Friday, 23 October 2009

State of TV Address

I’ve had a while now to refamiliarize myself with my surroundings and get fully up to speed (almost) on what has been happening out there in TV land, so to usher TV or not TV back into regular circulation I’ve decided to give what may very well become an annual State of TV Address.

A veritable smorgasbord of shows have returned to our screens in recent weeks, often without the slightest hype from the clueless channels we have over here – over in the US you get practically beaten over the head with the hype for new or returning shows – but my dissection of the gaping differences between UK and US TV shall be confined to last week’s post.

Instead, here are my thoughts on the current crop of shows that are lighting up, and in some cases: polluting, our screens:

Modern Family – I heard this hyped to the hilt on the radio during my trip Stateside and decided to take a punt on it Thursday as I had half an hour to kill and man am I glad I did.

The name is a little too close to ‘My Family’ which is what put me off initially but this show is the complete antithesis of ‘My Family’ – it’s actually funny. The show gives off a very ‘Arrested Development’ vibe with the whole so dysfunctional it’s bordering on the farcical family and much like ‘A.D.’ did when it dragged modern comedy out of the doldrums a few years back, ‘Modern Family’ has me very excited (and that’s not just because I get to ogle Sofia Vergara’s mammoth mammaries).

It’s brilliant getting to see Ed O’Neil back on our screens actually being funny; he is one of my favourite things about ‘Wayne’s World’ and is part of sitcom folklore for his tenure as Al Bundy on ‘Married… with Children’.

Elsewhere, the dynamic between the gay couple and the self-proclaimed “cool dad” are my highlights of this very funny show. Sky1 don’t tend to snap up sitcoms so that is a telling sign of how good this show is – check it out for yourself Thursdays @ 8pm (in between about fifteen episodes of ‘The Simpsons’).

Curb Your Enthusiasm – What can I say about this orgasm-inducing show that I haven’t said a million times before other than Larry David is an unparalleled genius.

The new season hit our shows last Thursday and it was better than ever, we haven’t even begun the ‘Seinfeld’ arc yet but I am confident that this is going to be up there as the best season so far.

Larry’s ability to take the simplest of everyday annoyances and transform it into some sort of gargantuan issue is truly something to behold. Thursday’s episode was a little light on the Leon (don’t worry he’s back on form this week) but it was heavy on everything that made us love Larry David in the first place. Rejoice fellow comedy lovers because the best sitcom in production is back and blacker than ever.

FlashForward – The most-hyped new show of the season has already been embraced en mass and is looking like it’s going to be another huge smash for ABC.

I’m already hooked, which means barring some sort of ‘Heroes’-esque capitulation in quality I’ll be hooked in until ‘FlashForward’ breathes it’s dying breath.

The cast is suitably ensemble like and thus far hasn’t made great use of many of the more interesting characters (but I have faith) my only hope is that they don’t ram Joseph Fiennes down our throat too much (no innuendo intended) as his character sadly is one of the least interesting so far. Much like Jack over on ‘Lost’ – this supposed leading man is rather dull; I’d far rather see more time devoted to the likes of John Cho’s Demetri.

Regardless of my minor quibbles this is still one of the most exciting shows to hit our screens since that brilliant (sob) first season of ‘Heroes’.

Peep Show – Along with ‘The Thick of It’ (more on that later), ‘Peep Show’ is the only truly funny comedy to come out of this country in the past decade or so and six seasons in it is still as razor sharp and stitches-splittingly funny as ever which is some feat for a British show.

Season 6 has featured glorious appearances from all the usual suspects, Johnson and Super Hans stealing the show as always. It’s a real shame that the ‘Peep Show’ run is always over so soon, because it really is a joy to have such a well written show coming out of the UK.

X Factor – The more they try to be like ‘American Idol’ the wider the gulf between the two shows becomes, ‘X Factor’ is a horrible show, manipulating the morons who populate this country and feeding the massive egos of all those involved with it… Yet I tune in every week.

Actually that’s a lie, I tune in for the live shows, but I loathe myself for doing so. The final twelve this year really are dire – the winner has to come from Simon’s group and in my eyes it can only really be Jamie Afro or Danyl.

Next week is the annual Big Band week – and all I can say is why? It’s always shit, and how far do you think we’ll we get in before someone does ‘Mack the Knife’, one of the worst swing songs of all time? I give it until one of Cheryl’s munchkins takes the stage or that cheeseball Olly.

They definitely need some new theme weeks on ‘X Factor’ – I’m still lobbying hard for Warren Zevon week – imagine how great it would be hearing one of the wannabes doing ‘Werewolves of London’ – A-woooooo!

Scrubs – The final season of this always funny show has sneaked back onto our screens with little to no fanfare, surprising really when you consider how much E4 relies on it to fill their horribly empty schedules.

I say it’s the last season, but that’s not strictly true – in their infinite wisdom, for some reason ‘Scrubs’ will be continuing beyond this season but without most of the principle cast. So I guess we should enjoy the final crop of new episodes before they ruin the legacy of this show a la what ‘Joey’ did for ‘Friends’.

Never Mind the Buzzcocks – ‘Buzzcocks’ may have now lost Simon Amstell and finally said goodbye to Bill Bailey after seasons of fleeting appearances but it remains a TV highlight and when you compare it to the likes of ‘As Seen on TV’ still sets the standard for panel shows.

Noel Fielding is a spot on replacement for Bailey and the guest host rotation managed to find a permanent replacement last time in Amstell, so you never know who may be sitting in the host’s chair next season.

Generation Kill – was a show that I has earmarked for DVD purchase, so hats off to the powers that be at Channel 4 for airing this gritty Iraq war based mini-series from the guys behind ‘The Wire’.

As you’d expect coming from the geniuses that brought us the greatest TV show of all time, ‘Generation Kill’ is an unrelenting visceral assault – funny, touching and damn scary in equal measures.

The star of the show from this bunch of relative unknowns has to be James Ransone aka Ziggy from ‘The Wire’ who stars as a motormouth marine, other familiar faces include Lee Tergesen as a Rolling Stone reporter covering the war and ‘True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard.

If you’re looking for a overly dramatised version of the war with explosions and shoot-outs every five minutes don’t waste yours and my time, but if you want a realistic portrayal of what life is like for the young men who risk their lives across the world then dip in and check out another masterpiece from David Simon and Ed Burns.

House – now Sky1 have picked up Hugh Laurie’s acerbic MD we are finally getting up to speed with the American air dates of the show. Hence season 5 finished and we were launched straight into season 6 as House battles his demons after a stint in a mental institute.

The season openers with House at the institute were strange, in that we didn’t see the rest of the cast, save for a brief Wilson cameo yet they were pretty enjoyable ‘special’ episodes once they got going.

As for the new season: it looks like Andre Braugher is going to be making recurring appearances as House’s psychiatrist (and friend?) which is good as he is a damn fine actor. We could also be seeing some more on-off drama with Thirteen and Foreman, which I could really do without.

‘House’ still remains one of the most popular shows on TV and it’s easy to see why – drama, comedy and a great cast make it a show very easy to fall in love with. If you haven’t made an appointment yet I suggest you do so.

Lie to Me – Tim Roth’s House-lite has also had a quick turnaround on season airdates in the UK and this second season seems to have gotten off to a much darker start.

The ‘Scooby-Doo’ nature of the show that ran throughout season one also seems to have been thankfully scaled back and I suspect FOX think they are on to a winner here. Tim Roth remains superb as the face-reading Dr. Lightman but the poorly developed female characters remain an irritating distraction from Roth’s greatness.

That said, ‘Lie to Me’ remains an albeit slightly derivative cut above the usual camel dung stinking up our screens.

Dollhouse – I really want to love Joss Whedon’s latest TV effort but they are making it so fucking hard!

The first season was, by their own admission, not the best, with too many story of the week episodes but towards the end of the season as they started to focus more on the ‘Dollhouse’ mythology they seemed to hit their stride.

With that in mind, hopes were high for season 2 when it began recently… so how do they begin? By reverting back to story of the week storytelling with little to no focus on the show’s overall mythology.

It’s recently been announced that FOX have put ‘Dollhouse’ on hiatus until December so I think it’s safe to say that the bell is tolling for Echo and co. My only hope is that ‘Dollhouse’ can at least reach some of its potential before it disappears forever.

Strictly Come Dancing – The BBC’s Saturday night contender in the reality war has finally got going and although I was outraged to return from Sin City to discover that Richard Dunwoody had been voted out I’m enjoying watching ‘Strictly’ a hell of a lot more than its ITV rival.

My wager on Jade Johnson is still looking good as the Olympian continues to improve each week but it looks as though the winner has already been decided and will be either Ali ‘shagger’ Bastian or Ricky Whittle. I wouldn’t be completely against either of them winning, but Jo Wood seriously needs to go – how she remains is beyond me.

Sure, John Sergeant lasted way longer than he deserved to last year but he had likeability, Wood is not only a vacuous, gaping chasm void of personality but she’s partnered with Brendan ‘Pants Man’ Cole. I can only assume she’s riding the wave of the feminist sympathy vote much like Ulrika Jonsson did back in January. I was disappointed to see Calzaghe go last Saturday, he danced like Lieutenant Dan from ‘Forest Gump’ but he’s a good bloke and at least kept us entertained.

‘Strictly’ remains the benchmark by which these types of shows should be measured and it continues to baffle me how ‘X Factor’ continues to pummel it in the ratings, maybe my theory that ‘Strictly’ is the middle class reality show is right and the numerous nimrods that make up our population would rather sit down on a Saturday night and watch someone sing out of tune for their entertainment.

Then again maybe the opportunity to watch a couple of test tube grown simpletons dressed in red PVC doing the creepiest routine imaginable is too alluring for the majority of the country.

Other Musings of the Week:

- A new series of the best British sitcom of all time (there, I said it) ‘The Thick of It’ begins Saturday on BBC2 on Saturday @ 10.10pm. ‘Nuff said.

- I find it rather delicious that The Daily Mail is currently on the receiving end of a glorified witch hunt after it instigated its own last year with Sachsgate.

The heinous comments made about Stephen Gately by the equally odious Jan Moir have rightly been condemned pretty much universally but I think some people may have reacted a bit too strongly to her comments after all it’s only words…

- I happened to catch a bit of Jordan on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ on Monday and although she’s always looked like some sort of living blow up sex doll she was still reasonably attractive, but now she looks like some sort of grotesque clown.

She and new cross-dressing sex toy Alex Reid don’t spoil a pair – they’re two of the least convincing women I’ve ever seen.

And how the hell can that woman be up for Mum of the Year – who else is on the shortlist Casey Anthony?

- E4’s new ‘comedy’ ‘School of Comedy’ looks like it could be the least funny show of the year, in fact there were probably more laughs at Michael Jackson’s funeral.

It amazes me how utter sopping gash like this even gets commissioned and the main kid who has been featured very prominently in the ads for the show has the most punchable face to hit a TV screen since Nick Griffin's 'Question Time' appearance. He also has a voice so grating it makes me want to grate a cheese grater across my scrotum just to numb the pain.

Get this wank off my TV now!

TV Moment of the Week:

- Has to be this brilliant line from the fantastic ‘Generation Kill’ – closely followed by Larry David trying to open his vacuum-sealed SatNav pack on the magnificent new season of ‘Curb’ – as the marines rolled into Iraq, the rather unexciting nature of the whole process was captured brilliantly by Alexander Skarsgard’s Colbert (great name by the way) when he alerted his travel buddies to the exploding skyline with

“Wake up… You’re missing the invasion”


More next week...


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