Wednesday, November 23, 2011

3-Sentence Reviews: November Sweeps 2011

Rather than reviewing television shows at the beginning of the season, this year I've waited until the November sweeps to see what survived, both in terms of my interest and the ratings.

The promise of "Steven Spielberg does dinosaurs on TV" was enough to draw me into Terra Nova, and a month or two in, there's not much keeping me there.  Shows have tried very hard to claim the "spiritual successor to Lost" title and largely failed because they never learned the lesson that Lost was more about the characters than the setting or mythology.  Dinosaurs, time travel, and mysterious antagonists are fine and good, but this show is going to need interesting characters besides Commander Taylor if it wants to survive.

It's been clear to me for some time that eventually, at some point, I would stop being able to bring myself to care about the psychological insecurities of doctors on House, and that point is now.  Park and Adams are okay--and this season is much better than that disaster of a seventh season we just had to endure--but the show has been in decline since the end of the third season.  With any luck, this eighth season will be the last, and the announcement of an end date will spark a return to form for the rest of the year.

Zooey Deschanel vehicle New Girl knows it's a Zooey Deschanel vehicle, and at least it's been true to its mission.  While none of the characters are as interesting as Deschanel's Jess, the show has enough laugh-out-loud moments per episode that I'm still watching.  Its biggest trap is going to be becoming too relationship-y; The Big Bang Theory went from excellent to awful when it became "geek Friends," and New Girl desperately needs to avoid becoming "quirk Friends".

That The Office has managed to keep itself afloat without Michael Scott says a lot for the quality of the writing and the rest of the ensemble.  The old tone and character is still there, and the brilliant Ed Helms portrays boss-Andy just as engagingly as he did worker-Andy.  My only reservation is new big-boss Robert California; instead of the comedic ineptitude that we're used to from the show, he gives us unsettling corporatism.

Points for my new favorite show of the year go to Person of Interest, a very CBS procedural starring Jesus and Ben Linus Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson.  It's disorienting but refreshing to hear Michael Emerson not lie whenever he talks, and if nobody has managed to become to spiritual successor to Lost yet, Caviezel's Mr. Reese may well have become the spiritual successor to Jack Bauer.  I'm not sure I need the Detective Carter storyline, and we'll wait to judge the overarching Elias plot until the end of the season; for now, I'm just enjoying the weekly antics of Finch and Reese.

I'm a little angry at The Mentalist for (apparently) breaking the Megatron Rule; in keeping antagonist Red John alive, they've completely negated the impact of the show's best episode, last year's season finale.  Maybe the show will finally move past Red John at some point.  But even if it doesn't, it remains one of TV's best procedurals, with trademark deadpan, snarky tone, and one of the most memorable and likeable leading characters on TV.

Currently listening: "Congratulations," the Juliana Theory

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