The TV season is officially over and we are now firmly in the Summer hiatus period – a time in which your weekly viewing habits of episodes available every evening are replaced with cable shows and repeats until September arrives. As with every other TV season to date, the 2011-2012 period has given us shows that were exceptional, shows that walked along the line of average and shows that should never have been created. Within those, certain actors got to shine and others failed to make a positive impact. The last nine months have been a busy time for anybody even remotely interested in television and as such, there will be a lot to discuss in this series of posts, where I will talk about the best, and worst, elements of this season, as well as the actors within that impressed/disappointed and the biggest surprises of this period.
In this first post out of six, we’ll look at what worked in the land of television, from entire shows to storylines within them.
Once Upon a Time
ABC’s show about fairy-tales and characters from predominantly children’s stories made a very large impact during its debut tenure on screen. Due to its bizarre concept, many people had already considered the show dead on arrival and that it wouldn’t last beyond Christmas. How wrong they were. The process of intertwining separate stories with each other made for a strange but compelling experience. The majority of the cast took their roles and made them their own, with special mention going to Lana Parilla’s top-of-the-villany-class portrayal of the all-powerful Evil Queen.
Robert Carlyle also made a strong impact as Rumpelstiltskin, perhaps even more so than the Queen herself, as his motives and secrets began to unfold, as well as his humanly desires providing some of the season’s best episodes.
Of course, the leading lady herself Jennifer Morrison deserves some recognition as well. I have to admit that I was initially sceptical that she would be a strong enough actress to be able to carry a show of this magnitude but she succeeded and made for a good entry point for the viewer. Now that the finale has let the cat out of the bag regarding her real heritage and her surroundings, I’m confident that she will continue to grow.
I doubt that ABC knew what kind of a hit they would have on their hands with this show. The audience certainly didn’t. If there’s one thing it did better than anything else, it would be that it made fairy-tales truly compelling once again.
The Good Wife Season 3
Is it possible to mention The Good Wife in a light that’s even remotely close to negative? I don’t think it is, and there’s good reason for that. The Good Wife’s third season started off on an uneven foot; it looked as though it didn’t know where it wanted to head next and it wasn’t difficult for the viewer to recognise that. However, as the season progressed, the sense of direction became much clearer and the overall quality rocketed back up to what we expect from this show, culminating in a tense, exciting cliffhanger that opened many doors in preparation for the fourth season in September.
Possibly the best episode of the season came from ‘Another Ham Sandwich’, which featured Will’s troublesome encounter with the State’s Attorney’s office and resulted in his disbarment. You can’t simply watch this brilliant episode just the once – it almost requires another viewing, just to absorb the brilliance it radiates. Not only that, it allowed for Will’s character to take a slight step back and allow for others to move up the hierarchy, such as Diane, whilst still maintaining a strong presence within the cast. As well as that, it also provides potentially interesting material for the upcoming fourth season.
Season three also has to be commended for its continued excellence in guest stars. This season, we had former House lady Lisa Edelstein making an appearance, as well as Matthew Perry for a villainous bout with Alicia, Martha Plimpton resurfacing for another nefarious scheme, plus Dexter star Jennifer Carpenter and Carrie Preston’s wonderful stint as the quirky-but-brilliant lawyer tasked with getting Will’s skin saved from being burnt. This show probably has the finest set of guest stars in the whole world of television and season three rocketed that up to a whole new standard.
The Good Wife, even in its third year, continued to be at the top of its game. Few shows currently on television have such a consistently high quality of writing, acting and stories that rarely diminish below average. In fact, I struggle to think of any others that do. TGW did moderately well at the Emmys last year and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t again this year. It may not pull in spectacular ratings but it remains a glittering diamond upon CBS’ gleaming crown.
If you haven’t heard of Showtime’s super-hit Homeland by now, you’ve either been living under a rock or selectively choosing not to. The first season of this exciting, compelling and downright brilliant show has captivated millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic and its second season later this year should continue that trend. “It can’t be that good”, I hear you say. Oh how wrong you are oblivious one.
Homeland wouldn’t have done half as well as it has without the two fantastic actors leading the parade. Both Damien Lewis and Clare Danes have put in exquisite performances in the premiere season, particularly Danes, who also won a much-deserved Golden Globe for her role as Carrie Matheson. Their character’s moments together positively light up the screen with several hundred volts of electricity; Brody, with his troubled mental state and unknown hidden agenda and Carrie, with her determined-to-uncover-the-truth stance that ultimately puts her on the receiving end of electro-shock therapy. They’re both deep and fascinating characters and if you put them together, magic is made.
It’s not just the characters that make the show what it is – the story helps as well. Besides one or two faces, you can never truly be absolutely sure who the bad guys are, nor the good guys. It’s a carefully told story of patriotism, conspiracy, betrayal and determination, which gradually unfolds over the twelve episode run and concludes with a fantastic, heart-stopping finale that leaves the possibilities for season two wide open. Homeland has the story, the characters and the audience all working like clockwork in their creative machine and things will hopefully continue to operate just as finely come this September.
Game of Thrones Season Two
Game of Thrones hit such extravagant heights in its first season last year. Maintaining a level of consistency on par with that would’ve been a considerable achievement and yet the show has succeeded in doing just that. Some of the storylines have been thinner on material, such as Daenerys’ experiences in the Red Wastes, but the show bounced back with an extremely strong second season with just as many memorable moments as the first. It also gave us ‘Blackwater’, one of the finest and most faithful-to-the-source-material hours that I’ve watched in a long time.
Not only does Game of Thrones succeed in bringing the fantasy genre to life, which is even more of an accomplishment given the natural constraints of television, it also has a wide roster of characters that have motive, deep characteristics and aren’t merely pawns on the proverbial playing board. Being able to craft a world as rich in detail and personality as Westeros whilst also managing this large cast is a feat definitely worth mention, for the sheer fact that it creates something truly wonderful on screen. Couple this with the tense nature of George R.R. Martin’s books and you have ten episodes of consistent excellence.
That’s not to say it’s been perfect however. There have been some departures from the book, some that improved the narrative and some that did not, but they have, for the most part, stayed as close to the book on which it’s based as possible. Whether or not you consider the second season to be better or worse than the first is your own opinion. For me, they’ve both been of the same equal quality, and it’s a quality that’s difficult to find elsewhere.
The ‘Caskett’ Relationship – Castle
Castle is a show that basically revolves around its two lead stars and as such, the focus on their chemistry and partnership together has been at the forefront of the show for quite some time. These two already had their fair share of ‘shippers’, with myself including in them, but those desires were fulfilled at the end of the fourth season when they were finally paired together in a more romantic manner. It’s a decision that works for numerous reasons and not just to satisfy the legion of ravenous fans out there.
As I’ve said here before, having a potential romantic relationship between a show’s two main characters is a good thing, provided it doesn’t remain that way for too long; the longer you leave it, the more tiresome it becomes and the impact it has when they eventually hook up is diminished to an almost pointless state. For example, look at House and the critical response to the relationship that took seven years to get to, or Smallville and its ridiculous ‘on/off’ romance that we, as the audience, endured for almost eight years with the full knowledge of its inevitable failure. You can’t put them together too early and you can’t do it too late. Castle did it at the perfect time, when the hunger for the romance was still strong and when the history between the two participants was there to make it more fulfilling.
Putting Beckett and Castle together has the potential to change up the formula of the show, hopefully for the better. Now that the on/off switch has been dispensed with, we can see how the show’s foundations change with its two lead stars now something more than colleagues. Story possibilities have been opened up, the shippers have been satisfied and season five has many places in which it can go. Compared to the path things could’ve gone on if the relationship did not occur, the show is in a strong place right now in terms of creativity, which is even more apparent due to season four’s mixed-bag of episodes that either wowed or bored. Whilst the fourth season may have stagnated for quite some time, the finale moved things along significantly, and now season five has the potential to be the strongest yet, mainly due to the new dynamic created by this relationship.
Wilson’s Cancer – House
House has been on television for eight years. During those eight long years, the friendship between House and Wilson was definitely the most consistent out of those seen. No matter what trauma was put between them, their friendship lasted the duration and few times did it falter into something less than wonderful. As such, concluding the show’s long tenure with a story that puts this in jeopardy, but ultimately strengthens it, was a decision that improved a series finale that may otherwise have been negatively received, at least by me.
I”ve mentioned the issues I had with the finale on here before, namely the ridiculous nature of House escaping the exploding warehouse and rendering the few minutes proceeding it as worthless, but despite those problems, the friendship between these two characters and how it became strengthened by the devastation that lies ahead was befitting of the show and its final episode. If there’s one thing I will miss the most about House, it will be the comical, perfectly-matched friendship that we’ve watched for eight years suddenly disappear from my television screen.
As well as providing an exit point for the show, giving Wilson this story allowed for Robert Sean Leonard to flex those acting muscles considerably. Watching him go off the rails in denial of his diagnosis and come to terms with only having a few months left to live was hard, due to such high familiarity with the character, but extremely well-done. And let’s not forget Hugh Laurie who, if I have it correctly, has never won an Emmy for his time on House. That, to me, is baffling considering the utterly fantastic work the man has put into this show over the years. He’ll only have this year to receive one for House and I’d like to think it will happen, but things rarely go the way I hope them to. Still, he helped to make House’s final season infinitely better than the chaotic mess of season seven, and that alone deserves recognition, right?
As well as the above, several other shows and stories made an impact in the 2011-2012 season. For example, Revenge and it’s ascent from unknown entity to critically acclaimed monster, SVU’s colossal improvement in story-telling and fresh blood reinvigorating the thirteen year behemoth, Fringe’s renewal against all the odds (I’m still overjoyed about this) and much more that would spring to mind with time.
In the next post, I’ll look at what didn’t work in this season, from shows to storylines, in the same vein as the above. For as many things that succeeded, just as many ultimately failed in their quest to entertain the television lovers among us. As a bit of a ‘teaser’, so to speak, I will say that Charlie’s Angels, possibly the biggest abomination from this season, will not be mentioned. Why? Because we’re all pretty much aware of how exceptionally horrendous it was and I don’t need to remind you of that. Plus, talking about it conjures up memories of its brief existence – memories which are best left buried.
I am always interested in hearing your thoughts and more so this time. Do you agree with the above? What do you think worked better than most this past season? Hit the comment box below!
Part two of this post can be located here for your viewing pleasure!