The advent of a plethora of continuing animated shows distinctifies the approach of the genre but, beyond the procedurals, there lies a grand amount of live action situations (cartoons if you like) that can get the boundaries bumping on good ol’ Earth. Granted many of these shows that can balance humor and drama are harder to come by but USA tends to keep on top of it as highlighted by their sophomore show “Fairly Legal” while a cartoon like “Bob’s Burgers” exemplifies using the medium to reflect real human intentions albeit with longer foreheads.
Ugly Americans As much as the lead character Mark wants to help people, he ultimately gets sidetracked by the element of pursuit that trumps all others: sex. In expanding their comfort zone outwards, the creators decide to switch Callie for an episode to a guy (ultimately so she can infiltrate the underwater kingdom of Atlantis) which creates an element of unease as Mark’s girlfriend (being a demon) doesn’t understand such things. Ultimately the idea becomes that pollution begets pollution. The aspect of upper and mis-management becomes a more particular case when, through the aspect of a bad stand up routine, Mark becomes the head of the company only to find out a grand amount of misspent money to celebrate employees birthdays. While not as mythological, “Americans” does find its footing but it is becoming harder for it to stay there.
South Park The application of social niceties never quite circled into Cartman’s realm but with the continuing thought here the balance between notions of genre and ripped from the headlines precedence seems to unbalance at the weirdest of times. While the bullying aspect might in fact be explored in deeper structure at a different time, the idea of Cartman as both a would-be emissary as well as the town’s worst nightmare seems to be prevailing whether he is racially profiling a relationship while also posing as gay or spearheading the most simple squandering based episodes about the new trendy kind of streaking to do. Despite this, the extremeness of the novelty is wearing off, even with an intrinsic spot on element about the TSA where inspectors are placed in bathrooms after an over-reactive mother dies on the toilet when her son doesn’t put the toilet seat down.
Thundercats Building the mythology involves the cats moving through worlds and not just staying on the ground. The evolution and pursuit of this is the key in making the series more epic. The use of the different animal classes whether it be dog, cat, bird, rat or beyond start to form an element of the hierarchy which gives the storyline much more gravitas beyond the literal threat of Mum-Ra. What is starting to happen is an evolution into a notion of “Spartacus” with Lion-O acting as that stalwart which has come into more specific focus when a new female cat who is a fighter in the arena becomes part of their clan. The infiltration of this storyline is subtle in the way it necessitates itself. However even the use of Lion-O going through different trials into order to win his life back after he mistakenly dies hints at a notion of theology which crystallizes even more when they have to take to the skies which is where their destiny lies, mystical rock or no.
Fairly Legal The tantalizing effort of mediator Katie seems to grow on a person. She can be a tad annoying but ultimately completely into control of her facilities. Last season seemingly portrayed an idealism of her being the pursuer instead of the pursuee in terms of her imploding marriage because she was so off her rock and focused on herself. There is no doubt that Katie is a selfish person at heart but her flaws (like the characters on many other USA Network shows) points to a fact of redemption. The idea that her resolution would come from a man who just has about enough regret as a spider shows the fire that the writers are playing with. It works in texture enough until it needs to be acted upon. Adding in a political race with Katie’s former husband as running for the contested DA seat creates some extra tension. What wins this viewer is simply Katie’s ability to be herself even in what should be a weighty legal world. His scenario to prove a legal point to her legal partner (and would-be suitor) using sexual teasing to prove a point is both intoxicating and heavily annoying which is what makes it work.
Bob’s Burgers The continuation of such a low-key show defies expectation but this little engine that could has done what “Allen Gregory” and “Unsupervised” cannot: a searing animated show that can still be funny without losing its irony or resorting to overdone sight gags. Whereas in “Archer”, H. Jon Benjamin is the star of the show, here he is the voice of reason; it is the kids with their intensive lack of sense and morality (or, in one case, too much of both) that propels the ideas. Whether it be looking for treasure in a soon-to-be-demolished taffee factory (which makes good reference to “The Goonies” with Cyndi Lauper even singing a modified theme song for the end credits) to Bob becoming a would-be hostage negotiator with his burgers, the irony is all too available. His kids are attention grabbers who will use whatever means they can to hog the high life from Bob who, beyond his simpleton view, means well.
Maintaining a sense of pacing, style, wonder and general creative progression with continuing series is always a path of infinite choosing. With formula-based series like “Royal Pains”, “Justified” and “Human Target”, what made them interesting was the modulation of characters while keeping some elements of their lives a secret. The more one knows, the more the progression of what they will become waxes more defined. With comedies like “Hot In Cleveland” and “Robot Chicken”, the intensity maintains to the fact of how far you will go.
Royal Pains The tendency of a medical show on the road is the aspect that situations tend to dictate the kind of medicine needed. The interesting angle of The Hamptons is that everyone wants to keep a secret. Unlike the earlier intersections of the past two seasons with international dealings and the idiom of Cuba, the new conflicts of the show seem remarkably domestic. Granted Evan, Dr. Hank’s brother, seems to be coming into his own but the respective intentions of their overall experiences (despite their physician assistant’s upcoming nuptials) seem structured and hardly full of tension. The pervasive father/sons dynamic optimizing Henry Winkler has intrinsically run its course with no indicative place to go. While the show’s vibrancy in terms of character is much more eccentric than say “Off The Map”, its narrative progression hiccups in its returning texture searching for a more worthwhile third act.
Hot In Cleveland Despite the farcical interaction of the three leads initially cast led by Valerie Bertinelli, the inclusion of Betty White despite the inherent extremity of the situations plays heartily. While her intention seems to soften a little bit a couple of episodes in, the vigor of the comedy coming fast and furious from the elder partier is refreshing. Though the two-part episode featuring a spot by Susan Lucci seems a bit forced prompting a return to Los Angeles, Cleveland is where the show lives as long as the jokes continue. A great example of the series’ inherent tone personifies itself in the idea of White as a mob wife who in the first episode ends up in the slammer with Mary Tyler Moore as a rival where things get catty. The grand element of these types of shows on TV Land is that you can bring in all the old cronies (like John Schneider from “Dukes Of Hazzard”) into any episode and it still targets the core demographic of the channel.
Human Target The relevance of Christopher Chance angles in allowing him to be an all encompassing superhero with a quick wit and no faults. This season introduces a seductive and all-together unknowing boss who enters into situations without a full perception of their possibilities. It is because of this gumption that she starts to unravel the team. The boys club with the three prism of brutality involving the braun (Chance), the instinct (Winston) and the brains (Guerrero) is tailor-structured as a modern day A-Team but with the addition of Ames (another female – who is a wonderful foil to Guerrero in a much different way in comparison to a similar egghead situation on “NCIS: Los Angeles”), there seems more of a balance of brevity which takes away from the peril of the situation. Like at the end of the Timothy Dalton era where James Bond changes his intent of focus in his job from professional responsibility to personal vendetta, the change of priority is interesting but is not as compelling as the original mission stories.
Robot Chicken The irrepressible ideal to bring the comparisons between “Family Guy” and “Robot Chicken” are undeniable simply because the crossover element is specifically created (more recently than not because of their consecutive “Star Wars” homages). What is becoming noticeable is the increasing prevalence of strong, darker and more adult themes in both shows. After surface gags have sufficed for so long what would seem to make sense to the creators (specifically director Chris McKay here) is the certain pop culture references that interact with modern society have to be turned against each other. The result, beginning with the premiere episode’s ode to “Saving Private Ryan” and continuing through many requisite skits reflects a sense of brutality that is much more prevalent than before. Oddly enough still the most satisfying bits are the humping robot because he is a throwback to the less cynical moments. The best bit so far though is the Keebler Elves trying to stop the Cookie Monster in an “Braveheart”-type stand off followed by the requisite trial where his mother attacks the judge. The comedy is funny to be sure but the underlying context moves darker and darker with decidedly mixed visions.
Justified After the inherently resolute finish with last season’s Crowder incident, the specific vision revolving around the price on Marshall Givens’ head would seem to be a resounding voice in terms of dealing with second season structure. In narrative progression, this should have created a less Kentucky-based idealism. However last season’s final incident is glossed over with an uneasy truce that appears to allow for another family of illegal proportions to find their way into Raylan’s life in the form of the Bennetts. This new family, among other things, offers the addition of exceptional actors in the form of Jeremy Davies and Margo Martindale who display Kentucky pride with the right amount of deviance. Boyd Chowder, who was the devil incarnate who found God last season, deals with both redemption and temptation which continues to be variant themes in the series while Raylan himself, despite some interesting personal relationships, comes more to terms with his life as a would-be reaper. The tension will continue with enough palpability as long as the drama proceeds towards a head with blunt force.