Summer is over. With the coming (and going) of the Labor Day weekend and the marking of the annual anniversary of 9/11, we launch ourselves into the fall and winter seasons.
I decided that, since I've been doing a lot more consumption of television content, as late, than DVDs -- I should post some about what's going on in that realm. Besides, with major producers, directors and talent showing up for huge TV efforts, there can be at least as much excitement in a weekly series as we have found lately on the shiny discs.
Now, the summer seemed short. Nonetheless, and despite my June decision that I'd catch up on all the spring run-off TV shows that I'd stored up on my DISH hard drive, I managed to get sucked into a couple of different shows that captivated my late-night viewing attention through the dog-days.
Besides Big Brother 7: All-Stars (CBS),Windfall (NBC), So You Think You Can Dance (FOX) and The Contender (ESPN), there wasn't much besides re-runs of House, Las Vegas and Criminal Minds from last season.
Now, by way of a recap...
The strangely addictive Big Brother series has super-charged its run this year, by bringing back the most volatile and/or competitive players from past seasons to compete in the "pro-bowl" of Big Brother. The All-Stars have spent the summer in "the house" and have played, show-manced and scum-bagged eachother until only 2 remain. This Tuesday (9/12) will see the winner crowned (and awarded $500,000). This show has managed to suck-up an hour on each of 3 different nights, weekly, over its summer run without getting too tedious. While I've never been "fan-enough" to tune-in to the 24/7 web video available as a member @ CBS.com, I'd imagine that with a high-band connection and a lot of time on your hands, you could catch a lot of cool goings on in the house.
Windfall came at us from the Peacock with a high-concept premise...examining the lives of lottery winners (and I'm not talking about the $100 scratch-off kind). Basically, over the summer, we got to see a group of characters drive their lives to shambles on the back of a huge lottery win. The characters were somewhat weak, but developing. The story seemed a bit like a slow-motion train wreck. Instead of treating its viewers to a story-arc showing how the characters put their lives back together and move forward, the series was promptly shit-canned. Now, this is the kind of series that NBC used to throw at us in the fall. Back when the network suits still had a set of stones on them, this is the kind of show that would have been played, tweaked and nurtured and would have become a primetime soapfest powerhouse. Now, though, NBC desk-jockeys chase their tails around their offices and jump scared at every email that contains the Nielsen numbers. Just like they did with Heist, Four Kings and Joey, the Burbank hacks at NBC have killed yet another promising seedling. Everyone wants the easy huge hit these days. But no one (at NBC, especially) is willing to work for it.
Add to NBC's executions last year the other shows that the Peacock and other nets sumarily terminated, we saw Love Monkey, The Evidence and Commander in Chief get the axe. Needless to say, in my not-so-humble opinion, these and other shows would have had a fighting chance if the net execs behind them had some staying power... Viagra, anyone?
NOTE TO NETWORK EXECS: Only FOX seems to have the balls to see their projects through anymore. The rest of you might as well head to high-tea.
Fox brought back its summer waltzer, So You Think You Can Dance, to big (by summer standards) ratings. This American Idol for the fleet-foot set even spawned its own finalist tour (not sure that a dance tour makes as much sense as the American Idol finalist concert tour). As uncomfortable as judge and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe seems in his own skin, he couldn't spoil the fun of watching these truly motivated kids strut their stuff across a wide swath of dance styles. In the end, the "best dancer" was bounced out (again, as was the case last year) in favor of the "favorite dancer", this time the West Coast Swing World Champion, BENJI! Anyway, its a fun series and if you record it and fill-in when you can, it can fill up some down-time. That said, I think Shane Sparks and Wade Robson (especially Wade) are DA BOMB on hip hop and pop choreography. Damn... Wade's routine to Roisin Murphy's Ramalama (Bang Bang) was one worth saving on that TiVO or DISHPLayer and Shane's Ne-Yo routine with Allison and Ivan was smooooooth. Anyway, check it out next year...if you're jonesing for the talent-contest fix.
Finally, the skirts at NBC jettisoned The Contender and shoved it over to ESPN. Damn! Finally. We can only hope that the boxing tournament show (this time, sans an awkwardly out-of-place Stallone) has found a home where it can run in perpituity. Great boxing. Great heart. Sugar Ray looks like he was born to host this show and does a great job hosting, despite the awkward product-placement pitches the producers foist on him. This show, without the stupid team competitions, has found its stride. Backstory and boxing, baby. Sure, the family drama can be a little heavy sometimes, but it is great to see these guys -- for the love of their families and following their dreams -- slug it out. Hope we'll see more of this in coming seasons.
I also caught some of Last Comic Standing but found myself nonplussed at both the talent and at NBC's failures during the show's previous 3 seasons. The net famously upended its viewers when it cut-short the 3rd season and showed its true color (yellow). Since then, I've been unable to invest my time, wholeheartedly, into it.
Rockstar: Supernova did end up in a few slots on one of my PVRs and, thus, I did catch some of the acid-crooners. Decent, I'd say. I'd not turn out a Jackson to see them perform with the likes of Tommy Lee, but interesting enough to kill an hour (fast-forwarding commercials makes it about 35 minutes) every now and again.
Finally, both Treasure Hunters and Hell's Kitchen are taking up a full season worth of hard disk on one of my DISH PVRs. I can't honestly say I'll ever get through them.
With summer shows at all the netowrks passing the baton to the fall line-ups, the networks are all over the map when it comes to what they're feeding us for the final quarter of the year. Fox has jumped out to an early lead by introducing its returning and new shows weeks before the other networks. I'll say it again... Those guys at Fox really have the brass balls. They don't let conventional wisdom or anyone else's business logic determine how they'll play. Go get-em guys!
Fox has already delivered us a few weeks of Prison Break and Vanished; one week of House and Standoff; and two weeks of Bones and Justice. Now I know Fox has some other scheduling issues, revolving around sports, etc. But getting an early start to the season builds viewing habits while all the other nets are trying to figure out their game-plans. Right now, I have Fox stealing away my Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Sunday night will undoubtedly go to ABC with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Desperate Housewives grabbing my mindshare. After those, NBC usually grabs up my late-evening with Crossing Jordan. Other nights are up for grabs and I expect Friday will be in NBC's hands (as long as they don't cut and run from Las Vegas). In short order, though Tuesday will get doubled-up by Boston Legal on ABC and Wednesday is a busy night, as I'm expecting CBS to stack The Unit and Criminal Minds against Fox's line-up and ABC tosses in the entertaining Freddy. When you add Lost, ABC's returning stranded-on-an-island drama, a guy realizes he can't make it past mid-week without some serious recording capabilities. Admittedly Monday will earn ABC some points from me by sticking with What About Brian. I'll be watchign that to see what develops. Nice way to show some backbone, guys.
Full Disclosure I won't be able to watch all of these shows on their regular nights, so I'll be playing them off the PVR as time allows, so you'll have to forgive if I'm sometimes late at dishing my thoughts....
I'm sure I'll end up fast-forwarding through some Deal or No Deal. Let's face it, that show is much better when recorded and played over the span of 4.6 minutes to the end of each contestant's round. I'm cautiously optimistic about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, although they could have held the title to just "Studio 60". I'm quietly hoping that this isn't just another NBC short-punt that'll fall-short and be killed-off by Thanksgiving. Twenty Good Years, Heroes and Kidnapped might prove to be decent fare, but then again (as you can probably tell), I'm pretty noncommittal to NBC fare because I risk investing in a show that gets prematurely killed.
I'll probably give FOX's The War at Home a try. 'Til Death might also warrant a viewing or two. I did check out Happy Hour this last week and found it to be a reasonbly easy 30 minutes with some decent laughs.
CBS might convince me to record a few of the new Survivor episodes. I've not been much of a viewer of the show after season 2. I will be checking out The Courier and How I Met Your Mother, as I record those and catch up on them late-night weekends. CBS, in addition to the previously mentioned shows, will be earning my attention for Smith, Shark and The Class. I won't likely be spending much time on Amazing Race, Jericho or the other staples (CSI, etc.)...unless I bumble across them at some time.
So, wow... A busy schedule. Lots of stuff I've left off. Hoping Shawna Benson will find some time for some of them in her additions to this column.
I'll also be looking for the late-season (i.e. January 2007) return of 24, American Idoland The Donald's L.A.-based The Apprentice.
Watch this column for lots more from the nets!
Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season
Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season
House M.D.: Season Two
House: Season One
Boston Legal: Season 2
Boston Legal: Season 1
Lost: The Complete First Season
Prison Break: Season 1