Kind of a mess.

The Night-In: Lamb chops and a dragon roll from Gambas to be eaten in front of TNT's Falling Skies .



Gambas and Falling Skies Bite Off More Than They Can Chew

Kind of a mess.

The Night-In: Lamb chops and a dragon roll from Gambas to be eaten in front of TNT's Falling Skies.

The Cuisine: Belltown's Gambas is the Japanese and French fusion restaurant known for its expansive, eclectic menu and for being one of the few French-inspired eateries that offers delivery. Gambas attempts to make up for its lack of buzz in ever-fickle Belltown with variety and convenience.

Although I'd love to be corrected, Gambas may well be the only place in Seattle that will deliver filet mignon to your house. That said, I'm pretty damn certain it's the only place in Seattle that will deliver a meal as wonderfully schizo as a California roll, a New York steak, clam miso soup, escargots, and mochi ice cream.

The appeal of such a magical, one-stop shop for haute cuisine would be undeniable if it weren't for two things--prohibitive costs and a lack of distinct flavor--common in restaurants trying to overreach. While Gambas' lamb chops had a tenderness that peeled off the bone perfectly, the accompanying mashed potatoes were a bland, starchy disappointment.

Their dragon roll's delicious eel filet was sublime, but the tempura shrimp inside had a flatness and didn't seem worth Gambas' characteristically hefty price tag. Their happy-hour sushi has also given the cheap stuff quite the rubbery, bland reputation.

Perhaps one of Gambas' major sins is that their idea of fusion is considerably limited. Although their menu is stacked obscenely high with all sorts of ambitious offerings, you're not really going to see any dishes that mix the two cultures. With a menu that's pretty thoroughly segregated among its Japanese, French, and American offerings, Gambas seems more a conglomerate than a fusion--like a food court with waitress service.

The Entertainment: Falling Skies is a 60-minute sci-fi serial drama centered on a group of human survivors seeking solace in the wrecked remains of Massachusetts, taking place a full six months after an apocalyptic alien attack. It is also the latest television series that Steven Spielberg has latched onto with an executive-producer credit (along with FOX's upcoming Terra Nova, because just doing a sci-fi show for TNT would be unfair, I guess).

Falling Skies follows in the pedigree of terrestrial shows like the acclaimed Showtime series United States of Tara, the above-genius family cartoon Pinky & the Brain, and of course, the totally unforgettable SeaQuest DSV.

In that respect, Falling Skies seemed really promising. After all, the first half of 2011 has been a really good year for Spielberg's legacy, all without the director even having to release anything. Long-awaited dream projects like Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln biopic and his opening entry into the Adventures of Tintin trilogy are finally coming into shape, while JJ Abrams' box-office love letter to the action auteur, Super 8, has performed admirably in the director's honor both critically and financially.

But while Super 8 cribbed the truly magical elements of Spielberg's finest--creating a sense of childlike awe through essentially cinematic moments experienced by proxy of masterfully humanized characters--Falling Skies seems more like an overexcited stalker's ransom note to Spielberg at times, artlessly cutting and pasting elements of better films or television shows in order to get its uninspired, haphazard message across.

The strained father/son relationship amid alien chicanery was the first idea yanked from Spielberg's hope chest, but if you're hoping for a subtle metaphor a la E.T., you're shit out of luck, because this show is going to beat you half to death with teen angst and ruined birthdays whenever it possibly can. Stock characters like the grizzled army vet (certainly doomed to the show's most violent death), the conveniently widowed love interest, and a few racial stereotypes all clutter the story, begging to be cared about even a little. Meanwhile, half-heartedly explained sci-fi tropes like mind control devices struggle to find their place in the mess.

Not satisfied with merely stealing the thunder of Spielberg or other sci-fi film legends, Falling Skies also tries to elbow in comparisons to other television shows. The hardened resistance force takes its aesthetic cues from a hybrid of the tightknit, athletic sports team marooned in 2002's Battlestar Galactica reboot and the realistically incompetent, untrained survivors from AMC's The Walking Dead. The central, pretty obvious problem with this is that the show can't really decide whether or not its patchwork army is either going to effortlessly plow through an alien barricade with guns a-blazing, or fall apart into a weeping mess at the first poorly computer generated laser they see. Granted, the show makes an attempt at dividing the resistance force into "soldiers" or "civilians," but it's hard to take that line seriously when you realize a lanky, often awkward history professor is second-in-command of the former.

Mostly though, what you're going see most of is Earth's survivors coddling you with endless dialogue as they either go into mundane detail about their almost-certain-to-fail plans or bark at each other in hushed tones as they explain the aftermath of the show's chaotic, mercifully short action sequences. It's really kind of painful to see such a high-concept television show balk so hard at the idea of "show, don't tell" in the age of terse, visually arresting alternatives like Breaking Bad or Justified, and the show's pace plods immensely given the contrast.

The Pairing: This is where I found the parallel between Gambas and Skies: the first impression you're likely to get off either property is that they both try to satiate a large swath of wildly different tastes, without being noticeably comfortable with any of them. Although both franchises can seem patchwork and all over the place, scoffing at the very idea of harmony amongst its constituents, Gambas certainly manages to cling to at least serve some delectable substance within the jumbled mess of cliches. While Falling Skies is only two episodes into its run (three if you count the extended pilot), the premise is so mercilessly bound to its long-tired influences that it's hard to imagine ever getting drawn in, short of maybe a cataclysmic purge of all its main characters and plot elements.

Gambas, on the other hand, seems to be much less resigned to its lack of depth. The novelty of a fancy meal delivered in a prompt manner alone is enough to put it at the top of some discerning take-out junkies' lists, even as prices run too high and its menu could use a trim. The most novel thing Falling Skies has is a dumbfounding lack of self-awareness I haven't seen since NBC took Heroes off the air.

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