Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Autumn 2012: What I'll Be Watching

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

It's that time of year again; the tantalising brink of the autumn/fall season, where the TV networks premiere their brand new shows, together with returning favourites. As always, it promises to be a very busy time of year, and I probably won't be covering as much as usual. Instead, I'll sample the majority of pilots, write about the ones I have a strong reaction to, and then watch a few more episodes to determine if they're worth persevering with. Only the most interesting shows will become regularly reviewed here, as I just don't have the time to plough through everything.

Below is a look at the shows that have my interest, beginning or resuming in September/October in the UK and US, with a prediction about the extent of coverage here:

DOCTOR WHO (BBC1 / BBC America, 1 Sep) The bow-legged Time Lord is back for more adventures in his impossible blue box, although it's a little disappointing we're only getting a half-measure of fun before a prolonged break (with the Christmas special as a midway oasis). But I like what I'm hearing about series 7, which will drop last year's heavy serialisation for standalone weekly "blockbusters". The loss of Amy and Rory won't fail to give our tear ducts a workout, too, particularly as Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are nu-Who's longest-serving companions. Their loss is going to really sting. I'm sure Steven Moffat has plenty of timey-wimey treats up his wizard's sleeve, too. Prognosis: weekly reviews, of course.

STRIKE BACK: VENGEANCE (Sky1, 2 Sep) The return of Sky's terrific action show for its third series; the second under the partnership with Cinemax. Some disliked last year's changes from the Richard Armitage-starring miniseries, particularly regarding the levels of nudity, but I didn't have a problem. I like nudity and it was equal opportunities bareness. This is an impressive show for a number of reasons, but particularly regarding the quality of its action and plots that mix fiction with reality. It has two charismatic and capable-looking leads, topless girls, bruising violence, and jeopardy at every turn... it's big, ballsy entertainment. Prognosis: premiere review, weekly watch.

GLEE (Fox, 13 Sep) Oh Jesus, I know. It's the fourth season of a show that started limping halfway through the first, and collapsed under its own weight early into the third. I won't be watching Glee with anywhere near the same level of commitment, but I'm mildly intrigued to see how they'll keep it going now half the characters have graduated and weren't replaced. If nothing else, it could be an epic car-crash I'll enjoy rubber-necking and bitching about on Twitter. Prognosis: premiere review, reluctantly watching in slow-time.

BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO, 16 Sep) This is one of those shows I enjoy and admire, but rarely feel compelled to watch immediately every week, or have a hunger to write about much. However, it improved immeasurably during season 2 thanks to a faster pace, more action, and smarter delineation of people's dynamics. There was a shocking death of a major player in last year's finale, too, so it'll be interesting to see if the show suffers as a result of that loss. I'm guessing it won't. Prognosis: probable premiere review, watching every week.

REVOLUTION (NBC, 17 Sep) A new show I'm interested in because of the concept and pedigree (Lost's JJ Abrams producing, Iron Man's John Favreau directing), but this is one to view with wariness. We've had so many high-concept TV sci-fi dramas in recent years, and they all struggle once their ostentatious pilots are over. Most of them should be movies, not TV shows. Revolution concerns a world with no energy, meaning society has reverted to a tribal existence 15 years later, so it's kind of a technological version of the BBC's Survivors. Prognosis: premiere review, continuing dependent on content.

VEGAS (CBS, 25 Sep) Dennis Quaid as an old-school grizzled sheriff, up against Michael Chiklis' gangster for the heart and soul of Las Vegas. How can you not be excited by the potential of this show? Okay, so it's troubling that it's on CBS instead of a cable network like HBO, but then so is Emmy-winning The Good Wife. I just hope it finds an audience and justifies the talent involved. Prognosis: premiere review, watching only.

ELEMENTARY (CBS, 27 Sep) I didn't hate the pilot's script, but I just don't feel excited by a US version of an idea the BBC's having phenomenal success with as Sherlock. Still, the buzz around Elementary has been building, so I don't expect something abhorrent. I just don't imagine watching more than a handful of episodes to base a decent opinion on. Prognosis: premiere review, watch for awhile.

LAST RESORT (ABC, 27 Sep) Here's another brilliant idea that might struggle as a continuing series, but I'll be watching regardless. It's about a US submarine of insubordinate crewmen who take over a tropical island and declare themselves a nuclear-capable state... so that piques your interest straight away. I'm just not sure the attention-grabbing idea will last twenty-odd episodes... but I'm fascinated to see them try. Prognosis: premiere review, continuing if show proves worthy.

FRINGE (Fox, 28 Sep) It's the final season, so of course I'll be watching this and reviewing it every single week. I just hope Fringe ends its five-year story well, because it really has no excuse not to. It went down some weird avenues last year, but by and large the writers have kept the core story on-track and will hopefully pull together a satisfying conclusion. I'll miss these kooky characters, too. Prognosis: reviewed weekly.

666 PARK AVE. (ABC, 30 Sep) I'm not expecting to review this supernatural drama every week, unless it really surprises and delights me, but it'll be worth checking out for a few weeks. Could be silly fun, right? The trailers haven't been great, but maybe this will prove to be a fun, spooky soap. I'll give it a few weeks just because Terry O'Quinn has a key role. Prognosis: premiere review only.

DEXTER (Showtime, 30 Sep) It's been bad longer than it was good, regrettably, and it's hard to remember that I was once a passionate fan of Dexter. I just hope the tardy development that Dexter's sister knows he's a serial killer revitalises the show, because it could do with the edgy unpredictability that gave season 1 and 2 a real buzz. If they pussyfoot around, or try to undo this crucial change with Debra, I'll be furious. It also needs to end after the next season, even if ratings go up and Showtime thus get the itch to milk it for longer. Don't! The best thing Dexter can do now is work towards a conclusive ending. Prognosis: weekly reviews, because why stop now?

HOMELAND (Showtime, 30 Sep) The best new show of 2011 returns for a second season that will be hard to pull off. The tension over hero/terrorist Brody's allegiance has long gone, which unravels a key part of the show. The trick now will be trying to persuade audiences that a more old-fashioned story of a covert extremist gaining political power is still worthy of their time. I have a feeling it will be, even after this necessary realignment. Prognosis: weekly reviews, obviously!

FRESH MEAT (Channel 4, TBA) Half of the last series was fantastic, and good enough to make me overlook how the second half was less so. I hope the writers have noticed the pro's and con's of series 1 and have written to the cast's strengths this year, because there's potential for Fresh Meat to become a Peep Show-y classic if they get the mix right. Prognosis: premiere review, will continue only if it seems worthwhile.

DOWNTON ABBEY (ITV1, TBA) I was a latecomer to this US-conquering hit, but I'll be watching the third series along with everyone else. I hope Julian Fellowes' scripts have recaptured the first series' quality, because the second year was fun but riddled with problems (not least the weird pacing). Shirley MacLaine's casting may have made headlines, but let's hope her performance as an American aristocrat delivers. Prognosis: premiere review, maybe occasional check-ins.

RED DWARF (Dave, 4 Oct) I've heard positive things from people who saw a few live recordings, but such witnesses are unquestionably biased. The footage we've seen hasn't been terrible, but I still think Red Dwarf is coasting on nostalgia. I just hope the live studio audience's feedback aides the performances, and Doug Naylor was scared into ensuring scripts his scripts are crammed full of good jokes. Prognosis: weekly reviews.

THE WALKING DEAD (AMC, 14 Oct) It's the first full season from showrunner Glen Mazzara (who succeeded Frank Darabont after he was fired during season 2), and I'm interested to see where he takes things. There was a noticeable uptick in quality when Darabont had gone, but it's hard to know for sure if that was solely because of his absence. Season 3 of The Walking Dead looks to be introducing some popular characters from the comics (such as sword-wielding bad-ass Michonne), and the new location of a community living behind prison walls certainly appeals more than a dull mountainside or farm. Prognosis: reattempt weekly reviews, unless old issues return.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX, 17 Oct) The first season split opinion, but I can't deny it was memorable and ambitious. The idea of basing a whole season around a particular horror set-up (a haunted house in season 1's case) was very good, and there were some creepy/crazy sequences, but AHS was also a case of writers throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the screen. It got wearying and repetitive to me. But I approve of their approach to the show, with season 2 being a completely different situation (a haunted asylum) and the cast will play new characters. In effect, you now have to approach season 2 as its own entity, but I just hope it's written with greater skill. Prognosis: premiere review, weekly watch.

COMMUNITY (NBC, 19 Oct) My favourite TV comedy returns for what's almost certainly going to be its final season, but sans creator Dan Harmon behind-the-scenes. Things will be different, but how different? I'm hoping the new showrunners capture Harmon's spirit and the returning writers are allowed to keep making the show fans fell in love with. It would be horrendous if Community ended its run with a batch of episodes the fans don't like, particularly as it's been kept alive because of such fans singing its praises. Prognosis: weekly coverage, most likely bite-sized.