Giving up is not the easiest thing to do…even when it is the necessary thing to do.   It means we admit we’ve either made a mistake or it’s time to try something new. And nobody wants to admit they’ve erred or go away from what they’re used to attempting.  Much like Dr. Evil in “Austin Powers” after unveiling two outside the box schemes proved faulty…”Oh, what the hell– let’s just steal a nuclear weapon like we always do!”  We’re like that with TV shows. And that’s one reason I try to limit my viewing–because just as I was on the hook for the final unwatchable two three four seasons of 90120, I don’t do well departing a series I’m invested in (for the record, “9-0” became unwatchable after Dylan left the show following his new bride’s murder).

That said– I began the season with four shows in my rotation with a fifth joining the club this winter…

Dallas– Yes, I was stuck on the Ewing schemes in the 80’s well after the “Dream Season”.  There was no way I could avoid getting sucked in to this Lone Star State sized sinkhole.  And let the record show, if they ever reboot “Happy Days”, “Cheers” and “Tales of the Gold Monkey” at the same time like they’re doing next summer with “24”, I’m going to be worthless.  How could you resist the 21st century update to JR, Bobby, Sue Ellen & Cliff?  By having the kids be annoying as hell.  JR’s kid is the “schemer”, yet seems like he can’t solve short division problems.  Bobby’s son’s answer to everything is shouting…and Cliff’s daughter went from smart scammer to dumb damsel in one season.  At least Bobby married the woman who played Sue Ellen Michke on “Seinfeld” (although there’s no mention of the Mars family fortune).  Sadly, Larry Hagman’s death brought a narrative dampener midseason.  While the show gave JR a proper sendoff and tied up loose ends nicely, I don’t know if a third season is necessary.

Mad Men– Oh, if only JR met Don Draper.  Bourbon and branch meets the Old Fashioned.–they would have had one heck of a time in Big D or the Big Apple.  While season six is still in progress we’ve seen Don careen through his professional and personal life like a bull in a china shop.  Not only did Draper  napalm the Heinz and Jaguar accounts, he started cheating on his Soap Opera actress wife with a married woman–sneaking over when her cardiac surgeon is saving lives.  All the rest is window dressing alongside Don’s descent:  a merger between SCDP and CGC (couldn’t we have just one vowel?), Pete’s retreating hairline, Peggy’s boss-crush (umm, Peg—Preppy McPrepp isn’t leaving his wife for anyone short of Daisy the Stewardess) and Rookie of the Year Bob Benson (“from accounts!  Wharton!  I’ve got two cups of coffee if you want one!”).  Add Harry Hamlin (“Roger Sterling with bad breath’) and Ted McGinley (SHARK ALERT!) to the mix and you’ve got just enough to make me sit through Sally & Bobby Draper’s scenes.  Kids just don’t fare well on this show– even Roger’s adult daughter was irritating in her limited run.

The Office– Bob Benson would be such a good Regional Manager at Dunder-Mifflin.  At its best this was one incredibly nuanced show of equal parts sweet, sour and sublime.  From Jim and Pam to Jim vs. Dwight to “I’M PRISON MIKE!”.  Ringmaster Steve Carell was the crazy glue that kept what seemed like 20 plot points working like coordinated oars in the water.   Nobody said the wrong thing at the right time better or more often.  After Michael Scott’s departure the rudderless ship foundered over the last two years but finally finds port this week.  It’s time to say goodbye… I have the same regard for “New Jim” and “Dwight Jr” as I did for “Coy & Vance Duke” and am just glad there’s not a “Poor Richard’s Pub After Dark” where today’s hottest artists happen to make tour stops.  But I still dream of a “Threat Level Midnight 2–Electric Boogaloo”.

How I Met Your Mother– And of course I’d have to go see “The Wedding Bride III” the next day.  The consistently uneven season ends–and we actually get a payoff for the third straight finale:  two years ago we learned Barney was going to be the groom at “the wedding” (How crazy!  He’s the ultimate bachelor!)…last year we learned Robin would be the bride (How crazy!  She hates marriage and he’s engaged to a stripper!).  This year we actually see “the mother”–Cristin Milioti shows up to buy one ticket to Farhampton with umbrella and bass in tow (How crazy!  We were used to being stringed along!).  Highlights include Billy Zabka at the bachelor party and Ted’s “45 days” speech.  Lowlights include Marshall’s disappearance,  Robin’s descent from confident career woman to Barney-obsessed and “Who Wants to Be a Godparent”.  Now the show’s final season will be devoted to wrapping things up.  But how will they?  I’ve heard everything from them having Ted meet the mother in the first 1 to 3 episodes…get to know her and then marry her in the finale (which they have to do to line things up for a 15 year old daughter in the 2030 flash-forwards) to all 24 episodes covering “Barney and Robin’s Wedding Weekend” with flashbacks of how each in the gang got to meet the mother– which will become exhausting.   Unless Billy Zabka’s there.  And yes, I refuse to call him William. 

The Americans–  what do I call the husband?  Phillip JenningsClark Herbert Westerfield?  Or whatever Russian name he actually goes by?  In honor of Kevin Costner in “No Way Out”, I’m going with Yuri.  Maybe they can use the same shed at Arlington National Cemetary in season two– and even board the Metro at the Georgetown stop.  Word is the show “Alias” was pitched as “Felicity’s a spy” to ABC– so it’s only fitting Keri Russell a decade and a half after playing Felicity becomes a spy.  And even if she cuts her hair (DONT!) she’ll have a wide assortment of wigs.  Perhaps it’s the spy story motif, the protagonists as KGB sleeper cel agents or the early 80’s outfits and music that makes this work (“Games Without Frontiers” the perfect coda to the season finale).  Maybe it’s because everybody is lying about something to another character at some time or another–and they kind of know it (there hasn’t been this much serial dishonesty in a cast since “Casablanca”).  Perhaps it’s the sense of fear because we know and see how good the KGB couple is at undermining our national security–and we see and know how woefully unlucky and occasionally incompetent our people are.  In a world where one of my shows makes it’s necessary departure, another probably should have taken its final bow and a third is behaving like the college student taking 3 courses a semester to reason the 6 year plan, it’s nice to see it’s “morning” for “The Americans”.  Good to see I’m moving forward with one show set in 1968 and another in 1981.  Phillip/Clark/Yuri,  meet Don Draper/Dick Whitman.

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