This week is a special time for fans of television as each of the major networks roll out their fall schedules, announce what current series are being cancelled, reveal what new shows their picking up. So basically it’s Christmas morning, complete with the excitement of beautifully gift wrapped new toys, and the disappointment of said new toys once unwrapped and revealed to actually be a stack of tube socks. Thankfully this year few beloved series have been cancelled, albeit a handful will return with fewer episodes (most notably Community) and one had to jump networks (Cougar Town). But now that we know what shows are returning it’s time to change the focus to what new shows will be out come next season. The following are my first impressions from the short one to four minute previews the networks have made available online. There will be a handful of series I won’t cover as I no interest in spending any time on shows like Mistress (she’s a married man’s other and she likes it that way) and the majority of the discussion will focus around sitcoms as that’s my main area of interest. Without further ado here’s my thoughts on what ABC and CBS have to offer.
Everything we view in the media exists as carefully constructed, but not always intentional, social commentary. Films and television series are endlessly edited and changed at the hands of executives in suits whose end goal is to make as much profit as possible off the product. Their job is make the video appeal to as many viewers as possible. By the very nature of the job they have to suck out the uniqueness and turn the heavy, vaguely sweet taste of pumpernickel bread into plain old generic Wonder bread. Often this metaphor is actually quite literal with main stream media being predominantly focused upon white males. The average lead of you big budget, blockbuster film or high profile network is almost always going to be a white male. They may throw in a female counterpart or an American-American best friend to so-called diversify the product, but in the end you’re viewing a product told from a particular social view that reinforces a white patriarchal power structure.
Fall is my favorite season for many reasons, but probably the biggest contributor to that is it marks the beginning of the new TV season. Each fall the many TV networks premiere a bunch of new series, in addition to new episodes of returning shows. And now that we’re midway through September we can finally say the 2011-2012 TV season has officially started. In honor of this occasion I will be writing various short pieces on the new shows that particularly interest me. I won’t watch every pilot (hello The Playboy Club), but I’ll try my best to sample a bunch and put my early reactions down here so you can find out which new shows should be of remote interest.
Back in the spring when networks announced their upcoming programs I saw a clip of ABC’s new comedy Suburgatory, and right after I wrote the show off finding the quick snippet I saw to be mostly bubble gum. Characters seemed stereotypical and unlikable, while the stylistic design of the show seemed on the verge of fantasy. In other words Suburgatory is not a show I thought I would like, or even watch. Turns out I was wrong, and I’m very happy to admit that (though said scene, when they first go to the mall to buy clothes, still remained one of my least favorite parts of the pilot despite now understanding the context). Most of this comedy season hasn’t been pretty, with the majority of them not even being worth writing about (Whitney, 2 Broke Girls, or just anything Whitney Cummings). While I enjoyed Up All Night and New Girl, neither of them have have that great of a pilot. In both shows the majority of my enjoyment came from the potential they have, but with Suburgatory my enjoyment came directly from the episode at hand.
This piece is less of a review or critic; it’s more of a brief look into what I love about Louie and what Louis C.K. has done with the role of a showrunner. In the spirit of the show I didn’t preplan extensively what I was going to write and instead just put down whatever came into my head.
I love Louie for reasons I dislike many sitcoms. It has no standard structure, no clear rules within the show’s universe, and an inconstant cast (many of which are reasons why Glee is such a mess). And yet it uses all this qualities, which would normally be considered flaws and turns them into great assets. With each episode of Louie you never know what you’re going to get. One episode is almost entirely a flashback, another is a few laughs somber drama, and others can be just purely funny. Community may play around with structure and the conventions of a sitcom, but Louie challenges the notion of what it means to be called a half hour comedy. Sometimes a plot covers a whole episode, others may take up only a third, and then the episode plays out as a series of short films.