Monday, September 8, 2008

New Shows I May Watch This Fall

In the eighties and early nineties, there were a few writer-producers who were well known for creating network hits: Stephen Bochco (Doogie Howser, M.D., L.A. Law), Steven J. Cannell (The A Team, 21 Jump Street), and David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal). However, in the aughties there are some writer-producers who have developed a fan base for themselves, not just their shows. This practically guarantees viewership of any new series they produce--at least for the first episode. Personally, I am interested in checking out three new shows based solely on their creator: True Blood by Alan Ball, Dollhouse by Joss Whedon, and Fringe by J.J. Abrams.

Alan Ball wrote and directed American Beauty, then followed it up with one of my favorite TV shows, Six Feet Under. Who knew that a show about a family of funeral directors could be such a compelling show about life? Each character was exquisitely crafted, endearing and frustrating and familiar. With his new show, True Blood, Ball has adapted the Southern Vampire novel series to the small screen. It has one premise--a new blood substitute has enabled vampires to stop feeding on people and instead live among them.

The last time I saw a sci-fi allegory on integrating minorities was in the early nineties 1989 with Alien Nation which I liked even in its short run. I am a little concerned however--the danger with some sci-fi is that the underlying themes overrun the character development (Star Trek: The Next Generation which I loved at the time, seems so "it's a very special episode" to me these days). Joss Whedon, who broke ground for vampires on TV with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, managed to strike the right balance, so I know it is possible not to let your actors drown in theme. And although sci-fi is new for Ball, if anyone manage to make sure the characters shine through, it's him. The show premiered on HBO last night and since I've disconnected cable, it will be a while before I see this, more than enough time to let the critics weigh in.

Speaking of Joss Whedon, let's move on to his new show Dollhouse. It's not set to air till January 2009 on Fox and in July, it was announced they were filming a new first episode, so I'm a little nervous for it's prospects. The show will be about "mind wiped" operatives who are imprinted with new personalities for every mission.

While Buffy explored themes of teens maturing into adults, Whedon seems to be treading into Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner territory here--what is the nature of self and a soul if memories can simply be created and transplanted? But if that sounds too deep, also look for much ass-kicking courtesy of star Eliza Dushku, and in a possible ploy to attract BSG viewers, Tahmoh Penikett.

Finally, there is Fringe from J.J. Abrams, also on Fox. I'll be honest: Abrams pisses me off as often as he intrigues me. He doesn't seem to be known for themes so much as for twists, especially on Lost, and when taken to the extreme, it's to the detriment of the series. With Fringe, he heads into X-Files territory. The thing that was frustrating with both Lost and The X-Files was this sense that the writers were leading us on a wild goose chase and had no idea how to resolve all their loose threads. Sure, each episode was interesting, but how were they going to wrap up the story arc? Things have gotten better on Lost since they gave it an end date but during it's third season it was living of the pure good will built up in the first two seasons; many viewers weren't as patient as me and left. Fringe may have even less time to establish itself tomorrow with it's premiere.


CKL said...

Right there with you on True Blood and Dollhouse... Not sold on Fringe. Guess I'm just not as much of a J.J. Abrams fanboy as some. You did see Mission: Impossible III, right? :)

steadof said...

Never saw MI III-- I would have seen that movie for Phillip Seymour Hoffman but for nothing else.

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