If 2007 saw the downfall of Heroes and The Office, it also saw the emergence of these three series as critical favourites. In different season, critics were adamant that these series would be the future of television. Now, with the fate of each up in the air considering the Writers’ Strike, let’s take a look at what to expect from some more fresh faces.
Of 2007’s drama series, only one has made this list. Ultimately, while there are a few series I enjoyed during the fall season, none have been able to supplant other series except for Pushing Daisies. Bryan Fuller’s series has managed to earn him his first full-season order, and it is perhaps one of the only series which might actually benefit from the writer’s strike. While I have remained fairly consistently entertained over the first nine episodes, I will have to admit that the long-term longevity of the series has yet to be decided.
This is on both creative and commercial sides of the coin. In terms of ratings, the series hit some road bumps during the latter portion of the fall, and the result is that the naysayers are rampant. But really, did anyone expect the series to maintain its 12+ Million viewers from the premiere? This was always going to be a divisive show, and the fact that it maintained as much of that audience as it did (Especially compared to other series like NBC’s Bionic Woman) is a success story.
However, the creative question is far more intriguing. While I’ve enjoyed the series’ laidback procedural flow, as it has allowed Chi McBride and Kristen Chenoweth to turn in some dynamite supporting turns sadly unnoticed by recent award shows, others raise concerns regarding the longevity of this atmosphere. It does have the danger of relying on quirkiness for too long, but I have faith that the emotional investment the viewer has placed in these characters is strong enough to sustain whatever format Fuller moves forward with. Plus, I am looking forward to seeing if Fuller is able to pull together a musical episode in the new year – fingers crossed.
Pushing Daisies has received a full season order, but only finished 9 (Already Aired) episodes out of 22. The show will return to production once the writers’ strike resumes.
YouTube – “Hopelessly Devoted…” from Olive Snook
Matthew Weiner’s drama series debuted on AMC in the summer of 2007 with extremely little buzz. It was only the prodding of various critics that convinced me to give the series a shot, and what I discovered was something quite interesting. I’m on the short list of those who will in the future be forced to catch up on the entirety of The Sopranos, but Matthew Weiner proved his worth for me with Mad Men, perhaps the sharpest new drama of 2007.
It’s one to watch in 2008 not just due to its second season which barring further difficulties should show up this summer, but also because of its awards season potential. There is a lot of critical love for the series, and both the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Screen Actor’s Guild fell in line with multiple nods for the freshman drama. In a summer that saw the rise of many successful series on cable, it is Mad Men that appears to be rising above the pack – and for good measure. It is still weird, of course, to see unknown Jon Hamm joining Glenn Close in terms of summer acting standouts.
The hope, of course, is that Mad Men will be able to ride this momentum to further success. If Friday Night Lights was the show that every critic was begging their readers to watch on DVD in 2007, I believe that Mad Men will emerge as 2008’s selection. I know that I plan on doing my part in the months to come, and even on the most obscure cable network I believe the show has a chance to make an even larger mark in the year ahead.
Mad Men is currently scheduled to air its second season this summer, likely starting in July dependent on the writers’ strike being resolved.
YouTube – “The Carousel”
Speaking of Friday Night Lights, NBC’s sophomore drama is on this list because it is wholly unique in that it has a fair number of episodes to air in 2008. Its stockpile of episodes, however, has a lot to live up to: after a generally disastrous start to its second season, Jason Katims’ little football series that could has to pick up the pace to remain in the good graces of both fans and critics alike.
For me, the problem with the show’s second season is that it abandoned the heart which made it tick. While its individual characters may still be as strong, they abandoned the small town football madness which was the core of the series in favor of a series of disparate and unconnected storylines which segregated cast members from one another. While it was never a show about football, but rather a show about people and life and everything else, football gave it meaning: it provided a passage of time, a general mood, and a smart way to integrate a theme into each episode.
This season, the football has been used only for heavy-handed character moments entirely out of character for the series – it has been turned from a metronome to a giant bass drum occasionally smashed by a pimply teen. The result is murder storylines and new characters which are not integrating into the story but rather distracting from the continued brilliance of Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler. Other than their relationship, only occasional scenes have clicked this season.
Things are looking up, though: Riggins is reintegrating into the series, Jason Street is moving out on his own, and one can only hope that Landry can move on as soon as physically possible. There’s nothing like a new year for a fresh start, and hopefully Friday Night Lights gets one.
Friday Night Lights is amongst the only drama series to have a considerable number of episodes to air. The first of these episodes airs this Friday, January 4th.
YouTube – The Murder
The Top 4 shows to (hopefully) watch will debut over the next week or so. If you’re looking for a hint of what’s to come, next up is a cable series that is getting a lot of buzz and might be finding a new home in the new year. Look for that on Friday – in the meantime, look forward to a look at some new television for a change with Gossip Girl and Celebrity Apprentice. Happy New Year, everyone!