Well, we have reached the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.
It’s not a hard line. There are still a couple new series yet to debut,
ABC’s Dinotopia and Fox’s The Grubbs (although both have been
pushed back from their original planned start dates, and no one should be
surprised if the latter series never surfaces.) And some old favorites,
such as The Simpsons, have yet to return for a new season.
Still, the dying has begun. Three series have been cancelled. Two
were cut down quickly, as both That Was Then and Girls Club were
dropped after two episodes.
The stylish Push, Nevada was allowed a full six episodes, and
went down with its style intact. The final episode started with an
explanation for the town mystery (if a problematic one), but if you
thought this was designed to be a closing episode, guess again. The
explanation, delivered with the sort of rapidity that made it look
shoe-horned at the last minute, quickly unravels to reveal that larger
mysteries go unsolved. There is no tidy rerunnable miniseries here.
Not, mind you, that stories that stretch over many episodes have done
that well in reruns, but the emerging DVD market is a great aftermarket
for such tales. The DVD of the first season of 24, all of which
makes up one big story, is an apparent success. That bodes well for
getting DVDs of things like Murder One and Wiseguy, shows
which don’t lend themselves to catching random episodes here and there, but
which are hard to commit to watching reruns on a daily basis.
The second season/second storyline of 24 launched last night.
As expected, they are going to make Jack Bauer and what remains of
his family on-going victims of various cruel individuals (not that
Jack didn’t always have a cruel streak in him as well, which we are
amply reminded of in this episode.) And I doubt I’ll stick around for
it. Jack’s daughter is already in the hands of another Abusive Man.
Seeing her go through another season of being Girl
Victim is not something I care to do. (There would have been great,
great satisfaction if, when faced with this new abuser, we had it
suddenly demonstrated to us that she had spent the intervening year
taking self-defense classes. That would certainly have announced to
us that they’re not just stretching out the already paper-thin
content of season one. No such luck, alas.)
Back to the cancellations: the odd thing is not that shows are
already cancelled, but that so few are. Usually by now there have
been more shows that simply didn’t measure up in the ratings.
I won’t try to analyze what part of the longevity of new shows
is due to a vast amount of quality (although I’ve noticed little),
what part is due to network resignation to the fact that they
can’t launch big hits any more, what part is due to networks
starting to believe in giving shows time to find their legs, and what part is due to
flagging attention for older hits like Frasier and The
Drew Carey Show allowing the new shows to get ratings.
So with all these new shows still on the air, what am I still watching?
Not much. I watched Push, Nevada right through the last episode, still
enjoying its lead character. Life With Bonnie is a must. Bram &
Alice still gets my viewership, even though it hasn’t reached for the
Frasier-when-it-was-good tone I hoped it might or even the Will & Grace
level of basic-sitcom-interaction-but-with-something-beneath-the-surface, and
seems willing to hover in tome at some point between that latter series and
Two Guys, a Girl, & (Originally) A Pizza Place. I finally caught
a second episode of Firefly, and while not addicted to it, will
continue to watch it when I can. American Dreams entertains but
does not fascinate, and I may stop watching now that The Simpsons
will be back. And last but far from least, Boomtown continues to
be my kind of storytelling. I’d actually be a little happier if it
didn’t have to focus on the same set of continuing characters every
episode, but I’ll accept that as part of the ride that I’m taking.