We’re somewhere between 5-7 episodes into the new season. Here is my impression of the shows that I am keeping up-to-date with:

The Big Bang Theory (Season 2) – After a stellar year last year, it’s been a bit of a let-down this year. But only a bit. Some of the smaller parts (Howard!) have run their course and are due for a replacement. I am enjoying the frequent guest spots of Leslie Winkle (Sarah Gilbert), though, and am not sure of what to make of Penny’s diminishing presence. It’s fallen off the Top Spot of shows I look forward to watching on Saturday, but it’s still up there.

Boston Legal (Season 5) – I decided that I wasn’t going to watch this show anymore at the end of last season, but when I found out that they were wrapping it up I wanted to watch it to its final conclusion. They’re going a lot of what they can to make me regret that decision. Some of the character development is actually better than ever, but the court scenes and moralizing are becoming almost unbearable. It seems like they feel like they should be patted on the back for talking about important issues, but it’s become the opposite of thought-provoking where any thinking other than their thinking is approached with nothing but seething contempt. Every now and again I’ll say “Amen, brother!” to one of Alan Shore’s rants (his discourse on illegal immigration was particularly poignant), but it takes the wind out of those sails when the show suggests any contrary view of mine (gun control, to pick an example, or the belief that pharmaceutical companies aren’t evil) is devoid of any respectability, honesty, and decency. It’s such a tragedy because it would otherwise be an extremely fun show. Part of me thinks that now that Bush is leaving office it would get better so it’s a shame that it’s getting canceled now, but so much of the identity of the show is vested in opposition to our current government that I don’t know what they’d even do in an Obama administration.

Chuck (Season 2)- Chuck has gone completely uphill since last season. I don’t have a whole lot specific to say other than that it’s gotten so much better across the board. They really hit their stride.

Dirty Sexy Money (Season 2) – The show has improved, but with one major caveat. I’m getting more and more interested in the goings-on of the Darling family, but they’re walking a fine line with a long descent into eye-rolling, melodramatic crap with one slip. There really is a fine line between riveting and ridiculous.

The Ex List (Season 1) – The show seems to have gone hiatus, which is just well. It’s interesting, but in a take-it-or-leave-it sort of way. The basic storyline is that the main character is told by a psychic that she has to get together with the man of her dreams or she will live the rest of her life alone. Oh, and the man of her dreams is someone that she’s already dated. So she’s combing through her love-life trying to reconnect with former lovers and having former lovers thrust back into her life. Some drama, but mostly humor ensues. It’s a good show, but not a particularly gripping one. It’s kind of the opposite of Dirty Sexy Money that way.

Fringe (Season 1) – Lost+([X-Files]-aliens), in a nutshell. Except maybe there are aliens, but that’s not really the part being explored. Where Lost succeeded and Fringe is thus far failing is that when it came to Lost I wanted to know what was going on. It started slow and started building mystery. Fringe has announced the mystery at the outset without dedicating a whole lot of time and energy into explaining why we should care. The individual episodes are interesting, but not as good as the average episode of X-Files. I’ll give it a season since it took me that long to get interested in Lost, but my hopes are not high.

How I Met Your Mother (Season 4) – This has become the show for me this season. The Stella subplot really worked in the same way that the relationship with Robin did. You know it’s not going to work and you know that it shouldn’t work, but you’re curious on the “why” and “how” of it not working. And they keep it funny along the way.

Life (Season 2) – The weakest part of the first season was that the individual cases being investigated were gimmicky without being particularly interesting and they were resolved in ways that we did not have much room to speculate ourselves. They’ve improved on that a little bit this season, but not much. No matter, this show easily has the best characters on television in Charley Crews and Danni Reese. I’d watch those two deliver mail together. Plus, the build-up on the question of Who Framed Charlie is getting better with the definite feel that the writers have a plan.

The Office (Season 5) – It’s odd that a couple reviews have talked about the improvement this season has been over last, but I disagree. I thought last season was pretty strong and this one is telling me that the show has probably run its course. Even in its weakened state it’s still a fun and funny show, but it’s gotten too involved in the private lives of the employees and not enough actual office humor.

Worst Week (Season 1) – This show is slapstick and predictable and yet still somehow thoroughly enjoyable. This show is Murphy’s Law embodied where anything that can go wrong in the like of Sam will go wrong. Sam is about to get married and desperately wants to win the approval of his in-laws, but reality finds every possible way to conspire against him. If there is something that his future in-laws express love for, you know that minute that it will be destroyed by the end of the episode. The beauty isn’t in what happens, since that’s always obvious, but how it happens. And the writer’s do a fantastic job of laying the mouse-trap, so to speak, so just about everything that happens can be predicted if you’re astute enough and paying close enough attention. It’s like a puzzle. I can’t imagine that the formula won’t get old by the end of the season, but I’m certainly enjoying it at the moment.

Addendum:

  • Becky has a list.
  • Whiskey goes all existential in reviewing Chuck.
  • Phi has a real problem with the latest season of The Office.
  • Listing of TV shows and their current status.
  • Write a post about a TV show, get a link here…

Category: Theater

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13 Responses to 2008 TV Season Starter Review

  1. Becky says:

    I just posted on this as well, though more in list form 🙂 We have quite a few shows in common. I agree with you on Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, Fringe, The Office, and Life. I think Big Bang is funnier this season to me and I’m getting more frustrated with Dirty Sexy Money. Someone commented on my blog that The Ex List was canceled (she’s a media buyer), so I guess that’s now part of our Ex-list 🙂 One of the reasons I like Life is Damian Lewis — he just fascinates me, going back to Band of Brothers.

  2. Webmaster says:

    The Big Bang Theory (Season 2) – Had a couple friends try to get me into this one. Never could see the appeal of it, really. It spent more time on stereotypes (deserved and undeserved alike) and I really just couldn’t enjoy the premise.

    Boston Legal (Season 5)…it’s become the opposite of thought-provoking where any thinking other than their thinking is approached with nothing but seething contempt…. Alan Shore’s rants (his discourse on illegal immigration was particularly poignant)

    Funny, that’s precisely why I never liked the show. They spent more time getting on their high horse than I have any desire to see (just like how, after Sorkin left, West Wing went downhill so dramatically). I happened to catch a youtube clip of the Shore rant you speak of and found it universally disgusting. If you can make a thoughtful, compelling show, great but Boston Legal never was.

    Chuck (Season 2) – Might give it a second chance. Was not that impressed with the first season, but I thought the premise had potential that the writers were missing. First season very much had me thinking that someone was trying to mimic Get Smart and failing badly.

    I’m going to add my own – House. Hugh and his wife got me into it during the summer and I got caught up on it (admittedly, I enjoy shows more when I have an entire season to see at once rather than waiting on them). “Differential Diagnosis”: they took an awfully big risk expanding the cast when they started season 4, but the chosen actors have worked out well, the altered parts have worked out well for most of the other characters, and this season’s ramped it back up again. The new characters play against the old particularly well and they’ve been able to explore some new ideas (certain cast members in some self-destructive behavior) that wouldn’t really have been possible or in-character with the old crowd. I eagerly await this upcoming Wednesday’s episode almost as much as I await this week’s South Park.

  3. Spungen says:

    Re Fringe: I stopped watching after that episode where she told that RIDICULOUS story about being 9 years old and shooting her stepfather for hitting her mother. Oh, I see, so THAT’S why she’s an FBI agent! THAT’S why we’re supposed to sympathize with her! Gee, good thing nothing happens to nine-year-olds who shoot people, like arrest or juvie or intense psychotherapy. Good thing it doesn’t affect their mental health in any significant way, such that it might get them weeded out as law enforcement candidates.

    The show irritates me the same way Millenium did. It wants to be X-Files, but lacks the subtlety and quirkiness. Tired, hamfisted, manipulative scenarios, particularly regarding women. Ever notice how no one ever got raped on X-Files, but there was a sex crime on Millenium every other week?

  4. David Alexander says:

    It’s interesting that despite having a DVR in my room, my TV viewing has declined considerably, and most of the time, the TV serves as background noise for when I’m using the computer. Several years of attending night classes can easily destroy years of established TV watching habits. I don’t think there’s anything that I’m particularly attached to at this point.

  5. trumwill says:

    Becky,

    What’s your beef against DSM? Too melodramatic? Not enough focus on the search for Nick’s father’s killer?

  6. trumwill says:

    Web,

    The Big Bang Theory – I don’t mind the stereotypes. They’re mostly affectionate (except Howard). To each their own, though.

    Boston Legal – Our different reactions to the immigration monologue are indicative of the notion that you have to already agree to find it worthwhile. Actually, even agreement doesn’t do the trick. You have to feel almost the exact same way or be so angry or frustrated about the topic that you can overlook the smears. To this day the most bitter I am about any of his rants was the death penalty case where I essentially agreed with Shore but was furious with his delivery.

    Regarding The West Wing, I really didn’t think that it got too preachy towards the end so much as it got too wild with the plots so that each event was more catastrophic than the last.

    Chuck – You know, I liked Get Smart as a kid, but after watching a couple old episodes I don’t find it nearly as interesting (haven’t seen the movie). Did you watch Chuck the whole season last season? I was pretty lukewarm at first, but it got better as the season progressed. Right now it’s a tad better than it was at the end of last season.

    House – Clancy and I started watching that one a while back, actually. We liked it, but she didn’t want to come home from the hospital to watch a TV show about a hospital. She loved the main character, though. I liked the show already, though it was a little too episode-oriented (as opposed to arc-oriented) for my taste.

  7. trumwill says:

    Spungen,

    You know, I forgot all about that little subplot. I don’t think it bothered me as much as it bothered you. I agree with your complaints about the series at-large, though now that you mention it that aspect is pretty ridiculous.

  8. trumwill says:

    David,

    I stopped watching TV in college, too, except what my roommates kept on in the room. I also mostly watch TV in the background (or listen to it while I’m walking about), which is how I can watch as much as I do on my schedule.

  9. Webmaster says:

    House has gotten a lot more arc-oriented during season 3 onward; I think you’d like it a bit more in that fashion now. I can see where Clancy might not want to watch medical dramas… think of it more as Sherlock Holmes that just happens to be in a hospital 🙂

    As for Get Smart… I enjoy it to this day (even own the entire-series box set from Time Life). The movie did a great job of bringing it forward, and I really enjoyed the new “take” on it.

  10. trumwill says:

    For what it’s worth, from what I recall, the medicine on House wasn’t ridiculously off-base.

    If I recall, the biggest problem with it was that they started looking for zebras really early on when horses were likely. Given that it’s a 45 minute show, though, they do kind of have to get to the point.

  11. Webmaster says:

    Boston Legal – Our different reactions to the immigration monologue are indicative of the notion that you have to already agree to find it worthwhile. Actually, even agreement doesn’t do the trick. You have to feel almost the exact same way or be so angry or frustrated about the topic that you can overlook the smears. To this day the most bitter I am about any of his rants was the death penalty case where I essentially agreed with Shore but was furious with his delivery.

    This was my main problem with West Wing. While Sorkin was at the helm, it was apparent that despite Sorkin pushing his own viewpoint on “how things should be” (and the prez/hero being a Democrat, which was how Sorkin wanted it to be, and the idea that the Democrats would inevitably “win” each confrontation “as it should be” because they he believed them, and the Democrat characters believed themselves to be, “the good guys”), he was giving a fair shake to the other side and at least doing his level best to present the conundrum in a way that the other side wouldn’t feel insulted/demonized/smeared/caricatured/etc. Best example I would hold up would be when they had John Goodman portraying a Repulican Speaker of the House who temporarily stepped in as Prez Pro-Tem, who at first glance was a caricature of what Democrats demonize Republicans as but turned out (by the end of the story arc) to be a pretty decent guy despite the off-putting mannerisms they initially layered on him.

    After Sorkin left, many episodes (not uniformly, but often enough to be a problem) felt like they’d lost that quality. The “other side” was either not present, or they were caricatured to the point where it was obvious the writers who got control of those particular episodes couldn’t put their self-righteousness aside enough to see the other side’s viewpoint from anything other than the DailyKos-style caricature/smear view.

    Boston Legal, alas, has pretty much been in the latter vein from day one. 🙁

  12. Webmaster says:

    Part of the deal with House is that they are supposed to be a “last resort” department; one episode deals with them missing a basic illness (staph infection) because the person should have been tested for it long before her case was handed to them. They start out looking for zebras because the “easy” answers have already been ruled out in some fashion, and because it’s their job to be zebra-hunters.

    I can see your point on it… it’s just not something that concerns me. Again, they tried to pattern the characters somewhat loosely on Sherlock Holmes (“House” = “Homes”, “James Wilson” = Watson”, House’s drug addiction just as Holmes had one, etc) and Holmes never started with an “easy” or “basic” case – he was never looking for horses either.

  13. trumwill says:

    (and the prez/hero being a Democrat, which was how Sorkin wanted it to be, and the idea that the Democrats would inevitably “win” each confrontation “as it should be” because they he believed them, and the Democrat characters believed themselves to be, “the good guys”),

    Ironically, it was the Sorkin presidential election that had the ridiculous caricature Republican candidate and the post-Sorkin election that had a Republican candidate that the writers obviously liked staffed by at least a couple sympathetic characters.

    Generally speaking, I agree with your characterization of the show. I just didn’t notice it being that much more pronounced after Sorkin left. I remember it there in spurts throughout. {shrug}

    Regarding House, I think that even accounting for the fact that it was a “last resort” place, they tended to move pretty quickly from A-to-Z. But seriously, if they were to investigate every plausible cause, the show would be six hours an episode and incredibly boring :). It wasn’t meant to be a knock on the show. Like I said, generally speaking they got it right. From what I recall her saying, anyway. They’ve obviously got some doctors on the writing staff.

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