The year is over, we didn’t all die, and there’s nothing really on TV so I thought I’d give my overall view of the entire year on TV, at least what I watched. Some shows were new, some shows were cancelled and some shows were just so bad that we dropped them, so it was a pretty typical mix of television.
Here are the shows that are in contention for the year. As I only started this column a couple of months ago, I may not have reviewed all of these shows on the blog, but I’ve certainly watched them.
Alphas, Arrow, Bones, Burn Notice, Castle, Dr. Who, Elementary, Eureka, Falling Skies, Finder, Fringe, Grimm, Haven, Mentalist, Perception, Person of Interest, Primeval: New World, Psych, Revolution, Sinbad, Walking Dead, Warehouse 13
Show I’m Happiest To Have Stopped Watching: Grimm. Dishonorable mention: Alphas. I never liked Grimm, it was a show my wife picked up, mostly because she likes mythology, but the premise was just so absurd, I couldn’t stand it. Sure, if there were a few mythological creatures here and there, fine, but they were everywhere! They tried to retool it in the second season but it was too little, too late. We got four episodes in and said the hell with it. I wrote about it, go check it out. Likewise, Alphas was kind of a mess from the beginning. You had rumblings of a war between people with special powers and the best they could come up with were a bunch of neurotic barely-powered twits? Eventually, I had to get away from the autistic guy, whose presence on-screen was like fingernails on a chalkboard. I wrote about that one too.
Show I Wish Was Still Around: Finder. It was a spin-off from Bones, featuring a group of characters that had appeared in one episode. It starred Geoff Stults as Walter, a former military man, injured in a bomb explosion, who develops an obsession with finding things. Once he starts, he cannot stop. He co-owns a bar with his friend, Leo, and together they locate things for people who seek them out. The show was picked up as a mid-season replacement and got 13 episodes, all of which were fantastic. Unfortunately, at the end of the season, it didn’t get picked up again and while there was some talk of another network rescuing it, Michael Clarke Duncan, who played Leo, died over the summer, which pretty much ruins any chance of another episode ever being made. Here’s my review.
Worst Decline: Fringe. It went from being one of the highlights of my TV-viewing week to the worst thing on the air, something I trudge through week after week because I’ve sat through it this far, I’m going to finish it out. Clearly, the writers are just phoning this season in, the show should have ended at the end of season 4, but they were given a half-season to “finish things up”. Instead, they came up with this ridiculous storyline, based on the happenings of a single throw-away episode, it’s illogical and nobody really cares what happens. I’m predicting the last episode is Walter waking up from a drug overdose, having hallucinated the whole series.
Biggest Improvement: Haven. To be honest, this started off as my wife’s show and I had very little interest in it, other than having to sit through it every week. This past season though, as it started to look like the series was winding down toward it’s conclusion, it really started to get good, they started tying up plot threads, they started dealing with issues they had otherwise ignored and now, it’s something I really look forward to seeing.
Most Consistent Show: Psych. The funny thing is, I resisted watching this for years, I just couldn’t force myself to watch a series about a psychic, the whole concept revolted me and it wasn’t until the third or fourth season that I finally broke down, downloaded the first episode and watched it. Since then, I’ve been hooked. It has been consistently great season after season. While it didn’t rise to the top of the pile this year, Psych can always be counted on to provide top-notch entertainment.
Worst of the Year (Ongoing): I am separating this into two awards, just to let the crap shine through. It was too easy for me to just pick one of the shows I got rid of, clearly those are the ones I found utterly unwatchable, but I figured I’d make it more interesting and pick something that I hate and, for some reason, am still suffering through. This year, that show, as should be obvious, is Fringe.
Worst of the Year (Dropped): There are three shows that I just couldn’t stomach any longer and dropped from the rotation this year. One of them, Revolution, I couldn’t get past the pilot episode. To see why, see my review.
Best of the Year (Ongoing): I had to split it up because there are some really great shows that have been going for years and some that have just started and I couldn’t decide on just one show. In the ongoing category, I’m going with Castle. The chemistry on the show has consistently been great since it started as a mid-season replacement 5 years ago. Nathan Fillion brings a perfect level of comedy and the writing is smart and doesn’t talk down to the audience. Add in the fact that the writers really do know how their audience thinks and openly caters to them, giving us some very memorable episodes that wink at the viewers. Great, great stuff, hope it goes on for years.
Best of the Year (New): In the new category, I am tied between Arrow and Perception. They are two very different shows with two different things going for them. Arrow, this is a superhero show done right. After 10 years of disappointment with Smallville and the series in development thereafter like Aquaman, I feared we wouldn’t get a decent DC vehicle again. However, along comes Arrow, a show I hadn’t paid much attention to until it hit me right between the eyes. It is fantastic. It’s a much more realistic look at how a superhero would be, trying to balance their nighttime escapades with a secret identity. It also doesn’t do the ridiculous “heroes don’t kill” thing that DC is famous for. Give it a shot, it’s great. As for Perception, it’s a very different animal, a show about a university professor who suffers from schizophrenia, but because of this is able to solve murder cases that no one else can. For more on Perception, take a look at my review of the show.
Shows I didn’t mention: With so many shows on the air, not all of them are going to fit into the best of the best or the worst of the worst, they’re middle-of-the-road shows that are worth watching but not worth handing out prizes to. So here’s a few words about those shows that have not gotten other recognition, good or bad.
Bones: I have a love/hate relationship with Bones. I think that the mysteries they examine are great, I love the science, I love how most of the murders are constructed so that they’re more-or-less logical to deconstruct. Most of the characters are fine, although there are a few who I wouldn’t mind if they fell into a vat of boiling acid. Where I have problems is how they deal with character interaction. The fact that all the idiot ‘shippers wanted Bones and Booth together and even after saying it’s never going to happen, the show runner eventually drops them into bed together, then has them have a kid together, mostly to cover Emily Deschanel’s real-life pregnancy, all of which would force them to stop working together in any actual case, I just wish they’d pay the same kind of attention to the relationships as they do to the murders.
Burn Notice: I’ve always been a huge fan of Jeffrey Donovan and Burn Notice is his first big break in a series. It’s got a great premise, well-written characters, fantastic action, the one thing it doesn’t have anymore is a burn notice. He captured or killed all the people who burned him a couple of years ago. Time to at least change the opening. While I don’t want the show or the characters to go away, I’m really starting to think that wrapping things up, or entirely changing direction, might be the best way to go. He’s not a burned spy. He gets stabbed in the back by everyone in the agency, but he’s not burned. The show needs to reflect that.
Dr. Who: What can you say about Dr. Who, the nearly 50 year old sci-fi phenomenon? I’ve been a critic of some of the modern take on the good Doctor, most especially the idea that he get romantically involved with his companions. No matter what he looks like, the Doctor is an alien, the very concept of having sex with a human should be about as appealing as having sex with your chihuahua. I don’t care if the companions fall for him, their feelings should never, ever, ever be reciprocated. Luckily, that wasn’t a problem with the latest set of companions, but we did see another problem with spending time with the Doctor, the fact that your real life gets irreversibly damaged. As much as I liked Amy and Rory to begin, it was clear that by the end, they had overstayed their welcome and it was time to move on. Now, I’m worried that the next companion might go back the other way. Humans are animals, Doctor. Keep your hands off.
Elementary: When I first heard about this series, I was nervous. There have been plenty of attempts to cast Sherlock Holmes in the modern day, most recently the UK series called Sherlock, it’s never really worked out too well IMO. However, this one surprised me, mostly because it’s a good show in spite of it’s origins. Let’s be clear, this is not Sherlock Holmes and Watson, no matter what their names are. It’s a solid detective show that could be called anything else and still work. In fact, I think it’s regrettable that they tried for the Holmes setting, I think it serves as more of a distraction than a positive element.
Eureka: Eureka ended this year, a final hurrah given before it petered out. It’s one of those shows that you really try hard to like, but it never really reaches greatness. Every season, they find some way to hit the big reset button and wipe out all of the things they had done the year before. They did manage some good episodes this year, they did wrap up most of the hanging plot threads and give the show a decent send-off, even though the overall story this season wasn’t that compelling.
Falling Skies: I’ve written two reviews on this show. They pretty much spell out how much I dislike what they’ve done. It’s a shame, it could have been better, but it falls at a time in the year when there’s not much else on so I’ve been pushing myself through it, hoping it’s going to improve. So far, no luck.
Mentalist: I look at this as the evil twin to Castle, where Rick Castle is a happy, funny, loveable guy that would do anything for his team, Patrick Jane is a prick. Oh, he’s a good looking prick who can put on a smile and bullshit anyone, but he’s still a jerk. I honestly don’t know why anyone puts up with him and his obsession with the Red John serial murder case. I don’t care how many cases he closes, he’s proven he can’t be trusted time and time again, any real police force would toss him out the door, if not lock him in a cell. Jane has his moments, but I really don’t care for anti-hero characters and he’s stabbed his colleagues in the back more than once. There ought to be consequences.
Person of Interest: Good show, likeable characters, we’re learning a lot more about the backstory of Finch’s machine and that’s great. One thing I think ought to happen is that they need to expand the cast to more people on Finch and Reese’s side. Fusco and Carter are fine but two guys and two flunkies against the world, two seasons in, just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’d rather see them have a wider array of people they can turn to for help, especially the kind of help that the police can’t really offer.
Primeval: New World: I absolutely loved the original UK Primeval, but now that it’s a Canadian production, not so much. The biggest problem is it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Every week, they go out to handle a new dinosaur “threat”, but there’s little to link these stories together. It seems odd that the crew is going at things blind when the UK branch of anomaly-hunters is well aware of their existence and, in the UK at least, rampaging dinosaurs have become a public danger. It really makes no sense for someone from the UK, say Connor who appeared in the first episode, to send them an e-mail telling them what they’re in for. It’s a show that screams potential, but just hasn’t taken advantage of it.
Sinbad: This was a 12-episode UK series that should have been a lot better than it was. The acting was good, the stories were good, the problem is that it didn’t go anywhere. It was 12 episodic shows with very little tying them together. They didn’t write a cohesive story taking 12 episodes, they wrote 12 scripts. I did a review of it.
Walking Dead: This is a hard show to gauge. After a very slow and disappointing season 2, they rebounded into a much better season 3, but the show itself is problematic. Well, it’s not really the show, it’s me. I just don’t like post-apocalyptic stories and I hate zombies. I wrote a diatribe once about why zombies are the worst movie or TV monster, I ought to do it again. Where I think Walking Dead, both the comic and the TV series, drop the ball is they make the humans altogether too dickish. It might be realistic, but this is television. You have to give your audience a reason to come back week after week and if you want them to root for the humans, you have to make those humans relateable. Most characters in Walking Dead are really losing their humanity and once it’s all gone, why should I care if they survive or become zombie chow?
Warehouse 13: The characters are fun, there is plenty of humor in the writing, but it’s a show that rarely rises above “meh”. It’s usually little more than a “doo-dad of the week” show, where some artifact appears somewhere and they have to go deal with it. In this, I really think it’s only got limited legs, it’s already pretty ridiculous the number of artifacts that are floating around. It seems like in the first season, artifacts were supposed to be relatively rare, only generated by the greatest individuals through the most extreme emotional trauma, but now it seems like artifacts are a dime a dozen and anyone can make one. It takes away from the unique nature of the show.