Changing (TV) Seasons

It’s the end of August and summer is coming to an end. Well, perhaps not weatherwise; summer in Texas might well run into October, along with the hurricane season. But looking at the TV listings, I can see that we’ve fallen into the gap between the end of the summer shows and the return of the network regulars. Warning: spoilers ahead.


Last night I watched the series finale of Falling Skies, after five seasons of alien invasion mayhem. I’ve seen reviews on line, written by people who take TV shows far more seriously than I do, tearing it apart, but I was happy with it. Fine with me that all the members of the Mason family survived (even those who had died and come back to life, thanks to one of the alien allies). I was happy to see the show end on an optimistic note. I really don’t care how all the men found suits and ties to wear (after five years of pretty much wearing the same bedraggled jeans and jackets) or where the women got their hair done. They had defeated the invincible aliens (with perhaps a nod to H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds solution) and that wrapped it up for me.


Friday night’s episode of Defiance was billed as the season finale, but the show must be on the bubble, and the production team gave us an episode which could just as well serve as the series finale, if the show isn’t picked up for a fourth season. By the end of the episode, Nolan (unquestionably the protagonist for the past three seasons) was piloting the Omec ship into the galactic depths rather than blow it up and destroy the thousands of beings on board in suspended animation, with Doc Yewll plugged into the ship’s computer. A few weeks later we see the people of Defiance, humans and all the various aliens alike, peacefully going about their business. Irisa is now the Lawkeeper, Amanda is recovering from her injuries, and Datak and Stahma Tarr, the ever-scheming aliens we love to hate, are together again. How they might carry on with a fourth season without Nolan and Yewll (or how they might bring them back), I don’t know, but I’ll watch if they do.


The SyFy channel had two new shows on the Friday night schedule this summer, Killjoys and Dark Matter, and both of those ended their first seasons with cliffhangers. Killjoys is about a trio of “reclamation agents,” working for an agency that retrieves anything, human or artifact, for a price, definitely the more space opera of the two. Dark Matter is a bit more serious and dark, with six people waking up on a ship with their memories wiped, dodging various dangers while attempting to recover their identities, aided by the rather endearing female android who runs the ship. I watched both without investing much in them; I’ll watch if they come back next year and forget them if they don’t. If it were up to me to pick one to return, it would be Killjoys.


Saturday evening I watched the “mid-season finale” of Hell On Wheels. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until next summer for the second half of the season (which I suspect has already been filmed, at least in part). Most of this summer’s seven episodes were set in Truckee, California, as Bohannon worked to drive the Central Pacific Railroad east through the Rocky Mountains. There we met the Chinese who built the railroad, including a boy named Fong who turned out to be a girl named Mei, and assorted other new characters, while Gunderson (the Swede) plotted to replace Brigham Young with one of Young’s sons. Back in Laramie, we caught up with Eva, Durant, and their associates. In Saturday night’s episode, “False Prophets,” Bohannon joined Durant, Huntington, Brigham Young, and President Grant in Salt Lake City, arguing over the route of the railroad. By the end of the episode, they had set up the race to join the two railroads (north of the Great Salt Lake, much to Young’s disgust), Gunderson’s plot to control the Mormons had gone badly awry, and Bohannon and Gunderson were in their own race to reach Bohannon’s wife and son. Considering Hell On Wheels’ willingness to kill major characters and Bohannon’s disastrous record in the area of personal relationships, I’ll be worried about Naomi and little William until the show comes back next summer for its final seven episodes.


What did you watch this summer, and what are you looking forward to watching this fall?

Keeping Up with TV

I shouldn’t even be thinking about keeping up with TV.  I have writer friends who’ve sworn off the Box completely, and I’m sure they get a lot more writing done than I do.  I have other friends who insist that they are studying story structure and characterization when they watch.  Both approaches are valid, I’m sure.

I tend to be a loyal viewer myself.  If the promos and trailers for a new show interest me enough, I’ll watch the pilot, and if I like that, the show will probably keep me.  Not always.  I realized last year that I had more episodes of Smash on my DVR than I had actually watched, and I didn’t care about losing them when the DVR died.  I abandoned The Mentalist when I got really, really, REALLY tired of both Red John and Patrick Jane’s behavior.  There have been others.  But usually, once I start watching, I’ll stay around.  Heck, I’m still watching Glee, if only for the music.

I would tell you that I don’t care for violent shows, but I’m a history geek, big fan of Hell on Wheels, and I haven’t missed an episode of the History Channel’s Vikings, an even more violent series, but beautifully filmed and full of interesting characters (especially Lagertha, the kick-butt Shield Maiden wife of the protagonist).

I’m cautious about what I do start watching.  There are any number of light mystery shows on the air (or on the cable) that I have avoided simply because I don’t want to tie up yet another weekly hour. (I do watch Bones, Castle, White Collar and Rizzoli & Isles.).  The same goes for many of the series on SyFy, although I’ve been a science fiction fan forever, loved all the Star Trek and Stargate series (well, some more than others, but still . . .).  I watch Grimm and Once Upon a Time, both of them more fantasy than science fiction, but very entertaining.

Somehow the promos for the new SyFy series Defiance stayed under my radar until a couple of weeks before its premiere, when I noticed an ad on line.  The show promised several elements I enjoy, but I wasn’t sure.  I still feel a bit burned over Terra Nova (time travel! dinosaurs! Jason O’Meara!)–I hate falling for a show that doesn’t make it to a second season.  And I missed the initial showing of the Defiance premiere.  Couldn’t record it because I still haven’t gotten around to replacing my failed DVR.  Missed a convenient showing in favor of a really lovely dinner, and found myself tackling the two hour show at midnight on Friday.  Well, I figured, if this could keep me awake until 2 AM, it was worth a commitment.

Defiance is worth it and then some.  It is, truth be told, in large part a repositioned Western, set thirty years or so in the future of an Earth changed forever by the arrival of no less than seven alien races and their out-of-control “terraforming” (inaccurate use of the term, but we’ll overlook that for the moment).  The protagonist is the loner (although he’s accompanied by his adopted alien teen-age daughter) who wanders into the frontierish town of Defiance (formerly St. Louis, see the Arch over there?) just in time to see the old sheriff die in action.  Yep, pardner, Nolan is drafted/trapped into becoming the new “Lawkeeper.”

The show is full of Western and SF tropes, CGI effects, more or less humanoid aliens, gritty and sometimes spectacular scenery.  There’s the inexperienced (female) mayor, her sister the brothel owner, the patriarch of the mining family (played by Graham Greene, long a favorite of mine), the alien mob boss and his wife (played by Jaime Murray, formerly H. G. Wells on Warehouse 13), who spend an inordinate amount of time in their hot tub, a Romeo and Juliet sub-plot, an acerbic and funny alien female doctor, and lots of disintegrating ships tumbling out of orbit and causing ever weirder changes.

I love it, and the second episode was just as good.  Oh, dear, another commitment.

What shows keep you watching, even when you should be doing something else?