Friday, October 26, 2007

Fall TV Review

Now that the Fall Television Season is fully underway I thought it a good time to evaluate what's currently worth watching on TV. Before we begin, I would like to comment briefly on the threat of strike by members of the Writers Guild of America. Without getting bogged down with the details behind the labor dispute, I will comment on the effects. To sum it up, the threat seems like a good thing. An actual strike would be a bad thing. Allow me to elaborate. A sudden absence of writers would mean scripted shows would suffer and we could see an acute increase in the number of non-scripted shows. That's bad. I know some of you out there are fans of Dancing with the Stars and I think I speak for us all when I say Dog the Bounty Hunter represents a cleverly delicious slice of home-grown Americana, but any more so-called reality TV would drive me up the wall. As a result, nervous studios are stockpiling scripts and scripted shows. They have been slow to cancel under-performing shows for fear that they might run out of replacement content. That's good. I don't see how canceling a show without airing all of the completed episodes does anybody any good. It just angers people like me, who have the terrible curse of liking unsuccessful shows. So what shows have I picked this year? Will my luck change? The fact that most of what I watch is on NBC, the fourth most watched network, suggests it won't. Below, in no particular order, are the shows I am currently following.

Life (Wednesdays on NBC): A drama about a detective who is given a second chance. Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) stars as complex, offbeat Detective Charlie Crews, who returns to the force after serving 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. This is my favorite new show this season. Detective Crews is just one of those fascinating characters. The patience and quirkiness he picked up in prison is just enough to irritate his partner (played by former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Sarah Shahi), which are the best moments of each episode. The actual cop drama part of the show is nothing new, but Lewis makes treading through the cliches worth it. What has me hooked is the ongoing background story about Crews trying to solve the crime for which he had been convicted. Each episode lets you in on a new detail. I'd really like to see this show stick around for a while.

House (Tuesdays on Fox): Speaking of fascinating characters, Hugh Laurie's Dr. Gregory House is the most intriguing character on TV. Based on Sherlock Holmes (with Dr. Wilson as his Watson), this investigator solves medical mysteries. He's brilliant yet mad. Last season saw him reach the brink of pure insanity by considering an injection to the brain to stimulate happiness. This season we've seen him jam a knife into a outlet just to have a near-death experience. None of this would work without Laurie in the role. Also, I'm still trying to figure where the casting carousel will stop with House auditioning a new team. It's a welcome, but not entirely necessary departure from the show's usual formula.

Chuck (Mondays on NBC): Computer geek Chuck Bartowski is catapulted into a new career as the government's most vital secret agent. When Chuck opens an e-mail subliminally encoded with government secrets, he unwittingly downloads an entire server of sensitive data into his brain. Now, the fate of the world lies in the unlikely hands of a guy who works at a Buy More Electronics store (A funny imitation of Best Buy). Instead of fighting computer viruses, he must now confront assassins and international terrorists. This hour-long action sitcom is light enough to not take itself too seriously. Instead it's mocking all the action shows that have come before it. Some of the story lines are weak and at times it really comes across as being low budget, but so far I like it. My concern is all that happened in the first episode to set up the plot hasn't been explained all that well in subsequent episodes, which I fear would leave newcomers somewhat lost.

Journeyman (Mondays on NBC): A romantic mystery-drama about a San Francisco newspaper reporter and family man who inexplicably begins to travel through time and change people's lives. Along the way, he also must deal with the difficulties and strife at work and home brought on by his sudden disappearances. I don't really expect this show to last. It comes across as a sort of knock off of Quantum Leap, which is fine, but it spends too much time focused on the main character's personal problems, leaving the actual time traveling and life fixing as an afterthought. Journeyman certainly has potential, however. Also, the opening theme, which can be heard below (0:31) by pressing play on the Jukebox Player, is pretty sweet.

Friday Night Lights (Fridays on NBC): This series centers on the small rural town of Dillon, Texas, where the coveted state football championship rings are held in the highest regard. The Dillon Panther's faced many challenges their first season with Coach Eric Taylor at the helm, but after much hard work, determination and a victory at the State Championship Game, the team's fate at the start of yet another new season and the Taylor family's future with them, continues to remain uncertain. The second season picked up right where the first left off: with mounds of drama and I'd say things are a little too dramatic right now. Lyla Garrity, who recently found Jesus, is about the only character who seems to be happy. But it's still good TV and I'm happy to see Landry (great Texas football name) hook up with Tyra, even if it was a murder that brought them together. Love that teen angst.

My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, Scrubs (Thursdays on NBC): The evening's nickname is "Comedy Done Right" and I would agree. These are probably the four funniest shows currently on network TV. Scrubs has gotten a little stale in its old age and My Name is Earl has too much gay stuff, but overall, these two hours are where it's at. I've especially found myself growing more fond of 30 Rock. Below is a sample from last night's episode (4:59) showcasing Tracy Morgan and the resurgent Alec Baldwin.

My Other Shows: I still watch Without a Trace and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, both of which have gotten old and tired, especially Without a Trace which I'm starting to find really boring. I've also been watching reruns of The Sopranos (Wednesdays on A&E) and have gotten into it. It's a good show with interesting characters, but it's also way overrated. I think the entire fourth season passed with the most dramatic thing being the fallout from a fat joke. I had been watching Heroes (Mondays on NBC), but it was just moving too slowly for my liking, so I've decided to stockpile a few episodes. Maybe by watching multiple episodes at a time, the plot might advance enough.

On recommendations from others I have recorded some episodes of Reaper (Tuesdays on CW) and Pushing Daisies (Wednesdays on ABC), but haven't gotten around to watching either. If you would like to recommend shows to Entertainment News readers, you can do so in the comment section.


Anonymous said...

I've been watching Bionic Woman (Wed on NBC). It's nothing special, but I guess I'm in to it.

Anonymous said...

I can echo the comment on Pushing Daisies! At first I thought "pffft no way" I look forward to each episode!! My other fav...The Unit!!

Anonymous said...

I like a good procedural cop drama now and then, but not the CSI's, which are stupid. One y'all ought to check out is Life on Mars, an English import on BBC America.

I'd say I miss Law & Order, but with all the reruns on cable it's not as though it's completely gone.

morty said...

I've seen some episodes of Life on Mars. It's really good. I hear they're making an American version, which could work, but is unnecessary.

As for Law & Order, it's coming to Sundays in January after football season. I admit the quality has decreased greatly over the past few seasons, but I'm committed to the end with this show, having seen all of the nearly 400 episodes. There are some major cast changes this season which should help.