From Avalon to San Francisco, wrapping up some TV seasons (with some spoilers)

TEARS TO TIARA is a game-based anime whose odd mix of Arthurian and Celtic folklore reminds me of countless complaints about how American media mangle foreign folklore and legends. The setting is an alt.Britain under siege by the Empire and its ruthless warlord Gaius; when someone awakens the demon king Arawn from centuries of sleep, he joins forces with the Gael leaders Arthur and Riannon to fight against the Romans. But there’s a worse threat in the wings: Arawn was once Lucifer, one of the Twelve Spirits ruling the world for God, but he turned against them because of their brutal treatment of humanity and free will. If the Empire falls, the White Spirits will act … This is a thoroughly pixilated mix of British legend (I haven’t even mentioned Avalon’s maid cafe!) but it does have its charms and overall it worked. “No human can defeat me — watch your beloved brother take his final breath.”

JOAN OF ARCADIA was a 2003- 05 series starring Amber Tamblyn as a high school student named yes, Joan, who finds herself hearing messages from God — not mentally, God manifests in various people throughout Arcadia, giving Joan various assignments, from trying out for cheerleading to ruining her best friend’s art project.  It’s the sort of show I usually hate, where everything’s working for the good and seemingly random events all tie together (e.g., Kiefer Sutherland’s 2012 show Touch). Here show-runner Barbara Hall and her crew pull it off: things are just dark enough and unjust enough and complicated enough not to be too saccharine (one of the  special features on this S1 set says it would have been a lot more saccharine pre-9/aa). It helps that the cast is first rate, not only Tamblyn but Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen as her parents. It’ll be a while before I get to S2, but I look forward to it. “Is this a real conversation or an Abbott and Costello routine?”

The third season of YOUNGER ended with Liza telling the truth to best buddy Kelsey — that Liza’s a forty-year-old posing as a twentysomething to duck age discrimination — and with twentysomething Josh breaking up with Liza after he spots her kissing her boss. I figured that as usual, the show would have these issues wrapped up in two or three episodes, but Josh and Liza stayed broken up this season, culminating in him marrying an Irish barmaid to get her a green card (partly, he admits, because having a ring on his finger will put Liza permanently off-limits). I figured Liza’s almost-relationship with her boss Charles would finally take off, but that tanks too when Charles’ ex re-enters the picture. So the show is capable of surprising me, which is good. “Do you have a hospice patient you could introduce me to?”

The second season of MCMILLAN AND WIFE has a stronger set of mysteries than S1, most notably Cop of the Year in which Mac’s (Rock Hudson) sidekick Sgt. Enright (John Schuck) apparently guns down his unstable ex in a locked room, with nobody else around. It’s a classic set-up and they do well with it … if you overlook the unlikelihood of Enright being allowed to keep working on the investigation.

That’s generally the weakest part of the show, that the mysteries are invariably personal: a psycho stalks Sally (Susan St. James) in No Hearts, No Flowers, a family friend is a target in Two Dollars on Trouble to Win, Sally gets kidnapped in The Fine Art of Staying Alive and a criminal double replaces Mac in Terror Times Two (regrettably Hudson’s not enough of an actor to exploit the double role — too bad they didn’t have Sally doubled instead). I think this reflects that the show’s roots are husband/wife mystery solving teams (the Norths, the Charles and a few others) where it’s often personal, but that doesn’t fit well with Mac’s role as San Francisco’s police commissioner. Despite the flaws, I enjoyed the season. “Now that we’ve established our butcher is not poisoning lamb chops, may I get some sleep?”

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