Friday, August 29, 2008

What I'm Watching, v. 3.0

The fall TV season is gearing up earlier than I expected, which means it's time for one of my favorite recurring posts: the What I'm Watching fall TV catch-up, wherein I get to yammer about the shows I'll be watching and the shows I might be watching for the coming season (and, in some cases, why you should watch them, too).

This season is reasonably predictable, and far less full than I expected, schedule-wise--it turns out that three of my shows (Lost, Friday Night Lights, and the Joss Whedon's new series Dollhouse) don't start until January. Similarly, the crop of new shows isn't as diffuse or as magnetic as it was last year, so I only have one definite newcomer for the fall. Here goes:


Mad Men

Sunday, 10 p.m., AMC
Premiere: Already running (Season 2)
Premise: A look at the lives of Madison Avenue ad execs in 1960
This show is gorgeous and eminently grown-up--an unsentimental period piece with an ensemble cast of finely molded characters and a truckload of cognitive dissonance. Why does Don Draper commit himself so wholly to a lifestyle with which he's so uncomfortable? Does Peggy want to succeed or be seduced, and does she have to choose? When will Joan's boobs get their own storyline? (Kidding. Joan's boobs are their own storyline.) Some of these characters are a little stand-offish, but every single one of them is complex, interesting, and at least a tiny bit sympathetic. (Even Pete Campbell. I love Pete, insecure, self-important moron that he is.) AMC is running a second-season catch-up marathon this weekend, for anybody who's interested.


(Yep, this is about the level on which Bones functions.)

Wednesday, 8 p.m., FOX
Premiere: September 3 (Season 4)
Premise: A socially awkward forensic anthropologist and her hottie FBI partner solve murders using the victims' skeletons. Grossness, hilarity, and meaningful glances ensue.
This show pulled something of a jerkfaced move at the end of last season, but random rerun encounters over the summer have confirmed that I'm so not over my favorite silly police procedural. Somehow I just can't quit the Jeffersonian gang--not just Booth and Brennan, though I like where the writers have taken them, but everyone, especially when they're all together. (I even like Cam.) (Also, I must reiterate that although I object to the fate of one Zachary Uriah Addy, I am beyond pleased that my favorite ridiculous wunderkind therapist survived the season. I love Sweets.) Count me in for more goofy crime-solving hijinks, and possibly some genuinely strong episodes--they're more than capable when everything's firing on all cylinders.

The Office

(Surprise! The Office is not funny in still pictures. However, my sense of consistency requires me to include one anyway. Enjoy a Dwight acrostic.)

Thursday, 9:00 p.m., NBC
Premiere: September 25 (Season 5)(!)
Premise: An appallingly awkward and occasionally tear-jerking comedy about life at a paper company in Pennsylvania.
I frankly don't remember Season 4 all that well--I'm out of the rhythm of life in Scranton--but The Office rarely fails at being simultaneously hilarious and heartwrenching, and I have complete faith in the writing team behind it. (Oh, yes: Season 4. Jan and Michael broke up; Jan's pregnant; Jim failed to propose; Dwight and Angela: Part Deux. Amy Ryan--"Michael as a girl"--replaces Toby. TOBY!)

Pushing Daisies
Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., ABC
Premiere: October 1 (Season 2)
Premise: Ned the Piemaker brings dead things back to life, with consequences.
This is by far my best-loved new show from last season, and is rapidly becoming an all-time favorite, period. It's like nothing else on TV--honey-sweet, brilliantly colorful, randomly musical, and yet utterly macabre; it's also practically impossible to describe without visual aids. Therefore, this video effectively covers the "rules" of the show as established in the pilot...

...and this one makes me salivate over all that's promised for Season 2, while also showing off the extravagant visuality of Barry Sonnenfeld's direction and art direction:

I can't recommend the weird, wonderful kookiness of this show enough, especially for people who like mysteries, love stories, cute baker guys, nuns, funny dialogue, bees and honey, cool costumes, Alfred Hitchcock, musicals, pretty cinematography, synchronized swimming, personality disorders, fine cheeses, Kristin Chenoweth, and/or pie. has a bunch of episodes online; DVDs come out September 16. Learn it, live it, love it.

30 Rock

(And you wonder why I identify with Liz Lemon.)

Thursday, 9:30 p.m., NBC
Premiere: October 30 (Season 3)
Premise: Tina Fey plays herself, only single. (A behind-the-scenes look at the life of a female head writer on a sketch comedy show.)
Even when it wasn't totally consistent, this show was excellent and featured some pretty awesome performers doing peak-level work, namely Tina Fey as Liz Lemon (representative of an entire subset of the female population, if you were wondering) and Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy. Now that it's all Emmy-winning hot stuff, it's just as crazy and just as good, though in my opinion the stunt casting went a little overboard last season (except Carrie Fisher and Will Arnett, because I can never get enough of Will Arnett). There is practically nothing I don't love about Liz Lemon and her band of merry men (plus Jenna), and I can't wait to see what curveballs they'll throw and what new slang I'll learn. Say it with me now: By the hammer of Thor! (Actually, I am waiting and waiting for the day when I can say, in any context, "Gimme your fingernails!" "NO!" Oh, Kenneth.)



Tuesday, 9:00 p.m., FOX
Premiere: September 9
I recently heard someone call this show a triple whammy: it's going to attract fans of Alias and Lost (because it's a J.J. Abrams production), Dawson's Creek (because of Josh Jackson), and The X-Files (from which it has stolen at least its basic premise and possibly its structure). I personally am in it for the J.J. factor--I never watched Dawson and don't need to revisit The X-Files--but if it's as good as his other work, and as good as the huge investment FOX has made in it (a $10 million pilot), all of these elements will fuse into something that rises above all three. Here's to hoping it rules, and that FOX doesn't cancel it before it gets to that point.

On the Fence: Things I Might Watch, But Probably Not

Dirty Sexy Money (Actually quite good; might re-incorporate if time)
Chuck (Ditched last season, but am reconsidering)
Kath and Kim (Abysmal previews, but I like Selma Blair and Molly Shannon)
Life on Mars (Fandom is peeing their pants over the original British version)

What are you all watching this fall?


Xerxes said...

I vote Brennan wear the Wonder Woman suit more! :-)

My list would include Eli Stone -- it goes along the quirky line of Pushing Daisies, it even has an occasional musical interlude. I also like Samantha Who but more because I think Christina Applegate is cute. Of course this year I am routing for Ms. Applegate to make it because of the whole cancer thing she went through -- brave woman!

Liz said...

Oh, man, that WW suit. I heart Emily Deschanel just for pulling it off (because it's TOTALLY the kind of thing Brennan would do, with zero irony, which is why I love Brenann). But I think I like it for different reasons than you do. :)

Oh! Eli Stone! I've heard really good things about it and was planning on catching up this summer (before Doctor Who intervened). Maybe I'll catch up before it re-starts. Hey, if Victor Garber sings, how can I not?

Also, I don't watch Samantha Who?, but I am also rooting for Christina Applegate. She's officially hardcore after what she's been through this year.

Ben said...

I am watching whatever the fine pirates at Hamoudeh DVD can dish up. (Shaky rule of law can have its advantages!)

On my list:

Friday Night Lights, Season 2
Ugly Betty
Da Ali G Show (Seen it already, but at 1 JD a disc, why not?)
Prison Break

On the legit side (Netflix), I'm looking at:

Mad Men (per your suggestion)
The Tudors (per a friend's suggestion)
Weeds, Season 2 (Season 1 was OK, giving it another shot)

I'm almost through Season 2.5 (no comment) of Battlestar Galactica. It's decent, but my nerdiness is only half aroused. Too many cliff hangers, not enough character building.

Speaking of character building, The Wire must be watched by you. Now.

Liz said...

Oh, you're going to love Mad Men! It's by a Sopranos alum, and it's subtle and slow, but it's pretty dang awesome.

Re: The Wire, you're right, you're right, I know you're right. Basically everybody says it is simply the best show ever of all time, and I know I need to watch it.