by Matthew Thompson
Looking back on the year so far, I finished up six different seasons of TV that aired during January and February. As opposed to trying to cram them all into this blog, I’ll be breaking these mini-reviews up into two segments, one for each month, to make them a bit more manageable for both me and readers (Note: I keep first season reviews spoiler-free, but it is harder to do so with later seasons, so beware of some spoilers for The Fall and Parenthood here).
The Fall Season 2
The appeal of The Fall for me comes from the cat and mouse between Stella Gibson (played excellently by Gillian Anderson) and Paul Spector, and that continues to entertain in the second season. We also finally get to see them go face-to-face in some fascinating interrogation scenes late in Season 2. Unfortunately the end left a sour taste in my mouth. The sideplot involving Jimmy Tyler has always been a weak spot for The Fall, but the contrived way that it plays a role in the season’s pseudo-cliffhanger was extremely disappointing and a bit silly. While I’m complaining about B-plots, I never really cared for the Paul-Katie relationship either.
Assuming they move onto a new case (which seems like a must if it is renewed), I’d probably watch another season of this. But it doesn’t in any way feel like essential television especially with similar shows like Hannibal and True Detective out there that are much better. Still I enjoyed the back and forth between Gibson and Spector and am glad I got the chance to watch the second season. Grade: C
A to Z Season 1
I love the concept and construction of A to Z. From big things like how it gives you a timetable for their relationship (or the dating phase at least) right up front to little things like the episode and characters’ names, it is all very clever. It feels like the creator put a lot of thought into it and I appreciate that. It isn’t a particularly funny show, more a romcom high on cute factor, but at least the leads are up to the challenge. Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti are wonderful and their characters have chemistry from the get-go.
Unfortunately the show doesn’t play to these strengths as much as it should. You’ll have to deal with inane subplots dealing with side characters that range from forgettable (Zelda’s friend Stephie) to obnoxious (Andrew’s friend Stu) to unbearable (Andrew and Stu’s boss Lydia). Even worse is the fact that in some episodes Andrew and Zelda feel like the side characters. This brings what could be a good show to somewhere south of average.
The series was also canceled pretty quickly. That means we only reached the halfway point (“M”) in this A to Z story. The finale is a decent enough conclusion considering. In the end, A to Z is a sometimes charming, ultimately forgettable romcom. As with most TV takes on the genre, you’re better off seeking out the vastly more interesting and much funnier You’re the Worst. Grade: D+
Parenthood Season 6
Season 6 certainly wasn’t Parenthood’s best. I think part of the problem was dealing with some of the bad ideas from the fifth season. In some cases they handled these well (keeping Joel and Julia separated longer made the reconciliation feel better), others not so much (almost everything with the Charter school and Max continued to be a mess). In general, the season was a step up from the previous one and wrapped up the series well.
On that note, I can’t say enough good things about the finale. It is rare for me to feel as satisfied by a series finale as I did with this one. Series finales are hard and this is probably in my top five as far as drama ones go. I particularly loved the final sequence that mixed flashforwards in with the family playing a baseball game that acted as a callback to the pilot episode. I also must give kudos to Ray Romano and the writers as he really shined over the last couple years. While I feel they dropped the ball with Max, I think they did an excellent job of portraying an adult with a similar condition in Hank.
I think I will remember Parenthood most for a couple of reasons. One is just how real it felt. The family interactions felt very realistic to me, uncomfortably so at times, but I appreciated that type of portrayal of family on TV. And maybe because of that it hit me emotionally in a way few shows did. For these reasons and more, I will really miss Parenthood, but I’m glad it got to go out on top the way it did. The finale really was fantastic. Grade: B
That will do it for this edition of TV Season Mini-Reviews. I’ll be covering Red Band Society, Sleepy Hollow, and Parks and Recreation in my next one soon. Thanks for reading!