Tue
Sep 4 2012 7:52pm

Summer 2012 TV Report: New Shows

ABC Family’s BunheadsAs 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…

THE GOOD

BBC America’s CopperOf 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.

HBO’s The NewsroomThe 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.

NBC’s Go OnIn 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.

THE BAD

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 Hopebut 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 AnimalsTHE DISAPPOINTING

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.

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5 comments
Lege Artis
1. LegeArtis
Rachel, it seems we have similar taste in tv offerings...
I was looking forward to Copper, but it didn't turned up to be what I expected...
I loooove Longmire. Robert Taylor is just awesome.
The Newsroom. Hmmm. I think even group of NASA scientists use less pretentious words then these folks exchange over a morning coffee... Remember awesome Mohawk guy?

I liked pilot of The Newsroom, then I was bored, then I liked the Rudy episode, and finale was kinda meh for me...
malie
2. malie
Thank you for being so positive towards Saving Hope, this is my favorite new show of the summer. It has heart & soul mixed in with a great superb cast.Erica Durance is simply amazing as (Alex Ried) Michael Shanks is one hell of an actor.Daniel Gillies is just HOT (enough said) Saving Hope took hold of this girl and wouldn't let go. Powerful writing,an all cast, great acting. Can't wait to see what this show has in store for its Global fans around the world when it premieres its 2nd season on the CTV,hopefully that the producers will find it a much better network to keep this going on in the USA. NBC had a mega hit on there hands and they choose to dimissed this show and let the fans down (disappointed in them big time) Saving Hope you Rock!!!
Heather Waters (redline_)
5. redline_
I have to say, I was pretty disappointed in this summer's shows.

I really, really wanted to like The Newsroom, as I completely adore The West Wing and I was a journalism major, but man, I just hate it. Much as I love shipping, even I think it's ridiculous how much time these people spend discussing their love lives at work. And speaking of work, it's insulting to real journalists to have so many stories saved by family members or friends acting as sources. Then there are the infamous women issues (Mac really does seem to exist mostly to prop Will up).

May marathon Copper (Jamie Bamber's sister Anastasia Griffith co-stars, yay) and/or Longmire (Katee Sackhoff!) at some point to see if I can get into those, but I don't think either is my thing--guessing they'll end up being too procedural-driven for my tastes.
Rachel Hyland
6. RachelHyland
@ LegeArtis

Mohawk Guy! Great call. Yes, The Newsroom has many, many problems, but I've decided the good outweighs the bad. And I really love Don now, which is an impressive feat of character redemption little seen since the drippy Wesley Wyndham-Price left Buffy to somehow become awesome and badass in Angel.

@ malie

Yeah, Saving Hope got a raw deal from NBC, and really would have been a better fit for a different network, either CBS or maybe one of the smaller cable channels -- SoapNet had a hit with Being Erica, and SH is very much in that Canadian Supernatural Mystery Solving vein. (There's also the crime fighting telepath in The Listener and, of course, Lost Girl.) I'm up for Season 2, for sure! I may need to up the flouride content of my toothpaste, however; it is very sickly sweet.

@ redline_

I wrote in praise of The Newsroom in a recent issue of Geek Speak, but even when saying nice things I pointed out that it had justifiably raised the ire of some journalists "... because the show takes credit for the work of their peers. It’s set in the recent past, and with hindsight gloriously 20/20, postulates the theory that an Associate Producer should be able to easily make connections in the course of researching a story that would gain him a Peabody every night, or whatever."

I do question that decision, to set the show in the recent, real past, rather than making stuff up. Sorkin did Alternate History in The West Wing, you'd think fabricating a few international crises and the occasional national scandal would be easy enough, without resorting to making hard-working journalists look like they just weren't trying hard enough because they didn't happen to go to kindergarten with Julian Assange.

However, as I said above, for me the good outweighs the bad. I fully understand if for others the scales tip the other way; that Bin Laden episode had me so furious I almost gave up on the show entirely myself.

I think you'll like Longmire.
malie
7. Ted
I really enjoyed Longmire and am looking forward to season2. I thought Robert Taylor was fantastic as Walt longmire.
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