It’s the nature of television that shows come and go as surely as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, but it does seem that an awful lot of the programmes I watch are either gone, going or on the bubble this year.
Battlestar Galactica was a rarity, sailing off into the distance on its own terms after four seasons of, at times, breathtaking television. And while the three-hour finale left many questions unanswered (some deliberately so), the closing image of Bill Adama sitting on a hilltop talking to Laura Roslin’s grave had an epic, cinematic feel to it which simply resonated with a melange of emotions. Never let anyone try to tell you that this version of BSG was just people and robots in spaceships.
Pushing Daisies, sadly, is gone after two shortened seasons; it appears that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will meet the same fate, although Fox remains tight-lipped. The former was, perhaps, a victim of its own left-of-centredness in a universe which demands that TV shows fit a convenient label; the latter stumbled a few times before finding its feet in the second half of this (second) season, but ultimately lost viewers by delivering a neat, introspective show rather than the crash-bang-wallop expectations of a mainstream audience which associates the Terminator franchise with ground-breaking special effects and bank-breaking action sequences.
Even Heroes – the darling of American TV two years ago – is looking distinctly wobbly. Still frequently brilliant, it has had a few too many missteps in a season which has continued to haemorrhage viewers, delivering a ‘big bad’ (Arthur Petrelli) in its first half who turned out to be a damp squib, killing off the new but much-loved character of Daphne Millbrook, sidelining Sylar by sending him off on yet another road trip, and too often changing tack every five minutes in a constant attempt to surprise and misdirect the audience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great show, but it increasingly gives the impression that the genie has escaped from the bottle. Jumped the shark? Not yet, but a distinct fear. One more season before cancellation, I suspect.
On the other hand, Lost, now midway through its fifth and penultimate season, has rediscovered its mojo. After a year or two of seemingly aimless meandering, it now feels like we are heading somewhere definite, and every week it feels like the writers are picking up a dangling thread and tying it off. Kudos to executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindleof; Lost is once again event television. More than that, it is rewarding loyal, attentive viewers by resolving the loose ends and making the audience think.
Elsewhere, the American Idol juggernaut rolls on; this season has been worth it for Adam Lambert’s performances alone. And as for the reality TV heavy hitters on this side of the pond, The Apprentice remains compulsive viewing, if only for the opportunity it affords to shout “No! You muppets!” at the screen at least three times per episode. (Incidentally, if Idol‘s Danny Gokey looks like the love child of Robert Downey Jr and JJ Abrams, then The Apprentice‘s Phillip Taylor is surely related to Chelsea’s John Terry.)
What else? Law & Order UK promised more than it delivered; I’m not fussed either way whether it returns or not. Desperate Housewives is still a not-so-guilty pleasure, balancing genuine human drama and farcical comedy better than any show currently on television. And both My Name Is Earl and 30 Rock continue – successfully – to be played purely for laughs, a rarity in an environment where even comedies frequently need a serious side.
And, despite the frequently unfair battering it endured for not being Life On Mars (well, duh), next week sees the return of Ashes To Ashes for a second run. Fire up the Quattro …