CBS got a lot of flack for “Elementary” every step of the way — for ripping off “Sherlock,” the BBC’s modern retelling of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, for making Watson a woman, for moving the story to New York instead of London — all before the show even aired. Last week, the pilot finally made its way to television with the general consensus already stacked against it.
I’ve joked with my friends that in my ideal world, every series finale would end with an abrupt, mid-scene cut to black. A good TV show is a window into a living, breathing, persistent world–one that continues even after the credits roll. When a finale has the gall to put a bow on every situation, it just reminds me that as soon as the episode ends, the characters’ lives are over. Closure is good, but complete resolution feels artificial. Unfortunately, that’s the trap Syfy’s “Eureka” falls into with its series finale.
Set in the fictional town of Jericho, Kan., “Jericho” takes place shortly after a series of nuclear explosions devastate the country. Isolated from most of civilization, the people of Jericho deal with the fallout (both literal and metaphorical) of the bombs, as one disaster after another threatens their lives.
If you imagined “Heroes,” but British and “edgy,” then you’d end up with “Misfits,” a show that’s been made popular in America thanks to Hulu bringing it across the pond last year. It’s about a group of young criminals who gain superpowers in a mysterious storm while doing community service, as well as the surprisingly unfortunate luck they have after the storm. But the comparisons are more than skin-deep; looking at “Misfits’” structure over the years reveals a lot of other parallels between the two shows.
What is it about TV shows that inspire such mad devotion? Sure, fandoms arise to support stellar movies, but they never seem to match the intensity that some TV shows manage to draw in. Something about the continuous, serial nature of a TV show just lends itself well to causing obsession in a way that isn’t really seen that much elsewhere (although book series can certainly cause a similarly widespread fixation).
It feels a little unfair to review a J.J. Abrams show as early as I am doing with “Alcatraz.” Not to name names, but the shows he produces have a tendency to either take a while to warm up or slowly peter out–or both. But “Alcatraz” doesn’t seem like it’s going to be bucking any trends; so far it seems like it will fit pretty smoothly into the former category.
It’s that time of year again: that special time when everyone burns through their backlog of television shows in a desperate effort to put off homework and studying. For the more discerning procrastinators, however, it might help to have an idea of what in your Hulu queue is actually worth watching. Here are a few of my superlative awards for the front half of the season.