When I graduated from high school, my elementary Bible school teacher sent me an interest inventory I’d filled out the first day of first grade. One of the lines read “When I grow up, I want to be a 1st grade teacher.” I ended up getting my degree in English secondary education (I was scared of the snotty noses), but the desire to be a teacher had never gone away.
We frequently have the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” convo with Will--his answers have included Spiderman, a space ranger (after going to space ranger college), a daddy, and an ultimate alien. I most likely will go back to teaching some day (for all the same reasons I wanted to be a teacher in the first place--to impart knowledge to future generations, while preparing them for the “real world” and exposing them to something outside themselves, etc., etc.), but if I had my dream job right now, I would watch TV all day and then blog about it (something with virtually no purpose).
I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person--always informed about global issues, contributing to my local community through volunteer work, blah blah blah, but I still love to watch TV. (It irritates me when people act better than me because they don’t watch TV--I get it, you’re filling your time with more worthwhile pursuits, but shut up.) It really started when I lived in Enid, OK where there was nothing else to do, but now, I have PLENTY on my plate, and I still make time for face time with the idiotbox. Plus, someone (probably an important someone) said that stage is the actor’s medium, movies the director’s medium, and TV the writer’s medium, so it fits that I would love TV.
So, here we are with the fall TV season upon us, and for the first time, I actually have a soapbox to stand on. I’ll start by talking about some of the new shows.
Mike and Molly: I will admit that I was an avid Gilmore Girls watcher (and by avid, I mean, I own all seven seasons on DVD) even if it means giving up some cool points to my male friends. I DVR’d M&M because Molly is played by Melissa McCarthy, who played the kooky Sookie St. James, Lorelai Gilmore’s best friend. She was also kooky Dena, best friend of Samantha, on the short-lived but surprisingly cute Samantha Who? So the kooky best friend finally got the lead, and she continues to be cute and lovable.
Bonus points: Molly’s mom is played by Swoosie Kurtz (most recently brilliant in Pushing Daisies), and her sister is played by Katy Mixon (of Eastbound and Down fame), both of which have the potential for comedy genius. Unfortunately, I think the writers have written them shallow, ridiculous parts far below their pay grade.
The obvious question is this: can M&M get past the fat jokes and move on to something actually funny? I hope so, but I’m wary. Seeing as how CBS wedged M&M between Two and a Half Men (I accidentally saw part of an episode of this show on a plane once and would rather wash my eyes with sand before ever seeing it again) and Hawaii 5-0 (I tried to watch this but deleted it after ten minutes), it seems they are targeting a pretty dense audience, so the bar might remain pretty low for its writing. Then again, that might not be a bad thing for the show...I think T&HM is in its tenth season.
Raising Hope: Sweet post-Glee time slot=higher ratings than this show ever would have gotten had it been simply another Fox sitcom. The funny thing is after watching the first couple of episodes, I am a little embarrassed to say that I laughed. Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) is cute as an accidental dad/pool guy. Again, just like Mike and Molly, can this one-night-stand-with-a-serial-killer-single-dad plot evolve into a show with a real plot?
Bright spots: good God, Cloris Leachman bravely plays a half-naked granny with dementia--a real step up from her stint on Dancing with the Stars. Garret Dillahunt (if he looks familiar, it’s because he’s played small parts on just about every show on TV in the last five years) plays Jimmy Chance’s somewhat spacy dad/boss. Martha Plimpton (who will forever be the rebellious daughter in Parenthood to me) rounds out a potentially funny cast.
Running Wilde: So we’ve got a triple whammy: good time slot (post-post-Glee), Will Arnett (most brilliant as Gob on Arrested Development), and Keri Russell (who didn’t LOVE Felicity?). Will Arnett plays Stephen Wilde, a self-obsessed, oddly arrogant oilman (so almost the same character he played in Arrested Development). I’ll be interested to see if Keri Russell has legitimate comedy chops as she plays Emmy Kadubic, a hippie-dippy tree-hugger connected through childhood to Arnett’s character. The narrator is Emmy’s 12-year-old daughter, Puddle, (who is probably Stephen Wilde’s, right?) played by cutie-patootie, freckle-faced Stefania Owen. The conflict and comedy lies mainly in the complicated relationship between Stephen and Emmy, but the peripheral characters and sub-plots are equally strong comedically.
The pilot was funny, funny, funny, which means this show will probably be cancelled, maybe even faster than Arrested Development. This entire show is a bright spot on TV, so I should probably just pre-order the first season (and cut-short second season) on DVD.
Better With You: We’ve got another sitcom wedged between two other winners, The Middle and Modern Family. If I hadn’t been DVRing the other two, I wouldn’t have known it existed because there was not nearly the amount of publicity for this than the other five million shows that debuted in the same week. The basic idea is that we’re following three couples--retired parents and their two daughters/respective partners at different stages in their relationships. This is one of those shows that could easily fall back on canned-laughter-obvious-jokes, but it doesn’t (think Friends, which makes sense because it’s the same producer).
I’m so happy to see Joanna Garcia and Josh Cooke, who have both been bouncing around TV for quite awhile. These roles could actually stick. The brightest spot? Debra Jo Rupp (remember Eric’s mom on That 70’s Show?) plays the exasperated wife of a recently retired man in a way that makes you say--I know those people--they’re my aunt and uncle! Hopefully, the writers will continue to produce quality material, and the time slot will build some momentum for this little diamond in the rough.
Outsourced: So, I was recently on a closet-cleaning rampage and set up my computer next to me with a Netflix instantly watch movie, Outsourced, expecting it to be something I could listen to without watching too carefully. I was intrigued by the concept--white American goes to India as part of his company’s efforts to outsource his job--mainly because I wanted to see if it was all stereotypes and cliches, having traveled to India ten years ago. Because I’ve been there, some of the jokes were a bit predictable, but I could see how someone who had never been there would have been surprised. Overall, the movie was a good-clean-fun movie.
So, now we’ve got a show with the same premise--good clean fun that will be boosted by its time slot. I’m just not sure it can hang with Community, 30 Rock, and The Office. I think we’re talking about two different audiences. This will probably be the first show that falls off my list of to-watch shows mid-season when I realize how much time I’m wasting on TV.
THE HOUR-LONG DRAMAS/COMEDIES/DRAMADIES:
The Event: I don’t really care what the point of this show is. I’ll watch Blair Underwood stare off into space for an hour anytime. I’ve seen this show described as what would happen if Lost and 24 had a baby. Having not been a avid fan of either of those shows (I watched, but I wasn’t OBSESSED like most of the TV-watching public), I probably won’t jump on this bandwagon either. I like suspense, intrigue, and mystery, but I am really bad at waiting. If this show lasts, I’ll probably wait until I can get the whole season on DVD and watch it straight through. (This is the only way I got through both Lost and 24.) Luckily for me, I’ve got an insider at the base library who buys all the new shows on DVD and then tags them for me. Yes, that’s the kind of dork I am.
The Whole Truth: So we’ve got Maura Tierney (News Radio, ER) and Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure, Numb3rs) as opposing counsel on what appears to be simply another quirky law show. The unique element to this show is that we see how the cases unfold from both points of view, and both characters are endearing enough that we don't really care who wins. Good to see cutie Rob Morrow back in a fun part, and mad props to Maura Tierney for kicking cancer’s ass. Move over, Law & Order. No, seriously, move over all you Law & Orders. We’re ready for some fresh faces in law.
The Defenders: I DVR’d this because it was playing opposite The Whole Truth, and I thought it was interesting to see two new shows about law going up against each other. On the surface, The Defenders looks like it could be nothing short of a tremendous flop--Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell in Las Vegas? That’s a stupid trifecta. Going in with those expectations, I was pleasantly surprised when the writing was actually pretty good . The Belushi/O’Connell match-up makes for a superb bumbling, hi-jinky duo that’s endearing rather than annoying. The addition of Jurnee Smollett’s (Friday Night Lights) smart character grounds the show so that it doesn’t spin off into oblivion from Belushi’s antics. Sorry I was so judgy, boys!
My Generation: I was going to write about how this show couldn’t keep my interest because I hated all the characters, but ABC already cancelled it (after only two shows), so I won’t waste my time. In this instance, the ratings game played in our favor by pulling the plug before we were invested--not that we would have been invested because the show was lame.
Glee: I wouldn’t dare say anything bad about this show because I fear the wrath of Gleeks more than I fear being a Democrat at a Tea Party rally. Gleeks are insanely loyal, and according to them, this show can do no wrong. That said, the first two episodes of season two were exactly what I expected--an excuse to sing along with my friends from high school in my living room. I’m really glad to see the show moving away from focusing on Lea Michele’s character because I was getting tired of her last season. Don’t get me wrong--the girl is the biggest singing talent since Kristin Chenoweth (holla, Okies!), but we’ve got a whole cast of characters that needed a little time in the spotlight. (BTW, Lea, eat a twinkie or something...ick.)
I need a lot more Santana and Kurt, and I am so glad we finally got a show with Brittany as the focus (she’s been my favorite from the beginning), especially since she did Britney better than Britney. All in all, I’m going to keep watching this show because like the rest of its viewers, I wish I was on it.
Parenthood: Lorelai’s back! Okay, so I know her name is actually Lauren Graham, but she'll forever be Lorelai Gilmore to me. Along with a star-studded cast making up the Braverman family, it’s hard to not love this show. I was skeptical last season when it took about four episodes to get off to a good start, but we’re headed in the right direction now. The beginning of the second season has been infinitely more compelling with several of the characters’ plot lines rounding out. This show has a huge following for one reason in particular--the character of Max, a seven-year-old who has been diagnosed with Asberger’s. The autism community has really rallied around the show and for good reason. The writers have been smart to portray the struggles and joys of having a child with special needs without being overly dramatic. Looking forward to several seasons of good family drama--some of it probably so appealing because it hits so close to home.
Brothers and Sisters: Let me say first that this is my favorite show on television. It’s the only show I watch when it’s actually on sometimes because I can’t stand to wait until 10:20 so I can fast-forward through all the commercials. I’m pretty sure Sally Field and Calista Flockhart would want to be my besties if they knew me, and I’d definitely have Dave Annable’s babies. The end of last season left us hanging with a multiple-car crash involving most of the Walker family. Who was going to live? Who was going to die? Tragic!
This season’s premiere? I feel like a guy who invited a girl out on a date and when I went to pick her up, she was wearing a tummy-revealing tube top and mini-skirt. Every time I started to enjoy dinner, she’d bend over exposing her boobs or hoo-ha. Too much, too fast. Someone’s in a coma. Someone else lost her memory. Someone else is gone without notice...could we not have spread all this out over a couple episodes at least? SLOW DOWN, people.
I will keep watching because I don’t give up on family, but girl, rein it in. Next time, when I pick you up, I expect you to be in a nice pair of jeans and a v-neck t-shirt. Sexy, but leaving a little bit to the imagination.
The Good Wife: This show is the most underrated show on TV. Juliana Margulies (ER) and Chris Noth (Sex and the City) play Alicia and Peter Florrick, a married lawyer and politician, whose marriage is strained because of Peter’s...ahem...indiscretions (very timely in the current political climate). I would have watched just to stare at Matt Czuchry (another Gilmore Girls alum), but I stayed because everyone else on the show is pretty fabulous, too. Margulies picked up a Golden Globe for her performance, and Archie Panjabi even picked up an Emmy for her supporting role, so it’s not completely underrated, but I’m still surprised that there hasn’t been more buzz.
The Office: So everyone knows that Steve Carrell has already decided to leave after this season, and we’re all anxious to see how that affects the plot lines of this season. How’s he gonna go out? The writers will undoubtedly continue to deliver quality stuff because this is another one of those shows that can’t go wrong (do we call the fans Officers?), but I hope they don’t take the easy way out and try to wrap up Michael Scott’s time in a pretty bow. I want him to be a bumbling idiot all the way to the end and then disappear awkwardly.
There is plenty of talk about how they will replace him, and my vote goes to a plot line that involves Ed Helms moving into a leadership position at the Sabre Scranton branch. Whatever happens, The Office needs to bow out gracefully before they overstay their welcome, which might mean eeking out this season and MAYBE one more. Oh, and I hope Dwight’s spin-off is better than Joey’s.
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So, what is everyone else watching? (I didn’t include shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound & Down, and Bored to Death because frankly this list makes it look like all I do is watch TV, but we watch all of those, too.) Did you catch any good ones that I missed?