As summer was beginning in earnest and the memory of finals was beginning to fade, I sat aghast in front of my television screen as I watched the characters of Desperate Housewives jump ahead five years in the dying minutes of the season four finale broadcast. Like many other viewers, I was shocked at series creator Marc Cherry’s flash-forward decision.
I immediately hopped online to discover that not only would the series continue on from this future vantage point, but that many younger characters would be lost in the transition and that flashbacks would be used to fill in some of the missing details. Aside from being a little happy at the culling of the kiddie-herd—including the insufferable Julie—I thought it was the biggest mistake in broadcast television.
But three months of programming later, I think that it’s the most interesting thing I watched all summer. For the past four months, almost every time I watched television I felt like my brain was going to force my body into a coma just to the stop the assault on my intelligence.
I’ve heard that a few dramas were pretty entertaining, including Swingtown—which I will surely catch on DVD—but the plethora of mundane reality programming offered was truly sickening. The Real World: Hollywood was the most mind-crushingly boring year the series has ever seen, and that’s despite one castmate’s battle with alcoholism and another being ejected for his confrontational behaviour. Also, The Bachelor/Bachelorette series seem to still be running solely to provide material for Joel McHale on The Soup.
And if another Bachelorette wasn’t annoying enough, here comes American Big Brother, with its batch of “zany” houseguests to get on your nerves. Actually, come to think of it, next to Julie Chen—who has to be the most cloying woman on television today—they seem downright pleasant. The original British Big Brother has such a solid format—how American television can screw it up is beyond me. Having seen the British version now makes watching Chen’s version absolute torture.
There were a few bright spots on the television horizon this summer, one being the return of The Mole, the criminally underrated reality show in which contestants must guess who among them is a saboteur. As a show that is smart, humourous, and challenging, it was almost predestined to bomb spectacularly. Digital cable also provided me with a hidden gem in The Comeback, the short-lived series starring Lisa Kudrow which lampoons reality television and is the closest thing American television has ever come to the The Office’s genius.
After months of mind-numbing “reality,” I look back at my experience with Desperate Housewives only to find that I now see it in a completely different light. I’m now craving shows that take risks and stir up emotion in their audience—even when it’s not done in a completely effective way—instead of programs that exist only to fill time until the fall season begins.