Back for a second season is Syfy Channel’s Alphas, a somewhat derivative of Heroes drama about a group of people with various enhanced abilities. But while Heroes opted for an epic story with a large ensemble cast and many parallel storylines, Alphas is far more linear and far more close-knit, relying on the chemistry between its regulars both to advance its plot line and to give the audience a way to invest in the show.
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I was particularly surprised, therefore, when Season 2’s premiere featured a major skip-ahead in the time line, and simultaneously scattered the Alphas team to the wind, leaving them to fend for themselves. The result was a somewhat disjointed and off-tempo episode, and I am, frankly, VERY pleased that this part of the storyline resolved itself within the hour, leaving the team reassembled and the show, hopefully, ready to pick up where it left off (sort of) last year.
One of the distinguishing qualities of Alphas is that its characters’ flaws are easily as important as their signature strengths. Bill (Malik Yoba) has enhanced strength, but the adrenaline rush which provides it has also given him a bad ticker. Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) can wildly enhance one of her senses, but only by completely numbing the others. Gary (Ryan Cartwright) can visualize streams of technology, turning the air into his own personal internet, but he is autistic, which imprisons him in the world he sees. Nina (Laura Menell) can control others actions, but sociopathically devalues other people as a result. This adds both realism and humanity to the drama, and really does set Alphas apart from other “superhero” genre shows. Heroes? These guys really ain’t.
The natural leader for a group of such extreme misfits is a psychiatrist, and the Alphas have one in Dr. Lee Rosen (David Straithairn). Straithairn, an Oscar nominee for Good Night and Good Luck and an Emmy winner for Temple Grandin, truly elevates the ensemble and the show as a whole. Hopefully, Alphas will continue to develop the extended family nature of its superhero workplace and keep the team together. We’ve seen what would happen if they don’t, and I don’t want to see it again.
BASED ON THE stand-up comedy of Korean/Irish comic Steve Byrne, TBS has come up with Sullivan and Son. Byrne’s character, Steve Sullivan, is a local boy made good who returns to his native Pittsburgh to take over the family business, a local bar. Byrne is surrounded by plenty of veteran TV talent (SNL’s Brian Doyle Murray and Christine Ebersole & Wonder Years’ Dan Lauria), and the writing isn’t bad, especially by TBS standards.
Dan Lauria & Steve Byrne
Still, there seemed to be too much reliance on Korean stereotyping and ethnic humor (which I guess is OK since Bryne is part Korean, but that doesn’t necessarily make it funny), and as a result, Sullivan and Son feels stilted as a family comedy. As a workplace/bar comedy, however, it is on more solid footing, and there is a good Cheers-like bunch of regulars at the family bar who are eccentric and funny. This is where most of the good laughs have come for Sullivan and Son thus far.
Moreover, Byrne’s laid back nice guy persona doesn’t seem geared to carry a sitcom, and he is frequently swallowed up by the zaniness of the ensemble and by the sharp edges offered by Jodi Long and Vivian Bang, who play his mother and sister, respectively. Sullivan & Son may be based on Byrne’s life and comedy, but it might be better served to have him become less of a titular character and more just a frontman for a solid ensemble if the show is to garner a following.
There’s really noting more gratifying than when an old favorites finds a whole new groove, and this season of Burn Notice is easily its best since it first debuted. This week’s shocker worked both extremes, blunting the joy and satisfaction of seeing Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) released from prison with the overwhelming gloom of Nate Westen’s (Seth Peterson) shooting death. My only complaint is that Anson (Jere Burns) had been such a vile villain that his capture and death seemed a bit anti-climactic.
RIP Sherman Hemsley, a fixture of ‘70s and ‘80s TV when he played groundbreaking George Jefferson on All In The Family and The Jeffersons, and later on Amen when he played Deacon Frye. George Jefferson, of course, was created to be the perfect foil to Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker, but Hemsley grew the flamboyant, flippant character into something even bigger on The Jeffersons, one of the first shows on television to portray an upper middle class highly successful black family. In real life, Hemsley was reportedly nothing like his TV alter ego: he was soft-spoken, warm and humble. They did share one characteristic however, they were hilarious. He will be remembered and missed.
Educational TV: Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Every mind you change is one less dumb f*ck on the bad guys’ side (True Blood); 2) Zachary Levi’s testicles are getting their own reality show (The Soup); 3) When you only have a few minutes to live, nothing takes the edge off like a beer (Burn Notice).
The season 2 premiere of Hillbilly Hand Fishin airs on Animal Planet on July 30.
The series debut of HGTV Design Star All Stars airs on HGTV on July 31.
The season finale of Jane By Design airs on ABC Family on July 31.
The series premiere of All The Right Moves airs on Oxygen Network on July 31.
The season finale of Tosh.0 airs on Comedy Central on July 31.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: RobNJ564@yahoo.com. I welcome your input!