Friday, October 13, 2006

TV: The New Season

October 13

Lots of good new stuff on the tube this season, and guess what, lots of mediocre stuff too. Some are too new to be sure about, having only aired pilots which are always a little embryonic and difficult to fall in love with.

My favorite so far is Six Degrees, which ran its third episode last night. I've mentioned it before here as a vehicle for Campbell Scott (changed my mind last night, however, about casting him as Ashley Wilkes. Maybe ten or 15 years ago, but not any more.) The title of the series refers to the 1967 study by Stanley Milgram that proposed there are only "six degrees of separation" between human beings, in other words, we are all linked by knowledge of someone who knew someone else, after six links, to everybody who ever lived. This led to the title of a play and movie, and has been boiled down, not unlike Andy Warhol's phrase "15 Minutes" and now supposedly the shorthand is immediately understood.

I'm not sure if you got that or not. But this is a tv review so I'm moving to the next point and will let you ponder it -- I'm sure you'll let me know if there are any questions. The point is that the tv series is elegant, well written, well acted and always intriguing, with beautiful NYC locales and an ensemble feel. Catch it if it stays on til next Thursday.

Problem may be that it's up against another newie, which I haven't seen since it's opposite Six Degrees, called Shark, which stars James Woods as an obnoxious jerk, a role he plays so well. It's a courtroom show, and maybe I'll watch it if it moves to another time slot.

Speaking of odd time slots, Friday Night Lights runs on Tuesday nights. I'm not likely to watch it just because the subject matter doesn't interest me -- high school football. It came from a movie that was well received by the critics (but I also didn't see because it also was about high school football), so if high school football interests you, I'm sure it's good.

My second favorite this year is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, one of those behind-the-scenes drama-comedies about the making of a weekly show which might be likened to Saturday Night Live. Very good acting, and clever scripts.

I am slightly interested in Men in Trees, which I've also mentioned here before. A rather wan romantic comedy with a sexy leading man, but I've got my doubts about Anne Heche here. A good actress -- I'm just not convinced she's right in this role of conflicted (although she's good at conflicted) "relationship consultant" off to find herself in Alaska. To me, it's a near miss, with its bucolic box-supper auctions and local radio-show yahoo straight out of Northern Exposure. But I haven't given up on it; maybe Anne Heche will become a star after all.

You may have gathered that I'm a bit of a television addict. I think that's probably true, although I can quit whenever I want to. I just have to check out every new season and decide if I want to.

Wednesday night two new situation comedies ran back to back on NBC. I doubt if either of them will make it, but I found them fairly good for pilot episodes. The first, 30 Rock, is a little too close to comfort to Studio 60, but it is snappy, comic, and doesn't always hit the mark, even though it stars Tina Fey and is written by her, and Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is a fine actor, and did a nice turn in Will & Grace last season, but he is a bit mean in this one -- and my friend Edith, who knows more than a bit about the theatre, says, "He acts like he can't act." I could do a whole blogpost on that remark, but not today.

30 Rock was followed by 20 Good Years, starring John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambour. Anything with Lithgow is gonna get me to watch it at least twice, but in this one he's playing a asshole type -- sorry, that's about the only word for it -- who decides to rope his wimpy but lovable lifelong friend into a retirement project to live life to the fullest (jumping out of planes, swimming with the Polar Bear Club, that sort of thing). It's like an update of The Odd Couple combined with Grumpy Old Men, and may not have very broad appeal. In fact, John Lithgow may be the only reason to watch it. And Tambour is an excellent Felix to his Oscar.

Which of the new series will make it? I couldn't say. After all, for about ten minutes in the 1960's I was television critic for Women's Wear Daily. I was one of about three such in the country who panned All in the Family. And I'd stick by that critique today.


Anonymous said...

Even-Handed Hope, while I did enjoy "All in the Family," I was ashamed of myself for doing so.

I have this belief that almost every show that makes it to national prominence has as a basic guideline "entertaining" the audience! In other words, in working out the details of their storylines, they try to come up with things that will hold our attention!!

I further believe that the recognition of this failing by TV's movers and shakers is what resulted in Reality Television, which was supposed to remedy the failings of 'entertainment' TV by being unscripted. HA! The movers and shakers very quickly found out that if it wasn't scripted, there would be no need for movers and shakers! So then Reality TV quickly became scripted and we were back to square one.

Speaking of scripted vs. unscripted entertainment, have you ever played a video game?

Finding Fair Hope said...

Funny thing about All in the Family. It was supposed to be a Liberal's idea of a stereotype Conservative and the audience (I suppose) was meant to identify with Meathead, but all over the country all I heard was those that thought, "Good old Archie! He tells it like it is!" Just didn't appeal to me at all.

As for "Reality" tv, I watched some of The Apprentice, and was a little ashamed of myself for doing so. Those "Bachelor" shows are most bizarre -- everybody falling in love and kissing and all that stuff. What is this thing? Not my definition of love, but close to madness anyway.

Bert Bananas said...

Hey! Are you dodging my question about video games?

Finding Fair Hope said...

At the risk of sounding like a hopeless square, I'll admit I dodged that because I have never played a video game.

However, I once watched one of my favorite people in the world, my nine-year-old grandson Andy, play one for about 2 minutes. I was intrigued by two things: He was manipulating a medieval character who carried a mace and chain and was swinging the instrument at everything that passed, usually sending it flying, mortally wounded. He addressed this leading character in the first person, as "I just smacked a monster," and so on. There seems to be no separation between player and game piece.

Here's the other thing I was impressed by. If a bird came in sight, the mace was swung at it, and I said, "You have to kill little birds?" and Andy said, "Yeah, I don't like killing little birds." He shrugged. "But that's my job."

That is all I know about video games except that most of them are much worse than that.

goldennib said...

I watched All In The Family until the Meatheads moved out. It was about that time that it didn't seem edgy anymore.

I have never watched a reality show. The commercials for them turn my stomache.

You didn't ask me, but I'll tell you anyway, that I am lousy at playing video games because they bore me.

Let's argue about child rearing issues some more. That's more funner than the boob tube.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Funny, Golden, but I'm a zillion times more comfortable pontificating about the stuff on the tube than on the state of the art of childrearing. But be assured, this blog will bounce from pillar to post including these topics and more as long as I feel like posting.

Robin said...

Isn't tv all about entertaining us? I am sick and tired of all the cop shows, drugs, killings and such, give me something off beat anytime. I am a Lost addict, also all the CSI's and Shark is great.I also love House on Fox, that's about as offbeat as one can get.

Finding Fair Hope said...

I discovered House through my friend Justin a couple of weeks ago and loved it! Offbeat indeed, but very well done.

I also forgot to mention another new show that may have legs: Brothers and Sisters immediately following Desperate Housewives.

For some reason a couple of the new shows have introduced characters who are supposed to be politically Conservative -- including Brothers and Sisters. Why they are bothering, I don't know. They'll never get that audience, and from their handling of the characters, they really don't seem to want to.