About a year ago, I talked about some of the prime-time serials, and wished that their daytime counterparts would copy from them. My contention was that the prime-time shows were doing a much better job at portraying romance, family and the fine points of relationships.
I may have spoken too soon.
I’ve been puzzled and disappointed in some of my nighttime favorites. Here’s a rundown on what’s happening – and what I wish was happening.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: DH is in its sixth season, and it’s not that DH is bad this year. It hums along nicely, and no season has been as bad and off-kilter as Season 2. The show got a boost from its five-year fast forward last year, which enabled it to tell a number of new stories.
The problem with DH is that it’s become utterly predictable. The new neighbors have a secret! Please, we’ve seen that before. We’d be more shocked if they didn’t. (Perhaps that’s a story Marc Cherry should tell. New neighbors who are utterly normal – and who are so hounded by Wisteria Lane denizens about what they might be hiding that they flee in fear!)
The other problem with DH is not a new one, but it’s compounded and grown over time. Nothing ever really happens or changes. No one ever pays for their mistakes. Orson going to jail for running over Mike was a rare exception – but so many other things have happened (Andrew killing Mama Solis, Katherine killing her ex) that have either never been resolved or have been all but forgotten.
I like Drea de Matteo and her handsome husband and son, but why should I care about what their secret is? Chances are it will be forgotten by the next episode.
BROTHERS & SISTERS: I still like B&S, but it also seems to be treading water. (I understand there was recently a change at the top, so hopefully the show will become energized.) Getting rid of Tommy was a wise move – he’s best as a recurring, occasional character – but so many other stories are at a standstill.
As one might suspect, B&S’s strongest area is family relationships. Its weakest is romance. The two lead couples – Kitty and Robert, and Justin and Rebecca – are uninspiring. Kitty and Robert, in particular, are dreadfully boring and mismatched and come across as siblings instead of spouses. Justin and Rebecca, who thought they were siblings for a time, just seem so mismatched. Kevin and Scotty are the strongest couple on the show, but since they can’t actually express their affection on-screen, they, too, often come across as siblings.
The biggest negative for B&S is the fact that they’ve almost completely wasted Sally Field. After a promising start where Nora faced massive changes in her life, she’s been reduced to a talk-to for her children. I was encouraged by Sunday’s episode, where she met the insanely sexy Jon Tenney. Let’s hope he stays in the picture.
The story I was most dreading – the appearance by Dancing With The Stars alum Gilles Marini – has actually been refreshing and sweet. Not only is Marini beautiful to look at (the Kitty/Rebecca fist bump and gawking session at Luc’s emergence from the pool was hysterical) but he indeed can also act. He has a warm presence and he’s been a great match for Rachel Griffiths’ Sarah.
GREY’S ANATOMY: Oh, Grey’s. How I loved thee. Being a Grey’s fan is like being with an old boyfriend. You remember the reasons you fell in love, but sometimes they annoy you or bore you to tears.
Fellow soap blogger Sara Bibel has a great analysis of Grey’s in her Fancast column. I agree with many of her points. I’m not quite as anti-Lexie as Sara is; I think Lexie is valuable as Meredith’s sister. But the story sags and sinks every time the show tries to put her front and center – which is too often. And her “romance” with Mark is a complete, utter epic fail. (Mark Sloan has, in my eyes, outlived his usefulness.)
I also am not quite as down on the Mercy West merger as Sara is, although I thought it was a lazy way to copy House (which shook up its cast and introduced several new doctors a few years back). I like some of the newbies, but they seem like such carbon copies of characters that already exist. Charlie is, clearly, George 2.0. Jackson is the scrappy guy a la Alex, and April was a combination of Lexie and Izzie. (Can’t tell you how glad I am that she was fired!) Reed seems to be a character with possibilities and a brain, though she’s already moping around Alex.
For a show that built its reputation on the swoonworthy Mer/Der combo, Grey’s is sadly lacking in romance. Cristina and Owen have inexplicably come to a screeching halt. Alex and Izzie are on shaky ground, and their marriage wasn’t quite made of passion (they married when Izzie wasn’t sure she’d survive cancer).
And though I individually love the characters of Callie and Arizona, and respect Sara Ramirez’s immense talents (I loved the “you can’t pray away the gay” scenes), I don’t buy Callie as a lesbian one bit. Sorry, Sara – when you’re in a scene with Arizona (or Erica Hahn), I just don’t buy one look, one line or one action. That’s a shame, because these two women are great to watch. (Jessica Capshaw’s Arizona is definitely my favorite character at the moment.)
The most baffling move? Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang was, hands down, the best reason to watch the show (aside from the star-crossed Mer/Der). But Grey’s seems to be at a loss as to how to write for her. Outside of her romances with Burke and Hunt, Yang has been maddeningly inconsistent. Yang was once a strong, uncompromising character. Her most prominent character trait these days is utter paralysis – not going back, not leaping forward and not taking charge.
With George dead, Izzie gone and Meredith on temporary leave, the show has been low on characters and relationship material, so the plot has been ratcheted up, General Hospital style. Everyone’s doing a forbidden, life-changing surgery! First Derek, then Cristina and Arizona.
I wish the show would return to its roots of relationships and romance. And the best possible plot twist? I wish Preston Burke would return.
Yes, you read right. I know Isaiah Washington was let go after his remarks about fellow cast member TR Knight became public. Washington may have been guilty of being a challenging actor, and an ineloquent one, but I don’t believe he was a homophobe, and I think he’s paid dearly for his error. Aside from all of those technicalities, Grey’s could use a dose of Burke’s heart and his strong, solid presence.
Failing that, I hope Grey’s stops treading water and develops an exciting plan to take us to the end of next season – which I hope is the show’s natural conclusion. (Because let me tell ya, Shonda: If all of this shuffling and all these new characters is your way of telegraphing Grey’s Anatomy, starring Lexie Grey as Grey, then it is SO not happening. Sorry.)
UGLY BETTY: Actually, I have precious little to bitch about here. After a wobbly third season, Betty is firing on all cylinders this year.
Stories are consistent and focused on the Mode team, which is great – the ensemble works much better bouncing off of each other, vs. the story islands Betty often wanders into for its characters. And after a long stretch where Betty was either made to look like a fool or a shrew, she’s been allowed some personal growth, as well as a change in appearance that’s sleeker without compromising who she is.
The Betty/Amanda/Matt story is intriguing, not only because it’s a wrench in the Betty/Matt romance, but because Becki Newton, who’s always hysterical as Amanda, is getting to bring more levels and colors to Amanda.
It’s all utterly fabulous. And it’s a shame, because not a damn soul is watching, and it will be a miracle if it survives the season. It’s a doomed time slot – call it Guiding Light syndrome.