New TV Season Review Part Deux

Continuing last week’s look at the new fall season, I start off with what is supposed to be the biggest budget, science fiction blockbuster of the season…


The New Shows

Terra NovaFirst the bad.  I’m sick of this same stock scenario showing up in Science Fiction over and over again, only to meet ratings failure.  The scenario?  We’ve destroyed our planet because of our greed, war, overpopulation yada, yada, yada.  Now we need to find someplace else and hopefully do things right this time.  Remember Earth 2?  Probably not.  The BBC took a try with Outcasts last year and meet with the same ratings failure.  Does anyone still think that population is the major danger facing the world?  I don’t think a social meme has been more thoroughly discredited than the thesis of Paul Erlich’s Population Bomb, the 1968 book which painted a Malthusian nightmare for a future United States.  And by future, I mean it predicted mass starvation across the United States in the 1980’s.  Remember those starving times?  Yet Terra Nova’s 2149 Chicago looks identical to the 1973 film Soylent Green’s  New York City of 2022.  Brown skies; and too many people.  People who grew up with those images as the future refuse to shake them, and are as indelible as silver suits, bubble helmets, food pills, and flying cars are for an earlier generation.  The idea of “population police” arresting people who have a third child is an idea that belongs in a 1970’s TV movie.

Or China.

The Good:  However once the action hits the prehistoric era, the show really takes off.  At that point, I didn’t feel like I was engaging in a long set up to some hopefully future story and action.  The action started immediately.  Family conflict, teens sneaking off to drink, hungry dinosaurs, and a mysterious second settlement, who are keeping some big secret as to why they are really there; gave me a satisfying good story and a desire for more.  Of course, the show is gorgeous to look at.  Filmed in Australia, the vista is lush and I admit, is a great contract to 2149 Chicago.  And the special effects, by which I mean dinosaurs, are at least Jurassic Park quality.  Not bad for a TV show.  The history of this genre usually means a show like this will maybe last the season, but won’t be picked up for a second one.  The actual audience versus the production costs will mean that the show won’t be a profitable prospect for Fox, who could probably replace it with a reality show for a tenth of the cost and twice the audience.  However, if the writing can hold up through this season, I hope to enjoy this ride as long as it lasts.

Whitney:  I wanted to like this show, and I do sort of.  For now, I find Whitney Cummings funny and she is kinda hot.  I go through these phases, almost like a comedy crush, in which I can find a certain female comedian funny; against type (because chicks generally are not funny).   But eventually I’ll tire of the humor, get bored and move on.  I think eventually, that is what will happen to me and Whitney Cummings.   It’s not you, it’s me.  I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

But for now I enjoy the show, mainly because I enjoy her and still find her funny.  It doesn’t hurt that her live in boyfriend on the show Alex (Chris D’Elia) is a good fit.  Long term however, everything about the show is same ole, same ole.  A bunch of 20 something urban “friends” getting involved in each other’s lives…  It’s almost the same background to every sitcom since Seinfeld; urban singles making it in the big city by relying on each other.  We don’t need our real families, look we’ve made a brand new one in New York City!  So my interest in this show will last  exactly as long as Whitney Cummings makes me laugh.  When that ends, there will be nothing else of the show to still keep me interested.

The Returning Shows

The OfficeThis show could have gone a lot of different directions after the departure of show star Steve Carrell; most of them dead ends.  It’s very difficult to limp along when a major character leaves.  In this case, the departure of the star should have meant a death blow to the show.  But I think the path they’ve chosen may give this show an opportunity for new life.

Although I have been a loyal Office fan, I admit that my interest has waned a bit the past few seasons.  I mean, how long are they going to film this documentary?  But the addition of James Spader’s Robert California has breathed new life into the show.  Spader showed up in last year’s season finale as an interviewee to replace Michael Scott as Manager.  The couple of minutes of screen time was so compelling, that I would consider it Emmy worthy.  Truly, great acting as Spader’s character shows himself so supremely confident that he intimidates the search committee into selecting him.  As the new season opens Jim’s to-the-camera interview reveals that Robert California immediately drove to Florida and talked the CEO out of her job, a concept that seems totally plausible given how Spader is portraying the character.  I think James Spader is a great addition to the show, and actually may have been the only direction the show could go into that would continue to make The Office worth seeing.

The Big Bang TheoryI would have been looking forward to this show coming back anyway; it’s one of my favorites, but the last season ended with a cliffhanger of sorts.  After a drunken evening, Raj sleeps with Penny… or did he?  That the social awkwardness of the situation could be diffused by the end of the premiere episode should provide its own answer.

So simple plotlines yes, but great characters, also yes.  The show manages to slice and dice the major symptoms of nerddom amongst its four major male leads.  And someone has gotten geek culture down pat.  The constant nerd talk is backed up by solid writing.  The show probably depends on its technical advisors for nerd culture as much as it does for its physics-speak.

And of course, any show that has as its main character someone who displays many of the symptoms of Asperger’s  is  OK in my book.  That’s a hard acting job to pull off and Jim Parson’s does it brilliantly as Dr. Sheldon Cooper.  Hopefully this season will finally get Penny and Leonard back together.  I’ve got bets on this!


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