Friday, November 5, 2010

What Ben's Watching

My comrade the lovely and talented TJ Dietsch has been chronicling his television viewing habits in multi-part fashion of late, so I figured I’d take the idea out for a spin.

I guess you’d probably say I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to TV. My tastes are pretty all over the place; from sitcoms to period pieces to sketch comedy to hour-long dramas to sports and some really dumb shit, I like a little of everything.

I don’t watch some of the stuff that’s supposedly among the best out there (according to friends whose opinion I trust) and am really into other shows people don’t have high opinions of. I’ve been accused to having almost a feminine inclination as far as some of my favorite programs (you may recall my enthusiasm for Melrose Place), but I’m a pretty strong believe that gender, age, race, etc. should never ever dictate what you enjoy from culture and will speak fairly passionately on it when pushed.

Off the soapbox, here’s what I watch and what I think of what I watch, probably a little more scattershot and brief than TJ because I want to try and get this done all in one shot.


How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Only started watching this last season after playing catch up on DVD, and after dipping a little last year, I think it’s back in a nice groove now. Very different from most of the comedies I watch in that even though it’s zany, it’s still pretty grounded, the characters are pretty believable and there’s some moral grounding to the whole deal; it’s heartfelt, a bit more like shows I watched as a kid. Really great cast, as I feel like even the weakest link—Ted—is damn funny at this point, and they’ve all got great chemistry.

Gossip Girl (The CW)
Not just a show, an experience. If you’re going to watch Gossip Girl, you’ve got to accept you’re not gearing up for a refined television experience, but pure entertainment that is not afraid to cater to every denominator. The thing I like about Gossip Girl is that it’s quite self-aware of how over-the-top and preposterous it is, and rather try to switch things up, it revels in all that with ridiculous dialogues and the characters saying exactly what you’re thinking as a viewer (“Serena, you’re a whore” being the most common thought, I’d imagine, though I really liked when Juliet actually said the chain of hookups between the core cast out loud the other week without irony). And yet, as much as they switch romantic partners with absurdity and cycle through story arcs with reckless abandon, you really care about the relationships between the friends and lovers, and a lot of that comes back to some really talented young actors who run with what they’re given. This season has been everything I’ve wanted thus far.

It’s been over a two-decade love affair between myself and professional wrestling, and honestly probably one I’ll maintain my whole life. Having grown up and been around the industry a bit on the fringe recently via friendships with guys like Christopher Daniels, I’ve gotten a bit more insight on how the wrestling business works, and to be honest, I’ll vacillate between being amazed by the performers and disgusted by some of the folks running the show. But regardless of all that, wrestling is my comfort food; I watched it with my dad as a kid, I went to shows with my buddies through high school and college, and likely I’ll keep my standing date on Monday nights as long as I’ve got the ability to do so. World Wrestling Entertainment’s live flagship show has certainly undergone a lot of changes in the past decade in particular with a shift to PG-TV, and I guess I miss the more adult trappings at times, but I still dig the athleticism, and frankly the current youth movement with guys like Nexus and Sheamus as well as young veterans like John Cena and Randy Orton has pushed Raw to the best it’s been in quite awhile.

Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It (VH1)
As an avid Rock of Love viewer, I was psyched for this show, and then a little let down when it turned out to be a complete 180 from that beautiful train wreck, focusing on Bret Michaels: Family Man rather than Bret Michaels: Sex Addict. However, Bret is honestly one of the most likable and endearing celebrities I’ve ever seen, particularly on reality TV, and his daughters have completely won me over—the adorable temper tantrum-prone little one and wise-beyond-her-years tween—so I’ve found nothing but a good time with this show.


Glee (Fox)
Some people freak out over this show, and I’m not one of them, but I do really enjoy it. There are characters and aspects that really rub me the wrong way occasionally, but for the most part, I find it one of the more entertaining hours on TV. I’m not looking for epic storytelling here—and I’m a bit mystified by the Emmy nods for acting, truth be told—just musical numbers that I can dig, funny lines, and Jane Lynch or Mike O’Malley carrying the heavy lifting on the dramatic stuff. I appreciate that some people are really into these characters, and I think the actors are incredibly talented, but honestly I’m more in it to see what songs they cover than how most of the arcs resolve; well-produced program with performers who work harder than maybe anybody else.

Parenthood (NBC)
The best show on TV right now, I do believe. I read a piece on this where several members of the cast commented on how so much of what they do is heavy improvisation; it shows and I think it brings out the best in all of them and of the series as well. Kinda cool that there are no gimmicks here, just a funny, emotional, well-written and well-acted show about the bonds of family. I think the Bravermans are the kind of cool, extended family you’d actually want to be a part of, which is of course a major boon for Parenthood. I enjoy watching Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman banter on this show, but I also get really invested in the more serious stuff about raising a kid with Asbergers, so it’s a one-stop-shop for the emotional payoff and lighthearted fun I look for on TV.


Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! (DisneyXD)
I don't need to be a company man to tell you this show is fucking awesome. It's Justice League Unlimited for the Marvel Universe in all the best ways, but just as Marvel has its own unique flavor from DC, so do this show from JLU. Experience it for yourself and come join me on the liveblog while you do it! Shill over.

Hellcats (The CW)
I have watched the first few episodes of this cheerleading tour de force because myself, my wife and two of our friends who recently moved to the area thought it would be fun to follow a show we knew wouldn’t last a year and make fun of it along the way. So now it got picked up for a second season and I’ve got Hellcats taking over my DVR and three people on my case about when we’re going to do a marathon; what have I done…

Top Chef (Bravo)
The only reality show I watch on a regular basis and the cream of the crop as far as I can tell (with the Emmy hardware to prove it). After a so-so season seven of the standard show set in Washington, DC, they’re now ramping up the brilliant Just Desserts cycle and the first-ever All-Stars installment is weeks away. The franchise keeps finding ways to reinvent itself and I definitely appreciate that. I love and am fascinated by food and the art of cooking and wish I could be more of a foodie than my lactose intolerant, IBS-suffering body will allow, so this show allows me to do a bit of living vicariously. The competition has some real characters and the judges do a great job running herd on them, so I hope they keep doing what they’re doing for a long time.

Blue Mountain State (SpikeTV)
I started watching this show on a total whim a couple weeks ago and have become mildly obsessed with it. A sort of Van Wilder-on-TV mash-up of football, sex and college excess to ridiculous extremes, it’s not necessarily very good, but it’s really a lot of fun. My jaw is pretty regularly dropped at just how far they go with the humor, even if it’s the softest of balls they’re knocking out of the park, but it’s nice to turn my brain off once in awhile. Highlight far and away is Alan Ritchson, Smallville’s bland-as-heck Aquaman as the crazy, hyperactive, over-stimulated team captain who speaks just about every line in a high-pitched semi-squeal; dude is a genius of physical comedy.


Bones (Fox)
Megan and I raced through Bones from beginning to present this past summer, so I saw the best and worst of the show in pretty short order. I think the current season is definitely midway between the two extremes, as it’s not my favorite thing to watch, but once it gets going, I enjoy it more often than not. I think the undeniable chemistry between Booth and Bones still makes for potent fuel and the cases remain pretty fascinating—even when I can’t necessarily follow them—so that’s all good. On the downside, it feels like most of the supporting cast has grown pretty stale and there’s not much to do with them, so we’re getting a lot more gimmicks, both good and bad, as opposed to character development. This one may be on its last legs, but hopefully it finishes strong.

30 Rock (NBC)
Gets better every week and if I could only watch one thing this might well be it. No cast or writing staff is more perpetually in the zone than 30 Rock’s and every line, scene and storyline just rolls so seamlessly. It’s the most quotable show on TV and benefits from knowing exactly how to use fantastic guest stars like Matt Damon, Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Banks. It’s a lot harder to write about something good than something bad, I’ve often found, so honestly I don’t know really what more to say about 30 Rock.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
After a strong start, Grey’s Anatomy had a rough couple of seasons worth of terrible writing and characters who you wanted to punch in the face constantly. Now I’m not saying all those problems have been erased, but they definitely started to turn the corner back around last year and now they’re in the midst of their best season in years with a string of incredibly strong episodes to kick off the latest run. I feel like a lot of this had to do with a pretty significant turnover in cast members, as a lot of the played out characters like George and Izzie bolted to be replaced by far more entertaining and affable folks like Arizona, Teddy and Jackson. Veterans like Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, especially Justin Chambers and even Ellen Pompeo have really stepped up their game to match the raised bar and Chyler Leigh’s Lexie is one of my favorite characters on TV. The game-changing season finale last year has really ratcheted up the intensity—even if the traumatized Christina storyline is dragging like crazy—and I’m pleased at how well things are going for this show.


Smallville (The CW)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how I feel about this show. It’s my greatest guilty pleasure, I have way more affection for it than I sometimes think I should, and I’m loving blogging about it with Kiel.

WWE Smackdown (Syfy)
I don’t watch Smackdown with quite as much urgency as Raw, probably since years of it being pre-taped have trained me into seeing it as less important (and it’s on Fridays), but some of my favorite performers ply their trade there, including Edge, Cody Rhodes, the currently injured Christian and more. This makes for good DVR fodder when I’m bumming around on a Saturday or Sunday.


Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Another show that has made a real resurgence over the past few years, picking up steam with the 2008 election and then working hard to stay topical and relevant even without Sarah Palin to kick around. The first couple episodes of this season seemed to squander talented hosts like Jane Lynch and Emma Stone a bit, but I was really impressed with the new cast members, so there was a silver lining. Last week with the show’s latest go-to host Jon Hamm back again, the writers really shined, and if we’re lucky that will be the pattern moving forward.


Family Guy (Fox)
This show is sleepwalking at this point, and I’m worried it won’t be long until it’s as formulaic as The Simpsons has become. I still get at least one decent chuckle a week, so I’m not giving up yet, but pushing the envelope when nobody cares seems to have become more important than humor, and that’s a shame.

Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
A couple years ago, this was Parenthood, but now this once-great show with a still-tremendous ensemble is off to a terrible start for what looks like it could be its swansong. The loss of Rob Lowe hit Brothers & Sisters harder than I ever could have imagined, and now with Emily VanCamp gone as well, there are some serious holes I’m not so sure can be filled. The boisterous energy of seasons past has been replaced with morbid, depressing storylines and I’m afraid the Walkers may have hit a nosedive there’s no pulling out of.

Eastbound & Down (HBO)
Just out-of-control offensive and hilarious in the process. Danny McBride is one of the funniest performers on the planet and the nonsensical stream of machismo he’s constantly uttering is spectacular; you should really really not love Kenny Powers, but how can you not?

1 comment: said...

This will not work as a matter of fact, that's what I consider.