Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why Aren't You Watching More TV?


We’re in a new golden age of television. I’m not kidding. So stop your sniggering, you over there.

Why am I making such a bold statement? ‘Cause it’s true.

Right now on almost every night of the week there is at least one outstanding program that you should be watching. Since I’m going to be going on a bit, I should give my background on my love of the idiot box.

You see, nobody knew I was fantastically nearsighted until I was eight. My mother used to say things when we were driving like, “Oooo, look at the cow in the field.” And my answer would be, “What cow?” With brilliant insight, instead of wondering if I could see the cow, she thought I was a moron. (This was a remarkable assumption on her part in light of the fact that I started reading when I was three.)

I am going somewhere with this . . . oh yeah, aside from books, the only thing I could see that wasn’t a blurry, blobby mass was the screen of our 12” portable black and white television.

Books and TV became my buddies. Both allowed me to escape from a world I couldn’t see clearly. And that leads me back to why you should be watching more TV.

Not to numb yourself out, but to see where some of the best writing is going on in the mainstream media. It ain’t in movies -- that’s for damn sure.

So let me give you my day-by-day program guide and you can decide for yourself:


Prison Break: Warren hates it. I love it. It’s nearing shark jumping territory in this, its sophomore, season, but I think the writers may be able to pull it off the water ski before it’s too late. If you haven’t been watching, rent the first season. It’s an over-the-top-willing-to-kill-primary-characters-and-doesn’t play-annoying-narrative-mind-games-like-Lost joyride.

How I Met Your Mother: Warren and I love it, so does Brad. (I think Brad has a thing for Alyson Hannigan which would explain his whimpering whenever she comes onscreen.) A must watch for Neil Patrick-Okay-Fine-I’m-Gay-Whatever-Harris alone. His horn-dog, skirt-chasing lawyer, Barney, is possibly the best thing on the show. And you can often see actors from Joss Whedon’s shows doing cameos.

Heroes: Holy Frijoles, Batman! It’s Wild Cards! Okay, not so much, but this sci-fi/comic book crossover has plenty going for it. You can go on-line and read graphic novels that cover parts of the story not present on the show. Masi Oka plays Hiro, a hero with the ability to bend time and space. He may very well be the most appealing actor to come on the small screen in a long time. Also, it has Adrian Pasdar, who was also on one of the weirdest short-lived TV shows ever, Profit.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Oh dear, part of me feels guilty about recommending this, but Aaron Sorkin is writing it and had it not been for West Wing I doubt I would have made it through chunks of the last six years. Self-indulgent-smitten-with-its-own-cuteness-predicated-on-a-slightly-dated-premise, it is, nonetheless, well-written and has moments of wonderfulness.


Friday Night Lights: Yes, it’s about football in a small town in Texas. Yes, I know, you probably lived though something like it. And heaven knows the jumping hand-held camera action is enough to make me queasy, but it’s about so much more. This is not a valentine to football. It’s a valentine to growing up -- both hard and fast as well as hard and slow.

House: Perhaps I’m a sucker for procedurals. Or maybe it’s just that Hugh Laurie is so -- woof! -- sorry, I mean, exceptionally talented. The show is in its third season and starting to show signs of fatigue, but Laurie is always a joy to watch. If you’ve ever seen him in any of The Black Adder or Bertie and Wooster series, you will be stunned at his range as an actor.


Bones: Another procedural with a bit of a spin. Instead of being a criminologist, the main character is a forensic anthropologist working at a barely disguised Smithsonian Institute. She and her co-workers are smart. Really smart. And they are assisted by a stalwart FBI agent, played by David Boreanaz. Why do I like this? First, smart, really smart, people are the heroes of this show. How often do you see that on TV? It’s Real Genius with ookiness and corpses. Also, the chemistry between Boreanaz and his co-star, Emily Deschanel, is utterly charming. Charm goes a long way in my book.

Lost: Though I’m still watching this like one might pick at a scab, it really has jumped the shark for me. The only good thing I’ll say for it is that I suspect Heroes might not have gotten a green-light had Lost not done so well for ABC. I don’t think the writers have a single clue where the story is going and I hate the post-modern snottiness of it.


Survivor: You, in the back, stop the cat-calls. The granddaddy of reality shows, it is still the best. I will not apologize for watching and enjoying it. The game itself is exceptionally well-designed and the challenges within the game are also outstanding. As for the stunt this year of dividing the groups into ethnicities, well, let’s just say it was less and more than it appeared. A lot of reality programming is crap. Survivor is not.

C.S.I.: Mmmmmm, William Peterson. Mmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. What? Oh yeah. C.S.I. -- the Big Dog of procedural shows. Perhaps it hit its finest hour when it did an episode about a murder at a “Plushy” convention. Yiffing is now in my vocabulary because of it. How many other TV shows could do that kind of episode and not have every religious group in the country boycotting it? And then there’s William Peterson. Mmmmmmmm. William Peterson.

Supernatural: Yeah, it could be better. But as I am a complete whore for “alternative” programming, I gotta give this show some love. It’s Buffy with boys. Sorta. I think the show could be more ambitious, but it has had some moments of real scariness.

Scrubs: Oh please, don’t tell me you haven’t been watching Scrubs. No, I don’t even want to hear it. You just broke the Chocolate Bear’s heart.

30 Rock: Tina Fey’s show, except Alec Baldwin just ripped it out of her well-manicured hands. Happily, 30 Rock has gotten better since its pilot episode. But the real greatness of this show is Baldwin’s hysterically funny network executive. Vain, misogynistic, shallow, clueless, and oddly appealing, Baldwin is so wonderful it’s a revelation.


Or, as I like to think of it, The Best Night of TV.

If any of you remember the debut of the Sci-Fi channel, you will see just how wacky the following statement sounds:

The Sci-Fi channel’s Friday night lineup is the best TV around right now. And it has achieved that with the following programming: Heroes, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica.
Take a moment to recover from the cognitive dissonance.

The Sci-fi channel re-broadcasts NBC’s Monday night Heroes episode on Friday. And then it follows it with:

Doctor Who: It’s new. It has an effects budget. And it has good writers. In fact, one of last season’s episodes was nominated for a Hugo. It lost out to Serenity, and it shouldn’t have. This is another show I would suggest starting by watching the first season on rental. The second episode of the first season is dark, haunting, funny, and wonderful.

And . . .

Battlestar Galactica: I’m getting tired of trying to convince people that Battlestar Galactica is fantastic. You watched Buffy. You watched Angel. You watched X-files. Stop being so snooty.

Battlestar Galactic is hunting big game. This is not a fluffy show. This is a show about real stuff: politics, terrorism, religion, faith, betrayal, humanity, madness and love. There are no easy answers in the BG universe. The people here do wonderful and terrible things -- sometimes all at once.

And, once again, I highly recommend watching from the beginning. Start with the mini-series, then work your way through the first two seasons.

You can thank me later.


It’s the black hole of programming. Which works at the Spector house because we have all this stuff TiVoed and usually haven’t worked our way through it.


Sunday is a big floating smorgasbord of programming. This is the night that the cable channels like to trot out their original series such as: The Sopranos, Entourage, Rome, Dexter, and Deadwood. (Yes, I know Deadwood is no longer on, sniff).

And I didn’t mention The 4400 which has its moments. Or The Daily Show, The Simpsons, and South Park.

What I do find interesting about my listing is the dominance of “alternate” programming. Sci-fi used to be outré and only the provence of geeks and nerds. But we’re mainstream now, baby.

Now I’ve got to go worship at the altar of my great God, TiVo. He may not be Zeus, but when I ask him for something -- record every movie with Norma Shearer in it -- he provides.


Morgan J Locke said...

I *love* BSG. They are doing some groundbreaking stuff.

Caroline Spector said...

Yep, it just freakin' rules.

Jennifer Pelland said...

A couple of great shows missing from your list are "My Name is Earl" and "Ugly Betty," which alas are in the same time slot, but makes "Ugly Betty" available to watch from their website, so all is good.

And it's "Joss" and not "Josh" when you're talking about the guy who wrote Buffy. That's okay. I have a friend who muffs that all the time too

Caroline Spector said...

Jennifer -- Thanks for the correction on Joss Whedon's name.

And I hate to disagree, but I think "Ugly Betty" is a triumph of marketing, not of great writing. I watched the first four episodes and knew by the first commercial break exactly how the "shocking" revelation would play out. It's a pity because I like lead actress America Ferrara and I thought she was wonderful in "Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants."

Caroline Spector said...

that's Ferrera, sigh.

Jennifer Pelland said...

I don't watch it for the "shocking revelations," I watch it for the sheer fun of watching the fashion industry be skewered, never mind the fact that the actors all look like they're having the time of their lives. It's been a long time since I've seen so many actors so obviously enjoying themselves. Plus, it's great to see a Latin American sensation come to the U.S. ... and stay Latino.

Anyhow, to each her own!

Caroline Spector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.