Yesterday Videogum watched old 30 Rock clips and wistfully remembered a time when television was good. And we do not blame them. TV has royally sucked these past few summer months, no matter what the spin doctors at cable nets try to tell you (characters are not welcome!). There weren't even any breakout reality hits this summer, unless you count Wipeout, which is essentially an hour of people slowly farting on camera while John Henson chuckles and regrets ever quitting Talk Soup. What happened?
Of course most of this can be blamed on that horrible, awful, no good useless Commie writers strike that crippled a nation and forced people to go outside or read a book or do anything but watch TV. Except, oh. That's not what they did. We all just flipped the channel to some reality show and got our sweet, sweet gamma fix that way. Which makes one wonder if that's to blame for the lack of big summer hits. Reality programming have become regular season mainstays, so this year's summer shows are just the icky leftovers. Secondhand to hastily slapped-together Strike shows, even. Oh, and Project Runway sucks this season.
Scripted shows haven't been much better. Generation Kill is the best show to debut in months, but its buzz has been relatively small. And those quirky ladycop basic cable shows, like the returning Saving Grace and The Closer and the irksome new series In Plain Sight (starring the very likable Mary McCormack) are just exhaustingly bland. The terrific Big Love got delayed by the strike, and wannabe show Swingtown's taste level is evidenced by its casting of Grant Show. And we'll just leave Benjamin Bratt's A&E disaster The Cleaner and that CBS thing Flashpoint well enough alone.
Now this might seem like sour grapes bellyaching, because, really, what have we ever been able to expect from the summer? There are three fine scripted shows (GK, Weeds, and Mad Men) that are worth watching right now. But the fall looks grim too, with series like the much-beleaguered (and advertised) Kath & Kim-which completely bypassed the pilot process-standing as rickety tent poles. Networks are bringing back modest hits from last season like Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies and the stupendously shitty Lipstick Jungle, but I doubt that whatever audience they had lo those many months ago will return. And HBO's True Blood is just looking more and more annoying. Looking at upcoming television shows it looks like the best bets are going to be on Showtime (Edie Falco as a nurse!) or starring Amy Poehler (comedy!), but both of those programs don't start until 2009. Leaving 2008 the year, or at least the summer, that TV fell flat on its face. And we kept watching.