2012-2013: A Season of Transformations

I’ll be perfectly honest right now: I am making an evaluation on the past year’s worth of television based on the few shows I’ve been able to follow in the past year. I’ve been fortunate enough to be busy working crazily on a TV show for the latter half of the television season, so I’ve cut my viewing time down to the shows I’ve reviewed here. Nevertheless, having avidly watched the earlier half of the 2012-2013 season, I think I can safely say the thing I noticed most about TV shows is the success and failures of different shows to adjust to transformations, either in style or with particular characters.

Change is obviously a natural occurrence in TV shows – actually, I think that’s probably the beauty of the TV format. Movies are limited – unless, of course, there’s some sort of series or trilogy – as far as expanding on a character. You watch the character in a confined space of time, and when the movie ends, you’re only left to wonder if closure is or is not actually achieved. In TV, a character can transform constantly, season to season, episode to episode. And there’s definitely been plenty of that in this TV season! On top of normal character and plot changes, we had a trifecta of showrunner shakedowns to format changes to writing for a season without knowing whether or not it’s the end, all of which definitely contributed to the many changes in this TV season. Out of the shows I didn’t review, let me run through who I think did it well, and who didn’t…

How I Met Your Mother

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It’s kind of amazing to me how the writers have managed to wiggle out 8 seasons of this show. It still has its charms, but it’s definitely gotten tired. Why? This show seems to have struggled as far as transforming with the characters and developments. We (FINALLY!!!) have a very particular situation pointed out as far as the moment when Ted meets the fabled mother. But tsome of what Ted has grown to learn over the years seems to have fallen to the wayside to get to this point. I mean, we established early on that Robin is not the mother, and we’ve seen Ted rise and fall through navigating his feelings toward Robin. This season, as Robin contends with and prepares to marry Barney, we see Ted fall back into the “I’m still hoping for Robin” bit, as well as dating a crazy (guest star Abby Elliott of former SNL fame). It felt like, to me, at this point in watching Ted, that the “last girl” he dates before meeting the mother is an off choice. I’m sure the point is probably that Ted is THAT desperate to dally with Abby Elliott prior to meeting the mother, but it’s still a disappointment, and it also is just executed in kind of a boring way to me. Aside from lack of time, I’ve definitely lost a little motivation in keeping up with the season. I followed the Vulture recaps of this for a while, and I think a commenter put it very plainly: that the show really should be called “How I Settled for Your Mother.” And it’s true! Because that’s how Ted appears this season. WILL he transform differently at the moment he finally meets her? LORD, I hope so.
And Barney and Robin? There’s definitely been some confusion/backtracking here. I know Barney pulled a long-con to win back Robin, but it’s still weird/backwards to me that he’ll still behave in his broodish way. And Robin? The last couple seasons, her transformation was shaped wonderfully. However, she seems stale this season. The freakouts over Patrice are getting way too crazy, and it’s like there’s not enough there for her to work with. And Marshall and Lilly keep ebbing in and out of being caricatures of young, newbie parents.
Overall, not a super strong season. I actually already read a bunch of spoilers about us finally meeting the mother – before Ted. Will I want to see that? Maybe I’ll catch up this summer and decide.

Parks and Recreation

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On the flip side, here’s a show I’ve continued to adore more and more as time has gone on. I’m only behind on this current season because I haven’t the time, but I’ve definitely enjoyed watching the Parks and Rec crew transform and grow. Here, everyone’s changes made sense. And even the show bending to satisfy those golden moments for the IT couple of the series is still pleasing to watch. My beef with The Office is that it kinda got boring once Jim and Pam finally got together. But Parks and Rec is still totally fun with Leslie and Ben without losing focus on the rest of the ensemble.
Probably my favorite transformation here, though, is Ron. He’s had such a stellar season – what with really stepping up to help Leslie out (and being a little more vocal about how much he really cares about her!), to actually having a functional girlfriend. Seeing him with those two girls is comical and you can totally see the seeds of change, in a way that stays true to Ron Swanson. Kudos overall to the writers at Parks and Rec – I still think they’re going strong, and hopefully they’ll keep up with the momentum in the next season.

Smash

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Now, back to the disappointments. Oddly enough, the major change in Smash has actually made it harder for me to watch. Instead of focusing on just the universe of Bombshell, we see now how the Smash crew fits in to the overall constellation of their version of Broadway. I’ve read plenty a rumor about how this second season would shake out. I, too, had one of those love-hate relationships with Season 1. Of course, I know my judgment of the show is a bit unfair since I’ve only watched the first 2 or 3 episodes, but I guess it means something if I’m not motivated to finish up the series. The change of style is probably the first thing that bothered me a bit – I was intrigued upon hearing about it, but disappointed with the execution. The changes obviously did the show no good. It’s sad to see it fail – maybe they should’ve gket some of the original formula, even though there was showrunner troubles.

Community

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Now, time for the so-so transformation shows. I’m totally a believer in Community, and I definitely geek out over it. I’m all about meta. This season has had a few more downs than usual, and there are some reasons. One I remembered reading from other recaps and comments is that the females suddenly seem so one dimensional. I am a tried and true Annie fan – maybe because I was definitely like her at some point in my life – but she’s definitely fallen into one-note territory in a couple episodes. Even Shirley and Britta have fallen in the same pattern every once in a while. Pierce is less tolerable to watch (probably a result of his behind-the-scenes troubles and the writers struggling to make it all work out) – I used to actually kind of enjoy the dynamic Pierce brings. The Troy-Britta relationship is not necessarily bad, but it’s not altogether good. I mean, as much as Troy has definitely nerded out with Abed over the course of the crew’s college career, it’s definitely unrealistic to think he wouldn’t have a relationship by now. (I’ve read people protest that their relationship is an unnatural pairing, but I do remember the seeds being planted when they both did dance class together many moons ago!) And I did find it outlandish when he was naive about the S&M toys in Pierce’s mansion when the crew goes in during the Halloween episode. Wasn’t he the hotshot superstar in high school? There’s no way Troy graduated a virgin, or naive.
I am enjoying, however, the slow humanizing of Jeff and Abed developing and dealing with his own issues. I really love how realistic someone in Abed’s position is reacting to the Troy-Britta relationship. And I am still enjoying the styles the show continues to explore – when the show hits it, it hits it out the park. The struggle with maintaining style and identity is totally a result of Dan Harmon no longer being part of the show, but the Community crew isn’t failing at all at keeping my attention. For now.

Downton Abbey

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Lastly, here’s a show that has to face a certain level of transformation, primarily because it is a period piece and it cannot ignore the course of history. There are some things that were done wonderfully, and poorly, as far as character developments and even integrating historical conditions. First and foremost, the transformation in the dynamic between O’Brien and Thomas is probably the most intriguing thing of the season, and leaves lots to be wondered for the next season. Here is an example of transformation at its finest – when character relationships are turned on their head so drastically, it creates more powerful drama for sure! To see them no longer as allies and to see O’Brien plot AGAINST Thomas created wonderful new tension that totally made me sympathetic to Thomas. And of course, we get the big disruption in their universe with Sybil’s death. Seeing the aftermath of this has actually been interesting: Robert needed a taste of what’s coming to him, and he got it with Cora putting him in the doghouse.
Dislikes? I kind of wish that Downton really had to be given up – it seems like nothing really changed for them, and it is totally just too good to be true that a fortune would land in Matthew’s lap to save the estate. The only interesting thing out of that whole scenario is seeing how Robert is truly in denial of change, and the fact that he sucks at managing Downton’s finances. The random maid in the finale who tries to get it with Tom? Also not cool. The Bates-gets-out-of-prison storyline was also pretty blah to me as well. I literally sighed with grief everytime I saw the prison. Lastly, I’ll just out and say it – the way Matthew was written off was not satisfying at all. I expected something more out of it – it definitely read as a swift decision. Interested in the repercussions, but the execution of the actual event could’ve been better.
Where I’m in the middle is the integration of Rose – she’s literally the one bringing in the modern world to Downton. They’re all so stuffed up that hopefully this will get everyone more in touch with the non-Downton way of life. Hopefully we get treated to this and some other real, and natural-coming changes in the next season.

With my top shows reaching an end, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the new shows for the upcoming season can change the game. And well, change IS the name of the game! After seeing what’s in store from the upfronts, I’m hoping my old reliables will be able to keep up the pace with what’s sure to come in 2013-2014.

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