It’s somewhat arbitrary that we start the new year in January. On the ancient Roman and Julian calendars, the new year began when the new consuls took office in Rome. This used to be in March, but eventually changed to January, and so that’s when the year began. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, January was merely kept as the start of the year because that’s how it was on the previous calendar. (Big ups to my guys over at Wikipedia for that information.) For television, we like to assign some sort of meaning to the arrival of the new year, but usually there is none to give. It’s simply the midway point in the typical nine-month TV season. Not anymore, however. These days, with January comes the real TV season. September through December? Just a warm-up. Meaningless. A trifle. American Idol, Lost, 24. That’s what January brings. (Also, the return of our favorite fall programs – Supernatural fans, bear with me. I’ve got something for you a bit later.)
I bring this up because there are only a couple of days left in the cold, bitter month of December, a month that leaves TV watchers with little to cling onto. It’s a desert out there, filled with the rotting corpses of decades-old holiday specials and cable crotch-punches like MTV’s Bromance (This is the name of a serious show, unfortunately; Brody Jenner from The Hills needs a new bro. So, he does what any reasonable human searching for a friend would do – get potential bros to go on camera and demean themselves for the chance to become his new bro. It’s kind of sickening, isn’t it? MTV – you used to air Beavis and Butthead. You used to be cool. I used to watch you for hours and hours on end. Now – never. Anyway, Bromance is, as stated above, a definitive crotch-punch to your intelligence. Don’t watch it, unless you’ve simply given up on everything and hate yourself.) If you’re a sports fan, there’s more than enough nougat-y goodness out there to tide you over, but if you shake your fist at the barbaric violence of televised football and glare a steely glare at basketball of all kinds, the drought of quality television is omnipresent during this, the twelfth month of the Gregorian calendar.
As a sports fan, an often rabid one, I’ve been surprised at my relative indifference to bowl games, college basketball and the usual objects of my couch-jockey affection. Then, like a particularly epiphanic wet willy, my senses tingled and a realization crystallized. My body and my mind were resting, hibernating slightly, in anticipation for January and onward, when the real television begins and my work gets thick as brambles and important as TV blogging can realistically get. American Idol, in particular, is an intense and unrelenting monster that takes focus and guile to rightly tame. Like the two years previous, it will take over five months of my life. I will inhale Simon Cowell’s hot CO2 and exhale Paula Abdul‘s whiskey breath until Idol’s May finale. By the time American Idol’s crowns its eighth champion, I will have likely written a novel’s worth of (mostly) nonsense on this country’s pre-emanate singing competition. The sheer audacity of Idol as an enterprise is something to admire, even if you despise the content of the series with every fiber of your cold, dark heart (I’m looking at you, unnamed friends and anonymous cynics). That being said, I cannot wait for Ryan Seacrest to reenter my life. He’s an adorable little man.
FOX does not stop there. 24 returns for the first time in nearly two years. Since season 6 ended, Jack Bauer has been hiding out, traveling the world in search of meaning. Knowing Jack and his tortured soul, we can bet that inner peace has remained unattainable. But, there are still threats to thwart, authority figures to yell at, henchmen to murder, and people to ruthlessly torture. I’ve already seen the first four episodes of 24’s seventh season and, while a review will come in the new year, I know some fans will be disappointed. Which is fine. Another realization clocked me in the temple – 24 needs not be great, or even good. Jack Bauer as a weekly television presence is prize enough. We should enjoy him, drink in the grizzled gruffness, the immaculate “Damn It!” line readings while we still can. TV won’t be the same without him.
While FOX traipses around like the rich kid in high school whose parents just bought them a luxury sedan while their fellow students work the night shift at the local grocery store to save up for some old jalopy, ABC responds with its own January trump card in the form of Lost. If, four seasons in, you’ve yet to board the Lost train, you won’t understand. The joy of anticipation us Lost fans feel every week as we await another hour-long mythological nugget probably appears either pathetic or completely insane. Sometimes, I will be alone, maybe at a coffee shop, maybe on my couch, maybe in the shower, and I will giggle to myself at the mere though of Lost. That a series so patently insane, so dense and unhinged, can exist on network television and sustain a large enough audience to enjoy tent-pole status is a minor miracle. This is a show which, at the end of its fourth season, made an entire island disappear. How? Oh, just a big ol’ hand crank in an underground ice chamber. Wonderful madness. Benjamin Linus – show the Oceanic 6 the way home, will you?
Before returning to momentary hibernation mode as January of 2009 sneaks into existence, I want to talk about Supernatural. BuddyTV users – you effing love Supernatural. It’s a crazy kind of love, though I’m often wary of such serious attachment. Love is fleeting, and you can’t enjoy a great sandwich without eventually finishing it. But, I respect you, Supernatural fans. You are enjoying the hell out of this sandwich. Truth be told, I’ve never gotten into Supernatural. But, as a gesture to the most vocal and rabid fan base on this here website, I am going to give it a go come the new year. I will watch and revel in the brotherly Winchester duo as they brood and kill things. Perhaps I will find a new favorite program in the process. Whatever negative connotations I may have placed on Supernatural in the past, I will shed myself of them before turning the channel to The CW. This is my vow, and one I mean to keep.
2009 – it will be a good year for us TV fans. Perhaps this is just foolish, holiday hangover-induced optimism. I hope not, yet it matters little. Let us embrace the new year and its television offerings with open arms. TV fans unite! Onward to January! Televised glory awaits!
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)