Watching Television

Since Deb and I switched to watching our entire television output via DVR (and less frequently via DVD), we tend to run days or even weeks behind the general viewing public. As a result, I am a little slower to form opinions, especially about the newer shows but we’re pretty caught up for the moment.

My first thought about the new season, which is now over two months old, is that it is particularly lackluster. There are several we’ve tried and like enough to stick with for now but have not fallen in love with as we have with older shows.

Right now, the best adult prime time drama remains The Good Wife while I continue to think Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy is the best structured show (notable for how it’s freshening things in its pivotal seventh season).

We were about to drop The Playboy Club before NBC beat us to it. Whatever lessons the producers thought they learned from Mad Men were clearly missed. Pan Am is suffering from the same creative shortcomings as the NBC dud and it’s no surprise ABC is yanking it for the spring. In both cases, they used tried and true tropes (crime and espionage respectively) to bolster a dearth of interesting characters. Pan Am has a fine sheen to its look and retains some of the legendary airline’s glamor, but none of the characters are really growing into strong figures. For a show about sexy women, Playboy thoroughly missed the mark with poor characterization and wretched writing.

Of the two shows ripping off Vertigo’s delightful Fables, Once Upon a Time has the more interesting premise and the stronger cast of characters. The one knock against the show is that things are unfolding a little too slowly and they need to move things along. The use of the flashbacks, a trick overused by series since Lost made it fashionable, at least gives us an interesting glimpse into what was before the magic spell turned everyone in muggles. The other one, Grimm, is more the mundane police procedural overlayed with a supernatural twist. Our hero has seemingly accepted his family legacy all too easily and the most interesting conflict, being told to abandon his fiancée and keeping his secret from her, is barely given any attention. Now that he has received the full season order, maybe the writers can pay more attention to it.

The new soaps, Ringer and Revenge, are glossy stories with attractive characters but are markedly different. Both use the flashback to fill things in but Ringer is rapidly growing convoluted as threads twist and splinter without really going anywhere while Revenge wisely is already bringing the first arc to a conclusion so things happen every week to move things forward. Deb’s already dropped the Sarah Michele Gellar sudser but I’m a sucker for the slayer.

Similarly, we’re both fans of Michael Emerson so have been watching Person of Interest. By now, though, it has turned into a formulaic procedural, moving the focus away from Emerson’s tragic figure, which totally wastes his considerable talents. If this were gone tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss it which is a shame.

After much hype, Fox’s Terra Nova is oddly flat. The cast has lots of interesting people in it, a nice mixed lot, but the writing is sub-par and the meta-arc between the colony and the Sixers feels tacked on and totally unnecessary. A society attempting to survive in the challenging pre-historic era should provide plenty of story fodder. But then again, this show came in part from Brannon Braga who also thought the Temporal Cold War was a good idea. (TNT’s Fallen Skies was far more interesting and we await its summer return.)

Despite the raves, we haven’t really sampled any of the new sitcoms although people keep telling us to try them. I’ve seen the first two episodes of New Girl and while Zoey Deschanel is charming, the stories feel so been there, done that. Has it improved?

What new prime time shows are we missing and are worthy of sampling?

3 thoughts on “Watching Television

  • November 23, 2011 at 11:18 am
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    “My first thought about the new season, which is now over two months old, is that it is particularly lackluster. There are several we’ve tried and like enough to stick with for now but have not fallen in love with as we have with older shows.”

    You know, you’ve put into words exactly how I’ve felt. We sampled many of the new shows, and despite their pedigrees I find I wouldn’t miss them if they got canceled.

    By the way, Once Upon a Time was created by folks who worked on Lost, which might explain the overuse of flashbacks. (Grimm is by people who worked on Buffy and Angel.)

    I want a new, good Star Trek series.

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  • November 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm
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    Well, I kinda like 2 Broke Girls. Is it a masterpiece? No, but it has some solid laughs. I got hooked on the NCIS franchise a couple of years ago and have yet to sample New Girl, but I like Zooey Deschanel, so I’ll probably watch it in reruns.
    (Still no DVR at my house, incidentally).
    I’ve watched exactly one episode of Whitney from start to finish (and parts of a couple of others)and kind of agree with someone who recently wrote that it feels like it belongs on another night–perhaps even on another network. I’d rather NBC find somewhere else to put it and give us back 30 Rock– and not put Community on hiatus.

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  • November 25, 2011 at 10:53 am
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    2 Broke Girls wins my vote, no DVR in my place either but am enjoying the new TV. I’d like to move Maggie, Jeff past The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. I guess it could be worse. So, what do you like?

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