Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Night Vision

I've had this post half done for over half the day. Between working outside the office and leaving early to go to a doctor's appointment and waiting in the doctor's office forever I just haven't been in a position to polish and publish. But I'm here now!

It's been a while since I've seriously talked TV. Since we're in the full swing of summer shows I thought I'd do a list of 10 of those.

1. Mad Men, natch, is top of the list. Some were disappointed at the season opener but I always look at the first chapter of a new season as a reintroduction episode. This is especially true of Mad Men, which tends to do a lot of time jumping between seasons. SPOILER: It was both exhilarating and terrifying to see Don get some of his old bravado back in the last scene. That made me excited for what comes next.

2. True Blood remains fascinating even though it's kind of pulpy. I'm sure that's due in no small part to having Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) at the helm. The new cast additions are a treat and some of the old favorites, especially Todd Lowe (Zach from Gilmore Girls) as Terry Bellefleur, are better than ever.

3. A couple of weeks ago I heard Denis Leary on Craig Ferguson's show say that this is the second to last installment of Rescue Me. They are already filming the last set of episodes, which will be aired at a date I haven't looked up. On the one hand I'm sad to see it go. On the other I think it's probably time. Last season's full 22 eps in a row proved that Rescue Me, Leary and his writing partner Peter Tolan are better when they work hot, quick and dirty. Typically they write only one or two episodes ahead of what is being filmed. The show is brilliant at probing painfully deeply into characters and pushing those characters to their limits for our amusement. Intricate and engaging long term story arcs aren't what they're about and, after killing Tommy Gavin approximately 4 times in 7 seasons, even they may have reached the character-probing limit.

4. The folks at The Closer did something brilliant. They cast Mary McDonnell as a villain last season and, when having her and Kyra Sedgwick in close proximity turned out to be a treat for the senses, they figured out how to bring McDonnell back and bring the two hard hitting characters closer together. As much as I love the rest of the cast they could all take a couple weeks off just so I could watch these fine ladies work their magic. Except Joel the cat, he needs to stay.

5. I'm still bitter that Hung isn't a better show. It ought to be brilliant. It ought to be Sex & the City meets Top Chef but funnier and with better action sequences. Somehow the writers haven't worked out how to come up with different challenges to augment the overall challenge of running an illegal business one knows nothing about. We get it, Tanya's enthusiastic but inept and Ray is desperate yet indifferent. What else do you have to show us? Someone, please, make this show live up to its potential.

6. I'm not sure why I decided to watch Memphis Beat. Maybe because it had a sort of Treme feel? Maybe because I felt guilty for not knowing what trouble Memphis went through this spring until it was nearly over. I watched a couple of episodes and, despite, a talented cast it fell a little flat. I wasn't sure where it was going. Then last night I caught an ep that may have been the pilot (in which case I don't understand why I didn't see it first, I'm pretty sure I've been watching the show in the order it's aired) and it was great. It had more nuance, it had an interesting mystery, it didn't have too much of Jason Lee lip syncing and it had just enough of all the other characters. It's a fine show, not fabulous. My one huge pet peeve is that if it's central to your concept that the hero be a singer then hire an actor who sings, don't make an actor lip sync his way through a klunky device. Lee's working his butt off, she him some respect.

7. The new season of Royal Pains has been a little wobbly. I find it hard to believe that the accepted wisdom for bringing a loyal audience back is to remove the characters to a new location for a double episode. Even if it does mean more screen time for Campbell Scott. Our mainstays are still solid, the newbies are uninteresting. I'd much rather see more of resident teen and hemophiliac, Tucker, than be saddled with 2, largely interchangeable and distasteful blonds, one for each Lawson brother. That being said, I'm still happy to see the bros and their well-rounded female friends every week.

8. Burn Notice is, probably, the most solid summer offering every year. It's a formula show whose formula has plenty of room for bells and whistles to keep us interested. Plus stuff blows up. A lot. This season is no exception. I love all the characters a little more each episode and yet I appreciate how little I can trust the writers to keep it that way. Just when I really thought that Michael and Fiona might actually be right for each other...

9. Rizzoli and Isles snuck up on me. The ads didn't look any good but the woman playing Isles used to be on Dawson's Creek so, out of skewed loyalty, I thought I'd watch the pilot. It's a Frankenshow with the Isles character directly ripped off from Bones and the Rizzoli one straight out of Miss Congeniality. Honestly, I expected a little more forethought from TNT but even they don't hit it out of the park every time (Dark Blue, I'm looking at you). Then they brought in Donnie Wahlberg. That's the equivalent of a True Blood vamp glamoring me. I have to watch it if Donnie Wahlberg is going to be in it. It's set in Boston and he is Boston, delicious, Southie Boston, you know? So I'm going to keep watching and hope that Sasha Alexander can grow her character beyond the impression she's currently doing of Emily Deschanel. Barring that I'll cross my fingers for more Donnie.

10. I close with Friday Night Lights because it is on par with Mad Men in its quality. If you aren't watching it I cannot recommend highly enough that you rent or buy it on DVD and watch from the beginning. The writers keep the characters painfully within their limits even when it's nothing anyone ever hopes to see on TV. They don't shy away from all sorts of hard questions and they aren't afraid to take characters away from you when they don't belong anymore. This season has a number of hot button issues to it but I am most impressed with the way they are handling a pregnancy and abortion story line. I promise you it's not like anything you've ever seen on TV or in the movies before. I finally realized this season that NBC has consistently shied away from this show because it's so very good and its creators are unwilling to compromise that quality for a more lucrative spot in the network's line up. I greatly appreciate Peter Berg's tenacity in keeping the show going by partnering with DirecTV and I couldn't be more pleased that two of the show's most solid actors, Connie Britton (Spin City) and Kyle Chandler (Early Edition), finally received Emmy nods. I hope you, too, will show your support by taking in this treat of a show.

What are you watching?


  1. A lot of these shows that you listed are some of my faves! I'm madly in love with True Blood. It's my grown up version of Twilight. I love The Closer. I've started liking Rizzoli and Isles (she was also previously on NCIS one of my other faves). I have yet to jump on the Mad Men bandwagon or Rescue Me bandwagon. Though I have seen Rescue Me and I can't help but love Denis Leary. My other faves include Wipeout for the sheer hilarity of it, Sons of Anarchy (starts Sept 7) and The Good Guys. I think I watch too much TV....

  2. Amen to "Friday Night Lights" - it's been awhile since I watched it, but you've motivated me to catch up. I was asking a friend tonight why there are so many unsatisfying movies - from movies that are just bad to movies that could have done so much more - many begin good, but can't sustain. And then I started wondering if television hasn't taken over as the medium for taking on complex issues and sustaining deeper stories....just a thought...what do you think, Kizz?

  3. Kizz, you are my new cultural hero - how do you read as much as you do AND keep up with the happening TV? (No, really, how do you do that?)

    I am a TV washout, so disregard everything I say from here on - except I totally agree with your Rizzoli/Isles insights - he's the bomb, the title characters might redeem it from the cliches they've been dealt, I love me some Boston.

    Also agree about the new Closer moments - they almost lost me last season, and that episode with the not-so-evil-after-all woman really did a great reset to start the season.

    I am sorry that I am allergic to Mad Men. I know I am wrong, but that hairball I keep gacking up every time I try just won't go away.

  4. I started watching Memphis Beat just because of Jason Lee. I don't care if he lip-syncs worse than Milli Vanilli, he really flips my pancakes. Or sauces my ribs, to keep it all Memphis-y. Yum.

    I wish I'd clued in to Friday Night Lights when it started. Kyle Chandler is always wonderful (remember Home Front?) and the show is intriguing. I don't like jumping in the middle so I need to find the previous seasons and catch up.

    I'm watching Big Brother. Call it the beach read of tv, maybe. It's fast, easy, and it's on 3 times a week. I also got hooked on the CBS Monday night reruns - How I Met Your Mother, Rules of Engagement (Patrick Warburton kills me), and Big Bang Theory.

  5. what is this really true!!! a new episode of true blood will be published again, wow this is great!! i like to watch true blood season 3 episode 7 online. i love this tv series i should watch it. so dont miss it guys or else you will miss one half of your live..

  6. Naomi B.6:26 AM

    We only have the most basic channels for tv and have considered getting rid of those. We just don't watch it. We mostly watch movies.

    However- The man of the house will be gone all next week and after the kids are in bed I will need some entertainment. Past or present shows, which one should I make a marthon out of next week? Consider me a tv virgin. I haven't followed a show since the original CSI about three years ago.

  7. I downsized my cable last year and for the past 6 months, since I plowed through all of the MadMen dvd's I've been worrying as to how I will watch Season 4 without adding a hunk of change to my bill...God Bless iTunes. S'all I'm sayin.

    Also...we're starting to get the September commercials and I get moist with each new one! Really though? Bring me back my Modern Family and Parenthood and Dexter and Californication and....
    ok. this is going downhill fast.

  8. Miflohny12:58 PM

    I'm only watching Closer and Friday Night Lights. Can't get into the others.

    I have issue with the fact that EVERY player that walked off the team on Friday Night Lights was African American, but I'm going to assume that that was NBC's call - they probably feared the show being too black, because they're stupid. I'm happy that there are still a number of strong black characters left, though. I don't think I've watched the most recent episode yet, but I'm impressed so far with how they're dealing with the abortion - I was afraid at first about how it looked like it would be treated and pleasantly surprised when it wasn't. My heart totally broke when the quarterback (I can't remember his name - I'm HORRIBLE with names)got the money he needed from his shady friends and got sucked back into their lives ... UGH! (but a good move creatively for the writers to make, and it made sense given the sucky choices people who don't have money face every day)

  9. Jeebus, that photo of hot vampire Eric is a little NSFW!! But hey I don't care, it's worth getting fired over! Agreed on Rescue Me. Also, the Donnie Wahlberg glamor effect, fo sho.

  10. @Beck - SONS OF ANARACHY! Thanks for the exact date. I thought it was going to be later.

    @kimberly, I might have been inclined to agree with you but then I went to see Winter's Bone (review forthcoming) and I think there are a lot of really great movies out there. Maybe, though, mainstream TV is kicking the ass of mainstream movies. I could go with that.

    @Sara, as I said to you this morning, I watch and read all this by not doing much/enough else. Also, I have a commute. That's where a lot of my reading gets done. What gives you the hairball when you watch Mad Men? I'm intrigued.

    @Violet, I don't think you'll be disappointed if you go back and catch up on FNL. I do love me some CBS sitcoms, too. BBT is rapidly becoming my fave.

    @Naomi B., I've been thinking about recs for you all night and morning. What kind of thing do you want to watch? Check out Big Bang Theory or Modern Family for something light and fun but really good. Have you ever watched The Wire, it goes down as, I think, the best TV series of all time. If you like SciFi and didn't catch Firefly when it was on I can't recommend that enough and there isn't too much of it to catch up on. I'm about to launch into a full scale series watching of Lost. And, obviously I recommend Mad Men and Friday Night Lights above all for shows on right now. What about Weeds? That's something that's super easy to devour.

    OK, stopping now.

    @Misti, iTunes, YAY!

    @Miflohny, I'm one episode behind but I'm pretty sure that all the players that walked off came back. And, as much as it was racial it was cultural - a your side of town vs. my side of town thing. I'm told the storyline this season parallels the budget cuts the show took when it made the deal with DirecTV. It's working pretty well.

    Sorry, @Kath. I had to.

  11. I'm watching that picture of Eric...*droooool* um...was going to say something about Rescue Me, but lost my train of thought...

  12. Naomi B.4:25 PM

    I'm afraid of Lost.
    I do have some things I need to get done next week- painting my deck and porch are at the top of the list.
    I am afraid of something that has too much that I will not be able to step away from to- sleep, eat, interact with my boy and girl.
    I've been told you could lose all the weight you need to lose if you start Lost and have to power your tv manually.
    Does True Blood live up to what I hear? Only four seasons so far?
    That picture is doing a lot to convince me.