Person Of Interest Nears End-Program

poi42017.16: Person Of Interest Season Four – Blu-ray

Person of Interest almost seems something of a curio in this changed landscape that is television today. It isn’t a cable blockbuster, and it isn’t a season of ten or twelve episodes. No, this is a throwback to how tv shows always used to be, a 22-episode season on Network TV, complete with scripted teases/pauses for commercial breaks. These days, that’s almost an oddity. One could be forgiven that television has moved on, what with Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and MadMen and  other shows on cable, and so many other shows airing on providers such as Netflix and Amazon. In many ways, television has indeed moved on- Person of Interest seems from some other era.

Which is, to be frank, part of its appeal. While it does have a story-arc that stretches across each season, and indeed over all the seasons as a whole, many of the episodes generally work as seperate stories focusing on guest-stars and characters/storylines unique to each episode, often ending with an old-fashioned ‘reset’ that sees the regular characters ready and waiting for next week’s adventure. Its almost quaint, and yet it feels almost comforting in a tv landscape that can make so many demands on viewers. I recently tried watching episode 1 of series two of The Expanse and it had be scurrying away to my season one boxset, as I couldn’t really make any sense of this new episode. I hadn’t seen any of the show since last June/July and I could only recall a vaguest sense of the plot and the new episode utterly lost me, frankly. Its exhilerating to have such sophisticated storytelling that makes such demands on the viewer but it can frustrate too. Person of Interest is decidedly Old-School- not necessarily drop in/drop out whenever you like, but its all fairly familiar and tends to bring you up to speed easily enough.

At times that’s one of the shows problems- it isn’t really sophisticated at all. Very often the dialogue awkwardly explains what is going on or someones backstory or motivations, stuff viewers are familiar enough with if they are paying attention, but handy to keep casual viewers up to speed.Although sometimes it feels like it is filling the blanks for those who are late getting back from the commercial break. Which is ironic, as I’m binge-watching it on a box-set, so there are no breaks to commercials for cat food and recaps from a few episodes back are pretty redundant watching an episode or two every night..

poiWhile the show is inferior to Fringe, possibly the last genuinely great Network-based genre tv show, its nonetheless impressive that it maintains a pretty high quality level whilst somehow making 22 hours of television each season. Thats not easy, especially when it tries to maintain film-quality production levels each week, with plenty of location footage on the streets of New York.  Like Fringe, Person Of Interest struggled with ratings, something Network TV is notoriously rabid and ruthless about, but thankfully a truncated season five offers some kind of conclusion to the show. I’ll see soon enough, having now finished season four.

Maybe the show doesn’t really attain the heights I’d hoped for it a few years ago, but it is good fun, and it certainly has that old-school appeal that many of the new blockbuster shows, for all their complexity, often lack.  Part of the charm of the show is naturally its great cast of fairly entertaining and interesting characters, the saving grace of many such shows and why we keep on returning to them, but it also feels like the kind of television I used to watch back in the 1970s and 1980s. Sure the production values and overall quality is way higher than all that Glen Larson stuff etc but it has that old comforting feel. The tv equivalent of a comfort blanket and a handy undemanding escape from reality. That seems like faint praise, but I don’t intend it to be.

Now, where did I put that Season Five box..?

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3 thoughts on “Person Of Interest Nears End-Program

  1. I do still think there’s something to be said for old-style network TV dramas. They’re not at the forefront of quality TV alongside the cable/streaming stuff, but the better ones have their own charms, and their own place in one’s viewing life.

    It’s funny: shows like Buffy, 24, Lost, et al, helped invent binge watching presumably because it compresses those oh-so-long arc plots (I guess network dramas cover about as much plot across 22 episodes as Fancy Shows do in 10-13), but, personally, the ones I watch nowadays are almost anti-binge-watching. The constant hand-holding and episodic stories mean you can watch an episode here and there and still follow it; but you can also watch two or three or four close together without it getting tiresome (if it’s a good show, obviously). They’re kind of filler, but good filler. Maybe that’s just me, but it works.

    1. It does feel wrong complaining about the new, sophisticated cable/streaming being ‘hard work’. I remember being so thrilled by Babylon 5’s five-year arc. But now it seems everybody is doing it and the demands of multiple shows with several-year arcs is quite daunting. In order to watch season 2 of Man In The High Castle I had to rewatch the last episode of season 1 just to get up to speed. Season 1 of Westworld seemed a minefield of multiple timelines and arcs and weekly viewing quite daunting (I suspect a binge watch would be a much easier/improved experience). One of the increasing frustrations of The Walking Dead is that it appears to be endless and devoid of any resolution.

      Against all this, an old-fashioned Network show like Person of Interest is actually a refreshing, and more importantly, relaxing experience. I have an old dvd set of Starsky and Hutch which is quite tempting- strange that all this new fancy HBO/Netflix stuff should send me scurrying to an old 1970s cop show.

      1. One thing that bugs me about streaming series in particular is they’ve done away with the “previously on”. That’s grand if you’re binge-watching, but if you’re not intending to watch the whole thing back to back they can be pretty darn helpful! They could at least put them on the first episode of a season to get you up to speed with how the last one ended. Even if a show’s exclusive to a provider and all the previous episodes are part of the package, not everyone wants to rewatch a whole season, or even a whole episode, before they can watch the new one.

        One show that should definitely have a starting recap (but I bet won’t) is The Defenders. There’ll be 65 episodes of other shows leading into that — even seasoned fans might need a helping hand, never mind new viewers!

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