"I bought myself a parrot that could talk, but it did not say 'I'm hungry', so it died."--Mitch Hedberg
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It's HALFTIME



I figured that since I did this at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season of television, I ought to do a midseason update while most of the shows are on break (all are from here on out except for AD; oh, and Chris has one more episode this week) till January. Figures, that when I’m on vacation and actually have time to watch all of these, they stop airing them.

Anyways, before you start, yes, I know I watch WAY too much TV. Just be thankful I didn’t add the animated shows to my list, because that would’ve expanded it quite a bit. But what can I say, I love good TV, and there is a $#!+load of good TV out there to watch. Naturally, the bad out there far outnumbers the good, but still, this season is so chockfull of good stuff it blows my brain. Were it not for a combination of my iPod Video, my DVR, and my DVD-Recorder, I wouldn’t be able to watch half of these. And so we begin:

Oh yeah, and if you don’t wanna know what happens in these shows, then don’t read this, because I’m ‘bouts to get spoilerific on your @$$es...

Arrested Development: FOX Mondays @ 8
If you know anything about me, then you know that this is my all-time favorite show of all time (of all time). I won’t rant about why it’s so amazing here, but you’re just going to have to take my word for it: Arrested Development is by far the greatest television program currently on the air. The 5 or 6-episode-long arc with Charlize Theron’s Rita character was great, and brought the show places that I hadn’t imagined it going. I liked that Michael had a love interest that lasted longer than an episode or two, and that she was actually likable in a really, really weird way. The other thing I like about it is that we had NO idea why she acted so weird for the first three or four episodes. I can remember thinking, “WTF is up with this woman?” And when it was finally revealed that she was mentally retarded and essentially had the mind of a first-grader, it all made sense. It will be so rewarding going back and rewatching those on DVD knowing what we now know. The episode before the most recent one was absolutely hilarious. It was one of the best episodes of AD I’ve seen in a LONG time, and it was actually the first episode of AD I had seen in a long time. Since FOX cut the episode order down to 13 (effectively, most have said, canceling it), the show had to go on hiatus for about a month (maybe longer) in order for the writers to wrap up the storylines sooner. Still, last night’s episode featured a “classic Arrested” episode after it, and ran ads for “Downloadable V-Cast Arrested Development clips.” It looks like FOX is finally doing what it should have been doing this whole time: promoting the show....so maybe they haven’t given up on it yet. Or maybe this is just their last-ditch effort. I don’t know. I can hope, right?
(7 episodes have aired so far, 6 are remaining.)

Everybody Hates Chris: UPN Thursdays @ 8
I don’t think I’ve talked about this yet, so I’ll give it a quick summary: take The Wonder Years, set it in 1980’s Brooklyn and make it about Chris Rock’s live as a young kid, and that’s Everybody Hates Chris. Rock narrates the show, and his narration tends to be where the funniest parts come from. But Chris’s dad’s obsession with saving money, his mom’s insistence on being (as Rock puts it) a “ghetto snob,” and his little sister’s constant need to blame Chris for everything that goes wrong are hilarious as well. Young Rock is the only black kid at his school, and gets picked on quite a bit, but unlike the recent small-screen adaptation of the daily comic strip “The Boondocks,” the race jokes are never cringe-inducing, they’re generally just funny and lighthearted. For example, the basketball coach becomes obsessed with getting Chris on the team just because he’s black, even though Chris is awful at basketball. EHC has that kind of “Oh-$#!+-he’s-gonna-get-his-ass-whupped-for-doing-this” kind of formula to it. I have to liken it to a television classic of my generation, “Kenan & Kel,” although things tend to work out for Chris in the end (unlike the Nickelodeon duo). The show will sometimes cut to fantasy scenes from Chris’s imagination, similar to shows like Family Guy, Scrubs, or Andy Richter Controls the Universe, which I always like and think works great. In the end, EHC is really just a good, funny, family sitcom. You should check it out.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)

Invasion: ABC Wednesdays @ 10
Invasion gets my thumbs up from the start for this reason: it’s aired on ABC, which means I get in HD. Hell yeah, folks. HD is glorious, and Invasion’s on-location filming looks absolutely gorgeous on my flat-panel, widescreen TV. I will give shows aired in HD more of a chance than I would were they not in HD, and the gorgeous video quality will sometimes distract me from the Godawful storytelling “qualities” (can you say, “Threshold?”). Invasion is slow-paced, but I don’t really mind that. It’s nice to be able to sit down and breath after seeing pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat action dramas like Prison Break and 24. Still, Invasion has managed to keep the mystery fresh with a slew of great twists. For one thing, Sheriff Tom Underlay is even spookier than he looks: he was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his wife (he was completely unharmed....sound familiar? That’s right: Unbreakable. But I don’t mind, it’s a great plot element). Later, Muriel (Mariel? Meriel? Whatever.), after feeling strange for weeks following the hurricane, goes back to where she was discovered and finds a dead body in the water....HER body. That was sick. In the good way, I mean. Then, in the most recent episode, things REALLY picked up, as the suspicious Jack Black-a-like Dave was kidnapped by a mysterious man and woman who have been researching events similar to what’s going down in this place. (In case you don’t remember, a hurricane hit this place and brought with it mysterious lights that lurk in the water...a number of people were lost during the hurricane but found--totally unharmed...and naked--afterward, and have been acting strange ever since...oh yeah, and those people can breathe underwater.) As it turns out...these guys found a body near the crash site of Tom’s plane...they made a cast of his face and GUESS WHO IT LOOKS JUST LIKE?! Tom Underlay...that’s right...so he has a dead body out there, as well. I really like the direction this show is heading...it’s getting me really excited and I want to know more about what’s going on. In the most recent episode, this one-armed cop got taken by one of the mysterious lights in the water (we finally see it up-close...it’s a luminescent, squid-like creature), but returned unharmed, and with his missing arm back! It was weird...but it got even weird when Tom convinced him that God was testing him...and that he had to cut the arm off with a chainsaw...it was creepy. I HAVE to give props to the composer, because, man, he has scored some POWERFUL stuff for the most memorable scenes yet, and I don’t think they would’ve had the same effect without him. This show is shaping up to be the new Lost. You should all check it out, HD or not.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)

Lost: ABC Wednesdays @ 9
You’ve all heard about Lost. It’s only the best drama on TV. Oh, and this one’s in HD too. You just KNOW Lost looks drop-dead gorgeous in HD. And it so does. The Lost creative team have done the unthinkable: not only have they given us a lot of answers this season, but they’ve managed to keep the episodes suspenseful and mysterious, and they’re just getting better. I mean, how can you top the revelation of what’s under the hatch? Reveal that the tail-end plane crash victims survived as well? Hell yes, man! And they did...and it’s just been nonstop from there. Walt’s been seen in the jungle, we had an entire flashback-free episode (or was it 100% flashbacks? Depends on how you look at it), Rose was reunited with her husband, another character died, we saw the guy who died last season again, we found out what Kate did...I don’t know HOW they do it, and I don’t know how they’re gonna keep it getting better, but somehow, I know they will. Because after each of these things I’ve mentioned above, I didn’t think it could possibly get any better....and then it does. It really amazes me. I have NO idea where this show is going, but I’m loving it. Count me in for the long haul.
(9 episodes have aired so far, 13 are remaining.)

My Name Is Earl: NBC Tuesdays @ 9
HD as well. My Name Is Earl is about a lovable redneck named Earl, who decides to change his ways after he wins the lottery and immediately gets run over by a car, later learning of the concept of “karma” while watching The Carson Daly Show from the hospital. So Earl makes a list of all the bad things he does, and decides to cross them all off, one by one. The show sounds incredibly formulaic, which is why I was hesitant to watch it and avoided it at the beginning, but once they aired the first three episodes back to back, I fell in love. I tell ya, it’s all about Randy, Earl’s brother. He’s the best. But Catalina and Joy aren’t rough on the eyes, I’ll tell you that. Sorry. Anyways, Earl is not as formulaic as it sounds. It’s not like, each episode, he tries to correct something, encounters a problem, overcomes it, and then solves it, end scene...that DOES happen from time to time, but there’s usually more to it than that. I like that we get the backstory to what he did wrong, we get subplots now and then, he’ll start out trying something, give up, and then retry it again in a later episode...it’s really intelligent and well put together.(10 episodes have aired so far, 14 are remaining.)

Prison Break: FOX Mondays @ 9
Oh yeah, baby. Here we go. The Big Kahuna. Prison Break is without a doubt the best new show of the season. Michael Scofield’s continued his plans to break out his brother, Lincoln Burrows, while acquiring some “extra baggage” along the way. He recruits mob boss John Abruzzi because he needs the transportation he can provide, he gets his cellmate Sucre in on the plan so that he can work on it from his cell, he needs Westmoreland for his money, but the pervert T-Bag and and the drug dealer C-Note are only onboard because they stumbled upon the plan and threatened to snitch. FOX has again proved their idiocy with the planning of this show: apparently, they didn’t expect it to be successful, because a full 22 episodes would get interrupted by their most popular show, 24 (hey, I won’t bash, because that’s a damn good show)...so now, since Prison Break has really taken off and become really popular, they’ve got a bit of a problem. So they billed the most recent episode as the special “Fall Finale” and the season will continue in MARCH. @#*&ING MARCH. God, don’t get me started on Fox. They’ve canceled more shows that I’ve loved than any other network. Anyways, back to Prison Break. That scumbag T-Bag (that was completely unintentional, I swear) slit the best character’s (Abruzzi) throat (and just as the guy embraced Jesus. That’s just mean), so Abruzzi is out of the picture. Meanwhile, on the outside, Burrows’s girlfriend is getting into trouble with the Feds, we discover that the the man Burrows is on trial for killing is still alive, and that his sister (the VICE PRESIDENT) is orchestrating the cover up, and Burrows’s son is on the run from the feds, but not after they killed his mother and stepfather before his very eyes and frame him for the murders. Luckily, one of the feds has a heart of gold, and decides to help Burrows’s girlfriend uncover the conspiracy. But he gets shot, too. Lots of people get hurt in this show. So anyways, fall finale was really suspenseful. Burrows is hours away from his execution, but he’s in lockdown because he flipped out on one of the guards. So the gang votes to go on without him, Michael won’t give up: he sends Burrows a pill that when he takes it, sends him into seizures and he has to get taken to the hospital wing...which is exactly where the escapees are headed. BUT NO!!! THEY GET TO WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO ESCAPE, AND IT’S COVERED BY A HUGE...F-ING...PIPE!!! Oh, man, talk about suspense. That was the finale. Damn. This show is seriously an edge-of-your-seat thriller in the purest form, and I absolutely love it.
(13 episodes have aired so far, 9 are remaining.)

Smallville: WB Thursdays @ 8
Ah, Smallville. I’ve been with you through it all. Through the good times (seasons 2 and 3) and the bad (season 4 and, to a much lesser extent, season 1), but only now, in your old age, do you finally start maturing. Season 5 is without a doubt the best season yet...James Marsters plays the classic Superman villain brilliantly. We’ve gotten a lot of great moments this season: Clark socking Lex RIGHT IN THE KISSER, Clark jumping onto a nuke and disabling it in midair, Aquaman vs. Superman underwater, Clark getting shot and dying, the Fortress of Solitude, GENERAL ZOD, Clark pulling a helicopter down from the air...oh, I could go on forever. Season 5 has really surpassed all of my expectations, and it’s all come to a head in the latest episode, “Lexmas.” This was the first Christmas episode Smallville’s had, but I won’t bore you with the details of the Clark/Chloe “Santa is real!” storyline of this episode and focus on the good stuff: First off, Jonathan Kent has started running for senator against Lex. That’s a great idea. In “Lexmas,” Lex approaches a man who will destroy Jonathan’s career if Lex gives the word...but Lex isn’t sure yet. Unfortunately, he soon gets shot and mugged. While lying in the alley bleeding to death, Lex starts dreaming...of his perfect life. He’s married to Lana, he’s left Luthorcorp, he has a son (and a daughter on the way), he’s friendly with the Kents...life is good. His dead mother appears to tell him “this is what you could have, if you drop out of the race.” Unfortunately, things take a wrong turn when Lana dies after childbirth...Lex refuses to accept this future (despite all of the other good things, he won’t lose the woman he loves), so when he wakes up and is treated, he decides to go ahead and fight dirty for the title of Senator...and he has a great line. (I’m paraphrasing:) “I know what the key to happiness in life is....money...and POWER. Once you have those, you can ensure that anything you want to happen, will happen.” This is great. This is the turning point, the Anakin-in-Revenge-of-the-Sith-point where Lex stops being the nice(ish) guy that we know and love, and starts being the evil son of a bitch that we know even better and love even more. This is great. Smallville has really stepped up to the plate, and in three episodes, it’s the Big One...the 100th ep...and somebody dies. I was surprised when I found myself more excited to watch Smallville week to week than I was to watch Veronica Mars or Invasion or Prison Break. But it’s just that good now. It really is.
(9 episodes have aired so far, 13 are remaining.)

The Office: NBC Tuesdays @ 9:30
If you haven’t seen the US version of The Office yet, you are missing out. I know a lot of people tend to think that the British original is the better of the two, but I don’t see it. They’re different, that’s for sure...but I have to say, I laugh much more at the US version, and I like the characters more as well. Steve Carell is great at playing the heartless bastard of a boss who is Michael Scott. He runs a...I donno, I guess some kind of paper-printing company...something boring, I know that. But since the show is basically a mockumentary, and since Michael Scott is a complete showoff, he always tries to act funny in front of the camera. But it’s tough to look likable and hilarious when you’re a racist, sexist, unfunny ass like he is. In real life, that is. From where I’m sitting (the couch), it’s absolutely hilarious to watch Michael act like such a moron and have nobody laugh. But as great as he is, he can’t top Dwight. Dwight thinks that he is the coolest guy around. He takes karate lessons with a bunch of preteens, he plays paintball, and is a science fiction/fantasy geek. He is also a strict rule-enforcer, and the Assistant Regional Manager (“Assistant to the Regional Manager”), he is constantly following Michael around. Rounding out the cast are Jim and Pam, two younger employees who are clearly attracted to each other, but since Pam is engaged and refuses to admit that she has a thing for Jim, they rarely make any progress. In addition to flirting they love ripping on Dwight and pranking him. The great thing about The Office is the supporting cast. They’re all recurring characters that appear in each episode, and you get to know each of them more and more as the show goes along. Kevin is by far the funniest, but Ryan’s deadpan sarcasm is always good for a laugh, so are Stanley’s responses to all the racist remarks Michael makes towards him. And Angela, that tight@$$ *!+*# (sorry, Montas, I’m doing that a lot this entry, but in my defense, this is ****ing LONG), is great as well. I love all the awkward silences in The Office, as well. Just listen to the hum of the computer monitors after Michael tells a god-awful joke. Brilliant. The British show only had 12 episodes total plus an extended special. The US show had 6 episodes its first season, but Steve Carell’s increased popularity due to this summer’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” has led the show to increase in popularity this season, so it’s getting a full 22 episodes. That is so kick@$$. Another big thing this season: almost every episode, they’ve left the office for one reason or another; be it an awards ceremony or a fire drill or what have you...something that was never seen in the UK Office. But fine, I’ll stop comparing them. Just check it out.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)

Veronica Mars: UPN Wednesdays @ 9
Nobody watches this show. And I hate it. Because this truly is a brilliant show. Take the wit and cleverness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, remove anything supernatural from the show, and you’ve got something close to Veronica Mars. Now, although that’s a pretty damn accurate analogy to make, I hate doing it because as soon as I mention the name “Buffy” people who haven’t seen it before tend to tune out. I know I did before I watched Buffy (I’m now convinced that Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator is an absolute genius; he’s proven himself with Angel, Firefly, and Serenity...and by the way, he loves Veronica Mars too and had a guest appearance on it), but it really is a hilariously witty, clever show that happens to be about a teenage girl fighting vampires. Well, Veronica is the high-school-aged daughter of a private eye. I can’t go into in-depth detail here, but let’s just say she solves mysteries on a week-to-week basis. I suppose the show is, on the surface, a teen soap opera, but it’s really much better than that. The dialogue and writing are genuinely funny and clever in such a Joss Whedon-esque way that fans of any of his shows should be surprised that he didn’t have a hand in the production of this show. At its heart, Veronica Mars is really a crime noir set in the sunny, bright, beachside locale of Neptune, California. There is a season-long mystery that Veronica uncovers bits and pieces of each week, and there are generally so many subplots each episode that isn’t as formulaic as a “Mystery of the Week” type show like Law & Order. I honestly can’t think of a way to explain this show and make it sound good, but if you think it sounds at all interesting, talk to me and I’ll let you borrow the first season DVD. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
(10 episodes have aired so far, 12 are remaining.)


Wait a second, shouldn’t I be doing actual homework?

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