10 January, 2008

Buzz: US imports update

The remaining network episodes left to air are now trickling to a stop as the content pipe runs dry.

Rather than merely the half-way point, this might actually be it for the season as mid-season breaks were hastily re-written to work as finales. Although optimistically there is talk of running shows through the summer.

So how did the new shows I buzzed previously pan out?


Back to You (Fox) - C4

This sitcom continued to be excellent and was helped hugely by a great revelation a couple of episodes in.


The Big Bang Theory
(CBS) - C4

This continues to be excellent although I thought they would be having more trouble breaking stories. I’m still slightly suspicious they can do a whole season though.


Bionic Woman (NBC) - ITV

This show started with multi-episode story arc featuring Katee Sackhoff as the first bionic woman gone bad who Jamie Summers had to fight. While it was great to see our Katee on primetime network TV, starting the season with that story was a big mistake.

It’s a story of the week genre show and you simply can’t have most of an episode devoted to dull complex historical shenanigans and hope to maintain your audience. Although saying that a simplified version of that story arc would have been great for mid-season or the finale.

When they realised their mistake and went back to normal (A – baddie of the week, B/C – sister, B/C – agency relationships) the episodes worked well.

Some people were desperate for it to be cancelled for some reason and announced as much although it seemed unlikely. NBC have now said that it hasn’t been cancelled. Although should they fail to persuade the viewers who abandoned it in the first few episodes to try again they will have no choice. The break gives the producers a chance to re-boot the show


Chuck (NBC) - Virgin

I hated the Chuck pilot but watched the first few to see if it had improved. It didn’t and I gave up. I tried again as the show was still getting great buzz and great viewing figures but in the first ten minutes of the next episode, a character talks about something he had no knowledge of.

Morgan and Chuck are discussing “An Evening with Morgan”, the main feature of which is a meal. Casey comes along and although all he hears is “An Evening with Morgan” he knows it involves a meal.

The good shows just aren’t that sloppy about characterisation. I was prepared to let such a minor thing go anyway but the plotting was atrocious and I just couldn’t finish the episode. I don’t like to be left out but I just have to accept I’ll never get this show’s popularity.


Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) - C4

This series following the fortunes of a filthy-rich family is quite good but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it the best new show as one critic did.
I was suspicious of how long the premise could be sustained for but the structure is rock solid in terms of generating A, B and C stories.

There is a season arc murder mystery as the lawyer tries to find out who killed his dad which apparently was the network’s idea to keep people interested but it’s actually the worst aspect of the show. The writers are writing a high-class soap and seem out of depth with the tacked on murder and intrigue stuff.


Gossip Girl
(The CW) - ITV

The pilot of this show about rich kids in a posh school was one of the best I have ever seen but it has gone hurtling downhill from episode 2 onwards and I gave up on it.
I should say that I appear to be in the minority as it has ratcheted up record sales on iTunes. (If only the Internet made money, eh?)

The problem, as I see it, is the small regular cast and the character mix limits story generation. There are limited simple relationships between similar characters which means the stories tend to be samey. They rely on characters not remembering what the other characters did the previous week so they can run the same story again.

I have never seen a more contrived show - although it still looks good.


(NBC) - Sky

This Quantum Leap update was quite good. I found the pilot too confusing but stuck with the show until the end. Unfortunately by the time the writers had sorted themselves out too many viewers had given up on it and it is all but cancelled. NBC haven’t officially announced it but it has allowed all the contracts to lapse without renewing them. I can’t imagine the actors and writers sitting out pilot season and turning down work while waiting for NBC to call.

The expression “you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression” applies to TV as well. It’s not fair that shows with good pilots but ordinary seasons are still going while shows with ordinary pilots and good seasons are cancelled but the solution is to make sure that pilot works.

I’m not grieving too much, to be honest, as the penultimate episode had some stupid unbelievable nonsense to set up the cool plot which a simple re-write could have fixed.

A character emphasises the dire consequences of an object being left in the past but when she gets hold of it she just hands it back to the thief without protest or trying to run away or trying to destroy it. Those dire consequences could mean her own death.

The simple rewrite would have given her no choice but to hand it over by putting her under pressure.


(Fox) - Five

A lot of people were dying for this New Orleans cop drama to be ended. First it was being cancelled because of the writers strike and Fox wouldn’t pay to keep the expensive sets idle. Then it was not being cancelled only because of the writers strike and Fox wanting as many scripted episodes as possible. I loved the pilot and every single episode I’ve seen since has been excellent.


A cop is framed for murder and serves life in prison but DNA evidence frees him. Although the compensation has made him a multi-millionaire he returns to police work. This is the best new network show and John Rogers agrees (the debate in the comments is also worth reading). Thankfully someone at ITV eventually saw sense and bought it. Rather than being cancelled, as some brain-donors predicted, it has been given a full season order.


(CBS) - Virgin 1

An Angel update about a vampire private investigator who helps humans. I’m lucky I don’t comment on a show unless I’ve seen it as I was originally going to slag this off as it looked rubbish and was an obvious rip-off of a Joss Whedon show when Joss is God.

I actually prefer Moonlight to Angel, it’s that good. It's just won the People's Choice award for best new TV drama.

One thing I’ve learned from the show is about when to keep and give information. I probably would have laid the whole backstory out in the first couple of episodes but by drip-feeding the revelations it worked so much better. And it did this by also having a solid A story each week.


Pushing Daisies

This was my favourite pilot of any in the past few years and the rest of the season didn’t disappoint.

While it’s easy to get caught up with the hatred of the networks and studios during the strike it was actually a network idea (“We want something like Amélie”) in the first place. And the murder mystery story of the week was also the network’s idea and I can’t imagine the show working without it.


(The CW) - E4

I was all gung-ho for the Reaper pilot despite the dodgy set-up but although the subsequent episodes were alright, the show wasn’t interesting enough for me to keep watching as the stories were too samey.

The gimmick of having a different weapon each week, based on an household object, was perhaps meant to solve this but it actually made no sense and was too unrealistic.

I can accept the devil giving him the job and all the fantasy stuff, no problem, but why make the job harder for no reason when the job is so important?


Swingtown (CBS) - ITV

I’ve seen the pilot of this show about
swinging couples in the '70s and it is very impressive. Breaking stories might be a problem though. I mean, is it really all going to be about copping off each week? Is the drama and conflict big enough?

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