The Prime Time Season so Far
OK, it’s a given that I have now and have always watched way too much television. Deb never ceases to be amazed by my encyclopedic recall of shows, and their channel and airtime dating back to childhood. There are few things we like doing better then settling in on the couch and watching some television after work or a long day of doing stuff around the house.
We’ve been so busy this fall, though, we haven’t even seen everything we wanted and there are numerous programs I want to see that Deb doesn’t so they have to be fit in here and there. Thank goodness for the DVR, which has transformed our lives. First of all, we miss nothing and secondly, by zipping through credits, titles and commercials, most shows are over in less than 45 minutes.
We are keeping caught up on most shows, but haven’t even started season three of Lost or sampled Six Degrees or The Nine. And no doubt there are other shows people recommend but haven’t engaged either one of us to sample let alone add to the regular rotation.
Here, though, are some thoughts on the season to date:
Desperate Housewives: As has been reported elsewhere, the bloom is definitely off the rose although season three is stronger than season two. I think a lot of this has to do with storylines veering too often into the unrealistic realm and the leads acting either stupid (Bree not realizing Andrew turned tricks while homeless) or moronic (Lynette bribing the pitcher to make Parker look good). Lynette remains the most interesting of the wives although her difficulties juggling work and children seem to have been forgotten and Susan remains the sweetest of the bunch even though she hasn’t produced a lick of work since losing her agent but seems fine with buying food and paying the utility bill. The guys, especially Tom, remain unconvincing and I’m really tired of the War of the Roses story between Carlos and Gabrielle.
Brothers & Sisters: We just blitzed through the first four over the weekend and we both like it a lot. I enjoy it largely because it’s about a family and while everyone seems to have more interesting troubles than I do, it largely rings true. Sally Field anchors a wonderful ensemble and the constant bits between the siblings remains engaging. Unlike a lot of serialized shows, this is moving characters and storylines forward at a faster pace which I think helps. It is a little unnerving seeing Ron Rifkin, Balthazar Getty and Patricia Wettig interacting in new roles given their work together on Alias just last season.
Heroes: Without a doubt, the most intriguing of the new shows and the one that speaks to me personally in so many ways. The pedigree behind the camera is terrific and the casting choices (Milo Ventimiglia, Greg Grunberg, etc.) are ideal. It very much has a comic book feel and while treading familiar ground, is doing it in refreshing ways that respects its roots and its audience. I look forward to each new issue, er, episode and haven’t seen a serious misstep yet.
The Class: The tease got me interested as did some of the casting so I tried my first sitcom in ages. It has that CBS look and feel and some of it is amusing and I suspect I’m still watching but only am mildly entertained. Yeah, I know, I should be watching 30 Rock instead, but I’ll get to it.
How I Met Your Mother: OK, I only watched this intermittently last season, largely because I really like Alyson Hannigan’s work. I’m back for a second season because it’s funny, the characters are charming and the situations they find themselves in are good ones. Not brilliant, certainly not a classic for the ages, but good change-of-pace stuff.
Studio 60: I’m not sure there’s anything I can say here that hasn’t been said by others. We like it, like it a lot. One reason it may be having a difficult time finding an audience is that it doesn’t knock our socks off like West Wing did. It can’t. WW was new and fresh and hadn’t been done before while this time, we recognize the Sorkin character types and Sorkin story tricks. As a result, some of it is more predictable than previous shows but it never fails to entertain. I like how Sorkin respects the medium and its potential and respects us, the audience, by giving the characters issues and quirks that are atypical. Sure, some episodes pack too much in giving the cast short shrift, but it’s a strong show that deserves a little more support from NBC. If Heroes is proving the wrong lead-in, try it on another night. The three episodes ordered on Friday is a great show of support, but the death rumors have picked up speed this morning.
Gilmore Girls: Amy Sherman-Palladino is sorely missed as the leads sound like pale imitations of themselves. The supporting characters remain quirky and funny but our leads aren’t quite themselves. Also, the crumbling relationship between Luke and Lorelei isn’t quite working right. If Emily could see their undeniable attraction halfway through the first season, then they should be fighting to make it work. Or, in a fit of pique, Luke demands his loan be repaid, which would throw Lorelei for a loop. I find myself happier with the Rory-Logan relationship since it’s sweet and passionate and feels right. Maybe this should be the final season so things can be tidied up and we can remember the series when it was the smartest written show this side of West Wing.
House: Where other series falter getting into their third season by softening the characters and putting them into comfortable situations, the producers of TV’s best series continue to keep House barbed and his comrades wonderfully flawed and different people. The medical mysteries continue to be fascinating and their guest cast shine week in and week out (Joel Grey was just wonderful).
Veronica Mars: Something’s feeling off about the show, losing some of its bite while simplifying the storylines. Veronica is still sassy, still takes advantage of her friends and still has the best father-daughter relationship on prime time, but this is very much feeling Veronica Late. The adjustment to shorter storylines and the move to college and its new environment may be at fault so we’ll see as storyline one ends and they move to the second arc. Still well acted and enjoyable, though.
Boston Legal: The mix of over-the-top shenanigans and character tics has chased Deb away but the legal drama never fails to keep me hooked. The storyline involving Armin Shimmeran’s dead wife has shaped up quite nicely (and any chance to see Shimmerman and Rene Auberjenois play off one another is a treat). Denny Crane’s devotion to Shirley has strained his friendship with Alan Shore but handled well. It remains both farce and melodrama and still gets strong messages across as David E. Kelly uses the courtroom as his personal bully pulpit, something more shows should be doing.
Smallville: The show continues to feel as if they’re making it up as they go along, putting people in far-fetched situations and keeping them just dumb enough not to figure out Clark’s secret or Lex’s trip to the dark side. A pal recently complained the season feels like nothing but a set up for a Green Arrow series but I suspect more will happen after the Sweeps episode bringing together the nascent Justice League. It’s stronger than last season but also everyone is looking too old so it’s probably time for them to tidy things up and call it a series.
Grey’s Anatomy: In my mind, the best plotted and structured show on television. Every decision from one character resonates with actions taken by another. Despite the somewhat immature actions too many of them take, they pay the price more often than night. I suspect there’s a bit too much sleeping around in the workplace but that’s a prime time soap for you. The characters and their actors remain incredibly appealing, the writing stays sharp, and it’s nice to see a quality show rise to the top of the ratings chart.
ER: It’s a strong season for the show which is saying something considering its season eleven. While the medical stuff has become old hat, the characters and their challenges remain intriguing. Gates, the new hearth throb played by John Stamos, is compellingly complex between his cocky approach at the hospital and Father Knows Best side at the apartment. There’s a reason we’ve stuck with the show, good characters and strong writing.
Vanished: I would have drop kicked this show a while back but there are just enough teasing plot lines that at the end of each week, Deb says, “Yeah, let’s stick with it another week or two.” As the series returns from hiatus, it finds itself with the lead character killed as part of the conspiracy and a new lead introduced. Also, Fox wants it wrapped after episode 13 so we know it will end and there are just a handful of episodes left. We’re likely to finish the series as a result. It failed, I think, because we knew nothing of the characters as people and what we knew, such as the kidnapped victim’s husband, we didn’t like. He’s a terrible father and his kids are idiots. Ming-Wa left ER for this and I don’t think she’s had more to do than offer exposition, she’s certainly not been given a chance to act, nor has Esai Morales, who’s even more underutilized. Rebecca Gayheart gets more screen time and more interesting things to do but remains nothing but a convenient pawn and plot device, not a character you come to care for.
The two shows we’re bound to enjoy on Fridays, Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica are quietly being collected awaiting our attention.