There are times when I watch a television show that has all the elements that I usually enjoy, and yet something fails to click. Despite my being able to check off all the boxes I use to determine whether or not I should spend my time on a program, the show doesn't draw me in. Something is missing.
I'm always disturbed by these moments. I always want to know if it's me – have I changed, is the face staring back at me in the mirror that of a person who no longer enjoys semi-mindless, pseudo-scientific, vaguely self-aware television? Boy, I hope not. I'd much rather think it's the show that's at fault and not yours truly.
It is at these times when I try to convince myself (and I don't think wrongly) that the whole of a show is much greater than the sum of its parts.
I've been struggling with this very problem recently with the BBC America show, Primeval. It's got dinosaurs, rifts in the space-time continuum, pretend science masquerading as pseudo-science, and lots and lots of people with British accents. What more could I possibly want from an hour of television? I don't know, but there's definitely something missing.
Part of the problem with Primeval probably lies in the poor computer effects — the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park looked and felt far more real than anything Primeval has offered in its first two episodes. I know Jurassic Park was a high-budget Hollywood film, but it's also more than a decade old and we've seen better CG on television specials since then. In Primeval, I never have the feeling that anyone is actually in any sort of danger because I never believe that the opponents are really there. I keep waiting for the actors to look at the camera and ask the animators to draw something different. That tactic worked every single time Bugs and Daffy used it.
For a show like this some major suspension of disbelief is always necessary, and I really feel as though it's not asking too much that the folks creating the creatures help us out with that. It's much easier to accept that these are temporal disruptions that allow people and things to pass back and forth between present-day England and umpteen points in the past if the things coming from the past look vaguely plausible.
But, is that it? Is my only problem with the show the fact that I can't believe in it because the creatures don't look real. Has my imagination become so horribly jaded? Sadly, I think it may have, but in this case, there's more to the show that doesn't work. I'm still going to give it a few more weeks, but right now I need to see more from them. They're using the old “professor's wife disappeared years ago and has been thought dead but it turns out she's just probably gone back in time through a rift” plotline, and they're going to have to wrap it up pretty soon. At least, they're going to have to create some sort of interesting twist or turn in the story, because we've all seen that plot used over and over again.
I actually think there's more to it than that, though. The characters are all pretty much stock ones, the scenarios are only vaguely tweaked from other shows, and I don't feel like the long-term plot (beyond the professor and wife mystery) is headed anywhere good.
After reareading this, I'm still unconvinced. Maybe it's me. Maybe I need a new checklist. Come on, new TV season, you're almost here and I just can't wait.