Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Attack of The Killer TV Shows! Taking a Stab at The Fall TV Landscape! FRINGE, TERRIERS, and TV's Other Must-Watch Shows.

Well, October is definitely in full swing, and it's already been a semi-epic month for me so far. I kicked things off last Friday with a big birthday celebration, and it was great having a number of friends come out and celebrate the occasion. This year's festivities took place in "beautiful, downtown Burbank" (as Johnny Carson used to say), and included dinner / drinks at Barney's Beanery, a viewing of The Social Network (fantastic film - see my review from last week!), and finally, end-of-evening revelry at a local establishment's famous 80's Night (complete with live band that looks to have stepped through a time portal from 1987). The next Tuesday, Kirsten S. was in town from Australia (!), so I met up with her in Hollywood for some Mexican grub at El Coyote. Then, this past weekend was jam-packed with pre-Halloween spookiness. On Friday, I took in a showing of kid-vampire flick Let Me In (another great film - see my review from yesterday for more!).

Then, Saturday marked the annual trek to Knott's Scary Farm. Me and the G-Man drove down to Buena Park, where KC and her San Diego crew met up with us for an evening of haunted mazes, scary shows, and more. Knotts is always a great time - love the old-timey amusement park vibe, and all of the creativity that goes into the assortment of mazes. New additions this year included the zombie-ridden Virus Z maze, as well as Fallout, home to all manner of post-nuclear mutants and monsters. Of course, classic mazes like Terror of London, The Slaughterhouse, Club Blood, The Dollhouse, and yes ... Uncle Bobo's Big Top of the Bizarre ... were back. We even made time to check out a crazy circus act that included all manner of mysterious magic and abnormal acrobatics. All in all, it was yet another successful trip to the Scary Farm.

In the meantime, my DVR has been bursting at the seams.

I've been trying to watch a lot of new and returning shows, and man, it's been hard keeping up. The numbers game has been coming into play, meaning that there are going to be certain series that I just can't keep up with, as hey, I am only one man. So ... where do things stand with me and the various TV shows I've been trying to keep up with? Well, rather than doing in-depth reviews, I'll simply rank a bunch of shows by category: Awesome, I'm Still Watching and Liking But Want to See Get Better, On the Bubble, and I'm (Almost) Done.




- Absolutely kicking ass right now - best and most "must-see" drama on TV. At a time when good TV sci-fi seems to be a dying breed, Fringe is telling us a great, ambitious story about other universes and alternate realities that is just great, serialized storytelling at its best. John Noble brings the gravitas every week, and the entire cast has stepped it up. If you're not watching Fringe, you're missing a show that is the true heir apparent to the likes of Lost and 24.


- Right up there as maybe my current favorite show on the air. Great characters, dialogue, humor, and an ultra-compelling ongoing storyline remind me of the late great Veronica Mars. Donal Logue is turning in amazing work here, and the tale of two scruffy PI's just seems to get better and more textured each week. Apparently this show has been low-rated, even for FX. So, watch it! Awesome TV.


- If you like the random, absurdist comedy of The State, this Adult Swim series is for you. An all-star cast of comedy talent serves up awesomeness each week in brilliant 15-minute doses. This is going to be a must-buy on DVD for repeat viewing.


- Picking up right where it left off last year, Community is currently the best sitcom on TV. This show is firing on all cylinders of late, reaching comedic heights achieved by very few shows in history.


- After slumming a bit last season, 30 Rock has come back strong this Fall. A string of hilarious episodes has put 30 Rock back near the top of my must-watch comedy list.


- Although the pacing can occasionally be slow, this ambitious HBO show is still quickly becoming one of TV's most engrossing series. An amazing cast and an abundance of period detail and color make this a great new addition to the HBO cannon.


- Season 2 hasn't been as brilliant as Season 1, but Kenny Powers is still one of the flat-out funniest characters on TV. Despite some unevenness, each S2 episode has had at least a couple of moments that have left me falling over in laughter.


- I had mixed feelings about the first episode of this IFC comedy series starring David Cross. But, Episode 2 nearly blew me away ... it was absolutely hilarious. The show seemed to find it's groove, and quickly began to remind me of the comedic brilliance of the UK version of The Office, full of awkwardly amazing humor.



- I still love Chuck, and this season has definitely been entertaining thus far. But ... when did this show become 90% a relationship drama? Now that Chuck and Sara are together, the soapiness has only been upped, and it's annoying. The show needs to tone down the emo-ness and up the geekiness. More fun spy stories, more Buy More-based humor, more plot development please - and less Chuck agonizing over whether Sara would hypothetically say yes to him if he hypothetically proposed. Ugh.


- Last week's episode of The Office (where Andy starred in a stage production of Sweeney Todd) was a big step up from the previous episodes this season, which have felt pretty flat. I feel like things will pick up soon as the show starts to address the impending departure of Michael Scott, but, until then, I can't help feeling like the show is just treading water.


- Again, I still really enjoy Modern Family, but I miss the wackier, more subversive version of the show from Season 1. Somewhere along the way, Modern Family morphed from The Simpsons to Full House sans-laughtrack. I could really do without the cheesy montages that now end every episode as group hugs and life lessons are dutifully exchanged. Bring back the MF of old!


- Yes, I am still into this show for all of its guilty-pleasure-pleasures. Yes, I am a straight man who enjoys Gossip Girl. But, I am getting a bit sick of the constant romantic roulette between the show's lead characters. I mean, how many times can Dan and Serena break up and get back together? The show seems to be struggling to find truly new storylines rather than rehashing the same old, same old.


- Glee is hard to even categorize, because it really is like a different show from episode to episode. I found it hard to stomach the pointlessly goofy Britney Spears episode from the other week, but one week later, the show was back to being ambitious, darkly humorous, and character-driven. I still believe that Glee is perhaps the most interestingly original show on TV, but I just wish it would be slightly more consistent in tone.


- No way I'm bailing on Smallville after slogging through ten seasons of not-quite-Superman storylines. But, so far, it's been yet another season of endless obstacles between Clark and his superheroic destiny. The frustration with this season is that, after ten years, Clark should be *ready*. And yet, he's still brooding, self-doubting, and worried that he'll be consumed by the darkness within. Good lord, can't we just see Clark as a leader and hero already?
- The Simpsons really does manage to surprise me sometimes. This year's season premiere (in part thanks to the Flight of the Conchords guest spot) was legitimately very funny. This past week's episode was pretty good, and it featured one of the all-time most memorable couch gags in the show's history, thanks to the delightfully subversive underground artist Banksy. The Simpsons can still seem disappointing in comparison to the glory days, but it seems to have - at least for now - settled into a pretty decent little groove.



- I was ready to give up on this one, but the third episode was a big improvement over the previous two. Might RW slowly but surely be embracing its inner Arrested Development?


- I'll say this - this show looks better than just about anything else on TV at the moment, with great f/x and a real feature-film gloss. But it's just too light, bouncy, and insubstantial for me to really sink my teeth into. I like the cast too, but I'm just waiting for something to happen that will give the show some actual forward momentum.
- I think I am just getting sick of the all-Seth McFarlane, all-the-time programming on FOX Sunday nights. It'd be one thing if the shows were consistently great, but Cleveland has been perpetually teetering on the line between decent and mediocre, never really crossing over into that upper echelon of comedic gold. I can only take so much, and I don't know if it's worth it to keep watching.
- Speaking of which, the McFarlane mothership has just been so reliably underwhelming lately that I am seriously wondering if I should keep watching. The fact is, FG was, at one point, the funniest thing on TV. So it honestly pains me to see it fall so far. But when FG is bad, it's really bad, and sometimes it's just hard to sit through when it's falling flat.



- I know there are some fans of this FOX comedy, but I just couldn't sit through it after my initial viewing. I stuck with My Name Is Earl because the cast was just so darn likable. Didn't get that with Raising Hope - just a lot of sort-of-but-not-overly-quirky humor that was pretty blah in my book.


- I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the pilot of Nikita, but I quickly lost interest after a couple of additional episodes. My fandom of the old USA show combined with the comparitively lackluster characters in this version just made me totally ambivalent to the CW-ized take. When you factor in the DVR-busting Monday night timeslot, there was just no way I was going to be able to commit. Sorry, Maggie Q.


- Man, I am still somewhat shocked by the quick cancellation of LONE STAR. The pilot was fantastic, and Episode 2 was similarly great. It pains me to think that we might not even get to see Episodes 3, 4, etc. I guess this is another example of networks failing with shows that come off as "cable-lite." People are now turning to HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc. for complex shows about morally-ambiguous characters, but I don't know if networks have established themselves as a viable home for that type of program. In any case, it's just a shame that Lone Star didn't catch on. I honestly feel it was in the very top tier of this year's crop of new Fall TV shows.


- I cannot wait for the premiere of THE WALKING DEAD on Halloween night.


That's all I've got ... for now. Thoughts?

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