Tuesday, January 05, 2010

TV: The Monday Review for Fall 2009

A week late already. Oh well. Head back to the Saturday entry for the preamble.

CBS is winning everything and Monday nights aren't the exception. In fact, you can argue that CBS Monday night might be the strongest three-hour block from any network, any night. As usual, the boys at The Eye have decided not to be as strong as they could be, hummocking in Accidentally on Purpose between comedic heavyweights How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men, but I still record and watch it, although more out of ennui than real interest. Jenna Elfman is usually comedic gold. And this show would work, if only they got rid of the cast of idiots around her. She plays pregnant (although she got pregnant in real life) with goofy charm. It's just that the baby's father, a younger man taking advantage of a cougar on the prowl, and all of his friends, are just plain stupid. Elfman's office environment is a tad bit better in the brain department, but she also has a dopey sister and a best friend, horribly under-used Ashley Jensen. Jensen's REALLY, REALLY pregnant and can hardly move around without the cameras catching it. Her physical comedic skills are canceled out as a result. Move this comedy anywhere else on the schedule and I'd give it the boot. Here. it is too easy to set the recorder to CBS, 8-11. NOTE: Accidentally IS switching nights. The sound you hear in the background is Bruce the Shark, from Jaws, getting ready.

How I Met Your Mother made the creative decision to break Robin and Barney up, so that the show can return to the old formula, but I wish they'd delayed it a bit longer. On the other hand, getting to the putative title idea is getting on my nerves. Still, the jokes remain ... wait for it ... awesome! Most nights. Not keeping pace with The Big Bang Theory, but most shows aren't either. The creators of that show are also having some wavering moments, giving Howard and Raj too much screen time for fear of burning out the star that is Jim Parsons' Sheldon. But you can never have enough Sheldon. Mathematically impossible. Going in the opposite direction, the decision to keep Leonard and Penny together has worked. The other comedy in the quartet of week starters is the venerable old Two and Half Men, which rarely surprises. It seems to be completely formulaic, but the reactions of Charlie Sheen et al still make me laugh. That Sheen's actual home life seems inspired by his comedy is just the note of tragedy that any comedy needs. As for the night-capper, CSI: Miami, things have changed very little on the junior edition of the CSI franchise. Out went Adam Rodriguez, in came Eddie Cibrian. But really, the most interesting newcomer is the technician Walter, played with smarter-than-you-think charm by Oliver Benson Miller. Looks like a walking mountain looking for a football game, but thinks like a nerd. An interesting, new character.

Fox, when they aren't out doing bad things to Josh Whedon, occasionally lets quirky shows grow and flourish. As evidence, I present House and Lie to Me. I don't think all Englishmen, whether paying faux Yank doctors (Hugh Laurie as Gregory House) or punks who've pulled themselves out of the muck (Tim Roth as Doc Cal Lightman) are all basically jerks. But the sheer in-your-face political incorrectness of both make their shows work. I'll be unhappy with the creative decision to drive Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) away from House, but at least the brought back PI Lucas Douglas, as played by Michael Weston. Lie to Me has ditched the cheating husband storyline for co-star Kelli Williamson's character and that's enriched the show immensely.

ABC's anti-Gregory House is Richard Castle and Castle, the show, is getting better as it moves along, despite a saccharine level too high for a diabetic like me. Yes, it's all Moonlighting-ish with sexual tension aplenty between Nathan Fillion's Castle and Stana Katic's hotter-than-hot police detective, but the key to turning this show into something more than a rehash is the smart-as-a-whip Castle kid, played by Molly Quinn and his loopy mother, played with hammy largesse by Susan Sullivan. (I'm old enough to remember Sullivan as a sexy young thing. And she still is). I'll slip an admission here at the end of the paragraph that I also record Gossip Girl, hoping you miss it. I don't understand the popularity of some of the young ladies in the show, but I just love watching Kelly Rutherford perform. It's a remote control on fast-forward kind of show, but I do record it.

Which brings me to NBC and the two most confounding shows on any night (and we still got Canada and cable still to go). Heroes and The Jay Leno Show. What to say? The first season of Heroes was brilliance that actually started to dim about the time Malcolm McDowell came on board. The decision to keep Sylar around was the wrong one, just about eliminating any actual character development. It was just the same old, same old. And the rot hasn't let up. We are in the last season for the show, but I still watch it. Because I have to. Not because I want to. But boy that first half season ... As for Leno, I still record and watch the monologue. There are some canned bits I watch too, Ten@Ten works mostly, with the delay in responses actually part of the comedic charm. Any bet whatsoever that the writers have fed the subjects to the people? Didn't think so. The car race thing might be the worst use of TV time ever. It's not infuriatingly bad, just totally irrelevant. I get more enjoyment out of that new cable channel that just shows a fireplace. The interviews are mostly miss than hits. And the nightly Saturday Night Live rejected ideas segments have generally been lacking in funny. Maybe one in four are worth watching to the end. Methinks Leno is also a little nastier in this incarnation and that doesn't wear well on him. Honestly, I wish he'd swap places with Conan and go back to doing the Tonight Show. I could record him there happily, while continuing to ignore O'Brien, who's talents I have never, ever appreciated. NOTE: And movement is afoot. The days of pre-nightly news Jay Leno is going, going soon to be gone. Whether he takes back the old slot or does a half-hour (my choice) before the midnight hour, Leno's going to be Late-Night Leno again. A qualified Yippee! depending on what NBC fills the five hours with.

Canadian content lets me point out the always funny Little Mosque on the Prairie continues strong through this, it's fourth season. And I'm already on board with the new comedy, 18 to Life, which started last week. Over across the pond, we've seen Life and Trinity come and go. I really liked Life because David Attenborough and gorgeous nature filming is an impossible to screw up combination.

The weblets that came and went during the time period include Greek, Rita Rocks and the final three episodes of The Closer. Greek still entertains me, but I do wonder where we are headed post graduation for everybody but Rusty. Hated the departure of Johanna Braddy who strikes me as this century's Cheryl Tiegs (take a closer look). But am glad the romantic triangle between Cappy and Rusty's big sis Casey and whoever she was trysting with has been resolved. At least I think it's been resolved. Rita Rocks is a traditional sitcom that's sort of the anti-Two and a Half Men. No smarm at all and a good dose of usually funny Nicole Sullivan. As for The Closer, three episodes to wrap stuff up was more a taste than a full meal, but the show continues to be great TV.

What's left? One Tree Hill, getting tired and ready for retirement. But after six seasons, it's hard to stop recording. Secret Life of an American Teenager. Still record it to compare with Degrassi. Makes me proud to be Canadian. And Men of a Certain Age. Not a Ray Romano fan, but Andre Braugher can do no wrong. So, I record and watch and cringe and then enjoy some of the other stuff.

And lastly, but actually firstly, I make sure to record At the Movies in the wee hours of the morn. The Ben-Ben Disaster that was last season has given way to two adults, Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, talking movies. Each has a writing pedigree, a love of film, and entertaining personalities. A refreshing return to the days when both subbed frequently for Roger Ebert when the show was being co-hosted by Richard Roeper. Pros doing good prose on TV. Who'd a thunk it? Recommended. Again.

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