Season Two’s Cult of Personality
April 24th, 2010
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When a show is making the transition between its first and second seasons, personality is perhaps its greatest asset. If you’re going to be creating new stories, and if you tied off a lot of the show’s loose ends in the previous season, you’re creating a situation where suspense and anticipation are replaced by creation and expectation. These are different beasts, and if you’re not ready to fully commit to a fast-paced serialized series then your best strategy is to use your show’s personality in order to “weather the storm,” so to speak.
What Buffy the Vampire Slayer does early in its second season is use personality as its ultimate goal, if not necessarily doing so in a straightforward or consistent fashion. The show has always been about its characters, and our attachment with the series’ strong but somewhat uneven first season is likely based on Xander’s wit, or Willow’s pragmatism, or Giles’ cantankerousness, or Buffy’s hidden vulnerability. However, while the second season does continue to rely on Xander’s one-liners or Giles’ dry sense of humour, it is not content to coast by: starting with the premiere, “When She Was Bad” and extending into “Halloween,” the show puts each personality under a microscope in ways which verify the importance of personality to the success of this series on the sides of both good and evil.
May 26th, 2009
My Boys has, perhaps, the oddest season structure on television. Its sporadically placed nine episode seasons always feel as if they barely start before they’re done, and they often seem designed so as to make no sense by the time they actually air (with this finale taking place during Spring Training despite finding the Baseball season in full swing – yeah, I said it – or the recent episode about the depths of winter taking place, well, not during the depths of winter).
But, more importantly, the show has this really weird pattern of ending and opening seasons with these highly dramatic scenarios of romantic cliffhangers and major events, but then abandoning them for the entire season in favour of standalone stories that are just about these character hanging out. This wouldn’t be a problem if these two forms were all that compatible, but to be honest they’re not: the end of last season was a bit of a mess, and when the show transitioned into a less serialized format this season it was kind of fantastic. I haven’t been blogging about the show due to time restraints, but there was some really great individual episodes in there, more than enough to convince me that the show is still in great shape.
As a result, it was with some caution that I entered into “Spring Training,” already pretty well knowing what we were heading into: Kenny and Stephanie’s hookup way back in last season’s finale was swept under the rug except for a few moments this season, so it was inevitable that we would be confronting that particular storyline. However, to my surprise, that’s the only attempt at drama the show made in the half hour, providing a finale that draws a simpler cliffhanger, and a trip out to that cliff which let the guys be guys, let P.J. go without any stated relationship trouble, and allowed a pretty great little season go out on a pretty good note.
July 24th, 2008
Admittedly, I’ve been kind of hard on My Boys’ second season mainly because the show has been slow to really let characters transition into, well, storylines. I’m all for periods of transition for characters, something that often seems rare in television as things rush forward without a human period of self reflection; however, when that period just seems to keep going with no direction, it gets to the point where things need to settle down.
Capturing that opportunity, then, last week’s episode of My Boys did just that: it was all about settling into storylines, even if it is clear that all characters haven’t quite settled in terms of their own desires. While the show is nearly incessant in its drive towards the clear Wedding finale (Which I believe is in two weeks’ time), it is incessant with a purpose and with characters coming to a point of decision and conflict.
The writing this week was sharp and on point, tapping into the roles that characters play best while finding time for isolated storylines for Mike and Kenny’s sporting business and Andy’s marriage without seeming overworked. While the show will never quite be high art as far as television goes, it certainly found a sweet spot here, and one that it would be wise to keep for the rest of the season.
“Dudes Being Dudes”
July 17th, 2008
When it was revealed that My Boys was abandoning the workplace side of the series, they weren’t kidding: ever since PJ’s failed novel attempt, the show has become a relationship comedy as quickly as Stephanie’s book managed to get written, published and read. The entire series is revolving around a series of relationships, which results in some of your usual typecasting.
What I mean by that is simple: those in relationships (Andy and Jo’s threat against his marriage, PJ serving as the potential disruption to Bobby and Elsa’s wedded bliss) are given all dramatic material or storylines, which leaves everyone else to fill one of the typical roles. Mike and Kenny are relegated to pure comic relief, Brendan is wallowing in his poverty although he gets a bit of a leg up here, and Stephanie’s book serves as a framework of sorts (albeit it a loose and poorly defined one) for the series’ new trajectory.
And while it didn’t make “Dudes Being Dudes” a poor episode, it did make it an extremely predictable one – ever since Bobby was on that plane to Italy, the show has been phoning it in as opposed to breaking down any of our preconceptions.