The glorious comeback season
Let's face it: the sixth season of serial killer show Dexter was good, but it was worrying - as I wrote at the time, the conclusion, in which Dex took out another season-long villain as Deb walked in to tell him that she loved him as more than a sibling*, left me concerned about the future of the show, hoping that the writers would take Season 7 in a more interesting direction than "Dexter goes up against another major villain while involved in an awkward relationship with his sister".
Thankfully, the seventh season of the show - currently airing on SoHo - has been a massive improvement: Michael C Hall is back to his best as the lovable psychopath, Deb (played by Hall's ex-wife Jennifer Carpenter) has all-but-forgotten her feelings for her brother as she panics at the revelation of his killer secret, and the story has gone in a much more interesting direction, with the walls slowly closing in on our "hero" from all directions.
Season 7 has been a comeback year for the show - which got me thinking about other great shows which rebounded from a year or two in the creative doldrums. Here are eight more shows which hooked themselves up to a rejuvenation machine:
The Walking Dead, Season 3
The second season of the zombie horror started well, but dragged** for around eight episodes before an improved couple of episodes in conclusion. The third season, airing Wednesdays at 10.30pm (TV2), has been much better: the first three episodes have arguably been the best to date, and ratings have been through the roof - The Walking Dead has a chance to end the year as the highest-rated scripted show, the first time a cable series will have achieved that honour.
Battlestar Galactica, Season 4
The truth is that BSG's third season was kind of a bummer - y'know, because of the whole "occupation of New Caprica" storyline. Season 4 was a welcome return to the interpersonal drama that made Seasons 1 & 2 so engrossing. And yeah, I know that the show had one of the worst endings of any television series, but I thought the fourth season, with its search for (and reveal of) the Final Five, was pretty great.
Lost, Season 4
Anyone who watched all six seasons of Lost will tell you that Season 3 was easily the worst season of its run (two words: Nicky, Paulo). The writers got it right in Season 4 though, introducing the science team from the freighter, switching the tired flashbacks to puzzling flash-forwards, and taking the show in a sci-fi/fantasy direction.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Season 12
The influential procedural went in the tank with Laurence Fishburne in the lead role during Seasons 10 & 11. The shift to a lighter tone reminiscent of the early seasons of the show, and the addition of a pair of new leads in Ted Danson and Elizabeth Shue, has the show back to its near-best.
Seinfeld, Season 4
I can't be the only one who was left thinking Seinfeld was good, but not great, after three seasons. Luckily, Season 4 vaulted the show into greatness with its season-long story arch about the TV pilot and a number of memorable episodes, such as The Watch, The Pitch, The Bubble Boy and The Junior Mint. This was the moment at which Seinfeld, a good show, became one of the all-time great shows, and Season 4 will be remembered as one of the greatest seasons of anything, ever.
Sons of Anarchy, Season 4
The third season of Kurt Sutter's motorcycle gang drama saw a baby kidnapped and a half-dozen episodes spent in Belfast. It was the most boring stretch of the show to date. Sutter did the right thing with Season 4, though: the show centred itself around a riveting power-play for control of SAMCRO, in addition to making better use of some of the minor characters. Season 4 is the best season of Sons of Anarchy so far.
Friends, Season 5
Chandler and Monica were my favourite friends, so I'm sure you'll forgive me for picking the season in which their fledgling relationship took centre stage as one of the best. It also helps that it came on the back of three years of "oh my god, stop this Ross-Rachel, will-they-won't-they madness" that still makes me angry to this day.
The Simpsons, Season 23
We can talk for hours about how The Simpsons jumped the shark after Season 8, or Season 10, or Season 12. But Season 23, which aired on Four this year, was easily the best season of the show in a decade. In fact, if one were so inclined, one could make the case that it was the best season in 15 years. And with Season 24 off to a good start too, I feel comfortable in proclaiming: The Simpsons is back, baby!
What shows do you think had a strong season on the back of a creative dead-zone? Do you agree with my picks?
(*) Like, in an icky "let's get married and have babies kind of way". Eww.
(**) Read: draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagged.
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