Wednesday, March 07, 2007

State of the Television Address, Part 2

Continuing from yesterday's post, here's more on the state of TV today as seen by me: what I likes, what I doesn't.

Veronica Mars: I recently made brief note of the finale of this damn fine show's second mini-arc of the season. As opposed to the first two seasons, there was no year-long mystery tying together Veronica's third season; instead, the season has been split into thirds, with the first two thirds comprising two separate, briefer continuing mysteries, and the upcoming final third apparently lacking a continuing mystery altogether, and instead concentrating on single-episode stories. I can see why the showrunners felt compelled to do this: lackluster ratings prompted them to try to rake in new viewers with shorter attention spans. Sadly, this seems to have failed: the-abomination-that-shall-not-be-named improved on the previous week's ratings for Veronica by a mind-numbing 78%. I'm hoping this ratings spike merely represents a morbid curiosity in the debut, and the next episode's ratings will plummet. But I'm not counting on it. America loves shitty TV. Proof: this week's top 6 TV shows, per the Nielsen ratings:

1. American Idol - Tues (FOX)
2. American Idol - Weds (FOX)
3. American Idol - Thurs (FOX)
4. Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? - Tues (FOX)
5. Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? - Thurs (FOX)
6. Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? - Weds (FOX)


Sigh. In summation: Veronica Mars is still very, very good, and nobody is watching it. I'll call it now: it will not be back next year. Please, please prove me wrong on this one, The CW.

Gilmore Girls: I've given up on this show a couple times before, only to come back to it later on down the line. But this time, it's for good. I quit watching very early in this, the show's worst season (since the last one), and I have zero desire to go back, not an inkling of curiosity on how things are developing. I grew to despise every single character, and there's not much point in sticking around beyond that, is there? It's a shame; this used to be a wonderful little program. But it's suffered through declining quality seemingly constantly since season 1, and I couldn't justify watching it any longer.

Smallville: Same thing here. I got sick of the characters, and I got sick of the formula, and that's it. I'm out. Also, it didn't help that it was up against the first hour of NBC's Thursday comedy powerhouse, as well as Ugly Betty. TiVo can only record two shows at once, which meant something had to give. So long, Smallville. But, unlike Gilmore Girls, maybe I'll catch up with you on DVD one day.

Ugly Betty: Speaking of which... I gave up on this show about midway through the season. I loved America Ferrera's Betty, and her father, and... not much else. I especially didn't care for the more soap opera-ish elements -- the murder of what's her-face, Bradford Meade's possible involvement in it, Wilhelmina's behind-the-scenes conniving with a mystery woman to steal the magazine away from Daniel... ugh. Completely uninteresting to me, and I abandoned the show because of it. Then I happened to catch an episode sometime around Christmas, and found myself completely charmed and drawn back in. Betty's boss Daniel had become a fuller, more interesting character, Amanda and Marc had evolved from plain annoying to the enjoyably bitchy they were clearly aiming for from the start, and even Wilhelmina didn't bother me so much. I still don't care about the power struggles or the murder, but when the mystery woman turned out to be Daniel's presumed-dead brother, post-sex change -- and played by Rebecca freakin' Romijn, no less -- you win. I surrender. That unbelievably campy and patently ridiculous soapy plot twist had me in stitches. I love Rebecca Romijn, and I love her character, and, as I said above, America Ferrera is wonderful.

House: I keep thinking I'm forgetting to record this show, but it turns out it just keeps getting pre-empted by one of the many weekly airings of American Idol. I haven't watched this week's episode yet -- the one with Dave Matthews as the patient-of-the-week -- but I'm sure it'll be good. It's always good, and Hugh Laurie is eternally brilliant. That said, I honestly didn't miss the show much while it's been gone (and won't miss it much during the next few weeks, while it again hibernates in favor of Idol). It's one of those shows that I'm happy when I can see it, but it's never become a true must-see for me. If I catch it, great. If I don't -- hey, same formula will be repeated next episode.

Men in Trees: I really enjoyed the heck out of this show when it debuted this year, and all of its calculatedly quirky, but still funny and charming, characters, especially Anne Heche, Abraham Benrubi, and, surprisingly enough, the dude who got his Achilles tendons severed in Hostel. Then one day recently I noticed something funny: I had half a dozen episodes of the show saved up on TiVo, and I had no desire to watch them. So I deleted them, and haven't watched the show since. I'm still not sure why Men in Trees fell out of my good graces. I think it simply was the victim of TV overload. I had too much to watch, and something had to be sacrificed. And I haven't felt any withdrawal pains, so I think I made the right choice. I'd still recommend the show, frankly; it's very cute and amusing and romantic and enjoyably low-key. But it just doesn't fit into my personal viewing schedule. Oh well.

1 Vs. 100: I have a ton of these shows saved up on TiVo, too. I'll probably get around to watching them, eventually, but for now, it still brings up bad memories of getting eliminated from the Mob. Yes, still. (Check the sidebar if you're new to my 1 Vs. 100 saga.) I told you before, I'm a mess. I've got PTGSD -- post traumatic game show disorder. Maybe when I get my money (should be less than a month now!) I'll be healed.

Boston Legal: I watched this show in the beginning, gave up on it quickly, then got back into it at the end of last year. And now I'm giving up on it again. My main problem has been finding the show's revolving door of castmembers more fascinating and entertaining than the episodes themselves. David E. Kelley's shows have traditionally suffered from heavy cast turnover, primarily due to Kelley's predictably fickle writing. He'll create characters that amuse him a great deal for a very short time, then they will quickly fall out of favor, and he'll reduce them to a line or two here or there while he becomes fascinated by a new, usually uniquely odd or flamboyant, flavor of the week. For example, this season has seen the introduction, and rapid departure, of Craig Bierko, whose character Kelley obviously adored at first, but who quickly got demoted as Kelley turned his attention instead to William Shatner's dwarf romantic interest, Bethany (who, admittedly, has been wonderfully played by Meredith Eaton, who also gave a great guest performance on House this year), or Clarence (Gary Anthony Williams), the cross-dresser who swiftly developed from client to legal secretary to lawyer, as well as from guest star to series regular. Constance Zimmer, who was introduced at the same time as Bierko, is lucky Kelley decided to make her the romantic interest of Clarence, otherwise she'd probably be gone, too. And meanwhile, Rene Auberjonois, who has been there from day 1, is lucky to get a scene every other episode. So, yeah, I'm out on this show. Until I get pulled back in again.

Fox animation: I've actually found Family Guy to be more consistently entertaining than The Simpsons this season, so make of that what you will. The Simpsons, as has been the case for about eight years, keeps churning out funny but not-spectacular episodes, with an occasional peak here and there, but more frequently providing unmemorable, guest-casting-motivated, slightly-above-mediocre fare. American Dad elicits a few chuckles. King of the Hill remains the class act of the bunch, packed with humor while retaining the humanity and relatability of the strong characters.

Knights of Prosperity: This is a rare gem, a sitcom debuting in mid-season (which traditionally has not been an indicator of quality) bursting with originality and hilarity. So, of course, it's been pulled from the air -- in favor of reruns of According To Jim! -- while the wretched In Case of Emergency, which debuted at the same time, continues to stink up the schedule. Where's your Messiah now?? Ah, criminy -- even though I honestly have been expecting this, it's still quite a blow. I loved this story about a bunch of sad sacks deciding they were going to turn their lives around by robbing Mick Jagger, and I loved the cast, especially Donal Logue as leader Eugene, Maz Jobrani as Gary, and Kevin Michael Richardson as Rockefeller. There apparently are four more episodes already filmed, which may still see the light of day, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

I think that should do it for now. Shockingly, there are probably several other shows I could add in here, mainly from basic cable, like The Sarah Silverman Program (in brief: love it), and there are probably a few shows I'm just plain forgetting. But that'll do for this go-round. Opinions? Criticisms? Horrified expressions of sadness at my TV-centered life? Comment away!

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