Monday, May 12, 2008

The 2007 - 2008 TV Season Wrap-up

It was certainly a rough year for television, thanks to a writer's strike that was fortunately resolved in time for a few shows, at least, to get episodes back on the air before the traditional end of the season.

In this age of the DVR, there are certainly more opportunities to give new shows a chance, having the machine record them and then checking them out days, or even weeks, later. The device doesn't do all the thinking for you and does require some tending - deleting multiple recordings of the same show for example - but like a carefully cultivated garden it can yield a bumper crop of mindless TV to sample.

As the season wraps up and we learn which shows get to come back again in the fall, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the ones I do like and reflect on the highs and lows of the season.

I'll start with the lows.

Monday nights last fall were just great on NBC, with a triple hitter of Chuck, Heroes, and then Journeyman. Journeyman was an interesting show about a San Francisco reporter who finds himself travelling through time to the recent past to change the lives of individuals in trouble.

The how and why of the time travel, and the who-the-hell-is-pulling-his-strings questions were never answered, but each episode had a self-contained story of a life being fixed by Dan (the Journeyman), as well as a cast of present-day characters who had to deal with his disappearances. There was also an ongoing backstory involving a scientist who knew about all the time travel somehow. The fact that it took place in my favorite city, San Francisco, didn't hurt either.

The show started out a little slow, but each episode seemed to gain momentum, and before long the cast had gelled and the drama was gripping. Actor Kevin McKidd played the Journeyman and was brilliant. The writer's strike was the final nail in the coffin for this show, but the show's creators knew in time and re-worked the last episode that aired, "Perfidia", to wrap things up in style. That episode is staying on my DVR until a DVD of the show comes out, if it ever does.

Journeyman wasn't my favorite new show of the year, but it certianly was enjoyable. Its loss is the biggest disappointment of the season.

Back To You
This Kelsey Grammer sitcom about a TV news anchor had some strong points - mostly the chemistry between Grammer's Chuck Darling character and the female lead, played by Patricia Heaton. Grammer, of course, carries the show with his egotistical, womanizing character, but the rest of the cast, including Heaton and Fred Willard, worked well together.

After the writer's strike, the show was re-tooled somewhat, with a jarring change of the young actress playing Heaton's daughter (the new girl looked about 5 years younger) and the dismissal of the hot and ditzy weather girl. Fox recently cancelled the show, but there is some small hope that CBS might, just might, pick it up for the fall.

I hope the show comes back on CBS and gets a chance to crank out a full, consistent season.

By a thousand miles the best new show of the year, Reaper, which airs on the CW, features Sam, a young man whose parents sold his soul to the devil when he was born and now has to act as Lucifer's bounty hunter on this mortal plane.

He's joined by his two friends Sock and Ben, with Sock in particular being the funniest new character on TV this year. The cast has grown and gelled over the year, with the subplots and ongoing drama unfolding very well, mixed in with comic situations and pretty good special effects.

The Prince of Darkness is played by veteran actor Ray Wise, who is absolutely brilliant in this role. He makes the show and is abolutely believable as a quirky, whimsical, but still malevolent Satan. His visits with Sam every episode are often the best part.

The good news is that Reaper has been renewed for a second season. It was close, but it's the CW after all - they certainly don't have much else going on. Hopefully, a second, uninteruppted-by-a-strike season will pick up enough viewers to keep it going. Again, Reaper is the best, funniest, and most refreshingly original new show of the year, so please watch it and shout about it to strangers on the street. Thanks!

Airing right before Heroes, Chuck opened those Monday nights with a laugh. Chuck is about a nerdy computer-repair guy who gets a government supercomputer subconsciously planted in his head, and is thrust into a life of espionage and adventure, all the while trying to keep his regular life intact.

The role of Chuck is played brilliantly by Zachary Levi. Rounding out the cast are his handlers, a CIA hottie that the show's creators gratuitously put into revealing outfits, and an NSA agent played by Adam Baldwin. The rest of the cast, mostly Chuck's co-workers, work well together and have chemistry.

Chuck is good, guilty fun, and has thankfully been renewed. It'll be back in the same time slot in the fall, airing again right before Heroes.


The second season of Heroes was mostly a slow-moving let-down, but wrapped up well. The main problem was that the plot generally copied the first season - a horrible thing was going to happen in the future, and the scattered cast members moved to prevent it with the urgency of that cartoon dog Droopy. It ended well, and is coming back in the fall with a three-hour season premiere.

Hopefully a full, untruncated third season of Heroes will pick up where the promise of the first season ended. It's been off the air for so long that I hardly remember how much I enjoyed it.

There was no season of 24 this year, thanks to the strike. They just gave up. It will be returning in January of 2009, but there is reportedly a 2-hour 24 movie in the works, slated to air this fall. It will take a lot to reinvigorate this show after such a long break, which itself follows after a stunningly lackluster sixth season.

Terminator : The Sarah Connor Chronicles
I have mixed feelings on this show. It was generally pretty cool, but the plot got so complicated, and there was so much time travel involved, and it ignored the plot of the third movie - it was kind of a mess when it ended its short run a few months ago.

Still, I'd give it another chance when it returns. Word is either this fall, or January of 2009.

Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is currently airing it's final season, with constant boasts of "ALL WILL BE REVEALED". So far, very little has been revealed and the show is moving at a snail's pace. It's still good though, and since this is the final season (sort of, rumor is that half of it is airing now, and the other half will air next year), I might as well stick with it and hope for some serious payoff.

Frisky Dingo
Hilarious. One of my favorite shows, it's an insane 15-minute cartoon on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It's just crazy and funny. The second season recently wrapped up, and so far all we've heard are rumors about a third season and a possible spin-off featuring the Xtacles. Bring 'em both on, I say.

All Those Cartoons
The Simpsons, South Park, The Boondocks, King of the Hill, Family Guy, and American Dad all continued to crank out sporadically-aired episodes. Some are great, others just fun entertainment. As far as I know, most of them will be back in the fall. The Boondocks might take longer to return. There's also a Family Guy spin-off series in the works featuring the character of Cleveland, but I have no idea when it starts up.

Over the Summer
On June 1st, two more of my favorite animated shows return for new seasons. The Venture Brothers is finally back on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim after a very long absence, and Code Monkeys, the only really good original thing to air on G4, is back too. So at least the summer won't be completely devoid of good TV.

Unfortuantely, the 4400 won't be back this year. The show had a good run of 4 seasons, always airing in the summer, but it got the axe this year. It's a shame, too, since the show was really building up to something.

Well, that's my long-winded analysis of the television season we just came through. Come back next year and we'll see which shows made the cut once again. I suspect that there will be a few more tragic losses, and a few triumphs as well.

1 comment:

Chus said...

There's nothing more exciting than a midnight premiere of a cartoon series, especially one from Sealab 2021's Matt Thompson. The new Adult Swim show is actually a spin-off from Thompson's other well-known work, Frisky Dingo. Its widely anticipated third season hasn't been aired yet, but the series creators came up with a solution. Just this weekend, Adult Swim launched the first two episodes of The Xtacles.