How Was It? A Recap of the 2011/2012 TV season

So in US TV terms, another year over, as the TV year begins in September and ends in May (bizzare Americans!) and we are onto the summer shows right now. So how was the main TV season? Hits, misses and goodbyes.

Firstly, Glee, my number one show for three years ended with the seniors from McKinley graduating and going their separate ways. There is still a lot of uncertainty about what season 4 will look like and how much we will see certain characters. Glee will never recapture the, well, GLEE it had in the first year, when everything was new and fresh. But we’ve come to love the characters, and the end of season 3 saw Rachel and Finn NOT get married (thank God!) but break up, with Rachel heading for New York, Finn considering the army, Kurt NOT getting into NYADA, Brittany failing and returning to repeat her senior year. Quinn recovering from her car crash and heading for Yale, Santana getting a cheerleading scholarship to St Louis, Mercedes getting a recording deal as a backing singer, Mike getting into somewhere or other too! Left at McKinley (apart from the teachers) are Artie, Tina, Brittany, Blaine, Sam, Sugar and Joe (Damian McGinty’s Rory apparently not returning HURRAY!) Rumoured to be returning, although not necessarily to the glee club, is Alex Newell as Wade/Unique, The Glee Project runner up who made the strongest impression by far. Indeed, the third season of Glee finished pretty strongly thanks to him.

Any Glee Project watcher last year knew Alex was an incredible performer, and the show gave him 3 numbers – all on-stage groups numbers as Vocal Adrenaline’s lead. The most enjoyable episode of S3, Saturday Night Glee-ver was stolen by Alex doing an incredible performance of Boogie Shoes, that just rocked! After a year of ho-hum songs and adequate performances only, we had a few killers for the big Nationals episode. Firstly Lea Michele killed a Celine Dion song (hate Celine, but love Lea!!) and then a fun group number to Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light that made me remember that Cory Monteith is a decent performer. Vocal Adrenaline lead by Alex almost snatched it bit of course didn’t!

So on the whole, an OK year on Glee but some way down in ratings, critical acclaim and coherence! The show keeps me watching for the characters and the joy of a great musical number. Shame they have been a little thin on the ground this year, but as always, there have been a few. Tops for me this year, Florence and the Machine’s Shake It Out, performed in a fantastic arrangement by Mercedes, Santana and Tina. Other highlights on Glee, the funny body swap episode, where Tina and Rachel, Kurt and Finn, Blaine and Puck and others swapped. The cast looked like they had a ball, and it was done very well. However, there is a certain amount of doubt in my mind that Glee will run for much longer. How will the new season shape with Rachel in New York and the Lima gang having few star performers left in New Directions. Will we see Quinn or Puck or Mercedes much? The choir is SERIOUSLY lacking in great voices – females particularly as only Tina can really sing of the girls left.

Away from Glee, this year we said goodbye to House, the medical mystery show that to be honest limped along like its star this year. OK, so I was a Cuddy fan, but this year felt forced. We had a couple of new girls join the boys club and it was fine. But the show ended on a forced melodramatic note with Wilson getting cancer and House pretty much faking his own death. Yes, it’s consistent with Sherlock Holmes Reichenbach falls exit, but a lot of the zing seemed missing this year. Hugh Laurie was always watchable, but it was time to go and put the show out of its misery.

Probably the biggest hit of the year was Game of Thrones, a show I was late to. It’s a fantasy adventure, but a mean one! A tough world of blood, sex and scheming that I wasn’t sure I liked at first, but has quickly grown to be one of my favourites. Full of complex characters in terrible situations, there isn’t one of them whose life I would like! The always wonderful Lena Headey as scheming queen Cersei Lanister is one of my favourites, but I also love Daenaris, the mother of dragons played by Emilia Clarke. The show features more nudity and blood than most films and is becoming famous for its so-called sexposition scenes, where sex is accompanied by discussions of plot! A mainly British cast, apart from the brilliant Peter Dinklage, this year’s highlight was probably the relationship between Charles Dance’s Tywin Lannister and Maise Williams’ Arya Stark, Arya hiding out as a boy to escape Kings Landing where she saw her father Sean Bean beheaded at the end of last season. Young Williams is just excellent, and very much the audience’s eyes as we watch Tywin build his army. Quality stuff, brilliant characters. Just less of Kit and Jon – boring!!

On  more conventional drama note, Homeland was another high class show. Claire Danes was a revelation as a bipolar CIA analyst convinced returning soldier Damien Lewis was a spy. Lewis and Danes were outstanding in a super exciting thriller, although I do wonder where season 2 will go.

One of the most popular new genre shows this year was Once Upon A Time, featuring House star Jennifer Morrison who becomes embroiled in the goings-on of Storybrooke, Maine a town under the curse of evil Queen Lana Parilla, a terrifically charismatic baddie! All of the town’s inhabitants have a storybook counterpart, so Parilla’s mayor Regina Mills is also the Evil Queen, Gennifer Godwin doubles as Snow White/school teacher Mary Margaret. Robert Carlyle is the scheming Mr Gold and also Rumpelstilskin and so on. Generally speaking, the show was huge fun and the dual storytelling device worked well. However, the first season ended with the curse being lifted and the town’s folk apparently realising who they were, so another show with a lot of questions about how the future will work out.

The other new hit show was Revenge, a soapy drama that saw Madelaine Stowe and Emily VanCamp face off as VanCamp tries to bring down the Grayson family who were responsible for the framing and subsequent death of her father. Absurd plot twists, but such fun. Hey guess what though, another show with question marks over season 2!  Stowe was apparently killed in a plane crash (surely not though) and Emily still hasn’t uncovered the truth. There is a worry that the plotting might get too silly and too ‘make it up as we go along.’ Beware Lost! Still the lesson of how NOT to end a series (although to be fair, ANY ending would have been an anti-climax, there were so many theories)

Also new this year, was Smash, promoted as ‘Glee for adults’ it really wasn’t, it was Broadway comes to TV, and there was a lot to like about it. The first few episodes were brilliant, but the show lost its way at times going down very dull story alleys. The idea of a series about the coming together of a Marilyn Monroe musical was great, and the series probably worked best in the Marilyn numbers. Vying for the lead role, Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty were an odd pair! Hilty is pretty much perfect casting, but McPhee is super beautiful and a good singer – just one problem. She is not a great actress and somehow lacks charisma. Hilty’s character Ivy ended up being made into a bit of a caricature and McPhee’s Karen the very obvious TV Network’s darling, just got blander and blander. There were also some awful storylines and super dull characters. Ellis was a bit of a groundbreaker in becoming one of the most despised characters on TV! At least Game of Thrones’s Joffrey is a valid character! Ellis was just ridiculous. Still, Smash had those wonderful Marilyn numbers and some great characters. Hey, season 2, what the hell…!!

Blink and you’ll miss them – Ringer and Awake, two shows that lasted the year but no more, and you can see why. Ringer starring Sarah Michelle Geller as twin sisters was just ridiculous plotwise, but I kind of enjoyed the absurdity. Awake was more ambitious as our very own Jason Isaacs (hello to Jason Isaacs) starred as a cop living in two alternate universes after a car crash. One in which his wife died and his son survived, and the other where his wife survived and their son died. Frankly the 2 universes idea didn’t work, but it was sort of fun to see them try and Isaacs is always watchable.

One of the more controversial shows this year was HBO’s Girls. Created, written, directed by, starring Lena Dunham, this was something very different and all praise for that. Dunham’s Hannah is so different from your average sitcom lead. Not gorgeous or adorable, Hannah is awkward, not that likable and a bit of a slacker. She appears to be in an almost abusive relationship and has weird friends who are also not terribly likable. However, as the series progresses, her boyfriend Adam turns out to be far more interesting, her friends have equally complex dimensions. I was not as much of a fan as some, but I loved that we had something so very original and different and that someone like Hannah could be the lead. How many tv shows are there with flawed and not terribly likable male leads? House, the Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, The Shield to name a few. How many with female leads? Maybe Damages. Erm.. Girls is quirky and odd, but a highly original and different show.

Finally, a few words on a few summer shows.

The Glee Project returned and once again, the usual dramas. The people surviving who shouldn’t and some fan favourites getting kicked out early. Many of us loved Nellie, a rather shy girl, but with a great voice but out she went. This years kids are once again talented but after the anonymous Rory and Joe roles for last years winners Damian and Samuel, I wonder what they are planning for this years winner. The front runner is Blake, a handsome but kind of dull bloke who could play a Finn type role. However, in many ways, as these kids are not actors, a splashier stunt role like Wade/Unique for last years runner up Alex might be better. I think the winner – and definitely just one this year apparently – gets a 7 episode arc. The irritating Ayline who pushes her ‘Muslim girl but flirty’ angle, wheelchair bound, but very spunk Ali, big mean girl Lily (who might be a bitch, but is some performer) or maybe pretty Michael, who has trouble actually, you know SINGING but hey, he’s cute. Anyway, its compelling viewing.

New from Aaron Sorkin is The Newsroom, sort of like Studio 60/Sports Night/West Wing but on a nightly news show. Sorkin’s usual array of smart arse know it alls, who make you want to slap them are on show but even more annoying, the show is set in the recent past, so the team can preach about how the new SHOULD have covered the BP oil spill or the shooting of that congress woman. As with how other shows, Sorkin confounds with some super witty dialogue and super preachy smarmy smugness. However, a swearing Jane Fonda was a highlight!

I never watched Gilmore Girls, so the first few episodes of Bunheads from GG creator Amy Sherman Palladino had my head spinning. Wow, such quick witty dialogue. Eat your heart out Aaron Sorkin! I’ve since bought Gilmore Girls and am partway through Season 2 and can see Bunheads is a bit of a rehash, but fun all the same. Largely female lead, the show lives in its own little world as ex-showgirl Michelle (another Broadway veteran Sutton Foster) marries Alan Ruck on a whim, and finds herself immersed in his hometown of Paradise, with nutty mother and her dance studio and the usual small town eccentrics. The show is a lot of fun, but I am a bit concerned where it is going at this point. We are seven episodes in and it is unclear where the focus of the show is. The young dancers, the bunheads of the title? The relationship between Michelle and her mother in law Fanny?  I do like the wit of the show however.

Quick word on a few others, MTV’s Awkward is so much fun! Think Mean Girls or Easy A, but ruder! Jenna played by Ashley Rickards is just great as she navigates high school love. ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars manages the difficult task of making the show still compelling after the mysterious ‘A’ was revealed, although it is clear that ‘A’ is still around!

TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles went through a rough patch at the start of this third season as Jane and Maura had to get over the fact Jane shot Maura’s dad! Worse, we had a couple of episodes where the ladies seemed to be interested in.. gasp..men! Thankfully the gayest straight girls on tv were back to their usual BFF best and the fun has continued.

Phew, marathon review that no one but me will ever read!