Monday, May 28, 2012

‘Supernatural,’ ‘Awake,’ ‘Smash’ are highlights of the 2011-12 TV season

The broadcast network TV season has become less relevant with the rise of original programming on cable TV and even Internet video services like Netflix and Hulu.
Shows on cable channels like AMC and TNT don’t require the same size audience as those on the major networks of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to be considered successful. So, edgy or complex storytelling on the broadcast networks is mostly doomed to failure.
That explains why the broadcast networks are playing it safe with traditional cop and lawyer shows and low-cost reality TV programs.
Here are my highlights and disappointments from the 2011-12 TV season.

‘Supernatural’ continues to surprise after 7 seasons

Some critics grumbled about this season’s plot line on “Supernatural” involving the Leviathans as the big bad villain. (See Huffington Post review of the season finale.) But I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s main arc, especially corporate Leviathan leader Dick Roman, and the stand-alone episodes.
I’m excited to see how the writers handle season 8, with the demon-hunting Winchester brothers split up. At the end of the season finale, Dean is stuck in Purgatory and Sam is left to deal with demon leader Crowley. “Supernatural” airs on the CW.
(See EW article on the season finale.)

‘Awake’ ends after one season

NBC’s “Awake” lasted only one season. The drama about a man living two realities – one in which his wife is alive, but his son is dead, and the other in which his son is alive, but his wife is dead – was a bold risk. It was a mind-twisting story that was obviously tough for uncommitted TV viewers to stick with.
“Awake” would have been a better fit for cable TV, on a channel like AMC or FX.
I’m glad the producers were able to come up with a satisfying series finale in what should have been its first-season finale.
(See articles about the finale on EW, Hitfix and Many Media Musings.)

‘Smash’ strikes a chord with music lovers

NBC’s “Smash” isn’t a smash hit, but it’s pretty darn good.
I like musical theater and enjoy seeing the stage-craft involved in putting on a Broadway show. I like the leads, especially Jack Davenport and the beautiful Katharine McPhee, and the original songs are top-notch.
However, I wish the show was more realistic and edgy. Much of the storytelling is pretty conventional and some of the characters lack depth and motivation.
Still, I’m looking forward to seeing how the show’s Marilyn Monroe musical shapes up in season two.
(EW wasn’t a fan of the finale. The reviewer found it “exasperating.”)

‘The River’ comes to an end

ABC’s found-footage horror series “The River” never caught on with viewers. It suffered from monster-of-the-week storytelling early on that turned off viewers. But once the show found its sea legs, it was a pretty good ride.
Like other shows this year, it had a premise that probably couldn’t sustain itself for several seasons. So, even though it didn’t get a second-season pick-up, it was fun for viewers who stuck with it.

‘Vampire Diaries’ maintains high quality

Season three of “The Vampire Diaries” had the second-best cliffhanger of the year, after “Supernatural.” Human protagonist Elena Gilbert (played by Nina Dobrev) died, but unexpectedly arose as a vampire in the season finale’s final moments.
The show is a hit for the CW, which will likely run it into the ground. In the best of worlds, the producers would set an end date for the show (maybe after season 5) and go out on top. But this is show business, not show art.
(See EW article on the season finale.)

‘Revenge,’ ‘Missing’ and bric-a-brac

ABC’s drama series “Revenge” is a hit with viewers. But my wife likes it more than I do.
Loosely based on “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Revenge” isn’t hard-edged enough for me. Plus, lead actress Emily VanCamp doesn’t have the chops to pull off her role.
ABC promotes the show as a “guilty pleasure,” which usually means something is so bad it’s good. In truth, “Revenge” is neither that bad nor that good.
I gave several other shows a try this year, including “Ringer,” “Missing” and “Terra Nova,” but didn’t stick with them. All three were canceled, so no great loss there.
The CW’s “Ringer” started off well, but got more and more far-fetched as it went on. Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was good in it, but she couldn’t carry the series on her own.
ABC’s “Missing” was a C-grade Hollywood feature stretched into a series with lousy writing, poorly staged action and a lead actress (Ashley Judd) who was out of her depth.
Fox’s “Terra Nova” had expensive special effects, but strictly pedestrian storytelling. The new prehistoric world it portrayed didn’t seem dangerous enough. “Terra Nova” was too family-friendly when it should have been a high body count, survival action show.
Among cable shows, I enjoyed the second season of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (pictured above), even though it dragged its feet moving the story along. I also liked the first season of FX’s “American Horror Story,” dark and down beat as it was.

Related stories:

“4 Big TV Gambles That Failed This Season, and What That Means for the Next One” (The Wrap; May 13, 2012)

“The 2011-12 TV season in review: What went wrong, what was done right, and what should have been” (EW; May 22, 2012)

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...