Monday, September 19, 2005

Summer TV wrap-up

The 4400 (USA)
This remains a guilty pleasure for me, and something I might not watch if it were on during the regular season. But despite the sometimes wooden dialogue and acting and often predictable plotting, the season wrapped up on a high note, proving that the producers did have some cards left up their sleeves even after revealing so much about the 4400 in last year's mini-series. I even almost believe that they have a well thought-out plan, although I'm not sure I'm ready to grant them that yet. The alternate reality episode was a highlight, even if it was a gimmick straight out of Star Trek. I liked that they let it have consequences rather than just returning everything to normal at the end. The finale, too, was satisfying, wrapping up a number of long-running plotlines while opening up new avenues to explore next season (which I definitely plan to watch).

Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi)
There's still one more episode to go in the mini-season (new episodes resume in January), but I'm throwing it in anyway. I started watching this because of glowing reviews and recommendations from friends, and I've found it to be interesting and involving, if not quite the brilliant drama some critics make it out to be. It took me a few episodes to get my bearings on the large cast of characters, and I'm sure there are nuances from the first season that I'm still not familiar with. But I feel like I know what's going on now, and a lot of it is very complex and layered. I like the show's seriousness, and I like that they are willing to take risks and kill off important characters or make big changes. Sometimes, like The 4400, it ends up with cheesy sci-fi cliches, but it more often than not avoids them. I'm glad to see two of the driving forces behind one of my favorite sci-fi series, Deep Space Nine, heading up interesting sci-fi dramas these days (Ronald D. Moore on Battlestar, and Ira Steven Behr on The 4400). And with all the quickie sci-fi cash-ins on the networks this fall, it's also nice to see cable taking the time to get it right, and not just jumping on a bandwagon.

The Closer (TNT)
In my mid-summer assessment, I named this one of my favorite shows on TV, and it probably still is, although, as I suspected, the police procedural nature of the show eventually started to bore me. But, also as I suspected, the dialogue, characterization and overall visual style remained top-notch, and this is still one of the most well-written shows on TV. I usually dislike procedurals for their continuity-free perp-of-the-week formats, but this show has kept up a nice balance, focusing on a different crime each week but building character development and even an overall plot arc into the season. I actually worry a little that they've allowed too much change, since the finale was really a complete turnaround from the pilot, and if her entire squad now loves her, I'm not sure what conflict is left for Brenda to face. Still, the evolution of the characters into a unified team has been a pleasure to watch, and I'm sure there will be some interesting new antagonists for next season.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
This one was quite the surprise, as early ads made it look like a dumb sitcom. It turned out to be way better than the overhyped eating disorder "comedy" Starved, which was pretty vulgar and annoying. This is vulgar and brilliant, with Seinfeld-ian characters who have no redeeming qualities but are lovable nonetheless, and storylines that push boundaries without being self-consciously "edgy" (like Starved). It's also absolutely hilarious. Ratings were pretty weak, even for FX, but I hope they take a chance and give the show a second season, especially since this entire season only lasted for seven episodes.

Rescue Me (FX)
I was lukewarm on this show coming out of last season and into this season, but it picked up near the middle for several episodes and then mostly fizzled out toward the end. The finale was very good, though, even if a lot of the storylines were tied up in very predictable ways. It sometimes seems like they keep writing themselves into corners on this show, and there were a number of storylines this season that just kind of faded out without any resolution. I also wonder if any time they get stuck they just decide to kill someone off; the death of Connor felt especially contrived, even if the aftermath was handled very well. I find myself in exactly the same position on this show as I was after last season: I don't like it nearly as much as many critics, but the good outweighs the bad enough that I'll tune in again for another season.

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