September is done, and most of the Fall shows have premiered. It seems to be a pretty average season, although the crop of new shows is fairly unimpressive so far. My ratings are for the episodes this season so far only. I plan to do this every month. I don’t watch every show, but I do watch a majority of the hour long dramas and have for the last few years, so I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what’s good and what’s not.
These mini-reviews are spoiler free for this season unless otherwise noted. Previous seasons are fair game.
The Unit / 4×01
Only one episode has aired so far, but it is a great episode. The Unit occupies a place somewhere between fantasy like 24, and realism like Generation Kill. When it’s good, it’s really good, but it’s weaknesses are when the wives stories drift into too much silly drama and when they try to push the action scenes farther than their budget can handle. The season opener had neither of these problems, and set up what could be a really good way to mix up their standard formula. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this season.
True Blood / 1×01-1×04
This new drama on HBO is a twisted mix of Buffy, John from Cincinatti, and an Anne Rice novel. The acting is well above average, especially Anna Paquin as Sookie, and Lois Smith as her grandmother. The show is very strange, but it’s well paced and it definitely has “what will happen next?” draw. Given some time to flesh out the characters and story it could turn into something really good.
Dexter / 3×01
Dexter had a surprisingly good first two seasons. It’s kind of creepy how effectively they make a serious, realistic serial killer a sympathetic character. That said, I’m not sure what new territory they will find to cover in the third season, and the first episode doesn’t really give many clues, it just rearranges some of the pieces a bit. It’s good so far, but they are goingÂ to have to come up with some new angle to keep it from getting stale.
Prison Break / 4×01-4×05
From the good season premiere, Prison Break has kept up the momentum and avoided falling into any of it’s regular traps. It’s as good as Prison Break has ever been, and it looks like they may be able to pull off a whole season without falling down. It’s not great TV but it is entertaining and I look forward to watching it most weeks.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles / 2×01-2×04
Terminator is one of the few overtly sci-fi shows on the air right now. It manages to capture the feel and atmosphere of the second movie very well. The second season starts with a slower pace than the first season, but they have set up some good plot points for the rest of the season, and done a good job exploring some more of the characters backstory.
Chuck / 2×01
Chuck is Alias if you make it a lot less serious and add in the store scenes from 40 Year Old Virgin. Of the two successors to The O.C, Chuck got all the humor, and Gossip Girl got all the teen angst. Chuck got the better deal. It’s silly and unrealistic, but all the characters are likable and it’s a whole lot of fun. The season opener is one of the better episodes so far, and the season is off to a great start.
Heroes / 3×01-3×03
Heroes started off well, but has never quite hit it’s stride. This is especially true in the second season when most of the mysteries from the first season were resolved, and the ones they replaced them with were lame for the most part. So far the third season is much better than the majority of the second season, although I think it has the potential to get a lot better if they tighten up the writing a little and step up the pace. They also need to increase the use of superpowers by a whole lot. What’s the point of a comic book show if people stand around talking most of the time?
NCIS / 6×01
NCIS is one of my relaxation shows because it requires very little investment to watch. You know someone in the Navy will be found dead, and you know they will figure out who did it. It’s unusual for a crime procedural in that the character interaction is it’s main draw. Unlike shows like CSI:Miami where you could easily replace all the actors with cardboard cutouts and have the same quality show, NCIS has very likable characters, and they have a decent amount of development and movement. In addition, once or twice a season they do something that entirely breaks the formula, which is a nice surprise.
The Mentalist / 1×01
Do we really need another crime procedural? Is there anyone out there thinking “I need more murder mysteries, 16 per week is just not enough!” On top of that, do we really need a shameless ripoff of Monk and Psych? I’m willing to give any show a fair chance, no matter how cliche or dumb the synopsis sounds, but I just can’t work up any enthusiasm for The Mentalist. The characters are bland for the most part, and with the exception of Amanda Righetti being hot, none of them make an impression. If it doesn’t improve in another two episodes or so I’m dropping it.
90210 / 1×01-1×05
I liked the pilot for this show, and am happy to say that it’s stayed entertaining. The characters are likable, even the tragically flawed ones, and more importantly the angst and drama never drags the whole show down. Most of the teen actors look like they are genuinely having a good time. Ironically, it’s the cast members from the original 90210 that are the weakest link. They just can’t act very well, and when you don’t have teen overreaction to fall back on, it’s blatantly obvious. It’s no O.C., but it’s been solid so far, and it has a lot of potential.
House M.D. / 5×01-5×02
House is House. It’s basically the same show it’s been from the beginning, although the cast changes this season are working surprisingly well. I don’t think they will be able to get many more seasons from formula, but they can definitely do some interesting things if they know they are going to wrap it all up.
Fringe / 1×01-1×03
The best new show of the season, Fringe has an atmosphere and formula different than anything else on right now. They have a great set up, an original and cool take on “future” technology, and mysteries like only J.J. can do. It’s way too early to tell if it will fall apart like X-files or Lost, but for now it’s a must watch.
Criminal Minds / 4×01
Criminal Minds is the best crime procedural on TV right now. It tries to be realistic, the characters are all well fleshed out at this point, and the writing is tight. The season four opener pickes up from the cliffhanger last season, and does a really good job at resolving it while leaving long lasting consequences.
CSI:NY / 5×01
CSI:NY is the middle child of the CSI empire. It has never been as good as the original CSI, but it is also usually much better than the tragedy that is CSI:Miami. There’s not much more to say, it’s CSI.
Bones / 4×01-4×05
Bones has not adjusted that well to the cast changes this season. While Sweets was a great character when he popped up occasionally, it seems like they are having to try to hard to find reasons to get him into every episode. The new intern every week thing is a decent idea, but they haven’t executed it very well. Also, the Brennan/Booth attraction is getting old. Bones may be on a downward slide.
Knight Rider / 1×01
The new Knight Rider captures the spirit of the old show to an extreme degree. If you could ignore the special effects, this could easily be one of the 80s Glen Larson action shows. Unfortunately, TV writing and acting has advanced a long way in the past 20 years, and very little of that advancement is apparent here. Still, if you can get past the bad dialog, blatant Ford whoring,Â and shameless ways they get the characters into various states of undress, it provides an entertaining 42 minutes of campy fun. I have my doubts about whether they will last the season, but if they tweak the formula a little it could end up filling a niche nobody else is going for right now.
Smallville / 8×01-8×02
For a show that usually has the season premiers and finales as it’s highlights, season eight started out with a whimper. While the departure of Lex and Lana certainly won’t hurt the show, as both of those characters were tapped out long ago, they haven’t really capitalized on it yet. At least they seem to realize that Clark is approaching his mid 20s, and can’t sit around his farm being a bum any longer. The premiere opens the door for a lot more Justice League storylines, which is a good thing. Still, so far the season is very unimpressive.
Supernatural / 4×01-4×02
What a difference a show makes, while Jensen Ackles was entirely uninspiring on Smallville, he is great on Supernatural. Supernatural started out slowly, but over the last three seasons is has gotten consistently better by fleshing out the characters and universe while keeping the standalone episodes very well written. The seaon opener contains quite a few surprises, and sets a good direction for the next season or two.
Tags: 90210, Bones, Chuck, Criminal Minds, CSI:NY, Dexter, Fall 2008 Season, Fringe, Heroes, House M.D., Knight Rider, NCIS, Prison Break, Review, Roundup, Smallville, Supernatural, Terminator: TSCC, The Mentalist, The Unit, True Blood