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TV Review: The 2009-2010 Season

This has been a good year for television, and it marks the final chapter for many of my favorite shows. While I do watch more TV than just these shows, these are the six shows that have held my attention so much that I refused to miss a single episode. Having said that, this season has had its share of problems. With half of these shows coming to an official end, I do not know if I will be as much of a couch potato next year (nor do I know if that's necessarily a bad thing).



24: Season 8
24
Season 8

The final season of Fox's 24 starts out well and ends well, but the middle is difficult to get through. Before this last Jack Bauer television adventure began, I made a list of the Top 10 Clichés that Shouldn't Be in the Next Season of 24, and you can easily go down the list and check off at least four or five that are, unfortunately, included in Season 8. However, the writers did wisely avoid several of those clichés, which is a welcome breath of fresh air for a show that arguably deserved to be cancelled. The season starts out strong with a new CTU, a reluctant Jack, and a story that is more grounded than the last few seasons. The stuff with Renee Walker, who gives Jack a mirror image of his behavior in seasons past, is well-written and exciting, but the sidestory involving Dana Walsh is boring and silly. The political subplots, which come into the foreground in the end, are greatly improved by President Taylor and Omar Hassan (played amazingly well by Slumdog Millionaire's Anil Kapoor), and I never felt annoyed or distracted by them. Things go downhill, though, when the terrorists--who were struggling to smuggle an improvised nuclear device into New York--somehow manage to acquire and detonate an EMP device at CTU, and when it is revealed that Dana Walsh has been a mole for the Russians. However, by the time the season ramps up to its third act, 24 finds footing it hasn't had in years. Everything about the last six hours is awesome, culminating in the multiple confrontations between Jack and ex-President Logan and Jack's suicidal quest for vengeance/justice. The finale is possibly the best finale in 24 history, and I'm glad the show did not end with Jack's death as so many had predicted. There is a 24 film in the works, and though I am excited to see it, I don't think a 2-hour film will feel the same. I will miss 24, but its legacy will remain in the many ways it managed to change television.





Criminal Minds: Season 5
CRIMINAL MINDS
Season 5

I didn't actually start watching CBS's Criminal Minds until shortly before the fifth season began. However, I quickly discovered that this show, which centers on a team of FBI profilers, is far better than almost any other procedural on television, and I quickly watched every episode on DVD. While the show does occasionally strain reality to the breaking point, each episode tends to deal with a case that is based on something that really happened. Whether it deals with serial killers, terrorists, or kidnappings, the show always manages to be fresh and intriguing, with a team of writers who are as clever as they are subtle. Having said all of that, though, this most recent season is the show's weakest to date. There have been high points, like "The Eyes Have It," in which they track a killer who keeps the eyes of his victims, "...A Thousand Words," in which a serial killer commits suicide but leaves a legacy of violence in his tattoos, and of course "100," one of the most intense hours of television I've ever seen, in which Agent Hotchner confronts The Reaper for the last time. However, despite these high points, the show treads water through several overly-gimmicky episodes, including "The Uncanny Valley," which asks the audience to accept Commander Riker as an evil child molester, "The Internet is Forever," an episode about the evils of Facebook, and "The Fight," a clumsy cross-over episode that sets up the possibility of a Criminal Minds spin-off starring Forest Whitaker. As a whole--even though I haven't seen tomorrow night's season finale, guest starring Tim Curry--even the weakest season of this dark psychological drama is damn good television, and I recommend it to anybody interested in the subject matter.





Heroes: Season 4
HEROES
Season 4

It's official: NBC has not renewed Heroes for a fifth season, and few people are surprised. Still, it's a shame, because the fourth and final season is arguably the best season of the show's entire run, and there was plenty of potential for the show to grow even better. Yes, even though I have defended the show at its worst, I can acknowledge that, between the end of the first season and the start of the fourth, the show took several severe missteps. However, Season 4 is largely missing the sloppy writing, the conveniently mercurial characters and backstories, the abundant plot holes, and the infuriatingly inconsistent mythology that defined the second and third seasons. For the few of us who held on through the show's rough spots, we were rewarded with an awesome and consistent story that is both fun and more thought-out than previous seasons. Especially notable is the nuanced performance of Robert Knepper as the main antagonist, Samuel Sullivan, whose carnival of freaks provided the narrative backdrop for the season. It was also good to see the main characters develop in organic, unforced ways, from Peter's quest to be an actual hero (imagine that) to Hiro's trippy battle with a brain tumor and his own past. These stories felt deserved, which is more than I can say for many of the previous ones. However, even in this stellar season, some of the persistent weaknesses of the show come rushing back: Sylar is overused, dangling plot threads are ignored, time travel is used incoherently, and there are a few narrative leaps that are difficult to swallow. But in the end, there is lots of momentum and it feels like the show has finally found a place where it can move forward without losing itself. That's why it is disappointing--though not surprising, considering the show's ratings and reputation--that there will be no more Heroes.





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-e. magill 5/25/2010








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