Cultural Learnings’ 10 Shows to (Hopefully) Watch in 2008 is a list which reflects not the best series to possibly air in the calendar year, but rather those which shall prove most interesting to watch both in terms of the show itself and the buzz surrounding it. Some shows have made this list due to curiosity, hype, or a genuine interest in their creative future. Some of these shows may not air a single new episode of television until the fall, but it’s never too early to look ahead. On with the list!
Last year, I designated an episode of Heroes (“Company Man”) as the #1 episode of television during February Sweeps, and perhaps during the entire year. Ultimately, I’d probably give that distinction to an episode from another series, but the fact remains that Heroes did some great things in the past year that should make them something to watch in 2008. Unfortunately, almost all of that goodwill has been squandered.
As a result, Heroes barely makes this list due to a sheer curiosity as to how low Tim Kring and Co. can sink this ship. If the season one finale took the wind out of its sails, the show’s “Volume Two” was a shipwreck of epic proportions. Everything that went wrong did: new characters fell flat, beloved characters were stuck in awful storylines, and there was no “Company Man” to save a sinking ship.
Before the last few episodes of Season Two, I was at least optimistic that Tim Kring’s apology would at least ensure that the series would right itself heading into Volume Three. However, what Kring sold us as an altered course was still in a fundamentally wrong direction, and an awful fall finale was enough for Heroes to become entertaining not due to its quality but due to its continue descent into mediocrity. If I’m watching in 2008, it will only be out of a morbid curiosity…and that’s kind of sad.
Heroes will not go back into production until the Writers’ Strike is resolved. Chances are it will complete its 22-episode second season with a string of 11 episodes to air in the fall of 2008.
YouTube: Heroes Volume Three Preview
I feel obligated to place one of the season’s midseason debuts on the list, but don’t view this as a token selection – Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles is perhaps one of the most interesting drama series to hit the airwaves this year. This attempt at spinning off the Terminator franchise seems a terrible idea on paper, but its execution is solid: the pilot presents a level of action and drama that at the very least appears to offer a smarter and more cohesive alternative to NBC’s fading sci-fi series.
As I am one of those weird people who is late to capture the pop culture bug, I haven’t spent any considerable time with the Terminator series. The pilot doesn’t really require this, though: the story of a Mother being protective of her son and being on the run is fairly relatable, and becomes interesting when the shotgun comes out. It’s great to see Summer Glau back on television, considering my far too recent discovery of Firefly, and as a whole the cast seems to mesh into a solid ensemble.
The only concern, of course, is that even with so little fresh scripted programming the show will struggle to succeed: a nice timeslot on Mondays won’t be enough to avoid a certain stigma facing sci-fi programming (Even with the Terminator name being added to the title). This would have been a fantastic series to debut after the Super Bowl, but FOX’s decision to go with House shows that even they aren’t willing to make this series a hit. Hopefully, viewers will embrace the series despite FOX’s best efforts, and something good might come out of this middling midseason selection.
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles premieres on FOX on Sunday January 13th before settling into its regular night on Monday January 14th.
YouTube – Teaser Trailer
30 Rock has been so consistently good (Even with a miss of a Christmas episode) and Scrubs is so increasingly irrelevant (Even with its finale in question, making it an interesting show to watch), it is The Office I am most concerned with out of NBC’s Thursday comedy lineup. In a rough fourth season, the show misfired more often than seemed possible during its gem of a second season: all of its little problems suddenly became large ones, and a series of one-hour episodes were particularly awful compared to the show’s standard.
As a result, its return in 2008 is increasingly important: if we’re blaming the show’s problems on the one-hour format (Which is a fair excuse, even if it doesn’t change the missteps), then its return to half-hour episodes in earnest in the new year has to live up to a certain expectation. They went to hiatus with the hilarious and emotionally meaningful “The Deposition,” and a return to the slapstick and heartless comedy seen early in the season would be extremely disappointing.
There is no question that the writing staff of The Office and the cast they’ve assembled have the potential to return to top form: the problem is that as they suffered through a rough patch 30 Rock hits its creative stride. While the competition within NBC’s comedy block is good, 30 Rock is riding an Emmy win and a lot of critical buzz while The Office languishes behind in all but ratings. With a strong turn in 2008, all of that could change: once the writers get back to work, let’s hope that The Office is able to regain its past form.
The Office was one of the earliest casualties of the Writer’s Strike thanks to an excessive number of one-hour episodes. Its return is, therefore, dependent on that strike being resolved.
YouTube – The Deposition