Thursday, January 30, 2014

Television In 2013, Part IV - Current Viewing

We’ve spent the last three weeks talking about my favourite new-to-me shows of 2013. Now let’s look at the stuff I watch on a weekly basis.

Or, well, a semi-weekly basis. Sometimes even a monthly basis. I added a lot of shows to my roster late last year; so many that I now watch more TV as it airs than I have ever watched in my entire life.

I guess this is what happens when you catch up on every current show you started watching on DVD even as people keep recommending stuff to you.

I’ll try to break them down for you as briefly as I can, omitting ELEMENTARY and SUPERNATURAL because I’ve already discussed them elsewhere. I’ll also limit myself to shows that aired new episodes between September and December; so, nothing that wrapped up early in the year, like GAME OF THRONES or TRUE BLOOD, and nothing that’s just begun, like DOWNTON ABBEY or BITTEN.

The Vampire Diaries

Sometimes, I care about good. Sometimes, I care about interesting.

TVD definitely falls onto the "interesting-over-good" spectrum. I’ve written before about how I started watching it because THERE WAS AN EVIL TWIN and apparently I’d been waiting my entire life to watch a show where someone had an evil twin. I stayed because I quite like some of the characters (especially Caroline), and because the show reliably delivers soap operatic goodness to my TV screen.

I mean, so far this season Stefan has had both an evil twin and amnesia, AT THE SAME TIME.

Evil twins and amnesia are pure soap opera gold, my friends. They’re also a most welcome addition to Stefan’s storyline, as I’d come to find him horribly boring over the last couple of years. He’s a fair bit more interesting these days, and I think he’d be even more fun to watch if he’d get back together with Katherine like she wants. I’m so over Stefan/Elena, though a part of me feels guilty for that given their healthy-for-TV, let’s-support-each-other-no-matter-what relationship.

Speaking of Elena, this season she’s had an evil twin and a crazy twin AT THE SAME TIME. More gold! Whee! Also, there’s a reliable amount of relationship drama; the core ingredient of any good (er, interesting) soap opera.

I have fun with it, is what I’m saying. I wouldn’t say I’m too invested in anyone of the ongoing storylines, but I enjoy myself so much that I ain’t quitting with it any time soon.

I do wish they'd spend a little more time filming in Damon's bathroom, though. I am Team Damon's Awesome Bathroom.

The Originals

I gave this TVD spinoff about ancient vampire siblings in New Orleans a chance because I really like Rebecca, and because I find Klaus oddly entertaining. I didn’t much care about Elijah going in (I know; I’m a total cretin), but he’s begun to win me around, too.

Like TVD, THE ORIGINALS falls into interesting-over-good territory, with plenty of drama and many soap operatic shenanigans. Some of these involve a young witch with scary-awesome powers, a psychology grad student who’s desperately fighting to keep control over her own mind, and a pregnant werewolf in search of her birth family. Fun times.

It’s not one of my must-watch-oh-god-oh-god shows, so I’ll often let three or four episodes pile up before I dive back in. I’m continually surprised at how much I enjoy these mini marathons. THE ORIGINALS is one of those shows that’s a ton of fun to watch, but maybe not so much fun to think about in between viewings.

I continue to lament the writers' choice of "hybrid" over "werepire" to describe Klaus's condition, but that's a relatively small complaint.


Having added The CW to my TV package so I could watch SUPERNATURAL and TVD and give THE ORIGINALS a shot, I figured I might as well try another of their shows. REIGN seemed a likely fit, what with its focus on the early years of Mary Queen of Scots, so I dove straight in.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting very much, so I’m all the happier to report that I love this show. The costumes are gorgeous (if wildly inaccurate; many of the womens’ clothes are just modern ball gowns), the drama runs high, many CONSPIRACIES are AFOOT, there are some DARK PROPHECIES floating around, and the cast is very pretty.

As an added bonus, all the French and Scottish folks have British accents, so I’ve got something concrete to snark about.

That’s probably enough to tell you that REIGN also falls into the interesting-over-good camp. (Funny, how often that's the case...) I’m having a hell of a time with it and look forward to more. It’ll be interesting to see whether they actually follow history as the story progresses, too. I always used to assume that yeah, historical fiction would stick to the outlines of history even if it played fast and loose with the details, but then INGLOURIOUS BASTARDS happened. Now I question everything.


This crime show about a writer who rides along with a cop has kept me reliably entertained for five and a half seasons, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon. While I think S5 was my favourite to date, I’m having a blast with S6 too. It delivers plenty of great banter, inventive theories, crazy-ass theme episodes, and some surprisingly good tension. I enjoy the zanier episodes more than the serious ones, as a general rule, but I’ve slowly begun to like the tense fare as much as the funny stuff.

I love how the writers have mostly sidestepped the expected relationship drama, too. There’s conflict, yeah, but it usually ends in healthy compromise and there’s almost no doubt Castle and Beckett will remain together (at least as of the last episode I watched; I’m two behind). This makes a nice change from TV’s tendency to manufacture drama to drive its lead couples apart.

As is the case with THE ORIGINALS, I’ll often let a number of episodes of CASTLE pile up before I dive in. I love the show, but its episodic nature makes it easy to step away from for short stretches. Besides, these mini marathons are a monthly highlight and I’d never want to cheat myself out of ‘em.

Once Upon A Time

OUAT is one of the four shows I always watch live. I miss it if my presence is required at some big family event; otherwise, I am in front of my TV on Sunday evening.

I strongly suspect that OUAT also falls into the interesting-over-good camp, but I enjoy it so much that I don’t question a whole lot. I’m quite happy to overlook the dodgy relationship between the fairy tale world's timeline and the real world's timeline, the shockingly stilted dialogue in the fairy tale world, and the characters who abruptly fall out of the story. The twists and turns are enough to keep me heavily invested, and the focus on familial issues doesn’t hurt a bit. I also get a huge kick out of every new fairy tale character they introduce, no matter how quickly they drop out of the show.

It takes quite a bit more effort to excuse some of the issues with the villains, with Regina’s ongoing redemption being the most troublesome. It bothers me that the writers have completely ignored the fact that she’s a rapist. I’m not even sure they recognize her as such, which is hella disturbing.

I also feel bad about liking Hook more than Neal. There’s my occasional interesting-over-healthy bias at work.

This lengthy hiatus is killing me, particularly given that painful mid-season finale. I want more, more, more, and I don’t want to have to wait until March for it. But wait I shall, because I've no other choice and I do appreciate that the creative time needs a bit of time off.

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland

Of course I was gonna watch the OUAT spinoff. Of course I was. It takes the basic mythology of Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, blends in a healthy dose of Aladdin, and tosses in just a wee pinch of Robin Hood and something that’s probably Cinderella.

I love it.

WONDERLAND works for me for many of the same reasons OUAT does. It’s got great character dynamics, some SHOCKING TWISTS, true love, a fascinating setting, and lots going on beneath the surface. The writers have given themselves plenty of material to mine as the rest of this season plays out, and hopefully in future seasons to come. (Please, TV Gods? Please?) I don’t always manage to watch it live, but I try to swing it as often as possible.

It delights me that Will Scarlett is one of the main characters, too. I’ve had this weird thing about Will Scarlett ever since I was a wee lass, listening to my grandmother’s Robin Hood stories. I chose Scarlett as my middle name partly because red is my favourite colour, partly for Scarlett from Maureen Johnson’s books, and partly for Will Scarlett.

I also eagerly await the day when it’s confirmed Anastasia/the Red Queen is one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, just because I like being right about really obvious stuff.

I'm eager for this, too, to come off hiatus, and I dearly hope it's renewed for another season.

How I Met Your Mother

HIMYM is one of my past life-changing shows. I’m not as invested in it now as I once was, but I still love the characters and I want to see how everything comes out for them. And, as others have said before me, I’m thrilled with how the Mother’s various introductions prove she’s not just essential to Ted, she’s essential to all of them. She’s set to become a core part of the group, which is very nice indeed.

I must say, though, I’m deeply disappointed in the writers for their recent use of yellowface. Not cool, HIMYM writers. Not cool at all. It’s good that they apologized for it quickly and seem to have listened to what everyone had to say about it, but it never should’ve happened at all. It’s cast a shadow over the last half of this final season.

Sleepy Hollow

SLEEPY HOLLOW, in which a resurrected Revolutionary soldier and a police officer fight the forces of darkness, is my favourite new show of 2013 and yet another I must watch live. It might as well have been made with me in mind because it is some Grade A crazy-ass shit. This show doesn’t worry so much about pesky details like "logic," "believability," and "historical accuracy," at least so far as its storylines are concerned. It sets out a smorgasbord of standard supernatural tropes and wild plot twists that leave characters and audience alike reeling and/or whooping with delight.

Like, the Headless Horseman brandishes an Uzi in the pilot. And it only gets crazier from there.

The best part is, the crazy-ass shit is just icing. SLEEPY HOLLOW’s real draw is its characters. Ichabod (as in Crane; but Washington Irving’s story doesn’t exist in his universe, so nobody in modern times has ever heard of him) and Abbie have fabulous chemistry whether you’re rooting for their friendship or for a romantic relationship. (I’m in the former camp. I want more platonic relationships on TV.) Their supporting cast includes Frank Irving, a suspicious police captain who’s drawn into their fight very much against his will, and Katrina, Ichabod’s sorta-kinda dead wife who also happens to be a witch with a problem telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

My favourite, though, is Abbie’s sister, Jenny. Jenny is a full-blown revolutionary and certified badass, and she will destroy the forces of darkness while simultaneously repairing her relationship with her sister and forming meaningful connections with young girls and ancient soldiers alike. I want more Jenny, please. If the showrunners feel like making her a series regular, I’d be totally okay with that.

The characters all have legitimate, organic relationships, too. There’s no manufactured drama here. Everyone makes an effort to communicate and to connect, even if that means clambering over barriers they erected long ago. They listen, they respect each others’ agency, and they forgive when forgiveness is earned. Certain other characters from televised SFF could learn a lot from SLEEPY HOLLOW (**coughsamanddeancough**).

The show is racially diverse, too. Half the people in the credits are black, and the casting director displays a willingness to bring on more people of colour in supporting roles. Given their comments on social media, it doesn’t sound like that’ll change any time soon. Hurray!

As I write this, SLEEPY HOLLOW just wrapped up its first season with plenty of mayhem and some shocking revelations. I can’t wait for it to start back up.


NASHVILLE is another show I must watch live. It was my favourite new addition to 2012’s TV lineup, and it continues to be a favourite in the 2013/2014 season. I live in fear of its cancellation.

If you know anything about that, please don’t tell me. I want to keep the hope alive for as long as possible.

When I try to sell other people on NASHVILLE, I generally tell them there’s music and drama and everyone has great hair. This is very much the case. If you’re at all fond of country, you’re bound to enjoy the music. If you like drama, the show delivers such gems as children people never knew they had, faked pregnancies, affairs, career-related meltdowns, life in the limelight, addiction, family troubles, and murder.

The great hair thing speaks for itself.

It also offers opportunities for SHIPPING. As of last week’s episode (I’m scheduling this before the most recent episode airs), I’ve decided to give in and let myself ship Juliet and Avery. I love their friendship so damned much, and they support each other so beautifully, and there are feelings on both sides, and I WANT IT TO HAPPEN ALREADY. I’m an infrequent shipper, but when I ship, I ship hard. Which is to say, I’m currently all giggly and hopeful and terrified they won't make the transition from friends to lovers--or that it’ll end all too soon. It’s always a gamble, shipping people near the beginning of what you hope will become a long-running series, because TV couples do tend to break up. Argh! So stressful!

Also happy-making, until such time as it all falls apart.

Doctor Who

Y’all, DOCTOR WHO and I broke up this year.

Really, it’s been coming on ever since S5, which didn’t grab me quite the same way as S1-S4. As we rolled into S7, I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. The show I once loved so much had become something I couldn’t enjoy.

Other people still love it, and that’s okay, but it’s become painfully obvious that showrunner Steven Moffat and I disagree on what makes for an interesting story. He’s all about the flash-bang and the whoop-doop and the OMG HERE’S AN EXPLANATION OUT OF NOWHERE AND MAYBE A SEXIST JOKE OR FOUR.

I like my fiction with at least some emotional resonance. I no longer get that from DOCTOR WHO.

Steven Moffat’s work, and the work of his writing team, bores me far more often than it entertains me. This autumn’s 50th anniversary special rekindled some of my hopes for the series--a sterling feat, given my opinion of S7b from the execrable "The Cold War" onward1--but the Christmas special effectively killed my interest. I initially gave it half a star as a pity move, since most of the words were in the right order and Jenna Coleman is cute (though her character remains seriously underdeveloped), but I’ve since retracted that. No stars for you, 2013 Christmas special! Whom shall I petition to get my wasted hour back?

At this point, I seriously doubt I’ll give Peter Capaldi a chance to wow me as the Twelfth Doctor. Good acting ain’t enough to excuse the writing on this show.

Coronation Street

Okay; that was depressing. Let’s end things off on a happy note with my favouritest show of all: CORONATION STREET, a soap opera of more than fifty years' standing that centres on the inhabitants of one particular street in a fictional suburb of Manchester. We’re two weeks behind the UK here, so all these comments refer to the show as it stands shortly after everyone makes the jam for Hayley.

This show brings me so much joy, y’all. I’m not currently invested in much beyond David and Kylie’s marriage (please stay together forever; pleasepleaseplease), but I’m hella interested in just about everything. Every night, my family and I wonder if this is the day Hayley dies--and how soon afterwards Carla will learn that Peter slept with Tina. Because those two things have to happen at the same time. They just have to. Poor Carla will probably have a mental breakdown in the face of both her friend’s death and her husband’s infidelity, which sucks for her but means I get to watch the actress who plays her exercise her chops. That’s always good viewing. She should’ve won soap opera awards for the storyline with Frank, but I don’t think she did and that sticks in my craw.

It’d be pretty great if Tina came back from London pregnant, too. It’s been too long since the show introduced a random half sibling for anyone. I can see why the actress who plays Tina hates this storyline (Tina has made some terrible life choices over the last month or so), but it makes for the sort of shout-at-your-screen viewing I enjoy very much. I hope it ain’t over yet.

I’m also curious to see how badly Todd fucks everyone’s lives up. I desperately hope he doesn’t destroy Marcus and Maria’s relationship, but it’s a soap opera so he probably will. And I’d like to see if Sophie gets together with that girl who stole Sally’s bag (she probably will; see above comments re: soap operas), and whether they give Jenna anything interesting to do, and how Leanne and Nick deal with his injuries, and what Stella will say when Dev gets up the nerve to ask her out, and--

You get the picture. I love this show. It’s crazy and frustrating and an awful lot of fun, and I’m so glad I get to watch it each and every night. Actual soap operas might not have the best production values or the most internal consistency, but you can’t beat ‘em for frequency.

  1. Immediately after "The Cold War" aired, I read a number of reviews that called it "an instant classic." I wondered if the reviewers and I had watched the same show, because I thought it was boring and nonsensical. I mean, it starts with the science officer of a Russian sub misidentifying a large humanoid as a mammoth, and it goes downhill from there. I’ve blocked most of it from my memory. I’m that upset over it. no stars for "The Cold War," either!


  1. Me and Doctor Who are broken up too. Because of the lady issues, and also, yeah, Steven Moffat doesn't seem capable of writing a good story anymore. I know he has it in him because I've watched Blink! Argh.

    Vampire Diaries: I still love it for the crazy, but I miss the days when I felt it was a legitimately really good show: when it was so tightly plotted, and the writers were just burning through plot like they weren't making it anymore. I wish we could go back to those days! The season 2 days!

    HIMYM: I'm behind on this season, and a lot of it feels like place-setting, but I will say that I'm impressed with them for absolutely clearing the bar on how awesome they needed the mother to be. That actress is killing it.

    1. I've heard those with more of a critical investment in the show say Moffat is all right as a single-episode writer, but he lacks the ability to bring things together cohesively over an entire season. That sounds fairly accurate to me, though I'm not terribly keen on any of his merely-as-writer episodes, either. "Blink" was great the first couple of times, but I struggled hard to even sort of like "The Girl In the Fireplace" and I have no strong opinions on the two-parters he penned in S1 and S4.

      Until I reread my old TVD review, I'd pretty well forgotten that the show used to be tightly plotted and compulsively watchable. Now I kind of want that again, even though I'm very much enjoying all the evil twins and amnesia. I don't much care about the plot these days.

      I do like the Mother awfully much, from what I've seen of her. It looks like one of the recent episodes is from her POV, too! Whee! I need to catch up so I can experience that.

  2. Man... That's a lot of shows! I am deplorable with television and movies and wish I could get around to some of this stuff!

    1. I sort of wish I could cut out a few shows, since this is far more than I'm used to watching, but I like everything too much. Sigh. At least I have the option of letting episodes pile up. If I had to watch everything live, I'd have no choice but to nix some things. Hurray for DVRs!

  3. I agree that Doctor Who has been boring lately. I'm not quite ready to break up with it (the 50th Anniversary special really rekindled my love of the show), but if this next season doesn't grab me... Idk.

    1. I was more than ready to dive into S8 after the 50th anniversary, but then the Christmas Special pretty well destroyed my interest in the show. At first, I said I'd give Peter Capaldi two episodes to change my mind, but now I think it's best if I cut my losses.