Today’s Television Shows
So, I’ve been meaning to write a post about recent television shows. For example, I recently discovered two one-season wonders, Studio 60 and The Dresden Files. I discovered them through iTunes, principally because I don’t habitually watch television (I habitually stare at my computer instead). But I also began watching other shows. Here are my takes on many of them:
The Dresden Files. I’ve only seen half of this one-season wonder, but I am sad to see it go. It was dark, brooding, and a terrific blend of detective fiction and the dark parts of magic (i.e. vampires, werewolves, etc.). If I have any complaints about the show, it is that it seems awfully clear that there is more to the story than we’re being told, probably because most of the television show is based on eponymous novels, and novels are always better able to give more detail and back-story than television. That said, it’s been cancelled, so you’ll just have to read the novels that continue to come out.
Studio 60. Now, I could see why Studio 60 did not fare well. Not only is it a not-so-subtle dramatization of the cast and crew of a fictional version of Saturday Night Live, but it opened in the same year as a comedy based on the same premise (30 Rock) began with an SNL head writer as producer and star. That’s bad timing, and the SNL knock-off premise probably couldn’t support two different shows, so the comedy one stuck and the drama fell flat. The other major problem with Studio 60 is it sounded (and operated) in much the same way that Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing did – with a large cast, lots of walking conversations, and story arcs over multiple episodes that often let you forget the flow of time. That’s understandable given Sorkin produced Studio 60 as well, but you would have hoped he would try a different production and writing style when the premise isn’t the White House but a comedy show. Despite those flaws, I like the casting, the writing, and most of the plots. I think it could have easily stood up for a second season. But it probably started with too much hype (OMG the next West Wing!) to survive.
30 Rock. The “other” SNL knock-off will survive longer because it not only comes from a SNL writer/actor herself, but the show doesn’t take itself or the premise quite that seriously. Its zany, and they’re having fun, and it shows. I, personally, would have liked to see more on-stage hijinks and less love-life comedy, but Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin make it work.
Two and a Half Men. They are entering their fifth season and the kid is just now entering 6th grade? Did I hear that right? Don’t get me wrong, the show is funny and I’m glad the up-tight ex-wife and the mother of Charlie and his brother aren’t in every episode anymore (and Rose is gone from the picture entirely). But is it just me or has the show lost a sense of direction? Other than for the laughs, are we really sure we care what happens this season, especially after Season 4 beginning by wiping out one of the more significant story arcs of Season 3? Could be a problem for the show in the long run.
How I Met Your Mother. Other than the annoying part about how this show is NOT “a love story told in reverse”, this show has been surprising good. I especially think it was well cast and the humor given to each character fit well. I guess what annoys me the most is that we knew that seasons one and two showed Ted falling in love with and being with someone who was not destined to be the mother of his children. What was the point in that? That said, based on what I’ve seen so far this year, Season 3 is going to be legen… wait for it… dary!
Psych. It’s like Monk, but you know the guy is faking his crazy psychic schtick. Also, unlike Monk, his eccentric abilities are not annoying (at least not yet). I think Dule Hill was a smart pick for his straight-act sidekick. Definitely a good detective-comedy show.
Greek. Yeah, there’s sex, booze, and college hijinks. But there are plenty of moments that make it painfully clear why it’s on ABC Family – too much sugary-coated family moments and even the bad guys in the show are really good guys. Hopefully they’ll shake it up some in Season Two.
Doctor Who and Torchwood. These two BBC sci-fi shows are terrific, especially compared to the classic Doctor Who. It’s better writing, better stories, better budgets. Even better acting. I especially like the fact that both shows have, throughout their seasons, an overarching theme or buzzword (such as Doctor Who Season One placing a reference to “Bad Wolf” in every episode until explained in the season finale). Renewed my faith in science fiction after being burned by over-saturation of Star Trek and the ultimately unnecessary Star Wars prequels.
New Shows for 2007. I’ve not watched most of the new shows more than maybe once, if then. That’s because most new television these days are terribly formulaic, or part of the absurdly voyeuristic reality genre. That said, I have seen two new ones:
- Big Shots – the first episode seemed very well done, and it introduced all of the characters and gave a sense of dramatic story arcs that The West Wing perfected. Yet, for a first episode it didn’t really seem to kick off anything so much as dramatize the world of young CEOs. But who cares? Is the premise really little more than Melrose Place meets Wall Street? I am still not even sure how or why the main characters no each other. Not a good start.
- Back to You – Kelsey Grammar is back and still on top of his game. Now he’s an arrogant news anchor who has to rebuild his career after an on-air tirade gets him fired. The “hook” to keep us interested throughout the series is the first-episode revelation that he and his co-anchor have a child, one he has never known. The humor is good, the chemistry between the cast (especially the hatred between the two anchors) is well-written and well-placed. This show has potential to be a hit.
There you have it. Those are my blurbbed remarks on today’s television shows. Quite a few out there that I like watching – the best part being that some of them air during the off-peak season of summer, making it easer to spread out my otherwise sparse TV viewing.