June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day - Celebrating TV Dads

On this Father's Day, I'd like to take a moment to talk about some great TV fathers. Before you read on, I'll acknowledge that this post leans toward father-daughter relationships. It's partly because I'm a daughter, but it's also because it was hard to think of very many father-son TV relationships that were particularly commendable. Anyway, here they are: five of my favorite dads of the small screen!

The All-American Dad
Source: abc.com
Mike Heck - The Middle
Along with Jay Pritchett and Phil Dunphy, a modern ABC sitcom father who should enter the annals of Great TV Dad history is Mike Heck. Sure, this middle-aged middle-class Dad may not be a warm, cuddly father. And yeah, he makes his share of mistakes. Once he even admitted he had a favorite kid - in front of the other two kids. But he also goes out of his way to support his children when they need it - agreeing to coach a soccer team of cliquey teen girls so Sue would have a chance to play. Standing up for awkward little Brick when he believes he's being picked on. Laying down the law for lazy Axl. But perhaps more importantly, Mike loves his kids' mother, Frankie, even when she's stressed or sad. He's your average family man. That's what makes him great.

The Funny Father 
Source: cbs.com
Simon Roberts - The Crazy Ones
I am super disappointed that this Robin Williams headlined show has been cancelled. Poor Sarah Michelle Gellar can't seem to catch a break. In any case, Simon's greatest strength as a father was, not surprisingly, Robin Williams's greatest strength as an actor - that perfect combination of silly and sweet. Simon, father to Gellar's Sydney, consistently brought the humor to their charming relationship, which, yes, left Sydney to bring the common sense. The two of them played on the whole "bringing up father" role reversal in a workplace environment, incorporating the familial aspects of a sitcom in hilarious ways. Despite their dysfunction, these two characters effectively balance out one another's strengths and weaknesses, a quality indicative of a healthy father-daughter relationship. It only lasted a season, but The Crazy Ones is worth your time.

The Father Who Knew Best
Source: thetvmouse.com
Jack Bristow - Alias
Next on my list of great TV dads is another father of a Sydney - the humorless Jack Bristow. Half the time we didn't trust him, and when we did, we weren't sure that we should. But even when his actions seemed altogether villainous, Jack really did have Sydney's best interest at heart. He may be the dad on this list with the most faults, but his status as super spy makes up for that. The times he saved Sydney's life are too many to mention, let alone count. And if there's a father out there who needs a tutorial in scaring off daughters' boyfriends, he need look no further than Jack's phone conversation with Sydney's fiancĂ© Danny in the pilot episode. He may have an icy exterior, but Jack Bristow has a warm heart once you realize he's one of the good guys.

The Dad Who Stopped at Nothing
Source: ew.com
If there's a TV Dad who deserves credit for trying, it's Michael. First, he had to fix the relationship with an estranged son he never wanted to part from in the first place. Then, compounding the whole deserted island problem, poor Walt gets kidnapped. But Michael never gives up the search for his little boy. Yes, he is determined to a fault. (Actually, he might have more faults than Jack, because yeah, did commit a double homicide there in the hatch.) In the end, getting Walt off the island might not have been Michael's best decision, but he did what he thought he had to do in the near impossible situation the story handed him. 

The Single Dad Who Did it All
Source: facebook.com/VeronicaMars
Keith Mars - Veronica Mars
Television is chock-full of awkward father-daughter relationships. Suburgatory's George and Tessa have a chemistry can hit the viewer strangely given the actors' small age difference (Jane Levy is just 15 years younger than Sisto.) The fact that Tessa calls her father by his first name doesn't help.  Nashville's Deacon and Maddie are awkwardly navigating the new father-daughter relationship they've discovered in a manner all-to-akin to dating. But then there's Keith Mars, father to Veronica, girl detective. Keith was always the right combination of strict and empowering.  In TV terms, he managed to maintain his own storylines all the while supporting hers.  The scene when the two of them confirm their biological relationship was the most moving moment this emotion-laden show saw. Well, either that or when he saved her life at the end of Season 1. In times of trouble, Keith was strong for his daughter, and the best single dad TV has ever seen.

Have a favorite TV dad who's not on this list? Tell us about him in the comments!

June 3, 2014

Finale Reviews: Nashville Season 2 - "On the Other Hand"

Nashville's Season 2 finale cemented what was perhaps already certain - Chris Carmack is the MVP of this show. And his character, Will Lexington, has got nothing but trouble coming toward him now. Yes, Season 1's finale left Rayna in a coma and Juliette an orphan, but Will's fate at the end of the second season hit the audience (well, me, at least) harder than those cliffhangers did. In part, it was the inevitability of his fate. This far into the plot, Will had made too many missteps to keep his secret hidden for much longer. Even more painful, though, is the fact that it will be Will himself who reveals it all. And he has outed himself to the world in a moment he thought was private. Chris Carmack delivered that moment with such heartbreak and humanity, not unlike his moment on the tracks a year ago. Only now we know his heartbreak won't be hidden anymore. It was devastating. And acted so devastatingly well.

Of course the real MVP of Nashville is the music, which consistently articulates what the show's dialogue can't seem to, and allows the actors to deliver emotion in a way that makes the show utterly unique among its soapy ABC brethren. The music of the finale was no exception. Scarlett and Gunnar's beautiful Bluebird duet of "It Ain't Yours to Throw Away" was a haunting backdrop to the destruction in Will's life and Juliette's, too.

This duet opened with a cinematic moment that deserves mentioning. It was only for a moment, but before they begin singing, the two characters faced each other in one room, but illuminated by opposite lights. The melancholy, pensive poet, Scarlett, was spotlighted in blue, while Gunnar stood in a glowing red. They were separated almost exactly down the center of the shot by a single strand of white Christmas lights. It was marvelous. Symbolic of their differences, and the distance between them, yet as full of warmth as the song that would follow. (Unfortunately, it happens right before video above starts, 36 minutes and 33 seconds into the episode, if you're curious.)

Now, as much as I enjoyed "On the Other Hand," I have a few problems with the episode. First: for much of the 42 minutes, the show business aspect of the plot centered around sales of the characters' digital singles in order to top the charts. Not only were the mechanics of this not clearly explained for an audience unfamiliar with the concept, but in the end, chart-topping wasn't even particularly important to the movement of the story. It just took up minutes I would have rather spent hearing a longer conversation between Scarlett and Avery.

Second: I don't usually comment on the wardrobe aspects of TV shows, because I am vastly under qualified to do so. (I wish frequenting wornontv.net qualified one to speak about such things, but alas…) However, I just gotta say, what the heck was going on with the hats in this episode?! First, Gunnar has that Charlie Chaplin number somehow magically affixed to the back of his head. Can you say, distracting? Then, Luke Wheeler shows up with a hat so sparkly, he could have proposed to Rayna with that! We haven't seen such a fashion misstep on this show since Rayna's fedora disaster during her Liam days.

Though not exactly in as much suspense as at the conclusion of Season 1, "On the Other Hand" did leave me with a few lingering questions. Chief among them, why does it seem Rayna was totally fine with the unexpected, over-the-top, public proposal by Luke? A proposal she had to accept, and was not discussed ahead of time? Is this poor character development? Or just one more example of how Rayna is great at solving others' problems, but disastrous at even identifying her own? Another query: was there more to Avery and Scarlett's conversation than was shown on screen? I mean, was there more in the script? Because that scene seemed cut short, and did not thoroughly explain Avery's attitude in his later conversation with Juliette. Perhaps it was meant to be ambiguous. That way the audience is left in as much limbo as Juliette herself? I can only hope these questions will be answered when Nashville returns next fall.