The Season’s Greatest Surprises

This is obviously the BEST surprise. Sorry Americans.

This season, plenty of new shows lined up, eagerly hoping for our love, attention, and our passion. It’s like a pet shelter, except without the depressing soundtrack. So what were this year’s biggest surprises, for better or for worse?

The Good

New Girl

"Who's that girl? It's Jess! Oh yeah and some other people..." - New Girl

New Girl is an odd case to start off with, because I initially had very high hopes for it. I love Zooey D, and Max Greenfield was fantastic in Veronica Mars. Plus Damon Wayans, Jr. was in the pilot, and if you haven’t seen him in Happy Endings, you’re missing out. But after a solid pilot, I found the show increasingly problematic. Way too much of the focus was on establishing how quirky and cute Jess was, and the roommates really lacked the screen time to become more than stock characters. On top of that, I found Jess to be grating and whiney, so I was not happy.

All that changed around the fourth or fifth episode – the one with the wedding. The other characters forced Jess to calm down and dress up. And the show was instantly better. Plus, Nick stop whining about his breakup, and Winston began having traits! So win-win! Ever since then, the show has been getting better and better, and I couldn’t be happier. Schmidt has become the best part of the show. Nick has found a decent – if boring – groove as the under-achieving schlub. Even Winston and Cece have personalities! So mazel tov!

Revenge

Yes. Just yes.

OOOOOOOHHHHH!!! Emily "THORNE"!! Thorne like THORNS YOU GUYS.

Remember. When saying this show’s title, you MUST say it in a smokey whisper. rrrevennnge.

Anyway, I mostly checked this show out because it had Emily Van Camp in it, and she was in Everwood and looks like she does. I’m not ashamed. But it turned out to be really good!

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t amazing television. It’s soapy and sensational (as in it does things to create a stir) and sometimes cheesy. But not only does it know all of this about itself, it embraces it, relishes in it. In a lot of ways, the show is very similar to Ringer – which I’ll get to later – but done right. Revenge is a show that has taken some pretty standard tropes: The Hamptons, the lost childhood love, the Ice Queen, conspiracies, etc, and turned it into a show with layers, with realistic(ish) characters, and enough twists to keep you off-balance all season.

The Bad

Public Service Announcement: Only Certified “Good” Shows get pictures.

Being Human

Being Human was never a great show – at least not the American version. The first season stuck very closely to the British version, for better and for worse. For instance, the relationship between the vampire and werewolf was wonderful. It was fun, there was good contrast, a bit of an insider/outsider dynamic, and a hint of bromance. At the same time, it was hindered by the ghost – who isn’t a bad character, there was just nothing she could do.

The second season however branched off from its parent, boldly forging its own path, which at times was great. I loved seeing more paranormals beyond vamps and wolves. We got to see more ghosts, mediums, and reincarnation in action. We got to see purebred werewolves, who actually want to be wolves. This was all good.

Where the season went wrong was its insistence on beating up its characters more and more. Don’t get me wrong, this can be fascinating television. Look at LOST. Or Mad Men. But that punishment needs to be balanced by something else. Really solid character interaction, or a vague and tantalizing hope of redemption, or intriguing plot. Being Human had none of these. All season long, it practically strove to make sure the three main characters, with the best chemistry, were NEVER TOGETHER. The few times they were, it was silent moping! Boooooo.

Plus – vampire politics. When did this become a Thing? It was fine in Underworld, but it’s the most boring part of True Blood. So why would a SyFy show try to copy that???

I don’t know. I’m just. Over it.

Supernatural

I love this show. I really do. And I have for quite a while. I love the way it slowly built. First they were after a specific demon. Then stronger demons. Then the queen of demons. Then the devil. I thought seasons 4 and 5, after the introduction of angels into the mythology, were amazing. I loved the end of season 5. Honestly, the show could have ended right there. It would be a bit of a downer, but it’s Supernatural.

But after you face The DEVIL, where do you go? After Buffy died to save her sister from a GOD, the show floundered for quite a while. Some say it never recovered. After Son Goku defeated Frieza, a conflict that had been building for three years, what do you do?? This is the problem when shows constantly try to up the threat – eventually you can’t. So even though there have been true flashes of brilliance in the past two seasons, overall I’ve been pretty let down. I think I heard next season is the last though, so hopefully that will give the creative team some direction.

Ringer

All I needed to know about this show was that it had Sarah Michelle Gellar Prinze, Jr. on it, and I was pretty much sold. Throw in Mr. Fantastic and Richard Alpert, a secret life, duplicitous twins, and a looming mob boss, and there was a TON of potential. So what went wrong??? Well, virtually everything.

The main character, Bridget, while good-hearted, is painfully stupid. Seriously, everything in her life is SCREAMING that her sister is alive, and she still hasn’t figured it out. And while taking her sister’s identity might have been a smart idea – what with the whole “running from the cops and the mob” thing going on, what was your exit strategy when you assumed not only her identity but her entire life??? Then there’s Siobhan, the evil twin, which could have been really soapy and fun, but instead was frightfully dull. It took the show way too long to develop her character, and never really gave her clear, relatable motives for anything she did, which made it impossible to connect to her – and therefore enjoy her storyline. Then there was the whole mob thing, which was practically abandoned a few episodes in, only to sporadically reappear, and the World’s Worst FBI Agent who really had no purpose most of the time.

About the only thing the show did right was the relationship between Bridget and Andrew, and that was mostly thanks to good chemistry between the actors, rather than good writing. And even then the relationship was flawed in the execution.

So, I’ll finish out the season, but if it doesn’t get renewed, I won’t shed a tear.

The Blah

At the end of the day, most shows are exactly what you hope and expect. Community is always going to be brilliant, even when it isn’t at its best. Fringe is always going to be weird and disturbing but also touching and profound. Modern Family will always be funny, even when it becomes lazy. Glee will always be wildly inconsistent but just on the verge of watchability to tantalize me, season after season.

Other shows aren’t bad, they’re just less than you’re used to and you would like. For example…

How I Met Your Mother

Seriously you guys. This season. What is it even about. Lily and Marshall are in the city. No the suburbs! Oh wait, back in the city! Barney’s with Nora. Nope, Robin! Wait, maybe not! Now there’s a stripper! Ted is finally figuring out who he is on his own, without a woman. Oh wait he’s whining! Wait. He loves Robin again? KILL ME NOW! With the exception of the episode where Robin found out she’s barren, this season has been completely forgettable. I’m sure the finale will be good, and after seven seasons I’m obviously in it for the long haul. But this just wasn’t what it could have been.

Dexter

OK so technically this was a summer show, but I’m including it anyway. And I really thought about putting it in the bad list. Because for realz, I did not like. I mean, Edward James Olmos was appropriately creepy, and Colin Hanks too, and yes the end with Debra finding out was good, but all the rest was just… meh. I mean… girls who steal evidence? Broken engagements? Incestuous feelings? Is this what Dexter should be?

NO. NO it is NOT. So let’s pretend this season was season three – as in NONEXISTENT KTHNXBAI.

So, I know this post is later than normal, and I know it was long, but there you have my breakdown of the season: some good, some bad, but really just a lot of “meh.”

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