Women Losing, Men Winning and other TV trends
Forget your Top and Bottom Tens, your memorable moments and mid-season report cards. Here are 10 subtler but no less significant trends in television so far this season:
This started out as a season defined and dominated by women, an unprecedented, long overdue and equitable trend. The odds, unfortunately, are thus proportionally skewed toward failure. The earliest casualties were the pre-feminist throwbacks Charlie’s Angels and Playboy Club, and likely soon, though not yet officially cancelled, the more retroactively enlightened Pan Am.
YOU’VE GOT MALE
At the same time, several male support players have emerged from their leading ladies’ shadow. As Zooey Deschanel wisely dials down the cutesy-poo on New Girl, the season’s breakout sitcom hit, her trio of doofus man-child roomies have seized the chance to up their games. On the other hand, pre-season favourite Whitney Cummings is really starting to grate, while scruffy boyfriend Chris D’Elia grows increasingly endearing (if only for tolerating her standup snark).
TWO MEN AND THE LADIES
What is it about Two and a Half Men? It’s like the sitcom Viagra, with two consecutive leading men apparently physically unable to, as they say, keep it in their pants. First Charlie Sheen self-immolates on a diet of cocaine and porn stars. And then his replacement, Ashton Kutcher, gets caught cheating on his hottie wife (I mean, seriously, you’re going to do better than Demi Moore?). Somebody, please, cancel this show before half-man (more like three-quarters), Angus T. Jones is caught in a parked car with a transvestite hooker.
Reality-show voyeurism seems to be losing its appeal, with sagging ratings across the board for Jersey Shore, Real Housewives and anything with Kardashian. I say we mash ’em all up into one show: The Real Kardashians of Jersey Shore. Think of all the time we can save not watching them all at once.
There was apparently a casting agent on the Lost island. Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn didn’t even have to leave Hawaii to find new jobs together on Hawaii Five-0. Michael Emerson is now seeking justice on Person of Interest. Emilie de Ravin is Belle in Once Upon a Time. Next month, Jorge Garcia returns in J.J. Abrams’ Alcatraz.
I can tell you right now, and I am seldom wrong about these things, the two best shows of the imminent mid-season are the one-word wonders Smash and Awake. Smash, starring Debra Messing, is the backstage saga of a Marilyn musical, often and inadequately described as a thinking man’s Glee. Awake is a much more challenging sell, with Harry Potter plotter Jason Isaacs as a haunted cop who finds himself simultaneously living two alternate parallel lives, a kind of doubled-up Life on Mars but without the ’70s cheese.
Canadian television is finally mining the star power of our own indie cinema scene, particularly Shaw Media, casting Elias Koteas and Deborah Kara Unger in Combat Hospital, and Molly Parker and Callum Keith Rennie in The Firm. Typically, perhaps, Combat Hospital’s stellar cast and great domestic ratings could not save it from being cancelled after a single season.
Meanwhile, some of our top TV talent also found themselves unavoidably unemployed. Corner Gas stars Brent Butt and Nancy Robertson shared a terminal case of Hiccups, and former co-star Fred Ewanuick was not allowed a second term on Dan for Mayor. Being Erica also became past tense this season, its fifth. And Little Mosque on the Prairie heads for the hills after its upcoming sixth season.
Two other terrific series, one from either side of the border, struggled with undeservedly anemic ratings. CBC’s woefully under-promoted Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays never did attract the audience it deserved, and neither did NBC’s impressively Americanized Prime Suspect. There is still hope for Michael, but Suspect seems surely doomed.
Spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen all of this season’s Dexter and Boardwalk Empire. The rest of you know where I’m going here. The penultimate episodes of both cable favourites ventured into uncharted territory with some creepy major-character incest. On Boardwalk, it went all the way with Jimmy Darmody and his uncommonly young mother, Gillian. Relatively unexpected, definitely icky.
But since he was brutally murdered in the following episode, there wasn’t much time to dwell on the implications. Word from the set would seem to indicate that actor Michael Pitt’s prima-donna behaviour might have had something to do with his character getting whacked.
In some ways even more disturbing, Deb Morgan’s (Jennifer Carpenter) dream kiss with stepbrother Dexter (Michael C. Hall) was given some added oomph by the fact that the off-screen couple’s divorce was finalized just one week previous. Awkward to watch, but I would imagine even more awkward for them.