Fall TV Preview: Four returning series that have something to prove

The fall television season is just about to begin! To celebrate, I’ll be doing a series of fun features and previews for both returning and brand-new series. I have not seen any of the new pilots or premieres from veteran series, and thus the quotes around preview. No matter, that won’t stop me from doing these bad boys, so let’s get a-previewin’!

Unfortunately, there are a number of series that enter this season with some big concerns about quality. Did the following series just have off-years? Have they just completely lost “it” and will now be regulated to mediocrity until they’re mercy-killed by their respective networks? I’m not sure, but something has to change or fans are bound to get really angry.

1.) How I Met Your Mother (Entering S6)

Absolutely no series on television had a more disappointing season in 2009-10 than How I Met Your Mother. The fifth season of the CBS comedy was devoid of the series’ classic, big “arcs,” but more importantly, lacked any real heart. I was watching seasons two and three on DVD the other day and was blown away all over again at just how well those seasons nail all the emotional moments. When HIMYM is at its best, it is oftentimes more warm and cuddly than it is funny and that certainly has to return in year six. But of course, I can’t not mention the weird decision to do mostly self-contained sitcom-y episodes last year, which added to the disappointment. I don’t even need movement on the Mother arc (I’ve resigned myself to let it come when it comes), I just need something. Season five was mostly empty in terms of big moments for the characters and I need my big moments.

Chances they right the ship: Very, very good. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have spent all summer trying to convince people that they messed up last year and are promising big, big things for S6. It might be the Ted Mosby in me, but I have faith.

2.) Glee (Entering S2)

Despite the wonderful finale, the back half of Glee‘s first season was a complete mess in every respect, but especially character and narrative consistency. By the time those episodes were filmed, the production team had seen the outpouring of support for the series and so everything in the back-nine was overstuffed. There was too much music, too much ridiculous character turns and too much Sue. Take all those issues and add them to the usual issues with second seasons of phenomenon series and there’s a lot to be concerned about. Second seasons of series like this are always jam-packed with MORE! and if there is any series that will absolutely follow that stereotype to a T and then go beyond that, it’s Glee. Perhaps I have too high of expectations for the hit dramedy, but I’ve seen episodes and even individual moments in those kind of awful episodes that suggest the series can do better.

Chances they right the ship: Very, very slim. Ryan Murphy has also spent all summer on a very specific message about the series dialing it back and focusing on characters, but then turns right around and discusses whole episodes dedicated to Britney Spears, “Rocky Horror,” another Madonna one and something special and secret for the post-Super Bowl slot. I’ve ranted about this before, but those messages don’t quite line up, Mr. Murphy. And in really, most fans of Glee are going to get what they want, whereas curmudgeonly folks like me will be annoyed with what could have been.

3.) The Office (Entering S7)

Like How I Met Your Mother, The Office struggled with finding a main narrative arc or theme for last season and what’s worse is that the NBC comedy introduced a number of great ideas that it just refused to follow through on. Now it’s suddenly thought of as the least funny of the NBC comedies, a switch in critical opinion that took only one season to develop, and is faced with the giant elephant in the room known as Steve Carell’s departure. Wishful thinking suggests that creating an arc that can lead into Michael leaving would serve as a great catalyst for both comedic and emotional storytelling, but I think some of us thought the same of Pam and Jim having a baby. This late in the game it’s typical to lose a step, but if NBC really wants to continue the series after Carell says goodbye, The Office really has to show its fans that it can still rear back and throw a 97 MPH fastball every once in a while.

Chances they right the ship: 50/50. Many fans think the series has been on the decline for three years, and though I do not, the signs of wear are apparent. Maybe the writers figure out a great way to send Michael off and bring in someone new who is awesome, maybe they don’t. What I do know, however, is that it’s going to be very interesting to watch, good or bad.

4.) Supernatural (Entering S6)

This last series is an interesting case because I couldn’t have been more satisfied with its most recent season and especially the conclusion to said season. And therein lies the problem with a sixth season of Supernatural. The CW series should have said goodbye after the emotionally satisfying and fitting end, “Swan Song,” but of course, it’s coming back and attempting some sort of back-to-basics approach that I’ve already expressed my concern for. So Supernatural has something to prove because I just don’t see the purpose of telling anymore of this story, it’s all going to feel very tacked-on and unfortunately will have difficulty topping the last few seasons and especially that finale. I want to be proven wrong, I really do. This is probably my favorite series on television, I’ve been with it since the pilot’s original airing and I can’t handle it limping away.

Chances they right the ship: This series and this situation doesn’t quite fit those circumstances, it’s more like the chances they’ll crash into a giant ice berg instead of staying on the same path. I’m more concerned about going off-track than getting back on it, but in any even, I think there’s a 70 percent chance this season is still good, but almost 85 percent chance it feels tacked on and not needed.

What do you think? Any series you think have something to prove?

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