05 June 2010

The Last Deflower: 2009 - 2010 TV Season in Review

So now that we've run through about all of the Finales for the 2009 - 2010 Television Season, it's time to look back before we get too heavily into the Summer Season (Cable Premieres and Network Game Shows). This season should always be a landmark one in TV history, both for all the epic long-running programs that ended as well as those that started. I really only want to talk about some of these finales, big trends that emerged and finally the handful of network shows still on air that are actually worth watching. You can check this out first to refresh your memory. Now let's get bold:

See Ya in Another Life, Brotha

There were many notable shows canceled this year, some out of ratings, others due to creative exhaustion and desires for closure. Okay, so there was one show that ended because of creative exhaustion, the epic known as LOST. I think it will take some time for the full impact of this ending to hit viewers but it should rank among the all-time finales, if only because of its hype and controversy it has caused already. Fans gripe about its lack of answers (admittedly, the quantity of omissions are stunning, but probably necessary for a cleaner narrative), but the Finale answered the most important question - why we're here and why the Island existed. It was a bit of a brainbuster and didn't give easy answers, expecting a lot from its audience. The end of TV's greatest show? Probably. High points this year include the emotional high point of "The Candidate" (S6;E14), and one of the best episodes of the entire show, the practical mini-movie "Ab Aeterno" (S6;E9).

It's a bit of a shame that the same year LOST ended some of its ripoff shows ended including FlashForward and Heroes. While FlashForward was never anything great, Heroes for one season back in 2006 looked like it had potential to step into the big shoes. That didn't happen and its cancellation is a good choice. At this point it's almost safe to say that LOST did not change Television, because no other show yet seen can fully replicate its intricacies. V's trying though.

Two other shows were knocked off without much gripe this year, two shows who legitimately changed television I'm talking about the the uniquely set-up but repetitive storytelling of 24 and the juggernaut procedural marathon Law & Order. I'll admit not ever really caring about either of these, but their dual cancellation is interesting. 24 worked best watched all in a row with a tight narrative and heavy reliance on season-long arcing action. Law & Order was exactly the opposite, one of the few truly episodic programs left on television. Both had their place and now both are gone. The one really awesome thing about the end of Law & Order, though, is the advent of the budding Grand Law & Order Database over at Overthinkingit.com. I'm pumped.

There's a lot of other shows that ended this year that seemed like they had been on forever and no one ever really watched them. This includes forgettable Cold Case, sometimes interesting Numb3rs, underrated animated King of the Hill and and after changing networks and most of the cast, Scrubs. Phew. With all these huge shows coming to an end with decade's end, what lies ahead for the 2010s?

Big Cats, LL Cool J and Singing High Schools

So what worked this year? Like practically every year this decade American Idol was a goliath, along with fellow reality programs Undercover Boss and Dancing with the Stars. I really don't understand the appeal of dancing shows or movies. Even watching dance at all, I don't get it, it's not interesting to me. Watching the enthusiasm of Dancing with the Stars is like observing how Martians would react to Hawaiian Punch - it's something awesome that I don't care about given to people who love it. The appeal escapes me.

Same with Glee.

Fuck Glee. Fuck Glee forever. Fucking waste of my time. Glee is so fucking overrated, really gets my dick boiling. Glee and Modern Family are moderately okay shows that I think people tend to watch and afterwards think they're indie or cultured for having watched it. Overrated slop. I will praise ABC for invigorating their Comedy Wednesday with some more single-camera (NBC-style) sitcoms. It's a bit more progressive than CBS' Monday Night-Shitshow of the same crap, although some shows that no one will forget were canceled (Gary Unmarried and Accidentally on Purpose).

Modern Family is cool in that it is a family-oriented show, steering away from the single-friends in New York City bit. CBS continues to be the safest network on Television, relying on old standards in Comedy and Initialisms for Dramas. Because they get the ratings though, the network will never change. NBC tends to make terrible dramas with terrible ratings and then really good comedies...with equally terrible ratings.

As it Turns out I only Like Two Shows on Television

If our focus is kept towards Network TV we're left with two outstanding shows that I enjoyed this season. Because I'm a whore for NBC, we're talking Community and Parks and Recreation. As part of the whole classic NBC Thursday Comedy line-up, it became more and more clear this season that both The Office and 30 Rock are in a bit of decline. While 30 Rock still offered some incredible episodes ("Klaus and Greta" [S4;E9]), it's quickly becoming too whiny and niche-y for its own good. And I believe I've already spent a considerable amount of time criticising The Office.

So we're basically at a point where NBC's newest shows are out-writing and out-laughing its old guard. Parks and Recreation is a very unique kind of humour, unlike most other shows on television. I had a hard time placing it for a while. It doesn't come necessarily out of awkwardness (The Office), patheticness (30 Rock), idiocy (The Simpsons) or character defects (Two and a Half Men). Instead it garners its humour from the epic level of enthusiasm its lead (Amy Poehler) has in the Mundane, with an incredibly strong cast of characters around her who react with varying degrees to this enthusiasm. The show is balanced by heavy femininity along with does of hyper-masculinity by Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) (demanding Scotch after being shot in the head). Be sure to watch "Ron and Tammy" (S2;E8), "The Possum" (S2;E18) and "94 Meetings" (S2;E21).

Finally we get to the Show of the Year: Community. This thing came out of no where. It's a confident little show that after a slew of very strong Holiday Episodes in the fall came unto its own in the Spring. No other show on TV right now has sharper writing, the characters are strong and it's one of the funniest shows in years. It's humour, like Parks isn't largely negative like The Office or even Family Guy. It's got charm and class. Key episodes include "Debate 109" (S1;E9) as well as the dual giants of the year, "Contemporary American Poultry" (S1;E21) and "Modern Warfare" (S1;E23). "Modern Warfare" was the greatest half-hour experience with a television on this entire year. If you disagree I will fight you.

What Else?

It's quickly becoming apparent that most good narratives have found a home on cable rather than on Networks, or even films. AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad are among the best dramas available and FX has thrown its hat into a ton of new shows (some good, some forgettable) such as Justified, Sons of Anarchy and Damages. While I already bitched about South Park, The Venture Bros remains television's greatest cartoon and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia remains cable's greatest comedy. It's inclusion along with new episodes of Futurama on Comedy Central this summer makes it the channel to watch. Add FX's Rescue Me to the Summer Line-Up and there's not a lot of reason to go outside ever.

Real quick let's get a few things out of the way that we need to: NBC's only show that got any kind of good rating is its NFL Sunday Night, which has enough hock on its own to stay entertaining, and this TV Season will of course always be remembered for the greatest Travesty in Late Nite Programming of All Time. It's been a mediocre year with a few bright spots. If trends continue, we'll squeeze a few more good seasons out of what we've got and from there, we can really only go up.

Stay tuned in.

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