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.


Glee: Season 3

For the past two years I’ve been obsessed with Glee, it just made me happy. In fact it made me sufficiently happy that I could forgive the not inconsiderable problems it had. Season 3 however broke through some kind of barrier and I suddenly found myself completely unable to ignore the terrible writing. I was not just irritated, I was so angry that I really had to force myself to keep watching, and only made it thanks to a commitment to watching the whole thing for this review and enthusiastic use of the fast forward button.

This was always going to be a difficult year for Glee, as with any school based show it had to decide what it was going to do now that its original stars were coming up on graduation. For the characters this meant growing up, saying goodbye to school and friends deciding what to do with the next phase of their lives; for the show it meant deciding whether to say goodbye to those characters and introduce new ones, or saying goodbye to the school setting and following the characters along.

The problem is that Glee was so busy looking towards season 4 that they completely forgot season 3 had to be coherent and enjoyable too. Everything about the season was aimed at getting characters where they needed them, regardless of whether that made any sense or not. I realised the show was doomed in the first episode of the season when it’s revealed that half the characters aren’t the ages you think they are. If there’d been decent writing in previous seasons they could have planned for graduation, but instead because of a lack of forethought the writers are forced to sacrifice continuity, consistent character development and coherent storytelling to get characters where they think they need to be.

The stories they tried to tell and the way they did it, were at best clumsy and often just plain awful. The most offensive were those that tried to deal with serious issues, but came from out of nowhere and disappeared almost as fast. The domestic violence storyline was particularly stupidly done, but the story of Finn’s father, or Quinn’s accident were also ineptly done. Then there was the ridiculous congressional race with heavy handed soapboxing about the importance of the arts, and ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ looks at issues of what it means to be poor, mentally or physically disabled, transgender or gay. None of these stories were well enough written to make their inclusion anything other than downright insulting.

I’m surprised the teachers unions aren’t boycotting Glee for their presentation of teachers. Will and Emma (‘teacher of the year’ and guidance counsellor respectively) utterly fail to notice or care that two of their group are failing the year, that most of them have no idea what they want to do and that those that have are pinning all their hopes on just one option. I don’t want to sound like a grouch, but the key message of “don’t be afraid to dream” is one thing for 15 year olds, but when it’s leading to 18 year olds pursuing unrealistic paths that may seriously affect their lives, it would be nice if some of the grown-ups were at least challenging if they’ve thought everything through.

Even the music couldn’t save the show this year. I don’t know whether the playlists changed, or whether I did, or whether the bad writing somehow polluted the whole experience, but I found myself fastforwarding a lot of the pieces, particularly anything without a dance number going on. Too many of the pieces were wallowy ballads and the direction that accompanied them featured far too much staring into the distance. That said, I did still find the big choreographed dance routines kept the magic of the previous seasons, and had me smiling along with them. I’m not faulting the performers in any of this. The last couple of episodes highlighted just how good much of the cast were, capable of delivering some heart breaking scenes as the kids say goodbye to each other, but also incredibly talented singers and performers.

Maybe I’m just very late to see the light and I’ve just been an idiot the last couple of years. But to me the first two seasons of Glee were just what the title said – gleeful. It was fun to watch, silly and cheesy but also full of positive messages about being yourself and supporting each other. This season I don’t look back and remember the great musical numbers, the fun camaraderie or the moving acts of friendship, I remember all the stupid stories and clumsy character development. Glee just wasn’t fun to watch, it made me sad and frustrated – the very opposite of why I used to love Glee.

The 2011-2012 Season

I’ve been dragging my feet on my season round-up post as I’ve been trying to polish off a few more series. But all the new stuff is starting, so the time has come to just get on with it! I’ve watched 39 series this year, last year was 28 so that’s a pretty terrifying increase! A fair number of the series are only a handful of episodes though (for better or worse) so I figure the number of episodes is about the same, somewhere around the 600 mark.

American Horror Story – S1
Awake – S1 (In progress)
The Big Bang Theory – S5
The Big C – S2
Blue Bloods – S2
Bones – S7
Borgen – S1
The Bridge – S1
The Cafe – S1
Castle – S4
Criminal Minds – S7
CSI – S12
Downton Abbey – S2
Forbrydelsen (The Killing): S2
Fringe – S4 (in progress)
Game of Thrones – S2
Glee – S3 (in progress)
The Good Wife – S3
Grey’s Anatomy – S8
Homeland – S1
House – S8
The Jury
Luck – S1
Luther – S2
Mad Men – S5 (In progress)
Merlin – S4
The Newsroom – S1
Once Upon a Time – S1 (in progress)
Outnumbered – S4
Sherlock – S2
Smash – S1
Sons of Anarchy – S4
Supernatural – S7
Terra Nova – S1
Veep – S1
The Walking Dead – S2
Warehouse 13 – S3

There are a few other bits and pieces that didn’t make the list, mostly documentaries, many of them really rather excellent – Inside Nature’s Giants, David Attenborough’s Kingdom of Plants filmed at Kew Gardens, Frozen Planet, Wonders of the Universe to name a few.

Borgen. “The Danish West Wing” is an overused label, but it’s so accurate it’s hard to resist. It’s not just the subject matter that draws the comparison, but the quality of writing and production and, sadly, the ability for it to break your heart as characters realistically, but depressingly make the wrong decisions.

Fringe. For complicated housemate related reasons I still haven’t seen the final two episodes of this series, but I can’t see how they would do anything that would mean the series drops from this list. Fringe continues to evolve into a spectacularly complex, yet completely followable series while never forgeting to actually entertain its audience with self-aware nods to the ridiculousness of the situations.

The Good Wife. A brilliant cast, fascinating storylines, sure and steady character development all polished off with sparkling dialogue makes a package that’s just a complete and utter joy to watch. In a world of mediocre network procedurals, this one is so far ahead it’s clearly in a different league.

Homeland. Another show that’s complex yet accessible. The gradual reveal and development of characters is fascinating and I was on the edge of my seat all season not knowing which way anything was going to go.

Mad Men and Awake could potentially be added to this list, but I am less than half way through each.

The Newsroom. This show was the one I’d been most looking forward to, and I’m slightly devastated that I can’t include it in the ‘best’ category. But despite massive flaws with the characters and a preachiness that even I find rather troublesome, it’s still one of my favourite shows of the year. That may be blind Aaron Sorkin obsession, but I don’t care.

American Horror Story. A huge collection of characters and stories intricately interwoven and elegantly revealed over the span of a carefully structured series. It felt both innovative and yet thoroughly grounded in the history of the genre. I’m especially happy that each season is completely self contained, so nothing is dragged out or has the chance to get dull.

Smash. It’s original and fun, balancing cheesiness and melodrama with engaging characters and a surprisingly real feeling storyline. I’m really looking forward to next season, particularly given they’re getting rid of all the annoying characters.

Once Upon a Time. Another new show that’s original and fun. The storyline is incredibly complex yet revealed so elegantly that there’s never any difficulty keeping up. It’s beautifully designed and just a lovely series to watch.

I sort of covered my thoughts on actors in my Emmy post, so here are some broader thoughts.

House . Hugh Laurie gets the most praise publicly, but the whole cast of the series are absolutely superb. Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson completely and utterly broke my heart, Peter Jacobson (Taub) cracked me up, Olivia Wilde (Thirteen) stole the very few scenes she was in, and Jesse Spencer (Chase) produced one of the most satisfying character developments I’ve seen in a long time.

Homeland . One of the few things that myself and those that vote for awards actually agree on, the superbness that are Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. I however would go a lot further and also heap praise on the supporting performances by Morena Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin.

Sons of Anarchy. Award voters clearly have some kind of blind spot when it comes to Sons of Anarchy, because year after year they completely fail to register the incredible performances throughout the cast, but in particular from the female leads Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff

Katharine McPhee (Karen) and Megan Hilty (Ivy), Smash – I loved the dance the characters went on, competing with each other but respecting each other’s talents; sometimes gracious, sometimes bitchy. And boy can they belt out tunes! Also Jack Davenport (Derek) had some of the funniest lines of the year!

Fringe . The cast are good as their primary characters, but what’s impressive is that most of them then go on to play the same person in the alternate universe, each of them the same person but with slight variations. It’s astonishing, they are the same person yet completely different, it’s mind twisting and fascinating. I can’t imagine a greater challenge as an actor. While Anna Torv and John Noble rightly get a lot of praise, the performances of Jasika Nicole (Astrid) and Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee) are just as subtle. Poor Joshua Jackson must feel rather hard-done-by without an alternate version to play with. He is pretty though.

The Good Wife – so many great performances and characters that I love from both stars, supporting characters (I could watch Josh Charles and Christine Baranski do the Will and Diane show all day long) and a dream list of guest stars (Michael J. Fox, Martha Plimpton, Matthew Perry – all playing deliciously slimy characters).

Booth and Bones getting together on Bones. I was completely against it, but cheerfully admit I was wrong. Having them jump from no relationship at all to living together and having a baby brought a breath of fresh air to the series. It was handled with such lightness and charm, with both characters bending to accommodate the other, but not making any fundamental changes… beautifully written and acted. Here’s hoping Castle can do the same.

The end of House. A series going out gracefully and winding everything up with a collection of satisfying resolutions for all the characters. House has never been about the medicine, but about the puzzles and about the people, while I may personally wish that Wilson had a different conclusion, it all fed in so perfectly and everyone ended up where they were supposed to be.

Creativity! It felt like there was some variation with what’s on TV, not just an endless stream of interchangeable procedurals. Shows like American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and Walking Dead (finally) are investigating what it’s like to bring non-traditional genres to television, and shows like Smash, Luck and The Newsroom brought different subjects to the screen.

Female Characters! There are plenty of people out there who have and will write far more eloquently on the plight of women in television, but this year has felt like a relatively good year. Shows are full of strong women doing their jobs, raising their families and doing so as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Shows like The Good Wife, Smash, Once Upon a Time and Grey’s Anatomy have dominantly female casts, and almost everything else has a nice balance. Even something like Downton Abbey with its period constraints provides some wonderful roles for female actors.

Lighten up! Supernatural is superb, but it really really needs to lighten up a bit! It’s turned into something I have to force myself to watch, rather than something I really look forward to. The same argument could be made for Sons of Anarchy. Relentless depression is just not entertaining to watch, I’m not saying they suddenly need to be all sunshine and puppies, but just every now and then, let them catch a break.

NCIS . After 9 seasons, I realised there’s no point in watching this any more. The plots are utterly disposable and the characters are disastrously erratic. The last two seasons I’ve relegated it to ‘ironing watching’, but I’m even giving up on that (the show, not the ironing sadly).

Glee. I still haven’t managed to get to the end of the season having realised that I’m increasingly just fast-fowarding episodes. I just got sick to death with the terrible writing which completely undermined the charm of the characters and the talents of the actors. It just stopped being fun.

Still no spaceships. Can no one make this work?

Too short! Sherlock and Luther both had only 3 episodes, each ‘double’ length. It’s not enough. There’s the obvious problem that like a small child if I like something I want more of it, but it also really hampers the ability to get invested in characters and stories, just as you’re settling in, it’s all over and the voice over man is saying “will return in 2014”.

In preparing this article, I went back and looked at my summaries of last years shows and I have to highlight the following phrase in my summary of 2010-2011’s new shows:

Superheroes are out – there was a flurry of superhero shows and none of them were any good. People keep trying to find the magic of the early season of Heroes and the massive success that’s being found by Marvel and DC Comics at the cinema, but no one’s managed it yet. Here’s an idea, stop pissing off Joss Whedon and get him to do one, after he’s done making millions with The Avengers that is.

I rejoice in my ability to predict the future and can’t wait to see what Joss does with S.H.I.E.L.D.

The 2010-2011 Season

As always my definitions of what counts for a season are a bit variable, pretty much anything that aired somewhere between the beginning of September 2010 and the end of August 2011 are fair game for this.

Blue Bloods: S1
Bones: S6
Brothers & Sisters: S5
Castle: S3
Criminal Minds: S6
CSI: S11
Doctor Who 2011
Downton Abbey: S1
Friday Night Lights: S5
Fringe: S3
Game of Thrones – S1
Glee: S2
The Good Wife: S2
Grey’s Anatomy: S7
House: S7
Leverage: S3
Lie to Me: S3
Mad Men: S4
Merlin: S3
NCIS: Los Angeles – S2
Sons of Anarchy: S3
Stargate Universe: S2
Supernatural: S6
Terriers: S1
The Big C: S1
The Walking Dead: S1

There’s a few bits and bobs that don’t make the list – Outcasts (meh), Mad Dogs (ok), Warehouse 13 (fun but poor), Bedlam (awful), Falling Skies (still haven’t got round to finishing) more documentaries than I might expect (I remember being impressed by a lot of them but the only one I really remember is the superb Inside Nature’s Giants).

Between everything listed above and the pilots I reviewed that’s getting on for 600 episodes of television, probably about 500 hours, which given the national average is somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week, actually is still way below ‘average’. Of course most normal people don’t watch television in the ridiculous concentrated way that I do, so I guess I shouldn’t jump up and down and declare myself well adjusted just yet.

All in all, I’ve not been massively impressed with this year. Although I found it hard to narrow down most of the categories below there were relatively few things that I’d label as outstanding. I don’t know whether this is because I’m getting increasingly hard to please in my old age or because television writers and networks are getting more willing to settle for mediocre in the tough financial times. Either way, given that several of the shows I mention below have come to an end or are looking at likely final seasons, it doesn’t bode particularly well.

Best Shows
These are the shows that are superb – with amazing writing, beautiful direction, compelling acting and thought provoking stories. The ones that the Emmy’s and Golden Globes *should* be nominating.

  • Friday Night Lights – I don’t think season 5 was the best season of the show, I never fell in love with the Lions as much as I did the original Panthers, but even with that in mind it was still one of the absolute highlights of the year and I will miss it.
    Mad Men – this show can appear very slow and dull to a casual viewer, but if you invest in it and pay attention there is such incredible depth that with a little bit of analysis and discussion you have a real sense of satisfaction fitting everything together.
  • Fringe – I rewatched a few episodes of the first season recently and who knew that the ok but unspectacular X-Files wannabe would turn out to be such a fascinating and creative story about alternate worlds literally colliding.
  • The Big C – A comedy about terminal illness, really? But it manages to combine being hilariously funny with being beautifully moving without becoming cloying or preachy. It’s one of the most uplifting things I’ve seen in a long time.
  • Stargate Universe – as far as I’m concerned season 2 was as near to my idea of perfect science fiction as is likely to be seen for a long time. It had interesting stories and ideas, but more importantly was all done with a fascinating group of characters and a lot of humour.

Favourite Shows
These are the shows that I adore. They’re the ones that I desperately wait for new episodes of, the ones that I follow on blogs, the shows that make me smile, cry, and forget that the characters aren’t actually real. Comparing these to Mad Men is like comparing apples and oil rigs, but they still deserve recognition.

  • Glee – this is far and away my favourite show of the year. It has massive consistency problems when it comes to writing and storylines, but every single episode makes me laugh, and simply hearing one of the songs on my ipod can make me forget all about my troubles and grin like a fool.
  • Grey’s Anatomy – with the exception of a questionable couple of storylines towards the end of the season Grey’s has been right back on the sort of form that got me addicted to the early seasons of the show. Even my frustrations with what I describe as poor writing choices are only because I’m so unhealthily emotionally tied to these characters.
  • Doctor Who – I’m not sure whether I’m referring to the previous season that ended at Christmas or the one that’s currently half way through (which is likely why I’m missing the season review), but it really doesn’t matter because each has been superb, somehow managing to be hugely entertaining Saturday evening family viewing, but also superb quality drama with delicate and beautiful writing. This one really could have gone in either category.
  • Terriers – This may be a partial pity vote, if it hadn’t been cancelled would I have been so passionate about it? Don’t know and never will, so it’s on this list because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Downton Abbey – I’d been looking forward to the remake of Upstairs Downstairs and probably to the BBC’s consternation, this ITV almost-rip-off blew it out of the water. A great cast, hilarious writing and a lovely Sunday evening vibe to the whole thing made this a lovely piece of television to watch with friends and family.

Male actors

  • Tim Roth, (Cal Lightman, Lie to Me) –Roth’s performance was so entertaining and unpredictable that it took me three seasons to notice that the rest of the show around him was actually not very good at all.
  • Jared Padelecki (Sam Winchester, Supernatural) – I’m a Dean girl through and through, but even I have to acknowledge this season that Sam got the better material and Padelecki acted his way through Sam’s splintering personalities impressively.
  • Matt Smith (The Doctor, Doctor Who) – who knew that I’d start forgetting David Tennant. The energy and charm of Smith’s doctor is just infectious.
  • John Noble (Walter Bishop, Fringe) – Noble made it on to my list last for playing the wonderfully bonkers character of Walter – sometimes brilliant scientist, sometimes emotionally unstable child. Given that in addition to that performance he adds on the character of Walternate, an alternate universe version where he’s a terrifying politician, there was no way he wouldn’t make the list this year too.
  • Kyle Chandler (Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – poor coach had a miserable couple of years struggling with having to chose between the lesser of two evils over and over, nothing ever seemed to quite go his way. Chandler’s understated performances just broke my heart.

Female actors
I still find myself struggling to find 5 decent nominees for this category, I hope that it’s just a coincidence of the shows I watch, but I fear that it’s representative and that’s very troubling.

  • Laura Linney (Cathy Jamison, The Big C) – I imagine this is the kind of role that actors dream of. Linney is simply phenomenal.
  • Julianna Marguiles (Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife) – I think this season of The Good Wife lost its way a little, but that doesn’t change that this continues to be a wonderfully rounded character and a lovely performance.
  • Anna Torv (Olivia Dunham, Fringe) – I’ve found her character a bit bland in previous seasons, but this season thanks to playing multiple different characters, Torv proved that it’s the character that’s bland, not the performance. The subtle differences with her alternate universe version were fascinating, and as for her performance of being possessed by Leonard Nimmoy…
  • Connie Britton (Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights) – like her husband, nothing ever seems to go Tami’s way, every piece of good news is balanced with a difficult decision. She’s got more stoic and resigned to this as the years have gone by, but watching her wrestle with the potential break up of her family at the end of the season felt like the world was ending.
  • Katey Segal (Gemma Teller-Morrow, Sons of Anarchy) – I very nearly put her into the group category alongside Maggie Siff’s Tara because these two women at the heart of the male oriented motorcycle club are incredible. But Segal’s performance is the more nuanced one, the balance between confidence and insecurity, cold blooded scariness and utter devotion to her family.

In cases like Tom Sellek there’s one actor holding together an otherwise mediocre group, in cases like Laura Linney, she’s clearly carrying the weight of the series and standing out from an already very good supporting team. But for these guys and gals it’s the pairings and groupings that are the standout, if I commented on one of them, I’d have to comment on them all or I’d have the guilt.

  • Grey’s Anatomy – this show has always been the gold standard of ensemble acting and character development and this season has been no different. Everyone has interesting relationships that grow and mature (if you overlook some terrible backwards steps) and all are equally capable whether dealing with melodramatic emotions, intense medical scenes or hilarious comedy.
  • NCIS LA – the season has been an exploration of what it means to be partners and each of the pairings has delivered fascinating and entertaining performances, ably supported by the centre point of Hetty, NCIS could learn a lot from its offspring.
  • Glee – although Chris Colfer is clearly my (and the writers) favourite this is a spectacularly talented bunch of kids. The movie proves that they can perform just as well live in front of thousands of people, while the tv series shows that they can also deliver even the most ridiculous of storylines compellingly. All this on a ridiculously intensive schedule, imagine what they could do with decent material and a bit of sleep.
  • Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (Terriers) – My new favourite partnership sadly gone too soon, but I loved the easy camaraderie and open friendship of two people who came from entirely different backgrounds and ended up exactly the same.
  • Stargate Universe – it took a while, but eventually I came to love these characters and performances, right from the flamboyant ones at the front, through to the ‘supporting’ array of scientists and soldiers who could steal an entire scene with a throw away reference to Star Wars or a perfectly timed eye-roll. A dysfunctional family, just like lies at the heart of every great science fiction show.

Notable absences
Not listing Supernatural as one of my favourite shows of the year actually hurt, but it came down to a choice between it and Terriers and Supernatural was edged out just because my abiding memory of the season is one of sadness. It all just got a bit much this season for the show to be as enjoyable as before, but while it was all done really well it doesn’t quite make it into the other category of top shows because it wasn’t quite even enough to stand alongside the other shows.

Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead – being a genre fan I also find it sad that I can’t comment on these more favourably, but just being about a different subject doesn’t give you a free pass, you still need to be good. Game of Thrones was good, it only narrowly missed out in the favourite category, but The Walking Dead just wasn’t good enough, yes it’s great to see zombies on television but it still needed to just be better – better writing, better characters, better acting – just better. My feelings on BBC’s Outcasts meanwhile were so confused that apparently I never even got round to writing a review of it… it tried hard, but it really wasn’t very good.

British TV – there are a few British series that I watched all the way through this year, and a few that were so short they didn’t make it to proper reviews, but generally I find that I really have to force myself to watch them. Partly it’s self-fulfilling, I watch mostly US stuff, so I mostly read US blogs etc and therefore mostly find out about US stuff. I often find out about British stuff a couple of episodes in and then never get round to catching up. iPlayer et al help, but it’s one of the areas that I’d like to watch more of this year.

Glee The 3D Concert Movie

It seems fitting to review this here even though it’s a cinema film, but due to its planned limited release combined with an apparently poor box office, it’ll be a lot easier to see on the small screen on dvd anyway. I will freely admit that in the absence of anyone in the vicinity who shares my love of Glee, I went to see this on my own. I settled in with my tub of ice cream and looked around the audience to find not just the teenage girls I was expecting but a large number of families with young kids, a scattering of ‘grown ups’ and a couple in their 60s sat right at the front. I actually thought I might be in the wrong screen. But I wasn’t, those are just (apparently) the people that love Glee (or have nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon).

I’ll get out of the way the bit I didn’t like, I went to see a concert film and was frustrated by the amount of documentary stuff that was there, focussing on a few uber-fans who described what a positive effect Glee had on their lives. It was sweet (if a little scary in some cases) but it felt much more like a dvd special feature than anything worth seeing on a big screen in 3d. It was also a little weird that these fans were talking about Glee the TV show, but the concert and the behind the scenes stuff was done (mostly) in character as if New Directions and The Warblers were on tour. It felt like it might be taking the joke a little too far. It also highlighted once again the issue that they’ve got an able-bodied actor playing a character in a wheel chair, particularly as they replicated the number from the series where he dreams he can walk and does a dance number.

The biggest problem with the documentary and behind the scenes stuff though was that every second of that meant that it wasn’t showing concert footage. I’d been pathetically desperate to see the show at the O2 so the film was a good way for me to at least get some of that experience and it only made me more sad I missed it. The musical numbers were everything that I love about the television show – they were fun and loud and entertaining and I just grinned and grinned through every number. I had to restrain myself from singing and clapping along, everyone on screen looked like they were having so much fun – the performers and the audience, it’s just impossible to watch without a massive smile on your face. They’re a talented bunch, even The Warblers who I usually find a little ‘meh’ were great, and Lea Michele is an incredible performer when you can escape from her annoying character on the show.

If you don’t already love Glee, there’s really no point in seeing it. To a certain extent if you’re just a casual fan of Glee you’ve already seen all the songs anyway, so there’s not really much new about this. But if you’re the kind of Gleek that cheerfully watches episodes over and over (particularly if you fast-forward to the musical numbers), then this will give you something else to add to your pick-me-up dvd collection.

The dvd doesn’t have a release date yet, but there’s a soundtrack cd

Glee: Season 2

I cannot write this review without addressing the fact that I am currently obsessed with Glee. I watch episodes multiple times, the soundtracks are the only music I have on my phone and if not for the fact that I can’t find anyone willing/able to go with me, I’d be off to the live show this weekend to squeal away with the rest of the obsessed gleeks.

I am however not so naive that I don’t see that I’ve been manipulated into that obsession by a manufactured pop show which has very little to do with quality and instead has everything to do with creating something that drags you along regardless.

Every week, I find the perfect moment to settle in to watch Glee, when I’m in the right mood to switch off the higher parts of my brain and just immerse myself in the bright colours, cheery songs and over the top story lines. When I do that, I adore the show and what it’s trying to say, despite its massive manufactured success, at its heart this is a show that’s screaming out relentlessly positive messages. It doesn’t matter the crap that is thrown at the characters, or that they create for themselves they come together, through music and friendship (and sarcasm). The songs that they sing become anthems about expressing yourself, being who you are, not being afraid to be different. they make me feel better about the world somehow.

While I adore the show, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be better. It’s improved in consistency since the first season, but there are still leaps and bounds to go. There are only two writers and it shows that they clearly have characters and stories that they find easier to write. Kurt’s storyline was wonderfully told this season and it’s immensely satisfying to see the development of the character from the irritating caricature of the first season to a comfortable and confident grown up by the end of the second. Santana may not have reached the ‘end’ of her character development yet, but she also had a fantastic progression from a one-line bitch to someone who’s working out who she is and how she fits in.

In comparison a lot of the characters however continue to suffer from the erratic or completely absent development of the first season. While Kurt, Santana and even Brittany were clearly growing up, other characters were just staying still. The love triangle between Finn, Quinn and Rachel was tedious, I continually lost track of who was with who and didn’t really care because the characters were all so flat anyway – Finn continues to bumble along failing to do anything remarkable, Quinn reverts to being a snooty bitch, Rachel continues to be a diva. Meanwhile Puck develops a weird obsession with the awful Lauren and Tina, Mercedes, Arty and Mike don’t seem to do much at all.

As for the grown-ups, I really do wonder what on earth they’re doing. Will and Emma make terrible decisions all season long, with that kind of example it’s no real wonder the kids are struggling. As for Sue… she’s still all over the place. One minute wanting to shoot cheerleaders out of cannons regardless of the mortal danger, the next actually being the only teacher to react constructively and honestly to bullying, then she tries to marry herself, and then she’s heartbroken at the death of her sister. The fact that this flip-flopping isn’t completely ridiculous is solely down to the fact that Jane Lynch is incredible.

I’ve now managed to depress myself by thinking about all the ways Glee kind of sucks. Which is fundamentally why I don’t think about Glee that hard. You really have to watch it with your heart, not your head. I love Glee because it makes me happy. I can pop the soundtrack on and walk along with a grin on my face and a swing in my step. While watching an episode I often have to restrain myself from clapping and squealing like a child. Season 2 was better than season 1, and for season 3 they’ve hired a load of new, experienced writers and pledged respond to the criticisms that have been made. If they take the foundations they’ve got, and fix the simple things they’ve been getting wrong, I am quietly hopeful that they may be able to make season 3 something absolutely superb. If they can’t, it won’t matter to me, because I’ve got Born This Way playing loud in the background and I have a massive grin on my face.

Some shameless Amazon affiliate links:

  • Season 2, Volume 1
  • The Complete Second Season (out in Sept)
  • Lots of cds
  • 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).

    Hellcats: Pilot Review

    Marti Perkins is desperate to escape Memphis and her high maintenance mother. To do this she makes the most of a college scholarship to study law and dream of her escape. Ten minutes in through a series of contrived catastrophes she has lost her scholarship and is about to get thrown out until she finds out that there are cheerleading scholarships going begging.

    It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this show is desperately jumping on the bandwagon of Glee, in fact it steals the “you have to place at Nationals or get shut down” plot directly from Glee and for a while was apparently called Cheer. It’s like Glee meets Gossip Girl, it’s got the same tendencies to burst spontaneously into dance numbers and the same brightness and energy of Glee, but partnered with Gossip Girl’s bitchy dialogue and complete lack of shame when it comes to costuming.

    I was really happy when scheduling made it my first pilot review of the new year. I was all settled in to start off with a massive rant, bemoaning the fact that the best a network could come up with as an offering to the younger demographic was a show about cheerleaders. But then I liked it.

    I really do hate myself for this, but I LIKED it. I was frustrated when it finished and wanted more. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a GOOD show, but then neither is Glee or Gossip Girl and both have been big successes that I find them disturbingly addictive. The creators of Hellcats have clearly done their research and committed to making a show that perfectly fits in the ‘shameless entertainment’ genre.

    The biggest problem the pilot had is one that can be levelled against many pilots that are cramming a lot of introductions into 45 minutes – the characters were almost all stereotypes. Marti herself manages to pack two stereotypes into one, starting off as a grungy cynic dismissing the perky people but then in a whiplash inducing turnaround, by the end of the episode she’s an out and proud cheerleader leading the strutting gaggle of ridiculously costumed pep squad down a corridor Right Stuff style.

    The majority of the rest of the characters are exactly what you’d expect from an American high school/college show – the bitch, the sarcastic outsider, the confident potential love interest, the inspiring coach, a money-grabbing principle, the ditzy mother, the slimy football coach blah blah blah. The only ray of light was the Captain of the squad, played by Ashley Tisdale of High School Musical fame who has a character who seems to have some heart and spirit. Yes, she’s an annoying peppy person with matching bedspreads, but she isn’t a pushover and actually seems to engage her brain and act like a responsible human being sometimes.

    As I sat down to watch I was practically rubbing my hands in delight at the cynical vitriolic diatribe I would be able to launch at the show. But then, it somehow suckered me in, I felt happier after I’d watched it than I felt before. I think it’s like some kind of drug, I feel wrong and dirty and confused, but I think I might just watch the next episode.

    TVSquad – “Hellcats will not change the face of television as we know it, but the execution of the core concept is knowing and competent, and this show understands its limitations and wisely stays inside those narrow parameters.”

    CliqueClack – “I won’t lie. I like the show’s warmth and will probably watch it a couple more times before finally turning it off, but as with Nikita this is a show that has a lot of wrinkles to iron straight.”

    Links: Official site, imdb, wikipedia

    2009-2010 – New Shows

    Not including the comedies, I’ve watched 27 pilots this year, I’m discounting the sitcoms, ‘cos I’ve finally come to the realisation that I just don’t like them. Of those 27 I ended up watching the whole season of eight of those shows and partially watching another two of them before giving up. There are seven shows that I might pick up at some point and that leaves eleven that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Twelve of the shows have been cancelled, most of the ones I wasn’t going to bother with and a few of the ones I did.

    Watched Might Watch Not Gonna Watch
    Defying Gravity The Gates The Beautiful Life: TBL
    Glee The Good Guys The Deep End
    FlashForward Justified Eastwick
    The Good Wife Life Unexpected The Forgotten
    NCIS: Los Angeles Parenthood Happy Town
    Stargate Universe The Vampire Diaries Human Target
    Trauma Mercy
    White Collar Miami Medical
    Past Life
    Caprica Three Rivers
    V Treme

    The Good
    The successes this year have been quite spectacular, Glee and The Good Wife have both been critical and popular success. Both are refreshing and enjoyable, the difference being that The Good Wife is really rather good, and Glee is really rather terrible. NCIS: LA meanwhile has been a big hit ratings-wise and is pretty entertaining. It delivered exactly what it promised as a cash in on a successful franchise and, for me, outshone its older sibling.

    Stargate Universe has been a big success for sci-fi channel, managing to breathe new life into the 16 year old Stargate franchise without pissing off the old fans. I was critical of the pilot, but actually mostly impressed by the series as a whole and am looking forward to next season. White Collar was enjoyable, well written, with some great characters and has been a success for the relatively small channel it’s shown on. I enjoyed watching it, but it’s not quite remarkable enough to have spurred me to start watching the second season yet.

    The Bad
    I don’t really mean the bad shows here (that’s saved for the ugly section) more the things that didn’t work.

    I was disappointed at the cancellations of Trauma and Defying Gravity, both of which I thought were well made, different, interesting and never really given a chance. Meanwhile V and Caprica I gave multiple chances and eventually gave up on (for reasons I explained in more detail over here).

    There’s a number of other shows in my ‘might watch at some point’ list where I liked the pilots a lot, but just didn’t quite have sufficient enthusiasm to keep watching. A few didn’t quite have enough spark (Life Unexpected and Parenthood), a couple I just didn’t quite get along with (Justified and The Good Guys) and a couple were too cheesy even for me (The Gates and Vampire Diaries). Human Target is a tolerable addition to the genre of ‘cheesy, mindless, disposable action’, but I tend to satisfy my cravings for that through movies where the actors are better looking.

    The other show I’m going to put in the ‘bad’ category is Treme. I just didn’t get on with it. I didn’t understand what was happening, I didn’t know who anyone was, I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I didn’t particularly like the music and generally found the whole thing a bit depressing. But the reason that I’m putting it in the ‘bad’ category, not the ‘ugly’ is because I think I’m probably missing something, I think it’s entirely probable the show is wonderful and that I just don’t get it. My loss, but life’s too short for me to watch something I didn’t like.

    The ugly
    There’s been some pretty public and miserable showings (FlashForward, I’m looking at you). The number of cancelled shows, some of which had big names, big budgets and big promotion behind them is a bit shameful. I feel quite smug about the fact that almost all the shows that I decided not to watch have been cancelled.

    The biggest genre of casualties were the procedurals, Medical shows Miami Medical and Three Rivers only made it to 13 episodes, Mercy and Trauma at least it saw out the season, but neither was renewed. Legal show The Deep End couldn’t compare to it’s much more mature sibling The Good Wife and crime procedurals The Forgotten and Past Lives were doomed from the start with a terrible title and terrible premise respectively.

    The other cancellations weren’t really any big surprise to anyone I don’t think. Happy Town suffered from trying too hard to be Twin Peaks and being dumped into the unforgiving summer schedules. I didn’t mind the pilot, but it was obvious from the start it wasn’t going to see out its storyline, so why bother watching at all, and yes, I do realise that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve no idea what went wrong with Eastwick, but I wasn’t particularly enthused about the pilot, and I guess no one else was either. The Beautiful Life: TBL meanwhile had so many things wrong with it, the mystery is how it ever got on the screen to start with.

    What about next year?
    Everyone is looking for the next CSI, the next Grey’s Anatomy and the next Lost, and marketing departments aren’t doing the shows any favours by trying to push the similarities. After this year where everyone was trying to copy the recent smash hits, the networks seem to have just gone back to the people who created those hits in the first place and asked them “please could we have some more”. Next season has a new medical series from Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), a new police drama from Shawn Ryan (The Shield), a new legal thing from David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice) and spin-offs in the shape of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour and Law & Order: Los Angeles. It seems everyone’s playing it safe and sticking with what, and who, they know.

    Of course the holy grail isn’t to emulate, but to innovate – to come up with the new foundation of a franchise, or something so wildly different it breaks genres. It could be that a period where TV is going through massive changes in the way it’s watched, distributed and paid for and everyone is looking at their accountants nervously isn’t the best time to take a chance, but maybe with the unbelievable success of Glee, network executives will be a little bit more willing to take a chance. The line between genius and rubbish is pretty thin and I’m looking forward to seeing things on both sides of the line when pilots start up again in just a few weeks.

    Glee: Season 1

    Oh Glee, I want so very very much to give you a glowing review, to recommend you to all my loyal readers (hi Dad!) as a joyous example of something that looks trite and cheesy on the outside, but inside is supported by the highest calibre of talent that has ever gathered together around a television camera. Sadly I cannot. Mind you, I have a suspicion that in the light of its massive ratings success, almost unheard of TWO season pick-up, staggering itunes sales, and command performance at the White House – those involved aren’t really going to give a flying pompom what I think of them.

    The fact that I’m giving a season spanning review tells you that I don’t actually hate the show. In fact, I kind of adore it. Each episode is brimming with such colour and spirit and passion and life that I can’t help but watch with a massive smile on my face. I love the fact that a show as weird and wonderful as this is just a huge hit on network television, amidst all the death and cops and blood and lawyers, it’s a huge beacon of noise and energy.

    The musical numbers are generally superb. A completely eclectic collection of music from the classics of musical theatre (so I’m told) through to hip-hop. Not all the music is to my taste, but the energy and enthusiasm carry them through. I know some people complain of the ridiculousness of them spontaneously bursting into a fully choreographed, harmonised number, but I was perfectly happy to accept that. I was less happy about the poor dubbing that continued to be used periodically, but I was usually pretty quickly distracted by the clever montages and creative direction.

    The dialogue is sharp and witty, the mix of eccentric characters gives a great balance. While Will and Emma are painfully inspirational, Sue cuts people down with complete inappropriateness. While Rachel and Finn are being tortured and full of dreams, Brittany and Puck are presenting the somewhat baser instincts of American teenagers. Somehow the fact that a lot of the rest of the kids are there to represent minorities is made less annoying by the fact that Sue endlessly points that out. The flipflopping around could be jarring, but actually really keeps you on your toes.

    But if you look beyond each individual episode, the flaws in the show become all too obvious. As I very presciently said in my pilot review – “By the end of the first episode at least two of the characters had realised ‘who they really are inside’, which doesn’t really leave much space for development.” Well as it turns out the writers get round that small problem by having the characters forget they’ve discovered their true selves, and rediscover it again 3 episodes later. Every few episodes Rachel will discover there’s more to life than just being a star, Finn will realise he has to stand up to be himself, Quinn discovers she can be more than a vapid cheerleader, Kurt finds his father to be surprisingly accepting, Puck discovers… actually it takes him a few attempts to discover anything. But it just goes round and round. Likewise certain relationships and issues fade into the background for a few episodes before re-appearing once you’d forgotten they were even there.

    The ‘issue of the week’ storylines got increasingly painful, each time focussing on a small fraction of the characters and giving them a complete journey inside the episode – introducing an issue we were often not aware of, exploring it, and resolving it all in 45 minutes while making space for songs and jokes about Will’s hair. Then next episode it will all be forgotten. It was almost as if they had a checklist of issues a high school show has to deal with and worked their way through, but without being particularly creative in their handling. It was just… poor.

    But does any of that matter? As I watch each episode, I feel happy. I smile, I laugh out loud, I tear up and I want to sing along. I’ve bought all the soundtrack albums, and the opening chords of Don’t Stop Believing make me smile, wherever I am. It’s only when I start thinking that the massive flaws really stand out. So from here on, the solution I’ll take is to switch off my brain completely and just turn up the volume.