I knew I said I was going to try to move this page into a more posts, more quick-hit-ideas kind of thing, but then I got wrapped up in "Idol" and the entries got even more ponderous. So, a few thoughts for you at this point on what first-run shows are presently on my Season Pass list.
"Supernatural." Probably the show I'm pushing hardest on my friends who aren't watching it, "Supernatural" has been through a bit of a lull after a series of episodes that really raised the bar on the show's mythology. It's hard to tell at this point whether the horror series will make like "Buffy" or "Angel" and grow progressively more serialized or continue to operate on an "X-Files," "Next Generation" model where the majority of the episodes are self-contained and the through plot advancement is limited to occasional two- and three-parters. For a time it seemed like the logic of the storyline had forced the writers down the "Angel" path, but then there were a pair of lackluster sequel episodes (a fair bank heist twist one that reused a shapeshifter villain from the first season and a recent really poor one that recycled scenes, dialogue, and plot points wholesale from a number of earlier installments involving demon possession). It was nice to see both Jim Beaver and "Deadwood" and Alona Tal from "Veronica Mars" come back for more, although for a show that has only two regulars and skips from setting to setting every week, "Supernatural" does a good job finding plenty of human stories in between all of the blood-splashing. Jensen Ackles has some serious acting chops for one of the WB stable of teen heartthrobs. Jared Padalecki has a tough time keeping up, but at least now when he has to convery sadness or regret on his new show I've finally got past the gut reaction that he must be pining for Rory.
"30 Rock."Entertainment Weekly wrote recently that "30 Rock" had graduated from a promising new show to an established good one, and while I'll agree that's it's improved (I'm still watching it) there are still a lot of things that bug me. Tina Fey has settled into the cast a little and stopped making every episode's plot one about men suddenly noticing she's pretty. The cast of recurring characters has spread out with some inspired choices, like Isabella Rossellini as Alec Baldwin's ex-wife. Tracy Morgan has had a few moments where he's done something other than bug out his eyes and squeal in falsetto. Fey still distributes her material as if it was a sketch show, however. Only Fey, Baldwin, and Morgan seem like real characters. If she's got a funny bit for bald Scott Adsit, he comes in and does it, but there's no continuity -- sometimes it seems as if Adsit's Pete is married and henpecked, sometimes he's playing a poor echo of Ted the Lawyer from "Scrubs." I thought Keith Powell's uppity Toofer had been written out until he randomly wandered through an episode two weeks ago. "30 Rock" is like "SNL" is that if you make an immediate impression or do anything remotely funny, for a month afterwards, you'll be all over every episode. Jack McBrayer's effeminate page Kenneth was funny in limited minutes early in the season, but now McBrayer has a major story thread every week and Fey is quickly running out of things to give the underwritten character to do. And please, someone put Rachel Dratch out of her misery. With misplaced loyalty Fey has given Dratch a string of ever-increasingly less funny roles on "30 Rock" over her guilt that NBC forced her to recast Dratch's old part with Jane Krakowski, who's not great but at least doesn't bring every scene she graces to a screaming standstill car wreck. I didn't watch enough of the Fey/Dratch years at "SNL" to have an opinion before now, but Dratch might be my least favorite "SNL" castmember ever. She's blotchy, tone-deaf, and desperate and honestly I want to hit her with something heavy every time I see her face.
"Scrubs." It's got that sad this-is-the-last-season feeling, doesn't it? "Scrubs" hasn't jumped the shark exactly but the musical episode was surprisingly a complete howler despite the show's great track record with incorporating music and songs in the past. The trouble with writing a TV musical is no matter how funny the lines are the songs won't work if they're badly written, and the "Scrubs" songs were badly written indeed. And the lyrics weren't that funny! I thought the showrunners were finally getting J.D. off of the circular treadmill of his personal life with a pregnant girlfriend, but they rather surprisingly wrote her out. Maybe. They could surprise us still, but the overall feeling is one of a show that's secured its legacy, whatever that will be, and is just hoping not to embarrass itself in the limited time it has left.
"Gilmore Girls." It's just not funny anymore. The only thing that keeps me watching is my incredible dislike of Matt Czuchry's Logan and the borderline abusive way the writers keep almost but not quite breaking him up with Rory. At least Christopher is gone, but the whole unpleasant placeholderiness of his whole courtship and how directionless the writers are now with the mess creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left them still burn.
OK, I have to run right now, but I will finish this list soon.