Thursday, December 01, 2011

Spicy Ranch TV Round Up

Here is what I've allowed to decay my brain and eat up my time over the last several months:

Baseball: I came down with a bad case of the World Series fever, and this was likely the most excited I'd been about baseball in over a decade. This playoff season produced some of the most exciting baseball in a long time. It might even have been enough to get me to watch the regular season next year (especially if the Jays meet the current expectations many fans have for them). There were a lot of super tight and competitive games, and some pretty classic baseball moments (Nelson Cruz was a home run machine in the ALCS). Unfortunately, the team I rooted for went down and I did hideous in my predictions, but the St. Louis Cardinals played really good ball and deserved the World Series Championship (even if I so badly wanted to see Ron Washington do his World Series victory dance).

Football:
I've got to see lots of Bears games this year, thanks to the fact they made it to the NFC Championship game last year (in the past I'd be lucky to get 3 Bears games all season due to them being an out of market team). It ended up being a bit of a curse at the start of the season as it was a little rough. But after the Detroit disaster, Bears tightened up their offensive line and Bears went on a great win streak. Then Cutler got hurt, and I had to witness the end of the streak on Sunday. I have faith the Bears are still going to be strong (they played a much better second half on Sunday) and Hanie will be able to play solid enough to give Bears the necessary wins. I want to see my boys in the play offs, and I am confident it will still happen (hopefully, in a play offs played by a healthy, game ready Cutler).

Once Upon A Time: I've found a winner for my favourite new show of the season. I'm even willing to forgive that the show 'stole' the premise from an idea I came up with over 10 years ago. Please ignore the fact that I never got around to writing the story or even have any physical proof that I had this idea, but just trust me that it was viciously stolen from me. But I forgive them, because this is a very creative and engaging show. Though I think this show works best with an actual end in mind, and I hope the producers know enough to not drag it way past its expiry date (moldy shows are so bad for the eyes). It has done a good job of providing compelling standalone episodes, while delivering enough twists and questions to make it engaging serial drama that you need to consistently tune in to see. I do have to say that eventually Emma has to start believing Henry is right or she needs to send the boy off to a professional psychiatrist. I've enjoyed the flashback to the fairy tale world, and seeing how such a universe would work when occupied by every fairy tale character. So far, most of the character's introductions have been satisfying and their Storybrook counterparts have been interesting and smart (Red Riding Hood is called Ruby and works at a Diner called Granny's). The overarching storylines are intriguing and I've enjoyed the ride so far.

Walking Dead:
This is just my plain favourite show on TV. The second season has actually been able to outshine the first. I've enjoyed watching the character development and feel it has been pretty believable (or at least, in the context of a world filled with zombies). I liked how in the first season they had trouble killing the zombies because they saw them as former people, but after such a long time being chase from them, they now just treat them as pure monsters. Also this season has seen the group begin to splinter and the personalities are beginning to clash. The crisis is what brought everyone together despite their differences, but now the time together has been wearing everyone down. There have also been several interesting story arcs including the friction of working with a new group on the farm house, the search for the little girl, and the downward spiral of Shane's mental stability. This show is so compelling because it takes a horror theme like zombies, but concentrates on the human emotions and response to this dilemma. It is a great human drama that happens to be set in a zombie nightmare. I feel this season has done an even better job of focusing on the characters and letting us see their emotional struggles. Plus there have been some pretty cool zombie attack scenes, which you know, has to happen if you're going to bother including the zombies -- it's what they do.

Heel on Wheels: I haven't seen Deadwood, but I hear this show borrows extensively from its feel and atmosphere. Even if that is the case, I love the visuals, sets, and costumes of this show. Even though I wasn't around for post Civil War America, I think this show does a great job of capturing the feel and emotion of the time period. There aren’t a lot of historical shows, and so I'm usually a sucker for trying one out when I discover it. The big appeal of this show so far has been able to look into the window of life during the birth of the national railroad. The show has potential for great stories and it has some intriguing characters, but so far, I've not been able to get behind the main character. I find his story cliché and worn out (man seeking revenge for his wife's death). The main character seems to be someone ripped out of several generic westerns and not very deep or complex. There are actually a few minor characters that I'd rather get the spotlight like the former slave or the guy behind the building of the railroad. It does seem that the show wants to focus on several characters and it just needs some time to grow. I think there is a lot of potential and there are elements I'm interested in such as the Native American turned Christian who is torn between his new life and trying to protect his people. The show is far from dull and I'm willing to give it some time to show its originality.

Pam-Am: This poor show has been getting killed in the ratings, and I have a feeling it isn't long for this world. I'm trying to figure out if I stick it out or cut my losses with the belief that it is destined for cancellation heaven. I find this show has been becoming hit or miss. It has had episodes that have had exceptional story lines and fantastic acting and emotion, but other times the scenarios have been so far-fetched and ridiculous. I appreciate the fact they're trying to capture some of the major events and times of the 60s, but it is gets a little silly to see some of the circumstances the flight crew gets themselves into. I enjoy the 60s setting and I'm sucker for historical fiction, and so I'm willing to give the show a pass on some of its more far-fetched moments. I definitely find my interest is slowly becoming grounded.

ROH Wrestling: Believe it or not, I haven't watched any WWE for several months now. But I did catch about a combined 20 minutes of this smaller wrestling company. I'm not sure what the chances are of its survival considering it’s stuck in an 11:00 Sunday night spot on a network affiliate station. I do like the fact the show actually tries to pretend to be a sport, rather than become the badly acted soap opera that WWE wants to be. The wrestling is really fast paced, but the show may be doomed due its less than top notch production values and absence of recognizable stars (its most well-known stars are the former WWE tag team champions Charlie Hass & Shelton Benjamin). I may or may not remember to check out a few minutes of the show in the future (if it is even still on TV).

How I Met Your Mother: This show still delivers the solid laughs, but I fear it’s starting to drift a little too much into the soap opera territory. I also get a feeling some of the storyline are contradicting some things mentioned by future Ted, and the longer term storylines may not be as tight as many are lead to believe. Despite that criticism, I still love this show and I'm still intrigued to see who Barney is meant to be marrying (I'm still not discounting that he runs out of the wedding at the last minute). I think the show has done a good job of developing the characters, especially Barney who is still funny but far deeper now than a suit wearing womanizer who loves laser tag.

2 Broke Girls: I wanted to stick with this sitcom, because I liked the fact it was a modern day Laverne and Shirley and had strong female leads. I started to really get tired of Max's snarkyness and one liners. I felt the show was littered with a supporting cast that wasn't more than just dull caricatures. So, I've stopped watching it, and now I'm sure it will outlast all the current shows I watch.

Terra Nova:
Due to the budget of this show compared to the rating it garners, I wouldn't be surprised if it is extinct come May. At this point, I find the show spanning storylines to be far more interesting than the majority of single episode stories. I think the show would be much stronger if it concentrated on the Sixers storyline and the mysterious friction between the Terra Nova head and his son. The effects are strong and I like my weekly dose of dinosaurs. The bigger questions and mysteries it leaves are enough to keep me hooked even if some episodes have come off bland. I just hope the longer term stories get settled before this show enters its own permanent ice age.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: I loved what I've seen of this show, but I am so many seasons behind, I decided to pass on for now. But it will be watched. Oh yes, it will be watched. Just not right now.

New Girl: This show hit the chopping block too. I know it is hip to love Zooey Deschanel and I'm sure she is swell, but I find her character on this show annoying. This show is more of a fantasy than Once Upon A Time. I don't find anyone believable, and even worse, I didn't find myself laughing too much. Now to be fair, I gave up on this show after three episodes, and I have no idea if it had got on track since I dropped it in October.

Sons of Anarchy: FX Canada started showing Season 1 of this show, so I decided I could catch up on it. I found this show was going for a Sopranos/Oz/The Shield/The Wire kind of vibe. I'm all for shades of grey characters or having the main star be a kind of anti-hero. I'm on board whenever a show wants to be based off a Shakespeare play, in this case Hamlet. But I felt the show was trying to little hard to get the 'bad guys are good guys" kind of vibe and didn't necessarily do anything different other than they're now on bikes. Despite saying that, I really did dig the first episode especially when I realize a pilot is almost never the shows strongest work. But I obviously didn't dig it enough to ever remember to watch the second episode. I'll have to put this show in the ever growing "shows I'll eventually catch on DVD" pile.

Survivor: I was totally into this season, until Coach's tribe completely wiped out Ozzy's tribe. Didn't we just see one player control the game and wipe out the opposing tribe last season? Plus some of the characters that I thought would cause some interesting friction have recently gone quiet or ended up not being as interesting as I imagined. I was just begging for someone like Albert to decide to shake up the game and make some type of big move. Everyone decided to stay loyal to their alliances and stick to the game plan, and it has essentially made for dull game. The thing that is saving it for me is Ozzy's performances on Redemption Island, and I am rooting for him to come back and shake things up. The show does have some characters that have potential to be interesting and even volatile, but they need to start stepping up and bringing some crazy to this game. I'm hoping Edna can convince someone to switch sides next week and make this game a bit more unpredictable and crazy (does no one see how much they need to send Coach packing or they will essentially, give him the millions dollars?)

Suburgatory:
This is a great documentary on suburbia. Okay, it may be a tad exaggerated (like that time I told people I could play in the Major Leagues if I wanted). I'm growing to love this show more and more every passing week. It is super quirky and off the wall, but it still provides some decent storytelling and human emotion. The show is about a father and his daughter trying to start a new life and grow their own complicated relationship, sort of like a modern Who's the Boss but with more spray on tans and less male housekeepers. The best part, the show is smartly written and actually really funny.

Modern Family: This has been the best season yet. They're really on fire at the moment, well not literally, because that wouldn't be very funny. This show has been incredibly funny this season, while also providing that usual dose of warmth and emotion. I find this season has done a good job of balancing all the characters and not making one person stand out. So, if you like a certain character than you'll likely be able enjoy some decent face time each episode -- unless you like Lilly (is she even still on the show?).

American Horror Story: I like crazy and zany and over the top, but this show went even too far for me. The worst part is, it isn’t even scary. At all. It is just disturbing and full of unlikeable characters. I stuck with it for three episodes because it has gotten rave reviews and I was convinced I must be missing something. I’ve given up. I don’t see the appeal, and I’ll get my horror TV fix from the far better The Walking Dead.

Revenge: This is my 'soap opera' fix. The show decided to go against the formula it set out for the first few episodes, and I think it is a much stronger show for it. It has concentrated on more characters than just Emily Thorne, and hasn't made each episode about a single revenge against a person who betrayed her father. I also think this approach will help the show actually last more than just one season. There are a lot of crazy plots going on right now, and I am having trouble following them all, but I love just how over top and crazy it can get sometimes. The only big problem is there aren’t many relatable or likeable characters. I think Jack the bar owner is supposed to that person, because he is the person who isn't filthy rich, but he doesn't do enough other than mope over Amanda/Emily to be the one we can attach to. Plus we already know he ends up doing a very naughty thing in a few months (thanks to the show premiering with a look into the future). I like this show, even though I seem to like it less when I watch it with others (that is when I start realizing how corny and sleazy it can be).

Community: Remember when I said I wasn't sure if I liked this show? I was apparently on crack (Editor’s Note: I've never taken crack, but maybe I forgot because I took too much crack?). This show is unbelievable. It doesn't try for a message or be anything more than outright zany. But it does zany well. It really is super awesome when it does theme episodes. I was a huge fan of the Halloween episode and the parallel dimension episode (oh, and can't forget the filming a new college ad episode!). It is shame this show seems destined for cancellation as well, because it is by far one of the better comedies out there.

Parks & Rec: This show is alive thanks to great casting. Everyone plays their roles so well, and it is probably one of the more diverse casts on TV (next to Community, actually). The actors seem to know their characters so well, and characters are great parodies of government office (because I have so much experience working for government, like that time I. . . um. . . I interviewed the mayor in his office once). The characters are colorful and quirky, and do a great job of painting the crazy that is the small town of Pawnee. It's a great show for one liners and funny water cooler talk, even if I rarely can actually remember the plot.

The Office: I really like this season, even if the critics seem to disagree with me. I think, Andy has been great as the boss and brings something very different than Michael Scott. The Robert California character has provided lots of solid laughs. Despite saying all this, I still think this season should be the swan song and end it before everyone forget it is still on TV (looking at you The Simpsons).

Person of Interest: This is my lone 'crime drama' that I allow myself to watch, even though the airwaves are littered with them. This isn't really a typical 'crime drama' since it has the science fictional elements of the computer that watches our every move. Most of the episodes have been really strong, and I like the aspect that the main character doesn't always know if he is protecting a good person. They've recently introduced a crime boss that I hope will stick around for future episodes as it has potential for exciting moments and it is fun to have a recurring nemesis. I like this show, but I wouldn't be devastated if it disappeared next season -- though this seems to be one of the rating hits of the new shows.

Grimm: Borrows fairy tale elements like Once Upon a Time, but after that, it is a totally different show. This could be considered a crime drama too, since it involved a police officer as the main star, but I'd peg it closer to an X-Files type show. It has got progressively better with each episode, and has a few dangling plot points that have got me particularly intrigued. I am interested in finding out why the police chief is protecting one of the baddies, and if there is a higher level cover up regarding all these monsters running about. It is a fun show, and I enjoy trying to tie in each creature with the villains from Brother Grimm fairy tales.

So, that is the stuff that I've allowed to pollute my brain over the last several months. I'm actually a few weeks behind on most of these shows. With a coming baby and my growing business, I'll likely only get more far behind. I like watching TV shows because I find it gives me different ideas for my own stories, plus TV is just fun.

So, what stuff have you guys been watching?

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