If it ain't broke, kill off some characters and add an actor from Melrose Place.
Returning television shows have a tough job -- they have to both catch the magic of previous seasons and continue to make old characters interesting, all the while introducing new people and themes in order to keep things fresh. Most shows aren't able to do it. Some get cancelled because people stop watching (see Alias). Others, inexplicably, keep going, year after year, long after they have anything left to say (see ER). It's rare that a TV show is able to string together a good five or six seasons, and keep ratings up in the process. Shows aren't allowed to build slowly over time anymore. Nowadays, they burst out of the gate, then fizzle into mediocrity. Alias, ER, the West Wing and 24 are perfect examples of shows that peaked early and were never able to recover.
For shows like Lost, Veronica Mars, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, 2006-07 could be their make-or-break year. Do they have the staying power to launch themselves for an extended stay on network TV? Here are my three returning shows for your life, that are actually for my life, but by extension, if this blog IS your life, then ergo these shows are for your life, too, except if you don't have a TV, and you still read this blog hoping I'll talk about politics or theology again, which maybe I will, but not until after the November sweeps.
1) Lost -- The "Season of the Hatch" was an interesting one. Mostly good, but some bad. In a bit of really lame-lameness, the creators decided to kill off half the new characters they introduced last year just because they couldn't figure out how to write them in an interesting and likeable way. They've done this before, with Boone and Shannon, and it's getting to be kind of a ridiculous crutch. This character is boring. Let's kill them off during sweeps week! But bygones, the hatch is exploded, bring on season 3!
Lost promises two blocks of no-repeat episodes this year, six this fall, then continuing in early 2007 with 17 more. The first block is supposed to answer all our questions about why The Others wanted Jack, Kate and Sawyer. And maybe about that giant foot, too. As long as we get a Hurley or Locke episode to boot, I think I'll be happy.
2) Veronica Mars -- Yes, I know I just wrote about this show earlier in the week, but having stuffed a whole season into my head since June, I'm super-crazy about season 3 of VM, too. Like I said before, Rob Thomas has promised three mini-mysteries across the course of the season, lasting six or seven episodes each. Plus, Miss Mars and Co. go to college. As any good Buffy fan ought to know, college episodes mean excitement: i.e., drinking, lesbians, snooty profs and general sluttiness abound. Regardless, VM ought to be it's snappy, snazzy self, with lots of Nancy Drew 2.0 goodness. And Kristen Bell? Still the cutest thing on TV. From my mouth to God's ear. Honest.
3) Smallville -- Score two for the new CW! After the mess that was Superman Returns (albeit a beautiful mess at times), it's time to get back to our generation's Superman, the boy/man Tom Welling. The other show I've been catching up on old times with this summer, Smallville is hurtling toward a sixth season that brings C. Kent another step closer to the big blue suit: A knock-down, drag-out slug-fest with none other than the notorious General Zod -- possessing the body of Lex Luthor no less!
Lot's of other things need resolving, too. Like, will Lana still have the hots for Lex now that he's a lunatic general from Krypton? Will Chloe still have the hots for Clark now that Jimmy Olsen is in the picture? Will Lois ever have the hots for anyone? And finally, can the sheer amount of teen-tear-jerk-drama be overcome by awesome fist fights between super-powered aliens? Come on kid Kal-El, show Bryan Singer just exactly what his movie lacked: Superman punching people through walls!
- Family Guy -- Only because Adult Swim re-airs the episodes late at night. Sunday evening has never been a big TV night for me. I don't know why.
- Prison Break -- The one returning show that I'm 100% certain will be better this season than last. What was once kind of a lame bottle-show is now suddenly an updated version of The Fugitive for the 21st century. How can you flipping mess that up?
- Law & Orders/CSIs -- Boring copper/law procedurals should be forced to watch episodes of Life on Mars, then cancel themselves forever.
- Boston Legal -- I watched this show once. It was 17% funny. But I like James Spader, so maybe it gets another shot. Oh wait, it's about lawyers. (See #3.)
- Grey's Anatomy/House -- Medical dramas. I have nothing good to say. Which is sad because Hugh Laurie was a kick-ass Jeeves.
- Ghost Whisperer -- I used to think Jennifer Hewitt was pretty. Then I saw her with those bangs. I'm very confused now.