Monday, March 17, 2008

They're Ba-ack!...

The first new episodes of scripted primetime programming since the strike are beginning to trickle back to air tonight, some boasting new time slots and special guest stars (both How I Met Your Mother), but with such a prolonged absence, it isn't really necessary to go all out and create a flashier version of their former selves; the fans are just happy to see their TiVos fill up once again with their consistent and true favorites. All that considered, let's take a look at some of my favorite scripted shows and what I think they should do in order to come back strong:

Before the strike, both Cold Case and Without a Trace had taken detours in the early parts of their respective seasons to explore their characters' personal lives in a way that teetered on the edge of melodramatic serial, but Bruckheimer needs to leave the soap operas to ABC because what he does best is straight crime procedural. Cold Case started its fifth season with a bang but then created an erratic pattern by jumping week-to-week between decades-old victims and ones who died almost yesterday. Though a few pre-strike episodes were saved and aired in February, the first episode in this new era, so to speak, airs on March 30. To avoid falling into the aforementioned back-and-forth trap, they should return with a strong period piece-- preferably one from the 1930s or 1950s to intersperse black and white noir photography with today's hyper kinetic, glossy HD style-- to remind us just of what they are capable. The story has to be poignant and equally as strong as the visuals to make a statement: it should deal with a hate crime-- one that creates tension amongst the detectives, so the audience gets the impression that they have been working tirelessly, thanklessly, and sometimes even unsuccessfully the whole time the audience was away.

My original pitch to the writers of Without a Trace (returning on April 3) still stands, but now the Martin Fitzgerald doppelgänger won't just be someone investigated for a crime but also the father of Samantha Spade's baby. Still unable to let Martin go, she saw someone who could practically be his double in a bar and brought him home for a night, which as the investigation goes on and it becomes clear this guy is a sociopath, serves to feed her already apprehensive attitude about bringing this baby into her lifestyle.

Though at this point, it is the golden child and can't really do any wrong, 30 Rock (returning April 10) should embrace their self-reflectiveness once again and do their first episode back about crew members who threaten to strike after something Jack Donaghy says gets misconstrued when Liz repeats it. Jack then flippantly remarks that the show can go on without the crew—with them in the back of the room, of course—and they walk out hours before the show is supposed to go live, leaving Liz to call Jenna and Tracy into the writers’ room. I don’t think I have to explain that chaos would ensue then!

Last we left the gals on Wisteria Lane, a freak tornado had torn apart everyone’s life. Starting on April 13, we need to see a more permanent vulnerability to these courageous, stretched-at-the-seams women, which is not at all unlike the direction in which Samantha Who?’s heroine should go on April 7. With the "Desperate" gals, they need to band back together the way they did in the wake of Mary Alice’s tragic demise and find strength in that bond-- picking up literal hammers and nails to put the ruined homes back together, too. Call it an Extreme Home Makeover crossover, but it would do them all a lot of good to get their hands dirty in a literal sense for a change. With Samantha needs to pick up the pieces of her life in a similar way, as well, beginning with reclaiming her apartment from her ex and his new girlfriend. I’d also love to see her branch outside of her immediate family to try to remember her old life: she needs to look up old teachers, babysitters, boyfriends from high school, whatever it takes for answers… and laughs.

We know a lot about the personal lives of our favorite Special Victims Unit detectives-- how they handle themselves in a chase, with a gun at their temple, with a gun at their partner’s temple, or with a gun drawn on the perpetrator. We know a lot about their family and home lives, and just this season we watched Eliot’s wife give birth yet again. But there is one plebe who is still a mystery: Detective Chester (Chester!?) Lake. Come April 14, though, that needs to change: a glimpse of Lake’s inner darkness needs to come out and set his character on an arc unlike any of the others. The show can open as it normally does, with some unwitting citizen stumbling on a fairly young, very obviously dead girl, but this will be one case that Benson and Stabler can’t quite crack… because the perpetrator (revealed in the now obligatorily expected twist at the end) is their colleague and friend, Lake.

There are some pretty high expectations for the shows starting up again in the coming weeks. With so much time apart, audiences have had time to re-watch but mostly to anticipate. They are expecting to be wowed, especially when compared to the quality of the ever-increasing number of reality shows they have had to contend with in the scripted’s absence. So now the bar has been set, boys and girls; welcome back, but be sure to clear it.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

i love your 30 rock idea! I would so watch that episode. You should write a spec based on that