2012-2013 TV Season Overview / TV

The 2012-2013 TV Season Overview: Part 5

In the previous post in this series (which can be found here), I delved into what I considered to be the biggest surprises from the most recent television season. New shows that flourished, such as Elementary, old shows that rejuvenated themselves, such as Dexter, and Netflix making a strong push to enter the original content market all made an appearance. In this post, however, I’ll be discussing those that disappointed me the most from the season.

As always, I welcome any and all comments you may have about this post or otherwise, so feel free to get involved in the comment box at the end of this post.

Biggest Disappointments

Homeland

In the last post I talked about how Homeland’s second season was one of two halves: the first being one of extreme willingness to change the game, with the excitement that stemmed from that, and the second being full of crazy shit thrown in simply because it was crazy shit. The first half was discussed at length in that post, whereas the second will be featured here. Because for all Homeland did right in its second season, it did so much more totally wrong.

homeland-img-01I can’t recall exactly where it was in the season that Homeland seriously started to falter, but I know it was a significant turning point. All of a sudden it was like an injection of the insane shenanigans that used to go on in 24. Abu Nazir was suddenly in America, kidnapping Carrie and holding her hostage in an abandoned factory. Then she escaped and so did Nazir, but oh wait, he was hiding behind a cupboard all the time! And then he died and a bomb went off at the CIA and everybody blamed Brody and now he’s on the run and…sigh.

I’m not saying that Homeland was completely terrible in its second season (well, the second half). It wasn’t. In fact, even when it was frustrating me by being everything I didn’t want it to be, it was still massively entertaining and compelling television. But it just didn’t feel like the same show I had fallen in love with in season one. It felt so uncharacteristically over-the-top, so confident with changing the game that it felt it could do it over and over without consequence. As exciting as it was, it just didn’t work.

homeland-img-02I don’t know what direction the show will be heading in when season three begins, but I hope it’s one more familiar to season one. (I’ve heard a few critics discussing the first two episodes of the season, and the positivity has been noticeable, thankfully.) Homeland isn’t 24 and it never will be, nor should it be. It doesn’t need to change its entire direction every two episodes, as exciting as that may be. If it can get back to what it was before it started to have Abu Nazir hiding in cubby holes and Brody talking with the world’s most feared terrorist on Skype, it will retake its position as one of the strongest shows currently on the air.

Revenge

Oh how I loved Revenge in its first season. It was a completely outlandish and soapy show, but it knew exactly what it was and how best to utilise that. It didn’t pretend to have depth; it was perfectly content with just having Emily and Victoria scowl at each other, the former picking off Grayson affiliates with brilliant ease. It was compelling television on its best day but still exciting on its worst. The same, however, cannot be said of season two.

To put it as simply as possible, Revenge was so massively disappointing in its second season that it goes beyond description. Not just in one area but in several. For example, the whole storyline involving The Initiative just didn’t work at all. It was too convoluted even by Revenge’s standards. But the biggest problem was that it took time away from what the show was, and still is, the best at: the actual revenge.

Of all the things I disliked the most about the season (of which there were a few), it was the lack of revenging that was the most noticeable. Emily and Victoria are at their best when they’re facing off against each other, yet this was surprisingly absent from most of season two despite being one of the strongest things about the show. Revenge got distracted by the expansiveness of the Initiative storyline that it forgot about what made it work so well the first time around. In a show that’s actually called Revenge, you expect nothing less from it. And that’s exactly what we didn’t get from season two.

revenge-img-02I appreciate that Revenge was trying to expand beyond its relatively narrow scope in season one. It knew what it was the best at but it also wanted to become something else as well. It wanted an intriguing storyline with ramifications for nearly all of the characters, as well as to significantly widen its mythology that had previously been restricted to a handful of characters. But instead of finding a way to balance the two, or at least have them run parallel to each other, it abandoned what it was good at in favour of what it wanted to be good at, without either of them actually being good.

I won’t deny that things picked up towards the end of the season, but it was far too little, too late. The finale introduced a major development in the story that probably should’ve happened sooner, but it will nevertheless have huge implications for the show going forward. This fills me with hope that it’ll be able to remember what people loved about the show and go back to doing just that. Because if one thing’s for sure, Revenge really shouldn’t try to be something it’s not, because it absolutely doesn’t work. Now or ever.

Community

I’ve heard a lot of negativity towards Community since its fourth season came to a conclusion. Heck, a lot of that negativity became vitriol from certain people, including the show’s former showrunner. The way some people talk about the season would make you believe that it was complete dreck from start to finish, which I disagree with completely. But that’s not to say that I didn’t think it wasn’t underwhelming, however, because season four was not good at all. Not terrible, but certainly not good.

community-img-01Over the last few months, I’ve thought about what it was about the fourth season I disliked the most. It’s difficult to pinpoint a central cause because I believe it was a tornado of things all working together that dragged the show down, but if there was one thing I found particularly noticeable, it was that the show just seemed…diluted.

What do I mean by this? Well, the show’s first three seasons were full of comedic brilliance. Episodes like “Remedial Chaos Theory” and “Modern Warfare,” not to mention the Law and Order-like “Basic Lupine Urology,” were all wonderful creations that highlighted just how creative Community was. Better yet, it didn’t feel like they were straining themselves with those episodes. But season four, in comparison, didn’t feel the same. It felt like it was trying to be too smart, with its desperation being particularly noticeable, and none more so than the season finale.

I was extremely worried that Community’s fourth season would be the last for two reasons: one, because it was too good a show to simply disappear forever, even if it stumbled this year, and two, because that season finale would’ve been a horrible swansong for the show. “Advanced Introduction to Finality” was the show at its most desperate self, taking two beloved concepts from the show’s past (the multiple timelines and the paintballing) and moulding them together simply because they thought it was what the fans would’ve wanted. And it was a disaster.

Despite season four having so many issues, I still had fun with it at multiple points, particularly during “Intro to Felt Surrogacy”–an episode many hated but I thought wonderful. These moments were very few and far between, however, especially when compared to the first three seasons. But there’s still potential there, and I hope that they can find it again.

A lot of people are assuming Dan Harmon’s return for season five will be an automatic return to form for the show, but I have my doubts. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but with several cast members making an exit and things inevitably changing here and there, I’m certainly not going to assume things will rocket back up to the heights they were once at. But this is Community, and I’ll be there ‘til the day it does die.

Nashville

I mentioned in the previous post that Nashville was a show that surprised me considering my general avoidance of anything related to country music. But as with Homeland, that sense of joy and excitement only lasted for so long before things started to deteriorate–and boy did Nashville deteriorate.

Again, as with Homeland, I can’t determine at what exact point Nashville began to slip, but when it slipped, it really slipped. It wasn’t a newfound fact that the show had soapy origins because they had been there from the very beginning, but that side of the show began to emerge more and more until it became a problem. Subplots after subplots were crawling out of the woodwork, appearing and disappearing with little to no resolution and leaving nothing of much impact behind. It was extremely messy, and it got worse as the show moved towards its season finale.

nashville-img-01Nashville had many plots that simply didn’t seem to work as well as they were intended, such as the awful events with Dante in the last third, anything concerning Avery, and many more, but none more so than the one that had been there since the beginning of the show–the politics.

Nashville seemed to have a bizarre fascination with exploring the political minefield of the local mayoral elections, and as hard as the show often tried, this side of the story just never fitted in with the other, more exciting storylines. It felt completely out-of-place, and the characters involved in it were simply not interesting to watch. By having two separate camps of characters often not interacting or having any impact at all on the other, the show divided itself when it didn’t need to.

But coming back to the soapy stuff, Nashville seemed to get more and more outlandish the closer it got to its season finale. I don’t have a problem with shows that are deliberately soapy, especially if they seem aware and embracing of it, but Nashville just made it frustrating. Subplots ending without a proper resolution became common, storylines careening in wild directions just for the heck of it happened with more frequency, and more and more of what I enjoyed about the show seemed to be getting chipped away every week, unfortunately.

With all this in mind, it seems bizarre to say that I will be returning for season two, even though there probably won’t be much of a change from the latter half of season one. Why? Because I still see potential in there–potential for the soapy elements that I disliked to not be as annoying as they were, and for things to not be so predictable that you could see developments coming a mile away. And also because I love Connie Britton. You can never have too much Connie Britton.

Doctor Who

Let me just start off by saying that I absolutely love Doctor Who. There are few shows on television that have such a unique and constantly changing vibe to them as this show does. Sometimes it falters, as do all shows, but it’s mostly just an exciting hour of television to consume every week that you occasionally don’t have to take seriously to enjoy. Basically, it’s wonderful.

doctorwho-img-01That being said, I cannot deny that I was a little disappointed with the seventh season. I can attribute this to several factors, namely the overly long mid-series break that broke the momentum, a few sloppy episodes (“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “Nightmare in Silver,” to name a few), and the implementation of new companion Clara that seemed more reliant on her being a plot device than an actual character. But the biggest problem of all is one that has been an issue since season six: showrunner Steven Moffat’s insistence on there being long-running, constantly developing story arcs that take over the entire show.

Let me be clear: I do not dislike Steven Moffat’s work. He’s written and been responsible for some truly excellent episodes in the show’s past, and the show has been in capable hands since he took over the reigns (to a degree). Some of the story arcs he has been responsible for have been successes, such as the River Song arc and season five’s recurring cracks in time. The problem, however, is how everything now seems to be part of a larger narrative, and in particular, how this is very difficult for somebody to break into if they haven’t followed it every step of the way thus far.

Season six was the first noticeable instance of Doctor Who becoming a show less focused on weekly adventures across time and space and more interested in having story arcs connecting everything together with various degrees of complexity. The Doctor ostensibly died in the first episode, and then it became clear that Amy had been kidnapped, and then baby Melody went missing, and then she turned out to be River Song, and the Doctor didn’t actually die but a robotic replica of him. See what I mean? I don’t mind story arcs in general, but this is Doctor Who, and it had never been this way beforehand.

doctorwho-img-02So on this theme, you can imagine how frustrated I was when instead of having Clara be introduced as a character in her own right, simply joining the Doctor as somebody he could kick alien ass with, she was introduced as part of yet another story arc conjured out of thin air. A story arc that by the time the finale rolled around, had such massive implications that it essentially altered every moment in every scene of the show’s fifty year past. It was unnecessary and contributed to Clara not feeling like a character a lot of the time, merely a plot device created for the sole purpose of being the epicentre for this new story arc. I didn’t appreciate it at all, and it was one of the things I disliked the most about Doctor Who this year.

However, despite all the above, season seven wasn’t devoid of its successes. It handled the exit of two of its most beloved characters as beautifully and emotionally as befitting their stature, and some of the season’s latter episodes were fantastic fun to watch (“Hide,” “Crimson Horror,” “Cold War,” “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.”) Sometimes it’s infinitely more fun just to watch the Doctor and his companion land on an alien rock and conquer some unfathomably evil monster without being concerned about what it means in regards to the ongoing arc, and it’s for this reason that the above episodes stood out for me.

I will always love the creativity and limitless scope of Doctor Who, but I cannot deny that I worry for its future if these story arcs become more and more impenetrable. Do I want all story arcs to be eradicated? Absolutely not. But I also think the show used to be so good at balancing both aspects of its formula that it was never a problem. Nowadays, however, it’s heavily weighted towards the arcs, and that is an issue.

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