Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

So Its Come to This: A 2010-2011 Television Season Retrospective (Nick Edition)

Once I saw that Zack did a TV-related post, I simply couldn’t be outdone! Now, faithful listeners, you might remember that we did a few TV podcasts during our Cult It or Can It days. Frankly, those podcasts kinda sucked, because we were all over the place due to the different television tastes in shows that Zack and I have. Independent blog posts are clearly a better way to address our television of choice (unless you suggest we do a podcast with one person, but that would be crazy talk). There are six shows that I do try to keep up with (two of which won’t be returning next season): Smallville, The Office, Hawaii 5.0, South Park, Modern Family, and Stargate Universe.

Smallville

The long running (10 years!!) Superman series finally came to an end this season. Despite what the internet says, I really enjoyed this year. This is a show that has had a lot of ups and downs over the seasons, but the powers that be went into this season knowing it was the last, and I feel they really pulled out all the stops. In previous years, they had to stop short of Clark reaching his superhero heights. This year, they went gangbusters with Lois learning Clark’s secret, superheroes becoming more public, extended appearances by other DC comic characters, and, of course, Clark confronting his destiny. I really enjoyed how this year’s story arc played out by centering it on the Clark/Lois relationship, with the Darkseid stuff being used mainly as a MacGuffin to push Clark towards his destiny. Tom Welling and Erica Durance made a terrific on-screen couple, and it was really fun watching them play off each other (which is somewhat ironic for me as I didn’t care for Durance initially as Lois way back in season 4 and 5).

I suppose I should reflect briefly on the final episode. I liked it. It wasn’t perfect by any means (what final episode is?), but the internet would have you believe that the episode was terrible and failed to do what it promised to do. The truth is that it did exactly what it promised to do. The show was about Clark’s journey to become Superman, not Superman flying around punching things. Superman’s appearance in the last 10 minutes of the episode was what the entire series was building up to. Having it come earlier in the episode would have been poorly timed (although, it was somewhat perplexing that the show never gave a full-on shot of Welling in the suit). Personally, I feel that some viewers felt entitled to see Welling as Superman for the entire episode when that was clearly never, ever going to be the case.

After ten years, I will miss this show.

The Office

Michael Scott leaves the office. Like Zack, I feel this season has been a strange one. I’ve enjoyed it more so that the past few, but something just felt off. Maybe it was because of the looming departure of Steve Carrell. I do feel the show was mostly consistent this season, and that there were some gems through out the season (“Counseling”, “Andy’s Play”, “China”, “Threat Level Midnight”, “Garage Sale”). I also enjoyed the increased interaction between the side characters (which was clearly done due to the impending departure of Carrell). I always appreciate the Pam/Andy team-ups and the once-a-season Jim/Dwight paring. The inclusion of Gabe is perplexing to me as he has added nothing major to the show. His quirkiness over a picture caption contest as displayed in “The Search” is never explored nor explained, and his relationship with Erin was a compete non-story (although it did lead to a hilarious exchange with Andy when Gabe cried in “Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager”). The episodes since Carrell has been gone have maintained a solid, though not-outstanding quality, but I have have major doubts if this will carry on to next season. The complete non-resolution in the season finale was utterly disappointing (I realize it was a cliffhanger, but there was no climax nor sense of immediacy – it just sort of “ended”). In short, the other characters are good, but Carrell (and Michael Scott) was the glue that held it all together.

Hawaii 5.0

I usually don’t get into the CBS cop drama, but the remake of Hawaii 5.0 sucked me in (I would like to say it was the creative team of Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci [Star Trek] that drew me to it in the first place, but it was the theme music). I really like this show. It is very much in the vein of CSI and NCIS, but, for me, the setting of Hawaii and the character interactions (particularly between Alex O’Loughlin’s McGarrett and Scott Caan’s Danny) make the show enjoyable to watch. I also like how the show takes time to spell out what is going on with that week’s particular crime (too many CSI-type shows zip through with what the bad guys are doing, making it tough for me, the viewer, to keep up), and that the show is developing a loose story arc. The one thing that I do like when compared to other CSI-type shows is that the four principles are written like real people. With other shows like this, every character has some over-the-top wittiness that makes it hard to buy that they are professional law enforcement agents. The humor on 5.0 comes much more naturally.

However, not everything is sunshine and roses. Though I like his interaction with Cann, O’Loughlin is still a bit of a wet blanket. McGarrett doesn’t really have much of a personality and is presented like a cardboard cutout. I don’t know if this is due to the actor or the writing (or both), but something needs to be done to boost McGarrett up. Also, growing old is Chin Ho’s (Daniel Dae Kim) continual moodiness. However, it seems that his storyline is coming to some sort of conclusion (or new direction), so this might change for next season.

South Park

I’ll keep this one brief. The second half of last season was very strong. Stone and Parker’s takes on Inception and NASCAR were hilarious, and the Mysterion trilogy was strong, but fizzled out by the end (they really need to stop with the forced three-parters). However, since returning for this season (four episodes in as of this writing), the show has been terrible. While I loved the skewering of Apple, the humor has been forced and not as on-the-nose as the show typically is. Personally, I think this has much to do with the lack of focus on Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman. Hopefully this is just a temporary slump, and Stone and Parker will return to greatness soon enough.

Modern Family

Honestly, Modern Family is a complete blur to me at the moment. I enjoy the show, and I laugh out loud at it (I really, really love Ty Burrell’s Phil), but after I finish watching an episode, I forget about it. As I sit here and type this, I can’t recall any episode. I remember bits from episodes, but not a complete one. This is kind of sad as this show really can be top-notch. It is more likely that I am simply having a disconnect with it.

I also can’t stand Manny. His shtick has gotten old.

Stargate Universe

Finally, SGU. It was canceled, by the way. I’ll miss the show as I was one of the few who actually liked it from the get go. Season two has been an incredible step forward. Many people had problems with the first season’s element of angst. I can understand that, and the writers seemed to as well. They really pumped up the action and story arc of the show (although, the Lucian Alliance arc was mostly worthless and Robert Knepper’s talents was completely wasted in his extended guest role). I did like that the show got away from all the characters hating each other, and that Rush’s (Robery Carlyle) shady actions had some dire consequences (including a wonderfully acted and intentionally disturbing death scene for fan-favorite Sgt. Riley [Haig Sutherland]).

It is incredibly sad that the show has been canceled given the fantastic quality of this past year. There can be many reasons for why this happened, but I won’t get into that (do a Google search if you are curious). In any event, the show really hit its stride, and it is sad that we will never see the end result of Destiny‘s journey (MGM has shelved any DVD movie continuation). At least the final episode had a sense of closure to it, which left viewers sad, yet hopeful. I hope down the line producers Brad Wright or Robert Cooper will reveal what was to happen to Col. Young (Justin Louis), Dr. Rush, and the rest. Did they ever make it home? Did they find that alien intelligence (God?) from before the Big Bang?

Also, the end of SGU marks the end of the 14 year Stargate run.

Well, that’s about it. I also watch In Treatment (the best show on television in my opinion), but that is on HBO, and I don’t get HBO. I watch it on DVD (and you should too!). I also enjoy Craig Ferguson, but you really can’t do a season review of a late night talk show. What do you think? Drop us a line and let us know your thoughts at znculturecast@gmail.com!

~N~

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