Tuesday, May 29, 2007

TV is FUN!!

Those of you who know me, know I love my TV. When people ask me what my hobbies are, I always want to tell them, "TV!" but I usually don't. There's a general acceptance that TV is bad, so I normally keep that to myself. But no more! I am coming out of the television closet.

So now that all the networks have blown their collectives wads, I felt like it was time to comment on my TV addiction. An addiction that I love to feed. Let's see what I thought of this seasons offerings.

THE GOOD STUFF
Reality TV:

Survivor - This season we started off with one team living with luxuries, and the other living with nothing. After a few episodes it got really, really uncomfortable. It was looking like one of the most depressing seasons ever. But then, the teams merged, and everything was taken away except fire, a machete and a pot. Surprize! The ensuing scheming and strategy ramped up and it became an exciting show. By the end, as usual, the person who played the best game didn't have a chance in hell of winning, but it ended as one of the best seasons yet! Tune in for the fall season, when they will be living in China (and maybe Jeff will wear that lavender shirt I like so much). Good times...

The Amazing Race - One of my all-time favorite shows. A game that rewards skill and clear thinking, while sometimes dooming teams to incredible bad luck (anyone who has travelled knows the pain of missing a flight or suffering an incompetent cabbie). If you've seen the show, you know how much fun it is, without all the silly crap of lesser reality fare (I'm looking at you, The Real World). The next season has not been officially scheduled yet, adding to my current grumblings towards CBS, but chances are we will get to see Phil eliminate teams all around the world sometime mid-season.

Sit-Coms:

How I Met Your Mother - This one is smart and charming, and Neil Patrick Harris steals the show time and time again. A light, cute show that I always would forget about, but thanks to my trusty DVR, one I never missed.

My Name Is Earl - This is one of those quirky shows that consistently has outstanding writing and brilliant comedic actors. Also, it regularly ends with a touching moral that is never trite and frequently brings a tear to my eye. Extra special credit goes to Jaime Pressly for her awesome portrayal of Earl's ex-wife, Joy. Hilarious.

30 Rock - A new show this year that started off okay, but really found it's way by mid-season. The chemistry between Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin was perfect, and by the end of the season, became one of the funniest shows on TV. A much better depiction of life behind the scenes of a late night sketch show than the flailing and now cancelled Studio 60. Here's hoping Alec returns as network exec Jack Donaghy next season.

The Office - Hands down one of the funniest sit-coms ever made. Steve Carrell is brilliant as the wildly embarrassing Michael Scott, and every single actor has fleshed out their characters nicely. Of course I breathlessly followed the Jim and Pam storyline this season, but am consistently amused by Dwight Schrute, and all the other Regular Joe's just trying to get through a work day, surrounded by a boss who is always impeding their work. This show has evolved into its own, after taking the ball and running from the British original, brilliantly conceived by the hilarious Ricky Gervais.

Dramas (hold on, this could take a while):

Heroes - Holy comic book Batman! A fun, exciting new series that captured the imagination of many, and proved that serial dramas can work if it has compelling characters and a clever story. Some have criticized this show as being poorly written and badly directed. Well, I'm not an expert on such things, I just know what I like, SuperHeroes! We spent the season getting to know an unsuspecting group of ordinary people, discovering they have extraordinary powers, while coming together to help save the world. Right up my alley, folks. We got everything from mind-readers and time-benders to an indestructible cheerleader and an evilly good villain. Even though I was mildly disappointed by the season finale, this show racked up enough good credit throughout the season to keep me interested to see what happens next!

24 - Speaking of racking up credit. For those of us who have been series long fans of the show, this year came dangerously close to riding right off the rails. An amazing beginning of the season winded down into a messy tangle of poorly thought out story lines and characters that were hard to care about (one of the most compelling parts of the show in the past). But we had Kiefer Sutherland and his outstanding (and Emmy winning) acting to keep me interested enough to hold on, and I felt I was rewarded at the end with an emotional plea from Jack Bauer, and the hope for something better for him next season. 24, you're not getting rid of me that easy!

Lost - There has been much bitching about the third season of Lost. A lot of fans became bitter during season two of this castaway drama, and the beginning of this season didn't help. But after the loooong and inexcusable three months off, the show came back guns blazing (that's for you Paul), and rolled crazily to the best season finale of the whole TV season. Some find the fact that this show breaks it's own rules regularly, and that the story is too slow to unfold to be maddening. But the meat of this show, the characters and their own struggles with their past while trying to fight for their lives, is as compelling as the first day it aired. To anyone who insists on trotting out the tired 'They never answer any questions', should re-watch the two part Pilot. We have come a long way. The decision to announce a specific end date for the series is a brave move for a money hungry network, and a boon to the creative process for the writers. Looking forward to season four immensely.

The Sopranos - This show is in it's last throes, and David Chase and company are giving us a humdinger of a season. A beautiful balance of introspection and terrifying violence, every episode is full of HBO goodness. There are two episodes left, and we have no idea how this story will end. A great cap to a ground-breaking series.

Battlestar Galactica - I was late on this train, but finally jumped on board this season. Immediately intriguing, and made awesome by the stellar work of Edward James Olmos, James Callas and Mary McDonnell (go Fredonia!). This is an amazing show in both its visuals and storytelling.
Planet Earth - I am putting this under dramas, because it was sooooo dramatic! Shown on the Discovery channel, a ten part series that explored every corner of this planet. We got to see things we've never seen, in ways we've never seen them. A stunning look at the world we live in, but rarely ever see. Everyone I convinced to watch this was in as much awe as I was. Makes the current environmental movement seem much more relevant and necessary. It is now available on DVD, so NetFlix it, buy it at Amazon, do whatever you can to watch it. It's good. And beautiful. And amazing.

Jericho - As some of you know, the cancellation of this series was a heart breaker. The show started out, by all accounts, as a freshman hit. But just as it was trying to really get a feel for what kind of show it wanted to be, CBS pulled it for an extended hiatus (a mistake several networks made this season with similar, serialized shows), and brought it back against the American Idol juggernaut. It still held fairly solid ratings against the beast that is AI, and there was not unwarranted hope for a second season. Unfortunately, the show was pulled. The last third of the season was solid, compelling and exciting. Great performances by Skeet Ulrich (I had no idea how well this boy could act), Lennie James and Gerald McRaney. A rare feat of giving us a cast of characters that we actually cared about, regularly giving us scary insight to the possibilities of a post apocalyptic world, while reminding us of how important we all can be to each other. There is currently a campaign from the fans to get the show back on the air. My mildly cynical heart feels we may not get our show back (business is business), but the effort of the fans has been almost as compelling a story. If you happened to love this as much as I did, visit http://jericholives.com/ to see what's going on, or see http://www.nutsonline.com/jericho, to send some nuts to the CBS executives. An awesome grassroots movement that is fun to watch (oh yeah, and the episodes are still up on CBS is you wanna play catch up http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jericho/).
Honorable Mentions:

Bones, Medium & Numb3rs - This is how procedurals should be done. Clever, smart and interesting characters, if you like that kind of stuff.

THE BAD STUFF
Reality TV:

America's Next Top Model - I think I watched this season out of some kind of sick loyalty. It was fairly boring, and The Soup and Best Week Ever did the job mercilessly skewering this shows season. I think I may be done with this one.

Top Design, Shear Genius, Top Chef - Running on the massive goodwill of Project Runway, Bravo inundated us with these knock off shows. Boring, boring and mostly boring. I don't know why Project Runway works so well and these shows didn't. I guess one size fits all concepts don't work.

American Idol - This show for me has always been about Simon Cowell. I love him. But this season was wildly uneven due to the insistence of having an even amount of boys and girls to start it out. The fact that Blake made it to the final, when Melinda and LaKisha were miles above him talent wise was close to ending this show for me. Seeing that the finale had the balls to run nine minutes over, thus cheating us who DVR'd the show from seeing who won, may have been the final straw. The fact that Jordin rightly beat Blake to win did not placate me. At this moment, I have no interest in next season.

Sit-Coms:

Scrubs - At one time, this was one of my favorite comedies on the schedule. Now, it is tired and played. I couldn't even muster enough interest to find out if it was renewed for another season. Enough said.

Two and A Half Men, The World According to Jim, et al - This is the kind of pandering, low-brow stuff that gives TV a bad name. Blech.

Dramas:

Law & Order, CSI, et al - All versions of these shows are being clumped here. For people who like procedurals, I know these are well liked, but it is beginning to get a little thick. These shows are fine for what they are, but there are a plethora of them, and a little more creativity and originality would be welcome in TV land. It's shows like these that kill the chance for more interesting stories to be told, but they make the networks TONS of money, so I don't see them ending anytime soon...

WHAT's NEXT?

The 4400 - A compelling little show that will be starting it's fourth summer season on USA. I have been with this show since the beginning, a little different twist on the SuperHero type sci-fi fare. It's a fun, summer distraction, and surprizingly well done for a low-budget, cable produced show.

Big Brother - A prime example of a trashy, lowest common denominator reality show. But I love it unabashedly, and have no intention of missing it this season. Please don't judge me.

Baseball - Yankee fans have had a tough go of it this season, and it's not really looking up (I'm watching the Blue Jays beat them AGAIN). But I am life long fan of baseball, and these are my boys, so bring it!

Tennis - I never really get rolling on tennis until Wimbledon, but thanks to my good friend Rhonda, I may get back to it sooner this year (The French Open just started!). Looking forward to heading out to Flushing Meadows for the US Open, something that is becoming a seasonal tradition, and it's always lots of fun.

Good god, people! That's a lot of TV (do the last two count as TV? Hmmm). To be honest, as much as I love my TV, this year has been exhausting. Lots of entertaining goodness this year, but I am looking forward to a little reprieve. Although, my roommate and I have started watching The X-Files on DVD. It is so nice to have Mulder and Scully back in my living room! There's gotta be something to keep us entertained.




PS - Thanks to Paul Preston for his always entertaining, seasonal movie rants, which inspired my own TV rant.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had no idea you watched How I met your mother. I feel like I don't know you.
WHO ARE YOU?????
ahh Jericho. So sad.
moowah.
F.

Paul said...

Yo -

There's no shame in loving TV. I'd say that the dramas on TV are operating at an all-time quality level. Unfortunately, there is no reason you should follow the words "THE GOOD STUFF" with "Reality TV". I feel I don't know you. WHO ARE YOU???

Thanx for the props, but, as ever, our "Lost" disagreement continues. I think if you watch the two part Pilot, you'll find they haven't answered any questions from the pilot, but instead veered off in a million different, less-interesting directions. Wouldn't be the same if we didn't disagree...!

"The Office" is HI-larious. I got worried when they copied the pilot VERBATIM from the British show, but they have found their own voice, and it's a rip.

I still highly, highly recommend "The Shield". With "24" being a bit unstable, "Lost" going south and "The Sopranos" not returning, I think "The Shield" is extremely compelling. Hitting the DVDs on those would be great, 'cause the pilot is badASS.

I also disagree about "30 Rock", just 'cause of the "Studio 60" comparison. "30 Rock" hasn't been 'behind the scenes' in months. They bailed on that in favor of the characters and it became a different show. Sorkin can't be matched on TV, and it was the ass-head TV execs who demanded a dumbing-down of the material half-way through production at "Studio 60" that probably did it in. That show was hilarious, insightful and challenging. Don't get me wrong, "30 Rock" is kinda funny, but it's just a goofy sitcom (with bad music). "Studio 60" shot higher and hit.

Well, Erika, you watch a shit-load more TV than I do, I'm not surprised you dabble in the contact lens business...

Keep up the blogging!

Paul