Archive for television

WHAT’S A GUY TO WATCH?

Posted in The Popular with tags , , on November 25, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I LOVE television. It just doesn’t love me back.

Over the past few years, it’s become clear that TV programmers don’t really care about guys like me, guys in their 40s who get to choose what they watch, rather than pretend to enjoy whatever their wives are watching. The only eyeballs network execs seem to worry about today belong to teenagers and middle-aged women.

vicAnd tonight, I’m losing yet another one of the few shows I love: “The Shield” is ending its amazing seven-season run on FX, and I’ll be watching it live (the last time I actually watched a live TV show was the Sopranos’ finale in June 2007). I can’t wait to see what happens to Vic Mackey and the pathetic remains of the Strike Team (and Lloyd the Teen Serial Killer-To-Be better not touch Dutch).

So now three of my favorite shows of the decade have ended: “The Wire,” “The Sopranos” and “The Shield.” And what’s on the horizon to fill the void? “Rosie Live”!! Yep, Rosie O’Donnell hosts a variety show Wednesday, one night after “The Shield” finale, and NBC is considering turning the special into a series. Where’s a dirty cop when you need him?

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

And Rosie’s just the tip of the iceberg (albeit a pretty big tip.) Take CBS. The network hasn’t aired one show that appeals to me in a long time. I don’t give a shit about crime scene investigators or naval criminal investigators or ghost whisperers or cold cases or numb3rs or criminal minds or mentalists.

ABC and NBC and Fox and that CW one aren’t much better. I don’t care about “Law and Order,” so a third of NBC’s lineup is irrelevant to me. “Grey’s Anatomy” makes me ill (ironically), “Chuck” and “Reaper” cancel each other out, and I can’t even imagine spending a minute with gossip girls or desperate housewives.

Some shows do try to appeal to a 43-year-old guy, but they don’t deliver. I watched the first season of “Heroes” on HD DVD (another guy thing) and thought it was a convoluted mess without any focus or point. And that was the good season. I enjoyed the first season of “Prison Break” but didn’t care enough about these people to follow them once they prison broke. I couldn’t even make it to the end of the pilot of “House.” I still watch “24,” but only to keep my eye-rolling muscles in shape. I’ll admit to enjoying “Smallville” and “Supernatural” but they’re geared for people half — or even a third — my age. “How I Met Your Mother” is nowhere near as cool as it thinks it is. “The Big Bang Theory” is mildly amusing, even though that breakout nerd seems to think he’s Lilith from “Cheers.” And I have no use for “Life on Mars” — I liked the original British series and can’t imagine it’s any better with Harvey Keitel.

I stopped watching reality shows about 200 reality shows ago. I know way too much about “American Idol” without ever having seen the show. I don’t care how much money is in that suitcase. And watching celebrities dance is my idea of hell.

So what does that leave me with, other than a lot of space on my DVR? Well, “The Office” and “30 Rock,” the two funniest shows on TV right now; “Rescue Me,” which got a bit too repetitive last season but still entertains; and “Lost,” an exasperating show I gave up on a couple years ago, only to come back just in time to watch it hit its creative highpoint (seasons 3 and 4). And that’s pretty much it. (And “Lost” and “Rescue Me” don’t even return until next year.) I’m not even holding out much hope for Joss Whedon’s upcoming show “Dollhouse,” which seems doomed to the same Friday-night fate as his “Firefly.”

What it all boils down to is that the shows I love aren’t like anything else on TV. “Buffy,” “Arrested Development,” “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “The Shield” — they were all unique. And TV programmers aren’t big on unique. Not when they can get another hit just by sticking the letters C, S and I into a title.

So whether or not Vic Mackey dies tonight, I’ll be sad. Because another original is gone, another show for guys like me is over, and millions of people are perfectly happy watching Rosie O’Donnell introduce tap dancers.

The Over/Under

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , on July 1, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

Overrated: Jimmy Buffett Underrated: Jimmy Eat World

Overrated: The new “Doctor Who” Underrated: “The New Zoo Revue”

Overrated: “Batman Begins” Underrated: Split Enz

Overrated: Gus Van Sant Underrated: Van Damme

Overrated: polls Underrated: Poles

Overrated: Rihanna Underrated: “Syriana”

Overrated: “Devils and Dust” Underrated: Angels & Airwaves

Overrated: “Mystic River” Underrated: Mr. Misty

Forgettable you

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , on June 30, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

SOME things from the ’90s just won’t go away, like Bill Clinton and Zima.

But what about the things that were hugely popular one minute and then forgotten the next? Like Live. I just saw a mid-’90s clip of the band performing and realized I had completely forgotten they ever existed.

Turns out there are a lot of once-inescapable things that haven’t even crossed my mind in like 10 years:

“The Single Guy” – Proved that people would watch even Ernest Borgnine between “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”

Jenny Jones – I vaguely remember her killing a guest on her talk show and going to court, but I may have that wrong.

4 Non Blondes – Made me regret having ears.

Dogme 95 – I once thought this was an interesting idea. Then I watched one of the movies.

EMF – Unbelievable they didn’t have more hits.

“The Hot Zone” – A moment of silence for all the people lost to the flesh-eating virus epidemic.

En Vogue – Not anymore, you aren’t.

Beatrice – All at once, this logo appeared on every food product in America, and no one ever knew why.

“Veronica’s Closet” – 25 million viewers tuned in each week just to confirm it still sucked.

Shamrock Shakes – Totally forgot about these. I never forgot the McRib, though.

Somalia – Don’t hear anything about it anymore, so I guess everything’s better there now.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Popular during one of those fleeting ska-is-cool spells Americans fall under every decade or so.

Zork – For dorks. I know I played these games, but my memory’s been erased.

Anita Hill – Thankfully forgot about her, too. And whatever happened to that judge she worked for?

Ini Kamoze – He came, he hotstepped, and he was gone.

Bus hits as usual

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , on June 27, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

Scriptwriting Tip #253

IF YOU want to shake up your storyline but don’t really have any idea how, bring on the bus. Just have one of your characters walk or run into the middle of a roadway and make some deep or ironic declaration while totally oblivious to oncoming traffic. Then whammo!

“Creative” “genius” J.J. Abrams is the master. This could be what caused Felicity‘s hair to fall out:

Can you guess this chick’s Final Destination?:

Lost, another J.J. Abrams show, does away with one of its 478 characters:

Here’s a Nip/Tuck Bus/Hit:

Even the British love a good bus hit (double-deckers can do some real damage). From Skins:

Yet another J.J. Abrams show. This time it’s Alias:

Betcha didn’t see that coming!

Way under ‘The Wire’

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , on June 24, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

LIKE every other guy on the planet, I am obsessed with “The Wire.” The recently wrapped-up HBO show seems so real and honest, and its characters so lifelike, that it’s hard to believe that Baltimore might not be exactly like it’s depicted in the show.

To me, it’s the complete opposite of that other beloved cop show about Balmer, “Homicide: Life On The Street.” The 1993-99 NBC series, the precursor to “The Wire,” has been praised as one of the best television shows ever (Entertainment Weekly just ranked it among the Top 50 TV “classics” of the past 25 years), but damn, I find it a chore to sit through. Not that I haven’t tried. I’m still trying.

I watched it live when it debuted (the same year as the far-more-entertaining “NYPD Blue”), and stayed with it for a couple seasons before tuning out. Years later, I rewatched the first two seasons twice, figuring that I must have missed the genius that everyone else saw. I’m still working my way through the DVDs, drawn by the promise of David Simon, the co-creator of “The Wire” and the author of the book on which “Homicide” was based (and a producer in later seasons.)

But the show never seemed to live up to the talent involved (talent that included Barry Levinson as an executive producer). I found original cast member Ned Beatty completely miscast, Kyle Secor‘s “Det. Tim Bayliss” an endlessly inconsistent central character, the stylized jump cuts and handheld camerawork out of sync with the unconvincing story lines and dialog, and the performances unnatural (the cast tried way too hard to sound as if they were improvising, so most scenes play more like acting exercises).

And that includes Andre Braugher. I will never understand the ridiculous amount of praise he got for his portrayal of “Det. Frank Pembleton.” He’s overly intense and showy and blustery and actorly (in other words, he won an Emmy), so I never bought him as a real person. Four or five seasons in, after Braugher’s character suffered a stroke, the performance got even worse — his calculated stammering and stuttering took his look-at-me Acting to 11. “The Wire” has probably a hundred actors giving more authentic performances than Braugher’s.

Ironically, the most natural performer on “Homicide” was Richard Belzer, more a comedian than an actor when he took the role of “Det. John Munch.” By underplaying his part, he created a genuine and likable character that would appear on just about every other TV show since then. Including, apparently as his reward, “The Wire.”

How can I forget?

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , on June 17, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

Ahh, childhood. It’s amazing how vivid my memories are when I think of the TV shows, movies and music from those long-gone days.

I remember the stories of bungling spy Maxwell Smart, bionic woman Jamie Sommers, incredible hulk David Banner, and Knight Rider and his car KITT. There were the adventures of Indiana Jones and Sarah Connors, and the slasher flicks like “Prom Night.” And who can forget the cartoons: the Chipmunks, Horton Hears a Who and Speed Racer too.

I remember the popular TV shows, like “90210,” and the ones where celebrities would perform circus acts or test their mettle playing “Password” and “Family Feud.” And how about those average Joes who would take on the “American Gladiators”?

And who could forget the cheesy pop music of the era: Abba, then “Xanadu;” Duran Duran, then New Kids on the Block and — wait a minute…

Shit. This isn’t my childhood I’m remembering. It’s THIS FRICKIN’ YEAR! All this crap is back like a bad dream. I mean, didn’t most of this shit suck the first time around?

Don’t be surprised if in 10 or 20 years, we’re forced to endure “Mariah Carey’s ‘Glitter’: The Musical,” “Cloner Wants A Wife,” “Son Of The Zohan,” “Cavemen: The Evolution” and the Jonas Brothers’ “mature” comeback single “(Everything I Needed In Life) I Learned At Camp Rock.”

How did it get to the point where just about all of our entertainment is either a sequel, a remake, a reboot or a reunion? The Terminator should have come from the future to warn us about this.