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Not comics: Hibbs on TV

Brian Hibbs

Missed my last night deadline, but I got some potentially exciting news (or maybe exciting potential news… or maybe even exciting news, potentially) that focused me on that during my (ha ha) “free time” last night.

So today I’m going to shoot for TWO posts — one now, one tonight. We’ll see if that works.

It’s not comics, no, but I’ve been wanting to make a television post for a while. Up until last year I was maybe watching 4 hours of TV a week, but I’ve been sucked in by the glass teat this season a lot. Modern TV is so strange — there’s almost barely things like traditional “seasons” any more; shows start and stop more or less willy nilly, it seems. And the advent of boxed set makes that a really superior way to watch a lot of shows. I’ll be skipping our box set adventures (like, say THE SHIELD), for stuff I’ve been watching “live”

There will probably be some spoilers in here (especially on some shows, like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), which makes this a post a number of you (= Jeff Lester) can’t read… because YOU’re waiting for the boxed sets. Funny.

In more or less alphabetical order, here’s what I’ve been watching lately:

24: I really loved the first season, because the idea itself was so fresh — “real time TV”. I pretty much hated the second season, with its “we have no idea how to stretch this” scenes of Kim-in-Peril. I watched maybe 3 episodes of season 3, and decided I no longer cared. Totally skipped season 4. But something drew me back for season 5 — maybe it was the Nukes. All of the problems the show has are still very much on display here: it is really really hard to break a story into twenty-four satisfying chunks without stretching dumb things out dumbly. We’re what? halfway through this day? And my attention is flagging again. I don’t think I am going to make it all the way through this season. It’s been very very EH. At best.

30 ROCK: The single non-animated sitcom I watch these days, and its getting better and better with each episode, becoming more topical, and more adventurous in its storylines. I quite like it, and think it is consistently GOOD.

AMAZING RACE: Every man is allowed one thing that they KNOW is shit, and that they watch it BECAUSE its shit, and THE AMAZING RACE is my one main “I have no excuses” show. I was a real early adopter of reality shows — *I* was the one who turned all of the CE’s onto SURVIVOR, for example (stopped watching that around season 5, I think?) — and this is my sole reality show left. It’s very very not “real”. Really, I’d like to see all of the extra footage where a producer has to intervene with the police; or where a contestant is delayed because the cameraman trips getting out of a car, or things like that. Still, I keep being entertained by Ugly Americans running all over creation and being the fools they can be — I especially love how Charla and Mirna affect this weird spanish-tinged accent everytime they talk to anyone whose primary language isn’t english. I do wish the show had a few more metrics as it was running — a clock or miles traveled or something, but I can see how that would be an editing nightmare. I suppose what I like about the show is that it isn’t hermetically sealed in a house or an island or something like that. There’s a SENSE that “anything could happen”, because there’s only so much you can stage manage the WORLD. Its the one reality show that I’d like to watch a documentary about the making of it, and of what happens “backstage”. Plus, watching Rob and “Ambuh” getting thier asses kicked by the midget and her idiot cousin? Pure Television gold. In any objective reality, the RACE is merely OK< but I like to fool myself that it is GOOD.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: I love this show, I really do. And, in fact, I’ve even got Tzipora (who HATES all things Sci-Fi or Fantasy related) hooked on it. She’s a season and a half behind, because I REFUSE to buy separate 2.0 and 2.5 box sets, and the library hasn’t gotten 2.5 in yet. But it is everything you want SF to be — thought-provoking, action-packed, twisty, human-driven.

Up until a point, at least.

I’m probably one of the few people who actually went “Hm, maybe not” when they announced a full 22 eps for Season 4; because I’m pretty unconvinced at this point that they actually have more than 12-13 viable stories each season — because, let’s face it, a really significant chunk of Season 3 was “filler” that neither moved the mythology forward, nor focused on areas that I cared too much about. When the show is “on”, it is ON, but when it’s not? Well, it’s still some of the best TV on the air, but I don’t care that much.

The season finale bugged me a lot — not just because we have to wait until January (wtf?) to find out what happens next. I was especially annoyed by the “All ALong The Watchtower” use (that’s like the Steppenwolf in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, yeah?), and the reveal of 4 of the final 5. Especially Tigh. And that between Tyrol & Boomer and Kara & jock resistance guy (I’m blanking), there’s too much Cylon-on-Cylon action going on. I’m pretty unconvinced they can make either Tyrol or Tigh “work” as Cylons, but the show has certainly given enough reason to offer them the Benefit of the Doubt. But, man, January? There are certain episodes within the season that I’d call VERY GOOD or EXCELLENT (the finale itself probably even rates a GOOD), but over all I’d give Season 3 a strong OK, which is a prodigious drop from s1 & 2.

BLACK DONNELEYS: Probably going to drop this in the next week or two. The structural conceit of this being a flashback told by an unreliable narrator is kind of grinding, and the characters are kind of all too young & pretty for me. Basically, it’s (Irish) SOPRANOS Jr., and while there’s an appealing denseness to the episodes (esp for network TV), I’m not finding any of the characters memorable enough to care about them as characters. Its OK, though.

THE DAILY SHOW: OUr DVR (not TiVO) via the DISH network is funny with THE DAILY SHOW — we can’t set up “record series”, or it attempts to tape every broadcast of each episode. Its the only show we tape that acts like that. So, we’ve got to manually set the episodes each week. Fairly annoying, and sometimes I forget. A lot of time I don’t watch daily — I’ll watch 2-3 at a go, but there’s a lot of things to genuinely love about the show. Not only is it (usually) very very funny indeed, but I especially like the way they book authors of political or cultural books that would be lucky to break 5k copies, and give them a chance to engage in an often substantiative dialogue in front of millions of people. You don’t get the sense they’re booking these people because they *can’t* get the a-listers, but because they truly believe its good to expose people to other points of view. So damn good for them. and damn GOOD, even at its worst no-news days, and plug-a-movie interviews.

DAYBREAK: Didn’t even make its full season on the air, so I guess no one liked the GROUNDHOG’S DAY-meets-THE-FUGITIVE show. And, yeah, the execution wasn’t stellar, but I liked the concept enough that I actually went and watched the unbroadcast episodes on ABC.com. Took me a while to get through them because I don’t like watching TV at the computer, but all in all, I thought they did an OK job. Bonus points to ABC for actually putting the second half of the season on-line, for free. That’s pretty classy, really.

HEROES: I’m ready for it to come back, already. If they can pull off the endgame as well as they handled their middle section, this is going to be one of those shows you’re still talking about in 10 years. It took a while to get going, and there were definitely some stumbles in the early episodes, but, pretty much around the time we met Sylar, and the “save the cheerleader” plot got started, this became one of the most fun serialized shows on TV. Largely because they seem to have a clear end for this story planned, and it’s THIS season, not strung out indefinitely like BSG or LOST (that’s also what I liked about DAYBREAK). I like most of the characters (except for Mohinder, yeesh, he’s the worst Prof X-type ever), and it just zips along with multiple cliffhangers, and more importantly, revelations, every issue. Based on where we’re at so far, this is an easy GOOD, and, depending on how well they resolve it all, it could be VERY GOOD.

LOST: This show, on the other hand, drives me fucking bugshit crazy most weeks, where things move along glacially (if that), and the “mystery of the island” is CLEARLY being made up as it goes along. I also can’t really stand most of the “others”, and think the show jumped the rails when it started to be ABOUT them, rather than “our” survivors. If, next week, Locke were to find a button, and, upon pushing it all of the others seized up with black smoke pouring from their ears saying “norman, coordinate”, I’d be happy with that I think. Each week this season I’ve been muttering, “man, I should stop wasting my time with this crap”, but then I’m all whining to myself “but I’ve already invested 40+ hours in this, I don’t want to walk away after that!” Thankfully, this week’s episode, with Nikki & Paulo made me glad that I’ve stuck around. Yeah, it is kind of the definition of “filler”, but it was nice to see seom actual suspense on the show again, and to have something introduced AND resolved in one go. Plus, all of the cameos were cool (I wonder how much of that was “leftover” footage from previous seasons, and how much was freshly shot?) — it was basically the best episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT ever shot. I’m always a fan of ironic justice. So, most of this season: anywhere from AWFUL to OK (probably EH on the balance); this week’s episode? VERY GOOD.

THE RICHES: 3 eps in, and the contrivances are starting to creak (and the sooner they resolve the Traveller boss thread, the better — what a 2-d character and story there), but Izzard and Driver make this show very watchable, and I’m in for at least a dozen. Overall, I’ll go with a GOOD.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: When I was a kid in the 70s, I would beg my parents to let me stay up late for SNL, and growing up into an adult, it’s a habit at this point. There were years, decades maybe, where you could watch SNL on “Fast Forward”, taking maybe 20-30 minutes to get through the whole show. This season has been markedly better though — I’m probably up to 40-45 minutes of actual watching, and they’ve been taking more chances (not a lot, but some) of doing more surreal humor, or tinkering with rhythms. There also seems to be a greater emphasis on new ideas, rather than relying solely on a character being endlessly repeated into the ground. Overall, the show seems to have found a new stride this year, and while there still LOTS of not-funny, the ratio seems to e getting better. Overall: OK

THE SIMPSONS: Two weeks ago I think they reached the bottom of the bucket. The plot was Granpa marries Selma (or Patty, whatever), and that was pretty much it. No act 1 leads to a radically different act 2 leads to a radically different act 3 — just a straight line through on a very unfunny premise, that probably should have had a laugh track attached to it. I didn’t even bother to watch last week’s ep. I think they may have finally cured me of this particular habit — I’m having a hard time remembering the last genuinely funny episode I’ve seen. (probably last year). Very very very depressingly EH.

SOUTH PARK: When its about the kids being kids, the show is honest and often very wise… but frequently dull. I mean, lice? But when they comment of celebrity or politics or just the dopiness of mankind, it always has the potential of hitting the home run. I’m sometimes amazed just how precisely topical they can be on waht would seem to be an impossible time frame — there’s times they appear to be writing, animating, and voicing an entire show in a matter of days. SO far this season has been a bit weak (I mean, seriously, lice?), but it is never less than very very OK.

That’s what I’m watching, at least. What do YOU think?


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