Thursday, November 20, 2008

Television is an art...but sometimes it's just a business

There are times when I think television is one of the best media for artistic and creative expression. And there are times, like right now, when I read that ABC has decided not to order the back 9 episodes on 3 of its sophomore shows that I remember that television is just a business. The people in charge? They don't want to inspire people. They don't want to make people laugh. They don't want to make people see things from a different perspective. They don't want to fuel people's imaginations. They just want to make money. Television is about ratings and selling ads and yes, there are some commercials that have become more entertaining, sophisticated, and artistic over the years, but for the most part I do not watch tv for the commercials.

Dirty Sexy Money, I think, was a lost cause anyway. There were flickers of my old show - Brian always represented season one well, and even Tripp had a moment of vulnerability and humanity in this week's otherwise over the top episode that was an example of soap at it's best (and by best, I mean worst). They changed the show to get more viewers and it backfired. This show was already pretty much dead to me, so it's probable cancellation is no great loss.

Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone, however, were two of the best shows on. In a way, though they could both be dark and depressing, they were both also incredibly feel good and inspiring and original, something that's hard to come by in a television landscape riddled with shows that are mediocre, derivative, and sometimes just craptastic. I think they both had shaky first abbreviated seasons, but I think they were both starting to come into their own this year, especially Pushing Daisies, which left me in tears this week (I do not exaggerate) what with Ned embracing his newly found half-brothers and dealing together with their father abandonment issues to Chuck getting to "speak" to her newly found mother and ask her all the questions she never got to ask when she was alive. On top of which, Fred Willard was also in the episode. I love Fred Willard!

And now my favorite corporate shark turned do-gooder who is trying to save the world one person in need at a time, Eli Stone, is out of a job. As is my favorite piemaker who is learning to love and be loved. Shows like these allow me to believe, if only for a little while, that people are basically good and want to help their fellow humankind. And that true love exists. But the fact that gems like these get the boot while dreck like Private Practice (sorry, Taye Diggs), Kath and Kim, or that 90210 remake get to live to see another episode? That's the real slap in the face.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bizarro world, or maybe I don't know good tv after all...

Um, I think I may be cracking up. Because I think I just read that Kath & Kim received a full-season pick-up. And I know that can't possibly be true. Because that would mean there are actually people out there who like this show. Even if it's just the execs who ordered an entire season. It's maddening. I like Molly Shannon. I think she's very funny. But she seems to have only two switches: over the top or manic beyond belief. Both of which, like I said, can be funny. But usually in small doses. I think I saw one scene where she acted like an adult and put her daughter ahead of her own happiness and even got exasperated with Kim at one point, but then two seconds later, it disappears and they're bonding over something shallow and moronic. I think Kath can be worked with, if the writers wanted to. Her fiance doesn't bother me so much. I think really it's just Kim and her husband that make this quite possibly the worst show on television ever. Kim has no redeeming qualities. I love a good villain as much as the next girl. I love characters you just love to hate. But Kim is selfish and stupid and shallow with not a shred of self-awareness. And the worst part is that it's not being done in an ironic kind of way; it doesn't seem to be trying to comment on society or whatever. Apparently the writers just think we're supposed to find it funny that Kim dresses like a hooker and acts like a spoiled five year old and doesn't care at all about her mother or her husband, the two people who love her. And yes, we get it, Kim's husband is stupid, but just how stupid are we supposed to believe he is? What does he see in Kim? For that matter, what does Kim see in him? He's not rich. He doesn't cater to her every whim. Maybe I'm just expecting a little too much from television to ask that there be some motivation behind a character's actions, or for a character to have layers (even two would be better than one), or for the humor to be subtle or at the very least funny. I guess maybe I'm just a little too high-maintenance when it comes to being a television viewer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Ex Ex-List?!?

Apparently, The Ex-List has been pulled from the schedule after only four episodes...that Friday night death slot is a killer. I'm so disappointed. I didn't love, love the show, but it was cute and quirky and I can't believe it got pulled from the schedule before the cringeworthy Kath & Kim. Sometimes the powers that be make it very difficult for me to argue for television as art, don't they?

Pushing Daisies tonight - watch it!

If you watch CBS tonight at 8, you'll see a half hour political message from Barack Obama. If you watch NBC tonight at 8, you'll see a half hour political message from Barack Obama. Ditto for Fox.

Interested in watching something different?

ABC is the only major network that decided to not air the Obama ad, and will be airing a new episode of Pushing Daisies instead.

If you're already voting for Obama, then you don't need to watch him tonight - you already know why you like him.

If you're voting for McCain, is there anything Obama could say tonight that would make you change your mind to vote for him?

I know what channel will be on my tv tonight...Pushing it!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

SNL again...a Coldplay observation this time

If any band deserves to perform three times in one show, it's Coldplay, that's for sure (which played two songs off their new album and one "oldie," 'Yellow.') Trying to think if I can recall another band that played more than twice on one episode of SNL...can anyone help me out with this?

Um, edited to add: Coldplay began playing a FOURTH song during the closing credits...WTF? god, what is my NBC connection worth if it doesn't help me take advantage of this Saturday night happy time? (Dad, I'm looking at you!...ha ha...just kidding!! (no, really...))...

SNL does a Mad Men sketch Part Deux!

I think this sketch would've been funnier if Don's guide to picking up women had used examples from the show as opposed to castmembers just acting out what he said...why does that make people want to watch Mad Men? It doesn't. All his reasons are actual reasons he is a great pick-up artist (maybe he should host the show The Pick-up Artist), but clips from the show, or acted out parts of the show would've been funnier... I am way too invested in this show...

PS Coldplay was awesome. It's not every "musician" that can play live (and I put "musician" in quotes not to say Coldplay aren't musicians, but to say that many SNL musical acts are not, and sounding good live is a good indicator of who qualifies as a, Coldplay does!)

PPS I still think The Killers were better. I would've killed to be on set tonight with Hamm, Slattery, Moss, Coldplay, and all the regular SNL players, but I would've done worse than that (what's worse than killing?) to have been on set with The Killers...

PPPS Seth Meyers is doing Weekend Update alone because Amy Poehler is FINALLY having her baby (she's been looking like she's gonna pop any minute for weeks now)! Many, many congratulations to both her and her husband, Will Arnett!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

SNL does a Mad Men sketch!

So, it's also an A-holes sketch, which I always fastforward through, so that sucks... more than anything, I just want to hit these two, and not because they amuse me. So, that's disappointing. But on the upside? They're doing a Mad Men sketch, which the more exposure to this show, the better. And ON TOP OF THAT? Not only is host Jon Hamm in this sketch, but Elisabeth Moss (who is currently starring in the Broadway show Speed the Plow) and John Slattery (fellow CUA alum shoutout - what up?!?!?) from Mad Men are actually in this sketch as well!! Holy crap! What I wouldn't have given to be on that set tonight... Don Draper did one of his nostalgic, poetic, pitch perfect (pun intended) pitches which the A-holes hated, and this sketch was eye-rolling at best, but the fact that there were not one, not two, but THREE Mad Men castmembers on my screen kept me from fastforwarding through it.

I know I've said to watch this show (Mad Men, not SNL), but I don't know that I've ever really delved into WHY you MUST watch this show, but you MUST, and I will definitely talk more in-depth about the why in the future...

PS Oh my God, Maya Rudolph is also in the house as Michelle Obama (with all the rumors swirling about her return, I knew Michelle was the part why)!! Talk about high points in SNL creativity - Rudolph played a substantial role in those days! Welcome back, even for just one night!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cross-genre post: Ryan Howard v. Ryan Howard

Last night on television, we had two chances to watch Ryan Howard: Ryan Howard the temp on NBC's The Office, and Ryan Howard the first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, who were playing Game 2 in the World Series.

I don't know that it's ever been confirmed, but the rumor is that Ryan Howard the temp is actually named in honor of Ryan Howard the baseball player. He's currently tearing it up on the major league level (the baseball player, that is), but before he was called up in September 2004, he was tearing it up on the minor league level for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. The Office premiered six months later in March 2005 with character that had supposedly been named after a local sports hero before way before he was on his way to being a sports hero on the national stage. Why, you ask? Oh, because The Office is set in none other than Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Ryan Howard (the baseball player) has gone on since then to be named Rookie of the Year (2005) and Most Valuable Player (2006) for the Phillies. Ryan Howard (the temp) has gone on to a job at corporate in New York where the power went to his head, he was arrested for fraud, and he now finds himself back in Scranton as, yet again, a temp and as, yet again, the subject of boss Michael Scott's somewhat disturbing mancrush.

We wish continued success to Ryan Howard (the baseball player) and better luck and decision making to Ryan Howard (the temp, who could take a page out of the other Ryan Howard's book) in the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dirty Sexy Money: Is my show back?

Last night's episode was the first time this season I felt like I was watching the show I fell in love with last year. It's too early to tell, yet, and it's entirely possible that this episode shone brighter than the first two because of the emphasis on the Brian storyline, who is now definitely my favorite character. There are still things that bug about the show this season - Tripp is still one-note, calculating and manipulating in every scene he's in (which, thankfully, were very few this week, which is sad, because I used to love the scenes he had with Brian but especially Nick, when his compassion and regret and insecurity and HUMANITY would come through...sigh)...I don't know what the heck is going on with Karen and Simon Elder. They both seem to be playing each other, but for what purpose? Why do I even care?... I used to love Jeremy Darling and his naivete and his love of money but wanting to be loved for himself and not his wealth, and now he's being sucked down by this non-story with Lucy Liu and I'm too bored to watch his scenes.

So, what did I like? I liked that Lisa is once again Nick's connection to the real world, the non-Darling world, because where's the tension and why is he fighting to stay grounded (or not fighting, as it were) if all parts of his world are blinded by the glitter? Glad to see the writers not only remembered they have a daughter, but gave her a few lines. Nick confronting his mother felt a little forced at first, but it shows that he's trying to fit in somewhere in life (with his family, with the Darlings) because he was abandoned and felt he didn't belong which brings me to my favorite Darling outsider, Brian...

Because of his characterization of being smart and moody and snarky, Brian gets all the best one-liners. I love that he's so angry. I love that he feels the ends justify the means. I love that he thinks he's right, so you must be wrong. I love how obviously lost he feels, how much he wants to belong and fit in and be accepted, and I love, love, love how much he loves his son. He may be an ass, but he's an ass with a heart. He is so passionate about everything in his life, whether it's driven by hate or whether it's driven by love, but he is easily the most flawed, the most complex, and the most real (and maybe most importantly, the most consistent!) character on this show.

If this week disappointed me, I was going to put DSM on hiatus on my tv viewing schedule. Unfortunately for my overstuffed schedule but fortunately for this show, I've decided to not give up on it just quite yet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Third season premiere of 30 Rock

The third season premiere of 30 Rock, 2-time Emmy award winner for Best Comedy, is on NBC Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m. but I just finished watching it on iTunes. I think I've been more hesitant than many to board the 30 Rock love train, but it's definitely found it's groove I think and for the most part, the premiere was in that groove (except for some super eyerolling silliness, even for 30 Rock, with NBC CEO Kathy Geiss and former CEO Jack Donaghy). After submitting myself to the painfully unfunny "comedies" Kath & Kim and Worst Week, I will be more than thrilled to have 30 Rock back on my tv! Some notes!

* I can't decide if I want to be Liz Lemon or Tina Fey when I grow up. Liz Lemon is super dorky but I have a feeling that my friends would tell me I'm deluding myself to think I do not have a super dorky streak of my own.

* I still remember the day I was watching Saturday Night Live and realized that Alec Baldwin can bring the funny. His Emmy this year for Best Comedic Actor was well earned. There's just something about his dry delivery of his lines, the way his character takes himself so seriously in even the most absurd situations, and the way this staunch Democrat convincingly portrays a staunch Republican that I love.

* Jane Krakowski continues to be the weak link for me. If they could find a way to fit her character more organically into the story (which doesn't make sense, as she's supposed to be one of the stars of the fictional TGS show, that they can't), but in addition, the other actors, even Tracy Morgan in his over-the-topness, act circles around her.

* I heart Grizz and Dot Com.

* Any show that lets Will Arnett back on my television, I will watch.

* I love that Liz and Jack's friendship continues to grow and change, that he continues to mentor her (even when he's not CEO of the company), and that there's nothing romantic about it.

* The premiere managed to set up at least three storylines that I can tell for the upcoming season, without seeming rushed or jam-packed.

All in all, a solid delivery. Thanks, NBC for finally bringing this back. Now could you please get Kath & Kim off my screen?!?

Is Fringe being pushed to the fringe?

We all know I watch a lot of television. Too much, some might say. Like psychologists and teachers. Parents, too. Probably a few tv critics as well...

The point is, as it gets deeper into the television season, inevitably there are shows I stop watching. Either I don't have the time for them or they stop piquing my interest.

Fringe might be becoming one of those shows.

Before the start of the season, Fringe was one of the most anticipated and hyped new series and I really, really wanted to like it. In fact, I really did enjoy the pilot episode. I liked the premise. I love Joshua Jackson.

But I missed one episode one week and found...I didn't miss it. I haven't watched last night's episode yet and even though I could watch it on my computer or on my dvr...I haven't.

I think the problem with Fringe, for me, is that it's all about the story, which is fine. Lots of shows do that. The characters are just props to convey the story. It's more of a procedural in that regard than I first realized. One franchise in particular, Law and Order, does this. And I don't watch that show. And I don't like that show.

I guess I'm discovering that I like characters. I want three dimensional characters. I want complicated characters with complicated relationships and complicated histories. My favorite part about Fringe is the relationship between Peter Bishop and his father, Walter. It's fraught with dysfunction and it makes me want to know more about them and it makes me feel for them.

So that's that. I'm still following recaps of the show and I guess when my tv schedule slows down over the weekend, I might check back in, but since most experts and even kindergarteners would probably agree that I need to be watching less tv and not more, well, we'll see.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A priceless tv moment brought to you by: Chuck

Um, Adam Baldwin, who plays tough guy NSA agent John Casey, undercover as a high school reunion DJ, rocking out to Hanson's "MmmBop"? Priceless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Feed the actresses: Rachel Boston

Okay, there has been a lot of press about the skeletal frames of several of the young actresses on the CW's 90210, and while their skinniness is beyond disturbing to me for a multitude of reasons (their health, their self-esteem, the fact that I have a boyfriend who has been in the hospital for almost two years and was so sick at one point that he almost died because he couldn't gain weight and looked like a starving Ethiopian...we should all be ashamed/appalled at a society/industry that forces/influences young girls (and guys)to voluntarily lose that much weight. End rant), I don't watch that show. The show I do watch is The Ex List, which features as a supporting character the actress Rachel Boston. I loved Rachel when she was on American Dreams. I love her on this show. But why does it look like she's spent the years in between these two shows in a work camp? Before, she looked healthy. Now, I just want to shove a bunch of hamburgers down her throat, because as much as I am enjoying this show and her performance, I am always distracted by any scene which she is in by how thin her arms are. Come on, Rachel! It's okay to have a little meat on your bones!

Rachel Boston in 2004

Rachel Boston now (and I don't think this picture even conveys how skinny she looks on my this picture, it's more apparent in her clavicle and in her face...)

P.S. Just another quick note about SNL

Next week, the host is Jon Hamm and the musical guest is Coldplay. How super excited am I? Coldplay's latest album is fantastic, so I'm very excited to hear them (I very rarely don't fast forward through the musical guest, with the exception, clearly, since they're my favorite band EVER, of The Killers, who were on last week. But I would listen to Coldplay, too.)

More importantly, though, is the fact that Jon Hamm plays the lead character of Don Draper on my new favorite show, Mad Men. He is phenomenal as this character, and while credit has to go to the writing of this character, Hamm's portrayal of Draper is in no small part responsible for making me feel for a character that at best is deeply flawed. I can't help but root for Draper to grow up and get his act together. Anyway, I only know Hamm from this show and he so perfectly captures the era (early 1960s) that I don't know what it will be like to see him as 21st century actor Jon Hamm, not 1960s ad man Don Draper. Who knows if he'll be able to do live comedy but good for SNL for realizing that Hamm is a gem of an actor on a gem of a show who deserves to be put in the spotlight (if they spoof Mad Men and spoof it well, I think I'll be in heaven).

Anyway, Saturday night, 11:30 p.m., it!!

Is it Palin or Fey? Who knows? Say hi to your mother for me!

No surprise. I've said it before that for the most part, SNL works best for me when it's lampooning politics and politicians, so election years are a humor goldmine. Sarah Palin cameoed on this weekend's episode. I wasn't overwhelmed by her, but I didn't hate it - they really didn't give her anything to do, so there wasn't much to mess up. The best part of her appearance for me was actually her being a foil for Alec Baldwin's surprise showing, where he mistakes her for Tina Fey.

The best part of the episode though? Mark Wahlberg's guest appearance (see, not everything I enjoy on SNL has to do with politics...) Last week, Andy Samberg did a sketch where he impersonates Wahlberg and talks to animals. Yeah, you read that right. The sketch made no sense and would not have even been funny except that Samberg's impression of Wahlberg, his voice becoming Wahlberg's, was spot on, and somehow, that made the whole thing funny. Well, Wahlberg was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel later in the week and complained that he did not find the sketch humorous and that he was thinking about heading over to 30 Rock so he could break Samberg's nose. Which, in itself, was actually kinda annoying that Wahlberg appeared so upset. Maybe he really was. Maybe he was just acting. But the best part is that Lorne Michaels not only asked him to come on SNL this weekend, but Wahlberg accepted, and suddenly, this whole Andy Samberg impersonates Wahlberg sketch was legitimately funny. Wahlberg's a tough guy. I would not wanna mess with him. That is not just a cultivated persona - I would not want him upset with me. Violence should not be funny, but it is - when he told Lorne he would bash his face in if he didn't tell him where Samberg was was hilarious. And then when Wahlberg finally confronted Samberg, telling him that the sketch was in no way an accurate portrayal of him, and then proceeded to act the way Samberg had written him? Well, Wahlberg may be a tough guy, but not only does he have a sense of humor about himself, but he made that spot, which was almost an exact replica of Samberg's spot from the week before and still made no sense, just as hilarious.

I obviously don't have a highbrow sense of humor. It's the simple things in life that make me laugh.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Even though it's Friday, let's talk about Pushing Daisies for a second...

...I talk about this show in terms of how visually, it's like looking at a painting, and how storywise, it's like reading a fairytale. But this is not a happy show. Well, it has it's happy, slapstick, cute, whimsical, funny moments, but underneath all the bright colors and silliness, this is a very dark show about very dark things - murder in almost every episode? A set of lovers who can never be together or even touch or she'll die? I think I compared this show to Tim Burton, who also uses bright colors and fantastical stories to convey some very dark emotions and situations...I find the dichotomy very intriguing, and as someone who shies away from dramas that are actually dark and brooding and well, dramatic, I think this dichotomy is why I watch. And I think I'm enjoying this show much more this season. Last year, I wanted to like it. This year, I think I actually do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When My Name is Earl is on it's game...

...let's talk about this show instead. It's had it's missteps. But My Name is Earl is on it's game when it's about Earl actually taking care of his list. He's not always happy about it. He doesn't always do it right...sometimes he messes up. But sometimes, besides righting all the bad karma he's put out there, Earl encounters unexpected heartfelt moments.

My Name is Earl is also on it's game when it makes use of all the townies from Camden. This show has by far the best use of recurring characters of any tv show I've seen (It's Alway Sunny in Philadelphia is pretty good too). It's not always Earl's tight circle, and it's not random "friends" popping up for one episode, never to be seen again. Gay Kenny might be my favorite. I'm amazed at the continuity with these characters and their situations, too. It makes the town of Camden and the world Earl lives in feel very, very real. Anyway, good episode tonight. Have turned off the excrutiating Kath & Kim and will watch the Red Sox lose until The Office comes on...

Kath & Kim Take Two: Stick a fork in it...

I must be a glutton for punishment. Or a sadist. Or a masochist. Whichever one means I love inflicting pain on myself. I told myself that several times, a pilot has not impressed me. Not that it's high end television, but I do enjoy the soapiness of Grey's Anatomy and when I saw the pilot, I hated it. I thought the show was beyond boring. And so, I decided to give Kath & Kim another chance. Watching My Name is Earl took until 8:35. It is now 8:42 and I have been typing for two or three minutes. That is how long it took me of watching this show again for me to want to claw my eyeballs out.

Melodramatic? Yes. But true.

Reasons why I love Eli Stone

1. Jonny Lee Miller, for starters. Have loved him since he was in Hackers in 1995, which was also the first movie in which I saw Angelina Jolie, whom Miller married the next year. He's always been cute, he's always been a little bad-ass, but in this show he makes Eli someone you want to root for.

2. It's just a little bit zany. Hallucinations? People breaking into song? George Michael as maybe-God? It's just over the top enough to be fun.

3. It's a show with heart. The human connections feel real. I particularly like Eli's relationship with his brother Nate, and the backstory about their father, and how he may have been a drunk because that was the only way for him to deal with his own hallucinations. I love complicated characters and stories.

4. It's a show about faith. It's not about religion, per se, but Eli is a man who wants to believe he has a purpose in life, who wants to believe that there's a higher power, who wants to believe he can be a better person and that he has reasons to try to be a better person, who wants to believe there's something meaningful about life and about living...well, what's wrong with that?

Eli Stone premiered with a twist I didn't see coming - well, two actually, and as someone who depends on spoilers almost as much as she depends on air, it's hard to surprise me, so kudos to that. I was also wondering how they would deal with Eli having his aneurysm removed last season, and so discovering that it had "regrown" handled that nicely. By the way, if it hadn't been brought back this season, I thought last season (it's first) was a pretty complete arc (much like Wonderfall's first and only season) that could have left fans satisfied. I thought the finale was pitch-perfect, and for someone who uses tv mostly as a humorous escape from her less-humor filled life, to say that about an episode that left her both smiling and in tears is saying a lot.

Eli Stone is on ABC on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Watch it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I love I Love Money (I'm so embarrassed...)

I keep switching back and forth between the Patriots-Chargers game and the I Love Money reunion show when really, this should be a no brainer (and apparently, will be soon enough, as I can literally feel my brain cells dying everytime I Love Money is on...)

I used to watch Jerry Springer in college and I definitely watched more than my share of Maury Povich, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by my I Love Money know how when there's a car wreck on the parkway you can't look away? Well, that's this show. And I don't rubberneck at all (on the parkway), I refuse to do it, so maybe this is how I make up for it...

These people are psycho. They all make me feel boring and extremely normal. I don't care how famous it would make me, how much money I could make off of it, I don't know that I could live with myself for looking like a complete slut and fool and @$$hole in front of millions of viewers. But I was never one for the spotlight anyway. And I know that much of what we see, especially on this show, is scripted and is an adopted tv persona, but I think I would still rather be known for being the next J.K. Rowling than the next Megan.

Of course, if I really thought about sharing a house with The Entertainer or 12 Pack, I might change my mind...they come off as being losers. But what hot, entertaining, funny losers...

Oh God, I hate that I love I Love Money!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life on Mars looks intriguing...

...the show, that is, not actually living on Mars. Until they get televisions up there, I imagine it would suck.

Anyway, it's based on a UK show of the same name, about a present-day cop who gets hit by a car and wakes up as a cop in 1973. He doesn't know if he actually traveled back in time, if he's insane, or if everything's just a figment of his comatose mind.

Some thoughts (and bear with me, as I continue to watch these shows under the influence of this massive head cold, and so my thought processes are a little muddled):

- I think I may have a thing for period-piece television (see also Mad Men).

- Jason O'Mara from Life on Mars and Matthew Rhys from Brothers and Sisters talk and look exactly the same - they could be brothers (and interestingly enough, they're both Brits playing Americans (well, O'Mara is Irish and Rhys is Welsh)...I love Rhys, he's my favorite on B&S, so I hope I end up loving O'Mara as well...)

- Am fascinated by the whole is it real/is it all in my head concept. So far, it could go either way...or could it end up being both? (Yes, I've read the summary for the British version, so I know how that ends, and I am still intrigued, though even though this pilot was basically an exact remake of the UK version, who's to say the US version won't go in a different direction)

- due to circumstances in my own life, I hate when a story involves a character being hit by a car, especially if it is used for comedic effect and if there are no serious or lasting repercussions. At least on this show, so far, that does not seem to be true.

- Michael Imperioli is almost unrecognizable in his 70s get-up. It's unbelievable how easy it is to make an attractive man unattractive...

Verdict: I will continue to watch. Like I said, the concept intrigues me. The historical setting intrigues me, so even though it just adds another show to my Thursday night television glut, I will continue to watch. Even if only for Michael Imperioli's mustache.


Stuffed up sense of humor

I have a terrible head cold and it's making me miserable. Food has lost its taste and my shows have lost their humor. Last night I watched My Name Is Earl, The Office, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and either all three were just eh, or my headcold has dulled not only my sense of smell but my sense of humor. I'll have to rewatch when I'm feeling better to see which it is.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gone but not forgotten: My So-Called Life (1994)

I figured I'd start with my original television obsession. I watched a lot of Nick at Nite when I was younger, I was a huge Cosby Show fan, I was on board the original Beverly Hills 90210 all gung-ho for quite some time and possibly even still in 1994, but My So-Called Life was the first television show that spoke to me, the first show I fell in love with. In 1994, Claire Danes, Angela Chase, and I were all 15 years old. Here, for the first time I could ever remember, were teens on tv who dressed like me and spoke like me. They were smart and bored and falling in and out of love with the right people as well as the wrong people. Here were teens who were as confused and insecure as me, who had complex friendships and family relationships like me. Oh, how I wanted to be Angela Chase, and oh, in so many ways how I was Angela Chase. It was only on for one season, though that season was repeated on MTV for awhile. It made such an impression on me that I wrote about the final episode in my journal, and in a time before DVDs or even TV boxsets on VHS, I had every single episode of My So-Called Life taped off of television on blank videotapes. This show definitely should have lasted more than one season. But maybe one season was all we needed.

Favorite MSCL moment: The very end of the episode, after Jordan has refused to publicly admit that he's involved in Angela and Angela finally stands up for herself and calls him out on it...she's standing in the hall during school, he asks her if they can go somewhere and talk, she says sure, and as they're walking down the crowded hallway to Buffalo Tom's "Late at Night," he reaches out and grabs her hand. Yeah, I'm a sucker for girls finally getting the romantic public gesture they deserve. Oh, and for Jordan Catalano.

In mourning over Dirty Sexy Money

This show, for all it's extravagent over-the-topness last season, really was a heartfelt show about family last year and now I can barely watch it without rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it has become. I'm so sad! Last year, this really was a show I never expected to fall for that I ended up loving, and I was almost embarrassed to be watching last night's episode.

I think, for the most part, the storylines are no more over-the-top than they were last year - Letitia is arrested for Dutch's murder, Jeremy has an affair with the prosecutor on the case, Nick has to pick someone to be next in line to take over the company - but I think last year the show would have dealt more with the characters' reactions to and the fallout from each of these things. The characters and this show used to have heart. Now they all act like robots.

Donald Sutherland's Tripp seems to have had the biggest character assassination. He used to be complex, a man who obviously cared for his family, who obviously loved his best friend Dutch, who obviously felt betrayed by Dutch and Letitia's affair, who wanted the best for his children but who sometimes took the easy way out afforded by all his millions. It was easy to believe he would do anything to help Nick find out who killed Dutch and at the same time, it was just as possible that he was the man who had killed him. Now, he's like a one-note villain. And let's not get started on Lucy Liu. I like her, but she brings nothing to this show.

Still, I feel hopeful. Or maybe I'm just deluding myself. I have been known to have a hard time letting things go, but I feel like I see glimmers of the old show I fell in love with. I actually like Karen more this season. She used to be a vapid socialite heiress in love with Nick. Now she's got a bit of dimension, scheming either with or against her father with or against Simon Elder (the fact that I can't tell which is what I like). Last night, I saw a bit of the old Lisa George, the down-to-earth character that was trying to keep her husband grounded, from being sucked into that crazy Darling world. And Brian - oh grumpy, hilarious Brian - is still the same. I think he's my favorite character. If they mess with him at all, I may have to break up with this show for good.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

With each new television season comes unexpected finds and expected disasters...

I just watched the series premiere of The Ex List, which premiered Friday, as well as the series premiere of Kath & Kim, which premieres this upcoming Thursday.

One was surprisingly good. The other was almost too painful to watch.

Let's start with the bad. Kath & Kim's reviews have been awful. I don't always have mainstream taste, though, so I don't always go by reviews, although I definitely use them to get an idea of what I'm dealing with. Kath & Kim is based on an Aussie series of the same name, which I've never seen, and while many foreign imports are not disastrous by any means, this show was not funny and the two main characters had little to no redeeming qualities. Self-absorbed, conceited, misanthropes I can take (House? The Bluth family anyone?) Sitcoms that not only do not make me laugh but leave me cringing and rolling my eyes are unforgiveable.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Ex List, however. The premise, a woman who is told by a psychic that she has to marry within a year or she will never marry and that her soul mate is one of many men she has already dated, did not intrigue me at first. And then there was behind-the-scenes drama and changes before the show even hit the air, which can spell trouble. Or it can spell improvement. Plus, I wasn't entirely a fan of Elizabeth Reaser on her guest stint on Grey's Anatomy. But I don't have any other shows I'm currently watching on Friday nights, so I relented and decided to give this show (based on another foreign show, this one from Israel, by the way) a chance. Reaser's character is appealing. Her friends and family and her relationships with them feel real. She feels real. And the first episode actually made me tear up a bit. It was actually one of the better pilot episodes I've seen - it didn't feel crammed, it didn't feel super exposition-y, and I think it really set the tone and feeling of the story and characters of this show...I want to see what happens next!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Let's just take a moment to rave about Michael Cera

It remains to be seen whether or not "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" will become another sleeper hit like "Superbad" and "Juno," but it's already another critical darling and just the latest step in Michael Cera's road to superstardom...

I know this is a blog about television and that first paragraph was all about movies, but before Cera was making a name for himself on the big screen, he was playing one of my favorite characters ever on one of my favorite television shows ever, Arrested Development. His George-Michael was so awkward and so earnest and so sincere with just absolute spot-on delivery, timing, and facial expressions, that I just wanted to eat him up. Or adopt him. At the very least, I wanted to buy him new clothes. So in honor of Ceraseeming to be the nice, real guy that I get the impression that he is and being someone who seems to deserve all the success he is having, here are some of my favorite George-Michael Bluth quotes:

Michael (talking about possible names for a housing development): What do you think of when you hear the name, "Sudden Valley"?
George Michael Bluth: Salad dressing. But I don't want to eat it.
Michael: What about, "Paradise Gardens"?
George Michael Bluth: Yeah... that's better. I can see myself marinating a chicken in that.

Michael Bluth: What have we always said is the most important thing?
George Michael Bluth: Breakfast
Michael Bluth: Family
George Michael Bluth: Oh, right. Family. I thought you meant of the things you eat.

Michael: Well, I’ll tell you what: I’m going to give you a promotion. Welcome aboard, Mr. Manager.
George Michael: Wow. I’m Mr. Manager.
Michael: Well, manager; we just say “manager.” And you can hire an employee if you need one.
George Michael: Do you think I need one?
Michael: Don’t look at me, Mr. Manager.
George Michael: Right, it’s up to me now. I’m Mr. Manager.
Michael: Manager. We-we just say, uh...
George Michael: I know, but you...
Michael: Doesn’t matter who.

Michael: Your Uncle Gob seems to think that he saw you down at the docks today. Was that you?
George Michael: No. No. Maybe it was the other George Michael. You know, the singer-songwriter.
Michael: Yeah, that makes sense.

George Michael: But it wasn’t for me.
Michael: Then who was it for? Who? Give me a name.
George Michael: Okay, it was for me. Yeah. I was gonna smoke the marijuana like a cigarette.

I could go on and on. But I won't...

Television: it's a visual medium

I don't know about you, but I often forget that. Maybe I'm just a product of my generation with the constant multi-tasking, but I feel better if I'm on the computer or reading TV Guide while I'm "watching" tv. I know episodes of Arrested Development so well that I can play them online and keep them in the background, just listening to it. When there's a ball game on, I usually just go straight to the radio since I just end up listening to it on tv anyway (and don't even get me started on tv commentators, who make me want to throw shoes at my television set because of the inane comments they make just to say something...argh).

Anyway, it's Mad Men that has reminded me of this fact. Besides being visually interesting, the story is told with minimal dialogue. In last night's episode, Betty Draper says that she has no time for small talk and that "conversation is an art." Well, this show certainly takes that to heart. Gilmore Girls (which I was a fan of in the early years) used to pride itself on how many pages there were in an episode's script due to the vast amount of dialogue due to the rapid fire conversations between characters. On Mad Men, there are no wasted words. I would actually love to count the number of words in an episode and compare it to both a show like Gilmore Girls and a show with, say, a "normal" amount of dialogue for an hour-long. The point is, Mad Men doesn't need the extra words to tell the story. And in general, television shouldn't need the words - as they always say, show, don't tell, and they say that for written media, so it stands to reason that it be even more appropriate for a visual medium like television.

On a side note, I find it an interesting topic because for my senior thesis on television as art, one of the arguments *against* television being considered art was that there were too many "channels" at work - visual, dialogue, music, etc. and I said that using that argument, a television episode (or show) that cut down on or cut out one or more of those channels would be a more likely candidate to be considered art. I used the Buffy episode "Hush" as my example, because it was dialogue free for half the episode, but I think Mad Men, if it had been on the air, would for just as good an example, if not better, as the whole series features minimal dialogue. I can't surf the net while Mad Men is on. I'm actually forced to "watch" television when it's on. And boy, is it worth it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Getting into the groove: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

This is the Philadelphia I know and love. I knew it would find its groove. It always does and last night's hour long episode had more than a few laugh out loud moments. Some highlights for me:

Mac in a wedding dress.
Charlie trying to put all his belongings in a bandana on a stick because that's what makes hobos so cool.
Frank and Dennis trying to figure out the best way to use the glory hole in their bathroom.
Mac and Charlie trying to fake their deaths with varying disappointing results.
Dennis' hurt feelings at being left out of the suicide pact.
The orgy with a buffet and the fact that everyone seemed more excited about the food than the anonymous sex.
The duster.
Mac and Charlie's lack of stealth.
Mac smushing Dee in the face.

I don't think I would enjoy the selfish, mean, stupid antics of this crew so much if they didn't always get exactly what was coming to them afterward. Well, I might. I do have the sense of humor of a frat boy. But really, I can't wait to go back and watch this episode again.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mixed-up priorities?

Is it terrible that I'm more than a little bummed that instead of a new episode of The Office or Grey's Anatomy tonight, that all the major networks will be broadcasting the vice presidential debate? I know there are important real life people and situations that I should pay attention and care about, like politics, but, well, I don' least It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is not letting me down...

The ups and downs of television: Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money

So these were two shows I was most looking forward to returning last night...actually, probably two of the shows I was looking forward to returning all season. They were both a little off, but one more so than the other.

I realized what watching Pushing Daisies is like. It's like watching Edward Scissorhands. The fairytale-esque quality of the story and the storytelling. The vintage fashion sense, the saturated colors. I guess it's pretty much like anything Tim Burton, but the fairytale quality of this show is most like Edward Scissorhands. Last night, the pacing felt a little off. Some of the dialogue was a little too cutesy and rushed, but overall, the feel was the same. Am very glad it's back.

Which brings us to Dirty Sexy Money...what did you people do to my show?!? Apparently the show was overhauled for this season and boy, did it immediately show! I felt like it was a caricature of the show I fell in love with last season. Talk about soap! This show was always over-the-top, but in a believable way - people did outrageous things but for logical (or at least relatable) reasons. But characters covering up an accidental death? Without any sign of remorse? And feeling no guilt afterward? Please. Also, Nick and Lisa were always the grounded, normal couple trying not to be pulled into the Darlings world. They were the counterbalance. We saw the Darlings through their eyes and experienced not only their envy, but also their disgust at the opulence and realization of how ridiculous the Darlings' world could be. Now, Nick is helping in murder cover-ups and blatantly lusting after Karen, and Lisa is making out with Jeremy on the street? Please...this is not my show. At least Brian is his same cantankerous self. He's my favorite. I don't know what I would do if they messed with him.

All that being said...I'm willing to forgive premieres. Especially for the sophomore shows this season because due to last winter's writer's strike, their freshmen seasons were cut short. Networks brought back a lot of shows that otherwise might not have made the cut (which is why there are very few actual new shows this season). So this is like freshman season, redux. Which made last night's premieres for all intents and purposes, pilots redux. I'm willing to forgive exposition-heavy pilots. And pilots that are still trying to find their footing, their atmosphere, and their characters. And I'm willing to forgive missteps in shows that I really like. So we'll see what happens.

Am so over Project Runway this season. I want to see really talented people really trying to make their creative dreams come true, not bickering and backstabbing and crying. I have I Love Money for that (and at least on that show there's also canoodling, drunken shenanigans and people making complete fools of themselves...) I Love Money doesn't pretend to be something it's not, and there's nothing I hate more than a hypocrite, PR...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How I Met Your Mother, House, and Wednesday night premieres

Well, I think Heroes has officially taken a backseat to the rest of my television viewing. I just can't get excited about it. And when I would rather watch an episode of Arrested Development at for the 20th time than catch up on Heroes, then its time to let that show go.

I'm not sad about it. It happens all the time. There's just too much to watch and not enough time to waste on shows that I don't enjoy. Although it's a sad state of affairs when apparently I always have time to watch I Love Money (although in my defense, VH1 airs it, like, twenty times every day...) Anyway, sometimes you and your shows need to take a break. And sometimes, when they regain their creative stride or there's a new character or storyline that piques your interest, you pick them up again. It happened to me with several shows, including Lost, the original Beverly Hills 90210, and House.

Anyway...How I Met Your Mother left me kinda eh this week. Even a brilliant show like that can't be brilliant all the time, but it has a track record of picking up steam as each season progresses, so I'm not worried.

I'm liking the dynamic on House between House and his PI (Lucas?)...he's quirky, strange, and keenly observant, and Michael Weston and Hugh Laurie are playing well off each other, creating some fun banter, so much so that for a second, just a split second, I forgot that Robert Sean Leonard wasn't even in the episode. It's okay for now. Wilson better be coming back soon, though.

Now, somehow, it's Wednesday already. I'm just starting to realize how much television I watch on a delayed schedule, whether on my DVR or on the Internet, and how quickly the television landscape is changing (we got our DVR at home just about two years ago). Advertisers must be going nuts becoming multimedia savvy and finding ways to make commercials as interesting as the shows that sell them so that people will still watch them (I know there are some commercials I actually don't fast forward through when I'm using my DVR, but that's a topic for another post...). Anyway, I guess all media fields are changing, not just television, but it's just something I'm noticing now by actually focusing on it. Um, what was I talking about again?

Oh, right, it's Wednesday (and only two days till the weekend, or one day till my Thursday shows and four days till the new Mad Men...oy...). Why is this Wednesday better than, say, last Wednesday? Because tonight we have the premiere of Pushing Daisies. I don't love this show as much as I love some of the other sophomore shows this season, but talk about television as art! I could write an entire essay simply on the visual stylization of this show and the lyrical, poetic dialogue and narration. Oh, and the symmetry! It's amazing (pathetically, I do enjoy symmetry more than a lot of things in life). Not totally on board the Anna Friel love train, but I totally drive the Lee Pace train (excellent on this show, but he totally rocked his role on the too short lived Wonderfalls) and who woulda thunk that Chi McBride has a hilarious deadpan delivery?

Charlotte "Chuck" Charles: I had the strangest dream! I was being strangled to death with a plastic sack.
Ned: You were strangled to death with a plastic sack. [pauses] That's probably an odd thing to hear but I wasn't sure how to sugar-coat it…

This is followed by the season premiere of Private Practice, a dreadfully boring and nondescript name stuck between two creative and descriptive names (it's like how the name considered for one movie was the somewhat sad and bittersweet Goodnight, Moon and ended up being the mundane and generic Stepmom. Really? Someone thought Stepmom would be a great movie name? Please don't get me started on this - it's also another topic for another post!) Anyway, back on track...basically I watch Private Practice because of Grey's Anatomy. I liked Addison Montgomery on Grey's. And I watch it for the actors - Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman, most especially Taye Diggs (who, I would like to note as he has gained fame and popularity, I was a huge fan of 12 years ago when he was in a new, little Broadway show called Rent. That boy can sing! In fact, I might keep watching PP on the off chance the writers decide to have his character sing...) The thing is, I'm not sure I could tell you a single storyline from last season. Oh, I did enjoy the unexpected romance between Charlotte and Cooper - that was cute. And I always enjoy guest star David Sutcliffe on my screen. But if I wanted to watch a show about people who act like a bunch of high schoolers with raging hormones, I'd watch 90210. Or, apparently, I Love Money. I think I want a little more substance from this show. So we'll see what tonight brings.

Which brings me to the 10 pm premiere of Dirty Sexy Money. This show for me is just like How I Met Your Mother - it was never on my preseason list of shows to check out (yes, I do that - any excuse to make a list), but on a whim, I checked out the pilot and was immediately hooked. Again, this is a show with great actors, which always makes everything better. The main characters are billionaires, so of course there are outrageous storylines involving private flights to Italy and million dollar birthday parties and mansions and fabulous clothes and there's also a murder mystery and several love stories and there was a paternity mystery too. But like on Brothers and Sisters, these characters interact like family. I can believe that even when they don't like each other, they love each other, and there are some scenes, especially involving the Darling brothers, where I can pretend they're actually brothers. They set up a lot of loose ends at the end of last season. Can't wait to see where it goes tonight...

Tripp: [Drunk] Brian, what a wonderful wedding sermon, so much humanity, so much hope. There really is such a kind person buried deep down inside you. Deep, deep down! Inside you... somewhere!?!
Brian, Sr: Thanks dad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Catching up on last week's television: Brothers and Sisters

Well, the Walkers were back in full Walker fashion - there was a family get together, secrets were revealed, arguments broke out, there were some wacky hijinks and lots of drinking (it wouldn't be a Walker family gathering without lots of alcohol!)

It was a little weird seeing Justin and Rebecca making out. They're a cute couple and the actors always had great chemistry, but the characters spent almost two seasons believing they were long lost half-brother and half-sister.

Holly is still annoying. Her character is there to cause trouble, I understand that, but she just annoys. Now that Rebecca isn't William's daughter, it's time for Holly to be gone.

I can't believe that barely three seasons in we're already revisiting the secret William Walker love child storyline, except now instead of it being Rebecca the daughter it's Ryan the son...after all, Rebecca's reluctant and messy incorporation into the Walker clan is what drove much of the first season. Still, it wouldn't be Brothers and Sisters without the soap...and much better soap, I might add, than the actual soap opera I pretend to still watch (that's a topic for another day).

Overall, the show feels the same, and I'm glad. I love the Walkers because they feel like a family, they act like a family, the have secrets and fight and make-up and gossip and tattle and support each other like a family. The cast is incredible in that their interactions ring true as a family. Even with the soap. Looking forward to what this upcoming season brings.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Let's talk about Britcoms

If you've never seen a British sitcom, you're really missing out. There's something decidedly different about British humor from American humor. I can't put my finger on what it is, but it's not for everybody. Think of Monty Python. You either love it or you hate it. Me? I frickin' love it.

I don't know how my Britcom obsession started. I'm pretty sure it was with Ricky Gervais' The Office. I had heard good things about it. It was the surprise winner of a Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy in 2004. I don't base what I watch on what award shows give prizes to, but I decided it was time to check it out. And once I did, I never looked back.

British television is very different from American. Humor (or humour, as they might write) aside, British shows very rarely (with the exception, it seems, of Dr. Who, which I believe the dinosaurs and cavemen used to watch together) last more than two or three seasons (or series, as they say). Each series is very rarely more than 10 episodes. And there can be a lapse of two or more years between series. It definitely lends itself to a different kind of storytelling. When I discover a show I love, this American can be very frustrated that the story ends after only 20 episodes. But it also lends itself, like the Spanish-language telenovela, to more complete stories as well as to fresh stories. American television can often be dictated by economics. A powerhouse show can stay on the air long after it has lost creative steam, simply because viewers are still watching (and hence, ads are still selling). Ok, enough about that. That is your television lesson of the day. Back to Britcoms.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are geniuses (genii?) and the two series and Christmas special of The Office quickly made it into my DVD collection. I don't remember in what order the other Britcoms followed, or why these turned up in my DVD collection as opposed to others, but my best friend and I devoured Absolutely Fabulous (Eddie and Patsy were so Sex and the City before Sex and the City even existed!), Coupling (which was Britain's answer to Friends, which the US then tried to turn back into an American series that seriously failed, but the British version's Jeff Murdock is one of the funniest television characters of all time), Little Britain (an American version with the same stars just premiered yesterday on HBO but I have yet to see it), Extras (Ricky Gervais' hilarious follow-up to The Office), and Jeeves and Wooster (which if you're a fan of House but unfamiliar with Hugh Laurie's background, you might be surprised to know that he is in face a British comedian). There have been various Britcoms thrown in that failed to tickle my fancy and a few dramas as well (Bob and Rose, the Pride and Prejudice miniseries to name two). We recently finished watching Spaced, after becoming obsessed with Simon Pegg following the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

There's an episode of Friends (well, two actually...wait, no three, a two-part season finale and the next season's premiere) when Ross and Emily were going to get married that was filmed in London. I didn't know it at the time, but the stars of many of these Britcoms I would come to know and love showed up in guest spots on these episodes - including Hugh Laurie (which, he had a total of maybe three lines but so nailed them that I instantly fell in love), Jennifer Saunders, and June Whitfield. So maybe I should really credit Friends with initially expanding my comedy horizons to across the pond. In any case, there's a world outside American television, and some of it is actually bloody fantastic!

So how was premiere week?

This was television's unoffical premiere week and boy, did it leave me overwhelmed. I still haven't watched everything I wanted to...I think I watch entirely too much tv...

So what was I watching this week? Let's take a look...

Sunday night: The Emmys. Boring, boring, way too long, and boring. How can a show that celebrates television and how wonderful it is be so painful to endure and make me want to throw my television out the window?

Monday night: The Big Bang Theory - this isn't a must-watch for me, but if I have time (and how do I ever have enough time? Gotta figure out what life experiences I'm missing out on when I'm watching tv instead...), then I check out this show. It's about two nerds who are neighbors with a hot chick and one of the nerds has a crush on her. Cliche. But the reason I like it is the hot chick, even though she doesn't get the nerds, is friendly with them anyway. The laughs don't come from her being mean to them. Not cliche.

How I Met Your Mother - one of the funniest shows ever, and the season premiere does not disappoint. Neil Patrick Harris is hilarious. For that reason alone I would watch the show. But this week also worked for me because just like Stella, my best friend has never seen Star Wars, and just like Stella, I have a boyfriend for whom Star Wars is the Best Movie of All Time. I enjoy it as well but I think it's probably Just Okay. But I would never tell him that...moving on...

Heroes - I watched half of the premiere, read the rest in recap. I think I want to like this show more than I actually like it. I'll continue to follow it, and I've heard it's on an upswing from last season, but for now, this show is not must see, but something to be caught up on.

Worst Week - I had heard rave reviews about this show, based on a British show. I love Britcoms. You'll hear all about that one day. But Worst Week was not my cup of tea, British or American. So many bad things happened to Sam but instead of being excrutiating but funny, they were just excrutiating to watch. I can find humor in other people's embarrassment (see The Office, both British and American), but I thought Worst Week was predictable and boring. Sometimes I'll give a show one more ep after the premiere to hook me, but unless I start hearing raves about this show, I think this'll be it for me.

Tuesday night: House - I gave up House for a few seasons, but I think I am now totally back on board. Love seeing the new dynamic between House and ex-best friend Wilson, and love the quirky PI House hired to spy on Wilson. Of course, I'm a huge Michael Weston fan from his stints on both Scrubs and Psych, but I thought he was believably wacky and a great foil for House.

90210 - loved finding out that last week that Dylan is the father of Kelly's baby (even though I'm a huge Brandon fan, I'm still a sucker for history!), but this new version just doesn't do it for me. Plus, Shenae Grimes and Jessica Stroup are so scarily skinny, it's distracting from the lame storylines. Maybe it'll get better. I hope so. I love Rob Estes and Jessica Walters.

Fringe - I think I could really love this show if it's given a chance to find it's footing. I'm not completely on the J.J. Abrams bandwagon, but I like the fringe science ideas on this show and I like the characters, especially Walter Bishop. Plus, hello, Pacey! I love me some Pacey...I like that there seems to be an overarching storyline (who or what is behind the Pattern), so I'll keep watching for now.

Privileged - cute in a Gilmore Girls kind of way. Discovered it by accident and am enjoying it way more than the way more hyped 90210. Don't know how long the CW will stand behind it, but it's light and it actually makes me chuckle, so it's still on my list.

Wednesday night: Bones - I watch this show mainly for David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. The mysteries I find run-of-the-mill, I thought the Zack as Gormagon storyline from last season eyerollingly awful and contrived, I love John Francis Daley's super young psychologist and wish they could find a better way to fit him into the show if they wanna keep him around. Not a must watch for me, and this week was no exception - I didn't get to this episode until Saturday night, but I do like the Boreanaz and Deschanel banter and relationship.

New Adventures of Old Christine - Barb and Christine got married? Kinda silly. But I still think this show is hilarious, even when Christine is over-the-top in her self-centeredness. But the rest of the actors/characters make me laugh, and more often than anything else, that's a show that will keep me hooked. I think this show is still on it's game, although it could probably ride my viewership for another season based on the episodes where Matthew can't find any of his med school classes and with his first trip to Home Depot (mainly because, like Richard, I love Home Depot, and like Matthew, I probably would've picked out a flower, too).

Project Runway - this whole season has been somewhat boring but this week I really wanted to see Kenley go. Nobody's jumping out at me this season, personality-wise and talent-wise. And I think we've reached the Real World threshold. That's the point when a reality show, like The Real World, has been on the air for so long that the new cast grew up on the show and were fans of the show and know what kind of "characters" and "storylines" make the show work. I want my reality shows to be real. And have a purpose. And involve talent. Although if you get to Sunday on my list, you'll see that that's not really true. I'm so ashamed...but more on that later...

Thursday night: Oh yay, my Thursday night glut of shows is back! Coordinating my DVR/online viewing/live viewing on Thursdays (and 30 Rock and Scrubs aren't even back yet) is already giving my a nervous tic in my eye, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

My Name is Earl - last year was kinda rough. My Name is Earl went from Must Watch to not even really something to catch up on. But with Earl back to his list, the show seems to be back to form, and I really enjoyed the premiere. This show has a great supporting cast and great use of recurring townie characters, so we'll see if this show is back on track this season.

The Office - I love The Office. I've loved it since it was British. I actually did not love the American premiere because it was word-for-word exactly like the British premiere, and as we all learned with the American Coupling (which sucked, and I only discovered afterward that the British version is hilarious), word-for-word, even though we both speak English, doesn't translate from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Anyway, my love reblossomed after that one misstep. This premiere was pretty good. Classic Office. Michael Scott was a dork. And a jerk. And put his foot in his mouth. And embarrassed himself. But he actually acted like a human being around Amy Ryan's character, which is funny in itself to see, not the least because she's playing a female Michael Scott. Jan's baby -eh. Don't really care. Pam at art school in New York? We'll see if that works better than Jim working in the Stamford branch, but I love that they didn't save his proposal for sweeps, I love that it was simple and messy and pretty much completely normal. This show is best when it's focusing on the absurdity of the normal, when you can point to a character and say, "I know someone like him in real life." I'm so glad this show is back...

Grey's Anatomy - this show has become unbelievably soapy but I can't stop watching. Even with the George/Izzie misstep last season. (Misstep? Complete understatement...). Anyway, Meredith still has issues. George unbelievably has another woman in love with him. He's cute and dorky, but he's not heartthrob. Still, it's Lexie, and I think she's cute and dorky, too. Best thing about the premiere? Kevin McKidd. Huge fan of him from HBO's Rome but there was just something about his take-charge, no-nonsense, actually acting like a doctor that was super sexy and a breath of fresh air. And, he made me not hate Cristina. For that alone, I can't wait for him to come back. Plus, you know, the sexy...

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - yet another hit and miss this week with the two episodes. The first one was okay - it's always funny to see Dennis trying to convince everyone else he's as good-looking as he thinks he is, and Frank had some funny lines, but the rest kinda fell flat for me. The second was definitely better, with all the fighting over who's actually the best friends out of their group of three and Charlie and Dennis thinking Mac is in love with them. I always tell people this show is like Seinfeld on crack (the same group of self-absorbed, ignorant, egotistics except ramped up 200 percent) and I guess they can't be on their game every single ep. Will of course keep watching because even mediocre Philadelphia, like mediocre any of the sitcoms I watch, still better than a lot of the crap out there.

Friday night: Thank God, a night off! Miss watching Psych, but even this tv-loving chickie needs a night out in the real world with real people. Or, you know, catching up on all the shows she couldn't watch during the rest of the week because she had to spend her time doing other things, like watching other shows and, you know, going to work...

Saturday night: It's Saturday Night Live! I actually watched it Saturday night, though I watched it delayed on my DVR. This show is too hit-or-miss, mostly miss, to actually watch it live. Luckily for us, it's a huge politic year, and not only that, there's all sorts of new and interesting political twists, like a black presidential candidate and a female vice presidential candidate, to make fun of. I think SNL is at its best when its satirizing politics. Will Ferrell's George Bush, Darrell Hammond's Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton, even Norm McDonald's Bob Dole, are some of the funniest characters from the more memorable skits from the last few years. This season is no exception. It's great to see Tina Fey back to play Sarah Palin, and this week's cold open with Fey and Poehler as Palin and Katie Couric was just as funny as the season premiere's cold open with Fey and Poehler as Palin and Clinton. Other than that, this ep, like all SNL eps, was eh. Weekend Update is usually pretty good. Don't know what'll happen to it when Poehler leaves, though. I think it might be time for another cast shake up. You can't have a funny show without funny comedians. Darrell Hammond is great and Will Forte is pretty funny, but Poehler's leaving, Jason Sudeikis is okay (unlike on 30 Rock, where he's hilarious)...we need to see more of Kristen Wiig, but she needs to play more of her weird characters and fewer of her annoying ones.

Sunday - Ah, Mad Men, how I've missed you! Even though you were only gone for a week because the craptastic Emmys were on. This is why I watch television. This show is an experience. The flawed, real characters. The fictional lives set amidst a real historical setting...this week's was the death of Marilyn Monroe. And just the way it's filmed, the sets, the lighting, the make-up, the costumes. I feel like I'm not only watching a show set in the 1960s...I feel like I'm watching a show made in the 1960s. I know Christina Hendricks and Vincent Kartheiser and John Slattery and January Jones from other roles, but everyone else, I think I would feel weird seeing them playing contemporary characters or even being themselves because they are the 1960s. Even those I named. Love it. Love that Don and Betty's marital problems have not yet been resolved. Can't wait to find out what happens with Joan finds out about Roger and Jane. Love Peggy's uneasy rising star in the ad world. Wish there had been more Ken, only because he was so brilliant in "The Gold Violin" episode. This show actually makes me glad when it's Sunday...

Brothers and Sisters - had to make a choice between Mad Men and the premiere of this new season, and it was a tough call. Will try to get to it today.

I Love Money - yes, I have a problem. For some reason, I cannot stop watching this trainwreck. I think everyone needs a guilty pleasure, an escapist show, something you watch and think, "My God, these people make me look like a good person with a good life." For some people, that show is Jerry Springer. For me, well, I can't even say it out loud...I think the reason this show doesn't grate as much as other scripted reality shows is that finally, the contestants are being honest about their motivations. They're not there to find true love. They are there for the money. They are fame whores and money whores and whore whores and they will do anything to be on camera and win a lot of cash. I can appreciate the honesty. And I actually can't wait to see the finale. And oh my God, I just realized I was dreaming about this show last night, which is just beyond embarrassing and almost makes me want to quit cold turkey. Almost...

Coming up tonight! (Because the television viewage just never ends!) - in addition to everything else I have to watch, it's the season premiere of Chuck, definitely in my top five, possibly top three favorite new shows from last season. I've already watched it. It's great. Check it out!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So, what shows am I watching anyway?

Just so you have an idea where I'm coming from, I'm going to give you an idea of what shows I waste (I mean spend) my time watching. Some of them I watch because I think they are everything that is great and wonderful and inspiring about television. Some I watch because I know I'll walk away with pains in my sides from laughing so hard. Some I watch because I'm addicted, even if I don't think they are the best thing television has to offer. But isn't that the great thing about tv, that sometimes it makes you think, sometimes it makes you cry, sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes it just helps you escape from your own life, and sometimes it makes you realize your life isn't so bad after all.

So, are we coming from the same place? I don't watch Gossip Girl. I don't watch Survivor. I don't watch Two and a Half Men. I don't watch CSI. Some I don't have time for. Some I have no desire to. I watch some top ten shows. I watch some critical faves. I watch some things you've never heard of. I watch some things you might rather pluck out your eyelashes than try. But if it turns out we have a comedy in common, then maybe something else I watch might be something you'd like to try. We may not agree on anything at all. But television, like most art, creates opinions and dialogue and debate, and well, let's just get to the fun part...the lists!

Top 14 shows, in no particular order, that are currently on the air that I'm totally into: Mad Men, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, How I Met Your Mother, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Office, 30 Rock, Dirty Sexy Money, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Psych, Friday Night Lights, House

Top 10 shows, in no particular order, that are no longer on the air that I was or am still totally into: Friends, Sex and the City, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Office (British version), Coupling (British version), American Dreams, Veronica Mars, Wonderfalls, Firefly

2008 Emmys

Tonight are the Emmys at 8 pm EST on ABC. Much like the Oscars, sometimes the Emmy voters get it right. Sometimes they have a completely different inexplicable definition of "outstanding television" from me.

What wins am I hoping for?

Outstanding drama: I've never seen Dexter, Damages, or Boston Legal, but out of the other three nominees (Lost, House, Mad Men), even though the last two episodes of House this past season completely blew me away with how great they were, I'm hoping for a Mad Men win. I'm new to the Mad Men bandwagon, but if this show had been around in 2001, I may have considered this show for my college thesis paper on how television is art.

Outstanding comedy: I've never seen Two and a Half Men and only a handful of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, but I think I would be happy with either a 30 Rock or The Office win.

Outstanding lead actor in a drama: Jon Hamm, hands down. Love, love, love Hugh Laurie (especially considering that he is a British comic playing an American misanthrope), but Jon Hamm *is* the 1960s Madison Avenue ad exec Don Draper. I think the only reason I would hate to see him win is because it would be weird to see him as himself when he accepts the award.

Outstanding lead actress in a drama: The only one I'm familiar with is Sally Field in Brothers and Sisters, and even though I think she is excellent in her role as Walker family matriarch Nora Walker, I don't really have a preference here.

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy: Steve Carell has perfected the art of Michael Scott's social awkwardness and awkward earnestness on The Office, and Lee Pace is my tv crush on Pushing Daisies, but Alec Baldwin is golden as Republican NBC exec Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock.

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy: I would be happy with a Christina Applegate, Tina Fey or Julia Louis-Dreyfus win, but there's just something about Julia Louis-Dreyfus on The New Adventures of Old Christine that always leaves me giggling that gives her the edge on the other two.

Outstanding supporting actor in a drama: I'm not completely sold on Lost as great tv, but Michael Emerson is beyond creepy and yet still somewhat sympathetic as the mysterious Ben. That being said, John Slattery is an actor I've seen in other roles (unlike Jon Hamm), but he also has managed to become his character on Mad Men for me. Since I like Mad Men better than Lost and Slattery is a fellow alumnus of The Catholic University of America, I would be really happy with a win for him.

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy: Chandra Wilson for Grey's Anatomy or Rachel Griffiths for Brothers and Sisters. In a show with many ups and downs, Wilson is always an up, and Griffiths nails her role as the eldest Walker sibling.

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy: Neil Patrick Harris, hands down. How I Met Your Mother is one of the most underrated shows on tv right now. Why is nobody watching this hilarious and heartfelt comedy? I discovered it by accident and I've never stopped watching since. But in a show full of great story lines and great characters, if I had to give you one reason to start watching, Neil Patrick Harris's character of Barney Stinson would be it.

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy: Eh. For some reason this category doesn't excite me, but I'd be happy with an Amy Poehler, Jean Smart, or Kristin Chenoweth win.

The only other categories I care about are outstanding lead actor in a minseries or movie and outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or movie because I would love to see Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen win for Extras (Ricky Gervais is also the brilliant mind behind the original British The Office).

Friday, September 19, 2008

About this blog

I think the title of this blog says it all. Television is an art. There are many who would argue with this thesis, and just to play devil's advocate, I could immediately throw out most reality tv shows, Full House, and Cavemen just to name a few that seem to refute my theory.

But not all art is good. And not everybody agrees on what art being good is, to be fair, mostly subjective. Though I think saying "I Love Money" is not art, just trash (though addictive trash) is a completely objective statement.

Still, there is television that is beautiful. There is television that tells epic stories, television that makes you feel great emotion, and television that you just experience. And how can you say that's not art? Television is becoming more and more sophisticated and complex and meaningful every day. Not all tv. "Moment of Truth" makes me think tv might signal the downfall of the human race. But it is most definitely an avenue of artistic expression and a window into the human experience and the human soul.

Poetic enough for ya?

I wrote my college senior thesis on television as art, citing the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush" as an example. That was almost 10 years ago. I think since then tv has only gotten better. For the most part. There's no excuse anybody thought turning the Geico Cavemen commercials into a 30 minute sitcom was anywhere near a good idea.

Anyway, television is not just art for me, but an obsession. And when it comes to tv, I have mastered the art of obsession. Just look at my DVD collection. I think I've surpassed 300 DVDs. And of that number, probably more than half are television shows, not movies. My DVR is recording at least one show every night. I thank God for the advent of Hulu and the networks broadcasting shows on the Internet. Television is not just on the TV set anymore.

Now that I've given that whole speech, here's what this blog is about. It's about talking about good tv. It's about talking about bad tv. It's about talking about both good and bad tv that I can't stop watching. It's about the phenomenal episode of Mad Men that might have just aired. It's about how half the season premiere of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fell flat on its face and the other half had me cracking up. It's about how I can't stop going back and watching old episodes of Arrested Development even though I know them all verbatim. It's about how if I'm feeling sad and want to cry, I know the exact episode of Angel or Buffy that'll get me going. I'll probably do some reviewing, I'll probably do some ranking, I can probably guarantee there will be at least one list, because after obsessing about television, making lists is what I do best. You probably won't agree with everything I say. Or anything. But something I say might get you thinking or turn you on to something new or turn you back onto something old. Or maybe just knowing I'm out here will comfort you and make you less ashamed in knowing that you're not the only person who thinks that television is so great and obsesses about it so much that if tv were a person, you would be a stalker and it would probably have a restraining order out against you.

Now that's love.