Wednesday, June 30, 2010

TV You Should Catch Up On, Part 2

(Part 2 of 2, in alphabetical order)

Sports Night - You can buy the entire series on DVD for like $50. It's so worth the investment to watch a show way ahead of its time evolve and fall apart. The first few episodes struggle to find their place, but only a few. Once the show gets going, it's sharp, perfectly paced, witty, and gut-wrenchingly sincere. The characters are smart and neurotic, and even though you may not care about sports or television production, you can't help but love everyone. ABC tried everything possible to take this show down, a struggle the show deals with by writing entire episodes about it. If you write off the ridiculous laugh track as an addition the network insisted on, you'll be fine. The show was canceled at the end of the second season, leading to one of the greatest series finale lines ever, “Anyone who can't make money off Sports Night should get out of the money making business."

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Hi, my name is Adam and I'm a recovering TNG junkie. Take a minute to look past the sci-fi, the bat shit crazy fans, and the weirdo costumes. This is a workplace drama starring Patrick Stewart, one of the finest actors of our time. Now let's bring that sci-fi back in here. It's a highly intelligent adventure series. The depth of character and theme never come at the expense of a detailed mystery or taut suspense or sweet ass action. If you can get past the anemic first two seasons, it really kicks into high gear, and by the fourth season, it's some of the best hours of television.

The State - This show makes every other sketch show look like a frat house talent show. Like any show, it has sketches that are just boring and stupid, but those fall between some moments of pure genius, brought to you by the guys who would go on to make “Wet Hot American Summer" and “Reno 911." With premises like a game show where the prizes are orphaned children or a musical number about porcupine racing, you can guarantee sketches you won't see even close to resembling anything else out there.

24 - I never fully understood why I liked this show until reading an interview with the creators just before the series finale. It's a soap opera for men. The loyalties and grudges carry from season to season, and at its center is the unflappable Jack Bauer. He is smarter than everyone else. His gun never misses. Most importantly, he plays by his own rules. If Jack Bauer were real, we wouldn't need Homeland Security. Throw us a character that perfect, and you have to match him with challenges up to his level. In seasons 1, 5, and 7, they do in spades. In seasons 3, 4, and 8, they get close. Season 2 was ok, Season 6 was awful. Overall, an experience you won't forget.

The West Wing - Hands down, my favorite show of all time. The key for me is that it isn't a show about politics. It's a show about civic duty, the politics are usually just an obstacle. Some episodes, like season 2 finale “Two Cathedrals" are absolute pieces of art. The writing and direction transcend just a weekly TV show. The quality suffers after season 4 when Aaron Sorkin left, but it never became bad, it just became average. It never returned to form, but the last season gets pretty darned close as they focus on finding the right man to replace the irreplaceable President Josiah Barlett.

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