Monday, May 12, 2014

TV 1H 2014: Hellos and Goodbyes (tv, entertainment)

As we enter finale week of May sweeps, I want to comment on a couple of new and ending shows from this year. Some of these shows ended a while ago, but the Olympics kind of blurred February sweeps for me.

Thank you and goodbye:

How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM)
At its best, HIMYM was one of the best comedies on TV. Great story-telling through interwoven flashbacks from different points of view, deeper characters than your usual group-of-friends-in-NYC sitcom, continuity through frequent callbacks to earlier plot points, and the occasional just plain awesome outrageous moments such as The Naked Man, Robin Sparkles, and many more. The middle seasons did, however, drag on, and they repeated too many jokes. I was ok with the Barneyisms but got tired of the Canada jokes really quickly.

The final season was kind of in the middle of those two extremes, but overall quite enjoyable. There were glimpses of greatness (eg. How Your Mother Met Me) that reminded me of the earlier seasons, while there were all sorts of callbacks that served as a thank you to fans who stuck with the show to the end.

Of course, no discussion of the final season is complete without talking about the controversial ending. I was ok with the concept of the ending as it neatly wrapped up the narrative. It explained why a story about how Ted met the kids' mother was mostly focused on him and his group of friends. What I thought was unnecessary, was that if this was where the producers were always going with it, why did they have to make the mother so damn loveable? Cristin Milioti absolutely killed it as the mother, and was the best thing about the final season.

That pretty much sums up my view of the series as a whole. If it had been a shorter show, maybe 5-6 seasons of its best stuff, it would have been right up there with the very best sitcoms of all time. Instead, there was just too much that was unnecessary. It was legen- and then they waited too long to make it -dary.

While the usual descriptions of Psych often start with mentions of The Mentalist because of the basis of the plot, the show that it reminds me of most is Castle. It's basically a procedural that revels in its silliness. It's fun, simple, and easy to pick up. Psych took pop culture themed episodes (like Castle's sci-fi, zombie, vampire, etc. episodes) and took them up a notch, doing special Xmas episodes and changing the language of their theme song and opening credits. It was a "let's all have fun together" show, rather than "here's how smart we are, look at all these plot twists and turns", and I will miss it dearly. For now, at least there's still Castle, that is when they're not doing the overly dramatic episodes.

Hello and come again:

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
This show is, by itself, an excellent, action adventure that reaches across sci-fi, spy thriller, and other genres. But what separates it from other shows that have come before it is how it has been woven together within the bigger Marvel cinematic universe. The constant callbacks to the Marvel movie franchises such as the Avengers, Thor, and Captain America give the story a grander perspective and the viewer a sense that they are watching something that is an integral part of a epic adventure. It also offers a sense of security that the producers know where the story is going and that it will actually come to a satisfying conclusion.

Hi, bye:

Growing up Fisher
I feel that this is the comedy that NBC hoped for when they brought on Michael J Fox. An endearing, feel-good family comedy that features a main character coming to grips with and overcoming his disability, which in this case is blindness. It has some genuinely funny moments, whereas the Michael J Fox show was slow and boring from start to finish, and barely touched on his Parkinson's. It's unclear whether the show's handling of the dad's blindness will continue to be funny for a longer stretch, but for now this is as good of a traditional (one) family comedy as I've seen the past few seasons. It's appalling to me that this is getting cancelled while that unfunny but more heavily marketed comedy About A Boy gets renewed.

I really liked this show, and am sad that it's not returning. Kinnear did a good job playing the biggest degenerate on TV since Greg House. It had its completely outrageous moments, and the courtroom stuff reminded me of Boston Legal. I don't really recall many degenerate gambler lead roles in TV, so it was fun to have an antihero to root for. I think the show might have had a better chance if it had been on the edgier FX instead of Fox.

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