Checking In on the 2015 Fall TV Season

We’re nearly three months into the new TV season! With November sweeps now behind us and heading towards winter hiatus, I figured now would be as good time as any to check in. During premiere week, I set out with all the shows I was planning on watching, both old and new. Now, I’m pretty set on what I’m still watching and what I’m dropping. By the looks of it, I’m being pretty picky about what I’m watching, so let’s just recap and take a look shall we?

MONDAY

  • The Voice – Kinda, sorta, not really watching. I hate to say it, but I really do think I’m getting burned out on singing competitions. I want to watch it, but with the other stuff I’m watching, I don’t actually get around to it. So basically, I’m not committed to this season.
  • Dancing With The Stars – Kinda, sorta watching. I may still have some issues with DWTS (namely certain song choices – I’m convinced I can do a better job choosing songs), but I found myself enjoying this season quite a bit. Not to mention, I still love my Pro Dancers.
  • Blindspot (NEW; Full season ordered) – Dropped. I am intrigued in the mystery side of things (Who is Jane Doe? How did she lose all her memories and get all these tattoos that somehow relate to other stuff? etc.) Other than that, there’s something about it that just doesn’t sit well with me. Not in an offensive way, just something just doesn’t work for me. At one point I think I referred to it as ‘Chuck meets Memento’, which is kinda weird to be honest.
  • Minority Report (NEW; Episode order cut to 10) – Dropped. I had high hopes for this show, but again, something about it just didn’t work for me. Doesn’t look like it’s going to make it anyways.
  • Jane the Virgin – Still watching. Still sweet, cute, heartwarming, and funny. I love this show.
  • Supergirl (NEW; Full season ordered) – Watching. It’s without a doubt, one of my faves this season. I love that it kinda took the positivity of The Flash and kicked it up a notch. Plus, the female relationships are absolutely wonderful to see.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (NEW) – Dropped. Watched the pilot and I didn’t like it.
  • Gotham? – Yeah, despite some people saying that this season is better than last, I have yet to bring myself to actually watch any of it.

TUESDAY

  • Fresh Off the Boat – As hilarious as last season.
  • The Flash – I am loving the Earth-1/Earth-2 alt universe storyline, but then again, as a huge Fringe fan, it’s just totally up my alley.
  • Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Still watching it. I was initially a little bit worried about the multiple storylines they were juggling, but then it all connected recently, and I could not be happier with how things have been going.
  • iZombie – The cast and the writers are clearly having a ball making the show, and you can see it in the finished product. Still a lot of fun.
  • Limitless (NEW; Full season ordered) – Watching. It is by no means the greatest show, but it knows what it is doing and incredibly fun/entertaining to watch. My only real nitpicking with the show is that Jake McDorman’s Brian Finch is such a Cappie (McDorman’s character’s frenemy on Greek), and I keep saying “Why is Evan Chambers being like Cappie?” at least once every week.
  • The Mindy Project – Still watching, still funny. Though the switch to Hulu has made it difficult for this Canadian to keep up every week.
  • The Muppets (NEW) – Dropped. I said before that I was never really that into the Muppets growing up, so I didn’t have the same nostalgia factor that a lot of people had coming into the show. I watched a couple of episodes and found it just okay.
  • Grandfathered (NEW; Full Season Ordered) – Watching. I like the chemistry between John Stamos, Josh Peck, and Paget Brewster. The show seems sure of itself and that counts for a lot, especially with a new comedy.
  • The Grinder (NEW; Full Season Ordered) – Watching…for now. Again, I like Rob Lowe and Fred Savage, and it’s got a lot of funny moments. What kind of bothers me is that I’m not really sure what kind of show it is striving to be. I thought they were selling the show as a family comedy of sorts, but turns out it is that mixed with workplace comedy and satire.
  • Scream Queens (NEW) – Dropped. I was already not entirely sold on the show, and as I watched the first two episodes, I couldn’t get over the fact that all the characters were super annoying. I know they’re supposed to be like these caricatures, but I just could not stand it.
  • Wicked City (NEW; Cancelled) – As the reviews came out, it was made clear that the show was terrible. And you know, sometimes I’ll still check out some of it, just to see for myself, but with my Tuesdays as they are I just couldn’t bother.

WEDNESDAY

  • Arrow – I still love watching it. I know there are some people who don’t really like it as much anymore, and I’ll admit that it still does have its flaws, but overall it’s still enjoyable.
  • Survivor – This season has been FANTASTIC! This being Second Chance, the players have come back playing a pretty unique game, and the outcome is just so fascinating.
  • Empire – There’s something about season 2 that feels off to me, compared to the first season. But the show is still incredibly entertaining and great to watch. Also, Cookie Lyon/Taraji P. Henson.
  • Modern Family – I’m not entirely sure why I still watch it because it has been incredibly hit and miss. It’s pretty much background at this point.
  • Black-ish – The show has been on such a roll going into its second season. It’s even more sure of itself than it was before, being consistently funny while tackling issues like gun control and religion, among other things.
  • Nashville – I’ve been sort of keeping up on the show, mainly watching like two episodes at a time, when I remember to watch it. Almost every character, except Rayna (because Connie Britton y’all), maybe Deacon, and Avery, is getting on my nerves. Pair that with some odd storyline decisions and I’m verrrryyyy close to dropping this show altogether.
  • You’re the Worst – How a comedy manages to still be completely funny, while dealing with such a dark and serious subject such as clinical depression is beyond me, but YTW has done just that. It was a risky story decision, but one that has paid off as the show was recently renewed for a third season.
  • Kingdom – I haven’t actually watched this new season. With everything that’s already on, I just figured it’d be best if I wait it out and watch all of season 2 once it’s done.

THURSDAY

  • Sleepy Hollow – I felt that season 2 was a bit off/on, but still enjoyed it. Season 3 has been consistently good, as I feel like it was able to get out of its own way, and do things that weren’t necessarily tied into the Horsemen.
  • How to Get Away With Murder – I’m sure what a lot of people liked about the first season was how twisty the mystery was; that and Viola Davis’ performance. Davis continues to own this show like no other. The twists in season 2 however, have gotten increasingly complicated, and sometimes I honestly just laugh at what’s going on and let it be what it is. Also, let’s be real: how long can the show possibly continue in its current state without the main characters either going to jail, moving/getting away from the entire situation, or getting murdered themselves?
  • Scandal – I’m still watching it, but it just doesn’t interest me in the same way that it used to.
  • Heroes Reborn (NEW) – Dropped. I managed to get through maybe four episodes before I realized that really, nothing had changed from when it went off the air. Too many storylines, undeveloped characters, overall nonsense; even my love of Zachary Levi and Dylan Bruce couldn’t keep me watching.
  • The Big Bang Theory – Another long-running comedy that’s kinda losing steam. I still watch it, it still has its funny moments, but I don’t pay much attention when I’m watching it.

FRIDAY

  • The Amazing Race – Even a so-so season like this one, I always watch Race.
  • Grimm – I find that Grimm is so dependable and consistent. Even with its case-of-the-week stories, they still manage to move the mythology and personal character developments forward.
  • Dr. Ken (NEW; Full Season Ordered) – Dropped. There were some things in the first few episodes I watched that I was amused by (pretty much anything that involved Albert Tsai – I still miss Trophy Wife), but it was just whatever for me, so I stopped watching.

SUNDAY

  • Quantico (NEW; Full Season Ordered) – Watching. For how much I didn’t like Joshua Safran’s previous work (the later seasons of Gossip Girl, Smash season 2), I’m surprised by how much I enjoy watching this show. Some things are a little on the ridiculous side, but I just kinda roll with it because they do move things along at a quick pace. Much like HTGAWM, I’m curious to what its future could possibly look like, seeing as how it is very specific in its storytelling at the moment. At this moment however, I’m sticking by it and worry about the future later.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Still one of my favourites.
  • The Last Man on Earth – The show is still pretty weird, given of course the premise of the show; but it’s still very funny and sure of itself.
  • The Affair – Adding the additional viewpoints of Helen and Cole has elevated the show, I feel. From the beginning, I found the dual viewpoints to be such an intriguing aspect of the show. Now having four (but still two within each episode), adds more depth and dimension to this story and these characters.
  • Once Upon a Time? – I tried watching the premiere and once we found out the whole time jump/characters lost their memories AGAIN(???!!!), I rolled my eyes and stopped watching. I’ve been curious to see how everything has played out, so I randomly read episode recaps, which only makes me happy that I spend the 5 minutes reading, as opposed to the hour watching, because things have only gotten even more ridiculous it seems.
  • Blood and Oil (NEW; Episode order cut)?? – I like the cast but I could not get through the pilot.

 

Upfronts 2015: The CW Keeps It Simple for Next Season

Last but not least for Upfronts, The CW presents its schedule for next season. The CW is always an interesting case because by all means, it’s a broadcast network, though it is often looked at as the annoying little sibling to the Big Four. No one really understands their business model because ratings aren’t (though sometimes are) a big issue for it. For years, CW’s roster was filled with teen shows or just generally, shows with pretty people and pretty people problems. The pretty people part still stands, but the past few years have seen a shift in the network’s programming – more adult, more genre, sometimes both. This past season saw The CW airing arguably the two best new series in The Flash and Jane the Virgin, the latter which gave the network a major award win with Gina Rodriguez beating out some heavy hitters at the Golden Globes. Now with its limited programming time and a very solid group of shows, the network picked up three additional series.

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND [Comedy – Mondays @ 8]: Rachel has a great job working at a prestigious law firm in New York, and suddenly decides to leave it all behind to find love and happiness in Southern California. The show was initially developed for Showtime and when they passed on it, The CW picked it up. It’s the only new show to land on the schedule for fall and it’s getting paired up with Jane the Virgin, so it’ll be a cute and funny Monday night over on CW. My only concern is that JTV is not playing the lead-in for this new show, which I think would’ve worked better, but what do I know?

DC’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW [Drama – Midseason]: First Arrow, then The Flash, now this new spin-off. Familiar faces Brandon Routh, Victor Garber, Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell and Caity Lotz headline the series, which will see these heroes and villains come together to save the world and time itself. Newbies to this particular DC TV universe include Arthur Darvill, Ciarra Renee, and Franz Drameh. Ever since the project was announced two questions came up: 1) Who is Caity Lotz playing? Since last we checked, her Sara Lance/Black Canary was dead over on Arrow, and 2.) Where’s Robbie Amell, the other half of Garber’s Firestorm? From the key art below, it looks like we sort of have an answer in that Lotz is still playing Sara though in White Canary form; the question of she’s revived is yet to be answered. At the very least though, we can expect even more crossovers between the three Berlanti/Guggenheim/Kreisberg shows.

CONTAINMENT [Drama – Midseason]: A deadly virus outbreak forces a large quarantine on the city of Atlanta and those stuck on the inside must fight for their lives. So it’s Under the Dome with a virus, or at least that’s the first thing I thought of (even though Dome is really not good)? The other hardest working woman in TV (next to Shonda Rhimes), Julie Plec adapted this from a Belgian series. Shows like this ignite my Sociology education with its look at how people deal with a massive event that forces them to re-evaluate their morals and who they are as members of this society. It’s worth a look for sure, but everything hinges on what direction they decide to go with this.

Other Notables:

  • Tuesday and Wednesday nights will stay the same on the network, with the winning combos of The Flash/iZombie and Arrow/Supernatural.
  • It was inevitably going to happen – The Originals will now follow The Vampire Diaries on Thursdays.
  • Reign moves to Friday, leading into America’s Next Top Model.
  • The 100 will air sometime midseason, as will the fourth season (?!) of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Like I said previously, with their limited schedule, I’m curious to see how CW will fit in its 3 midseason shows. Presumably, one or two of the shows scheduled for fall will only have a 13 episode season, and maybe one of the midseason shows will be a “bridging the gap” show during winter hiatus.

That’s it for the broadcast Upfronts! Lots to digest and go over. Closer to the premieres in September, after seeing more trailers and promos, I’ll make a decision on what I’ll actually watch. Until then, I’m gonna go catch up on my current shows.

 

Random TV Watching Thoughts [April 2015 Edition]

[Consider this my semi-regular TV watching rant blog post.]

In the current state of TV, ratings and ad dollars still matter a lot, especially if it means the difference between a show getting renewed or cancelled. However, much has been made about a show’s social media presence. Because it’s no longer a matter of shows you watch and talk about at the proverbial water cooler at work the next day, it’s also about the shows that get you tweeting while you’re watching. Which is to say that many shows have sort of an added pressure to make every episode count (no fillers), constantly amping up the drama or action so you talk about it, and making you want more at the end of the episode.

All that introductory ramble pretty much leads me to this: I sometimes worry about TV and burning out. I look at shows like Arrow, The Flash, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and the like, and start wondering how they could possibly uphold their no-holds-barred approach to writing their respective shows. Mind you, I’m not a creative writer so it would be hella difficult for me to even think about it from the perspective of a TV writer. But I worry that the need for these shows to maintain a fast-paced, high level of quality writing, will lead them to burn out too quickly. Take for example, episode 15 of The Flash “Out of Time” – that was some season finale level reveals, and yet they put it in the middle of the season! Not even a winter finale cliffhanger episode, but the first episode back from break! AND it’s still only the first season!

On the one hand, it’s great that some storylines and mysteries don’t get dragged out too long, because we are living in an age where there’s just so much TV that shows have to engage and keep viewers. I know for me, once I start getting bored with a show, I’m pretty much done with it. I don’t want to waste my time watching something I used to be interested in, when I can be watching something else. Granted, there’s usually built-up goodwill from the time I had invested in the series, that I will finish off a season before dropping it completely. By that point though, I’m usually putting it aside and watching whenever, instead of “I have to watch this immediately.”

On the other hand, when shows are going full force, constantly surprising us, there comes a point where those unpredictable moments are no longer surprising, and sometimes when it’s a couple of seasons in, those twists seem almost laughable. Scandal has been known to fill each episode with “OMG” moments, but when the season 3 finale rolled around, when we were expecting some jawdropping moments, I felt underwhelmed. When Revenge ended their season 3 with the reveal that [SPOILER] David Clarke was actually alive, it felt desperate, like it was a last ditch attempt to keep viewers for the next season. I was already done with the show by that point, but it definitely lost me after that.

If watching the Showrunners documentary (which, FYI, you should totally watch. It’s on Netflix. You’re welcome.) has shown me anything, it’s that running a TV series is hard work. Those who work to bring these shows to life are constantly struggling to find that happy medium, that allows for storylines and characters to be fully fleshed out, but still engages viewers, and makes money for the networks. All the while, they can’t lose their creative vision for the show to begin with. It’s a lot to deal with, and as viewers, despite our complaining and wanting so much of our favourite shows (see above), we have to be cognizant of that.

All of this leads me to some important questions as a fan and viewer:

  1. In order to sustain the level of quality expected, what is the ideal number of seasons for a TV show to run? We have A LOT of instances where shows get cancelled too soon, but what of the shows that run on longer than they should have?
  2. Wouldn’t it be easier if all shows ran for just 13-18 episodes per season? Long enough to tell the season-long arc without having filler episodes.
  3. If shows ran for less than the standard 22-episode season, there’d be room for those underrated TV shows that seemingly get cancelled too soon. More TV on the air, less repeats/breaks, everybody wins, no?
  4. In terms of content, are we expecting too much from our shows? Then ultimately feel let down when they don’t meet our standards or expectations? What happened to just enjoying the ride and letting them entertain us?

Obviously, this is all just my opinion on what’s going on with TV shows. What I think is boring or great, others will think is not. That’s the beauty and also frustrating thing about TV: we can all have these different discussions about it. We don’t all have to like the same thing (though it’s nice when we do, hence fandoms). But at the end of the day, we’re allowed to worry and ask questions of our shows. It’s just like any relationship, we just want the best for them.

End of the Road: Looking at Recent Series Finales

[Out of courtesy, SPOILERS AHEAD]

Last Friday, Hart of Dixie aired its season finale. With its status being on the bubble for quite some time and renewal chances looking slim, it very much acted like a series finale. I mean, they did title the episode “Bluebell”, which is about as final as naming it “Hart of Dixie” or “Finale”, and even the actors’ tweets seemed to point towards it being the end. [For what it’s worth, I don’t think The CW knew what to do with the show because they didn’t have anything else like it on the network – sound familiar? *cough* Nikita *cough* – until now in Jane the Virgin. And the one week they got paired up, it was cute/crazy overload that I loved] It’s all rather unofficial, but the finale left me in tears because of how perfect it was for the show, and if it is indeed the end, it was a satisfying ending. I’ll miss the crazy Bluebell antics regardless. In light of everything, I thought it’d be a good time to look at some other series finales, all within the last two months and which also made me cry (the measure of a good finale obviously).

Parenthood was the little show that could over on NBC. It flew under the radar and had a loyal fan following. For 6 seasons, we watched the Braverman family as they celebrated the good times and struggled through the bad times. We cried tears of joy and sadness along with them, throughout all 103 episodes. It was a wonderful series that was well loved by the people who watched it, but was constantly on the bubble and never got the award recognition it deserved. The cast was also so incredibly talented – from Craig T. Nelson to Peter Krause, Lauren Graham to Mae Whitman, and all the other Braverman children, grandchildren, extending to all the guest stars. The series finale saw Sarah getting married to Hank, Joel and Julia adopting another child, Amber adjusting to life as a single mom and becoming partners with Crosby to run the Luncheonette, Adam becomes Headmaster of Chambers Academy, while Christina opens another school. Everything seemed great until we see that Zeek dies in his sleep, a plot point that had been written in the cards for the season. But the show ends on a happy note, as Zeek’s ashes get scattered on a baseball field and the remaining Bravermans honour his memory by playing a game there. It doesn’t end there though, as we get treated to a montage checking in on everybody at different points in the future. I truly loved that they didn’t do just a basic flashforward – seeing glimpses of their life in the future (and obviously only the happy/joyful moments) was actually a lot more satisfying.

Parks and Recreation was sort of the comedy equivalent of Parenthood, in the way that it was an underdog show on NBC and was loved by all those who watched it. The cast, led by the amazing Amy Poehler, were so incredible in this show and have been criminally unrecognized because they deserve all the awards. Now, the final season of Parks and Recreation had already taken us to 2017, so the finale took us even further into the future. The hour episode jumped forward to different times for each character. Donna doing well for herself as a real estate agent in Seattle and then putting some of her earnings towards an education non-profit with Joe. Tom unsuccessfully expanding the restaurant, and then finding yet another life as a motivation speaker/writer. Andy and April having kids. Gerry staying on as mayor of Pawnee until he dies on his 100th birthday. Ron ends up looking after the Pawnee National Park. As for Leslie and Ben? Well their government aspirations continued to grow, as the show hinted at Leslie possibly becoming POTUS (or at the very least, she gets to the White House). It really was a nice wrap up to the show; nothing too crazy or dramatic, but straight to the point future.

I’ll admit, I checked out of Glee a long time ago, sometime around season 4 (I may have stuck it out that entire season, but can’t recall any of it). I tuned into season 5 for “The Quarterback” and “100” for obvious reasons, but besides that I didn’t care for it. The show was so far off from what I had initially loved about it, that not even the music could save it (actually, a lot of the music choice kinda killed it for me). When the series finale rolled around, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it, but everybody’s nostalgia for it pulled me in. The first episode of the two-part finale, “2009”, took us back to when the Glee Club was first formed and we saw how Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, Tina, and Artie ended up in the Glee Club. Capped off with a re-airing of that original performance of “Don’t Stop Believin'”, it was such a heartbreaker and yes, the tears started.  The second episode, “Dreams Come True”, jumped forward to essentially show us everybody’s happy endings. In the immediate future, McKinley is turned into a performing arts school where Mr. Schuester is principal. Sam is the new teacher/coach for New Directions. Mercedes’ career skyrockets, starting with a gig as Beyonce’s opening act. When the show jumps forward to 2020, Sue is Vice President of the United States and intends on running for President. Kurt and Blaine are living a wonderful life together in New York, being an inspiration to kids. Artie and Tina are together, and his film gets into a festival. Rachel becomes a surrogate to Kurt and Blaine’s child, marries Jesse St. James, and wins a Tony. And before one last group performance featuring (almost) everyone who was ever on Glee, Sue declares that the McKinley auditorium will be renamed to honour Finn. Major tears. For a show that kind of lost itself, they certainly stuck the landing, offering a reminder of what people had initially loved about the show – that underdog spirit and the feeling that things will eventually be okay.

Not all finales end well or tug at the heart strings, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is the most successful finales should be measured by whether the show ended in a way that was right for it and acts as a cap to the series as a whole. Sometimes these shows weren’t perfect but their respective finales proved that (most of) our time spent with them weren’t a complete waste.

 

Show You Should Be Watching: 12 Monkeys

There are hundreds of shows on TV right now, and no human being could watch everything. Now, cognizant of the fact that everyone has different tastes, I sometimes have trouble recommending shows to others because I’m also limited to what shows I myself watch (and that’s already a lot of TV). But I thought it would be fun to do a few suggestion posts and talk about some shows that you might not be watching and are actually missing out on. (And I need people to talk to about these shows!)

12 MONKEYS

Cast: Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Noah Bean, Kirk Acevedo, Barbara Sukowa, Emily Hampshire

Executive Producers: Terry Matalas, Travis Fickett, Natalie Chaidez

# of Episodes (As of Posting): 8

Show in a Nutshell: In 2043, most of the world’s population has died from a viral outbreak. James Cole (Stanford) is tasked with traveling back time to get rid of the virus before it kills us all.

Why You Should Be Watching: TIME TRAVEL!! Okay, so maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m watching because I love the idea of time travel and how it affects timeline and structure. And frankly, I love a good mind f**k (pardon my language), trying to comprehend what’s going on. The fact of the matter is, time travel is tricky business, and though there may not be an inherently wrong way to tackle it, I think it’s safe to say that it can be met with varying degrees of success. 12 Monkeys though, does right by the concept, layering the importance of each jump through time and how it affects (or sometimes doesn’t affect) the future.

Amidst all the time jumping, the characters and relationships are a very important aspect of what makes the show work. When Cole jumps back to 2015, he works with Dr. Cassandra Railly (Schull) to uncover the mystery of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. In 2043, Cole’s allies include his friend/”brother” Jose Ramse (Acevedo) and Katrina Jones (Sukowa), the creator of the time machine that sends Cole back through time. When you watch and see how all the pieces fit together, the importance of Cole’s relationships helps to define who he is as a character and what he’s trying to do in terms of the bigger picture of getting rid of the virus. That’s not to say all the other characters aren’t compelling on their own when not interacting with Cole, because they absolutely are. The writers on the show have done a wonderful job balancing the science fiction of it all, with really important character building/development for everyone involved. For a freshman show to dedicate and put effort into showing us what all these characters are about (not just Cole and Cassie, but also Ramse, Jones, Bean’s Aaron Marker, Hampshire’s Jennifer Goines, Todd Stashwick’s Deacon, and even Tom Noonan’s creepy Pallid Man) is kind of rare. Even if we don’t see some of the characters a lot, you quickly get a sense of who they are and that’s truly a testament to the writers’ abilities to make the audience feel things for these characters in a short amount of time.

Bottom line: It’s science fiction by way of compelling storytelling. The amazing actors involved are just a bonus (says the Nikita, Center Stage, and Fringe fangirl). You want a sci-fi show that has a good mix of geekery, action, drama, mystery, and intrigue? Watch 12 Monkeys. You just want a damn good show? WATCH 12 MONKEYS.

12 Monkeys airs on Syfy, Fridays at 9.