It started with "Pan Am," one of the retro shows about the 60s. At first, I thought it was some ripoff of "Catch Me If You Can." It had the look and feel in the previews, but it took only one episode to sell me on the concept. I cared about the characters; the plots were consistently good, and the eye candy was a worthwhile guilty pleasure. (Kate's the best! No, Laura! Wait, it's Collette!)
Meanwhile, "Unforgettable" cranked up on CBS. I loved Poppy Montgomery (in part because of her name) on "Without a Trace." Now she's a redhead, a precocious bad girl. It's an OK show. I don't really care about the characters, and frankly I spend the show waiting for a Britt Lower sighting -- the most exquisite young face since Winona Ryder. Alice and I almost stopped watching it, but we still record it for mindless Friday night viewing.
[As an aside, we stopped watching "NCIS". It's a shame, but I got so tired of waiting for Tony to grow up and the chemistry between Tony and Ziva to blossom into...something. It's like watching the same episode every week! Then CBS tells me it's the most-watched show on television? Meh.
More's the pity because I called the show my "Ziva fix" and now I have to disown it.
We also stopped watching "The Mentalist". Now there was a huge disappointment. First Jane kills a feller what must have been Red John. Then he is acquitted in a vigilante justification, afterward to confide that the man he killed was not Red John. ARE YOU KIDDING?! That's the dumbest plot ever, and we stopped cold right there.]
"Person of Interest" came along, with Jesus playing John Reese...or something. I care about Finch, and Reese, and Carter, and even what's-his-name, the bad cop. Alice appreciates the eye candy, and Veronica Mars' dad plays a delicious bad guy. It had a decent season finale and looks like it will stick around.
Then the last two are the saddest.
"Awake" on NBC stars the wonderful Jason Isaacs from "Case Histories" on PBS. I love plots that dink around with time, and a mystery with alternate timelines is just about my favorite device. This is a doozy...and it's been cancelled.
Over on ABC, "Missing" aired at the same time. Perhaps more remarkable than "Awake," It brought Ashley Judd to television as a retired kick-ass CIA agent. Absolutely everything about this show was at least very good if not sensational -- acting, locations, photography, stunts, plots, pacing...everything. It, too, was cancelled.
I was really angry at how "Pan Am" was treated -- showing shows out of sequence, and finally just dumping it unceremoniously before we see anything resolved. We really looked forward to it. (I really looked forward to Kate...I mean Laura...or was it Collette?)
But "Missing" and "Awake" are more problematic to pick up for another season. Both are almost miniseries, and it's difficult to draw those plots out too far without using up our patience. Fortunately, neither show did it. "Missing" was brilliantly paced, and we held our breath through each episode. But once Becca Winstone found Michael (i.e. once he was no longer missing), what do you do? Even before the dubious abduction in the final aired episode, I felt that almost anything would jump the shark. So the cancellation didn't bother me too much.
With "Awake" the problem is different but equally perplexing. You have two parallel timelines that keep Detective Britten comforted, or sane, or something. Yet they cannot both be real. Are both Hannah and Rex dead? Neither? Is one of the timelines the real one? Are they all dead? Just Michael? ("What the hell!...GODZILLA!")
But I digress. This is not an aggravating problem. The way you treat a story like this is they way you treat the UK's version of "Life on Mars"...you end it. You won't have a happy ending without discrediting the entire premise of the show. Use your imagination, do your best to catch your audience with its collective pants down, fold up the tent, and get out of Dodge.
Finally, a few words about "The Killing". How many times did we nearly give up on this one? Detective Linden is just about the least likeable character with the most beautiful hair and kissable lips on television. (How does she do it?) She's dishonest with her son, surly, nearly psychotic. I want her to solve the case so she can, you know, shut the heck up. Same for Mitch, played by the stunning Star Trek alum Michelle Forbes. She's a copout, she's selfish, has forgotten she has two other children who need her. OK, she lost her daughter, and even if I can't imagine how that would affect me, this is neither believable nor pleasant. Mitch's husband, Stan, is involved in organized crime, her sister is involved with I-don't-know-what...WHAT IS IT WITH THESE PEOPLE?!
"The Killing" is the Seattle version of "Seinfeld". Everyone is a jerk, but it's not funny and it rains all the time.
Still, I care about Linden. I care even more about Holder, her partner. I want Mitch and Stan's children to be OK so they won't grow up to be drug addicts and murderers. I want Jack, Linden's son, not to join the Larsen boys on a drug-riddled murderous rampage. And I want Holder to grab Linden, plant a big kiss on her gorgeous mouth, and take her out of the Pacific Northwest before her lousy attitude gets even worse.
This summer, I can't wait for the last six episodes of "The Closer". I'll catch the pilot of "Major Crimes" but Kyra Sedgwick is a tough act to follow.
In the meantime I'll re-watch "Zen", the absolute sexiest detective show ever made. I mean it. PBS' "Masterpiece" has somehow sold its soul to the devil for a year of television that has blown the doors off everything I saw in the past. And I've watched it religiously for some 30 years.
"Zen" is, what, three episodes? The music, locale, actors, the whole lot, are seductive, clever, thrilling, you name it. PBS must have sold its soul to the devil, because only the devil would put the kibosh on filming any more episodes of a program this good. Helen Mirren and "Prime Suspect" have nothing on Aurelio Zen. Yet, another totally brilliant product...CANCELLED.
"Closer" reruns and Texas Rangers baseball will not get me through the next six months. I need more than one episode of a dumb cop show where William Shatner plays a drunk driver...no matter how well he does it.