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A Little Midseason Review

November 6, 2009

(Beware the spoilers that might possibly be in this post; swim at your own risk)

“After all the hype for this episode,” I said last night, pointing to the commercial for this week’s episode of FlashForward, which was billed as ‘The One to See,’ “if it doesn’t blow me away, I’m giving up.”

“You give up so quickly!” my mother replied, half-teasing. I’d already given up on three shows this year, deciding they weren’t worth the effort.

“I don’t exactly have a lot of time to waste these days,” I replied, which then led into a discussion of  my ability to watch old crappy sitcoms ad nauseam.

The justification for those viewing habits is easy – I don’t have to use my brain to watch old episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway on You Tube. I can do other things at the same time, and since I’ve seen most of them before, I don’t have to pay much attention. If a one-hour drama is going to demand my full attention during valuable evening hours when I’ve just arrived home from work or school, then it damn well better be worth my time. I watch TV to be entertained. If I have to really struggle to get through 60 minutes of television, then mission unaccomplished.

The hardest part, I’ve found, about giving up on television shows is missing out on the watercooler talk. Most of my friends are real TV mavens, and I hate to be out of the loop when we get together. Glee is one show I wish I could get into, if only because every one of my friends is a Gleek. I just couldn’t do it. It used to be that if I committed to a show, then I stuck it out, good, bad, and ugly. Of course, I used to have free time, too.

I think the first show I gave up on after watching for two seasons was CSI: Miami. I simply couldn’t stand David Caruso tilting his head to the side and promising young women justice in his sex-offender voice, and there were no other characters I was particularly attached to. Sadly I have to watch it this week, since CBS decided to go for a sweeps stunt and unite the three CSIs on one case.

I let go faster these days since I’m short on time, and I know that if I ever really wanted to get back into something, the DVD set would be out in no time. But a lot of it has to do with having been burned. There have been shows that I’ve invested in that have either gone downhill or were axed before their times. I’m looking at you, Heroes, you harlot. I gave you some of the best years of my life, and then you ended Season 3 with Matt Parkman, Mama Petrelli, and HRG getting together and deciding Sylar should become Nathan. That was the final straw for me. I just don’t really have the luxury these days to stick with a show and hope it gets better.

Then there’s the little issue of CTRL-Z. Too many shows are trying to recapture the magic of the good ‘ol days, before the critics turned on them, and put a reset button on the show. Take House, for example. After sitting through the 2-hour season premiere (which miraculously moved away from the standard template of ‘person comes in with weird symptoms, patient mentions something which will be key later, team diagnoses, team almost kills patient once, twice, three times, House has epiphany, patient is saved though possibly in worse shape than when arriving), I thought this season had potential. House off drugs, House trying to be happy, that could make for a new and interesting direction. Then Thirteen got fired and Taub quit, making way for the old guard to return.  Yawn. I was over it.

I gave up on Stargate Universe after the pilot, despite being a big fan of the other installments in the franchise. Part of it had to do with this controversy (and this post, while not exactly impartial, raises a lot of uncomfortable issues I’d overlooked), and part of it was sheer boredom. I didn’t like any of the characters, with the possible exception of David Blue’s Eli Wallace, and it was trying so hard to be so many other shows that it fell flat.

The one new show I’m really enjoying this season is actually a sitcom, and the fact that four of my current top shows are sitcoms has me retracting an earlier statement that the half-hour comedy was a dying art form. Community earns my attention because it’s not over the top, it has a strong ensemble cast, and it really focuses on achieving what it sets out to do – comedy in a specific situation. Plus, there’s all the pop culture references.

Sadly, many shows I’ve come to rely on are coming to their end. Supernatural, which has only gotten better and better with time, has some of the smartest writers on TV. You know they’re sharp because they make it all seem so natural (pun intended.) Despite bringing about the Apocalypse, the show’s stayed grounded with the (often painful and co-dependent) relationship between two brothers we love to love. Last night’s episode was fantastic – tongue-in-cheek while furthering the show’s mythology.

Another show that has definitely shown signs of improvement is Fringe. I was severely underwhelmed by the first season which did not make enough of Joshua Jackson’s character and dialed Walter’s eccentricities up to 11. Fortunately this year, the death of Charlie (sorry, Charlie) allowed Peter to step in as Olivia’s partner and gave him the chance to show off those skills he used to fake his way into MIT. Not just there to look pretty and interpret Walter-speak. I also give kudos to the writers for not drawing out the PodPerson!Charlie storyline too long. It was a premise that would have gotten sweaty fast, fortunately they handled it well.

Castle is another show that’s stepped up in its sophomore season. The mysteries aren’t really any more complex, but the characters seem to have hit their stride, and Nathan Fillion is irresistible. Kind of amazing that this is the first show he’s done that’s made it past season 1.

I started this post because I wanted to write about V. In a season that has been fraught with ‘whatevers,’ I’d heard a lot of good buzz about the show that hasn’t had an easy time of it behind the scenes. Between scheduling changes, showrunner exits, rumors and gossip about the cast, I braced myself for quick cancellation. Fortunately V came out of the gate strong – if it can sustain (with four episodes due to air and then a hiatus until January), it’ll go far.

It was an action-packed hour, and the writers made an interesting choice to play with time – instead of following the chaos in the days immediately after the Visitors’ arrival, the show jumps three weeks ahead when everyone is getting used to the idea of aliens, and many don’t like it.

The cast is well-balanced, with no apparent divas or weak links. There’s something to be said for new talent, but I’ll always love seeing familiar faces whose work I enjoyed in the past. Though I miss Morena Baccarin as the hooker with the heart of  gold, I  completely bought her as the lizard queen, particularly enjoying the way she played the scene in which her character Anna walks through a crowd of reporters, and she feigns ignorance over Earth culture, before replying to Scott Wolf’s comment with a sly sense of humor.

I love Elizabeth Mitchell, and have since her stint on ER. Her character, Juliet Burke, quickly became my favorite on the Island, and so I had my fingers crossed that whatever part she was playing on this new series, it would ease the pain of her having fallen into a shaft on Lost, detonating a nuclear device, and presumably blowing herself up in the process. Fortunately, it has.

While I’m noticing a pattern in blonde FBI agents whose long-term, reliable partners turn out to be something other than human, and wonder why television insists on showing working mothers as neglectful, at least her role is significant and interesting. And if Alan Tudyk is going to be an apparently hard to kill lizard, then at least Mitchell and Joel Gretsch (an actor I’ve loved since The 4400) get to hang out together. Too bad he’s a priest.

I love shows that focus on different intertwining storylines, always eager to see how the characters will come together, but I have to say I’m a little tired of that device, and it was nice that V started things off by separating into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much if the end of the episode saw FBI Agent Erica and Father Jack going on to fight separate resistances that we all know would eventually become one. This cuts to the chase. I like the motif of having one other person in the world you know you can trust.

Most of my favorite television won’t return until the new year: Leverage, Lost, Chuck. At least now that the World Series is over, Fox has brought back Bones (Wendell the Intern should get his own show). Then there’s USA’s lighter fare, like new favorite White Collar, Burn Notice (which starts its winter season soon), and Royal Pains. I’m ready to be entertained – bring it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 10, 2009 5:37 pm

    V is going to be on hiatus until March(!) after it’s first four episodes this month. Sigh.

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