What’s Good on TV?

Well maybe rather than “What’s Good?” I should ask “What’s Entertaining?” Without regular access to new scripted programming (like new episodes of The Office and 30 Rock) because of the writer’s strike, our television watching time has definitely drifted toward “reality” programming. So a list of our favorites…(in no particular order):

Extras. HBO and Ricky Gervais’ recently concluded, and far too short, series Extras is absolutely brilliant. Rent the DVD, if you are lucky it will have closed captions so you can read all the jokes you are missing due to the language barrier or your inability to hear over your own laughing. The first season seems a little dry and is a lot funnier when you go back and watch it after you have seen the second season and the finale. The show really hit its stride in the second season, and the finale was a hilarious and touching 85 minutes. A little longer and I would have gladly paid to see it in the theater. Stephen Merchant, Gervais’ pal, co-creator, and co-star makes me bust a gut everytime I see him on the screen. His animated face make me think of a live action depiction of Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame.

Masterpiece (Theatre) on PBS. I am not entirely sure what I think of Masterpiece Theatre’s new incarnation, but I am loving the complete Jane Austen that they are showing. It almost feels like too much all at once, an embarassment of riches as it were. It would be better if they were spread more throughout the year rather than what seems to be feast or famine.

Question: How many different versions of a novel adaptation do you have to see before you can claim that you have read the book? The only Austen I have read is Northanger Abbey, but I have seen two different versions of Persuasion and at least two different versions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Does this mean I can pretend that I have read them? The most recent version of Persuasion on PBS seemed, in many ways, like a differnent story than the cinematic version from the late 90s. Maybe I just need to read the book.

Project Runway. A perennial favorite regardless of what else is on. I love to see creative, talented people doing what seems to me like the impossible. I feel the same way about Top Chef. I can’t get enough of it and I can’t wait until the new Chicago Season starts. In general Bravo does a good job with kind of show. Low on personal drama, focus on the creative process. I only wish they aired more of creative process and more of the judges’ deliberation. Remember when the initial thought behind the Bravo network was to focus on the performing arts. With the exception of Inside the Actor’s Studio, there ain’t much of that goin on anymore.

Real Housewives of Orange County. The people we love to hate. Makes one ask the question, How do all of these seemingly dumb people end up with so much money? We haven’t watched the Lauri wedding episode/season finale yet. I can’t wait for Real Housewives of New York to begin. Check out this NPR story.

Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane. Mindless entertainment. Just saw it for the first time–no one could ever accuse me of being an early adopter–and I kind of like it. At first I thought she was a bit annoying, then I realized that I kind of her, she seems to have a good sense of humor.

Planet Earth. We missed this when it was originally on the Discovery Network, but we have been Netflixing the DVDs and are amazed. It is like all of those nature shows we loved as kids but so much better. Some of the scenes they are able to capture are like none I have ever seen before. It is mind-boggling to think that we share the same planet with all of the flora and fauna shown in this series. It makes me want to travel a lot more but it also makes me even more worried that our planet is in trouble even though so far we have only noticed one mention of global warming. This is not to be missed, especially if your TV and DVD are HD capable.

My Big Love for "Big Love"

For someone who loves TV as much as I do, this blog has been wildly remiss in bringing to your attention that which is wonderful in the world of television.

If you don’t have HBO you need to get it. The Sopranos may be over (a show I never watched, for no real reason, just didn’t watch it) but Big Love lives on. It is the story of a polygamist family in suburban Salt Lake City trying to live a mainstream life. With Bill Paxton as the patriarch, Jeanne Tripplehorn as first wife and Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin as sister wives two and three respectively, the cast is amazing but the writing is even better. To me the hallmark of a good drama is one that lets you see the humanity in the characters even when you don’t necessarily want to. For most non-polygamists it might be a little startling to find yourself rooting for Bill and his family, but you do.

Of course it often seems batshit crazy but you still end up liking this family. The normality of the Henrickson family is set in stark contrast to the polygamist compound Juniper Creek that plays a central role in much of the drama on Big Love. Not only did Bill grow up at Juniper Creek but Nicki, wife number two, is the daughter of the “prophet” who rules the community. Grace Zabriskie’s brilliant portrayal of Bill’s looney mother Lois who also lives on the compound steals every scene she is in. It is one of those shows that always ends too soon with you clamoring for the next episode.

If you haven’t seen it, start out by renting or buying season one on DVD.

In other TV news.

I have recently gotten in to Family Guy. After years of ignoring it (I couldn’t get over the talking baby) I now can’t get enough of it. In fact, Stewie the talking baby, is my hands down favorite. Perhaps the greatest clip I have seen (relating to my love of books no less) can be found here. I was snorting like a pig as I tried to stifle my laugh while watching it at work. The show couldn’t be more random–or funny.

Entourage (also on HBO) continues to be one my favorites. Why can’t everyone make shows as good as HBO?

Counting the days until I can see The Simpson’s movie! 7/27/07!

Apparently Project Runway will not be making its annual appearance until the fall. Easily the best of Bravo’s reality show but I find Top Chef a decent substitute.