March 17, 2009

Spring TV Roundup

I've been watching lots of TV lately, here's a few takes on ongoing/about-to-end seasons of some of my favorites:

"Big Love" (HBO): This has been "Big Love"'s best season, and probably the best run of any HBO series since the "Sopranos"/"Wire" heyday. They've managed to stuff about three seasons worth of plot into ten episodes, but the writers and actors are able to handle it and make it believable. Chloe Sevigny deserves an Emmy, and that road trip episode deserves every writing award in the world. Just amazing stuff all around, and I'll miss it when it's over.

"Damages" (FX): If "Big Love" has shown how to juggle innumerable plot strands during a season, the second run of "Damages" has shown how not to. After a tight, near-brilliant first season, Season 2 has been a mess- too many villains, not nearly enough focus, and not much of a sense that it's heading anywhere. William Hurt is set up as the season's primary antagonist, with his wife's murder the inciting event, but then the murder is forgotten and Hurt disappears for six episodes. Then Season 1's villain, Ted Danson, returns, albeit defanged and seemingly shoehorned-in to the plot. It's great to see some "Wire" veterans- John Doman, Clarke Peters- but neither of their characters is nearly as compelling as Rawls or Lester. And perhaps worst of all, Rose Byrne looks like she hasn't eaten since Season 1.

"The Real World: Brooklyn" (MTV): Not one of the show's stronger seasons, but I still watch. There are eight roomies this year instead of seven- meaning one or two of them are simply not seen in most episodes- although about 60 percent of the screen time is monopolized by Katelynn, the show's first-ever post-op transsexual. Then again, she's the only one of the eight who's the slightest bit compelling. There's also Chet, the 19-year-old Mormon who's an aspiring veejay, whose dream is to get on MTV- someone should inform him that he's ALREADY on MTV. He's also 1) a complete idiot, and 2) clearly latently homosexual, although probably years away from coming to grips with it.

"You're Welcome, America: A Final Night With George W. Bush" (HBO): I got about halfway through this before I realized I hadn't laughed a single time yet. The problems are threefold: The shelf life of Bush-is-a-moron jokes is long past, ten minutes is too long for an SNL sketch, let alone 90, and Will Ferrell's Bush impression was always wildly overrated anyway. It's not one of the ten best characters he's done, and it never held a candle to Dana Carvey's Bush I, or Darrell Hammond's brilliant Al Gore. I'm just glad I didn't plunk down $200 to see it on Broadway.

"Eastbound and Down" (HBO): I admit I didn't warm to this show at first, but it's grown on me, in a big way. I love the characters, I love the writing, and I love how it nails the way so many current and former ballplayers are degenerate idiots (I told my wife the show could be called "Brett Myers: the Post-Retirement Years.") Bonus points for Ferrell, doing an uncanny Ric Flair impression as a car dealer.

"South Park" (Comedy Central): There's only been one episode so far this season, but it was a winner, if only for its depiction of Mickey Mouse as a foul-mouthed studio boss. Last season's run of episodes was HORRIBLE, just one witless movie parody after another, but the good ones tend to come in bunches.

"Saturday Night Live" (NBC): What an up-and-down season. All the election stuff was great, especially Fey-as-Palin. As soon as the year changed there were a couple of standout episodes, hosted by Jon Hamm and Neil Patrick Harris. Then there were about four duds in a row, even though they were hosted by the usually sharp Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Last week's Dwayne Johnson episode was excellent, but the show returned to mediocrity Saturday with an awful show hosted by Tracy Morgan- who is not funny, never was, and never will be.

"How I Met Your Mother" (CBS): Still the best sitcom on TV by a significant margin. After a relatively weak post-strike run last spring, HIMYM has had a great season, and last week's episode, 30 minutes of the gang at the bar going over flashbacks-within-flashbacks- was the show at its best. How that stupid dick-joke-a-thon "Two and a Half Men" gets better ratings than this, I'll never understand.

Posted by Stephen Silver at March 17, 2009 04:22 PM

Re: SNL - Yeah, I get that Tracy Morgan stars on a popular and critically acclaimed show on NBC, and putting him on SNL would be good cross-promotion, but on the other hand, Tracy Morgan hails from the "sucky period" of SNL history, and even another MacGruber sketch would have been preferable to revisiting Morgan's old characters.

Posted by: Gib at March 18, 2009 08:59 AM

Finally got to see the show this weekend...I was floored, what a great show.

My problem? It's yet another swing on my love/hate Will Ferrell pendulum. He's great here, and the commercial for the car dealership that trailed the second or third episode was maybe the best thing on the show....

Posted by: Tommy at March 18, 2009 09:37 AM

THAT BAT IS SCARY! that was the only one of Tracy Morgan's characters that was funny. Tracy Morgan was his SNL era's black guy.

Posted by: LilB at March 18, 2009 03:39 PM
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