We're a little more than halfway through the teevee season, so here's where things stand for me on the few shows I still watch regularly:
Person of Interest will be getting its own post. Suffice it to say that it's become my favorite currently-running show, and I think it's terribly underrated.
:: Castle continues chugging along. It's a very comfortable show now, especially since it pretty much wrapped up the storyline about Beckett's mother's murder. Castle is, more than anything else, that warmly welcome show that I look forward to every week simply because it's so comfortable. No real new ground is being broken here, but so what? I still like these characters and I like seeing what happens to them.
This season did get off to a rough start, with Beckett going to the FBI and Castle having to figure out a long-distance relationship. I did like how the marriage proposal wasn't made into a long-standing plot point; I liked how Castle says "This isn't my way of trying to get you to stay in New York; if we have to move for your job, then that's what we do". I liked the honesty with which the writers handled that, and I also liked the degree to which the writers clearly know their characters, in the way they wrapped up Beckett's FBI experiment. They know that Beckett's concept of justice – find the criminal, and put them away – doesn't really work in agencies like the FBI, where often an agent's day-to-day work doesn't yield a big-picture view of where the "justice" is. That was well done.
Less well-done were the FBI-based episodes themselves, since the writers had to figure out ways to shoehorn our old NYPD friends into the stories, because they are, after all, cast regulars under contract. This was another example of the Castle writers being somewhat constrained by the realities of their show, as a mid-level show with decent ratings. No killer budget, but also the standard "rules" that come with being on a network. There's only so far they seem able to push their storytelling, and there are times when you can really feel the Castle writers pulling their punches. The FBI episodes were a good example of that.
Still, love the show!
:: The Big Bang Theory is also becoming comfortable – maybe a little too comfortable. It still makes me laugh – the Thanksgiving episode was utterly hysterical – but short of actual character growth or some new way of shaking the dynamic, the show is often twenty minutes of "Let's make fun of nerds!" and "Ha ha, Sheldon doesn't realize that Amy's been horny for four years" and "Raj is pathetic" and "Leonard and Penny love each other but make an awful couple". I just don't know how much more shelf-life this show has. This show needs something to happen. The last big thing to occur were the additions of Bernadette and Amy to the group, and since then, it's pretty much been kind of a struggle.
:: We seem to have finally abandoned Bones, which became embarrassingly bad last year and started off this year even worse. They finally resolved the Palant storyline (that guy makes my top five of Worst Teevee Recurring Villains Ever), got Bones and Booth married, and then...who cares. This show was once good, but it's awful now.
:: I honestly don't know what The Mentalist is doing, and I wonder if it's just playing out the string at this point. The Red John storyline limped to a pretty boring conclusion two seasons after it really should have ended (inasmuch as it can even be called a "storyline", as few of its twists and turns through the years ever made any sense), but not before trying to muddy the water with some kind of secret society in the law enforcement ranks and then shifting half the cast to the FBI and moving the show from California to Texas. So now the main attraction seems to be watching a new set of law enforcement people try to figure out how to deal with Patrick Jane's various quirks, which isn't exactly a recipe for the show's long-term future. Frankly, I'll be really surprised if The Mentalist is still around come next fall.
:: Once Upon a Time had a surprisingly good first half this season. In previous years this show has been so inconsistent as to make me crazy. Sometimes the show is amazing, but other times the writers make me want to throw bricks at puppies. This year, with most of the cast sent to Neverland to battle the evil (!) Peter Pan, things were actually a lot more interesting. They did keep that storyline going on just a tad too long, and they still indulge their habit of too many scenes where the villains do nothing but twirl their figurative mustaches whilst saying evil things, and Red Riding Hood was nowhere to be found (nooooo!), but I really did enjoy this season's first half. Most impressively, they actually made Captain Hook into an interesting character! Last year, he was just annoying.
I continue to crush mightily on Lana Parilla and Robert Carlyle. Love those two.
:: I tried to like Hannibal, and I even gave it more than my usual five or six episodes to grab my interest. By the eleventh episode, though, I had to admit that it just wasn't getting there for me. Mads Mikkelson is amazing as Hannibal Lecter, playing him with a kind of "European weirdness" that contrasts with Sir Anthony Hopkins's legendary portrayal. Mikkelson captures the fact that Lecter is, for all his depraved villainy, actually a decent person capable of some degree of caring, albeit on his own very limited and somewhat villainous terms. Mikkelson gives a Lecter who is vulnerable, horrible, calculating, sickening, and friendly.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is pretty bland. Hugh Dancy's moods range from "mild brooding" to "maximum brooding"; Laurence Fishburne (an actor to whom I have never warmed very much) basically plays Jack Crawford the same way he tends to play everybody else. The rest of the cast makes absolutely no impression on me, and the show even manages to waste Gillian Anderson in a dreary turn as Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist.
At first I liked the show's production design, which is often cinematic and spectacular, but as the series went on, I tired of this angle, and I started wondering why, in the show's universe, the news media hasn't taken notice of the incredible rash of deeply theatrical murders taking place in the Baltimore area. It started to feel as if the writers were trying to figure out a more spectacular way for the Serial Killer Of The Week to make his/her work known, so we have the killer who slices his victims' flesh to make it look like they have wings and then poses them as if they are praying angels; then we have the killer who impales his musician victim on a cello; and then there's the killer who builds an enormous totem pole out of corpses he's buried on some beach someplace. This is ultimately what made me turn against the show: its events simply became less and less believable, and the characters weren't interesting or well-portrayed enough (Hannibal himself excluded) to keep me interested in what was increasingly a bit of non-magical dark fantasy. I wanted to like this show, but it's a miss.
:: That's about all for network teevee! Aside from Big Bang Theory, there aren't any comedies we watch regularly – How I Met Your Mother never really won me over (its lead character is insanely boring), and my love of Kat Dennings isn't enough to sustain my interest in 2 Broke Girls. Also, no new show has come along that makes me stand up and say, "Ooooh, we gotta watch that!" So our non-network teevee watching consists of things like Sherlock, The Daily Show, Pawn Stars, and a recent plow-through of Arrested Development in its entirety. (That, also, will get a post of its own.) We're on the lookout for other stuff to watch, so let us know what's good! (Elementary and Sleepy Hollow are no-go. We tried both, although I may give the latter another shot on my own. I'm a bit gunshy, though, as I have not had very good experiences with stuff from the minds of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.)
That's about it. I'm looking forward to the Neil DeGrasse Tyson revisit of Cosmos, and as always, there are a bunch of shows from yesteryear I need to either continue watching or start watching (Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, X-Files, Millennium). And you never know, I may hear enough interesting things about some new show to jump in at some point.