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TV’s Axis of Evil (This Week)

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I don’t get it. I really, really don’t. Am I the only one? I can’t be the only one. I sit in front of my television for hours on end every single week. And I am becoming so disenchanted. From ER’s insistance on recycling old plotlines, substituting dark lighting for drama, and completely rewriting characters at the drop of a hat to Desperate Housewives' inability to come up with a second compelling mystery to The Nine coming out of the box with a great pilot that has completely degenerated into the nothingness and hiatus-land, I don’t know what to do anymore.

Let’s take a look at ER first, with its most recent “very special” Thanksgiving episode. Skipping the fact that they’ve done this whole “problems on a ride-along” thing countless times (Carol Hathaway, anyone?), are we to believe that Abby Lockhart spent an incredible amount of time trying to get out of a transport when someone’s life was at stake to all of the sudden do a 180-degree turnaround and give a damn? Isn’t it possible that her wasting a half-hour or so trying to pawn off the ride-along to someone else is the reason that the transport was unsuccessful?   

And then there’s Laura Innes’s Kerry Weaver. I, for one, am sick and tired of a character being completely changed over the course of time. I don’t mind growth — growth is good and natural and should happen. What I mind is a complete denial of earlier plots in order to put forth a new one. Have Laura Innes and the writers completely forgotten season four of the show where Kerry had a sexual relationship with Ellis West (played by Clancy Brown)? In the most recent episode Weaver states that she came out of the closet when she was 30. The Ellis West relationship took place nine years ago and there is no way on God’s green Earth that Kerry Weaver is not yet 40. Thus either Weaver is lying or the show is. But Weaver has absolutely no reason to lie, it wouldn’t be hard for people to find out she was. This is a case of the writers and producers not caring. This new episode is a complete denial of the show’s history. And, what’s worse than that is that it treats the fans as though they were stupid. It is telling all the dedicated viewers that they don’t count, that this is not the same character they’ve watched for the last couple hundred episodes. 

Shame on you ER and shame on you Laura Innes for allowing this to happen. 

Maybe I expect too much. That’s entirely possible. I actually think Desperate Housewives may be able to come up with an over-arching season long mystery as compelling as why Mary Alice killed herself. Season two was a complete bust, and if this Orson Hodge nonsense is what’s supposed to carry us through season three, I’m going to be more and more frustrated. Hodge is better than the whole Applewhite fiasco, but it doesn’t involve all of Wisteria Lane like Mary Alice did. Sure, this complaint is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it less important. This show at one time had a must-watch incredibility to it that has been almost completely absent since the season one finale.  Maybe the producers felt they went too far too quickly and had to settle back down to Earth before getting too outlandish. What a huge disappointment that would be. If it’s wrong to expect TV shows to keep up a certain momentum or to strive to surpass themselves then I don’t want to be right.

And then there’s The Nine. How the producers of that one hurt me. I watched the pilot this summer and was completely hooked. I was absolutely at the edge of my seat and holding on for dear life. What a fantastic plot, what a fantastic set of actors, what style, what grace, what panache. I couldn’t wait for the second episode. And then it aired and I was so disturbed.

Was that really the best you could do? Tim Daly’s character is a troubled, divorced cop with a history of drinking and gambling? Really? That’s the ingenious hook to his character — a troubled cop? It wasn’t new when it was Sipowicz, why pretend like you’re this ingenious new, different show and then go and give us the cop with a gambling and drinking problem? And the A.D.A. that isn’t sure she wants to get married and may be falling for the troubled cop. And on, and on, and on. I’m convinced that there was a story about what happened inside, but week after week the we’ve been teased about it without getting to learn terribly much. Sadly, it’s only the bank robbery that holds any interest. The rest of the story has proven so incredibly mundane and generic that I don’t find myself sad that it’s now on hiatus. Let that serve as a lesson — if you have a good story, tell it; don’t hint at it week after week while feeding the audience the same old drivel.   

No? Am I wrong? Do these shows not disappoint? Do we as an audience not deserve something more, something better? 

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Jeo

    I feel that “Heroes” is playing the same game, albeit slower. The commercials/blurbs/teasers all promise “dramatic revelations this week!” but all we really get is a reminder to save the cheerleader.
    They’re trying to tease us along like “Lost” but can’t quite pull off the balancing act. Oh, and don’t get me started on this season of “Lost.”

  • I think the funny thing about Heroes is that it seems to be borrowing and trading a lot on X-Men and X-Men mythology.

    I still like Lost, though I’d rather seem them do it 24-style, no repeats.

  • Baronius

    At least the characters on Heroes are fairly original. OK, maybe not Buffy the cheerleader, but some of them. I just barely made it through the first episode of Jericho – the good son, the distant father, the old flame, the geeky kid…yawn.

    If you’re going to make a big-premise show with a totally original storyline, put some effort into developing the characters. (I don’t watch The Nine, but I loved your comments about Daly.) The originator of the crazy arc was probably The X-Files. They faded in quality over their many, many seasons, but they had two main characters who were interesting, and some very ambiguous minor characters. Even when things didn’t fit together that well, I could enjoy it.

    I guess Lost is suffering from the exact opposite problem: too much of the plot is character development.

  • I really do still enjoy Lost, but I’m the kind of person that if I’m wowed by early episodes or an early season i’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt for a long while.