It’s been a busy Fall, and I’ve all but stopped doing weekly episodic reviews for reasons laid out here. But with a lot of shows starting to wrap up their Fall runs, I thought I’d offer up some short takes on the shows I watch on a weekly basis. I almost thought about breaking down the shows I’m occasionally watching or have long given up on, but let’s just say this has been an overall unimpressive lineup in late 2013. That approach saves you time and saves me from having to ice my fingers any more than I’ll already need to do after typing all this out.
I’ll go night-by-night, which is as good an approach as any for something as wide-ranging as this. I’ll cover Sunday-Tuesday now, and Wednesday-Saturday tomorrow.
Notable Shows Not On This List Yet Still Require Mentioning
My favorite show to watch right now is actually “The Good Wife,” but I’m still in catch-up mode here. I had not watched an episode of the show until two months ago, and am just about to complete season three. Everything I’ve read about the show this season indicates it’s actually better than ever, which is highly encouraging. I hope to watch each Sunday after the winter hiatus. Until a month ago, I watched every episode of “Sons Of Anarchy,” but finally left after the show’s handling of the controversial shooting in its first episode this year. Throw in the fact that nearly episode lasts ninety minutes (including commercials), and you have an overbloated mess that finally collapsed under its own weight. That show still boasts one of the best ensembles on TV, which is why I stuck with it for so long. But the machinations and masochism of that show finally broke me. It happens.
One of the funniest comedies, animated or otherwise, on television. Every thing Gene says sends me into nearly convulsive bouts of laughter. On top of that, it’s actually a very warm, loving show. To be weird AND welcoming is a trick most shows can’t pull off, but this one does it on a consistent basis.
Eventually I’ll be able to look away. And as I write this, I haven’t even seen this week’s episode. But I will, and will continue to do so through the end of the season unless Dana Brody turns into Dark Phoeniz and lays waste to the White House. Which is possible at this point.
Masters Of Sex
A few days ago, I tweeted that I felt like this show has been on for four months already. It sounded like a slam, but I didn’t mean it as such. The show’s pace approximates continental drift at times, but the last three episodes have all been uniformly good, if not “OH MY GOD” great. But I feel more confident the show can continue towards that rarified air now more than a month ago. But I can’t help but wonder: Are period pieces always doomed to suffocate its characters that don’t live with our current morals and scientific understanding? The drama of this and “Mad Men” stem from societal disconnect between then and now coupled with recognizable human wants and desires that persist to this day. But can a drama set in the past ever let its characters be happy as a default state? Or do we just assume that now is simply better by default, even with its admitted shortcomings?
God fucking help me. No seriously, help me. Partially, I’m watching from a scientific perspective: How can a show squander so much good will, inventive storytelling, and romantic underpinnings over the course of its run? But mostly, I’m watching because I fit it in when I can, and unlike “Sons of Anarchy,” it only takes up 20 minutes of my time a week. Also, all those “the mother has been dead throughout the telling of this tale” theories are both wildly incorrect yet sustain me like human flesh after a plane crash in the Andes.
The best surprise of the Fall, and the most fun I’ve had with a new show in quite some time. I’ve written a lot about this before, and almost all of it holds true. This run of good fortune probably isn’t sustainable, but as long as it keeps highlighting the chemistry of its leads, it will stay watchable for some time to come.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If ever a show just simply existed, this is the one. Yup. It’s a show. It airs on TV. It has characters and sets and cameras to capture them. Yup. It inspires absolutely nothing in me at this point, having hollowed out any expectations, scooped them onto a corporate memo, and then filed away my expectation-laden memo in a locked drawer. I want this to still get better. It won’t. I’ll still keep watching. Until I don’t. But nothing about this matters. Nothing about it is vital. Maybe it’s better than the schlock that’s “The Blacklist” or “Hostages”. But so are the placesettings I got from Target. And you don’t see me reviewing those.
If this show fixes its Andy Samberg problem, it will vault into a top tier of TV comedies. It already has some excellent stuff elsewhere in the show, but has a massive miscalculation at the center of the proceedings. Can Samberg play a more adult version of his cop? Sure. Will either he or the show go that route? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, I’ll watch for Andre Braugher, Terry Crewes, and the rest of the ensemble and simply mute anytime Jake Peralta is speaking.
When it’s good, it’s GOOD. When it’s bad, it’s nigh unwatchable. This show has had consistent tone problems throughout its third season, especially in terms of handling Schmidt’s romantic problems and Winston’s descent into apparent insanity. But the core romantic stuff is so good, that it’s easy to throw away all the bad stuff and focus on moments in which Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel interact with one another. The last few weeks have been a step up, so hopefully this ship has been righted for the time being.
Along with “Sleepy Hollow,” this has turned into a nice little surprise. Nothing about this show reinvents the wheel in any way. In fact, it takes that wheel, adorns it in 80’s paraphernalia, and proudly displays the results as if the nerdy kid at a science fair. But while the show almost always borders on being “corny,” it’s refreshing to see a show so firmly earnest without sacrificing big laughs. The key? Having a family that often comes into conflict with one another, but never having that conflict be the default status. I’ll have a lot more to say about this show in an upcoming article, so I’ll save more words for later. For now? Check out “The Ring,” an episode that nicely encapsulates the show’s tone, tenor, and warmth.
After watching the pilot, I dubbed this show my favorite new Fall comedy. And while I think that still holds true, this was also a year in which “We Are Men” and “Super Fun Night” assaulted our eyeballs. “Trophy Wife” has been consistently good, and often laugh-out-loud funny (mostly Bert-centric stuff), but is almost a victim of its out-of-the-box success. These characters were so well-drawn in the pilot that we haven’t needed many episodes to learn who they are. As such, these installments have been confirmations of traits we already understood, with progress made in bit-sized chunks. It’s not really a criticism, per se, but does mean that there has been little in the way of comedic surprise up until this point, and mostly comic confirmation. Still, this show is in solid hands, and its extremely early in the show’s run. I always enjoy watching this show. It’s just not quite the Must See show I anticipated when it premiered. Hardly a sin.
Coming tomorrow: the rest of what I’ve been watching this Fall.