Friday, December 01, 2006

The adventures of birthday TV

Everyone, meet Big TV.

Big TV, meet everyone.

My birthday was Thursday, and in addition to turning 26, I bit the bullet (with Libby's help of course) and bought Big TV. Ostensibly, this is to make the viewing experience of various things more pleasurable (as Libby put it to the guy who sold us Big TV, "If we're going to watch all that crap, it might as well look nice").

Big TV doesn't quite look like that. It's a slightly different shade of grey and not QUITE that big (it's 52", not 62"). What's more, we bought it used, so it has its quirks and peculiarities (I also assure you that we bought it used so you not think us rich, because, believe me, we're not). But it is very big. When watching it, I'm tempted to call even Jericho the finest show in the history of history.

That's the thing. We haven't even hooked up HD yet (it's actually doubtful that we can even do this in our apartment complex, which contracted with some bizarre subset of DirecTV that offers everything DirecTV offers expect DVR and HD -- no real explanation offered), but the whole thing is rather mindblowing. If your production has good production values, it's easy to just write the whole thing off as being fantastic, simply because TV has never looked quite THIS good. I've become three times the fan of Heroes that I ever was just because it's so fun to watch on the wide screen.

You can see where this is dangerous for those with a critical eye.

We're not used to seeing TV look this nice. Even the big hits had a kind of chintzy look back in the day. Sure, dramas of the '90s took a big leap forward in having a sort of cinematic value (as well as the occasional sitcom with a big budget -- Cheers, for instance), but because of those of us with big TVs, the networks are investing in making their shows look more and more handsome -- you should see the vistas on Lost.

The networks are sort of chasing a false dream here, I fear. After all, even 1 Vs. 100 looks pretty good on Big TV, and that costs far less than Lost. Eventually, the rising price of looking good on big TVs is going to make truly big dramas prohibitively expensive for anyone but the big boys, I'm afraid (especially as more and more networks chase that audience -- the quality drama glut of '06 is nothing compared to what's going to happen when literally every cable channel unleashes a new drama pilot next year or in 2008). Meanwhile I, the Big TV enabled viewer, am going to demand more and more bang for my buck.

I don't know what all of this is going to mean. But I do know that every night before I go to bed, I give Big TV a hug and a kiss.

Just to make sure it knows it's loved.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad episode, good show: "Christopher," The Sopranos

(I've gotten some guff about not linking to my HND articles, so here are links to the last two BSG reviews and the last two T.V. on TV columns.)

Every good show, even the best of them, has one or two episodes it would rather sweep under a rug somewhere. Because TV is an episodic medium, there's no way to expect that every week the quality will be all the way up there. The best a show can hope is to have the lows not be too low. And, for the most part, The Sopranos (which I haven't written about in six months or so, so it's time) has managed to avoid the absolute bottom. Every episode has had bits and pieces that were well worth watching the lesser stuff for.

But not Christopher. Written by series regular Michael Imperioli (pictured), the series doesn't really focus on his character (also named Christopher) but, rather, on Christopher Columbus, of all people. Christopher, which was in the series' otherwise excellent fourth season, is easily the worst episode of the show's long run. You hardly find fans who disagree with this assertion (though there are a few).

The central problem with Christopher is that it's preachy about an issue that just doesn't deserve the level of preachiness in the script: the anger of Native Americans over Columbus Day. The episode's Mob hijinks stop dead in their tracks for scene after scene of the characters debating why, exactly, the Indians are so mad at them. Did anyone still care deeply about this issue when the episode aired? Why, exactly, is this a big deal to the show's Italian characters? Wasn't Columbus 100% Spanish? (I mean, I KNOW he's from Spain, but did he have Italian ancestry?)

Christopher doesn't even tie into the show's overarching storyline -- it's one of the few almost completely standalone episodes of The Sopranos. One can enjoy the show without even watching it. So why would you anyway?

(Okay. That new feature didn't work out as well as I had planned. But if you have other nominees, let me know, and I'll try to give them the full weight of their awfulness.)


Monday, November 27, 2006

A very TV Thanksgiving

(Note: This post was supposed to go up Thursday night. I forgot all about it, and haven't gotten around to it until now. Enjoy the late holiday!)

Here are 20 things I'm thankful for about TV as we leave November sweeps and head into the dead zone that is December and January.

--I'm thankful for the weird sexual chemistry between Dustin and Kandace (pictured) on The Amazing Race. Nearly every all-male team on the Race has had homoerotic undertones (especially the ones featuring models, including this season's Tyler and James), but it was hard to imagine that when, say, the Bowling Moms got to the pit stop, there was a little more going on, if you know what I mean. With D&K, their constant praising of the other's appearance and ability makes it difficult to imagine there's NOT something more going on at the end of every leg.

--I'm thankful Dexter, serious issues with the premise and the complete lack of interesting supporting characters aside, has made it safe to love serial killers again.

--I'm thankful that if there were a nuclear attack on the United States, the great people of the state of Kansas would soldier on by organizing their own militia, celebrating Halloween, reminiscing about weddings that never were and getting involved of lots of soap opera-esque hijinks.

--I'm thankful for Elizabeth Mitchell's performance on Lost. I know a lot of people don't like the Others, but Michael Emerson and Mitchell are consistently turning in the strongest performances on that show week in and week out (well, when it's actually on). Mitchell is the show's best female character in. . .ever?

--I'm thankful we're going to get a proper final season of King on the Hill, which has always been a little underrated and a little misunderstood by its network.

--I'm thankful that NBC's comedy bloc (starting on my birthday, of all nights) is going to be the best pure comedy bloc in almost 20 years, even if the ratings are going to be abysmal. For that matter, I'm thankful Scrubs is going to be back, and I hope it takes this chance to go out in style.

--I'm thankful that Jack Bauer has finally gone whole hog and embraced his inner Christ figure.

--I'm thankful that Desperate Housewives doesn't completely suck anymore and has decided to abandon being a "satire" and just embrace its inner soapiness. I don't like it any more than I used to, but at least I don't feel mad at America for making it a huge hit.

--I'm thankful for that fifth season of The Wire. If they can make it as good as the fourth season, we could be talking best OF ALL TIME, not just best of the year.

--I'm thankful that David Milch's new show sounds absolutely, 100% nuts.

--I'm thankful that Karen, on The Office, is a believable foil for the Jim/Pam relationship and that it's not obvious that Jim and Pam WILL get together thanks to her presence.

--I'm thankful that Friday Night Lights will get a full year. It's, hands-down, the best show you're not watching. When will you start listening to me?

--I'm thankful that between The Office, My Name Is Earl, Everybody Hates Chris, Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, the rapidly improving New Adventures of Old Christine, Scrubs, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Weeds, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 30 Rock, The Loop and the upcoming Knights of Prosperity that comedy is back, even if none of you are watching any of it. Heck, even the mostly moribund The Class is a better time-slot filler than 90% of the crap NBC threw between Friends and Seinfeld in the 90s.

--I'm thankful for the sassy Veronica Mars and thankful that the long exile of Mac will soon be at an end.

--I'm thankful for Battlestar Galactica's general excellence and recapability.

--I'm thankful that I wasn't the only person to be generally suspicious of Studio 60, and that the show is so easily made fun of. My Mondays wouldn't be the same without it!

--I'm thankful they saved the cheerleader. Because, honestly, that was a catchphrase I didn't ever need to hear again. Here's hoping they save the world.

--I'm thankful for "Let's Go to the Mall."

--I'm thankful for pumpkin pie. Mmmmmmmmm. . .

--I'm thankful for how all of you come here, day after day, even when we don't have stuff to read. You've made this place more successful than I ever would have possibly imagined, and I hope you continue to enjoy what we post here.

As you've noticed, posting's been light over the Thanksgiving weekend. We'll be back this week, though, for more SDD excitement.