Friday, September 19, 2008

Passing out grades for the summer TV season

The fall television season is upon us, so it's time to take a quick look back at the boys of summer, television-style.

First and foremost, I'm sure you're probably sick of reading about my undying love affair with The Middleman. Unless, of course, you're a fellow fan of the Middledude and Dub-Dub. I watch a LOT of TV, and this was by far the most inventive, original and entertaining show I've seen in ages. Though not a clone of a Whedon program, it still has the same sensibility, in that it wholly creates its own universe, style and patter, and completely immerses you. It wasn't a perfect fit for ABC Family, and didn't pull the ratings it could (and should) have, so who knows if we'll be treated to another season of one of the most brilliant concoctions to grace the boob tube. If you've ever trusted my recommendations, please treat yourself to a viewing of The Middleman. A+

In Plain Sight was okay. In a summer without much going on, it made for a passable procedural with an intriguing concept, a solid lead performance and a star character in the making (Marshall!). I was bored with the family drama, though the whole "box of letters" bit at the end was a bit heartwarming. And for some bizarre reason, I was mesmerized by Mary's dimwitted, skank of a sister. (Evidently, I just have a soft spot for that type). On a related note, said sister will soon be showing up on Bones as a love interest for Angela. B-

Despite the interesting premise and setting, I still have all the eppies of Swingtown TiVod. Unwatched. Incomplete.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl coasted by entirely on the charms of star Billie Piper. If you're a fan of her Rose Tyler, it made for a mildly diverting 20 minutes. It wasn't sexy enough to be erotic, funny enough to make you laugh or dramatic enough to move you. But if you like saucy chicks with an overbite who once rode in the Tardis, it'll do. C

I'm still halfway through the latest season of Weeds. I enjoy this show when I watch it, yet I don't rush home to fire up the TiVo to make sure I catch the latest ep. Maybe my TiVo is telling me something. Incomplete.

At this stage of the game, I really don't expect that much from Monk. I smile at the fully realized central character, and enjoy his "here's what happened" as much as Columbo's "one more question." However, I think the summer season showed an uptick in the quality of the show, despite the mysteries being even easier to figure out. I was dreading the "Monk is hypnotized into thinking he's a child" finale, which actually surprised me by making me laugh out loud. And the 100th episode, where they revisited his 100 cases solved via a tabloid TV show conceit was particularly inspired. B

Psych strayed from the formula a bit this season, offering more insight into Shawn's background and childhood, and actually became a richer show while still offering the requisite silliness and pop culture riffs. Juliet is an underrated hottie and my only complaint was the lack of screen time for Lassiter. B+

I haven't yet watched the season finale of Burn Notice, so I'm not sure exactly how they wrapped up the season long arc with Six, er Carla, and her machinations of Michael. But the second season built on everything that we liked about the show in the first place (action, droll voice-overs, spycraft 101, deadpan humor, plenty of Bruce Campbell's Sam Axe) and delivered an even better showing. A

Law & Order: CI had an uneven summer. Some of the plot twists were patently ridiculous and it was clear that the departing Chris Noth was phoning it in. D'onfrio is always interesting, however, and I welcomed the return of the eminently adorable Megan Wheeler as Logan's partner. Next season, she'll be paired with Jeff Goldblum (of the underwatched and underappreciated Raines) who should bring an extra level of quirk to the show. I like the acerbic Eric Bogosian as the captain, and the season finale, featuring the return of Bobby's brilliant mentor and his longtime nemesis Nicole Wallace, was spectacular. B

Eureka, thus far, has been hit and miss. Many have objected to the blatant product placement from Degree, but working in the marketing field, I certainly understand the advantages of having some extra cabbage to support the show, and it doesn't bother me. I adore Ever Carradine, but don't really see what she adds to the show and I've found the whole "corporate conspiracy" with Eva a bit tedious. They also said goodbye to one of my favorite Eureka characters (and his dry, withering wit) Nathan Stark. Still, Colin Ferguson's anchoring performance keeps me tuned in, but I was hoping for more. C+

I gave up on Saving Grace. I appreciate the skill, fearlessness and ferocity of Holly Hunter's performance, but the whole show just kind of loses me. A bunch of rednecks getting drunk and solving crimes, infused with a bit of the supernatural? Damn, it sounds good, but it just doesn't work for me. D

We're still in the middle of Mad Men's run, but Holy Shit! is this show good. Easily among the top five shows on television, Mad Men continues to be a hallmark of stellar and subtle acting, writing, storytelling, directing and production values. A trenchant commentary on social mores, gender relations and commerce, Mad Men is a classic for the ages and absolutely must watch television every single week. A+

The Closer was all over the map this season, and in a good way. (Yes, as a southerner, I'm still bugged by Brenda Leigh's accent). We've had harrowing, heart-wrenching episodes and frothy, funny episodes (like the one with Provenza being hired as an undercover hit man) and they all pretty much delivered a solid, well-crafted hour of procedural entertainment. The ensemble is among TV's best, and I can never get enough JK Simmons on my tube. A

I've always watched the Stargate shows, though I've never been as passionate about them as I am with other genre fare, like Firefly, Trek, BSG, Farscape and the like. Still, it saddened me a little when Stargate Atlantis got cancelled, even though I understand the economics behind it. For an hour of sci-fi escape, you could do worse (Painkiller Jane, anyone? Or Flash Gordon? Arrrrggh). McKay (especially), Keller, Zelenka, Beckett, Ronin and the newly added Woolsey are all entertaining characters, even if Sheppard's hair bugs me (could Footloose's Ren have been in the military? Don't think so. Get thee to an interstellar Flowbee). But the replicator-redux storylines, along with the totally boring villains (how could you make "space-vampires" less interesting?) made this less than appointment viewing. C+

No comments:

Post a Comment