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?

Juggling the TV Schedule

Most of the writers I know have mixed feelings about TV.  One of those little voices in our heads (we have so many) likes to tell us that we should turn the set off and get back to writing.  On the other hand, there’s the self-indulgent voice that convinces us we’re really studying plot construction (most of us can spot a commerical break coming a minute away, and not by looking at the clock), or characterization.  And let’s be honest, some shows are just plain fun.

From the fall through the spring, I usually consider Sunday one of those “there’s nothing on TV” nights.  The summer season, when the cable networks trot out their own shows, is a different matter.  Tonight there are four shows I want to see, and every single one of them is on at 8 PM (CDT)!

On AMC, Hell on Wheels is back for the first episode of its second season.  I watched the first episode of this show last year because the background, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad just after the Civil War, appealed to my interest in American history.  I almost turned it off because the first few scenes were so dark and violent, and had nothing to do with the railroad (the show opened with a murder in a church!).  I’m so glad I stuck with it.  The background is fascinating, but the characters are even more so:  Cullen Bohannon, the ex-Confederate soldier searching for the Yankees who murdered his family, and his uneasy alliance with Elam Ferguson, the educated ex-slave turned railroad worker.  And the women:  Lily Bell, the recent widow who has stepped into her dead husband’s position as railroad surveyor, and Eva, the tattooed prostitute and one-time Indian captive, torn between her feelings for Elam and her desire for a normal life with a man who wants to settle down, away from the ever-moving railroad town called Hell on Wheels.

Over on A&E, we have the third season finale of The Glades.  There’s nothing deep or historical about this one–it’s a light, bright, police procedural located in an unspecified Florida community somewhere between the coast and the Everglades.  It has a goofy, attractive protagonist, a detective transplanted from Chicago who would rather be playing golf, surrounded by an equally entertaining supporting cast and some gorgeous scenery.  I went to high school in south Florida (Coral Gables) and college in north Florida (FSU in Tallahassee), so The Glades is a bit of a visit back for me.

Meanwhile on TNT, the hardy survivors of the alien invasion in Falling Skies may be about to discover what’s really going on in Charleston.  In the last episode they found the city, which was rumored to be the center of the human resistance, destroyed–but there seems to be another Charleston, somewhere under the alien radar.  The trailer for tonight’s episode included a shot of Terry O’Quinn, and I’d watch him in just about anything.  I follow Falling Skies because I’m an SF geek, still mourning the non-renewal of Terra Nova.

And on Lifetime we have Drop Dead Diva, with its implausible premise (silly, shallow aspiring model, killed in a collison with a fruit truck, is sent back to Earth into the body of a brilliant, plus-size lawyer) and charming cast.  I’ve been watching the merger of the model (Deb) and the lawyer (Jane) since the show began, as the “new” Jane (the truth is known only to her BFF/roomie and to her guardian angel) adjusts to her new life and handles her legal cases with tactics that never occurred to Perry Mason.

All four of these shows are on cable networks that get every penny’s investment out of their shows by running them in multiple time slots, not to mention that I have a DVR, On Demand, and a computer monitor that makes watching shows on line feasible, so I’m in no danger of missing any of them.

But I still think I should have been consulted about the schedules.