Now that the 2012-13 TV season is “officially” over, I thought I’d get some folks together and talk about a bunch of different things that happened between September and May. This is the 2012-13 season wrap roundtable.
Previously on the roundtable: Defining individuals of the season
Cory: Every season, a number of shows say goodbye. Some of those goodbyes are planned, others are forced. This season was heavy on the former, as 30 Rock, The Office, Gossip Girl, Fringe, Private Practice, and Spartacus all finished up extended runs on the air (some more extended than others). Yet, amid the regular purge of mediocre programs, we also said goodbye to promising newbies (Ben and Kate) and favorite veterans (Happy Endings). Which departure hurts the most?
Julie: The saddest lost by far for me is Happy Endings, especially since hope for its renewal seems to have dwindled. That show was comedy comfort food, and it really started to hit its stride this season when the writers finally figured out what to do with Dave (who ended up being the MVP this season). ABC lost faith in the show in the middle of the season, sending it to Sunday nights for about two weeks until finally burying it on Friday and burning through two episodes per week. Watching the last several episodes felt like watching the end of Arrested Development‘s third season seven years ago. I knew then that there’d be no happy ending for Happy Endings, at least not until 2020 when Netflix Plus Extreme decides to resurrect the show.
Andrew R.: Bravo to Cory for not including 90210 on his list; I’m sure that was hard for him.
So my honest answer is 30 Rock and Happy Endings, both of which provided the sheer joy and exceptional laugh ratio that few shows can do. But I expect many of you will talk about those shows, and I want to highlight a series very few people watched.
TBS’s Wedding Band, starring Lost‘s Harold Perrineau, NCIS: Los Angeles‘s Peter Cambor, The Office‘s Melora Hardin and Megan Fox’s Brian Austin Green, was by no means a great show. Nobody would confuse it with a high quality series. But for an hour every week it was just fun. The stories were silly. The music was entertaining. The guest stars were a who’s who of whoever- Fox popped up for an episode (genuinely the most I’ve ever liked Megan Fox), as did Donald Faison, personal favorite Ashley Williams, and oddly Bill Simmons. I don’t like the term guilty pleasure, but Wedding Band was the perfect “laundry folding” show (I also don’t like folding laundry). It was a fun distraction, and I’m disappointed there won’t be more of it.
Emma: While I’m sad to see Fringe and 30 Rock finish, it was good that we got this much considering the not so stellar ratings for either and because they knew they were finishing it meant they could wrap up the story in a satisfactory way. The show I’m going to miss the most didn’t get to do this but did get five seasons thanks to being saved after its initial cancellation. Southland is not an easy watch and this season’s penultimate episode was one of the toughest episodes that I’ve seen from any show. The series finale only scratched the surface of the aftermath from this terrifying affair and ended on a cliffhanger. Not the best way to finish a show even if it’s somewhat fitting of Southland‘s style of dropping in and out of the lives of these characters in moments of trauma.
Like Penn Badgley I’m also glad that Gossip Girl is over, even if the last season turned into a fun sport of terrible can this show get?
Andrew D.: 30 Rock and Fringe were two great shows, but I can’t say that I’ll be sad to see them go. 30 Rock was, at its best, an absolutely amazing comedy that was smart, zany, and unpredictable. Its final season was a marvel, both because of topical election humor and strong character work. But part of what made the final season so great was that it came after some weaker years. Seasons 4-6 were very good television, but they weren’t 30 Rock at its best. So when 30 Rock went into its final season, the cast and crew pulled out all the stops and delivered their best work since the (strike-shortened) second season. As for Fringe, it too got the chance to wrap up its story on its own terms. I am still about six episodes away from the end, but I have heard very good things about how the series wrapped. And for these reasons, I can’t be too sad about them. For the two shows to go out on top after more than half of a decade on the air is a very good thing indeed.
I am sad about Last Resort. It certainly had its problems, but it had a very strong cast, headed by the fantastic Andre Braugher, and a neat premise. Let’s be honest, Shawn Ryan is someone whose name we would like to see on our TV every week.
Greg: I could say 30 Rock, but as people have already pointed out, its final season was simply a chance to witness a glorious show going out on a phenomenally high note. No sadness there. I’m also not going to go with Happy Endings, because it’s not officially dead yet, and I’m still clinging to the hope that someone will pick it up. I realize it’s not looking good, but let me keep my delusions for now. Please. Instead, I’m going to say Apartment 23. If you watched the seven unaired season two episodes (not counting the last season one leftover, which I didn’t get a chance to watch), it was pretty clear that this was a show that was going places. (Okay, the final episode wasn’t all that great, but the two right before it were two of the funniest episodes of TV to air this year.) I’ll miss you, Chloe and June.
Les: It’s hard for me to get worked up about some of the shows that we said goodbye to this season. Fringe, 30 Rock and The Office did come to a close, but they all got to do so on their own terms after respectable runs—ending with varying degrees of grace and efficacy—so it’s hard to feel as bad about them as it is to feel about the shows that went down too fast in a competitive landscape. And for me, there is one show I’ll miss more than the others. Und zat show is called… Zero Hour. Yes, Zero Hour was a ridiculously silly show, centered around a global conspiracy involving Nazis, Rosicrucians, cloning, demon autistic children, and twelve clocks that concealed a secret that would “render God irrelevant.” It was also a show where the central action was summed up as Dr. Greene and Cappie from Greek rescuing that Australian girl from The Real World: London from the original Mikael Blomkvist, who opened every episode with a jaw-droppingly histrionic monologue on numbers.
But it was so relentlessly giddy in throwing these things out there, one after the other, that I anticipated every episode with a fervor that doesn’t usually penetrate my overstuffed schedule. There was a pilot that involved the hunt for a sunken U-boat and a marvelous over-the-top closing speech about an oncoming storm that would pit science against religion, a second episode that involved a prophet in India and a third episode that involved Albert Einstein as an apostle. And even more promisingly, this was a show that had no pretensions of a grand and deep mythology and knew exactly how loopy it was—a hypothesis I confirmed when the official Twitter feed for the show’s writers’ room favorited several of my WTF statements—which boded well for what out-of-control areas the show would spiral into. Canceled after three episodes, it’s getting a summer burn-off, and you can guarantee that I’m going to watch every episode of it bourbon in hand and prepared to laugh my ass off.
Perhaps Sleepy Hollow on Fox will recapture this mood – I’ve seen the pilot and it’s a promisingly ridiculous start – but for me, the enjoyably batshit crown (or possibly THE CAPE) for so-bad-it’s-good programming this year goes to Zero Hour. ZESE CLOCKS! VE MUST FIND ZESE CLOCKS! VE MUST STOP ZE CLOCKS!
Heather: I’m joining Greg with this one. I fell in love with Apartment 23 this year. It was rude, raunchy, irreverent and weird. It was also exquisitely hilarious. Apartment 23 had a way of taking pieces of pop culture (rom coms, People‘s Most Sexist Man, DWTS competition, celebrity show reunions) and utterly deconstructing them with sharp humor and sophisticated self-reflexivity. June was never my favorite character, though she provided a necessary foil to Chloe. ABC is giving up something fabulous, and I’m very sorry to see it go.
Cory: I struggled with this question for a moment because so many of the shows we lost this year I was ready to say goodbye to (30 Rock, Fringe, The Office, Gossip Girl) or had totally prepared myself to lose (Happy Endings, Ben and Kate). But then I realized that I was idiot because the departure that impacted me the most was obviously, clearly Enlightened. I can’t believe other folks haven’t mentioned it yet. Although the writing was kind of on the wall after the second season’s air date was delayed for a good amount of time and the ratings didn’t dramatically improve in the post-Girls timeslot, I think a lot people held out hope because HBO prides itself–or should I say claims to pride itself–on keeping the best shows on the air. Enlightened was definitely one of the best shows of the season and will still be in that discussion come the end of the calendar year.
While the first season didn’t find its rhythm until the middle portion, the second hit the ground running with a narrative that wasn’t afraid to take extreme, but integral detours into the psyches of its characters. Amy Jellicoe was a fascinating, frustrating, and yet recognizable character that kept wanting to do good but could never quite suppress the self-absorbed tendencies that are within all of us. Really, I felt like so much of the show in season ended up being about that struggle. Jeff, the LA Times reporter helping Amy take down her company, had done great things in the world, helping lots of people, but was also a self-absorbed tool. Tyler, Amy’s shy and awkward sidekick, got Omar fired when he thought his own ass was on the line, and leaked info of Amy’s plan because the guilt got too much for him to handle. And her ex-husband Levi did a great thing in cleaning up his life, but he had no problem blowing back into Amy’s life to make himself happier.
I have no idea what a third season of Enlightened would have looked like, and really, I don’t want to think much about it. The 18 episodes aired were lovely, and that’s enough. But I’ll miss Amy, Tyler and Levi quite a bit.
Kerensa: I like everyone else am going to dearly miss Apartment 23 and Happy Endings. But I’m going to agree with Cory that losing Enlightened was the worst. I haven’t connected with a show like that on such an emotional level. Amy Jellicoe was one of the most interesting and frustrating characters on television but was always the one I kept rooting for. The second season at times surpassed the brilliance of the first by delving deeper into these characters and produced some of the best standalone character studies I’ve seen on television. “All I Ever Wanted” directed by my beloved Todd Haynes and ending with the perfect Joni Mitchell song was a piece of art. I loved all these characters so much despite their many flaws and fuck ups and while I desperately still would love a third season, I will again agree with Cory that what aired was excellent television and I’m so glad I got to experience it.
Cameron: I am on a desperate quest to get as many people as possible watching Starz’s Spartacus. Possibly no other premium cable show combined the puerile joys of being on premium cable (le sex, le blood, le gory violence) with high-quality storytelling—and this all within the confines of history! The show recently ended with its final season, subtitled War of the Damned, and it was just as epic and intimate as the others. The show chronicled the journey of the bitter Thracian who was given the name Spartacus and became a legend along with his merry band of misfits as they fought to free the slaves of the Roman Empire from their shackles. Steven DeKnight was brought up under Joss Whedon’s tutelage, and it shows in the extensive attention to detail for each character—to say nothing of the uncanny ear for gender and sexual politics. If you need a show to catch up on during the summer, this is the one you want to be watching.
Sabienna: The only true heartbreaking cancellation for me this season was The Hour. I was in no way prepared to let Freddie, Bel, Hector and Lix walk out of my life, and I would be hard-pressed to come up with another story that was as tense and engrossing as the team’s relentless investigation of Cilenti’s vice squad. In its second season, The Hour turned journalism into high entertainment while also never shying away from questions of ethics—to paraphrase Alyssa Rosenberg, The Hour was the show The Newsroom wants to be. The cancellation was made all the worse by that gut punch of a final image the series ended on. However, I suppose it’s fitting in a way that a series about a team of dogged journalists who relentlessly pursued the truth would end on a moment fraught with so much futility and just the tiniest sliver of hope.
Orrin Konheim: One can debate the relative quality of present-day 30 Rock and The Office in comparison to their supposed “glory days” until the cows come home, but that doesn’t take away from the profound loss of their departure. As I noted in a blog post, The Office came on the air during an unsteady transition period for great American TV comedy (and my college education) and reshaped the way myself and others looked at TV. I even skipped the final two episodes of both shows because I couldn’t face the fact that they were gone if that’s a literal enough answer to the question.
I found Enlightened the most engaging program on television so it’s non-renewal is tragic, but I do feel that the season and series ended on the perfect note. It’s very rare that a great show does a service to its fans with fewer episodes rather than overextending its run, but I do think season three would have been a different animal entirely. With Amy being sued, the show went into a chaotic s*#@-hits-the-fan mode.
So my pick for most upsetting departure is Go On considering NBC’s near-empty slate of returning comedy. If I’m well-known on Twitter for anything, it’s my opposition to Community (I stopped watching early in season two). This is important to mention because I see Go On as having the elements that gave Community potential before it got sidetracked into (what I saw as) self-indulgent inside jokes and experimentation to the point where it was no longer grounded in reality. Go On was also based on a disparate group of characters toughing out a big life challenge together (whether being relegated to community college or coping with loss) but it had a stronger emotional baseline. The ensemble was filled with a few characters that started out a bit over-the-top but the show made great strides at developing everyone to the point where the quirky ensemble interplay really drove the humor while the bittersweet plots were effectively emotional.
Images courtesy of TNT, ABC, and BBC America.