The fast-paced holiday season is luckily always balanced out by a stall in new television programming. This allows for a nearly audible brain-shift in priorities for television zombies such as myself, wherein we can, for a couple blessed weeks, stop obsessing over how Elena just NEEDS to stop fooling herself and just KISS Damon already... or how it's possible for a show with a cast like Ringer to be so utterly boring... or how down-right A-MAZING Emily VanCamp is at getting Revenge. Instead, we use our otherwise wasted brain-power to concentrate on the important things, ie; stealing holiday goodies from the workplace, mentally forcing ourselves to go the gym to work off said holiday goodies, shopping endless hours for the perfect present for our boss (what, we can't BUY a work promotion?) and making sure our homes are the picture of gaudy (or classy) holiday celebration. And, if you're like me, discover that somehow our DVR is still filled to the brim with recorded shows (damn you holiday specials!).
Despite the onslaught of holiday responsibilities, let's find some time to sit back and discuss the first part of this television season.
Let's start with what DID NOT work for me:
A Gifted Man - I tried, I really, really did try. I adore Patrick Wilson and I have respected Jennifer Ehle ever since I first watched the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice, but this show was just too slow and God-awful boring. Despite Wilson's tremendous acting presence and even his semi-interesting character, there was still not enough to keep me hooked. After four or so episodes, I let it go.
Person of Interest - This show had the same problems as A Gifted Man: great cast, tedious plot lines. I just cannot seem to get into procedural dramas. No matter how you spin them, they are just about as moving as a paper clip documentary. Even Jim Caviezel's manly stubble and bad-boy, emotionally damaged lead couldn't keep me interested. Far worse, Michael Emerson was horribly under-used and his "side-kick" character too constricting for his considerable talents. After five or so episodes, I let it go the way of A Gifted Man.
What's NOT WORKING, but I'm still watching anyway:
Ringer - This is simple. My loyalty to Sarah Michelle Gellar and my interest in nearly all the male leads (Kristoffer Polaha, Ioan Gruffudd and Nestor Carbonell) are the only things tying me to this show. There are such things as good soap opera dramas... and this isn't one of them. I hate to say it, mostly because I hate to dig at anything SMG is attached to, but the truth cannot be denied; this show is a mess. I hold to the small hope that perhaps the story will get better and the twists and turns of the incredibly moronic plot lines will start making some sort of sense, but more than likely I hope in vain. I'll keep watching, but if this show fails to improve, any possible second season will have a hard time making it onto my 2012 list (and let's be honest, a second season pick-up is highly unlikely).
Supernatural - See previous post regarding this show. Season 7. *sigh* I will NEVER stop watching this show. I love the characters too much for that. However, even with Sup-shaped beer goggles on I can see the problems with this show, problems that started half-way through Season 6 and followed us into Season 7. Let's hope the writers start showing our boys some respect, cause I've just about had it with all the doom, gloom and hellfire - and not even a hint of sunlight on the road before or in front of our characters' beloved Impala.
Grimm - Grimm is one of fall's two new ventures into fairy tales and unfortunately it's the one that isn't working out very well (see Once Upon a Time below). The lead, though easy on the eyes, is less easy when it comes to the acting part of his job. As the viewer, you can't help but feel like there's nothing really to him. He gives off little to no emotional weight, especially in the high-intensity situations that he often finds himself in. Where a normal person would ogle, scream and dart away to commit themselves to the loony-bin when they see a suspect shift and morph into a feral, fairytale creature, our lead merely stands there looking confused and constipated. One of the few saving graces to this show is our lead's unwilling "side-kick", a reformed werewolf who loves Christmas and plays the cello. Actor Silas Weir Mitchell brings to Grimm all the heavy emotion that our lead fails to deliver - and he's a wonder to watch. I will keep watching if only for him, and for the Buffy connections that got me to watch in the first place.
What I am LOVING:
Revenge - This is such a given, right? If you've been anywhere near a water-cooler lately, you'll have heard of the soapy greatness of this show. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this show as much as I have. It creeps up on you and despite your best intentions (you WERE going to watch only Emmy-worthy shows this season, right?), you can't get enough of VanCamp's cold-eyed stare and merciless hunt for revenge. And the fact that the guy from Roswell (Nick Wechsler) plays a lead character in the show doesn't hurt much either. This show is fun, campy and despite what you may think, actually a lighter fare than some of the other shows on television right now.
American Horror Story - The word "insane" barely covers it. This is one of those shows that you cannot even find words to describe, mostly because you have no idea what in the hell is going on. And somehow, it works. You can't hate crazy like this, and you certainly can't ignore crazy like this. This should have been an unmarketable show, a show that normal, non-psycho humans would take one look at and place in the "DO NOT TOUCH - NIGHTMARES" pile at home. As it turns out, my generation (and the one before it and the one after it), love bat-shit crazy shows. Go figure. And you know what? This is the most fun I've had cringing on my bed since watching the first three Freddy Kruger movies back-to-back at the tender age of 13. Bring it on, Ryan Murphy. We can take anything you throw at us - even a dead serial killer in a rubber sex suit.
2 Broke Girls - Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a sitcom-lover. I mostly stick to dramas, they are just more my speed. Every now and then I run across some really great comedies; How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, New Girl, Happy Endings. 2 Broke Girls is one of these hidden gems, like Revenge, that you just didn't see coming. I enjoy this show SO much and thank goodness I watch it alone, in my own home, because I would hate to laugh like this in public. Kat Dennings is my hero and I want to be her so much it hurts. I don't know much about comedy; not the timing or chemistry or any other important aspect that makes it work - but whatever it needs to work, and work well, 2 Broke Girls has it in spades.
Once Upon a Time - I heard bad reviews on this show before I even saw one scene of it. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut. And I am so glad I did. This show may not be for everyone. Fairy tales are everywhere right now and it's only logical that people are going to start digging into our modern representations of them. In the end, it's all about the writing. Good writing can take a horrible idea and make it into gold. Bad writing can take a great idea and turn it into poo. That's the simple truth of all writing, whether it's for novels, movies, television, plays, etc. Of course, thousands of other aspects go into the making of, let's say, an episode of television. It doesn't all hinge on good writing, but it will come to nothing without it. I trust these writers. These are LOST writers and producers. Even if they were serving up some crappy procedural (ie: see Person of Interest), I would still give it a try. And I am loving Once Upon a Time. You can tell that the few episodes that have aired have barely scratched the surface of the mythology behind this show. I am already seeing the beginnings of Lost 2.0: Storybrooke Island. And there's nothing wrong with that; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I can't wait to see where the writers will take us with this tale. Every episode is exciting adventure; pretty, emotional poignant and even passingly clever.
Justified - The FX promos are blowing me away, and that comes from someone in the television promo business. January 17th can't come soon enough. I am in desperate need of my Timothy Olyphant fix.
Spartacus - This is such a bittersweet return. With the passing of its first season's star, Andy Whitfield, a sad cloud hangs over the show. However, Whitfield's replacement, Liam McIntyre, is a force to be reckoned with in his own right. And he looks eerily similar to Whitfield. I am very much looking forward to the return of the show and I can't wait to see how McIntyre stands up in this role. Plus: blood, sex, tears! Returns January 27th on Starz.
Downton Abbey - And here I thought I was the only one who watched British period mini-series. Apparently I am not the only one who appreciates great writing and even greater acting, British-style. This show's first season received critical acclaim and it's second season is said to be just as good. Watching snotty, uptight British nobility sip tea and recite class prejudices will be a great counter to Spartans bloodying Roman nobility, also over class prejudices. Returns January 8th on PBS.
Alcatraz - I know next to nothing about this show - but the few things I do know, I'm totally on-board with: Alcatraz (ever since The Rock, anything dealing with this prison-island is a good thing, in my opinion), Jorge Garcia (this guy can do no wrong in my book), and creepy, mysterious ghosts (always a good hook). Premieres January 16th on FOX.
Of course, there are so many others I am not mentioning, but still chugging away at; The Walking Dead, Terra Nova, Happy Endings, The Vampire Diaries, Dexter, Castle, Glee, and countless more. But our days are not endless and I do have a job, after all. For the record, I am watching and enjoying all the shows listed above - they just don't hit on my fall highlights list. But that doesn't mean they aren't worth watching.
Here's hoping your holiday is full of candy, cheer and perhaps enough downtime to catch up on your backed-up DVR, because a clean DVR is a happy DVR.