September used to mean that all my favorite TV shows were finally coming back after a long, depressing summer of repeats and probable heat stroke. Of course, that’s all changed now, what with Justified and Cougar Town starting in January, Game of Thrones starting at the end of March, and God only knows when Psych comes back, but still, I’ve watched a fair number of season (and sometimes series) premieres in the last couple of weeks. I figured, why not take some notes?
So, here they are, Best to Worst.
I don’t know how the actual show will turn out, but I think this is one of the strongest series premieres I’ve ever seen. (I’ve never actually made that list, but The West Wing, Lost, and Justified would be on it for sure. Battlestar Galactica, too, if “33” counts as the pilot.)
The story told in this first episode could easily have been the plot of a whole movie, but it also works really well as the beginning of a series, and I’m really eager to see where they go with it. The concept of the show is awesome — who doesn’t like mutiny, betrayal, and revolution — and I’m liking the relationship between Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman a whole lot. Also, the tension in the pilot? Sky high. I really hope this does well.
Person of Interest
I am so glad I stuck through the first half of Season One. Person of Interest started out a little slow for me — a bit too procedural, and I like procedurals — but by the end of the first season, it had picked up a lot, and this was a very promising beginning to Season Two. The Machine is actually becoming its own character, and I think that’s fascinating. Also, I loved how determined John is to get Finch back, and I’m always okay with a little Ken Leung screen time, even if it’s just a one-time guest role.
Normally, the time jump from fourth to fifth season would probably bother me — especially after the fourth season finale, which doesn’t lead up to it in any way — but as I understand it, we wouldn’t even get a fifth and final season of Fringe if the creators hadn’t done it this way, so . . . I can look past it. Besides, the war against the Observers is pretty interesting, even if I think the Nazi overtones are a little much sometimes. (At least they aren’t attempting to be sly about it, I suppose. Like, yep. We’re making the parallel in bold, red, 72-inch Comic Sans font. Let’s not even pretend here.)
John Noble is, as always, magnificent in this premiere. I really liked the scene where Peter and Olivia talk about how they dealt (or failed to deal) with their daughter going missing. And I’m just really excited to see how this last season turns out. Fringe has always been something of an uneven show with the occasional plot line that just drops out entirely, but they have done some of the most fascinatingly original material on television, and I really hope the series finale manages to bring everything together.
I’m a bit wary about this show but interested regardless. I’m all for more post-apocalyptic programs on television, and the pilot was actually a lot of fun — particularly Giancarlo Esposito, who makes for a great antagonist, and Billy Burke, who is simply awesome — but the main girl, Charlie, needs to get better quick because she is annoying, and generally, you don’t want the protagonist to drive your audience to drink. There’s some amount of potential to her character, but naive, righteous heroines are incredibly hard to get right, and I am not at all certain that Tracy Spiridakos is up to the task.
Still, I’m going to see how first season goes. Cause Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito and Eric Krikpe and JJ Abrams all working on the same show. (Also, the blonde doctor lady and her poisoned whiskey? Kind of awesome. Why can’t she be the heroine?)
Grey’s Anatomy is easily the most inconsistent TV show I’ve ever stuck with. Actually, I’ve dropped it any number of times — especially when George and Izzie started dating, ugh — but I’ve always come back to it. (Which is not an argument that other people should do the same. I will defend most of the acting and some of the writing –especially in the earlier seasons — but this show has also taken far too many missteps over the years for me to say, “Yeah, but if you ignore that, that, and that, it’s perfect.”)
Still, when Grey’s Anatomy is on, it’s on, and the season premiere was a fairly good one. At first, I was pretty skeptical of the small time jump (small compared to Fringe, anyway) after the plane crash in the finale, but much to my surprise, it actually worked fairly well. They kept a certain amount of mystery involved (what happened to Arizona; will Mark wake up before they extubate him), they gave a character a good send-off, and they dealt well with all the emotional fall-out of the crash. THIS, NCIS, is how you do emotional fall-out. (More bitching about NCIS later.)
I did have a few small problems with this ep (Cristina’s story line is boring; I miss Badass Bailey; of course April is wearing a trendy plaid shirt now that she’s working on the family farm), but overall I enjoyed it. It was sad, but in a good way.
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way: I like Sherlock. It’s a great show, an ambitious show, and probably better than Elementary will ever be. But you know what? That doesn’t mean I can’t watch this too. This show has aired one episode so far, and I am already tired of reading people whining about America making a Sherlock Holmes story. Do you have any idea how many Sherlock Holmes adaptations there are? Lots. There are always going to be more Sherlock Holmes adaptations, just like there were always be Dracula stories or stories with a new version of Jesus. Get used to it.
Now. This is a pretty straight-forward procedural story, so if you don’t like procedurals, you probably won’t like Elementary. But if you do like good guys solving crime-of-the-week stuff, this isn’t a bad start. I’ve liked both Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu for years, and they seem to have a decent chemistry with one another. The show has been very adamant so far about their relationship not becoming romantic, which is awesome. And there seems to be a decent amount of give and take between Sherlock and Watson — it’s not just Watson blindly following Sherlock around, blinking rapidly and asking stupid questions. I think that’s necessary for this particular remake — if I have to watch one more show with a woman (usually a boss) who gives in, fails to control, or otherwise has absolutely no power at all over her Amazing-Brilliant-Amoral-Male-Genius Employee, I might just scream.
Okay, so this is how not to deal with cliffhangers, giant explosions, and post-traumatic fall-out. When you blow up a building in a season finale and leave various characters missing or in danger, you should keep them missing or in danger for more than three minutes. You should not find out a character has a huge ass shard of glass sticking out of his side, cut to commercial break, and immediately come back with, “Oh yeah, he’s cool; just a couple of stitches.”
Likewise, you shouldn’t stick two people (who everyone wants to get together) in an elevator only to release them fifteen minutes into the show with nothing in their relationship having changed. Sure, giant explosions and people being stuck in elevators are all cliches — and people love them for the sugary guilty pleasures that they are. Don’t promise a chocolate cupcake and then offer a stale carrot instead.
And for Godssake. Richard Schiff’s an awesome actor, but even awesome actors need better written story lines than this. If you’re going to try and sell the “we are not so very different, you and I” hero and villain dynamic? You need to write it a whole lot better than this. As is, this may have been one of the most anti-climactic season premieres I’ve ever seen on TV.
And yet as bad as NCIS was, my least favorite season premiere to date has been Criminal Minds. Oh, Criminal Minds. First you write Prentiss off in the dumbest way possible, and then you replace her with Jeanne Tripplehorn, who . . . not that good, not in this episode. I know I’m struggling to be fair to her because Prentiss was one of my favorite characters, and fans are always a little crazy mean about the people who get to replace their fave characters, but . . . Tripplehorn seemed flat as hell here. Also, the case stuff was poorly written and boring as hell, depending heavily on plot contrivance. If this is indicative of the following season, I may have to finally give Criminal Minds up. Boo.
That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll update again when The Walking Dead and Community start up later this month.