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08 November 2011 @ 10:53 pm
Not-Yet-Canceled Television  
It occurs to me that if you had only this journal to go on, you might think that I never watch any television programs that are currently in production (except when they happen to feature Forever Knight or Highlander cast or crew).  And yet, I do watch at least 7 hours of "new" television a week in season (much of it from the seat of my exercise bike, for what that's worth).  If you're interested, here's where I am in current television:

Current UK TV

I generally get my BBC programming either on PBS or on DVD.  BBC-America and SyFy aren't options, and the one time I tried to ahem a program, my firewall/antivirus freaked out, and I backed away, duly chastened.  This means, obviously, that I am perpetually behind.  Please, no spoilers, okay?

Take Doctor Who.  (I haven't seen an episode since Amy and Rory's wedding.)  I've been watching it (mostly on PBS) since childhood.  Like most other nerds my age, I accepted the Fourth and Fifth Doctors uncritically, was uncomfortable with the Sixth Doctor, shocked by the sudden ending of my beloved Seventh Doctor, outraged by the Fox-produced nonsense of the Eighth Doctor, and initially wary but then enthusiastic about the Ninth Doctor.  Unlike everyone else, I was never keen on the Tenth Doctor; he was okay, but just not up my personal alley.  I waited him out.  So far, I quite enjoy the Eleventh Doctor, and I love the Eleventh Doctor's Companions.  (Reminder: No spoilers, please! I got ambushed by a River Song spoiler at fencing the other week, for crying out loud.)

The first season of the UK Being Human blew me out of the water.  I enjoyed it more than anything I'd seen on television in years.  Brilliant storytelling that builds on itself in a slow unfolding that you never get in US programming.  A beautiful celebration of humanity, friendship, and constructed families.  I was all set to give my heart to this show, and then the second season stomped on my heart with the hobnailed boots of mindless cliches demeaning faith and science alike.  The acting and directing remained top-notch, but my admiration for the storytelling deflated under the pathetic retreading of ground better covered by many other shows, not to mention novels and comics.  (Plus a few stupid errors with religion that even a glance at Wikipedia could have corrected.)  I expected better of them.  I expected too much.  The third season recovered ground, but... while BH is objectively one of the best and smartest shows being produced today, and I look forward to it, I'm no longer in any danger of falling head-over-heels in love with it.  It's just a very good show, not a story of my heart.

The first season of Downton Abbey struck me as the best thing I'd seen on TV since the first season of Being Human.  (PBS aired it as three long episodes, with some cuts, in the US; I know that it aired as seven short episodes, without cuts, in the UK.  I don't know what was cut.)  After the first airing, I watched the next two "live," in real broadcast time, eagerly on my living room floor in front of my television, something I had not done for a show since Young Blades.  The historical fiction makes me happy, but so do the (in most cases) well-rounded characters and many-layered interactions.  However, there were two characters whom I felt never got rounded, and their shallowness ended up contributing to what I felt was a hasty and inferior finale compared to the exceeding excellence of the preceding content.  Downton Abbey took a number of Emmys; I hadn't seen all its competition, but felt confident that it more than deserved the statuettes.  I'm looking forward to the next season, and hoping that they don't get mired in shippy stuff and neglect the historical elements that attract me.

I've read all Doyle's Holmes stories at least twice (including the late ones without Watson), and many of them many more, so I got to enjoy Sherlock in the "oh, we're in this story! wait, now we have an element of that story!" way.  It was a blast.  (I admit that they managed to take me by surprise with Mycroft, because I knew canonical Mycroft, and in my head he was therefore planted immovably at his club. All part of the fun.)  Of course as clever and talented as they are, my continued enjoyment will likely depend on their continued tributes to Doyle's work, and not venturing out on their own.

While I never saw the original, I respect and appreciate that the new Upstairs, Downstairs bowed with subtle tributes to its predecessor, honoring the fans and establishing itself as a sequel, not a dreaded remake.  The new Upstairs, Downstairs suffers a little by inevitable comparison to Downton Abbey -- they have so many elements in common, though they're set a generation apart -- but is an admirable and creditable story on its own merits, and wins hands down in the area of diversity, with compelling immigrant, non-Christian characters.

One challenge with UK shows is that they have such short seasons by US standards.  It's difficult to get deeply involved with and committed to them in the same way.

Current North American TV

I can group Castle, NCIS and Hawaii 5-O together as shows I usually catch within a week of airing, but which I don't mind missing.  They're usually pleasant, but they don't speak to me, personally.  They're exercise fare, recorded more to keep me pedaling the stationary bike than for themselves.  Similarly, The Closer is something I catch (or not) as it airs in syndication twice each weekend; it's a well-made procedural, and I'm intrigued (and sometimes appalled) by the flipping of stereotypical roles between the protagonist and her husband (if a male character treated a female character like that, surely we'd all object).  The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are things I pull up online when I need a laugh, or when the other shows fail me as exercise fodder, or the news is just particularly in need of mocking.

(I loved the first season of Bones, disliked the second, and walked away during the third.  When it began, it was full of elements that attracted me, with a kind of "daylight X-Files" dynamic.  Later, it went "taxpayer-funded Moonlighting," and I wasn't up for that.  Similarly, there was a period when I followed The Good Wife, and a point at which I walked away.  How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory I drifted from; there was never a bright line of dropping them.  I think that's everything I ever used to watch that is not yet canceled...)

Pan Am (offering me historical fiction) and Grimm (fantasy, quest and bereavement elements) are both promising new shows that might pan out to my tastes, but it's too early to say for sure.  Pan Am, to my satisfaction, makes much use of flashbacks as a storytelling device; I love the layering and suspense this produces.  I've liked their allusions to real historical events.  And I enjoy all the recurring characters so far, with the exception of Maggie; even before her maneuver at the end of the most recent episode, she rubbed me the wrong way. The most recent episode did not make me happy -- betrayal is a squick, never mind the literary mischaracterization -- but I'll be back for the next episode, and see what's in store.  They're not on notice... yet.  Grimm has had only two episodes so far, so it's too soon to say whether it will shake out and grow into itself.  At this point, I'm not feeling involved with any of the characters, and I'm not impressed by the storytelling; while it has some of the feel of Angel (good for them, and no surprise given Greenwalt), it is unfortunately burdened with some of the feel of The Cape as well (bad for them; that show did not live up to its concept and died quickly).  There's nothing there yet grabbing my imagination, but they really ought to be able to make something of the concept: build a second layer into the procedural cases, make something of the protagonist's family losses, generate a little higher purpose and angst... right?  Here's hoping.

The premiere of Once Upon a Time bowled me over.  I rewatched it the day after it aired, and I felt I was getting more from it the second time through.  Subsequent episodes have not been so very compelling, but I'm convinced that this is the best (and potentially most appealing to me) program I've seen on US TV in many years.  It's bursting with potential.  I love the two-layered storytelling, with the present-day in our world and flashbacks to the world of happy endings.  Putting together the pieces we all know from our common cultural heritage with the creators' new twists so far amuses and satisfies me.  I'm already invested in several of the characters, and intrigued by others.  There's a even a quest structure!  And a mandate for Good to triumph... eventually.  ♥  I don't, unfortunately, happen to enjoy Emma or Regina, but then, after all, Regina is a villain and I'm supposed to loathe her, and perhaps Emma will grow on me.  I look forward to this show; I watch it eagerly as it airs, commercials and all, in front of my television on Sunday nights, with no chores or distractions, and that's not something many shows win from me these days.  It may yet fall apart, of course, tick me off and push me away, but I have high hopes that it will hang together and feed my imagination happily for some time.  We shall see...

Addendum 11/11: I just caught up to the Halloween episode of Hawaii Five-O. I watched up to Danny's declaration of atheism -- this from the man who gave Kono a St. Michael medal last season -- and turned it off. That's the last straw; this ineptly-written show has nothing for me.

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greerwatsongreerwatson on November 9th, 2011 10:51 am (UTC)
I've been watching Once Upon a Time and Grimm, too. As you say, it's still a bit early to tell whether they'll stay the course. Pan Am I dropped after two episodes. It basically just...bored me. I tried a couple of the new cop shows, but none seems more than a schtick. (I'm still watching CSI, CSI: NY, Criminal Minds, and Flashpoint, which continue to please.)

As for Being Human: it had its good points and its bad ones (and I agree that the first season was the best). As you've seen the finale to Season Three, you'll know what I mean when I say that it did the "I'm-a-monster/as-a-friend-please-kill-me" scene so very much better, i.e. so much more in character, than "Last Knight".
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: bh4wiliqueen on November 9th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
So very, very right there with you. As noted in one of my posts coming to grips with the S3 finale (a process I have yet to complete, despite the passage of several months; my brain just hasn't been in a word-producing mode lately), as an FK fan I was struck by the world of difference between the last words each character heard. ~meep~

Edited at 2011-11-09 06:13 pm (UTC)
Amy R.: Character Deathbrightknightie on November 10th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
I suspect that Pan Am will move into my collection of "exercise fodder" shows -- interesting enough to occupy the time on the stationary bike, easy to replace if something else comes along.

I've never seen Flashpoint, but I was interested to observe Ion recently picking it up as that channel's only first-run programming. In 2005, Ion (then called Pax) was the US distributor of Young Blades, which at that time was one of four first-run shows on the channel (all syndicated, all Canadian).

Yes, I agree that the UK Being Human executed that concept with love, passion, energy, and, in some ways, even hope, that LK very sadly lacks. There are many reasons why, but I personally believe that one of them is that the BH team was not only setting up a new season, while Parriot was burying FK, but that the BH team was still in love with their story at that point. Parriot was not.
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: tvwiliqueen on November 9th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
Your uncertain position re: Grimm is very much congruent with mine, and I love your succinct diagnosis of where it's sitting right now. So far my most coherent comment has been "I want to hope Nick will stop behaving like such an ass to everyone once he gets his bearings, but I'm not holding my breath."

I was going to finally take a look at Pan Am last week, only to discover it's not on OnDemand, my go-to for network shows since we finally switched to digital cable over the summer. (Particularly since the local stations' HD signals are frequently degraded.) Poorly played, ABC.
Amy R.: Other Fandom Buffyversebrightknightie on November 10th, 2011 02:54 am (UTC)
FWIW, ABC offers Pan Am streaming on its own site.

Yep, Grimm is not achieving anything yet, but it's sitting on a modest suitcase of potential. Does it have the key to that suitcase? At the moment, I'm puzzled that the crimes have not been double-layered, that is, that they haven't had a metaphorical dimension... I suppose that I can tie "heritage" to both the bears' ritual and the protagonist's picking up the torch from his aunt, but... is that more work by me than by them? And the moral remains fuzzy, even so.

To be a police officer, he has to stay in one place and cannot go on the road, but his premise strikes me as perhaps better suiting a road show. What do you think?

(I'm moderately impressed that the fiancee has survived so far. Usually, of course, beloveds get killed off in the premiere to motivate the hero. Granted, she doesn't yet have a personality or anything, but at least she's alive!)
Amy R.: Other Fandom Buffyversebrightknightie on November 12th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
No spoilers, but the third episode of Grimm? Even though Grimm is set in "real" Portland -- which I applaud -- it is still reminding me of The Cape, which was set in an entirely imaginary city (more or less at the global coordinate of Miami) that was largely cut off from the rest of the nation. I think it has a lot (but not only) to do with the boss character that this show doesn't (yet?) feel to me like it could be set in the real world.
PJ1228pj1228 on November 9th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who: I've never seen a single episode. The main reason probably is that it didn't air in Germany until 2 or 3 years ago. And when it did, it collided with soccer on Saturday and I do have my preferences there:) So, Doctor Who never got a chance with me. But I did enjoy watching Torchwood.

Being Human: Like you, I was thrilled by season 1. Season 2 didn't match my expectations, and I stopped watching somewhere in the middle of season 3, and actually forgot to continue. I saw singular episodes from the US version, but the werewolf just couldn't match the UK one.

Downton Abbey: That peaked my interest when I watched the Emmy Awards. I caught glimpses of an episode in Canada, but I haven't had a chance yet to watch an entire episode. I hope it will be picked up here one day.

Sherlock: I love Sherlock. They aired 3 movies here so far. I don't know if there are more. I liked how they transferred the story to present day and yet managed to keep the feeling that Doyle wrote into it. Moriarty was rather disappointing though.

Upstairs Downstairs: Never heard of that.

PanAm: The teasers that aired while I was in Canada peaked my interest, so I watched the pilot. But somehow it didn't click. I fell asleep during the first half and haven't seen anything of it since.

Grimm/Once Upon a Time: Never heard of those.

The weekly shows I'm currently watching are Supernatural, Smallville, True Blood, Castle, Haven. (And Vampire Diaries, but that ended last week (Season 2).

Amy R.: Remote Controlbrightknightie on November 10th, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
I'm afraid that I never watched Torchwood. Friends who know me well warned me to skip it, that it would just not be to my personal tastes. I like morality! ;-)

I hope that you get a shot at Downton Abbey! The gentleman who created the show and wrote all the first-season scripts is also the author of the Oscar-winning movie Gosford Park, which is set in a similar milieu. Did that movie come to Germany?

Upstairs, Downstairs was a famous and well-regarded British show in the 1970s. "Upstairs" refers to a certain wealthy family, and "downstairs" to their servants; stories weave through both levels of society. The original was set circa 1900-1920, I think; the new one is set on the eve of World War II, in the same London house as the original, but with different tenants. Only one character carries over; she played a young housemaid in the original, and plays the elderly housekeeper in the new series.

I had never heard of the Haven you mention, so I looked it up and discovered that it is a SyFy show based on a Stephen King story. Is it a scary show?

Grimm has aired only two episodes so far. Its premise is that all the legendary monsters from fairy tales and folktales are real and living among us in the real world, disguised as humans. The hero is a police detective with the hereditary ability to see these monsters for what they are. In the premiere -- minor spoiler -- a serial killer turns out to be the Big Bad Wolf of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale. David Greenwalt, one of the creators of Angel, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off, created Grimm.

Once Upon a Time has aired only three episodes so far. Its premise is that all the characters in fairy tales (both good and evil) come from their own reality, and that the Evil Queen of the Snow White legend has cast a powerful evil spell that has transplanted them all from their home reality to a small rural town in Maine, USA. In the fairy tale world, good wins, there are happy endings, and Snow White and Prince Charming were all set to live happily ever after. Here in the real world, part of the curse is that everyone has lost their memories and think they belong here, and nothing ever changes; they are stuck, miserable without happy endings, except the Evil Queen (who is the mayor; this is her happy ending). The series begins -- no spoilers -- as the protagonists begin chipping away at the curse, getting time to begin moving again for the trapped characters, and beginning to nudge their memories. One of the things I am greatly enjoying is that each episode has a present-day story set in the town in Maine, with all the real-world characters, and also a flashback story set in the fairy-tale world, with the folktale counterparts of the real-world characters. So far, it is very promising! I'm enjoying putting the pieces together each episode, and I'm enjoying rooting for Good against Evil. :-) It will be a long road to victory, but I enjoy that I can see what the heroes are fighting for. The creators are some of the producers from Lost, and I happened to notice that Jane Espensen, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, is working on it.
skieswideopen: X-Files: Believeskieswideopen on November 11th, 2011 03:28 am (UTC)
I had never heard of the Haven you mention, so I looked it up and discovered that it is a SyFy show based on a Stephen King story. Is it a scary show?

FWIW, Haven bears almost no resemblance to King's novel, apart from a couple of character names. King's book, perhaps ironically, has no supernatural elements--it's a straight-up mystery with a lot of commentary on the nature of storytelling. Haven the show has a strong supernatural element--it's a little like The X-Files, with a mytharc that focuses on "the troubles" rather than aliens. I don't quite know whether you'd find it scary or not.
PJ1228pj1228 on November 11th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Gosford Park: Yes, that came to Germany, but I haven't seen it yet. I'll make sure to catch it when it's shown as a re-run on TV.

Haven: I've only started watching it recently. I haven't seen it from the beginning, so I'm still missing out on all the explanations and character introductions that are usually covered in the first episodes. I find it more amusing than scary. At least it's not scarier than any other show that deals with the supernatural. I watch it mostly because of the familiar scenery and the many familiar faces (you know, Canada's 47 actors). It's supposed to be set somewhere in New England, but it's undeniably Lunenburg in Nova Scotia.
Amy R.: Nick Solemnbrightknightie on November 10th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
Oh, and I meant to confirm that the US has also had just the three movies of Sherlock so far. I know that another season is planned, but I think that it has not yet aired even in the UK.

I agree that Moriarty was a bit disappointing (unlike Mycroft, who was entirely satisfactory). I suppose that the creators felt obligated to show Moriarty on screen in case they didn't get renewed and have a future opportunity, but it would have been better to continue building tension with him off-screen, in my opinion. An inferior Moriarty makes a Holmes look bad...
skieswideopen: X-Files: Believeskieswideopen on November 10th, 2011 01:14 am (UTC)
We talked about Being Human once before, I think. I still haven't seen the UK version, but I will watch the second season of the US version when it returns.

I feel like I should look up Downtown Abbey after such an endorsement!

I was enjoying Pan Am, but then didn't watch the episode in which Maggie is caught in her lie after seeing a spoiler for it. I haven't watched the most recent episode yet either, but I may. Grimm...I ranted about that on my own blog. But I'm giving it a few more episodes, because there are many shows that need a bit of time to develop. (I occasionally go back and watch the first few episodes of shows I came to love, and I'm sometimes shocked by how weak those episodes were. It's a good reminder to me not to finalize judgements too early. If the premise appeals to me, I try to give them some time.)

Edited at 2011-11-10 01:14 am (UTC)
Amy R.: Historybrightknightie on November 10th, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
Yep, we've chatted about the two Being Humans. :-) I know that I could probably hunt up SyFy's show online, but... maybe after the UK version is canceled, since I'm already wrapped up in it?

Downton Abbey has very strong historical-fiction appeal! It's an inter-class, inter-generational drama of the Gosford Park, Upstairs, Downstairs or Manor House framework, and it covers two whole years in its brief first season. (New second-season episodes come to North America in January; the UK is seeing them now.) It enthralled me, but, then again, I really wanted a new/ongoing TV show to love and look forward to! :-) It's a certain kind of lonely -- for me, anyway -- not looking forward to any in-production shows. (For a while, PBS had DA streaming on its website; I don't know whether it's still available, but I bet that PBS wouldn't lock you out for being in Canada, unlike some networks...)

Yes, I saw your Grimm post; I pretty much agree. I'm not happy with the show, but I'm not unhappy enough to toss it this soon. They are packing potential; the question will be whether they figure out how to unpack it before it gets all moldy and falls apart.

:-) Classic weak first season: Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ohmygoodness, how bad they were! And yet how good they eventually got! :-)
skieswideopen: Flashpoint: Julesskieswideopen on November 10th, 2011 04:54 am (UTC)
Classic weak first season: Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ohmygoodness, how bad they were!

Oh yes! There were some truly dreadful episode in the first seasons! I doubt it would be allowed to continue into a second season now. Which makes me wonder about all the shows that have been cancelled a few episodes that might have grown into something wonderful given a little more time.

Reading through the above comments:

Flashpoint is a very good police procedural, if you like police procedurals. It's set in Toronto, and focuses on the Special Response Unit, which is SWAT-like, but with somewhat less breaking down of doors than one tends to see in most U.S. cop shows. Like Criminal Minds, it does an excellent job of creating sympathy for the victims. Unlike Criminal Minds (which is understandable given the subject matter), it also often does a good job of creating sympathy for the perpetrators, or at least an understanding of how they got into whatever situation they find themselves in. (Not always, of course. There are some people who just aren't terribly sympathetic.) The officers involved are very much of the "ask lots of questions first, and shoot only if you absolutely have to" variety, which I very much enjoy.

(Sorry for all the editing!)

Edited at 2011-11-10 04:59 am (UTC)
Amy R.: Historybrightknightie on November 10th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
No problem with editing. I understand! :-)

>"Which makes me wonder about all the shows that have been cancelled a few episodes that might have grown into something wonderful given a little more time.

Oh, yes! I had high hopes for New Amsterdam a few years ago; it lasted, what, 5 episodes? And while Moonlight (lasted 13?) really was inferior for its first half, it pulled itself together, changed direction and was getting good across its final half. The Playboy Club this year (which I never saw) aired only 2 episodes before cancellation, I think.

This imperative to be a big hit right out of the box badly impairs the storytelling possibilities, in my opinion. No patience, no build-up, no growth, no passionate commitment to a tale... and we don't even get "movie-sized" premieres/pilots anymore to bridge the gap between those imperatives.

Have US networks come to fear and despise their audiences?

Remakes of Wiseguy and The Rifleman and CBS's Beauty and the Beast are all reported to be in development. Those were truly great shows, but can't we have some new stories?

Ah, I whine. Please excuse me. :-)

Regarding Flashpoint and Criminal Minds, it sounds like Flashpoint would be much more my speed. Criminal Minds is beautifully executed, but it is much too scary for me.
skieswideopen: Flashpoint: Julesskieswideopen on November 11th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
I felt the same about Caprica and Stargate Universe; I wasn't impressed at the beginning, but they were starting to get really good just before they were cancelled. And then I think back to how Stargate SG-1 had a two season order straight out of the box (over forty episodes!), which is something that seems unthinkable now. Sadly. I agree with you completely--some stories need to build slowly.

Flashpoint is definitely less gory that Criminal Minds often is; people may get shot, but they aren't kiled in such dreadful ways. And often no one dies at all. (I have no idea if you'd actually like the show, but it sounds like it would be closer to something you like than Criminal Minds.)
Amy R.: Janette Againbrightknightie on November 14th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC)
>"I feel like I should look up Downtown Abbey after such an endorsement!"

Do you happen to receive any PBS stations? (Or has cable shut the border to the old over-the-air crosses?) I learned last night that PBS Masterpiece will rerun the first season of Downton Abbey this December, before premiering the second season in January.
skieswideopen: FK: Janette smilingskieswideopen on November 14th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
I don't know for certain, but we seem to have an awful lot of channels via digital cable, so I think it's likely. I will go find out. Thanks for letting me know!