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Catching up on other TV

Posted by The TV Critic on 19 October 2009 | 3 Comments

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Hey everyone,

Things are still hectic but here are some very quick thoughts on the TV shows I don’t review…

The Cleveland Show has been ok but for me it’s the Parks and Recreation to Family Guy’s, The Office. If you can follow that analogy. As in it’s too similar to Family Guy to make me want to review it or never miss an episode. I do think it could be a more family orientated show because Cleveland is a nicer character than Peter. Cleveland has carried the comedy for me and I did laugh out loud when he sits on his own nuts (in 103 The One About Friends). I guess that tells you all you need to know about my sophistication levels.

Parks and Recreation too functions at way too similar a level to The Office. It really says something about popularity breeding mediocrity that we have so many shows which are essentially copying another more successful show in an attempt to make money. Having said that I think Leslie is a fun central character, she plays the role very convincingly and is actually much easier to like than Michael Scott. I also think Tom (Aziz Ansari) plays the traditional sleazy character with a unique charisma. By the way if you are from Venezuela or have any interest or association with it I strongly recommend you watch episode five (Sister City) and I would love to hear from you. The writers go really hard at Venezuela and it shocked me how far they take it really.

Mad Men has been pretty enjoyable lately. I have never watched an episode twice and so I have never really given the show the time it would need to be analysed properly. I admit I lean heavily on Alan Sepinwal to remind me of details I have missed. However I though episode nine (Wee Small Hours) was pretty stunning. It explored so beautifully and so horribly how money controls our destiny and what it can and can’t get you. Like so many great TV shows, the hierarchy exposes who people really are. By finally having someone who really can control Don (Conrad Hilton) we see his weaknesses and coping mechanisms on full display. Set against the backdrop of civil rights it was a very impressive episode but if you think the power of rich men is any different fifty years later you are sadly mistaken.

The firing of Sal Romano was probably the best television I have seen all season. It was brutal and tragic and really pulled the emotions out of you. What a horrible, horrible position he was put in and his conspicuous presentation as a nice guy made it so sad. “You people” Don says, that’s the hero of our story speaking, just before he heads off to cheat on his wife again.

Curb Your Enthusiasm continues to go back and forth between quality and calamity. I like the simplicity of Larry's thinking in organising a Seinfeld reunion. Everything flows consistently from his own selfish desires and he wants Cheryl back so that's all that matters. The rest of the stories just annoy me more or less depending on how reasonable Larry is behaving. I thought Christian Slater was a better guest star than most, he seemed very natural and genuine which many actors don't in the "unscripted" environment of Curb.

Community had a pretty decent effort in episode three (Introduction to Film). The story kept you guessing throughout as to what Abed was up to and in the end it showed how all these characters are going to grow and change while at college. But otherwise I still think the characters are too silly and much of the humour doesn’t land. I particularly don’t enjoy the two professors (Senor Chang and Professor Duncan) who compete to be more obnoxious and obvious than one another.

Dexter remains my favourite show to watch at the moment. I would be interested to hear from female fans on the subject but as a solitary male myself I have always found it easy to relate to Dexter’s struggles. Not the murder obviously but just the desire to be alone. I suppose after four seasons I should be seriously questioning the credibility of this show but unlike say, a Jack Bauer, we do really get a sense of character development with Dexter which keeps things interesting. I always enjoy seeing him encountering new social and work problems and overcoming them with stoic facial expressions. I think the self narration really helps the show, it keeps the viewer in constant contact with Dexter’s emotional state. That sense of tension and pressure he is always under from his need to kill adds to that sense that what you are watching actually matters.

Also I am a huge fan of Dexter’s sister Deborah, both actress and character. She seems so convincingly on the edge of crying or yelling at any moment, both fearless and fragile. I particularly enjoy Special Agent Lundy’s return as I always enjoyed the sheer obviousness of her Freudian attraction to him. Her father was a detective who paid her less attention than her brother and here is an older detective giving her that attention and fulfillment.

I will get around to turning this into a weekly podcast as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience and your comments. Keep them coming…

Robin (The TV Critic)

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  • Thanks for responding to my need for a female opinion on Dexter! I really appreciate that. It will be fascinating to see if Deborah can deal with Dexter at all or will feel he needs to be locked up asap.

    I know Brando was a fan of Six Feet Under, I haven't had the chance to see it. I have watched True Blood though which is another Alan Ball project. It's very different from how I imagined Six Feet Under would be...

    Posted by The TV Critic, 13/04/2010 4:10pm (10 years ago)

  • Robin,
    Dexter is fascinating to me. I watch on DVD and am only caught up through Season 3 (the weakest to me) The first two Seasons were wonderful story telling. I love watching the relationships and characters. I agree completely with your assesment of Deborah. It will be very interesting to see how she reacts when she learns the truth about Dexter - will she replace his Father as steadying figure in his life? Can she do it even better than He did? (I honestly think she could) Many of the female characters are wonderfully done, all the ambiguity, hope, guilt, shame, sexual strength wrestling with vulnerability and surrender.
    The last show I enjoyed this much was Six Feet Under. (Which did a better job with Ghost Dad than Dexter did in Season 3)

    Posted by Yogabon, 13/04/2010 1:53am (10 years ago)

  • Well Robin, I realise you have lots of shows to watch every week, but if you want a good solid laugh from a show that doesn’t drive you mad with its inconsistency try American Dad. Here is why I think it works:
    American dad has a formula. It doesn't always stick to it, but when it does it's both funny and satisfying to watch. The problem with family guy and many other comedies, as you so often point out, is a lack of discipline in the writing. AD manages to mostly avoid this problem by remembering and expanding on character descriptions within the manic context of a modern animated show.
    Stan, as a CIA agent, is a simple personification of the ignorant side of American government mentality towards various issues such as racism, the NGA and foreign policy among many others. Stan almost always comes to a realisation that some part of his thinking is wrong so we have sympathy that he is trying to change, even if he goes back to the same by the start of the next episode. It all justifies his fanatical viewpoints and he’s quite hilarious in both his ignorance and stubbornness. This basic formula gives the show a basis for writing plots that have meaning and actually end satisfactorily.
    All this set against a pleasantly satirical and familiar "Simpsonsesque" family. Each character sticks to their basic character description as they go through classically sitcom plots. Steve is a nerdy wimp (oh how I loathe using Americanisms, but how else to describe him) who is believably young in his actions. In the Simpsons these days, Bart, for example, is given totally unrealistic freedom as a ten year old, whereas Steve is seen in realistic settings doing realistic things a nerdy 13yr old would do. His humour is sometimes brilliantly understated in a way I love.
    Haley is very believable in that she's full of liberal ideas, but also corruptible and able to fight dirty in all situations. That is a mix that I find both entertaining and familiar (you should meet my sister). Francine is also amusing. It seems there has to be a dumb character in any TV comedy, and she is well written in her ditzy blonde role. She tends to agree with almost any suggestion put to her by the other characters, but sometimes goes it alone without any real idea of what's going on, which is often amusing.
    The wild card of the bunch is Roger. He's here to satisfy the viewers who have gotten used to the sort of nonsensical ramblings you often get from family guy. However, because it's all set against the backdrop of an amazingly insecure, abusive and quite mad androgynous alien, I find I can forgive and even enjoy the randomness more easily than in family guy. He also by now has enough detail to his history that regular viewers can now see him as more than just random and appreciate that his ego is inflated because for years he believed he was the alien chosen to audit earth and determine its future but then discovered he was merely a crash-test dummy ... or that his desire to play make-believe comes from the fact that he is an outsider on this planet so he tries to compensate with his wigs, personas and various fake jobs. It’s a mark of a good show that they explore these things by addressing them with whole episodes (in one for example he swaps roles with Stan and gets a real job as a car salesman).
    All this is nicely epitomised in all three episodes so far this new season and I think it is currently the best of the comedies.
    If I had to pick a live action favourite so far this season, it would be the Big Bang Theory, even though it could be so much better.

    Posted by The G man, 20/10/2009 12:06pm (10 years ago)

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