Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Network TV pisses me off Part 2

This whole thing about "Defying Gravity" really has left me in a tizzy.

My time is precious and television has to engage me. I look for smart dialog, interesting environments, clean effects, and strong casting. Clearly I am not cut out to be a television executive. Now I know that I do not actually have the knowledge required to run a television network, but seriously, how hard can it be? Maybe it is the need to placate the lowest common denominator in the audience.

Reflecting, I am moving farther and farther from network television offerings. I despise reality competitions, all daytime programming, and most formulaic sitcoms and dramas. I like thinking and being engaged in the shows that I watch. I can only think of two shows that I followed that ended on their own terms, one was Star Trek: The Next Generation and the other was Law & Order...oh wait that spin off maker is still going. So just Next Gen. Wait wait....Sopranos! Ooops that was cable. Okay, just Next Gen. then.

Looking back at the graveyard of shows struck down before their prime for me includes: Everwood (the CW), Gilmore Girls (the CW), the Unit (CBS), the West Wing (NBC), Firefly (FOX), Defying Gravity (ABC), Alias (ABC), What About Brian? (CW), and E-Ring (NBC). If you've never heard of some of these shows, that is okay. Many only lasted a season or two, if they were lucky.

I have wished for years that shows, when it was decided to take them off prime time, would be allowed to finish out on a cable channel. I am starting to see this transition a little at a time. Leaping to mind is Law & Order Criminal Intent making its home on USA for new episodes. Also, Southland was just canceled and then revived to live on TNT as it was too dark for NBC's evening line up. So what happens to other shows. I would love to see full seasons ordered and then if ratings are not strong, given the chance to move into other media, be it cable channels, Hulu, or iTunes. There has been evidence that shows can find audience bases if they are given the time. Would shows like Friends, Sienfeld, Sanford & Son, the Cosby Show make it in the modern programming climate? Would they have made it past episode 3 (the dreaded cut off point)?

What could happen if Joss Wheadon's Dollhouse took flight from FOX's chopping block to find refuge on Mike's Savior Network? Would it build its fan base into something more? Move from cult favorite to rival something like 24?

Speaking of 24, I have to say I loved Season 1. I loved the idea and the presentation, but FOX went and whored that concept out as well....seriously we're on what? season 6? They "Die Hard"'d that one way too much [John McClain is the MOST UNLUCKY cop in the world]. My suspension of disbelief does have some limits.

Interestingly, (to me at least) I have become an actor stalker of sorts. Nathan Fillion is one who steps to the forefront. I became a huge fan through Firefly and Serenity, but ended up following him to Wisteria Lane? What the hell? Luckily my wife watches that show, so I got to tv stalk him while spending quality time with my spouse. Now he has moved on to his own show Castle (ABC) and I am thrilled to find him with smart dialog again. Another one that I have followed is Mark Harmon, now leading the cast of NCIS, but had gotten me hooked by his performance as CJ Craig's secret service detail on the West Wing. In a happy convergence of talent Michael Weatherly I stalked from Dark Angel...

So 10 years ago I had a bunch of shows that I loved. Now I have two different time delay recording technologies that I barely tax to maintain my televsion needs...

As soon as NCIS & Castle's ratings dip and they get axed, I think I'll be done with network programming completely.

Eff 'em, I hope Hulu and iPad put them out to pasture...greedy bastards.

Network TV pisses me off Part 1 to begin. This always seems to happen to me and I never think to rant about it. Well, last week I was shopping for a DVD and came across a TV series I had only caught an episode or two of. It piqued my interest and on a total lark bought it.

This show had been a summer release on one of the big three networks and I had stumbled across it twice before. Now, I never have to opportunity to watch "live" television as my schedule generally precludes that from me. But there I sat chatting with my wife and kids while randomly catching bits and pieces of dialog and plot from these two episodes.

What struck me was the production value. Normally, sci-fi on tv either looks really good or really cheesy and
(to my way of thinking)...this show had to be on solid ground because it looked great and was in a prime slot. So I was looking forward to catching up on it in reruns.

Back to the present: Now it is January and I'm standing in the electronics department and see this show sitting there on the shelf...I'm game. I pick it up and bring it home. I figured I'd watch the Pilot episode and based on its merits decide when I would watch the rest of the series. Again, I was struck by the production value. The casting was good and the story and manner of plot delivery was really enjoyable.

Now before I get too far, I'll reveal that I had had a similar experience once before. I found a movie that looked good, I recalled that it got some really interesting reviews and then it kind of disappeared. That movie was Joss Whedon's "Serenity" and my infatuation with it led me to research as much about it as possible. How was it that I missed a television show by the name of "Firefly"? It was right in my wheelhouse. I was the target demographic. Well some how I did. And I must say that I really dislike Fox for that mismanagement.

So here I am again with a fabulously interesting and well done Pilot episode. What can I do? I watch the rest of the disc, 2 more episodes and I am hooked. All in all, I watched the entire series of 13 episodes in the course of a few days and each episode got better and better. The plot got more twisted, the mystery deepened, the characters evolved (and grew on me), the story was enriched. Now that I have watched the entire first season and as I have come to learn the entire series. I am pissed off again, this time at ABC. ABC also pulled all of the content from Hulu and iTunes, destroyed the sets and released the cast and crew, to add insult to injury I learned they only aired the first 8 episodes! So no second season for me.

Fortunately, I found an interview with the creator, who read from his show bible and revealed (to my eternal thanks) several of the secrets and resolutions of the first season.

So here I rant, cursing ABC and all the other network television executives who cut well written shows mid-season.

Oh, I forgot to name this sci-fi gem for is called "Defying Gravity" and if you get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it.