Mike’s Prattle


TV (would have been Premiere Week (2))

Posted by Mike on October 11, 2007

Am I the only one a little disappointed with the new television season? And I do mean that mildly because a series that fails for me does open up time in another direction. I wanted to write about what I liked and didn’t like the first week, but for the most part it’s week 2 or 3 for most opening series. So I’m starting again from Monday….

On Monday, I’m still waiting for Chuck (8 PM NBC) to get off the ground. It’s definitely amusing at times, but still seems like a hash of older shows and hasn’t yet found its feet. The cast is pretty wonderful, a good lead, Adam Baldwin and the alluring Yvonne Strahovski, but the dynamic between these two government agents and Chuck just doesn’t feel comfortable yet. As I’ll get to with Reaper, Chuck has yet to find its balance between action show and comedy, but if it does it ought to be brilliant.

Heroes (9 PM, NBC), in its second season, has scattered its characters over time and space, all of which means it’s starting again with disparate plots with, I assume, the goal of tying them together later. Hiro’s plotline is always amusing (and I like the actor who plays his childhood hero from Alias), but most of the others need more forward movement than the time allotted. Like last year, this program doesn’t totally do it for me, but usually has enough interesting concepts to keep me coming back.

I didn’t make it past the first episode of Journeyman (10 PM NBC), even though I still have some mild interest in it. 10 PM slots have to be of some interest for me to make them. Ditto Life (10 PM NBC) on Wednesday. Course, if I did stay up on a Monday night, it would be to catch Showtime’s Californication (10 PM) but thanks to On Demand I can watch it when I want (which reminds me that I haven’t seen the latest one yet). Anyway, viewers who can get past the adult sexual content will find a sweet little program about a writer finally coming to grips with the way his life has turned out, even while various subplots continue to complicate it. It’s turning into one of my favorite programs and this is someone who never got into the X-Files or David Duchovny. He’s fabulous here and not once have I expected him to yell “Scully!”

Tuesday night, for me, starts with Bones (8 PM FOX), which is the only even remotely procedural-like show I watch. I really like the characters and their interplay more than the skeleton-of-the-day plots, so I may never be fully satisfied, but the constant dialogue between the conservative, semi-religious FBI agent and the practical, socially challenged scientist is the thread I prefer over the will they, won’t they romance.

Reaper (9 PM, CW) has a lot of the same issues Chuck does and they both suffer a little from having protagonists with a similar life place, working in Best Buy/Circuit City-like stores. The pilot ep of Reaper was pretty hilarious and it’s another case where I like the cast quite a bit, but the last two or three episodes have trouble finding their tone, which would admittedly be difficult when you’re playing the serious “devil got my soul” angle. For me, it works a lot better when it’s crazy and funny and hope it settles in in that direction.

I was excited to see the critically acclaimed new series Pushing Daisies (8 PM CBS), only to be more than happy dropping it off my list after last night’s episode. The show strikes me as way too cutesy for its own good, and the Tim Burton-esque, fairy tale like framing device really bothers me. Maybe you’ll know how I feel when I say the saran wrap was the last straw. I guess it’s a TV show whose aesthetics are too alien to my own tastes. I don’t even think big raves later in the season will change that for me.

Bionic Woman (9 PM NBC) has been just keeping me in there. I don’t like the concept but Katee Sackhoff’s acting is really off the charts in her scenes, usually blowing Michelle Ryan’s Jaime Sommers off the stage. Perhaps it’s this sort of challenge that’s improving Ryan’s performance and last night’s was the best yet, the first episode where you can see the show going in a number of interesting directions, Sackhoff’s character being that shade of gray that makes her so interesting. I thought I’d be out with three strikes, but I’m feeling better about this one than I thought I would.

South Park (10 PM, Comedy Central) is now on the back end of its Season 11 run, and I don’t use the phrase “back end” lightly given last night’s episode which had me in stitches for about 5 minutes until I realized it was another of their “taking the joke way too far” eps. Ditto with last week’s Cartman’s Tourette’s syndrome episode, I get the impression that these ideas would have been more fully exploited in earlier seasons. Still, they always manage to do things on TV you’d never expect and that’s part of the fun of it. Even third rate South Park is good TV.

Last Thursday made it pretty clear that I’m either going to wait to see the new season of Smallville (8 PM, CW) on DVD or forget about it altogether. I’m still with The Office (9 PM, NBC) , although I’m not sure this run of hour long episodes is doing it justice. I thought Dwight knocking off Angela’s cat in the season opener was hysterical, but except for the occasional good joke, it’s mostly leaving me a bit flat. 30 Rock (8 30 PM, NBC), on the other hand, did well having Seinfeld on their season opener, and I’m really hoping it starts breaking out into a classic series this year, because all the chips are in place.

One of summer’s jewels is starting to wind up to its Season 1 conclusion, AMC’s Mad Men (10 PM). This drama about a 1960 advertising firm has gone from strength to strength since its debut, crafting episodes that change tone and structure each week and leave the viewer breathless with its subtlety. And I’m saying this as someone who finds the era in question rather alien. The last few episodes have really been fabulous and really this is heads and tails above everything I’ve mentioned so far. And fortunately this too is on On Demand.

Doctor Who has wrapped up its US airing of season three and as it was my childhood love, all I can say is that’s how I watch it, like a kid who loves it unconditionally. But the last half of S3 to date was my favorite arc of the new series, so I can’t wait for the next one. Flash Gordon (9 PM, Sci-Fi) that follows it I basically gave up on after the pilot although I’ve occasionally left it on to see it hasn’t improved. It still strikes me more a Stargate SG-1 clone than resembling any Flash Gordon I remember from my youth. Fortunately, Friday Night Lights (9 PM, NBC) has started its second season, although after viewing the opener I was left pretty disappointed. For a show that paints in light brushes, leaving so much of the impact in its subtlety, the plot twist towards the end was melodramatic, sappy and poorly directed. I also thought there was a sweetness to the Matt/Julie relationship, which looks to be on the outs. Nevertheless it will take a lot worse to bump me from what I thought was last year’s best new offering and it certainly beats Flash Gordon and the rather awful Moonlighting (a concept like this, having been beaten to death needs MUCH better writing to overcome the lack of originality).

Saturday is mostly empty, fortunately, but I’m hanging in there with Torchwood (9 PM, BBC America) which I tend to find pretty enjoyable despite that it takes most of the season to find its feet. Course, with On Demand it won’t necessarily interfere with the weekend.

Sunday has, for me, TV’s best and most interesting show, Showtime’s Dexter (9 PM, Showtime). I love dramas where the interplay isn’t so morally black and white and rooting for a serial killer as protagonist is something that occasionally makes you think of the human condition. I wanted to catch up with Brotherhood, which follows Dexter, but couldn’t put the time together to catch up with the On Demand Season 1 freebie period (and noticed that Episode 5 was missing anyway).

Finishing up Sunday night is Family Guy (9 PM, FOX), which, like South Park, is a ways past its peak, but still delivering enough laughs to keep up with it, although I often stop watching and wait until the DVD is released.


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