We’re back for the start of another fall premiere season. First thing I have to say is that I’m not super excited about it. Being a sci-fi, fantasy, genre fan, there’s not a whole lot for me to get excited about this year. There is virtually no sci-fi on TV this fall (the closest we come to a space ship is a flying blue telephone booth). Even the returning genre shows that I enjoy such as Fringe or Supernatural are winding down creatively. However, there may be some surprises this fall — we’ll see. In any case, we’re starting a bit slow this year. The networks seem to be returning to their practice of days past, i.e. premiering shows all within the same timeframe, as next week is a doozy. But before we get there, I wanted to comment on a few series that were quicker out of the gate (or follow unorthodox season schedules) and have already made their debuts this fall.
With its high school setting, it’s appropriate that Glee would begin its fourth season close to when the kids are all going back to classes. After last season’s big graduation of half the cast, there were bound to be some changes, but what we’ve got is more than just new cast members. Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) had big NYC plans, but they did not leave the show or spin-off into their own series. Instead, we’ve now followed Rachel to classes in the fictional NY Academy of Dramatic arts where she’s taking classes with Whoopi Goldberg’s character from last season and dance teacher Cassandra July (played by a tough-as-nails Kate Hudson). It seems a little crazy to try to cram another entire series of adventures into the already bloated hour full of McKinley High tales. I guess producers didn’t want to take a chance on spinning off for fear that a new series might end up more like Joey than Frasier. While everything seems very compressed, they pull it off pretty well and there are some nice thematic overlaps between both storylines. Meanwhile, new cast members means new students for Mr. Schue to wrangle. Wade/Unique has now defected from Vocal Adrenaline to join New Directions (filling in as the soul diva of the group). Other new regulars include Kitty, the new cheerleader/beeoch; Jake Puckerman, the new bad boy (and half-brother to the previous bad boy); and Marley Rose, the kind-hearted ingenue. The new class has not been idle. They have already established new love triangles, and also new “message” stories (Marley’s mom works as a lunch lady and is a heavy-set woman who Marley needs to constantly defend from ridicule. Man, these teens can be really disrespectful!). What they haven’t done yet, but I am hoping for is to have Blaine (Darren Criss) assert more of the star quality that he exhibited in the Warblers (though I’m not sure why he didn’t go back to private school after Kurt graduated). He would make a good lead character.
Parks and Recreation
Now one of my favourite sitcoms, I was excited that the show would premiere with Leslie and Andy taking a trip to Washington D.C. (I’m planning my own trip there next month). While visiting Ben (Adam Scott), Leslie (Amy Poehler) feels a bit insecure — especially around so many attractive, powerful and intelligent women that Ben seems to be meeting in his job as a congressional campaign manager. Meanwhile, back in Pawnee, Ron (Nick Offerman) tries to fill in for Leslie by running a departmental appreciation barbecue. Unfortunately he takes his zeal for meat a bit too far. After last year’s election focus, I am looking forward to seeing Leslie act even more as a politician this year. It was a nice way to start the season by showing her character against the real backdrop of American politics (there were cameos by several actual politicians, including John McCain) and how she’s still just a big fish in a small pond.
The aforementioned blue phone booth has returned, bringing the Doctor and Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) — who are lovingly referred to as the Ponds — on some more fun adventures. I do really enjoy the Ponds, so I am sad that they’ll be gone by mid-season (which is only a couple of episodes away), though the premiere episode surprised everyone by introducing the next companion in a backhanded way. In “The Asylum of the Daleks”, actress Jenna-Louise Coleman played kind of a different character, but if her companion character will be anything like that one then I love her already. She’s fun, cheeky, and pretty cute. Hopefully between her and Matt Smith’s Doctor, we won’t experience a cleverness overload. In the mean time, they’ve not only visited the Daleks, but also ridden dinosaurs in space, and gone back to the old west. I think this is going to be another good season. As usual, I only wish it were longer.
I almost invariably think of this show (about a pair of cops chasing after supernatural and bizarre cases) as a variation on The X-Files. To cement that comparison, the premiere episode came complete with alien abductions and mysterious shadowy figures (plus the female lead, Audrey Parker (Emily Rose), was also abducted at the end of the second season). There are still plenty of plot threads and mysteries carried over from last season. In fact, this show’s mysteries are approaching the complexity and vagueness of The X-Files as well. It’s pretty bananas how all the characters talk as if they understand what’s going on despite the fact that they know very little. Audrey herself asks a lot of questions, but as often happens in stories like these, characters skip over some of the more obvious ones which the audience wants to know about. So, I’m hoping that we’ll be treated to a lot of interesting question and answers this season. There was a little season 3 preview at the end of the premiere which has me pretty excited (plus WWE wrestler, The Edge, has now become a pretty cool regular cast member).
I know this season won’t be showing in the US for a while, so I won’t spoil anything, but the third season premiere brings all the melodrama we’d expect and more. No long engagement for Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens), but if you think it’s an easy path to the altar, who are you kidding? Bates (Brendan Coyle) is still in prison, which is actually kind of dull except it really lets Anna (Joanne Froggatt) show the love, devotion, and steadfastness that makes me love her character even more. Shirley MacLaine joins the cast as Cora’s (Elizabeth McGovern’s) mother. Wonderful as she is, I had hoped that her arrival would have made more of a splash than it did. Who knows, maybe we need to wait an episode or two before we see fireworks between her and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith).
Another show I’ve been able to preview (courtesy of iTunes) has been The Last Resort and so far, I am pretty disappointed by what I saw. So long until next week’s craziness…