This morning I watched the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul,” followed by an apertif of Psych and The Game. I like all 3 shows (though I’m not sure how much of cross-over there is between audiences*) though they are so different in tone. BSG is all tragedy, with no comic relief, whereas Psych is full of maniac energy and surprisingly small bits of seriousness, despite being a detective show. The Game, somehow, does manage to balance stereotypes and serious issues consistently and entertainingly.
Spoiler alert! Plot points revealed ahead.
After last week’s BSG episode, how could this week’s not disappoint? The reveals – Tyrol is not the father, Zarek is corrupt – weren’t on the same level as Ellen is the Fith Cylon. Instead, it felt like a scene from act two of a five act tragedy. Plans are in motion, hurlting towards a climax (act three) and resolution (act five). I’d call it Shakespearean if there moments — scenes — of humour in the show. But the tone is unrelentingly bleak. There’s not even much gallows humour. When I rewatch the show, I enjoy the intricate plotting more than its world. That saddens me.
Psych, on the other hand, is a wacky procedural cop show with little character development. The same sorts of things happen every week: a murder or two, Shawn sees details that others miss, behaves manically, he hits on a girl and solves the case. The show is chock full of silliness. The characters don’t progress that much. Each time a new woman is introduced, Shawn hits on her because he can and/or to make Jules jealous. I live for the moment for Shawn and Jules get together. I am tired of being teased. In one episode, they hold hands; in the next, they have no spark. I understand that their sexual tension is part of the show; having them get together could kill the fun. After all, they’ve had an object lesson on set — Cybil Shepherd of Moonlighting plays Shawn’s mom. I just wish that the showrunners would take a look at Ed or other shows where the couple did get it on without killing the chemistry.
In this week’s episode, Shawn hit on an arson investigator, Morgan Conrad. It seemed like he was doing it because that’s what he always does, not because he was interested in her or wanted to make Jules jealous. I wanted Lassiter to step up – he and Morgan has chemistry, plus they have matching hair color**! Alas, there were no movement forward or backward on the Shawn-Juliet hook-up.
The Game, though, is adept at having consistent plot and character development with moments of humour and gravity. Shocking, I know, especially for a weekly sitcom. The main couple, Melanie and Derwin, are going through infidelity issues; he’s fathered a child on a groupie, she’s sleeping with her boss. Though the show began focused on them, the other couples — married, but separated Kelly and Jason, and mother/son pair Tasha and Malik — are much more compelling characters. In fact the Kelly and Jason break-up has taken center stage in recent episodes. Yay! And the three women get together for booze and trash talk, the best scenes of women-liberating inebriation since Cybil. [Yep, another reference to La Shepherd. Now I need to find a link between her and BSG.]
The show does have its share of stereotypes – single-mom Tasha speaks “ghetto;” Malik is the playboy football star/aspiring rapper who dates celebrities and strippers while wearing lots of bling; Kelly is the boozy, ditzy, blonde gold-digging ex-cheerleader; and Derwin is a God-fearing Christian good boy. And yet the show manages to acknowledge and tweak these stereotypes and grow them into compelling characters. For instance, we’ve gathered that Tasha developed that hard shell to protect herself and her son. When Melanie imitated her speech in the episode, Tasha responded with “Do I really sound like that?” in disbelief. Kelly might have married her husband for money, but she really loves him despite his being a tightwad that could out-Scrooge Scrooge. Their break-up is heart-wrenching.
Best of all, this episode about the private lives of NFL football players finally had a gay subplot. Malik’s ex-wife intimates that their marriage failed because he was really gay. His team members ride him, complete with a musical interlude in the locker room: disco ball and high-kicking dancers in lycra football uniforms frolicking to the tune of “It’s Raining Men.” Ha-ha. The guys play up the fey stereotypes – lisping, preening, gold lame and short shorts. Later, alone at dinner, Clay, another team member, hits on Malik, thinking that he is actually gay. Surprised, Malik throws Clay out of his aparment. During the next game, Malik accidentally outs him to the rest of the team. The episode ends with the coach (played by Lee Majors) benching Clay for the rest of the game. Clay sits in the empty locker room angry, sad, betrayed.
And this is why I love this show. The flirting scene was taken seriously. Malik is somehwat metrosexual; his responses could credibly confuse Clay’s gaydar. Lee Majors surprised me with his acting: the coach’s decision to bench Clay was ambiguous. Did he put in a sub because he is homophobic, because he is afraid that the other players will hurt Clay on the field because they are homophobic, or because Malik was obviously so uncomfortable around Clay that he couldn’t quarterback effectively? It could any or all of these reasons. Whether or not the reason(s) are revealed in the next epsidoes, l’ll keep watching, enjoying its deepening blend of comedy and tragedy.
*And to make matters more bizarre, USA ran an ad for The Getty during the last few minutes of Psych. How much cross-over of Psych fans and museum-goers are there? I am one, may there be more because of this commercial. but the ad is surreal and the pairing of the two is bizarre.
**My friend Jason has a theory that all couples on TV shows have the same color of hair; blondes end up with other blondes, brunettes end up with other brunettes, etc. Though they may date outside their color, the hair of their true love’s hair will match their own. Oh no! Shawn is a brunette and Jules is a blonde! May this exception prove the rule.