Weekly Roundup is a feature posted each weekend on I Wonder if You Wonder. It gives me a chance to react to the week’s industry news and to provide some quick thoughts about the films and TV shows I’ve been watching. (Plus it’ll give you some idea of the sheer amount of stuff I watch!) Let’s dive right in.
This week’s song to listen to as you read: Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” from the season finale of New Girl. You keep on dancing, Nick Miller.
It was the biggest news week of the year for TV, with most of the major networks announcing their pick-ups and cancellations, so here we go.
NBC Renewals: The story of the week was arguably the fate of NBC’s slate of comedies, many of which were very much on the cancellation bubble. In the end, though, 30 Rock, The Office, Community, Parks and Recreation, Up All Night, and Whitney joined dramas Parenthood, Grimm, and Law & Order: SVU in getting another season.
A couple of these moves stand out. For one, all of the comedies except for The Office received orders of 13 episodes rather than the customary full-season order of 22, meaning that NBC views them with at least some degree of skepticism. (NBC, of course, reserves the right to order more episodes of the series at a later date.) 30 Rock’s pick-up is expected to be its last, as the show seems likely to sign off after its upcoming seventh season. Meanwhile, Community and Whitney are being moved to Friday nights, which is traditionally viewed as the kiss of death for a TV show. There’s at least a fighting chance that Community’s small but passionate fan-base will follow it to Fridays, but this can only be viewed as a disaster-in-waiting for Whitney, and my preliminary guess is that next season will be the last for both shows. Additional questions arise with Community, as there are rumblings that show creator/showrunner Dan Harmon may retreat into some kind of consulting or supervisory role. It also remains to be seen whether or not Chevy Chase will return to the show, as he and Harmon have had a very public falling out in recent months.
NBC Cancellations: Several shows got the axe at the peacock network this week, including the atrocious Are You There Chelsea?, Awake, Best Friends Forever, Bent, and Harry’s Law. No surprises here, though Awake probably deserved better.
ABC Renewals: Moving over to ABC, a whole slew of shows were picked up for another season, including dramas Once Upon a Time, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, Scandal, Revenge, Private Practice, and Body of Proof, comedies Suburgatory, Modern Family, The Middle, Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, and Last Man Standing, and reality shows Shark Tank, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and Wife Swap. I’m particular pleased for Apartment 23, which has only been on the air for a few weeks and seems to be coming into its own.
Pan Am Honored (Seriously): Here’s the strange story of the week: ABC series Pan Am won the prestigious Best Series prize at the Rose d’Or awards, which are considered to be the biggest TV awards show in Europe. What makes the story strange is that PAN AM IS TERRIBLE. Like really, really, REALLY bad. Unwatchably bad. It’s Mad Men for people who can’t deal with any degree of subtlety whatsoever.
Look… I don’t know a damn thing about the Rose d’Or awards. For all I know, they may be a complete laughingstock, like a European version of the Golden Globes. But for a continent that produces shows like Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Luther, and probably a whole bunch of non-English language shows that are also great, this is totally inexplicable.
ABC Cancellations: So you know that award-winning series Pan Am that is apparently huge in Europe? Whoops, it got cancelled! Joining Pan Am in the history books are fellow series GCB, The River, and Missing. The only mild surprise there is GCB, which ABC had hoped would be a worthy successor to Desperate Housewives but could never match its ratings. Too bad, too; the show was just coming into its own. (See my review of the GCB finale below).
Cougar Town to TBS: I briefly touched on this last week, but now it’s official: Cougar Town is moving to cable channel TBS. The show received a one-year, 15-episode order with an option for a second year.
Fox: Fox didn’t make as big a splash this week as some of the other networks, but it did see fit to renew Touch for another year while cancelling under-performing series Alcatraz and The Finder.
CBS: A bit of a change-up at CBS, as Two and a Half Men and CSI: New York were both renewed but CSI: Miami, Unforgettable, NYC 22, A Gifted Man, and Rob were cancelled. CSI: Miami was the major surprise in the group; after 10 seasons’ worth of pay raises for its cast and crew, the network obviously didn’t think that the show made financial sense any longer.
The CW: Nikita, Hart of Dixie, and Gossip Girl were all renewed, with Nikita’s return a bit of a surprise, while Ringer and The Secret Circle were predictably canned. At this point, it seems like the CW has all of its eggs in the Carrie Bradshaw basket, with The Carrie Diaries expected to do well for the network. (Or at least as well as a show can be expected to do on the CW.)
For More Renewal/Cancellation Info: If you want a complete run-down of all of the major network TV shows, including those that were either renewed or cancelled before this week, check out TVLine’s handy scorecard.
Viewings & Reactions (Finale Week Edition):
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
GCB Finale: Ah, cancelled just when I was legitimately starting to like it – not like it ironically, not like it in spite of itself, but actually, honestly like it. GCB was pure camp, but beneath its sassy exterior was a show that was far more fundamentally sound that most other series on television, with an extremely strong ensemble, legitimately funny jokes, and solidly told stories. Last week’s series finale had it all: a ridiculous-cum-hilarious premise (the show’s band of Dallas socialites gets stranded in the Mexican desert), strong physical gags (Annie Potts torching a billboard plastered with Kristen Chenoweth’s face), and even some heart, with Leslie Bibb’s character – an alcoholic – forgoing a drink at the end even though she’s been through hell. GCB, I will miss you. (Now quit snickering.)
2 Broke Girls Finale: I struggle with 2 Broke Girls sometimes. As a film/TV student, I’m programmed to hate anything and everything that smacks of the status quo, and you can’t get any more traditional that CBS’ lineup of procedurals and multi-camera comedies. And make no mistake, there’s lots about 2 Broke Girls that is old fashioned, like its ridiculous racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes. (Matthew Moy as Han, the diner owner with the ridiculously exaggerated accent, Beth Behrs as the Paris Hilton-style rich dumb blond, Kat Dennings as the promiscuous working class girl … need I go on?) With that being said, though, there’s at least something progressive in the fact that 2 Broke Girls and other recent female-oriented network sitcoms (Whitney, for instance) don’t feel the need to shy away from the types of innuendo that were thought unseemly for their predecessors. It’s admittedly a small step, given the other problems I’ve mentioned, but at the very least it brings female-oriented sitcoms into the same class at their bawdy, male-driven counterparts. So hooray, I say, for estrogen-fueled sitcoms; they sure as hell can’t be worse than the testosterone-fueled Two and a Half Men.
New Girl Finale: Speaking of female-oriented sitcoms … New Girl, I heart thee. (As a quick sidebar, though: why does New Girl have to be considered female-oriented just because its nominal star is a woman? There are plenty of shows with male main characters that aren’t considered to be male-oriented shows – they’re just shows, plain and simple. And now that I’ve contradicted myself, here endeth the lesson.) Much has been made this week of New Girl’s evolution from adorkable Zooey Deschanel vehicle to consistently hilarious ensemble piece (when The Atlantic writes about it, I consider that “much”), and while I don’t necessarily think that the arc has been as dramatic as the article suggests (the show has always been pretty damn good), there’s no question that the increasing visibility of Cece (Hannah Simone) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) and the romantic entanglements of Cece & Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Jess (Deschanel) & and Nick (Jake M. Johnson) have contributed to the show’s continuing appeal. For me, though, the show’s real allure lies in its ability to explicate a sentiment that a lot of people in their late-20s and early-30s have these days, which is that despite our rapidly advancing age we don’t at all feel like the adults we were supposed to become. The heart of the show, then, is really a sense of nostalgia: for a time and place in our lives when everything was so much simpler, and for the awkwardness we all felt when we were growing up. In that spirit, what better way to end the season than for the key characters to end up dancing – awkwardly, of course – to AC/DC’s 80s anthem “You Shook Me All Night Long” (complete with Jess’ uncomfortably slow but nonetheless awesome chicken dance)?
The Voice Finale: The right man won, plain and simple, as Jermaine Paul sang his way to the prize. I’ll say this about The Voice: the level of talent that it finds at present is leaps and bounds better than its competitors American Idol and The X Factor, which I have to believe is a result of the hands-on approach taken by its star coaches. I don’t often stump for reality show, but if you’ve grown weary of Idol, give The Voice a shot.
Parks and Recreation Finale: Congratulations, Councilwoman Knope (Amy Poehler). The season-long story arc that featured Poehler’s character running for city council has breathed additional fire into a show that was already running on all cylinders, and there’s nothing much to do other than to stand back in awe of how far the show’s cast has come in the scant few years since Parks and Rec debuted. Poehler, of course, was already well-known from Saturday Night Live, but she’s proven that she’s more than capable of handling the responsibilities that come with being at the top of the call sheet on a network series. Aziz Ansari has become one of the hottest commodities in stand-up, with several high-profile hosting gigs to speak of. Rashida Jones turned her stints on The Office and Parks and Rec into a key supporting role in David Fincher’s The Social Network, which proved that she is equally adept at comedy and drama. Likewise for Parks and Rec goofball Chris Pratt, who suddenly has a major movie career after roles in last year Best Picture nominee Moneyball and this year’s Judd Apatow-produced The Five Year Engagement. Aubrey Plaza featured in a well-reviewed film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. And Nick Offerman’s portrayal of mustachioed meat-lover Ron Swanson has become a cultural touchstone. Not bad for a bunch of largely unheralded misfits.
The Big Bang Theory Finale: Meh. I could pretty much write that about every Big Bang episode, but this week’s finale – and this season in general – have been particularly sleep-inducing. Like many of its CBS brethren, the show is far too willing to fall back on tried-and-true/overdone-and-lame multi-camera comedy staples, like the ‘will they?/won’t they?’ Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) relationship and Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) various neuroses. Bottom line: when I can guess the punchline to about 90% of a show’s jokes before they happen, you start to lose me.
Survivor Finale: At some point I should probably write a whole article about Survivor, because in spite of my inherent elitism when it comes to media I’ve remained completely enthralled with the show for all 24 of its seasons. The most recent installment, which came to an end just hours ago, was a particular treat, as Kim played one of the best games in the history of the show and walked away the victor. From a media studies perspective, there are a lot of interesting aspects of Survivor; it’s a show that lives and dies by its editing (it’s ironic that a show that is marketed as “reality TV” relies so heavily on the manipulation of events in the editing bay), it taps into people’s voyeuristic tendencies, and it’s one of the few shows that is consistently able to draw millions of people to their television sets year after year. I’d argue, though, that’s the source of its success is actually pretty simple: the game itself, which stands as one of the most fascinating strategic tests ever devised. John Nash – the father of modern game theory and the main character in A Beautiful Mind – would’ve loved it, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that The Hunger Games saga, which features a game with similar rules (plus the addition of wanton violence and death), has become enormously popular. So in summation … yes, it’s safe to assume that I’ll be back for season 25.
Previewing features and articles I’m working on for I Wonder if You Wonder, some of which will be posted this week, some in weeks ahead, and others that’ll be abandoned due to laziness or frustration. (Hey, at least I’m up front about it.)
- More “30 Days of Alien” articles (I swear I’ll finish the series eventually).
- And in honor of Community being renewed for a fourth (and probably final) season … Listmania: The 10 Best Episodes of Community. Look for it shortly.
Credit to whosthatgirl-itsjess.tumblr.com for the awesome chicken dance GIF.