Let's talk TV, shall we? We've had about a month since the new shows premiered, and it's been a mixed bag. Some of the newbie genre programs are pretty good (heeeeey, Ichabod); others have been disappointments (we are all looking at your team, Agent Coulson).
Here's a rundown of the lessons we've learned so far in the Fall 2013 TV Season, (Mostly) Genre Shows Edition.
Superhero support without superheroes is kinda boring
Friends, let us start with the biggest disappointment of the bunch. Could anyone have predicted that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be such a snoozefest? It's a three-fold victim, I think. First, expectations were high because it's a spinoff of the Marvel universe, which has produced almost universally entertaining films that bundle action, drama and humor into compulsively watchable packages. But a weekly television show doesn't have the budget to support the big action set pieces and whiz-bang technology that's a feature in so many of those movies, and it looks cheap and constrained as a result. So, strike one.
Strike two comes from the baggage associated with being a Whedon joint. We lovers of Buffy and Angel and Firefly know how brilliant Joss and his people are at making television. Sadly, the wrong Whedon is running S.H.I.E.L.D.; it's Joss' brother, Jed Whedon, and Jed's wife, Maurissa Tancharoen, who are the driving force behind the show. Simply put, the show suffers from weak writing in the form of clunky dialogue, poor character development and dull exposition. The expected Whedon spark isn't there in the writing, and that's a huge letdown.
How can S.H.I.E.L.D. improve? A tragic lab accident that leaves Coulson and Melinda as the lone survivors so they can start over with some older and more grounded agents, maybe. A better central villain than the Rising Tide, for sure. Punchier writing, better jokes, stronger motivations. Basically that Whedon magic. That's not so much to ask, is it?
Witches are so hot right now
Forget about the drippy True Blood coven from a few years ago. Witches are everywhere right now, and they are very, very good. Well, very bad, which makes them so very good.
|Can parasols become the big new thing now?|
|What a bunch of witches.|
Witches also pop up on Sleepy Hollow, although they're fairly overshadowed by the next lesson from the new TV season, which is that ...
British men make television
|Darn baked goods tariff.|
It's not a perfect show, but it's got the cool monster-of-the-week vibe that worked so well on Fringe and The X-Files, two other shows that knew a little bit about using law enforcement to fight supernatural baddies. But what really makes this show sing is Mison's restrained yet hilarious performance as a man out of time, plus the chemistry he shares with Nicole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills. Mison's Ichabod could veer wildly into camp as he reacts to life 250 years in the future, but he instead plays his lines with the perfect amount of bafflement and outrage. My only quibble is that his maybe dead, maybe in purgatory witch wife isn't as compelling a presence as Abbie, which is going to lead to me shipping those two so, so hard. If you don't want that, show, you need to start making the wife a lot more interesting.
As you can see for yourself, Tom Mison is a gem.
A pedestrian premise works with capable actors
Neither of these are genre shows, but The Blacklist and Brooklyn Nine-Nine prove that you can take a trite premise like a law enforcement procedural and see it elevated to something worth watching. With The Blacklist, it's all about the hypnotic James Spader, who could turn reading a phonebook into something spooky and oddly sexual. And Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a triumph of good ensemble work, as diverse talents such as Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher play off each other to riotous results.
There's still some life in the zombie genre
|You're standing too close, Rick.|
Surprisingly good shows make us hopeful for more surprisingly good shows
|I hope she's telling him how skeezy that mustache is.|
At first, I wondered if the world needed another schlocky adaptation of an existing property, but Dracula is getting some good advance buzz. Plus, it's set in Victorian London, which satisfies my aforementioned costume cravings, and it has good ol' Drac falling in love with the reincarnation of his dead wife. Lost love reclaimed? Yes, please. How refreshing to go into a new could-be-campy, could-be-great genre show with a sense of optimism.
So what are you digging on TV this season? Let us know in the comments!