapped a shot and went on. I realized the gift I was receiving of being present, of seeing the details in how the grasses bend away from the bank, how the cypress leaves point straight up, how the egret's neck bends at a funny angle to help him fish. It was lovely, and more valuable to me than the postcards I inevitably purchased to add some color to those blue ball-point pen on paper sketches.

Do it, people! I challenge you all to draw something, anything, big or small! Draw with your kids or your spouse or your friends in pen or pencil or crayon. I want you to send me your drawings. If you email me at leishlin [at] gmail [dot] com, I will ooh and aah, and as added incentive, I will send a bag of Storyville coffee to my top two. (For the month of May Storyville coffee is donating all proceeds to International Justice Mission, one of my favorite causes.)