It’s that time of year again: winter hiatus. So rather than spend the next weeks sorrowing that my favorite shows are on break, I’ll kill an hour or two to write this article. That will make the time go much faster, right?
I’m a fairly unadventurous television viewer in that I like what I like and don’t tend to dabble too far outside what’s the norm for me. Each fall season I may try one to three new shows, but rarely more than that. Throughout the season and/or summer I may pick up something that I missed the first time around. I’m pretty consistent though, and once a fan, I usually stick around; however, three shows have dropped very far in their appeal for me this season. I prefer dramas over comedies and procedurals over serialized. To me, most serialized shows rapidly devolve into soap operas. I don’t like soap operas. To me, these shows only advance their plots through sex, lies, and murder, in other words, forced reasons.
I prefer a show that moves the plot forward organically and through good characterization, as well as a well-thought out plot. I have a few serialized shows in my viewing pattern: Arrow, Grimm, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Person of Interest, and The Blacklist. The rest of my viewing habits are taken up with the likes of Castle, Bones, NCIS, NCIS:LA, Elementary, Criminal Minds, and The Mentalist. I also dabble off the major networks – yes, I did just include the CW in the major network category, go figure. I like Longmire, White Collar, Perception, and Psych, as well as Cold Justice – but that’s more of a True Crimes or Forensic Files genre: Cold Justice.
So, how has the 2013-2014 Season thus far struck me with my new shows and returning favorites? Overall, I’m happy. I think that’s because the shows I absolutely adore, Person of Interest, my new-found love The Blacklist, the ever engaging Elementary, as well as the continuously improving Grimm and the expanding Arrow have had solid starts to their seasons. Other shows such as Criminal Minds, NCIS and White Collar are doing their respective jobs nicely, while the likes of Castle, Bones, and The Mentalist are more fillers than thrillers for me – although, out of these three, The Mentalist, newly rebooted, is quite enjoyable. Then there’s Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and NCIS:LA, all of which had good moments – Supernatural’s good moments included Charlie and Sheriff Mills, The Vampire Diaries was Silas and Damon/Stefan ‘broments’, and NCIS:LA had their 100th episode; however, all of these shows have cooled rapidly for me. I watch them and move on.
Psych, Perception, Cold Justice, and Longmire are all currently on hold, so I’ll simply say I’m looking forward to their return. White Collar is currently airing, and I do enjoy it, but I wish it was over the summer. It’s too crowded on my current television schedule for White Collar. I find myself rushing through the episodes and moving on. Of course, that also is due to the fact that my DVR only holds 24 episodes total now and I don’t have much room to hang on to anything for a lengthy period.
Castle has been enjoyable, although it’s clear that the show is playing it safe. Kate took the new job in DC and for three episodes we were treated to a new Castle. That all abruptly ended, unfortunately, and everything is back to what it was before. Bones I only recently picked up – yes, I’m late to this party. I like the forensic aspect of it, the rest – everyone hooking up with each other, I’ll leave for others. After nine seasons, Bones is catering to the fans. That’s fine, the fans surely deserve it. The Mentalist, mostly boring to me outside of the stellar Simon Baker and Tim Kang, might have life after Red John, and it might even earn itself a seventh season along the way. Its two episodes post-Red John posted a 1.7 and 1.8. That’s good for 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. CBS should be happy. Also, The Mentalist seems a lot lighter. I like that as well.
I don’t enjoy any of those shows for their ships. Of the three, I’m enjoying The Mentalist the most because I think it has quite successfully rebooted itself. Of the three, it is the bravest. Red John is over, the foundation of the team has been dismantled, and all the characters have been flung forward two years, with new careers and lives. Wisely, The Mentalist has lightened up Patrick Jane, loosened up Theresa Lisbon, kept Cho and given him a new career which highlights his abilities better and is soon to say farewell to Rigsby and Van Pelt.
Saying farewell to long-time characters and hello to new ones are NCIS and Criminal Minds. As usual, NCIS was overly complicated in its two-part season opener. Also, with the exception of Ziva’s departure, all the events of the investigation and the team’s resignation and Gibbs reassignment seems to be forgotten, business as usual. As for Ziva, her farewell was overwrought and all the emotions were not earned, but, Gary Glasberg was served a curve ball and he hit it with the best he could to close out the character. I adored Ziva, but I really like the lighter mood at NCIS. Tony is better off for the change as well. I’m a McGee fan and especially like that Tony and McGee are on equal footing with this new agent, and that no one is looking to ‘hook up’ with her. She’s married.
Criminal Minds said farewell to Section Chief Strauss, who, after many seasons of distrust and difficulty with Hotchner and team, finally came to respect them and regard them as her top team. Her death was truly a loss. Esai Morales has been an excellent choice as the new section chief, especially as he has come in with respect for the team that was only deepened as he worked his first case with them in the field and saw them at their best. Criminal Minds is probably the strictest of the shows I watch as far as being a procedural; and I truly like that the producers have made it clear that relationships amongst the team, outside of friends and colleagues, are not going to happen. I enjoy the team moments, few and far between as they are.
Now for my favorite shows, the shows that I eagerly await each week: Arrow, Elementary, Grimm, Person of Interest, and The Blacklist; their seasons have been great thus far.
I love that Arrow has fixed its Thea problem. I love that Tommy is mentioned or alluded to in every episode. I love that Oliver’s tortured psyche is getting explored. I also love that Felicity and Diggle are on even footing with Oliver, and they’re all learning how to take care of each other. I don’t know much about the DC universe, so I can’t speak to canon there or if those characters/stories are being served appropriately, but I can say that I’m enjoying this season a lot because so many of the characters are growing and having a purpose. Lance, Quentin that is, is really a character that I adore. I love how he is working with the Arrow, and I feel so badly that he’s carrying the secret of Sara around – and that secret is pretty silly, but I like that it gives him some insight into the Arrow’s world.
This show has a pretty big problem in that Laurel is still a less than useful character and she’s also incredibly uninteresting. But, since Thea has been fixed and Roy is pretty interesting now and Slade is in town and Diggle has some potential story with HIVE and Felicity doesn’t take any of Oliver’s crap and Oliver is learning to share a bit, I’ll ignore the Laurel problem for now. Overall, this show is pretty darn good.
Elementary is enjoying a great Season 2 as well. Johnny Lee Miller manages to make Sherlock both insufferable and vulnerable at the same time. Lucy Liu is more than just his sidekick; she kicks his butt when needed. At the end of last season, I could see the show beginning to figure itself out a bit as a few additional characters began to appear, Watson’s family and a friend here and there and especially Holmes’s sponsor. This season the show continues to dabble into more than just the weekly mystery as Holmes’s brother has appeared, and is mysteriously working some plot behind the scenes, as well as Watson’s back story is slowly being explored.
What I like most about this show, besides the inspired casting, is that it asks us to invest in these characters. Each week there is a revelation, some small insight into the characters that is revealed. Even better, those little insights and revelations are not forgotten, but rather they are built upon as the show goes forward. CBS said during the 2011-2012 Season that it wanted to become more character-based. I remember thinking at the time that Person of Interest was a good start for them – and it still is. Elementary shows that they meant it. The characters here are just as interesting as the weekly cases. I hope that remains true for a long, long time.
Grimm is enjoying its best season yet. I review this show, so if you’ve read my reviews, you know I like it. It’s my happy place. I didn’t review this show before this season, and I don’t intend to go back and begin reviewing it. Suffice it to say, Season 3 is great. The characters are in place, the drama of lies and amnesia and silly possible love triangles – all potion-induced, mind you, are all gone. The Scooby Gang is established, and it’s game on with the Royals. Grimm has its cases of the week which are wrapped up nice and neat each week, and rarely referred to after they’re done. It also has some overarching stories, the Royals, Monroe and Rosalee’s relationship, the Council, Nick’s mom, Adalind’s baby. Some of these are more interesting than others and all manage to ebb and flow around the weekly schedule of something bad happens and Nick and Co track down a solution. Like I said, Grimm is my happy place. Adding to that happiness is that the characters seem to learn a bit as time goes on and retain that learning. Its ratings are doing quite well this season, and I’d say it’s easily staring at renewal for a fourth season and decent syndication to catapult it into more seasons on NBC.
This year I added three new shows to my viewing lineup: Almost Human, The Tomorrow People, and The Blacklist. The first two rapidly disappeared. However, The Blacklist caught my eye and hasn’t lost it yet.
James Spader is delicious as Reddington. His every vocalization and facial nuance is a delight to my ears and eyes. As for Agent Keen and his fascination with her — knowing what you know above about my dislike for ‘ships’ on shows, you can imagine my delight when it was revealed that he ….all right, I won’t fully reveal anything here. Suffice it to say, any chance of romance between the two has disappeared forever. This show is similar to my absolute favorite show, Person of Interest, in that it is a mix of procedural and serialization. Each week there is a case that Reddington either brings to the team or somehow becomes involved with, and each week that case is tied up, usually neatly. Overarching this case of the week format is the mystery behind why Reddington decided to turn himself in, what is his fascination with Agent Keen and just who is her husband really, as well as who is watching Mr. and Mrs. Keen.
The show has already been renewed by NBC for a second season and is credibly a ratings success with only one episode dipping below a 3.0 this season, 2.9, and achieving a 5.0 or above when DVR viewing is factored in.
Now we arrive at my absolute favorite show: Person of Interest, which is on fire. Some shows kill characters for high drama, only to resurrect them: The Vampire Diaries; other shows kill characters because they need to inject some new life into the show, or because the actors want off: NCIS, Criminal Minds; others kill a characters because no one thought to tell the showrunner “NO!”: Supernatural. Person of Interest has a plan, and they aren’t about to consult us about whether or not it’s a plan we like. They’re charting the course and promising us a good journey if we’re willing to come along, and then they simply go. Jonah Nolan once said during the show’s first season that no one is safe on the show. To that, Jim Caviezel replied that he always thinks of himself as a guest star. Well, 54 episodes into this series, Jonah Nolan made good on his statement: Joss Carter was killed off.
This wasn’t some stunt for November sweeps. This death came as a major storyline, one begun in the Pilot, came to a stunning close. In so doing, Person of Interest effortlessly schooled just about every other show out there on how to explore characterization, show us the why’s of characters and then alter their courses with a simple decision. Through Carter’s death, we saw characters step up, Shaw and Root; another transform, Fusco; another step outside of their control and comfort zone, Finch; and still another, Reese, devolve to a dark and dangerous place. In case we worried that Reese had been ‘defanged’ what with having addressed Jessica’s death and rid himself of Snow and Stanton, no, this John Reese has gone dark, very dark.
Jonah Nolan likes to keep the characters off balance, and similarly the audience. Person of Interest is the best of both worlds, procedural and serialized. This is a show that manages to slowly build various storylines simultaneously, all while the procedural case of the week is handled. We, the audience, get lulled into a comfortable rhythm, thinking we have it all figured out. Through the case of the week we learn about the characters; that is if we’re willing to watch and listen. The serial storylines percolate slowly, quietly, which causes some people to complain that the show isn’t serialized enough. However, when all the pieces are in place, when the percolation is complete, PoI wastes no time executing the details. Season 3 brilliantly showcases this as HR’s storyline has comes to its stunning conclusion only for another storyline to step up front and center and spin us off into a new exciting direction. However, the ripple effects from taking down HR will continue – through the rest of the season according to Nolan and Plageman. It’s about the characters, people.
We’re at the midseason mark. Some shows are on fire, others are cooling rapidly, some have disappeared, and others are chugging along doing what they always do. I’m enjoying some rewatches right now, and January 2nd is coming quick.
How’s your 2013-2014 television viewing going? Sound off in the comments.
As always, thanks for reading, Elle2