I work evenings and don’t have cable, so most of my current-season TV watching is done via Hulu. When I got home last night I stayed up until 3 a.m. waiting for Heroes Reborn to be available before realizing I should just treat it like Christmas: The faster I fall asleep, the sooner it will be here. And when I woke up, I got the present I’d been waiting for.
If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that about 10 minutes after expressing my general approval of the Grimm season 3 finale (despite a development that I will not be in favor of, if it results in a certain somebody dying), I realized something.
All the finales and penultimate episodes I’ve seen over the past few weeks have shared two common threads: Somebody did something stupid, and something bad happened. Not necessarily in that order. And while that doesn’t always result in a bad episode, it’s my least favorite way for stories to progress.
Let’s break it down by show. Spoilers, obviously:
UPDATED: Adds premiere dates, Scorpion.
Last year I did this post much closer to the start of the fall TV season, but I’m trying to do a weekly post, and the other two posts I’ve got could use some time to simmer. So here’s all the stuff that caught my interest from the network upfronts last week. Again, like last year, I’m sure it won’t all stick, but there are fewer shows I feel that way about. All times are central time.
Cable has become a costly nightmare, so I’m cutting the cord (again). In these final days before turning in my DVR, the mad dash to watch everything I care about has revealed some interesting things.
I love Teen Wolf
I just do, and you can judge all you want, because I don’t care. For a soapy action/supernatural MTV show, it’s a lot of fun, still a little suspenseful, and surprisingly poignant. Sure, it has more loose threads than a broken loom and maybe gets a tiny bit less good with each season, but I’ll be disappointed to lose all 24 episodes of season 3 that I couldn’t bear to delete. Season 4 this June!
Trophy Wife is my second-favorite new show of the season
At first, I just liked having more Bradley Whitford on my TV, but honestly, this show about a thrice-married guy, his new younger wife, three kids and zany relationships with the exes just tickles my feel-good family funny-bone, even if it did take a massive build-up and binge-watch to realize. Sadly, The Cancelation Bear is also predicting its demise. I will not be a happy camper if this season eats Trophy Wife and The Crazy Ones.
Castle isn’t what it used to be
There was a time when, thanks to my wacky work schedule, I’d get home at 11:30 Monday night and immediately watch the Castle episode that aired a few hours earlier and then start my weekend. I don’t do that so much anymore. I’m not sure if it’s because the quality never quite came back from the lows of season four or it’s because of all the Teen Wolf I rushed home to watch instead, but I seemed to be perpetually three or four episodes behind this season. But once I start watching, I’m more than happy to be doing so! It’s kind of like get-togethers: I never really want to go until I get there.
Dads, Mom and Michael J. Fox just couldn’t cut it
Don’t get me wrong: I was also really happy to have Seth Green, Allison Janney and Michael J. Fox back on my TV in their respective shows, but there just wasn’t enough to care about here. I didn’t delete these shows unless I desperately needed space, but once I stopped watching them, I never picked them back up and probably won’t now. The Michael J. Fox Show already ate it (and for a while I wasn’t sure if it had been canceled or if I had just stopped recording it to save room for other things), the future looks grim for Dads, and Mom has already been renewed. Send some of that West Wing alum mojo Brad Whitford’s way, Allison!
Nothing escaped the occasional episode build-up, but sometimes it’s just because I was busy
I don’t really have anything bad to say about Grimm, The Middle, Modern Family, Raising Hope, The Americans or Ink Master. Well, Ink Master’s a trainwreck, but I can’t seem to stop watching it. The rest are comfort shows well into their runs. (Except The Americans which is only in its second season, but I hope sticks around).
I will (probably) never watch Early Edition
Last year, I was introduced to Friday Night Lights and when I was done, decided I needed more Kyle Chandler in my life. Right about the time I was wishing for that, The TV Guide Channel started airing two back-to-back episodes of Early Edition five days a week, and I recorded almost all of them. It’s a fun show full of 90s nostalgia (a cat delivers tomorrow’s newspaper today to a guy who then stops all the bad things from happening while not giving up his secret paper), but it’s not so good for binge watching. I still have something like 15 episodes, and I’m not going to watch them. Maybe someday they’ll stream somewhere or all seasons will hit DVD. But until that day, goodbye “Gary, Gary Hobson.”
Some things just need picking up next season
I have no idea why I stopped watching Parks & Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I just did, and even though I still have them, I seriously doubt I’ll get through them before my time runs out. But hopefully the stars will align, and they’ll all be streaming in time to get caught up before next season (which will also be at the mercy of the streaming gods) gets too far under way. I’m hoping for the same thing with Agents of SHIELD, except I know exactly why I stopped watching (and recording) that: It just wasn’t that great. But on a whim, I thought I’d try to catch up on Hulu, and *just when it was starting to get good* I hit a block of missing episodes.
So there it is. That’s what the last two years of cable hath wrought for me. In related news, I’m also watching Arrow for the first time and have just hit the last season I saw of Supernatural (season six) on Netflix, so I might try to get caught up for them, too. Arrow definitely, but maybe not Supernatural, especially since I hear it gets pretty bad.
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Of the three doomed NBC sitcoms I was most excited about at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, “Go On,” is the only one I’m really going to miss. “Guys With Kids,” a show whose plot really is summarized by its name, was awful. The third show, “The New Normal,” could have been really good, but it got too caught up in soap-boxing and relied far to heavily on its precocious child.
But “Go On” was legitimately a good show, even if I did just now finish it, because I let it build up on my DVR for 3/4 of the season. If it had gotten a season two, it would have been appointment television, for sure. But it’s also the one I was most unsure about when the season started. I thought “Guys” would make it, just because it felt a little like a half-assed version of ’90s NBC. And ’90s NBC is typically a pretty safe place to be. Originally, I thought “Normal” would overcome the markets that refused to air a show about gay men, their surrogate and her kid and bigoted grandma all living in California, but as it veered toward the insufferable, cancellation seemed more than likely.
With “Go On,” Matthew Perry’s show about a widower sports radio host attending group therapy, my first thought was “How do you make that funny and sustain it without being wildly offensive?” This was a thought that stuck with me for the first couple episodes when characters felt a little more like stereotypes, and a future romance between either Perry’s Ryan and Lauren (Laura Benanti), the group leader, or Carrie (Allison Miller), his work assistant, was imminent. It was OK, but it had a faint feel of cardboard and predictability.
And then it got so much better.
It stopped being “let’s watch Ryan recover and get a new girl while surrounded by kooky sidekicks!” and became “let’s watch these people deal with life together and have some fun doing it.” Pretty much all the side characters got real development — even Mr. K (Brett Gelman), who was and remained the kookiest of them all.
But I think the real beauty of it was the friendship formed between Ryan and Ann (Julie White), a tough-as-nails lawyer and mother of two grieving the loss of her wife, Patty. Not only was she an instant counterpart for Ryan, which lead to some scenes that alternated between utterly heartwarming and hilarious, but she also did something I think “The New Normal” failed spectacularly at: She seemed like a real person.
I know, “Gay people are people, too!” shouldn’t be a revolutionary concept in 2013, but it does seem like a lot of shows that even bother to broach the issue at all, do just that: They make it an ISSUE. And I guess that’s not a bad thing — I thought the episode of “The New Normal” where David dealt with being an Eagle Scout removed from his post as an adult leader after one parent reports him was timely and said some things that probably needed saying — but it seems so many shows with gay characters, make their lives revolve their sexuality, not the people and events of their life.
That wasn’t an issue with Ann, and — good or bad — it was really refreshing.
So, I’m sad to see Go On, go. Despite all the ways it could have gone wrong, ultimately there was a sophistication to it that made it special. I was really surprised not only with the way it treated the group sessions and breakout plots that made up the backbone of the series, it also deftly navigated the waters of workplace comedy as Ryan’s job and boss/best friend Steven (Star Trek’s John Cho) was a constant source of secondary stories, humor and support.
But more than that, it wasn’t afraid to not be funny. It had the wherewithal to recognize that a show about people coping with loss and life changes can’t be packed with jokes 24/7, and it had the skill to tug at heartstrings without feeling overly manipulative or going overboard. And that made the funny moments even funnier.
So long, “Go On.” You wrapped yourself up nicely, and may you get an amazing DVD set full of fun special features that will help you live on even though NBC is stupid*.
* Seriously, I accidentally watched about 10 minutes of an Office retrospective, and it was full of people saying “OMG, our first season did so bad! None of us thought we’d come back!” Not to mention Seinfeld and its slow start. (To be fair, I *do* still kind of wonder how long ‘Go On’ could keep feeling fresh, but I’m pretty sure it could have pulled out another season or two with relative ease.)
In this episode of Journeyman, holy character parallels, Batman!
Keepers has Dan traveling back to ’86, where he meets Michael Kowalchuk and his little brother Stephen, who’s kind of a genius. But somewhere between then and now (or, 2007’s “now”, but you know what I mean), Stephen went off the rails and became a kind of crazy, conspiracy-theorist serial bomber responsible for the deaths of at least two people. Throughout the episode, we learn that Michael — while originally quite antagonistic with with his little brother — cares so much about him, but is helpless when it comes to trying to help him. And we see sort of the same thing with Jack.