A few observations at this point in the season.
First off, as others have lamented, Gilmore Girls has gone off the rails. The season thus far has been wobbly enough, but the last two episodes were shockingly awful. Had creator and EP Amy Sherman-Palladino’s influence been that omnipotent over the previous six seasons? Apparently so, as the show has, under the ostensible “leadership” of David Rosenthal, become a shadow of itself. It’s as if Lauren Graham et al were under some kind of evil mind control.
Aside from a scant few bon mots, and the fact that the cast is identical, this is scarcely the same show. However, I’m in it for the long haul, if only as a tribute to Graham and Sherman-Palladino, though I pray it will mercifully end at some point this spring. The good news is that I’m now convinced to do a chapter on GG in my next book.
Secondly, Lost is precariously on the edge of said rails. Again, see Jason for some choice comments, as he nails the problem with the quasi-finale episode “I Do.” Despite a fine season opener, not much of note has happened in the last five episodes. Even Eko’s death seemed unusually empty (despite much footage of smoke-monster rampaging). And, honestly, is the Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle really all that interesting? I get the feeling that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof are sandbagging for the rest of the season, i.e., holding back a lot of developments and revelations, not out of strategy but because they haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate them. The backing-and-forthing between the two islands, plus the obligatory flashbacks (of which only the ones with Jin and Sun, and Locke (less so) really added anything substantial to the overall narrative), have really diffused the focus and slowed down developments. Figure it out guys, and start delivering. BTW, you don’t have a slot in my book.
Lastly, in a move that surprised everybody but me, NBC picked up Studio 60 for the entire season. Yes, the show’s been on the ratings bubble all season, and yes, people were predicting when (not if) the axe would drop. But they were wrong, and I’ll tell you why. First, this is not only a “quality” show (in the conventional, post-1980 sense of the word); it’s a Sorkin show, about TV itself. In other words, it functions to attract high-end viewers, to display NBC’s artistic largesse (i.e., it’s the Jordan McDeere of networks!), and to protect its brand (as the destination of high-end viewers seeking “quality” TV). When NBC Universal announced its massive restructuring, I knew they’d shelter Studio 60 (and toss more middlebrow fare to the wolves) because it represents their brand more effectively (if also more deceptively) than anything else they’ve got. You can also toss in the fact that a full season makes for an easier foreign sale and more attrative DVD box, should they wind up pulling the plug in May.
I’m not in love with the show…yet. I still can’t get over the fact that the network president chums around with the cast and crew of a sketch comedy show (let alone that she’s supposed to be about 35). I’m still begrudgingly getting used to Sorkin’s signature speechifying (the sole reason why I was never a fan of The West Wing). But I’m finding more and more to like. The rapid banter works to keep things moving. The details of production (e.g., a lesser cast member subbing for a more experienced one) are handled subtly and intriguingly. Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are effective moral centers in this universe. Sarah Paulson’s exasperation is charming. Lucy Davis is in it. And Steven Weber is really, really good as the increasingly multi-dimensional NBS chairman.
All in all, though, serial TV is on shakier ground than it was before the season started. A more detailed look at how particular series have fared (and/or failed) would be useful in tracing the limits of seriality at this point.
Alternatively, are there just too damn many of these shows?