So I’m assigned the task of coming up with a list of television essentials. Things no viewer should live without. Gee, that’s not daunting or anything. It’s not like I’ve got a huge history of more than half a century of television to choose from. I mean, I don’t know that I’m ready to publicly admit that I was a Knight Rider fan, or that I used to watch Buck Rogers because I thought Gil Gerard was the most handsome man I’d ever seen.
Let’s start small. We’ll go with my current primetime favorites in daily schedule form.
Oliver Beane. Yay! I’m glad this show was brought back as a mid-season replacement again this year. I just hope it stays on the schedule this time. It’s very Wonder Years, if WY concentrated on the funny stuff instead of the serious. The cast is fun…really fun, and the stories are funny, silly and maybe outlandish, but that’s part of why it’s so good.
The Simpsons. After nearly fifteen years on the air, it’s still funny. There’s probably nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. This show will go down in television history as one of the best.
Bernie Mac. This show is new to Sunday, and I didn’t know that I’d dig it at first, but surprisingly, I do. I knew Bernie was funny from his work in the Kings of Comedy, but I didn’t know if it would translate to a sitcom. It does, and Bernie and the kids have a great dynamic. It just works. Though now it’s moved to a new night, and my schedule makes it so I can’t even watch it anymore. Damn you, Fox!
Malcom In the Middle. The last “can’t miss” show of Sunday, making it a coup for Fox in the 8-10 PM time slot. I’ve loved this show from episode one. It gets funnier every season. A lot of people thought that the new baby would signal the shark jump, but I think they’ve been proven wrong.
Everwood. It’s not bad. No, really. I find the two main teen characters, played by Gregory Smith and Emily VanCamp, to be a little annoying (and by “a little” I mean “a whole hell of a lot”), but everybody else is pretty likeable, and well played. The stories are usually good, except when they’re letting our two teen drama queens (one of them a king by gender) take center stage with their angst-ridden problems. Last year’s story arc with the boy who came out of the coma, only to have a few months to live before finally dying, was surprising, and this year’s HIV arc has been equally unexpected.
CSI: Miami. Not as gripping as its “parent” show, but still quite good. This spin-off is brighter and flashier than the original. They actually turn on the lights once in awhile, unlike the Mag-lite loving CSI cast. Like the original, the crimes and the investigations are the most interesting part of the show. In a recent episode, two of the investigators were at a crime scene in the Everglades, when a controlled fire suddenly changed direction and they had to take cover under a heat resistant evidence blanket.
Gilmore Girls. I hate that I love this show. Sure, they talk insanely fast, and know more than they should (especially Rory, the daughter, only halfway into her freshman year), and have a mother/daughter relationship that’s frankly impossible, but there’s just something there. Mostly I think it’s the supporting cast, especially the grandparents. Plus, hey, Sebastian Bach is a reoccurring guest playing a sandwich shop owner by day and a rock guitarist in the local high school garage band by night.
Law & Order: SVU. One of the best shows on television. It’s very well written and acted. Ice-T is especially surprising as a once undercover officer. Sure, it’s probably the most depressing show on the grid because it’s so realistic and hard in its “ripped from the headlines” manner, but there’s something really…well, nice about this core group of police officers who have to deal with the most horrible cases day in and day out. It’s almost reassuring.
I go for the hard hitting 1:2 combo of teen and supernatural drama on Wednesday nights. Yes, yes, the Smallville/Angel juggernaut. Smallville is still surprisingly good. Sure
everybody is model perfect, and the “Lana is in trouble again” thing gets old at times (okay, every time), but the acting is good, and the parts where Lana isn’t in mortal danger and doesn’t need Clark’s knight in shining armor routine, are great. Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor is especially great; he’s part of why I find myself tuning in. I want to know when and why he finally succumbs to the proverbial dark side.
Angel. Too bad they’re canceling it. I think this is the most interesting season yet. The gang is running the former evil nemesis law firm of Wolfram & Heart, plus Spike is in LA to shake things up. Spike really works well on this show, and with the cast, Angel in particular. I don’t know how they’re going to wrap things up in the six or so remaining episodes, but I’ll be there to find out.
CSI. This is a great show. A little quirky and just plain weird (it brought the phrase “Fur Pile” into the common lexicon after all), but it revels in it. As long as it stays out of the personal lives our favorite crime scene investigators (and maybe if it pulled back a
little from Katherine), it’ll remain MY Must See TV on Thursday nights.
Without a Trace. The third of the Jerry Bruckheimer productions (both CSIs are also Bruckheimer vehicles), and in my opinion, the best. The cast is amazing, the stories are intense, and it is almost like a WB show in its use of music to further the story. There really isn’t anything bad I can say.
Monk. I think this is maybe the best-produced show period right now. The writing is great, the mysteries are fun, and the cast is superb. Tony Shaloub is amazing as our obsessive-compulsive hero detective. I think part of why this show works so well is that it’s so fresh and original. If you don’t know, the basic premise is that Monk is an obsessive-compulsive PI on administrative leave from the San Francisco police department. Because of his disorder, he picks up on clues that nobody else would even dream of. If you’re not watching this show, you should be.
Saturday is a good night for watching junk TV. You’ve got your Trading Spaces, your Most Extreme Elimination Challenges (now simply MXC), and your Iron Chefs. Really, what more do you need? Yeah, I’m getting a little tired of Trading Spaces, but their new “Home Free” competition should liven things up a bit, I hope. MXC is the only reason to watch Spike TV as far as I’m concerned. It’s so stupid, yet so great at the same time. Iron Chef is just plain good TV. If you’ve ever seen them make squid ink ice cream, or chop fifteen lobster heads off in less than a minute, you know what I’m talking about.
So there you go. My primetime favorites. A lot of TV, I know. Especially when you factor in all the Daily Shows, Harvey Birdmans(Birdmen?) and MST3K reruns, not to mention the occasional foray into syndicated Seinfelds…..
Gotta go. The latest Ronco infomercial is just starting.