Decoys and Seances
Firstly: I got to write up one of my favorite "lost" TV shows for AV Club's One-Season Wonders. I have enjoyed plenty of doomed shows in my time, but most of them are in the Kings mold, where at least there's enough of a record of them existing that you can obtain the episodes and relevant press materials. (Unless it's Kindred: The Embraced, in which case you wait one million years for the DVDS to become available and when you finally obtain them you realize what an influence show it was in the urban-fantasy landscape and also precisely why it got cancelled.)
Not so Decoy: Police Woman! The first TV drama with a woman protagonist, it was heavily influenced by DRAGNET, but managed to be quietly revolutionary in the particulars, from the unquestioned competence of Casey Jones to her cases. They ranged from kind of hilarious (she went undercover for weeks in Coney Island to bust a guy who fenced the occasional toaster) to the tangled; many of her suspects had complicated psychologies, and though Casey was always determined to bring criminals to justice, once or twice she had to question her definition of the word. (I was pleasantly surprised to run across an episode where a woman who had spent time in a psychiatric hospital was stigmatized by the people she worked with and the episode addressed the ways in which that made her socially vulnerable.)
Not to worry, though; she always gets her man (...arrested, heyooo), and the show has both astonishingly hardboiled introductory VOs that Zapp Brannigan would admire, and Casey often broke the fourth wall at the end to deliver one last quip or remind us of the moral. Usually the moral was "Don't do crime," but very so often it surprised me there, too.
My piece on the season is here at AV Club. Many of the episodes are now lost; the 30 or so still available are available through Netflix or piecemeal on archive.org or YouTube. Can you say no to a show that's Presented as a tribute to the BUREAU OF POLICEWOMEN? Nope.
In other, much more gory news, my latest recap of Penny Dreadful is up at io9! In it, I point out the world's most nautical inn, which I love so much I hope they often return, and try to describe the awesomeness of the séance, but that's hard, because it's it's both an amazing ten minutes of TV, and still eclipsed by the final minutes of the episode, which are 1) heartbreaking at various levels, and 2) includes another instance of no one telling Ethan anything. Not Telling Ethan Things is my single favorite thing about this show, and I hope it continues; also it might be just as well he can't tell any secrets if he turns out to be a werewolf.
I have no proof of this. I don't even tend to speculate about TV; I have my hopes, of course, but as the only person who can still be surprised by a Poirot reveal, I tend to be much more invested in character than plot. ("Oh, right!" is something I have sometimes uttered when Poirot gets to the big monologue, not because I forgot the clue that led to the murderer, but I'd long ago stopped caring about who was even murdered. I just wanted that pair of cousins to be happy together, that's all I wanted!) But I am beginning to wonder if this Uninformed Regular Guy thing will continue all season. I would be all for it, but it does seem like we've already had vampires, possession, and Frankenstein, so werewolves are just sitting there unclaimed! We'll see. So long as no one informs him of it, I'm fine.
Also, a friend asked for a description of the show in terms of scare levels, plot twists, and emotional investment as part of her decision whether to watch. My answer:
It feels about right.