Saturday, December 31, 2011

New year's television resolutions

Although the new year occurs in the middle of the television season, there are still opportunities for change to occur. Here are some of my hopes for 2012 television:

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not seen the season six finale of "Dexter" that aired Dec. 18 or "Parks and Recreation" as of Dec. 1.

* The last time "Dexter" ended a season with a major narrative shift, Rita died at the end of the mind-blowing fourth season. It was a gusty move that would surely impact the future of the show and after that stellar season, it seemed like the show knew what it was doing. However, they wasted that opportunity by creating an awkward and inappropriate rebound romance for Dexter in season five, and this year's season wasn't much of an improvement, minus the shocking last-second moment where Dexter's sister, Deb catches her brother killing Travis Marshall, the Doomsday Killer. The writers have once again created a game-changing scenario on the show. My hope is that they use this change to better the show, instead of using Deb's knowledge as another plot point that continues the show's downward spiral.

* Here's hoping that "Parks and Recreation" follows the lead of "Up All Night" when it comes to the roles of men in relationships. On "Up All Night," Will Arnett's Chris quits his job as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home dad with little argument. Minus the occasional moments where he misses his job, he is happy with his daughter and that his wife, Reagan is working to support the family without guilt-tripping her. On "Parks and Rec," Ben gave up his job in the Pawnee government to save Leslie's job and political aspirations. While nothing is keeping Ben from getting another job, it would be a shame to have Ben develop remorse toward Leslie for making him leave his previous one. It was hinted at in the Dec. 8 episode, where he kept saying he "resigned in disgrace." Hopefully that was just an immediate, knee-jerk reaction and won't turn into lasting problems for the wonderful couple.

* I'm looking for a "30 Rock" revival. Jack became nearly isolated from 30 Rock and Liz Lemon's band of merry misfits, which is a shame, as the show-within-a-show gave "30 Rock" its charm. Last season, things got too muddled with romance (both Matt Damon and Elizabeth Banks' characters added little) and downright malaise from the writers and actors. "30 Rock" should not be a downer show; let's hope that its sixth season (beginning Jan. 12) will bring it back to the early seasons' glory.

* Although I'm not watching the show, I hope that "American Horror Story" won't disappoint its audience as Ryan Murphy shows did in the past. I'm still bitter about the major decline in quality on "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee." Murphy's a known show-killer, and for the sake of AHS fans, I don't want to see them burned.

* Finally, at least for the time being: The world cannot end in 2012. "Arrested Development" isn't set to return until 2013.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grammy nomination concert cheapens awards

The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' decision to air a nomination special and concert for the Grammy Awards is slightly baffling. The Grammys have had ratings struggles (as have most award shows) and are looking to gain viewers. In the last few years, they've expanded upon the nomination announcement, adding an over-stuffed concert to the announcement of only a few nominees. Wednesday's special was another awkward show, in which contractually obligated CBS stars stuffed as much music and bombast into one hour, with little emphasis on the nominations. The nomination reveals were strange, between the odd delay in the song playing and the artists' image on the big screen and the presenters' reading of the song (don't forget missteps like Nicki Minaj's inability to pronounce Bon Iver). I'm disappointed with myself for wasting time on them (especially since it made me forget The Soup, which is now, inexplicably and annoyingly, on Wednesdays now).

When other award shows present their nominees, the announcements are short, sweet and to the point. Here, the award presentations are second to the performers during the concert; I'm sure we'll see many of the same performers at the Feb. 12 ceremony anyway. They aren't going to be as fun come February, because we've already seen the show. A tribute to a song going into the Grammy Hall of Fame (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message")? How special is this tribute if it's not even during the real Grammy Awards? Wouldn't it make more sense to profile the song come February, instead of here? How special is an in Memoriam? And does Lady Gaga really deserve to perform multiple times (I say this as someone who saw her in concert in 2010 and enjoyed it, by the way, so Little Monsters need not attack)?

This concert existed solely to further clutter the TV with concerts that masquerade as award shows. Come on, how many ACMs, AMAs, WMAs, VMAs, etc., do we really need? The way the Grammys present themselves now, the awards are secondary and losing meaning year after year.

CBS, the Academy: If you want to distinguish your awards from others and keep the Grammys' reputation for being the ultimate prize in music, keep the awards fair and a one-time only event. Note: fair does not necessarily mean "outside of the mainstream." But, really, the screech-fest that is Katy Perry's "Firework" is one of the best recordings of the year? Just because it's popular, doesn't mean it's good, but that's another matter. The way it is now, it's just another way to fill multiple holes in the schedule.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To cancel or not to cancel: do networks jump the gun when deciding a show's fate?

Conventional wisdom holds that sweeps periods, especially those in November and May, are the final shot for struggling new shows to show that they've got what it takes to keep viewers and advertisers.

These days, arguably, making it to sweeps is quite the achievement for shows, as the beginning of the 2011-12 season has already seen many casualties before the Halloween pumpkins begin to rot. Perpetual also-ran NBC made "The Playboy Club" the first canceled show of the season after only three episodes, while its "Free Agents" managed to stay on the air for four weeks. "Charlie's Angels" (ABC), "How to be a Gentleman" (CBS) and "H8R" (the CW) also faced early demises.

Early cancellations of shows are nothing new, and there are plenty of shows that get weak ratings still on the air. However, it seems as though there are more vocal critics of networks canceling shows before they find their footing. After "The Playboy Club" was canceled, star David Krumholtz fired off a rant on Twitter, ultimately tweeting (before deleting) "NBC fucked up. Retweeet that shit." Many viewers of the show, based on comments I've seen online, said that after a weak pilot, the show was beginning to find its footing.

So, here's the ultimate question: Are networks jumping the gun by not giving under-performing shows a chance? Or, are they acting smart by making room for shows that may fare better?

One could argue that both the Nielsen ratings system and the traditional network scheduling format are now out-of-date. Nielsen skews heavily toward older audiences (as it doesn't record college residence hall TVs), which likely hurts new, creatively risky shows that older or conservative audiences may shy away from (such as "Arrested Development"), and with TiVo, smartphones and VOD services, it's much easier for people to watch shows at their own leisure. With "The Playboy Club," the show was canceled within 24 hours of its third airing, which doesn't give a lot of opportunities for people to catch up, or a lot of buzz to build. In the not-so-recent-past, networks allowed shows like "The Office" to grow into cash cows after being dismissed in the onset. Could these canceled shows have grown to become hits? Audiences will never know (let's be honest ... we can probably say "no" to "H8R"). Additionally, canceling show after show reflects badly upon a network. Fox and NBC in particular seem to have a reputation for this, which means that viewers may be less likely to try new shows until they're safe bets for renewal, which doesn't bode well for shows from the get-go. Being less antsy on the big red cancellation button shows stability. Maybe a weak show won't make six seasons and a movie, but it may make it past episode three.

When looking at new media, networks may have a different perspective. DVR viewings may help the long-run ratings, but it won't help get advertisers to stick around or gain immediate buzz. How many times have you taken a "wait and see" approach to shows? Waited to see if the reviews would be good, waited to see if the show would be canceled, waited until it was on DVD? It's easier to watch shows on one's own schedule now, but in a culture where it's important to have the newest, shiniest products, networks really can't let shows languish in ratings and ad revenue limbo to see if they catch on, especially if the show is currently an expensive and high-profile risk (as "The Playboy Club" was). Let's not forget that new media makes it easier for bad press to spread. I don't know how many times I've read advanced reviews or watched leaked pilot episodes that helped me to think negatively of a show. How is a show supposed to move on from that?

As someone who often watches shows that met what may be seen as an untimely demise, I tend to side with the first theory, but the second certainly has its merits, especially as the networks try to adapt to new media. Is there a blanket "yes" or "no" answer, or is it circumstantial? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Inexplicably, shows not named Parks and Recreation win at 2011 Emmys

Above: Emmy loser Stephen Colbert (likely drunkenly) tweets about the similarly snubbed "Parks and Recreation." I wonder what those after parties are like ...

To put it simply, the 2011 Emmy Awards paled in comparison to the strong 2010 broadcast. Host Jane Lynch was likable enough, but the stereotypical jokes fell flat (A woman hates men so much, specifically, the "Entourage" cast, that she became a lesbian!) and the opening number wasn't funny or engaging. it was like the writers were actively trying make us dislike the very likable "Glee" star.

Once again, "Modern Family" took home many of the top prizes during the night, including their second consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series prize, during a season many fans and critics considered to be a step down from their freshman season (like "Glee," which, appropriately, didn't win any of the broadcast awards. Oddly, Fox, the show's broadcaster, couldn't claim any awards Sunday.). The Outstanding Comedy Series trophy belonged to "Parks and Recreation," which many critics agree found a perfect groove this year.

Supporting Actress Julie Bowen (who had the best line of the night, "I don't know what I'm going to talk about in therapy now. I won something!") and Supporting Actor Ty Burrell deserved their wins (if Nick Offerman would have been nominated for "Parks and Recreation," that would have been another story), but it was disheartening seeing "Louie" lose to "Family" in the Outstanding Writing category.

And then there was the Outstanding Actor and Actress. I knew these categories would be complete messes, and they were (granted, I expected the voters to pick Laura Linney for a show featuring characters with awful personalities that was considered edgy only due to its morose subject matter and placement on pay cable). As "Office" star Rainn Wilson said (maybe a little unprofessionally, albeit accurately):

"Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons once again won an award for playing himself over Steve Carell's final "Office" season, while Melissa McCarthy beat Amy Poehler, the heart of the genius that is "Parks and Recreation."

This night taught me one thing: Chuck Lorre must bribe Emmy voters. Lorre's shows are often derided by critics (and television snobs) for playing to the lowest common denominator and yet the Emmys award the actors from the shows. Stop giving Lorre's ego fuel with these awards and award good actors from good shows. It seems like Emmy voters forgot they weren't voting for the very likable McCarthy's performance in "Bridesmaids," but for yet another formulaic Lorre show ("Mike and Molly"). The same goes for Lorre's "the Big Bang Theory" and Parsons. You don't deserve an award for playing yourself, which is why, even though Louis C.K. is wonderful, I don't know if would have he deserved the award for acting (Writing? Yes. He was robbed.). Just as Jon Cryer inexplicably won for "Two and a Half Men" in 2009, Chuck Lorre gets praise, and good comedy suffers.

At least the presentation for Outstanding Actress was amusing and sweet, thanks to Poehler (also see 2009's Outstanding Supporting Actress nominees), who organized a pageant-style presentation to McCarthy. Even though these women (McCarthy, Poehler, Linney, Tina Fey and Martha Plimpton), all talented (even if the quality of their shows differ), were competing against each other, they still came together in a good-humored fashion. The classiness of these ladies as McCarthy won helps offset my anger:

Oh, and the Emmys continued their almost complete snub of "the Colbert Report." Lord knows I love "the Daily Show," but lately, Stephen Colbert has just taken with his show and ran; the show's single win in 2008 is not enough.

On a lighter note: the Lonely Island delivered with a medley of their songs, including Maya Rudolph doing a dead-on impression of Lady Gaga's role in "3 Way (The Golden Rule)." Also, I commend the person(s) who came up with the "Office" segment featuring so many stars (among them, Cee-Lo Green and his spinning "Voice" chair). I was nearly doubled over laughing at this wonderful cameo:

As for the miniseries categories, "Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)" was the big winner (writer Julian Fellowes, director Brian Percival), while "Mildred Pierce"'s Guy Pearce and Kate Winslet (now possessing the EGO portion of the EGOT) took home acting awards (along with "the Kennedys"' Barry Pepper). Also, it's a shame Dame Maggie Smith wasn't at the show, for I'm sure she would have appreciated accepting her Outstanding Supporting Actress award from the cast of the incredibly classy "Entourage."

While the comedy portion of the evening was largely devoted to "Modern Family," the drama and miniseries categories showed a little more variety. Amazingly, "Friday Night Lights," the critically-adored, previously shunned show, won two awards, Outstanding Writing (Jason Katims) and Outstanding Lead Actor (a very shocked Kyle Chandler). The ecstatic atmosphere at the Nokia Theatre could be felt at home. Chandler's costar, Connie Britton, was absolutely adorable, giddy over Katims and Chandler's wins, as was presenter Minka Kelly, who presented the award to her former costar.

Otherwise, it was a single-award night for "the Good Wife" (Lead Actress Julianna Margulies), "Boardwalk Empire" (Director Martin Scorsese), "Game of Thrones" (Supporting Actor Peter Dinklage), "Justified" (Supporting Actress Margo Martindale) and "Mad Men" (Outstanding Drama). It seemed AMC purposefully delayed "Breaking Bad" this year (it aired too late this year to be eligible), so that Jon Hamm could beat Bryan Cranston for once, but it wasn't to be. Hamm and fellow also-ran Hugh Laurie probably shouldn't hold their breaths on ever receiving a swan song Emmy, either, as Carell saw this evening.

As ThinkProgress' Alyssa Rosenberg wrote during the broadcast, "Much of this [opening montage, featuring many shunned shows] makes me sad, because, oh hey, look at all those awesome shows that didn't get the recognition they deserved and that I could be having a much better time watching on DVD instead of something as POINTLESS AND FRIGHTENING AS THE EMMYTONES!" She's right about those awkward Emmytones singers - Joel McHale looked like he was losing more of his soul as each second passed. The show lacked the comedic touches of years past, with only a few bright moments. A couple surprises here and there couldn't hide the mess the broadcast became.

What are your thoughts on the Emmys? Who was shunned, wrongly awarded? Who deserved their awards? Was the show funnier than I'm making it out to be? Are you an angry Chuck Lorre fan out for my blood? Leave a comment!

A complete list of winners can be found on

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 Video Music Awards, in a word, awkward

Pictured: Adele, one of the few redeeming stars of the 2011 VMAs.

For some reason, I had high hopes for this year's MTV Video Music Awards. I thought between the stellar performance lineup, Britney Spears receiving the Video Vanguard Award and tribute to one of my favorites, Amy Winehouse, would help boost the show beyond its usual train wreck status.

I was wrong. MTV is so desperate for their show "Awkward." to be a bigger hit, they crafted the entire VMAs around the concept of being "Awkward." Minus a few bright moments, it was a dud.

The awkward began on the pre-show, where co-host Selena Gomez asked boyfriend Justin Bieber (whose haircut, upon certain angles, made his head look like Megamind) what the name of his snake was, to which he replied, "Johnson." Who wants to join me in line for the brain bleach? It then continued with Lady Gaga's weird show opener. Dressed as male alter ego Jo Calderone, she began with a monologue about Gaga that tried to prove she was desperately self-aware of her own hype. Her voice sounded strong during "YoĆ¼ and I," especially when she was only playing the piano (I don't care much for the studio version, with instruments that make noise not unlike chewing on ice. Her stripped-down performance was one of the highlights when I saw her in concert in 2010). However, it soon got too cluttered, with unnecessary dancing and more musicians (no offense to the legendary Brian May, any guitarist would have been too much). The biggest letdown? Not seeing Gaga fall down - MTV, why did you cut away from that glorious moment?

Gaga never stepped out of the Calderone character during her multiple appearances that night, which was annoying. I won't lie, I loved her outfits (yes, even the meat dress) at the 2009 and 2010 awards, thought she gave great speeches and a good performance and she was anything but subtle. But this year? Sadly, it was too much on an artist we're accustomed to getting too much from. Adding to the awkward was the will-they-won't-they kiss (that ultimately didn't happen) with Spears. The whole segment was a mess: a random crew of dancers dressed up as Spears, and Gaga's introduction of Spears was crude and rambling.

Then, when Spears finally got the chance to accept her award, rather than let her give a speech thanking people, she was forced into the awkward banter with Calderone (not at the fault of Gaga - it was clearly scripted) and the two introduced (a pregnant) Beyonce's performance. MTV hyped the Video Vanguard Award going to Spears, and then she was barely on stage. I doubt Spears was all that heartbroken about not giving a long speech (as her acceptance speeches are usually pretty rote), but it was still a bit rude on MTV's part. They helped turn Spears' award into the Beyonce show.

Speaking of performances, why were most of them so weak? Gaga's became too cluttered, Kanye West and Jay-Z's was disappointingly lacking charisma and Lil' Wayne's was downright painful.

Young the Giant gave a good performance, but the band isn't big enough and the performance wasn't memorable enough, given their status as rock's sole representation in the performances this evening (although this is more a problem with MTV than the band). The evening's house singer Jessie J can carry a tune, it's simply a shame that her original music is so boring; it's what will keep her from hitting it big in the United States.

The best performance of the evening easily belonged to Adele, who gave us a break from the overplayed "Rolling in the Deep" to deliver a beautiful rendition of "Someone Like You." While Beyonce sounded wonderful, too, her song choice ("Love on Top") was lacking, which is why Adele gets the upper hand.

Bruno Mars also helped to bring down the house during the tribute to Amy Winehouse. Singing "Valerie," a Zutons song Winehouse and producer Mark Ronson covered. Mars gets a lot of flack, especially from rapper Tyler the Creator (winner of the evening's Best New Artist award), but he delivered a vocally strong performance that stayed true to Winehouse's style. Let's hope he's learned from his 2010 cocaine arrest and Winehouse's struggles with drugs, and he can continue to perform well in the future.

Regardless, all in all, it was mostly a waste of two-and-a-half hours. As usual, who won the awards was irrelevant to the spectacle that was the show itself. Katy Perry won the top award, Video of the Year, for the video where she shoots stuff out of her boobs. No, not that one. The other one.

If you missed any of the awards, has them on demand as well as plenty of coverage. Am I being too hard on MTV? Were there other highlights or awkward moments that should be addressed? Do you know why Cloris Leachman was there? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

And now, one last nice moment: Kanye West's sweet, happy moment with daddy-to-be Jay-Z as his wife showed off her growing belly onstage:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 Emmy nominations announced

The nominations for the 63rd Primetime Emmys were released Thursday morning, so crazy television fans got up early (or stayed up late) to see them unfold.

A few stray observations:

*There were a couple underdogs that made their way in: Louis C.K., Johnny Galecki and Matt LeBlanc were nominated in the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category. Kathy Bates was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Idris Elba scored two nominations (as did Tina Fey), outstanding actor in a miniseries ("Luther") and outstanding guest actor in a comedy series ("The Big C") ... yet he was never nominated for playing Stringer Bell. "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" got nominations for Outstanding Variety Series and Writing for a Variety Series (God, I cannot wait for Stephen Colbert's reaction, since the BFFs for six months will be competing against each other). Oh, and Lady Gaga was nominated (for Variety Music Special).

*"Glee" lost its bids for lead actor and actress nominations, as did Toni Collette, and Neil Patrick Harris. "Big Love" was completely shunned in its final season. Also, I just want to remind everyone that Steve Carell has never won an Emmy. Although "the Office" is pretty lackluster now, I think it would be fitting to honor Carell for his seven years of work. Besides, the Emmys are notorious for not honoring people in the year that they should be (as Carell deserved the Emmy in 2006).

*I blame Rob Lowe submitting himself for Outstanding Lead Actor for splitting the votes between him and the truly deserving nominee, Nick Offerman. Lowe's role on the show is not that of a lead actor and his character is nowhere near as funny as Offerman's Ron Swanson, although Lowe's massive ego likely tells him otherwise. I strongly believe that if he hadn't submitted his name, any nominee voters that wanted "Parks and Recreation" to get a lead actor nomination would have had no choice but to vote for Offerman and not Lowe simply because he's a bigger name, and Offerman could have gotten a nod. Plus, no love for Chris Pratt, or any of the high-caliber writers? It's a disgrace.

*While "Community" has been a mixed bag (when it's good, it's astounding, but when it's not up to form, it's painful), Danny Pudi deserved a nomination for his equally hilarious and heartbreaking Abed. I will admit to a certain amount of bias, as Abed does remind me of a more socially awkward version of myself (although not much more awkward). The fact that the show didn't even garner one nomination is sad.

*The nomination for Laura Linney don't surprise me, but they frustrate me. A comedy doesn't always have to be laugh-out-loud to be outstanding, which is an argument that a lot of people make in support of shows like "the Big C." However, is a show really outstanding when the tone is incredibly insulting? Most of the characters, including Laura Linney's Cathy, are very unlikeable, and not in an endearing way (see "Arrested Development").

*I enjoy the way that the great pilot for "the Killing" was nominated, since, clearly, voters were not biased by seeing the rest of the show, which turned into a complete train wreck that even Outstanding Drama Actress Mireille Enos could save. This spot should have gone to "The Walking Dead."

*The good news? Even if the show is weak (as it was the last time it was on Fox, with Ryan Seacrest hosting), the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy or Variety Series category, featuring the often-hilarious videos introducing the nominees, should be back this year.

*What's up with the Emmys picking nominated females to present the awards (Melissa McCarthy was nominated), but the males are awkwardly shunned? Joshua Jackson this year, Joel McHale last year.

I could go on and on, but I've already rambled enough, my apologies ... to quote Kenneth Parcell, I just love television so much.

The full list of nominees and categories can be found here.

What do you think are the major upsets and surprises this year? Any outrageous inclusions or exclusions?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Syndicated How I Met Your Mother episodes feature digitally-added advertisement

The video below is a Internet advertisement for season four of "the Office," describing what the Dunder Mifflin staff did in the summer of 2007.

This always made me laugh, because in a way, it broke the space-time continuum. I can't help but wonder if, when Michael took the staff to see "Knocked Up," they thought to themselves: gee, Darryl looks a lot like the club doorman, Ryan looks an awful lot like that skeevy doctor and Steve Carell looks a lot like our boss!

Well, that continuum is becoming even more useless, and advertising is become a lot more shameless. As Entertainment Weekly and Slashfilm reported, syndicated reruns of shows like "How I Met Your Mother" now have advertisements digitally superimposed in the background.

Eagle-eyed viewers saw ads for films such as "Zookeeper" and "Bad Teacher" in episodes, ads that were not in the original or DVD versions. How could they be? These HIMYM episodes originally aired years ago (and were set in the years in which they aired, based on the show's narrative structure), long before these movies were likely in development. It's a simple, if shameless way to get the word out without airing a commercial spot (which would likely be skipped when viewed on DVR ... or VCR, if you're cheap like me and still live in the '90s), but it also seems a little tacky.

As with the above example with "the Office," I find the "Bad Teacher" ads amusing. If Marshall Eriksen exists in the HIMYM world, can Jason Segel also exist? After all, Segel became famous largely for playing Marshall, which is likely how he got a role in "Bad Teacher." How can Segel become famous for playing a "real" character? I realize this is probably far too analytic of a mindless viewing of a TV rerun, but I guess that's how I deal with my annoyance at the shamelessness of this.

Do you feel like you're more likely to see a film when it's integrated into shows like this? For me, I already know I'm never going to watch "Zookeeper," whether Marshall and Barney walk by an ad for it or not. But, could it subliminally work for lesser-known media products, or ones that inspire cravings (I'll admit to getting a hankering for T.G.I. Fridays breadsticks when I see that stupid "Zookeeper" ad)? I've always been fascinated by product placement and I'm curious where others stand on it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Misfits arrives on Hulu

Now, for everyone's public service announcement of the day:

The BAFTA-winning British series "Misfits" is now available for (legal, high-quality) viewing for Americans on Hulu.

I blogged about "Misfits" not once, but two times last year, and while it developed a cult following online, it was up to viewers to find their own links to the episodes (often in low-quality) on websites that hosted the videos illegally. I think this prevented a lot of American television viewers who weren't too savvy about streaming television from occasionally risky websites from discovering this show.

Now Americans can have the show at their fingertips. Currently, episodes one and two are on the site, with a new episode premiering each Monday. This is one TV series that is worth that weekly wait.

There are a few silly moments in the show, especially in the second series (which is wonderfully fascinating overall), and I imagine that some may have trouble understanding Lauren Socha's accent:

However, it's worth it. "Misfits" is a fun (albeit NSFW) ride.

Here's a preview of the series:

The show's been getting some press in the US. "Entertainment Tonight" aired a feature on the series' Hulu debut, and rumors persist that American television networks want to remake the series for an American audience, much like "Skins," which "Misfits" is often compared to. (How did that work out?) Hopefully, that will never happen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chuck renewed for fifth and final season

"Big Love" did it, and now "Chuck" is set to follow their lead in announcing that its fifth season will be its last.

After passionate fan campaigns (much to Subway's joy), the show's managed to hang on year after year, which is impressive. Of course, a lot of its continuance likely stems from NBC's chronic failures and lack of good replacement programming, but that's another matter.

I'll admit that I haven't been following "Chuck" this season due to my work schedule, so I'm not going to pass too much judgment on season four. However, I also found myself bored with the first few episodes I did catch online, so it's not high on my television priority list. And, from what I hear from devoted fans, this season's been dull, and signs of strain are showing. It's inevitable with a show like this - there's only so many times Chuck can save Sarah (or vice versa), there's only so many back-and-forth, good-guy-or-bad-guy mysteries that can go on.

So, I'm glad the show will have its fifth season, but I'm also glad that it has an end date. This gives writers the opportunity to tie up loose ends and create and endgame for its characters. "Big Love" had the opportunity to do this, and while its final season wasn't perfect, it was a vast improvement over the previous season. Instead of loosely connected mysteries of the week that don't lead anywhere (entertaining as they may be), the writers can create a narrative like that of the engrossing season two, that leaves viewers satisfied and the show fulfilling its potential.

In other television news, if you're looking for other cancellations or renewals, TV Overmind offers guides to the current state of shows at ABC and NBC. At the network upfronts this week, we'll likely find out more about what shows are picked up at CBS and Fox.

Friday, April 15, 2011

ABC cancels All My Children and One Life To Live, women weep

Soon, this legendary character, an icon of American television, will become part of television's past.

Yesterday, ABC announced that it canceled the legendary soap operas "All My Children" and "One Life to Live." Weak ratings and rising production costs prevented the shows from making a profit, and therefore, they decided to replace the shows with new, "View"-style lifestyle shows that will deliver better ratings at much cheaper rates. As a writer, I'm sad to see that shows with original writing (yes, the quality is debated, but it's writing nonetheless) being replaced with simplistic lifestyle shows.

Fans of the shows and soap operas as a whole are devastated by this announcement. The shows have been standards of ABC's schedules for over 40 years. However, when they premiered in 1970 and 1968, respectively, American culture was far different than it was today. The housewife was more common decades ago than it is today; as more and more women became working women, soap operas by and large went by the wayside.

Yet, even though fewer and fewer people watched the shows, many young and middle-aged women still have fond memories of the shows. Lord knows my mom and I spend many hours watching the two shows (and "General Hospital," before it got incredibly awful). I remember watching the shows in the mid 1990s, when characters like Hayley and Mateo (Kelly Ripa and husband Mark Consuelos) ruled "All My Children," along with the legendary Erica Kane (Susan Lucci). I remember getting a little emotional when Lucci's 19-year Daytime Emmy losing streak was broken in 1999. Many young women were essentially grandmothered into soaps, and it's a shame that by and large, they will not be around for future generations.

Sure, soaps were campy and outrageous - but that's how they were supposed to be. They were very self-aware, knowingly doing actor transformations mid-scene:

If soaps die, people can't keep coming back from the dead or inventing new twins. They're often silly, but they really did offer entertainment for years and years.

It just feels weird knowing that these standards of American television will no longer be on the air. Soon, the "ABC vs. CBS" soap wars will be non-existent. Soap opera magazines will be obsolete. I may not have watched the shows religiously, but it was oddly comforting knowing they were always there. My mom could (and would) update me on the show's plots - letting me know what shows were in creative slumps and upswings. I guess I always thought they could not be canceled, which was pretty naive.

Soaps have come and gone over the years. But now, they're just going, and not being replaced. It's a dying breed, and they'll be missed. Many actors and actresses' careers began on soaps like AMC and OLTL, and they've no doubt drastically changed the television landscape.

Are you going to miss AMC and OLTL? How are your mothers reacting to this news? What are some of your favorite, outrageous moments on any soaps?