Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boob Tube News

My TV watching habits can be divided into two distinct categories: The Real Housewives and everything else. “Everything else” covers a heck of a lot of territory, so I thought I’d share what I enjoyed over the past season—or seasons, as the case may be. I believe that every one of these shows is coming back! Also, in some cases past episodes are currently available on Netflix.

 Enlightened (HBO). Laura Dern and Mike White (whose writing credits include Orange County, Nacho Libre,—yes, he’s probably buddies with Jack Black!—and TV’s cult favorite Freaks and Geeks) are co-writers of this tragic-comedy-drama renewed for a second season. Amy Jellicoe affirms Henry James’ oft quoted adage, “Civility begins at home.” If you don’t treat the people closest to you well, it doesn’t matter how many noble causes you enlist in.  After her holistic health retreat in Hawaii following a mental breakdown in the workplace, Amy receives a $50,000 bill—the remainder of her first payment. Her mother (real life mom Diane Ladd) questions the outrageous price tag, to which Dern replies, “They gave me back my life, mom. You can’t put a price tag on that.” To which Ladd retorts, “Well, apparently you can!” One still gets the feeling that Jellicoe is on the verge of another nervous breakdown, or at least in need of medication. Amy’s relentless desire for acceptance from her peers is alternately cringe-worthy and inspiring of pity. Dern’s character endured personal setbacks that led to her spectacular meltdown at work. Unfortunately, the first season is currently available only on HBO GO.

Leather jacket, meet leather codpiece.
Once Upon a Time (ABC). The inhabitants of a quaint but creepy small Maine town (redundant description! See: Stephen King) all have fairy tale doppelgangers that exist in an alternate dimension, but not all of them know it. There’s the evil raven-haired queen who has stolen Snow White’s grandson and raised him as her own; Snow White’s daughter Emma (the show’s creators have deviated somewhat from the traditional characters and storylines); the sad but scheming Rumpelstilskin, and a really wussy Prince Charming, never quite ready to commit to his true love Snow White. The tween and teen set will also enjoy this slightly scary take that blends modern and traditional elements of beloved fairy tales.

The Life and Times of Tim (HBO). Steve Dildarian’s brainchild is Curb Your Enthusiasm meets South Park for the 20-something set. Tim (Dildarian) means well, but somehow his best intentions always go awry. In the process he offends long-suffering girlfriend Amy (voiced by MJ Otto), befriends local hookers, and further degrades himself by hanging with best friends Stu (Nick Kroll from TV’s “The League”) and Rodney (comedian Matt Johnson). Now into its third season, Tim features famous guest voices like Fred Willard, Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein—comedian Albert Brooks’ brother), and Billy Dee Williams. If you are a guy, this show will make you laugh out loud; if you are a woman, give it a shot. I cannot be held liable if you find the content therein offensive and/or unfunny.

The dream of the monster is Portland!
Grimm (NBC). Wouldn’t it be cool if the Grimms were still around today to track down the monsters and demons among us? They are, according to this new NBC show. The monsters can smell out a Grimm and vice versa. One downside is that modern Grimm (Nick Burkhardt, played by David Giuntoli) is nicer than his ancestors; he doesn’t shoot to kill. He wants to talk with the monster to understand its motivations. Nick maintains a tenuous friendship with Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a werewolf who has renounced his primal spirit to live a semi-normal life. Monroe’s contacts among the furry and scary sectors of Portland society prove useful in Nick’s many murder investigations. This Grimm has a partner, but he’s not a relative; detective Hank Griffin has his back but doesn’t know about the supernatural stuff. Each week introduces the audience to a new foe; it’s not always the strongest that is the most evil, either. Sometimes the weak and downtrodden pose the biggest threat. A little too scary for the Nickolodeon and Disney Channel generation, but teenagers 14 and up will enjoy being being scared.

Shameless (Showtime). (for the life of me I could not successfully transfer an image from the show--sorry) Fiona Gallagher is the reluctant matriarch of a large, fatherless brood of children barely making it on Chicago’s south side. Her bipolar mother abandoned the clan to hit the road with her lesbian trucker girlfriend. William H. Macy has all but traded in his parental duties for beer and wastes his days at a local dive bar, dreaming up scams and swindles that eventually come back to bite him on his scrawny behind. Home life is chaotic but loving. At 21, Fiona is torn between having fun with her car-stealing but rich boyfriend Steve (Justin Chatwin) and taking care of her family, whose ages range from 2 to 16. Decisions have consequences in this excellently written and acted show; in spite of the free-flowing curse words and graphic sexual scenes, the underlying message remains one of hopeful morality. In the end, Fiona and her siblings put the needs of family before their own.