The standard progression of every action and/or thriller series is to make the audience care for the people being put into harms way. As a series progresses into its second or third season, the maintenance of this kind of tension becomes harder and harder to elevate. If the character builds created initially don’t hold up or offer differentiating perspectives, the series won’t last. The importance with series as diverse from “SGU” and “Fringe” is the idea of using what you know while surprising the audience with what they don’t.
Stargate Universe The punctuation last season rested as those usually do on the plight of life and death. Using a structure not undue to “Battlestar Galactica”, the call becomes one based in faith. The balance here is based in the idea of science versus fiction and which way the idea strains the limits of believability. The changing of roles within the teams especially between Rush and the General creates a paradox from the first season but also keeps one going in terms of which side to adhere to. The additional of the unseen alien element, which is more foreboding than in past endeavors, adds to the sense of dread in a series that is more prevalently darker than the ones before it.
Chuck With Chuck vowing not to bring himself back into the spy game and still trying to date Sarah, one knows his will power will disappear mighty quickly. What is interesting in an overall sense much like “Fringe” following it is that the dynamic of the romantic relationship especially in the modern age is evolving into something that is quite different than the ones before creating a conflict in the basic human emotional software. Some people turn it off. Some turn it on. The aspect of the Buy More being turned into a CIA substation is just window dressing. The question is how do you create the progress of new viewers without alienating the old ones. Bringing back some of the old crew makes the idea work but supplants and pushes the boundaries of believability. Adding the structure of a relationship that needs to run its crash course in TV time sometimes pushes the buttons too hard which is what it feels like here. Good guest stars including the mythos building Linda Hamilton as well as action stalwarts like Dolph Lundgren and Lou Ferrigno shows the fan structure but Chuck’s time might be waning despite its inherent likability.
Fringe The paradox of this series is maintaining the mythology and the intent without relieving any of the tension. When the cross-over elements first came into play, the question was how do you personify two sides of the Id. While seemingly problematic in terms of placing the ideas, the writing team has found a very interesting way to deaden the senses and move the story with an ability that is quite riveting. They space the worlds with different cases which reflects different parts of Olivia Dunham’s personality whether in the alternate world or ours. Granted the implementation of memories is slightly far fetched but in an alternate universe certain liberties can be taken. Truly what this creation does is take the focus off Peter in terms of importance and make Olivia a surrogate for change in a mythic sort of way. “Fringe” always displayed a tinge of “Lost” in its possibilities and is the closest thing on TV to it right now. By creating ghosts per se and the perception of a world lost, the bigger themes are starting to come into play organically which makes for especially mind-bending television. Following the structure can be difficult for those not interwoven in its ideas but the functionality of the ideas starting this third season continue to show the progression of a series on the edge.
NCIS: Los Angeles The ideas of trust maintained figure specifically into the idealization of this series. With the compromise of Erik Christian Olsen’s character Deeks, the needs and composition of the team needed to change while creating new tension. While O’Donnell and LL Cool J need to operate their character constructions on an overall track to provide consistency, the other supporting characters can seem to move with a lot more freedom now in terms of comedic intentions and love stories. The burgeoning push-and-pull between Deeks and Daniela Ruah’s Kensi provide effective comic relief while understanding the stakes being created. Consecutively Barrett Foa’s Eric Beale, always relegated the office, volleys with Renee Smith’s Nell who gives compliments and off-handed flirts as quick as she can hack a mainframe. These crisscrossing textures are what keeps the series moving at a clip with Linda Hunt as “Hetty”, the leader behind the operation, racheting everyone to their toes at every single point. It is this character-based vaulting within the stand-alone narratives that provides the series with bite.