I don’t really have that much time to watch television, nor have there been many recent shows that have me glued to the screen. And that’s probably a good thing. People (especially here in America) spend far too much time sitting in a chair mesmerized by the Idiot Box. The networks have increasingly offered to meet us more than halfway by offering such a slate of vapid, soulless programming that one would have thought they were trying to clear the room, not build an audience. But what’ s that famous quote?
“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
Ah, yes, H.L. Mencken. Touché, sir. Talent shows controlled by massive ego-maniacal D-listers. Balding rockers swapping spit with living, breathing breast implant shelves. Overly dramatic game shows. Embarrassing confessional group therapy hosted by people with only first names. Celebretards basking in their shallow celebretard lives. And yet America laps it up like a starved pack of feral monkeys. (I’m not certain that feral monkeys would ever be that hungry, but I like the way that sentence rolls off the tongue. Back to my story…)
Of course, if anything does work, the networks are quick to clone it ad nauseum. We’re probably a season or two away from CSI: Little Rock and Law And Order: Traffic Scofflaw, but if we keep buying, they’ll keep selling. However, I have found a few new moments of fun amid all the hospital sleepover camp dramas and the hyperbolic news magazine exposes. But one is already dead, and the future doesn’t look bright for the others. So tune in quick!
Fringe, like The X-Files, combines elements of both science fiction and cop shows, and has an appealingly quirky lead actress paired with a sarcastic and smart partner. I thought they went way over the top with the character of Walter, who interrupts normal conversations with childlike tangential observations, but John Noble has brought great sympathy and depth to a character who could have easily been a cartoon. The cast is first-rate, the Outer Limits plots surreal, and it looks great. Definitely one where you want to revisit all the season’s episodes once more prior to the finale.
Castle initially looked like the bastard child of Moonlighting and Murder She Wrote, but it’s growing on me week by week. Yes, the female detective is by-the-book (and smokin’ hot) and the charming newcomer is a wise-ass with a brain behind the clown facade. A good supporting cast that’s underused, with one exception. Susan Sullivan is a fine actress and probably a nice person, but her “Mom” character needs to fall down an elevator shaft ASAP – the show stops dead in its tracks when her character is in focus. Good chemistry between the leads and a smart kid who seems like a normal kid, not a prop.
Better Off Ted was initially very disappointing; perhaps I was underwhelmed after all the hype (I tend to do that) or maybe the first episode just wasn’t that funny. But I stuck with it because the jokes that were working were so sly and the dialogue delivered so dryly that I hoped they were just finding their voice. I’m glad I did – the last couple of episodes were not only hilarious but politically incorrect. Many critics compare the show to Arrested Development, and while I think fans of one will like the other, this show – hell, any show – has a long hill to climb to get to that level. But the writing is great (creator Victor Fresco was also behind Andy Richter Controls The Universe) and the cast is perfect; I hope they give it time to grow. (Bonus: The Veridian Dynamic commercials are killer!)
Parks and Recreation will sink or swim on Amy Poehler’s efforts, and she is one comedienne who is unafraid to make a complete fool of herself in the process. But the supporting cast is also strong, especially Aziz Ansari as her self-serving peer in the department office. Shot in the same mockumentary style as The Office – and slotted immediately prior to it on the schedule – it should appeal to the same audience if it can somehow make an uncommon setting seem familiar to viewers. I suspect we’ll meet the oddballs of the town (read: star cameos) to help boost interest. Looks like it has potential, has been very funny in spots.
I already waxed poetic about Life On Mars in an earlier post, so I won’t rehash that here. I just hope there is a DVD complete with the brilliant musical selections that helped make the show as enjoyable as the acting and plot. Obviously not many people saw it the first time around, so if that was you, don’t mess up twice.
Most of the above shows have episodes available online – check them out when you have a chance. I’ll have thoughts on my favorite returning shows of the season and my biggest disappointments in an upcoming blog.