John Walker's Electronic House

End Of Season TV Round Up

by on May.24, 2007, under Television

As television (by which I of course mean US television, because good GRIEF there’s nothing else out there) winds down for the summer, it’s time to look back at the season gone, and see quite how right and wrong I was. Of course, EVERYTHING below contains enormous spoilers, and if you don’t want to know, don’t read it.

Shark – CBS

With remarkable prescience I announced regarding the House With Lawyers nonsense, “I can see it working if they don’t overplay the teenage daughter crap.” So that was a show I stopped watching once the teenage daughter crap took over entirely. How on earth it’s managed a full run, let alone being picked up for another season, is a mystery. Perhaps reaching into the extremities of the banal is the secret to television longevity. Whatever, no one with any sense is watching it. Which would explain the successful ratings.

Jericho – CBS

What’s wrong with me? 22 episodes of this ridiculous rubbish I watched. And it wasn’t until episode 19 that it got… not quite “good”, but close. It’s not that I saw the potential that was eventually touched on – I just assumed it would remain as idiotic throughout. And yet I couldn’t stop. Each week they’d find new ways to melodramatise the inane, treating a burning school story as if they were the first programme on television to have ever shown fire, and how people put it out. Relationships broke down and new ones started without a human being alive caring less. Oh no! Eric broke up with April! Who was April again? Oh, April’s dead? She was the one married to Eric? And so on. Nevermind the show’s only star, Skeet, and his groundbreaking off-again-off-again relationships with at least three characters. There was the sheer joy of the programme entirely forgetting characters, and then later desperately trying to make up excuses for their absence. There was the complete astonishment as nothing happened for episodes, then a flurry of activity presumably over sweeps. And then, for the last four episodes, WAR! Hooray! And it was quite fun. Finally everyone stopped keeping tedious secrets from each other and guns went bang. But it was too late. Amazingly enough, taking the show off air for three months was more than audiences were willing to wait between episodes – the idiots. And now, in my most ridiculous move, I’m disappointed it’s been cancelled. I repeat, what’s wrong with me?

Six Degrees – ABC

ABC’s treatment of Six Degrees was deeply peculiar. I really liked this show, despite its not being about very much at all. I liked that the relationships between the six main characters were so quietly established, and that even after however many episodes it survived, they still didn’t know each other despite the many coincidences and links. I liked that it ambled with its mysteries, as gentle as they were, and made the relationships more important. But most of all, it contained really fantastic acting. However, by taking it off air for over four months, and then starting it up again with almost no promotion and no recap for confused viewers, it was of course doomed to failure. Only lasting one more episode on its return, the remaining few have disappeared. Oddly, for a show so quiet and unimposing, I’d like to see a DVD release with the missing few, just to see how far they got.

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – NBC

Well, it’s dead forever now. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it ought to be. I think finding out that the decision to move the emphasis to the whiny, tedious relationships, almost completely forgetting about the TV show they were supposed to be making, was Sorkin’s own. I’m sure there was studio pressure, but he stated firmly that it was always his intention. Which proves that he never had the faintest idea what to do with the programme he’d created. Despite excellent acting, a great premise, and the sort of fantastic banter Sorkin can’t help but write, I think the real brilliance of Studio 60 might have been performed in our own heads. What the show could have been, what the show should have been, was bubbling potential in our minds, and was never really delivered. There were lovely episodes, and great moments. It was my favourite programme before Christmas. But ultimately, it was being made by people who didn’t know what to do with it, and as such the failure was inevitable. The last few episodes will be shown from this week onward, and I’ll watch them enthusiastically. It was great. It really was. But it should be judged by the high standards it announced for itself, and as such, a second season was never a great idea.

Battlestar Galactica – SciFi Channel

Excellent bonkers ending, pissing everyone off by including a Bob Dylan song for no reason and then leaving everyone else to try and make up excuses. Five new Cylons, non of whom should have been, which will make for some fun, if rather desperate writing next season, and Starbuck! Hooray! Even the cast and crew were tricked into believing she was really dead. Which makes them great big twits, as it was fairly obvious she wouldn’t be. But seriously, they went crazy trying to convince everyone, with Katee Sackhoff (a name that sounds like a protest to fire the famous Baywatch star) even auditioning for parts in other shows. Loonies. Really great stuff, constantly entertaining, often moving, and featuring lots of exciting things blowing up in space. Amen.

Help Me Help You – NBC

So here I was really wrong. The fabulous pilot turned out to be a fluke, and I stopped watching only a couple of episodes before it was cancelled.

How I Met Your Mother – NBC EDITED

The premise, in case you’ve not seen this, is that thirty years in the future, a father is telling his teenage children the story of how he met their mother. 48 episodes in, and Ted and Robyn have finally broken up. The writers told wicked lies in interviews, saying they intended to keep them together for the foreseeable future, but the season finale did otherwise. And as nicely as possible. Marshall and Lily, the other couple, finally got married at the end of the second run, and the wedding got everything right. They seemed to tease the audience by setting up a typical sitcom wedding, with everything wackily going wrong, and then in a splendid bait and switch, turned it into a beautiful and romantic moment. Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris, remains ideal, his character never softening, always resorting to being the bastard. In fact, the writers say they think he’s become a bit too nice of late, supporting Lily and Marshall’s marriage, and plan to drag him down again for season 3. Consistently funny, and impressively inventive with its format, it’s unquestionably the only decent multiple camera sitcom on TV at the moment. Muddling time, flashing forward, and being remarkably rude (apparently they watch Two And A Half Men very closely, and then if they get away with anything risque, the HIMYM writers protest that they should be able to too), it’s great every week.

Heroes – NBC (Big spoilers)

The unquestionable success of the year, Heroes has managed something very rare indeed. It’s a huge ratings hit, critical success, AND a really damned good programme. I learned why recently, after reading an interview with creator Tim Kring. It turns out he has no interest in science fiction or comic books at all. Instead, he knows the ingredients for making good television, saw a marketable opportunity, and then here’s the non-soulless part: hired people who do care about science fiction and comic books to write it. If Kring doesn’t get something they’ve written, or finds it too obscure, it’s nixed. It means they’re creating a proper superhero show that’s open to everyone. The writers are full on geeks, hiding comic references throughout that I don’t even want to get, but they’re there for those who do. Characters who were meant to be one-offs have proven hit successes and stayed on to become incredibly important players (like Claire’s dad) (I have no idea what happened with Zach, and don’t much care), showing a will to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses, and adapt.

I think the other reason for Heroes power as a series is the real danger that anyone could die at any time. Because they do. Big, exciting characters are constantly falling, or having their brains eaten. It’s unlike most superhero fiction where you feel patronised by the pretence that Superman might be in any real danger. Here they are, and likely as not, they’ll not survive. Keeping Silar alive at the end, I’ve decided, is a good idea, as he was too good a baddie to lose. Losing Peter and Nathan was a horrible shock. (I love Kring’s answer as to why Peter couldn’t just fly up on his own: “You know, theoretically you’re not supposed to be thinking about that.”) I’m especially intrigued to learn more about the Watchmen… I mean previous generation of the current heroes, and their past, and how they got to a place where they believed slaughtering millions of people was the only route to mankind’s salvation.

And unlike silly people, I think Origins is a great idea. Instead of breaking the show up into lumps (Heroes never really recovered from its second hiatus), there will be one mid-season break of six weeks, during which Heroes: Origins will show, featuring the emergence of six new characters, from whom viewers can choose which should survive to season 3. And yes, the public are idiots, but let’s hope that they pick six excellent choices so it doesn’t matter which gets through.

Round up

House has been mostly excellent, with only a couple of weak episodes (including last week’s, which should have been so much more). The real strength of the third season was taking House from a grumpy-but-brilliant physician, to a sociopathic bastard. Characters have even started to refer to him as “evil”. Gone are the extremely silly episodes of the past where he’s got some daft motivation for saving a patient, his only remaining interest being the opportunity to experiment, win an argument, or improve his own health. It’s dark, man. But it’s so good. My Name Is Earl remains too preachy, but somehow always funny. Scrubs’ best days are clearly in the past, but that doesn’t stop it being very entertaining most weeks. The Kim storyline was very awkwardly told, and not much of a season finale. And please, God, don’t let the continuing (as it’s been renewed for a seventh run) story be that JD and Kim stay together for the sake of the unborn baby. A loveless marriage at the centre of a sitcom may have worked for Married With Children – I don’t see it succeeding here. Bones is the same as it ever was – fun, silly, and gross. Love it. Doctor Who has been a ceaseless series of barely watchable shite. Please, someone fire RTD. And 30 Rock has been renewed, proving that there is no Television God.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Steve W

    Nice recap. I remain firmly convinced that the reason for Studio 60’s failure (ratings-wise at least) was the premise, but Others remain unconvinced.

    Bones’ second season was a giant leap in quality from the first, which coasted along on nothing but its stars’ incredible chemistry, but I was mildly disappointed by the Heroes finale, which suffered from a sudden (and remarkable, considering what it managed most of the season) shortage of imagination. In fact, and not to say it was the best series (it wasn’t), but of the network shows, the season finale I’ve enjoyed most thus far may actually be Ugly Betty’s.

    You should take the opportunity during the Summer lean period to check out Veronica Mars. And despite myself (and that accent from Mr Izzard), after four episodes I’m quite enjoying The Riches.

  • The_B

    I thought they almost redeemed DW with the Lazureus Experiement, but then 42 was just once again back to the patronising “MNNGHHH” we’ve been seeing this series. I’m starting to think it was Gatiss alone that has even brought a glimpse of hope for this series so far, even if he didn’t write the episode he was in…

  • John

    But only three more weeks until Stephen Moffat’s episode! Some hope!

    Dear God, the next two look so contrived and hateful.

  • The_B

    Oooh, I dunno – I actually enjoyed Paul Cornell’s Father’s Day – and tonights was actually pretty good, especially for this series – I dare say the best so far – it was actually not that bad at all!

    My main worry about Blink is that aparently it’s the token “for the kids” episode apparently. Given what we’ve seen so far this series, I can only think bad things, even if it is Moffat.