TV Hoedown–An underwhelming start

I am underwhelmed.

I had meant to start this column almost two months ago, a column that would allow me to vent and make observations on what I’ve watched on TV recently.  And yet, I have found that most of TV’s events have either been completely overplayed (does the Web really need another commentator on Britain’s Got Talent?) or so lacking in substance that I couldn’t find the will to bother typing my thoughts into a coherent statement.

We are at the point where most of the American programmes have, or are about to, come to their year-end conclusions.  And for the most part, they have been disappointments.  Heroes has all but destroyed the promise that it began with and Prison Break, a series that had two fantastic years but quickly disintegrated into ridiculousness a year ago, was so bad that I felt sorry for everyone involved.  24 began rather well but stumbled badly on the final few episodes (whenever Kim comes into play, you know it’s going to be ugly) and Desperate Housewives actually had a new lease on life but decided to return to predictability in its second half.  Even the all-dependable Lost ended on a mediocre note that hasn’t fuelled me with the desire to see the new year as much as its previous endings (but I wonder if I’ll look back at it with more fondness when the series ends next year).

There has been some good stuff.  The Shield, usually a gritty and hard-edge series, came to a conclusion that wasn’t completely satisfying but at least took some risks (killing off a few characters and seeing a favourite sent to prison for life).  Many didn’t remain enamoured by Pushing Daisies, but I found it to be a consistently charming series that proved once again that talent and cleverness in American series is always rewarded with cancelation notices.  And 30 Rock and Californication have been hard-to-find but worthwhile enjoyments.

There have been some series that show promise that I’m enjoying.  Simon Baker has created a rather interesting character in The Mentalist, turning another hum-drum detective series into a fun show with some entertaining and compelling moments.  Life, with its cheeky structure and off-the-wall characters, has been a lot of fun (and again, proving my previous point, has already been cancelled in the US).  Dollhouse had a weak start but shows signs of becoming interesting (word of mouth from the US is that the second half gets much better).  And I’ve grown rather fond of Chuck, which is either a very stupid smart show or is a very smart stupid show.

But the year began with such promise.  The Wire and Battlestar Galactica concluded a few months ago, both ending on highs and proving that they are more than deserving of being considered two of the greatest TV shows of the decade, perhaps ever.  Both series had brilliant writing, characters that were deeply flawed but always compelling and served up more plot twists in single episodes than most shows manage in a series.

I’d like to think that there are going to be a few more surprises in store for the second half of the year.  But if TV is going to be more concerned with style than substance, then I may have to stop watching series I used to ensure I never missed.  Here’s hoping.

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