Midseason TV 2010

Well, it’s that time of year again. Yes. Reruns. We’re at the midway season in television land folks which means that we won’t have anything new on the horizon until after the ball drops–the one in New York not a metaphor for a bad omen of boom goes the dynamite.

So here then is a small summary, analysis, and wishes for the TV shows I have kept up with since they premiered in September. In retrospect they are amazingly slim pickings, but things should ramp up nicely come 2010 which will also be addressed in more detail. But here’s a hint. How the Cylons came to be, a final season, and an intersect is back and it’s badass.

The Big Bang Theory

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The show came into its own as a legitimate hit for CBS’s Monday Lineup last season. Right now it seems poised to eventually unseat the longtime success of Two and a Half Men as the number one sitcom for CBS.All that said, however, this season has really demonstrated that the show is a work in progress. What seemed like a natural, strong chemistry between the principal players has instead shown that there are strong points and weak points abundant throughout.

Number one, obviously, is the group works much better as a foursome than split into pairs. The show works best when they can just bounce off each other and let that well-honed chemistry just shine. Case in point is one of my favorite episodes from last season with Penny trying to start her own business. Hilarious and showed all the main characters’ personalities to a T. At its best it resembles the great ensembles of years past and new classics like Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and Arrested Development.

This season there haven’t been many opportunities to demonstrate this well-oiled machine. Well, one cog is running just fine.

I am referring to the brilliant work of Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper. He’s the home run guy and has come through every time he‘s at the plate. But he also seems to be the crutch to make up for the show’s shortcomings.

Right now the glaring one is they’ve gotten away from what made the show work in the first place. The guys all gathered in Leonard’s apartment playing the newest in video game geekery or conducting some convoluted experiment or using their brilliant analytical minds to solve daily rituals like going to the movies or deciding on dinner.

They’ve also for some reason seemed to emphasize the outsider status of the four of them rather than make them relatable. What drew me to the show in the first place was the exaggerated pop culture knowledge they all had. Well, it was about sci-fi and comic book stuff, but to them they were serious subjects to explore and dissect., just like any other experiment they conducted.

And speaking of grand experiments, we’ve finally seen the first union (though probably not last) of Penny and Leonard. We have kind of seen them struggle to find a common ground with their two very opposite life paths and personalities. But I’m glad the show has shown that these two do care for each other and enjoy being with each other. I don’t think they’re going to be able to sustain it. While we haven’t seen a true conflict, we’re due for one. And to be honest I see both Penny and Leonard not really comfortable with letting the other completely into their world, though Penny seems to be making more of an effort than Leonard at the moment.

I don’t want a case of Penny playing musical nerds with everyone, bouncing hither and yon amongst the brainiacs. Although, considering the comic chemistry Kaley Cuoco and Jim Parsons generate maybe a temporary pairing between those two would be interesting. And speaking of Ms. Cuoco, enough can’t be praised for how she has developed Penny. One can see the influence of John Ritter in her delivery and all too rare moments of sarcasm. I like how they’ve toned down her mother hen routine. She still loves them, but like any friend sometimes you have to tweak their quirks and eccentricities. You’re allowed to be frustrated with your friends.

It’s hard to criticize a show that has consistently delivered week-by-week. But there are chinks in the armor and if left unchecked they will become more and more noticeable as the show goes on. Right now everyone seems comfortable with comedy hit. But the potential is there to be one of the great all-time comedies. Let’s hope the cast and crew see that potential, too.

V

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As with most of my insights, this one came when I had a nice pleasant buzz at a birthday party in conversation with a perceptive fellow genre fan. The show of the fall I was most looking forward to was not the show I had in mind. Not even close.Having said that we’ve only seen four of them so we’re really not given much of a sampling to make a determination either way.

But, man oh man, why do I sense a missed opportunity?

In my drunken lament, one thing we each agreed on was ABC still determining what kind of show they had. That’s to be expected four episodes into a season, but it’s unusual when a show doesn’t embrace its premise and purpose. Basically, it plays off of the paranoia of terrorism sleeper cells and not really telling who the enemy is. Stuff Battlestar excelled at. In fact, I can see a lot of similarities, intentional or not. Morena Baccarin plays the Six-like Anna, using her feminine qualities and attractiveness to hold the human race in her sway. And along those lines we have Scott Wolf who plays a less ambiguous wild card a la James Callis’s Gaius Baltar. We know he’s looking out for himself, but for right now he lacks Baltar’s charisma and the audience’s wishes that he land on his feet.

But it’s still early and there are some intriguing avenues they can take the show if they wish to do so. The characters have a lot of potential.. I love the idea of rebel aliens being introduced so soon into the story and I’d love to see what Morris Chestnut’s role was before he went native. One assumes it was falling in love, but I first theorized he was part of the first band of peaceful explorers for the Vs before they decided to become conquerors. He also needs a catalyst to devote himself to the resistance fully so expect something to happen with his wife. And speaking of resistance, the more we find out about the Fifth Column and the mysterious John May the better this show will be.

But this show should have mo [problem getting better because there are a lot of things in place already. I love the whole dynamic between Elizabeth Mitchell and Joel Gretsch. Both of them with a crisis of faith, both of them being forced to break away from old allegiances–or having them torn away.

Which is why the subplots that don’t quite work now, may turn out to be masterstrokes as we get deeper down the line. For instance the teen romance between Mitchell’s son and the V, Lisa, is the weakest point right now of the show. Yet we’re left at an intriguing place with the revelation of Lisa being Anna’s daughter and the way Anna is taking Tyler Evans under her wing. What if Anna’s influence on him slowly destroys his humanity, taking away the thing that attracted Lisa in the first place? What if Tyler becomes a lieutenant to Anna and openly defies his birth mother, who is slowly becoming a serious threat to new his family? And what if Anna teaches her protégé too well to the point where he takes over?

But then are the Vs really in control or do they serve another master? In the final episode of 2009, we were introduced to Bliss, something like a V soma that puts the aliens into a docile and tranquil state of peace, love, and understanding. Just as the humans are becoming devoted the Vs, so too may the Vs becoming addicted to the Bliss. And the armada creeps ever closer.

Again four episodes isn’t a lot to go off of, but the shows have been getting steadily better. Save for one scene, in fact, the third episode, “A Bright New Day” was damn near perfect. If it stops trying to be a show for everybody, and instead lets everybody come to the show then we may see something that while not on par with Battlestar reaches for quality comparable to it.

Supernatural

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Hardcore genre fans have a tendency to romanticize final seasons without taking into account their flaws. Buffy’s final season promised going “back to the beginning” which many fans took as a return to the more light-hearted episodes in the first season’s run. Joss Whedon actually meant that the Slayer’s origin would be addressed, but the season was hindered by humorous sidebars that distracted from the main arc involving Buffy’s war with the First Evil.Angel’s last season has been called the best season of Whedon’s five-year show about the vampire with a soul, mostly because of the addition of Angel’s rival Spike. But fans tend to forget that the season took awhile to find its footing because of Spike being a “ghost.” The early episodes were standalone trifles that really didn’t seem to have much of a point but to make Spike into comic relief.

And so has Eric Kripke encountered with his latest season of Supernatural. To come back a bit from the dark schism that broke the Winchesters in twain, but also led to the show’s best season to date, Kripke has added some genial light-hearted fare into a season that portends the end–literally. A duel with Lucifer, the end of the world, and the angels sending forth righteous judgment unto the earth. And it was Kripke’s original plan to have five years anyhow.

This season thus far can be best analogized in the following example. Last season there was an episode where the Winchesters discovered that a down-on-his loser-luck schmoe named Chuck was capitalizing off of their life story by writing their tales to rapidly rabid and growing fan base. The fan base was very creative much to the boys’ chagrin, even so far as discovering slash incest (or Wincest.) Dean summed it up nicely. “Dude, that’s just sick!”

That was thirty minutes in. Once we hit the thirty minute mark, The Winchesters’ angel buddy, Castiel, appeared and told the boys that the schmoe was to be protected at all costs. Seems it wasn’t just a supernatural oddity. He was a prophet of the Lord. The Winchester story will become Gospel.

Here we have a metacommentary, wink-wink of an episode turn on a dime into a critical and compelling advancement of the overall arc, and the tone change is so abrupt yet fluid. It flows from what went on before.

Now we jump to the season with a quasi-sequel. Apparently the Winchester cult has gotten so huge that they are gathering for their first Winchesters convention filled to the brim with Dean and Sam wannabes. Apparently, the house they’re meeting at is already haunted and before you can say Scooby snacks, the boys try to figure out what’s going on while poor Chuck is trying to keep the fans occupied. Anyway, that’s not the important part. What is is they discover that a long lost powerful weapon ain’t so lost after all and their mission to end Lucifer takes the forefront again. This bit is revealed with about three to four minutes left in the episode.

This is Kripke’s problem this year. He’s trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and the strain is showing. Having said that, though, this episode did lead into one of the best the show has ever done that led to the death of two beloved characters. Just the kind of thing Supernatural needs to remind the viewers that there is actual gravitas here.

The rest of the season promises more apocalyptic shenanigans and the appearance of God Himself. And, lest we forget, in the end below all the phantasmagoria and gory makeup effects this is a show about family. If the show is leading where I think it’s leading we’re about to see a brotherly showdown between Lucifer and Michael with Sam and Dean as their vessels–or perhaps we may see a break in the hateful cycle if God has anything to do with it.

But not only does the show feel ready to close its book, but in real life both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are ready to open new ones. Both of them are engaged to Daneel Harris and Genevieve Cortese respectively. I seriously doubt that they pull an X-Files and move down to L.A. from Vancouver. Talk about undignified end. I have more faith in the creators that they’ll go out with a big bang. Kripke only knows what we’ll do without it.

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Due to life, heath (Nothing major. Bad cold.) and everything I will have part 2 posted tomorrow evening.

TallGent

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