Season Premieres: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

After watching the great dancers on So You Think You Can Dance this season, I was frankly bored with the Dancing With the Stars All-Stars on ABC last night. I watched a few minutes just in case there was something worth writing about, but after 20 minutes I turned it off and read my book. I wanted to hang around to see Kirsty Alley who made her season well worth watching. But . . . couldn’t quite make it. I have a low boredom threshold. I’m not hanging around for the results show tonight. As for other premieres, here are a few of my favorites, not so favorites, and just plain don’t watch ’em for a variety of reasons.

NCIS, which premieres tonight on CBS, began to lose its edge last season with the introduction of Jamie Lee Curtis as Dr. Ryan. Touted as a possible love interest for Gibbs (Mark Harmon), the chemistry between the two is just not there, and geriatric love is not my idea of great viewing — the only exception being something in the order of “On Golden Pond” with Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Now there was some class.

Jamie Lee is 53 and looks older in spite of the “I’m still a hot tamale” sign they’ve tried to brand on her forehead. Jamie Lee was never a “hot tamale” in spite of movies and TV trying to force their viewers to see her as such. One NCIS episode even had a young man going all breathy over her, which was so ridiculous it was pathetic.

Mark Harmon just turned 61 this month and, in my book, this is the best character he’s ever played. His lack of emotional depth works in this case as the tall, silent type. He is a blank slate onto which character can be imposed with good writing. NCIS’s skirting around the edge of a bedroom scene between these two with google eyes, provocative comments, and wine sipping is, frankly, boring. Yes. For Pete’s sake blow something up instead. NCIS is also being touted as the “best season ever”. Well, I’m severely reserving my judgment since I’ve heard they are bringing Jamie Lee back. She just does not have the edge the other characters do.

NCIS Los Angeles follows directly after NCIS. This show became so predictable last season we only watched a few episodes out of desperation for something to watch. Now THAT’s pathetic. With solid characters, it depends on what they do with them this season which will determine whether we watch TV, or go streaming for something else.

Now, for all you Castle fans, (which premiered last night) this next bit may make you hate me. But, hey. I’m opinionated. That’s why I have a blog with my name on it. I love Castle. Or, rather, I love the premise of the series. I love Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion). So far so good. But I haven’t watched the show past the first couple of seasons. The reason? Kate Beckett. Or rather, Stana Katic. Beautiful? Yes. But there’s nothing there. She is about the emptiest actress on television. Nothing happens in her face. No real emotion is emitted. She is like a robot spouting lines and trying to force facial expressions. She is painful to watch.

I found out I wasn’t alone in this opinion when I was browsing at a public library. The librarian and I got into a discussion about the Castle series and I voiced my opinion about the Beckett actress. It must have touched a nerve of a man seated behind a computer console. He rose to his feet, and very emphatically agreed with everything. “She’s the worst actress I’ve ever seen,” he concluded.

A few times several members of my family have rejoiced in the fact that it looked like the producers were going to can her. For all intents and purposes she was dead. Almost as dead as her lifeless character. She was blown up, shot dead, and I can’t remember what else — only to be brought miraculously back to “life”. After the last miracle, all our households quit watching. If I want to see Nathan Fillion I just stream the “Firefly” series or watch “Serenity”.

CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) premieres tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 26. It is one of my all-time favorite shows. I even love the lead-in. The music and lyrics (Who Are You, by the Who) are, if you will forgive the pun, “dead-on”. The writing in this show, and the acting, have kept it viable season after season after season. The best, of course, was William Peterson in the role of Gil Grissom, head of the Las Vegas crime lab, who was more comfortable with bugs than people. (He was an entymologist). The Grissom character was legendary in TV annals. We all thought the show would die without him. But no. Each succeeding season, and the advent of new crime lab heads, just brought more in-depth characters to love. When we heard that Ted Danson was scheduled to play the role, we looked at each other and said, “TED DANSON!”  What were they THINKING!? But, you know what? We love him. And I love that the writing and acting is so good that each time a new character has been introduced, they add a uniqueness not seen before. The only character I thought I would warm up to, but have not so far, is Julie Finlay, played by Elizabeth Shue. So far, she’s an irritating character, and that makes me irritable.

With CSI: New York, I have the same problem as with Castle. The female lead, Detective Jo Danville played by Sela Ward. Though she is not “dead” like Stana Katic, she cannot seem to bring her character to life. Her every word sounds like she’s reading script, and, if and when there is a quip, if falls like lead from her lips. Unlike the problems I had with Jamie Lee Curtis, whom I have liked in some roles, I have never liked Sela Ward in anything. And her character bombs the show for me. I’ve always liked Gary Senise and this role as First Grade Detective Mac Taylor, with his poignant grief over the death of his wife hovering over him, is exceptional. But we quit watching the show long ago because Sela Ward’s portrayal of Jo hits such a sour note with her every word that it is unwatchable. With every gifted move Gary Senise makes to draw us into the characters and story, she lands like a rock in the middle of a good chocolate cake. Melina Kanakaredes carried the role off to perfection during the first six seasons. With CSI: Miami it was the male lead role with David Caruso that ruined the show for us. It must have for others, also, since that show’s been cancelled. The new CSI: New York premieres Friday, September 28.

One of our favorite shows, in which I love all the characters, their roles, and their actors, is The Mentalist, starring Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a former carney, con man, and spiritualist who is now a consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). With his signature cup o’ tea and his engaging smile with a hint of sadness, who could not be drawn to this character. I have read that viewers have picked him as the person they would most like to tell their deepest, darkest secrets to. His unconventional character sees beyond the obvious to the hints hidden in the shadows of devious minds — from being a former “palm reader”, he now reads faces: expressions and eyes; body language; words that do not fit actions; things that are out of place. The only thing predictable about Patrick Jane is his unpredictability. Every role in this show is unique and the acting is spot on. I wouldn’t trade a one of ’em. See them Sunday, September 30, on CBS.

Another of our favorites is Person of Interest, starring Jim Caviezel as John Reese, a former CIA field officer, and Michael Emerson as Harold Finch, a genius billionaire. Finch, who found Reese living on the streets — a man who had given up on life — stepped in and gave him a singular reason to live. Tapping into America’s fixation on Big Brother, and the eroding of personal privacy with cameras on every corner and taps on every signal, this series takes 21st century technology to another level and in another direction.

When a computer system built by the government to predict terrorist actions is discovered to also predict crimes against individuals, the discovery is kept secret by Finch, who is handicapped from an unspecified accident. He uses Reese, with his highly skilled military training, as a unique soldier in this war on crime. Reese, in turn, recruits two police officers (albeit unwillingly) — one who is corrupt, and one who plays it by the book. Or she did before Reese came along. This show gives us something different in the way of plot and storyline. It keeps us guessing as to who is the bad guy and who is the victim. And our characters must be on guard at all times against demons from the past, whom they must overcome to win the day. A very unique series. Great actors. Great writing. We love it and look forward to the second season, which premieres Thursday, September 27 on CBS. Hope you’ll join us.

(l-r) Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman, Taraji P. Henson, Jim Kaviezel

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2 thoughts on “Season Premieres: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Oh poo. I guess we won’t have a lot to talk about now where TV is concerned. I haven’t watched any of the NCIS or CSI shows for years. I did watch the original CSI regularly during it’s first several years though. I can say the same for Law & Order and all it’s spinoffs.

    I’ve seen a few episodes of The Mentalist and Person of Interest, but neither interested me enough to stay with them.

    And that brings me to Castle. I love that show and have never missed an episode. I think Nathan Fillion is such fun to watch and I like the two cops who work with Beckett…Esposito and Ryan. As for Stana / Kate, the character is supposed to be all business, not emotional, totally wrapped up in her work. It does cause her to seem expressionless and lacking emotion. But that changed last season because Beckett and Castle FINALLY got together and for a change, she seemed really happy. I haven’t seen this week’s premiere episode yet, but I have recorded it and will be watching it tonight or tomorrow. Amazon.com has the Nicky Heat books by “Richard Castle” and I keep meaning to get the first one and see if it’s any good. I don’t know who’s actually writing them.

    ION, I read today that The Voice has been renewed for two more seasons. Simon Cowell must be spitting nails that this show is doing so much better in the ratings than his new X-Factor. I’ll be curious to see how American Idol does this season. They sure have an odd collection of judges.

  2. Oh, poo, indeed. But it’s amazing we’ve had a meeting of the minds as much as we have. And as an old newspaper reporter, I’ve learned a thing or two about differences of opinion. I once did a series on gun control because I really didn’t know enough about the subject to have an opinion. So I dug down into the facts and whys and wherefores of both sides, both pro and con. I would be totally unbiased because I wanted to weigh the evidence myself and thought others might want to, also. Wow! You should have seen the firestorm I started. I was blasted by BOTH sides as a dyed-in-the-wool, card carrying commie liberal, far-right whacko extremist, you name it, I got it. It’s true what they say about being in the middle of the road. You get run over by everybody coming and going. Ha. So I learned to carefully consider each person’s opinion, and stay out of the stinkin’ road.

    Yeah, I loved Law and Order, also. Great acting and writing. But I think our interests lie in different directions on the romance level of a movie or TV series. For instance, the old X-Files kept a low-profile sexual tension between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson that, for me, didn’t get in the way of the story or slow it down.

    I also understand that Beckett’s character was supposed to be all business, but I’ve seen that done without the absolute lack of expression. Emily Deschanel on Bones does it very well, as well as the above mentioned Gillian Anderson. I’m not a follower of Bones, but I have checked it out a few times. As you said, it didn’t have enough something to hold my interest. I’ve loved Nathan Fillion ever since the Sci-Fi series “Firefly” where he played the captain of an old tramp spacecraft, doing jobs for people that was a little under the exact letter of the law. He was amazing and so was his crew. A couple of years after the series ended they did a movie called “Serenity”. We actually saw the movie before we even knew about the series. We had to backtrack. I’ve loved Nathan Fillion ever since.

    It was the Nicky Heat books the librarian had showed me when we got to talking about the series and the man stood up from behind the computer to add his opinion. I can’t really get into books written based on a series. They just seem to lose something from film to page. Actually, they read a little juvenile.

    I watched The Voice for a few episodes last year, then got disinterested. But I agree it’s way out in front of X-Factor. I still love American Idol. Their format works, and so does their host. However, the judges’ personalities and level of expertise are huge contributors to the level of interest in the show, and, unlike The Voice, they try to keep their crass minds and mouths to a minimum. Doesn’t always work, but, as on So You Think You Can Dance, they at least make a show of making the effort.

    Do you know when Idol is scheduled for this season?

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