Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Update on TV shows, part 1
Where do I start to describe what a crushing disappointment this season has been? I thought the fifth season dragged in its latter half, but there were still enough high points to keep me excited for season six. It turns out season five’s weaker moments were actually portentous. After starting off by suggesting that our hero, Jack Bauer, was just too physically and emotionally scarred to be any use season six has degenerated into a series of lamely staged gun battles and tired plot twists. The show has also never been particularly realistic or artful, but it's always been made with enthusiasm; clever in its plotting and consistent in its logic. It was as if the writers and producers not only gave a shit about what they were doing, but even took some pride in fucking with the audience's emotions.
Now they seem bored by the show, or even hostile towards their viewers. For example, this year they’ve not only recycled season two’s subplot involving an attempt to use the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office but they’ve wrongly and inexplicably depicted the National Security Adviser as voting with the president’s cabinet. This not only amounts to rewriting the Constitution and nation’s laws to accommodate a plot point, but contradicts the show’s own precedent. This might be forgivable, just one more place to suspend disbelief, if the rest of the season had anything going for it. Sadly, the dialogue is more cliché ridden and heavy handed than ever before and the action scenes, which were once distinctive and tense, are bland and possibly interchangeable.
Friday Night Lights
Hands down, my favorite show on network TV. I’ve covered this before, but I still love the crap out of this show. It’s only become more complicated and rewarding as it’s gone on. It’s also managed the kind of tense, surprising plot twists one might associated with a more conventionally exciting show, say, a 24. Aside from the strength of its performances and writing it’s satisfying for being a great show based on a great book, and making great use of good friends’ music. It’ll be sad if this show doesn’t make it to season two, but I hope it will find at least a cult audience on DVD.
I was not impressed by the first six episodes of the third season. I didn’t see much in them to justify taking a long hiatus, but since its return Lost has really improved. There still haven’t been many meaningful answers, but the show’s various mysteries have remained pretty gripping. The rumors I’ve heard are to the effect that the producers are looking at doing a total of seven seasons. This seems like way too many to me, but what do I know. My feeling is that the strength of a show like Lost is its ability to pack a lot, or what seems like a lot, into a little; drawing things out will alienate viewers and make the narrative feel flaccid. I suggest Lost end after five seasons, or maybe after a truncated sixth season (which, in retrospect, is also where The X-Files, clearly a progenitor, should have ended).
The third season was so fully realized, so humane and still so challenging, and so totally satisfying, that I was slow to move on to season four. It turns out, though, that season four only improves on season three’s substantial accomplishments. Many of the main characters (like McNulty, Greggs, Freeman, and Daniels) from previous seasons are supporting players thus far in number four, but I have hardly missed any of them. The Wire was always more than a cop show, but setting season four in a public junior high school is a natural extension of its previous years. A critic recently discussing the future of HBO original programming on NPR's Marketplace called The Wire, which will run one more season, one of the greatest achievements in the history of the medium. There's no hyperbole in that statement.