Thursday, October 6, 2011

We Interrupt This Program

I love autumn.  I love the chill in the morning air, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the changing leaves (which I miss ever since I moved to Southern California), and wearing my Uggs instead of my flip-flops.

The other thing I love about the fall is all the new television shows that fill up my DVR.

I will unabashedly admit I love television.  Probably a little too much.  It borders on addiction.  But at least my addiction is scripted shows, and not reality television (which is scripted anyway).  Soapbox Moment: reality television is non-union.  It takes jobs away from union writers (and you're fooling yourself if you think reality television doesn't employ writers).  So if you're reading this, and you're a writer, please consider boycotting reality television in support of your fellow writers.  End of Soapbox Moment.

This year there has been a crop of exciting new shows, and I've watched a good handful of them.  So here, in no particular order, in my completely unqualified and purely unprofessional opinion, are my thoughts.

New Shows

A lot of critics are calling this network television's sad attempt to cash in on the Mad Men craze.  Let me say that I think Mad Men is highly overrated.  I've found the last couple of seasons really uneven.  But the one thing about Mad Men that is always consistent is the high production value.  Unfortunately, that's not the case with Pan Am.  Bad green screen, cheap-looking costumes, and one boring main setting = not as pretty to look at as Mad Men.  Add to that the pedestrian writing and wooden acting, and you've got one big disappointment.  NBC has already cancelled their Mad Men ripoff The Playboy Club, and while I think Pan Am may last a little longer, I don't think it's destined for a long life span.  

I've never been shy about my adoration for Buffy the Vampire Slayer so I was excited for the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to television.  That's why I'm giving this show a longer grace period than I normally do.  Sometimes it takes a show a little while to hit its stride, and I'm hoping this is the case here.  But with such a high concept - woman on the run from a dangerous crime boss masquerades as her high society twin sister - this show should have hit the ground running, and it didn't. 

I watched the pilot episode, and haven't watched it since.  The acting was so one-note I was actually laughing.  But I'm thinking I should give this show another shot, if only because it's paranormal YA.  That's my genre, on the page and on the screen.

Great cast, snappy writing, hilarious situations...and it's about a couple adjusting to being new parents.  As the mother of a 13-month-old, I can completely relate to this show.  I don't quite love it as much as I love Modern Family (which is the best comedy on television, hands-down), but last night I was laughing my ass off when Christina Applegate and Will Arnett packed up the car and almost drove off without the baby.  Yeah.  I can relate. 

Cable television can always go farther than network, and that's to the advantage of a show like this.  This is a tense show with a slightly unlikeable heroine (Claire Danes) and a hero who is quite possibly a terrorist (Damian Lewis).  But the writing is taut and the storyline is unbelievably compelling: a presumed-dead Marine is found alive after eight years in captivity with Al-Qaeda.  Everyone welcomes him home as a hero (including his wife, who has been secretly sleeping with his close friend)...except one CIA agent who suspects he's been turned.  I'm only one episode in, but so far it's living up to the hype.  It's on Showtime, so you may have to wait for DVD to check this one out. 

Okay.  Let's be honest.  This show isn't about great writing or Emmy-worthy acting.  This show is pure guilty pleasure, and that's why I'm addicted.  This high-concept show succeeded where Ringer didn't; it hit the ground running and sucked us in right away.  It gave us enough answers in the first episode to get us hooked, but left enough questions open to keep us watching.  My biggest issue with this show is that I'm not sure how long they can keep up this storyline.  But for now, it's like chocolate, and I can't get enough.

One new show that I'm dying to watch is Once Upon A Time.  It doesn't debut until October 23rd, so I'm waiting with baited breath.  I love the cast (I'm a big Ginnifer Goodwin fan) and it's from the writers of Lost.  Need I say more?

Old Shows

I miss Steve Carell.  I think the show has lost its voice without him, and I'm not sure how much longer I'll be watching.

Yes, I still watch it.  Yes, it's old and tired, like the over-the-hill hooker on the bad corner of Hollywood Boulevard.  But, this is the last season.  I figure I may as well stick it out until the end.  And honestly, it still entertains me.  Particularly Eva Longoria, who I think is one of the most underrated comediennes on television.  She's the funniest one of the bunch, and the writers know it.  They are constantly gifting her with priceless zingers that she delivers with dead-on deliciousness.  When the writers and the actors come together like that, it's magic.

J.J. Abrams.  John Noble.  Compelling weekly episodes under an amazing over-arching storyline.  The coolest show on television.  Why aren't you watching?

And that's my take on some of the television shows that I'm watching this season.  So set your DVR, grab some popcorn, settle in, and get addicted.


  1. I'm like you and watch too much TV. I should be writing!!!!! I'm not much of a network girl. Man reason I like something it gets canceled fast. Pushing Up Daisys was great and only got one season. I was loving Free Agents and it was canceled today after only 4 episodes. So I'm sticking to cable.

    I do watch Fringe but I'm one of the few so sure this is the last season. Sometimes good shows just get ignored for crappy reality TV. Sad.

  2. Nicole, my two newest TV addictions are:

    New Girl: Literally almost pee'd my pants watching this and we are all hooked and often rewind to watch parts again and again.

    Dexter: Ok, this isn't new but it's new to me. William watched it this summer when I was tanning at the lake (ahem) and got hooked so now we've started on DVD and are up to season 2.

    Haven't seen Up All Night yet but the previews are hilarious and I love Applegate!

  3. I don't watch much TV, mostly cuz I'm so insanely busy I don't have time. But I'm cuious about a show a couple people in my workshop mentioned - Castle. MC is a writer. Curious if you've checked it out and if so why it didn't make your list. (In other words, should I try to make time to check it out myself?)

  4. Anne - I hear you about things getting cancelled too fast. Networks barely give shows a chance anymore!

    Ginger - I've heard good things about New Girl but I can't stand Zooey Deschanel. Seriously, she's like nails on a chalkboard to me! You should check out Up All Night. :-)

    Barb - I watch Castle occasionally and it's good. I adore Nathan Fillion, who plays the lead (the writer). The main reason I don't watch it regularly is it's on late and I already have so many other shows clogging up my DVR! But when I have watched it, I've enjoyed it.