Tuesday, October 25, 2005

entertainment thoughts--television

(continuing my series, which last looked at current music in the Mike rotation...)

Over the summer, I decided to celebrate landing a full time job by treating myself and my lovely wife to TiVo. I have absolutely no regrets. TiVo is simply the greatest invention in the history of entertainment. Television now works for me. It will record shows automatically. I never have to delay my extraordinarily busy social calendar because the one decent show is on. My fans and admirers can have access to me at any time, and I can still be entertained...which is how it should be, isn't it?

(Okay, the only regret is that I really need DirecTV to go with it, then you might as well get HBO so you can record films, then why not get a DVD recorder, so you can archive your more important shows? Then you need to buy blanks, then you need to schedule time to burn those DVDs...you get the idea)

There's still not a whole lot on television, but now we can get everything there is that is worthwhile. I've become a regular consumer of shows other than sports or brainless entertainment (ie, cooking shows). So, my insights:

The original only. I've written about this show before , but I've gained a new appreciation. All the characters on the show are wierdos or freaks, which is nice to see. It took me a while to get into the whole art/avante garde look of heavy blood and grossness presented as a part of normal life. And while the story lines are 90% cheddar still, they do pull out the occasional doozy...the murder in the S/M parlor episode or the delusional/insane former model turned homeless episodes were astounding, as were the segments which dealt with Grissom's hearing loss. I've become pretty fascinated with the Grissom character, and it gets good whenever they either acknowledge or play with his quirks. Plus last season's Tarantino-directed finale was probably CSI's and maybe even Tarantino's best work.

Also written very briefly about this one. I had fears that they would take a pretty decent first season (with occasional brilliant episodes, such as the Emmy-winning "Three Stories") and turn the whole thing into a soap opera. The episodes of season two which have aired to this point have been nothing short of astonishing. Their race episode was one of the more astute takes on ethnicity from a major network. The episode about the girl with cancer is playing a huge role in a proposed paper entitled "My Brain is My Superpower"...more details about that one if it gets accepted.

My Name is Earl
The only new show I can get behind 100%. For those of you unfamiliar, the concept is that Earl (Jason Lee) is a small-time crook who, after winning the lottery and immediately getting hit by a car, decides that his life sucks. He sees Carson Daly on tv in the hospital talking about karma and decides to give it a try: he is going to make up for everything bad he's ever done in his life.

The show is witty and crisp, especially in terms of dialog. Jason Lee is amazing, and the writers never talk down either to the characters or to the audience. Everybody has multiple dimensions, which is a rarity in modern entertainment. Yes, Earl is not the brightest guy, but he is wildly sympathetic...as is everyone else in the program. Stereotypes so far have been exploded as absurdist constructions. Plus, the show has had killer soundtracks...its use of Skynyrd caused me to go to iTunes and make my own compilation, and they actually played Montrose's "Rock Candy," one of the most underrated 70 rock songs.

American Chopper
Male bonding as aggression. Yelling as a sign of love. Complex family dynamics. Senseless destruction. Newly made celebrities who still appear to be true to their roots, class-wise and locale-wise.

Good Eats

Food meets science. Engaging the theory of cooking, rather than recipes or catch-phrase spouting, is what sets this show apart from other more boring cooking shows. Instead of learning about a dish, you learn about how the world of the kitchen operates. It's more an operational manual of cooking theory than anything else. Plus, the recurring characters (W, the incarcerated Cocoa Carl, Paul) and electric popular culture spoofs make this a fun show even if you care not a bit for cooking.

No Reservations
Tony Bourdain is a great personality...he's loud, abrasive, crude...yet surprisingly touching and sentimental. Unlike A Cook's Tour, this show gives him the time to stretch out that he has in his books. My only regret is that there are not enough new episodes.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Mike - don't you find the Earl show to be classist? I haven't figured this out yet - but the representation of poor white Americans is somewhat disturbing...

I do hope you stay tuned to the Office! While not as funny as the Brit version (what is?), it has come into it's own lately - the episode with the office "fire" was truly awesome....