What’s on the DVR – Fall 2011 edition

Fringe

We’re more than four episodes into the fourth season and Peter has only appeared as reflections in shiny objects or as a disembodied voice. Okay, what the hell did actor Joshua Jackson do to be exiled from being the co-star to missing in action? Did he ask for too much money? Did he show up late due to a feature film schedule? Did he throw a hissy fit when he realized he was being upstaged by John Noble as his father, Walter? Was he jealous Anna Torv got to play Olivia and her red-wigged evil twin counterpoint? These are the amber-encrusted questions only an alternate universe fringe division can investigate and answer.

Dexter

After the season premiere, do we call this Dumbing Dexter Down? Our somber, brooding, Dexter with a dark passenger (and a darker secret) can be found … goofily electro shocking two paramedics to death with their defibrillators; making faces while doing a ridiculous version of MC Hammer’s ‘hammer’ dance at his 20-year high school reunion; and shamelessly mugging while bent over backwards in a science room lab table getting a bj from a former high school hottie who now finds him intriguing. Did I tune in the wrong show? Is this Fringe again and I’m watching an alternate universe Dexter? Is this a Judd Apatow directed Seth Rogan picture on pay-per-view? Okay, Michael C. Hall looked like he was having fun. And anyone should be allowed to lighten up after surviving cancer. But where was the dark Dexter that only got better in seasons 1-3? By episode two things have calmed down, but is this the season where Dexter stabs the shark?

Boardwalk Empire

I still haven’t figured out what this show is about. If The Sopranos was a mob-filtered look at the nuclear family, what is this? A mob-filtered version of a mob-developed resort city? Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson is walking the thin line between decent caretaker patron to an Irish immigrant woman and her brood, and ruthless patrician of Atlantic City’s coming of age. Then there’s the weird religious fanatic federal agent keeping the prostitute bearing his child in captivity while he tries to bust bootleggers. He’s so tortured by his own demons and secret hypocritical behavior, he’ll later run as a family values Republican candidate for Congress. But I still don’t know what this show is about. Yet I keep coming back, so I guess it’s doing something right. And the production design is incredible. I don’t know if I’d ever pay to see it again on blu-ray, but I might spring for the bootleg. Did anyone get that?

Parenthood

This one’s on my wife’s DVR list, and not wanting to completely alienate her with all the HBO or Showtime sex-and-violence shows I seem to gravitate to, I started watching this as my ‘family time’ penance. The show airs at 10 p.m. but doesn’t find much edge there when it comes to contrived family conflicts. And they’re usually resolved by the end of one, two or three episodes at most. But with actors like Peter Krause, Craig T. Nelson, and Bonnie Bedelia (remember her?) aboard, you’re bound to see something fresh in the performances (but don’t get me started on everyone using the Robert Altman-patented ‘everyone talking on top of each other’ technique). There are moments here you can start to identify with, but everyone is so achingly polite to one another, I just have to check the channel and time to make sure I’m not watching that Fringe alternate universe again. Still, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little warm and fuzzy in this universe.

Real Time with Bill Maher

Sure, he’s a smarmy wise-ass, but at least he’s OUR smarmy wise ass. And he casts the show with enough offbeat public figures every week to either nod or scratch your head to. This show could be easily have sider appeal if his attitude didn’t play so smugly superior. And if you read my earlier blog on his religious rants, you know I think he has some issues beyond his own version of intolerance there. But where else are you going to see your congressman use the f-word? I have a sneaking suspicion that Maher loosens everyone up before the show in the Green room with some Afghan Red.

Breaking Bad

Has there ever been a more OMG finale than the season four ender? What more can anyone blog or post about the best drama on television this summer bleeding into Fall? This show featured better suspense sequences than most feature film thrillers, and certainly ones more ingeniously devised. The show should come with a defibrillator. Sometimes tight budgets begat out-of-the-box creativity. Only this show could turn an innocent hotel clerk bell into the best suspense sequence in season two and glorious pay-off for season four. And here’s a show on a pace that never stalled, and by episode nine was already in finale roller coaster descent mode. It just NEVER LET UP through four more episodes into the nail-gnawing finale. Pardon me while I take a moment to straighten my clip-on tie. The acting was breaking badass.  Bryan Cranston took home three Emmys in a row don’t forget, and the only reason he didn’t win this past September was timing – he wasn’t eligible due to timing of the past season’s schedule. Aaron Paul’s already nailed a supporting actor Emmy. He’ll collect one again for this season with some tour de force moments of intensity that will have you reaching for a meth pipe just to calm down. Get on board with the blu-ray if you haven’t broken some Bad, yet. Tell them Heisenberg sent you.

— A. Wayne Carter

Mrs. Hollywoodaholic with Jesse- er … Aaron Paul at the Las Vegas Film Festival 2011

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