Well, it took long enough getting here, but the New Year has finally arrived, and that seems to mean, for both the broadcast networks and cable, that it's time to roll out a bunch of new shows. Or, at the very least, new episodes.
I could be wrong, but I just don't recall so much TV starting up so quickly after the new year in the past. I always felt like I used to have an extra week to wallow in my new show-less misery. But, alas, my wallowing in that sort of misery is not to be. Now, instead I get to wallow in my misery about returning shows not being quite as good as I would like.
As an example, let's take a look at Damages, which begins its second season this Wednesday night on FX. Now, as you may recall, I wasn't a terribly big fan of the first season. I thought initially that it was a show with potential, but as the season progressed I decided that the writers were trying to be too clever for their own good and they had therefore ignored a myriad of plot/logic flaws. I then became further disenchanted when Glenn Close, who was great in the show, received tons of awards notice in various Best Actress categories. You see, while she was great in the first season, it would take someone who didn't watch more than a couple of screeners to believe that she was the lead and not a supporting actress. That sort of thing happens all the time (please note, Forest Whitaker was outstanding in The Last King of Scotland, but he wasn't the lead in the film), and it never fails to upset me.
So, it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch the first two episodes of the new season of Damages last night. The show has opted to stick with the structure from last season of starting an episode in the future and then going to the past for the main plot, and, presumably, by the end of the season will have the present meet the future. This time around though, it's not a murder mystery we get, but rather Ellen Parson (Rose Byrne) holding someone at gunpoint. It's far less dramatic. Far, far, less. Of course, as the show was overly dramatic with its scenes from the future in season one, that could be a good thing.
Somehow though, it's not. The first season, even if I thought it wasn't well plotted, at least sucked the viewer in. This season, I guess we're supposed to be wondering (at least initially) who Ellen's holding hostage. The basic problem though is that I just don't care. Please remember, Patty Hewes (Close), Ellen's boss, tried to have Ellen killed in season one, and we're supposed to believe that Ellen is still working at the firm (in order to send Patty to jail). Quite obviously Ellen is under a lot of stress (she's also still mourning the death of her fiancé); why should we at all be surprised that she snaps at some point?
I really do like that the whole thing is starting a little more slowly this time out, hopefully it'll mean that the producers don't lose track of all the bits and pieces, as they did last season. But, while the acting is still stellar, after two episodes I just don't know why I should care at all about the case and the people. Not a single one — save Tate Donovan's good guy Tom Shayes — is remotely believable, nor are the situations as presented.
Equally unrealistic, and premiering the night before Damages is FX's Nip/Tuck. That series though has the advantage of never really pretending to be believable. McNamara, Troy, and the rest of the gang are so foolish (and always have been) that even when they wallow it's fun to watch because of how over the top the wallowing is.
I'll probably stick with watching both shows through their whole seasons (mercifully, they should be short seasons), but I don't really consider either "appointment television." Now Scrubs, which is starting its new season this Tuesday on ABC, I have a date with.