Pretty good TV is pretty good

I haven’t been really hooked to a TV show drama since Lost. Outside of my favorite comedy programs—Community, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Up All Night, The Daily Show and Modern Family—there are few shows that I watch with complete focus. Most I’m content to have on in the background while I screw around on the internet or entertain my son with things that rattle.

I tried a few “full focus” shows that others rave about. Mad Men had promise, but I eventually gave up on it, tired of finding out that every single male character was a cheating scumbag. I tried Breaking Bad, and I really like it, but I have to be in the right mood to watch it, because that show’s kind of a downer. Then there’s Doctor Who. That show is great and stupid at the same time and I think I like it. It has replaced 24 as my favorite form of ear TV. I usually “watch” it while I’m working on art. It streams from Netflix in a small window on my other monitor.

Maybe Lost was a one-time thing. Now that I have a baby I rarely watch a show when it actually airs. Our DVR is always packed with shows waiting to be watched. It’s kind of nice actually. Whenever I sit down to watch TV, I can watch what I want, and that suits me. I hate flipping channels and just watching some mindless programming. If I’ve designated some time to watch TV, I want to watch TV, not some lame apartment hunting show on a upper-200 channel with a nonsense acronym.

I have tried out a couple of non-comedy shows, and one I keep coming back to is Person of Interest. It’s not particularly great, but it’s consistently pretty good, with promise to get better.

It’s about a machine that predicts threats to the nation. It was built by an insanely smart and insanely rich guy named Finch, played by Lost’s Michael Emerson. When Finch realized that the machine was also predicting small crimes—it would spit out social security numbers of those that were in danger, or about to commit a crime—and they were getting ignored, he struck out on his own. Then he hired Reese, played by Jim Caviezel, an ex-super spy dude looking for a purpose. Together they use the machine to find the people the government deems “insignificant”, and they save lives. Finch uses his nerdery and Reese uses his general badassery.

I like the show because it’s got that crime of the week thing, and also some light over-arching mystery. Each episode reveals just enough of the mysterious side stuff to keep you coming back. It’s not heavily serialized like 24 or Lost, but it’s not completely disconnected like some procedurals. I guess I just appreciate the fact that they aren’t doing that heavy handed “we have a mysterious development that we’re going to hint at (or beat you over the head with) in every episode!” thing that every post-Lost drama tried to do.

I have no idea how the show is doing because I always DVR it, but I hope it continues. Yes Caviezel’s delivery can be wooden and forced at times, and some of the stuff they do with technology crosses the line between sort-of, maybe possible to just outright dumb, but the good outweighs the bad. Emerson is fantastic as Finch. He’s a good guy, but he’s got skeletons in his closet. He’s not nearly as duplicitous as Ben was in Lost, but Emerson still plays up some of that same “I’ve got some secrets you shouldn’t know” tension to great effect. Also, Caviezel’s smooth badassery approaches Jack Bauer levels on occasion, and that’s never a bad thing.

It’s pretty good TV, and maybe it will eventually make the leap to pretty great. Any other shows out there that fit the same description?