This is how The Wife and I look when watching teevee. Although we usually watch stuff on the laptop. When we’re sitting in bed at night. Often I’m wearing overalls. And in general, we don’t look very Nixonish. Other than that, we look very much like these folks.
So, the 2012-2013 teevee season is in the books. How were things this year?
:: As always, favorite show goes first. So, Castle: after finally ending a kind-of rocky season 4 by finally putting Castle and Beckett in bed together, where did we go from there? Well, it was very much vintage Castle. Some of it was predictable, some of it was surprising, and most of it was a lot of fun. Seriously, Castle had a really strong season, with only a couple of “meh” episodes along the way.
I think what I like most about Castle is the fact that it’s just solid, well-made and almost always well-written traditional teevee. It’s entertaining, its got a great cast playing characters who are all different and all likeable, and there’s generally a minimum of dank, depressing stuff. That’s huge. Not everything has to be really grim and feature characters suffering through joyless lives before succumbing to violent ends.
Anyway, Castle did a lot of fun stuff with the Castle-Beckett romance. (I refuse to call this romance “Caskett”, fandom be damned!) They did the standard “We gotta keep this secret!” thing, but everybody found out in reasonably organic ways – especially Captain Gates, who at the end of one episode just matter-of-factly states, “Yeah, I know about you two. I’m not a cop for nothing.” It was nice to see the two leads get to enjoy one another, and the writers generally kept this pretty fresh, after four seasons of cat-and-mouse stuff that was starting to get a bit long-in-the-tooth. But as much as I pounded on the writers last season for stretching things out longer than they should have, they really did redeem themselves by showing, once again, that the fabled “Moonlighting curse” is pure bullshit. As I’ve said before and will continue to shout from the rooftops, Moonlighting suffered after the two leads slept together because that was the only interesting thing about them.
Meanwhile, and more importantly, Castle also finally filled in all the blanks with the mystery of the murder of Beckett’s mother. This is huge. An ongoing mytharc central-mystery story is all well and good, but this one was getting pretty maddening with the constant peeling back of yet another layer of the onion. Now we finally have our culprit: a ruthless politician, currently a Senator, named Bracken. Beckett hasn’t managed to tie him directly to her mother’s murder yet, but she knows it was him. The storyline continues, but now it’s a different tale, a “How will they get him” instead of a “Whodunit”.
So yeah, Castle had a good season. I even forgive their use of the usually-annoying ‘clip show’ device, because the clip show they did was an extra episode ABC ordered late in the year so they had little time to throw an episode together, and they used it to set up some of the doubts leading into the show’s season finale.
Nice year, Castle!
:: And on the other side of that coin, we have Bones.
This show sucks. I’m sorry, it’s just crap. The only reason it gets play in Casa Jaquandor is that the Kid likes it, and even she is starting to lose patience with it. This show is getting truly terrible, and the season finale was one of the worst I have ever seen. And believe me, folks, I have street cred when it comes to identifying terrible season finales. I remember Emma Samms getting abducted by UFOs on The Colbys, for God’s sake.
Bones has in the past had a particularly nasty killer recur throughout an entire season, and this year was no different. The problems, however, were numerous: this guy, named Pelant, is first of all played by the least charismatic actor I have ever seen play a major villain. And believe me, I have street cred on that too (remember the name of the guy who played the main villain in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies? No? Well, neither does anybody else). Worse, Pelant is written horribly. He’s one of those superduper computer geniuses who can do anything with a computer, so when we see him, he’s sitting in a room somewhere with a single keyboard and several monitors. And he does things like take over an aerial drone so he can destroy a town someplace, while at the same time emptying the bank accounts of one of the main characters, so their choice is: save the town or save the money.
Or in the season finale, when he was able to use his computer to literally bring several blocks of Washington, DC traffic to a complete standstill, immobilizing one of the main characters long enough for someone he’s been manipulating (oh yeah, he’s also a psychological genius) to kill him. Now, it seems to me that if the FBI knew that there was a guy out there who could do stuff like that, they would make capturing him one of the country’s highest priorities. There would be a massive manhunt, comprising nearly every federal, state, and local law enforcement body. Not Bones, however; after this guy strikes, the leads go for a picnic. Ugly, stupid writing. And worst of all, they didn’t even catch the guy! So the worst villain on teevee will still be kicking next season, and the writers have already intimated that he may well last quite a lot longer than that.
There is nothing worse than when a teevee show’s creative team falls in love with something that sucks.
:: And then we have The Mentalist, which just kind of ekes along, never really great, never actually bad. This show’s cast deserves much better writers, too. The show will quite often start to show signs that it’s about to do something very interesting – but then they rope it back in. It’s almost as if the writers are timid; I get the sense that they are literally afraid to actually go in the direction it seems they want.
There was one episode that had Patrick Jane hallucinating his dead daughter at the age she would be had Red John not killed her. It was a fascinating trip into the darkness that must lie at Jane’s heart, but the show stepped back from that brink just as it was getting really good. Later in the season, one of the CBI higher-ups was revealed to have a very grim secret of his own from his past, and it was frankly the type of dark secret that feels too gutsy for this show. So The Mentalist keeps on trucking. I like it and still watch it, but man, does it feel like missed potential.
(I’ve given up hope that they have any intention of ever wrapping up the Red John storyline. I think that will still be unresolved when the show gets canceled. We’ll never get an answers, because at this point, Red John is too mythical in his amazing status to really be dealt with as a criminal. This is a shame, because even A. Conan Doyle knew that eventually we had to actually meet Moriarty.)
:: I’ve already written about the frustrations of being a Once Upon a Time viewer. Needless to say, the show carried those frustrations right up to the season finale, which amped things up to a cliffhanger. No big deal, that – cliffhangers are the lay of the land nowadays – but one problem with this show has always been that the writers generally are not quite good enough to maintain all the storylines they have going at once. So of course they did what such writers tend to do: they created even more storylines. The show is still fun to watch and I still love the cast (although frankly I’d watch a show that consisted of Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle sitting at a table, reading the phone book to one another), but it’s constantly toeing the line beyond which the show will spin out of control into a giant mess.
:: Person of Interest had a terrific second season. This show seems to me fairly underrated…either that, or I just happen to not have any friends who like it, because of all the folks I know online and off who talk about teevee shows, none of them watch this one. A pity, that – it really is a good show. This season they injected more humor, as left to its own devices, PoI can be pretty dour. The leads adopted a dog, and they have a recurring screw-up/trickster character who has the dubious distinction of being the first person whose number came up twice.
This season they finally explained just why Harold is always limping, and they moved some of the other outstanding storylines downstream a bit. Best of all, PoI doesn’t so much introduce new storylines as find interesting ways of continuing old ones. I respect that, as well as the way the show deviated from formula on occasion this year.
:: The Big Bang Theory is still hilarious, although I’ve noticed a troubling trend in which the show is moving away from treating geek-culture with loving respect and gentle kidding and toward outright mocking. But it’s still the funniest thing, week-in and week-out.
:: Two Broke Girls is my go-to for stupid sex jokes and ogling Kat Dennings. I’m still waiting for this series’s inevitable pie fight. It’s got to happen, sooner or later.
:: We actually did not adopt any new shows this year. Nothing got sufficiently high reviews from people I know to make me want to start watching any of this year’s new stuff. (Actually, not quite true – I did hear good things about The Following.) I tried Elementary, and I found it boring. We did watch Sherlock, but that deserves a post in itself. I thought I’d try Mad Men, but the pilot did nothing for me. And I just don’t have a lot of interest in the “blood, guts, and gory dysfunction” that seems to me the main motif in any “adult” series on HBO or Showtime. And yes, I know that Game of Thrones is very well made. I read the books, I know what’s coming story-wise, and I don’t care to watch what I already didn’t like reading.
:: Reality shows? Less and less. Mostly the Gordon Ramsay stuff and The Amazing Race, which is kind of dull now. Still a lot of nice travelog stuff, but I think they need to find some ways to shake up format to stay interesting.
And, that’s about it.
The single best thing I saw on any teevee show this year? This bit from Jon Stewart and his merry cohorts at The Daily Show.
We still don’t know the Russian for “Holy s***balls”, which seems to me a gaping hole in our linguistic development….
My major problem with Big Bang is that is is quite literally painful for me to watch in places. Being a very intelligent geek-girl who doesn't really fit in with "normals" I should be the person that a show like this is made for. Sadly the brilliant jokes that make me lol are quickly subjugated by ones that cause my teeth to clench and that imaginary stone to drop in my stomach. And the later moments, as you noted, are getting more frequent. Love the geek, don't mock. Is that too much to ask?