Now for the past couple years it's almost inarguable to say that television has surpassed films in storytelling ability. As I proselytized in a massive, nine-part post last year, Current Television is just about the best it's ever been. Whereas every season has its winners and rejects (wait, who is who there?), which was actually recently summed up nicely here.
Anyway, it certainly goes without saying so far that a couple weeks (months...sorry) into the new TV year and...well it's pretty rough. There's hardly a hit among any of them, and out of that much less is a critical darling. Thus it's my intention to examine all of TV here (as I of course typically live by the TV mantra of Sports/Movies/Cartoons) to sum up the true swarth of what's on the tube. So let's kick it with the new shows:
Drink! Drink Like a Freshman!
Is there honestly a single offering here that jumps out at you? Apparently some people have dug Hawaii Five-0 and Mike & Molly (REALLY?!). I mean, we're down to watching a retread of an ungroundbreaking show from the 70s and a show that from all appearances looks like a dumber Honeymooners? Honestly, we're still going with the fat, lazy lovable husband, but getting rid of the hot wife? It escapes me, how much safer can you get, CBS? Also what's scarier - it works.
But I digress. Let's look to cable. I haven't seen Terriers on F/X, hear it's good but despite my favour towards Donal Logue, doesn't seem special. Other than that, Boardwalk Empire has been a treat, if not simply equal parts every-gangster-movie-ever-made with a splash of interesting in the form of long-time genius B character actor Stevie Buscemi in lead. What makes the show work so far is that it takes from some of the best films out there. Whether it's sustainable through the scrutiny of its lead (already some love the idea of Buscemi as the perfect double-sided gangster, others hate him, either way it works for his character, though viewership may fluctuate). Whereas this series surely needs some room to grow, it's having a tough time finding out what exactly it can be right now. As it distinguishes itself however, I bet it'll be one of HBO's best.
So I'll admit to really enjoying one new show this season. Adult Swim's Childrens Hospital. This is the single new show I've picked up and followed and it rules.
Malin Akerman playing ridiculous is awesome. The babes in this show are unreal, as is the cast, which includes recurring spots by Winkler, The Bad Dude from Robocop and Mike Ceratops over the loudspeaker. Every character constantly plays ridiculous situations with an absolute straight face (including Rob Corddry in continuous clown make-up). It parodies Medical Dramas better than Scrubs (shot on the same set) and has a continual vein of surreality and silliness that hasn't let me down yet. Go watch it.
I'm also interested in The Walking Dead, premiering Halloween Night on AMC. The series of graphic novels has had some excellent themes and plotting, barring at times unreadable and unnecessary dialogue. With a good scriptwriter this could spin the standard Zombie apocalypse in an interesting way (as in an on-going serial, dealing with not the first few days nor simple long-term outrageous snapshots but rather a complex human reaction to a slow and marauding end of the world), helping to reinvigorate a genre that seems reinvigorating every four to six months.
The Best Returners:
There is a good crop of established shows out there, notwithstanding those that just wrapped up due to insane cable schedules. These include the requisite mentions of Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy. I'd like to highlight some shows that I watch most regularly (you can tell my interests and demographic immediately) and how they've done so far:
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has gotten some of its steam back recently after a pair of lackluster season openers. My early concern has thus been reassured. South Park has also seemed to be more desperate in the past couple seasons, but tonight's was incredibly strong as are some previews that are building my anticipation. One of the first shows to successfully follow South Park for two consecutive years, Ugly Americans has also proven itself to be a pretty witty show, sneaking under my comic radar with its balls-out universe anchored to a very normal guy. I've also been impressed with the current (22nd somehow) season of The Simpsons which has found ways to still be simultaneously controversial, thought-provoking, artistic, innovative and hilarious:
Despite the fact that the Flight of the Conchords might have been the funnest part of the season so far, it's possible the show is gaining ground again after spinning its wheels for the greater part of the past decade (no clips on Hulu of this one for some reason, watch the whole ep anyway, you'll be pleased).
The two best-written shows of the Season so far though, have been The Venture Bros on Adult Swim and Community on NBC. I'm planning a thorough post on Community actually, the management of character and plot expectation in these early episodes has been fantastic, it's criminal this has never been recognised (sure it's only in its second year...but this is an NBC show now going against The Big Bang Theory on Thursday nights - how long is this going to last? This is NBC's funniest and most well written show - how is it doing the poorest?) Venture has also been spectacular, actually by now becoming one of Adult Swim's longest running and reliably well-plotted shows, but you guys knew that.
On to some shit, I think that The Office, 30 Rock, and How I Met Your Mother have all their best seasons behind them (although the live 30 Rock, while admittedly hokey and sitcom-y was somehow very entertaining, and the HIMYM race across New York was also probably the best ep of the season) and for the most part I haven't been that impressed. The Office has some of the best ratings on NBC, I'm curious its fate after Carell skips town.
Movies! On TV!
I realise I'm that bad of a TV junkie that I've memorised most of the release schedule for flicks showing up on the box. It's usually around a two and a half year lapse between theater premieres and showing up on F/X or some place, but we've had some great opportunities to watch shit on TV.
Now, we live in an age of Netlflix, Hulu, DVD and all matter of illegal download services. There's never really a reason to catch a flick on television. I've begged to differ on a few occasions. A flick like Jumper (2008) I'm never going to waste space with on my hard drive or preempt Harry Brown (2009) in my Netflix queue. But it's perfect to put on F/X on the background while writing blogs. It deserves about as much interest as Mark Zuckerberg gives deposing lawyers and that's what it gets. We'll flex the spectrum to Cloverfield (2008), The Hangover (2009) on HBO which I've caught on two non-consecutive hotel room visits and the awesome Forgetting Sararh Marshall (2008). Spectacular times, my readers.
Now for a Sports Update
How about the NFL Season this year? This stat is incredible, as is the simple fact that Sunday Night Football is NBC's highest rated program by far. In fact, it was the channel's only program to break the Top 25 after last year's ratings for the year were totaled. I'm not sure it speaks to the popularity of the sport as much as how absolutely terrible some other shows have been.
I don't talk about football enough here. It's an advertising goldmine, multi-billion dollar industry (my friends and I got in an argument of whether or not we'd rather own the entire NFL or Facebook over the next five years). It's also a focal point for zeitgeist and frankly, some of the raw programming is underrated (I challenge anyone against Kenny Mayne). Haha, I still just love that NBC stat, they need to advertise all of their shows during those precious few hours a week they're actually beating some one.
Part of the reason NFL games have done so well is because of an extremely high level of parity in the current season (fourteen teams have only two losses, six have three, none are undefeated and only two are winless...dammit). Longtime favourites have had fantastic nail-biting losses and Detroit was in a blow-out that actually favoured them. How the hell can you tell which game is going to be good? You can't motherfucker, you had better watch them all.
Which is exactly what's happening.
Oh yeah, and This:
So these are my early impressions of the year so far. I think there are many shows that can do better, there's certainly nothing really good among new offerings, but sports and movies are fantastic. Hail Xenu, keep your screens on, dear readers.