Last season was cut short by the strike, and this season is subtly different then other season's because of that.
There are far fewer new shows then normal and the second seasons of last year's new shows are being treated as if they are new shows, since it has been 10 months since we've seen many of them, and older shows had to deal with a shortened season, possibly disrupting it's rhythm. So the question is how are shows stacking up against how they were perceived last year?
I've come up with a few categories to place some of the shows in...
1. Triumphant Return- this is when the show has returned at a level higher then it has ever had, it's better then we could have hoped based on past performance.
2. Back on Track- this is when the show has returned at the level we expect from this show when it is at it's best.
3. Back, but Work Still Needed- this is when the show is back and better then last season's truncated run, but it isn't at the place it once was, although there may be hope.
4. Back but Not Better- this is when the show is back, but it isn't what it used to be.
5. Dead on Arrival- this is when the show is on again, but maybe it shouldn't be.
So, let's start with Triumphant Returns...
Really the only show that belongs here is TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. Last season it was an interesting show, a show that had promise. This season, the show has more then delivered on that promise, this is the show we hoped it would be when it started last year. Each episode so far this season is better then anything they gave us last year. If this show had been this good last year, it would have gotten serious consideration for Josh's Choice for Best New Show of the Year.
Moving on, Back on Track.....
A few shows fit here, NBC's comedies MY NAME IS EARL and THE OFFICE both fit in this category.
No surprise for THE OFFICE as it didn't hit any lull, but EARL certainly did. While it had a few moments last year that showed this show still had promise, more often then not it was hard to remember what it was that made us love this show so much. The four episodes so far this year have reminded us as Earl gets back to the list and Camden is pretty much back to normal (or as normal as Camden can ever be).
CHUCK is back and just as good as it was last season when it finished third in Josh's Choice for Best New Show of the Year. The formula was already perfect and the producers wisely didn't mess with it at all. The same goes for last year's runner up in the Josh's Choice for Best New Show of the Year award...
LIFE, there have already been three episodes of this show and it is just as good as it was last season when it proved to be the best cop show on television right now (and possibly ever).
NBC seems to be the king of Back on Track, as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is my next show to highlight. Last season there was a rough start, that kept it from ever hitting the highs it had in it's majestic first season. Now, with the start of season three (showing on DirecTV 101 every Wednesday starting last week and then on NBC starting in Feb) the show has gone back to the magic that made it Josh's Choice for Best New Show of the Year two seasons ago. Of course, FNL at it's lowest is better then a lot of shows at their highest.
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is firmly in this category as the three episodes thus far are better then anything offered last season. Although since the return from the strike induced break last season was picking back up, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. This season so far has felt much like the first two seasons felt, laugh out loud funny and incredibly quotable once again. "They lived em, Ted, they lived the Star Wars!"
The third and fourth categories are similar. The show is back, but not up to it's own standards. With Back, but Work Still Needed, it is better then it was last season, but not up to standards, with Back, but Not Better, it isn't what it was last season.
We'll start with Back, but Work Still Needed....
PRISON BREAK is definitely better then it was last year and very, very close to being Back on Track, but it isn't quite at the place it has on occasion found itself. This show has been a completely addicting guilty pleasure that just touches on true greatness occasionally, but there's nothing wrong with being an addicting guilty pleasure which it is completely back to this season, but hasn't come close the the occasional greatness displayed at points of the first two seasons.
SMALLVILLE, on the other hand is not even close to the levels that it reached in it's first five plus seasons. As it went into it's sixth season, there started to be a chink in it's armor, as if someone had slipped in some kryptonite. Last season bordered on unwatchable. This season is back to armor chinked, and it might not be too long before I give up the show for dead ERstyle. (Did you know that ER was actually still on? Shocking!)
Now, Back, but Not Better...
PUSHING DAISIES, this show had moments last year that bordered on genius. It also had a couple moments that bordered on stupidity. Overall, though, last season was very, very good and original. This season so far is somewhere in between the genius and the stupidity extremes that it displayed last season, but it seems to be missing some of the magic that it always had last year. It's only been one episode so far, but I have to say, I'm disappointed.
Finally, Dead on Arrival....
DIRTY SEXY MONEY, last show this show was a fun mystery/character study. Sure there were soapy elements, but they never bogged the show down. Apparently, ABC thought this was to the show's detriment as they have totally amped up the soap. That isn't what I signed on for and I'm probably done with this show for good.
Until Next Time, there are still a few shows ready to return (Eli Stone and 30 Rock, esp.) and when they do I'll give you the categories I think that they fit in as well as if any of these shows have managed to move themselves into a different category. Let me know what you think about these shows and any others.