Monday, March 26, 2012

What I'm Watching: The Ends Come

It’s weird. You wake up one morning, and you look around, and suddenly April is right around the corner. Soon, May will be here, and with it the end of pretty much the entire TV season.

I haven’t done one of these catch-alls in a while, and in a lot of ways I miss them when I don’t do them. They were one of my favorite things to do back when I was running the Fox Valley Geeks blog (I’m sure I’ve said this before). That and trying to figure out why some dude kept asking who remembered obscure bits of local history.


If there is a more-dissected “What’s wrong with this show?” show on TV than Glee, I’m not sure I want to know about it. I mostly purged my demons as far as the show goes a while back, and it led to one of my most popular blog posts, ever. People read that thing for weeks.

I don’t have much to add to that essay at this point. But I do feel the need to sigh deeply, and toss out a sentence or two about the… whatever they’re calling it. Mid-season finale? Winter finale? Everything has the word finale tacked on it these days, even if the show is only vanishing for three weeks. This desperate need to turns shows into “events” has gotten out of hand, frankly.

The problem with the last episode is that it’s a huge, creaky setup for all the stuff coming next. Sue is pregnant, but she won’t say who the father is (so you’ll come back). The head cheerleader is dead (or not). Rachel and Finn were about to get married, and none of their parents are telling them it’s a bad idea.

I remember watching the clock, and mentally going, “Ugh, cliffhanger,” and then they pushed everyone off the cliff and the happy voice that tells you to watch Glee came back on and said to check back in, when April arrived. And also to buy the latest music of Glee on iTunes.

Straight and to the point: This whole Sue pregnancy thing is a weird and pointless exercise in keeping Sue around, and I can’t decide if it will be worse if she has the baby, loses the baby, or is faking the pregnancy. They are all just plain bad ideas.

Rachel and Finn aren’t going to get married, and even if they do, they’ll end the marriage two episodes later. It’s all setup for keeping these two and Kurt around after they graduate and are supposed to move on. Please, show, let these guys move on. You said they would, and they should, and now you’re going back on it to keep the show on the air. Bleah.

And I get the sense this is also what they’re doing with Quinn. Having had a bunch of “fake” hardship this season, her lengthy recovery means she’ll have another year of high school, with brand-new challenges. If the show knew how to handle a storyline, it could work, and work well. But since the show doesn’t, even if she dies the cast will pretty much forget about her two episodes later.

If I had to make a prediction, we’re headed for a train wreck of at the end of the season, which is sad, because usually the last episode or two of the season manage to get everything working well enough to emotionally invest in.

Honestly, unless the show does some serious retooling, and really nails the end of this season, season 4 will probably be Glee’s last, because people won’t be back.

And it’s not like they can save money by performing public domain songs.

American Idol:

Again, what to say that I haven’t already? People come on, they sing, America votes, and I try to guess what America thinks. So far, I’m pretty great at it this year.

Modern Family:

I’ve seen a lot of accusations that the show isn’t as good this year. Eh. They’ve had a few off moments, but I suspect that if season 3 was season 1, the praise level would shoot back through the roof. The fact is, it’s still a very, very well-written show, featuring performers that continue to give 100% each and every week.

The show will become more uneven as the years roll on, and that’s to be expected. But I’m looking forward to those many, many years to come.

South Park:

I think I’ve read in at least three places that if you’re still offended by South Park, you must not have heard of the show before. Yep.

At this point, the show is 15 years old, and every episode you see now is created over the course of a week. The only show capable of being more topical than South Park these days is Saturday Night Live. And just like SNL, South Park can be wildly uneven: Funny one week, much less so the next.

But it’s always worth a look, and this last episode, about cash for gold, managed to be horrible, depressing, beautiful, and filled with the blackest joke I’ve heard in a long, long, long time.

The Vampire Diaries:

For years, I said that Supernatural was the best show on TV. After the end of season five, the quality has dropped a peg, and the show is struggling not to repeat itself. It’s still good, but much less rarely great.

And so, The Vampire Diaries has taken its place as my favorite show.

After a so-so first five episodes in the first season, the show has been on rails… until the last handful of episodes, which were good instead of great, due to some wonky storytelling and a few story choices that felt a bit like a cheat. But still, the last two ‘sodes have had conclusions that took way-old information and ideas and brought them back in ways I never saw coming.

So while I can’t argue that the show is perfect, I can argue that it keeps me on my toes. I’ll take it.

The Big Bang Theory:

I’m glad the girls are regular cast members now. I still think the show’s geeky references are too easy for mainstream people to get, thereby stripping the show of all geek credibility.

And I still think the jokes are too easy in general.

Ah well. It’s funny, and sometimes you just plain need that in your life.

The Secret Circle:

After months of letting this pile up on the DVR, I finally managed to sit down and start working my way through it. But it is, quite literally, the last thing my wife and I get to. Probably because, about five episodes in, my wife wanted to know why we were still watching.

To be honest? I just kind of wanted to know where it was going.

I developed an interest in it right after I heard it was the newest show from Kevin Williamson, because I love The Vampire Diaries so much. And I knew to give it time, because I had to give The Vampire Diaries time to work, too.

Has it been worth it? Yes and no. The show is fun. It features people spouting ridiculous dialogue, often half-consisting of “technical” terms dictated by the show. The story frequently lurches around in a horribly clunky manner. The show is here, it must get there, but trying to figure out how to do it is a mystery. So they find a fill-in reason, and half the time, forget to replace it.

And yet? And yet… And yet sometimes, the show just works. The plot is constantly moving forward. Ideas are brought up and played out as quickly as possible, rather than dragging just-okay plotlines through a full season.

And hands down this is, much to my surprise, the most tense show my wife and I watch. Twice in the same episode, the remote fell off our couch and both times my wife jumped about ten feet in the air.

In my head, I think of this show as Spartacus for Dummies It’s a show with a lot of moving parts, yes, but they’re pretty simple to follow and the show is so new that most of the call-backs are to things that only happened a couple of episodes ago.

In a lot of ways, I suspect this show is going to end up like Roswell, which was a fun show that was mostly good from week to week, with a couple of amazing episodes scattered throughout. Maybe that’s what the show needs: one great episode, just to prove it can be done.


Why are you not watching this? Is it because it’s on cable? Is it because it’s too violent? Because there are far too many adult situations?

I take it back: Hands down, this is the best show on TV right now. Swiss watches follow the show and marvel at it. I feel like I can’t say enough about it, and yet I don’t want to say anything because to ruin even a single twist is to rob some of the joy from the show.

Love this show. Love it. Ignore the CGI, and the slo-mo. Get the first season and the prequel season and watch them now. Right now. Don’t even read the rest of this.


Man, I remember when Entertainment Weekly did a cover story about this show. Everyone wanted off, and that was back in season four. The plan was the end the story in season five. This was after (if I recall correctly) the show almost wasn’t renewed a couple of times.

And now we’re in season seven, and word has come down the pike that the season will end on a cliffhanger.

A buddy of mine put it best, perhaps. In past seasons, it was almost always great, week by week. (Starting about season 3, though some would argue going back to 2). Then came season six, which was filled with great episodes and not-very-good episodes.

But this season is very consistent, generally pulling a B or a B+, one episode at a time.

Given how terrible the rating are all over the CW, I can easily see Supernatural going at least one more year. And while I can’t say I’m desperate for it, I’ll definitely take it.

The Walking Dead:

The other day, I wrote a 2000-word essay about the problems with this show. Then I reread it, realized it was pretty boring, and erased it.

Look. The show is too slow. They took 40 minutes to debate killing a guy, then said, “We will think about it some more.” Then they killed another guy, almost out of nowhere.

They spent too much time on the farm this year, because it’s TV and you have to use your sets after you build them. And next season, they’ll be at the prison, which everyone forgets went way too long in the comic, which drove fans crazy.

And now, it will happen again. And I suspect, with all the stuff that happens in the prison, that the storyline will run two seasons, lest it feel truncated. Which is going to make it feel even longer.

Or maybe I’m wrong.

Is there a way to fix the show? Not unless they start releasing DVD sets without putting them on TV first, which fixes most of the problems of the comic. Month-by-month, everything in the comic takes forever. Read in books, it mostly flies by.

Week by week, the show just takes forever to get anywhere. Stacked up on the DVR, it sails.

Game of Thrones:

Dying to see the second season. Only got halfway through the first book, because MAN are those things long.

But yeah. Super pumped.


My wife and I are still pushing through this one on DVD as each season comes out. And it’s been a lot less about the real troubles teens have, and gotten heavily into soap opera.

But you know what? When they tackle a subject, as they did with transgender issues, they still know how to approach something with care and sensitivity.

I’m pretty much willing to let this show run forever.

Babylon Five: Crusade

Picked this up years ago, and just started watching it during a break in regular TV. Fans didn’t take to it. I get why. The CGI is frequently weak, the sets look cheap, the overall storyline is fun good but not great, and once again we’re stuck with several actors taking a very long time to grow into their characters. And acting ability.

We’ll stick to the end, and I don’t think there will be any regrets there. But I do wonder if, even if it hadn’t had a lot of interference, this would have been thought of as the weakest of the B5 projects.

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