The Upfronts 2016: Fox

Fox network logoI watch precisely zero shows on Fox. I have vague intentions to watch Empire and Lucifer, but haven’t got round to it and that’s as close as it got. Just looking at the line-up it really looks like they’ve got problems, all the cancellations were from their new shows, two dramas, three comedies and an animation. Which might make you think that they’ve got a solid backbone of returning shows, but most of the rest of the schedule is only two or three seasons old and really nothing to write home about. The new shows actually had a few possibilities in there, but did rather annoy me that I had to re-label “new” to “new or resurrected”. I’m tempted to expand it further and call it “movie spin offs you never expected or wanted to see”

Cancelled
All of Fox’s cancellations were new shows this year. Minority Report got pretty bad reviews and was cut down to 10 episodes almost immediately before being officially cancelled. Grandfathered and Grinder both got pretty good reviews and made it through the full seasons before being cancelled, with some grumbling about Grinder in particular. Second Life had an 11 episode first season but was not picked up, which given that I’ve seen ABSOLUTELY no mention of it in any coverage is not hugely surprising. Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life also didn’t get renewed, personally I’d lost interest before even reaching the end of the title. Animation Bordertown was also cancelled.

Renewed
BonesBones will be back for a 12 episode 12th and final season. I gave up a few years ago when it started going round in circles and am somewhat amazed its managed to find enough gimmicky deaths to keep going so long. The critically acclaimed Empire is renewed for the third season. The rest of the drama line up is all relatively new, and not particularly high profile. Sleepy Hollow will be back, and trying to navigate its fourth season without its leading lady who was written out this year. Gotham continues into its third season continuing to confound me with people’s liking for the Batman universe.

New shows that did manage to get renewals were Rosewood (an utterly unremarkable looking standard medical/criminal procedural) and Lucifer (which I’ve heard some good things about and is sitting in my Amazon Instant Video queue). Scream Queens is renewed, although I would have thought the point of a slasher story is that most characters are either dead or guilty or both, so I can’t see how that gives a second season. Also I thought it was “unholy mess of un-watchable awfulness”

Fox has a pretty solid backbone of comedies with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Last Man on Earth, and The New Girl. As are the animation block with Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, and the seemingly immortal Simpsons, which with its upcoming 28th season will surpass 600 episodes.

The status of The X-Files following it’s revival/10th season seems to be a bit up in the air.

New/Resurrected
24: Legacy – I guess the Legacy in question is “ratings that were the envy of the other networks” so why not give it a try. I never got into 24 (it was all just too over the top, I found it funny), but it unquestionably worked for a lot of people.

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Prison Break – of all the shows ever described as ‘cancelled too soon’ or ‘gone but not forgotten’ Prison Break never even broke the top 50! Yet here it is, back for a “limited event” which I guess means a one off series. I think it continues the original storyline with the original cast, but I never actually watched it so have no idea

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The Exorcist – did anyone ever watch The Exorcist and think “wow, there’s a great subject for an ongoing prime-time drama”? The trailer looked like it could be an ok film, but I just don’t see how you make this an ongoing 15-22 episode a year series.

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Lethal Weapon – ok, this one actually makes sense as a film to tv conversion! Casting will be key, but the trailer looks pretty good.

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Making History – so a nerd time travels back to the American Revolution and accidentally stops it happening, so he and his historian friend try to fix it. I barely made it through the trailer, the idea of watching more than 2 minutes is just horrific.

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The Mick – slacker Aunt gets left in charge of 3 rich kids. The title isn’t doing the show any favours at all, but there’s not that much to go on.

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A.P.B. – imagine if Bruce Wayne, rather than deciding to don a dumb costume, invests his money, genius and technology into actually making the police better. Instinctively I like this idea, because fundamentally it just makes sense! I’m not sure the cast quite ‘pops’ and it could fall into a boring pattern with gadget of the week, but it has some potential.

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Pitch – The first woman playing major league baseball. It looks like a fantastic movie, but I don’t see it working as an ongoing series.

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Shots Fired – The fallout and investigation of a police shooting in North Carolina. It feels a little like it’s trying too hard to be controversial and driven from the headlines. It’s described as ‘an event series’ which I think means that it’s a one-off season.

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Son of Zorn – the contender for dumbest name of the year is also the most insane concept. Animated Zorn (basically He-Man) returns to Earth to try to reconnect with his (normal) teenage son and has to deal with ex-wife, suburbia and office work. It’s just about amusing as a trailer, I doubt it can be stretched to a full half hour, let alone a series.

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Star – Star’s a “troubled kid” and wants to be a music star. I shouldn’t have liked this, but the trailer actually worked for me. It’ll depend a lot on how annoying the kids are.

The Upfronts 2014: Fox

Fox network logoFox’s schedules are dominated by loads of non-scripted shows like American Idol which doesn’t leave much space for ‘proper’ TV. Even so, I only watch two shows from Fox, and one of them they cancelled.

What’s dead?
Not a good year for new shows on Fox (when is it ever?) as they cancelled six out of seven! Almost Human had great potential, but things got off to a very poor start and even though reviews seem to have got better, the damage was done. Rake, a legal comedy-drama bounced around the schedule with ratings that declined about as close to zero as you’re likely to get on Fox. Dads, Surviving Jack and Enlisted were all sitcoms with horrible ratings and only Enlisted got anything in the way of positive critical responses. The only non-new show that was cancelled was Raising Hope which made it to four seasons, but solid reviews couldn’t overcome low ratings.

What’s Survived?
bonesBones plods into its 10th season, still getting significant ratings despite (imho) failing to do anything new or interesting with its stories or characters for quite some time now. Glee will return for a 6th and final season (and a short one, starting midseason) with apparently a focus on the original character now in New York. If they’d done that when people started graduating, they might not have floundered so badly in the first place. Sleepy Hollow and The Following both return for a third season, both entertaining and slightly ridiculous, ironically it’s not the one about the Headless Horseman that’s the most ridiculous. The Mindy Project and The New Girl are renewed for seasons 3 and 4 respectively. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the only freshman show still standing at the end of the year.

Fox is also the home of animation though and they’re mostly returning – The Simpsons (for season 26), Family Guy (for season 13), and Bob’s Burgers (for season 6); American Dad is renewed for season 11 but will relocate to TBS.

What’s On This Summer?
24: Live Another Day (trailer): After a 4 year gap, 24 is back for a 12 episode mini-series this summer. Yes, 24 is back for 12 episodes. I don’t understand that either. Still, it’s set in London, some of the usual characters are back (of the small number that didn’t end up dead) but I never made it beyond the second episode of the first series before labelling it as too stupid even for me and giving up.

Gang Related (trailer): anti-gang police officer was raised in gangs. Conflict abounds. It reminded me I should really get round to watching The Wire.

What’s New?
Gotham (trailer): The story of Commissioner Gordon when he was just Detective Gordon, when Bruce Wayne is a newly orphaned 12 year old and all the comic book villains are just getting started. If they can pull this off it could be really spectacular, the trailer certainly looks impressive and I’m nervously looking forward to this.

Backstrom (trailer, midseason): Following a long trend of shows named after quirky cops with odd names, this is a comedy drama about a drunk, obnoxious and frustratingly good detective and his misfit team. Same old, same old… but Rainn Wilson is a charismatic lead and I actually kind of liked the trailer.

Wayward Pines (trailer, midseason): A secret service agent is hunting for two of his colleagues in the backend of nowhere when he crashes his car. He wakes up in somewhere that’s Twin Peaks, Stepford and the Truman Show all rolled into one horrific and bizarre place. The cast on this is stunning (Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Toby Jones) and it could be fantastic, but it is also produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and if he struggles to hold plots together over films, imagine the carnage he can inflict on a television series!

Red Band Society (no trailer): Set in the children’s ward of a hospital with the long term teenage patients and their doctors and nurses. It seems like this has the potential to slump into a angst ridden teenage melodrama or a daytime tv movie as they “confront questions of life and death which no one at that age should have to face, a kinship based on these shared experiences is created”. Either way this sounds like a really weird show for Fox.

Gracepoint (trailer): Or as we will come to know it “Broadchurch: The Americans Screw it Up”. David Tennant is crossing the pond for it, with a passable American accent, but nothing in the trailer made me not miss Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker. In fact nothing in the trailer made me want to do anything other than watch Broadchurch again. Apparently they’re going to change the ending so it will be different to Broadchurch, but everything in the trailer looked and sounded familiar to me.

Empire (trailer, midseason): The king of hip-hop is dying and his three sons and ex-wife immediately start vying for his company. I have a horrible feeling that this show will go the way of things like Friday Night Lights and Walking Dead, dismissed because people have no interest in the subject matter, while those who actually watch will find that it’s about more than just hip-hop, football or zombies and is actually a very well written, produced and acted character study. At least that’s what the trailer seems to show… it could just be about hip-hop.

Hieroglyph (trailer, midseason): From the writers of Clash of the Titans and Pacific Rim isn’t necessarily something to boast about. And they’re certainly not the names I would want to see associated with something that looks and sounds like an attempt to make Game of Thrones in ancient Egypt. It looks terrible, and not in a funny way.

Utopia (trailer): This isn’t scripted, so I wouldn’t normally include it, but I saw the trailer by accident and had to share it because it’s so jaw droppingly bad I assumed it was a spoof. Just watch it, words can’t prepare you.

Mulaney (trailer) – John Mulaney (never a good sign when the you see the same name as writer, lead actor, character name AND title) is a bloke who does stand-up, lives with idiots and works for Martin Short. That really seems to be about it. The stand-up was passably amusing (although each joke was really laboured) but the rest of it was hideous.

The Last Man on Earth (trailer, midseason): The plot is in the title, Phil Miller is the last man on Earth. This might actually be amusing and interesting if it were a series of 3 minute clips, but I was getting a bit bored by the end of the 4 minute trailer. So I figure we’ll either get as bored of Miller’s exclusive company as he is, or they’ll chicken out and introduce other characters, thereby breaking the show.

Bones: Season 8

BonesI’ll often berate shows for getting stuck in ruts, repeatedly working through minute variations on a theme with the only alleviation being over-the-top sweeps episodes. Season 7 of Bones stood out from the other CSI variations because they finally committed to “will-they” instead of “won’t they”. That paradigm shift combined with a shortened season was like a shot of adrenalin to the series.

Disappointingly however, it had all worn off by the time the eighth season dragged its way through 24 episodes. So we’re back to the usual merry-go-round of gimmick episodes (Judge Judy, roller derby, ballroom dancing), heavy-handed issue based stories (9/11, animal trafficking) and ludicrous serial killers targeting our characters on a nice timetable to synchronise with sweeps weeks. The plots have never really been the height of subtlety, but they seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel (sometimes literally) for gimmicks. The recurring villain of Pelant is so ridiculous he’d seem out of place in a James Bond film and the science/technology has skipped all possibility of reality.

None of this was accompanied by any notable character development. Booth and Brennan’s relationship is still working well, but most of the excitement departed alongside the novelty. Brennan in particular is falling back into old frustrating personality ticks, with little empathy and limited likeability. Given that she’s surrounded by emotive and charismatic characters, she actually ends up being one of the weakest and least interesting characters on the show.

Not that the other characters get much to do. Sweets moving in with the couple provided some nice moments, but had limited scope. Hodgins and Angela had very little to do, and their child and Booth and Brennan’s must have exceptionally understanding nannies because they’re hardly ever commented on, let alone seen when their parents get called out on emergencies. Cam’s new relationship gave her something to do, but I wish they’d used her adopted daughter to drive character stuff more. It almost felt like the interns got more development than the regulars because at least in the three or four episodes they each appeared they got significant screen time.

Bones is kind of reliable in it’s mediocrity. I stick with it because… well… momentum I guess. I like the character of Booth a lot, the supporting characters are entertaining when/if they get to do anything, and I guess Brennan provides an interesting catalyst for them all. Other than that, it’s just one of those shows that can be watched with half an eye while catching up on ironing or something. It’s all a bit sad, because I don’t see any reason it couldn’t be more than that.

The Upfronts – Fox

Fox network logoUpfront week has rolled around surprisingly quickly this year. Over the span of just four days the five major US network channels will introduce their schedules for the 2013-14 season, delivering last rights to those that have failed to bring in the ratings, offering another year to the select few and introducing those that are lucky enough to win a coveted new slot.

First up, Fox. Much of their schedule is dominated by reality shows (American Idol and X-Factor mostly) which I don’t even mention, so they have less stuff than CBS, NBC and ABC.

What’s out
fringeJust four comedy/drama cancellations from Fox this year, which is joint lowest with CW. Fringe held out longer than anyone expected and came to a very well managed end, so I can’t say I’m that sad to see it go, particularly as the last season was not its strongest. Keifer Sutherland’s Touch made it to a second season, but never seemed to get much attention either from the ratings or critics. The Mob Doctor and Ben and Kate were freshman series that never really got off the ground, and while the latter received some critical praise, it doesn’t look like anyone will really miss either of them.

What’s returning
bonesMost of Fox’s renewals are comedies (New Girl, The Mindy Project, Raising Hope and Glee) or animations (The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad). The only drama renewals are Bones and new show The Following (all be it mid-season). It would seem in a slightly desperate attempt to add some established drama to its schedules they’ve taken the rather bizarre route in renewing 24 for some sort of special run. I never liked the original, so am not particularly fussed, but it certainly drew the attention of the media.

What’s new
Almost Human – Set in 2048, police officers are partnered with ‘synthetics’. Detective Kennex (Karl Urban, Star Trek) is about as unstable a human as you get and Dorian (Michael Ealy, Sleeper Cell) is about as unstable an android as you get. The sci-fi elements look interesting and impressive and the unlikely buddy cop motif is generally a pretty reliable way to drive story. The cast is full of familiar names (Lili Taylor of Six Feet Under, Mackenzie Crook of Pirates of the Caribbean, Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights and Michael Irby of The Unit and has JJ. Abrams (Star Trek, Fringe, Lost) as creator and Exec Producer, so expectations are high, but the trailer left me intrigued.

Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane comes back from a couple of hundred years ago, comes back from the dead to continue his search for the headless horseman. Part supernatural DaVinci Code thriller and part buddy cop action comedy this could be both fun and interesting, although it’s best to ignore the ridiculous voice over on the trailer.

Dads – I’m not sure I’ve ever really found anything by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) funny, and this trailer is no different. Seth Green (Oz from Buffy, And other stuff) and Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother from Friends, and other stuff) are best friends both of who’s fathers decide to come live with them. Chaos ensues. It wasn’t intolerable, I just didn’t find it funny enough.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – This however was intolerable. A comedy about a dysfunctional New York detective squad. Andre Braugher used to be in Homicide: Life on the Street and now he’s in this?!

Enlisted – Geoff Stults (The Finder), returns home from war and is put in charge of turning a bunch of incompetent soldiers, including his two brothers, into something less embarrassing. I hated this from the second the music started.

Us & Them – Gavin and Stacey (yes, like the UK series) seem a nice enough couple who come from New York and Pennsylvania respectively, it’s just that they’re surrounded by well meaning but slightly horrific friends and family. Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls!) and Jason Ritter (Parenthood) are both charismatic and sort of lovely in the trailer, but the others may be unbearable. I didn’t hate it though.

Surviving Jack – based on Justin Halpern’s book I Suck at Girls, a comedy set in 90s California about a no-nonsense semi-absent father (Christopher Meloni, Law and Order: SVU) who’s suddenly forced to be the full time parent to a pair of teenagers. I chuckled a couple of times at the trailer, but also rolled my eyes a couple of times, so it averages out to a ‘meh’. Starts midseason.

Rake – a fairly standard set up, the central character is a complete disaster in his personal life but a pretty good lawyer. It’s the kind of show that lives and dies with its star, and in Greg Kinnear they have someone who is instantly likeable and left me feeling optimistic for the show. Starts midseason.

Gang Related – Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez, The Wire) is on the LA Gang Task Force but also has ties to a local gang and is torn back and forth between the two. The trailer looks very impressive, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve seen this film several times before and at best have come away impressed, but not that interested.

Wayward Pines – Wayward Pines is an idyllically perfect American town, but you can never leave. Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a Secret Service Agent sent to the town to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. But he soon finds himself trapped as well. The idea sounds intriguing, but with the Press Release laying the similarity to Twin Peaks on a little too much, and the dubious talents of M. Night Shyamalan attached, there’s the potential for this to go very wrong. Starts midseason, no trailer yet.

Murder Police – animated comedy about a group of inept, corrupt and lazy police officers. Sounds like the animated equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I’m even less enthusiastic about this than I am about that. Midseason

Links
Trailers collated by The TV Addict and TV Line and schedule summaries from The Futon Critic.

Bones: Season 7

Generally with “will-they-won’t-they” relationships, I come down on the side of hoping they won’t, and that preference was enthusiastically true for all but the last three minutes of the first six seasons of Bones. I always thought of them as a more interesting partnership and friendship than romantic couple and got frustrated with endless blathering from ‘shippers’. But for whatever reason, the writers decided to pull the plug and not just have them start a relationship, but jump straight to living together, buying a house, and having a baby.

And it worked.

I should have trusted the writers and actors, they have such a great grasp of their characters that whatever situation they are in, they still behave consistently. So even though they’re now dealing with a new relationship and pregnancy, neither character really changes, they just grow. Brennan remained apparently emotionally removed, preferring analysis and verifiable evidence over instinct and feelings, but she was given more opportunities to show that she does care about people. Booth meanwhile was adorably protective without being overbearing or controlling – he never tries to change Brennan, he just gives her a nudge occasionally.

With a reduced episode count (due to Emily Deschanel’s actual pregnancy) and the not unwelcome focus on Booth and Brennan’s relationship and eventual baby arrival, there wasn’t really a great deal of time left for any other characters or plots, which is a bit of a shame. The regular cases were unremarkable and continued to be rather emotionally removed (see my season 6 review) . The recurring villain of the all powerful geek was a little tired and didn’t really feel like it fit with this show particularly well.

All the other supporting characters continued much of a muchness, Hodgins and Angela are fun and interesting as new parents, but got very little to do. Cam remains a bit preachy and Sweets got a bit over-the-top about being a field agent for a while but settles down again. The ever rotating group of interns continue to provide some variation, but could do with finally developing a bit more (and I’m not sold on Finn the new one yet). Tina Majorino was an interesting occasional addition, it’s nice to see some new people for Booth to play with too.

Booth and Brennan’s relationship was a shot of adrenalin for the show; where I thought it would damage my enjoyment it’s actually really increased it. It feels a bit petulant to be complaining that the other elements of the show haven’t taken a similar step forward and ‘just’ remain dependably ok, but I worry that without progress there season 8 is going to struggle to match the excitement and interest that made season 7 really stand out.

Bones: Season 6

Another member of the family of disposable procedurals that seem to dominate the time I spend watching television, but make minimal impact in any other way.

The majority of the time Bones is something I enjoy watching and then forget about almost as soon as the credits roll. The crimes and mysteries are diverting, more creative than shows such as CSI, but lacking the impact of things like Criminal Minds. The crimes never quite feel real – as they often start out with a completely unrecognisable corpse, it is often a real struggle to find the human being that existed before they were turned into a pile of goop and bones on an exam table. Brennan’s analytical, emotionless response to the victims is contagious. Too often there isn’t even an attempt to make the audience care about the people involved and the motives and methods of the killers drift too far towards the silly end of the spectrum.

On the other hand, maybe that cold heartedness, both in the plots and the character of Bones is a cunning ploy by the writers so that when there is an emotional connection, it’s that much stronger. Brennan isn’t without feeling, she just reacts differently to ‘normal’ people, but when she cries, or smiles – wow she really means it.

Booth on the flipside cheerfully over-feels everything left right and centre, where Brennan is closed he is screamingly open in his loyalty, determination, anger, frustration, happiness and love. It was great to see Booth in a relationship during this season, and although it angered all the Brennan-Booth fans, it showed how Booth blossoms when he’s in a relationship. It also highlighted to me that he wakes up when he’s around Brennan, not in a romantic way but as partners that can trust each other. He comes back from his stint as a soldier, more than ever needing someone to have his back and it added (or maybe just explained) an element of the character beautifully.

I’ve always enjoyed the supporting characters on this show, Hodgins and Angela are an entertaining couple, a couple that retain their personalities but again, flourish when they’re together. To be honest the baby storyline dragged on a bit, covering unoriginal ground like being fat and fussed over (when Angela spent the last few episodes declaring she was done with being pregnant I agreed whole heartedly). Sweets and Cam lacked any major storylines that I remember, but they never fail to make me smile, often acting as the grown ups of the group, challenging and accepting the other members of the family as appropriate. The revolving squinterns that I enjoyed so much last season became a little trying at times, too many of them failing to develop beyond their stereotypes, with the exception of Wendell, who was the only one that really felt integrated with the group.

The season ends on an interesting note, Hodgins and Angela have a new baby who will presumably be joining them in the lab. Brennan’s revelation that she’s pregnant with Booth’s baby following an off-screen hook-up, will obviously completely reshape the series. I’ve never been in favour of them being together as a couple, but somehow this season I’ve gradually come to accept it. In those final moments of the season, when Brennan nervously broke the news to Booth and he responded with a huge grin – I was sold. I’m actually looking forward to seeing these two as a couple and am really pleased to see the show take a leap and change things up for its next season.

Season 6 will be released in October on DVD from Amazon

What I’m watching at the moment

I’m pretty much in the depths of scheduling desperation at the moment. Keeping on top of all the stuff coming in each week is about all I can manage, taking an evening out to watch a film can cause catastrophic backlog on the sky+ box. Unfortunately while I’m watching a lot of TV, there’s not much for me to talk about, no new pilots, no season end reviews, I’m just trudging through the middles. So with a lack of anything else to write about, here’s a snapshot of what I’m watching at the moment.

Bedlam (Sky Living, Mondays) –Sky’s attempt to offer an alternative to Being Human, with a supernatural ghosty drama type thing. It’s awful. Particularly hateful is the lead female character, Kate, who is an absolute bitch of a blond trendy 20something who the rest of the cast don’t slap about the head for some reason that escapes me. Will Young is kind of adorable, but the rest of the cast is completely bland and the plots simultaneously over the top and boring. I gave it two episodes, but I don’t think I’ll be watching the third.

Glee (E4, Mondays) – I’m also enjoying Glee recently, although I have no idea why. The characterisation is all over the place, just about every relationship is lacking in chemistry, plots are painfully ‘issue of the week’ and I want to gaffer tape Rachel’s mouth shut every time she appears. However, there’s been some really fun music choices, the Rocky Horror Picture Show episode was kind of inspired, Kurt breaks my heart every week and for all the fact that most of it is rubbish, it really makes me smile.

Blue Bloods (Tuesdays, Sky Atlantic) – There are two remarkable things about this otherwise mediocre show. The first is that the writing is often utterly terrible, plot is delivered in scenery chewing monologues with all the subtlety of breeze blocks, “it’s a shame mom is dead and my brother was killed on duty, I’d really like to talk to them about my conflicted feelings” isn’t far off the quality of dialogue here. The other remarkable thing however is Tom Selleck. Every time he is on screen he brightens the place up, managing to somehow have credible relationships with his concrete inspired offspring and navigate his way through the awfulness in a way that makes me come back for more each week.

Bones (Sky Living, Wednesdays) – Bones herself seems to have regressed this season, becoming even less aware of how normal people behave, more annoying than ever. But despite the best efforts of the central character, I still enjoy the show a lot. It comes up with an interesting gimmick each week (the body in chocolate was particularly grim) and Booth and the supporting cast (including the entertaining, rotating interns) are extremely watch-able.

Grey’s Anatomy (Sky Living, Wednesdays) – I’m loving this season. I pounce on every episode as soon as it arrives and I can find a safe time to watch it – there cannot be any possibility of interruption or distraction, it just has to be me and my show. Everything just seems to be working, there’s not too much whining, there’s no duds in the character collection, the relationships are all interesting and going somewhere and the dialogue is as sharp as it’s ever been. Love it.

Mad Dogs (Sky1, Thursdays) – the first episode was definitely the high point with the careful pacing and gradual creepiness now replaced with a random chaotic collection of violence and shouting. The actors make it enjoyable, but I’m glad it’s only four episodes long and finishes this week.

The Good Wife (More4, Thursdays) – I am SOOOOOO over Kalinda. I mean seriously? Are we supposed to be sympathetic, because frankly I’m beginning to think she’s had some kind of psychotic break. I also don’t really understand why Diane and Will have suddenly taken against each other, I loved them in the first season, friendly and constructive while still keeping a few cards to themselves, now they’re acting like paranoid conspiracy nuts, did I miss something? I’m also pretty bored of the political campaigning – has there even been mention of the actual political issues at all it seems to be all about threats and manipulation? So overall, I’m struggling a bit with The Good Wife at the moment.

CSI (Thursdays, Five USA) – There have been a few interesting bits this season, but nothing spectacular. The emotional and personal stuff has been laid on a bit thick, issues coming and going like sledgehammers. The show could really use some younger characters to come in and challenge the status quo a bit, it’s at risk of turning into Midsummer Murders.

Brothers & Sisters (Thursdays, More4) –This isn’t an amazing show, but it continues to be comfortable. It’s full of melodrama, cheese and sappiness. The cast has thinned down a bit having lost Robert, Holly and Rebecca which I think actually improves the show and I don’t miss any of them. The small time shift also makes things a bit more interesting, but at its heart this is a hot chocolate and duvet show.

The Big C (Thursdays, More4) – It’s billed as a comedy, and it *is* funny, but all the humour comes from the “you’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry” school of thought. It’s not an easy show to watch, but it is extremely good with a spectacular performance from Laura Linney.

NCIS (FX, Fridays) – only just returned so the only episode I’ve seen is the resolution to the big mid-season cliff-hanger which I really didn’t care about in the slightest. Despite the fact that the ratings are through the roof on this in the US, I’m losing interest as characters continue to behave erratically and the plots get less and less engaging.

Criminal Minds (Sky1, Fridays) – I always enjoy Criminal Minds, it’s not spectacular, but each week the mysteries are interesting, the action suitably dramatic and the characters and their relationships rewarding for the long term viewer. I do miss JJ horribly, but am enjoying Garcia’s increased role and appreciate that the new agent brings a bit of energy to the show. A solid performer.

CSI:New York (Saturdays, Channel 5) – The disappearance of Stella and her replacement by Sela Ward was a bit spontaneous, but gave the show a bit of excitement. But it didn’t really last and it’s settled back into a bit of rut. It’s ok to watch while cooking or ironing, but that’s not exactly high praise.

Outcasts – (BBC1 Sundays) – it’s a bit n&*f really, I have some really very serious doubts the writers have any idea about the timelines, the history of the colony or where they’re going with the mystery. BUT if treated as mindless entertainment, it’s actually moderately enjoyable.

NCIS: LA (Sky1, Sundays) – the sister series however I’m enjoying more and more. The plots are still pretty dull, but the characters and dialogue have a spark to them that the original series seems to have lost. The ensemble is working well together having lost Nate and what’s-his-face who were pretty dull and replaced them with quirkier and more interesting Nell and Deeks.

Top Gear (BBC2, Sundays) – Falling to the bottom of my watch list, I find myself fast forwarding more and more of each episode. When they’re spontaneous, I still love them, but too much is scripted and obviously faked.

Supernatural (“spring/summer”, Sky Living) – when a show takes on the apocalypse and the devil, it’s a big question where to go next, but the tighter focus on the more personal issues was a good choice. There’s still a great mix of angst, action, drama and a bucket load of humour (it’s been a long time since I laughed at anything as hard as I laughed at Dean and the fairy).

Bones: Season 5

First the good – I’m happy to include Bones in my selection of crime procedurals because it is just plain fun to watch. Each mystery is self contained (there wasn’t really a plot arc this season) and they’re creative and satisfying. There’s a good mix of science and action and also a careful balance between quirky cases and never losing sight of the fact they’re talking about events that change people’s lives. I like that I can watch it while eating dinner and browsing the internet and it’s fun, or I can pay attention to it and get more from it.

The characters are a big part of that enjoyment. Their careful evolutions, gradually developing based on their experiences are a real reward for loyal viewers. Booth and Brennan form an excellent partnership with contrasting skills but a great respect for each other’s talents. The same applies to the rest of the team, including the rotating cast of interns, the kind of large dysfunctional family that is easy to fall in love with. (Except for Daisy, she is very annoying indeed.)

The frustrating thing this season has been the endless hinting and teasing about whether Booth and Brennan are in love with each other. To me, they have excellent chemistry as professional partners and as protective friends, but I never bought a romantic connection between them. The writers seem to feel the same way, not least because of the Moonlighting effect which immediately kills a show if the ‘unrequited’ couple get together. Booth and Brennan care for each other, want each other to be happy, understand each other better than anyone else… but they’re not romantic soul mates.

Looking back it feels as if a massive amount of the season was spent teasing people who are obsessed with that relationship, basically poking the shippers with a stick until they get hysterical. First there was the whole hallucination thing, then the flashback and then the final lingering scene of the season. Maybe I’m just too cynical, there are a lot of (vocal) fans out there who adore that romantic element to the show, probably the same people I got annoyed with when they endlessly talked about Mulder and Scully.

Bones to me is a pretty disposable show – watch it, enjoy it, forget it until next week. To damn it with faint praise – it’s nice. It irritates me with the flip-flopping of relationships mostly because the show really doesn’t need it and I think it would be a lot more satisfying to have the grown up characters just be friends without trying to pair absolutely up in turn.

2008-09 – The Glittering Awards Show

It’s been a while since I’ve had much respect for the people who have power over the likes of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. The last couple of years in particular have frustrated me with the same shows and people getting nominated over and over with very worthy candidates overlooked in a way that even critics don’t seem to understand. This year is no exception. So here’s a shamelessly long list of my favourites from the year.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Hugh Laurie (House) – the show might be mediocre, but the character and acting is superb. He’s got a fourth Emmy nomination and maybe this will be the year he actually wins
  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) – his character is extremely private trying to keep his emotions hidden, and yet you always know exactly what he’s thinking through subtle and careful acting
  • Edward Olmos (Battlestar Galactica) – another very strong season in Battlestar Galactica, portraying a man who is tired, and old and very close to being overcome, yet still has so much pride.
  • Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) – I doubt he’d appear on anyone else’s list, but if not for the fact he’s in a show about ghosties and it’s on The CW I think he’d get a lot of attention. His character has a hell of a lot of stuff thrown at him this season (literally) and he does everything from pratt-falls to full on emotional breakdown impressively.
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist) – I originally sniffed at his Emmy nomination, but to fill out the category he’s not a bad choice. It’s an interesting character and pulls it off with charm and grace and occasional scary darkness, but I suspect if I’d seen this season of Dexter, Michael C. Hall would have taken this place.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
It’s tough taking this down to just five people, so I cheated a bit!

  • James Callis (Baltar, Battlestar Galactica) – the character and actor steal every scene they’re in
  • Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt, Grey’s Anatomy) – a really great addition to the cast, bringing both strength and vulnerability and instantly slotting into the ensemble.
  • Zachary Quinto (Sylar, Heroes) – about the only stand out thing in Heroes at the moment, his character has developed depth this season but he’s still utterly chilling.
  • Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen), Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins) and Gaius Charles (Smash Williams) – I couldn’t just pick one of the guys from Friday Night Lights. Each had a superb season as their characters really grow up.
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men) – Despite the fact that the Emmy’s put him in the lead actor category, I think he actually belongs in here more. Lead actors should carry the show, Mad Men could easily continue without him. That said he is extremely good.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
I actually struggled to find 5 actresses I consider ‘leads’!

  • Sally Field (Nora, Brothers and Sisters) – a well deserved nomination. Whether she’s being the matriarch to the unruly siblings, or getting a storyline of her own about continuing to live your life at 60+, she is wonderful.
  • Mary McDonald (Laura Rosslyn, Battlestar Galactica) – she brought such dignity and passion to her final episodes as the ailing president it was heartbreaking. The relationship with Adama was perfectly played.
  • Connie Britton (Tammy Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – a character which could so easily be swept into the background in the testosterone driven town, Tammy stands up for both her own kids and those she represents as school principal while still maintaining her relationship with the Coach.
  • Emily Deschenal (Brennan, Bones) – the character of Brennan hovers at the edge of ridiculous, but with talented acting (and great chemistry with her partner) manages to stay just on the right side.
  • Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy) – this is partly a pity vote to be honest, I feel bad that she’s always overlooked for awards, but actually she’s doing a really superb job. I might not like the character much, but whether she’s using her excellent comic timing or wide eyed teariness, Pompeo always nails it.

Supporting Actress in a Drama

  • Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey, Grey’s Anatomy) – I want to have “What Would Bailey Do?” embroidered on cushions! I adore her character and like Pompeo she does a great job whether shouting or crying. Hopefully with her fourth Emmy nomination she’ll finally win.
  • Katherine Heigl (Izzie Stevens, Grey’s Anatomy) – Heigl was never going to get an Emmy nomination this year thanks to some dubious outbursts to the press, but she did excellent work with a difficult (and occasionally ridiculous) storyline.
  • Tricia Helfer (Six, Battlestar Galactica) – I’m not sure it’s fair that someone so pretty is so talented, but each of the multitude of characters she played on Battlestar was amazing.
  • Adrianne Palicki (Tyra, Friday Night Lights) – the writers didn’t do her character any favours this season with some wildly flip flopping choices, but Palicki was excellent throughout.
  • Taylor Momsen (Jenny Humphrey) and Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf), Gossip Girl – Both young actresses managed to make their characters more than just bitchy little drama queens. Ok they’re mostly still drama queens, but they were funny and passionate ones.

Outstanding Drama

  • Friday Night Lights – hands down the best overall show on television at the moment, it’s consistently superb throughout the season with exceptional acting and stylish direction
  • Battlestar Galactica – I’ll be the first to admit I thought ‘reimagining’ the 70s series was a stupid idea, doomed to fail. While it occasionally faltered, what this show managed to do was extraordinary. I’m so glad it got to tell its whole story.
  • Mad Men – This isn’t a show that I get really passionate about, but it is one that impresses me a great deal with its consistent quality and polish
  • Torchwood – Maybe at just five episodes it’s not a proper series, but it was so good I couldn’t leave it out.
  • Supernatural – this show is my latest obsession, but after three seasons of enjoyable fun I was really impressed at the way everything was taken to the next level for the fourth season. Characters, writing, directing and plots all shift up a gear.

Best Ensemble
A good ensemble is not just about having a group of individually talented actors and a couple of good relationships between them. It’s about being able to put any two characters from the ensemble on screen together and having it work. For all the many faults of Grey’s Anatomy, it doesn’t matter which characters end up on screen together they always have a spark. Brothers and Sisters also manages an impressive ensemble with the siblings and their extended family wonderful in just about any combination.

Best Pairings
On screen chemistry is far from easy to come by, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes in the same show. One of the big mistakes of House this year was trying to push House and Cuddy together, a couple with no chemistry and no sensible reason to be together. But at the same time the show succeeds brilliantly with the relationship between House and Wilson! Likewise, Booth and Brennan on Bones make a wonderful platonic partnership and a truly awful romantic one. Tammy and Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights make a such a lovely and believable couple because they make sense both in a relationship and as friends.

WTF?
The most startling moment of “you what now?” came not onscreen, but over the internet with the news that Fox had renewed a Joss Whedon show. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the fans or Joss himself.

Shark Jumping for Beginners
Supernatural made me laugh a lot by having an episode breaking one of the cardinal rules of shark jumping and then calling the episode “Jumping the Shark”. That’s the way you do it.
The way you don’t do it is have a character have sex with a ghost (Grey’s Anatomy) or have your main characters sleep together and then declare it all to be a dream (House, Bones).

“I only get 3 lines an episode but I really nail them”
I missed T.R. Knight on Grey’s Anatomy this season! Jesse Spencer (Chase) on House hasn’t had much to do (including cut his hair) all season and then when he and Cameron finally had a storyline he completely blew me away. I’ve got a soft spot for Scotty on Brothers and Sisters, possibly the only character who always talks sense, even if it’s only one scene every three episodes.

Most anticipated returning show
There are a number of cliffhangers that I’m eagerly awaiting the resolve of –Criminal Minds, Supernatural, NCIS and CSI:NY all ended with a bang. I’m looking forward to seeing what Dollhouse, Lie to Me and The Mentalist do with their second seasons, if they go somewhere or just bumble along. It’s an important season for Friday Night Lights, with lots of the original cast graduating and a new team to introduce. And I’m really hoping that Supernatural manages to pull off it’s potentially final season and everything its been building to.

Least anticipated returning shows
I’m not sure I’m going to bother with Grey’s Anatomy, knowing what happens in the first episode back I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch it. I’m still struggling towards the end of Heroes and am not sure I’ll bother with that unless someone tells me it gets a lot better. Ditto for House.

Most anticipated new shows
There’s some interesting scifi heading to the air this year, I’m really hoping V will manage to follow in Battlestar Galactica’s footsteps, Flash Forward will succeed where Lost failed and that Stargate Universe manages to walk the narrow line of fitting in with the franchise while still bringing something new. Eastwick has a good cast (including Paul Gross from Due South!) and will hopefully fall in the guilty pleasure category, while NCIS:Los Angeles has a good pedigree and line up staring Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J. The wildcard of everything is Glee which could be cheesy fantastic fun, or cringe inducing awfulness.

Cop Shows and Medical Mysteries

Quick note – I should have mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ll be avoiding specific spoilers as much as possible, vague ones might spill out, but hopefully nothing the BBC wouldn’t happily post on their site without warning ;0)

Most of the procedurals ticked along as they do, if you asked me to describe what distinguished this season from the last for Criminal Minds, Bones or NCIS I’d really struggle. That’s not to say they’re not fun and interesting to watch with the occasional flash of brilliance, but mostly they’re pretty unremarkable. I’m not asking that they have giant world changing events every episode, but it’s possible to spread character development more evenly through the season. With half a dozen or so big episodes during the financially important sweeps weeks, the rest of the season can feel like padding.

It’s the old guard that tried to shake things up a bit this season with both CSI original flavour and New York making some big cast and character changes. For CSI it all came a bit too fast for me, you have mostly the same characters for 8 years (!) and then in half a season you lose 3 of them. I’m only half way through season 9 but so far I like that the lead actor’s replacement is not a direct replacement for the character – Laurence Fishburne brings gravitas and big-name-ness to the cast, but his character is lowest on the totem pole, shaking things up quite interestingly. The changes with CSI:NY, with Lindsay and Danny’s relationship adds something new to the show, but I’m not convinced it’s anything good – they need to be very careful not to turn it into CSI:Couples Counciling.

When I wrote the first draft of this article, it was pretty harsh towards House. Up to episode 19 things were pretty dull and repetitive. The new and old minions still seemed to be in limbo nearly two seasons after the original shake up. I like the new minions a lot, but they can never stand on their own while Foreman is sitting at the end of the table frowning at them and Chase and Cameron are popping up for their obligatory one scene a week and reveal just how much smarter they are and how much better they understand House. Also I continue to find Cuddy the most frustrating character on the planet, for a supposedly smart woman she really is dumb as hammers sometimes. The ‘relationship’ between her and House is the most unlikely, ill-advised, blind stupid idea ever. Meanwhile the medical mysteries were getting less interesting and I struggled to remember them over the advert breaks. Then suddenly someone woke up and things got good again. Three episodes in a row had fascinating stories, character growth and spark. House seems to do this every season, have a few great episodes at the beginning, a few amazing episodes at the end and absolute drivel in between. They really need to smooth this out if they don’t want me to just tune in for those 6 episodes and skip the other twenty.

Then we have Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t really know where to start. The large plots continue to be a pretty daft, the Izzie storyline having a new record number of wtf moments. I still get irritated at just how many life changing things can happen to each of these people every year, but I guess if you accept that this is more soap opera than realistic drama then it’s all ok. The dialogue and acting however continues to impress, each episode is a roller-coaster of sobbing and laughing leaving me a quietly gibbering mess if I try to watch too much at once. It’s a show that comes so close to delight that the frustrations drive me absolutely mad.

Up tomorrow – Sci-fi