Television Generation – The New Season

December 7, 2009 at 4:27 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s no wonder the new TV season starts in the fall. It’s a bit like returning to school: you see old friends again, you make some new ones, and there are a couple of people you think you’ll like, but then you realize life is too short. The TV season is a lot like that. Now it seems that winter break has come early. A lot of shows are advertising “fall finales” – Shows like Glee and Smallville have disappeared from the schedule until at least February. Some will never return, but more about that later.

I was a little concerned about The Office this season. The first couple of episodes were disappointing. The jokes seem laboured and Steve Carroll’s Michael Scott was becoming tiresome. Maybe five seasons was enough I thought. I was even more troubled when I saw the hour-long special devoted to Jim and Pam’s wedding. Weddings are often a shark-jump, and the Jim and Pam storyline was never my favourite (birth are often shark jumpers too!). However, the episode was a return to form, and since then the show has delivered. While the show has never produced the squirm factor of the British original, last week’s episode “Scott’s Tots” where Michael promises an entire kindergarten class, he will pay their college tuition and then disappoints them was genuinely uncomfortable to watch.

I’m of two minds about Parks and Rec, a faux Office style show set in the parks and recreation department of a small town featuring Amy Poehler as a clueless bureaucrat. Admittedly Poehler is marvellous, but that isn’t always enough to carry the show.  Promising, but…

I have watched all the episodes of Modern Family though.  The show employs the same faux-documentary style as The Office and Parks and Rec, but it still seems like a fresh use of the genre. It’s an ensemble comedy featuring Ed O’Neill, the family patriarch remarried to a much younger Colombian woman who has an 11 year son. O’Neill has two children: a daughter with a clueless hipster doofus husband and three children. O’Neill also has a fussy gay son who, along with his partner, has just adopted a baby girl from Vietnam. If it sounds laboured and convoluted, it isn’t. But if you really want to appreciate how a good show can make you laugh, stay tuned for after Modern Family comes Cougar Town. A worse title I could not imagine (OK, maybe Milfville). It features Courtney Cox and Busy Phillips (from the sadly undervalued Freaks and Geeks). The title is the show. Absolutely appalling unfunny, and yet inexplicably a hit. I’m also a little amazed, but in a good way, that even  in its fourth season, 30 Rock still contains laugh out loud moments each week. (I apologize for the use of that cliché) 

In terms of other new shows, I watched the two-hour opening of Stargate: Universe. I saw the original Stargate movie all those years ago (my wife worked as second assistant editor for a couple of weeks), but never watched the TV series. What the hell, give it a go. The plot is familiar enough, a group of earth types, soldiers and civilians stranded on a mysterious spaceship designed by the ancients millions of light years from earth, trying to find a way home. A bit of Battlestar Galactica, a bit of Star trek Voyager, oh and Robert Carlyle  – OK, he’s the real reason I watched. He’s such a fine actor, that I’m having a little trouble buying him as the chief scientist.Still, even Carlyle wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

Smallville is an on again off again relationship. I watched the first few seasons. Then stopped because of the whole ‘Clark and Lana will they won’t they?’ subplot. Just too much to bear. I came back for James Masters as Brainiac. Then dropped out again. But, Cullum Blue as Zod? Yup. The thing I like most about the show is how they introduce elements of the DC continuity into the series.   

An old show a friend introduced me to is The Lost Room. Airing originally on the US Sci-Fi channel, the show is about a cop called Joe Miller who comes into possession of an object; a key that can open any lock and leads to a motel room. And then anywhere in the world. Miller’s daughter becomes lost in the room, and Miller searches for other objects to bring her back. In a world filled with murder, cultists and mysterious powerful objects, the tension is almost unbearable. On DVD  now.

I’ve plugged Glee in the September Music Notes, but it’s worth remembering. 

My beloved Dollhouse has been cancelled. Odd, given that the last few episodes have gotten better and better. I’ll admit, I’ll watch pretty much anything with Joss Whedon’s name on it, but this was a slow starter. However, it has grown, and the last few episodes have been among the best.  Buffy was never a rating grabber, but it had a devoted audience. Too much these days, TV networks are looking for instant hits. Joss, go to cable, we’re begging you.

Last, but not least, Making Fiends. An old show on the web, then cable. Weird creepy tales. Each episode is three or four minutes long. A little girl named Vendetta makes fiends, while Charlotte makes friends. The third episode was entirely in Mandarin. Watch for yourself here.  

Spend recess well.

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