Season’s greetings

It’s Rosh Hashanah, Jewish new year. And TV-land agrees that it’s a new season, lots of shows have been coming back round about now, and new ones starting.

Strangely I’ve been somewhat disappointed by the season premiers of a lot of the shows I was most excited about- Community, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and Glee.

It’s not that any of them were bad- they were all entertaining enough- they just didn’t quite live up to my expectations. In part, I think it’s because the storyline’s have become more convoluted over the seasons which makes it harder for them to seem fresh. They’re juggling a bit too much, which means they can’t quite capture what made them so fun in the earlier seasons.

Of course they also have to shove in quite a bit of exposition and set up for the forthcoming season arcs, so the first episodes not being perfect isn’t necessarily indicative of what’s coming.

What I have been surprised by though, is that my favourite fall 2011 season openers, thus far at least, have been Castle and Dexter.

I enjoy both shows, I watch them week in and week out, I ‘d recommend them generally…but they’re not the shows I tend to get wildly excited about.

Castle is a solid, fun cop show. It’s dependable. And I enjoy both Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle and his dynamic with his mother and daughter. The will-they-or-won’t-they stuff with his detective partner Beckett is a little trite, and they seem remarkably bad at solving cases, but it’s generally an enjoyable show. It always delivers what I expect it to.

I adored the first season of Dexter, I thought it was a perfect, encapsulated storyline. Since then, this show about a secret serial killer has remained intriguing, but seasons 2-4 were characterised by floundering. There was a parade of unrealistic villains, Dexter’s psychopathy made no sense (“I’m full of emotions! No wait, I don’t have emotions…. LOOK AT MY EMOTIONS!”) and at times I felt like I was only watching the show because I really like Julie Benz. Season five was a definitely an improvement, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first.

As far as I’m concerned, they’re both the same kind of show. Castle is clearly a police procedural, and although Dexter has more of an elaborate mythology it’s generally possible to watch a standalone episode (especially because they’re long enough to feature plenty of explanation) and watch him track down a serial killer and then dispense with them.

Both seem to have matured, the Castle season four and Dexter season six premieres deftly dealt with past events (and cliffhangers), and by moving events on several months they seemed to be focussing on new themes. Although I expect Castle will still be fairly episodic there were a lot of shake ups and changes introduced in the season three finale, and continued with the beginning of season four, which suggest a darker tone. Meanwhile the introduction of a mysterious antagonist (or two) to this season of Dexter (thankfully not in the heavy handed fashion typical of the show) has me far more excited for this season of Dexter than I have been for the past few years.

These more simplistic, less convoluted, shows get to be slow burners. I guess there is something to be said for uncomplicated series- incremental measures of innovation are able to keep them fresh, and they’re less likely to burn out fast.

It’s also made me feel less nervous and more excited for the impending return of House, and eventually Bones. They’re also both procedurals, heading into their eighth and seventh seasons respectively, and I was worried that they might be getting a bit stale.

However, Dexter and Castle‘s latest seasons make me feel that a little bit of a shake up can go a long way with these kind of shows. Changing the established format and/or setting may well be able to keep them seeming sharp. Maybe procedurals do tend to last longer for a reason.

I hope that my other favourite shows pick up this season too though.

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