State of the Show: Heroes, Smallville, and Chuck, Oh My!

¬†Well, fellow television geeks, we’re heading into that glorious time of the television schedule: Fall sweeps! Sure, given the fragmented nature of television viewing, this period means a little less that it used to, but nonetheless shows strive to pull out all the stops in order to maximize their most important asset: creativity. And by “creativity” I mean “advertising revenue.”

Luckily for us, the viewers, this time also yields some pretty intense episodes, in which romances are struck, lives are lost, and things go kaboom a lot more than usual. As we’re on the precipice of what hopefully will be an exciting month of television, let’s look at the “State of the Show” for five of the more geektastic of television’s fare.

sylar_face.jpgHeroes. Could Heroes regain its momentum after a disastrous, strike-shortened Season 2? In short, not especially. There have been occasional hints of Season 1 greatness, but they are buried beneath a show that’s too confusing, too repetitive, and quite frankly, too damn serious for its own good.

Saving the world used to involve self-discovery, wonder, and joy amidst the serious stakes. Now, everyone mopes around in any of the 12 parallel universes they’ve managed to show thanks to Hiro and Peter’s constant time-hopping. Everyday people gave way to shadowy corporations, yielding yet another world-in-peril plot involving characters to whom we can no longer relate.

Current Grade: C+

Smallville. For years, Remy Zero’s been asking someone to saaaaaaaaaave them. And we as viewers likewise cried out to be saved from that which weighed us down like some much kryptonite: Lana Lang. And lo, moving her off the show and moving the principles to Metropolis has indeed invigorated the show. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Erica Durance a skilled actress, but her interactions with Tom Welling are charismatic and entertaining. Moreover, Braniac’s slow overtaking of Chloe has been paced and plotted beautifully.

Now, for the not-so-great. Jimmy irks, Tess confuses, and Doomsday is currently more emo than evil. The lack of Lex Luthor hurts the show tremendously, although some time off recovering from the 3,732 concussions incurred over the first seven seasons might do the evil genius some good. It’s clear they don’t have a clue what to do with Tess, and so give her a host of “dimensions” in order to see what sticks. Smallville usually knows where it wants to go over the course of a season: it just usually has trouble keeping things consistently interesting getting there.

Current Grade: B-

Fringe. Too much hype? Possibly. Too much criticism? More than likely. Having the name J.J. Abrams attached to you show will inevitably heap more attention upon a project that any show should have to face. What’s there currently isn’t bad: it’s just not necessarily appointment TV at this present juncture.

The Bishop Boys never fail to entertain: Walter’s kookiness married with Peter’s pessimism hasn’t gotten old yet. Peter’s backstory intrigues, as does the long shadow cast by Massive Dynamic, this show’s potential Big Bad. The show’s more procedural than mystery at this point, with an emphasis of “Pattern of the week” over long-form mythology as the show finds its audience. Not a bad idea for now, although the individual plots are hit or miss so far.

Unfortunately, the show has a less than charismatic lead in Olivia Dunham. As the center of this universe, Torv has the unenviable task of being our entry point into this universe, unable to show much beyond a mixture of confusion, skepticism, and proficiency in attacking these unusual cases. Sadly, Torv conveys little else beyond “bored” half the time, leaving us at home wondering why we should care if the protagonist barely seems to do so. Hopefully, more seasoning (and more personal stakes for all involved) will take this show to next level.

Current Grade: B

terminator-the-sarah-connor-chronicles-20080225062413240-000.jpgTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. A complete surprise this Fall, with an increasingly strong series of episodes leading into Sweeps. The show finally started to address it’s biggest flaw: John Connor’s lack of leadership. For the first year, we saw a whiny kid constantly hurl himself into harm’s way, endangering not only himself and his family but the whole frickin’ human race. Season 2 shows these actions to be a byproduct of a teenager unjustly thrust into importance, and has allowed John’s recognition of his destiny to transform John from the inside out.

Brian Austin Green? Complete badass, and I can’t even believe I’m typing that in a non-ironic manner. Flashbacks (or are they flashforwards?) seen through the eyes of Derek and Cameron show a future in which Skynet itself seems split, offering a murky view on exactly what Cromartie and “Catherine Weaver” hope to achieve. If there’s any complaint, its that the show’s forgotten about its titular character a little this season, leaving her on the sidelines too often for my liking. But all in all, a strong show that deserved its full-season pickup.

Current Grade: A-

Chuck. There’s no more entertaining hour-long on television right now. Emphasis on the word “entertaining.” There’s something to be said for a show that knows what it is and works hard at being the best at that particular thing. In Chuck’s case, it’s a spy-laced dramedy that knows how to tickle the funny bone and pull at the heart strings with equal aplomb. While the settings are often unbelievable, the characters themselves are grounded in a reality with which we as viewers can connect.

There’s a good reason Chuck can’t leave the Buy More: it’s because Chuck the show can’t afford to do so. Keeping one foot in the everyday is something Heroes stopped doing, and look what happened there. Chuck is a valuable asset to the government, but he’s equally as valuable to his motley crew of fellow employees. Both employers of Chuck see the same qualities in that man, and having him straddle the benign and the fantastical keeps me coming back week after week.

Current Grade: A

Do you agree with these grades? Disagree? C’mon, y’all: it’s Election Season: let your voices be heard below!

One Comment

  1. Posted November 4, 2008 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Heroes – Yes, it’s a mess, but at least they have ramped up the action quite a bit this season. I’m willing to give them some time to pull the 200 plotlines and 150 heroes together as long as the shows aren’t boring. So far, they have been far from boring.

    Sarah Connor – it’s been very slow this season, with all of the character development, but hopefully things will pick up, at least during sweeps. The tension was high last night when John and the T-88 kept near-missing each other. But, the tension was dampened somewhat because you just knew there was no way the T-88 would see him and let him get away. That shotgun John had wouldn’t have been very effective, especially since this is the T-88 that survived the FBI hit-squad in last season’s most awesome season ending episode ever for a show that isn’t named Lost.

    I just LOVE a line from Sarah in the previews last night when Elison asked her if she has a plan: “No, but I have a weapon.” Sounds like it’s time to kick some A$$.

    Fringe – already gave up on it.
    Chuck – never watched. Too much on my TV plate already.
    Smallville – never watched. See ‘Chuck’.