For a couple of years, I thought that the networks were taking a genius new direction in developing a year-long TV schedule, where ultimately there would be great new shows premiering throughout the year. Instead, midseason seems to have reverted to its old ways of being a dumping ground for shows that were not good enough for fall. New shows such as the presidential sitcom 1600 Penn and one-percenter murder mystery Deception and returning musical genre-blender Smash all seemed like they had potential until they couldn’t hold my interest beyond the first episode. I didn’t even try to watch creepy psycho-killer drama The Following.
Much has been written about the unceremonious way show-runner and writer-creator Dan Harmon was ousted from the show, but I still am not clear on why. Unfortunately, against all hopes, the show’s fourth season is just not the same without him. Maybe I’m only remembering the good stuff, but nothing is nearly as clever or funny as it was in the previous seasons. Instead, everything seems a bit like a pale imitation. Starting out of the gate with a Hunger Games spoof that was more bizarre than humourous, it seems like the new producers think that the series is more about quirky oddness than it is about laughs. Also, even when they have a good opportunity to expand the show’s mythology in the episode where the gang goes to an Inspector Spacetime fan convention, it feels a lot like they’re trying to milk what’s left of Harmon’s legacy for everything it’s worth. For example, they tried to bring back the foosball playing Germans (sadly without Nick Kroll as lead Deutsch-bag) to challenge the group for the study room (really, why?); Pearce keeps retaliating for being left out and Jeff keeps making speeches about how the study group is a family; and Chang is back in the dean’s custody, possibly faking his “Changnesia”. None of it comes across as all that clever. I’m still hoping things can pick up if they leave Harmon’s legacy alone and create new interesting things with the show, but I don’t think it’s going to make it to that point. Sad, because I’d really grown to love the show in its first three seasons. (3 out of 5)
This new series about a show-within-a-show (and the conspiracy of deadly-strange that surrounds it) is trying very hard to pick up some of the fragments of that flood of “mysterious” shows that came in the wake of Lost. Sadly, this series is no Lost. Its biggest problem is that it’s way too confusing and convoluted. It’s about an on-the-edge journalist (played by Matt Davis, who bit the supernatural dust as Alaric on The Vampire Diaries) whose brother mysteriously disappears after seeking his help to escape from unknown people who are after him. His brother seemed convinced that it was all connect to a cult television show that he had been a fan of (also called “Cult”, where the subject matter is a dangerous cult. The show has a reclusive writer-producer who seems to be pulling the strings on the show and in the scripted world of the show-within-show — “Lost” yet?). Suspicious characters, mysterious red cars, and next-gen computer viruses abound (which I normally love) but I can’t figure out why I care about any of it now that I’m so confused. Davis has never been very charismatic, so it’s a challenge following him as a lead character into this murky world. As the characters in the show-within-show are also trying to figure out details about mysterious disappearances and crimes, it’s a very thin line that separates the show from that show-within-show. I think they should have established more about what’s going on within the show before trying to mess with viewers’ heads in this “meta” fashion. Nobody wants a big headache (especially not when watching the CW). (3 out of 5)
This show could have been amazingly cool (but now the show is already off the schedule — not a good sign). When the wife of a publisher of a magazine about paranormal stuff (As if, right?) is kidnapped, he discovers a bizarre and ancient conspiracy that leads him to clues about a potential cataclysm that he (and his team) try to prevent. The big flaw in this Da Vinci Code style story is the lead, played by Anthony Edwards. He’s more of a soft-spoken guy who cannot carry the show in the role of a smart, action-hero lead. There are FBI agents, research assistants, and even a mysterious villain (who kidnapped the wife) named White Vincent, but none of these side characters compensate for Edwards either. This could have been a globe spanning mystery action series with all kinds of bizarre and crazy stuff, but now it’s a jumbled-up mess full of questions that will probably never be answered. (2.5 out of 5)
So I gave some midseason shows a bit of a chance, but this is one bleak midwinter — Game of Thrones season 3 just cannot come soon enough!