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by Michael Landweber

22 Mar 2010


What do 24, Lost and Ugly Betty have in common? Nothing. Except that I’ve been watching them all from the beginning of their runs, and they’re all ending this season. 

To be honest, the way I’m watching the swan song seasons of these three shows is not even remotely similar either. Lost has taken TV storytelling to a new level with its final act, solidifying its place as one of the best shows ever. I will miss it dearly when it goes. 24 has me riveted again (against my will) with its high wire antics, even as I scorn the perpetually silly contortions required to sustain 24 episodes. I’m interested to see how the writers will get themselves to the end of another day, but am also relieved that I don’t have to spend another 24 hours in real time next year wondering why Jack Bauer never eats or goes to the bathroom.   

Then there’s Ugly Betty. Look, let’s be honest here. We all knew how Ugly Betty was going to end the day it started. You don’t call a show Ugly Betty unless the Betty in question is going to transform into something that we know is most certainly not ugly. That’s what’s been happening over this season. New glasses, new outfits, new attitude. The transformation is occurring on a weekly basis. And with two episodes left, everyone knows those braces are coming off and Betty’ll probably get contacts. Ugly Betty will end her run just as Betty (or even Attractive Betty). Finally.

by Robert Moore

11 Feb 2010


To understand why the new CW series Life Unexpected is such a pleasant surprise, one has to consider both the long string of successful character-driven family dramas created by the earlier WB and the shorter string of unsuccessful and persistently disappointing teen-oriented dramas created by the CW, the successor network to both the WB and UPN.

Back before the CW, the WB’s many family dramas were staple viewing for viewers who preferred relationship-driven drama over reality TV and police procedurals. At the heart of shows like Seventh Heaven, Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, Angel, Charmed, Popular, Roswell, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, and Everwood was a focus on relationships and families, even if some of the families were chosen rather than biological (family was at the heart of both Buffy and Angel, though few characters were biologically-related to one another). Although targeted at a younger demographic, these shows also appealed to adults. Some shows may have had a stronger appeal to adults than others (Buffy, Gilmore Girls, Everwood), but all of these shows handled relationships with sufficient intelligence to appeal to more than just teen girls. Even a teen drama like Dawson’s Creek had more than its fair share of adult viewers.

by Matt Paproth

5 Feb 2010


Oh, Randall, I know that you asked me to remain on hold while I wait to be transferred to the Service Signal Department, but I know that whoever is on the other end will just make me answer all the same security questions and repeat the same troubleshooting steps as you did.  And I wish I believed that nice woman’s voice on the recording when she tells me that a team member will be with me shortly, but she has now said that more than 50 times.

So I am writing this blog.  I like television… obviously, I watch a lot of it (I write for blog called Channel Surfing, for God’s sake), but I really do enjoy the time I spend watching it.  I enjoy thinking about how creators like Joss Whedon, Matt Weiner, Aaron Sorkin, and David Shore construct their series.  I enjoy how a character develops over episodes and eventually across seasons into something potentially more satisfying and rounded than a movie, or even a book, could possibly achieve.

by Matt Paproth

1 Feb 2010


I queued up the third-season premiere of FX’s Damages earlier this evening with a good bit of uncertainty. Part of this uncertainty was because, despite my appreciation of its taut first season, the second left me completely cold. Even after watching the enjoyable and promising start to the new season, I still cannot remember the events that unfolded in the final episodes of season two. Seriously, where did Timothy Olyphant’s character go? And how did Ellen end up in the DA’s office? And what happened to all those characters we spent season two learning about? William Hurt, are you in prison? These are all questions that I once learned the answers to (and that, yes, I know, I could look up online in ten seconds), but it feels like a major problem that nothing has yet jogged my memory.

Fortunately, I think this only says profoundly negative things about last season and leaves me still jazzed about the apparent resurgence onscreen here at the start of the new season. The fresh start brings with it a new cast of characters (and, more importantly, a new group of actors). On paper, I find Lily Tomlin and Campbell Scott less appealing than Olyphant and Hurt from last season, but, if the premiere is any indication, the new crop of actors has been given a better storyline to function within (and Martin Short’s character echoes Zeljko Ivanek’s Emmy-winning performance from season one). Glenn Close remains arresting as Patty Hewes, and Rose Byrne plays Ellen with a newly found confidence which suits her better than the furtive glances and double-crosses of the ill-conceived undercover storyline of season two (if I wanted to watch Alias, I have the DVDs).

by Matt Paproth

19 Jan 2010


I realize that by the time this blog is posted, most people reading this (including myself) will probably be four hours into the eighth season of 24. I am sure that there will be some dire situation involving the President and members of his/her family/staff, a real/fictional foreign country (depending on how poorly the writers plan on portraying its government), and a crisis of epic proportions. All of this will obviously cause Jack Bauer to return reluctantly to serve his country. Along the way, my guess is that he will deal with the difficult issues of whether national security justifies torture and whether it is possible to have a personal and professional life simultaneously.

I typically am excited about a new season of 24 and enjoy how it ushers in the Spring TV season. Over the past few seasons as the DVR has become a bigger factor in governing my relationship with TV series, I find myself often falling a few hours behind; however, once I start watching, there is always enough going on to propel me forward. In short, 24 has never gotten to the point where it felt like a chore to watch (except for the season that I skipped… Jack has a brother?).

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