Always struggling between whether to review TV seasons at calendar year-end or summer season-end, but inspired by the awesome finales of Lost and Battlestar Galactica, I’ve decided to talk about the shows I loved, and not-so-loved this season (no comment, however, on shows I dropped ages ago — that means you: Bionic Woman, Dirty Sexy Money, and Gossip Girl). It’s still a lot to talk about, but if you endured the Hollywood writers’ strike, you can hang in there with me now, right?
First let’s talk about shows that improved on mediocre seasons: Lost made a serious comeback not because season 3 was terrible (it wasn’t, after we got everyone out of those cages) but because the flash-forwards added a whole new dimension to the storytelling — a high-point being the satisfyingly-manipulative flash-forward/flash-back combo in the episode where Sun gave birth. This season was short, but so fast-paced and captivating that we didn’t have time to scratch our heads over the dozens of new questions being raised. At least the finale brought us a lot of knots on those loose ends. Plus, if there was ever any doubt whether Lost is a sci-fi show, this season’s time-travelling and island-vanishing mojo has definitely settled that debate. Desperate Housewives‘s recovery, however, could be considered even better than Lost’s because I had stopped watching the show last season. I attribute this season’s return to form to new housewife Dana Delaney. I’ve already mentioned in previous posts how not only did she fit in, but she taught the others a thing or two about passive-aggressive bitchiness. So much fun to watch. Plus, her mysterious secret (though much more intriguing before we found out the truth) was highly addictive.
Supernatural had kind of lacklustre start, but by season 2, this show was steady entertainment. Season 3 seemed like it was going to be stuck in a demon-of-the-week rut, but then two interesting side characters came on board: Bela, a sultry artifact-hunting mercenary nemesis; and Ruby, a demon ally with her own agenda. Add to the mix the impending deadline on Dean’s Faustian deal and I’ve got myself a worthy X-Files successor that is not really like that show at all. As I’ve said over and over, Medium is one of my favourite shows. This season Alison and her family had to deal with the very non-psychic struggle of making ends meet after both she and her husband, Joe, became unemployed (y’see, even psychics can’t just play the lottery and be set for life). Guest star Anjelica Huston was more hard-edged than Alison’s former boss, which made for an interesting dynamic. I was worried that exploring how various people would respond to knowing about Alison’s abilities was going to dampen the show, but instead it made opportunity for all kinds of different stories. I was worried that The Office would become too much of a relationship comedy, with Jim and Pam, Michael and Jan, and Angela and Andy all paired up. Some of that took attention away from the hilarious workplace insanity, but season 4 was still really funny, with lots of great moments (even romantic ones like Jim’s shoe-tying proposal fake-out in the Fun Run episode). It’s all good. I love the blend of single-woman comedy and workplace hijinks that make up 30 Rock. While it’s still a pretty young show, and I can’t say that season 2 was better than season 1 (especially with some misfires like David Schwimmer’s Greenzo episode; plus Jack really needs to stay in the executive suite), but the ensemble is hilarious (especially Tracy Jordan and Kenneth the Page).
Battlestar Galactica deserves its own paragraph because it so totally rocks! While the ending of the finale was not a surprise (seriously did you think maybe it was going to be our Earth, and Starbuck would run into Lindsay Lohan coming out of a night club or something?). Nevertheless, after the difficult-to-endure stories of terrorism and hardship on New Caprica, and the messed-up love quadrangle of Starbuck, Apollo, Dualla and Anders last season (not to mention all the visions and stuff on the algae planet), this season has been great. With Captain Ahab, I mean Thrace, leading her small crew off to find Earth, and the blossoming of Roslin and Adama’s love, not to mention those crazy Cylons and their civil war, and the messed-up antics of the final four (I confess that I do not miss sniveling Callie) the drama just kept coming. The revelations of each of the four to their significant others was an exploration in the reaction shot. Olmos as Adama was especially awesome (though I don’t like to see drooling on TV), and Katee Sackhoff’s eyes when Anders confessed were an impressive expression of under-the-surface emotion. I know it’s only half a season so far, but come on. We won’t get new eps until Jan 2009 (that’s the same as Lost, and later than most other fall premieres, so we might as well call it a season). I think it’s cruel to make us wait so long to find out who the last Cylon is, but then again I am willing to wait if it puts the end of the series further off.
Of the new shows this season, many are fun throwaways that I will enjoy but not miss if they are cancelled. Reaper and Chuck are both in this category. Both probably would have been better with longer seasons as they were developing their mythologies by the season end. I’m hoping that both shows will really come into their own this fall. Big Bang Theory was my dark horse favourite. I had no expectations on this show, but now I love it. However, it’s starting to spin its wheels: Sheldon’s superiority-complex and social-obliviousness are already at fever pitch, and Leonard’s thing with Penny is losing its awkward charm. Maybe with a fresh start in the fall, this show will figure out the formula for continued hilarity. Finally, what is up with everyone loving Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? It was cool, but also incredibly slow. And the characters are still very one-dimensional. Cameron has nothing on a Commander Data or Mr. Spock when it comes to exploration of humanity, and for Skynet’s sake, we get it, Sarah Connor is bad-ass! Let’s move on.
Simpsons has many funny moments (though I can’t recall any from this past season right now…) but it’s really take-or-leave these days. What has happened on Smallville? It’s so difficult to keep track of what’s going on. Plus all the drama between Clark and Lex seems so whiny. I think part of the problem is that everyone seems to be moving on with their lives, but the show’s title and central character (Clark Kent) seem to keep holding the show back. Let’s hope next year will be better with less of Lana and Supergirl around. How I Met Your Mother is still one of my favourite comedies, and having Sarah Chalke make her debut as Stella (who I still don’t think is the titular mom — why would he continue the story if he’d reached the point where dad and mom have met?) was great. However, the whole Barney loves Robin diversion had me in fits. Joey and Rachel have been there, done that. It wasn’t good. Let’s move on.
What the …?
My beloved Heroes, little did we suspect that the disappointing season finale was the crest of a hill and that down the other side were lame shogun storylines in feudal Japan, lame plague-dealing South American twins, and lame flying boyfriends, and lame epidemic threats to humanity. The only bright spot in this season was the introduction of Elle (You rock, Kristen Bell!), who really could have toned down the crazy a bit. My oft-expressed hope is that she will be one of Chapter 3’s titular Villains and join up with super-baddie Sylar. Should we get a petition going? Send NBC loads of power-bars in the mail? Who’s with me?
24, you had so much to make up for after sad sad season 6. But instead of coming back to win our hearts, you snuck away until next season. For shame! I get that your premise takes 24 hours to tell the events of the day, but that is so played out. The middle hours are mostly filler anyway. I know you could have done a good job without all those episodes (and I’m sure it would have been better than season 6 at any rate). Now you have all the pent-up expectation of a year-and-a-half’s lack of Kieferness to live up to. Let’s hope what we see next year is going to be the most-grueling, thrilling, death-defying 24 hours of Jack Bauer’s young life — or else your days are surely numbered.