Friday, March 17, 2006

ABC addendum

Apparently, American Inventor got very, very good ratings.

I'll wait to see how it holds up, but for now, I'll temporarily slot it in as the Dancing with the Stars replacement in the winter.

I still want to see how they'll do subsequent episodes. . .

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Super TV preview: CBS

It's good to be CBS. You're at least highly competitive on every night. And you're way out in front on quite a few of them. The other networks pretty much let you HAVE Fridays. And you have exactly TWO weak spots on your lineup.

Furthermore, in comparison to the terrible fall 2004 CBS had, the network had a pretty good fall 2005. It managed to find a hip sitcom (How I Met Your Mother) and further showed off its dominance in the crime genre.

And therein lies the problem. People watch CBS because that's where their remote stays. And when the crime genre reaches overkill (as it's coming perilously close to doing), CBS is going to enter a crisis mode, as many of their shows will seem overdone.

Another problem is that people don't go to CBS expecting hip. HIMYM does all right, but it's under the radar. And the network couldn't figure out how to sell Threshold or Love Monkey. The big, breakout hits aren't going to be on CBS. But CBS will try. Oh, will it try.

When I was doing preparation for this article, I got an e-mail from my friend Jon laying out HIS version of the schedule. And we differed in VERY few places. CBS is that easy to predict. Hence, the shortness of this article.

So let's get started. Here's what the schedule has looked like through the year. When I've stolen an idea from Jon, I've marked it with an asterisk.

And here, of course, are the pilots.

I'm going to start by ripping off one of Jon's ideas.

Sunday:

7:00 p.m. EST/PST: 60 Minutes
8 p.m.: Out of Practice (new night and time slot)*
8:30 p.m.: Play Nice (new series)
9 p.m.: Cold Case (new time slot)*
10 p.m. Edison (new series)

Sunday is CBS' weakest night right now. It starts out well with the 60 Minutes/Cold Case pairing, but then it falls completely apart. The made-for-TV movies aren't working for the network, so I think they'll finally abandon them. Jon's right when he points out that Cold Case has done pretty well against Desperate Housewives when it has been pushed back by football. And when Law and Order: Criminal Intent getting pushed out of that slot by Sunday Night Football, CBS will have the crime game to itself. 60 Minutes has ALWAYS been there, so we'll leave it there. Out of Practice is a sitcom that skews older, and Play Nice is from the Everybody Loves Raymond creative team. It also has Fred Willard, so it looks to skew older as well. Finally, we have Edison, which is technically a crime show, but features a quirky detective. All in all, it's a night that seems destined to attract the older audience. But they don't have a lot on Sundays right now, so it could be a winning strategy for CBS.

Monday:
8 p.m.: The New Adventures of Old Christine (new time slot)
8:30 p.m.: How I Met Your Mother
9 p.m.: Two and a Half Men
9:30 p.m.: The Class (new series)
10 p.m.: CSI: Miami

CBS has had a comedy block here for ages, and it's been successful since the days of Murphy Brown. Two and a Half Men isn't the powerhouse Everybody Loves Raymond was, but it's the top-rated sitcom on television (strange, I know). Perhaps surprisingly, this night is now pretty young and/or hip. Old Christine did VERY well in its two showings last Monday, so I think it will be moved back to anchor the night, finally pushing King of Queens to cancellation (making it the last of the ugly husband/hot wife sitcoms). HIMYM is a solid performer, if not the Friends style breakout the network hoped for, but it's more compatible with Christine than with King of Queens, so it could perk up in year two (especially as the show figures out what it's doing increasingly). Two and a Half Men is still solid. The Class is a show CBS NEEDS to air 13 episodes of, and it's one of the most buzzed about pilots out there, so they'll give it their best time slot. And CSI: Miami is a constant winner in that slot. So there you go. A young/hip CBS night. Huh.

Tuesday:

8 p.m.: NCIS
9 p.m.: The Unit
10 p.m.: Jericho (new series)

It's action Tuesday! NCIS is a huge hit. The Unit managed to hold its own against both House AND American Idol (and is also a huge hit). Right now, The Amazing Race isn't holding its own in the 10 p.m. slot. So, we put the show CBS HOPES makes it hip next year there: Jericho, the story of a small town after a nuclear war. It's supposed to be a goofy action soap. I don't know how that's going to work, but as an end-of-the-world junky, I can't wait!

Wednesday:

8 p.m.: The Amazing Race (new night and time slot)
9 p.m.: Criminal Minds
10 p.m.: CSI: New York

See how little work I have to do? The Amazing Race is a family show. It deserves a family slot. After that, two hours of crime-solving mania. Criminal Minds improbably stood up to Lost AND American Idol and held its own. Crazy. And CSI: New York is. . .a CSI show.

Thursday:

8 p.m.: Survivor
9 p.m.: CSI
10 p.m.: Without a Trace

The best-scheduled night of television in years. Each flows perfectly into the next. And that's why it's been the same for year after year now and is about to enter its FIFTH year as a lineup. Only Survivor shows signs of fading. If CSI starts to go, though, look out. The CBS house will come tumbling down.

Friday:

8 p.m.: The Ghost Whisperer
9 p.m.: Ultra (new series)
10 p.m.: Numb3rs

Close to Home would be an instant renewal on any other network. On CBS, where its ratings are merely adequate, it stands to be canceled, simply for not being a top 20 show. Ultra has a fun cast and it skews female. It should flow well with Ghost Whisperer. Plus, it's from the creator of Joan of Arcadia and is just one of the many superhero shows on the pilot docket. Nothing even remotely challenges Numb3rs, so we'll just leave it where it is.

Saturday:

Jon has this crazy theory that CBS may put Close to Home here. I don't think they will. It's just too expensive to throw on a night when no one's watching. Still, all of the networks would like to be back in business on this night, and CBS DOES have a storied tradition here. So if something like this happens, you heard it here first.

As far as midseason goes, Creature Comforts, an animated series, already has a seven episode commitment (to run between Survivor seasons, perhaps?).

Here are other pilots I could see making the final schedule or the midseason schedule.

The Big Bang Theory
Company Town
In the Shadow of the Law
Orpheus
Sex, Power, Love and Politics
Shark
Smith
Untitled Paul Reiser Project
Waterfront

As you, perhaps, can tell, I'm not a big fan of CBS' development this year.

So there we go!

Next time: America's favorite fantasy network league: The CW!

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Super TV preview: ABC

So why am I attempting such foolhardiness? Because I can, that's why. And also because if we can predict what next fall is going to look like, those of us who want to work in TV (as writers or critics) can get a leg up.

ABC, of course, has been riding high. It's got three MONSTER hits that are only in their second seasons. It's got another monster hit that skews a bit old. It's got a lot of players that have shown promising growth.

But it's also got a lot of weak spots. Its schedule isn't the monster that CBS' schedule is. There are a lot of holes. And the network doesn't have a game-changing hit like American Idol to raise all its boats (so to speak). Dancing with the Stars doesn't skew NEARLY young enough to be that sort of performer for them. So the network soldiers on, gamely plugging holes with America's Funniest Home Videos and the special brand of "heartwarming" reality show it does so well.

Check out the many iterations of ABC's schedule here. (This schedule conveniently ignores the one outright flop ABC unleashed this fall, Night Stalker.)

ABC has another problem. It had two dramas that started out HUGE this fall, looking to keep ABC's hot drama streak alive. Then, both faded. One (Commander-in-Chief) got away from the "She's the President! She's also a mom!" style adventures that made it a hit (I was never a huge fan of the show, but turning it into an even MORE watered-down West Wing clone didn't help). The other (Invasion) started too slowly for many, fading over time, even though it turned into incredibly compelling viewing.

Last year, ABC renewed a GLUT of marginally performing comedies and sent two procedural dramas to midseason. The network, quite simply, lacks a solid sitcom and a crime procedural. When you've got one of these things, you're in good shape. CBS could schedule CSI repeats in EVERY time slot and compete for at least a month or so. And so, ABC renewed things that were close to syndication length (Less Than Perfect) and things that were never going to be hits (Rodney), hoping to find something that clicked with the public.

ABC DOES have one promising sitcom: Sons & Daughters. The show is critically acclaimed and outperforms its leadin, According to Jim. Unfortunately, it's in a BRUTAL timeslot and loses to The Unit and House. Still, expect ABC to keep this one around.

I actually think ABC will ditch all of its other sitcoms on the bubble. They've got 25 sitcoms in development, most of them promising. They may keep According to Jim around, but that show is on its last legs and is already making them syndication dollars.

Now we come to the two dramas sure to be on the bubble at the end of the season (if either The Evidence or What About Brian becomes a huge hit, expect Invasion and C-i-C to die quiet deaths). ABC's leadership seems to LIKE Invasion more, and, indeed, it's the better show, but will it EVER find an audience at this late date? It would seem the prime audience for the show has sampled it and moved on.

C-i-C is a different matter. Even though the constant shuffling of producers has diluted the show's appeal, it could rebound with a return to its roots and a less merciless timeslot.

So let's take a look at what I expect to happen next year. Let me preface this by saying that I KNOW NOTHING. I don't talk to network insiders. I just hear the same gossip as you do.

First, a link to ABC's pilots. What makes this DOUBLY hard is that ABC and NBC both have PHENOMENAL development this year. Great stars, great writers, great directors. But these are my picks for the shows that will make it, based on some educated guesswork.

Sunday:
7 p.m. EST/PST: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (new time slot)
8 p.m.: Commander-in-Chief (new night and time slot)
9 p.m. : Desperate Housewives
10 p.m.: Brothers & Sisters (new series) (Untitled Shonda Rhimes project occupies this slot at midseason)

Commander-in-Chief ALMOST ended up in that timeslot last year, before it was decided that would leave Extreme Makeover: Home Edition too vulnerable. However, XM:HE is a proven hit with families, and moving it an hour earlier isn't going to deplete that audience. C-i-C can play to families too (indeed, it does better ratings-wise when it does so). DH was a gamechanger, completely altering the landscape of Sunday nights in primetime, so there's no need to move it now. Brothers & Sisters is not a series I'm terribly excited for, but it IS a soap, and it's got a cast with lots of female appeal (featuring BOTH Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths), so it should mesh well with DH. Shonda Rhimes was the creator of the last show ABC threw in this slot at midseason, Grey's Anatomy. While I don't think her new show about female journalists sounds all that good, ABC will want to make her happy because. . .

Monday:
8 p.m.: Untitled Patricia Heaton project (new series)
8:30 p.m.: Pink Collar (new series)
9 p.m.: Grey's Anatomy (new night and time slot)
10 p.m.: Men in Trees (new series)

I think ABC is going to move Grey's Anatomy. It's a mega-hit. But it could be EVEN BIGGER an hour earlier. And Desperate Housewives ain't going anywhere. Grey's now has a fan base of its own, and a properly structured cliffhanger should bring them over a night later to female-friendly Mondays. Patricia Heaton, of course, was part of Everybody Loves Raymond, which was a hit on Mondays, and her new sitcom has some good writers and Justine Bateman to boot. Pink Collar is a single-camera show set in an office full o' females, featuring Alicia Silverstone. They're both good fits together and with Grey's. Men in Trees is from the fine comedy writer Jenny Bicks. Also, it's set in Alaska, and this is the time slot where Northern Exposure saw such success. All in all, it's a night of lighthearted fun for the XX set.

Tuesday:

8 p.m.: A Day in the Life (new series)
8:30 p.m.: Sons & Daughters
9 p.m.: 60 Minute Man (new series) (October Road at midseason)
10 p.m.: Boston Legal

Commander-in-Chief leveled off. The comedy block didn't work. It's a shame, but Tuesdays, a night ABC once used to OWN have been ceded to CBS and Fox (when Idol is on especially). ABC isn't going to roll over and play dead, though. A Day in the Life should be an easy series to sell to the target 20/30something audience (what with its tale of two kids getting married and its 24-esque format). Sons & Daughters has already proved (slightly) popular with that audience. I predict ABC tries to pull an Office with it, promoting the show in front of it and throwing S&D on iTunes to see what happens. I really don't know WHAT to expect out of the 9 p.m. hour, except I suspect they'll throw one of the two dramas I have listed in there. And Boston Legal is performing well in that time slot. No reason to move it.

Wednesday:

8 p.m.: George Lopez
8:30 p.m.: In Case of Emergency (new series)
9 p.m.: Lost
10 p.m.: Nine Lives (A House Divided at midseason)

I finally just threw up my hands in the 8 p.m. hour. George Lopez performs relatively well (especially among one of ABC's key demographics -- Hispanics). The network HAS to air In Case of Emergency (contractually obligated), and tonight seems like as good a night as any. Lost, of course, is still a hit (though Idol takes a chunk out of it that ABC probably wishes it didn't). And Nine Lives is from the creator of Without a Trace. He figured out what to put on after CSI. He can figure out what to put on after Lost.

Thursday:

8 p.m.: Dancing with the Stars
9:30 p.m.: Help Me Help You (new series)
10 p.m. Primetime Live

I thought ABC might save Dancing with the Stars for the winter again, but my friend Jon has a point: It could be fall's American Idol. So it shall sit there. Help Me Help You is a comedy featuring Ted Danson, so that seems right up DWTS' older audience's alley. And Primetime isn't budging. I have no idea what would land here at midseason though.

Friday:

8 p.m.: Dancing with the Stars Results Show
9 p.m.: Supernanny/Wife Swap
10 p.m. Invasion (new night and time slot)

I don't ACTUALLY think Invasion will end up here. I just don't think that ABC will want to appear so weak as to schedule new series ALL OVER the place. The other two seem like safe bets on a night when most other networks are checking out.

What are the odds of this? To tell you the truth, if I get even one of these right, I will be thrilled. We'll see how I did in May.

Would ABC be this dangerous? Honestly, this is the point in their growth when they need to sink or swim. By taking risks to shore up the first half of the week, ABC could make itself a bigger player on every night but Tuesday.

Some other pilots I could see making the cut, either for the fall or midseason:

52 Fights
Day Break
Enemies
Him & Us
Hollis & Rae
Jump
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Six Degrees
Traveler
Ugly Betty
Untitled Bonnie Hunt project

And no, that's not EVERY other pilot. Nyah.

Up next time: CBS, the easiest network to predict.

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The FCC goes ka-ray-zay

I really don't get indecency complaints against television. The truly vile shows tend to not get watched.

But Time's James Poniewozik puts it better than I could and saves me from having to write about yet another raving match kicked up by the PTC.

The idea of judging indecency turns on determining the "community standard" for dirtiness. Without a Trace is one of the most popular programs on television, a regular top 10 show that has been on the air for four seasons. Its sometimes-lurid content is well known to its tens of millions of fans. Now, it's questionable whether, in an age of fragmented media, a "community standard" can even be determined. But assuming it can, what meets the community standard if not a show that a plurality of the community has chosen to reward with some of the highest ratings on TV? When you say that a show like that is beyond the pale, you are not enforcing a community standard; you are imposing a standard that you wish the community had.


He's got more to say here.

And Mr. Law Guy seems to think this is the beginning of the end for the FCC's indecency crusades. Don't we all wish!

You can view the twentysomethings awkwardly pretending to be orgiastic teenagers here. (The irony inherent in the site complaining about the content of that scene also hosting a clip of that scene will go uncommented on. Except. . .I just. . .er. . .did.)

As someone who spent most of his childhood NOT getting to watch all of the television I wanted to, I don't see the PTC's complaint. The show in question argued that having crazy sex as a teenager would GET YOU KIDNAPPED. I mean. . .not exactly a tacit endorsement. Plus, it was ONLY indecent in the Central and Mountain time zones, where it aired at 9, rather than 10. So for us Californians, it's orgies all the way!

If you just can't be bothered to care about that, check out this hilarious post that reduces the classic cartoon where Bugs Bunny singlehandedly defeats a team of baseball goons to Sabermetrics (really! It's funny!).

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Shawn Ryan interview

Oh, oh, oh! I almost forgot!

Shawn Ryan, who has worked on Nash Bridges and Angel and who has created The Shield and who has executive produced The Unit, is interviewed by NPR here. It's another fascinating look at a fine TV pro. It's also a chance to reflect on the weird fact that a LOT of great TV writers got their starts on Nash Bridges.

I haven't followed The Shield as closely as I should have. There are a lot of flaws there when I watch it, but it's still riveting television. What strikes me most is that Ryan actually thinks his protagonist is worse than he really is. That's probably the right perspective to keep when you're writing for someone as dark as Vic Mackey.

David Mamet comes on at the start for far too short of a time and does some funny stuff involving exposition. He also talks about red states and blue states and the attitudes towards the military and guns.

Good stuff!

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I don't even know what this is?!?!?!

Apparently, I'm a publicly traded commodity?

You know the drill. Buy low, sell high! I'm a steal right now. A STEAL!

I updated the links off to the right (and will probably add more soon). If you're a regular reader of this site and want yourself represented, drop me a line somehow, and it shall be done.

Check out all of the good readin'. In particular, I recommend my latest fixation, "What's Alan Watching," which is the travails of NJ Star Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall.

I'm still patching together the fall 2006 preview, but it's looking like it's entering the final stages. Thanks to Jon and David for helping me talk large swaths of it out.

I've got a number of other posts that I'm working on (and I promise to lift the curtain surrounding some of my writing projects ever so shortly, as I've been all manifesto-y on them lately), but the preview and some projects at work are gobbling up my time.

In the meantime, congratulations to Denis McGrath, who has been an inspiration and a source of enlightenment to your friendly blogger. He's worked on a number of TV series up there in Canadialand, but for the first time, one that he co-created is going to be produced. Heady times, indeed!

Also, congratulations to Maggie, who is making the move to SoCal. She sounds excited about it now, but we'll see how she feels in July when her soul is deadened by the knowledge that the air is BROWN.

See you soon (hopefully tonight) with the first of the preview articles.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

The Sopranos - Season 5

Matt Zoller Seitz has written on his blog about his fear that The Sopranos, by refusing to judge its characters and, indeed, allowing Tony to get away with just about everything (he finds out who informants are or they kill themselves, charges against him seem to slide right off of him, etc.) when these characters are so morally reprehensible in many ways (I say in many ways because it's obvious that Tony loves his family unquestioningly). While he feels that it's okay to have a morally reprehensible character in a film (because of the limited amount of time we spend with them), he fears that having one in a television series, where we're invited to identify with that character for an extended period of time, is detrimental.

I, of course, would disagree (I think the impetus for judgment is on the viewers, not the producers), but it's an interesting question nonetheless. Seitz has been pleased by the turn that season six has taken, launching some characters into a state of purgatory (I won't spoil anything beyond that). But I think that season 5 is where the show began to develop these themes.

If you've seen only one episode of The Sopranos, you'll know that Tony, Dr. Melfi and Carmela are set up to be the characters the audience identifies with. Tony, of course, seems like a teddy bear, but has a very cold, unforgiving heart (much has been written about his tragically Shakespearean overtones, but season 5 is the first to embrace these ideas outright). Carmela is probably the best stand-in for the audience. She hates the immoral things her husband does to earn her such a comfortable life but she still craves that comfortable life (in many ways, Carmela is a better metaphor for the American public than Tony himself). Dr. Melfi, of course, has her issues, but she manages to tread a moral line (when she COULD have Tony kill her rapist, she refuses to on the grounds that it would be immoral). The show has always set up the Hobbesian idea that when confronted with the self-benefitting thing to do and the right thing to do, the characters will choose the one that benefits them most. But in season 5, we begin to get the sense that these things will ultimately doom them. (Many of these ideas were first suggested by Mr. Seitz, though I don't believe he would agree with me that season 5 was where the themes were first developed.)

I'm speaking, of course, of the series' penultimate episode and, I believe, its episode richest with this theme for the entire run: Long Term Parking. Drea de Matteo's portrayal of Adriana la Cerva was one of the show's brightest spots. She was essentially an optimist, and her involvement in the scuzzy world of the mob was minimal. However, the FBI got her to flip and she started feeding them information. From there on out, it was only a matter of time before her death would happen.

Long Term Parking is particularly wrenching because it does two things: It involves Adriana in her first truly serious crime (she covers up a murder for some people she barely knows in order to benefit herself), and it shows Tony at his most sympathetic and lovable (he sacrifices his own indulgences to get back together with his wife because he truly loves his family). The murder, of course, leads to the FBI putting the screws to Adriana, which leads to her asking her fiancee Christopher to turn informant and run away with her. He nearly does, but again, his own desires for his own benefit lead to him turning to Tony, who orders Adriana killed.

In short, because Adriana has finally stepped into a moral quagmire, she is killed. But David Chase is able to suggest that the moral quagmires the other characters are trapped in are much, much deeper. Because Adriana's was so shallow, her death was quick. When the end comes for the other characters, it will be truly, well, Shakespearean.

This idea is borne out by Uncle Junior, who begins to enter the later stages of dementia in this season. A man who wanted nothing more than to be the head of a family, who was someone who thought himself capable finds his hopes overturned first by an arrest and then by the complete loss of his mental faculties. Chase comes from a Catholic background, and the punishments he is meting out seem apt, as though he spent a lot of time between seasons reading Dante's Inferno.

Tony Blundetto, played by Steve Buscemi, also exemplifies this theme. He hopes to leave his old life as a gangster behind him and become a massage therapist. But even though he seems passionate about this idea, he can't put his life behind him. He's trapped, psychologically and otherwise, by who he was. And for that, he dies.

Season 5 won the show the Emmy finally, and I do think it's the most thematically complete season since the first one (even if it doesn't quite match that one). It begins in the autumn and ends in the winter, visiting spring and fall along the way. It seems to suggest that there is some hope for these characters, but most of them will end in the grave.

Season 5, I think, is where the true argument for the show as a television novel begins. The previous four seasons suggested it, but season 5 begins to tie the threads together, putting the characters in smaller and smaller boxes.

It leaves you unable to wait to see how it all ends.

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Battlestar Galactica, Season 2

Spoilers within for season 2, but you probably knew that.

Is it just me, or are TV producers getting, for lack of a better word, ballsier?

Many shows kill off regular characters (on 24 and Lost it seems to happen regularly). Sitcoms push the limits of what sorts of jokes are acceptable or not (My Name Is Earl routinely slips dirty jokes into the background of pretty straight scenes -- and it's ostensibly a family show!). And serialized shows are taking almost film-like risks with how they tell their stories.

The idea of a time jump was pretty much invented (in its modern sense) by 24. However, that show used its time jumps almost exclusively at the ends of seasons (after season 1, season 2 picked up a year-and-a-half later). Many other shows jumped on this bandwagon, as summarized by the link above.

As far as I know, however, Battlestar Galactica is the first show to make a big jump like that in the middle of an episode. In the season finale, after Baltar has been elected president (and he seems pretty much assured to be the worst president ever, what with his complicity with the enemy), the camera pushes in on him as he lowers his head on his desk, realizing the enormity of his task.

Then the lighting subtly shifts. And we cut to another shot. And the text onscreen reads "One year later."

I mean. . .holy crap!

In film or in a novel, it's almost greatly accepted that you can make huge jumps of time in a single cut or a single chapter. But in TV, time is supposed to pass rather incrementally (one season of their time generally equals one season of our time, roughly). Battlestar doing this is quite simply unprecedented.

But it does something even bigger.

It throws the status quo out the window.

In American television, the idea of the status quo is what keeps the story engines humming. This is also the most frequently criticized aspect of television. Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke wasn't going to get addicted to alcohol and have to battle that. A bad guy was going to come to town. Dillon was going to stop the bad guy. Everything would be back to normal at the end of the episode.

This, of course, is changing. But even in shows with arcs or soap operas, once an arc or a major storyline in the soap is over, everyone's going to be pretty much the same. Felicity Huffman will still be harried on Desperate Housewives. George Clooney will still be a womanizer on ER.

Of course there are exceptions. The Sopranos have all grown and changed. The characters on Buffy all went evolutions as the series went along. Lost does some of this.

But the Battlestar changes fundamentally alter the basic underpinnings of the show. It's almost as though all of the Sopranos became FBI agents or something.

To summarize: A habitable planet was found. Baltar settled the human race on the planet, saying the search for Earth was over. The new planet proved to be a lot crappier than what everyone was used to. Main characters shifted and changed, got married, got pregnant, got pudgier, grew mustaches. And then the main enemy came back. And Baltar surrendered, setting up an occupation scenario for season three.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that there will be a way to get back to the spaceships somewhere in season three. But there's no way they can unwrite ALL of these changes. They're going to matter.

But what about season two in general?

In general, season two was very good. It took the stakes set in season two and subtly raised them throughout, increasing the tension. It kicked off with an AMAZING seven episode arc that pushed the search for Earth a bit farther along, then settled in for a few solid stand-alones before introducing the idea of the Pegasus, another battleship that survived the apocalyptic attack of the miniseries. The Pegasus had abandoned democracy for something approaching fascism, and it set up a stunning confrontation between the two visions of what humanity can be that reverberated through the first three episodes of the second half of the season.

Then the show hit a curious dead spot. Black Market was the first episode of the show that didn't really work on any level. It just didn't know what it wanted to be. The next three episodes were straight character pieces that aimed to deepen the characters but introduced a few storylines that came out of nowhere to do so.

The last three episodes, however, were sterling, through and through. It heartens me to hear that there will be a concurrent arc among the Cylons in season three, as it's obvious the writers long for somewhere to "cut to" when they run out of gas. Now, they'll have somewhere to go.

All in all, though, season two was a complete success. It reached that point by making its characters twistier, its situations thornier. It twisted and turned and nearly broke several times, but it never completely lost it.

I look forward to season three.

And seriously. Major balls.

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