When it comes to TV, they can’t all be winners

Last week I wrote about all the shows I’m still watching (or, rather, trying desperately to catch up on) from the 2016-17 season. It’s almost hard to imagine, but it could have been much longer if not for this selection of shows that I’m either no longer watching or lost interest in before they even started.

Designated Survivor

designated-survivor

I only made it three episodes, and I’m kind of hoping someone will give me a reason to go back. I love where this show started. After a bombing essentially obliterates the US Congress — and with it the line of succession — Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland), the soon to be ex Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, finds himself the president of the United States.

I didn’t mind the time away from Kirkman’s newborn presidency to focus on the FBI investigation that clearly was going to turn up that the bombing was homegrown terrorism made to look foreign, and I even kind of liked the little bit that dealt with Kirkman’s family. But what I was really there for was to see Kirkman take on this new role, and have struggles and successes while pulling the country together.

But we can’t have nice things.

What looked like it might be an example of unity and hope as Kirkman’s old HUD staff and the former president’s staff work together and the leading senator from the other side (who seemed like a shoo-in to be the new vice president for a mixed-party administration) lends her expertise quickly became a sideshow of coup plots, backstabbing and ambition. I don’t know if it’s the current political situation in America or if it’s that I came up on The West Wing — a show full of idealism and optimism that even Republicans are known for liking despite its politics — but I just didn’t have it in me to devote my time to something that looked like it was going to give us not the best that US government has to offer, but the worst.

Frequency

This show slipped under my radar a little bit. I was late to knowing it existed, and then I was late to catching its premiere, and then I was just behind on it until episodes dropped from The CW’s free streaming rotation. And since I wasn’t too sure about it in the first place — and it didn’t get picked up for a full season, anway — I don’t feel compelled to buy the episodes I missed. Which really is too bad, because the movie it’s based on is one of my favorites.

The 2000 movie of the same name is about John (Jim Caviezel), a cop who uses an old ham radio to talk to his firefighter dad, Frank (Dennis Quaid), 30 years in the past, save Frank’s life, fix the problems that created, and work together across time to stop a serial killer. Sounds weird, I know, but I love it.

The series traded John for a female cop named Raimy, updates to the current day, and makes Frank a cop who was killed while undercover (and then presumed dirty because conspiracy!) in the 1990s. In general, the changes didn’t really bother me. Like, I’m not one of those people who’s going to sit behind my computer and shake my fist because HOW DARE they make John a woman?!! 

In fact, I would say my issues are less about what was different and more about what stayed the same. And they’re really minor things, like lines that are lifted almost word for word from the movie or idiosyncrasies that made sense for characters from the 1960s but make less sense for characters from the 90s. It sort of reminded me of when Amanda Tapping’s webseries Sanctuary got remade for TV and there was just enough that was different to be confusing and just enough that was similar to be boring.

I didn’t really find Frequency confusing or boring, it just wasn’t very compelling, either.

Pitch

pitch

My problem with Pitch, a show about the first female player in Major League Baseball isn’t really a problem with the show itself. It’s just that it was always on in the background at work, so I feel like I got the basic gist of the episode there, and given the enormousness of my TV list, it was hard to want to go back and rewatch at home. But a few episodes had passed before that started being a factor, and those episodes I really liked.

There’s something unique about the way it blends the reality of the MLB and coverage of it — like having real commentators cover the fictional games and players  (of a real team) — with the story its telling. I’m only a casual sports fan, but I’ve never felt confused by any of the sportiness, and I get the impression that the depth that it does go to — from game plans to wheeling and dealing behind the scenes — is something that people who really care about stats and trades and strategy can appreciate, too.

Cast-wise, it’s great seeing Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Ali Larter and Dan Lauria again. MPG was one of my main draws to this show, and he really underwent quite the transformation to play catcher Mike Lawson. I really do find the entire cast compelling and there are definitely a few people whose work I’m going to look further into.

If I have to find complaint with Pitch, it’s that sometimes its lead character, Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) is a little unlikeable. It’s not anybody’s fault — certainly not Bunbury’s, who’s doing a great job — it’s just the character is young with a chip on her shoulder and a lot of justified anxiety over her legendary role, and sometimes that can make her unpleasantly self-centered. It’s a 100 percent realistic attitude to have, and I get it; it’s just not always fun to see.  I’m also not too thrilled with what appears to be a Mike/Ginny romance. Maybe it’s just that she’s at the beginning of her career and he’s nearing the end of his, but I prefer them as friends and colleagues and really liked the idea of Mike and Ginny’s agent Amelia (Larter).

But ultimately, I love the way this show is put together. It’s fun. It’s dramatic. It’s wonderfully diverse and takes its role depicting a barrier-breaker seriously. It may be on the back burner until summer, but I think I’ll definitely be getting caught up at some point.

Timeless and Emerald City

Both of these shows are ones that I was initially excited for, but as time wore on I grew progressively less so and never even started them.

Regarding Timeless — I love time travel but I think the field might be a little too saturated this season. Between shows that legitimately feature it like Timeless and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and shows that trade in an abundance of flashbacks like This is Us, Pitch, Arrow and Frequency, there’s a lot to go around and Timeless started to look a little too melodramatic and soapy for my taste. Plus, I feel like I kind of get the same idea of traveling through time to fix broken histories plus a bonus dose of superheroes on Legends of Tomorrow.

But I’m still totally in for Time after Time, the new Jack the Ripper time travel series that’s set for midseason on ABC.

As for Emerald City…where do I begin? First off, I’m from Kansas, and I love The Wizard of Oz. Most of my exposure comes from the three main movies — The Wizard of Oz (1939), Return to Oz (1985) and The Great and Powerful Oz (2013) — the SciFi miniseries Tin Man and intense Wikipedia-ing of the novels. And so I was excited for a show that would bring all that back to life.

But then it started to seem — and indeed be called — a show that was essentially The Wizard of Oz meets Game of Thrones with characters that were Oz-ian in name only (and sometimes not even that, with regard to Lucas, the scarecrow stand-in) and I just can’t.

So, barring some extreme persuasion, I suspect Emerald City just isn’t for me. I might try it if I get caught up on my other things before episodes drop off of free streaming, but don’t hold your breath.

Leisure Time is on Twitter! Follow @theLTtweet for post updates and smaller thoughts.

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