A few days ago I talked about some of the new series I’m anticipating this fall, but they’re not the only thing I’m looking forward to come the start of the TV season. For the first time possibly ever, nearly every show I watch got picked up for another season–everything except Bent, which was sadly never coming back anyway, and Ringer, which I won’t so much mourn as lament, since SIOBHAN AND BRIDGET NEVER CAME FACE TO FACE!!!!!–even the shows that seemed like they stood no chance. I never thought I would be looking forward to fourth seasons of Community or Cougar Town, for example, as much as I may have hoped for both.
So with the new television season looming, here are some of my most anticipated returns, in no particular order:
1. Castle (ABC)
Castle finished off last season by finally (finally) turning its will-they-won’t-they central romance into a THEY WILL! central romance. While they may not have waited as long as Bones did (and, unlike Bones, had the decency to actually show Castle and Beckett’s long awaited union), it certainly felt like it took awhile for us to get here. With the big kiss closing out the season, it’s easy to forget that another major shift took place in those final minutes, with Beckett resigning from the twelfth precinct and Esposito getting suspended. While it seems unlikely that the show will give up its police procedural premise, it will be interesting to see how things are resolved. And to see how the show handles the romance.
2. The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
I’ve talked before about the non-stop thrill-fest that is The Vampire Diaries, the way the show employs rapid-fire, tight plotting to keep its audience invested and to keep the story barreling along–I don’t know if you could get off the train if you tried. But last season ended with possibly the biggest plot twist yet: Elena, choosing to give up her own life out of love for one of her oldest friends, and then waking up as a transitioning vampire.
A year ago, at the end of the second season, Elena was given a choice: become a vampire and “live” forever, or face certain death. At the time she chose death (obviously her friends found a loophole), and she gave a big speech about how much she did not want to become a vampire. About how she wanted to grow old, have a life, meet her own potential. She was perhaps the only teenager in the history of fiction to understand that just because she loved a vampire (or really anyone) passionately when she was 17, their love may not be eternal. Or at least she stands in stark contrast to Bella Swan.
A few characters on the show have now made the transition from human to vampire (or werewolf in one case…well, werewolf and then werewolf/vampire hybrid), and that change is never the same for any two characters. Elena has always functioned out of love, making choices and sacrifices again and again for her brother, her boyfriend, her friends. And the vampire canon of The Vampire Diaries long ago established that a character’s personality isn’t so much changed as magnified by vampirism. Setting up the season with Elena in transition opens up a myriad of possibilities for telling stories about control, about choices and about Elena–my favorite subject. I am excited to see where the story goes.
3. Bones (FOX)
I’ve never considered Bones to be my favorite show, but it’s always had a curious affect on me–almost the second an episode ends I find myself itching for the next one to air. I find even short hiatuses to be interminable. Which is unfortunate, since it seems to take a long break every spring for the new season of American Idol. Basically, I am always in a state of anticipating new episodes of Bones.
While I do agree with the popular opinion that the series is not as good as it once was, and while I’ve already mentioned my frustration that they chose to unite Booth and Brennan off-screen last year, after making the audience wait six seasons, I still find myself eager for the show’s return.
It helps that they ended last season with an intriguing cliff-hanger, with Brennan accused of murder and taking her parents’ way out–running away. Of course, she took her kid with her, having been the kid that got left behind, but she did not take Booth. And while I doubt the show will do what I want it to–a massive time jump–I’m still interested to see how this pans out, how it affects Booth and Brennan’s relationship, and how Brennan ultimately proves herself innocent.
4. Community (NBC)
My interest here is less plot based than creative.
I love Community. I was seriously bummed when it went off the air for much of last spring–bummed to the point of attending a goatee-ed Christmas flash mob outside of Rockefeller Center last winter–and thrilled at the initial news of a surprise fourth season pick-up.
But I also know that a huge part of what makes Community so great is that it comes out of Dan Harmon’s brain, which is clearly a weird, somewhat disturbed, but largely delightful place. I don’t doubt that Harmon is difficult to work with, that he’s pretty screwed up, and that he’s made some mistakes in his professional life that would contribute to the decision to let him go, but I also know that the entertainment industry has made a lot of allowances for brilliant screwed up people over the years, and I worry that they’re sacrificing the very thing that makes Community great. They might be giving the fans another season, a season they didn’t really expect, but…are they really?
There are still enough of the same people involved with this new era of Community that I won’t be writing off the show until I’ve seen it. Obviously the cast is the same, and writers whose episodes I have loved, like Megan Ganz, are still on board. The information coming out about season 4 has been encouraging. So I am excited to see what’s next for the show. I’m just a little nervous as well.
5. Parenthood (NBC)
Parenthood has never quite managed to fill the Friday Night Lights shaped place in my heart, hard as it tries, but I do love it quite a bit. It’s a show that manages to tell compelling stories about nearly all of its characters–Joel and Julia are the big exception there, but the writers have gotten some things right with them of late and set up their season 4 arc in an interesting way–and allows each of the Bravermans to be flawed (often deeply flawed) and still sympathetic.
Season 3 did not leave a lot of plots hanging, probably due to the series’ uncertain future, but there was an impulsive marriage proposal in the final minutes. Mostly I am eager to spend time with these characters again. If that’s not a hallmark of a good show then I don’t know what is.
6. Gossip Girl (The CW)
I am actually furious with this show right now. I’m furious because I’m only invested in it over the relationship between two characters (Dan and Blair), a relationship that has basically been set on fire to service a different relationship (between Blair and Chuck), which I will never understand. I’m also furious because the season 5 finale basically functioned as a reset button for the series, taking nearly every character and relationship back to where it stood in the second season, no matter how ridiculously most of the characters had to behave to get there. It’s lazy writing done to service demanding fans. And it’s not particularly surprising coming from this show.
Unfortunately, now that I’ve gotten invested in Gossip Girl again, I’m going to have a hard time letting it go. Though I may seethe my way through it each week, I’m ready for the show to come back. The faster it comes back, the faster we can get through these final twelve episodes and the faster I can move on.
(There’s also the tiny part of me that is hoping things will turn around, that everything the show has done up until this point has been a giant misdirect and it will all shake out the way I’d like it to. That seems highly unlikely, but as I am still a fangirl, a certain amount of delusion is built into the way I function.)
7. Once Upon a Time (ABC)
Once Upon a Time never quite grew into the show I wanted it to be. It had its moments over the course of the first season, but I mostly found it frustrating. The show did some cool things with its series finale, though, mostly by letting everyone remember who they are and where they came from, but also by unleashing magic into the “real world.” And I have always been a sucker for stories that allow the world we live in to coexist with fantasy worlds.
I don’t know if things will improve in the second season, but I certainly hope so. This show still has the potential to be something really cool, I still want it to be something really cool. And I am interested to see how the relationships between the characters shift as the memories of their old lives get tacked on to the memories of their new ones. The relationship between Emma and Mary Margaret and David should be particularly intriguing–how do you deal with the discovery that your best friend is also your mother? That you’re the same age as your daughter? The show has nothing but potential and I’d like to see it live up to that.
This is a Blog About Television, Not Fandom
But here’s an inaugural post about both.
I found my way here–to the internet, to blogging, to writing enthusiastically about television–through fandom. I wouldn’t think that’s an unusual path to take, though my perspective is surely skewed by personal experience. I think if you care passionately about a show or a character or a relationship (“ship” from here on out) or anything really, tv related or otherwise, it’s only natural that you’d seek out like-minded people. In my life, the internet has served its greatest purpose in bringing me into contact with people all over the world (Israel, Singapore, Bosnia, Italy, England, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Michigan…this is not a complete list, just a sampling) who love the things I love, or who introduce me to new things to love or vice versa.
I’ve inhabited many parts of the internet (inhabited in the truest xkcd sense). I first followed a “Rory Gilmore” keyword search down the Google rabbit hole to fanfiction.net in late 2001. My first 3 online “friends” (though I hesitate to even put that word in quotation marks–many of my most sincere, honest friendships have taken place entirely through IM and message boards and livejournal comments) ranged in age from 12 to 21. I was 14. We exchanged emails for over two years. Then came a Gilmore Girls message board, where my fandom family expanded, and then LiveJournal. These days most of my fandom-ing is done on Tumblr. The sites change, some of the people change, the fandoms change, but there’s something about the experience of fandom-at-large that remains constant.
And here is the most important thing I’ve learned from 10 years in this world: fandom is about people. It is not about a tv show or a ship, it’s not about a character or a creator or about that one fanfic that changed the way you regard fanfic as a whole. Fandom is about finding people who love what you love. It’s about finding someone in Israel who has the same reaction to Milo Ventimiglia’s bottom lip, or someone in Singapore who will share in your Downton Abbey geekery, or someone in Michigan who knows what you mean when you can’t express your emotions beyond “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.” And who will then ask you about your day, or send you a link they know will make you laugh, or recommend something else (a tv show, band, podcast, book, youtube video) they know you’re going to love. Because they know you.
It was fandom that gave me an idea of what caring passionately about television looks like. Obviously there’s more than one way to love anything; just as not every relationship looks the same, not everyone’s relationship with tv is going to look the same. But the number of people I’ve met in fandom who want to someday work in television is so large…wouldn’t you think that some of the people working in television would once have been a part of a fandom? Wouldn’t they at least understand it? The place of passion and excitement that it comes from? And hasn’t everyone, at some point, formed a friendship founded on mutual interests? Hell, Deep Blue Something found “kinda” liking Breakfast at Tiffany’s to be enough of a basis for a love story.
It doesn’t seem to be the case, though. I would say at least once every tv season a show (generally some sort of procedural: police, medical, legal) will try to tackle “fandom” in what they must think is a nice wink to the fans.
Castle last season did an episode about the murder of a soap writer that turned its eye on television fandom. For a show that fully embraces its will-they-or-won’t-they central characters (spoiler alert: they totally will), whose creator speaks eloquently about the relationship between them, and whose fanbase is largely composed of the hardcore shippers it so brutally takes down in the episode–for a show whose star has always shown an understanding and appreciation of fandom–the plot was handled with minimal sensitivity. The fans at its center were sneered at by the characters, depicted as cliché loners and crazy cat ladies, the type to live at home well into their forties. It was an unflattering funhouse mirror reflecting fandom and shipping back at the audience.
Most recently, last night’s Grey’s Anatomy involved a stampede at a local Comic Convention, inspired by a first-come-first-served TARDIS give-away (they’re signed by Russell T. Davies, which is not a name I ever thought I’d hear on a prime-time, American medical show). While there was a moment of joy at the realization that one of the guest stars was dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, it was quickly soured by the way the show treated his love of fandom. While a plastic TARDIS is hardly worth dying over, the lecture he receives from his roommate over his collectibles comes across as superior. It’s sneering. Surely these creators must realize they’re alienating a chunk of their audience.
Now, there are shows that get it right. Whenever Bones attempts to infiltrate geek culture it makes sure at least one of the main characters shows just as much enthusiasm for the subject (though that sometimes leads to episodes that are actually 40-minute Avatar commercials). The Big Bang Theory at least knows what it’s talking about, but tends to look down its nose at its own main characters. And Community has given us Abed and his obsessive love of Cougar Town, among other things–as well as the catch-phrase “six seasons and a movie”–and it shows him embraced by his friends, even if they don’t really get it all the time. It’s maybe the kindest portrayal of a TV addict I’ve seen on television.
If these programs could learn to follow Community‘s example and show television fans as people, rather than caricatures, there are plenty of interesting stories waiting to be told. Stories about long distance friendships and mutual appreciation and what it actually means to filter the world through fiction. But thus far most of what I’ve seen has been, if not outright offensive, then at least ill-informed.