TV-14 | 23 January 2005 (USA)

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    As Good As It Gets


    It's entirely possible that sending the audience out feeling lousy was intentional

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    It's easily one of the freshest, sharpest and most enjoyable films of this year.

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    The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.

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    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU

    This is a series that should make you shiver in your armchair, not of cold but of mental disruption, in other words, it will make you lose your mind. The idea is that everything is mathematical and everything can be reduced to statistical, numerical networks of equations and operations that dictate everything that may or might happen on this earth or in the universe. Welcome to an absolute Asperger autistic vision of life and the world. But if you neglect looking at the equations (they go too fast) or listening to the numbers and the theories that use all kinds of names for all kinds of arcane notions, every single one weirder than the previous or the next, you may survive the drowning bath they are trying to give you, to make you go through. Don't worry ressurection is guaranteed at the end of each episodeThen you will also be surprised by the fact that the three main characters are Jewish but so far from their religion that we hardly know about it. No Shabbat, no synagogue, no whatever could be in anyway Jewish. It must be mentioned less than a dozen times and a synagogue is actually visited twice. I guess in Los Angeles you can be a totally agnostic Jew with no problem at all.The third element is the triad of Eppes characters. The father has been a widower for a long time and his wife is only a recollection, a passing mention, an allusion, but no real presence, not even in a flashback of any sort. And she was supposed to be a very good mother. In fact, she must have been since the younger son, Charles was autistic, the Asperger savant type, and he was classified a genius by the age of fourteen and he got a Ph.D. when most people get their high school degree. And of course in mathematics. That makes him a rather simple autistic Asperger case. Mathematics and the capacity to see patterns everywhere and develop equations and theories to justify his intuition. His second autistic characteristic is his difficulty to have standard relationships with others that could be in any way more than dealing with numbers and I must say it took him five seasons to finally ask Amita to marry him. Some will, of course, tell me she was his student. For sure, but that did not prevent them from sleeping together long before getting married. It is just that he cannot establish a full emotional stable relationship with anyone, even his father and especially his elder brother who has become an FBI cop. Strangely enough in this family the young genius Charles is accepted and supported by mother (so they say), father and elder brother all the time, and Charles is not that keen on being intimate with his own brother and having a fair relationship with his father for a couple of season because he is living in his father's house.The point is that things start changing when the father wants to sell the house and buy a condo for himself to have a private personal life, and Charles, unknown of anyone, buys the house and becomes the landlord of his own father who accepts to stay and the house becomes a real commune, the three men of course, though the elder son seems to have an apartment somewhere though he does not have any stable relationship with anyone, woman or man. His life is an FBI caricature and for him, everyone is nothing but a partner, I mean a patrol partner.That leads this Don Eppes to propose his younger brother who is a professor of Applied Mathematics at the local university christened Cal-Sci, to become a consultant for the FBI with his mathematics. That changes the life of the younger brother who moves slightly loose in his teaching position and becomes more and more integrated into the FBI. In fact his autistic personality makes him become obsessive and compulsive in his onepointedness that becomes then catching crimimnals and even prebventing them from becoming criminals, and all that thanks to mathematics. Such changes in life are of course normal in many ways, not necessarily dramatic, and yet they are very dramatic indeed, at times tragic. But no matter how authoritarian he is in his attitude with everyone, he is absolutely not able to lead people and become what his elder brother is, the chief officer of a whole elite team of criminal cops. He can only be the prophet that shows the way but not the leader that goes down this way. He is an abstract mental roadsign and his brother is the leader of the pack of agents he takes to the crime scene or after the criminal Charles has pointed at.That then leads us to that elder son and brother who is a very good authoritative and respected chief officer, though inner affairs and trauma-psychiatrists are flabbergasted by his resistance and in fact predict he will sooner or later break down and lose his control over the crazy facts of criminal life. But he does not have the human dimension he could have in his own private life because he does not have a private life, even with the local District Attorney or Prosecutor.Amita Ramanujan is Indian and she came to Los Angeles as a student in computer science. She fell in love with her mathematics professor and her mathematics professor fell in love with his student, which was tricky as long as she was a student, though he made her his assistant as a graduate student preparing for a Ph.D. and when she got it she refused a position in some Eastern prestigious university to stay in this university where theory is not the objective but applied science is the norm. She will end up at the end of season five with Charles kneeling at her feet and proposing, finally proposing. And in the last season, the marriage is actually announced. For a Hindu girl she is extremely calm and Charles autism, Asperger in this case, does not seem to trouble her, to bother her. She just waits for him to move. She knows at least that much: you cannot force an autistic child to do anything that child does not want to do. You have to run with him and follow his inspiration. If you can swim through the numbers and the equations, knowing anyway that most of them must be fictitious, you might enjoy the action that is criminal for sure but with a light entertaining side to it, even when it is gross and full of blood. After all, it is only a TV story. I should, of course, quote a last perambulating erring character who is an applied physics professor Larry Fleinhardt but he is a dilettante. He spends six months in Space. He is always roaming around with a bit or piece of a theory, with some raspberries or other goodies, he even gets into Buddhism for a while and lives in a monastery, though he spends a lot of time in his own office turned into a den, or even underground in the sewers before finally accepting to be a perambulating lodger in Charles' house, though at first with great reluctance that I seem to think is slightly hypocritical, if not slightly more.I should, of course, get to the end of the series but I definitely must let you have something to discover by your own means. So enjoy your adventure.Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU

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    Having only watched a couple of episodes of season one, so I can't comment on the development that the show has probably shown to date, but from what I have seen the show is a pleasant enough twist on the traditional crime show. You've read the synopsis I expect, or seen the show, so I wont bother explaining the premise to you and just focus on the grit.The characters of the show are pretty basic, save the protagonist mathematician and Dr. Larry, who have the necessary eccentricities of their intellects, if being probably far more socially skilled than their real life counterparts - the main character was intended to be likable so we go the Will Hunting type of extreme genius who is practically fine at interacting with other human beings, sure it probably happens sometimes.The dynamic between the two brothers does not give off a family vibe in my opinion, but the acting overall is good quality, Peter MacNicol is great to watch as ever and his relationship with the main character is good fun to watch.My only major criticism is that the show suffers from an overabundance of exposition that makes it even harder to suspend disbelief, it practically slaps you in the face with its cold fish whilst shouting "I am a work of fiction". The cartloads of exposition is to be expected from the parts of the script where mathematics are involved, and even if its fairly rudimentary stuff - we're used to that, we know they're scared of looking too nerdy or cryptic and putting off viewers with all their mathematical gobbledygook. What must have happened is that when writing the script, having to explain all the mathematical jargon has influenced the style of the entire show, and it seems like characters are forever explaining everything to each other, clearly for our benefit. It just makes you want to groan.Saying all this I still find the show easy watching and relaxing. Its not brilliant in any shape or form but its just original enough and without too many layers of cheese that puts it a cut above a lot of other shows of this type that may have much higher production value.Its got charm, thats something you cant buy and makes the show appealing despite any shortcomings.

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    This show was great until they brought on Diane Farr. I have a hard time watching with her stiff acting and nasally,whiny voice. Arggh...torture! Just have to get through 60 episodes! I skim them waiting to get to the ones without her! The premise is great! Great chemistry amongst the rest of the cast. It is great to see Judd Hirshand Rob Morrow again! The character of "Charlie" is portrayed in a unique way. He has the social awkwardness of most geniuses but also the insecure little brother. Judd Hirsh's character does a great job showing the caring dad trying to keep his two very different sons close and appreciative of the other's differences. Well done!

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    Norma J F Harrison

    too much 'music' background --drowns out the sense of the scenes, and covers up the dialog. I can't believe there is anything that says requires much input instead of trying to get short statements - reduced numbers of words and ideas. It makes no sense to me but in order to request ending the music background it seems I have to write a whole lot more than I intended. The music is overpowering the feel of the scenes and helping to let us know we're not math scholars so you don't expect us to understand the ideas being voiced, and that is helped by the excess of that really annoying music. I can't think of much more to say to explain what I see as a serious detraction from a quite enjoyable TV production.

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