As the summer television season commenced, and throughout much of its length, I offered up a series of posts entitled Summer Lovin’ – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 – which discussed all of the shows that would be returning to, or debuting on, our screens throughout those sunny days. Or, more particularly, those balmy nights.
Now, with the summer season drawing to a close and the fall season already upon us – it kicked off, it would appear, with the return of ABC’s Switched at Birth on September 3 – let’s take a quick look back at the good, the bad, the disappointing and the deeply depressing of the non-ratings period’s mostly cable-based offerings, broken down into two categories: New and Returning Shows.
This time, let’s look at the New…
Of the twelve new scripted shows I assayed this summer – of a possible thirteen; sorry, but I just couldn’t make it to The Closer spinoff Major Crimes – six made the grade and have perforce been added to my Season 2 Wish List. A seventh, the BBC America original series Copper, is truly excellent, but I already get my fix of gritty, distressingly sexist/racist/elitist American history from Hell on Wheels, and I found I just couldn’t add yet more of the same to my already overburdened sensibilities.
I saw ABC Family’s Bunheads through to the end of the season, and while it suffers in comparison to creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s masterwork, Gilmore Girls, it is nevertheless an enjoyable romp through small town life and big time dreams… with ballet.
TNT’s Longmire is a gritty police procedural set in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, and what with the absorbing cases, the intense interpersonal drama, the thought-provoking racial tensions and Robert Taylor’s dour, pitch-perfect portrayal of Sheriff Walt Longmire (not to mention the sparky wisecracking of Katee Sackhoff as his young helpmeet Vic), this became appointment television very quickly, and I very much look forward to Season 2.
NBC’s Saving Hope (really a Canadian production, for CTV) is a medical drama with a difference; one of the doctors is in a coma and his ghostly avatar gets about the place saving lives and angsting over his lost love, rather than merely shouting “Stat!” and “Clear!” a lot and occasionally making out in a broom closet. Stargate SG-1’s Michael Shanks plays that ghostly avatar, and is charming and handsome and marvelous as ever, while leading the cast is Erica Durance (Smallville’s Lois Lane) as his bereft fiancé – she is eminently watchable, as is Daniel Gillies (The Vampire Diaries’ Elijah). The support characters are also a lot of fun, and somehow manage to cut down Saving Hope’s schmaltz factor enough that you won’t fall into a diabetic coma by the third act. Still, have some insulin on standby, just in case.
The Newsroom, created by Aaron Sorkin (whom I love and adore), has been incredibly hit and miss for me, with only the frequent moments of monologue-y brilliance keeping me going each week – certainly, the overwrought characters that populate his fictional cable news show, the embarrassing attempts at cringe comedy and the heavy-handed self-righteousness all often have me contemplating deleting it from my viewing schedule. Still, a season finale that called the Tea Party “the American Taliban” definitely has me staying tuned for more…
Then there’s Perception, TNT’s The Mentalist/House/N3mbers hybrid starring Eric McCormack as a schizophrenic professor of neurobiology and Rachael Leigh Cook as his former student and FBI agent who has inveigled him into consulting on her cases. I LOVE THIS SHOW. It is without a doubt my favorite of the summer season. McCormack, in particular, is remarkable in this role, alternately suave and commanding in his lectures, and then erratic and peculiar in his personal life—both states utterly convincing. Quite how every other FBI unit in the country manages to get by without a tame neurobiologist is, of course, a mystery, but that is a conceit easily forgiven, considering the over-all cleverness of the concept, and of the series’ superlative writing. I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone who loves a quirky crime fighter – and who doesn’t?
Speaking of quirky crime fighters, USA’s Common Law is the only one of my chosen summer few to remain unrenewed for a second season, and while I’d not be averse to rejoining the adventures of dysfunctional police detectives Wes (Warren Cole) and Travis (Michael Ealy), I’ll shed no tears if they should happen to fade into the ether, having worked out their differences through couples counseling with the ever-lovely Sonya Walger. Although, both are very, very pretty, and obviously will be a huge loss in the eye-candy department.
In other New Show news, NBC gave us a sneak peek at the new Matthew Perry vehicle Go On, as well as zany new Scrubs-with-pets show Animal Practice, throughout the summer, ahead of their fall premieres.
I’m not sure when Perry became typecast as an arrogant, self-obsessed – yet strangely likeable – jerk, but it is a role he plays very well (I enjoyed his last season attempt at same, Mr. Sunshine, which only ran for six episodes), and Go On is a smart, funny, thoroughly enjoyable comedy with a lot of potential – though the unrelenting eccentricity of the recurring cast has the potential to get old fast, if not handled properly.
Animal Practice also offers up a cornucopia of crazy, and almost lost me about a minute in, having to it a feel very much like [adult swim]’s hilarious parody Children’s Hospital, but brought me back with solid writing, some fun relationship dynamics, the glorious beauty of Joanna Garcìa-Swisher and the uproarious inappropriateness of joyfully amoral orderly Angela, played by comedienne Betsy Sodaro.
ABC Family’s Baby Daddy turned out to be as good as we had any right to expect from an ABC Family version of Raising Hope… but that still wasn’t very good at all.
TBS’s Sullivan and Son was another sitcom that failed to appeal – it wasn’t just the racial stereotyping, it was also that the racial stereotyping wasn’t very funny.
Also, the retooled (in many senses of the word “tool”) Dallas. Not deliciously, scandalously, soapishly bad, a la Revenge. Just… bad.
Political Animals. Awesome cast – Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, — and dude, Sigourney! – an inherently intriguing concept and a well-regarded writer in Greg Berlanti. Then it all went so horribly wrong.
Also, a few episodes of The Newsroom fall under this heading, I am sorry to report. Again.
THE DEEPLY DEPRESSING
Anger Management. Hey, F/X! If you’re gonna inflict this garbage on us, the least you can do is bring back Terriers to make up for it.
TO BE CONTINUED IN… SUMMER 2012 TV REPORT: RETURNING SHOWS
Rachel Hyland is the Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.