Thursday, July 15, 2010

TV Thoughts Omnibus Post

Attempting to grab this afternoon to update here on the ol' blog with some scattered TV thoughts. So many things to talk about, so little time (apparently / lately).

I've wanted to comment on Breaking Bad for a while. I caught up on the third season just before the finale and was able to watch the finale along with the rest of America (or, at least, the small subsection that watches this show). What an outstanding show this series has become. Initially, for me it was a dark, disturbing hour of TV that primarily showcased Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan. Last season, Aaron Paul really came into his own as Jesse, and this season it was Anna Gunn (annoyingly overlooked by the Emmys in a year where, shockingly, the usually same old same old awards show did a ton of thing "right"). There really aren't enough words to describe how subversive Breaking Bad has become. I don't know how many seasons it has left in its run, but the progression of the first three has catapulted it to the upper echelon of TV dramas. Ever. It plays so expertly on audience expectations and on TV conventions. I suppose if I were to try and get a simple handle on why I love it so, it would be this: the hero wears a black hat. It's a wonderfully modern show with a slew of visual references to classic Westerns. And Walter White, our (extremely anti-)hero, wears a black hat. I just think it's sort of genius. Now if they could only figure out what to do with Walter Jr...

Speaking of the Emmys... it's hard to truly be mad about the exclusion of Community when so much of the old guard, especially in the comedy categories, departed and made way for the buzzier shiny new toys that are Glee and Modern Family. Still, a nomination for the "Modern Warfare" paintball episode was deserved. Community is the lesser watched show of the three new comedies. It took longer to find its groove than Modern Family did (which seemed to have its groove from the start), and was never the pop culture sensation that Glee is (my opinion on Glee, of course, is that it never found its groove in the back 9 episodes... solid music numbers and performances, but incredibly uneven storytelling that I really hope can get smoothed out next season). There will always be Emmy snubs (um... no Michelle Forbes for True Blood?!) but, hey, Kyle and Connie got their nominations, Entourage washed out, and there was plenty of new blood in the various major categories so tons to be happy about. Now we can only pray that when the awards come around, 30 Rock's streak comes to an end thanks to the deserving freshmen and Mad Men does not win for its subpar (by its own high standards) third season. Per the above Breaking Bad comments... just comparing those third seasons, it's quite clear which is the better show.

Summer TV abounds this year. I find myself watching an uncomfortable amount of reality television, while the scripted TV I'm watching is essentially a game of "what's on USA or HBO tonight?" Also Futurama (the two-episode premiere felt off to me, but the iPhone/Twitter parody with Mom was a return to form... I still feel like the sex joke quotient has been needlessly raised for cable TV while the pacing isn't what it was... waiting for an episode where the gang goes on a delivery and shenanigans ensue).

After slumbering its way through the first few episodes, the Real Housewives of New Jersey finally kicked things up this week with, perhaps, the most ridiculously entertaining hour of stupidity ever televised. The sequence with Jacqueline in her car playing games on her iPhone while Danielle's energist (this is a job?) tries to work with J? Awesome. So self-aware.

I enjoyed Tuesday night's premiere of Covert Affairs, though I have to say the sister felt entirely superfluous. Much as I loved Anne Dudek as Cutthroat Bitch on House... the role could've been excised. I found Christopher Gorham's blind CIA analyst (who manages to be something of a womanizer and an excellent asset) an interesting twist on a role that could've played as "typical spy fare" as some of the other roles. For instance, Piper Perabo's Annie Walker (am I the only one who sees a lot of Jennifer Garner in Piper?) I'm just not sure what makes the character special. Yet. But it was a breezy enough hour(-plus) to sit through that I'll keep recording it.

Top Chef is slowly improving after a truly lackluster first couple episodes. I've been over Kenny from the start, though. Anyone who talks about being the "Alpha male" presence just needs to be ignored. Waiting for anyone besides Kenny and Angelo to really make an impact, consistently, in the kitchen. We were spoiled last season with the Voltagglio Bros, Jen, and Kevin!

I am on the fence about the new So You Think You Can Dance format this season. I was initially on board with the idea of the All Stars, but the first week of performances (also the show's first week airing live performance shows rather than pre-taped and edited) was wonky. Glad the All Stars now stand by their partners during critiques, and very pleased that the show decided midway through to start pairing the contestants with each other again. Some of the judges' choices on who to drop baffled me (particularly losing Cristina - not the best ballroom specialist the show has ever had, but one of the better ballroom dancers when in other genres of dance - in lieu of Melinda) and the season because very gender unbalanced, resulting in the "landmark" male partnering that is now both necessary and commonplace on the show. I'm still scratching my head over why the show chose to fix something that wasn't really broken (the sixth season suffered for being too close on the heels of the fifth... not because of the format), but, hey, the judges are self-aggrandizing enough about it for everyone. As it did everyone who follows SYTYCD, the Alex Wong injury hit hard. Both for him as a dancer - we here at TY pray he recovers speedily and fully, it's a horrid injury - and for the show. As Nigel implied last night when predicting Kent as the season's victor... "now that Alex is gone" will forever be an asterisk on this season. And what can be said about Kent Boyd? Quite a casting find.

I've tweeted thoughts on many of this season's pilots. I intend to eventually post reviews. Eventually. And maybe just of shows I feel strongly about one way or the other (initially just the positives I think). A few intriguing new series, but overall an underwhelming crop for the fall, I'm afraid. I will definitely be adding Lone Star, No Ordinary Family, My Generation, and Nikita to my viewing schedule. I've yet to see The Event, and I didn't love the script but it made me want to know what happens next (possibly because I have no idea what actually happened in the pilot, as there are mysteries presented but no indication of explanations...) but I can see adding that. Not a strong season for comedy, though the further I get away from my screening of Running Wilde, the fonder I am of it. I don't think it was particularly gut-busting, but there's just something about Will Arnett and Keri Russell... I was also planning on watching Love Bites, but it's no longer on the fall schedule. We'll see what happens with it, but my fingers are crossed!

More to come, I'm sure, as True Blood ramps up, Comic Con happens next weekend (per my tweets, not really feeling con this year), and more...


Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree with your assessment of 'Breaking Bad', which is absolutely subversive it's so scarily good.

I haven't seen any of the fall pilots yet, but I based on the little promos running, I'm quite keen on 'Running Wilde', 'The Defenders' (even though I despised Mr. Jim Belushi's 'According to Jim') and 'No Ordinary Family'. Nothing else is registering as want to see on my radar as of yet.

I did an experiment this spring/summer, and I cut out my basic cable and took up a premium cable subscription. I have thoroughly enjoyed 'Party Down', 'Nurse Jackie', 'Spartacus: Blood & Sand', but been underwhelmed by 'True Blood', 'Treme' and 'The Pacific'...I just can't fathom what the fuss is with these latter three series.

Thank you for your assessments, and I look forward to your reactions to the fall pilots as you get around to viewing your screeners.



Travis Yanan said...

Hey DuMont,

Didn't watch Treme or The Pacific, so I can't comment. This season of True Blood has not been as fun or as cohesive as the last season started out being, but I think there's still hope. After all, most of the main characters are now in the same place (Jackson, MI) so hopefully some of theme will, like, interact with each other. Eventually.

Loved Party Down and eventually loved Spartacus for the guilty pleasure it was. Nurse Jackie improved for me this season, though I'm still not gaga over it.

I enjoyed The Defenders way more than I expected to, but it's not something I have any need to seek out on a weekly basis. Flashy and fun, though. Same way I feel about Hawaii 5-O. Not much pulling me back, but if someone strapped me to a chair and made me watch either, it wouldn't be an issue.

Running Wilde has moments of extreme farce, but it hasn't figured itself out yet. Hopefully it will, great auspices.