September 19, 2005

The Season So Far

Watching the TV season so you don't have to.

Seriously, though, I tape TV and watch it while I'm exercising. It keeps my lizard brain occupied while I try to stay on task. So, the beginning of the TV season is when I cast about for new shows to record and old shows to drop from my lineup. I don't have TiVo, so I do it the old fashioned way... with videotapes.

Anyhow, here's what I've seen so far this season and what I think.

Prison Break (Fox, Mondays)

Michael Scofield goes to prison to try to free his brother, Lincoln, who has been set up to take the fall for the murder of the vice president's brother. As a few episodes pass, we see that Lincoln has some powerful enemies who want his death sentence to go through as quickly as possible. Michael has an elaborate plan to get him out. But will his knowledge of the prison (he helped design the renovations) and human nature be enough to handle all contingencies?

Prison Break is a fun, engaging series for anyone who likes to see an elaborate plan carried out. Remember "Mission Impossible?" It's a little bit like that, but with one storyline. Definitely worth watching.

Family Guy/American Dad (Fox, Sundays)

These shows are similar and adjacent, so I place them together. Family Guy continues its increases in edginess this season with raunchier and more un-PC jokes. And it continues to be laugh-out-loud funny. American Dad is similar, but deals with today's political social environment as fodder for jokes rather than tons of past pop culture references. Both shows are worth watching.

Bones (Fox, Tuesdays)

Gah! I saw the premiere and it should really be named "Bones-headed." Horrible characterizations, simplistic interplay between characters: "I'm the brainy one! I'm the one who doesn't like brainy ones! We don't get along! Wheee!" Technology that doesn't exist (holographic facial reconstruction). Didn't anyone tell Fox we already have a badly characterized version of CSI (CSI Miami)? Who told them we needed a dumbed down version of that? Listening to their Fox News demographic is not going to work in this case. I will be surprised if Bones lasts a season.

Get thee behind me, Bones. No stars out of five for you!

Jeeves and Wooster

Sorry, Hugh Laurie. I didn't catch the premiere of "House M.D." However, Maggie and I rented the first disk of the first season of "Jeeves and Wooster" on DVD and it's hilarious. I loved it when it was on TV and I love it on DVD. So, you folks are on your own with "House, M.D."

Threshold (CBS, Fridays)

If you know me, you know I like the weird shows. Why would I even try to watch "Bones" otherwise. "Threshhold" is about alien invasion. Slight twist, though, the aliens are invading via probe instead of in person. If they can change some of us on the molecular level, that's almost as good as being here in person.

"Threshold" gets a number of points for hiring Carla Gugino, Brent Spiner and Charles S. Dutton (who has the growl factor covered). There is plenty of cliche at work here (team of scientists --- you know the drill) but the characters are just barely interesting enough to keep me from switching channels.

Lots of weird phenomena a la X-Files. The premiere had a few visual and dramatic punches, but this one still has some proving of itself to do. I'll keep watching... for now.

Supernatural (WB Tuesday)

OK, it's creepy. Women stuck to the ceiling and bursting into flames. But a wisecracking older brother and a reluctant younger one are going to have to do more than hunt baddies while looking for their missing monster-hunter father to keep my attention. Joss Whedon turned Buffy into a genuine phenomenon because of great character interactions and metaphor, tapping into the fears of teens and young adulthood. So genre audiences expect more today.

Can this series deliver that? It'll need more than two main characters. Monster-of-the-week had been done to death, so it remains to be seen whether this show can go beyond that. My advice: play up the funny. This show is on 3-week probation. If I don't see improvement in 3 weeks... sorry. But a good creepy first effort to build on, anyhow.

Gilmore Girls (WB Tuesdays)

Yeah, I don't watch this show. Which means I didn't really get the joke about it in this week's Family Guy.


Reunion (Fox)

I missed this, but I mention it because it's about my generation (basically) and you can catch the first episode online. A bunch of young folks are dealing with a murder mystery that takes them back to their late teenhood in 1987. Music from episode 1:'Don't You Forget About Me' - Simple Minds, 'Papa Don't Preach' - Madonna, 'Addicted to Love' - Robert Palmer, 'Life in a Northern Town' - Dream Academy, 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' - Wham!, 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' - Bonnie Tyler, 'Time After Time' - Cyndi Lauper, 'Take On Me' - A-Ha, 'Broken Wings' - Mr. Mister.

Does that tell you all you need to know already? Then maybe you'll be watching on Thursdays at 9. Fox, grabbing for that nostalgia demographic. Tough timeslot, though. CSI is already there, and Night Stalker in a few weeks.

Because my memory is so bad, I put my shows on an online calendar. Here's what I'm planning to watch.

Posted by James at September 19, 2005 7:56 AM
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I don't mind House. I don't go out of my way to watch it, but I slightly enjoy it when I see it (my way of saying it's okay for a hospital show).

I missed some of yesterday's Family Guy, so I didn't hear the Gilmore Girls joke. THere's an excellent chance I wouldn't have gotten it either, but I did watch a few episodes in the second season or so.

I enjoy Prison Break for having a strong and focused story arc without too many characters. Unfocused/shifted story arc is why I've cooled off a bit on Alias and Smallville, and too many characters is why I couldn't stick with Lost. I hope Prison Break stays good.

Posted by: julie at September 19, 2005 9:32 AM

The joke in Family Guy about Gilmore Girls was that they talk to fast. If you watch the show, you'll see that they really do talk quite fast. Oh, and their making out in Family Guy, I guess, refers to how close they are on the show, always together, each others' best friend, one can't do something without the other, etc. As you can tell, I'm a fan of the show, along with Family Guy, Arrested Development, Lost, and Prison Break. I'll usually give whatever is on channel 6 a chance (ABC) only because it is the only channel I get in my bedroom.

Posted by: Sara at September 19, 2005 9:43 AM

OK. I admit to haveing watched about 5 minutes of the show while setting up the VCR last week.

And the tape I recorded caught the last minute and a half. There was laughing, there was crying.

Not my kind of show. Enough of that stuff in real life.

But, it won an Emmy, I think, so to each his own. Now that Bones show... stinker!

Posted by: James at September 19, 2005 9:50 AM

I really like House. Mostly because of hugh Laurie's character. The show itself is exremely formulaic. Basiceally the same every week but I love watching House act the way I'd love to act at work.

The Gilmore Girls, I hate to say it, is a pretty good show. I really want to hate it but a couple of times I've been flipping the stations and suddenly realized that I watch almost an entire episode.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at September 19, 2005 10:06 AM

Oh yeah, the fast talking. Seemed horribly contrived. That used to annoy me on West Wing too.

You know what I liked, speaking of shows featuring Buffy alums - I liked Tru Calling. Especially after the guy from 90210 joined the cast. I don't know why you would cancel a show only to replace it with one that's more lame. They didn't even get to do a final wrapup.

Posted by: Julie at September 19, 2005 10:06 AM

See, there are a lot of shows I can't make fun of people for watching because I have plenty of skeletons in my TV closet.

But, I tell you, Bones is a stinker.

I had to watch 2 episodes of Jeeves and Wooster to clear the palate.

Posted by: James at September 19, 2005 10:55 AM

"Jeeves and Wooster" trumps formulaic hospital show every time. I can always host a PG Wode-House Party. I'm not sure about a "House" house party.

Posted by: ThirdMate at September 19, 2005 11:04 AM

Love "House," love "Jeeves & Wooster," love "Black Adder."

Hugh Laurie is good in whatever he does.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 19, 2005 11:07 AM

Love "House," love "Jeeves & Wooster," love "Black Adder."

Hugh Laurie is good in whatever he does.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 19, 2005 11:07 AM

Love "House," love "Jeeves & Wooster," love "Black Adder."

Hugh Laurie is good in whatever he does.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 19, 2005 11:07 AM

A thought so nice, you posted thrice.

Posted by: ThirdMate at September 19, 2005 11:17 AM

Woah! Well _that_ is definitely not what I meant to do.

Things here have been moving with delays and strange things have been occurring, so I'm not surprised that this went haywire.

Sorry about that.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 19, 2005 12:20 PM

Oh and I too love "Jeeves and Wooster". Always better than whatever is on TV at the moment. Between my dad and I I think we own them all on tape. I may have to upgrade to dvd at some point (they'll certainly take up less space that weay). The original Wodehouse stories are also wonderfull light reading.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at September 19, 2005 12:52 PM

Y'know, I'll be honest, most network TV bores me. Apart from Lost, I don't recognize most of the shows you listed here or in your other article about premieres.

I mean I've seen family guy a couple times, but I guess there's just something about most network TV that I don't get.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer? *yawn*

Posted by: Chuck S. at September 19, 2005 12:54 PM

Buffy was funny because the show was clever and snide.

There's a lot of formulaic crapola on TV, so when I find a bright spot, like "House" or "Lost," I'm happy. Of course, the danger is that the show stays on too long, like "West Wing," which I liked--the first two years. Seven years is way too long.

Posted by: Patti M. at September 19, 2005 1:16 PM

Well, I think that's true for me and possibly most people. The shows I like would not form a majority of the shows that are on. Relatively speaking, my "hit" list is short.

The trick is picking out the ones you like. Like Lost. Unfortunately, it means you watch some stinkers along the way (Bones, anyone?)

"Desperate Houswives" is also an entertaining show. But I just wasn't compelled to keep up with it. The majority of TV sucks, but there are great, standout TV shows out there that show TV writing is not dead.

And, compared to HBO and other pay channels, the non-pay channels are giving as good as they get in some respects. In fact, there is a lot of TV that is head and shoulders above most feature film garbage that you see today.

"Lost" is better than most movies. "Arrested Development" is better than most comedies. "Battlestar Galactica" blows any recent sci-fi movie out of the water, as far as I'm concerned. (Forgot to mention that one above because I'm still catching up. I wasn't really interested when it first came out.)

Anyhow, nobody can convince you to like a show you don't like. But, dude, you liked "Tomb Raider." If half the thought that went into one episode that Joss Whedon ever wrote had gone into that movie, it actually would have been watchable. (Maybe a better analogy would be J.J. Abrams' "Alias" (let's say first season, just to be clear.)

Nowadays, I see little reason to make a quality distinction between TV and movies. In many respects, big movies are getting worse. And in some respects, TV is gettign better. At least, the standout shows are pretty darn good.

As for HBO - the last season of the Sopranos was mostly yawn-inducing. I'll take "Lost" over that any day. I admit, I loved catching season one of "Deadwood" on DVD. Every medium has its standouts.

Posted by: James at September 19, 2005 1:23 PM

James, you know that I would love to do my Swearengen impersonation right here, extolling the virtues of Deadwood and possibly forcing the FCC to come up with a whole new series of fines. It's Shakespeare-American. And only made better because I know people who gamble in the actual Deadwood SD.

Posted by: ThirdMate at September 19, 2005 6:06 PM

I love that show. I don't get whatever channel it's on (HBO?) so I have to wait for the DVDs for season 2.

Did you ever catch that "8 minutes in Deadwood" that someone put together? It was all the profanity in one episode of Deadwood.

Mostly Swearengen, of course. It was the one where he has to find out what happened to the asian fellow's opium. 8 full minutes of just profanity.

Funny, when you watch an episode it seems like there's more of it.

Posted by: James at September 19, 2005 6:18 PM

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