16 July 2016
That’s it, the network TV season is over. I would ask how you felt about it but, let’s be honest, you don’t watch network TV anymore. You watch Game of Thrones and, if you’re really cool, you maybe downloaded Horace & Pete (if you haven’t, you should). You’re a young, busy, hip person; you don’t have time for The Middle. But should you make time?
The short answer is no. If you only watch Game of Thrones and obscure auteur limited series, there is simply nothing for you that doesn’t require a paid subscription or questionable streaming ethics. But if you work hard all week and just need a 20-minute easy laugher with a big ole heart- the networks have you covered. NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX are still the best game in town for reliable laughs with no horse sex or Anne Frank jokes (here’s lookin’ at you, HBO Sundays).
Season three of arguably the most dramatically ambitious sitcom on network started out with an episode that beautifully showed off how well the writers and the cast (Allison Janney in particular, of course) can handle drama in a comedy. Coming off a season that balanced that quality perfectly and developed the drama organically, the season premiere that saw Bonnie confronting her birth mom felt a little heavy handed (and potentially like an Emmy episode; as if Janney needs any help winning those). From there, the season started to take shape in a direction that made more sense as Christy reached out to become a sponsor and the drama that followed suit felt incredibly well earned. I didn’t love Christy being flung back down the professional ladder but her struggles with Baxter moving on (and pulling Roscoe away) were great, as was Bonnie’s intriguing relationship with Adam. That said, the supporting cast continues to sit wholly in the shadow of the two (excellent) leads and the writers still can’t figure out what Violet’s deal is.
Life in Pieces
The first season of this segmented sitcom that tells four separate short stories instead of one integrated one in each episode started off slowly but improved quickly on the strength of its killer ensemble cast. The strongest storyline of each episode tends to belong to the pair of Colin Hanks and Zoe Lister-Jones as new parents though Thomas Sadoski steals plenty of scenes as the disenfranchised (and intermittently lovelorn) Matt. The parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) are still the weak links but this ensemble as a whole is really working and I can’t wait to see where they go in season two.
The Big Bang Theory
I seem to find myself defending this show almost constantly. People who haven’t watched it in years hate it with astounding vitriol. I clarify that the people who hate this show haven’t watched it in years because it really is a whole new show in the last few seasons and getting better all the time as the characters finally grow up. This season saw Leonard and Penny adjust to married life and her settle into her new job post-acting dreams and Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon and Amy broke up, moved on, found each other again and finally moved forward. The guys dealt with patent law and distribution of credit on a scientific invention. Howard and Bernadette prepared to be parents. Ace guest stars Christine Baranski and Laurie Metcalf both returned in their spot-on roles as Leonard and Sheldon’s mothers and it all culminated in an incredibly strong finale that dealt with actual moral quandary and character psychology. It’s not a brilliant show and I understand the arguments against it, I’m just saying that there’s so much more there than the haters are interested in watching to find. Raj continues to be super lame; this continues to be a huge problem.
The Odd Couple
This adaptation of an adaptation continues to be hokey and overly laugh-tracked but damn if I don’t find myself invested. The Teri Hatcher storyline is growing Matthew Perry’s Oscar up in good ways and I love the addition of Geoff Stults in a larger recurring role (RIP, Enlisted; you were too good for this world, or at least for FOX). I also love Christine Woods so the more of her we get as Felix’s ex-wife (however unlikely) the better. It may be leftover Sabrina loyalty but I care deeply about Lindsay Sloane’s dull Emily.
I slashed my network drama schedule this year in an effort to focus on shows I really cared about. Supergirl was a half casualty of that when I started a system for watching it that flew in the face of my usual “don’t miss a moment” approach. I realized fairly quickly that I loved about a third (maybe half) of the show and couldn’t care less about the remainder. My unorthodox solution? I fastforwarded almost everything. From about the midseason point when I implemented this strategy, I skipped most fight scenes, DEO exposition and alien world building. I fastforwarded until I saw one of three faces: Jeremy Jordan (whose charmingly self-deprecating performance as overlooked best friend tech geek Winn is even more delightful than expected but, even if it wasn’t, I would watch him anyway), Mehcad Brooks (who is so magnetic as James Olsen that it’s impossible to look away) and, of course, Calista Flockhart (whose Cat Grant is not only the funniest character on screen but the most interesting and well-developed by a mile and a half). I like Melissa Benoist but even she can’t make me care about the damn DEO (I made fastforwarding exceptions for the great Laura Benanti, the awesome Toy Man episode and the Flash crossover because it was one of my favourite hours of TV all year). I know this show got made fun of when the first trailer made it look like a workplace rom-com but damn if all the best stuff isn’t the workplace rom-com stuff. Kara Danvers is infinitely more interesting than Supergirl.
*Other than The Good Wife (the final season’s on my PVR), the other CBS show I watch is Survivor which I’ve already written about a few times this season. In conclusion, I’ll just say that a) Scot and, in particular, Jason are clearly not villains and anyone who let the edit fool them is crazy; b) this cast was incredible and I’d love to see so many of them play again (Aubrey, Cydney, Debbie, Nick, Neal, Scot, Jason and definitely the totally underrated Julia); c) Aubrey obviously should have won but, as a Natalie White supporter, I’m not going to harp on that for too long because it gets annoying and whomever won deserved to win because they won. Incredible season, especially if you’re not results oriented, which you shouldn’t be.