Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New Fall Season - The Nine, Lost and more

I continue to be pleased and impressed with the new TV season. Now if only more people were. The mind boggles at what is getting big ratings (Deal or No Deal? Really? Isn't that just Millionaire, which nobody even *remembers* anymore, with hotter girls and a bald Howie Mandel?) and what isn't (if NBC cuts Studio 60 short, I'm gonna be pissed... mostly at the vast number of viewers who weren't tuning in but who spend their time watching Survivor: Race War or whatever godawful sitcom is running against it). The only downside of this season, which has thus far presented more great TV than I've seen in about three years, is that nobody seems to be watching all this great TV. It seems entirely likely that after a great development season, we could see all these promising shows cut down by low ratings, only to be replaced by worse shows next year.

How is Heroes (which I'm already getting bored with, two episodes in, and I'm a *superhero genre fan*) getting bigger ratings than Studio 60 (which continues to be great with each episode)? How does CSI, a dull procedural, beat out Smith, a clever and stylish show about the other side of the law? I'm not trying to say everybody should love what I love, but I sure as hell wish more people did, because it would stop all the entertainment I love from going away before I'm done with it. Selfish? Well, yeah. I'll admit that.

At any rate, tonight and Tuesday featured the premiere of some new stuff. In fact, I'm still catching up, since I don't watch TV on Tuesday nights, so I haven't watched the latest episodes of Kidnapped (another low-rated favorite), The Unit (which I can take or leave at this point) or Smith (which I'm planning on watching next). What I did watch tonight:

Lost - Tons more questions, and I'm dying to know more about The Others now. I'm actually pretty much OK with the rate at which the creators are doling out answers, as they offer up some hints but always raise more questions. The quality of the writing is such that I'm always pulled in. My only complaints about the season opener are twofold: 1) I really would have liked to see more of the rest of the cast, besides Jack, Sawyer and Kate, who are the most over-exposed and often-times least interesting members of the show and 2) I was kinda bored with Jack's flashback. It wasn't bad, by any means, always watchable, but I was never on the edge of my seat. Jack suffers from the "Cyclops" syndrome... he's the stable leader type, and so a lot of writers can do one of two modes. Either he's in full-on control, which is boring but noble, or he's on the verge of losing it from the pressure, which often comes off as whiny or self-indulgent. Jack is an interesting character, it's just that he's got a lot less interesting demons than most of the rest of the cast.

Oh, and I really would have liked a two-hour season opener, which probably could have answered both of my complaints, featuring more of the ensemble cast. Still... easily in my top five shows on TV, still.

The Nine - A new one, the follow-up to Lost, and all the buzz is definitely warranted. We've all seen the hostage drama and even some of these character archetypes before, but a talented cast, a clever twist in flipping the timeline so that the show basically starts a week after the robbery and some tricks learned from shows like 24 and Lost makes for a gripping drama with lots of mysteries. I worry about how they're going to sustain those mysteries without feeling like they're dragging them out, but as with Lost, it seems the core of the show is strong characters and strong writing, and seeing how people pick up their lives *after* a traumatic event like a hostage crisis is something we haven't really seen a lot of before. It's also perfect for serialization on TV, as opposed to the 2-hour movie format, which is pretty much perfect for the hostage drama itself.

Like I say, I wonder how this can sustain more than a season, maybe two, based on the premise, and remain satisfying. But I also wondered that about how anyone could sustain a story about a bunch of survivors crashed on an island, and that's working out quite well so far.

Veronica Mars - Lost and Battlestar Galactica both had recap shows to catch viewers up on what had gone before, but Veronica Mars is the one that really needed it, especially given it's uber-complicated season and finale last year. Still great, and Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars is one of the most watchable characters on TV, but I felt like a fresh viewing of season two would have clicked me into the show harder. It's definitely a continuation of the series, rather than a fresh start, and while I love that as a fan, I wonder if they might not have gone a slightly more accessible route for the hopefully large new fanbase they'll be getting from their new post-Gilmore Girls timeslot.

Here's hoping for big ratings, though, because I still love the show.

Revised Top 5, now that I've seen everything (except Battlestar Galactica, which starts Friday, and 30 Rock, which I'm now kind of curious about, which starts next Wednesday):

1. Studio 60 on Sunset
2. The Nine
3. Kidnapped
4. Smith
5. Heroes, but it's on the verge of being a top 4

1. Studio 60 on Sunset
2. Lost
3. The Nine
4. Kidnapped
5. Smith
6. Veronica Mars
7. The Office

And no doubt Battlestar Galactica will fit somewhere after it premieres. If I had to go to 10, I'd probably slot in Doctor Who, My Name is Earl or The Unit, but while I enjoy all of those shows, any one of them could disappear and I wouldn't much care. Everything else on my Top 10, I'll be sad to see it go. And I'll be surprised if at least half of them don't get killed by networks unwilling to let a show build its audience. My guess would be that we'll lose Studio 60, Kidnapped and probably Smith. I can't guess at Veronica Mars or The Nine until we see ratings.

Thankfully, even if the networks fuck it all up by losing all these good shows, in January we'll have nonstop Lost, nonstop 24 and new Shield, and that's all good.

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