Midseason Report Card 2010: Part III
While some shows have returned this week, we are still waiting for new television to return in full force. While you wait for your Salvatores and Winchesters to return, I invite you to reflect on the first half of the season with me. 2010 may be over, but that does not mean we have to stop thinking about it. I posted Part I and Part II of my Midseason Report Card last week, so check those posts out first, if you haven’t already. Reminder: I am only grading shows with seasons that premiered in Summer and Fall of 2010, and of course, only shows that I watch. I can’t watch everything. Some shows have already finished off their respective seasons, while others are about nine or ten episodes in. So, without further rambling, here is Part III of my Midseason Report Card, covering Life Unexpected, Mad Men, Modern Family, My Generation, Nikita, No Ordinary Family, and One Tree Hill. I do not pretend to have the only right opinion, and my judgments are subjective and based upon my own enjoyment of these shows. Vague spoilers for previously-aired episodes to follow, but I have been careful not to ruin anything if you are not caught up. I promise. (Except for Mad Men, but I give a clear warning there. Read carefully.)
Life Unexpected: B-
I hate to kick a show when it’s down, so I’ll keep this short and as sweet as possible. LUX has battled with cancellation buzz since its earliest episodes, so I chose not to give up on it, despite my overall disappointment with the show. However, my problems with the show have only intensified this season. After the stellar pilot, I had high hopes for this family drama, but it turned into a show that only vaguely resembled the show that I tuned in for. Cate, who I defended all last season, became extremely unlikeable and impossible to root for this season. Lux proved herself to be selfish and foolish, over and over AND OVER again. And even Saint Ryan was revealed to be a hypocrite. The only characters that have escaped season two with their integrity are Baze and Tasha. And to think, I didn’t even like Tasha last season! She has really come a long way. Kudos to that character development.
I also have enjoyed the introduction of Emma, played by Emma Caulfield (Anya! It must be bunnies!). It was also fun seeing Arielle Kebbel (RIP, Lexi!) as Ryan’s bad-girl sister, though she was a bit one-note. The concert episode, a crossover with One Tree Hill, was also a lot of fun. On a more serious note, I appreciated the emotional punch of Lux’s back-story, despite some of the court-room theatrics. On the other hand, I could have done without the whole teacher-student romance. Soooo ooooover that storyline (and not just on this show). The constant bickering between Ryan and Cate also became very grating. And it was frustrating to see Lux manipulate, lie, and cheat to get her way, and then be completely let off the hook, EVERY TIME. I mean, I feel for the girl, but that doesn’t give her license to be a horrible person. Not that she is a horrible person, but she is certainly leaning in that direction, unless she seriously checks herself. There are only two episodes of the series left (airing back-to-back on Tuesday, January 18th at 8 p.m.), so I’ll save my more lengthy thoughts for my End of Season Report Card in June.
Mad Men: A+
It would not be possible for me to love this show more. Well … unless it were called Peggy & Joan Take Manhattan, and Sal came back. But seriously, I am OBSESSED. I recapped the first six episodes of the season, but then due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to keep up. However, my sister Francesca and I covered Mad Men in several podcasts, which you can find on my site or on iTunes. So, I have already talked and written a lot about Mad Men, but there’s always more to say. Since the season has already finished, I am going to go ahead and say super spoilery things here, so stop reading if you’re not caught up.
First of all, Peggy ruled this season. “Let’s get liberated!” Love. When she peeked through the window into Don’s office, that was possibly the best moment of the season, closely followed by when she rode the scooter around the empty movie studio. Hee. She had some great scenes with Don this season as well, most memorably in “The Suitcase,” which wins my award for best episode of the season. She really came into her own this year, and it was so fun watching that journey. In the finale, Peggy’s reaction to Don’s engagement was pitch perfect, as she and Joan shared a cigarette and commiserated about the way that office politics work. In the words of Peggy Olson, “That’s bullshit.”
On a related note of awesome, Joan also ruled this season. What? There can be two queens. I love every moment that Joan is on screen. It was fun to see a bit of her home life this season, including Joan in flannel pajamas and glasses. Who’d have thought? The rekindling of her romance with Roger was very compelling—alternately sweet and sad. And who called that Joan had kept the baby? I’m so glad that she did, because it was just the right thing for her character, at this time in her life. Another highlight for her character was how she dealt with the disrespect from Joey and company in “The Summer Man.” She gave possibly the harshest (but also the best) put-down ever: “Remember, when you’re over there in the jungle, and they’re shooting at you, you’re not dying for me. Because I never liked you.” You go, Joan. And in the finale, in the aforementioned scene with Peggy, she was just superb. “Whatever could be on your mind?” Hee. “Happens all the time.” Indeed.
Ultimately, I thought that this was the best season of Mad Men yet. Don really went on quite a journey—from the depths of depression and alcoholism, to genuine self-reflection, to the blindly optimistic throes of new romance. I liked that the season ended on Don in his apartment alone, just as it began. But while the season began with loneliness, it ended with hope. I’m proud of Don in a way, for clawing his way out of the dark place he was in, though I have no illusions that he will be a good or faithful husband to Megan. Poor Megan. But better Megan that Faye. Faye was waaaaaay too good for that man.
Modern Family: B+
I’m warming up to this show a bit more this season, though I still think that it is over-hyped. As I get to know all the characters more, I care more about them, and thus care more about the show. Gloria is a goddess. A very hilarious goddess. Love her. Gargoyles! And isn’t Lily the most adorable baby on television? (Friday Night Lights could have used a consultation with Modern Family’s casting director, if you know what I’m saying.) And, it turns out, she’s vicious! Love it. I’ll write more detailed thoughts in my End of Season Report Card later this year.
My Generation: B+/ A-
Chances are, you never watched My Generation. It was up against The Vampire Diaries, Bones, and a slew of other hit shows, in a very competitive time slot, so I don’t blame you. But we all missed out, because it was some really good stuff. After its initial low ratings, the ABC drama was quickly canceled. Sadness. If you want to catch the series, it is available on Hulu Plus and iTunes. The premise is the following. A documentary film crew follows a group of students from the class of 2000 at a high school in Austin, Texas. Each kid represented a different “type” of high-schooler: “The Rich Kid,” “The Brain,” “The Wallflower,” “The Punk,” “The Beauty Queen,” “The Nerd,” “The Jock,” “The Overachiever,” and “The Rock Star.” Then, ten years later, the crew revisits the original subjects, now in their late twenties, and living very different lives than they imagined.
My favorite is Dawn Barbuso (Kelli Garner), who was once “The Punk,” and after briefly dating Kenneth Finley (Keir O’Donnell), “The Nerd,” she connects with Rolly Marks (Mehcad Brooks), “The Jock,” years later, and the two get married. When the series begins, Dawn is pregnant, while Rolly is in the army, deployed to Afghanistan. It makes for some emotional TV, people! This is partly due to the fact that I am completely in love with Rolly, and Dawn is my new girl-crush. Not that I’m biased or anything. To complicate matters, Dawn is living with Kenneth while Rolly is away, and … oh, yeah, Kenneth is kind of in love with her.
There is much more drama to be had as well, with a variety of complicated romantic entanglements. High school sweethearts Anders Holt (Julian Morris) and Brenda Serrano (Daniella Alonso)—“The Rich Kid” and “The Brain,” respectively—broke up for some mysterious reason years ago, and now Anders is with Jackie Vachs (Jaime King), “The Beauty Queen.” When the three are reunited, angst ensues. Then there is Caroline Chung (Anne Son), “The Wallflower,” who slept with Steven Foster (Michael Stahl-David), “The Overachiever,” on prom night.” They must deal with the consequences of that one-night stand, namely, a nine year old son. Finally, there is The Falcon (Sebastian Sozzi), a.k.a. “The Rock Star.” He does stuff too. Anyway, that is the set-up in the pilot, but things get better and better. I definitely recommend it. (And not just because I’m in love with Rolly. I promise. Maybe.)
I recapped and reviewed the pilot, which I enjoyed, but the show has just gotten better from there. We have gradually learned more and more about Nikita, Alex, and Michael’s respective back-stories, and have been introduced to new characters along the way. I have particularly enjoyed the addition of Owen, played by Devon Sawa. Yum. Um … I mean, he seems really smart. Overall, I’m just really loving this show. I mean, Nikita packs heat while wearing evening gowns. How could I not love this show? I love that she always stays a step ahead of Division. She’s smart and brave and totally kick-ass, and Maggie Q really sells it. Plus, she dresses cute. She helps to fill the Buffy-sized hole in my heart, just a little bit. Alex is no slouch either, and in the last couple episodes, Lyndsy Fonseca really started to impress me. And I am not immune to Shane West’s charms. Sorry, people, I tried to stay unaffected, but the pull was too strong.
I could do without that horrible Jaden. Ugh. So one-note. Pass. The silver lining is that on this type of show, there are plenty of opportunities for that character to get killed off. Excuse me while I tap my foot impatiently. Also horrible is Percy, but horrible in a good way. I kind of love to hate him. Such a villainous villain. He is the Voldemort to Nikita’s Harry Potter. The black boxes are horcruxes! Nikita has to find all the black boxes and destroy them before she can go after Percy. Think about it. (Or, feel free to ignore my insane ravings.) Oh, and one more complaint: the show needs more Julie Cooper! But to be fair, so does every show.
No Ordinary Family: B-
The pilot was fine and enjoyable, but I kept expecting it to get better. It really hasn’t. It is not a bad show, but it is not particularly good either. Just kind of meh. The rather cheesy tone that that I was worried about in the pilot is still there—and not in the fun and campy sense, but in the earnest and trying too hard way. While it is fun to see Julie Benz (Darla!) and Autumn Reeser (Taylor!) on screen again, the show itself is just rather dull. I will keep watching, because I have a weakness for super powers, and for Darla and Taylor, but it is not a show that I rush to watch. I usually catch up a couple weeks later, on the weekend, on Hulu. Also, I cannot stand the kids. Especially J.J. and his hair.
One Tree Hill: B
I would give One Tree Hill a B-, but I choose to watch it over No Ordinary Family, so it deserves a slightly better grade. I am too addicted to One Tree Hill for there to ever be hope of escape until the series ends. The plot-lines are really not my favorite this season, though I have enjoyed the range that Brooke’s story has allowed Sophia Bush to play. Sophia Bush continues to be the most beautiful actress on television, Nathan and Haley continue to be adorable, and I continue to not care about anyone else on the show. However, I must add that the midseason finale was really good, with all its soapy intensity. It’s just not Tree Hill unless there’s a crazy psycho in town, after all. And rain. Gotta have the rain for dramatic moments. Oh my goodness, One Tree Hill is just like Lost! Um, in that one teeny tiny way.
Your thoughts? Feel free to comment below. And come back soon for Part IV, covering Parenthood, Pretty Little Liars, Running Wilde, Smallville, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, and The Big C.