Friday, February 11, 2005

TV: Better Than Ever!

This past year, I don't think I've watched nearly as much TV as I have in past years. There are a number of talented people creating television shows and the choice has gotten so much, that I even miss some shows. The stuff that is getting critical raves that I don't see are "NCIS," "Without A Trace," the two "CSI" spinoffs (I have sort of gotten back into the original), all those "Law & Order" shows, "Desperate Housewives," and there are several others, like newbie "Veronica Mars." I generally don't make it over to the WB or UPN, but it's my loss I guess. There's still others I haven't mentioned. I have six days of programming to attend to. They are:


The Simpsons. In its 16th Season, I still rarely miss an episode, even though the best years are behind it. The 15th season made a comeback in making the show very good again.

Arrested Development. This is a show that, probably, will be cancelled despite enormous raves. Sometimes, I think a show can be too clever or subtle, which is why I love it, some people can't get into it. The best humor in the show is usually below consciousness, and it flies by at a rapid pace--that's why it's not a ratings darling. It's best watched, and then watched again, and maybe one more time to catch what you missed.


. The best action drama ever on television, right now in what has to be the best season so far, enjoying a ratings spike. Three weeks ago, Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) stormed a compound and mowed down a whole bunch of bad guys, freeing up hostage Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), who also gets a gun and helps out. There are a lot of throwaway characters and situations, but they are harmless to what the creators are going for: white-knuckle entertainment.


American Idol. If it's the lure of watching a train wreck, it is. What sucks you into a show like "American Idol" are the stories they provide--it's fun to watch delusional people sing poorly and then tell the judges that they've made a mistake, even resorting to non-stop swearing and double middle-finger extension. When it gets to the "good" rounds, it's all competition-based. It's about rooting for your favorite, even though I don't know if this show will ever come up with a true star. The name of this show leads to a lot of eye-rolling, but it's well-done.

House. The raves for this show say, "The best hospital show since 'ER.'" and I say, it's better than "ER." It's a sort of mix, yes, between "CSI" and any hospital show. The difference is the character House, played with great pinache by Hugh Laurie, surrounded by a good cast of supporting players, especially Omar Epps (who gets playfully insulted by the minute) and Robert Sean Leonard (who playfully insults back). It's one of those great shows that comes up with one storyline, adds a mystery, and gives you a great payoff in the end, all while giving you some extremely quotable dialogue.


Lost. It was intriguing from the very start, and it has rarely disappointed at all during it's inaugural season. The show has loads of mystery and geeky sci-fi theory, and adds some very interesting backstory to every character. Almost every show has a "before the island" story to tell that adds either danger or intrigue to current events, and very many times, it shows a character's redemption.

Alias. Now in probably it's best season ever (you'll find, many times, parallels between this and "24"), it's getting a ratings spike from following the success of "Lost." "Alias" takes us to exotic locales, dresses up it's characters in outrageous outfits, allows them to play different characters within their original characters, all that you'd expect from a spy show--but this is no Bond-like story--relationships often cloud decision-making, and there's hardly anyone that you can trust, all except Sydney Bristow herself, Jennifer Garner.


The O.C. It's impossible to describe my love for this show, and I guess it's a guilty pleasure except for this fact: I don't feel guilty enjoying it. The writing is consistently sharp, and although situations can get much too outrageous at times, it always comes back to Earth as a simple drama...or hilarious comedy.

CSI. I watched this show in its first season, and I really liked it, but then I sort of let it go by the wayside. This show has always been very good, and it's premise, unique at the time (now copied by many others), remains a fun show to watch. What can be the best thing about it is when they finally confront the killers, who often have expressions like we do: How did they figure it out?


. This is the show that inspired this post. If you enjoy math, this show is your TV fantasy come to life. I have now watched 4 episodes, and they have all been very good. The great Rob Morrow makes a return to TV as an FBI agent, and David Krumholtz, the quirky character actor, gets a TV facelift, nerd-style, that might turn him into an offbeat sex symbol. Every episode, we have a mathematician (Krumholtz) come up with some radical equations to pinpoint the location of a killer, or find the real reason for a crime's motivation, or discover some previously unknown truth. He can be wrong at times, in fact, he's wrong many times, but it's fun seeing him figure out his mistakes, too. This show has hit the top 10 in ratings, which I believe is a kind of feat for a Friday show nowadays. Good support from veteran actor Judd Hirsch and Peter MacNicol.

Like I said, I miss a lot, too. But that's my TV schedule, whether I have to miss something or not. There's always reruns.


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