Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer television

Several weeks ago I started to write a post about what TV I’m watching this summer, and I suddenly realized that if I don’t finish and post it soon, it will have to morph it into a “what I’m watching this fall” post. For quite a while I wasn’t watching anything at all – yay summer! – but I’ve got a few regulars now as I start to pine for my favourites to return.

Mad Men
I had also started another post about Mad Men, The Dark Knight, and Dr. Horrible that I may never finish, so: basically I like them all, but don’t love them nearly as much as I’m apparently supposed to, and there's a commonality to why, believe it or not. Anyway, it took me a few tries to get into Mad Men, and no show could live up to its $25 million marketing hype and critical drooling, but I finally appreciate the series even if I don’t wholeheartedly embrace it.

Normally I wouldn’t give a show more than a couple of chances, and usually just one (what's the point? I could forever miss out on the best TV series ever made and it wouldn’t even slightly change my life for the worse). But it’s summer, and it’s got such a slavish following, and will almost certainly win the Emmy, so I wanted to make the effort. It didn’t work until I recorded the late July marathon on AMC and finally pushed through my distaste for some elements of the show by watching a few in a row.

Even now I think it’s wonderfully well crafted, with a bit too much Craft on ostentatious display on occasion. For example, some of the acting and dialogue I find stilted, and the period detail sometimes feels like it’s come out of a magazine rather than a life. Matthew Weiner has wonderfully recreated an era that often makes me wonder why I want to spend an hour of my week immersed in a society I mercifully missed the first time around. However, it does the slow burn story incredibly well – nothing ever seems to happen until you realize the characters' positions have shifted in incredibly interesting ways – and while I can’t warm to any of these chilly characters, there are very few, if any, I don’t find fascinating.

I’m not a fan of cop dramas – I was into St. Elsewhere over Hill Street Blues, Chicago Hope/ER over NYPD Blue, House over CSI – but Flashpoint was on my radar because of the Canadian television thing, and it’s a decent hour of entertainment that plays with my emotions in effective ways. I rarely cry over TV shows unless they’re killing Wilson’s girlfriend, but this one seems to hit my buttons and I’ve had something in my eye at the end of almost every episode so far. It feels good to root for it to succeed.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl
Billie Piper’s turn as the happy hooker is fluffy fun that I would call a guilty pleasure, but I can’t manage to feel any guilt. I couldn’t tell you when it airs, but some evenings I’ll notice there are a couple of episodes on my DVR and turn them on while doing whatever I have to do around the house. I haven’t seen a new-to-me episode for a while, though, and I’ll delete the series recording when fall TV kicks in.

The Middleman
This ABC Family series is not available in Canada so I won’t say that I watch it and enjoy the relentless silliness coupled with unexpected moments of cleverness, not to mention the crazily likeable cast.

Burn Notice
I watched the first couple of episodes and it was fine, but I wasn’t drawn into it and I don’t have the same motivation as with Mad Men to try harder. Delete.

Coming up
I’m not actually excited about any of the new shows for fall, but I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by at least one new series, and I can’t wait for House and Pushing Daisies to return, plus 30 Rock and The Office make me smile in anticipation.