I am addicted to serialized story-telling. There. I admit it. I like it in almost all forms. It started at a young age in paper form — the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Rick Brandt, Cherry Ames. You name it, if it was a series, I was “all in”. My biggest addiction was the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. And I am still more intrigued by characters with continuing storylines — the era of Sherlock Holmes, Jane Marple, Hercule Poirot are gone, but we still have Harry Potter, Stephanie Plum and Jack Ryan.
My love affair extends to its most common form these days, TV series. I am a sucker for an interesting plotline or set of characters that can be developed over several episodes or even seasons. Given that it is relatively cheap plus I can time-shift, I invest a lot of time in it that I’m sure raises the national average. Sure, lots of people complain “there’s nothing good on TV”, but I am not one of them.
Whereas some people are fanatics for new seasons of specific reality shows like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol, I like returning characters who can grow over several seasons. I just can’t invest in reality shows where the characters change after a few episodes. Not to mention the false drama the shows try to create according to the latest formula. But give me a new list of pilot dramas, and I start salivating.
I look forward to September’s launch of new shows and returning shows the way a sports fan gets excited for opening day of baseball, or the first kickoff of the football season. If there was a fantasy TV pool (not including some of the box office games), I’d probably sign up. Instead, I anxiously await the fall TV preview issue of Entertainment Weekly (now that TV Guide is basically grids) and I read almost every word about every new series to see if it is something interesting. I’m looking for entertainment, not the Discovery Channel, so some of my choices are not exactly the stuff you brag about over the water cooler. And to show you how anal I am, or excited if you prefer, I plan out my TV taping for the week so that my PVR can capture shows on East coast or West coast feeds, various channels, up to two at a time, etc. At the start of the season, I’m willing to give a lot of shows a shot, knowing that after one or two episodes, I may drop them. Think of it as me speed-dating a lot of TV shows. I prefer to be an early adopter of shows, and it would be the rare show that would escape my early attention that I would start watching later.
This past September, Sunday night looked like it would be all about The Lost Girl on Showcase. The main actress had done stints on Being Erica and was solid, and it has a fantasy element — she’s a succubus (think energy vampire) who finds out that there are fae in the world and she’s one of them. Add in a recurring mystery about some of the other characters, their backstory, and her missing identify, and it had potential. Generally, it paid off for me…I like the characters, you get to see some interesting beasts-of-the week (sirens, werewolves, etc.), and the acting is solid even when the dialogue is campy. Plus the main actress is easy on the eyes, so eminently watchable. The pilot was solid, and while the next few episodes were about the actors and writers finding their feet, the writing was surprisingly good (not including dialogue). I don’t know if Season 2 will be a “go”, but I hope so (bearing in mind it is Showcase, it doesn’t need the same numbers as NBC or Fox, and they are short season arcs, usually 13 episodes).
Mid-season, Showcase added Covert Affairs starring Piper Perabo. The trailers were superb, making it look like a cross between Alias and the Bourne movies. The show held up, but not to the trailer — it is more like the movie Recruit than the perfect spies of Alias and Bourne. Piper’s character is whip-smart, but she’s new and makes mistakes. A decent cast of recurring characters spread over multiple plots kept it interesting, mostly solid acting, although one of the actresses playing a sub-character also acts on Lost Girl and she’s horrible in both (fortunately with limited screen time). It is also a short season pickup, and I’m hoping Season 2 happens.
I used to watch Amazing Race on Sunday nights, but skipped this entire round — the stunt casting (oh, let’s find someone and make them seem like a freak) plus the false “unscripted” drama (really, this is what passes for “impromptu” dialogue?) were really starting to grate — so I would tape it, watch most of it in fast forward (no pun intended), and just see what the challenges were. This season, I couldn’t even muster that much interest, and that’s even on a night with limited alternatives. I tape Brothers and Sisters for my wife, but it is too soap-opera-like for my tastes, and I’m not surprised this was the last season. They jumped a year ahead last September following a car crash cliff-hanger the previous year, and that is never a good sign. Heck, you might as well have introduced a long-lost brother or sister too — oh, wait, they did that too. RIP Calista, ya killed another one. And Sally Field? Yes, I really really like you — in the Flying Nun, Smokey and the Bandit, and Murphy’s Romance, not this show.
Overall, Sunday was shaping up as “okay” with Lost Girl and Covert Affairs, but not “must-see TV”. Then The Gates premiered. The premise here was a wealthy gated community where a lot of the residents are not what they seem. Enter a new police chief with a big public mistake in his past who can’t figure out why he was hired, one who shouldn’t rock the boat, but who starts to probe the residents’ lives anyway. Nothing major to find — just vampires, witches and werewolves. All living as “normal humans” in a safe community. Some of the storylines were a bit too “obvious” and not all the actors were of the same calibre, but the police chief and the lead vampire were both really solid, and the writers were letting out sub-plot details in a controlled fashion. Pretty well done, heavy on philosophy/mystique of the characters and less so on the gore factor, kind of an adult Buffy without the intentional camp or Tru Blood without the sex and gore. I was hooked from the first episode, loved the police chief character as he slowly finds out what he’s signed on for and why he was hired. Overall excellent writing, with moderate to good acting, and I came back to see each week what was happening. Fast forward about 8 episodes and ABC pulled the plug. Too bad, I really thought it had some potential to become a cult favorite.
Monday nights would theoretically have been busier for me according to the initial plan — eight shows to tape, four of them new. How I Met Your Mother is one of only two sitcoms to make my regular taping roster, and over the last season and a half, they’ve gotten more serious and dialed back the one-off joke episodes. It’s still funny, but the extra “meat” in the episodes have allowed you to care a bit more about the characters. The two big storylines were Barney meeting his father (great casting of John Lithgow, who I normally just find annoying) and Marshall losing his father. Not your normal sitcom fare, and the performances and storylines have improved as a result. I was debating dropping it entirely, but with the improved writing, I stuck around.
I also tape Chuck (for fun, I don’t pretend it’s great writing) and Castle (which is fantastic for its weekly storylines and expanded ongoing investigation of the murder of Beckett’s mother). Castle’s season ender was a real cliff-hanger, but the loss of one of the major characters was trite, obvious, and quite frankly, a stupid attempt to make the audience go “Whoa”. Instead, I went “uh-huh, moving on people, nothing to see here”. Chuck’s ending was almost identical to last year’s and wasn’t much of a surprise, even with a funny twist. I expect the twist will disappear by episode two of the next season, which the network has promised is the absolute last, only picking it up for 13 episodes until some mid-year replacements are ready.
Law and Order: SVU was listed locally for Monday nights, and this year represented a change in my general approach to procedurals. I normally tape SVU (fast-forwarding through the boring parts i.e. anything with Munch or Tutuola), L&O: Criminal Intent (loved Jeff Goldblum as an extra character, not a replacement), and the three CSIs. But, all of them, across the board, are way past their prime. There’s nothing new happening, it’s just same old, same old. The acting has improved, sure, but if you miss an episode, it’s no big deal. This year I decided to just skip all the episodes. Besides, maybe this way I’ll be surprised when a rerun shows up and I haven’t seen it.
That left four new shows to try that looked interesting. First up was The Event — the one pitched to replace Lost. It started interesting, a plane from nowhere that disappears out of the sky, hey kind of funky. And it had John Ritter’s son, who I don’t mind. Blair Underwood doesn’t suck normally either. But then they started doing stupid flashbacks to build fake suspense — in other words, the writing in normal fashion wasn’t strong enough to hold interest, they had to go with gimmicks to make it mysterious. I was reminded in some ways of the movie Memento, and from my perspective, that is not a compliment. Yawn. I bailed after Episode 1, and watched announcements to see when it would die. And the dang thing wouldn’t. Finally, they pulled the plug at the end of the season, and even though I heard it had improved mid-season, they had lost me at hello.
Lone Star did the same — a great premise of a grifter who starts to fall in love with the mark, and wanting to go straight. Great potential for interesting storylines, but I lasted only two episodes before the acting of the father was just too painful to watch and the high-and-mighty-turn-to-ethics conversion of the main character was apparently so strong that he thought bigamy would be the right thing to do. Really? This is your main character doing the right thing? Fortunately it lasted only about two more episodes before the TV gods restored my faith and killed it.
Chase presented the same issue for me, in a way. The premise was promising in terms of weekly conflict and action — U.S. marshals chasing fugitives. Think The Fugitive without the one-armed man. But the characters had no chemistry together, the fugitive of the week was boring, and the lead was just a pale outline of a woman with daddy issues. Two episodes in and you had to wonder about not only the writing but the casting also…the lead was just not convincing as the impressive Marshal who everyone respected. But it made it to the end of the season before getting cancelled — I lasted a total of two episodes, and really, I want those two hours back.
Now, while I had high hopes for the previous three, I expected Hawaii Five O to completely and utterly suck. No way would it make it — hell, they pulled Boomer off of Battlestar Galactica and threw her in a bikini. Nah, the exploitation would start, and unless they found a sense of humour, I was sure it would die. But I remember the old series in reruns, so I figured it was worth a go while it lasted. Kind of a classic Stephen J. Cannell-type production, even if he wasn’t involved. Then I watched it, and two of the characters were solid — the main actor, Loughlin, was fun in a previous outing as Mick St. John, vampire detective, and I like him, so I already didn’t mind his character. He’s too falsely intense, but he stays in character well. More interesting though was the acting of former Lost series regular Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho, a disgraced ex-cop who left under mysterious circumstances from the force. His presence is fantastic on the series, and I wish they’d dump the Danny character (i.e. Book ’em, Danno) and focus on Chin Ho. Renewed for another season, the cliffhanger ended with McGarrett arrested for the murder of his boss, Kona arrested for theft of $12M, Danny’s family headed back to New Jersey, and Chin Ho working for Honolulu Police Department. It’s not the best thing on TV by a long shot, but it’s watchable, and the writers upped the ante for the finale. Count me in for the premiere next September.
Tuesday night started off ambitious in my plan too — five shows as possibilities. I have liked Mark Harmon in precisely two shows — St. Elsewhere where he ended up as a baddie and NCIS where he leads the good guys. I’ll watch no matter how bad it gets, and well, it tested me this season. The cliffhanger from last season (will Gibbs be blackmailed by the Mexican family whose father he killed? will he be killed? arrested?) wrapped up with really boring episodes that went nowhere. Similarly for the rest of the year, they got closer and closer to the other procedurals (L&O, CSI) that I’m already avoiding, and any attempts at character development were completely irrelevant to the storylines. But I stayed to the end of the season and they finally jettisoned some extra characters. The big cliffhanger is a new Secretary of the Navy assigning Tony a special undercover/Internal Affairs assignment at NCIS, ready for next season’s intrigue (an NCIS agent is selling secrets — but fyi, there are only five “agents” active in the storylines, so it isn’t going to be a jaw-dropping revelation of who is suspected when it happens). Yawn.
Not so however with the spin-off of NCIS: Los Angeles. The show is much campier than the original NCIS, but the tech support characters are great, the boss Hetty is oddly entertaining, and G. “I don’t know what the G stands for” Callan is almost letter perfect as the lead agent character. I have big doubts about the season finale and the ongoing storyline though — it reveals (potentially) Callan’s background far too neatly and that it wasn’t as big a secret as everyone thought. It might lead somewhere, though, and I am hoping the tech characters get more time next year while downplaying the acting time of the other agents. Their storylines are okay, but the acting is generally one-note.
I gave Detroit 1-8-7 a try for precisely two episodes. I think it was aspiring to be the “NYPD Blues for the motor city”, but the writing just couldn’t rise to the grit of the original and the acting was ho-hum. I’m happy to see it was cancelled at the end of the season, again restoring my faith in the TV gods.
As with Monday nights, I have a camp show for Tuesday — No Ordinary Family. The premise was a family of four who are exposed to a special chemical while on vacation and who subsequently develop super powers — Dad becomes super strong and indestructible; Mom becomes the Flash; son becomes Brainiac; and the daughter became telepathic. The initial premise of “how did this happen” and “introduce super baddie of the week to defeat” just went nowhere. The classic formula for any superhero show to work is that you need to see how the characters go from “normal” to “super”, not in terms of just their abilities but how they “hero up”. Apparently the writers forgot that, and without Clark Kent becoming Superman or Peter Parker becoming Spiderman, the draw had to be the abilities, and they were far too ordinary. I watched, mainly because I kept hoping for the “hero” side to emerge, but it didn’t — and ABC pulled the plug. I wouldn’t have given it another season either, at least not without a complete change in writers.
However, pushing all that aside, I was excited by a returning show — Being Erica. A Canadian-produced drama, it’s been picked up on American cable, and it is relatively unique. The premise is that Erica Strange’s life was going in the toilet, and she was at loose ends financially, emotionally, and at work. Enter a mysterious therapist — Dr. Tom — who helps her learn the lessons of her life by sending her back in time to relive certain moments, and in some cases, make different choices to see what the true consequences are. This show is quirky, but the writing has had some solid nuggets to work around — life, death, cancer, romance, drugs, and most of all, family. So I was really excited by its return this year. And then the season started, and it turned everything on its head (no longer single therapy, she’s in group therapy now!) with huge possibilities for storylines…she could go back and relive some of the other members’ experiences or they could help each other learn together. It felt a little bit like Herman’s Head from long ago, and definitely in a good way.
But then the writers did NOTHING with most of those other therapy members. The potential for Erica’s character was enormous, and instead focused on a single romance, weird work relationships, and the ensemble cast — there were numerous storylines about her sister and parents, all of which I kept waiting to link back to Erica (yoohoo, writers, it’s called BEING ERICA not ERICA AND FRIENDS!) and they never did. I found myself fastforwarding through the other storylines, because, really, who cares if sis gets laid compared to Erica going back in time to see her dead brother. Near the end, they gave us another giant twist, hurrah, and then the very next episode, they ignored it completely (hello, she graduated to being a therapist and meets her first mysterious patient who you only see the arm of, but the following episode it just doesn’t get addressed at all?????). I am doubtful that the next season will be any better, but hopefully the extra cash from U.S. syndication will attract some better writers.
Wednesday is a proverbial wasteland for me. With not much competition, I gave a chance to Undercovers — married former spies who return to the CIA to do consulting. Ooh, how exciting … the premise was kind of “what would happen if you took Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s characters from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, made it a TV series, and oh, how daring, we’ll make them black.” What you get is, well, crap. But I gave it a go for a few episodes, it was kind of Alias-like. But I couldn’t stomach it. Thank god it was cancelled.
I also took a peek, I admit it, at Hellcats. I remember the first “Bring It On” movie, and it was watchable at least. The premise of this show was odd to say the least — ex-gymnast now law student is about to lose scholarship, so she joins the cheerleader squad to get a sports scholarship instead. I suspect it was pitched as “Glee with dancers instead of singers”, but there’s a reason why the movie equivalents had sequels that tanked. Once you’ve seen one episode, it’s all rerun after that. It morphed into a Gossip Girl / One Tree Hill / 90210 like series, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Thank you CW for killing it.
The Whole Truth was billed as the next big law show — two lawyers battling it out each week, you’d get to see both sides of the issues, and the strategizing behind the scenes. The paper description seemed to have potential and then they cast Rob Morrow. The biggest scene in the trailer was him running up courthouse steps while telling his opponent to “Bring it, Katie” in pseudo-intense-watch-me-we’re-daring fashion. I can’t believe it got even the first two episodes out the door, and I didn’t even make it past the opening couple of scenes of Episode 1. Heck, Jar Jar Binks would have improved this show.
So, Wednesday is generally a wasteland — except that there’s a Canadian production called The Republic of Doyle. This show is really hard to classify. Jake Doyle, the main character, is a young private eye in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He works with his cantankerous father, father’s rational girlfriend, flighty niece who acts as a drug dealer so that she can make money to go to England, a fanboy named Dez who wants to be Jake, and a brother who is a continual screw-up. The episodes each week are throwaways, really, for the acting that takes place between Jake and his various flings…season 1 was all about his ex-wife vs. a new police sergeant; season 2 dumped ex-wife competition for police and added a new red-hot crown attorney.
Now here’s where I talk about the real star, the writing around Jake’s personal life — this past season had one incredible moment that was just magic. Generally, nothing works out for Jake … he tries hard, but it never quite jives for him, and he’s working hard with some little successes, but no home runs where he can relax and enjoy the outcome. Particularly with his relations with women…every time it starts to go right, something comes along to mess it up. So, in one scene this year, his ex-wife invites him over for dinner with her new boyfriend. He invites along the crown attorney with whom he’s been doing the “will we or won’t we” dance — only to find out his ex-wife had invited a nice lady already, as a setup without telling him. So Jake brings a date to an unexpected blind date. Over the top awkward, and it’s delightfully painful to watch. The crown attorney leaves, Jake follows, they have a bit of a laugh about it, and finally, they agree that it’s a “will we” moment and they kiss. It’s done as magic — very soft, very loving, very mind-blowing for the characters, a very significant moment where things change. But during the kiss, the phone rings, and the attorney says, “I better take it…it’s my husband.” Yep, she’s married. And Jake’s mind is like, “WTF?????”. It was a fantastic scene, perfect foible for the main character, great setup and a beautiful twist. It ultimately went nowhere, but that scene was just perfect writing. Not a huge plot idea, not perfect dialogue, just a small tweak to the plot to ramp things up yet again, and it worked perfectly. The rest of the season, however, was merely okay, mostly complications on a theme, all leading to the grand finale where everything gets wrapped up neat and tidy. Then someone — the writers, the producers, the directors, someone — decided to screw it up completely.
Everything that has made this show great is around his independence — he’s a private detective. Interacting with bad guys, on his own, no backup, no resources, dealing with his family and trying to glean info off the cops where he can while staying ahead of them so he can solve a case and get paid. So what do the powers-that-be do for the finale? They ditch all the sub-characters, and make him a cop — but not just any cop, not just a detective, but the head of a task force on organized crime. Say what? I’ll tune in to see if they can make it work, but I honestly don’t see how. All the parts that made the show watchable will be gone in the new format, which I suspect was a budget issue to dump staff. I won’t miss all the other characters (the father was good, the rest a waste of screen), but I think they just jumped the shark.
I already mentioned that I dumped CSI this year, so that was off my schedule. Which meant Thursday night was going to be “comfort night” with three returning shows and one new one.
One of the returning shows was the Big Bang Theory that moved from Monday nights. The writing on this show is just first-rate for dialogue, and the one-, two- and three-liners from Sheldon keep the show snappy and fun. But the big chemistry on the show was always Leonard and Penny — so the writing solution for this season was to make sure they were broken up, Penny pining secretly for Leonard, and Leonard banging anything with a pulse until near the end of the season when he got a permanent girlfriend (Raj’s sister Priya)? The addition of the girlfriend for Wolowicz has gone almost nowhere even though the actress is great as Bernadette, but the addition of Amy as a girlfriend for Sheldon is beyond hilarious. She’s both a fantastic foil and partner-in-crime for Sheldon’s mental gymnastics, and delightful to watch. However, the only real selling point for new writing this year has been the addition of the girls as girlfriends for Penny — she gets to have “girls nights”, and it adds a great dimension. Now, if they could just clean up a bunch of the other crap (see: Priya). I haven’t seen tonight’s season finale, but basically Raj moves in with Sheldon so Leonard can move in with Priya. Bah.
Next up would be the returning Fringe (which moved to Friday night). A good part of the season was Faux Olivia impersonating the real Olivia, but it just didn’t go anywhere during the crossovers. Finally they returned everyone to where they were supposed to be, but until the last couple of episodes, there was a reason that ratings were stagnant — so was the writing. Fortunately, the season finale was mind-blowing, and bodes well for the returning season, provided that they keep Peter and Olivia together (the season finale looked like one of the main characters is being written out, and if so, kiss the show goodbye — I don’t want to spoil it too much, but SPOILER ALERT Mulder needs Scully as much as Scully needs Mulder for the series to work).
A new show for the season was Nikita. This is a reboot of the La Femme Nikita movies, with the premise being a woman kidnapped and coerced into working as an agent / assassin for a covert government group who realizes that the government hasn’t sanctioned everything they do. She escapes and vows to bring down the organization. The best part of the reboot has been the existence of a mole on the inside of the organization — a raw recruit named Alex with a somewhat shady confused past. While some of the episodes have been smartly written, quality has been inconsistent — particularly sub-characters and sub-plots that basically went nowhere, and primary characters that go one way one episode, only to be going in the opposite direction the next without much explanation. The season finale promised huge upheavals to the existing premises, but it will be interesting to see if they do anything with it (they got a partial pickup for next season so far, but I doubt they’ll get extended).
Finally, for Thursdays, I watch The Mentalist. When this show first appeared, I thought it was rather silly in premise, so I skipped it. Then I started watching Psych and Lie to Me and thought, okay, I’ll give The Mentalist a try (similar premise of sorts, all three leads seeing small things that most don’t see to solve cases — Lie to Me is all psychological and cerebral, Psych is physical awareness and observation, and the Mentalist is halfway between the two). Last season ended great, and this season went precisely nowhere with it. Yes, they’re still chasing Red John. Yes, they’re solving other cases while they do it. But an ongoing sub-plot about an internal affairs investigation was long and slow and BORING. All to get them to a situation that could have been done in a single episode earlier. Tonight’s episode will reveal who the mole is…guess what? They revealed that mid-season, although most characters weren’t paying attention when the clue was revealed and neither Lisbon nor Jane were there to see the clue. I’ve seen enough of the trailer to look forward to the finale, but I’m not expecting any resolution or any great surprises — the show has been running on fumes for awhile. Another season will likely end it.
Friday night is the only real night of the week that is “must-see-TV” for me, as it has been for the last ten seasons. I love Smallville as a premise and in realization — as mentioned above, the storyline for superheroes that works best is “how the man becomes a hero”. And that has been the main premise of Smallville for ten seasons. This was planned as the last season, but it was far from the best. It was time for the writers to wrap things up, and they wasted a lot of time this season just going through the motions. Clark and Lois finally had their romance, which was handled well; Green Arrow stuck around and was expertly handled throughout. But they introduced the biggest baddie of them all in the opening, and after two episodes, the baddie virtually disappeared except for cameos for the rest of the season. The finale defeat was short but letter perfect (with a great throw-back homage to Christopher Reeve’s Superman), but it was a looooooooooooong time getting to it. Plus, the series had a lot of old storylines to wrap up, so it felt like every episode was a chance to say goodbye to a character. The finale was not as bad as it first looked in the description, looking way too much like a “I don’t have an episode storyline so let’s just do flashbacks”, but the story did progress in chunks. And then ground to a halt for a special character moment. Then more action. Then ground to a halt again. A giant meteor is about to crush the planet, and Clark knows he needs to go to the Fortress to talk to Jor-El. So for almost the entire last hour, he keeps doing stupid slow piddly things rather than SAVING THE WORLD? Sorry for a spoiler alert, but guess what? He becomes Superman in the last fifteen minutes, including tights and flying. The series is over, and it was a good enjoyable run, but time for it to end. I only wish they had done more this season with the other Justice League of America characters like the Flash.
I also watched Human Target (which moved to another night about halfway through the season), the series about a rogue bodyguard who saves people by waiting for the assassin to strike and then stopping them. This season introduced two female characters, and unfortunately, the writers did nothing useful with them. I’m not surprised it was cancelled, although I still watched to the boring end.
A late season addition was Body of Proof, although it moved to another night too. Dana Delany is the lead coroner, and that set off warning bells immediately. Most of the stuff she’s been in has sucked, or at least everything after China Beach. BoP is not horrible, but there’s nothing original about it either. I feel like I’m watching a female episode of Quincy at times. I lasted three episodes, but I couldn’t watch another episode where they told you how horrible she was with people … there’s a reason why it is called a television SHOW — you’re supposed to SHOW us, not TELL us. And the showing they did give us was Dana being weepy, or sad, or whatever. Pass.
I really wanted to like the new show Outlaw (which moved to Thursday just before the premiere). Jimmy Smits as a lawyer. I loved him in LA Law, and he was fantastic in the final season of West Wing with Alan Alda. So I had hopes. Then the description expanded. He’s not just a lawyer, he’s also a Supreme Court Justice who steps down to take on a case — the same one he just ruled on. Uh-huh…okay, I’ll let you stretch the premise, if you give me some meat. Nope, just basically soapbox-for-an-episode, with the writers trying for Sorkin-like dialogue and failing miserably. It was the first show cancelled of the season, and even I’d already bailed after the first episode.
Blue Bloods was a new addition this year, and I thought it had promise. Up front, it has Tom Selleck as the father of a large family of police and district attorneys. He’s also police commissioner. And Tom is solid in just about anything, even Quigley Down Under, I suppose, so it was promising. Plus it isn’t about him mainly, it is about his son played by Donnie Wahlberg. He’s fantastic, with a great woman partner. The daughter is a bit soapy as the district attorney, but it opens a few more doors for plot, and that’s exciting. But overwhelming in the first few episodes was a hidden mystery — the Blue Templars, a secret fraternal organization of cops formed originally to fight crime by any means necessary including dirty cops but which still exists and are now committing crimes themselves. In the opening, you see the youngest brother, a former lawyer, now becoming a cop — inspired by his next-older brother who was killed in the line of duty. But then the twist — the brother was murdered by the Blue Templars because he had been working for the FBI. Oooh, intrigue. Great fodder. But it then went dormant for almost the entire season, mostly until the final episode, where they wrapped it all up in one swoop. The rest of it was mostly procedural. Wahlberg is fantastic though, and it’s better than average procedural writing, but it was the Blue Templars plot that hooked me initially. Now that it’s gone, I don’t know if I’ll watch next season.
Nobody programs on Saturdays, do they? No, not really. It just happens though that I tended to tape two shows that day — Stargate Universe and Merlin.
Merlin caught up with the British schedule this year, essentially showing two short seasons back to back. I enjoy the premise, most of it was “magic person of the week” fare, but the corruption of Morgana is complete now, and Arthur has created the Knights of the Round Table. I don’t know how many more seasons will continue before Merlin and Arthur become their “historical” selves but the writing is starting to strain.
Stargate Universe has been straining since the beginning. I like science fiction, the Stargate series has good serialized storylines, and it had similar plot similarities to Star Trek: Voyager, stranded far from Earth. But the stories never went anywhere. While formula is formula, and not always positive, the formula for Stargate is fairly simple — go somewhere every episode, discover some people with a problem or a puzzle, solve it, come away with a resolution if not always positive. Simple, effective. SGU threw the premise out entirely — they almost never met anyone. They almost never solved anything except how to survive another week. There were damn few successes. And they had an ensemble cast out the wazoo — Stargate series stuck to a cast of 5 or 6 usually, Star Trek went to 7 sometimes, but SGU seemed like there were at least a dozen, increasing the number of storylines and relegating some interesting characters to non-entities each episode. It just never jelled. There are lots of fans who want it to continue, but the premise was just not there. Unfortunately, they left the series in limbo for the finale — everyone in a stasis pod? Really? That’s the best wrap-up you could develop? No wonder it died.
Oh, and I almost forgot, maybe as it isn’t a full series — the new BBC version of Sherlock Holmes is absolutely fantastic. Modernized, but with the feel of the original, and original stories, not just updates. Absolutely first rate, but was only intended as a series of small movies, not a full series, and nothing new lately (there were three episodes done), with talk of more to come now.
There were various other shows that I gave a shot to, most of which were unmemorable and are all now cancelled:
- Mr. Sunshine with Matthew Perry and Alison Janney, where both deserved a lot better than a sitcom-like setup managing a large stadium;
- My Generation looking back at a group of people who graduated high school together and finding out where they were now — I only watched 20 minutes of it and thought “who the hell greenlit this crap?”, and it lasted about 2 episodes;
- V which had a great opening pilot and then just fizzled;
- $#*! My Dad Says was a triple threat — bad acting, bad writing and bad dialogue!;
- The Chicago Code with a very earnest Jennifer Beal, that was promoted in huge trailers but just didn’t deliver;
- Law and Order: LA — after I said I avoided procedurals, I gave this a shot because I like Skeet Ulrich, and loved Jericho as a premise…then the show struggled and who did they kill off? Skeet’s character…I’m glad they borrowed Rubirosa from New York, but that’s not enough to hold my interest; and,
- The Cape — I actually loved this show, as they were getting it right most of the time…showing how the man becomes the hero. Unfortunately, they kept going into campy cult stuff with the bad guys of the week, and watching the Cape lament his lost family got old real fast.
I am reassured that the TV gods finally cancelled Medium (dead in my opinion after episode one, pun intended); One Tree Hill (I stopped watching after season two); and TBS’ My Boys (the girl sportswriter premise was too one-note, surprised it lasted as long as it did, even given the lower threshold for ratings on TBS — heck, even when I wanted to watch it, I found it hard to find!).
I mentioned above that I watched Lie To Me, and it has been cancelled too. I liked the premise (micro expressions telling whether you are lying or not) but they needed some more of the psychopaths who couldn’t be read.
My guilty pleasure of the week was the new Christian Slater show, Breaking In, but not in the way you think. I took one look at it, saw it was Christian and said “uh oh”…then saw the full premise, and said, “Okay, bye bye”. Two episodes and gone. Paul Reiser didn’t even get that far with his non-show. I feel guilty about how much pleasure I get from watching those two shows completely bomb. I’m sure somewhere somebody’s mother was looking forward to bragging their son or daughter was the writer for a show on TV…sorry, Mom, your son/daughter SUCKED. Maybe they’ll get it right next time. I wish I could say Molly and Me died the same fate…for all those who say “Oh, but it’s such a nice show”, here’s the reality — they cast two fat people to become romantic because fat people are apparently funny to watch have relationship problems. Kind of like the excitement about The Biggest Loser…if anyone thinks TBL is “inspiring”, ask yourself this — would you watch it if it was a bunch of anorexics and bulimics who were gorging themselves to put ON weight? No? Then why are you cheering others at taking it off?
And that wraps up my season of TV watching. The Glades is starting soon, and a few new shows are launching in June. Nothing that looks amazing though. Stay tuned, and don’t get between me and my remote come September.
There are some serialized storylines coming on, and I’ll be watching all of them. At least once.