Fall 2014: State of Television

We’re just under a month into the fall broadcast television season. This is usually the point where I’d break down what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, and where we can expect things to go.

Except I’m probably not sticking with any of the new shows on broadcast television, which would be something of a record for me.

I’ve just abandoned Gracepoint, the remake of the British series Broadchurch. I never watched Broadchurch, but understand it to be a quality show and have decided to go back to the source. Gracepoint isn’t bad – it’s just not particularly good. I was very disapointed that, in a day and age when we get beautiful cinematography on the small screen in shows like The Killing, Breaking Bad and True Detective, that Gracepoint looked and felt like every other cop show on television. It’s generally overlit with everything brought into full focus, when it’s subject demands darker and more artistic camerawork. The show also has some issues with loose editing and one-note performances from many of its actors as well.

Gotham is set to air its fourth episode tomorrow night, and I’ve only watched one thus far. It was kind of fun to see all the various characters and wink-nods to the larger story in the pilot episode. This will eventually have to stop – can’t keep hinting at what’s coming without what you’re looking at eventually becoming boring. This may not be my kind of Batman story though; more a fan of Nolan’s grittiness than Burton’s dark/weird/vaguely-creepy-but-also-a-little-over-the-top (let’s not talk about Schumacher), and this one feels more the latter. Just a personal preference, though the show seems decent enough.

Those are the only two broadcast TV programs I was interested in. NBC’s schedule looks like a train wreck – someone’s going to get fired over State of Affairs and Bad Judge (really? a show called Bad Judge??), CBS trotted out more crime/police/terrorism procedurals and ABC made with the soap operas, either of which are my personal taste (though I understand How to Get Away with Murder is good).

Meanwhile, I’m watching more and more stuff on cable. The Chair on Starz is fantastic – anyone with a vague interest in filmmaking should be studying this one. Outlander – also Starz – just wrapped, featuring some terrific cinematography (paging the Gracepoint production team!), nuanced acting and smart writing. Homeland (Showtime) clearly has its groove back.

If you must watch broadcast television, hit up these two. Agents of SHIELD (ABC) has gotten very good – if you gave up during its rough early 12 episodes, now’s the time to come back. And give Parenthood (NBC) some love. Some of the best writing and acting in the history of television, and NBC can’t figure out how to sell it. Kind of makes you wonder – if Parenthood had been on HBO, how far could it have gone?