Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Blogger Sucks Ass

Blogger sucks ass recently. It just lost a giant post. I'll type it again at some point.

In the meantime, Scrubs is on.

TiVo Season Passes, Part 5

11) The O.C.
Half-trainwreck, half-comedy, The O.C. has nobly filled the void left by 90210. It's got a couple of very funny characters ably handled by talented performers (Adam Brody and Peter Gallagher). It's got the breakout hot chick who was supposed to be the friend of the hot chick (Rachel Bilson). It has a smattering of other quality folks.

And interspersed are a bunch of just atrocious, unbelievably bad, "Scott who shoots himself on 90210" level bad. Mischa Barton is plain awful, and really not all that attractive. The main guy is Steve Sanders-esque in his ability to be in his late 20s and act like a high schooler.

Yet it works. It works because the writers know who's got talent and who doesn't, and they use that to poke fun at themselves. The characters are moderately self-aware, leading to fun meta-jokes and pop culture references.

It's also been on opposite any number of better shows - Angel, The West Wing, Friends, and possibly Joey this year. If Joey sucks, I'll get to see a lot more of Orange County this year, since I refuse to watch the loathesome Will and Grace. But that's for another time.

10) The Shield
Who would have thought that TV's Commish and Daddio could make such a compelling bad guy? I have to admit that I didn't watch the show initially because of the positively annoying ads that FX would run over reruns of Buffy. But, thanks to Netflix and TiVo, I was able to catch up on the entire show.

It's flat out phenomenal. Yes, it does occasionally go a little overboard, but so has every great drama (Buffy, Homicide, etc.). Fundamentally, The Shield is just a tremendously well-written show. Each character has had a chance to develop into a full, lifelike character, to the point where you can absolutely understand each reaction.

And each season, the writers have ended the season on a truly stunning note, leaving you begging for the next season to arrive. Then they go off and spend 9 months plotting it. Assholes.

9) Las Vegas
It's really not a good show. Las Vegas just happens to be on at a time nothing else is really on (Monday Night Football being the exception during a portion of the year) and has tons of attractive women. And it is in hi-def.

8) Law and Orders: Special Victims Unit
The only Dick Wolf show on my list. The other L&O shows are still good but SVU seems to be the only one that doesn't always follow the pattern of "establish obvious criminal, introduce shocking twist, catch bad guy." Plus, SVU has Ice-T and Richard Belzer as partners.

7) Saturday Night Live
SNL is still often funny, but is in need of a shakeup. There seems to be a shelf-life of about 3 or 4 seasons for head writers before they become stagnant. I think Tina Fey (whom I adore) probably needs to give the reigns to someone else for a bit.

Still, with Darrell Hammond, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, and Rachel Dratch, the cast is talented enough to get by. I'd argue there's still at least 1 really funny sketch per show, which is enough for me to still pay attention.

6) Arrested Development
Anything with David Cross is worth watching. This show has been getting hyped all summer long. If you haven't watched it by now, I'm not going to convince you. Just watch it.

Next time, into the top 5. Two of the top 5 shows are amongst the best new shows of the past 5 years. One of the shows looked to be dead a couple of seasons back before making a huge comeback. The other two were shells of their former selves last year, but still have the pedigree for me to watch every week.

God, I'm a dork.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

TiVo Season Passes, Part 4

17) Deadwood
HBO's fact-based western about life in Deadwood before the land became part of the United States was probably one of the 3 best shows on TV last season. The second best show on television, Angel, doesn't show up in my season passes since it's been cancelled by the reprehensible WB network. The best show on TV is next on my list.

Deadwood, quite simply, was a phenomenal story told with great actors and great writing. It's a testament to how amazing the medium of television can be when intelligent people are given resources and let loose by a network willing to support them. Deadwood contained numerous arcs, each character, however minor, growing and changing over the course of the season. Just one example: the man who starts out the season as "the bad guy" -- Al Swearengen -- ends up showing more compassion than nearly all of the heroes, without changing his language or his behavior. The subtle transformation of the character (all through body language and tone) was stunning. The fact that Ian McShane was not nominated for a Best Actor Emmy is an absolute travesty.

And that was just one of the great things about the show.

A bunch of people had a problem with the language in the show, with its gratuitous use of "cocksucker" and other colorful, often era-based language. Those people are dumb. The language in the show was far more innocuous than you'd see in the criminally overrated Sopranos, but people can't be troubled to actually, you know, pay attention.

16) The Wire
The Wire. Wow. What can I say? Without a doubt, the first two seasons of the show made it the best show on TV two years running. While often slowly paced, each episode builds layers upon layers into the story. Each character, regardless of what side of the law they are on, is multi-faceted and allows you the ability to understand why they act as they do and how they end up in the situations they are in.

No other show could make you really feel for a dead drug dealer. Or really enjoy a character like Brother Mouzone, who is a glorified hitman, but you understand him.

No other show would allow two cops to work a crime scene - for nearly four or five minutes of television time, using only variants of the word "fuck." And no other show could make it so utterly compelling.

If you haven't watched The Wire, you need to start from episode 1. Catch it on On Demand. Catch it when HBO replays it. Buy the DVD set when it comes out. You won't regret it. The only reason the show is at #16 on my season passes is that it replays enough that I can catch it in a later timeslot, allowing me to see other shows on Sundays at 9. It's the best show on TV. There's no argument.

15) The Jury
I won't spend much time here. I liked Homicide: Life on the Streets. I liked Oz. This is a show by the folks behind those shows. It was ok, but not great. The dialogue was all incredibly stilted because of its need to be expository. Since the viewer sees the show through the eyes of the jury after they've already heard the case, every relevent detail needs to be spelled out. That just couldn't be done with natual language.

It's already been cancelled. I need to dump it from my list.

14) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Consistently funny.
Consistently biting.
Consistently better reporting than the actual news reporters out there.

That's a pretty bad indictment of the state of the news media today. But a ringing endorsement of the intelligence Jon Stewart (and Stephen Colbert and the rest of the team) bring to their jobs as the fake news leaders.

For instance, check out:
George W. Bush: Words Speak Louder than Actions
Robert Novak: Douchebag of Liberty
Rep. Henry Bonilla: Watch as Jon Stewart Catches Me Following Talking Points And Lying Through My Teeth In One Of The Funniest Moments Ever Recorded On TV

13) American Dreams
From what I've seen, it's a pretty show. Unfortunately, I only see like 4 or 5 episodes a season since it's on opposite The Simpsons. Then again, I dig period dramas (see Deadwood). Plus, any show that would give a job to an adult Joey .. Joseph Lawrence is cool with me.

12) Tru Calling
I heart Eliza Dushku.

I'll wrap it up there. Next time, we'll dig into the bottom of the top 10 including the new version of 90210, the new version of The Commish, and the only Dick Wolf show in my season passes.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

TiVo Season Passes, Part 3

23) Carnivale
One of the myriad of interesting HBO dramas, Carnivale had a really cool premise, a ton of cool actors, and an great setting.

Yet the folks involved managed to put together an exceedingly boring show. It wasn't bad; in fact, the show was really interesting. Interesting enough for me to hang in there and catch the entire season.

It's just that Carnivale was so damn slow. Horrible pacing. Pacing can really make or break a show. It killed Carnivale. That being said, I'll probably check out the second season.

22) Da Ali G Show
Very funny, very clever show. Very repetitive show.

The Borat segments were usually comedy gold, but the whole schtick wears a bit thin after a few episodes. One of those shows you TiVo, read a review online, and check out the really funny parts - like the Borat character getting an entire bar to sing along to a song about metaphorically throwing the Jewish people down a well.

I find offensive stuff funny. Sue me.

21) Entourage
The newest HBO show, this half-hour comedy is about a group of buddies in Hollywood who hang out with their friend who made it big as an actor. It's not terribly funny, it's not terribly interesting, but it's so damn engaging. Entourage is an object lesson that creating compelling, realistic, and fun characters can be enough to take a mediocre show over the top.

The show really hit its stride about midway through the season - it's worth catching one of the times when HBO replays it 42 times a week.

20) Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
Penn. Teller. Debunking myths and half-truths in a very similar way to The Daily Show - by letting the people who propogate the lies make fools of themselves.

19) Curb Your Enthusiasm
By now, you either get this show or you don't. CYE is one of the few shows that could make an entire season as a parallel to The Producers where the big hit/flop is actually Larry David starring in The Producers. Meta-comedy at its best.

18) Dead Like Me
One of the few reasons to have Showtime. Lots of people compare it to Six Feet Under, since they both deal with death. To me, it's more like Buffy, which is the highest praise I can give a show. It takes the show's theme - a teenage girl dealing with dying and becoming a grim reaper - and uses it to turn metaphors about death and dying into theories on life. All without being preachy.

And it's insanely funny at the same time, just like Buffy was.

Next time, we'll touch on the best show on TV, what might be the second best show on TV, and a show that shouldn't even be here since it's already been cancelled.