2011-06-01 : TV Roundup

There's nothing super good to watch just now, is there? Are we all just kicking around, waiting for Spartacus to come back on?

The Chicago Code was okay. It was never great, but at least it ended solidly. It was no Terriers.

I'm watching Game of Thrones and Camelot, even though they're both, y'know, dumb. They're so very full of manufactured emotion and once-removed cliché. They're better than Sons of Anarchy, at least.

Oh, there's Archer! That's a fun show. I keep thinking about trying to get Meg to watch it with me, but then I remember what Meg is like and what Archer is like and think better of it.

Meg and I are watching the US Life on Mars. It's pretty good. Meg was a giant Quantum Leap fan and I think she's getting some of the same fun out of it. I don't think it's quite building toward its payoff the way I'd prefer, but it's pretty good anyway.

We're also still watching Glee, saints preserve me. "Is this the episode where you finally quit watching this show with me?" Meg always says. So far, no, but we'll see.

I'm watching Firefly with Sebastian and Elliot! That's good fun. It does remind me just how glad I am that they canceled that show. I'm pretty sure that in season 2 it was going to suddenly but inevitably betray me.

Justified and Community just ended their seasons. I'll be happy when they're back. Does anybody know when Boardwalk Empire is supposed to be back? I'm looking forward to that too.

Anything good I'm missing?

1. On 2011-06-01, Neon Fox said:

So...I like Castle, though it's extremely silly in spots.  It has the benefit of Nathan Fillion in the title role.

Fringe is fun, though I imagine if you were going to watch it you would have been already.  I'm into it mostly for the relationship between the two leads; the science is silly to the point of not even being internally consistent sometimes, because that's how they do that kind of thing on TV.


2. On 2011-06-01, Vincent said:

I have the first episode of Castle from iTunes sitting on my hard drive, waiting for its opportunity. It's the kind of show that Meg and I will watch together, so it has to wait until we have the time.

In my head I can't remember which is Fringe and which is Psych. I've seen episodes of both but they didn't hook me.


3. On 2011-06-01, Neon Fox said:

Fringe is the one with a female, blond FBI agent who recruits a guy to get his father, who's spent ~15 years in an asylum, to help on a case that relates to the father's old scientific work.


4. On 2011-06-01, jessecoombs said:

I think Breaking Bad is fantastic. But you have to remember you're watching the story of a bad person. It's like a Coen Bros. movie stretched out to seasons.

My girlfriend and I are going through Roseanne on Netflix. It's still strong, and it's neat to see where Joss Whedon cut his teeth.

Parks and Recreation is very funny, and even more important, the characters have heart and care about each other. The first 6 episodes aren't the greatest, but it gets phenomenal after that.

And, it's hard to find (I usually just stream it from youtube), but the British version of Kitchen Nightmares is quite good. The American one is rubbish.

You're already watching everything else.


5. On 2011-06-01, Brand Robins said:

I. Other Shows
Borigas is profoundly, deeply, okay. It's a typical Showtime Blood and Tits show but it is so very pretty! Plus its the first time I've ever seen a Cesare that I can halfway respect as anything like an historical personage, and their Lucrezia ends the season as the princess that all historical shows try to have their princess be and then fail.

Have you seen Tudors? Its also trashy historical romance, but it manages to take an interesting look at the role of the patriarchy both in building modern society and in destroying the lives of persons as it does so.

The anime Mushi-Shi is quite fun. Its not demanding most of the time, nor is it surprising or profound, but it tells a good contained story of human characters making human decisions in a magical world in every single episode.

Mo loved Chase, a show about a US Marshal tracking down fugitives. It was a very action adventure type of show and in the first six episodes or so you could totally see where they took a movie, filed the serial numbers off, and then inserted their own characters. But for all that it was a show with a female lead who acted, for most of the series, exactly like a male lead of such a show would act. She was the reckless violent hothead of the group, and the guys had to surround her as support staff who existed to support her power plays. Its funny how rare it is to actually see that.

Oh, its also been canceled. There won't be a second season.

II. Shows you talked about
I cannot understand the words you speak about Spartacus being better than Chicago Code. You are broken as a human being.

On A Game of Thrones, I agree with what you say. However, what's interesting to me is how the TV show is less canned in its emotion than the books were. When you read the books all you really get to see is honorable good Ed Stark who is honorable and good and stupid evil bitch Cerci Lannister who is evil and stupid and a bitch who is evil and stupid. In the TV show, however, there is more complexity to the interactions. (Not a huge amount, but hell...) Watching the show you actually get to see Ed's bumbling ineptitude and Cerci's iron willed strength.

Now if they wouldn't make every single sexual relationship deeply creepy and unsexy they'd totally be better than the books.


6. On 2011-06-01, Ross Cowman said:

Avatar: The Last Airbender is A-mazing, if you haven't already


7. On 2011-06-01, Allen said:

The US Life on Mars disappointed me deeply. Esp the ending. The British one if you can find it is nothing short of brilliant. One of the best shows I have ever seen IMO.

I second the Parks and Rec recommendation. Surprisingly good show that I thought was going to be a flop (I almost stopped watching during the first couple of eps.)


8. On 2011-06-01, Per said:

Treme 2nd season kicks so much ass I'm beginning to think it's on par with The Wire. It's by far the best thing right now, while we are waiting for the next Breaking Bad.

Game of Thrones has me hugely disappointed as well. I really can't believe how bad and artificial it is, it nearly put me off reading the two and a half books in the series I still haven't read. So much effort (and money) and such a hollow result. Bah. Every scene (I mean: every) has me shouting "CUT!" because they keep going and going and going.


9. On 2011-06-01, Lula said:

It's a good time to catch up on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. First season just ended.


10. On 2011-06-01, Ben Lehman said:

Parks and Rec is great starting with Season 2. Just, seriously, start with season 2. You won't be missing anything.

Castle is good. Watch it with Meg.

I like White Collar a lot. It's like Burn Notice methadone.



11. On 2011-06-01, Alex F said:

I've just started watching The Shadow Line on BBC iPlayer. It's very good, slowly unwinding cops and gangsters procedural/mystery type thing. The episodes are up for another three weeks (4 episodes in, think only about 6 total).

On the documentary front, you could do far worse than check out
even if you disagree with the thrust of it, the footage that Curtis has uncovered is just remarkable.


12. On 2011-06-01, John Harper said:

I miss Terriers SO MUCH.

Castle is like a group of friends that say "Let's put on a show!" every week. That is, it's fun, and they're your friends and you love them, but whether it's actually good or not is really beside the point. I can't watch it without a huge grin the whole time.

(Same goes for Psych)

Season one of Treme was so awful I swore off the show. Season 2 is looking good? Hrmf. I'm not so sure.

True Blood, the trashiest trash that ever trashed, starts up again this month. I can't wait! Daddy needs to watch his stories.


13. On 2011-06-01, John Harper said:

Oh! Also, The Killing. Blarg.

It started out with so much promise and style and great performances. Then it turned terminally stupid. So sad. Not recommended.

I may have to track down the original (Danish?) series.


14. On 2011-06-01, Alex F said:

Many, many, people have raved about the (Danish) The Killing! Definitely looks worth pursuing, John.


15. On 2011-06-01, Simon C said:

Game of Thrones: I'm remembering why I hated the books. Great characters, who never, ever, get to do anything interesting.

Chicago Code: I like this much, much more than I expected to. It's like The Shield lite. Fun characters, a worthwhile villain, drama without too much melodrama.

We (my partner and I) will watch anything that has cops catching bad guys, it seems, but this is probably my favourite of the procedurals. Castle, Mentalist, CSI and the like are just something for my eyes to look at while my brain does other things.

The Killing: It's a bit gruelling, and not always believable, which is bad for a show that's supposed to be gritty and believable. Engaging enough though. We tried watching the Danish version, but the first episode is shot-for-shot the same as the American one. It looked good, but it was too much like re-watching the same show.

Misfits: It's not bad! I LOVED the first few episodes, which were kind of like Ken Loach does X-Men. It got a bit Dr. Who for me towards the end though. Nathan's potty-mouth kept me hanging in there though.


16. On 2011-06-01, Simon C said:

Also: Spartacus was the biggest waste of time.

Seriously. It was like watching an hour of video game cut scenes.

We watched like, the first four or five episodes, and it was THE SAME PLOT EACH TIME. Spartacus tries to prove that he's a bad ass that doesn't need to play by the rules, and then he gets smacked down. I get that they're trying to establish him as a hard-ass, but they're just showing that he's an idiot. None of the characters are remotely likeable, and the only interesting ones get the least screen-time.


17. On 2011-06-01, Meguey said:

I tried to watch Parks and Rec, but every time I saw the leading woman I wanted to punch her or leave the room. Nope. Trying waaaaay too hard to be funny, while being a horrid example of a human being.

Game of Thrones looked like it could have potential, or at least great costumes, but the last scene of the first episode hit my only big "Ok, that's enough of that" button; in a castle full of people who could have caught the illicit lovers, you had to make it the little kid, and then have him killed? Child in danger as a pointless emotional hook = not on my time, thanks. I know lots of stuff like that did happen historically, but if it's not an historical story, and there's no reason it has to be a child, it's just emotional manipulation.

Treme looked potentially cool - I'm not sure why we're not watching it.

I loved the first two seasons of True Blood, but the scene where Tara brains a dude was overly graphic for me. Haven't picked it back up.

I suspect they tanked House with the end of last season, where they suggest that they are resolving the will they/won't they of the primary couple. I'd still watch it for the procedurals, predictable as they might be.

Anyone know when the new British Sherlock returns?

Life on Mars is great fun! I want to watch Castle!.

And if anyone knows how I can regularly and legally watch BBC4's Time Team, I will make you a lovely cozy thing in gratitude.


18. On 2011-06-02, Brand Robins said:

Simon C,

The last episode of Misfits, with the placenta, made me laugh so hard I almost tripled myself.

Oh, and I watch Castle. Its dumb. Like, deeply dumb. You have to forget everything established in the early scenes for the later scenes to make any sense at all. And yet its also fun, like really fun. Probably because it knows it is dumb, it plays with its dumb, it revels in its dumb and makes the dumb a feature of the show.

I guess it goes to show how you can be successful by really loving what it is you do well. Even if what you do well is dumb.


19. On 2011-06-02, Simon C said:

Oh god. The placenta. I almost died.

Treme is great. You kind of have to adjust your expectations to meet it. You will get long takes of musicians doing their thing. You will get meandering storylines without a clear direction. But you'll also get the same sense of place and local culture that made The Wire great.

Sherlock is kind of cool. The second episode was incredibly bad, but it picks up again.

Parks and Rec. seemed like it was trying way too hard to be The Office, which in turn seemed like it was trying way to hard to be the original The Office, which was really only good for like, a few episodes until you realised that it was just the same joke every time. I can't think of any good comedies right now. Even Community isn't dealing out the goods the way it did in the first season. Big Bang Theory was literally unwatchable. My eyes refused to look at it. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia was about awful people shouting at each other for dumb reasons, which I guess is cool if you like that.


20. On 2011-06-02, Simon C said:

Oh! and Brand,

We watch NCIS. It makes Castle look like Shakespeare. Castle is lots of fun.


21. On 2011-06-02, Marco said:

It's been said—but I'll repeat it: Life on Mars is going to betray you. And, you know, time-travel to the 70's with some reality-mind-fuck thrown in is like my sweet spot. It would've had to have been as bad as Cool World looked good to disappoint me.

It managed 'better' than that.

So I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news ... but brace yerself.

I like Justified a lot. I have to say I like Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy too so, hmm. If you have Netflix and have not seen Rome: get that.



22. On 2011-06-02, Gregor said:

Hey, Meg, I'm not going to defend the show overall but re:GoT...a) the kid does NOT die b) it had to be the kid because they're doing it in an abandoned part of the castle precisely so no one could catch them and the kid who climbs all over the place does...maybe that's contrived, I dunno. Anyway, the firs episode was weak, two and three were just ok, four was terrible because it was really just !EXPOSITION HERE!, five, six and seven have gotten considerably better, the show is catching its stride.

True Blood starting up, yep. Bored to Death should be back sometime this year, too, I like that. Curb your Enthusiasm, maybe. If you like Archer, Vincent, how about Venture Bros? It should have a special soon and a new season, too, I think.

Stuff on air...not much, hm, I'm watching Doctor Who because I'm hopeless. That show could do anything to me and I'd still love it. Some weeks I want to punch the screen but I always come back next week and it's epic.


23. On 2011-06-02, Thor said:

I am caught up in The Killing,it is erratic and the story lines are not evenly good,but the killer isn't apparent and the family of the dead girl (Michelle Forbes especially) are wonderful.

I have enjoyed Treme completely.


24. On 2011-06-02, Nathan H. said:

I don't think it's being shown right now, but Venture Bros is one really smart cartoon, or so I tell myself, while watching it in my underoos.


25. On 2011-06-03, Nathan H. said:

I just remembered, I was gonna recommend I Like Killing Flies to you.  It's a film not an television show.  Check it out.


26. On 2011-06-03, John Mc said:

I'm a huge fan of The Song of Ice and Fire books, so my opinion of the show, and my taste in general, may be in question.  However, I agree with Gregor, but don't recommend the show to Meg.

Explanation: The bad thing had to happen to a kid because the kids are the protagonists of the story.  In the first book, more than 50% is from the perspective of characters under 16.  Bad things happen to people in this story, and many of the main characters are children, so bad things happen to children too.  Furthermore [SPOILER] that kid's story is one of coming to grips with being crippled, which I think is a perfectly legit subject to pursue. [/SPOILER]

If that crosses a line for you, that's totally reasonable.  I told my mom not to watch it because she feels the same way.  I don't think it's a condemnation of the show; it's just not for everyone.


27. On 2011-06-03, David Berg said:

I find My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to be a balm to the soul if taken in small doses.  This Onion AV Club review sums it up perfectly. Note: I do not have kids.

What's currently cracking me up: Comedy Central's showing reruns of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is basically Seinfeld with sociopaths.

Since I burned out on the Adult Swim staples, I'm always looking for more funny stuff!


28. On 2011-06-03, Meguey said:

John Mc: Thanks for the spoiler. I think if I'd seen more of a hint that the story is really about the kids and how they deal with a harsh world full of harsh things, I'd have been more inclined to give it a chance. As it was, I mostly saw lots of adults behaving harshly, one 10 year-old boy, and maybe he had a sister? Something about a teenage sister? Or a little sister who wanted to fight? Fully overshadowed by adults behaving harshly.

David: Have you checked out old episodes of Laugh-In? Crazy funny. I never watched it as a kid, and the bits we've seen make me want to watch more.


29. On 2011-06-03, Nathan H. said:

Oh, Childrens Hospital is pretty funny.
Let me see if I can find an address.


30. On 2011-06-04, John Mc said:

Thanks Meg, that's actually a good criticism of the show.  The adults do overshadow the children quite a bit.  Anyways, I'm glad to be of assistance.

As far as other shows go, I'm enjoying True Blood.  Not a great show, but I enjoy it.  Just started Season 3, we'll see how that goes.  :)


31. On 2011-06-04, Julia said:

We have this fancy schmancy new 42" screen "smart tv" and all we ever do is watch Netflix. Bea and I watch Oprah and Cool tv (music videos) together, but we're entertaining each other more than anything. So I offer this caveat in my recommendations. I'm not trying to be pretentious or anything. I don't get into tv shows very often. I like True Blood and Spartacus for the wrong reasons (handsome Swedish actors, and bad ass black people). I look forward to the Walking Dead because I'm bored with vampires. I like the simple, graphic novel/comic book approach to story telling in these aforementioned shows, because I have a hard time just watching tv (like reading or writing—I get that from my mom!)

That said, while I am not a fan of anime,  I actually sat and watched and re-watched the whole Mushi-shi series without a book in my lap, and loved it. I'd watch it again, too.

Other than that, I love PBS' Independent Lens, Frontline, and American Experience. They aren't glitzy or media-buzzy, but the story telling is solid, and there's something new and interesting every episode. That's all I got.

Mr. E liked the Tudors.


32. On 2011-06-04, David Berg said:

Thanks, Meg, I'll look up Laugh-In.  Is it live on some channel, or are you getting it thru Netflix/Internet?

I'm actually into another comedy classic right now! Whose Line is it Anyway?  (All improv, for those who don't know.)  The songs are hit-and-miss, but most of the scenes are at least pretty good, and there's usually at least one moment of absolute brilliance per episode.


33. On 2011-06-07, stefoid said:

I think I watch TV for different reasons than most of you.  It tends to turn my brain OFF so I can actually get some sleep.

Theres a lot of fantasy stuff on at the moment that Im enjoying, most of the above..

But is there any decent space stuff out there (somewhere)?  Seriously, since the end of the 2nd season of BSG, there is no space stuff that isnt awful.


34. On 2011-06-09, Leftahead said:

Vincent, this thread reminds me how depressed I get every time I sit down and turn the TiVo on.

"Crap, is The Daily Show really the only thing I watch any more?"

This past year or so has been so lackluster that it's got me and Shannon talking about maybe, possibly, not bothering with paying for the TV part of cable after we move. I can't believe I'm saying that.

Am I the only one that's really in love with 'Adventure Time'?

Ans as far as I know, there is no space opera worth watching on right now, anywhere.


35. On 2011-06-14, Daniel Klein said:

I must plug The Mentalist. Elevator pitch: TV "psychic" calls out serial killer on his show. Serial killer murders psychic's family to teach him a lesson in humility. Psychic joins the police as a consultant on a mission for vengeance.

It's often very procedural, very case-of-the-week plus character-development-bit-of-the-week, but it has a few points that make me recommend it unconditionally:

* Simon Baker is an amazing lead and fills the character like I believe no one else could. Patrick Jane is one of the most fascinating, consistent, complex characters I've ever seen on TV.
* It gets religion right. Most of the cops on the show have some level of religiosity to them (from the very overt, Jesus-will-save-you-ness of Grace to the very subdued catholicism of Lisbon which only shows itself in life and death situations). The hero is an atheist, and in any other show on the planet he would be a Hollywood Atheist: WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME! MY FAMILY WAS KILLED, THERE IS NO GOD! Patrick Jane is a rational, reasonable Atheist who calmly points out that atheism is the more reasonable, plausible approach and who separates what he wished were true from what is more likely to be true.
* When it decides to be smart, it is oh so very very smart. The whole "main character is so smart others think he's psychic" bit could have been played as a gimmick in any other show or been simply implausible. Here, though, he always shows his work and makes his wild leaps of logic seem perfectly obvious in hindsight. More Sherlock than Sherlock, really. And the show plays oh so very fair. I've often paused before a reveal, reviewing what we've seen and learned so far and have been able, after some thinking, to arrive at the correct conclusion. That balance of "the audience can figure it out too, if they want" and "not too obvious" is SO hard to get right, and yet they do it episode after episode.
* Holy fuck, some of the endings of the most recent episodes! Here I ramble on about and spoil 3x18, one of the most amazing episodes recently. The third season has come to a close, and I cannot say word one about the season final without spoiling a more than magical moment of TV.

In short, watch The Mentalist. It has its weaker moments (especially when too much time is spent with the cops), but it reaches moments of narrative sublimity like few other shows.


36. On 2011-06-14, Simon C said:


Interesting points about the Mentalist. I tend to dismiss it as a dumb procedural, but you're right, it's a dumb procedural done very well. And yes, I've been surprised by how for they've been able to go with their premise. I thought for sure they weren't going to follow through on the premise, and then they did.

Good characters too. Every time Cho has someone in interrogation my partner and I laugh and laugh.


37. On 2011-06-14, Daniel Klein said:

Yeah, it does get a little dumb procedural at times, especially when they give too much screen time to Van Pelt or Rigsby. Lisbon and Cho are both amazing characters in their own ways, and the episode where Cho was stuck with the kid was an amazing showcase of very subtle and grudging character development. You knew where he had to get (identifying with the kid, helping him out), but you had no idea how cold, closed-up Cho could get there from where he was without breaking character, and then somehow, slowly, subtly, they made it happen.

He even smiled.

But yes, I respect them most for how consequent they are. Uhm. I guess we venture into spoiler land here. Please do not read this if you haven't seen all of season 3 of The Mentalist.

(I will italicize the spoilers for easy skippability)

From the get-go, Jane has been adamant about one thing: if he ever got the chance, he would kill Red John in cold blood. This is an extremely tough thing to do for a network show: have a lead character who says he will kill in cold blood. Lisbon has always said she wouldn't let it come to that, and I accepted that that was how the show would treat it: dangle opportunities before Patrick's face but never let him do the deed.

And then: strawberries and cream. Holy fuck. I must have rewatched that climax a dozen times, just to let the brilliance of the acting sink in. And all the while the show is being smart, the way it usually is at a crime scene. RJ is placed prominently in the foreground of shots early on. He has red reading glasses on. When Jane gets up, he puts both hands into his vest pockets. RJ's gun is visible in shot, barely, a few times before. And when RJ seems to have triumphed ("you can't just walk away!") we remember what Patrick said before that scene: "he will think he is one step ahead of me." Now while Patrick couldn't have planned the O'Laughlin thing—the rope really just occurred to him at the mall (and how brilliant! Even I thought, when we panned over the would-be assassins tools, "hand-cuffs *and* a rope? That's a little redundant. Whatever."), but immediately he understood what was going on and played the victim perfectly, holding the gun in his pocket all the while.

I read an interview where Simon Baker explained that in the original draft, he shot Red John in the back as he walked away. Simon himself must have pointed out that that's not very Patrick Jane, that Jane would want to WATCH Red John die, and Bruno Heller loved the idea Baker brought to the table, which is how the scene was shot in the end. I have massive respect for a show runner who can say "yep, my actor gets this role, he's got a point, let's do it this way" and at the same time for an actor who obviously LIVES the character so well that he can make a brilliant suggestion like that.

Anyway, TL;DR: I wavered, once or twice, was about to stop watching the show when it got too dull—the episode with Rigsby's father? Oh dear god, make it stop. But then it strings together SUCH a brilliant end to the season and does what it did in the last episode and I just feel like my investment of time in this show has paid off.

End rant! Sorry.


38. On 2011-06-15, Simon C said:

Oh! We're watching the 2007 (or so) remake of "Survivors", the British post-apocalyptic drama. So far it is not bad. The jury is still out.


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