Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What I'm Watching: Here We Are Again

(Note: Yikes.  I started writing this over a month ago, figuring it would be a nice, quick, one-off that I could do to keep the old blog fresh.  So much for THAT cunning plan.  Feel free to read along and try to determine where I grafted fresh verbiage onto old verbiage…)


It’s weird, man.


The Olympics came along, and suddenly you could totally tell what shows the networks had just plain given up on.  It was The Olympics vs. Burn Off Theater.


I’m going to admit I was cool with it, though, as it marks one of the last times we go to really catch up with the DVR.  Heck, we actually caught all the way up with Revolution, just because it was watch that or watch nothing.


And right now, we’re in one of those delightful fallow periods.  Everyone is either in total burn-off mode, trying to clear the decks before the last sweeps of the TV season. 


Or, they’re holding episodes in reserve, trying to take themselves to the top of the list and grab ALL the money.


In short, we’re going to be playing catch-up this week and then hope for the best.


The Walking Dead:


I figured we would be totally in for this one, since it left on a huge cliff-hanger.  But ultimately, we watched the first episode and then we fell behind for a while.


I can’t fault the show, it’s kind of icky in spots and my wife sometimes can’t handle that during dinnertime.  Fair enough.


And really, I’m starting to think that the major flaws of the show aren’t helped by watching it week by week.  It’s a slow show.  It’s always been slow, it will probably always be slow.


You know who complains about that?  People who watch it a week at a time.  The people who DON’T are the folks just now catching up with it on DVD and Netflix.  Because if everyone spends an episode wandering around and not getting anywhere, then they just watch the NEXT one, where they wander around and get somewhere.


The thing of it is, it’s also slow because it doesn’t pack in the story.  It isn’t a story show.  There is no goal but survival.


I suspect that when the show falls apart, it will be in a big way as people realize that it’s never really going anywhere and abandon it in droves.


And so it goes.


Meanwhile, hey, the show is back on and the first episode back gave us a little backstory and a young man eating a large can of pudding.


Who doesn’t love pudding?


But as the second half of the season has worn on, I think my wife and I may be all alone in kind of loving this new thing we’re getting.  For the last two seasons, all of our characters have been crammed together, with a lot of people getting maybe one or two lines per episode.  The focus refused to shift, and so the people on the show went from being characters to being archetypes to, frequently, not even being that.


And this back half of the season has finally changed that.  We’ve gotten long stories, often whole or half-episodes, where we hunkered down and said hello to some of these characters for the first time in a long time… and in some cases, for the first time ever.


I’m not sure if I’d want the show to carry on this way forever.  And truthfully, I think too many of the established characters survived the destruction of the prison. 


But it’s been a fun walkabout, and I give major credit to the new showrunner, who looks like he might even keep his job for another season.  A minor miracle on this show.


Agents of SHIELD:


So there have been some massively long pauses as they stored up their episode nuts and prepared to go full-bore on episodes through the end of the season.


Which… isn’t that far away.  I mean, really. 


We’ve got March-April-May and then everything is off the air and it’s summer programming time.


And they’ve just now, in the last few episodes, started to pull the threads together.


The issue is that Agents took a bold step and decided to play a very long game.  They kept shuffling in elements, creating a rogue’s gallery, and now this relates to that which relates to this other thing.  It’s a gutsy choice that had the unfortunate side effect of murdering the show’s momentum.


Will people come back?


That’s a good question.  I think the more important one is, can they hold the line from here on out?


Breakout shows… they break out early, usually.  Or they get a surprise boost early on.  Right now, Agents is sitting at its low and holding that low, with an occasional spike as they bring in special guests and promise that, yes, THIS week is going to be big and important.


If they go much lower, well, someone’s pay needs to be cut at the very least, but it’s more likely they’ll just start folding members of the team into the upcoming films and call it a failed experiment.


Still, with sweeps coming, I imagine they plan to go out big.  Plus, they’ll be tied to Captain America, which I also imagine can’t hurt.


Truthfully, I don’t think the show is ever going to be a huge hit.  They’ve bled away a lot of audience members now, and in their current time slot they’re up against some of the biggest hitters you can find on another networks.


But I’ll lay better than even odds it gets at least one more year.  Here’s hoping they can come back strong.  REALLY strong.




Supernatural just go renewed for season 10, and I am so very happy, since the current showrunner set up his plan to make it there.


The ratings, they keep steady, and sometimes they go up.  Everyone on board the show seems happy, healthy and ready to do another year.


And I’m into the idea.  With The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, and talk next year of a spin-off Supernatural show, I could get more than half my weekly programming from a channel aimed at teenage girls.


Bring it.


The Originals:


It’s funny. I remember when this show was about two vampires fighting for control of the city.  And now it’s… man, I don’t even know.  They just kept adding in elements and burning through story just the way Vampire Diaries started doing, and now…


Now they’re getting somewhere.


They drop their first big death.  They demonstrated that they can, in fact, put together a bigger enemy. 


I think my only real disappointment is that they still haven’t gotten the hybrid baby out into the world.  I feel like Diaries would have gotten there already, but they keep holding it back.


I think it’s a B or a B- show, but it’s getting an A- for effort. Keep going, guys.


Modern Family:


I don’t talk about Modern Family much, but I suspect that’s because there’s not much to talk about.  They find the stories, they write the stories, they tell the stories, and I show up most weeks and have a good laugh.


The only thing I’ll note is that, much like The Big Bang Theory, I feel like they’re really leaning on making sure you see the promo for next week, this week.


And I honestly have to ask, who out there is watching the promo for these shows and wondering if they’re coming back next week?


If anything, I think of it as a deterrent.  If you turn on the show and start watching, you’re five minutes in before you think that maybe you’re not enjoying yourself.  But you’ll probably stick it out.


Whereas if you watch a promo, and think to yourself, “Who cares if Phil wants a pet lemur?” you’ve blown it for next week and that viewer might never come back.


The critics aren’t in love with the show, but, frankly, it’s still a hit, and it’s going to be around for many years to come.  And I’m totally cool with that, at the moment.


American Idol:


I thought I wouldn’t have much to say about the show, and… really, I don’t.


They’ve strived this year to categorize people, which is fine.  And more to the point, even with all that hard work, they’ve got what they’ve got, which is some people who can hack it and some who can’t, and some who will hold on through these next weeks and learn what it takes to improve their performance.


Honestly, there are people on that stage, as there are every year, who they should really just shove in a recording booth and start promoting now.  These coming weeks will not help them.  They just need to get on the road and start honing their skills.


And there are several people who are about to get hopelessly lost in the shuffle.


Just like every year.




I gotta mention Harry Connick Jr.  Who has made the hilarious choice of actually judging the singing competition. 


Jen is all smiles and nice work and good try.  Keith is all good work and try to improve.  Harry… Harry is deconstructing the show from the inside.


He’s telling people to stay on key.  He’s DEMONSTRATING how to stay on key.  He’s telling them that doing all those runs are screwing them up.  He’s telling them that going for the high note is a trap that gets applause but not votes.


He dragged out Randy’s “In it to win it!” catchphrase and slapped Randy in the face with it. 


What I dig is that he’s not being mean (except to Randy, I suppose).  He wants to help.  And it is confusing the performers, who have been watching for years and have gotten used to being slammed and going, “Whatever, clown,” or being praised to the hills for showing up and singing mostly on key.


Harry is telling the truth and it is cutting people off at the knees.  He’s not even afraid to go after the band of his own show.  He shows up each week knowing that he will be getting booed by the audience.


And he’s taking it in stride.


I don’t know how Harry will survive the season, and I’ll be equally shocked if he is asked back, and if he comes back.  But man, oh, man, I hope he does, because watching people get actual critiques is just marvelous.  It’s like a singing competition, or something.


There is one big question, though.  I would have thought, at the start of the season, that season 14 of this show would be a lock. FOX has shoved about 50 hours of its programming into this show.


But the ratings are not good.  They’re dropping, week by week.  And while the show should be cheap (reality shows usually are) everything I’ve been reading has stated that this show ain’t.


I think the question becomes, do they get much, much cheaper judges and other talent next year, and pull another year out of it?  Or do they let it go, before it’s too late?


An extremely curious conundrum.  (For the record: There’s too much riding on the show.  I’m about 99% sure it gets another season with very inexpensive judges.)




I can see that a few million people are still watching Revolution, and it gives me hope that if they get to season three Eric Kripke will do what he did with Supernatural and launch it into the stratosphere. 


But realistically, the show is still just barely plodding along now.  There’s a lot of wandering, a lot of subplots and it only kind of works.


The show needs something, and it’s not quite getting it.  Here’s hoping there’s a big finish, because this show needs a boost to survive.


As it is, they’re putting other shows in its place right now, and seeing how the ratings shake out.


Which I guess means I should get caught up while I can…


The Big Bang Theory:


I feel like I covered this in Modern Family, but what’s with the promos?


Beyond that, well, this seems to be the year they want to push everyone forward, and so far it’s really working.  The show is hit-or-miss, some of the subplots leave something to be desired, but pound for pound the show keeps finding new ways to make these people fun.


Most of the time.


The big danger is that, well, they just renewed the show for a whopping three more seasons.  I’m sure everyone got a pay bump, and I’m equally sure it wasn’t as big as if they had signed up for a season-by-season pay raise.


On the other hand, how rich do you need to be?


Given the numbers the show is still pulling, I think the question will eventually become a Friends issue – do you quit while you’re ahead, or keep on taking the money while the money is good?




Glee got moved to Tuesdays, where it is currently being violently murdered every week. 


They’ve already been renewed for a sixth season, but man, if I was running FOX, I’d see about how I could go about getting everyone out of that contract and calling it a day.


It’s been a rough year.  But they’re currently in the middle of killing off the Ohio stories and moving the show to New York.


And there’s juuust enough time to let this one die with grace.


Perhaps realizing they botched it the first time around, they tried to say goodbye to Finn again.  And they got it closer to right this time.  Paying tribute to Finn by singing his favorite songs (which were, clearly, chosen by the 40-something-year-old writers, but never mind), giving a really solid performance, having them lose.


That was all good.


And then Sam came out of nowhere and said he did his best, and I lost it.


Finn’s gave us one of the great moments of the show, when at the end of season three he put the woman he loved on the road to New York and said goodbye.  It would have been a great end to the show, something I said then and still think now.


And here we are back to the goodbyes and we can still make this work. 


How do you make it work?  Honestly, you’ve got me there. 


But I think you flash forward a bit.  You give the audience some honesty as most of the characters flame out of New York, and go home to Ohio to live the life they were always destined to live.


And maybe if one person makes it… that’s enough.  That’s honest.  Which is something the show could use.


The Vampire Diaries:


I’ve often said that this show burns through story twice as fast as anything else on the air.  As I type this, they’re really mid-season five, but anywhere else they’d be heading into season 10.


And season ten shows… they have some wear.


I’d say the show really works about half the time, and the other half it spins its wheels and pretends it’s momentum because they spin so fast.


Of course, sometimes it’s fun to watch the wheels spin…




The end of this season of Community is nigh, and frankly, it looks like it might get yet another season.  NBC is losing shows left and right now, and having something that at least holds eyeballs might just be enough to keep it around.


I think the year off did Dan Harmon good, or at the very least everyone is staying quiet about any last minute production delays or late scripts.


Critics are quick to say the show has been much better under Harmon, but I’ll be honest and say that I did enjoy last season, which featured last-minute showrunners coming in to punt for a guy who was fired.  Along the way they go their schedule shoved around, one of their cast members imploded, and they still managed to put together a funny season of TV.


History will, I hope, treat that year kindly.


It’s been a good season, with ups and downs.  But I think the real test will be if they get yet another season, and whether Dan Harmon can hack it without a year to get tanned, rested and ready.


Whose Line Is It Anyway?


Okay, I’m almost at 3000 words.  So, short and sweet:


Man, I love having these guys around.  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of episodes of this show now, and still they find little ways to surprise each other.


And me.  And I dig it.