Fall TV 2009 – week 3

Week 3 of this year’s fall TV premieres was a doozy! While it’s nice to see the networks returning to the kind of concentrated premiere schedule that kept me glued to the TV during my youth, I have to say that I put my Tivo and timeshifting to the test. To make things a little simpler I’m going to break down the new series that I watched, then comment on the returning ones (but it’s just going to be one big long post).

New Shows

FlashForward

My, there was quite some pressure on the shoulders of this show! Touted as the new Lost, it needed to strike that sliver-thin balance between geek-friendly and wide-appeal. From the pilot episode, I think it’s going to do great. The high-concept premise is that everyone in the world simultaneously loses consciousness for around 2 minutes. Besides the resulting tragedies and disaster that this can cause, characters also have to deal with the fact that they experienced the future in those 2 minutes. Mystery one is what caused this to happen, and mystery two is for everyone to reconcile their visions of the future with the events of their lives. Joseph Fiennes was less annoying than normal as the FBI lead investigator, partnered with John Cho (one of my faves and the actor that I would choose to play me in a bio-pic, BTW). Amazingly we are introduced to around a dozen characters in the first episode and I feel like I’m interested in all their stories. All I can say is that this show better not get cancelled!

Eastwick

Another adaptation of the John Updike novel, these three actresses (Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price, and Jaime Ray Newman) follow in the footsteps of Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher, and Susan Sarandon as three small town women (witches) who conjure up a tall dark stranger. Besides its movie predecessor, the show also has obvious echoes to other girl-power shows like Charmed, Sex and the City, and Desperate Housewives (there’s even a show-opening voiceover). So far the characters are drawn pretty broadly, especially the men (hello, oafish pig husband, and clueless office crush — BTW, the newspaper where Price’s character works apparently believes that everyone should dress like Clark Kent, glasses and all.) The real standout is Paul Gross, whose devilishly fun Darryl Van Horne is charming with a touch of chaos. It was decidedly mediocre, but I’m going to stick with the show for a while. (Hey, I watched all of Charmed and I’m still watching the Housewives!)

Cougar Town

I wasn’t sure that I was going to watch this show either. I love Courtney Cox, but her last series (Dirt) was a bust. Nevertheless, Cougar Town is pretty funny. As the title suggests, Cox plays an older woman getting out into the dating scene, trying to nab a younger guy. From this show, you could guess that older women are quite randy, however, the men in this show seem to be also. Cox is same attractive-yet-bumbling beauty she perfected on Friends, but it’s her co-stars that really made this show a delight. Busy Philipps as the younger assistant, chumming the waters for her boss, Christa Miller-Lawrence plays the best friend who envies her single pal’s sexual freedom, Brian Van Holt as Cox’s arrested-development ex-husband, and Dan Byrd as her eye-rolling teenage son.

Returning Shows

The Big Bang Theory

The gang return from their polar expedition with no changes except for their shaggy beards, until Leonard goes across the hall and gets a big kiss from Penny. Despite that watershed moment, I trust that here too, the more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s fine by me, since I find this show hilarious as is.

How I Met Your Mother

Ted becomes a professor, and Robin and Barney finally become a couple. To me, neither event was long-awaited, and I don’t think it changes much of the dynamic (except it might declaw Barney a bit). We’ll see. This show consistently elicits a soft chuckle for me, so I’m sticking with it, at least until we finally meet the mother (or die trying!).

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Heroes

This show walks such a tightrope between the awesomeness of season one, and the spoiled potential of all the other seasons. The metaphor’s a good one since the season-opener immediately introduces us to an intriguing carnival of superpowered folk (no wonder I can never toss those rings around the coke bottles!). Meanwhile all the other characters are scattered, but I’m enjoying their individual stories so far (except for Claire, who seems to have some potential single-white-female action in college — good roommates are so hard to come by). There’s a couple of great fight scenes between Tracy, then Peter against Ray “Darth Maul” Park as a mysterious, speedy, machete-wielding new enemy. I’m especially glad that Sylar’s still around (kind of) even after last season’s cop-out finale. You know this show can’t survive without him!

Smallville

Gosh, I can’t stand this show. Why do I keep watching? I hate the super-closeups, and the overwrought morality plays, and the melodramatic conversations, not to mention the apathy- and confusion-breeding plotlines. Fight club again? Zod again? Tess Mercer still? Lois Lane, whatever!

Medium

After last season’s coma-finale, you knew they were going to put everything right again, but it was wonderfully dramatic to watch Allison go through the frustration of losing her sixth sense (not to mention mobility on her right side) because of her surgery. After the little shocked-awake montage that they showed last season, who knew that they were going to get rid of her need to sleep to dream visions of the future. Such a subtle change, but it opens even more storytelling possibilities for the wonderful writers on this show. I wish it were the future already!

Dollhouse

A nice opener with so many special elements, not the least of which was a Battlestar Galactica reunion between Tahmoh Penikett (Agent Ballard), and his BSG brother-in-arms Jamie Bamber (sporting his natural British accent as a husband/client for Echo). The writing/dialogue is still top-notch, especially a melancholic conversation between Topher and the now self-aware Whiskey/Dr. Saunders. This show has surprisingly so many directions to take and it really tries to take as many as possible. I can’t wait for more of Alexis Denisof as the senator who goes after the Dollhouse, and for Ray Wise and Summer Glau to arrive from another house.

The Simpsons

This show has been consistently keeping a soft pulse on the laff-o-meter for a number of years now, but I’m still enjoying it. You’ve just got to put aside the fact that they have gone from merely reusing plots to making an art out of story recycling. In the season opener, Homer (not Milhouse) stars as a movie superhero (not a real superhero like he was before) and gets a personal trainer (not like when Homer was a trainer for Moe). Got it?

Castle

Nathan Fillion’s still got the charm and he uses it to win back Det. Beckett’s good graces after digging into her mom’s death last season. My only police procedural, this show’s characters have chemistry to spare. From the two side-kick detectives, to Castle’s mom and daughter, the connections are palpable.

Desperate Housewives

In seconds we find out who Mike is marrying in last season’s finale (no big surprise). Plus, the plots continue as Gabrielle has to handle her mini-me (i.e. Carlos’s hottie niece), Bree and Richard seek to consummate their illicit affair, and Lynette brings the downer again with her un-mom-like feelings towards her twin uterus-dwellers. Drea DiMateo and Jeffrey Nordling arrive as the new mysterious neighbours (gross scar, Drea!) and hopefully Catherine returns to her delicious old ways.

Phew! Thanks for sticking with me. Enjoy the rest of the new season as remaining shows trickle in. Stargate: Universe, V, and 30 Rock still wait in the wings.

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