Tuesday, 13 October 2009

What I Learned from Watching US TV the Week (and a half) Before Last

So I'm now back from a place where the regular laws of society and human decency do not apply - Las Vegas, Nevada of course… and I’m also now moved into my (first) new home albeit still internet-less so I come to you today one last time (hopefully) from TV or not TV's former 'offices'.

During my trip Stateside I made a few notes on some televisual observations I made during my early morning, early evening and late night TV viewing and I also managed to catch some of the shows that I previewed before my vacation from the blogosphere as well as the new seasons of some of our old favourites so now I will recant my US TV experience to you in (hopefully) descriptive, techni-colour glory and tell you just what I Learned from Watching US TV the Week (and a half) Before Last...

- ‘NCIS’ is on all the time on the USA network. The Mark Harmon-starring original tepid naval investigation series was literally on every time I flicked across USA, either that or the slightly less tepid ‘Numbers’ which stars the always enjoyable David Krumholtz.

- We need more celebrity starring adverts in the UK rather than the z-list likes of Katona and Nesbitt we are forced to endure. Out there you've got Morgan Freeman voicing the Visa ads, President David Palmer pitching All State insurance and Ryan Seacrest hocking mouthwash (quite appropriate seen as his name sounds like a mouthwash) even at Manchester airport there was a massive Kevin Costner staring back at me promoting - get this - Turkish airways - no slogan just Dances with Wolves' face and a big Turkish plane - why can't we have that on our screens in between Corrie!?

- The 24 hour networks are even more scaremongeringly paranoid than you could ever imagine when you can experience them raw, in the flash and 24 hours a day. I suppose they have to come up with something to fill those 604,800 seconds of air time each week don't they...? Speaking of which...

- Fox News' distorted truth and paranoia really has to be seen in all its misinformed, manipulative glory to be believed. Whether it's comparing a school singing a song about Obama to Nazi Germany or their utter revelling in Chicago's failure to land the Olympics for a network of schmucks who claim to love America they sure have a funny way of showing it.

- The US TV habit of putting post-watershed films on before the watershed is utterly pointless. Why put a violent, profanity-laced film on at 11am if you're just going to cut all the best bits (the violence and the swearing) out? I was happily watching ‘The Rock’ (the film, not the actor) one evening when it got to one of my favourite bits (which, in that film is any scene that involves Sean Connery speaking - seriously he could make any line sound cool) where Connery breaks through the two-way glass of the interrogation room and grabs FBI director Womack by the throat. "Womack why am I not surprised you piece of shit" - great line.

There I am repeating the script verbatim line for line when a clearly dubbed "dirt" replaces "shit" - to say I was thoroughly disgusted is an understatement. What's next "yippe-ki-ay motherfudger"?

That said,

- You can pretty much find something decent to watch on US TV at any time of the day, morning, noon or night - sure there is the usual dross filling the schedules but everything is better even gash daytime tele, instead of Jeremy Kyle you've got Springer instead of those heinous Loose Women you've got ‘The View’, who, granted are still harpies but you get Whoopi Goldberg instead of Kate Thornton (go figure) and guest-wise the likes of Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon rather than Katie fucking Price.

- The 'loads of adverts' stereotype about US TV really isn't a stereotype. It's stone cold fact. The one way that British tele trumps its US cousin is that we don't cut to and advert after every line of dialogue or sporting play - it really is that bad.

Granted US adverts are a trillion times better than ours but I still don't want to watch them every five seconds.

- A ‘Saved by the Bell’ reunion truly would be awesome. Justin Lee Collins really needs to ‘Bring Back...’ ‘Saved by the Bell’. The former cast members crop up all over TV - Mario Lopez (everywhere) Tiffani Thiesen, still looking smokin’ hot, in the new ‘White Collar’ (which along with ‘Trauma’ look like two of the better debuting shows this fall season) ‘White Collar’ also stars ‘Tru Calling’ alum Matt Bomer looking markedly more charismatic and less wooden than he did on ‘Tru Calling’ and Mark Paul Gosselaar on ‘Raising the Bar’.

A reunion show would be great. I'd particularly love to see Dennis Haskins aka Mr. Belding again and to see if Elizabeth Berkley has actually filmed a role yet where she doesn't get her muff out.

- The new season of ‘Heroes’ looks dog even with the addition of T-Bag. Even the great Robert Knepper looks as though he won't be able to save Tim Krig's increasingly awful, once great, show. I caught a bit of one episode and it really was so bad that I turned it off, I didn't particularly want to watch an episode out of order as I obviously haven't seen the previous episodes, but as you'll see in a minute with ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ if the show is good you can't help but watch - it was very easy to switch Matt Parkman and his imaginary Sylar off and that is a very ominous sign for this show.

- Season 7 of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ is going to be abso-fucking-lutely awesome. I managed to catch an entire episode of one of the shows that I was mouthing off about before my hiatus, the genius that is Larry David's ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and let's just say that I had high hopes and they were more than met (and this episode hadn't even seen the ‘Seinfeld’ reunion arc start).

The Blacks may have now left Larry, but thankfully the genius that is Leon will be sticking around for the season, a wise move indeed. A great moment in what was episode 2 of the new season saw the Blacks leave just as Leon returned - Larry: "They've gone. So I guess you'll be..." Leon (clutching a big bag of Chinese food): "...Going up to my room and eating this fucking Chinese food". I love that man.

- ‘Bored to Death’ is going to be brilliant and needs to find a home on UK screens soon. One of my other five big ones that I tipped up last time I was here was ‘Bored to Death’ and given my uncertainty over whether it will ever make it over here (it should) it was the one show I really wanted to catch when I was Stateside. I managed to catch about half an episode and it was every bit as good as I imagined but the shock was that Zach Galifianakis, while still very funny, didn't still the show (in what it has to be said is a very-reigned in performance from the uber-funnyman) Ted Danson breezed in and completely bogarted the show.

Danson is inspired as Jason Schwartzman's sleazy "herpes riddled" publisher and plumbs darkly comic depths I never even knew Danson was capable of - imagine the amplified version of himself from ‘Curb’ and multiply that by about 50 and you'll be someway to appreciating how great Danson is in this show (and I only saw about 20 minutes!). I can rest assured, thanks to multi-region DVD players and hopefully another Stateside jaunt next year that I will eventually get to appreciate this latest addition to HBO's fine collection of programming but if more British people don't get to see this brilliant, brilliant show then it really will be a travesty.

Join me next week for My State of TV Address where I will be discussing the state of UK TV at the moment – a lot has happened in the month I’ve been away so it should be very interesting…


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