What I'm watching
Have I mentioned lately how much I've been enjoying television? Inspired by Patton Oswalt's blog post about Watchmen and the new silver age of television, this is as good a time as any to go through and review what I'm watching these days.
Battlestar Galatica. The bleakest show on TV? While it may not be quite as sad and tragic as The Wire, the level of abstraction that involves space ships, replicants and sexy robots also allows for comments about society in a way that the realistic Baltimore of The Wire couldn't. Only 3 hours left over 2 weeks (plus another 2 hour film airing sometime around the release of season 4.5 DVD's, I assume.) In the last couple of seasons, Bear McCreary's score has become an unexpected highlight.
Lost. Like Battlestar Galactica, Lost was helped tremendously by the producers and network agreeing to a set end date for the series. Since then, the show has moved forward with momentum. While not every episode is brilliant, there's enough brilliance in the time-skipping adventures of the castaways.
Chuck. In its second season, all of the elements of the show are coming together and clicking. It's both funny, acknowledges the ridiculousness of its world and adds in actual emotional resonance in a way that evokes the best seasons of Buffy. Plus, one of the best theme songs of any show on TV (Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket") and Jeffster!
The Daily Show. Media critics who wondered if The Daily Show with Jon Stewart would remain relevant in the Obama administration obviously never quite understood the show. TDS focuses in on the ridiculous in the news. And even if the Obama administration is distinguished from its predecessor by a sad absence of man-sized safes in the Vice President's office, there is enough fodder for ridicule from the media. See e.g. TDS discussing CNBC and Stewart interviewing Jim Cramer.
The Colbert Report might lose its edge and relevance when there are no longer any cult of personality pundit shows on cable news or talk radio. Considering that Rush (the blowhard, not the awesome prog band) is the leading voice of the conservative movement (or just the loudest), there's no imminent danger of the show losing its relevance.
Friday Night Lights. All the cool kids watched this season in the fall on DirecTV, but even if it's not as good as the wonderful first season, this season is much better than the show's sophomore slump. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!
30 Rock. At its best, fast-moving farcical hilarity. At its worst, mildly amusing. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan get the attention, but the unmentioned highlight of the show is Jeff Richmond's title theme song and score.
The Office. Perhaps the comedy that best blends in drama in a realistic and natural way. The deep supporting cast makes it possible for Creed to have only one line per week and still be consistently hilarious.
The Amazing Race. While some of the last few seasons have become formulaic, the formula works. This season has featured mostly well-designed legs, distinguishable teams, interesting locations and the usual great editing. I understand the reasoning, given the difficult of production, but still wonder why this is not filmed in HD. No other show on network TV would benefit as much from filming in HD.
How I Met Your Mother rarely rises to a level of greatness. But as a show focusing on the lives of 30 year olds in NYC, I find it relevant and reflective as much as-- if not more than-- I find it funny.
Important Things with Demetri Martin. Funny and clever comedy.
South Park. There's always going to be famous or important people doing stupid things for Parker and Stone to make fun of. It works often enough that they're still relevant, more than ten years in.
American Idol. It would be unwatchable without fast-forwarding through everything but the performances and Cowell's critiques. Actually, this fragment of the show is barely watchable, but it's still big enough to talk about. And it's always nice to see how your own personal taste compares to aggregate taste of the American public. Or the subset of the American public that votes for Idol.
The Simpsons. At this point, the new episodes are doing little except for chipping away at the legacy of the brilliant first 8 seasons. But now it's doing that in HD and-- perhaps surprisingly, The Simpsons look better in HD. While not up to the standard of brilliance, this incarnation of The Simpsons is still a good TV show, even while it tarnishes the goodwill of those earlier seasons.
Burn Notice. Its season just ended, but it's worth nothing, because for a show that is deliberately not intellectual, it is smart and fun with an emotional core. Other , the Miami scenery, Bruce Campbell and hundreds of ways to turn ordinary everyday objects into bombs, projectiles, or other deadly devices,
Considering: Kings (which would require foregoing the new episodes of The Simpsons), Breaking Bad.
On hiatus: Mad Men, Mythbusters, Top Chef.
Looking forward to: Parks and Recreation.