Most of these shows (all but “Mad Men” and “Flight of the Conchords”) are brought to me by hulu.com.
“Mad Men” (season one) – Never before have I seen a TV show that relies so completely on *style* for its existence. This is a beautiful show to look at; great colors, beautiful costumes, just an all-around high production value. There is a lot of winking and nudging from behind the camera. “See what we did there? The pregnant woman is drinking alcohol and smoking… because it’s the ’60s, and she didn’t know any better! Get it??” As I’ve watched, I’ve felt a sense of pessimism (despair?) from the writers. All TV characters are allowed to be (and should be) damaged — no one’s perfect. But these characters are beyond all hope, and we never see any redemption. Everyone is having an affair, or they want to have an affair, or they’re disrespectful, or just plain stupid. As I sit and watch, I wonder, who am I supposed to be rooting for? Don Draper? Maybe, but he (and everyone else) is kind of a jerk.
“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” – I love this show. Jimmy is so fun to watch. He tries a lot of new ideas, and encourages feedback from the fans. I love the “reality” series they put together over the summer (7th Floor West – a spoof of The Hills). Jimmy seems like such a normal guy, and he is good at *hosting.* He works to make his guests feel comfortable, is polite and funny (but at his own expense, not at the guest’s), and he’s not afraid to stop performing and simply listen to what the guests have to say (as opposed to some other hosts, who cling to their control over each interview). Also, I’m enjoying the Roots. They add a unique flavor to the show – a departure from the usual style you hear from a talk show band. Jimmy says over and over that they’re the “best band in late night,” and it’s true. They sound tighter, they’re more creative with music selection, they’re having a good time. And so are we. Thanks, Roots.
“The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” – Conan is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a hilarious fellow, but tends to be a bit mean-spirited. He’s at his best when he’s playing off of Andy Richter. I’ve definitely seen enough of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (never been funny, IMO), and I’d be really happy if Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band would add a few new songs to their repertoire (I have HAD it with their “sexy actress” music cue they play all the time). Overall, I enjoy the show, but I find it pretty easy to go without watching.
“Flight of the Conchords” (season one) – Hands down, the best show in recent memory whose subject is the third most popular novelty band to come out of New Zealand. Wow, these guys are funny. Amazingly clever music and lyrics, great script, very watchable. I could do with a bit less innuendo, but on the whole, their jokes are fresh and funny (take, for example, Bret’s “hair helmet…”).
“Dead Like Me” – Yes, I know it’s been years since this show was on TV, but it’s the first time I’ve watched it, so it counts as a show I can mention on this list. So. Okay, who here likes George as a main character, raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone? Correct, she is not very likable… she’s kind of whiny, in fact. Okay, next question. Who here saw some examples of HORRIBLE PARENTING done by George’s mom? Oh, wow – everyone raised their hand that time. Despite these problems (and other persistent problems like them), I made it all the way through both seasons of Dead Like Me. The concept of the show was pretty compelling (it’s about a group of grim reapers who must remove souls from bodies before accidental deaths occur – so that the victims will feel no pain as they die – then they must lead the soul into the unknown “beyond”). I really appreciated the tenderness and seriousness all of the reapers had as they approached their jobs. Though dead themselves, they never seemed completely desensitized to death. They considered each death with an understanding that this is not how things are supposed to be.
“Glee” – I watched the pilot episode last spring, and then I saw the second episode earlier this week. I kind of feel like I’m the only person in the world who DOES NOT LIKE this show. I can imagine the brainstorming scene now, as a Fox executive says at his big important meeting, “Hey, gang! Let’s put together a show about a group of larger than life stereotypical misfits who must overcome the overwhelming odds against them!” I am exhausted by this show. I can’t figure out who the network folks think will watch this. The demographic who will watch a show about a high school glee club has to be pretty limited. The singing and dancing is SO INCREDIBLY UNBELIEVABLE (as in – it’s too good for high schoolers to be producing this level of talent, especially in the limited prep time the plot gives them to do it). Also, a huge percentage of this show’s time is wasted on musical numbers. (And I’m saying that as a person who loves musicals!) I found myself in both episodes just wishing the singing and dancing would end. There’s too much sexual humor, and so much of the whole experience feels like it’s been recycled from every other show you’ve ever seen. There’s nothing new here. Not funny, not fresh. Yuck. I just don’t understand why so many friends (on Facebook, anyway) are so excited about Glee. It’s not very good, despite the money Fox has spent, hyping the heck out of it. (Phew, end of rant. Sorry, everyone.) I will give Glee props for its use of the Swingle Singers in their soundtrack, that’s a nice touch.
“My So-Called Life” – I made it through about two and half episodes before I gave up. So much angst, so much ’90s. I hate watching bad parenting, unreasonable characters (and please don’t say, “They’re teenagers! They’re supposed to be unreasonable!”), and so much plot written to fit the preachy agenda of the show’s makers. I’ll pass.
“Spaced” – Love it. A quirky British comedy about a young man and a young woman who, both having been recently broken up with, pretend to be a couple so they can get a nicer apartment. The writing is snappy (but already, in a few places, feels slightly dated – they make a lot of pop culture references that will soon be lost to viewers), and the characters and plots are more creative than your typical 30-minute sitcom.
And there you have it, folks. Proof that I watch way too much TV.