TV season update: spring 2012

With the completion of my book on neoliberalism and superhero movies overshadowing all other writing activities at present, the only thing I take time for besides rethinking and revising my chapters is occasional breaks for unmissable TV shows. And even keeping up with the bare essentials sometimes feels like a full-time job.

The best new series this season is David Milch and Michael Mann’s collaborative horse-racing drama Luck, a phenomenally rich mosaic of beautifully written and impeccably performed characters. Dustin Hoffman is the biggest name on board, and he delivers one of his finest performances in years – if not decades. But he never overshadows a glorious cast of character actors that includes Dennis Farina, Richard Kind, Kevin Dunn, Ian Hart, and Nick Nolte as well. My only regret is that there aren’t many women among the ensemble, even with fairly strong showings from Joan Allen and Kerry Condon. Luck is at any rate gathering momentum with each consecutive episode, and so far remains the show to beat this TV season.

The third season of Justified is also under way, and has been living up to its incredible second frame pretty well. It’s too bad that Margo Martindale is gone from the series, but the addition of Mykelti Williamson not only introduces a long-overdue racial element into the show, but also goes a long way towards filling up the vacuum left by Mags’ departure. Neal McDonough has meanwhile been positioned as a new outsider threat in the role of sophisticated oxy “carpetbagger” Quarles, and with both Boyd Crowder and Dickie Bennett still around, the season is doing a nice job of presenting US Marshal Raylan Givens with what seem to be increasingly insurmountable odds.

AMC’s incomprehensibly popular The Walking Dead is also back for the second frame of its second outing. And like before, the show isn’t terrible as long as nobody opens their mouth to speak. In other disheartening news, the previously-reliable NBC comedy Parks and Recreation has recently taken a sharp and unexpected nosedive. Ironically, the first terrible episode of the season featured Louis CK in an ill-advised guest role (reprising his ‘performance’ as a not-too-bright police officer), who demonstrated vividly his own point about what a terrible actor he is. (Where’s the new season of Louie already?) The episodes since then have been developing the completely implausible relationship that’s been developing between Tom and Ann, which we may very well end up looking back on as the moment where Parks and Rec definitively jumped the proverbial shark.

Fortunately, there is great stuff to look forward to in the immediate future as well: the fifth season of Mad Men kicks off on March 25, and if the insanely clever first promotional image is anything to judge by, it might even live up to our expectations. One week later, the second series of Game of Thrones will kick off on HBO, and now that even those previously dismissive of the fantasy genre have been brought on board, just watch it turn into the mass phenomenon its fans always said it would be. Following the first season of the show, I decided I should write at least an article about the franchise and its larger relationship to the fantasy genre – which then of course led me to the conclusion that it would be necessary for me to read all of the books. I’ve now worked my way through the first three, which has been tedious and captivating in more or less equal measure, and still have two thick published volumes to look forward to. But even with a more or less full knowledge of what lies ahead in the plot, this first trailer for the upcoming season makes me look forward to April immensely.

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