Category Archives: TeeVee

Wired to the tubes, the best five TV shows ever

Thanks to Jagadiah’s Buffy-a-rama, I felt the need to place Buffy in the pantheon of great TV shows. The best shows, in order:

1. The Wire – HBO’s opus about Baltimore owes as much to Charles Dickens as to the brilliant observations of David Simon and the incredible stable of writers. If Dickens was a 21st century writer living in Baltimore, the Wire is pretty much what he would create. Yeah, it’s an indictment of the war against drugs, public education in the inner cities, bureaucracy in the police force curtailing real po-lice work and political corruption, but wrapped up in the most entertaining and well-designed series in TV history. Hard to get into if you don’t see it from the beginning, it’s a show that demands careful viewing from the beginning.

2. Seinfeld – Literally NOTHING can be said about this show about ‘nothing’ that hasn’t been said before. It’s comedy GOLD and produced more idiomatic phrases to the culture than any show in history: high talker, close talker, low talker, soup nazi, sponge-worthy, anti-dentite, shrinkage..etc. etc. etc. One of the complaints about the show after the first few episodes is that there was no story-line. From that point on, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld managed to cram more story-lines per episode than probably any show in history. Watch the episode about the Kramer’s cigar store ‘indian’/TV guides/Russian cable installers, and a baby shower. Amazing.

3. Homicide: Life on the Street – Baltimore’s dark pre-cursor to ‘The Wire’. Real po-lice work written and driven by people who knew the territory. Made NYPD Blue (another good show) look frothy and light.

4. Sopranos – The first 3 years are just about as good as it gets. The show was never really about the ‘mafia’. Organized crime was the hook to pull you into the cloistered world of the families involved. Relationships between a husband and his wife, the husband and his shrink, and the husband and his ‘lieutenants’ managed to be endlessly fascinating.

5. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer – The thing I like most about this show is that even though the town featured in the show was positioned over the ‘mouth of hell’, the show played it ‘straight’, as if the gaping jaws of hades were just another facet of town life, like the square or the main drag. The main cast was pitch-perfect and the ongoing Spike and Buffy romance was the crazy diamond shining on, and on.

You may have other opinions about the best shows ever, but I’m pretty sure I’m right…

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Wired up..(for the King)

If you’re not watching ‘The Wire‘ or not renting or buying ‘The Wire’ (if you don’t HBO), you are missing the great Charles Dickens novel of the 20th and 21st centuries (without all the boring parts). You are missing the avenging angel aka Omar, who just might be the most interesting character in television history.

Years and years from now, when historians reflect on the decay that this nation has either fallen prey to or magically overcome, they will be watching ‘The Wire’ to understand how we failed our children, our cities, our political ideals and our national soul. And, oh yeah, they’ll also be watching because it’s damn good television.

Martin Luther King once told us that America has ‘given the Negro people a bad check.a check that had come back marked with ‘insufficient funds’. Years later when we have papered over many sins, and have actually healed others, we still are searching for the mountain-top.

I laud the people who still care enough to show us the truth, and a man, although imperfect, who spoke the truth with fierce and undeterred love.

The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.

Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Strength to Love,’ 1963

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‘Ohhhhh Robbb’, ‘Larrrrrrrrrry’, ‘Now Bob’

Dick Van Dyke, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bob Newhart show…Mary Tyler Moore mastered the quavering voice with the choreography of the ballet, Cheryl Hines conjured up the slow burn of the Honeymooner’s Audry Meadows, when she managed to turn the name of her co-star into a synonym for utter disgust, and finally, in a world where the inmates of Newhart’s psychiatric practice unflapped the buttoned-down Bob Newhart, Suzanne Pleshett grounded her man with just one husky-voiced word: ‘Bob’. She did a lot of acting just saying that one name.

Mary Tyler Moore still graces us with her smile. I’m hoping that despite her TV separation from Larry David, that Cheryl Hines will still be exhibiting her utter disgust for Larry’s behavior for seasons to come. But Suzanne Pleshett has left us. She was a lot more than just a foil for Bob Newhart, acting on Broadway and film much of her life, but she will be known mostly for her part in the greatest ending ever for a TV series, and the way she made a great show even greater.

Go in peace, Ms. Pleshett. I’m sure the denizens of your new home will enjoy your husky voice as much as we did down here.

Sharon Cobb has more to say on the passing of Pleshett.

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Where madness lies, or, ‘and the Emmy goes to Jon Hamm’..

I just watched possibly the best 10 minutes of television this year (possibly several years). The season-ending episode of the superb AMC series, Mad Men, set in 1960 featured Don Draper (Jon Hamm) making a pitch to Kodak executives. He takes their new-fangled slide projector ‘wheel’, renaming it ‘carousel’, in a pitch that is not only pitch-perfect, but also manages to break your heart. Nostalgia in a show that re-creates a past that many viewers never really knew existed. It’s an ad-world where women are largely props, where the few women who are able to verbalize their worth stand out in stark relief from the boy’s club.

I love this show, and I was excited to see that the show will return in 2008. Tonight’s show ended with the perfect Dylan tune..it might have actually been recorded a few years later, but I’ve never heard a song that fit so perfectly with a final shot. Bravo to Jon Hamm, and all the fine actors comprising the cast of ‘Mad Men’, not to mention the writers and producers.

Sometimes I’m actually proud to watch TV…

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God watching over TV! or, things looking rosier for Friday Night Lights (or should that be rosie-less?)

I don’t really hate Rosie O’ Donnell. I suppose she has her place somewhere on TV, but I’m so glad to hear that she will not be emoting versus Kyle Chandler on one of the BEST shows on TV: Friday Night Lights. Rumors abounded that Ms. O’Donnell was going to play a soccer coach at our favorite TV high school. Not so, says TV Guides TV guru of gurus, Michael Ausiello, who tends to know these things. Ausiello was hoping that O’Donnell would be on the show…We can’t be perfect, Michael.

If you haven’t watched FNL yet, be sure to tune in or at least TiVo the sucker. It’s worth your time.  The nimrods at NBC are airing FNL on Friday nights in the upcoming season, which actually does sound appropriate, but generally portends the death knell for shows of this sort.

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If you’re not watching ‘Damages’, you should be..

Not a lot of great summer fare on the tubes, outside of ‘The Closer’ on TNT and ‘Rescue Me’ on FX.   A newer offering by FX ‘Damages‘ starring Glenn Close, Ted Danson and a bunch of ‘those guys*’ is a fun show about dirty-double-crossing’ lawyers (i don’t always think that is a redundancy) and at least one good lawyer and a lot of shady goings-on.  Told partly in flashback, with the protagonist bloodied and arrested, the show really really makes me want to find out how all this unfurls.   Good summer escapist fun..

Damages is on at 9:00 PM CST on Tuesday nights with a lot of chances throughout the week to catch up.

*those guys: men and women you recognize from numerous TV appearances, but you can’t quite remember their name.

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Probably not much ‘conchord’ on this issue, but I love this show..

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I can’t do, watch, or digest ‘John from Cincinnati’, but I find myself really enjoying ‘Flight‘. The show features two seemingly non-mensa-like musicians from New Zealand who have moved to New York to make it big. As one would suspect after watching their laconic stylings, they are going nowhere fast. But, the deadpan journey is wonderful grist for a 30 minute show replete with witty tunes a la ‘They Might be Giants’.

They have one groupie and a moronic manager and an occasional soon-to-leave girlfriend or two. Not a lot happens, but they make me laugh. I thought I was the only one (besides my wife) who enjoys the show (I’ve heard nothing but derision on talk radio and in blogs), but then I discovered one of my blog-heroes also loves the show. You rock, Lindsey.

Are there more of ‘us’ out there??

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