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What I'm Watching This Season - Person of Interest / Scandal / House of Cards + more

(Check out my website, www.seriesmonitor.com)

It's under 50 days until the 2013/14 television season kicks off. The more than 13 week wait is fast counting down, and for me at least, it's flown by. There's a fantastic new line-up of freshman shows I'm really interested in, along with a sturdy selection of returning series that I've waited with baited breath to see return. I'm a strictly drama fan, and if it's serial, then it's even better, so let's get that out of the way before the comedy addicts start crowing because nothing they like gets a mention from me. This article is all about me sharing a few thoughts on what I'm looking forward to this season, and you readers are, as always, welcome to share your own thoughts in the comments below.

Let's get started with a couple of summer shows. I don't watch many because I use the summer to live a life, and to watch some series I thought I'd pass over during the season for whatever reason.

CBS's Under The Dome has been highly praised and heavily viewed by fans on Mondays at 10|9c, and for good reason. I've really enjoyed seeing something different on the screen, and a discernible point of difference is definitely a great place to start, and Under The Dome ticks that box well and truly. I'm only familiar with a couple of the lead actors, but I'm really pleased with how the less known ones are performing. The writing is allowing a steady stream of information to flow which makes for good story progression. Under The Dome is more story driven than most shows you'll see - partly because it is based on a book, but despite this, the characters are being used very well to tell that story, and every element has multiple characters involved. We've reached the halfway point in the season already, and you do get the feeling that there's plenty left to tell despite the initial concept sounding somewhat inhibiting. I'll definitely be seeing this show through to the end of the season.

Switching to the ABC Studios produced TNT sophomore drama, Perception now. Perception is a lot of fun to watch - a rarity for crime procedurals given their nature. The cases are well thought out and uniquely designed to work in with the paranoid schizophrenic neuroscientist Daniel Pierce's nature and hallucinations. The lead characters are undergoing a lot more development this season than last season, with seeds being laid for the future. The classroom scenes are often the highlight of the episodes for me, with some fascinating life questions being asked that can leave you thinking about them for a while. It's hard to predict how this 14 episode season will end, but towards the end of last season, the show gained intensity and did a good job setting things up for the second season. I'm hoping this season will share those traits.

Starting this week is the third (fourth if you count the first season in England) season of BSkyB and Cinemax's Strike Back. It's easy for a TV show or movie to fire lots of guns and blow stuff up, but it's a tall order for such TV shows or movies to couple that with a strong story. Strike Back is very well produced, and its long, strictly serial episodes that make up chapters instead of seasons is a format unique to the series, meaning you could start watching the show this season, and miss very little overall. This season sees the characters engage in the global pursuit of a terrorist, and although the show crosses borders in each of its three previous seasons, this season will see that globetrotting step up a notch. The 10 episode season 4 starts on Friday US time, and ends in late October.

Showtime's Homeland will no doubt see another rise in ratings and its cult following this season. At times the story has been too slow moving to me, but that does reflect the real thing to a certain extent. The tension and high stakes also makes up for that. The finale of last season was one of the better television episodes you'll ever see, and there's a mountain of fallout that will occur from its events, in particular the bombing of the funeral. I don't have any time to go into much detail but I will say that all fans will have a lot to look forward to

CBS is the network I'm watching more closely this season in terms of new shows. I really like the look of Hostages (Mondays 10|9c) and Intelligence (Monday Feb 24 10|9c). Both shows are taking lessons from Person of Interest's handbook, and from the trailers they look to be well set up to provide some entertaining, action packed serial drama. From the pair, Intelligence impressed me the most, and it looks to have a bit more buzz around it than Hostages.

The aforementioned Person of Interest is my favourite show of all shows I watch though, and its storyline just made the leap from fiction to non-fiction in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA scandal. The Person of Interest creators are a smart bunch, and successfully transitioned the series from semi-procedural to semi-serial last season. They are also tackling the NSA's recent conspiracy head-on, and I can't wait to see how it all goes down. The addition of 2 series regulars bolsters an already exceptional cast. The change in timeslot to Tuesdays 10|9c behind both NCIS series will be interesting to watch in terms of ratings too.

A show I watched over the hiatus was the fantastic Elementary. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu quickly grew on me as a highly unique partnership, but that partnership was turned on its head when Irene was discovered alive in the penultimate episode. Natalie Dormer played a guest starring role that's right up there with the best you'll ever see in the penultimate episode and 2 part season finale. How the series transforms following the finale is anyone's guess, but you can guarantee I'll be watching. Elementary has also been nominated for 2 Emmy awards - Outstanding Main Title Design, and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. They are 2 nominations that the series definitely deserves because I really love watching Elementary's opening sequence

Other CBS series I watch are the long running Criminal Minds and NCIS. They are due to notch up their 200th and 250th episodes this season - a remarkable achievement for both. The absence of Ziva David in NCIS this season will mark the first significant character change in 8 years, and the pressure is on Gary Glassberg and his team to make the transition smooth. For the first time in 3 seasons, Criminal Minds will carry an identical cast across to a new season that was present in the previous season - a fact that I'm pretty pleased about considering the recent cast changes. Big moves are being made over at The Mentalist, with a marriage very early on, along with the identity of Red John set to be revealed, 2 new series regulars, and 2 current regulars departing. The Mentalist retains last season's Sundays 10|9c timeslot which saw a 28% audience reduction on season 4's data. I don't think the show has enough in it for a seventh season, but fans will just have to wait and see

ABC are changing things up this season with several of their most popular dramas switching to a half and half season scheduling format. This will reduce the number of weekly breaks during the season with a compromise of a significant gap in the middle. This scheduling strategy should make mid-season finales far more important than normal, but will fans return after half time with the same strength?

In the meantime, none of the pilots ABC are offering this year interest me, but ABC does have its high stakes, one of a kind drama in the form of Scandal to make up for that. There are many big storylines that will set fire to this season including Olivia's dad, Jake's fate, Cyrus, Mellie, Fitz and James, and Huck and Quinn. Kerry Washington and James Novak thoroughly deserve their Emmy nominations and I really hope they take their awards home.

Season 6 of SpoilerTV's most popular series, Castle, returns at the timeslot it's kept since its series premiere - Mondays 10|9c. A proposal and job offer were on the table for Kate last season, so things will pick up right where they left off. I'm crying out for a faster moving storyline with more continuity this season despite the procedural format. The series is headed in a new direction since Johanna Beckett's murderer was uncovered in last season's premiere, so this frees up some time for other characters and storylines. Unlike Scandal, Castle isn't one of the shows that'll have its season broken in half under ABC's new scheduling structure.

NBC's Revolution started with a hiss and a roar to record breaking ratings last fall, but those were quick to drop back as the season progressed. NBC made the rather dumb decision to shorten the season and add a 17 week hiatus into last season in order to ensure Revolution had The Voice as its lead-in for each episode. The new Wednesdays 8|7c timeslot is a curious change this season. Meanwhile, the story was quick to ramp up in last season's second half, with the cliffhanger being Aaron trying to stop the detonation of nuclear warheads launched by Randall against various cities in the US. I have to say I did lose some enthusiasm towards the end of the last season after the cause of the power outage was heading towards something pretty fictionalized - typical of J.J. Abrams shows, but a couple of promos for this season have brought me back for now

However, Revolution aside, the new James Spader led drama The Blacklist is the freshman series I'm looking forward to the most this season - above Intelligence and Hostages on CBS. The trailer for The Blacklist is sensational to watch and it hooked me very quickly. Spader is the big name and will carry the series early on, but I'm pretty sure the remaining cast can pull their own weight. It's a unique concept for a television show, and if the story has been written well, and viewers like it, it should see a few more seasons

The Following lit up Monday nights for FOX last season, and I'm expecting it to do the same this season too. A new villan in addition to Joe Carroll will be appearing this season, and the intense gory violence will be sure to return as well. The story needs to remain strong this season, but it would be good to see some more positive, happy moments for the characters this season. Flashbacks might be a way to do this. The Following's second season premieres early next year, much like it did this year.

The only other FOX show I keep an eye on is Bones, and it looks like we might get some progression between Booth and Brennan this season with a wedding on the schedule. Depending on other pilots, and the time I have, I might check out Almost Human, which pushes Bones to Fridays when it appears in November on Mondays 8|7c. The Almost Human trailers didn't capture my imagination anywhere near as well as the other three pilot trailers I've mentioned earlier, but I'll see what happens nearer the time.

On the CW, I was fortunate enough to watch the pilot of The 100 which premieres midseason. I wrote a review on the pilot which you can read here. It's done enough to get me interested despite CW shows hardly ever being on my watchlist.

The final series I'm anxiously awaiting the return of is the second season of Netflix's groundbreaking political thriller, House of Cards. You simply don't see television as good as House of Cards, and the unique delivery method and lack of schedule that the show has to stick to only adds to the experience of watching this series. House of Cards has been nominated for 6 Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Drama Series, and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music - a nomination shared with CBS's Elementary. If House of Cards wins even a couple of these awards, it will seal the foundations for companies who don't broadcast in the traditional fashion, to become competitive in the marketplace - something which I'm more than willing to see occur as I, like many others, don't live in the US, and hate having to wait months for content to reach my local networks.

So that's the outline of what I'll be watching this season. Like last season, I'll be writing about the ratings various shows are achieving this season, and you can follow many shows on my website, www.seriesmonitor.com

Thanks for reading! What will you be watching and why?? Share your thoughts in the comments below

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