Sunday, May 24, 2009

The light(s) at the end of the spring finale-tunnel

The average person might see the three approaching summer months (four, if we’re being honest) without your network television mainstays as a barren wasteland of bad reality shows, and throwaway premieres. This may be true, but summer can also mean some real gems, you just have to know what they are. Here are a few tips about navigating summer TV, and a few shows we’re especially looking forward to.

TV TIP: Summer is a great time to pick a long (or not so long) running series, get yourself the DVDs (more on doing this in a morally acceptable, legal, effective and efficient way in a later post), and watch to your heart’s content. DVDs mean no commercials, you can watch as many episodes in a sitting as you’d like, and there’s probably more than one season available so you don’t have to wait months and months to see the shocking resolution to anything.
You might find a show you want to watch that’s returning sometime this summer, so make sure you set the new episodes to record, and then watch the DVDs of previous seasons. That way, the new ones are waiting for you whenever you finish. (This entire paragraph is probably a no-brainer, but whatever.)

Ok, so I guess there was only one tip, really. On to the shows…

Curly recommends:

Weeds (Showtime), returning June 8th (Season 5)

Yes, this show is about drugs, but you don’t necessarily have to be a pot-head to enjoy it. It’s smart, hilarious, and Mary Louise Parker is genius as suburban weed dealer Nancy Botwin. I absolutely love Justin Kirk as her brother-in-law, Andy Botwin, along with Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins as two of her quirky subdivision-turned-city neighbors. Plus, it’s only half an hour long, so if you decide to tackle the four preceding seasons of this one, it’s actually not that huge an undertaking, and definitely worth it.

True Blood (HBO), returning June 14th (Season 2)

Think Twilight, but darker, sexier, and set in Bon Temps, a small rural town in northern Louisiana. Based on the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris, its jump to the small screen has done exceptionally well. The story is fascinating – since the Japanese have developed a synthetic blood product (called Tru Blood, of course) that fulfills all their nutritional needs, vampires have “come out of the coffin” as it were, and now live openly among the human population. The show follows the story of waitress Sookie Stackhouse, as well as her (and the whole town’s) interaction with, and reactions to local vampire Bill Compton and vampires in general. The characters are interesting, and the show is addicting. And an Emmy winner! With only one previous season, you can get through this one with plenty of time to anticipate the brand new second season.

Mad Men (AMC), returning sometime this August (Season 3)

I don’t even know how to begin describing the amazing piece of television gold that is Mad Men. Probably one of the more notable shows of the past 5 years, this award winner is on my short list of favorites. For anyone who lived through the glorious 60s, it’s an (accurate, or so I’m told) flashback to a previous life. For those who didn’t, it’s still a fascinating look at life in a time only 40 years ago, but worlds away from we know today. And it’s sexy, brilliantly written, with an incredible cast. If you’re going to get into just one new show this summer, this is it. The first two seasons are a breeze, and will definitely leave you wanting more, ready for August.

So You Think You Can Dance (FOX), returning May 21st (Season 5)

Everybody has their reality TV guilty pleasures, including me, but this isn’t one of them. Granted, the audition stage of this show sometimes plays like that of any other reality-TV talent show. But once you get past the crazies and those just desperate for their 15 minutes, this show is real, honest, and entertaining. It’s not about fading stars clinging to the last vestiges of fame, or populated by over-confident, third-rate wannabe singers. Most dancers don’t get the chance, and never will be famous, but they do it anyway, because it’s what they love, and it’s their life. Yes, you’ll have your favorites, and others who you heartily dislike, but every one of them is genuine, gracious and truly grateful for their chance to perform. Nigel and Mary—and Mary’s voice—can get a bit annoying, but the guest judges/choreographers might just be just as endearing as any of the dancers (Mia and Napoleon & Tabatha are my faves!) So seriously, check this one out, and I promise you won’t regret it.

The Fashion Show (Bravo), series premiere May 7th
Project Runway (Lifetime), returning August 20th (Season 6)

Those of us who are avid followers of PR have been waiting with bated breath for word as when a new season would finally be televised, and on which of the bickering networks we’d be viewing it. Well, good news, not only is the legal battle out of the way, everybody wins, because now we have two fashion-based reality-TV shows over which to obsess. Seriously, get a hat, and get ready to hold the F onto it© (Annuale, anyone?) It’s unfortunate we must wait till August to see Heidi and Tim again (and on Lifetime, wah-wah-wah), so Bravo’s patched together the quite literally named The Fashion Show in order to desperately lure in past PR viewers. We’re now three weeks in, and I’ll say, I like the new set-up, à la Shear Genius/Top Design, with mini-challenges and whatnot. But the awkward Isaac/Kelly post-walkthrough chit-chat, as well as the judges deliberations being done in some little back closet makes me miss the polished and time-tested ways of Project Runway. And can someone please tell The Fashion Show to stop pushing the catchphrases? “We’re just not buying it,” “Buh-bye darling,” “You’re still in this competition, but you’re hanging by a thread.” None of these will ever come close to the genius that is “You’re out, auf Wiedersehen,” and “Make it work!” So we’ll see how this “I can’t sew”-fest shakes out, and hope it can sufficiently distract us until the real thing in August.

(You can catch up on previous episodes of The Fashion Show every Thursday on Bravo, replayed before the new one.)

Mo recommends:

Curly has quite effectively recapped much of what is capturing my attention for this summer (and in a far more aesthetically pleasing manner than I would have), but I have a few things to add....

The Real Housewives of New Jersey

I will confess that I have never been one to watch things because they were part of a franchise based on something I enjoyed, but Bravo's newest train-wreck already has me enamored. Seriously! Three episodes in and we're running full speed into an 80's coke scandal! Whereas RHoAtlanta left me with nothing more than a strange desire to watch The Bad Girls Club, and New York made me miss Sex and the City, NJ in many ways it takes me back to the early days of Orange County, when we didn't care about Gina, Lori and the others and could merely revel in the shocking excess (an Escalade full of clothes for a seven year old's photo shoot?). I could go on forever about this, but I will leave the subject with some wise words from Mo's Mama (an admitted member of the ladies-who-power-lunch set): "Is it just me or are these New Jersey girls fat asses? I thought Real Housewives were supposed to be MILFs. Doesn't matter, I've swallowed the hook already."

NYC Prep

Real life Gossip Girl, minus the poor writing and implausible plot twists with a little Bravo thrown in for good measure. Should be interesting.

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List

If you hate her you hate her, and if you love her you love her, so let's not delve into that morass. Curly and I are all atwitter (literally, I'm preparing the Kathy-related tweets in my mind) about her B-list return to the reality TV circuit.

And the rest...

True Blood and Mad Men people! I've gotten hooked on both through the DVDs and couldn't be happier about getting more in the near future.

If none of the above appeals to you, I beg of you to hit up Netflix and get the DVDs of something good, anything good, rather than watch that useless summer reality drivel. Perhaps a little Dawson's Creek for a blast from the past?? More on this whole process at a later date...

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