Saturday, September 5, 2009

TV: Summer Review/Fall Preview

Ahh, September...summer comes to a close, the weather begins to cool and we look forward to all the glorious new and returning television ahead. Actually, the fall TV season is growing somewhat archaic in the days of DVR, On Demand, TV on DVD and internet outlets like Hulu. No one has to make appointments to watch TV. With a couple button presses or a little time on your computer, you can watch your favorite show or catch up on the buzzworthy programs you missed at any time you like.

Despite such leisure, there is still a strong desire to see the shows we love and those that everyone will be talking about before...well, everyone starts talking about them. Don't worry, the MightyMartian is here to tell you what you must watch, might want to watch and maybe a couple things to avoid. Well, at least I'll tell you what I'll be watching and not.

Let's start with a recap of summer series you might have missed.

Being Human (BBC America) - A-
I could see this show being remade in America soon, but the original will probably be better. The premise sounds quirky at first: a vampire, ghost and werewolf share a house while trying to blend in with society and deny their "problems." Mitchell, the vamp, is struggling to fight his impulses and stay away from the rest of his kind. George is ashamed of his hairy transformation and ghostly Annie is still pining for her ex-fiance. Lots of dramatic twists keep you guessing.

Leverage (TNT) - B
Fun, fast-paced caper series about con-men/women playing Robin Hood to help out the little guys. The cons have the occasional Ocean's 11 feel to them and the cast, anchored by Timothy Hutton, is incredibly likeable.

In Plain Sight (USA) - B
Mary McCormick is the biggest reason to watch this show about Witness Protection agents. Her supporting cast is the rest. The "witness-of-the-week" plots are a little dull sometimes, but still watchable.

Defying Gravity (ABC) - B-
A lushly produced astronaut soap opera that starts slow before wrapping you up in its characters. Bouncing back and forth between the character's lives before and during a big space mission, the drama won't really appeal to sci-fi fans despite the setting. I suspect there won't be enough interest to keep this one around, which is a shame because there is potential.

Warehouse 13 (SyFy) - C+
There is some charm to be found in the story of two Secret Service agents pulled into chasing down dangerous artifacts to be kept in a secret warehouse in South Dakota. The problem is that the plots and effects are often hokey and we've yet to build a sustained thematic element.

And now for fall's new and returning offerings. Keep in mind that some of the best shows on TV right now (Lost, Breaking Bad, 24) won't return until spring. Let's start with returning series.

Mad Men (AMC) - Premiered Aug. 16
Already back in sexy 60s style, Mad sizzles as much as ever. Don still can't grasp the concept of fidelity while trying to hold together his marriage with very pregnant Betty (who is *gasp* still smoking and is the 60s). Sterling-Cooper's new British owners are stirring up trouble and office political intrigue and the show is tackling issues with aging parents and homosexuality. Still tersely written and beautifully detailed.

The Office (NBC) - Sept. 17
I confess, the series lost a little bit of its heart when Jim and Pam finally got together, but their relationship has progressed nicely (I won't reveal last season's finale shocker for those that are behind) and the will they/won't they is replaced by Michael and Holly now. There are still guaranteed laughs in every episode.

Fringe (Fox) - Sept. 17
I never should have doubted J.J. Abrams. I wasn't certain how I felt about this pseudo-X-Files thriller at first, but the latter half of the season found its own voice and chilling thematic elements. Fringe is Lost without duping viewers into following a sci-fi premise disguised as a drama. It's edgy concept storytelling that will occasionally leave you staring at your TV in awe and I can't wait to see where it goes next. I fear a move to Thursday (up against Grey's, CSI and NBC comedies) could hurt.

Heroes (NBC) - Sept. 21
Oh, your first season, you were quite possibly the most innovative, well-constructed comic book story ever conceived. You juggled a great cast of characters, a strong storyline and several intriguing sub-plots. In two seasons since everything has gone to shit...and that's the kindest way to put it. I'm strongly debating tuning in for the next season (with such attention grabbing early plot leaks as Claire kissing her lesbian roommate). You'll have a short leash on my always rapidly filling DVR. Use your time there wisely.

How I Met Your Mother/Big Bang Theory (CBS) -
The best comedies on TV will now bookend CBS' Monday lineup (oddly Mother ends up in the earlier slot) and I'm so glad I finally keyed in on Big Bang's immense pool of laughs. Sheldon might be one of the greatest oddball characters ever conceived.

Southland (NBC) - Oct. 23
In the wake of gritty cop dramas like Homicide, The Wire and The Shield, it's hard to tell if this one will live up to the legacy, but the first season finished strong.

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (NBC)
I was a little concerned Conan would lose some of his edgy humor moving to an earlier slot, but he hasn't. Letterman may still have the overall ratings, but Conan has to be winning younger viewers.

Dollhouse (Fox) - Sept. 25
I admit, I'm amazed this was renewed. Not always up to Joss Whedon's brilliant standards (admittedly, that can't be easy to accomplish), but the latter half of the debut season got much better and there are some great ideas to build upon.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network) - Oct. 2
Quite possibly the biggest surprise of the previous season, the Star Wars universe is exciting again, even though we know what happens down the road, there are plenty of characters and plotlines here that will be fun to follow.

Now on to the new series debuting this fall.

V (ABC) - Nov. 3
The original V miniseries in the 80s were probably the must-see TV events of my youth. Epic alien invasion drama played out over a couple weeks with WWII allegory and lizard people pretending to be human? Sign. me. up. The remake promises to stick with the winning formula, updating the premise to our post-9/11 world and certainly kicking the special effects and production values up a few notches.

Flash-Forward (ABC) - Sept. 24
Attempting to fill the void that Lost will inevitably leave after its final season, this new drama also has a great mind-bending concept. On a random morning, the entire world blacks out for over two minutes and many see visions of a future in six months. The blackout causes worldwide destruction and carnage along with the trauma of futures terrifying and exciting to those who saw it. This will be the water-cooler series of the season.

Glee (Fox) - Sept. 9
The pilot, previewed in late spring, was incredibly fun and outlandish...High School Musical as semi-dark comedy. Centered around an unwanted glee club with varied members in it for varied reasons...the casting is excellent and the pilot's featured songs were toe-tapping (okay, I sang along, too).

Eastwick (ABC) - Sept. 23
Another attempt at a series based on The Witches of Eastwick? I was ready to ignore this one, but Paul Gross (of DueSouth) involvement guarantees I'll watch at least a couple episodes.

Community (NBC) - Sept. 17
Chevy Chase isn't really the draw on this new comedy set at a community college, it's Joel McHale. It's got to be better than the uneven Parks and Recreation.

Vampire Diaries (CW) - Sept. 10
Is it too much to hope that this is a new Buffy/Angel? Yes, but I'll give it a shot, hoping that it's more True Blood than Twilight.

What I won't be watching:

The Jay Leno Show (NBC)
Really, NBC? You've given up on producing new dramas for the ten o'clock hour entirely? So you're giving it over to Leno every night of the week? Good luck with that...

Melrose Place (CW)
Okay, I admit, I may actually check this out...the same way I did the first ep of 90210. I mean, I grew up with this stuff...I was a horny teenager when Heather Locklear was running around in micro-skirts and Laura Leighton (returning for this update) was sleeping with everyone. But taking my hormones out of the equation, I know it was a lot of sudsy flash.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
Nope...I don't do shows with acronyms or dozens of spin-offs. It just seems lazy... (V doesn't count.)

Mercy (NBC)
Medical dramas are temporarily done and this one looks so melodramatic...

Brothers (Fox)
This looks like the most generic comedy ever conceived...and then they asked Michael Strahan to star.

Three Rivers (CBS)
See Mercy above...

Whew...that was long. Choose your TV viewing wisely, my friends. Your DVR can only hold so much (esp. if you record in HD).


  1. Holy Crap! When am I supposed to study for my comps!?!? LOL.

    Outside of the Spring premiere of Lost, I'm most excited for my CSB Monday nights...thought I'm not a fan of Three and a Half Men, which I'm guessing will still be somewhere in that line up.

    To make my limited TV viewing time even more complicated, we just got Showtime turned on today and I now see that I can watch any season of Weeds/The Tudors/Dextor/among others any time for free. CRIKEY!

    Thanks for the preview...definitely going to check out V...wasn't really on my radar before...

  2. Awesome. Thanks for this. I rarely follow TV shows anymore, but maybe I'll check out a few. (I always feel so overwhelmed... or annoyed... when I do.) Also, when Heroes died, so did my belief in good TV.

  3. Community's pilot was pretty funny. Even Chevy Chase was alright in it, probably because he didn't do very much.

    Heroes never really clicked for me. The first season was pretty good but even then I felt like it spent way too much time spinning its wheels.