Monday, April 6, 2009

Damn you, quality television!

Perhaps I'm just forgetting some TV shows I used to watch way back yonder in the late 1990's and earlier this decade. Or perhaps TV really just sucked enough at that point that I spent all that time reading books, drawing, and writing phenomenal pieces of fiction. That time, as far as I remember, was when a few reality shows started having success so every network seemed to say, "Hey, we don't need to put actual effort into our programming! Let's just create some premise for people to compete for money or love and run with it!"

It seems like the reality shows have died down to some of the early contenders which were the only good ones anyway, namely Survivor and The Amazing Race...neither of which I really watch, but both of which I enjoy on the occasions I catch them. They're also the only ones I can think of that look like they'd be entertaining to be on and worth the potential prize.

Now that I'm employed and independent, my free time might just be compromised in general, and though I've been getting a lot of reading and even historical research done, I'm going to have to try to cut down on the TV I watch. This is thanks to decent shows on the networks that are joined by other ones on cable that I've been introduced to by friends. Some might not survive; some are already well on their way and likely to hang around.

And here's the breakdown, as far as I remember, in lovely alphabetic order:

Adult Swim: A programming block rather than a show, these are generally easier on my time because they tend to be only about 10 minutes long and somewhat precarious as to whether or not they'll survive. Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken have been around and amusing for a long time; a show with tremendous promise, Frisky Dingo, unfortunately wrapped up without resolution after two seasons when the studio that made it closed.

Animation Domination: Another programming block, this one on Sunday, these have been declining a bit (The Simpsons has been around for 20 friggin' years, after all), but are still a nice way to end the weekend.

Breaking Bad: Something I caught up with that's currently in its second season, this show involves a chemistry teacher with terminal cancer cooking crystal meth with a high school dropout as a way of building up a nest egg for his family. Aside from being hilarious and depressing in equal parts, it really shows what Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) can do with a darker role.

Hal snaps

Dexter: A show about a blood pathologist who is also a serial killer who takes out bad guys in his spare time. Would you look at that? A crime show that doesn't come with the CSI or Law and Order stamp pre-approved to go before whatever the actual title of the show is!

: I think Buffy and Firefly were probably stronger than this is right now, but it's a good idea for a show and it seems to be doing fairly well.

Fringe: I'm watching it right now! In another little box to the right. It's no X-Files, but it's got more kick and creativity than the endless cop and doctor shows that are starting to die off and, I'm recalling, were another reason I watched less TV not so long ago.

Lost: This show was originally pitched as focusing on the survivors of a plane crash trying to cut it on a desert island, literally Cast Away: The Series. Someone got the idea that the show would be more interesting if the island wasn't really deserted, if it had polar bears, and a variety of other things that would take up too much space to go over here (go over them here instead). The creators say they have a plan to wrap up all the questions before the show concludes next year, and I trust them, but the seeming blank slate of the whole thing is amazing. How we got from the standard "What are they going to eat?" question to the "What happened to the hydrogen bomb?" question over the course of a few seasons is probably one of the larger leaps a show has ever taken.

My Name Is Earl: Can be somewhat hit-and-miss, but has a lot of good humor (you'd expect that from some Kevin Smith veterans, right?). I also find it amusing how a show with a basic undercurrent of a guy trying to make up all of the bad things he did to people over the years can still be denounced by the Parents Television Council.

Mythbusters: Like any other man on the planet, I wish I could work with these guys.

Rescue Me: Catching up on this show on Hulu after managing to catch the first four episodes and the entire third season. It's having the dangerous effect of making me want to run off and join the FDNY, provided I don't have to constantly get involved in messed up family situations, alcoholism, and fights.

South Park: They're relying on current events more than odd ideas more, but the show can still find ways to approach plots in completely unconventional and hilarious ways.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: It's had a few missteps, but it's got a compelling enough story; a friend of mine complains that it's messed up the continuity presented in the movies, if there was one, but we are talking about time travel here. As an added bonus, you also get Summer Glau kicking ass and looking good doing it.

The Sexy Robotics Institute rejected both my application and my suggestion to get dinner somewhere.

The Colbert Report: Fox News is so vain, they probably think this show is about them. Stephen Colbert's complete cut-up routines and quest for personal glory are probably some of the best things on TV right now. I also want to see him fill in every state in Better Know a District one day.

The Daily Show: It led to the Colbert Report, and it's still one of the better reality checks on the government, cable news, and various other crazies. It's also good to see that they can continue to be funny and thus disprove the theory that only mockery of a Republican President can sustain such a show.

The Office: A nice send-up of working life, but those guys really shouldn't complain...they don't even have to deal with cubicles. I can understand how some people think Steve Carrell's batshit insane regional manager is far more squirm-inducing than anything else, but anyone who can't laugh at an exchange between Dwight and Jim has no soul.

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