The Fall Season.

25 Sep

from Elvis Presley news

September is an exciting time for idlers and layabouts. The warmth of spring approaches  providing a backdrop of glorious colour to sit inside and ignore, the football season ends providing a sweet period of respite before everyone starts to pretending to know things about cricket, and the new season of american television appears right at the time when certain people should be fucking studying. As with previous years, I watched a bunch of them and read reviews on the ones that looked less promising in case I missed a diamond in the rough. Here’s the bad news: It’s all rough, no diamonds.

It would be foolish to expect to find even half of it to be quality television, as Sturgeon’s Law clearly demonstrates that 90 percent of everything is shit. Even that, it seems, is optimistic. CBS (one of the big four networks) now has 13 separate police procedurals as part of its weekly lineup.  Thirteen.  I say that they’re individual now but I imagine watching more than two hours of that network would reduce your subconscious to a quivering mass of retro sunglasses and blue-tinged jump cuts. I don’t know  what it is that made this year so spectacularly shitty- maybe the loss of a few major shows  like 24, Lost, and ER made networks reluctant to try new things, maybe the GFC has made funding high concept or novel shows a riskier prospect, maybe the strike period in 08 is still slowing shit down, but this years offerings have ranged from ‘adequate’ to ‘actively puts back race relations several decades‘.

Fear not, gentle shut-ins, all is not lost. Cable still brought the goods, and the list is pretty much all the new shows you should watch this year. Lonestar isn’t getting included because its on Fox and after one fucking episode they’re already calling for life support and I have been burned by those bastards too many times to get hurt again.

This is the closest thing on this list to a sitcom. I not biased against them at all, if you like the format and you haven’t watched Community yet you should get onto that right away but Louie is easily the funniest new show this I’ve seen this year. It’s a weird blend of  Curb Your Enthusiasm style awkwardness and a cynical, matter-of-fact surrealism that’s refreshingly bleak. The unusual format (most episodes consist of 2 10-minute stories joined by clips of standup) and strong emotional center add up to a frank and compelling show I’d recommend to basically anyone.

AMC shows should come with a warning. Rubicon, much like Mad Men, starts off slow and that initial pace can be enough to put people off. It’s a shame, as Rubicon isn’t quite the critical darling Mad Men is, and it doesn’t have the novelty of another time period or a Christina Hendricks to draw in casual viewers, but I like to think of it as the scrappy underdog. Set in the vaguely-named American Policy Institute, the show has two major concerns and how much you get out of the show will be determined by how much you think those two things relate. The first is leading Will Travers’ attempt to unwravel an shadowy conspiracy in the vein of cool 70’s movies like Three Days of the Condor.  The second, less direct thing is an examination of how your career shapes the person that you want to be, and the emotional and psychological toll that being work can bring you, especially if you happen to work in intelligence. Oh, and Miranda Richardson is in it. That’s pretty cool too.

Despite the above mentioned glut of cop and cop related shows on this year, Terriers is the only one I really like. This isn’t a case of the least worst though, far from it, even if there was a surprising wave of great new police dramas I would still pick this one. Much of this is due to the fine creative staff, the show was created by the guy who wrote Matchstick Men (one of my favourite Nick Cage movies)  and the writing team boasts Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear who worked on  Angel and The Shield, so it’s at pictures-cut-from-magazines-stuck-on-bedroom-wall-with-glitter-hearts-and-kisses already. Terriers follows two unlicensed private detectives, one recovering alcoholic ex-cop and the other a man of more dubious status as they try and solve crimes for enough cash not to have a place to live and not starve to death. As well providing a compelling back story and a range of fun secondary characters, the setup provides the crucial element missing from most cop shows- the people doing the crime solving actually motivated for reasons other than  it being their job, which makes it so much more compelling. The acting is great and it’s often very funny so if you like detective stuff you should be watching this.

Out of what’s listed here this is the one I’m the least certain of, but since only one episode has aired it still has to time to meet my admittedly high expectations. “HBO spends a lot of money on a show about prohibition-era gangsters starring Steve Buscemi and directed by Martin Scorsese” sounds like a formula for success, and in many ways it is. The cinematography is amazing, the sets and costumes are impeccable, the plot, while not exactly new is compelling, and the acting is generally high quality. The downside is that’s all there is to it. HBO desperately wants a new Sopranos, and this is pretty obviously their bid to out-drama Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but the problem with Boardwalk Empire is that it’s too safe. That sounds like an unreasonable task for one episode to fulfill, but The Sopranos pilot did a lot of things that hadn’t been done before, and this just isn’t as groundbreaking as I think they’d like it to be. There were a few touches I really liked (the baby scene and the deer in the forest particularly) but for now it’s a very well produced period drama that isn’t the revolution I’d hoped it would be. Having said that, I’ll certainly still be watching.


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