We’ve joined everyone else who basically watch nothing live anymore except a show that might actually play live: sports, Bill Maher, Saturday Night Live, or the Nightly News.
The Amazing Race
We also don’t travel much anymore, so why not vicariously travel the world and watch couples bitch at each other and stress out in taxis and airports without every having a single moment to enjoy the scenery or the local culture. It’s like speed-dating the world. You don’t have any real time to decide if you’re actually compatible with a country or city, or would ever actually want to spend more time there, but you can say you did the face time and get stamped on your passport.
Game of Thrones
Yes, I know which king is which of which territory, but only by their hair, don’t ask me to remember any of their names or spellings. I also know that author George R.R. Martin is one horny dude. Either that, or HBO has a horny 15 year-old combing through each book’s 1,000 pages or more to find the fornication parts. Combine this show with the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? and you can probably trace every lineage in our collective ancestry back to one very nasty and incestuous relationship.
No show on television gives each character on the show a more wittily and perfectly crafted line than this one. But the characters have become so familiar in their peculiar peccadilloes that it’s starting to come across like a predictable sit-com. Oh, there goes Don again having another affair (but this one’s just a fever dream). Peggy’s indignant about something again this week. Pete has his douchebag moment. Roger’s getting more desperate trying to appear relevant. Betty’s on the cusp of finally being called out as a bitch by her daughter, Sally. Joan’s husband or Roger both seem oblivious to the math on when she got pregnant and had her baby. And Don’s evil twin just showed up and strangled a woman, but it was only in a fever dream again. Take a stiff shot; we still love it.
If you DVR this two-hour show, skip the commercials, skip the introductions, skip Ryan schmoozing with the judges, skip the Ford commercials and just watch the Jimmy Iovine mentor sessions, the performances and the judges’ comments (and actually you can pretty much skip those now) the show comes out to less than 35 minutes. All the top ten performers are basically professionals ready to go this season, so the main entertainment is watching the judges shamelessly pimp for the contestant they want to see survive 30 million text votes by 12 year-old girls who usually go for whoever the cute guy is (this year it’s both Colton and Phillip). It’s a hoot to watch the judges and producers push the black guy who oversings everything by giving him songs about loving women to steer him away from the curse of the obviously or ‘potentially’ gay singers always coming up short of the winner’s circle (hey, we loved you, Adam Lambert, but the 12 year-old girls ran for the hillbillies).
Best show on television when Breaking Bad isn’t playing, especially if you love Elmore Leonard’s penchant for making the lowlife criminals the most entertaining characters in all of his stories. This show blew it out of the house the second season, and had a strong third season with the best collection of live grenade hillbilly fun factor in their repertoire of sleazebags, suspects and psychos. It almost makes you get over the premature burial of Deadwood for best update of a Western.
Most viewers of the first season of this show were so pissed off that they didn’t resolve ‘the killing’ during that season – not to mention the red-herring suspect-of-the-week approach – that it’s dropped thirty percent of its viewers this time around. But most viewers probably weren’t there for Twin Peaks, whose creator understood that mood, character and setting (rainy, foggy Seattle) were ultimately more interesting than who killed Laura Palmer. We’ll find out who killed Rosie Larson sometime this season, but the characters and tone and creepy vibe is interesting enough to justify cutting a very dark and interesting show some slack.
Count this as our token prime time network scripted show. I think the two women vying to be Marilyn Monroe in the evolving Broadway musical within a musical are both overly self-conscious in the way they pose constantly, but hey, Marilyn probably did, too. Debra Messing is terrific; her son is the worst actor on television; Angelica Huston needs a better wig; the dancer numbers fondly make us long for Bob Fosse, but we still find the show entertaining and love the New York locales. Call this one Glee for grown ups.
Take away Sunday night and I think you’d knock off about 40% of our entire regular television DVR schedule. But thanks to DVR, water cooler conversations and spoilers are put on hold most of the week. American viewers are no longer in sync. Which explains a lot.
— A. Wayne Carter