Tag Archives: Life on Mars

The 2008 Television Time Capsule: The Ones That Didn’t Make the Cut

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If you’ve been following along with Cultural Learnings’ 2008 Television Time Capsule [Full links available at the intro post], you will have surely noticed that there are shows I watch that didn’t make the list. I could have just ignored this fact, but in writing the various pieces that comprise this epic journey through the year in television I had to, for my own benefit, justify my decisions.

Here are my reasons for not including various shows on the list, and feel free to comment with any shows you think I unfairly left out of the time capsule for one reason or another.

The Shield (FX)

Last year, it was The Sopranos that had me left behind as the rest of the world of television criticism discussed its ending and the show’s role in shaping a decade of television. This year, I missed out on The Wire and The Shield both, and at a certain point I had to make a decision about which one I wanted to rectify first. The Wire won, which leaves the Shield’s highly acclaimed seventh season, and the six which came before it, on my catchup list for 2009. I reserve the right to dig up the time capsule, should its genius not be overstated.

Breaking Bad (AMC)

I fell behind on a fair few shows last year, but Breaking Bad is the one that feels like the biggest mistake: I could take not finishing off the first season runs of Reaper or Eli Stone, but this is a show that won Bryan Cranston an Emmy, had a really compelling pilot, and has earned a great deal of critical acclaim. The show is returning in 2009, and I do hope that I’ll find time to watch the shortened first season in time to see if season two might find a spot in 2009’s time capsule.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

After starting out with a great deal of promise, Grey’s Anatomy’s fifth season quickly devolved into a bizarre experiment on how far Shonda Rhimes could push her audience. It wasn’t just the scandalous departure of Brooke Smith, or even Denny’s ghost rising to bring Izzie to a point of emotional breakdown, but rather that the show has at the same time introduced some elements (like the arrival of Kevin McKidd to the cast, or the guest appearance by Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)) that should have made a difference and have been either squandered or terribly conceived. I’m willing to put a show that shows potential but doesn’t live up to it in the time capsule as a lesson, but right now I don’t want anyone following Rhimes’ example.

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What’s Cultural Learnings Watching?: The New Shows of Fall 2008

To be honest, I’m in over my head answering the question of what shows I’ll be covering this fall. Not only am I extremely busy at the moment (Hence why I’m behind on Mad Men, Burn Notice, Greek, etc.), but we know extremely little about what’s to come. With a rushed pilot season, we have less information and fewer options, a combination that has me going blind. When you bundle this with the “relaunch” phenomenon I’ll discuss later this week, you have a sense that new shows aren’t going to be dominating our television viewing schedule.

But, there’s a few that are on my radar for varying reasons, and ones that I’ll be covering in some detail – others will probably be watched once, and could join the lineup in time.

Fringe (Fox, Tuesday September 9th, 8pm)

I previewed the 90-minute pilot earlier in the summer, and I think the same of it now: this is the fall show that feels most like something I’d want to watch every week, to get wrapped up in and think about long after I’ve watched it. While I love Lost and Alias’ pilots, I find this creation to be Abrams’ most recognizably serial: the setup is less personal and more situational, which could definitely benefit its long term stability compared to Alias’ eventual departure from the rails. Abrams’ shows all seem to be about characters intertwined in something bigger than them, but this group is yet another in the long list of people who we want to see go through these trials.

90210 (The CW, Tuesday September 2nd, 8pm)

Yes, it isn’t being screened for critics, and there are certainly questions about its quality, but I can’t help but think that The CW’s great hope is something to watch this fall. Ignoring the subject matter, which I admittedly enjoy as a guilty pleasure, it stars Tristan Wilds (Michael from ‘The Wire’) and Jessica Walter (Lucille from ‘Arrested Development’); this kind of pedigree can’t go unnoticed. I’m a bit too young to have been sucked into the phenomenon on which the show is based, but there still is room for a show like this should The CW pull it off.

The Ex List (CBS, Friday October 3rd, 9pm)

After doing some really great work on Grey’s Anatomy (as trauma victim and facial reconstruction patient Eva) before her character was sent to crazy town towards the end of the fourth season, Elizabeth Reaser has earned at least some of my loyalty. Combine with Diane Ruggierio, late of Veronica Mars, and you have a potentially engaging combination for a more light-hearted romantic comedy option. The show, which follows a woman who is told that she has already met her true love and must sort through her ex-boyfriends in search of the individual, is the kind of series that could be smart enough to overcome its sappy concept. I am hoping for appeal similar to Samantha Who?, a show that is carried by its star and some strong supporting work.

Life on Mars (ABC, Thursday October 9th, 10pm)

For those following the history of this American adaptation of the hit British series, there’s like ten reasons to be concerned: David E. Kelley fights battle with studio while pilot is shot, new showrunners step in and dump most of the cast, and an entirely new cast is just recently completing a new pilot, with a whole new direction from the one ABC originally greenlit. It could work out in quite an intriguing fashion, though – while the showrunners from October Road bring little experience, they have brought a cast featuring Harvey Keitel and Michael Impirioli. For that reason, and for the potential in the story, I’m tuning in for now.

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Upfronts Analysis: ABC 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

“No Alarms and No Surprises”

ABC 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

Of all of the major networks, one could say that ABC is playing it safest when it comes to this year’s upfronts. The only drama pilot to make it onto their fall schedule is one that was technically completed for last season’s pilot group, and they are the network who held back the most new shows from last fall to be relaunched with gusto when September rolls around.

The result is a schedule that is eerily similar to the one that we saw this past year, which saw decent success although certainly not to the levels that they experienced in years previous. After a year of success facing off against CSI, Grey’s Anatomy has seen post-strike ratings tumble, and shows like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty are fading if not quite to levels that are dangerous to their health and stability on the network.

So, let’s take a look at the schedule, and see which shows are going to make a splash this time around, plus finally getting confirmation of the worst kept secret of the year’s upfronts.

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