A lot of shows are ending their seasons or getting new leases on life right now, so writing about the transition of the Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast feels appropriate right now.
Speaking of evolutions, in this post, I'll also share a few thoughts about the season finales of "Grimm" and "Person of Interest," which are also discussed in the podcast, but more on those shows in a bit.
Back to Talking TV: My co-host Ryan McGee and I have a snazzy new site for our podcast, which has been going strong for three years now. This new version lets you to stream the podcast on the site, it allows you to download or embed the weekly chat, and it also has links to our RSS feed and our new iTunes home.
In the podcast, we've been talking about "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones" every week, sometimes with special guests, and of course, all year long, we've also been talking about a whole range of other shows, from "Sherlock" to "Archer" to "Justified" and "Scandal" and much more.
But to get all that conversational goodness, you'll have to subscribe to the new version of the podcast in iTunes, grab our new RSS feed or simply visit the new site every week. Whether you're a new listener or returning customer, the new and improved Talking TV podcast is just a click away.
(By the way, if you want access to our old podcasts, don't worry, they're not going anywhere -- they're still here and here. And if you really want to enter the wayback machine, check out our weekly podcasts for the final season of "Lost," which linger here. Can you believe it's been exactly two years since that show went off the air? I can't. But if you have to go back, those episodic podcasts are still around.)
In any event, we're excited to keep bringing you the podcast, but in a much more functional form, and this summer, we're going to try to expand the format a bit. We'll hopefully bring you even more interviews with showrunners and other critics, and we're planning to conduct some discussions of classic episodes of TV that we love and want to talk about in depth. And as always, if you ever have any problems, questions or suggestions, please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment below.
All right, on to a few thoughts on "Grimm" and "Person of Interest," which Ryan and I discussed in this week's podcast (along with "30 Rock," "How I Met Your Mother," "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones"; we also cast a look back at "Lost." And speaking of finales, I wrote about the season-enders of "New Girl," "Community," "HIMYM" and "Suburgatory" here, and I also previously posted assessments of "Fringe," "Once Upon a Time" and "Smash.")
The more I thought about it, the more "Person of Interest" and "Grimm" have in common. They both have a core duo who fight or investigate crimes and thus, they both have sturdy procedural underpinnings. Each show also has another ingredient in the mix: "POI" has some conspiracy-theory elements layered on top of its gritty do-gooder premise, and "Grimm" has supernatural elements baked into its cop-show formula.
So as the end of the season of both shows arrived, the questions were: Which show added to its mythology in ways that made me eager for Season 2? Which gave its core characters a bit more texture and depth? Which show built a relatively interesting world on top of those fairly basic building blocks?
In my view, "Person of Interest" did a number of those things either adequately or well. "Grimm" did not.
Weirdly enough, when the most recent TV season began, I had ever so slightly more faith in "Grimm" (though that's not saying much). As I said early on and in a slightly later check-in, I never thought much of leading man David Giuntoli, whose character was related to a clan of freaky-critter chasers. But I thought the writers might be able to build a relatively interesting genre procedural around him.
Based on my viewing of the last few episodes of the "Grimm" season, not so much. As David Burkhardt, Giuntoli may have gotten slightly less wooden as time went on, but that's not saying much; he's still a charisma vacuum. But more importantly, many of the characters around him -- except Sasha Roiz's Captain Renard and Silas Weir Mitchell's dryly witty "Blutbad" -- were still underdeveloped and uninteresting. Nick's partner and wife still felt like afterthoughts, and while Mitchell's character was always fun to be around, the creature underground he is part of was pretty by-the-numbers and stale (certainly compared to the similar, but much more enjoyable "Lost Girl").
It was also mildly unnerving that nothing about Burkhardt's special destiny felt all that special; there was little sense at the end of the season that the mythology was building toward anything explosive or even important. There was a big reveal at the end of the season finale, but everything else about the ending of "Grimm" was so pallid and predictable that I have little incentive to go back. If I'm going to watch a disappointing supernatural hour every week, I'll stick with "Supernatural," which has a talented core cast and at least used to be good.
"Person of Interest," on the other hand, amped itself up nicely as the season went on, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much attention the show gave to its central mythology about the Machine and those who had built it or had otherwise been touched by its long, creepy reach. I still have a big issue with one of the central conceits of "POI" -- which holds that the Machine doesn't make mistakes when it spits out the ID numbers of possible crime victims or perpetrators. Haven't we learned -- in life and in countless sci-fi books, stories, films and TV shows -- that the machines always make mistakes?
Still, "POI" found a way to elaborate on and expand the Machine's storytelling possibilities, and the reveal at the end of Season 1 made me eager to see where things go next. But very little of the Machine skulduggery or the weekly storytelling would get much traction if the central characters weren't more interesting, and that's been another gratifying "POI" development. They're still not quite the most dynamic duo on TV, but the relationship between Finch (Jim Caviezel) and Reese (Michael Emerson) is more enjoyable and less colorless than it was.
Emerson's always been great, but as the reticent Reese, Caviezel is slightly more energetic and even wry at times. Reese and Finch have a more engaging rapport, though there are still tantalizing secrets between them, and the show has even managed to integrate Taraji P. Henson's NYPD cop into the proceedings more effectively. Also, I've really enjoyed just how subversive the show's weekly stories are. As promised in the pilot's press notes, intelligent questions are being raised about data mining, the surveillance state and malfeasance in high places.
And "POI" is doing all that in the context of a pretty well-made cop-flavored adventure program. The main thing that "POI" has done well, especially in the second half of its season, is give viewers solidly crafted weekly stories that twist and loop around in intriguing ways and have just the right mixture of mystery and paranoia. Am I going to watch every episode next season? I'd be lying if I said yes, because the TV schedule is simply too crowded and I'm always overwhelmed early in the fall.
But I hope I'll find time to catch up with "POI" in Season 2, because I'm interested to see where Finch and Reese go next. I didn't think I'd end up enjoying the show when a stiffer version of it debuted last fall, but this is one of the times I'm glad my prediction went awry.
Follow Maureen Ryan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moryan