Monday, January 16, 2017

Knots Landing season 4

Knots Landing Season 4 is like a clever puppy you've just brought home from the pound, and criticizing it is a bit like disciplining that puppy: you know there are things you should be taking it to task for, but you're far too interested in seeing what it'll do next.

Years after its original run, Knots Co-Executive Producer Michael Filerman recalled that soap giant Ann Marcus mapped out Season 4 before departing the series at the end of Season 3. No one has ever corroborated that, not even Marcus in her autobiography, so it's likely he was misremembering; nonetheless, in the way it effortlessly juggles half a dozen down-to-earth story-lines, yet manages to remain character- rather than plot-driven (particularly impressive in light of the conceit at its core), it feels very much like a Marcus season.

The conceit at its core? Well, it's a murder mystery. Knots Season 4 makes good use of its regulars, tosses in two of its most memorable supporting players, and near the season's end, embroils them all in a whodunnit, where a good chunk of the cast seems to have motive. But the murder (of rising singer Ciji Dunne, played by Lisa Hartman) isn't telegraphed -- in 1983, believe me, it came as quite a shock -- and the fact that so many of the principals are suspects doesn't feel contrived. The final episodes are less about an investigation than about the way we respond to tragedy: in particular, the blame games we direct both at others and at ourselves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Till We Are Asked to Rise: the year in review

My annual year in review. 2013 found me enthralled by Elementary and The Killing, puzzling over some of CBS's scheduling moves, and taking a nostalgic tour of Vermont with a Newhart rewatch. In 2014, I savored Grantchester and Peter Capaldi's first season of Doctor Who, and binged the works of Stephen Poliakoff and Richard Armitage. Last year, I took on everything from The Mentalist to The Man in the High Castle, from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Limitless to Gypsy. As in earlier posts, I do not purport to have watched every great show on television this past year; this is not a "best of 2016" list. These are simply the shows I watched, the trends I noted, the risks I respected, and the mistakes I lamented.

Looking over my 2016 blog entries, I see that I hardly wrote about any series that are currently airing. I wrote nostalgia pieces: three about Knots Landing, three about classic Doctor Who. Early in the year, I penned an appreciation of Mike & Molly, which was wrapping up its six-season run (splendidly), and a farewell to The Flash and Arrow, which weren't wrapping up their runs, but which had driven me away. Was my ignoring the current crop of shows a mark of how little they were firing my imagination, or was I so overwhelmed by all the solid series airing that I didn't want to take time away to write them up? Was 2016 a good year or a bad one?

I'm still not sure.