Fall TV 2008 (part 1)

Maybe it’s more after-effects of last season’s writers’ strike, or some other studio strategy (you never know with them) but this fall’s premiere season seems more spread out. Plus, many of my favourite new and returning shows won’t be appearing until 2009 (including Medium, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, 24 and new show Dollhouse). Nevertheless, there’s still plenty to watch so let’s get right to it.

Returning shows

So far, not many shows have returned. There’s Gossip Girl (which I don’t watch) and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles (which is almost off my list). I was not a huge fan of the Terminator movie franchise. It seemed to be the same thing over and over: machine chases humans. Many people spoke well of the TV series last season, but I always suspected that was strike-induced hunger speaking. So far the series has not really done much to improve on the formula. Cyborg terminators continue to chase poor humans John, Sarah, and their friends. The small screen allows for fewer explosions (though there are still more than most shows) and force us to spend a lot more time on “character” scenes. Unfortunately I can only take so much brooding and sulking from these Connors. I am hoping the season premiere’s introduction of a new subplot featuring Shirley Manson (lead singer of Garbage) as a corporate ball-buster/liquid-metal terminator will bear cool fruit. At the least, there’s a mysterious Babylon Project (apparently they’re building a five-mile long space station). [If you get that reference, call me. You’re my new best friend.]

New shows

Fringe was one of my two most anticipated new shows this season (the other being the aforementioned Dollhouse). Sadly the premiere left a lot to be desired. This one owes a lot to the X-Files, about an FBI agent, Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) trying to get help for her (FBI and romantic) partner who gets struck by a mysterious biological agent that apparently melts people and makes their flesh transparent (I know, cool in theory but gross to see). She gets little help from official channels, and resorts to getting a mad scientist, Walter Bishop, out of custody and getting his super-sarcastic son Peter (Joshua Jackson playing Pacey again but older) along as a go-between and assistant. This show is supposed to be about Fringe science, but so far it’s just about preposterous science: genetic manipulation, dream-state communication, etc. When they brought in a live cow as a prop, I thought, “Oh know, they’ve jumped the shark” and I remembered it was only the first episode and all I could do was sigh. To make matters worse, Pacey … I mean Peter …  is just so annoying as the snipey son. Give it a rest! I loved X-Files and I love JJ Abrams’s shows, so this series neeeeeds to get better.

True Blood looks great on paper. Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under creates a new vampire show for HBO. Vampires are trying to be a part of normal society now that they have a synthetic blood product called Tru Blood and no longer need to feed on the rest of us. Mr. Ball, do we really need to focus so much on the “white trash” stereotypes? One of the things I loved about Six Feet Under was that the characters were not stereotypes. So far, in True Blood, everything has been entirely predictable. Why is the main character, a mind-reading waitress (played by Oscar-winner Anna Paquin) the only one with any sensitivity to the vampire (who is so obviously the stand-in for homosexuals and/or any other oppressed minority)? Yes, the southern U.S. has not really been known for its tolerance. We get it. I hate to judge a show on only one episode so I’m still withholding. I’ll let you insert your own vampire pun about how much this show “sucks”.

90210 – Don’t laugh! I was only going to give this show a try, but I’m kind of enjoying it. I wasn’t a big fan of the original show, but I did watch it enough to know who was who (at least in the early seasons). This redux has a new family arrive at West Beverly Hills High, but rather than twins, this time round the new boy is adopted, and African-American, the dad is the principal and went to West Bev himself as a youngster (some skeletons have already come out of that closet). The characters are very stereotypical, despite these attempts at new spins. The plots can be seen from as far away as the Hollywood sign, but I still find myself interested. Plus, Jennie Garth is back as Kelly (she’s a guidance counsellor now). I have always loved her and I’m glad to see her on TV again. Since I never got into the uber-rich bitchiness and up-to-the-minute trendiness of Gossip Girl, maybe 90210 is more for us oldies rather than the teen audience after all. Let’s see how long I stick with it.

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