Fall TV 2010 – Returning Drama

If you’ve read my blog, you know that even though I’m posting about returning dramas, you’re not going to read about House or Mad Men or Grey’s Anatomy. My tastes tend towards genre shows, though I do watch the occasional melodramedy…

Desperate Housewives

… Let’s get that one out of the way first. Even after an uneven season last year (with a few too many villains), I still enjoy visiting with the women of Wisteria Lane. Prospects look good this year with the return of creepy Paul Young (with new creepy-mousy wife) and the promise of Harriet Sanson Harris returning as Felicia Tilman, his psychotic nemesis. I’m hoping that the voiceovers from ghostly Mary Alice will be more pointed now that she’s occasionally narrating about her own husband. If that weren’t enough, enter Vanessa Williams as Lynette’s old friend Renee Perry, who’s going through divorce from a celebrity athlete (Ouch, doesn’t that cut surprisingly close to home for Williams?). Her storyline is still a bit mild for this show, but I’m sure it will get juicier. Lastly, I’m not loving the Bree-as-cougar story, nor the Susan-does-erotic-dusting arc, either (too similar to the suburban brothel story from season one).

Life Unexpected

This series would be better-called “Survival Unexpected”, based on its shaky performance in season one. Nevertheless, the focus has shifted a bit off of Lux and her “I’ve been in foster care all my life so I need to test the limits of your love” attitude. Hopefully that will mean more-balanced, less-frustrating episodes and character development this season. The hot-for-teacher angle seems really played out though (see also this past summer’s Pretty Little Liars). Let’s hope they find some more interesting directions to move this show.

The Vampire Diaries

I love how this series really doesn’t dwell on any plot device for very long. Elena’s vampire doppelganger Katherine is back in Mystic Falls and any normal series would keep milking the identity-theft angle, but I’m glad that this show has already let everyone in on the situation. Now we can move onto more dastardly schemes from the teen vampire-queen. Meanwhile, they’re actually managing to hold my interest with the Lockwood family werewolf story even though every vampire franchise has gone to the werewolf-well lately. Apparently it’s the only natural progression. Again, they could have milked the “What are the Lockwoods?” angle for a while, but they’ve already moved on. Lastly, I’m glad they vamped Caroline. She was getting annoying and now she’s a much more interesting character (too bad for ex-boyfriend Matt, though. He’s the only clueless one left in the class.)

Fringe

As much as I love JJ Abrams and co., they’re doing a poorer job of the doppelganger storyline than The Vampire Diaries. It annoys me when no one realizes that someone’s been switched. I guess this is a bit more understandable since we’re talking about two identical, true Olivias who are just from different realities. Nevertheless, it feels a lot like they’re stealing valuable time from the “War between realities” and I wish they’d just get on with it. Plus, I don’t buy the romance between Olivia and Peter, so let’s get that over with already as well. (Walter and “Asterisk” are still pitch-perfect, though.)

Supernatural

I didn’t think they were going to dwell too long on how Sam got out of Hell, but you know that’s going to be reckoned with (during sweeps). Mitch Pileggi isn’t bad as grandpa, but so far I’m not loving Sam and Dean’s hunter cousins (makes no sense that we’ve never heard of them before now. The hunter community can’t be that big that you don’t run into your own relatives!). As much as I like the monster-hunting premise of this season, I’m hoping they won’t all be as gross as the skin-peeling shifters. How about a ferocious dragon or something?

Medium

I’m still loving this show, and the season-opening “Freaky Friday” homage was the perfect counterpoint to the season-ending “It’s a Wonderful Life” tribute. The concept of the medium who dreams of murder cases was pretty thin, but six seasons later they’re keeping it as fresh and fun as ever. You gotta watch this show, people!

Castle

The premiere was a wonderful shake-up with Castle being on the wrong side of the law, but I’m glad the writers found ways to bring things back to status quo between Beckett and Castle. This is not one of those series where I think an ongoing story arc actually helps. I’m also glad they haven’t done anything to mess up the chemistry with the two side-cops Ryan and Esposito.

Being Erica

I was really anticipating the return of Being Erica, but so far it’s been pretty blah. As much as I love Erin Karpluk as Erica, that’s how much I loathe Julianne (and it’s not actress Reagan Pasternak’s fault; it’s that the character grates on my nerves). I’m hoping that they will find a way to take Erica out of that partnership and move her back into an office environment, interacting with people. Speaking of which, they introduced a “group therapy” element to this season which I don’t really get. Are they suppose to just keep chiming in with their dime-store advice, are they supposed to join Erica on her time-jumping adventures? Plus, adding Adam Fergus as her new potential love interest makes no sense, since they couldn’t interact in the real world. This season seems off on a misstep to me. I hope they get back on track soon.

The Good Wife

As I said at the end of last season, I didn’t really care about “Alicia’s Choice” between her fallen-politician husband Peter and her old more-than-friend/boss Will, but I was really disappointed by how they handled it. Alan Cummings’s Eli Gold (her husband’s spin doctor) deletes the voicemail from her phone where Will tells her he loves her, leaving behind the one where he wants them to keep it strictly platonic. How “Sweet Valley High” is that?! If they add a misunderstanding where someone walks in on two people kissing, I will just rescind my loyalty to this show. Let’s get back to the legal drama, or the family melodrama, just not this middle-aged teen soap opera!

Stargate: SGU

When they introduced the Lucian Alliance to the Destiny crew in last season’s finale, I smelled “Star Trek: Voyager” from miles away. I actually really liked Voyager, but I hope they don’t just retread some of that territory. Last season the characters barely got to the place where they weren’t killing each other. Why introduce a group of deadly mercenaries into the mix so soon? They should get back to the exploring — that’s what space shows are about, right?

Merlin

I know this is a generally light-hearted series, so when they introduced a cold, malicious Morgana back into the mix, I thought they were starting to catch up with the Arthurian legend (it’s the same kind of frustration that I used to go through waiting for Smallville to show signs of Super-ness). While the episodes are still fun to watch, they’re already starting to go over old ground (Uther poisoned again by magic? A creature loose in the castle that only Merlin knows about? Another roguish character who’s destined to sit at the round table stops by for a melee or two?). They’ve got to start taking things up a notch.

So that’s it for the start of Fall TV 2010. Returning shows are off and running — Sanctuary’s coming back with the conclusion to its apocalyptic Kali story — but I’m still not in love with any of the new ones yet. I’m really looking forward to next year’s Game of Thrones, but not so much to the Halloween debut of The Walking Dead. Zombies make me shudder.

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