So, the new TV season. Some good stuff, some bad. I'll take it day by day.
Las Vegas continues to be the best show Aaron Spelling never made. It has a lot in common with old-school Spelling productions like The Love Boat and (of course) Hotel: an attractive cast, a glamorous setting, and fluffy stories that require little thought. Las Vegas also has the added attraction of high-tech gimmickry in the form of the Montecito's state-of-the-art security system. And even though I already mentioned the attractive case, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that it features both Vanessa Marcil and Nikki Cox. Hubba hubba.
Anyway, the new season is more of the same, with the only major change being Mike's move inside to join Danny and Big Ed in the security office. One change I was expecting but remained unchanged was that you can still see Mary blowing on a pair of dice in the opening credits. This is, I think, a holdover from when they planned for Mary to be a high-class hooker, and it's always seemed to be a little out of place. Oh well.
I watched the first two episodes of LAX, and I remain unimpressed. It's so freaking slow! Also, the producers seem to be intent on including one ostensibly humorous subplot per episode, and the setting doesn't accomodate wacky hijinks well. Finally, I'm getting a little tired of seeing Heather Locklear do the same schtick in all her roles. They get a couple of points for using ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" as their theme, though.
For the fifth time in six years, Tuesday is my favorite night of television. (It was briefly usurped by Sunday last season.) But with two of my favorite returning shows and one very promising new one, Tuesday jumps back into the lead.
Gilmore Girls ended its fourth season firing on all cylinders. It's strange; the first part of the season seemed very uneven, but once they came back after the Christmas break things started to improve, and the last six episodes of the season were amazingly good. We're only one episode into the new season, but it looks to be off to a strong start. The Rory-Dean storyline is fascinating. Rory has never seemed more like Lorelei's daughter; she obviously knows that sleeping with Dean was wrong and that she feels farly guilty about it, but she's far too stubborn to come out and admit it to Lorelei.
And then there's Luke and Lorelei. Sigh. Their dance together last season may have been my favorite single scene from any television show last year, and their kisses in the season finale were perfect. I am such a Luke/Lorelei shipper. It was of course a little frustrating that we didn't get to see any more lip action in the season premiere, but their phone conversations were quite satisfying in and of themselves. They both looked so happy at the end of the closet conversation, and I don't think we've ever seen Luke so comfortable talking on the phone as in the car conversation that closed out the episode. And I love that Luke bought a cell phone. It's true love!
Scrubs is off to a strong start after a shaky end to the previous season. Thank God they've got the J.D.-loves-Eliot-oh-wait-no-he-doesn't subplot behind them. I think Heather Graham was a good addition to the cast; I think she's very good at strange-but-smarter-than-she-looks roles like Dr. Clock, so the producers deserve credit either for thinking of her to fill the role, or doing a much better job of writing the role for her than they did with Heather Locklear or Michael J. Fox.
I watched the first few episodes of Father of the Pride, and eh. It's not offensively bad, and actually the subplots involving Siegfried and Roy have been quite funny. But I couldn't care less about Larry the Lion and his family. I'll give it a pass.
I missed Veronica Mars the first time around, but UPN kindly re-aired the pilot last night. I really enjoyed it; Kristen Bell is very good in the title role, though from a character standpoint I'm worried that Veronica is perhaps a bit too good at everything. I also liked Jason Dohring as Logan Echols, and as tomthedog pointed out, a little Enrico Colantoni and Corinne Bohrer can improve any show. I hope that they'll be able to maintain a balance between the apparently ongoing subplot concerning the murder of Lily Kane and Veronica's day-to-day activities. As later seasons of Buffy demonstrated, it's easy to over-emphasize the arc. (And by the way, I totally called that it was Veronica's mother in the motel. It was completely obvious once they went to the trouble of not showing who she was, if you know what I mean.)
At first, I was disappointed that Veronica Mars would air opposite Scrubs. I still have a VCR, so I easily could have taped one while TiVoing the other, but the thing about having a TiVo is that it makes you lazy. Dealing with videotape seems like such a hassle now. But the good news is that according to the Futon Critic, MTV has picked up the repurposing rights to Veronica Mars, and will air each episode at 7:00 PM on the following Tuesday. That doesn't conflict with anything! Corporate synergy comes through for once! (MTV and UPN are both owned by Viacom.)
Smallville is a show that I watch because deep down, I think I should watch it. It's not that I don't like it, but I don't care about it, and if it wasn't connected to the Superman mythos, I wouldn't watch it at all. (Case in point: Jack and Bobby is basically the same gimmick, only with John Kennedy standing in for Superman. But who cares about the adventures of John Kennedy when he was a boy?) That said, it's not possible to have read comics as long as I have and not get a stupid, goofy thrill out of hearing someone make reference to birds and planes as Clark Kent goes flying by, or by seeing a young woman introduce herself as Lois Lane.
And that brings me to my biggest complaint about the season premiere. The WB promoted the hell out of Lois coming to Smallville, in comic book and bus ads, and in commercials that showed her saying, "I'm Lois Lane." So as soon as she appeared on screen, I knew exactly who she was. Even so, I got a tiny little thrill out of hearing her say her name for the first time. But imagine how great it would have been if the WB had kept a lid on it! I would have been on my feet, running around my living room yelling, "holy shit!" It would have been one of the greatest teasers of all time, second only to that Star Trek: the Next Generation teaser that ends with the Enterprise blowing up. Once again, the folly of spoilers is demonstrated.
I missed the premiere of Veronica Mars because I was watching the season premiere of Law & Order. Dennis Farina is a good addition to the cast, and I'm happy to see they've started laying the foundation for Elisabeth Röhm's mid-season departure. I liked her on Angel, but she's not been good on Law & Order at all.
Like most people, I'm a little surprised that Joey is a good show. But in hindsight, it probably wasn't fair to assume that it would suck. My opinion is that Matt LeBlanc (with help from Jennifer Aniston) basically carried Friends through its last two seasons, so why should I have assumed that he couldn't carry a show on his own?
One thing that concerns me a little about Joey is that it's much less an ensemble show than, say, Frasier. Frasier was a good character, but that show would have been nothing without Niles and Martin (not to mention Daphne and Roz). And at this point, you can't say the same about Matt LeBlanc's co-stars. Drea DeMateo is great as Gina, and Paulo Costanzo is doing a good job as Joey's nephew, but right now at least neither one is bringing to Joey anything close to what David Hyde-Pierce and John Mahoney brought to Frasier. And could Alex, the woman next door, be any less interesting? Still, it's good enough to be given time to develop.
Joan of Arcadia is a show I watch but don't particularly enjoy, even though I can see that it's a very good show. The season premiere was par for the course. The only storyline that really appealed to me was Helen's struggle over returning to the church, and that may be because Father Ken is by a wide margin my favorite character on the show. Along those same lines, I also enjoyed appearances by two of my other favorite character actors, Kathryn Joosten (reprising her role as God from last season) and Cheryl White (as Heidi, the bookstore owner's crazy wife). I'll probably continue to watch and be under-enthused by it.
Speaking of being under-enthused, I gave dr. vegas a try. Its unreconstructed characterization of Las Vegas as being run by thugs is a nice change of pace from Las Vegas's sunnier view, but it just wasn't that good.
Phew! There are a couple of new shows I haven't seen yet; I'm waiting for the two-hour rebroadcast of the Lost pilot, and I think I'll give Kevin Hill a try. And I'm still waiting on the season premieres of the Sunday night Fox lineup. Something to look forward to.