What Worked and What Sucked:
CBS’s and The CW’s 2007-2008 Fall Season Edition
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
Once again, we return to the world of last season’s television and discuss all that we will miss in this new season which begins any minute now and, in some cases, have already begun. This week we’re centering out attentions on CBS and the CW network.
Just a quick disclaimer before I begin: If I went over every televisions show that crossed our airwaves, I would not have time to breath, and I will have taken over G-POP’s entire article load for a month. This being said, those television shows that are covered in this series are merely those that crossed my path, those that I tried and that either hit the scrap heap or became a part of my weekly fair. So, if you know of a show that I didn’t catch, or if you disagree with my brilliant assessment, check out our Submissions Page and send us your own point of view. We’d love to publish you!
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Moonlight (CBS): It had a tremendous cult following and managed to make it back post-writers strike where some other shows couldn’t find their way back to the airwaves. So what happened to CBS’ Moonlight? Well, the vampire-turned-detective series (very reminiscent of both Angel and Forever Knight) but with its own splashes of originality) was plagued with troubles before it even aired. Both its show runners and its cast were massively overhauled in the time from announcement of the series to its first airing. And, of course, there’s also the decreased value of supernatural or off-beat series by the major networks – a hurdle that has only seemed to truly been breached by ABC – though NBC is truly trying its best. And Moonlight certainly did have an unconventional plot. The series follows the above mentioned detective, Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin, August Rush, The Invisible) as he attempts to solve cases with the help of tabloid news woman Beth Turner (Sophia Myles, Tristan and Isolde, Underworld), whom he secretly rescued from abduction when she was a child from his vampire bride, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon, One Last Call). Since then, Mick has kept an occasional eye on Beth and has, reluctantly, fallen in love with her (a bit icky, but one hopes this love thing didn’t happen until she was a bit older). Along with dealing with this unrequited love and the nervous feeling he has that Coraline isn’t really dead, he must also contend with the pull between serving the human world and the vampire world. The vampire word is most firmly represented by Mick’s dear old friend, vampire turned wealthy business owner, Josef (Jason Dohring, Veronica Mars). An interesting mix of pop culture and old-time vampire noir, Moonlight stood in between its predecessors with more humor and less camp than Forever Knight and less of an overarching “save the world” feel than Angel. It was a well-acted, well-produced, fast-paced action / mystery with a gothic romance wrapped up in the middle – and it should not have been canceled. Shame on you CBS. Let’s try to think just a little outside the box.
Viva Laughlin (CBS): I admit, I never watched this show. But Joel McHale’s constant mocking of it on E!’s The Soup just made me sure I was spared. Lead actors breaking into song to tell the story of life in Las Vegas? Even Hugh Jackman’s recurring role couldn’t save this one. Thanks Joel for helping me dodge this bullet. Was nothing ever learned from Cop Rock? Nothing?
How I Met Your Mother (CBS): Well, wasn’t this little show the talk of the town when psychotic (and bad comedic actress) Britney Spears showed up to play a role in this comedy about Ted (Josh Radnor) and his search for love. (Saw Britney on the VMAs and she actually seems to be back on track! Good for you Brit – STAY THAT WAY.) Well. Britney wasn’t the only thing to happen to the series. Ted and Robin (Colbie Smolders) dealt with their break-up, which was going fine until she slept with their close friend, womanizer Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, Harold and Kumar Do Anything, Doogie Howser, M.D., brilliant as ever). This prompted war between Ted and Barney even as Ted fell in love with Tattoo Removal Specialist Stella (Sarah Chalke, Scrubs, the other Becky in Rosanne – we love her!) and Barney searched for *gasp* another wing man! Meanwhile Lily (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the American Pie movies) and Marshall (Jason Siegel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) looked for a new place and Marshall struggled with the pressure of corporate law. In the end, the team bonded together again when Barney got hit by a truck. But with that truck came two realizations – Ted decided he should propose to Stella and Barney realized he was in love with Robin. All that fun was packed into one season along with stunt casting (Spears and Chalke, but also James Van der Beek as a worn out old rocker who Robin is head over heels for as though he was still in his glory days), Slap Bet slippage (if you don’t understand this one, I can’t help you), and How I Met Your Mother’s patented story telling warps and creative storytelling (Marshall, Lily and Ted eat a “sandwich” so Ted doesn’t have to tell his kids they were smoking pot, an unimportant girlfriend spends the entire episode named “BlahBlah”, every single flaw of each character suddenly becomes readily apparent, an entire story of Ted’s birthday is told as though it would be about how a goat got into their bathroom – only to have Ted remember in the end that that was the following birthday and send us all wondering again, each member of the gang acts as Marshall when imagining how he would react after being screamed at by his boss). And, best of all, we got another video from Robin’s days as Canadian Teen Pop Star Robin Sparkles. This series gives you laughs pound for pound and it’s thankfully not showing any signs of running out of steam.
Supernatural (The CW): Returning after another explosive season finale, Season 3 of Supernatural followed the demon-hunting Winchester duo, Sam (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls) and Dean (Jensen Ackles, Smallville, Dark Angel) through a much greater trial than is the normal fare. After Sam’s death in the season finale, Dean had made a deal with a demon – Sam comes back to life, but Dean dies after one year with him. As the boys struggle to find a way out of Dean’s deal, they must deal with a gaggle of new recurring characters and another disastrous mistake made in the finale – the brief opening of Hell’s gates, which unleashed tons of demons into this world to possess people and cause lots of trouble, leading the guys to suit up against an impending apocalypse. One such demon, Ruby (Katie Cassidy) promises Sam she’s not one of the bad guys and proves it by killing plenty of her demon brethren and by promising a way out for Dean. Another, Lilith (Roan Curtis), is vying to become the new big bad after the death of the Yellow-Eyed Demon last season, and fears she has only one adversary – Sam, who is believed to become the next in line for King of the Underworld with his mostly latent psychic powers. Also adding to the fray is con-woman Bela (Lauren Cohan, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj) who specializes in otherworldly artifacts and has no loyalties. As always, there is also Bobby (Jim Beaver, John from Cincinatti, Day Break), a fellow hunter and friend of Papa Winchester. Stand out episodes include “Bad Day At Black Rock” when a lucky rabbits foot gives the boy good luck, but, when stolen from them by Bela, causes bad luck to have it out with them, “Mystery Spot”, when lackluster Season 2 villain, Trickster (Richard Speight, Jr., Jericho) returns with a vengeance, forcing Sam to relive Dean’s death over and over again, Groundhog Day style and then twists it by making Sam live without him for a little while and showing us what it turns him into (a stand out episode most especially for Padalecki, whose increasing paranoia alternating with I’ve Done This Before humor is dead on leading up to Dean’s death, after which his reaction is just heart-wrenching), and finally, “No Rest For the Wicked”, when Sam finally takes on Lillith and we shockingly watch Dean die and go to hell – cuz, let’s face it, we all expected him to be rescued in the end. Well played, Supernatural! After a finale like that, how could we possibly miss your 4th Season Premiere?
Jericho (CBS): So, last season recap I bragged about viewers ability to bring Jericho back from the dead, and though we won the battle, we did not win the war. Seven episodes later, the directors shot 2 ends to the finale of the second season – one that would end the series and one that would leave a little something for the following years. It was up to the network and, in the end, the network chose to use the series ending. But at least we got to gain a little more story ground. After the war between Jericho and the next town over, New Bern, which ended Season 1, Jake (Skeet Ulrich, Scream, Johnny Depp’s DNA) works to put the town back together. Meanwhile, Heather (Sprague Grayden, Over There, Joan of Arcadia) has stumbled upon the new US Army – a force that is based in Cheyenne, Wyoming - and brings them back to Jericho to help. As Jericho returns to the United States, they quickly realize that there is something wrong with this government. Instantly it tries to control what’s in the textbooks that are given to the schools. They have a connection to Jennings and Rall, a company Jake used to work for in his mercenary days, and they are run by the man who is hunting CIA Black Ops Operative Hawkins (Lennie James). The real damage is done when new Jennings and Rall accountant, Mimi (Alicia Coppola, Bull, American Dreams) discovers that it’s lead mercenary John Goetz (D.B. Sweeney, The Cutting Edge, Spawn – deliciously evil here) is cooking the books. Goetz goes after her, wounding her and killing Bonnie (Shoshanna Stern, Weeds, Threat Matrix), farm-owner and all-around sweetheart Stanley’s (Brad Beyer, Third Watch) sister. As the town rallies around protecting the family from further retaliation, Jake and Hawkins go on a separate and more important mission – keeping Texas, who is rising as an oppositional government to Cheyenne, in the know about the truth. Though the series ends with the country at the brink of civil war, it departed with viewers knowing that our boys Jake and Hawkins did well. It ended in a fitting celebration of triumph over tyranny. I can’t think of a better end to a series that fought its own revolution – and won.
Reaper (The CW): Reaper was a funny show. It followed a young slacker named Sam (Bret Harrison, The Loop, Grounded for Life), who discovers on his 21st birthday that his soul had been sold to the devil by his parents. As part of the deal, Sam must work for the devil (Ray Wise, Twin Peaks) as his bounty hunter. Together with his friends, disgusting slacker and Jack Black wannabe Sock (Tyler Labine, Boston Legal, Invasion) and intellectual sweetheart Ben (Rick Gonzalez, Coach Carter), Sam must learn how to accomplish his new duties while trying to woo good friend and co-worker Andi (Missy Peregrym, Heroes, Stick It), keep his job at the Work Bench, his Home Depot-like store, and keep his identity secret from Andi and his family. This comedy / teen action drama was fun at first, but the same old Satan jokes got old after awhile and after the writer’s strike sent it on a temporary hiatus, it mysteriously found itself removed from my DVR in search of better programming and became relegated to the place of being watched when nothing else is on. Not a good place to be for a big time TV fan like me. Not a good place at all.
Smallville (the CW): Every year I beat myself up for actually leaving this series on my DVR. I ask myself why do I care? Clark (Tom Welling, Cheaper By The Dozen, The Fog) and his wooden acting alternated with incessant whining annoys me. His on-again-off-again romance with equally whiny Lana (Kristin Kreuk, whose best roll ever may be as Scotty’s slutty girlfriend in Eurotrip) and their sloppy and continuity-ignoring storytelling pisses me off. The only thing that allowed me to remain somewhat interested in the show was brilliant and witty best-friend Chloe (Allison Mack) who tends to act as the voice of the viewer, complaining when Clark – who has a secret identity for crying out loud – gets pissed about someone lying to him!! Seriously, thank God for Chloe. Without her I may have spent a great deal of money replacing all the TVs I would have broken while listening to all the hypocrisy of a lead character we’re supposed to love. Also salvaging my self-respect were a smart alecky Lois (Erica Durance, The Butterfly Effect 2) who I suspect would be making fun of this show if she was watching it herself and a delightful quietly evil Lex (Michael Rosenbaum), whose brilliance lies in his lack of both yelling and diabolical laughter – his co-stars could stand to learn a bit from his less-than-arch acting choices, as whenever any of THEM playing evil you expect them to suddenly sprout a mustache, simply to twirl it. New to the series this year were previously recurring Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore, Veronica Mars) who gave Chloe something romantic to do that didn’t involve getting into enemy clutches or looking sad while Clark kisses someone else and *gasp* Supergirl Kara Kent (Laura Vendervoort) whose lore is all wrong. Let me set this straight right off the bat – I know its not supposed to follow comic lore, but one must respect the lore that it has itself created. As such, consider the following – if it’s a yellow sun that causes Clark and Kara to have powers because there isn’t one on Krypton, their home planet, then why has Clark been there all his life and cant learn to fly and couldn’t control his other powers at the beginning of the series and Kara gets there and IN THE SAME EPISODE flies around? You might say I’m being too picky – that’s my job, I’m a reviewer. Oh, and I have a brain and an ego that likes a writer to expect my intelligence. Sorry. So, why do I still watch this show? Well, how else would I get the gleeful joy that occurred when Brainiac (played by a severely underused James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) put Lana into a coma, and then the severe depression that came with realizing this meant episodes filled with Clark complaining about that fact? What else would make me laugh the way that discovering that the lackluster battle between Lex and Clark in the finale was their final battle after discovering that Rosenbaum decided not to renew his contract? Really was that what this was all leading up to? Perhaps I’m masochistic. Still, just as I planned to delete it from my DVR, it was announced that Kreuk, Rosenbaum and the brand spankin’ new Vandervoort would no longer be regulars and that the series would be revamped with Superman-killer Doomsday as the main villain? How could I not observe the laughs to come? Smallville, you remain on my DVR until you stop making it so fun to hate you. That’s when there will no longer be a point.
Well that was the CBS/CW recap. Stay tuned for more recap action next week with Fox, Sci-Fi and NBC getting their treatment. Until then, check out your new shows. They’re good for a balanced breakfast and I promise. You trust me, don’t you?