Hour-long mythology set within the real world needs to increase its bounty by stakes. Without something truly lost, nothing can be gained but its intensity can’t be fake. While some of the following shows continue to show a penchant in the writer’s room in their willingness to take chances, a wrong step can mean cancellation. The grand progression allows that the following four shows exist on cable where their fate is a little more plausible. Overall though, “Burn Notice” jolts most with a necessary ploy that lifts its possibility yet again.
Burn Notice Nothing hits home as much as family so in order for the series to graduate, the stakes must become higher without losing a sense of tension. Beginning the season with Fi’s imminent degragation at the hands of authority focuses Michael’s penchant away from professional importance to personal survival. In working through this texture and maintaining the status quo, the show maintained its execution. However, with the death of a family member, a whole new psychological angle surfaces that completely changes the tone. This single act is what heightens Michael’s resolve and the fact that he is guilty and to blame is not lost on him. The requisite end game plays that betrayal, whether intended or not, carries a large price tag, even if its true importance does not become specific until later. For this reason, the viciousness in Michael begins to cloud his judgment which is what the show needs because thereby a character starts making mistakes.
Royal Pains The evolution of this show requires a decided amount of intrigue while still keeping the stakes progressing. While this is not as life threatening as the aforementioned “Burn Notice”, the conflict to some degree should be there (even if it is more domestic). Oddly enough with this season, the progression becomes more the ascension of Evan and the conflict of brotherhood. Hank seems to have a higher calling but is held back by both his moral center and his lack of ambition per se. Evan, because he has a girlfriend who is both highly placed and accessible (a very rare commodity), finds traversing the line a bit easier. Hank’s love life, by contradiction, seems to become a bit of a noose around his neck. Though Mark Fuerstein plays it with a little abandon, it tends to feel forced as does Henry Winkler’s inclusion (despite its obvious comedic value). The balance to Evan’s element comes in the form of Divya, the physician’s associate, simply because she is suffering the same crisis of class that Evan is but moving in the reverse. The intrigue of the series wants to center around Boris (played with aplomb by Campbell Scott who understands the necessity of gravitas) but unlike previous seasons, its stakes don’t carry as much weight.
The Glades Using the aspect of a long distance relationship as a distraction for Matt Passmore’s uber-focused Jim creates an interesting dynamic that points to his survival in more ways than one. For something to truly affect him, something needs to be undeniably lost. In his relationship with Callie (who has moved to Atlanta at his motivation for a job), there doesn’t seem to be anything chemical to attach them. There is a stronger connection between him and a visiting bureau chief: Jennifer Stark. She is there to evaluate him but her tantalizing and alluring beauty tempts him though he doesn’t act on it. However, her approach seems too obvious to be realistic. The actual act would need to be more clandestine. The team, including Carlos and their intrepid intern, have a nice balance going but the investigation of Jim’s effectiveness, especially his inablity to be on the witness stand because of his methods, mirrors a similar problem “The Finder” faced on FOX before it was cancelled.
Covert Affairs Watching Annie Walker traverse what she believes the CIA is and knowing the balance between using an asset and being conned has always been the angle of the show. What continues to be interesting about watching her and Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham) is how their human failings affect their true CIA effectivenss. Like any other job, it is all about how one reacts or doesn’t react under pressure. Annie is a lonely soul who wants connection but her skill set and her ambition drive her into situations that she more and more can’t control. Her arc with Russian would-be spy/mercenary Simon carries risk because you can tell there are feelings on both ends that can only end badly. Her actions will continue to harden her and will either get her sister or Auggie killed in the process (most likely by the CIA) which might bring up a whole new can of worms, for her, as a mercenary. Auggie’s psychological development (especially with him going into the field as well as his turning point when he is captured by pirates with his would-be fiancee) points to a larger ghost hanging below the surface. His mandatory counseling and inability to directly connect with Annie (especially with her going off-book with another division) creates tension but her loyalty to her is unwavering.
Watching the summer bloom at full boar, one gets the feeling that summer series are much more confident in their stride than most fall series making their premiere. The pressure is off…sure but the reality is that most of these entries know their formula tried and true without breaking a sweat. The one long holdover (“Futurama”) never skipped a beat in the near decade of its absence while “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” throttle along at pace. “Flashpoint” knows what it is and doesn’t rock the boat while “Lie To Me” seems to have found its stride with star Tim Roth as the clock ticks.
Futurama The long awaited return of Bender, Leela and the lot shows the essentials of their possible resurgence but keeping up to date is the key. Granted with Comedy Central they can go alot further than they could before, especially in regards to sex but, in the first two episodes, the ideal is more intellectual and less sight gag related which is what the audience needs to respond to. Bender needs to find his stride for sure but Leela with the voice of Katey Sagal is as up to date as ever. The animation shows a few improvements but that was never the status quo of the series. It was a balance of Fry’s optimism and Bender’s complete ignorance of good taste which made the old series work. The good angle is that this feels like a continuation and not a redo.
Burn Notice Mixing it up with Michael Weston while still keeping his plight engaging gets harder every season that goes by even with a jump in viewers. The last time we saw Weston he was being pursued by the cops and captured. It turns out that he is being worked by another position inside the government and yet not. This gives him another structure to work within but his first assignment causes him to burn another spy. The difference is that this one is a desk jockey. The new spy Jesse who looks like a UFC/The Rock export wants to find and kill the person who burned him which creates a new dynamic (since that person is Michael). It also provides someone for Weston to get jealous of in terms of Fiona. It is a good set up that will provide necessary tension throughout the season. The question becomes: what is the end game ultimately with Michael Weston? The series is still fun to watch but unlike forensic shows, Michael’s excuses are starting to feel a little hollow.
Royal Pains Resolving the loss of money in a single episode is what makes series television persistent and irresistible to cliffhangers. With Hank Med, the paradox is to add characters while still calling into question the different traits of both the good doctor and his easily distracted brother. While the inevitable and dexterious casting of Henry Winkler as the boys’ father who chiseled them out of money last year provides a thorn from which to pluck, a jaunt to Cuba in the 3rd and 4th episodes adds a needed cultural shift which gives the series a larger world view. Like “Burn Notice” in its early episodes this season, a change of scenery is necessary to show the shifting idelogy of the characters. If they do adjust in similar ways, there becomes a pointlessness to their actions but the catch is making it negligible. The interweaving love structures of all three characters in Hank Med show a transgression of emotional traits from Evan’s newfound compassion to Hank’s relaxation to Divya’s interpretation of her identity as an individual. The subtle pushing of the writing comes off effortless in every way showing a control of character which hopefully will continue to evolve.
Flashpoint The embrace of this series is braced around the CSI brand of not changing the rush of plot progression unless need be. By sticking to simple human stories and not delving into a brand of mythology that has overcome many starting series, a hour long such as this retains a section of viewers looking for simple escape. The SWAT set-up with rookies coming up, a captain at odds with his emotions and a lieutenant looking to make his bones all plays into the game from a cult-like raid on a compound to a shock jock radio host that gets a dose of reality. This procedural knows its audience and tries not to stray far from the grain but as a Canadian acquisition as a summer fill-in, it fits the ideal perfectly, surefire but safe in its texture.
Lie To Me In his continuing go-ound as a doctor/detective who can sniff out lies purely on the instinct of tells, Tim Roth seems to have grown into his character’s wit. Whereas it seemed, in the first season, he was playing the mentality of the man as slightly aloof but mostly serious, he has reversed that balance and found a texture more like “House” while still retaining an identity of his own. From a run-in with an old Irish crime boss to his on/off relationship with his ex-wife (played with delicious candor by Jennifer Beals), the pacing and pinpoints of humor really are starting to work. The interesting angle is that at one point in the premiere episode when Roth is trying to extract information from one of his employees with the Irish boss watching, you see him figuring it out and one harks back to the transformative eyes that utterly consumed his mesmerizing performance in Tim Burton’s “Planet Of The Apes”. The pattern in this series is keeping the audience on their toes while Roth lights the screen. He looks like he is enjoying the rub but the worry is that novelty in this type of character only lasts for a certain time.