Monday, December 6, 2010

Report Card for Fall, 2010 Shows

To be exact, this is a report card on shows I watch. I am afraid to report that I watch only bits and pieces of new shows. This was just not a good year for new shows.

I may not be blogging much (blame my two little niblets for that!), but I'm still watching television. I may not watch the show in the same week it airs, but I'm still watching. This post will discuss how I think the shows are faring this new season.


One of the marvels of Chuck is that it has taken science fiction conventions and turned them on their head. In this case, Chuck's family all knows about his superhero powers (I guess that's what you'd call the Intersect) and he landed the hot babe. Chuck's sister is extremely smart, so the writers would have to stretch credulity far more than they already do to have Chuck keep that secret hidden. However, Ellie has made Chuck promise to leave the spy game, a promise Chuck has broken. How long can he hide that from her? Who knows?

Many have decried Chuck's relationship with Sarah Walker as a Moonlighting moment, claiming that the affair has caused the show to jump the shark. I disagree. From what I've read (amazingly enough, I never watched Moonlighting), Moonlighting lost it's spark long before the leads shared a bed. Plus, keeping Chuck and Sarah apart in the past two seasons alone has stretched the writers' abilities, so it was time for them to either come together or get rid of one. And what would Chuck be without Sarah? Or Chuck, for that matter? No, I think the relationship is fine, though some of their arguments are as manufactured as the plot points that kept them apart.

The major reveal of the season is Morgan Grimes, Chuck's Buy-Moron best friend. Last year Morgan learned Chuck's secret and joined the CIA. This season, he was made manager of the CIA-front Buy More, earned John Casey as a mentor, and started dating Casey's daughter. He's a bumbling fool who more often than not is right. In other words, in a way, he's taken on the role Chuck used to have. He's the outsider whose perspective and unusual ways have earned him the respect of John Casey (brilliantly portrayed by Adam Baldwin). He's also earned my respect, and has become the heart of the show.

The first half of this season has focused on Chuck finding his mother (who - surprise, surprise - is also a spy). This plot line has been underwhelming, though Timothy Dalton as the psychotic Volkoff has been a joy.

The Volkoff plot has been a bust, but Morgan makes the grade higher: B.


Last season ended with House starting a relationship with Cuddy after almost relapsing into narcotics abuse. Huddy fans rejoiced.

I was never a Huddy fan, but I preferred House with Cuddy than Jennifer Morrison's self-righteous Cameron. Cuddy, at least, was House's emotional and intellectual equal. Plus, unlike Cameron, you knew Cuddy would know exactly what she was getting herself into. And that's what's been so cool about the season. House and Cuddy both know their weaknesses, and have been trying to address them as adults. House has not been made softer (watch him describe his relationship with Cuddy as an episode from Wild Kingdom), and he has resorted to form by lying and manipulating her to get his way, both at work and in their relationship. Many television romances are predictable, and thus boring, but this one so far has not been. I have no idea if they will make it or not. And I like that I don't know.

The only other thing worthy of note is that Peter Jacobson and Olivia Wilde have finally been added to the credits, and Jennifer Morrison's name has been removed. Cameron, I hardly missed you.

That said, this show is clearly aging, and the writers don't seem to acknowledge it. The cases are becoming less interesting, and House's arguments about human nature have been aired many times before. The acting remains top-notch. Grade: B-.

Human Target

This show is the perfect comic book television show. It has succeeded in a way that Heroes can only imagine. Christopher Chance is a former assassin who is now attempting to atone for the harm he has caused. He knows many languages and forms of fighting. He can protect people better than anyone else, but often puts his own life in danger, simply because he doesn't really care if he lives or dies. If he lives, he wants to continue to help others. He is joined by Winston (the incredible Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley, how steals just about every scene he's in, except with McBride).

I learned just recently that I missed last season's finale, I presume because of all the changes in cable boxes we experienced this last year. From what I can tell, enemies of Chance took Winston captive to force Chance to help them. Winston was nearly blown up, and Chance was so traumatized that someone he loved almost died because of him. So he joins an ashram in Nepal. Or Tibet. Whichever. He is found by a Melinda Gates-like woman, who's life is in danger after her husband was murdered. After Chance saves her, she essentially "buys" his business. So Indira Varma (of Rome fame) joins the cast.

I've only seen two of three episodes so far this season, and so far, I've found the series to be the same in tone and atmosphere as last season. Mark Valley as Christopher Chance brings a warm, self-deprecatory humor to the role, and the addition of Varma (and a female thief who idolizes Guerrero) has not interfered with that yet. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm giving the show a provisional: A.


Community is the only comedy I have on DVR. I like its zany humor, and I love that John Oliver from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has a recurring role. Last season, the show struck comedy gold when it parodied every bad action flick, with the students of Greendale Community College join a paintball war with the winner earning the right to priority registering. This season they've parodied zombie films and Apollo Thirteen films. Like last season, the episodes are a bit inconsistent - Betty White's guest turn was underwhelming - but it's always a fun half-hour. I'm giving a B+.


Last season, the group broke up. Bones went to some remote island to study the beginnings of humankind, Booth went to Afghanistan to train would-be snipers, Hodgins and Angela went to Paris, and Sweets grew a beard (or something like that). Caroline Julian, one of Bones' recurring characters who's more interesting than some of the main characters, brings them back to save Camille Saroyan's career. After doing so, the gang's all back together, like nothing's changed.

Or so it would seem. Angela's pregnant (and the storyline where everyone figures it out but keeps it from Hodgins because he wanted to surprise them was deadly dull) and Booth has a serious girlfriend. The girlfriend is the real source of dramatic tension this season, as Bones has to deal with the fact that she rejected Booth, who has moved on. The girlfriend is an accomplished journalist, and quite likable, and Bones has made an effort to be a friend. But it's obvious she recognizes what she passed up, and that Booth still cares for her. It appears that soon Bones' inner turmoil will be expressed. I'll be curious to see how that works out.

Bones remains, as ever, inconsistent, so I'll give it a B-.


Fringe is one of those shows that just gets better each year. Last season ended with Walter successfully finding Peter in the other dimension and bringing him home. However, unbeknownst to both of them, they brought along the other dimension's Olivia, called "Fauxlivia". "Our" Olivia remained in the other dimension, where she was experimented upon to discover what it was that allowed her to cross dimensions. While maintaining the "monsters of the week" story line, the show managed to show Fauxlivia's attempts to accomplish whatever she was sent over to do and Olivia's eventually successful attempts to return home.

Anna Torv has shown herself to be a far better actress than she was ever given credit for. Many complained that she was too flat in her portrayal of Olivia, but I thought her lack of affect made sense, given the fact her lover was initially thought to be a traitor. This season, she played two Olivias, and managed to show the tiny, subtle differences that exist between the two. John Noble has always been recognized as a great actor, and his portrayal of two Walters has not disproved that. We see in the alternate Walter - called "Walternate" - what our Walter could have been, and it is not a pretty picture. Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop remains as watchable as ever.

The Olivias have returned to their rightful universes, and only time will tell what damage Fauxlivia managed to wreck here. The immediate fall out, of course, will occur between Olivia and Peter. Somehow, Peter will have to reconcile his affair with Fauxlivia, and his own inability to recognize her as an impostor. This is one show I look forward to seeing week after week. Grade: A+.

Project Runway

I've already blogged about my impressions of the great season of Project Runway we just had. I never posted my thoughts about the fact that Gretchen won over Mondo, but I refuse to let that disappointment sway me from my opinion. Grade: A.

The Good Wife

I remain captivated by this show, in large part driven by Juliana Margulies's portrayal of a betrayed wife. This season, Alicia's husband campaigns to win his job back, while the law firm she works for has merged with another. The firm's merger may have saved it from bankruptcy, but has created a whole new set of problems, including the addition of a potentially felonious investigator and Diane's decision to leave the firm. Meanwhile, Alicia has just learned that Will apparently left her a message detailing how he feels about her, a message she never got because Eli Gold deleted it. Will's moved on, assuming Alicia moved on. This sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? But it's still good, and my description doesn't do it justice. The writing is excellent, the acting is impeccable, and the plots are interesting without being predictable. I'm definitely giving this an A.

I never did watch Undercovers. I eventually deleted the episodes. Apparently, I wasn't the only one not watching - the show was canceled.

I've watched a few episodes of Raising Hope. It is amusing, but Cloris Leachman's character is a little too broad and silly for enjoyment. It's fun to watch when I come across it.

I've started watching The Office, and I must say, it turns out I'm a fan. Who knew? I've not seen enough this season to have an opinion as to its grade. Maybe at the end of this season.

You might be justified in accusing me of grade inflation, and you may be right. But why waste my valuable time watching a show that doesn't even warrant a B-?


  1. I don't watch anything that I would declare under a B- either (and Chuck, to me, is verging on C territory and at risk of getting cut). This fall was all about cable shows for me - Dexter and In Treatment get As, Boardwalk Empire and Walking Dead get A+s. I watch many more comedy show than you: How I met Your Mother: A-, 30 Rock: A, The Office: B+, The Big Bang Theory B+. I am going to try out a new Fox show this winter: Chicago Code. It's from the maker of The Shield, which warrants a chance from me. I'm intrigued about your love of Fringe -- maybe I'll give it a go on Netflix sometime.

  2. If you do try Fringe, I recommend patience. Unless you're like me and just like looking at Joshua Jackson.

    Let me know what you think of Chicago Code. The commercials have annoyed me.

    Many observers would give The Office a lower than B+ this season. I don't know why.