Another fall/spring television season is winding down (and summer shows are starting up, but that will be the subject of a different post), so it's a good time to take a look back at how new and veteran shows fared on my TiVo the past 9 months or so. Let's get started with ABC!
"Castle" has never really been a groundbreaking show in any way; it's more about Nathan Fillion's roguish charm coupled with Stana Katic's exasperation/attraction to that same charm. I haven't watched the season finale yet, which supposedly moves their relationship in one direction or the other. I'd say this season largely treaded water, and while it was never disappointing, it didn't make me feel like I had to watch it right away either. Grade: B.
"Shark Tank" (spring) continues to fascinate me, not just the awful ideas, but also the good ones. Lesson: when there are competing offers from Sharks, and they ask to step outside to make a call, don't do it! All that will happen is the competing Sharks will combine their offer into a less desirable one. I do wish they would get rid of the real estate Shark and make permanent the QVC Shark; the former sometimes comes to me across as nasty and curt, whereas the latter seems much more willing to deal and is more pleasant. Grade: B
I liked "Scandal" (spring) much more than I thought I would. It was brutally unrealistic in many ways, but at the same time, it had a compelling season-long plot arc. I think having only seven episodes worked to its advantage, in that it was a stripped down, lean story, without 57 different subplots. Grade: A-.
Much of the same could be said about "Missing," (spring) which fortunately wrapped up its plot with two minutes to go in the season/series finale. I thought Ashley Judd did quite a good job as mom/ex-CIA agent Becca Winstone, and it's too bad the show wasn't renewed. Then again, maybe it's just as well. If you think of this as a 10-hour long mini-series, like how networks used to schedule 2 hours a night for an entire week, you'd see this as a pretty kick-ass presentation. Sure, it was basically a remake of the movie Taken, but much more complicated and tense. I gather that the one of the reasons no one makes miniseries any more is that the economics don't work out; you can't syndicate them, and you can't amortize the cost of sets, etc. over a long season of 20+ episodes. "Missing" definitely looked expensive to produce (except for a few scenes that were obviously shot with a screen in the background), but most of that cost was probably marginal, not fixed, in that you weren't having to build fancy sets so much as navigate actual locations in Europe. Grade: A-.
My favorite new show is "Once Upon a Time." I've posted about it before, and my views haven't changed. I love the juxtaposition of Fairy Tale Land with Storybrooke (aka the real world), and the matching of the characters there and here. The acting is generally strong; the guy who plays Prince Charming/David makes Charming look pretty cool/studly while David is downright wimpy, and similarly Snow White would give Xena a run for her money, while Mary-Margaret in Storybrooke is so mousy. So glad this is coming back. Grade: A+
Shows I didn't watch even though they might have appealed to me
As much TV as I watch, even I have limits, so I'm not going to comment about shows like "Desperate Housewives," "Private Practice," etc. that simply don't fall within what I would be expected to like. There were some shows on ABC that either I had anticipated liking but didn't watch, or didn't watch but in retrospect maybe would have.
"The River" seemed interesting from the upfront previews, but I'm not a fan of the handheld, "you are there"-style of horror made popular by "The Blair Witch Project." The ratings for this were pretty bad, so it's just as well. A quick check of Wikipedia makes it sound like this ended with an unresolved cliffhanger, too.
Although I've never read the novel, I did like the movie version of "The Count of Monto Cristo" with Jim Cavaziel, so in retrospect, I probably should have given "Revenge" a chance, as it's basically the same storyline, which also means that the show is something of a serialized drama. Oh well, I probably watch more than enough TV as it is.
That's not a bad year for ABC. It's had some high concept shows before that have started off magnificently, only to crash and burn spectacularly ("FlashForward," anyone? Or "V"?). "Once Upon a Time" looks to have avoided that particular syndrome. "Scandal" had a nice short season, and the word is that season 2 will be 13 episodes or fewer, so it sounds like producer Shonda Rhimes likes the idea of a tighter season.