In case you somehow missed it, The Office aired its series finale last week. Now, I’m on the record with my problems with that show, and fans seemed to like the finale a lot, so I won’t rain on their parade with my criticisms of it. But it brought to mind a problem I have with series finales in general: It really bothers me when characters in TV finales act like they know they’re in a TV finale.
This is a very common problem, especially with comedies. Plot-driven shows can spend their finales concluding whatever series-long arcs it has been developing: (Spoilers) The Sopranos settled Tony’s war with New York, Battlestar Galactica found “Earth,” Lost explained the Island (kind of), etc. But shows that are more character-driven end up filling the time with a lot of “finale talk.” Continue reading »
Every year this list gets harder and harder to write. After a spring of Mad Men, Girls, and Veep, followed by asummer of Breaking Bad, Louie, Wilfred, and Pretty Little Liars, fall is starting to look like the worst part of television’s year: another round of network shows destined to be cancelled after a few weeks, or so broad and grating that they’re hard to watch. Nevertheless, there’s usually something to be excited about, even if I have to dig deep to round out the list:
10) Ben & Kate Premieres September 25 on FOX
I’m throwing this on the list because it felt wrong not to include any new comedies, even if this year’s batch seems particularly uninspired. At least this one has Jim Rash’s writing partner, Nat Faxon, in it. Plus a cute kid…
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What we read while demanding Indonesia refund our concert tickets…
The Gang of Four
“It’s super important to me that people stay interested in Walt. It’s not quite as important to me that people continue to root for him” —Vince Gilligan
When did Walter White become a “bad guy”? If the pilot is to be believed, then he originally “broke bad” when he first decided to start selling crystal meth. But that probably doesn’t hold true for most viewers—he had just learned he was dying and his motives were noble, so we were all rooting for him.
Walt’s first murder was self-defense, and even his second was only done to protect himself and his family—he was in anguish when he realized that he couldn’t let Krazy-8 go. So most of the audience would probably forgive him for that, too. There are similar extenuating circumstances for most of Walt’s early sins—his lies to his family and the deaths he caused. For a very long time, it was easy to make excuses for Walt’s behavior. Continue reading »
It’s time for my third annual installment of this laboriously titled NPI feature! And, man, was compiling this year’s list difficult. Not only is this fall season following an unusually impressive summer in TV, with Breaking Bad, Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Pretty Little Liars, and Rivals all airing solid to great seasons, but the shows premiering over the next few weeks do not look especially promising. After all, does Whitney Cummings really need two new shows? As usual, some old favorites are off the list, either due to a decline in quality (Dexter) or senescence (Friday Night Lights). In their place, though, are shows I am not at all confident in labeling “exciting.” Anyway, with all that hedging out of the way, on with the list:
10) Hope Solo on Dancing With The Stars Premiered September 19 on ABC
For normal people, who don’t have the same crush on Hope Solo that I do, this probably isn’t that exciting. And while I won’t be watching DWTS, I will be looking up Hope’s performances on YouTube… Continue reading »
As Season Two of Louie continues on FX, John S and Josh will be offering NPI readers their reactions to each episode. At the end of the season, they will rank the episodes. Get excited. Continue reading »
As I noted one year ago today, I get more excited than most people by the start of a new television season. While Louie, Mad Men, and Pretty Little Liars have done a decent job of satisfying my TV-fix over the summer, I’m ready for a full slate of new shows. Of course, some of these will disappoint: My list from 2009 included such letdowns as FlashForward, Bored to Death, and the most recent seasons of How I Met Your Mother and The Hills. At the same time, though, shows I hadn’t expected to like, like Modern Family and Parks and Recreation, made up for it with great seasons. So even though this list will probably look equally stupid a year from now, here are the 10 things I’m most excited about this fall on TV:
10. The Event Premieres Monday September 20 on NBC
Now, I know this show is probably not going to be good. It seems like a show constructed around a marketing premise (“What is the event?”) and cribbing from the likes of 24 and Lost. Basically, it’s this year’s FlashForward. As with all of these shows, there is a very low probability of success—but if it does turn out to be good, it could possibly fill the void left by the end of Lost last May.* Continue reading »
On Monday Steve Carell restated his intent to leave The Office when his contract ends after next season. This could, of course, be a negotiating ploy, but Carell is, by pretty much all accounts, a class act—it seems more likely that he’s just being honest when he says it’s time for his run to end. He also seemed very confident that the show could go on without him: “The show is great, and the ensemble is so strong, and the writers are great, so it’s just one part of that ensemble drifting off. They’ve incorporated so many new characters and so many new, great storylines that I have no doubt it’ll continue as strong if not stronger than ever.”
Now, it’s hard to think of any examples of this actually working; that is, of a star leaving a show, only to see that show improve. Most of the obvious examples of cast replacement (Jon Lovitz for Phil Hartman on NewsRadio, Megan Mullally for Jane Lynch on Party Down, the two Darrens on Bewitched, the Tori Era on Saved by the Bell) were done with secondary characters, and even the best of these were only moderate successes. Continue reading »
As most dedicated Seinfeld fans know, the initial concept for what would become one of the best live-action sitcoms of all-time was an exploration of how comics get their material. The pilot episode was edited such that the action cut back and forth between Jerry’s life and Jerry on stage. And while the next few episodes maintained this format, the stand-up segments of the show were gradually scaled back, soon only appearing at the beginning and end of every episode, then only the beginning, and by the end of the show’s run not at all. By that point, of course, the show had evolved into the “show about nothing”—as opposed to a study of the life of a comic—that we all know and love.
Last night’s premiere of Louie on FX, though, is almost a look at what that initial concept could have looked like. Whereas Seinfeld quickly abandoned the stand-up conceit in favor a more general sitcom formula—with secondary characters and sets and cohesive plots—Louie’s first two episodes show no traces of those things. Instead we see C.K. play a man named “Louis C.K.” who, like the real C.K., is divorced with two kids who attend public school, lives in New York City, and works as a stand-up comedian. We see him on stage performing, and then we see little short films or vignettes that flesh out the ideas he talks about on stage. In some ways, it’s kind of like that old Comedy Central show Pulp Comics, except not awful. Continue reading »
There are very few episodes of Lost that I’ve seen twice. This is not because I dislike the show, obviously, but merely because re-watching Lost often seems pointless. Unlike other, denser shows on television, like The Wire or The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, Lost does not seem like a show that would reward repeat viewings. It’s not layered with the same subtlety and depth as those shows, and a lot of the suspense of certain episodes is drained when you know, for example, that Jin has not been captured by “the Others” but by the survivors from the tail of the plane. Continue reading »