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Best Summer in Television History
2005-08-17 12:38
by Scott Long

It used to be that the major networks were the only one's producing new shows and the summer was a place for reruns. This concept began to change with the advent of HBO developing their own original programming, which they premiered during the summer to full media attention. With the great success that HBO received from this strategy, Showtime and FX networks decided to emulate their cable competitor. The past couple of years, with their market share evaporating, even the major networks have gotten on the bandwagon, realizing that the medium needs a 365-day strategy.

While many rag on television, I would argue that it has never had more quality programs. Considering that major studios are run by their marketing departments, with the majority of releases focused on either big budget effects, remakes of past films and television series, or sequels, it's now rare to hear quality dialogue on the big screen. Many writers and directors have come to the realization that if they want produce quality work, television is the best place to fully develop their themes.

As I mentioned last week's post, The Fat Club FX's "Starved" is the best new show of 2005. Not far behind is a similarly dark comedy, "Weeds", which appears on Showtime. Starring the always-great Mary-Louise Parker, who plays a recently widowed mother of two that decides to sell marijuana to keep her family living in the comfortable suburban life they had grown accustomed to. If you are looking for a darker, edgier version of "Desperate Housewives", this is the place to move to.

So besides the new shows "Starved" and "Weeds", returning drama's "Six Feet Under" and "Rescue Me" keep the quality level high. Sure the glut of reality shows continues, but there is one that is definitely worth putting on your viewing schedule. Rock Star: INXS, airing twice a week on CBS has a group of singers that make American Idol participants look pathetic in comparison. The ultimate winner of the show will tour and record with INXS. One of the great parts of the show is that the contestants are singing quality songs, with the cover tunes they are given written by artists like U-2, Nirvana, REM, etc.

The only thing keeping this show from being a great reality show is that host Dave Navarro and the band members of INXS are way too nice, when commenting on the contestants. The show could really use a Simon Cowell to call out the weaknesses of the performers. If you haven't seen the show yet, it's a great time to dial it in, as most of the weaker performers have been bounced. Jordis, Marty, Ty, Mig, and JD all have star-power and it will be interesting to find out who fits the band best. Possibly the most unsung element of the show is how great the backing musicians are, as they seamlessly go from one style to another, rocking out like the best cover band on the planet.

One last note: In this great summer of programming, don't waste your time watching "Tommy Lee Goes to College". While the premise seemed funny enough, Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee attends the University of Nebraska, all the "hi-jinks seemed forced and the way it's shot just adds to the non-reality of it. The show has a narrator who sounds like the guy who does the voice over for the Sadomania porn videos and just let me recommend those videos over this pathetic show. The Osbourne's and Anna Nicole Smith were train wrecks, but they were entertaining in their psychosis. Tommy Lee just feeds into the stereotype that the guy is a dickhead, who's biggest talent in life is his dickhead.

2005-08-19 10:27:44
1.   Lefty
Hey Scott. Met you at the Cell with Derek and Will in May under a different name. It's not just the new shows, and you didn't even mention "Over There," but I have been watching the rerunning of "Lost" on ABC as well. My wife and I have actually moved up the kids' bedtimes to catch all the shows (Tivo helps). An aside, ABC has obviously bungled the sequence of "Lost" but I haven't read about it anywhere.
2005-08-19 11:47:29
2.   TFD
hello? hello? Bueller?
2005-08-19 13:24:08
3.   Ryan
I've only seen one show, but "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia!" is very funny. I mean, you can't go wrong when you have abortion protesters waving signs that read, "What if Jesus was Aborted?"
2005-08-20 22:21:03
4.   Hank
Like you, I started watching "Lost" during re-runs, and I was also bothered by the sequence, but I don't think ABC bungled it. The problem is that they can't fit 24 or 26 episodes in June, July, and August, so they've started skipping some. ABC's site contains detailed episode guides to fill in the gaps, which has helped:

2005-08-20 23:05:05
5.   Scott Long
Yo Lefty, remember you well and really enjoyed the day out at the cell with you and Derek, despite your Cub allegiances. What I've seen of "Over There" has been decent, but just didn't make my limited viewing schedule. The original episode of "Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia" was pretty good, with the whole "gay bar" deal, but is not of the same class as "Starved" and "Weeds". I watched the first 2 episodes of "Lost" and really liked how it was shot like a movie, but the whole supernatural element is something I just don't dig.
Mr. Carroll is a big fan, I believe, though.
2005-08-22 21:41:35
6.   stevegoz
Geek alert: the new version of Battlestar Galactica is shockingly good.

No, really. The original was '70s schlock; this version is post-9/11 apocalyptic craziness. And thanks to TiVo, I end up watching each episode twice.

I've also warmed to Over There -- the second episode was an absolute stunner. It's weird seeing a former petulant ER doc morphed into an all-knowing tough guy Army sergeant, but once you willingly suspend your disbelief in Erik Palladino you're in for some gut-wrenching stuff. Someday, the characters may even come to transcend their straight-out-of-central-casting cliches.

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