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November 13, 2006 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | November 13, 2006 |

OK, boys and girls — welcome to the first installment of the TV Whore Fall Sweepstacular! A couple of readers have requested that I provide my thoughts on some shows now that the season is going full-steam. Ask and ye shall receive. So what I’ve done here is gone through my various TiVo season passes and compiled a list of every single bloody show, both network and cable, that I watch on a regular basis. We’ll work our way through this list over the course of the week — in some cases you’ll get something akin to an actual discussion from me, while in other cases you may just get a sentence or two. That’s how I roll.

Now, before I get to the Sunday and Monday shows, there are a handful of nightly/daily shows that need to be included, so let’s throw those suckers down now, shall we?

“Pardon the Interruption” (ESPN, 5:30 p.m.). Most sports shows have become ridiculously uninformative claptrap where many talking heads try to one-up each other with stupid nicknames (I’m looking at you, Chris Berman, you fat fuck!) and stupider catch phrases (I know you can’t see me looking at you, what with your gangled eye, but I’m talking to you, Stuart Scott). But “PTI” still provides actual discussion that manages to be informative and entertaining. Although it’s only truly entertaining when both Wilbon and Kornheiser are actually on it (about two to three days a week lately). If you follow sports at all, this should be on your regular radar (but don’t you dare tune in early, or you’ll catch the abysmal “Around the Horn”).

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” (MSNBC, 8 p.m.). Simply the best news show on TV, except for when he has Michael Musto on during the celebrity gossip segment. Musto blows harder than Britney in that alleged sex video circulating around the internets.

“The Daily Show” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.). If I even need to explain this to you, you’re dead to me.

“The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m.). See “The Daily Show.”

Now the Nielsen Ratings peeps like to include Sunday at the end of a ratings week. But fuck the Nielsens — Sunday has always felt like the beginning of the TV week, and that’s just the way it is. So here are my Sunday shows, which include the only a.m. show in my entire list.

“NFL Matchup” (ESPN, 8:30 a.m.). More than anything, Sundays are about football. It’s just a fact of life. And there’s simply no better way to start a Football Sunday than by watching ESPN’s “NFL Matchup.” This is the single most informative and educational show about football gameplay out there. Sure, Merrill Hodge is a bit of a loudmouth, but that’s more than offset by the fact that Ron Jaworski rules the world (and this statement happens to be true even if you remove my unabashed Philly bias). Jaws is the best football analyst in the game, hands down, and outside of playing semi-pro or pro ball, you’ll never learn more about football than you will during this half-hour.

“The Simpsons” (FOX, 8 p.m.). Yes, yes, this show peaked somewhere around Season 8 or 9. Couldn’t agree more. And in the early aughts it was in serious trouble. But I’ve stuck with it for 17+ seasons now, and if you think I’m quitting before it does, you’ve got another think coming. Besides, over the last year or so, it’s actually gotten pretty good again. Not necessarily the pinnacle of perfection it once was, but it tends to provide at least a few laughs an episode, which is good enough for me.

“The Amazing Race” (CBS, 8 p.m.). With the exception of the let’s-not-talk-about-it Family Race Edition, this show has always been reliable, and season 10 is no different. We’ve seen some great locations and a relatively good assortment of entertaining Roadblocks and Detours. But more importantly, the necessary stereotypical couplings have all been provided and allowed to flourish. Annoyingly dysfunctional couples? Check. Meathead guy team? Check. Cute chick team? Check. Team that’s so nice and fair that they should win the game but probably won’t? Check. Usually, this late in the race (there are five teams left), there tend to be about three or four teams I’m actively rooting against. But this season, there’s really only one team that I absolutely don’t want to see win (Rob and Kimberly buh-low), so it’s actually a nice change of pace to just be able to sit back and enjoy the race for the sake of the race, without getting all caught up in the rooting aspect. In any event, enjoy this season while you can, because rumor has it the next season will be an All-Star run, and that’s never a good thing.

“The Wire” (HBO, 9 p.m.). Easily the best show currently on television, and if I ever sit down to make a list of the all-time top shows, it will certainly sit comfortably in the top five.

“Dexter” (SHO, 10 p.m.). When I first reviewed this show, I said it had the potential to be a real solid standout, and now that we’re firmly entrenched in the season, I’ll say that it is a standout. My concerns about the tone have largely been resolved, and I’m enjoying this show quite a bit. In fact, my only real criticism at this point is something I originally praised — the voiceovers. It’s not the actual delivery of the voiceovers I mind; rather it’s the content. This far into the game, I think we get that Dexter isn’t like other people, that he has to pretend to be normal, that he doesn’t have emotions, that’s he a stranger walking around in a strange land, etc. Seen it, heard it, got it! We don’t need it repeatedly thrown at us anymore. Now to be fair, they seemed to have toned this down a bit last week, and the voiceovers actually served the plot and character developments a bit more. If this change continues (and I haven’t seen last night’s episode yet due to Sunday Night Football — F you, Giants! — so I can’t confirm if it does, in fact, continue) then I’m OK with the voiceovers. But if it doesn’t continue? Well, then make it continue. Know what I’m saying Showtime?

“Brothers and Sisters” (ABC, 10 p.m.). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — if this show was on any night other than Sunday night, it would probably be dead in the water for me (as it stands my TiVo is relatively uncluttered on Mondays, so I can easily fit this in during my workday). It’s saccharine, it’s clunky, it’s unrealistic and it’s obvious (although I wish they’d make it clear whether or not Calista Flockheart’s character is a conservative Republican — ‘cause pointing it out only three or four times an episode isn’t really hammering the message home for me). Despite all these flaws, there’s still just something about this show that’s keeping me tuning in. It’s probably that I’m enjoying most of the performances, despite the clunky unrealistic dialogue (except for the goddamn Iraq vet brother — he’s like Affleck-lite). And with Rob Lowe joining the cast in a week or two, I’m hoping there will be some more entertaining performances (of course, it also means this show probably won’t be renewed for a second season, since he’s been television poison ever since leaving “The West Wing”).

“Robot Chicken” (Cartoon Network, ~11:30 p.m.). The comedy on this 10-15 minute show hits more often than not. And the genius of the show is that when it doesn’t hit, the idea is generally gone before you even have time to realize it wasn’t hitting (most of the segments are two-to-10 second clips, mixed between two or three longer bits). It’s a show put together by a bunch of nerds who clearly have the same ’80s nostalgia that all my friends and I have, and so any show that can spend two minutes dealing with the tragedy of Optimus Prime getting prostate cancer is aces up in my book.

Mondays suck. Simply no question about it. Which makes Monday night television all the more important, as a good night of TV can help relieve the pain and ease you into the rest of the week. Of course, my live viewing tends to simply be Monday Night Football. But when the game’s a stinker, here’s what’s waiting for me on the ol’ TiVo:

“Prison Break” (FOX, 8 p.m.). Look, sometimes I like mindless television, where I can check any sense of believability, plausibility, or realism at the door. And since “24” ain’t back just yet, this’ll do nicely. The actors are, for the most part, relatively solid (particularly my man William Fichtner, who can rarely do wrong, in my book). And while the plot and its many contrivances are ludicrous, they’re entertainingly ludicrous. This show is like a Tastykake krimpet — kinda’ bland and absolutely not good for you, but topped by this ridiculously addictive icing that you just can’t help but love.

“Everybody Hates Chris” (CW, 8 p.m.). You know, before this show premiered last season, it was a critical darling. And rightfully so, in my opinion. But although it maintained its level of quality and laughs all season long, folks slowly stopped talking about it. It’s gotten little plugging this year, aside from some mentions when the CW moved it from Sunday to Monday, and I’m not sure why. It’s not a great comedy, but it’s a very entertaining one. And given the relative dearth of any good comedies on TV right now, I’m not sure why more folks aren’t giving this one a shot. Hell, I haven’t even minded when Whoopi has shown up, and that I’d give a show that kind of leeway is really saying something. And bonus points for great music, ’80s nostalgia and Chris Rock’s hilarious narratives (he could do a reading of War and Peace and it would probably be funnier than 90 percent of the “comedy” on the tube these days).

“Heroes” (NBC, 9 p.m.). Overall, I’m a big fan of this show. And the main reason is that I feel like it’s actually going somewhere. Unlike a certain other popular serialized drama (I’ll have it out with you, “Lost,” in the Wednesday column), we actually get answers to the questions that come up. The last couple of episodes have lulled a little bit, but I’ll give the show a little leeway since you sometimes need that lull before a big ramp-up (which is coming, if the promos are to be believed — though promos are rarely to be believed). The actors have all been providing good-to-strong performances, with the annoying exception of Milo Ventimiglia (I’m sorry people, but he’s just not a good actor, despite his time on “Gilmore Girls”). In fact, my biggest complaint is one I’ve already made in this column — it’s the bloody voiceovers. As with “Dexter,” these things are becoming repetitive as all hell, but they’re even worse here because there’s an air of pomposity to them. Evolution is taking place, and there’s a fine line between good and evil, and maybe figuring out your place in the world and where you fall on that line is what evolution is all about it and we get it! The voiceovers add nothing to the story, provide no character insight or development, are highfalutin and poorly delivered, and I’d be a much happier little piggy if they just killed them completely. (As a kind-of aside, there’s a great little blog being kept by one of the show’s producer/directors, which would certainly be of interest to fans of the show, but which would probably also be of interest to those who don’t really care about the show but are just into the behind-the-scenes machinations of TV.)

“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (NBC, 10 p.m.). I’m pleased as punch that NBC ordered up the back nine and that we’ll at least get one full season of Sorkin’s latest baby. Myself and many other critics have talked plenty about the show’s many stumbles and ongoing problems, but even still, this show is better than average. And I still think there’s a real gem buried deep down. We’ll probably never see it in full bloom, but every once in a while that old-school Sorkin goodness manages to stick its head up, and that’s enough to keep me watching.

So that’s it for today’s discussion, boys and girls. But remember to check back every day this week as new installments of the TV Whore Fall Sweepstacular are added (and I’ll add some links below for you, too, as they go live):

What I’m watching on Tuesdays.
What I’m watching on Wednesdays.
What I’m watching on Thursdays.
What I’m watching on Fridays and Saturdays.


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He’s currently trying to figure out how “able to sit on the couch for hours on end” is a world-saving super power.

What I'm Watching on Sundays and Mondays

Fall Sweepstacular / The TV Whore
November 13, 2006

TV | November 13, 2006 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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