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Sunday, March 23, 2014

5 TV Shows That Failed To Capitalize On Great Storylines

5) Homeland- Brody Dies At The End Of Season 1

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Brody tries to kill himself in a suicide bombing but his vest malfunctions, so Brody survives for 2 more dreadful seasons.

WHY THIS STORY LINE SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: This is an easy one, so I'll get it out of the way first. I also don't fault Homeland's show runners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordan for wanting Damian Lewis (the actor who played Nicholas Brody) to stay on their show. Lewis won the Emmy for Best Actor at the Emmys in 2012, and he deserved it. He was fantastic in Homeland's rookie season, and if you were running Homeland, you'd probably want this great actor to stay on as long as possible. Vince Gilligan was planning on killing off Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman during Season 1 of Breaking Bad, but didn't because he realized what a great actor Paul was and what a gem he had on his hands. Gansa and Gordon probably thought they had the same thing with Lewis. And the fact that Brody didn't actually blow up didn't change how great Season 1 of Homeland was.

However, Brody's existence did change how "good" (a term I use very loosely) Seasons 2 & 3 of Homeland was. Now there were many problems with the later season of Homeland that have absolutely nothing to do with Brody, but the fact that he was around and the writers were shoehorning him with scenes with Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) didn't help anything either. Plus, the reason Lewis was such a great actor and performed so well in Season 1 was because you weren't sure what side he was on. After Season 1, not only was his side very clear, but he wasn't given any nuances to work with.

4) Entourage- Vinny Chase Gets Nominated For An Oscar


WHY THIS STORY LINE SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: Many people viewed Entourage as a guilty pleasure where you got to see the inner workings of L.A., but not me. I loved Entourage, and I think its earlier seasons are just great television. What made Entourage so good was that you got to see the rise and "fall" of Vinny Chase and how successful his acting career was. E's love life and Johnny Drama's career were fine B and C storylines, but when the focus was on Vinny's career, the show was at its best. The show dragged in its later season when it focused less and less on Vinny and focused more on E's career and whatever Turtle was doing at that moment.

The show started to Jump The Shark when Vinny's career really took off, and when there weren't a whole lot of problems associated with it. He was cast as Nick Carroway in Martin Scorsese's version of The Great Gatsby and from there he went on to become a bona fide A-list superstar. The four seasons spent building up Vinny Chase was now dead to the show. The stakes of his career had now completely washed away, and would rarely return for the show. So having Vinny nominated for an Academy Award (which wouldn't be implausible considering the types of roles he was getting) would have changed that.

Plus, this story line would have worked great for those who just loved to see Entourage as a L.A. travel guide show. There's a lot, a lot, a lot of work and a lot, a lot, a lot of campaigning and such that goes into trying to win an Academy Award. Plus, there's lots of award shows leading up to the Oscars. Entourage could have had Vinny win the Golden Globe, but have another actor win the SAG award so whether Vinny wins an Oscar (it's Entourage, so of course he would end up winning) is in doubt. There's plenty of great material the show could have played with. Plus, Mark Wahlberg (the inspiration for Vinny Chase) got nominated for an Oscar in 2007 for his work in The Departed, so the show should have had some real life experience to draw from.

3) Arrow- Tommy Merlyn Becomes Arrow's Arch Enemy

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Tommy Merlyn sacrifices himself to save Laurel

WHY THIS STORY LINE SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: Now there are a lot of story lines that Arrow should have done and just glossed over key details. There are many times where I wish Matthew Weiner or Vince Gilligan was the show runner for Arrow. But ultimately, this is a CW show and I have to accept that. But having Tommy Merlyn become a super villain is a story line that not only would have worked with this CW model of this show, but one frankly I'm shocked did not happen. It seems like a classic and cliche story line that fit perfectly for the show, and one the show seemed to be building towards.

Tommy and Oliver Queen are best friends. Tommy's life is great when he's working at Queen's night club and dating Laurel, the girl of his dreams. But then Tommy finds out Oliver Queen is The Vigilante (Arrow) and Oliver Queen steals Laurel from Tommy. Both cause Tommy to LOATHE Oliver Queen. Tommy sees Laurel and Oliver kissing in Laurel's window, and I thought at that moment Tommy was going to vow to make sure he was going to kill Oliver Queen. Oh, and the fact that Tommy's dad, Malcolm Merlyn, becomes Season One's true big bad and tries to destroy The Glades. Tommy, now his dad's protege by the third act of Season 1, was just destined to become a super villain. I have no idea what happened to Tommy Merlyn in the original comic books, but the show was making him the new big bad.

In fact, Tommy's story line was mirroring Harry Osborne from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. Spider-Man (The Hood) fights and eventually kills The Green Goblin (The Dark Archer aka Malcolm Merlyn). Harry Osborne (Tommy Merlyn) finds out Spider-Man (The Hood) kills his father (Malcolm Merlyn) and vows to avenge his father's death. Plus, Harry (Tommy) finds out Peter Parker (Oliver Queen) starts dating and getting serious with Mary Jane Watson (Laurel) which only angers him more. Harry Osborne (Tommy) then becomes The New Green Goblin (the new Dark Archer? Another Character Because He's A Billionaire?) and fights to kill Spider-Man (The Hood)- which happened in the third film (Season 2 of Arrow). Seriously?! How does Tommy Merlyn NOT become a super villain?!

2) Mad Men- The Shows Goes In Depth About Blacks in America

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: The show glosses over it with just a handful of seasons involving Dawn the secretary

WHY THIS STORY LINE SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: The beginning of Season 5 of the show starts off in an extremely odd way. There's a Civil Rights march in New York where guys from an advertising firm called Young and Rubicam drop water balloons on the protesters. This causes the Black protesters to march up to the Y&R offices and demand their justice. Considering this didn't fit with the tone of Mad Men and didn't even involve Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce, the only logical explanation for this scene with that it was symbolic of the Black movement happening in America. A symbolic move of Blacks rising up.

Instead, all this opening scene was just a ploy to get SCDP to hire a Black secretary- Dawn. So now the show has an African-American hovering around the central characters, surely the show is going to use her as a medium to help explain what was going on, right? Nope. Even though Season 6 takes place  in 1968, a great and powerful time for Blacks in this country, the show only spends a few scenes with Dawn. They don't even show her and her family during the Martin Luther King Jr assassination!

Mad Men cares about a few of its characters, but the main point of the show is to tell the audience about how life really was in the 1960's. A huge part of our country during this time was how life was changing for Blacks in this country, and in a drastic way. To tease the audience that you're going to delve into this scenario but then never touch upon it seems absurd. Matthew Weiner has no obligation to tell the story about how Black culture was affected in the 60's. His show mainly focuses around a rich white man and Weiner chooses to tell his stories through a rich, white person lens. But if he's going to bring up Black culture, then actually address it. It would have been extremely interesting to see that point of view, especially considering how stagnant and uneventful Seasons 5 and 6 were. Mad Men's last 2 seasons were by far and away its worst two seasons, and adding a new perspective to the mix would have spiced things up in a good way.

1) New Girl- Schmidt and Cece Become a Couple and Nick and Jess Will They/Won't They

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Nick and Jess Become a Couple and Schmidt and CeCe Will They/Won't They

WHY THIS STORY LINE SHOULD HAVE HAPPNED: Because Season 3 of New Girl is pretty bad, and far below its high standards.

At the very, very end of Season 2 of New Girl, CeCe decides she doesn't want to marry Shivrang because she's in love with Schmidt. This forces Schmidt to choose between CeCe, one of the shows main characters, the girl he will clearly end up with at the end, and a character he truly loves, or Elizabeth, a minor character who clearly will not be on the show for very long because of Merritt Weaver's commitment to show Nurse Jackie.

Nick and Jess on the other hand are going through a will they/ won't they. Nick kisses Jess and they end up sleeping together during the latter third of Season 2, but on the morning of CeCe's wedding, they still aren't sure they'll work as a couple. In fact, throughout Season 2's final episode, it still paints a realistic picture to the audience that Nick and Jess, while still having feelings for each other, still won't work as a couple (at least not yet, again, this is another couple that will be together forever for the remainder of the show). The very last scene of the Season 2 finale is Nick and Jess deciding to officially become a couple, and they drive away into the night together.

Season 3 of the show has Nick and Jess work out their kinks as a couple while Schmdt and CeCe still remain separated. Now, I completely understand why the show wouldn't have all 4 being in a couple. Having everyone be happy will mean diminishing returns for a successful sitcom. One couple had to remain separated. Unfortunately, the show chose the wrong couple to be separated.

Let's start with Nick and Jess first. These two are clearly the two leads of show. They are the Ross and Rachel of New Girl. The Pam and Jim of this FOX sitcom. They are the A story line and the couple that the audience really wants to see together. So in theory, it makes sense to have them get together ASAP. However, the show still would have worked if New Girl spent one more season making Nick and Jess separated. The best example is The Office with Jim and Pam. After Jim kissed Pam at the end of Season 2 of that show, Pam spurned his advances, Jim dates Rashida Jones during Season 3, and the show spent another season making America's Sweethearts separated. As frustrating as that was, it still made for a successful Season 3 of The Office. I'm confident the writers would have made it work for Season 3 of New Girl as well. While it might have been frustrating to the audience to see Nick and Jess apart, it would have worked.

Now we get to Schmidt and CeCe. Mainly CeCe though. The whole reason she wanted to get married was because she found out if she wanted to have kids, she needed to have them NOW, as we found out in the excellent episode Eggs. This is a consequence that the show takes VERY seriously, and it should. The ability to have kids is an integral moment in most people's lives, and a problem CeCe tries to remedy instantaneously. She first attempts to have kids with Schmidt (with didn't happen in the most contrived and dumb way possible). When that fails, CeCe has her mother arrange a marriage with Shivrang- which of course doesn't work either.

We're now almost done with Season 3 of the show, and CeCe is... single and working as a bartender. It seems to be at least a year since she was told she needed to have kids right away and she still isn't with Schmidt yet, nor has any romantic prospects on the horizon To give this character such grave news, and to have not anything being done about it seems reprehensible. Almost as reprehensible as having Schmidt not choose CeCe over Elizabeth, and instead still staying with both of them ostensibly cheating on both. CeCe was always borderline on being with Schmidt to begin with, and cheating on her seems unforgivable. Now it won't be in the long run of the show as the 2 WILL end up together, but it should be.

Season 2 of New Girl was incredible. It was funny and gave us great character moments. Really, my only complaint with it (aside from CeCe and Schmidt not fornicating after Eggs) was the very last scene where Nick and Jess end up together. Schmidt running away from both CeCe and Elizabeth was fine, and having him choose at the beginning of Season 3 would have been acceptable. Although, truth be told, Nick and Jess driving away could have been "fixed" in Season 3 but still having them will they/ won't they. But instead, forcing Schmidt and CeCe apart not only turned Schmidt into an insufferable and unlikable character, it also set a chain reaction creating a really, really bad Season 3 of the show.

Now the show is still young, and I'm confident the talent of everybody working on the show can rebound from this season, but I think they made a really bad error in judgment.

What Story Line Do You Think Would Have Improved One Of Your Favorite Shows?

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