It seems like there’s no limit to the number of truly high-quality television shows that are ending their runs.

Such is the case with True Blood, HBO’s steamy vampire drama that has begun its final season.

Along with Showtime’s Dexter,True Blood made murder and violence fun and sexy, but so far, the final season is off to an inauspicious beginning

SPOILER ALERTS after the jump….

Picking up where last season left off, Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) is missing (presumed dead) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) has gone off in search of him.  To top it off, Tara (Rutina Wesley) was seemingly killed off in the first few minutes of the new season, so that’s three of the most fun characters on the entire show either dead, absent or removed from the action.

True Blood, Rutina Wesley

Tara where art thou?

Back in Bon Temps, the ongoing storylines are of the truly dreary variety.  Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) is hopelessly guilt-ridden, there’s an epidemic of Hep-V infected vampires and even Arlene (Carrie Preston) has been kidnapped.  The show has seen fit to suck out all of the fun and joy and playfulness that made it a hit.  Instead of a victory lap, True Blood has decided to talk a walk of shame.

Of course, there’s time to reverse this trend, reunite the characters and give us a good ending, but that’s hardly guaranteed.  If you look at the number of great shows that delivered sub-par finales, you’d have to say the odds are against it.

 

I WILL READILY admit that I did not watch Boy Meets World during its seven season run in the ‘90s, so when it came time to review its much anticipated spin off/sequel Girl Meets World, I enlisted the aid of a loyal Boy Meets World fan (specifically my daughter Katie, who is awesome and could easily write this column instead of me).

What a disappointment!  While Boy Meets World was a credible coming-of-age tale told in rosy sitcom terms, Girls Meets World is almost depressingly juvenile and silly.  It seems Cory (Ben Savage) grew up to be Mr. Feeny and had a daughter (Rowan Blanchard) more or less just like him who has a friend (Sabrina Carpenter) with a penchant for mischief just like Shawn.  Sadly, Topanga (Danielle Fishel) grew up to be a couple of punchlines, but not appreciably more than that.

Girl Meets World, Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter

All grown up: Savage and Fishel and Blanchard and Carpenter

While Boy Meets World was a teen slated sitcom that anyone could watch and appreciate, Girl Meets World is strictly for young teen or tween viewing – the Hannah Montana crowd.  Occasional throwback shoutouts to the original are less homages and more wildly emphasizing reminders of how much less GOOD this show is than its source material.

While I suppose there’s nothing wrong with making a show aimed at much younger viewers, I still expected more from a sitcom with this show’s pedigree.

 

GIDEON RAFF DOESN’T have to prove anything about his ability to make great television.  He created the Israeli TV series which became Homeland, and there are few shows which better ramp up suspense than that.  A different challenge, however, is presented by his latest creation, FX’s Tyrant.

As in Homeland, the set up for Tyrant is a homecoming.  Only this time, Arab-American pediatrician Barry Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner) and his very American family travel back to the Middle East for his nephew’s wedding.  His father is the President of the fictional country in which Tyrant is set.  The political climate is that of a secular autocracy similar to Egypt or pre-war Iraq.

Almost immediately, we get a Godfather-like sense of the cast of players.  Barry is the Michael stand-in, level-headed but disinvolved.  His brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) is Sonny, all bravado and balls and anger.

Tyrant, Ashraf Barhom, Adam Rayner

Brothers In Arms: Barhom & Rayner

There’s been some suggestion that the characters here are played as stereotypical violent Middle Easterners, but is this violence any different than that in The Sopranos, Power or Boardwalk Empire?  Similarly, the suggested lesson:  power corrupts, is not new or novel.

Nevertheless, there is something compelling about being invited in to see the workings of Middle Eastern power behind the scenes.  One of our windows thereto is American ambassador John Tucker (Justin Kirk).  After spending years playing a pathetic doofus on Weeds, Kirk offers the perfect combination of diplomatic restraint, shrewd intelligence and weaselly charm that the job demands.  He also appears to occupy the same shaky moral ground that America so often does in this region.

Tyrant has gotten off the ground in fits and starts, and the drama needs to find that sweet spot that Homeland so often occupies.  If it can, the show has an original and important story to tell.

 

Quick Takes

While culling through the list of new summer replacement shows this season, now is a good time to catch up on last year’s best new show, The Bridge, which will start its second season next week.

Educational TV.  Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Keurig coffee makers are powered by witchcraft (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver); 2) For every horse dick, there’s like, a million soybeans (Drunk History); 3) Without the blueberry covering the “blue” in your red, white and blue dessert, there is no 4th of July (Jimmy Kimmel Live).

Eleven seasons in and I still tune in every week to So You Think You Can Dance, the one talent competition show that never fails to display breathtaking talent.

 

Looking Ahead

The season premiere of The Witches Of East End airs on Lifetime on July 6.

The series premiere of Finding Carter airs on MTV on July 8.

The season premiere of The Bridge airs on July 9 on FX.

Extant debuts on CBS on July 9.

The series premiere of Working The Engels airs on NBC on July 10.

Welcome To Sweden debuts on NBC on July 10.

The Almighty Johnsons debuts on July 11 on Syfy.

Hemlock Grove returns to Netflix on July 11.

 

TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet.  Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on?  Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email:  [email protected]  I welcome your input!

 

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