Every year as fall arrives with its requisite television premieres, a special feeling of dread envelops my weary soul as I consider the latest batch of TV dramas in a post-Lost world. What big-budget serial hell are networks gonna try to drag me into this time?
Let's face it, compared to AMC's Breaking Bad, most TV dramas suck. The only thing epic about Breaking Bad is its greatness. There's no falsely profound narrative secret animating this show about a dying, nebbishy high school chemistry teacher who gets involved in the meth trade. You know it will end badly. The only question is, how?
ABC's epic Lost ended badly too. "Badly" as in "it was awful." After that experience, why should anyone trust the latest post-apocalyptic supernatural science-fiction expialidocious in-a-world-they-never-made series that's gonna keep you on the hook for the next five years, teasing you with a bunch of irrelevant "clues," only to tell you in the big finale that all the characters were actually dead the whole time?
None of the characters on the new CBS series Person of Interest is dead, as far as I can tell, but it sure feels that way. It's a future-is-now premise in which crimes are stopped before they happen (sound familiar?), thanks to 9/11-inspired technology developed by a bird-faced billionaire called Mr. Finch. As it happens, Mr. Finch is played by Michael Emerson. That's right, folks, Ben Linus from Lost. And one of the executive producers is—aha!—J.J. Abrams of Lost.
Judging from the pilot, the episodes are self-contained, rather than being parts of a season-long serial. But the aura of an epic remains, with all that post-9/11 paranoia, the special effects and wide camera shots. Less epic is Emerson. He was a gas on Lost, but he should have retired to the game-show circuit immediately afterward. His deader-than-deadpan mannerisms are now just annoying.
His co-star is the wooden Jim "Jesus" Caviezel, who plays John Reese, an embittered former CIA agent. Reese is now living off the grid and presumed dead—with the lack of personality to prove it— although he can kung the fu outta the bad guys' asses when necessary. After one episode of dispensing vigilante justice, he crosses paths with Taraji P. Henson, playing a feisty no-nonsense cop who's determined to get to the bottom of all this. Of course.
At least she livens things up a little. With the exception of Emerson walking with a limp as hilariously phony-looking as the one Marie Barone used on Everybody Loves Raymond to get sympathy from her sons, Person of Interest is so humorless and dull, I kept praying for a Bud Light commercial to cheer me up.
On paper, the least trustworthy show of the new season is ABC's Once Upon a Time. Could there be a blunter reminder that mega-greedy Disney owns ABC than for them to make a fantasy series for adults, with a cast of reimagined Disney characters? Next thing you know, they're going to replace George Will with Grumpy on Sunday Morning's This Week With Christiane Amanpour, and who will know the difference?
But Disney/ ABC has another plan for Grumpy. He's trapped in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, along with other Disney characters, thanks to a curse on Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin of Big Love fame) by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla, that sexy swinger from CBS's ill-fated Swingtown). The characters do not remember their true identities, so it's up to Snow White's abandoned daughter in the "real world," played by Jennifer Morrison, to set things right again. Despite the contrivance, the pilot is fun—especially Rumpelstiltskin, reimagined with glee as a rubber-room psycho by Robert Carlyle. Worth a look.
Not quite a turkey, but definitely sprouting a bit of a wattle, is Fox's new sci-fi/ action series Terra Nova, co-produced by Steven Spielberg. In part, it's a cautionary tale about a family of five, chosen by their government to leave a 22nd-century world where air quality has been irrevocably destroyed. This family of pioneers is sent to an unspoiled world millions of years in the past. In a word: dinosaurs. Some of them are carnivorous (fun!) but they look fake, as does much of the other animation. The dialogue is hackneyed, and yes, there are dark, dark secrets behind it all.
Still, the premise holds some appeal, and the world these future frontier people inhabit has a lush beauty that may remind you of ... of ... of... NOOOOOOO!!!!!!
Anyway, just to remind everybody: All of these shows suck compared to Breaking Bad.