Wednesday, October 18, 2006

TV So Far

I've been watching a lot of shows this season, some are ripe for my own personal cancellation if they aren't going to be cancelled outright; but after a few episodes here how I stand.

The first thing to address: House is moving up against Veronica Mars when it returns October 31. This year, I've finally got around to watching Mars, and I freaking love it. Now, if I have to work Tuesday night, I have a decision on what I need to tape. It might very well be Mars, since House reruns a lot. Hopefully, I won't be needing to make that decision much because I love both shows.

So far, Veronica Mars has come up with the best dialogue I've heard this season, and last night's episode had a hilarious reference to The Big Lebowski in it. Any show that can incorporate The Big Lebowski into its writing is awesome in my book, but I was already enjoying it before then.

I still can't get enough of Lost, but one thing bothers me about it: the immense wealth of information concerning the show from the creators that aren't contained in the episodes themselves: websites, "lost scenes," books, etc. that hopefully I won't need to truly enjoy the show. I'm not one of those who endlessly tries to figure out what the island is; I just sit back and relax and know that I'll be told in due time. I just hope all the extraneous media that I don't see isn't penalizing me.

The big rookie show of the season before the season started was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The premiere was good, but then two episodes later I was wondering what this show was doing. This past Monday's show was more what I want to see, and next week's looks interesting, but one thing has bothered me consistently on every episode. This is not a fresh criticism, and I have discussed this a couple of times with others, but the show-within-a-show is lame. It's wretched. And why does this matter? Because Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are supposed to be these awesome producers, saving a franchise show, infusing it with biting commentary and most importantly, laughs.

This is the central reason we're supposed to care about the characters, and it's flat. If they were young, up-and-coming guys and the show itself was a parody of bad "SNL" sketches, I think this would work. But instead, Aaron Sorkin wants to believe these guys are incredible Swift-ian satirists--and of course, what better to prove that you're a great satirist than picking on the religious right, the easiest target in American culture today. Meanwhile, I love Sarah Paulson's character and I may just keep watching strictly for her, and maybe the show can build some steam in the meantime. I'm not ready to give up on it just yet, although NBC might if the numbers continue to fall.

Which brings me to the other Monday NBC show--Heroes. I'm digging this show heavily, much like the first season of Lost. There are some characters they need to flesh out a bit better, but everyone loves Hiro (Masi Oka), the Japanese time-bending guy--and with good reason. I also like the "two-faced" Ali Larter, and in the past couple of episodes I've started to get more into Hayden Panettiere's indestructible cheerleader. Every episode ends with DVD-era whammies, making you want to see the next episode right away. Right now, a nearly perfect season for a new show.

The Nine follows Lost, and though the premise is intriguing, I find it to be more intriguing as a 2-hour movie rather than a series. Are we really going to have to go a season or longer to find out what happened inside the bank? I'm not sure I'm ready to put this one on the must-see docket.

Comedy--I still love My Name Is Earl and The Office, and those shows remain the funniest on TV I can find. Recently, I watched Tina Fey's 30 Rock and I hoped it would be zingerific, but the first episode was only OK. So far, How I Met Your Mother, which I had to abandon last year for numerous Monday conflicts, has been very, very good.

As for the Sunday animation block on Fox, The Simpsons still conjures maybe one good gag an episode--the structure and tone of the show is so alien to the first few seasons--it's hard to describe. It's not just because it isn't as funny, it's not as simple as that. It's almost's a different show. The kitchen sink is routinely thrown too quickly on some gags. Meanwhile, Family Guy still gets some laughs even though the South Park two-parter from last season is hard to forget while watching it. American Dad is the whipping boy of the night but I think it sometimes is funnier than Family Guy. The War at Home, the lone non-animated show, is disposable time-wasting fodder.

Here's another drama I have totally gotten into and might have to leave at some point, although the House move actually helps me here, and that's Friday Night Lights. As far as sheer emotional weight, it's hard to beat this show. Last night's episode was the best yet; I have yet to see a drama that has pulled me in like this this season.

It's been on hiatus for baseball, but Prison Break still intrigues me for sheer action and, mostly, William Fichtner. I wonder if I'd be onboard as much without him--this finding-D.B. Cooper's-stash-plot has provided some fun, but now I'm interested to see where it goes from here. Can it sustain any momentum now that two big goals have been reached--the prison break and the money? They've almost abandoned the mystery surrounding the Burrows case and everyone on the outside who was working on it is dead now. There is, of course, the matter of Burrows' son and Lincoln trying to reunite as his brother Michael Schofield goes on his own separate way. I just wonder what the true goal is from here, and I guess I'll keep watching to see if there's a satisfying answer.

Victor Garber is the main reason to watch Justice, the Fox legal show with truly cynical attitude. It's a show that I can completely miss and not worry about it. That "see what really happened" ending is a nice touch, but they have yet to have a guilty client so far--I'm sure that will change. But Garber has always been quietly the best thing about a great many productions he's been a part of--in Alias, he routinely stole scenes or entire episodes.

I liked Smith before they cancelled it, but I wasn't going to be able to make the commitment anyway. I only saw one episode, and it was good. It's too bad; it seems like somewhere this show could be a nice fit, like a Friday or something. Speaking of which, I still dig Numbers. I just don't think they need any story arcs like David Krumholtz/Navi Rawat's courtship, the "oh, he's too busy with his work to pay attention to his girlfriend" nonsense.

Not able to watch: Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, all the various forms of CSI, including its knockoffs. I sort of, kind of, watched Grey's Anatomy during its summer reruns but I never was held rapt by it, perhaps because I just had it on in the background. All of these shows I'll probably have to catch up with some other time.

So, here are the definite, absolutely can't miss shows for me: House, Veronica Mars, Lost, Heroes, My Name Is Earl, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and Friday Night Lights.

Shows I want to catch and make an effort to see them, but no biggie if I miss it: Prison Break, Numbers.

Shows it wouldn't bother me to miss, but I will watch: The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, Justice, The Nine, 30 Rock, Studio 60. At some point, any or all these shows could be just forgotten completely.


At 10/18/2006 02:30:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Glad you finally jumped on the Veronica Mars bandwagon, and if you haven't yet get those first two seasons on DVD; good stuff.

I totally agree with you on "Studio 60's" problems. It's hard for me to think these guys are geniuses watching "Science Schmience," and what kind of retarted world is this. Everyone is walking around talking about how the show is incredible now, and they've got one of the nations top reporters doing a huge expose on it. But Christine Lahti is a pretty hot older woman, so she can stay.

Heroes and Friday Night Lights are easily the two best new shows with Jericho not too far behind; which I assume you're not watching because you didn't mention it. I'm actually impressed at how much "Prison Break" is still keeping my attention. I think in a lot of ways it's even better than last season. Good Post.

At 10/18/2006 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Damn...I totally forgot about mentioning Jericho. I've been watching that too. But the omission might tell you something. I like it OK so far, and it has some potential intrigue, but man I wish it would hurry up and get to it. I don't want it to burn all its secrets too quickly, like some former fans of Lost want that show to do, but I wish they'd get to at least one "shocker." This would be filed under my "try to catch" list with Prison Break and Numbers.

At 10/19/2006 09:28:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Heroes!!!! It's flawed but it's young...plenty of time to work those issues out. And I'll be there while they do because I freaking love this show.

Lost!!!!the mark of a good show (for me) is how long/much/deeply it stays with me in the days afterward. I'll be pondering last night's episode until next week. What in the world am I going to do during the long hiatus--only three more episodes before Lost goes away for a while.

TV = good.

At 10/19/2006 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

After last night's episode, I was very happy about one thing: John "Motherfucking" Locke is back. I really did like last season; I am not going to be one of those naysayers. However, one of the things that did dissapoint me was how blah the character of Locke became. They corrected all of that in 60 minutes last night, and when Mr. Eko told him that he would find a way to get everyone back because he is a hunter, I was thinking, Hell yeah you are! Now, go kick some "others" ass, and get our group back together.

At 10/19/2006 01:24:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Me too. I had the exact same reaction to Locke's reverting to his former self. Cannot wait to see him rescue Jack and them!!


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