POV USA - Week 0
Welcome, one and all, to a re-born POV. Come the start of the new American television season, POV will be providing a week by week run-down covering all the best (well, my favourite) shows and a few odds and ends to keep things 'interesting'.
But, before all that I thought I'd have a look over three notable US shows from last season and reflect on what I'll be watching and reviewing over the coming 8 months. How vastly interesting this must be for you.
I'm tempted to say that 2005/2006 was one of the best years for US telly in a good number of years. But then I would say that, as it was the first year in which I properly sat down and followed a substantial amount of shows week by week. Lost, House, 24, Prison Break, Scrubs, Family Guy, American Dad and, to a lesser extent, Invasion all provided me with damn near unmissable telly action on a weekly basis. Save for a few UK gems such as Doctor Who, Life on Mars, Love Soup and Hustle, American TV was completely bossing my viewing habits. The reason was pure and simple: it was bestest.
I've become a big fan of how TV is shown over there. An intensive 8 month period (but with numerous breaks) sees all your favourite shows shown at roughly the same time, meaning there's very rarely room for you to catch your breath before the next episode is there for you to downlo... er... aquire. Not only that, but the three 'sweeps' periods (the time of the year when TV networks gage viewing figures in order to justify and tweak advertising prices) practically guarantees some of the best episodes of the year, all coming in the same week. I wouldn't want to live with TV like that on a permanent basis, but from the point of view of a UK based viewer, looking in and getting my telly on demand, it's quite an appealing situation.
So, going back to the content, it's been a hell of a year. Lost returned with a second season that arguably topped the first, with a heavy shift from character drama slap bang into sci-fi territory with the reveal of The Hatch, The Hatch's various inner workings, the mysterious Dharma Initiative and Hanso Foundation and a big clump of sentient black smoke. Nice. Not everyone liked this sudden change, though, and it was certainly not helped by frankly shit scheduling, but on the whole this was a very well received season. The finale, in particular, did a fantastic job of not only giving satisfying answers to questions such as how Desmond came to be on the island and why the buggery the plane crashed, but also providing one of the best "what the fucking fuck?" moments of anything ever, by sticking a great big ruined statue into the mix. Mystery-tastic. The new series will apparently be concentrating mainly on The Others and SWEATY SEX. I canâ€™t bloody wait.
Not every show was going from strength to strength, however, as terrorism-athon 24 proved. Aside from the continuing greatness of Jack Bauer wandering around doing what the HELL he feels like, the show managed to take a sharp dive in credibility and quality for me. It's not that it's been any worse than previous years (indeed, it was far better than the risible second season) it's just that it's simply starting to run out of steam. Long after the real-time gimmick has faded into the background in terms of significance, people have been relying more and more on the characters. Unfortunately, the writers are not really doing too well on this front, with such uninspired dullards as Audrey and Curtis stinking up the screen with their BORING FACES AND VOICES. The continuing habit to try to 'subvert' the 'expectations' of the audience with massive twists is also fraying at the edges, with the big reveal of Nixon-alike Charles Logan being Mr. Big Bad a good example of the writers seemingly settling for any old shit twist, so long as Kiefer Sutherland is allowed to make an Anguished Face&supTM;. Still, having said all that, I'm judging the series purely on past merits, and those past merits are numerous. This is still one of the most entertaining things on television, despite my disappointment with its fifth year. My hopes are (perhaps inadvisably) high for the sixth year, but news that they will be picking up the story AFTER Jack escapes the clutches of the Chinese is a shame. But with season 5 recently landing an Emmy for best drama, we're likely to see this show go on for a good few years, yet. Let's just up they start picking their random plot balls out of a bag called 'originality and believability' form now on.
Meanwhile, medical drama House returned for a storming second season, with Hugh Laurie proving his worth as quite possibly the best actor on US television at the moment. Hugh's presence on screen is, at times, the only thing that saves the show from sliding into formulaic mediocrity, especially in its mid-season lulls, but episodes such as this year's finale prove that it can still surprise and shock the audience in the most excellent of excellent ways. I left this second season convinced the show is genius, despite the fact that I was left quite under-whelmed at times - not a bad trick, really. I will be tuning in for the third season with the hope that things start to get really mixed up a bit, as there's only so long that these formulas will be able to form the backbone of the season before I get bored.
So, as is probably obvious by now, Lost, 24 and House are very much going to forum my 'big three' in terms of weekly run-downs in the new POV. But, American TV being how it is, these three shows will not be weekly fixtures, with scattered gaps likely to affect House, a huge 3 month hiatus scheduled for Lost and 24 only starting its run in January. Comedy shows such as Family Guy, American Dad, Scrubs and South Park will be on hand to help me fill in the holes, and I'll always be open to suggestions from you lot with regards to shows I should be paying attention to, instead of flaunting my thinly veiled ignorance.
In addition, three more weekly fixtures for the column will include a brand new show from J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) called Six Degrees; a show which follows the lives of six complete strangers and the various events that tie them unknowingly together. Basically, it sounds like Lost without the Island bits, which isn't a hugely inspiring thought, but I'm sure it'll be well worth the time, taking into account who's actually created it. After a brilliantly entertaining first season, Prison Break returned to US screen just this week, so I intend to catch up with that in the first column in September and continue the coverage through to its bitter end. In addition to those, I'm going to be throwing myself into the murky world of sci-fi remake-athon Battlestar Gallactia. Having not seen seasons one or two, I have quite a bit of catching up to do before early October, but I have a strange feeling it'll be well, well worth it as the entire Internet is practically bursting with how good it's supposed to be.
So, I'll see you in a few weeks for should be an excellent season of TV.