Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Premiere Week TV Report, Part 1

Not a whole lot to say yet. I think I've realized how much of my TV watching right now is inertia; the last decade just turned out to be a lot better--or at least hit me and my interests better--than the 90s did, and I watched a lot of TV. Now I wonder if I'm going to ebb off again. I don't buy into that "this is the Golden Age of TV because serialization!" jazz that outlets like the AV Club are always going on about. But I've really dug some shows and have been enjoying myself a lot more. But based on last night, my enthusiasm is spreading thin.

:: The best viewing experience I had yesterday was watching the TiVo'd second-to-last-ever episode of Breaking Bad. I know some people get weirdly pissed off when other people praise Breaking Bad, but I think it's the best show of the past decade. There are very few other shows I watch as actively. It's the kind of show that, when an episode ends, I'm emotionally aware that I'm watching great television, because there's almost no other show that gets me as involved in what's happening. So many emotions are stirring up for the climax, and I can't wait to see how this show caps off its run. It's exciting.

The only other show that's airing right at the moment that I can think of that makes me feel that way is Boardwalk Empire, which had a tremendous third season and is now having a riveting fourth. Jeffrey Wright is a great addition to the cast, and his character is downright scary in his focused calm. Just watch the way he talks in scenes; he barely blinks, and he just looks straight at, straight into the actor he's talking to. That's a great character effect, and it's all Wright's performance.

:: AMC's Low Winter Sun is intense, and it's nice to see Lennie James, but I don't think I'd watch a second season of it. Sometimes there's a level where the darkness of a TV show just gets too depressing for me.

:: I don't think I ever followed up, speaking of AMC, but I did end up really liking a lot of Mad Men. I think there's a lot in that show that's of particular interest to me, going through what I'm going through right now, because of the way it examines expectations vs. reality and how that often leads to... not unhappiness, but frustration. There's a lot to explore there.

:: So How I Met Your Mother started, and except for Roger Bart, last night's episodes weren't demonstrably better than last season's mess. I used to love this show, but it's been going downhill forever, and I'm really only watching it this season because it's the final season and I've invested enough time that I want to see how it ends. (Also, Jason Segel was good, but he's always been the best part of this show to me.) And we finally met the mother and, surprise, she's boring. But, hey, she's into Ted, and every single one of Ted's girlfriends (except Robin) have been boring. And, of course, we're going back to the Ted-can't-get-over-Robin well, which holds absolutely no suspense because the basic premise of the show and the pilot episode both make it clear that Ted and Robin don't end up together. There is no drama at all in this, but the creators just can't stop going back to it. At this point, it's almost unrealistic that Ted and Robin are still friends, because I've never known many women who put up with that kind of inconsistent level of trust. It can't be fun for her being friends with Ted and not being able to trust that he's not going to be making yet another romantic play for her. And it's boring to watch.

One more season. Then it's over and maybe one day, years from now, reruns from the first four seasons will make me nostalgic.

Gonna need about a thousand percent more Roger Bart, though.

:: The high point for me last night was 2 Broke Girls. I can't defend this show, because a lot of what's lame about it is truly lame, but I love Kat on it and it makes me laugh more than it makes me groan. It's just easygoing and stupid in a fun way, and doesn't try too hard to be a show that's symbolic of anything or that gets too wrapped up in the pointless drama that a lot of sitcoms about women get mired in. (If I see another love triangle that only exists because the producers can't think of a woman doing anything else but getting caught up in love triangles... ugh.)

:: The new Chuck Lorre sitcom Mom is okay. Like every Chuck Lorre show, there are a hundred main characters, each designed for maximum heightened wackiness, and no one's really sure what the actual focus of the show is yet. I dig Anna Faris and Allison Janney, so we'll see. Not holding out for anything, might suddenly stop watching it, I dunno. No feelings either way.

:: And then there's Castle and its lame cliffhanger ending. No, not the one from last season, the one from this episode. Yes, I'm sure they'll kill the title character at the beginning of the season. Or, you know, maybe they should. This is a show that's really running on total inertia for me. Last season, they got back a bit of the fun character interplay that made this show special once. Last night felt all over the place. Frankly, Castle's starting to feel like a guest star on his own show, and that special chemistry just didn't feel like it was there. Most of the supporting cast felt totally shoehorned in (and Penny Johnson-Jerald didn't even make any screen time), and the most interesting stuff that happened involved Lisa Edelstein (as will often happen when Lisa Edelstein appears on an episode of television) and she's completely underused.

It felt like they were trying to awkwardly retool the show, and in trying to juggle too many elements--Castle and Beckett's long-distance relationship, Beckett's new job in the FBI, the mystery of the week, the precinct back in New York, Alexis and her vacation relationship spilling over into Castle's apartment--they all felt flat. It made me wonder why I was taking the time out of my night for this thing. Maybe it'll get better, but I'm starting to think that maybe I don't care if it does. The show nearly lost me once already, maybe this time it'll just shake me off for good.

:: Anyway, tonight is Agents of SHIELD, and I have my doubts going in. I want it to be great because I love the Cinematic Marvel Universe, but it's also produced by Joss Whedon, and except for the second and most of the third season of Angel, I really don't like any of Joss Whedon's TV shows. From what I've read, it seems like it depends on the level of Whedon's involvement. Then again, I loved The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods, so maybe I just like what he's doing now.

We'll see. Open mind.

UPDATE 10:03 AM: Broadchurch on BBC America is one of the best things I've seen on television this year. Amazing that a show this complex and rich with character is from Chris Chibnall, probably my least favorite Doctor Who writer ever. The show's fantastic.


Tallulah Morehead said...

I found last night's Castle tedious in the extreme. If it doesn't get a whole lot better really, really quickly, as in the next episode, I am going to stop watching it. I enjoyed nothing about last night's idiot episode. It will get one more episode, and if I still hate it this much, it's off my menu.

Broadchurch is wonderful.

Kal said...

I am so glad you got into Broadchurch. I tell everyone I know how great that show was. I was with the twist and turns all the way.

I also liked Ray Donovan a lot. I hate John Voight's politics with a passion but he is brilliant in this one. Again, only 13 episodes.

I enjoyed Agents of Shield a lot. With all the hype it lived up to it.

I don't watch So I Met Your Mother because nothing could be funnier than the clip real I have seen of Robin and Patrice.

Boardwalk Empire is my Breaking Bad. I love every second of that show and while some find it slow, I find it rich. Richard breaks my heard every second he is on the screen and you are right about Jeffrey Wright. Scares the hell out of me with that slippery sweet tone of his. But where is Michael Shannon. I miss more of him.

SamuraiFrog said...

Tallulah: "Tedious" is the word. About halfway through I stopped paying so much attention and was playing Candy Crush Saga while it was on.

Kal: I really want more of Michael Shannon, too! He was probably my favorite part of the first season. This show has had some amazing performances--William Forsythe in season 2, Bobby Canavale last year, and this year it's Jeffrey Wright. Richard Harrow breaks my heart, too; I got very emotional last week when he was leaving the farm.

I haven't seen Ray Donovan yet (I don't have Showtime), but I've heard some interesting things about it. Broadchurch is another show that gets me emotional. Can't wait for tonight's finale! It's easily in my top 5 of shows I've watched this year.