Viewers have not fully processed “Do Not Disturb,” and they will never have the option to do so. The comedy starring Jerry O’Connell fell before the leaves. Fall brings us new shows, old favorites, and some you might not have realized are still in production. Attempting to navigate and follow full TV schedule is difficult but not impossible; however, most people only have the time to follow a few favorites. Some shows will exit as unceremoniously as “Do Not Disturb,” but let’s hope my favorites have better luck with audiences and networks.
I am not extremely familiar with the Superman universe, as I was never a huge fan. However, by reinterpreting storylines and characters, “Smallville” does not require extensive comic book knowledge, nor would it appeal to all comic book fans. The show follows Clark Kent before he becomes the legendary hero, and as it’s nearing its end, hopefully puts Clark closer than ever to realize his Superman destiny.
The eighth season starts strong and shows promise, despite major changes to the casting lineup. Most notably, Michael Rosenbaum does not return as a series regular to play Clark Kent’s nemesis Lex Luthor, and his absence would worry me if I did not see the opportunity it presents. Last season ended with the Fortress of Solitude collapsing with Clark and Lex inside. While Clark was found, Lex’s whereabouts are still unknown.
Hopefully, the mystery surrounding Lex Luthor’s disappearance sets up for a significant and possibly devastating return, even if his glorious return is brief. Still, as Rosenbaum consistently delivered some of the best performances and Lex being a major character, “Smallville” has a large void to fill this season.
Eliciting more mixed reactions than Rosenbaum’s, Kristin Kreuk’s departure has many fans celebrating, though some say the show is dead. Her turn towards darkness and corruption would have been a highlight of recent seasons if she remained on the slow, destructive path to power and evil. My personal dislike for Lana Lang aside, while I would have preferred a chilling exit indicating her villainy, the farewell she got was surprisingly well-done and helps put “Smallville” in the right direction. The absence of two long-running characters allows characters, particularly Clark, to explore new possibilities and move forward without facing the same obstacles they have in the past.
“Smallville” has held to somewhat of a “no tights, no flight” policy, which implies that Clark himself would not dress up as Superman or, obviously, fly. Last season had Clark taking flying lessons from his cousin Kara (also known as Supergirl), only for him to quickly give up. However, the show is ready for Clark to embrace his destiny, or at least to send Clark on a clearer path to becoming the superhero.
With Kara trapped in the Phantom Zone, Laura Vandervoort is not a regular cast member this season. Hopefully, her story will get proper closure, but in the meantime, we are not short of heroes.
Justin Hartley has appeared several times as the charismatic billionaire Oliver Queen (and his alter ego Green Arrow). Finally a series regular, Hartley fits in naturally with the rest of the cast and has proven to have great chemistry with most returning characters. Clark seems to need a push towards saving the world, and Oliver provides that motivation. Introducing a group of justice-serving heroes, including Aquaman and the Black Canary, Oliver shows Clark purpose and the good he can do with his powers.
Of course, superheroes need villains, and the season brings two completely new cast members with the potential to either charm the other characters or terrorize them. Cassidy Freedman signed on this season to play Tess Mercer, who takes over as CEO of Luthorcorp in the midst of Lex’s disappearance. The interest in Tess is that nobody really knows much about her, and I look forward to learning about her history and how she’s connected to the Luthors. Other newcomer Sam Witwer plays Superman villain Doomsday, but is introduced as medic Davis Bloom. In recent seasons, the series adopted a slick and stylized look to match its darker tone.
After reading descriptions about a larger than life villain in the comics, I’m curious about how they can pull off a visual representation of Doomsday. Make-up and monsters do not exactly match the show’s style, but if anything, we learn not to fear a different approach on “Smallville.”
While this season promotes change and progress, we still retain distinctive “Smallville” elements. Many characters are adaptations from the comics, and Clark’s best friend and sidekick Chloe Sullivan was the only original main character when the show began. When “Smallville” does end, Chloe’s storyline needs closure, or the show has to integrate her into the Superman universe. Rather than just chronicling bizarre events, Chloe’s discovery of her own powers pushes her directly into the dangerous superhero stories. Sadly, her future may not include Clark. The former reporter has already passed the journalism torch to her previously uninterested cousin Lois Lane.
The early introduction of Lois to Clark’s life was controversial, but Erica Durance brings a tough, unrestrained personality to the character. Corresponding with the show’s progression towards Superman, Durance sports a new hairstyle closer to that of the iconic brunette Lois. Through fantastic comic relief, she foreshadows familiar Superman concepts, like forcing Clark to change in a phone booth. Most of the fun of Lois and Clark’s interaction on the show is their constant sniping at each other. They work well together but emphasize their clashing personalities. While the show may be working towards the epic romance we all know, thankfully it isn’t always the focus of the plot. “Smallville” sheds light on the past and what could be, and not just what we know will happen.
Opting for normal people rather than superheroes, “The Office” has easily lovable characters, whether they’re relatable or just oddly fascinating. You want Jim and Pam happy together because they are genuine people whom you would absolutely love in real life. Their pranks on co-workers may seem harsh sometimes but are usually harmless. In spite (or maybe because) of his overbearing personality, you still kind of wish Dwight Schrute were real. His rare moments of vulnerability translate well to viewers, and we celebrate when he triumphs.
It’s easy to like characters who deserve a happy ending. The challenge is liking the characters who aren’t as easy to understand. Dunder Mifflin has its share of people you hate or characters you love against your better judgment. An arrogant Andy Bernard ruthlessly plots to get ahead of his coworkers. He may not be a very likable person, but he’s a character! If his a cappella repertoire (including The Cranberries’ “Zombie”) doesn’t make you at least want to try to like him, a redemption story might change your mind. After punching a hole in a wall and his subsequent stint in anger management, he insists that he”s got a new attitude. While Andy’s may just be slowly trying to move up the ranks, the optimist would like to believe he is really making a positive change. However, as the cameras caught Angela’s secret rendezvous with Dwight in the same night she accepted Andy’s marriage proposal, we might see the return of Andy’s rage if Angela and Dwight’s secret goes public.
Almost similar to Andy’s story, the new season shows us the downfall of former temp worker, Ryan Howard. Season four began with his unexpected promotion to a corporate job at the company, which he won out over possibly more qualified applicants. He used to be a sympathetic mix of quiet resentment and wit, but his “meteoric rise” to power inspireded high levels of douchebaggery. He let his ambition and authority go to his head, and as if karma caught up to him, Ryan was later arrested for fraud. He attempts to make amends with the co-workers he’s offended in the past year. The difference between Ryan’s and Andy’s attempts at redemption is that Ryan is still openly bitter towards other characters. If handled well, Andy’s and Ryan’s stories could be highlights of the season. Otherwise, we can usually rely on “The Office” for sweet Jim and Pam moments, Michael Scott’s ridiculous antics, and an office family you wish you knew.
Admittedly, this season’s crop of new series are mostly unimpressive, save for a few bright spots. The most compelling of the bunch, J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe,” follows FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) as she studies fringe science, which refers to outlandish concepts such as telepathy or invisibility. Olivia, or Torv’s portrayal of her, falls flat at times, but she is convincing enough to tell the story. Joshua Jackson is such a perfect fit for the Peter Bishop role that it almost seems like it is made for him. He assists Olivia and his mad scientist father as they push the paranormal boundaries of science, and he provides a believable voice of reason. The episodes are also fun just to watch, creating interesting images like subtitles that look as though they’re part of the actual set. At the core of the series lies the intrigue of adventure and conspiracy, and “Fringe” is just as fascinating with its visuals.
Most of the draw for fans of the classic “Beverly Hills, 90210” to watch the revival is the return of Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth, who reprise their old characters. A few new “90210” kids could potentially carry the show, but the lead is a disappointment. Shenae Grimes is put at the forefront of the cast, but her Kansas-bred Annie Wilson comes off as obliviously self-centered, and not in a funny way. Her overdramatic gestures are unwelcome distractions, even from her perpetually theatrical love life. The series’ real standout is Erin Silver (Jessica Stroup), whose rough background and attitude make her more likable than Annie or queen bee Naomi Clark. While “90210” isn’t horrible, it doesn’t live up to all the pre-season hype. The show has potential if the first season picks up its own rhythm without relying on the original.
Variety is the spice of a good TV season, and these shows each have their own personality and style. If you’re not hooked after watching at least three episodes of a series, it’s probably not for you, or you’re just extremely picky. Most people can find at least one enjoyable show if they know where to look. Whether viewers are looking for fantasy, comedy, action or drama, the best way to pick their favorites is to pick up their remotes.