Another regular TV season has drawn to a close. Here’s some thoughts on what I watched:
How I Met Your Mother: a once-reliable source of great ensemble comedy continues to tumble below the mendoza line of being worth the effort. The main problem, as with last year, is the timewasting feel of Ted’s relationships with women who are neither his future wife or interesting in their own regard. I was very irritated by Sarah Chalke last season and only slightly less by Jennifer Morrison. Meanwhile, the stories of Marshall’s father dying and Barney’s absent father were maudlin. The season ends with Lily getting pregnant, which means next season will only be worse. I won’t be watching.
Hawaii Five-0: pretty much the only new show of the fall that stayed on the air after I started watching. Very well executed action series, with a solid cast and great chemistry. It spends a certain amount of time playing with the theme of families but not so much that it slows the series down.
NCIS: I get teased by younger friends for watching this (which is incredible considering some of what they watch). It reminds me of Magnum, PI, my favourite show as a kid; it should, since it was created by the same guy and is about an agency where Magnum would probably be working today if that show was still on. It’s a solid ensemble drama, filled with goofy touches and moments that reward regular viewing.
NCIS: Los Angeles, on the other hand, has not found its footing and is largely a pale imitation of its parent. I was not watching it until Eric Christian Olsen (The Loop, Fired Up) was added to the cast, and I will watch anything he does. But otherwise the show is not that good. If Olsen leaves, I’ll stop watching again.
Community: the sophomore season of network television’s funniest show was not quite as amazing as the first, but still very funny. Community is the ultimate smart ensemble comedy, a show that never underestimates the audience’s intelligence, walking a difficult line between pop culture commentary and the constant evolution and growth of its characters and their relationships. Throw in supporting actors like Jim Rash (the dean) and you have a classic in the making.
30 Rock: another great network comedy, but one whose humour often stems from the feeling that its characters live in a place that does not change. Liz Lemon and her narcissistic staff never learn and never change. As a production, it spends a lot of money to bring in guest stars to support its jokes about television, the media, politics, and relationships. It’s brilliant.
The Vampire Diaries: people seem to dismiss this show as a Twilight wannabe; I certainly did when I first saw ads for it. But, The Vampire Diaries is a brilliantly written and quite well acted series, with a pace unmatched by anything else in television. Shit happens on this show, to the point where sometimes it feels like every episode is a season finale. The cast is generally strong but Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev are standouts.
Justified: yet another sophomore, this modern Western inspired by an Elmore Leonard short story continues to be an effective and darkly humourous crime drama that is well suited to the short, 13 episode season. In a way it is like Burn Notice or Treme, where we enjoy spending time with characters that are who they are because of the unusual locale of the show.
Supernatural: an underrated heir to Buffy and Angel, this series was originally plotted for five seasons and successfully filled that time. Series creator Eric Kripke handed the reins to a new showrunner who managed to bring in a decent, albeit uneven, sixth season (which is more than either of its predecessors can say). The way that the season ended was a bit surprising, and I am apprehensive about season 7, but I will watch.
Californication: I must confess I am tired of this show. I enjoy seeing a parade of naked young women as much as the next guy, but the show is like its protagonist: aimless, sloppy, repetitive. I realized last season that Hank Moody is really not very interesting at all to me as a masculine figure: he is the star that starfuckers fuck, while his troglodyte agent and the agent’s wife perform the actual transgressive sex, from making porn to rape fantasies to various aspects of BDSM. The most adventurous thing Hank Moody did in this season was to have sex with a woman his own age, and really, who wants that?
Happy Endings: what a pleasant surprise this new series has been. It only started a couple of months ago as a spring replacement on ABC, beginning with the tale of how one of the leads was left by one of the others at the altar. As a result it gets a lot of comparisons with Friends, but unlike Friends, one of the leads is a gay man, and unlike gay sitcom characters of the past, he is a well-drawn scene stealing guy who I would be happy to hang out with. One of the episodes is actually about one of the girls wishing she had a more flamboyant gay friend to go shopping with and such, only to regret this wish when her friend introduces her to one. This promising series has hit the ground running and I am looking forward to more in the fall.
Burn Notice and Dexter: still pretty decent shows, but running out of gas.
Doctor Who: Matt Smith had a solid first series and is now halfway through his second. Not a perfect show, but I am enjoying the higher emphasis on humour and reduction in “romantic” tension between David Tennant and all of his companions. Karen Gillan is also a knockout as Amy Pond; I only wish they would lose her dull husband Rory.
Archer: outstanding animated comedy that is essentially Arrested Development, reimagined in a spy agency. A couple of the stars of Arrested Development do character voices, and the rest of the cast is excellent. Like its inspiration, Archer features very smart writing with a lot of sight gags and call-backs. Next to Community, it’s the funniest show on TV.
Sports Show: an excellent vehicle for Norm MacDonald, playing to his strengths as a “newsreader”. Thankfully, you don’t need to keep up with the NFL and other boring American sports to get the jokes.
Treme: a decent series about New Orleans after Katrina by David Simon (Homicide, The Wire), filled with jazz and spotlighting musicians at various stages of fame.
The Walking Dead: underachieving adaptation of a very good comic series that is notable for being unsentimental about killing or maiming its characters. Word is that producer/director Frank Darabont has fired the writing staff (including the comic’s writer) and plans to shake things up more in Season 2, so I will give it another chance.
Thanks to the internet and Netflix I have also caught up on some good international series like Spiral, Whites, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Red Riding, Top Gear, and so on.
Nicole and I also typically spend a few hours a week catching up on favourite older shows that one of us hasn’t seen; for me it is South Park, which I never saw much apart from the movie, and for her it was Lost, which we recently finished. We have moved on to Battlestar: Galactica. I have also been watching some series that are in progress like Game of Thrones and the American version of The Killing.