The 4400 (USA, Sundays, 9 p.m.)
Last year, I said that this show was no longer a guilty pleasure for me, but I'm not so sure about that anymore. Not that I'm not still enjoying it, because I am for the most part, but the idea that there is a coherent plan and a calculated evolution is no longer one I buy into. Basically, they are making this up as they go along, and I'm pretty sure I've seen the producers say as much in interviews, although none that I can locate at the moment. And maybe having a predetermined long-term plan is overrated, anyway, or at the very least not the only possible way of doing things on a show like this. There's something to be said for improvising and taking chances, which is obviously something they do here. Then again, this show has become so convoluted that it's nearly impossible to figure out who's on which side, and instead of resolving any of the dozens of dangling plotlines, they generally just introduce new ones. This season has also seen the introduction of a useless new character as the latest NTAC boss and a sort of dilution of the premise in the idea that now anyone can get abilities by taking promicin. With only two more episodes left in the season, though, the pace has picked up, and the "Tom is possessed by an agent of the future" storyline is amusing in a campy way. But I do think I have to downgrade my assessment back to "guilty, cheesy sci-fi pleasure," which is still good enough to keep me watching if it gets renewed for another season.
The Closer (TNT, Mondays, 9 p.m.)
Now in its third season, this show has lost a little of the its initial zing, and I find myself less and less engaged with the mysteries of the week, although they were never the reason I was watching in the first place, really. The increased focus on Brenda's personal life has been nice, but I do worry that they are doing a little too much to make her vulnerable and feminine, especially since some of her health issues this season have interfered with her crime-fighting. The best thing about this show is that it stars a strong female character who doesn't just act like a man; I don't think I'd like to see her acting like some dainty, fragile lady, either, though. They are walking a fine line here, so far with success, but I worry that the more they do with Brenda's parents and her life with Fritz and her neuroses, the more they risk turning her into a cartoon. The personal stuff with the other characters has been more understated but still welcome, although in the case of Gabriel's rage issues and unprofessional conduct, it seems to have been dismissed too quickly. I hope for a smooth, continued integration of the character development into the crime-solving plots, which has always been the show's greatest strength.
Rescue Me (FX, Wednesdays, 10 p.m.)
Honestly, I give up. There's not much left to the season, so I'll see it out, but I haven't been interested in a single thing going on in this show this entire year. It's not that the problems they've got are new, but they've just been repeated so many times that I've lost all patience. There are still too many plot developments that seem like they're just inserted for shock value, too many cop-out devices that seem to come from the producers writing themselves into a corner. The Tommy character can bed any woman instantly, and his crises of faith and speeches about heroism just go round and round in circles at this point. The lesser characters are equally adrift, and although I've been dismissive in the past of the show's homophobia and misogyny, when there's nothing else worthwhile going on to distract from it, it becomes a lot more troubling. This was never quite as great a show as some people made it out to be, but its early episodes were raw and exciting, and at this point it just seems like time to call it a day.