During a Morning News interview today Norah O’Donnell bravely suggested to Mandy Patinkin that Showtime’s “Homeland” might have jumped the shark in its most recent episode. I was disappointed but not surprised. I have no emotional investment in that series, yet have been insulted and betrayed by television before. This might become a living blog entry because there are too many examples to list at once. Perhaps let this serve an therapeutic venting as well as a categorical list of dramas that I allowed myself to develop a relationship with, only to be let down.
David E. Kelly’s “Boston Public” initially comes to mind as one that reeled me in only to deliver a sucker punch. It showed real promise in the beginning, tackling social issues in and outside of the microcosm of an inner city high school. At the end of season one the stage was set for a weekly dose of intelligent writing, brilliant acting and reminders of meaningful life lessons. Then it all went to hell. The plots became silly and unbelievably contrived. It was as if Kelley handed over the writing keys to someone whose life experience was limited to children’s literature. One character even developed a prosthetic hook arm reminiscent of J.M. Barrie.
Not long ago was binge viewing “Breaking Bad” as the season two cliffhanger tied several of the stories together in a twist that nearly crossed the line. I forgave the series – every program gets one free pass – because, despite the unbelievable coincidences, the obvious intent was to demonstrate the interconnectedness of lives. “My so-called Life” veered dangerously close to the supernatural in “So-called Angels“, giving us a glimpse of guest Juliana Hatlfield’s homeless character’s angel wings. Again forgiven, because it hit home a powerful ‘so have you done unto the least of these’ theme.
I’m not so jaded that I need to be reminded it is only television. Some of my favorite programs, “Saving Grace” (which began with angel wings) and “Dead Like Me” (which began in purgatory) intertwined real life drama with the supernatural. The free pass lasts the entire lifetime of a series when it is the premise and quality writing and acting remain consistent.