Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sarah Connor update
The Rural Juror. It's a running gag in 30 Rock, a film with an oddly unpronouncable title. I'm reminded of it every time I hear a cast member mumble "Previously on the Sarah Connor Chronicles". Seriously, who thought up that name?
We're nearly at the end of Series 2, and it's like watching paint dry on a burning building.
It's a show about people on the run - from killer cyborgs, from the future, from themselves, but mostly, they're running away from the show itself.
It has the air of improvised science fiction, lurching from one giddy ta-da to the next, but with no real idea of what it's actually about.
At least Battlestar, for all its grimness, bad hair days, and occasional episodes about blah, always had a plan. It wasn't going to tell you, but that was for your own good.
Sarah Connor keeps its cards close to its chest, but with the infantile glee of a child crying "it's a secret! it's a secret!".
Let's just imagine for a second that you've been watching Season Two in one glut on a long haul flight - and somehow not tried to flush yourself out of the plane. You'll have seen John Connor go back to school, leave school, move house, meet whacky pregnant neighbour (who vanishes for, oooh, 15 weeks), find a blood-soaked wall of cryptic clues in the garage, forget about it, remember, forget, remember, and finally totally forget it.
John also gets a girlfriend, who vanishes, then comes back, then he dumps her, then she's back, then she's gone again, oh noes! she's from the future - and what's that, John Connor? You say you knew all along? And there were all these clues that we missed? I don't think so.
Oh, and hang on, you also knew all along that Derek also had a girlfriend from the future? And didn't at any point think there would be hilarious consequences involving guns and luggage? (By the way, Sarah Connor Chronicles loves guns and luggage - it's like they're sponsored by a dull duty free shop. Next year, I predict we'll see a lot of inflatable pillows)
As both girlfriends from the future are pretty annoying, it's quite useful that one shoots the other and then leaves the show. Sadly, this still leaves the most annoying character going - and that'll be Sarah Connor.
Imagine an incompetent female Jack Bauer, with even less of a sense of humour. You know those Facebook adverts about the signs of a stroke? Frozen face, drooping eyes, incoherent mumbling? Dear Lena Headey, how would we tell?
As she shuffles grimly from one disaster to the next, killing nice people and blowing up pretty things, you realise that she's the real Terminator. So awful is she that there's even an episode where she's in hospital, and the patient in the next bed sets fire to herself rather than spend another minute with Sarah Connor.
Maintaining a shred of dignity is lovely Summer Glau. Her contract now clearly states "No more fights or smashy smashy - Ms Glau will just look aloof". She's got her eyes on what she'll be doing after Sharah Chonner Conicles. If not rom coms, then maybe a shop window dummy.
She even emerged intact from the episode where her brain fritzed and she worked Hollywood Boulevard as a hooker. Her standard expression to her co-stars is clear: "How can you speak this drivel?"
Poor Thomas Dekker manages it. It's unfortunate that he's got a gay face. They play with the hair, they add the odd scar, but the older he gets, the more he looks like a minty flyer-boy for Heaven. Seriously, would you entrust the future of humanity to one of them? Or even some used chewing gum?
His episode 19 twist of "ha! ha! I knew the plan all along! And I can hold a gun! Facebook me, bitches! lols" falls flat. He bases his revelation on pointing out goofs and errors from previous episodes - which, believe me, isn't a game you want to start playing with Sarah Connor. Answer me this, John Connor - whatever happened to the elaborate mobile phone code? The time paradoxes? The grafitti in Series One? What's that? Free glowsticks and 2for1 on alcopops? Okay then, I'll consider it.
So why am I still watching this drivel? Okay. Two reasons.
Reason 1: The honest hope that at any minute Lene Headey will get a fit of the giggles, turn to the camera and ask "Please, do you have any idea what's going on?"
Reason 2: The Mansonator. God bless you Shirley Manson. Dropped in like scenes from another, better show, you've stolen the series and my heart.
If, in early episodes, it looked like she wasn't acting, then she's underpassed that by miles. Even in the middle of a killing spree, she looks barely awake. She's perfected the appearance of wearing sunglasses without actually ever having to.
The Mansonator is far and away the best thing on television. It's hard to pick a favourite moment or lack of expression. "Sit on my lap" might be a winner. Or even the reaction when her missing daughter is found and she looks quietly disappointed that she's not somehow turned into a Gucci handbag.
She's got all the toys, and she knows it. She's even got a recovering Terminator in the basement who loves Lego! Watching her daughter play Bionicle with him ("Can my duckies play too?"), you know you're onto a winner, and your heart sinks whenever the action cuts back to Sarah Connor, holding a gun and some luggage.
Please don't kill off the Mansonator! And please don't cancel the show. Or, if you have to, please start a spinoff where Shirley Manson and Summer Glau open a cupcake emporium. Go on. Just imagine either of them saying "Would you like extra sprinkles with that?" See? Best. Idea. Ever.