Saturday, January 20, 2007


At the beginning of the fall TV season, I wrote a post about all of the shows I was thinking about watching, and why. Well, TV has been on winter hiatus for a while now, but this week is spring, so to speak: a few NBC shows have been there to fill the void, but come Monday, my schedule will be back in full swing. The truth is, this is a glorious time to be a TV fan--there will always be bad TV out there, but there is an abundance of interesting, complex, likeable material to be had these days. Here's what I'm watching:

Monday, 10:00 p.m., NBC
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Aaron Sorkin's first post-West Wing outing is like a person: flawed, but lovable. It can be a little preachy, it cares way more about TV than the average American ever will, and the sketch-comedy portions are hit-or-miss; these are bumps that are still being worked out. But these are Sorkin's flaws, and he brings with him such wonderful characterization and dialogue that it's hard to care in the long run. Halfway through the first (and only?) season, the relationships he's so carefully set up are captivating, particularly between the two male leads, Matt and Danny--writing male friendship is Sorkin's passion and his gift--and between Matt and his lady love, Harriet Hayes. Regarding Danny and Jordan: I don't much care about them in theory, but I'm very much looking forward to Sorkin and Bradley Whitford rocking our socks off, so I'm in favor. In other words, Studio 60 isn't perfect, but it's funny and sweet. You'll want to hang out with these people. The good stuff's just ramping up anyway.

Tuesday, 8:00, CW
Gilmore Girls
I've been watching the Girls for a long time now; I've seen the ups and downs, and I've been around long enough to see the cycles and patterns in the writing. I don't think I could stop watching, even if I wanted to. Things are different this season; creator and evil genius Amy Sherman-Palladino called it quits last May and left her baby's final season to a new guy, dropping the dreaded Chris-Bomb on her way out. On one hand, I give David S. Rosenthal props for being willing to explore a self-evident Gilmorian truth in depth: Lorelai and Christopher Are Not Meant to Be. It's been a little onerous to watch (Come on, dude, you can't just buy your way out of a knit-a-thon. Jeez!), but I don't mind the detour, in theory. I trust that Luke and Lorelai Are Mean to Be; I can wait this out. I'm also pleased with what he's done with Rory, Luke/April, and all of the minor characters--he's redeemed the townies in my eyes, which is a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, I think Rosenthal's weakness is a particularly bad one: he doesn't have Lorelai. He doesn't have her mind and he doesn't have her voice, and more than anybody, Lorelai makes the Gilmores what they are. It's an issue. But in general, this season is watchable, and I sense good things coming our way.

Tuesday, 9:00, CW
Veronica Mars
Longtime fans of Veronica's seem to be having problems with this season, but I'm having a great time with it--if nothing else, I'd be suspicious if a third murder happened in Neptune around September, only to be solved in May. The first "act" of the season (out of three, I'm told) ended with the solving of one major crime--terrifyingly, by the way--and the start of a new mystery. My general rule for Veronica is not to try to figure the story out ahead of time; the plot is always so convoluted that I'd rather just sit back and let the writers break my brain. It's worked well so far, and I expect not to be disappointed. Also: Logan!Angst and plenty of good stuff with Keith, my current favorite TV daddy (who contends only with Jack Bristow, but who wants to contend with Jack?). That's what it is.

Thursday, 8:00 NBC
The Office
Every week, I think to myself that The Office can't possibly get any better, that it's at the top of its craft, and every week it knocks my socks off in a whole new way. This show is like watching a three-ring circus with Shakespeare going on in the background: it's in your face, it can be relentless, but the beauty is in the small human dramas going on behind the main stage; you just have to pay enough attention to see what's happening. Everybody interacts with everybody else; everybody's a little bit awful, but a little bit redeemable; there are weird connections and happy little moments sprinkled around, and it's just brilliant. Also, I never thought I'd say this, but I've gotten rather attached to Karen. She's no Pam Beesly, but she didn't know what she was walking into, poor girl. Also: Ed Helms? You're hilarious, and I'm so surprised by that. Heh. For those who don't want to pick things up cold, I'm told that NBC is re-running three episodes this Thursday, January 25. Tune in. It's worth it.

Thursday, 9:30, NBC
30 Rock
I'm brand-new to this show, but I have nothing but affection and respect for Tina Fey, and also, watching her as Liz Lemon is uncannily like watching myself on TV. I was not the first to notice this. The show is funny; Alec Baldwin is funny; Tina Fey is funny. Win.

And just in case there's not enough on the airwaves to keep me entertained (to be fair, we've been on hiatus, remember?), I've been cruising through a couple of shows on Netflix, which also deserve honorable mentions.

Sports Night
If Studio 60 is Aaron Sorkin post-West Wing, Sports Night is the other side of that coin: his show before he hit it big, a sitcom about a sports show. I am smitten with this show. I have a crush on a TV show. As I round the corner into Disc Three, I'm carried away by how attached I am to the main characters--who do I love more? Casey McCall? Dan Rydell? It's just lovely. Also, Filliam H. Muffman and Robert Guillaume. 'Nuff said.

This one's a little different--Mary Louise Parker (who is awesome just by showing up; she's that good, all the time) plays a suburban mother of two boys who's recently widowed and starts dealing marijuana to maintain her lifestyle. It's cynical--frequent potshots at suburban hypocrisy--but also takes an emotionally honest look at grief, parenting, wealth, race, etc. It's engaging and clever and very, very funny; it's also from Showtime, so consider yourself warned.

Oh, TV. There's so much excellence right now, I can hardly stand it.


Sarita said...

Every week, I think to myself that The Office can't possibly get any better, that it's at the top of its craft, and every week it knocks my socks off in a whole new way.

YES!! Did we have this discussion, or was I talking to someone else? All I know is I've said these exact words on many occasions. Because it's so true. Man, it's a great show.

I love that you call Felicity Filliam H. Muffman. Hee. And that you have a crush on the show. It's very crushable. And just think, a few weeks ago, you were telling me its flaws. I told you it was wonderful. (But have you soured on Jeremy? I see he was not in the equation. I heart Jeremy.)

Liz said...

We may have had this discussion, yes. That show gives me self-confidence issues about my writing, it's so good.

And...yes. I was telling you about SN's flaws, but in large part, they've passed. Sorkin has 95% stopped repeating himself, and it's become so much more character-based and so much less sitcommy that I can now focus on being enamored.

And it's not that I've soured on Jeremy, exactly, but is it me, or is he less fun than he used to be? I miss his geekitude and I miss him admiring Natalie from afar. He's too....normal now, I think. What happened to the Jeremy of "I told many, many people"? It's also that my love for Casey and Dan has blossomed. Do you know what I love the very most about Casey? I love what Peter Krause does with his face. There's this look he gets sometimes when he realizes the seriousness of a situation, or when he's going to try to do something nice for Dana...I can't explain it, but it kills me. (If you need a visual, watch the episode where Dana thinks Gordon's going to break up with her, and Casey's going to go into the conference room to comfort her, and Dan(?) tells him something about how it's time to Be A Man. Right there, he makes the face.)

Anyway. You were right. Smitten, I tell you.

TiaMija said...

Hey Liz!
It's :D's sister in VA. I also just LOVE Studio 60! Keep spreading the word-more people need to discover just how wonderful it is!
Do you ever listen to podcasts? And, more specifically, to podcast novels?

Liz said...

Tiamija! Hi! I hope everything's going swimmingly in your neck of the woods (also, say hi to C for me).

I haven't really gotten into podcasts, but I suspect it's because I don't really get them. I mean, I know they're easy, but I haven't actually tried to download one yet. I suspect I'd like them, though; I do like commentary on DVDs, and I figure they're not so different. And what are these podcast novels of which you speak?

Also, D tells me you're picking up The Office. Congratulations! You're gonna love it. I recommend that you skip the first season (only six episodes anyway), as Season 2 is where the writers really took things in their own direction and made something great. Just my $.02.