Every fall new shows come on the air and we are left wondering, “Is anything worth watching?” Most seasons, I’d have to say “No”, but this year has had some surprises. It used to be that shows would air new episodes during the fall and spring and then play repeats during the holidays and summer. Anyone who had missed a show might find themselves thumbing through channels late in season one or season two and fall in love, allowing those viewers to plan around watching the show and getting caught up on the repeats and excitedly ready for the new episodes.
The trend nowadays though is to air a show for 3 or 4 episodes, put it on hiatus for a month and play another 2 episodes, and then cancel the show before it’s even found an audience. This sure doesn’t help the networks draw viewers or help the viewers decide what to make time for, especially when most of what they do discover runs the risk of sudden death. Hopefully this will help steer you to a few new (or newer) shows that deserve a following. From the really good to the just good fun, here are a few shows I’d recommend you check out if you haven’t already.
I’ve already commented on and will continue to rave about Fringe. I think it is the best new show on television. It’s the only show that consistently keeps me guessing with the plots without being so convoluted that I feel the writers are making it up as they go along. The characters are richly layered and enjoyable. The actors are well understated in their performances, which lends credibility to the characters, even John Noble as Walter, who could easily try to take it over the top and maybe get away with it but it would not be such a treat to watch.
Anna Torv doesn’t have the typical Hollywood blonde appearance. As Agent Olivia Dunham, she is beautiful, but not stunningly so, and they’ve played down her beauty by the way they dress her. While her business attire is very classy and looks great on her, they seem to be sending the message that Olivia has no idea just how beautiful she is, and she dresses work-sensible with little attention to aesthetics. She’s the kind of intelligent and attractive woman you can see in any number of professional jobs so she doesn’t come off as the typical glamorous beauty studio execs put in a show to sell it to the young male audience. She’s believable as an intuitive and driven woman who won’t be satisfied until she has her answers — all of them.
I never watched Dawson’s Creek so I have no previous conception of Joshua Jackson to be broken. As Peter Bishop, he’s the right balance of seething sarcasm and charming wit. He seems to try to come off as untouchable, unmoving and apathetic, but then an expression suddenly crosses his face and you see the walls come down, revealing an unguarded pathos that leaves you wondering where the game ends and man begins. Phillip Broyles as Agent Lance Reddick tends to glower in every scene. He ranges from being intimidating to conspiratorial without a whole lot more in between. We haven’t seen much of an opening or range in him yet but, as Olivia stated to him recently, “We don’t know each other well enough for you to say something like that to me.” I plan on sticking around to find out just how well they do get to know each other.
Fringe airs on Fox on Tuesday nights at 9/8 central. The entire series is currently available online at fox.com, so if you have missed it you can catch up now.
This is Season 2, technically, but Season 1 was cut off by the writers strike, so let’s call it Season 1.5. If this was last fall, I’d be saying this is the best new show of the season but, alas, with a handful of episodes already on the air before this season’s premiere I can’t rightfully give it that title. I can, however, still call it amazing, wonderful, funny, entertaining, surprising, charming, unique, well written, well acted and absolutely endearing. Pushing Daisies is a brilliant show. It was the only new series I watched last season and the only season premiere I was anticipating this fall. In a TV wasteland filled with rehashed reality-based cops and over-sexed doctors, this is a refreshing treat.
The ensemble cast is a delight to see each week and the storytelling is a gem! One of my biggest peeves in series television is how predictable the plots are. It’s truly a pleasure to be able to enjoy a show and be genuinely surprised with the story twists. When I first began watching it, I was hooked right away. Pushing Daisies is a fairy tale-like fantasy with romance, murder and mystery. It tells the story of the Pie Maker, Ned (played adorably by Lee Pace), who has a gift for bringing dead things back to life with a touch. That may sound amazing at first thought, but imagine trying to eat a cheeseburger or some fried chicken when anything dead that touches you comes back to life. One touch brings the dead back to life, a second touch makes it dead forever, but after having a few meals wander off his plate, I’m sure vegetarianism suddenly sounded like a wonderful idea.
Ned runs a pie shop called “The Pie Hole” where he creates the most luscious, fruity desserts you will ever have the pleasure to savor. Olive Snook (the incredible Kristin Chenoweth) is his employee, who goes unnoticed by Ned as she pines over him. Enter detective Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), who sees Ned’s “gift” as a cash cow. What better way to solve a murder then to ask the victim, “Who killed you?” Everything is going fine for Ned and Emerson until a case brings Ned face-to-casket with the love of his life, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), his long lost, childhood friend. Unable to help himself because he’s so happy to have her back in his life, he refuses to touch her again, and suddenly the living dead girl is added to the mix.
While there is an ongoing storyline, each episode stands well alone. With the help of a narrator, we are escorted along the stories from week to week, so it’s safe to tune in now without feeling too lost. I’m not sure why ABC keeps playing two episodes and then taking it off for two weeks before playing the next two, but I fear they are sabotaging the best show on their network. It hasn’t been renewed for a third season yet, so hopefully they will actually play the episodes every week so people can start watching it again.
You can tune in to ABC on Wednesdays at 8/7 central or catch the full episodes on abc.com.
I’ve been following Sanctuary since I first saw an interview with Stargate SG-1‘s Amanda Tapping on YouTube. She mentioned a new series she was producing directly to the Internet so I looked it up and discovered the rattling gates on the website, sanctuaryforall.com. The eerie music and wind-blown creaking gates were as intriguing as the idea of a fully virtual set. I checked back every few days and, finally, one day there was a tiny little link that said, “join the team”. The following week I received an email inviting me to beta test the site, and thus began my submersion in the world of Sanctuary. Part of the draw for me was my disillusionment with the way networks treat their sci-fi and fantasy viewers. Our shows are always the first to get yanked. The idea of cutting out the middle man and going directly to us, the loyal viewers, was exactly the revolution I was looking for.
When the SCI FI Channel opted to make it into a television series, I immediately had reservations. How would their touch affect our beloved show? Did this mean the revolution was over and we as a subculture had lost again? My trust in the series creators — Damien Kindler, Amanda Tapping and Martin Wood — kept me loyal, but when the series premiered in October I had mixed feelings. There was a fair mixture of scenes from the original web series and new footage in the expanded plot, and over the first 4 episodes I struggled with it, because every time I seemed to buy into the re-envisioning, they’d throw in an old scene and suddenly my mind was snapped back and I had the sense that everything was wrong. “That’s not the way it happened,” I thought to myself. Still, I really loved the concept and the people involved in the project, so I held on to my hope and kept viewing. I’m really glad I did.
Now that the original web series footage and stories have come and gone, I find it much easier to get caught up in the plot. While I was able to see some of the plot turns coming, I have to admit that they are getting better with each episode. I now really want to know what happens next. I now feel like the changes are an improvement. I’ve finally been able to separate the web series and the TV series and can truly enjoy the show. Anyone who never saw the wepisodes won’t have the same problems I had getting attached to the series.
Inspired by the works of classic science fiction and fantasy, and graphic novels such as The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Damien Kindler’s Sanctuary tells the story of Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), a Victorian-era scientist who has devoted her life to tracking down rare, exotic and often mythological creatures and abnormals (people and creatures who have, through genetic mutations, become something other than “human” as we know it). She is assisted by her daughter Ashley (the incredibly talented Emilie Ullerup, who stole our hearts as Kaitlin in jPod last year), her tech guy Henry (the adorable Ryan Robbins) and her new protégé Will (Robin Dunne). Will is new to the environment, to the world that he never imagined was real. As he becomes submerged in this new world, so do we. The series is shot in Vancouver, so a lot of familiar faces keep dropping in, including other Stargate alum like the amazing Christopher Heyerdahl, who juggles roles here as he does on Stargate Atlantis.
If you are a fan of classic authors like Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, you may not just like this series, but love it.
True to its original simultaneous international release, it is being shown worldwide, so check your local stations if you are outside of the U.S. and request it if no one is showing it yet. For those of you in the U.S., you can catch it on the SCI FI Channel on Friday nights at 10/9 central or on scifi.com.
Legend of the Seeker
Harken back to the glory days of syndicated science fiction and fantasy television. With shows like Highlander, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, The Adventures of Sinbad, Time Trax and many others, the 90s was a virtual smorgasbord for adventure-hungry geeks everywhere. With the success of films like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fantasy is making a comeback, and it’s very refreshing to see. Legend of the Seeker, brought to us from the same team who brought us Hercules and Xena, is based on the Sword of Truth series of books by Terry Goodkind. There have been some pretty harsh reactions from fans of the books, as can be expected with any show based on a novel, but, overall, it’s higher quality and less campy than the previous endeavors of the New Zealand team. While plot deviations will always be a zone of contention with fans, so far my only quibble is how cheery everyone is. They are on a grand adventure together and there are some heavy moments, but the overall cheer level is higher than I would expect from people who are in constant mortal danger. Still, I’m enjoying it for what it is: a light-hearted fantasy saga that doesn’t take itself too seriously and aims to entertain, not make history. Hopefully it will have the legs to walk on for at least a few years.
Legend of the Seeker tells the story of Richard Cypher (Craig Horner), a simple Westland farm boy. A respected and well liked member of the community, a hunter and tracker, he discovers he isn’t who he thought he was when the magical Confessor Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan) arrives from the Midlands in search of the powerful wizard Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander (Bruce Spence). Zed was entrusted with hiding and protecting The Seeker, a child of prophecy who would save their land and people from the ruthless Darken Rahl (Craig Parker). After discovering the truth of his birth, he sets out with Zed and Kahlan to discover his heritage and save his people.
You can use the Legend of the Seeker website, legendoftheseeker.com, to look up your local listings and find out when it airs in your neck of the woods.