Thursday Open Thread: Hey, whatever happened to ________?

Sure, this sounds just like last week’s post. But it’s not. Last week, we discussed the case of the missing actor. This week, we’re doing something a little different–maybe even creative.

Think about characters. Maybe characters that were in a previous season of a show and were evolved out. Or think about shows that ended suddenly, and you were just wondering what happened to someone you loved

Well, whatever happened to _______________?

Here’s my example. We spent three years at Chilton with Rory and her friends, but whatever happened to Louise and Madelaine? Whatever happene to Christopher after he and Lorelai got divorced? And what did Kirk do after we said good-bye to Stars Hollow.

Or maybe you want something more realistic. Like Sabrina Lloyd’s character on Numb3rs. Whatever happened to her?

Some answers you might know because they said in the show and I missed it, but others, maybe you can get creative! Make something up! Who are you wondering about, and where do you think they went? What is the truth to the life behind the character?

Let it out–and have fun!–in the comments.

image from coffeeatlukes.com

Don’t let Paris scare you. You can say whatever you like in the comments! Speaking of, whatever happened to Paris? She didn’t even make it to Rory’s good-bye party…did she?

Are the networks devoid of smart?

It’s not really a new question. In fact, people have asked it a lot. And in the void of new episodes of TV, I was thinking about it.

I remember when The Sopranos started on HBO. Now, I’ve never had HBO, so I never saw this series or Sex and the City until they were syndicated many years later. So it would bug the crap out of me to watch the Emmys or the Golden Globes and find all the awards going to shows I’ve never seen. And it still happens with HBO series and Showtime, too!

But now it’s spread a little further. If you look at the most recent list of Golden Globe nominees, you’ll see that the four basic networks–ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX–aren’t nearly as represented as HBO, Showtime, and even TNT.

And why is that the case? Well, it seems to me that the four basic networks just don’t really have the time or money to spend on “smart” TV.

But let’s backtrack. What do I mean by “smart”? Well, I don’t mean “creative,” though there have been a number of cancellations for creative shows. I never watched Pushing Daisies, but you can’t disagree that it had a creative background and premise. Eli Stone, too. So it’s not necessarily creativity that I’m looking at.

Take a look at Studio 60. It was a very “smart” show. You really had to tune in and pay attention to really enjoy the show because there were a lot of storylines that fell below an episode’s plot–like Danny’s past addictions or Tom’s brother at war. It provoked thought.

Now, we take a look at shows like 90210 and The Office, which are basically spin-off/remakes of older, fresher favorites. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Office, but we’ve moved away from subtle humor in past seasons, and we’re now to the slapstick variety and cardboard characters.

And yes, there are exceptions. Lost is clearly a smart concept, though again, I haven’t seen it (sorry, I missed the first season and never caught up). But other shows have tried to keep mysteries throughout a series and they’ve fallen flat with few viewers: Hidden Palms and Reunion are just two.

Other shows have brought about the smart in the viewers; Numb3rs is  a huge example, where the show is actually bringing about mathematical ideas into a show that would otherwise be just a basic crime show.

But overall, there seems to be a lack of smart. When The West Wing, ER, and Gilmore Girls started, there were random quips and stronger storylines. However, people followed them. I know it seems odd that I included Gilmore Girls in there, but honestly, the fast-talking pop-culture basis really carried a smart feel–a feel that really declined in later seasons.

So what’s bringing this about? I’m afraid to say it (though I already have), but time and money. But whose?

Without viewers, shows can’t last. So if viewers won’t give a show like Studio 60 a chance because they don’t want to put that much attention to an hour-long program, then what can the networks really do? But then again, Pushing Daisies did have viewers. So what happened there?

Clearly, some of the fault lies in the networks. How long is long enough to decide? Four episodes (Drive)? Nine episodes (Reunion)? Fourteen (Firefly)? Twenty-five (Tru Calling)?

[Ok, I wasn't trying to only pick FOX shows there, but hey, look what happened. You get a prize if you can figure out what else all of those shows have in common.]

And you have to admit, the networks do have more problems with money. Unlike HBO, they don’t have a subscription basis, which means they can’t put all their money into one show. Cable series have had this advantage. They have much tighter budgets, and if something doesn’t make money AND QUICK, it can’t be on TV.

So true, they are at a disadvantage, but why do they have to go to reality TV before putting together something quality? Raising the Bar could have easily been shown on any network other than TNT, but it wasn’t. Possibly The Closer, too. Instead, we have too many competition shows and game shows–and Jay Leno’s getting his own nightly talk show at 10:00 pm!

What’s disappointing is that now I watch TV, and I’m bored. I want the smart back. I’d like to know that our basic networks aren’t free due to bad programming.

But anyway, what do you think? Viewers’ faults for not watching? Networks for not giving shows a chance? Or cable for being bullies? All opinions welcome.

Stuck between a wall and…another wall

FRINGE: 1.10 “Safe”

Remember that scene last night, when Walter tells Astrid to put the hand that he’s sawed off a body on ice, and while the conversation continues, the camera lingers on Astrid as she slowly walks over to the hand and decides how to approach this task? If you’ll notice, she wasn’t completely put off by the disgusting nature of the hand; after all, she’s seen worse.

Which I think is why I liked this episode so much. I wasn’t distracted from the story just because there was a disgusting, mangled corpse–or comatose individual, as recent episodes have had it–hanging around the lab. In fact, this episode was rather tame.

Now, I haven’t seen the last couple weeks’ worth of episodes. They’re sitting patiently on my TiVo, and I just haven’t gotten to them yet. Fortunately, I saw the previous episode with Mr. Jones and the many before it, so I actually was able to comprehend the story without knowing the last two episodes. Excellent timing on my part.

It started pretty scientifically complicated but structurally simple: A man is caught in a wall. Dead, due to a gunshot would from his fellow criminals. I kinda saw this happening. As soon as he was stuck in the safe, I figured he’d get stuck in the wall. Knowing the show, I thought maybe the wall would start to solidify inside him, going for the most gruesome possibility, but instead, he was just alive in it and his untimely death came from a bullet to the head.

So the corpse wasn’t that gross, even sans hand. And the story was intriguing: Why were they breaking into bank safes? What did Mr. Jones have to do with it? And why does it always circle back to Walter?

I’ve begun watching this show, wondering how it has to do with Walter. Before discovering that it was his own safes they were after, I just figured this was a student of Walter that took his work and expanded it so that they could move through walls. I was wrong, but still intrigued with what we discovered.

But where does Mr. Jones fit in? How does he know of Walter’s experiments? And what does he want with Olivia.

Damn the television networks and their cliffhangers! Like with other shows (One Tree Hill, Life on Mars) we’re waiting until January to find out what’s next, and poor Olivia is in danger!

Though I must say that I was disappointed that out of anywhere in time or space, they chose to get Mr. Jones out of prison. I’d think that maybe it’d be more interesting for a historical bad guy to come about–or something. Anyway, I’m just thinking outside the box (and outside the plot).

But anyway, I enjoyed it. I thought Walter’s visual aid at showing how vibrations can make someone move through it was fantastic–very Numb3rs season 1. And I like hearing more about Peter’s past. I wonder whether we’ll find out what that disease really was, and what ramifications it might have.

As for the John Scott memories, first, let me say WOW at the fact that his corpse is still being used, and second, I like this direction that now Olivia can’t determine her memories from his. This could definitely turn out to be a fantastic twist to the tale.

Reunited and it feels so good

BONES: 4.10 “The Bone That Blew”

I wouldn’t be a good Whedonite if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed seeing David Boreanaz and Gina Torres reunited on Bones this week. If you don’t recall, Gina Torres was one of the big bads of season four of Angel, and it was nice to see her again with our Angel alum (this time, without the maggots).

Other than that, we have the normal cases to cover. This time, bones were found in a tree. My nerdy side got very excited to see the physics used to see how the bones got into the tree: how fast the wind was going and where the starting point must’ve been. Really, Bones seems to be a nerdy person’s dreams sometimes–just like Numb3rs can entertain the mathly (though sometimes that show bugs me because I want to prove what they’re saying is true…).

My only complaint was that the murderer seemed a little…cliche? Just last week we had a son killing the mistress of his father, and now we have a daughter killing a nanny over homework. As soon as they claimed the mother did it, I got the feeling she was covering. As soon as we knew she was covering, I knew it was a child, and I’m pretty sure that the only reason it wasn’t the son was because the previous episode showed a son doing the crime. I wish there had been a little more originality. I feel like we’ve seen this in many other cop shows, too.

Beyond this, we have Bones’ father on the staff as a teacher. The entire episode, Bones seemed to be a little ill at ease with this change. First, I doubt Cam would have hired him without telling Bones, knowing all the problems and past histories that have ensued. Second, I worry about whether his addition to the cast would be a good thing. To be honest, it sounds like Bones might be leaning a little too heavily on the father/son humor of Fringe, so I guess they’ll still have to prove that this is going to be a good thing.

But one familial relationship I did enjoy seeing was Booth’s back-and-forth dilemma over his son’s education. I’d read this before (and I can’t remember where), but I do think that Booth’s father/son relationship gives this show a special something that other cop shows don’t have.

And I loved the final scene. It reminded me of this Diet Coke experiment, courtesy of YouTube:

Worried about Dollhouse on Friday nights?

So I’ve been reading a lot about how people are angry, worried, or confused about the move from Monday to Friday for FOX’s Dollhouse. Perhaps it’s because I’m a glass-half-full person when it comes to TV shows when they’re about to air (a reason why I sat through the horrible The Secret Life of the American Teenager premiere and beginning episodes), but I didn’t find this switch to be devastating. I thought that just maybe it was a good idea.

Fire up those torches and sharpen those pitchforks, but I do. Monday night is a killer night. I’m sure shows strive to be on it (and others, like The New Adventures of Old Christine might be aching to get back on it, though I don’t know how the ratings for that show are going). So hearing that Dollhouse might get a Monday night spot was just fantastic for a show that’s new.

But the problem is, shows fail. And it’s not based on whether it’s good or not. If that were true, I would like to ask people again how Secret Life is still a popular favorite. It’s based on who’s watching. And the big problem is that Monday nights, people tend to have booked.

As much as people claim it’s failing, Heroes is picking up steam again. It’s got a cult following for sure, so people just won’t give it up. The CBS Monday night lineup is HUGE with comedy, so certainly people might not pass that by once they’re home from work. The CW is stealing teenagers all over the place with Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill is even growing. Basically, stealing viewers would be hard!

So moving it to Friday sounds pretty nice. At 9:00, it’s open for business. CBS just recently canceled The Ex List at that time slot, so clearly there are people out there looking for something to watch. But people think Friday is a dead zone. Who watches TV on a Friday?

That is an issue as of late. Sure, people still watch Ghost Whisperer and Numb3ers, but Moonlight couldn’t handle it, right? Different network, same issue. But Friday night used to be huge. TGIF was ABC’s Friday night for a long time. FOX was famous for The X-Files on Friday night. So why can’t we bring it back?

But this isn’t all just from me. FOX has some great words on the issue (and their entire schedule) here. The hows and whys are explained, and instead of screwing Dollhouse, they’re actually giving it a chance (along with Sarah Connor). Take a look at this excerpt:

Having all but abandoned scripted programming on Friday nights of late, Fox is jumping back onto the night in a very big (and expensive) way. Starting in February, the network will pair Joss Whedon’s lush new drama “Dollhouse” with the network’s big-budget action hour “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

While “Dollhouse” has been plagued by production shutdowns and rumors that Fox executives are uncertain about its commercial appeal, Mr. Beckman said scheduling the show on Friday is simply a byproduct of trying to design the strongest possible schedule for the network.

Mr. Beckman doesn’t pretend that “Dollhouse” and “Terminator” have an easy path ahead of them. But, particularly in the case of “Dollhouse,” Mr. Beckman thinks the less competitive Friday night will give the show a better chance to build an audience than a more high-profile night.

“If we put it on Monday and it didn’t do well, we might have to yank it,” he said. But because Fox’s winter lineup should be solid on Saturday through Thursday nights, “We can afford to let these shows run their course. We can give them 12 or 13 weeks to find an audience.”

Overall, Mr. Beckman said his goal coming out of the 2008-09 season is “to have four tentpoles for next year, and if we surprise ourselves, a Friday night,” he said. “If these moves work, it sets us up nicely for next fall. And with a little luck from our development, I think that for the first time we can put together a schedule that could actually let us be No. 1 in the fall.”

Anyway, I’d say give it a chance. When shows like Drive have been canceled in only four episodes (or even Tru Calling‘s second season in six episodes), 12-13 sounds pretty good.