With Buy Nothing Year in full swing and my enthusiasm for re-reviewing as of late (obviously) waning, I thought I’d take a look at the goodly bits of television programming that I’ve been imbibing to keep me stocked in freshtertainment:
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (concluded) - I reviewed this earlier and stated that I quite liked it, and I continued to like it even though by episode four the show began to stagnate in the action department (having likely blown most of their budget early on to try and hook viewers) and a number of incongruities between the movies’ “rules” (of time travel or how the Terminators operate) and the show’s surfaced. Surprisingly the addition of 90210 Brian Austin Green as John Connor’s uncle actually didn’t turn out that bad, and Firefly’s Summer Glau turned out to be the second best Terminator next to Robert Patrick’s T-1000. The acting and production values were all above average, even if the show did sag in the middle from time to time, weighed down with its unfortunate need to establish its own supporting cast of characters. The show underperformed in the ratings (even with a writer’s strike leaving not much else new to watch) and thus isn’t likely to come back for another season, and who knows whether it will at all be tied into the upcoming movie(s) in production. The series’ final 2 episodes were unfortunately aired without much fanfare and many people, myself included, missed the first of the 2-part finale. The cliffhanger ending was pretty awesome and the varying story threads finally collided in an interesting fashion (something that really should have happened earlier). An entertaining series which, were it to continue running, I would definitely keep watching… alas…
Lost Season 4 (Thursdays at 9, ABC) - The wait for the latest season became rather unbearable over the 8 or 9 months since the end of the third, and I utterly devoured this season’s ready-made order (they had to stop mid-way through their 16-episode production this year due to the writer’s strike, meaning one more new episode this Thursday and a 3-4 week break before the final 7 episodes air). I would even watch the repeated episodes from the week prior with “pop-up trivia”, that’s how devoted I am. This season has been pretty cool, with the writer’s playing with the whole “flashback” thing almost every episode (sometimes it’s a flash-forward, or multiple flashbacks, or a time-displacement thing, or even a combo of flashback-flashforward). The last two episodes (the Sun spotlight and the return of …well, you know) have been the weakest so far, but still really intriguing leaving so many frustrating unanswered questions. As usual the writers can dump as many answers on us as we like and there’s still so many new questions raised joining those left over. If there’s anything to be said about Lost’s popularity, it’s that it’s forcing people to pay attention and juggle a lot of information, with more constantly being added every episode. The end of season six is still a long way off (32 episodes away), but the show is actually starting to feel like it’s working towards that finish without feeling like it’s just wrapping things up. Obsession inducing and gloriously maddening.
Extras Season 1 (Tuesdays at 10, Comedy) - Ricky Gervais’ big follow-up to The Office is somewhat reserved, being exceptionally character-focussed rather than gag-centric or formulaic (although the first two or three episodes seemed to follow a pattern that it did break out of). Gervais’ 40-something, trying-to-make-it Andy is differently charming, getting himself into uncomfortably funny situations either by his own honesty, the interventions of Maggie (Ashley Jensen) or his tremendously inept agent Stephen Merchant. Later episodes find Andy gaining a modicum of success, but definitely not on his own terms and its a wonderful portrayal of the struggle between spiritual and monetary rewards, as well as the effects of celebrity on the unsuspecting. Creating and starring in a TV show that spins into something resembling lowest-common-denominator television, Andy hates what he’s become and yet needs the reassurance of a fanbase or recognition from strangers to satisfy that what he’s doing isn’t a complete waste. The show is stocked with celebrities that usually get knee deep in discomfort, mostly British actors (Patrick Stewart, Orlando Bloom) but some American stars (Ben Stiller, Sam Jackson) as well. From race, to sexuality to gender to stature to class, Extras never avoids taboo, but rather thrives on smartly addressing it.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (Tuesdays at 10:35ish, Comedy) - The Adult Swim anti-cartoon is sketch comedy at its most oblique, just completely irreverent and often nonsensical. It’s easy to tell that the titular Tim and Eric create a show based on what makes them laugh and not any sense of what any audience might have expectations for. Enrolling a host of friends to assist (David Cross, Weird Al, John C. Reilly) the show is, bluntly put, a trippy, often disturbing festival of laughs and tears. Utilizing production effects that were last seen in the 1980’s, the show has an extremely low-budget feel which entirely works for it. There is no way to effectively describe the show, and either you’re going to be receptive to it or it’ll put you right off. It’s not that it’s (very) crass, like South Park (for instance) but it’s just so bizarre that it will likely hurt your brain. Every week after Extras, I ask my wife “Are you ready?” (she says no and lays her head down on my lap, curled in a semi-fetal position in preparation) as I force her to stay and watch it, which I think might be some kind of spousal abuse frankly.
The Jon Dore Show (Thursdays at 10:30 and various, Comedy) - Jon Dore, for many, is best known as that funny guy from Canadian Idol. Being any sort of actor or comedian in Canada is tough work, so you can’t blame the guy for taking the gig, no matter how soul sucking it may have been for him. I’ve seen Dore on stage at the Rivoli a number of times and he is an ingenious comedian with a great sense of timing and word play, and capable of executing conceptual jokes like few others can. His self-aware, juvenile, self-deprecating and wry sense of humour translates completely into The Jon Dore Show, quickly becoming one of the best Canadian comedy shows ever, certainly the smartest on TV today. Each episode follows Jon examining a particular neuroses, such as his fear of bats or his suspicion he might have an STD. Though he does a lot of bawdy and bodily humour, it’s rarely crass, more presented with a Zucker Brothers-style whimsy which blunts any edges it may have. Dore interviews real psychologists, doctors, weightlifters and other non-actors, often frustrating or shocking them, an aspects of the show that borrows from what the Daily Show has been doing for years, but Dore puts them together with produced bridges in such a fashion as to make a hilarious and unifying half hour. Not for the young or uptight.
“Reality TV” (various times, various channels) - Mythbusters, Survivorman, At The End Of Our Leash, ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, Maxed Out, Supernanny, America’s Next Top Model, Dirty Jobs, What Not To Wear and others cross our television screen from time to time, but none are religiously watched at any specific date or time on a weekly basis. Rarely intentionally anyway.