23 September 2009: Genre TV — summer of ’09


Looking
back for a moment, the counterprogramming by for-pay channels (in contrast to
the formerly broadcast but now also cable-transmitted networks) led to another
productive summer of television.

Psych's slacker sleuths on USA and
Leverage
's do-gooder capers on TNT
continued to entertain, despite occasional story-pacing problems. Perhaps
that's the result of trying too hard to vary the mystery formula. Speaking of
mysteries, PBS's Masterpiece has
continued to bring the best of British TV to the U.S.

The Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries
and Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead telemovie
couldn't be more different in tone, but it was fun to return to that fictional
universe. Other promising newcomers included BBC America's supernatural
ensemble drama Being Human and the
bumbling artifact collectors of SyFy's Warehouse
13
.

The
pilot of Virtuality emphasized soap
opera character dynamics over a decent science fiction premise, so I wasn't
surprised when that and the similar Defying
Gravity
were canceled. The Old Testament-inspired Kings had an intriguing premise, but a Sunday night time slot
ironically didn't help it get ratings. I don't subscribe to HBO, but what little I saw of
vampire potboiler True Blood looked
good.

The
two recent genre programs that I'll miss the most are the whimsical Pushing Daisies and The Middleman. It was nice to see Kristin Chenoweth acknowledged at
the Emmys this past weekend, but the surreal detectives on Pushing Daisies may have been too quirky for mainstream viewers. The Middleman alluded to obscure corners
of the science fiction fanboy community, which The Big Bang Theory has been more successful in mining for ratings.

As a
foodie
, I enjoyed the Travel Channel's gourmand Adam Richman on Man vs. Food and erudite Anthony
Bourdain: No Reservations
, as well as the Food Network's Chopped, even if it's part of a
regrettable trend toward competition over cuisine on that channel. As a music
fan, I'd recommend Live From Abbey Road, Spectacle
With Elvis Costello
, Iconoclasts
, and VH1 Classic's That Metal Show.

Coming
soon
: New and returning favorites!

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