Friday, August 8, 2014

2013-14 TV Season Recap

It seems in the last few months I wrapped up watching the latest seasons of the following eight television series. Revolution was the only one that started back around the traditional season premiere time of back to school season and lasted until the beginning of summer while almost the rest either had short consecutive eight to ten week seasons or like in the case of The Following and Psych, only lasted from the beginning of the year until around May. So here are some quick thoughts about the several shows I kept up with that ran during the last year. And to keep up with the school year theme I will attach a letter grade to each show after my synopsis for their season.

Revolution - I am both bummed and relieved that NBC cancelled this show after it recently finished up its second season. If you forgot the premise, it takes place 15 years in the future after a worldwide blackout transpired which set the world back to lanterns and horse buggy technology. A lot of people from Lost worked on this, and Lost's own Elizabeth Mitchell is one of the main characters on the show too. The first season had a few lulls, but I was on board by the end of the season, and I liked how it borrowed heavily with a lot of the Lost's trademark flashbacks for storytelling to introduce you to the characters and what happened in the 15 years leading up to the start of the show.

The second season I especially enjoyed for the most part as I loved how it started off with the main cast split into three different groups for the first several episodes with their own unique story arc while a new government tries to reestablish the USA. For about the first two thirds of the season, it was almost as if they could not miss a beat and I absolutely loved every episode. Things started to break down in the final third act, as the show really starts to go off the deep end in the sci-fi realm with a 'nano-technology' taking over certain character's spirits and transporting their actual minds to a Matrix-esque perfect world. For the first two thirds of the season, it was an interesting side story they gradually touched on, but the more it opened up the more it seemed like an awful SyFy original movie well I did not want to go down in, especially with the nano-tech being revealed as the big cliffhanger antagonist at the end of the second season.

The primary antagonist was at least a good old fashion villain you were glad to see vanquished by the end. It also did not help that shortly after the midseason break, the final third slate of episodes for the season were randomly released with three to five week breaks between episodes which made it really hard to keep up with such a plot-driven show. Oh well, I still would recommend binge watching these two seasons if Revolution makes its way to Netflix streaming down the line, because plot lulls be damned, it is still something refreshing and different than most of what is out there. Revolution Season 2 Grade: B

Psych - I was bummed to see this be the final season of Psych after a great eight year run on USA Network. I was delighted to see the crew get their wish and finally be able to deliver their much anticipated two part musical they have been begging USA to do for the past few years. It was quite ambitious, and minus a few awkward spots, they made it work in the unique Psych universe. For the most part I enjoyed this season, but like all previous seasons there were a couple of dud episodes that did not work for me, namely the penultimate zombie episode with guest star Bruce Campbell was a bit of a disappointment as they tried to do too much.

I was also a little surprised they quickly got rid of the new the evil chief after a couple of episodes that they introduced at the end of the 7th season, but it was great to have a few episodes with Maggie Lawson and Timothy Omundson's characters each having a shot in the chief's chair. Seeing Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) run a food truck was probably my favorite episode of the season, with Gus investigating a death of a person who almost mirrored Gus's life to a T being a close second. Props to Psych for having a feel good ending and giving each character their respective final moments to shine. Psych Season 8 Grade: B+

The Following - The first season of The Following was a guilty pleasure of mine. After a few episodes I completely suspended my disbelief and accepted the show for being completely bonkers. Each show had absurd cult murders in every episode while detectives Ryan Hardy (KEVIN BACON!!) and Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) were hot on the toes trying to stop the cult led by the out-of-his-mind Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). The second season raises the stakes tenfold, as a new cult emerges, but Hardy and Weston easily dismantle it by the midseason break, only to have Carroll emerge out of hiding with a new cult of his own. The shocking cult murders get crazier and more gruesome with each episode, and I kept finding myself tuning in to see what they would dare to get away with on network television week after week. It had a great final episode of the season, with a nice little tease to see what is to come and leave me wanting more. The Following Season 2 Grade: A

Behind the Mask - I kept seeing so many ads for this Hulu exclusive reality show about the world of sports mascots I told myself I had to watch an episode or two, and within a few weeks I blazed through the 10 episode season, which is pretty fast for me anyways. The production of this show was better than I imagined a Hulu exclusive series would be as it follows a year in the life of the mascots Rooty the Tree (Lebanon High School Cedars, PN), Hey Reb (NCAA UNLV Rebels), Tux the Penguin (Pittsburgh Penguins' minor league affiliate, the Scranton Penguins) and Bango the Buck (Milwaukee Bucks). I really liked how the lifestyle for each mascot differed between the high school, college, semi-pro and pro levels with the face behind the mascot having their own unique personal stories to tell.

Rooty is really a super shy kid just trying to express himself and land a homecoming date, while Hey Reb is a real life Van Wilder just trying to finish college. Then there is Tux trying to connect with his son he sees only on limited visitations and has his aspirations of landing a pro mascot gig while Bango lets mounting injuries dwell on what could be his final season, but it does not stop him from planning more unique, ambitious and dangerous stunts. Surprisingly strong debut season, and I really do not care that much for reality shows either, so I am glad to hear this got renewed for a second season I definitely plan on being there for. Behind the Mask Season 1 Grade: A

24 Live Another Day - Just like The Following, 24 is another guilty pleasure of mine, and I was thrilled to see it brought back for another season after a few years off despite the last season ending on a fairly conclusive note. Nothing is ever final in the world of 24 however, including its trademark 24 episode real time format. The season is still in real time, but only 12 episodes this time around. This is actually a good thing though because now we have less filler episodes, and each episode has an extra element of importance and feels more snappy than before. While this season has all the same repeating plot devices that nearly every season of 24 has (there is a mole inside CTU, spontaneous villain turns, CTU gets infiltrated, Jack saying "damn it" with great affection multiple times an episode, CTU director is replaced mid season), I cannot help myself but root for the quintessential badass super agent Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland).

Jack is back, this time in London to help prevent what else, but an assassination attempt on visiting US president James Keller (William Devane). Each episode does not fail to bring on the nonstop action, and plenty of evil terrorists for Jack to mow down. Only thing that bothered me was the formerly innocent and good natured Chloe 'O Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is now donning the goth makeup hacker chick apparel as she is now part of an underground wiki-leaks-esque movement. That aside, this is still the 24 you know and love, and you will definitely love the final episodes when a longtime villain finally gets his just desserts in an unbelievable way that only Bauer is capable of. 24 Season 9 Grade: A

Eastbound and Down - In the fourth and final season of Eastbound and Down, Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) is now a retired ball player and not so happily married to his series long chase, April Buchanon (Katy Mixon) and is getting by as a rental car driver. Things take a turn for him as he runs into former teammate Guy Young (Ken Marino) as he lands Kenny a job on his sports talk show. Shenanigans instantly ensue with Kenny's new dynamic on the show, and each episode delivers with its expected over the top comedy that McBride is capable of.

I was a little trepid going into this season thinking McBride's act has grown long in the tooth, and while I could care less for his shtick on the big screen now, I still love it on the series that put him on the map. There are moments where I briefly thought the show was starting to wear thin, but sure enough McBride has tons of great zingers and one-liners that kept me coming back for more FIIIIIXINS! And while it may be over the top like Psych, it found a good serious note to end on, while still retaining its awesome humor. Eastbound and Down Season 4 Grade: A-

WWE Legends House - What a disappointment this ended up being. Legends House is the new reality show being promoted as the flagship of original content on the new WWE Network. Imagine Real World but with retired WWE legends such as Roddy Piper, Pat Patterson, Jimmy Hart and several more and you get the idea. Each episode is horribly scripted with some kind of cringe-worthy competition like the legends playing croquet or being part of a Chip 'n Dales show. There were a couple of minor entertaining morsels in each episode when it appeared the legends were legitimately interacting with each other during the day in between sketches, and it was somewhat amusing seeing how hotheaded Tony Atlas could get, and I can never get enough of his vintage laugh. As much as I pain myself to say it, this was a struggle to get through, and unless you are dying to get the most out of your WWE Network subscription, you should avoid it. WWE Legends House Season 1 Grade: D-

True Detective - Going from the worst to the best of the year next with HBO's new red hot franchise, True Detective. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson headline this show as detectives Cohle and Hart, respectively, as they track down a serial killer going back from 1995 all the way to the present day. Usually it takes me a few episodes to determine if I am on board with a new show, but in this rare instance it only took about 15 minutes because True Detective is that damn good. I love how this is shot as both detectives are being interviewed about the case in the modern day as they keep flashing back to themselves where they were in the case in 1995 and at a few other points as the season progresses.

Both detectives have their unique positive and negative character traits that really shine through as the season moves forward and they inch closer to tracking down the serial killer. This was another instance where I cruised through the season in just a few weeks as I eagerly anticipated each episode. I thought I was burnt out on the detective genre of television series with all the variations of CSI, NCIS and Law & Order over the years, but True Detective is brings a much needed new take on the genre that had me glued in from beginning to end. True Detective Season 1 Grade: A+

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