Fall TV 2011 – October

While we tv fans were all kept busy in September with the rush of series and season premieres, a few shows (ones of particular interest to a genre fan like myself) waited until October to make their appearances. Dueling fairy tale shows, the return of cable series Sanctuary and Psych, and spy-fi comedy Chuck make up for a largely sci-fi and fantasy-free start to the fall season.

There’s only been one episode of Chuck so far this season, but it seemed to be more about the setup than the story. Chuck, Sarah, and Casey have formed their own spy agency (along with Morgan, the new Intersect). I was pretty disappointed in the premise to start, but even more so when the show didn’t really seem to embrace it. The gang’s attempts at freelancing haven’t been very successful. While it may resonate with these economically uncertain times to have them trying to make ends meet, the fact that they’re in that “losing” position is not as fun as when they used to be a crack team of pros. As you can imagine, much is made of Morgan being the human supercomputer rather than Chuck. Morgan’s ineptitude makes for the kind of broader humour that Chuck grew out of over the years, but as a mere mortal Chuck’s self-esteem issues just make him appear pitiful. (Plus I am so tired of Lester! And what is with Sarah’s new hair? You’re still hot, but try some conditioner, babe!) It’s the final season. This show needs to up its game and go out with a fun-sounding bang!

I was unexpectedly delighted with the pilot episode of Once Upon A Time. The cheesiness wasn’t too bad for a series about a young woman who finds herself involved in the life of a quaint town where everyone has forgotten that they were once literally the stuff of fairytales. I’m enjoying some of the campy performances, especially Robert Carlyle as Rumplestilskin. The story is set in the modern day, and it seems like it’s going to be interesting (and definitely Lost-esque) to learn how the characters came to be how they are (especially since we know their fairy tale backstories). What I find a bit unfortunate is that series seems to take from the Disney version of the fairy tales as its source (as opposed to their original or Brothers Grimm versions). This kind of seems crass and bumps up the cheesiness a notch. Nevertheless, I hope this show sticks around at least for an entire season (though I am not counting on it).

Grimm is more X-Files than Lost, proposing that the Brothers Grimm and their descendants share the ability to see the monstrous beings hiding in plain sight among us (which were written down as fairy tales). Now the cop at the centre of this show has discovered his gifts and his legacy, and that is going to change his life. I enjoyed this show enough to want to keep watching it, but they definitely had some script-logic issues in the pilot. The two cops were too quick on the draw (good thing the guy they killed was actually the villain). I don’t need them to get super gritty or anything, but the real-life stuff (like the rules of police work) need to make sense in order to keep the crazy supernatural stuff grounded.

I am delighted that this unique fantasy series has made it into season four, but I still think Sanctuary has not reached its potential for cool stories. I loved when the season 2 finale led to a mix of mythology, action, and fantasy in the Big Bertha story, but with the Hollow Earth stories of season 3, they just didn’t seem to know what to do with that. The abnormals’ uprising in the finale and premiere just seemed to be another allegory about any kind of minority group and how we shouldn’t judge. Plus, getting into the whole global politics of running an agency like the Sanctuary is such a snore-fest that they need to keep that at arms length. This is a world where fantastic creatures and beings really exist. There is so much great storytelling that can come from that. The latest episode with the abnormal, super-powered hostage situation was exciting, but not worthy of Sanctuary. It was more an episode of 24 or Heroes (or even Syfy’s disappointing Alphas) than something for this series. I am consoled that they’ve gotten rid of Kate Freelander (liked her, but she was like a character out of another show. She just never fit in.)

This actually reminds me that I owe mea culpa to my home and native land and one of my favourite genre shows that returned to local airwaves in September (but I forgot to mention in my fall tv reviews). Canadian-made Lost Girl is enjoying a much-anticipated second season, and I’m quite enjoying it. Last season split up succubus Bo and werewolf Dyson, and they’re still dealing with that. Frankly, his relationship with Bo is the only thing that livened up Dyson’s block-of-wood expression. As much as I don’t care if they get back together, I really want him to be an interesting character (they tried to achieve that by doing an episode featuring Dyson’s backstory). Kenzie is still one of my favourite characters on TV and the best sidekick. I’m glad that they have featured her in more storylines of her own (including a pretty good episode with the legendary Baba Yaga). This season they also introduced more interaction with the new Ash (the leader of the light fae, who was newly crowned by a Hunger Games style death hunt after the fae leadership were all assassinated in last season’s finale). I think this series is keeping things fresh, with a generous helping of humour, and I look forward to the rest of the season (they took a little break in October).

It has been a long wait for Psych to return. Unfortunately, the premise is really starting to show its age. Since most probably don’t believe or care that Shawn is still pretending to be a psychic, they should just have him come clean. It doesn’t seem to make any difference anyway, and he would finally be able to reveal the truth to his (uh oh!) girlfriend. They still feature great cameos and pop culture references; and the Halloween episode had a few geek-friendly references that I enjoyed (I especially liked having Tom Lenk from Buffy make an appearance), but this show is not nearly as funny or fun as it used to be.

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