If you haven’t noticed, a new feature to our group here is something called TV Toaster. Unlike the “who knows what the hell will appear” approach that I take, the rest of the Toaster sites have a theme which is baseball. So not to disturb the continuity that has been built at these sites, a couple of the bloggers who wanted to branch out have new sites at our sister site.
Jon Weisman is one of the best I’ve read reviewing television. Some major trade paper ought to hire this guy. Mark Donohue has a different style, but is just as good. I’ve always liked reading Mark at Bad Altitude, but trying to make the Rockies interesting to the non-fan is a tough task. Kind of like putting lipstick on Rod Beck. (I need to work on my analogies.) So check these guys out, though I’m not sure what I think about non-baseball stuff appearing here at the Toaster.
If you’ve read my reviews on TV here before, you know I’m not from the Tom Shale’s school of writing. I definitely don’t have the skillz that Jon and Mark have when it comes to covering the tube. My reviews have about as much detail as a pre-school art project. Now if you are someone who suffers from a limited attention span, someone who finds the USA Today a bit too analytical, I’m your guy. Of course if you watch a lot of TV, you probably fit this demographic. It’s my secret weapon that I have over the TV Toaster guys. Relating to the non-reader. Now, I just have to figure out to translate this to people who never visit anything on the web that doesn’t feature Texas Hold-em’ or brazen, sex cravin’ sluts.
I’m on the road a lot with my job, so I basically get caught up on my Television viewing when I get home. I have had TIVO since it came out. Actually, it’s been so long since I watched a show when it originally aired that the last commercial I remember seeing was for McDonald’s delicious McLean sandwich. So here is my 4 day Tivo binge diary.
I begin with the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. While the show is a popular topic of derision, there actually have been a few good episodes of SNL over the past few years. I would point to the Al Gore and John McCain editions as examples of this. Any episode hosted by Alec Baldwin is awesome; as Baldwin and Steve Martin are the 2 greatest SNL host’s of all-time.
The 2006-07 beginning edition, hosted by Dane Cook, was the best show I’ve seen without Baldwin in a long time. The Bush sketch wasn’t a great way to lead off the show, but they had a few excellent sketches after it, with the airline security and Hugo Chavez talk show two of the best since Will Ferrell was a cast member. The Weekend Update was really funny, with a great start using NBC Nightly News Brian Williams thinking he was replacing Tina Fey. Who knows if the second week will be able to build on this momentum, but for at least one week, SNL deserves a bit of a reprieve.
Showtime has a new sketch show of its own titled “The Underground”. Created by Damon Wayans, I would describe it as an extremely scatological version of “In Living Color”. While a lot of the material is sophomoric, “The Underground” utilizes its advantage of being on a paid cable channel to offer up an edgier version of sketch comedy. I have watched the first 2 episodes and I think they are funny, especially if you like your comedy with exposed breast-feeding, testicles, and talking vaginal lips. If you are not a fan of these type of body parts in your comedy, I suggest you stick to the PAX Network’s Improv shows.
The best new show I’ve seen of this year is also on Showtime. Have you been looking for a show with the visual look of Nip/Tuck, but starring a psychopath who behaves like someone out of a “Clockwork Orange?” Well then let me suggest you catch “Dexter.” This show focuses on a Miami forensics expert who just happens to be a serial killer. While some of the characters on the show I’m not sold on yet, the lead, Michael C. Hall (David from Six Feet Under) is dynamic. Dexter is the best new dramatic character to hit the small screen in years. I know a lot of cable and satellite systems have a free preview of Showtime this weekend, so definitely check it out. Hall is riveting.
I have caught parts of other new shows and here is a quick breakdown from me.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Script- I think at its peak, Sorkin’s “West Wing” was the smartest show in TV history. Studio 60 loses some believability when the same type of intelligence and idealism that drove the White House drama is shifted to a show about Sketch comedy. The cast is first-rate and the writing is great, but I’m not sure that the show, which is so focused on the politics of television, has mass appeal.
Caught about 10 minutes of ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters”, with a group of Big Chill-type 30-Somethings arguing in a yuppie kitchen. The setting and the topics they discussed sounded like something that would never be discussed outside of The Hamptons. It stars Calista Flockhart, who I’ve never understood the appeal to and as much as I think Rachel Griffiths is one of the best actresses around, I can’t see giving this show another 10 minutes.
I taped “Friday Night Lights”, because I saw some many good reviews for the pilot. Haven’t gotten around to it watching it yet, but will check in when I do. I will admit I don’t suspect it will go on my season pass, but maybe I will be surprised.
This is the grand total of all the new shows I plan to watch. I was thinking about taping “The Nine”, but forgot to record it, so I guess it won’t happen. I’m a fan of shows that have a season-long story arch, but I do think that each network should find a time to replay these shows late at night or on one of the cable sister channels, so people can get a reprieve, in case they missed it.
Now on to a few shows that are returning that I watch regularly. I can never remember a show that I became angrier at than last season’s “Prison Break”. In the vein of “24”, the prison escape show began like a great popcorn movie. After the show became a success, the show seemed to be stretched too thin, with the story becoming more like it was written by some professional wrestling scribes. The perfect casting kept me involved, but I promised if this fall’s season premier didn’t improve, I was done with it. Well, the show has been great so far, with the prison escapee’s all trying to evade the authorities. I want to give a special shout-out to the slimiest character on TV today, the show’s aptly named character, T-Bag.
As I said, I’m on the road a lot, so I’m still 5 episodes from the end of HBO’s “Deadwood”. This final season has been hypnotic; with Gerald McRaney as Mr. Hearst bringing a riveting presence to what has been the best show on TV the past few years. I can say, even though I still haven’t gotten to the end that I already am in mourning for many of these great characters. The show’s creator, David Milch is the closest thing we have to a modern-day Shakespeare. Ian McShane, who has been the lead degenerate from the beginning, has a darkly charismatic style that I’ve only seen one other actor provide on a regular basis. Considering that actor is Jack Nicholson, McShane must have been broken up about not getting to play the part of Al Swearingen. Time to break out the canned peaches.
Finally, let me offer up that network nightly news seems so different without the Big 3 anchors who have dominated it for last 20 years. Katie Couric has made her CBS news like a CNN Headline News. Charles Gibson seems like a good guy, but he just doesn’t have a heavyweight feel to command my attention. I like Brian Williams best, but I’ve reached a point where I like a little more analysis and humor than what the major networks provide. This is why I love Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
I have written before about how much I like Olbermann’s show, but now with the Republican Party walking around dazed with a new fresh head wound on a daily basis, “Countdown” is the best place to revel in their misadventures. The Daily Show is brilliant at what it does, but I appreciate that you get actual news analysis and an irreverent view of things with Olbermann.
I have been taping “Countdown” and “The O’Reilly Factor” this week to see both of their takes on news. Even Loofah O’Reilly is having a hard time putting a good spin on the Bush, Hastert, and Foley. It’s kind of like putting lipstick on Rod Beck. (Hey, did that work better? Still not sure.) Are you like me that every time you hear a new revelation about the former Senator from Florida, you think that he’s headed to a life “living in a van down by the river.” Oh yeah, that’s motivational speaker Matt Foley I’m thinking of, not Congressman Mark Foley. Every time I see Speaker of the House Hastert, I think he could have been Brian Dennehy’s stunt double in “Tommy Boy”.