Channel Guide

Channel Guide - Large

If I were to call The Vampire Diaries stupid, I don’t think that too many people would be outraged or even ask me to explain why I had that opinion. Everyone would probably just assume that I wasn’t in to vampires or diaries or good-looking men with smoldering eyes and leave it at that. The show definitely has its fan base, and it’s a very devoted fan base, but it’s socially acceptable to not like The Vampire Diaries. Now, what if I were to call Mad Men stupid? The kind of inarticulate assessment that it’s perfectly OK to make when talking about The Vampire Diaries probably wouldn’t fly when talking about Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed drama (mainly because the show isn’t stupid and, even if it isn’t your cup of mid-afternoon booze, there are certain things about it that you have to concede—it’s thematically complex, well-written, pretty to look at, etc.). I happen to be a faithful Mad Men viewer but I know that there are people who find it painfully unwatchable and I also know that these people aren’t hillbillies (no offense to hillbillies) or unintelligent. Disliking a popular show is, of course, alienating—even when you’re steadfast in your opinion—but it’s also just incredibly frustrating; there’s a kind of emperor’s new clothes aspect to it where you’re left asking, what is it that I’m missing here?

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Channel Guide - Large

During a panel about the state of the Battlestar Galactica franchise at this year’s WonderCon, Michael Taylor, the co-creator of Blood and Chrome—a Battlestar prequel that you may remember was green-lighted by SyFy back in 2010—screened a trailer for the two-hour pilot. This latest extension of the Battlestar universe revolves around 20-something William Adama, a recent Academy graduate. The images Taylor culled together and presented to the WonderCon audience were exciting—set in space and filled with Viper pilots, the look of it is much more in line with the original (reimagined) series than Caprica—if a bit depressing, since the show’s future is still uncertain. Last anyone heard, SyFy’s enthusiasm for the project was waning and as a result, they were thinking of maybe, possibly, one day breaking the pilot up into pieces and delivering it to us as an online series instead of airing it in its entirety on TV. As much as I’d like to eventually see Blood & Chrome in one form or another, I understand SyFy’s ambivalence. Caprica really did kill the franchise’s momentum.

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Channel Guide - Large

Yes, the moment you may or may not have been waiting for since 1991 is almost here: 21 Jump Street, the overly sincere, denim heavy, painfully ‘80s TV series about baby-faced cops going undercover in high schools, blowin’ up the spot and teaching everyone about morals or whatever, has been updated and turned into a movie that’s being released this weekend! The series, which aired from 1987 to 1991, served as a launching pad for the career of one of today’s greatest actors: Peter DeLuise. (Johnny Depp may have also been on the show.) The weird premise and casting of a pre-mega fame DeLuise are, I guess, what keep 21 Jump Street alive in our collective memory all of these years later. (Although, I don’t think that this new movie is necessarily intended for people who were fans of the series or who were even alive during its run.) Even though the whole “film based on old TV show” genre is ultimately the result of laziness, unoriginality, and rooted in the simple fact that that our memories and feelings of nostalgia can be exploited for profit, the release of 21 Jump Street means that series that existed in the ‘90s are starting to make their way to the big screen and that’s kind of exciting. So if this is where we’re headed, someone might as well start adapting the following shows.

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Channel Guide - Large

Ah, Elaine Benes. The spastic dancing, the contraceptive sponge hoarding, the big wall o’ hair. She’s the Seinfeld character nearest to my heart, which speaks both to the deep admiration I have for uncouth women with practical, somewhat masculine taste in footwear and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ endearingly brassy performance. Though there was never any reason to doubt her talent during the ‘90s, in my eyes, no TV character that Louis-Dreyfus tackled post-Seinfeld was going to come close to matching iconic Elaine. At first, this stubborn assessment (originally made when I was a very self-possessed 17-year-old) seemed on point, but then the trailer for her new HBO series Veep was released last week. Even though the comedy isn’t set to premiere until April, it already looks like we have another classic Louis-Dreyfus character on our hands. In other words, if TV shows were potential lovers, Veep would be looking pretty sponge-worthy right about now.

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Channel Guide - Large

Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash—or simply “the Stash,” if you’re down—is a comic book shop in Red Bank, New Jersey. The sheer existence of the store when so many others are closing, in and of itself, might be noteworthy but what really gives this place some cachet is its owner: Kevin Smith. A comic book shop is a comic book shop, but when it’s in some way connected to the tour de force that I (and other people, probably) like to call Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, who isn’t going to want to visit? The new show Comic Book Men’s appeal is similarly tied to the Jersey Girl director—the unscripted series is set in the Stash and produced by Smith. I like Clerks, I like Chasing Amy, I like most of Dogma, I’ve gone to (and enjoyed) one of Smith’s live Q&A shows, so I think I fall within AMC’s target audience here. Despite being a part of this demographic, or maybe because I’m a part of this demographic, the network shouldn’t have put all of their eggs in the bespectacled, be-bearded, be-hockey-jerseyed filmmaker basket.

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Channel Guide - Large

Last Sunday, an important TV milestone was reached. The Simpsons, the longest running American series, aired its 500th episode, but that wasn’t the only major achievement. Last Sunday, erstwhile Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais appeared on two TV shows on the same night, voicing a dolphin on Fox’s Family Guy and portraying himself on the premiere of HBO’s Life’s Too Short. He certainly isn’t the first actor to star in two shows airing almost simultaneously but here in America, there was a time, not so incredibly long ago, when Gervais’s brand of cringe humor (or humour) was only celebrated by a niche group of anglophiles. I don’t want to call the sincerity of 2004 era Gervais fans into question (because I was one) but, at that time, it was kind of cool to like the UK version of The Office in the same way that it’s cool to like indie things–it was something that pseuds could get all pretentious about. But now Gervais is on our TV screens often. Twice-in-the-same-night often. Three-times-in-a-24-hour-period often, if you take The Science Channel’s Gervais-produced An Idiot Abroad into account. So, are we inching closer to the “all Gervais, all the time” programming utopia of our dreams? Or is Gervais becoming annoyingly ubiquitous? These are the questions that I struggle with, while watching Life’s Too Short.

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Channel Guide - Large

Since no new ABC supernatural or sci-fi drama can stand on its own merits, The River has been touted as the latest attempt to replicate the sort of success and intrigue that the network had with Lost—as you may remember, 2009’s Flash Forward and V were both met with the same comparison upon their debuts. The Steven Spielberg-produced series is an adventure-paranormal-horror-thriller hybrid and because one of its creators is Paranormal Activity writer-director Oren Peli, it’s no surprise that the story, set in the spooky, uncharted regions of the Amazon, is presented to us as found footage. “Found footage,” you exclaim, possibly scrunching your face up in disgust. “Does this Peli character realize that there are other ways to frame a story?” Apparently he doesn’t. But that’s okay, because the concept works here, at least in the short term.

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Channel Guide - Large

Karen Cartwright imagines herself in a shimmering white dress, center stage, belting out that ultimate dreamer’s song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She stretches her hands above her head, ever so dramatically, because she’s really into this performance – she isn’t just singing these words, she’s feeling them. She closes her eyes. Oh, yeah. She’s all up inside this song and we immediately understand the subtext here: these lyrics have been etched into her heart since she was a small girl, head already full of big city hopes and dreams about makin’ it. A cell phone rings, jolting Karen back to reality. She’s in a small room – far from the spotlight- auditioning for some jaded folks who somehow can’t see that she’s from Iowa and that she has aspirations! How wide-eyed does a girl have to be before someone gives her a leading role in a Broadway musical, yo? American Idol is all about regular people with unexpected talent, yearning for stardom. (Well, it used to be. Now, according to the most recent promos, it’s all about kids falling off of stages.) Katherine McPhee is an American Idol runner-up, so I guess she’s suited for this Karen part on Smash, NBC’s much-hyped drama about the creation of a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. McPhee’s Karen has a fresh-faced charm about her, the kind of girl you’d maybe instinctively root for, and the character’s Midwestern origins are, I believe, supposed to make her that much more appealing. The […]

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Channel Guide - Large

Man, of all the bowls, the Super Bowl is probably the most egotistical. Super Bowl? Pshaw. More like the Not-Super Bowl. Yeah, I said it. First played in 1967, the Super Bowl was the brainchild of some guys who loved football almost as much as they loved Roman numerals (Super Bowl XL was the year that it was at its t-shirt-sizey-ist). The “big game” marks the end of the NFL season and this is apparently a “big deal” – Super Bowl XLV was the most watched television broadcast in America last year. But if you ask me – and maybe you aren’t asking me, but let’s just pretend you are  the only bowl worth watching this weekend is the Puppy Bowl VII – Animal Planet’s annual Yule Log-esque special, featuring roughly (or, ahem, ruffly) two hours of adorable puppies playing on a model football stadium replete with chew toys and water bowls. Yep, water bowls. So that’s two bowls you’re getting for the price of one. Already, I think you’re starting to see why the Puppy Bowl is better than whatever’s happening in Indianapolis this Sunday.

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Channel Guide - Large

In the soaringly earnest but effective Touch, Kiefer Sutherland barks so many of his lines with the strained desperation of an exhausted man who’s just barely keeping it together. He’s shouldering a tremendous weight and no one around him is sensitive to his plight. But then, he doesn’t really expect them to be. Best known as badass Jack Bauer, here, a more vulnerable Sutherland is Martin Bohm, widowed father of a mute, emotionally challenged boy and the nucleus of this ambitious Fox drama by Heroes creator Tim Kring.

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Channel Guide - Large

Sy-Fy‘s Being Human made its second season debut last week, recussetating the nerd tv quotient in my life exponentially. Yes, I watch True Blood, and as you now know all-too-well, if it’s on PBS or BBC America, I’m on board. But there isn’t much I watch that I’m wholeheartedly embarassed to admit to, with the exception of Being Human. Well, FSR readers, I’m coming clean. Yep, I’m a SyFy watcher, and semi-proud. Being Human, for those of you not in the know, is the story of three unlikely roommates, a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost. I mean, totally believable, right? Of course not, but if you’re looking for believable TV, then stick to the Law and Order franchise. It’s across-the-pond counterpart appealed to me after popping up in my “recommended for you” Netflix queue so often that I finally succumbed, plowing through a couple of discs in a matter of days. So you can imagine my delight when SyFy’s incessant bus shelter/subway stop/public transportation domination campaign alerted me to an American reboot. With Jungle 2 Jungle‘s Mimisiku!

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Channel Guide - Large

The premise of the new CBS sitcom ¡Rob! is only interesting if you’ve never heard of Fools Rush In or Guess Who or the Meet the Parents trilogy or perhaps if these are the only movies that you’ve ever truly enjoyed. After a six-week courtship, Rob (Rob Schneider) has eloped with Maggie (Claudia Bassols), having never met her mother and father. Being introduced to the in-laws under these circumstances would probably be distressing for most people but it is particularly so here because Maggie is Mexican-American and Rob…isn’t. Awk-ward! What’s worse, Rob is apparently unable to have a normal conversation with someone whose ethnic background is different than his. “I’m a huge fan of Mexican culture,” he says, trying to endear himself to his father-in-law Fernando (Cheech Marin). He continues: “This dip is excellent. I believe it’s called guacamole.” Was this the kind of woo he was pitching when he first met Maggie?

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Channel Guide - Large

The Gods at ABC have smiled down upon us. In what seems like the first logical thing done in the 2012 midseason, the Disney network has cancelled the insufferable Work It, the Bosom Buddies­-style “comedy” about two men who cross-dress to get a job in pharmaceutical sales. While this news is a triumph on its own, it paved the way for another exciting revelation – a Valentine’s Day premiere date for cult favorite Cougar Town. Praise Big Carl! The return of this Bill Lawrence comedy is some of the most exciting news since, well, the cancellation of Work It. This comedy, premiering in 2009 after Modern Family, is a wine-soaked, sun-bathed Golden Girls of the new age; a poorly-named glimpse at the lives of the Sex and the City gals, had they headed to suburbia. They do everything wrong – handling everyday situations as inappropriately as the Seinfeld gang; acting sometimes as selfishly as those deplorable Paddy’s Pub managers over on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – but these characters are strangely endearing in a way that’s perhaps amplified by chardonnay. Now, I’m not claiming that Cougar Town is the highbrowiest of programs. Heck, its (admittedly horrible) name is derived from a term coined by the Kardashian generation. Yes, Courtney Cox has indulged in so much botox that her Monica Gellar qualities are almost unrecognizable, and her voice can be a little grating. No, you certainly won’t get any intellectual benefit from it, a la Mad Men, or Breaking Bad, or […]

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Channel Guide - Large

When we first see our frowzy anti-hero, he’s alone, smoking, pacing back and forth in the men’s room of an upscale New York restaurant, rehearsing…something.  “You’re amazing, a goddess, a gift from on high.” Is it a poem? A marriage proposal? Has he finally found a love so powerful and true that it’s remedied his hitherto cankered existence? No, of course not. Later, face-to-face with the delusional woman who somehow didn’t see this coming, he finishes the thought. “You deserve the white dress and the happy ending. I’m just not the guy to give it to you.”  Hank Moody is the same man he’s been since day one—insincere, kind of a jerk, closetful of black clothes. Season five of Californication picks up two years after the events of season four (hey, I guess the world doesn’t end in 2012). Karen (Natasha McElhone) is now married and apparently happy about it; Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Aldon) still aren’t together but have a two-year-old son (the kid hasn’t started talking yet which may or may not have something to do with the fact that both of his parents are apt to have sex in places where it’s quite easy to stumble upon them); Becca (Madeleine Martin) is in college, dating an arrogantly suave, younger version of her dad (who didn’t see that coming?); and Hank still hasn’t shaved.

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Channel Guide - Large

Fire up the kettle and break out the Jaffa Cakes, because I’m ready to curl up with a cup of tea and devote my television habits exclusively to the efforts from across the pond. Okay, even I know I couldn’t live without a weekly one-two punch of Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon (returning this week on Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, respectively), but the BBC has been offering up a bevvy of programming that seems tailor-made for TV geeks like myself, and I’ve aristocratically sipped the British Kool-Aid in a big way. I’ve long been a fan of television with a stiff upper lip. At a young age, my European mother, bored with some of the comedies of the 80s (not everybody loved Mork & Mindy, apparently), turned to the programming of her mother continent – re-runs of Are You Being Served?, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, heck, even Mr. Bean, and I soaked it up like a tea-soaked sponge; the only second grader at Maple Hills Elementary to practice her cockney British accent on the playground. So it should come as no surprise that when it came time to curate my own cultural landscape, I looked to the Brits for inspiration. Sure, most teenagers listen to The Smiths at one point or another, and The Clash is pretty much a staple of adolescent angst, but as for TV? I watched each episode of Ricky Gervais’ take on The Office ad nauseam, got an education from Doctor Who, […]

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Ah, the television midseason. By now, the public has decided which new shows they’ll stick with (Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl), which they’re unsure about (Pan Am, Prime Suspect, Once Upon a Time) and which aren’t even worth thinking about (The Playboy Club, Free Agents). There’s little chance that if something hasn’t become appointment viewing by now, it’s worth cancelling the DVR season pass. So while we’re all finally getting over the tragedy that was Charlie’s Angels, the network bigwigs are using their highly-representative sample (comprised, one can only imagine, of elderly people, religious zealots, and the entirety of the state of West Virginia) to determine just what they’ll throw at us next. Sure, some of the best shows have been birthed out of a midseason replacement (ahem, Happy Endings, ahem), but the pickings are often more than slim – shows the networks don’t often find strong enough to debut with their fellow newbies in the fall. So what will we have to look forward to (or to run away from) in our TV Guide in the coming weeks? Sure, PBS will kick off the second season of critical and ratings darling Downton Abbey January 8th, while NBC’s 30 Rock is back January 12th. Cee-Lo Green will once again be gracing our television screens with The Voice’s post-Superbowl premiere, and Timothy Olyphant will be emanating his rugged swagger on Justified once more, as the lawman drama kicks off its third season January 17th. But what of the newly minted […]

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The 11 Best TV Shows of 2011

Because it’s Saturday, we’re talking television. That’s when Amber Humphrey publishes her weekly entry of Channel Guide, our twice-weekly column on all things television. But there’s something else at work this week. It might be Saturday, but it’s also the final day of the year. And what better way to send off our coverage of television in the year 2011 than with a list of the shows that we loved most dearly. In order to do so, Channel Guiders Amber Humphrey and Mikela Floyd each contributed their picks for the five best shows of the year, in no particular order. In keeping with our ’11 Best’ theme for the Year in Review, FSR Publisher and closet television fanatic (don’t tell movies, we don’t want them to be jealous) Neil Miller throws in one final pick with his own best show of the year. All powers combined, they have unleashed our list of the 11 Best TV Shows of 2011.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

I’m not generally a fan of the phrase “jumped the shark.” I think it’s presumptuous; as if I personally decided the standards with which a show should continue, and how it should be evaluated. I know what you’re saying “but… that’s exactly what you do.” Yes, yes it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t oftentimes feel bad about it. So when it came time to think of what aspect of 2011’s television offerings I would break down for your perusal, a nagging feeling piqued in the back of my mind – a lot of what’s on television should no longer be on television. And I’m not just talking about shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, or any other number of programs that have worn out their proverbial welcome in the Neilsen households of America. No, I’m referring specifically to the handful of TV shows that chose 2011 as the year to hammer that final nail in the coffin of television irrelevancy. Just what, pray tell, are these shows that I’ve deemed no longer worthy of filling my DVR? Read on, and when preparing the hate mail, remember that Mikela has one A, not two.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

I mooch Showtime off of family, friends, and strangers so it wasn’t until earlier this week that I was able to finagle my way into someone’s home to watch the Dexter finale. This is less of a personal confession and more of a warning. Yes, I will be breaking in to your house this Christmas/Hanukkah to jack cable TV from you but more importantly, if you don’t always watch Dexter finales when they originally air and still haven’t seen the shocking yet, in many ways, inevitable conclusion to season 6, then I suggest that you stop reading this right now. Though, before we address those last couple of minutes, let’s look at the season as a whole, which was the most ambitious, heavy-handed, and ultimately weirdest to date.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Ah, the Golden Globes. The redheaded stepchild of award show season – a veritable island of misfit toys in terms of pop cultural offerings. Ridiculous as they oftentimes may be, the picks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are now among us, and up for the inevitable scrutiny of the Internet as a whole. Film nominations aside, the small screen selections for this year’s statuettes are as random as ever. With regular contenders ineligible for nomination (Mad Men), and former heavy-hitters now struggling to stay relevant (I’m looking at you, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy), the pool of nominees is a hodgepodge one – often seeming as shallow as Paris Hilton. So just which shows should take home the statues when the Golden Globes are telecast January 15th? Here’s my breakdown of the nominees – from the way-to-go to the WTF.

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