Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Grading the 2010 Television Season Thus Far

As I've let the Lost finale marinate in my mind these past few days, I've been contemplating why we watch TV. For me, it's more than just passing the time. A finely-crafted, serialized story is probably the most enjoyable form of art I can think of. A great movie is a wonderful feat, but I prefer the evolving tales of a group of characters since it allows extensive exploration of plot and character if done well. Since there are just so many damn good shows on right now, I've felt the need to analyze and discuss them here on the site. All of that is a long way of saying that this week's Lost made me want to assess each show I watched since 2010 began.
It feels odd only looking at the shows which have just recently ended even though most began back in the fall, but I had to have a cut-off point. Plus, I know I loved shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm this year, but too much time has passed for me to properly rate them after nearly six months time has passed. As a result, anything that concluded before 2010 will be ignored.
(Season 8, Fox)
Decent ending to a show that should've bowed out a few years ago. I know there's a movie in the works, but this felt rather uninspired for a series finale. This year, the show tried to pull new twists and brought back some old villains, but I think we've all become desensitized to everything 24 has thrown at us at this point after eight days. On a side note, I don't think they really ever topped that absolutely insane decapitation early in season 2.  C

30 Rock 
(Season 4, NBC)
Part of me wants to chastise them for using so many high-profile guest stars and instead focus on more great shenanigans for Jack and Liz, but when they come up with ways to use Jon Hamm, James Franco and Julianne Moore as they did, I have to remind myself to just enjoy the ride instead. Don't need to see Matt Damon again though. Best part of the show is still Alec Baldwin, who slays me each week.  B+

Big Love 
(Season 4, HBO)
I have never hated a main character of a show the way I despise Bill Henrickson right now. Part of me feels I should hate His power trips are purely for self glory; I don't buy this testament bull for a second. The politics angle struck me as unnecessary as it unfolded, but the end result has set up season 5 to have some truly extreme hardships for that family on the horizon. And, man, did I miss Roman this year. They got rid of him too soon. Although the result was more Alby, which I found to be fascinating storyline.  B-

(Season 1, SyFy)
Sadly, Caprica was not as great as I hoped it'd be. There's certainly room for it to improve, but measuring up to it's parent show, Battlestar Galactica, is probably not going to happen. Technically, season one hasn't concluded, which is fortunate since it's midseason finale was only mildly exciting. However, the sooner we all stop wishing it to be BSG, the better.  B-
After the jump, see the other 11 shows I covered that recently wrapped up.

(Season 2, Fox)
Dollhouse got pretty good this season, but it was too late to grab a sizable audience before it met its fate. I would've liked to have seen more adventures of the group, but five months after the show ended, I don't miss it at all. Certainly worth watching. But rent it. It's not really great enough to warrant owning.  B

Friday Night Lights 
(Season 4, NBC/DirectTV)
FNL's second-to-last season aired on DirectTV in the fall, but since NBC just finished airing it last night, I'm including it. Another phenomenal season of one of my favorite shows. For the uninitiated, although it is billed as a show about a high school football team (which it is), Friday Night Lights is also a thorough examination of the struggles of small-town America and how the people there find solace in faith, football and each other to get by. For a more complete look at the season 4, check out my recapA

(Season 2, Fox)
Wow. How good did Fringe get this year? Don't get me wrong, I really liked season 1, but season 2 (especially the second half of the year) ramped all the great stuff up while shoring up many of the weaker points. What started out like a modern X-Files clone is becoming something of it's own, if it's not already there. Episodes still tend to have a self-contained story for the laissez-faire viewer, but also some elements that lend to a grander mythos of the show, which is becoming extensive. I think the showrunners learned some lessons from the growing pains of Lost and the X-Files as far as what not to do with a complex sci-fi television show over a long period. And Fringe appears to be constructed for the long haul.  A

How To Make It In America 
(Season 1, HBO)
I don't have a ton to say about How to Make It, other than I enjoyed it. It's a simple premise -- a bunch fellas and ladies in their mid- to late 20s struggling to be successful in New York City, whether it be financially, artistically or romantically. And the same goes for the selectively reformed gangster played by Luis Guzman, only he's not in his 20s. It won't blow your mind. It's just good.  B

Human Target 
(Season 1, Fox)
A fun, if not fantastic show. Great dynamic between the principal three characters make up for the over-the-top action sequences and somewhat ludicrous plots. It's execution was stayed, but I wonder how far they can really push this show. I think it needs a little more stability for the adventures to anchor to, although I don't expect that to happen since the free-agent nature of Christopher Chance is unlikely to allow it. Either way, I'm on board for the weekly thrill ride.  B-

(Season 6, ABC)
Well, Lost's finale undoubtedly hit all the emotional notes. Initially, I was very satisfied by it. However, the more I dwell on it, I'm starting to think it wasn't complete enough. This isn't the space for a massive breakdown of what wasn't addressed (this is, though). I guess what's starting to bother me is that, in the end, the island wasn't really all that important. The ending essentially rendered Jacob and the Man in Black inconsequential, which is what season 6 was consumed with. Sure, a lot of the minutia was explained by focusing on them, but shouldn't we have spent more time with the castaways, past and present, instead if the island's mysteries weren't the point of the story? Clearly, it's still too soon to be decisive on Lost as a series. It's significance and meaning will continue to be debated for years. But as a season, year 6 wasn't entirely cohesive, which leaves it with a somewhat middling grade.  B+

The Office  
(Season 6, NBC)
It looked as though it was headed for a downward spiral after last season, but rebounded nicely this year, although they're still relying too heavily on the Jim and Pam subplots. The wedding episode was pretty great (save for the Chris Brown bit), and I routinely think about how great the "Scott's Tots" episode was. I think it can survive without Steve Carell if leaves after this coming season, but it will have to give more screen time to Creed. C'mon, it's friggin' Creed! He never gets to say jack anymore.  B

The Pacific 
(Limited Series, HBO)
Kinda boring, but it was based on actual history, so it's tough to knock it too much. However, I feel a purely fictionalized account of the less prestigious half of World War II could've added focus to the narrative. Oddly, it felt like I was watching a Vietnam movie, not only because of the Asian-Pacific setting, but also due to that lost, what's-the-point-of-all-this sentiment that seemed inescapable throughout the story's duration. It took civilian clothing and the female cast members to pull me back into the 1940s. Unlikely that The Pacific will ever warrant a re-watch from me.  C+

(Season 1, NBC)
My initial fears of this show came true. The balance has definitely tipped to drama, although there were still a few laughs at the end of the season. I especially didn't appreciate the resolution of the teenage cousins' rift. The writers owed us more than a weepy song playing in the rain while they talked and forgave each other inside the diner, conveniently placed where we couldn't hear their words. Somehow I still like most of the characters, even though there is a hollowness to many of them and their actions. Apologies to Mark because he said this in a Parenthood discussion we had a while back: although I have a few issues with the show, I keep coming back because I there's a part of me that wishes Lauren Graham was my bartender and Peter Krause was my dad. And those things are overriding my better judgment.  B-

(Season 9, The CW)
It began last year, but in season 9, Smallville finally embraced it's comic heritage completely. They gave us Metallo, the Wonder Twins, Toy Man, Amanda Waller, Speedy, the Justice Society AND finally brought back Michael McKean as Perry White (very long overdue; although White schlepping Mrs. Kent sure seemed incredibly wrong). Plus, they actually let the audience have the relationship they wanted (Clark and Lois) and some others that worked (Chloe and Ollie) despite my initial misgivings. And they handled the season-long confrontation between Clark and Zod so well, I felt like Lex never left. Two years ago, I couldn't wait for this show to be over so I could stop watching. Now, I'm a little sad that season 10 will be its last.  B

(Season 5, The CW)
For a long time, I've believed that Supernatural was the most underrated show on tv. At the close of season 5, however, I have to eat my words a bit. The show seems to be on it's last legs, as the big bad of this year was Lucifer (played by the same dude that more of you know as Jacob on Lost) and he wasn't particularly compelling as a villain. I'm not sure how you fuck that up, but there's no way he was as interesting as Yellow Eyes, Lilith or even dark-side Sam were in seasons past. They need to play back to the sibling relationship between the Winchester boys, maybe explore how they'll move on from the daemon hunter lifestyle now that Heaven and Hell can start being put back in order. It's sad that Jeffrey Dean Morgan has developed a film career since it's unlikely he'll ever return for an extended guest spot. That's what the show really needs an injection of. Jim Beaver, as fantastic as he portrays the surrogate father Bobby, can't quite hammer home the message that they are in desperate need of -- some true fatherly guidance.  B-
I'm going to try and do this three times a year. Look for the next edition as September greets us, where there'll be lots of great stuff to talk about -- Breaking Bad, Treme, Doctor Who and Justified, just to name a few -- that haven't ended their seasons just yet.

1 comment:

JCMasterpiece said...

Yeah, when i heard Caprica was supposed to be a BSG soap my thought was "great, so just like the last two seasons of BSG only worse". It's a real shame seeing what it has become. BSG was such a great show the first few seasons.