Playing catchup on television

The holidays went by in a catchup blitz of staying current with what's showing on television these days. Most of the year I do try to spend my time outside of work reading, listening to music, and thinking noble thoughts, in addition, of course, to surfing and clicking much too often on the 1-click purchase button on Amazon Prime. But during the holidays my brain goes on vacation as well, and I allow myself to slide into the guilty pleasure of hours with the medium I grew up with and still love the most.

Heroes picked up its pace, finally, though creator Tim Kring should stop apologising to his viewers; it's his show and he can take it in any direction he wants. If we don't like it, we'll stop watching. Season One ended with a bang and the eleven episodes of Season Two that have been aired continue to be the most interesting programming on the small screen. Battlestar Galactica is wisely wrapping up with its main cast largely intact, a graceful and well-timed exit. Grey's Anatomy, on the other hand, should have ended with the third season: it would have been right on so many levels. Meredith gets her man, Christina has an unhappy ending, and they move forward from their internships. The attempt to try and squeeze more storylines from these characters is making a travesty of them, and Ellen Pompeo is looking even more haggard than ever. Brothers and Sisters chugs along gracefully in Mexican soap-opera fashion, with good-looking characters and fuzzy feel-good family scenes: it feels great while you're watching it, but if you blink for a moment then you cease to care.

Of the new series that started this autumn, I found Journeyman incomprehensible; Bionic Woman showed promise but unravelled all to quickly to be Alias's idiot ugly sister; Damages was sharp and tightly-written but seemed to wrap itself up after thirteen episodes. If the second part is at least as good as the first it will be a pleasant surprise. But the future doesn't look bright for any of the shows: the writers' strike means that the hiatus will begun soon; and even if the strike were to end today, the weekly momentum of production will have been lost.

And I still mourn the cancellation of the best series that appeared last year and ended after a one season's worth of great writing: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was to the West Wing what Firefly was to Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a one season coda to a seven-year opus. Studio 60 was intelligent, sexy, and involving, but couldn't get out of the shadow of the Wing. It was with a sinking feeling that I picked up the remote and powered down the television. With great reluctance, I decided that it might actually be time to get a life.

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