End of Season Report Card 2010-2011: ABC
It has become a Heroine TV tradition to post a series of midseason and end of season report cards, evaluating all the shows that I watch. This blog is a one-person operation, so I just do not have time to blog about everything on a regular basis. These report cards are an opportunity to check in on all the television that I watched over the past season. I already checked in with a series of five midseason report card posts back in late December through early February, but time has flown. By now, all the shows that premiered in fall of 2010 have aired their finales. Even most of the midseason series that premiered in the winter and spring of 2011 have come to an end. Time for the end of season report cards!
In the past, I have organized these report cards in alphabetical order, but this time I have decided to organize by network. I am all caught up on the ABC series that I watch, so I decided to start there. Read on for my thoughts on Better with You, Castle, Cougar Town, Happy Endings, Modern Family, and No Ordinary Family. (Sorry to Brothers and Sisters and V, but I did not watch either of those series this season. I may catch up on DVD someday. Note: V and Brothers and Sisters have both been canceled.) As always, I do not pretend to have the only right opinion, and my judgments are subjective and based on my own enjoyment of these shows. Please note that while I keep my midseason report cards vague and spoiler-free, now that the season is over, my end of season report cards may contain spoilers. However, the only write-ups below containing spoilers are for Better with You and Castle. So skip those if you care about being spoiled, and you haven’t finished the season.
Better with You: C
I am almost embarrassed to admit that I watched all 22 episodes of Better with You’s first and only season. (Yeah, it was canceled.) I mean, I am generally not a sitcom fan anyway, but these old-fashioned multi-camera shows with laugh tracks seem more dated every year. However, I did watch it, so I suppose that I should report.
Why did I tune in? Well, I have had a bit of a girl crush on Joanna Garcia, now Joanna Garcia-Swisher, since Privileged. So when I heard she had a new show, I subscribed to it on Hulu. Plus, coming in at about 21 minutes an episode, Better with You is an easy breezy watch. Have less than a half an hour to eat and get somewhere? Need to watch something where it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you missed a couple minutes while you brush your teeth and fix your makeup? Perfect. In addition to Garcia-Swisher as Mia, the show also featured an all-around likeable cast: Jennifer Finnigan as Mia’s sister Maddie, Josh Cooke as Ben, Jake Lacy as Casey, Kurt Fuller as Joel, and Debra Jo Rubb as Vicky. I especially liked Fuller (Zachariah on Supernatural, plus a million other things) and Rubb (the mom on That 70s Show, among other things) as the parents.
The plots and storylines left much to be desired, and it wasn’t actually very funny; but the show featured likable characters who shared a good rapport, along with the occasional laugh. I wouldn’t go out and buy the DVDs, but I didn’t really waste my time either. You know? Plus, for anyone who got invested in the storyline, the show had some nice closure with the finale. Mia and Casey got married in the hospital by Richard Gilmore (wha-what?), right before Mia gave birth to their baby; and now Maddie wants a baby too. Whatever. Moving on …
I’m still not in the “Gah! I love Castle SO MUCH!” space, but the show keeps growing on me. (Of course, I am forever and always in the “Gah! I love Nathan Fillion SO MUCH!” space.) When I posted about it in December, I only gave season three a B-, but after seeing the full season I would bump it up in my estimation.
My favorite episode of the season was definitely “Nikki Heat,” which aired back in January. In that hilarious episode, Laura Prepon guest starred as Natalie Rhodes, the actress cast as the lead in the big screen adaption of Castle’s novel Heat Wave. Heat Wave’s main character, Nikki Heat, was inspired by Beckett, so Natalie visited the police department to understand her character better. Hilarity ensued. Natalie started getting a little too into character for Beckett’s tastes. “She took my coffee, Castle! What’s next? My soul?” Hee. In general, I have felt like Beckett is alternately dull or very clearly a fictional character who is played by an actress. Just very constructed, and not particularly multi-dimensional. Blah. But “Nikki Heat” really helped me to warm up to Beckett, and to connect to her a little more.
I also really enjoyed “One Life to Lose,” the soap opera themed episode guest starring Tina Majorino (Mac from Veronica Mars), Rebecca Budig (Greenlee on All My Children), Cameron Mathison (Ryan on All My Children), and Jane Seymour. It was a really fun mystery about the murder of the head writer on the imaginary daytime soap Temptation Lane. Of course, with this happening on the set of a soap, the plot thickened with all kinds of other scandal too. Fun times. Knowing that Nathan Fillion once played Joey Buchanan on One Life to Live added to my enjoyment.
Now, let’s discuss the season finale, “Knockout.” Beckett’s investigation into her mother’s death continued when a professional hit-man with knowledge of the conspiracy, Hal Lockwood, escaped from prison. In the search for Lockwood, new information about what really happened back then came to light. Sadly, we learned that Captain Montgomery was involved in the cover-up and other bad stuff. He used to run with dirty cops. Gasp! But then he pretty much redeemed himself by dying to save Beckett. Unfortunately, Montgomery’s death didn’t accomplish all that he intended, as at his funeral another attempt was made on Beckett’s life. Beckett was shot. Gasp! Castle cried over her body and admitted his love for her. End scene. Regarding that particular “cliffhanger,” I’m not exactly biting my nails. Obviously Beckett will live. But what will the ramifications be? The finale definitely provided plenty of setup for drama and change next season. Not least of which will be the inevitable new police captain.
As for the rest? I continue to be charmed by Castle’s family. Molly Quinn and Susan Sullivan have a fabulous rapport with Fillion and with each other. However, the secondary characters at the precinct have failed to hook me. Still. (I feel like I write this on every Castle report card. But the show has failed to change my mind.) At this point, I should really care about Esposito and Ryan … but I just don’t. Also, the procedural nature of the show is not my favorite, so it will never be something that I rush to watch right when it airs. However, when I do sit down to enjoy Castle on Hulu, it’s consistently entertaining. I will definitely be watching next season. Bonus: It makes me happy that I live in a world where Nathan Fillion stars in a show that has been renewed for a fourth season.
Cougar Town: A+
I can’t say enough good things about this show. I’m obsessed. Cougar Town is not just a television series to me. It’s a way of life. I want to join the Cul-de-sac Crew and own my own Big Carl. (R.I.P. Big Joe. You will always be remembered.) I want to play penny can with my friends and set up a Council. True facts.
So much has happened this season, but I will attempt to list some of the highlights: the movie mash-up game, the mocking title cards, Andy’s siestas, ghost truck, Beef and Bubbles, margaritas with crushed up aspirin, Tuffie LaRue’s tampon box coffin, the friend test, truth guns, agree to disagree, Ellie’s seven minutes, Andy Torres as Keyser Soze, friend prison, and the entire Halloween episode. Plus everything else. Also, I really appreciated the way that the writers handled Jules’s Graysonship. Here is an example of a couple that was able to get together and stay together, and the show only got better. Take note, TV writers of shows that shall not be named.
I must admit, however, that the last few episodes of the season were not my favorites. Three episodes chronicling Travis’s heart break was just a bit much. Some of the jokes were a little tired. But even the sub-par episodes of Cougar Town have so much to recommend. Drinking wine out of gigantic candle holders? Never not funny. Plus, I’m totally invested in Jules and Grayson’s relationship, so their stuff was good. I’m glad it didn’t have to end in clichéd disaster and ultimatums. Sadly, we are going to have to wait until 2012 to see season 3 of Cougar Town. ABC has decided to hold it until midseason, when it will air Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. Sigh. I guess until then we will just have to practice being quiet badasses, like Harry Potter. Also, you can play Penny Can online whenever you’re missing the crew.
Happy Endings: B+
I wasn’t planning to tune into this new show. The first couple times that it came on after Cougar Town, I just turned off my television. But then so many people were talking about it on Twitter that I decided to check it out. I caught an episode live, and then decided to try to catch-up on Hulu. I wasn’t wowed, but it grew on me. After I had seen a few episodes, I really started to connect to the characters and enjoy the episodes.
I especially like Damon Wayans, Jr. as Brad. (New TV boyfriend alert!) He and his wife Jane (played by Eliza Coupe) have a great dynamic. They’re happily married, but eccentric and Type A enough for there to be a lot of humor there. And his friendship with Max (Adam Pally) is perfection. Oh, and Casey Wilson as Penny Hartz is my other fave. Love her! When she dated the hipster? And the guy named Hitler? And the Italian guy? Loved it. Since I watched the episodes out of order, I didn’t get the whole Alex-Dave dynamic at first, but once I figured everything out, I like their wedding disaster as a hook for the show. Despite the cliché, it sets up a good premise. How will this group of close-knit friends deal with the ugly break-up of two of their own? Lots of fodder for drama while still maintaining the comedy. It reminds me a little bit of Friends. Bonus: Elisha Cuthbert (Alex) is surprisingly not annoying on this show. She even made fun of her crazy cougar/ mountain lion storyline on 24. Hee. There were only 12 episodes in the freshman season of Happy Endings, but it has been renewed and will be taking Cougar Town’s spot this fall, on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. (I’ll try not to resent it for taking my favorite show’s time slot.)
Modern Family: B+
Modern Family is another show that has grown on me. It is still not appointment television for me, but whenever I do watch (usually a week later on Hulu), I am always entertained. The season hasn’t really left me with any major standout moments—though the waaaay over-the-top van ad does come to mind, for sheer ridiculousness—but Modern Family is just reliably funny. I especially appreciate how consistent the tone of the show is. The balance between humor and heart is pretty artfully managed, so that it stays away from cheesy without also seeming empty. Impressive. Sticking with the theme of consistency, the show will return for its third season this fall, airing on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. once again.
No Ordinary Family: Incomplete
When I last checked in with No Ordinary Family, I gave it a B-. Clearly I was in the holiday spirit. This show had a cool concept, lots of potential, and featured some great actors; but it just failed in execution. I tried to keep watching until the end of the season, but when Battlestar Galactica goddesses Tricia Helfer and Lucy Lawless guest-starred on the show, and even their awesomeness couldn’t make the show interesting … I had to bail. There are just too many other choices for serialized drama, and this one couldn’t keep me interested. I was never able to warm up to the kids, and no matter how big the stakes got, the show never really left me wanting more. Sadly for everyone who worked on it, No Ordinary Family was ultimately canceled. I don’t know if the season finale had any closure, or how it all ended, but I don’t really care enough to find out. I hope to see Julie Benz, Autumn Reeser, and Romany Malco is new projects soon.
What did you think of these shows this season? Favorite moments? Frustrations? Comment below. And come back and visit later this week for my post on The CW.