So far this season, TV has been both disappointing and better than expected. There aren’t any new standout shows so far, and it’s not looking like any will develop into standouts. There are a few that I like more than others, but their long term prospects are very questionable.
Prison Break has been going the longest, and it is interesting enough to have me waiting to watch it every week. The main problem is that sooner or later they have to actually break out of the prison, and then what? You can’t very well call a show prison break if nobody has to break out any more. The whole thing is so focused on the prison, that I don’t know if it will be able to stand as the fugitive conspiracy show it looks like they are aiming for. So far the out of prison stuff has been the real weak point of the series, so I don’t know that expanding that would be a good idea. The only way I can see it continuing with anything near the current mood and drive is if some of the escapees don’t escape, and have to work on a new plan Time will tell.
There are three new shows that focus on alien invasion, and so far it’s almost like everyone went to a "How to make an alien conspiracy show in 30 days" lecture or something. All three of the shows, Surface, Invasion, and Threshold, share a lot of themes and gimmicks, and I don’t think they will all make it to the mid season break. Surface seems to be going for the disaster movie feel, and they pulled it off really well in the pilot. The next few episodes have narrowed the focus quite a bit and I don’t know if it will hold up in the long run. David Greenwalt (Angel) did join the production team for this last episode though, and it picked back up a lot of the momentum that the other post pilot episodes had lost. Invasion is the show I least like, because they are holding everything too close to their chest. We don’t know anything about their aliens other than they like water and may be body snatching or infecting people. They keep purposefully misdirecting, and pretty soon they will have to put up or shut up. I like Threshold best out of the three, it has the best cast, and so far the best writing. You can’t beat having Carla Gugino, Brent Spinner, and midget on a secret government anti-alien team. I am wary because it is basically a good portion of the freshly out of work Star Trek production guys, but we haven’t seen any ridges or tachyon pulses yet and Berman isn’t involved, so there may be hope. At least nobody has a forward deflector array they can rewire.
Criminal Minds is a procedural that picks up right where the short lived The Inside left off a few weeks ago. It’s about an FBI team that tracks down serial killers and other difficult cases, and has a much darker feel than standard CSI or Law and Order cop procedurals. Hopefully it lasts longer than The Inside did.
As average as the new shows have been, the returning shows have been full of surprises. LOST is now officially dead to me, since they don’t seem to want to do anything but drag things out as far as they can. When you have "Season Premiere" then "Season Premiere: Deleted Scenes", then "Season Premiere: More Deleted Scenes (with Bonus Ridiculous Arguments!)" as your first three episodes, something is very wrong. Alias didn’t drag things out, but it is in the process of re-inventing itself, and not doing very well at it so far. Cast changes and medical conditions required some tricky writing, but it was done very poorly, and lost all of the great Alias feel the last few episodes of last season had found again. It’s possible that once everything settles into the new places it will return, but I’m not holding out much hope. When you can’t even remember who is dead, who is alive, who is in prison, and why then something is very wrong. J.J. Abrams is 0 for 2 this season on shows, he needs to get back in the game.
On the other hand, we have Smallville, which seems to have totally shed all the weirdness that infested last season and is finally for the first time in it’s life firing on all cylinders. Smallville has always teetered on the edge of greatness, with a few misguided detours to Dawson’s Creek land, and Charmedville, but so far this season I have been extremely impressed. Superman is so close now, you are almost expecting Clark to rip off his shirt and have the costume on underneath. They seem to be focusing on arc, and I really hope they keep it up, the show is about Superman, and the farther they move from that the worse it gets. It looks like they may kill off a main character, and done correctly that will be awesome, done poorly it will piss off the fans and lose all their momentum. I still wish my theory that Chloe was actually Lois, and she changed her name and hair color at some point would have panned out, but they don’t consult me on these things.
Veronica Mars is Without A Doubt the best thing on TV right now. It was great last year, and had the best season finale I have seen in a long time, but this season is just amazing. The season premiere is definitely in the top five best hours of TV I have ever seen. It was a perfect resolution to the mini-cliffhanger from last season and then twists and turns and when you finally think you have everything figured out, it says "yeah, well watch this", and takes a flying leap off the damn cliff and opens a new season’s worth of cans of worms. Shows focused on mysteries historically die a slow death once the mysteries are resolved, but VM preformed a perfect transition into a new set of mysteries without once feeling like they were stretching or uncertain. They know where they are going, and I for one am happy to be along for the ride. Every episode so far this season has been a perfect mix of old story, new story, arc, and side plots. If they keep this up, this season will easily be on par with Buffy seasons two and three, possibly even better.
Hopefully some of the new shows will step up and find their stride, or at least get canceled and make room for better shows.