I don't want as much TV as I once did. That's a good thing. There's still some decent stuff on there, though. Here's what I've been watching:
My Name is Earl
I was a pretty big fan after Season One, but had doubts that they could keep the momentum going into Season Two. I’ve often found that high concept stuff runs out of gas when the writer can’t find new use to take advantage of the gimmick. I guess this ‘crossing things off the list’ thing has legs though, as Season Two has been better than Season One. Of course, some shows are stronger than others (the “My Name is Randy, My Name is Joy etc…” episode is the highlight so far), but even the weaker episodes have a few good laughs. The interaction between Joy and Marlee Matlin as her lawyer is beyond funny.
The highlight of my week. Is that sad? I don’t actually think so. I am of the camp where I enjoy both the British and American versions, but I honestly laugh out loud much more with Michael, Dwight & Co. I never thought that a TV show could come up with a line as good as Phyllis’ “It says ‘bushiest beaver’” from Season One, but there has been plenty of jaw dropping humour this season. At the conclusion of each episode, I have a sense of dread that this is all too good to be true and the cast will all start to exit for other projects, and we the viewer are left with a bit hole in our hearts. Nothing on TV makes me nearly as happy as this show.
They had me from the start – it was nice to see a good fish out of water story on TV. The thing is, after a few episodes it began to feel like a bit of a skipping record. We have so many job switches, cliffhangers, controversies and bits of stunt casting that you’d think this show had been on the air for 5 seasons. While those kind of tricks may keep things moving, they don’t do much for character development. I’m watching out of habit now, but it’s on the verge of being dropped from my viewing rotation.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Would you think I was shallow and anti-intellectual if I said I was more intrigued by the behind the scenes drama of a late night comedy show than those at the White House? That’s kind of where I’m sitting now. I hope this show is able to survive as it maintains a pretty high quality and it’s nice to have something other than a procedural or reality TV in an hour-long format. The cast is strong – I am particularly impressed by Amanda Peet (not just a pretty face) and Steven Weber. The thing is – Aaron Sorkin is Aaron Sorkin. He writes what he knows and as such, it gets a bit repetitive. Sometimes I feel like this show is so close to Sports Night that I keep wondering when Benson will show up. Still, I’m pulling for this one but I don’t know that I follow it religiously.
The Bizarro Studio 60. I cringed through the first episode. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't that. Everything seemed wrong - flat jokes, bad pacing etc... I was certain that it would implode within a month. I felt for the cast as there is plenty of talent on the show, it just didn't work. What happened next? It got better. A hell of a lot better. The show developed its own style, its own identity and hits a level of absurdist humour that you cannot find elsewhere. Now, it's the funniest thing on TV other that the Office. What a comeback. This is great stuff and Alec Baldwin seems to be having the time of his life.
Amazing Race All-Star Edition
The Amazing Race is the one network reality show that I’ve stuck with through the years. Maybe it’s the wanderlust filled traveler in me, but I love seeing other parts of the world and I really love to watch people struggle to communicate (speaking English with a Spanish accent isn’t the same as speaking Spanish people!). I’ve watched every year since Season 2 (except the Family Edition, which I bailed on) and I was pretty impressed with the All-Star teams on paper – seemed like a decent combination of personality and skill. I was wrong. After only one episode, I am ready to strangle about half of the teams. There are 3, maybe 4 teams who can win this them without an intervention of God (or the producers) – let the others get booted in a massive elimination.
Really only of interest to snoopy people who follow the Toronto real estate market (like me!); this HGTV show is a blast. The host is a no nonsense real estate agent who loves to give first time buyers a dose of reality (“So that’s the kind of house you like? Too bad – you can’t afford it”). The agent picks 3 homes in the couples’ budget and they tour each of them – surprisingly most couples end up buying one of them (I’d recommend checking out more than 3 houses before buying). If you watch closely enough, you can actually see the couples’ dreams vanish into thin air. It’s fascinating to watch expectations lower to the point where they settle for a hunk of junk in a neighbourhood they would never have considered. It’s great stuff and I’m hooked.