TV2: Explanations

the Hyperion Chronicles
“Shouldn’t it be ‘Destiny’s Children’? Has anyone thought this through?”

#159 TV 2: Recommendations and Explanations for the patient Hyperion Nation

Sorry about the title. I got carried away trying to rhyme “ation.” Today we will be talking about a bunch of shows—both new and old—and whether you should be watching them. I also have the nominations for our own Awards, but I’ll probably break that into a separate column.

I want you all to realize the staggering amount of work that has already gone into writing all this today. I had to watch each of these shows in order to be able to review them for you (and in some cases, that was quite the ordeal). Also I asked the Friends of Hyperion (FoH) to help me with some of the categories and nominations. Turns out I have fewer friends than I thought, but I think we still have a nice selection. More about that later. Let’s get to it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD (AND SHOULD NOT) BE WATCHING (for all shows, check local listings)

I’m mostly leaving Comedies alone because humor is a personal thing, and what may be funny to me might not be to you, and vice-versa. However, a few exceptions:

Frasier (NBC)
I have lamented how far downhill this once-great show has gone. However, after hearing good things about the new (and very last) season, I tuned in last week for the one-hour premiere and last night as well. To me, it looked like the show was back on form with its trademark witty farce and irony. If you used to be a fan like was, it may be time to come back. Tuesdays.

Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)
I started watching this show on reruns just a few months ago, and have slowly come to like it. Sitcoms always run the risk of having their characters get too clichéd, but Raymond looked good in the premiere, and this is a fairly wholesome show you can watch with the Fam. Mondays.

Scrubs (NBC)
On NBC’s quickly aging Thursday night lineup, Scrubs is by far the best show. It’s quirky and offbeat, but with a big thumping heart. Definitely worth a look. Thursdays.

Curb Your Own Enthusiasm (HBO)
Possibly the funniest show on Television, and I say that as a devoted Simpsons fan. It took me a couple of episodes to “get,” but now I can’t stop watching this hilarious show from the creator of Seinfeld.

I’ll start with the brand new ones, and then hit a few returning shows. Just because I don’t mention one doesn’t mean I don’t like it, but I can’t watch everything for you people.

Easily the best Pilot episode of the new shows. This shocked me, because NCIS is a spin-off of JAG, a show I don’t care that much for. But NCIS is missing some of the “rah-rah” patriotism from its predecessor. It still has some smirkyness, but in a good way. The production is slick and the characters seem comfortable right out of the box. Very impressed with this. Tuesdays.

Threat Matrix (ABC)
Another “rah-rah” show, Threat Matrix fictionalizes the Department of Homeland Security in their ongoing fight against terrorism. The characters are a bit contrived (there’s the token Arab-American working for the team, the deaf girl, and the two main characters are Ex-husband and wife who still love each other), but the plots are timely and don’t pull any punches. I think this show has U.S. government cooperation, which may explain the patriotism, but then again, in a show about Homeland Security, that works. If you’re sick of Friends and Survivor, this merits a look. Thursdays.

The Handler (CBS)
Joe Pantoliano plays an FBI Agent who puts normal people undercover to bust bad guys. The Pilot was decent, with a great twist at the end, so this show may have some promise. It will rely on the characters, though, since the plots will be formulaic, and it’s still too early to tell on that. Fridays.

Lyon’s Den (NBC)
Another intriguing concept that I’m not sure of yet. Rob Lowe (who just left West Wing) works for this giant Washington D.C. law firm (with secrets), but only to run a legal clinic for poor people. After the Managing Partner apparently kills himself over an Enron-like scandal (in the opening scene), Lowe is asked to take over because of his sterling reputation and his name; Lowe’s dad is a Senator (played by Rip Torn!). The Pilot was a bit slow, but this could be a good “Firm-esque” kind of show. Looks like there will be a case of the week, with the corruption in the firm developing slowly. I’ll have to see a few more to be sure. Sundays.

Cold Case (CBS)
From uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (C.S.I, C.S.I, Miami, Without a Trace, and the Amazing Race) comes his next crime drama, about a woman who solves dead cases. I only got to see the last 20 minutes of this, but I’ve seen the Canadian show it’s based on, and to me this looks like a “tough girl cop” meets “watered down Law & Order.” I could be wrong, but this doesn’t look promising. Sundays.

Las Vegas (NBC)
A show about people who work in a Casino. This show has some major firepower, cast-wise (James Caan, Cheryl Ladd), and more hot women than you can shake a fraternity at. It’s a bit sleazy in the come-on, but after you get over that the storylines I’ve seen so far were both humorous and compelling. I’ll keep watching this for at least a while. Mondays.

The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire (CBS)
What I knew going in: the show was created by David Kelly, who’s responsible for Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, and The Practice, among others, and the network had already ordered the Pilot be jettisoned in favor of the second episode; never a good sign. I almost didn’t try it out, except the small voice in my head that told me not to trust the critics, but see for myself. I’ve really enjoyed this show so far, and will keep watching. Wednesdays.

Joan of Arcadia (CBS)
I wasn’t overly impressed with the Pilot, but this show is the most intriguing by far of all the new ones. Taking off the French legend of Joan of Arc (who thought God told her, as a young girl, to lead France into battle), Arcadia shows a family in crisis, after the oldest child (of three) has suffered paralysis. The middle child, Joan, hears from God, who initially appears in the guise of a hot teenage boy. Before you get offended, I watched this with my mother, who’s as conservative as any of you, and while she initially had misgivings, by the end she was already loyal to the show, getting mad at me when I voiced any criticism. Anyway, God tells Joan to do things each week, which will assumably help people in ways you wouldn’t think of, and so on. This could end up Hallmark movie of the week-y, but the impressive cast (Tony Mantegna, Mary Steenburgen) tells me they know they are on to something good. Fridays.

Returning shows I was able to watch the first couple of episodes of (check local listings)

Law & Order: SVU and CI and Original (NBC)
Not much has changed. If you like them before, you’ll like them once more. Fridays, Sundays, and Wednesdays, respectively.

CSI and CSI Miami (CBS)
Ditto. It’s rumored Grissom may hook up with someone. More on that in next week’s TV column. Thursdays and Mondays, respectively.

Not my cup of tea, but I saw the premiere, and it appears to be more of the same, for people who enjoy this. Don’t hold your breath for Harm and Mac to get together, though. Fridays.

Much like a ‘70s key-party; everyone on Blue eventually hooks up with everyone else, making it a bit soap opera-y. This show no longer has the “edge,” but if you are comfortable with the characters it’s still a pleasant way to spend an hour. Tuesdays.

Judging Amy (CBS)
I only watched this (the first episode of this new season), because so many people have told me about it. One of the worst written and directed shows I’ve ever seen (of that caliber). Maybe they had an off night, or you have to give it awhile. If you like it, I wish you well, but you’re on your own. Tuesdays.

Ed (NBC)
Started with the last episode of last season, then watched the premiere of this season. A bit too quirky for me, but I could see how I might grow to really enjoy this. Might be worth a look. Wednesdays.

West Wing (NBC)
The show went down a bit last year, but when it’s on it’s still one of the best-written shows ever. The cliffhanger from last year involved the President’s daughter getting kidnapped by terrorists and the president temporarily giving up his power to his political enemy. There are a lot of people who won’t watch this because of politics, which is fine, but if that’s your only reason it’s a lame one. This show is a drama, not a treatise on how to live your life, and it’s the drama that is still very compelling. Wednesdays.

Without a Trace (CBS)
One of the two best new shows of last year, I discovered Trace in reruns, and am I sure glad I did. My whole family now willingly skips E.R. to watch this crime drama about the FBI Missing Person’s Bureau. Each show is self-contained and different, with more character development than CSI. I highly recommend this. Thursdays.

Boomtown (NBC)
One of the two best (surviving) shows of last year. Boomtown follows a crime each week with a Rashomon perspective: juggling time and giving you the action from the various characters’ (including the bad guys’) points of view. The show is innovative, fresh, and boasts a stellar cast (including newcomer Vanessa Williams). The best, though, is the District Attorney, Neil McDonough. Worth watching just for him. Fridays.

Nip/Tuck (F/X)
The show I have gotten the most mail on, asking me to write about this. I will write more later. For now I will say this show is over-the-top in its depiction of the life of two plastic surgeons, both gratuitous and graphic, but the story-arc is compelling and if you have a strong stomach you could be mesmerized.

The Shield (F/X)
One of the three best—if not the very best—shows on TV. Only limited because its rough subject matter (depicting a corrupt cop in his world) will turn off some. Characterization is intense. If you like good drama and aren’t squeamish, I recommend this.

Alias (ABC)
One of the three best dramas on TV. This kinetic-paced spy soap opera never seems to let go. The back-story is dense, but if you’re looking for a roller coaster ride, jump in. Besides, even if you watch every week, you’re not sure what’s going on, and you’re not supposed to. Some of the best episodes in recent memory. This show also thrives on surprises, so if you like safe TV stick to more pedestrian fare. Sundays.

Twenty-Four (FOX)
One of the three best shows on TV, and probably the most fun to watch. Kiefer Sutherland just keeps having bad days. The show’s gimmick is that it’s in “real time,” with each episode taking place over one hour of a day. The first season saw Sutherland trying to stop the assassination of a presidential candidate and save his family. Season two had him trying to stop a nuclear bomb. Season Three starts after baseball season (at the end of October), so you can see it from the beginning (this isn’t a show to miss episodes of if you’re going to watch). Warning: this show doesn’t pull any punches, and can make Alias look like Disneyland, so beware, and enjoy.

That’s all I have time for right now. If you have a show I missed and need to see so I can tell the Hyperion Nation, write and let me know. And look for our Award ballots, coming soon.

October 1, 2003

Thanks to Kimbo and Tootsie

Motto Explanation
“Destiny’s Child” is a three-women singing group