I’ll admit it. I’m a TV junkie. I love watching TV episodes, preferably en masse on DVD or via download. Marathon TV sessions are a great joy of mine. So, what happens when someone watches a lot of marathon TV sessions? It’s pretty obvious: They’ve seen a crap load of TV. That’s the case with me. I am including some of my general commentary and views on a small fraction of the TV that I’ve watched. To comment on all of it would take waaaay too long. I’m also always looking for new TV to watch.
NOTE: The shows below are listed in alphabetical order. Attempting to rank them would be too hard.
24: This show suffers from a rut of predictability. It used to be more of a thriller/suspense show. I can remember back to when I actually found the show to be exciting from episode to episode. No longer. Now I watch the show as a joke just to see Jack say “trust me” over and over (hey, it works) and then proceed to kill like five people per episode. So yes, I’m going to keep watching it. But no, it isn’t really good anymore.
30 Rock: This is a funny show. Some characters are stupid. Tracy Morgan isn’t really funny as the crazed star of the show that 30 Rock is set around. I think he’s hilarious in general, but saying “Liz Lemon” over and over while acting like some kooky actor just isn’t funny to me. That being said, Alec Baldwin is brilliant as Jack Donaghy. His character is spot on in so many ways. I also think that Tina Fey, while not always terrific as an actress, does a great job writing the show. Her jabs at GE/NBC are terrific. I still laugh whenever I see or hear Jack’s title (“Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming”). Her incessant shots at the Republican Party are similarly entertaining. Overall I highly recommend this show.
Arrested Development: Even though this show only lasted three seasons, it has a huge number of fans. For good reason — it’s downright hilarious. Buster, Gob, George Michael, Tobias — they’re the funny ones on the show. I find Michael to be annoying. You could play a drinking game around him saying the word “family” on the show and be completely wasted by the end of every episode. All he does is whine and complain (granted his family does suck) and it really wears on me after awhile when I’m watching the show. But seeing Buster being his awkward self followed by Gob displaying various illusions of grandeur followed by Tobias acting like the most flamboyant closet homosexual in history — it all makes up for it. The show is really funny and definitely worth seeing. As many people say, you should watch from the beginning so you understand the characters.
Battlestar Galactica: I’m currently in the middle of this series. I only started watching it a few weeks ago on the recommendations of a number of friends. I never would have watched a show with the name “Battlestar Galactica” … I just don’t like the Sci Fi genre too much. After all, you’re reading the words of a person who never watched a single Stars Wars movie (I know, no one believes me) and wouldn’t even consider watching something like a Star Trek episode. But after enough people said that BG was great, I had to try it out. And I realized pretty fast that the show is a drama, not a Sci Fi show consumed with its own dorkiness (like many others that I’ve seen).
My feelings on the show overall are mixed. On the one hand, it keeps me entertained. I’m truly intrigued by the Cylons and where the show is heading. On the other hand, the show is also really predictable and kind of dumb in some ways. I feel like I always know what’s coming every episode and that makes it a little boring. The show also “invents” random drama for an episode which is never to be heard from again. So they’re really telling me that a problem like a food shortage lasts for one episode and is never a problem again? Or that energy shortages don’t happen again? Every once in awhile they have these “off” episodes where they invent some dumb problem at the beginning, solve it over the course of the episode and then close the book on it forever. I think that sort of takes away from the overall point of the show — the human battle with the Cylons and the relationships being developed over the course of that struggle… along with the search for Earth. If the show could stay on course, I would enjoy it a lot more.
Deadliest Catch: I don’t know why I like to watch shows like this. I guess because of the human struggle and incredible pain these guys put themselves through to make a bunch of money over the course of a few weeks a few times a year. I also just think it’s pretty cool how these guys who appear grungy and hick-ish at first glance are actually pretty brilliant at what they do. Some of these captains know the Bering Sea crab fishing grounds like the back of their hands. They spend their lives figuring out how the crab move around and while I take it for granted that they can throw a bunch of pots on the bottom of the ocean and rake in the crab, I realize that there’s an incredible amount of knowledge involved, along with skill of the workers on deck. Somehow, the show hasn’t gotten old for me despite being in its fourth season. I expect it could go the way of American Chopper at some point … ie, the stars of the show forget what made them stars in the first place and they become full-on obsessed with their own celebrity to the point where the show sucks. Hopefully that won’t happen too soon. When it does, I’ll stop watching just like I stopped watching American Chopper after a few seasons.
Dexter: Terrific show. It keeps me on edge. I think Dexter does a terrific job with his role and almost everyone plays their spots brilliantly. The only person who I’m ever disappointed in is his sister Deb — she seem kind of forced sometimes. Plus her behavior and mindset just seem a little pathetic to me. It’s like she’s trying to make the audience feel bad for her. Maybe it’s the writing/storyline for her character and it isn’t her fault. But the whole daddy issues mixed with boyfriend issues for female characters are beyond played out. The writers need to let her character just move on. That being said, Dexter, his g/f, the rest of the police dept, ancillary characters, etc — they’re all great. They actually do a great job of making Julie Benz look average looking — she’s incredibly hot (especially for her age) in other stuff. Plus the show itself is a great mix of humor with characters like Masuka delivering terrific lines at the right moments. I highly recommend this show and I can’t wait for the 3rd season.
Dirty Jobs: Mike Rowe is a little annoying in my opinion. His sense of humor is predictable and bland, but yet he shows up with the same quips about poop every episode. I appreciate that he’s truly willing to get down and dirty in jobs that most wouldn’t touch for a minute, let alone a full day or two. Therefore, I’m glad that he’s the host because it only works when you see someone actually try to do the job. If he refused to artificially inseminate cows (I swear he’s done that like three times now), the show would be ruined.
But the reason the show is great isn’t Mike Rowe or his willingness to get dirty. It’s that it’s really cool to see what other people do. And we’re talking about interesting work, not office work. I’d be bored out of my mind watching the average Accounts Receivable clerk doing his or her job, but learning about things like fish farms and purple potato farmers in Colorado is positively fascinating for me. I can’t get enough of it. It’s the same reason why I love watching things like “How it’s Made” and it’s even an ancillary reason why I like Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch. Cool jobs are interesting. Period.
Entourage: I like this show. I don’t really know why. I’m not obsessed with Hollywood. I don’t care about the celebrity culture and I don’t know the first thing about what sort of crazy thing Britney Spears has done lately in a desperate attempt to keep herself in the news. So I don’t know why I think it’s cool to see a fictional representation of being a celebrity from the other side — but I do. I also think a lot of the show is silly. And some characters like Billy are really annoying. But Ari totally steals the show. He’s exactly what everyone thinks Hollywood agents are like (and that’s probably exactly true for some of them). Vince and the rest of the crew are really just along for the ride on Ari’s show. I do enjoy the frequent guest appearances a lot as well. I will definitely be watching this show as long as it’s on.
Family Guy: This is a show that I used to really enjoy but one that I got bored with. Maybe it’s just because the characters got old, I’m not not. But I do know that I don’t even care to watch it anymore. Maybe one day I get the desire to fire up a few old Family Guy episodes, but there are about 100 things I’d rather being watching right now.
Flight of the Conchords: I love these guys. They’re hilarious and Murray is even funnier. I’m really glad that it came on right after Entourage, otherwise I might have never started watching it. Even though I know they’re a real band too, it’s clear they have some real talent for being in front of the camera. They play their roles perfectly. Also, even though I know their music is kind of a joke, it’s really good nonetheless. This show is really highly recommended.
House: I don’t really like this show too much. It’s literally the same thing over and over. Patient comes in, they hate Dr House, everyone fights, Dr House makes some brilliant discovery, he’s close but not quite right, people fight more, the administration annoys people and then Dr House solves the mysterious illness once and for all, thereafter believing he’s the smartest person in the history of the world. And the rest of the hospital lets him believe he’s the smartest doctor ever. That’s every single episode. Of course, I gave up partway through season 1, so maybe it gets better eventually.
Ice Road Truckers: As I’ve stated above, I like watching interesting jobs. It doesn’t get too much more interesting than Ice Road Truckers. These guy are driving upwards of 100 tons over bodies of water that are frozen over. That’s just amazing that the ice can handle that sort of weight. Unlike Deadliest Catch, I am not really intrigued by the amount of money these guys are making for doing uneducated work. I’m just intrigued by the coolness of driving on lakes in the dead of winter in the Canadian north. Really really cool. They also put together a good cast of characters. They have good truckers, jolly old guys, complainers, etc. And, of course, Drew Sherwood, the biggest quitter/complainer/pathetic trucker ever. I know that they’re probably portraying him to be worse than he really is, but they’re midway through the second season and he’s done like one ice road trip total! He spends more time quitting, complaining and moping around than anyone I’ve met in my life. But the show is better with him on it because it provides regular comic relief to see him doing boring/normal trucking while insisting that he’s not any worse at trucking than the guys like Hugh, Alex and Rick (of course, Rick is quite a complainer himself). Either way, I love shows like this. Keep em coming Discovery Channel / History Channel / whoever else wants to make them.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: This has nothing to do with me being from Philadelphia but, I absolutely love this show. It’s tough to call with shows this funny, but this might be the funniest show on TV. The cast is perfect and they all do a good job. I can’t think of a single character who is annoying to me. I also very rarely watch an episode without bursting out laughing multiple times. Much like Seinfeld, it’s a show about nothing. In fact, there are numerous Seinfeld parallels. Factors like the three male+one female ensemble cast. Or the nemesis ancillary characters like Newman on Seinfeld and the McPoyle brothers on Sunny. The parallels go on and on. That being said, Sunny is its own show and it stands on its own as a work of comedic brilliance. The series is perfectly written and the actors are just terrific. I don’t think I could possibly recommend a TV comedy with more enthusiasm.
Journeyman (cancelled): I must have been one of the few who actually liked this show. It premiered on NBC last fall and I found the time travel thing pretty intriguing. I don’t really know why I liked it. Maybe just because I watched the first few episodes and got hooked. Either way, I’m definitely sad that it was cancelled because I was going to keep watching it.
Lost: What else can be said about this show that hasn’t already been said? It’s set to become a classic TV show in my opinion. For all of the people who love to proclaim how they “hate” Lost and/or how they got “bored” with it because “nothing ever happened” and stopped watching it, I meet 50x that number who are completely infatuated with the show. And it seems like most of the people who believe they’ve gotten over the show get drawn back to the show in fairly short order when they hear people talking about it. I don’t think there’s any show out there that’s easier to burn through 40 minute episodes on DVD. I know countless people who’ve picked up Lost a few years in, only to watch the entire first season in something like one or two days of being planted in front of the TV. That speaks to how captivating the show is. In my mind, it continues to be captivating. I can’t wait for the new season to start. This is my favorite drama of all-time and I’ll be watching it religiously until the last episode.
Rob and Big: I never watched this when it was actually on TV. Maybe because I completely tuned out MTV after Jackass ended and they became obsessed with My Super Sweet Sixteen, random crap in the afternoon and the like. My mistake. MTV delivers big-time with Rob and Big. At first glance, I was not impressed with the idea of watching a pro skateboarder and his enormous bodyguard. I thought it might be like a watered-down version of Jackass. I was completely wrong, the show stands on its own as its own thing. Obviously there are the “real world Entourage” comparisons that are bound to be made with anyone rich/famous living in Hollywood with a bunch of friends/relatives — not to mention the presence of someone nicknamed “Drama” in the house. But the show is entertaining episode after episode and I’m not surprised it had great ratings. Dyrdek is a really impressive skateboarder and even though I guess he isn’t on the level of someone like Eric Koston (who, by the way, I remember from the days when I was trying to skateboard), he does enough make me believe that he’s completely legit and not some fake skateboarder made up for reality TV (I suppose if I followed pro skateboarding, I would have known about him anyway). He’s also a pretty funny guy, especially in tandem with Big. However, he proves to me that literally every celebrity is kooky and just a little crazy. Some of his stunts might have been made up for TV purposes, but I genuinely believe that he’s a little crazy. I don’t know why celebrities tend to go insane, but one thing’s for sure: they’re weird.
South Park: I don’t think there’s a single show that I have such mixed feelings on. I watch some episodes of South Park and I literally think it’s terrible beyond all recognition. It isn’t funny, it isn’t creative, I’m bored out of my mind and I can’t believe I’m wasting my time. Then there are other episodes where I laugh every time I think about it and there are at least five lines worthy of being repeated multiple times in real life. I guess the nature of the material is kind of hit-or-miss, so my experience with the show is somewhat bound to happen. I should also note that, while for most shows on this page I’ve seen every episode, that is not the case with South Park. I didn’t watch the early seasons at all and I only watch the show itself sporadically — mainly for the reasons I just stated. That being said, I usually enjoy the show tremendously and, one of these days, I will go on a mission to catch up with a lot of the episodes that I’ve missed.
The Office: I’ve seen both the UK and US versions. Unlike some people, I find the US version to be much more entertaining. The Tim/Jim character in the UK version was just kind of pathetic and annoying, whereas in the US version, he’s hilarious. His relationship with Pam is kind of dragging on a bit and the show itself isn’t quite as funny as it once was. The routine of Michael acting awkward and stupid while Jim makes funny faces and Pam laughs isn’t going to be funny forever. I found the whole attempt at integrating the show with a fake real-world website at Dunder Mifflin Infinity to be both odd, stupid and a bit of a failure. I still don’t get what they were doing there — did they think they were Lost and they could pull off that sort of viral marketing plan? Maybe. Hopefully they realized they aren’t Lost and there was no point to the website thing. Just having dundermifflin.com alone is somewhat retarded — integrating website launches into the storyline… yea, I just don’t get it. On the other hand, characters like Creed and Dwight are pure comedic brilliance. Michael and Jim still have their moments. Even Stanley and a few others have their moments, although I think Stanley’s character is pretty played out at this point. Overall, I am definitely still going to be watching the show this fall, although not with as much anticipation as I once did.
The Simpsons: This is a show that should be put out of its misery. It’s an all-time classic with one of the best characters in the history of TV: Homer. I love the constant references to outside material. The writers manage to be both smart and simple at the same time — something that’s hard to do. As opposed to some of the haughty material being hawked in many other forms of life, The Simpsons makes satire simple and straightforward. I love that about the show. But like many others, I feel that the show has peaked and is only being kept on the air because of money. I don’t blame Fox for their actions because I would likely do the same thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m still watching the show. I tuned out a few years ago… hopefully I’m not missing anything good.
The Sopranos: I liked this show right up until the end. They did the right thing ending it when they did. The entire cast did a terrific job and while I don’t know how accurate mob portrayals ever are, like many others, I really appreciated how the show attempted to show the family life behind a modern mob boss. I always have some level of mixed feelings about the glorification of the mob, but I suppose it’s no different than glorification of war or other violence in movies and general popular culture. The only difference with war is that, at least in modern times, some guy in the White House says that it’s okay while the rest of the world objects. Anyway, the show has a great array of characters and I can’t say enough about the quality of writing, acting, production quality, etc. The show was a joy to watch and I’m definitely going to miss it.
The Wire: I didn’t pick this one up for years. After seeing shaniac and others on twoplustwo rave about the show over and over, I *finally* got ahold of the DVDs and caught myself up. I shouldn’t have waited so long, this show is terrific. Much like the Sopranos, I have no idea if anything in the show is realistic. Obviously things like the short-lived “Amsterdam” district are not realistic — but I suppose some of the other parts of the show could easily be how things really are in city police departments and city governments. Regardless of realism, the show is flat out entertaining. I am constantly wondering where the show’s writers are taking the storyline, which is a great thing — too many shows are predictable. I really liked the Barksdale crew, but the show’s transition to Marlo was smooth and well-executed. I felt genuine sadness for characters like Bodie when they’re caught in between friendship and bosses — people who actually face that sort of hardship are literally stuck in an impossible place in life. The whole show is just terrific, I can’t say enough good things about The Wire. Go start watching it — now.
Ultimate Fighter: As I’ve blogged about before, I got into MMA when BLUFF started FIGHT! magazine. As part of my MMA education, I went back and watched every episode of The Ultimate Fighter going back to the first season. At this point I’m completely caught up and I’m looking forward to the eighth season. I had a somewhat odd experience with TUF because I actually started watching from the end backwards. I watched the sixth season, then the fifth, etc. Therefore, I had already watched the matured version of a show that started out very raw. It was almost comical too see Willa Ford and random retarded “reality TV” challenges in the Nevada desert. It’s all too obvious the level of influence that other reality TV successes had on the early seasons of TUF — TV execs were obviously scared to follow any other formula. However, I’m sure that the marketing genius that is Dana White eventually took control of TUF once the ratings had been established and the UFC had some sort of leverage over the production of the show. After all, TUF is not a typical reality TV show — more than anything, it’s a documentary about real fighters trying to win a real contract to perform a real job. Unlike most reality TV, it’s actually real. It’s just being filmed as they go. Obviously this show won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like MMA, it’s a must-watch. A lot of the big stars in the UFC have come from TUF and tons of others make either brief appearances or they join the show as coaches. It’s a great show.