|Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer in UnREAL.|
At the end of last summer I wrote about three promising new series – UnREAL, Mr. Robot, and Deutschland 83 – that appeared on television screens over the summer of 2015. One year later, the travails of the first two (Deutschland’s future is uncertain, but a follow-up series probably won’t appear for some time, if at all) offer some insights into how shows can struggle to build on the success of a good first season.
UnREAL, in particular, has caused me to think about a recent suggestion by New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik that “shows get backlash in [Season 2] for flaws that were there in [Season 1] but de-emphasized” because of the thrill felt by critics and audiences alike when they encounter a new show with a unique perspective. It’s a bit of a special case, but True Detective serves as a good example: the first season of HBO’s (now possibly defunct ) anthology crime series met with hysterical raves from just about everyone, except for a few dissenters, which included Critics at Large's Phil Dyess-Nugent. However, those dissenters were vindicated with the advent of Season 2, which featured a new cast and had new directors behind the camera. The main constant was creator Nic Pizzolatto, whose overblown, self-important writing had been a major, if largely unnoticed, flaw from the beginning. With the absence of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson to make his dialogue work, or director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction, the flaws with Pizzolatto’s show became glaringly apparent.