Another year of television drifts to a close, at least my rather arbitrary definition of ‘year’ which starts in September for my collation of American television. Based on an EXTREMELY haphazard count via wikipedia of things that look like ‘proper’ shows (seriously, that’s as specific as it gets) I’d say there were about 60 new shows lasts year. I watched 24 pilots which isn’t too shabby a ratio, particularly given I actively avoid comedies for the most part.
It didn’t feel like an exemplary year for television in general, or for new shows in particular. I guess the only notable thing was the rapid growth of the online channels and even that’s more of a continuation of a trend than a huge new development. The impressive calibre of serious dramas on both cable and online either overwhelmed or just wasn’t challenged by much in the way of fun simplicity on the main broadcast networks. In fact the only channel that really stood out was The CW where Jane the Virgin gained critical praise and awards previously unseen by the tiny little ‘teen’ network. So well done The CW for doing something different and well, while the other broadcast networks just seemed to do the same old stuff, and not really doing that great a job with it either.
- The Affair – the he said/she said structure of this, and the self-obsessed characters could have got tedious, but the actors carried it off. The murder-mystery flashforward story was a bit manipulative and contrived though, so hopefully the writers will go a bit easier on that in the second season.
- Aquarius – I’m halfway through this 1960’s set detective drama based loosely around Charlie Manson. It’s David Duchovny’s dry detective who really sells this show though.
- Jane the Virgin – quirky, fresh, charming, moving, laugh out loud funny, and utterly embracing it’s own ridiculousness. I loved this series.
- Marvel’s Agent Carter – An absolute gem of a show that went largely unnoticed. It had great writing, a fantastic central performance and some really interesting things to say about women in the years post WW2. Absolutely brilliant.
- Stalker – Another generic entry into the procedural pool. I watched the whole season, mostly while ironing or cooking and was utterly unbothered by the fact it was not renewed for a second season. The best thing about it was probably the quirky covers of famous songs that made even sweet ballads sound creepy as anything
- Transparent – I was endlessly irritated by most of the characters, but Jeffrey Tambor makes the whole thing not only bearable, but funny and touching. If only season 2 could bring some redeeming features to the two younger children, I’d be even happier.
- Forever – A guy who can’t die solves crimes using his centuries of knowledge and experience while hiding his immortality from almost everyone around him. I watched about half this series, mostly because Ioan Gruffudd And Judd Hirsch had a really lovely chemistry and backstory, but I just kind of faded away from watching it as the case of the week got less and less interesting. Given it was cancelled after the first season, I wasn’t the only one that lost interest it seems.
- Madam Secretary – despite my rather apathetic review of the pilot I stuck with this for a dozen episodes or so, but it just never got better. Tea Leone was great, but the fact that every complicated international story got resolved in 44 minutes and we all slapped ourselves on the back just got too tedious. It did get renewed though.
- Twelve Monkeys – I lasted a few episodes of this and found it quite entertaining, but after a while I got rather bored and increasingly concerned that it was just going to turn into a giant net of conspiracy theory that could just add more layers of complexity in the middle if/when the series was renewed. I just wasn’t that engaged so drifted away.
Things I might watch
All series that I just reviewed the other day and enjoyed, or found intriguing enough that I might catch-up with them.
- Bloodlines – it has Kyle Chandler.
- Empire – does a good job with familiar tropes
- iZombie – entertaining and fresh, but it’s not got a UK broadcaster yet.
- Wayward Pines – a bit slow and lacking in originality but probably sufficiently intriguing to get through the short run
- Constantine – it was… fine, but no more. It felt too close to other shows to make it really worth watching and as it wasn’t picked up for another season, I won’t bother catching up.
- The Flash – I did watch the pilot for this, and while it wasn’t anywhere near as dire as the pilot of its sibling show Arrow, it just didn’t grab me.
- How to Get Away with Murder – this just didn’t charm me as much as I wanted it to, it seemed to fastforward straight to the conclusion I eventually reached with Scandal in season 4 – utterly unlikable, irredeemable characters heading towards inevitable destruction.
- CSI: Cyber (imbedded pilot) – I don’t really remember much about the imbedded pilot beyond the questionable logic of the storyline so I won’t be bothering.
- Daredevil – In a crowded genre, this was just unremarkable.
- Gotham – the following words appeared in my review of the pilot: trite, obvious, hammy, unsettled
- The Knick – same old hospital plots just with period costumes and a very unengaging lead actor.
- Murder in the First – so by-the-numbers that I barely made it through the first episode.
- NCIS: New Orleans – yeah yeah we get it New Orleans has great food, great music, great accents and… enough navy related crime to keep a series going? Really?
- Sense8 – so very dull
- State of Affairs – pretending to be smart while in fact being stunningly stupid.