Midseason TV 2008

With the WGA strike on this year, midseason has never felt weirder. Normally, new shows and shows returning midseason would be competing with regular shows that are already chugging hard towards a season-ending climax. Instead, with most shows having exhausted their supply of pre-strike episodes, the field of competition is pretty clear. On the other hand, many viewers have probably written off this season, stopped watching TV altogether, and won’t notice these shows at all. Another oddity (which I’m not sure is caused by the strike, but might be) is that the debut dates of shows is really spread out from January to April, so the definition of “midseason” has become pretty lax. What has piqued my interest for midseason 2008?

Medium

One of my favourite shows (Are you watching this show yet? Why not?). Our happy wife, mother and psychic, Allison DuBois ended last season not-so-happily as her gifts were publically revealed by the media. She and her husband lost their jobs (hers was with the DA’s office helping solve crimes) and now they have to hold the pieces of their lives together. I know, it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t. While the producers haven’t (thankfully) just snapped their fingers and made everything alright for the Dubois family, Allison is still dreaming about crimes and has hooked up with guest star Anjelica Huston, who plays an agent working for Ameri-Tip (a private agency that helps find people and solve crimes). I may be starry eyed, but I’ve never found this show losing momentum in all its previous three seasons, and I have really enjoyed the two episodes I’ve seen so far (unfortunately there are only about half-a-dozen left in the can).

sarahconnor.jpg

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I had been anticipating this series long before the strike, but with little else on, I was looking forward to this show so much that I even rewatched the first two Terminator movies to prepare (which is good because the events of the series pick up five years after Terminator 2). Some of the characters are the same, including the eponymous Sarah Connor and her destiny-fulfilling son John, but they have been recast. Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo from 300) and Thomas Dekker (Claire’s videotaping buddy Zach from Heroes) play the mother-son duo. Added to the cast is Summer Glau (butt-kicking psychic River Tam from Firefly/Serenity) as the Terminator sent back in time to protect John from any number of bad Terminators on the hunt for him (they’re easy to spot. Just look for the brawniest guy around). I was worried that this show was going to suffer the same fate as fellow rebootee, Bionic Woman, (i.e. being bad) but so far (two episodes in) it’s been alright. There’s a lot of movie-style action and there were some clever story tricks to get them to the present day. However, there are also obvious pitfalls that could prevent this series becoming a success. First, we can’t have each episode be about how they survived another Terminator attack. The premise of the show is that they’re trying to hunt down and destroy the origins of future-killing Skynet. That needs to be much more interesting and complex (otherwise they’re just going to keep blowing up buildings — yawn!). Repetitiveness minus interesting stories is what killed the Bionic Woman. Second, the existing Terminator mythology is limited. They need to avoid being restricted by “canon” (see Smallville) in order to create a new universe for the show. Finally, there’s a conceit in the premiere whereby sending someone into the past from the future to hide needed equipment for the future allows them to be able to use fancy future tech to travel in time. They left that behind, but it’s too easy to use time travel as a story crutch. It’s fine once or twice, but you can’t keep sending Terminators and tech back through time too much before it becomes contrived. All that being said, I have high hopes for this show, so far it’s one of the better new sci-fi shows on.

The Border

Haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s part of a new revitalized CBC (that’s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the rest of you) who is releasing a number of new shows in midseason. It seems to be Canada’s answer to 24, but it has (just like Canada itself) a British tendancy. Like British procedurals, this show seems to get caught up in a lot of politics and not enough exposition. I still don’t really understand what happened at the end of the first episode, but it has something to do with media manipulation and politicking by the head of the Canadian Customs agency against the head CSIS (i.e. Canadian FBI) agent. The production values are pretty good, and things look very slick, but definitely lacks the adrenaline rush (and shocking twists) of a 24.

jPod

Another new CBC show. Based on a novel (which I just started reading) by one of my favourite authors, Douglas Coupland, jPod focuses on the quirky lives of a group of young game developers. It’s intended to be hip and quirky, but it loses a lot of the pop culture zest and the funny tone in translation. Sadly the first ten pages of the book is wittier than the entire first episode. Hopefully there’s room for improvement, but I think it is just hard to capture a novel that is less about sumptuous description and more about sketching characters in relationship to the zeitgeist. Something about watching main character Ethan and his pot-growing mom try to dispose of an accidentally-on-purpose electrocuted drug dealer is just too weird for a TV show that doesn’t have the surreal tone of something like Pushing Daisies. (I mean, are they really doing this on Ethan’s lunch break? Are his colleagues really just going to stroll round to the place where the body has been tossed?). This show is a work-in-progress.

As for the rest of midseaason, 24 is out, so I’m mostly just looking forward to the return of Lost at the end of January, and Torchwood next week, and any post-strike episodes of my normal faves as they appear.

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