Tag Archives: US TV

TV is broken.

I don’t know about you, but I’m bored with TV.

Sorry, TV – it’s not you, its me.

Detectives Bland and Blander in NBC's "Grimm".

I can’t blame this year’s new fantasy series “Grimm” exclusively for that (it wouldn’t be fair to place that responsibility on the shoulders of a freshman series), but it is the show that my wife and I have been watching which does seem to illustrate some of the issues that I have with a lot of television programmes of late.

Ever since “The X-Files” went all-out and delivered a complex, conspiracy-driven SF drama which compelled viewers to pay attention and keep up with all that alien abduction/invasion continuity, television producers have seen the merit in thinking about arc plots and in telling their stories over the course of five to seven years, all in the hope of their show going into lucrative syndication.

“Grimm” wants to go this multi-year route, with its hero detective Nick Burkhardt (the pleasant but unmemorable David Giuntoli) discovering that he’s got the gift and can sniff out evil fairytale monsters who are not myths but very real threats who live in the city and prey on us.  There’s a conspiracy running in the background, almost like clockwork, and a long list of storybook beasties to pit against the permanently baffled cops.

So far, so fine – if I were putting together a show which was going to go the distance, I’d probably stick directly to the same template and hopefully watch the viewers, box set sales and desirable demographics roll in.

My issue is that I’m getting bored with formula telly.  Dramas about cops – even cops who investigate the Big Bad Wolf – lawyers and doctors are very much what I don’t care about seeing every week and that seems to be the most popular route for producers and writers to follow.

The argument might well be that those professions offer a conduit to drama and life-and-death issues which most viewers can easily relate to, but I’ve seen too much of that stuff.  House is Sherlock Holmes with a medical degree and a fine line in running shoes.  Bones is an smart-mouthed, Aspergers spectrum Atheist who won’t freak out the flyover states because, well, she’s a chick and they can justly disregard her fancy talk on that basis alone.  The problem that I have with those two shows is that they are ultimately detective shows, even if neither protagonist is a cop – detection as a framework for drama seems to be the surest thing in telly currently and I’m a bit bored with it.

I suspect that my bias may be due to my speculative fiction Jones.  Why would I watch the latest pseudo-detective quirk fest with a feature actor transitioning to TV when I can read a book which genuinely transports me and offers the accessibility of serial storytelling in a package which, for me, is more digestible and desirable?  I realise that many novel series can be accused of the same, fiscally focussed formula fetish which drives the goggle box creatives but I can justify that in a way that I can’t with network shows.

I can cast those books and see them in my mind’s eye in a fashion which is more satisfying than in having the work ninety percent done for me by a producer and casting assistant.  The action defies constraints of budget and the focus on wit is generally more desirable for me than in finding a place to have the heroes use the latest product-placed gadget or car to move the plot forward.

The exception to my arbitrary rule set. So sue me.

That said, I’m kind of looking forward to watching season four of “Castle”, for no good reason that I can think of, other than it having all of the comforting familiarity and well-trod tropes that I’ve just decried other series for cleaving to.  Yes, the ones that I’ve just been grousing about.  Me, a hypocrite and proverbial trolling blogger?  Surely some mistake…

If Nathan Fillion wasn’t the lead, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this tale of a crime novelist consulting on real police cases, but his presence is often enough to make me give this series more of a chance than it might honestly deserve.  If ever an actor’s charm can be said to carry a show, Nathan Fillion is the main reason to watch “Castle”.

I’m a Whedonist.  I follow my Captain wherever he goes.

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Big Media gets smart?

"The River" - this year's "Lost" or the new "Flash Forward".

In a development which probably isn’t a harbinger of things to come,  ABC Studios have partnered with iTunes in the UK to bring new mystery series, “The River”, to UK viewers a day after it debuts in the US.

This is partly down to the awkward but undeniable fact that no UK broadcaster has picked up the show yet, despite reviews of the pilot like this one from io9.

Something which makes me slightly nervous about this show is the involvement of “Paranormal Activity” creator Oren Peli and Steven Spielberg as producers.  Spielberg’s record on TV isn’t the best – for every “Band of Brothers” or “The Pacific”, there’s a “Falling Skies” or “Terra Nova”.  Neither of those shows is an out and out stinker, but they’ve always seemed to me to be feature projects which couldn’t quite hack it and ended up on telly.

I have to say that I wonder if this is going to be the shape of television to come – buying a single show season pass on a platform like iTunes rather than shelling out for a pricey tv package which has only a few series that you actually want to watch.   The pricing probably has to catch up to make this model of viewing attractive – I’m not sure that I want to commit to a show from the outset which might never get beyond twelve episodes – but as I find myself watching fewer and fewer hours of TV each year (a number which will decrease  yet further when “30 Rock” ends its run), perhaps taking a punt on the new JJ Abrams or Ron D Moore show will seem like the way to go.

 

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