Dexter, Lost and Heroes, Oh My!
I’m not a huge TV watcher-in fact, I got rid of cable a couple of years ago and have never looked back. In spite of that, there are a handful of shows I enjoy, all of which I stream through either Netflix or Hulu (via PlayOn Media Server) to my 61″ HDTV through my Xbox 360. These shows are relatively few and far between, and with the exception of one they all have major issues with quality fluctuation, but nevertheless they manage to keep me more or less interested. So in particular order (not to sound judgmental but ummm…yeah, I’m judging), here are the shows I watch:
1. Dexter. Why? Because it’s effing brilliant, that’s why. It is in fact so brilliant that I’m not sure any show in the history of shows has ever been so consistently well written, acted, directed and executed (pun utterly intended). Dexter follows the life of a serial killer who works for the police as a blood spatter analyst, where he carefully watches to see which monstrous criminals manage to evade justice, performs his own investigation to ensure that they’re definitely guilty…and then delivers justice in his own gruesome fashion. What’s amazing about the show, though, is that it’s really an exploration of the importance of Ethics, of having a moral code to guide your actions. Dexter follows “the Code of Harry,” a set of guidelines taught to him by his foster father, a police officer, to ensure that he never harms an innocent person and never gets caught. As each season’s story unfolds, the Code of Harry is tested and at times Dexter either adheres closely to the code or rebels-the latter of which occasionally leads to near disaster-but occasionally reveals a new dimension to the Code and to Dexter’s interpretation of it. Intriguingly, it appears that Dexter is actually becoming more Ethical over time. In any case, a superb show which has, from what I’ve seen, absolutely no equal in today’s television.
2. Heroes. Why? Because I’m a glutton for punishment, or maybe because I’m such an optimist that I’ll endure almost anything for the day when something great happens again. Heroes began, as many folks will remember, brilliantly. In fact, Heroes had what may have been the best freshman season of any science fiction series ever produced; it wove a pretty well thought-out time travel story in with a number of stories about self-discovery. There were too many characters, many of them extraneous, and this periodically distracted from the narrative, but overall it went off with few hitches–until the finale came and underwhelmed audiences everywhere. It was pretty much all downhill from there, at least until original writer Bryan Fuller returned toward the end of season 3, when things got decent again for a time. Unfortunately he left again, and season 4 debuted with a dull, boring, thud. I’d almost written the show off until a few weeks ago, when they managed to do something they haven’t done since the first season: they caught me off guard. What I thought was extremely obvious and obnoxious, turned out to be entirely wrong. I was pleasantly surprised and developed a modicum of hope for the show again, which to my shock has paid off for about four weeks running. Only time will really tell if they can make this one truly great, but it’s looking more and more like the pieces are being moved into position. Here’s hoping it stays better and they clean up some of their dropped plot threads from seasons past.
Speaking of dropped plot threads, that brings me to…
3. Lost. I think I was in love with this series during the first season. It came with an astonishingly good cast, an interesting and unique premise, and an amazing ability to hook the audience into the lives of its characters so intensely that waiting for the following week’s episode could be nearly painful. The second season was also very good, but it began to unravel toward the end as it became apparent the writers had no idea what they were going to do with their phenomenal cast and setup. When third season began…they just went ahead and admitted they had no idea, then promptly took a four month break to fix the show. Unfortunately season 3 ended up being largely a lost cause, though it did steadily improve as they moved from wasting far too much time to introducing plot elements. Season four was “meh”, but five was superb, and at long last we started to get some answers about the-let’s just say it-completely wacky bullshit going on with this time-traveling island. Given the way season five became arguably the best since season one, I have high hopes for the impending final season of Lost. Here’s hoping they don’t disappoint me.
4. Dollhouse. This is a show I desperately wanted to fall in love with from the word “go.” It has an interesting concept, an excellent cast (except for Eliza Dushku; I loved her as Faith in Buffy and Angel, but I just don’t think she has the range to pull off a character like Echo. I hope I’m ultimately proven wrong, but I guess we’ll see) and the pedigree of being a Joss Whedon project, so all things considered, it should be one of the best shows on television. Dollhouse follows a fascinating premise: that an organization exists to cater to the super rich by providing people who have been programmed to perform specific kinds of tasks extremely well, only to have their memories wiped clean after the task is complete. This is pretty brilliant-it provides a fantastic platform to build drama and approach a lot of issues with moral weight. The problem with the premise, at least in the beginning, is that the main cast-the Dolls who inhabit the Dollhouse-are utterly unrelatable. Wiped clean every week, they’re essentially fresh and clean every week, with little to nothing carrying over; at least, that’s how it started.
So far, season 2 has been fantastic. I don’t think we’ve had a single stinker of an episode, and unlike season 1 we’re starting to see each of the main characters begin to retain parts of themselves in some fashion. We’re learning their backstories, and we’re examining the motives and the positions of the people who actually operate the dollhouse itself. All in all, there are massive plot seeds being planted, and for those who’ve seen Whedon’s previous work you know that when this guy plants seeds of this kind, the payoff is huge. So, I do think that beginning with season 2 (well, really with Epitaph One, the unaired season finale of Dollhouse from season 1), DH is one of the best shows going right now. Unfortunately, the first season was botched so badly that most of its viewers have tuned out. Couple last season’s mistakes with a terrible time slot (really, Fox, Fridays at 9? Is ANYBODY even home to watch TV on Friday nights?) and DH’s prospects for a third season aren’t great. It’s a shame, of course-it really could be something fantastic. If you’re not watching, I recommend that you catch up and start following. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
For the most part, that’s what I’ve got. I’ve watched a little bit of Flash Forward, but so far it hasn’t hooked me. I hear Mad Men is great, and I intend to watch it, if for no other reason than that it has Christina Hendricks, who played in a couple of episodes of Firefly back in the day. That alone should make the show stack up nicely…