I would say, by and large, these days television is better than the movies. Great movies still exist and are being made every year, but the momentum is on the side of TV. I’ve always been partial to the long-form storytelling television provides to begin with, but with every new niche channel or streaming outlet, there’s more and more room allowed to be different and ambitious and it’s really a lot of fun on just about every different level depending on what product of Peak TV you happen to be indulging in at the moment.
One thing that both TV and film have in common is superheroes. We’re living in a superhero commercial boom and if the Marvel/DC movie release schedules are any indication, that ain’t gonna change anytime in the next decade. But while TV in general is outperforming movies creatively, I would say the work making it to the big screen in regards to the superhero genre most certainly outdoes what’s being produced for the small screen.
Now, to be fair, you’ve got exceptions. Batman V. Superman exists. Not to mention the second season of Arrow and the first season of The Flash were really freakin fantastic. But this year, these four offerings (I’m ignoring some–I bailed on Supergirl early, for example) have been middling to say the least. Were they able to turn things around in the end? Well…..
It’s been a really busy couple of weeks in TV between upfronts and finale season and it would take a long time to write extensive pieces about every big TV moment of the past month, but I did want to weigh in on how a few (very different) shows chose to wrap up their respective seasons. So here it goes….
Every day this week, the internet has been filled with ripples of buzz for shows that won’t premiere for at least four more months–that’s the fun of network upfronts!
Look, with TV having changed so drastically in the past few years, a lot of people have all but written of network TV. Some days, I feel like one of them. But in an age of streaming and DVR, TV has lost that special experience of joint enjoyment that is most readily facilitated through network television. So, in a sense, I’m still rooting for them because I’m a fan of that type of shared experience.
22 episode seasons seem crazy long in this new TV frontier but there is something still appealing about them. Sure, when they’re bad, 22 episodes can seem awfully arduous, but all those extra hours give shows the chance to craft actual episodes. To take risks here and there. I’m not the first person to make this observation, I’ll admit, but I agree with the chorus of other critics who still see the value of network television, even in a vastly transformed landscape.
I’m going to try my best to keep this review in check and make it about the finale without going off on tangents about the series in its entirety (Warning: I will fail). There have been plenty of pieces written about the legacy of the show, its high and lows points and so on and so forth, so I’ll spare you another retread .However, if you haven’t read my work before, I should at least say this: I’m a huge fan of The Good Wife. For its first five seasons, it was easily one of the top five shows on television in my book, with seasons two and five in particular being two of my favorites seasons of anything ever.
Yes, like many of you, I loved The Good Wife for the way it combined the legal procedural format with engrossing serialized stories full of sex, lies, politics and all of the other best kinds of melodrama. I love that it was, in many ways, a high-brow show produced for the CBS masses. It used its “case-of-the-week” format to thoughtfully probe topics ranging from technology to national security, guns, gender politics, activism and innumerable other notable subjects.
Even when the show was off its game, it was still full of impossibly watchable characters and whip-smart dialogue that intrigued and humored me enough to forgive its many narrative missteps in its later seasons. I think pushing Alicia into politics was an all around terrible decisions for the show (with ramifications that echoed through to the end) but “Oppo Research” (and many others from season six) is fantastic television.
But I’m getting dangerously close to a tangent. Let’s get to it: what did I think of the finale?
The most successful comedy of my lifetime (and one of the most successful of all time) was about “nothing.” And even the several comedies that have come since have made sure the “something” they were about mostly amounted to nothing. To be sure, they had nothing to do with race, politics, religion or any of the other uncomfortable topics you can imagine.
It’s not hard to understand why most shows would stay away from these topics; not only are they divisive, they’re incredibly hard to squeeze humor out of in a sitcom format. Many have tried and most have failed. So most don’t try anymore.
One of the rare exceptions to that is ABC’s blackish which, like The Carmichael Show, follows the life of a modern day African American family that frequently gets into discussions about a whole host of timely political and social issues. Blackish certainly has its defenders, but I’ve watched most of its hot button episodes dealing with everything from the “n-word” to spanking, church and “the nod” (although admittedly I never got around to watching the much-heralded episode about a racially motivated police shooting) and was pretty underwhelmed with the results. I feel like it gets a lot of credit just for “going there” when so many others won’t but they seem to only be interested in dealing with these topics on a kindergarten level. Which is fine, but between that approach and the fact that I find both Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross’s characters consistently irritating, the show just isn’t for me.
But The Carmichael Show definitely is.
As treacherous as spin-offs can be, it’s still not hard to understand why AMC would want to venture down that road with Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Most weeks that it airs, TWD is the number one show on television and, thought it started out with just a cult following, Breaking Bad ended its reign as a bonafide cultural phenomenon with universal fan and critical praise. And with Netflix, the show’s staying power in the collective cultural consciousness continues to be pretty impressive.
With one having just finished its second season and the other one just starting theirs, Better Call Saul stands as a modest hit for the network that earns pretty consistent critical praise while Fear The Walking Dead brings in much more impressive numbers but seems to have been welcomed by bored eyerolls, more than anything. The most recent outing of Fear entitled “Blood in the Streets” was probably my favorite episode to date but I can’t deny that the show’s been a borefest for much of its first ten episodes. Of course, it’s no surprise that a show spun off from a problematic mothership that has often shown shades of greatness one week while slipping into longs ruts of tedious misery would be crippled with even more severe problems. Saul, on the other hand, was spun off from the one of the greatest shows of all time….which is a blessing and curse as far as the lense with which I and many others watch it through is concerned. It’s a very good show much of the time, but it’s not without its problems. Here are some of the ways the shows have soared and failed in a few key areas.