Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not so basic cable

Generally, or at least in my lifetime, most basic cable networks have been the unloved morass filling up those channels between the Big Three networks, and those fancy paid channels with the good shows. While much of it still is, (TNT and TBS continue to crank out mediocre dramas and comedies, respectively) some of these networks have been stepping up their original-series game. One such network, garnering my precious TV love and attention, is FX. Granted, some of their shows tend to push the limits in terms of content, but they’re offering up quality comedic and dramatic programming nonetheless. Here’s a breakdown of what they’ve got, and why it’s good.

Arguably the crown jewel, this is legal drama is about as far as you can get from Law & Order and its ilk. Less about courtroom proceedings, and more about how everyone you know just might be a backstabbing, manipulative tool out to get you. But in a good way! This is to say, it’s not boring. And with Lost-like cliffhangers, and tantalizing flash-forwards to the climax of the season (in this case, the end), it keeps me coming back for more. This season brings the welcome cast additions of the always-brilliant William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden. Oh, and that guy who played Goodwin on Lost, and Darrell Hammond from SNL (yeah, that’s right, Bill Clinton) in a dramatic role, which I’m still trying to adjust to. Anyway, Glenn Close is as evil as ever—and still bitchin’ people out and orchestrating illegal-ish activities. And Rose Byrne’s character has grown even a backbone (thanks to devastating tragedy and a near-death experience) and is out for revenge. Things can only get more interesting from here.

Just in case you’re short on your weekly dose of sex and crazy, the employees and friends of McNamara/Troy will be happy to dish it up. This show has had its ups and downs, but always keeps us guessing (and gasping and cringing) every week. The 5th season has brought a whole lotta tragedy, dysfunction, cast changes, and possibly the funniest recurring character, Jennifer Coolidge as Candy Richards. They'll keep the scandals comin', and we'll keep watching.

Rescue Me
Forget cop shows and their repetitive dramas, this firehouse comedy/drama (I refuse to use the word dramedy) is riotously funny. Denis Leary plays a (recovering) Irish-Catholic alcoholic with a capital-C crazy family—yeah, on the show too!—some of whom he’s related to. And he has a special knack for getting himself into the most ridiculous situations imaginable (like roofied and sexed up by his widow sister-in-law), inevitably created or exacerbated by the myriad of previously-mentioned insane characters. The best of Leary’s comedic talent minus some of the angry ranting neuroses of his stand-up.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
If there’s a line, you can guarantee this show has crossed it…and made fun of it. Cannibalism? Check. Welfare abuse? Check. Inappropriate, offensive, juvenile, outrageous, and if you’re up for it…hilarious.

Cancelled, but still good...
Apparently the rest of America disagreed, but I thought this show was quite entertaining. I guess it has something to do with wanting to see what goes on behind-the-scenes at those smutty celeb magazines I love so much. And featuring a loveable schizophrenic photographer with a talking kitten! But seriously, with an original concept, and the versatile Courtney Cox-Arquette at the helm, it’s unfortunate this one went under.

The Riches
As if Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, together, on television, weren’t enough, they starred in a drama about an identity-stealing “Irish Traveller” (gypsy) family who trade in their house on wheels (aka motor home) and last name (Malloy) for a cushy house in a gated community as the well-to-do Riches. He’s got his head in the clouds, she’s an ex-con drug addict, and they’ve got three kids (the youngest of which is a cross-dresser), and it makes for a lot of interesting shit. Lucky for you, all the episodes can be found at http://www.hulu.com/the-riches. It’ll be worth the time, I’d say.

Note from Mo: Curly and I disagree on the use of the world dramedy. I personally am quite affectionate towards it, and think it denotes a hybrid genre of TV that keeps scripted shows on the air (Desperate Housewives I'm looking at you...). 

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