Thinking Out Loud #3: Slow Start to Network TV Season!

Magnum P.I. Key Art – Courtesy of CBS.

So far, the 2018-19 TV season is off to a less than auspicious start. I’ve only been able to get through three episodes of one show – but it was a real slog.

About the only new or returning show that didn’t tick me off completely was Manifest – and Michelle’s review was so on point that I really didn’t feel the need to say the same things all over again.

Bear in mind that none of the shows I’m going to mention here would have received a grade higher than C+.

Let’s start with the season’s biggest reboot, Magnum P.I. – the pilot for which (and the only ep available for review) was beat for beat a redo of the Magnum, P.I. pilot. It was close enough that it might as well have been the original pilot with different faces.

There was a lot of pretty scenery and some gorgeous cars, but none of the cast – with the exception of Perdita Weeks’ (Ready Player One, Penny Dreadful) Higgins – was particularly remarkable. And changing Higgins from a witty but dour Texan to a hot blonde ex-MI5 agent with a particular set of skills was fun but not exactly groundbreaking.

Magnum P.I. – Juliette Higgins (Perdita Weeks) – Photo courtesy of CBS.

It would have helped if Jay Hernandez had anything even approaching Tom Selleck’s charisma – the original series didn’t always have the best writing, but Selleck easily elevated the material when that happened. Hernandez’s Magnum doesn’t even hold his own with Higgins.

FBI is just another procedural – it never even references the turmoil within the government agency. It’s so spick and span that even a strong performance by Missy Peregrym is lost in its sea of grey.

The returning shows were no better.

I couldn’t get more than ten minutes into any of The Resident, 911, Bull (despite really liking Michael Weatherly), or This Is Us.

I made it through The Gift only because I expected it would be as good as last season – a hope that was unfounded as series creator Matt Nix made clear who the show’s startlingly charisma-free Big Bad was; turned Amy Acker’s Kate into a whiner, showed her husband Reed (Stephen Moyer) struggling to deal with the return of his mutation, and had Lorna Dane (Emma Dupont) birth her baby.

The only character who actually showed any was Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) – we never even saw Coby Bell’s Jace Turner.

THE GIFTED: Blink (Jamie Chung), Lauren Strucker (Natalie Alyn Lind) – Photo courtesy of FOX.

Overall, The Gifted’s second season premiere was – and this is the worst thing I can say about any show – boring.

Then there’s Lethal Weapon. Oh, boy.

Whatever kind of ass Clayne Crawford was on set, Riggs was the beating heart of the show. It should never have been renewed – it’s gone from exciting and fun to inert.

It’s cool that Seann William Scott has a regular paycheck, but his first ep didn’t provide any real laughs or any real sense of danger.

I can’t see the show lasting more than a few eps. I, for one, won’t be watching.

LETHAL WEAPON: Wesley Cole (Seann William Scott), Roger Murtagh (Damon Wayans) – Photo by Ray Mickshaw/Courtesy of FOX.

Finally, there are the two procedurals that I never miss – NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans.

Up here in the Great White North, for some reason, the two were aired in reverse – removing any suspense from the NCIS cliffhanger that left Director Vance (Rocky Carroll) in the hands of terrorist Nigel Hakim (Pej Vahdat). Brilliant!

Over the years, the writers of the NCIS franchise’s have developed so genuinely interesting characters and some pretty nifty crimes to be investigated.

NCIS: New Orleans followed Agent Dwayne Pride’s (Scott Bakula) team as they attempted to track the assassin (Ellen Hollman) who tried to kill him. Half the ep was the procedural and half was a metaphysical arc where the late Megan Sutter (Amy Rutberg) tries to persuade him to step into light.

The show had done metaphysical eps before, but never quite so ham-fistedly. Even a lava lamp encrypting arc failed to be interesting.

NCIS followed Agent Gibbs’ team as they tried to find Director Vance. The ep placed Vance’s daughter Kayla (Naomi Grace) in danger and had Agent Jack Sloane (Maria Bello) ferreting out one of Hakim’s associates and new forensics specialist Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) discovering a clue that led to saving Kayla – while lava lamps saved the city from Hakim’s plan and Jack’s subterfuge saved Vance.

NCIS – Agent Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham), Dr. Farrell Emerson (Jim Meskimen), Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Acting Director LeRoy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) – Photo courtesy of CBS.

Even having the Director’s secretary trying to get Acting Director Gibbs to sign some paperwork came off as weak.

Frankly, it was so by the numbers that I found myself, for the first time, considering dropping it from my PVR queue.

So, we’re barely into the new season and even my favorite network shows are boring me to tears and only one new one has actually caught my attention.

The point of all this?

Ratings for the Big Four are dropping precipitously while cable eats up more and more of their audience with superior programming.

This new age of quality TV is being called the Platinum Age of TV, but it seems that network TV is still mining for silver.