Mike's Movie (& TV) Manifesto

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Summer/Fall TV 2012: The Rundown (Part 1)

*Possible spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

So this fall, there is a lot going on in the world of television. We have a mix of beloved shows that are coming to a close, long-running favorites that are coming back for another season of surprises and excitement around every corner, and even a few new shows that have been getting a lot of buzz due to high profile creative teams and star that are trying to make their mark on the small screen. 

For the most part, I’ll be jumping around, talking about shows new and old, and comparing them in different ways, but I have to say that even going back a few months to the Summer premiers, it is going to be an interesting year in television. When I was a kid, I always thought about television in the scope of the school year.  I knew that around the time school was starting, all of my favorite shows would be coming on, and when the school year ended, my shows would also end, and I would have the summer off just like school. I wouldn’t ever really watch much TV in the Summer anyway, and it always seemed to make sense.

Now-a-days though, I feel like the “television year” starts in the Summer, with high caliber shows trickling onto the airwaves from June on through August, and then in September, we’re hit with the mother-load, when all of the network shows come back from break, and we have a full prime-time line-up every night again up until the usual holiday breaks, and until the lull at the end of Spring.

With that in mind, going back a little to the Summer shows that we’ve already seen come and go in most cases, this was a big Summer for television as well. With the most notable show for me being Weeds, which just ended its run at the end of its 8th season. Though the show lost me somewhere in the middle, and they threatened to end a couple times to no avail, somehow that got me to come back and get caught up for the “final” final season. Though I thought it started off really strong, trying up lots of loose ends and chock-full of beefy monologues where each cast member gets to show off their acting chops while summing up the life of their character of a number of episodes. For the first chunk of the season, I was totally on board, but right there at the end, they go and pull a time jump and try to give us closure by showing us how relatively happy these people are in ten years? Cheap trick Showtime, and though I can deal with it, the one thing that I find mildly unforgivable is that amidst the long list of cameos and characters making a comeback in Nancy’s life, we neither hear nor see any sign of Celia, who was a full-fledged cast member for the first couple of seasons!

Okay, that’s enough of my Weeds rant for now. As mixed as my feelings were about the show, I still think it had a good run, and Andy has become one of my all-time favorite characters on television. In other news though (kind of literally), the new Aaron Sorkin show, Newsroom  just wrapped up a great first season! Without getting all ranty about that one, let me just say that that show had some of the best written feel-good moments I’ve experienced in a long time, and even though the show is fiction, the fact that they live in the real world made the show that much more impactful.

We saw the return of Breaking Bad, which just wrapped up the first half of its last season, and I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more coming our way before Walter White becomes Keyser Soze, or Mecha-Heisenberg, or die, or whatever. Another of my favorites returned, and though Louie is almost at the end of its third season, at least I know it will be returning next year (Mayan apocalypse permitting). The same goes with Wilfred, which, despite its creepy and off-putting nature, is actually quite entertaining when you get down to it.

Even though most shows on FX generally get the green light from me, I still refuse to give Anger Management a try. After all the drama with Charlie Sheen, I just find the guy gratuitous, and have no interest in watching that particular train wreck any longer than I need to.  Speaking of train wrecks, Girls, the fresh HBO show produced by Judd Apatow and writer/director/actress, Lena Dunham is pretty amazing, despite it being like spying on a weird love-letter that Lena Dunham wrote for herself. …

And since we’re already on the topic of train wrecks, I figure now is as good a time as any to jump into some of the new shows that I’ve had the chance to catch, and one particular train wreck stands out as being a show I peg to be a real contender this year. That show, having drawn this out as long as possible, is The Mindy Project. Aside from the fact that the show focuses on a delusional , romantic comedy obsessed sad-sack, played by series creator, Mindy Kailing, the show is written really well, and after only watching the pilot, I’m impressed. Not only do we already get to see many layers of her character, but we also get enough of a compelling story to get me to come back for more and a supporting cast, that despite a few loose ends, gets a decent amount of development and face-time as well. Overall, I’m excited for what this show has in store, and think that it’s going to do really well this year amongst some not-so-string competition.

Speaking of which, another show that got a lot of buzz during development was the Jimmy Fallon created, Guys With Kids. I could barely finish the pilot. It was so bad! Every single joke was either at the expense of the kids, or by the adults using their children as living props for jokes that were amateurish and not very bright. The show is not a complete loss though. Zach Cregger, who plays Nick was really funny, despite his wife, played by Sopranos Alum, Jamie-Lynn Sigler who apparently forgot how to act after Entourage destroyed her brain cells.

The premium networks definitely have a ton of good programming, with fan favorites like True Blood and new surprise hits like Veep keeping us entertained all summer long, while the promise of Dexter starting up again soon, along with the recent return of Boardwalk Empire among others. Cable networks like AMC and FX are holding their own though with the final season of Sons of Anarchy currently racing Breaking Bad to the end and The Walking Dead returning in just a few weeks naming just a few of the heavy hitters.

Even with all of the power behind these networks, basic cable is not going down without a fight. With a ton of new dramas like Last resort, Revolution, and Elementary joining returning hits like Person of Interest and a couple of CSIs or something, they are still on the radar. Beyond dramas though, primetime comedies are some of the most popular shows around, and if Matthew Perry’s new show Go On, or Ben and Kate can hold their own against Big Bang Theory or Modern Family then we may see a lot of fresh faces on our television screens for the long haul this year.

As I continue to delve into what’s going on in television, I’m going to talk about the risks of what happens when shows like The Office hang around even when audiences are prepared to see them off the air. I’ll also talk about what shows like American Horror Story are doing on a larger scale, and discuss in more detail about what goes into making a show good, and which shows I think will have what it takes to avoid the chopping block and make a name for themselves in television history.

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