May 20, 2013

TV season summary

With the 2012/2013 television season at an end, it's time to revisit a few of my earlier reviews. The yearly list of winners and losers makes for an interesting commentary about American popular culture.

Elementary improved greatly once Holmes and Watson got past the Lifetime Movie premise (stretching out what should have been pilot episode material for half the season). The question now is if it can avoid getting dragged down by the Moriarty arc.

The "omniscient enemy," as Kate describes it, is a cheat employed by unimaginative writers who aren't as smart as their characters. Alas, "superbad is superboring." It ruined Sherlock and The Mentalist (though the latter still got renewed, barely).

At this juncture, thankfully, Elementary appears to be doing with Moriarty exactly what Person of Interest did with Elias. If so, that's a good thing (though thanks to better writing and Enrico Colantoni, his Elias is a far more compelling character).

Mob Doctor got cancelled early on and deserved it. It was dumb from the start. If Moriarty is too devoid of good ulterior motives to be interesting for anything other than her looks, the Mob Doctor's Grace Devlin was too devoid of bad ulterior motives.

I'd hoped that Vegas would be CSI: 1960, with Michael Chiklis as a Donald Trump wannabee. When it turned into a soap opera and a Sopranos wannabee instead, I stopped watching. So did a lot of other viewers. It got cancelled after one season.

Incidentally, The Sopranos is one of those "high brow" shows I'm convinced people "liked" because they were paying through the nose for it. Call it the sunk cost entertainment fallacy. It was an excruciatingly dull show about thoroughly unlikable people.

This is true about a lot of premium cable content: second-rate stuff tarted up with cussing, nudity, and name actors. I don't object to attractive women taking their clothes off, but basic cable consistently does a better job in the plain old storytelling department.

I was happy to see that Last Man Standing got renewed. It's a grown-up version of Home Improvement. Tim Allen gets to play the smart straight-man instead of the klutzy butt of the joke. It may be the best thing he's done.

I didn't like Arrow and still don't. I've got nothing against vigilante shows but this one leaves me cold. The travails of the mega-rich don't much move me. I wanted to like Beauty and the Beast and never got into it. Both made the cut.


# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
5/21/2013 11:24 AM   
Elementary did improve only to promptly collapse with the idiotic Moriarty episodes. I made it fifteen minutes into either the last or penultimate episode before switching back to Netflix streaming.

Vegas was worth it for Sarah Jones. If they had a Sarah Jones Hour of her just going about her normal day, I'd watch.

I gave Arrow a try and gave up after twenty minutes. It was beyond stupid. One of my kids agreed. They must have essentially no budget, so of course it got renewed.

This last point is what I think many people don't understand. A network is looking at costs versus revenues. Unless it's a contractual deal, a show better make margin. Some shows cut cast or locations toward the end to make ends meet. (Apparently, this is why Whedon isn't very welcome in Hollywood; he goes over budget to begin with and then endlessly pads his casts. I strongly suspect that the ending of Angel was a too little/too late attempt to cut budget and cast. Ironically, I think it could made for some excellent shows, but Whedon had worn out his welcome with the check writers.)

Of course, the blame doesn't all lie with show runners. Networks often do very bad jobs advertising and/or scheduling shows. Firefly being a prime example--by accounts, Whedon was being an ass, though I think he would have cut budget on it, but Fox majorly screwed up the management of that show in just about every way possible. (Plus, the Fox executive who green lighted Firefly had been replaced and Hollywood has the tendency to deep six all projects of former execs.)

Cost were probably a major factor in why Vegas got cancelled. The payroll costs were likely high, but the period piece set stuff was probably breaking the bank.

(BTW, I agree on The Sopranos; it was an awful show in every respect, along with Weeds, The Tudors, Rome and, well, just about all the rest on the pay networks.)