Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I'm Watching: Fall Falls

And so fall fell, and with it, the beginning of the new TV season.


I think I said it before, but it truly bears repeating – this is the first year in a long time that my wife and I didn’t lose any TV shows.  In years past, we’d lose a handful, and maybe gain one or two.


But this year, only two shows ended – Spartacus, and Being Human.


Both went out well, and I’ll miss them, but altogether they only put out 16 hours of programming, which doesn’t even cover one regular US season of TV. 


So in the past, we’ve always been behind, and racing to keep up with the DVR.


And this year is about to get so much worse.


So.  Where to start?  Let’s lop off the end of the summer, first:




Sherlock chose to use its second series to roll through the three most famous Holmes stories, and to be honest the season as a whole didn’t work for me as well as the first did.


I enjoyed the first two episodes well enough, but they made some choices that didn’t work for me all that well.


The first episode took place over the course of a year, which drained much of the suspense out of the story.  People standing around not being threatened isn’t all that interesting.  On the bright side, it had a fun, surprising ending, which somewhat saved it.


The second episode just didn’t work all that well, perhaps because it felt a bit Scooby Doo in execution.  There was good stuff there, there always is, but it was mostly just okay.


But the last episode?  Wherein Sherlock and Moriarty went straight-up head-to-head?


A total monster of a ‘sode.  The writing, the acting, the clues, the head games, just an absolute monster.  And now I finally get why people are begging for series three of Sherlock.


I’m cool.  I can wait.  Mostly.


But man, I don’t know that they can ever top that one.  It might be better to stop…


Under the Dome:




As the show wore on, I did a little research.  Outside of a couple of cartoons, Steven Spielberg (who produced Dome) shows inevitably tank, often dying in their first or second season, and always dying before they hit episode 50.


With the sheer talent behind the wheel of this show, from the pedal-to-the-floor novel to the producers to Brian K Vaughn, who has produced and created a handful of amazing comic books and wrote some of the best episodes of Lost (which I guess isn’t saying much…).




And I guess somewhere along the line, everything just fell apart.


I’ve been trying to put my finger on what’s wrong with the show, and man, it’s hard.  The acting is mostly good, though it’s hard to tell because the characters are too often forced to do things that don’t make any sense.


Joe, for example, seems to have been instructed to tell the audience what we’re seeing, just in case we happened to be staring at the floor during the episode.


And people who are supposed to hate one another keeping hanging out with each other, but are unable to decide if they experience chemistry with each other despite various kinds of abuse.


And… at one point, there’s a clock with a small hand between the 4 and the 5 and the big hand on the 12, indicating that it’s 4:60, I guess.


In a lot of ways I feel compelled to watch, because it seems like there’s a good show in there somewhere.  But as we ended the first season, I’m not sure where that “good” could be.


Here’s hoping they learn something between season 1 and 2.  Like the fact that 4:60 is not an actual time.




I’ve done this one up in essay form before, but my wife and I decided to tackle the show again in an effort to get to the end.


Ultimately, we shoved around way through the end of season four, and two episodes into season five.


And here was my wife’s summary.  “All these people are annoying me.”  Yep.


Agents of SHIELD:


I already tackled this one a bit, but two episodes in it appears that Joss Whedon has rebooted Firefly with a few new characters and some swapped-out traits.


Much to my surprise, the first couple of ‘sodes weren’t runaway hits, rating-wise, and it’s obvious that the Marvel people are sinking some serious cash into the show.


Is the show good?  Yes.  But like most new things, it’s finding its footing and the problem is, the decision-makers are watching it right now.  A slight dip in ratings could easily be a reason for the money folks to pull the plug or, alternately, slow the trickle from the money hose.


Will it happen?  Excellent question.  Truth is, The Avengers made a billion dollars, and I was pretty sure that Agents was going to smash the competition.


Turns out, it’s just holding its own.  We’ll see if that’s enough.


Modern Family


Family won the best comedy Emmy again.  This put critics, and a few armchair critics, into a bit of an uproar.


But frankly, the show was funny, and the show remains funny.  It’s losing steam, as most shows do as they reach their fifth season, and kids age, and you have to come up with reasons to keep them around, and with three major families they’re burning through storylines at a remarkable clip and…


I don’t care.


The writing is sharp, the characters, and the actors playing them, continue to employ remarkable and impeccable timing, and if the show doesn’t always display the same old spark of genius, it’s still funny.


And funny counts.


The Big Bang Theory:


See Modern Family.  It’s funny.  Jim Parsons will never find another character that he can embody so perfectly.  And, end of the day, it’s a joke machine that works.




I have to admit, I pity Cory Monteith, who has caused so much more controversy in death than he did in life.


Just last night, I caught a headline screaming that his death was accidental, and not a suicide.


This week, Glee will memorialize his death.


Meanwhile, people are, and were, up in arms over the fact that he had a special portion of the Emmys dedicated to him.  Never mind that he never won one.  Never mind that he was never nominated.


Unstated was, “Who is this guy, who is on this mediocre show that used to be good, and why do we care about a junkie anyway?”


Look, here are the facts: Cory had drug problems for something like half his life.  Like much of the cast of Glee, he went from being a relative nobody to being a central role on a massive hit of a TV show.


And then everyone got to watch while the TV show crumbled around him.  And he went from being a famous guy with a hit to dying as a famous junkie on a show whose fortunes were taking a massive turn for the worse.


What does it mean for him?  It means he’s dead.  And while that doesn’t affect me personally, it had to hit his family, friends, and the people on the show hard.


What does it mean for the show?


I don’t know.


The ratings have been pretty weak these first couple of episodes, and to be honest, the show has been deserving of the slide.  Some storylines are being recycled, the writing isn’t nearly as funny, and despite dipping into the catalogue of the Beatles, the show has yet to create a great musical moment.


(And Sue’s character, who always alternated between too-blunt and funny and more-than-slightly crazy and not-funny?  They’ve pushed her into flat out racism at least once now, and… it’s gross.)


This week, they celebrate the death of Finn, the character played by Cory, and I suspect that ratings will spike for one night.  In a lot of ways, I wish they’d just put together a clip show of his best moments on the show.


And I’d close with what I think was his very best: His monologue at the end of season 3, when he’s sending Rachel away.


I don’t know what kind of actor Cory might have been if he had lived.  He might have spent the rest of his life trying to live up to the Finn salad days.  I could see him falling into a series of TV movies, aging through young dad and older dad roles, scraping out a solid, though perhaps unremarkable, career.


But we’ll never know.


As for Glee itself, well, I suspect that the ratings will continue to fall, and someone, somewhere, is getting chewed out as I type this for signing the show up for two years.


But maybe they’ll turn it around.  That we’ll get to see.


The Vampire Diaries:


I said before that fifth years are tough, but really, the problems with most shows start in year four.


And in the case of The Vampire Diaries, man, that was true.  There were good stories, yes, but the witch stuff got more iffy than usual (and it was already pretty iffy) and soulless Elena got tiresome after a while, and, and, and…


And, eh.  It was still fun, but it was less fun.


This season started big, with six or seven major storylines tossed violently into the mix, man if it didn’t revitalize the show.  It was fun, and funny, and there was little to no fat.  They just put down the throttle and went for it.


Can they maintain?  I doubt it.  Last year got bumpy, and stayed bumpy.  But I plan to enjoy this just as long as I can.


The Originals:


So The Vampire Diaries spun off some of their more interesting characters and… they did it badly.


Of course, we’re talking about a pilot episode, and from what I’m hearing the second episode is much better, but, and I gotta say this, I can’t figure out why they decided to do a second pilot that was basically the first pilot all over again.


I suppose people could use a refresher on what the show was about, but I am certain ZERO of their viewers were new to the premise of the show.  The people watching are Vampire Diaries fans.  There are not new people coming to this tale.


And yet, they pretended there were.


For now, I’m into it.  They’re attempting to work their twists and turns, and The Vampire Diaries took a while to shake out, and this one probably will, too.


But I seriously hope the process isn’t too painful.




Now THAT is how you open a season.


Look, it’s season eight around here.  The boys have saved the world a lot.  This show is now one year past Buffy was when it went off the air, and they just flat out are repeating some plot ideas.


But there are variations to be had, jokes to be made, and, yeah, this show knows that anything it does from this point forward has to count.


Well done, everyone.  Now let’s roll on forward.

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