The Hyperion Chronicles
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Greetings, Salutations, and Yo to all of you out there in the Hyperion Nation, whether you be high-born, of low status, or those charmingly plump folks somewhere in the middle. I haven’t talked to you since last year!
[Aside #1: This joke is only good for a few days each year, right before or after the turn, like on December 31, when you say, “See you next year.” Or the joke I just did. Outside of those few days it’s not funny, but I maintain that within the window, the joke must be flogged like a dead horse.]
I have so many things I want to share with you. I have my 2004 year-in-review, where I highlight what I got right and wrong during the year. Unfortunately, I got so few things wrong (4, to be exact), that I come across as bragging, so I may end up not running that one. I also have a countdown of my best and worst birthdays, the theme for 2005, and the Potpourri drawer is getting rather full. This isn’t to mention the fact that I saw approximately 5784.5 movies over the break, many of which I’m eager to share with you.
But all that can wait a bit. Today I want to mention some TV shows that you really should be watching.
Now, I know that some of you more condescending chowderheads (I’m nothing if not diplomatic) think TV is a waste of time. And, it certainly can be. Sometimes TV just sucks the time out of us, and we wonder what happened or why we can recite the Miracle Blade infomercial by heart. However, there is some really good TV out there, if you’re selective. That’s the trick, I believe, to make decisions to watch certain programming and nothing else, if you’re worried about your time. I mean, some of this stuff is akin to quality theatre or visiting a museum (no, really, you
Thankfully, I as your intrepid Uncle Hyperion, have slogged through a lot of bad TV in order to find what’s really good out there. If you find yourself in front of the TV, it’d be a lot better to watch some of my recommendations than vege out watching whatever happens to come on. And if you’re not a big TV person, now might not be a bad time to try a couple of shows out. You’d be shocked how good some of these things are. The following are programs that are worth taking a look at. I don’t claim it’s an exhaustive list, but this is the best of the bunch. If I missed anything, feel free to write and let me know.
The Sitcom is in the worst shape of any time that I can remember. RAYMOND is finishing up its run, and FRIENDS and FRASIER have sadly left us. I have watched as many Sitcoms as I could stomach, and have only found four I was able to sit through. However, those four are pretty terrific.
We start with CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. This is HBO fare, and won’t be for everyone, but if you have a sophisticated palette this is a riot. Made by the creator of SEINFELD (Larry David), the show is basically his life after SEINFELD.
Back on regular TV, SCRUBS has been the best Sitcom for several years now. I can’t for the life of me figure out why NBC hasn’t given it priority status on its Thursday Night lineup. Instead relegating it to Tuesdays. The show features a bunch of doctors in a hospital, and is irreverent, off-beat, and pleasantly surprising, a big heart without being syrupy. Good stuff.
But by far the best hour of comedy of the week is Sunday on FOX. We start with THE SIMPSONS, which may have slipped just a tad this year by its own standards, but is still head-and-shoulders above most programming. Seriously: for all of you with a 12 years out-of-date notion that the show stands for rebellion and counter-culture, you have truly missed the boat. There’s a reason TIME Magazine named THE SIMPSONS the best TV show of the century. I defy you to find a more moral show on TV.
After THE SIMPSONS it gets even better, with quite simply, the best comedy on TV: ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. I was lucky enough to get Season 1 for Festivus from my sister, and we laughed ourselves into coughing fits watching the hilarity. The show centers around Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) trying to live his life with his son George Michael in the midst of his crazy family. If you thought Raymond’s Parents were bad, if you thought George Constanza’s folks were certifiable, you have never met a family like the Bluths. Full of conniving, self-interested, spot-on perfect characters, I promise you’ll slay yourself laughing.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Procedurals. These are the shows like a CSI or LAW & ORDER, where the case is different each week, but the show is set up to work the same way each time, and with little or no plot carry-over. I personally like CSI and can take or leave the rest, but you’re on your own. If you’ve seen one you’ll know whether you like the show.
However, I will say that by far the best in this genre is WITHOUT A TRACE, which follows the FBI on the case of a missing person each week. There’s more character development and a bit more surprise over the outcome each time. There is also a more…human component then just pure law enforcement or science, like you get on the others. WITHOUT A TRACE is on Thursdays after CSI and definitely worth your time.
There’s a new sub-genre of Medical Procedurals. I have tried MEDICAL INVESTIGATION, and while it isn’t awful, you won’t miss it. However, FOX has a fantastic new effort on Tuesdays called HOUSE, M.D.. It’s the same premise, a group of bright doctors try to figure out an unknown disease and treat it before the person dies, but the twist here is that the main character is far more brilliant than the average genius, and far more misanthropic. He hates people so much he rarely even visits the patients himself. I’ve become absolutely hooked. I also was intrigued by the first episode of MEDIUM (about a psychic woman who helps police solve crimes), but don’t have a recommendation yet.
This is the type of show where the characters and plots develop over time, with sometimes complicated back-stories. This is where Television (at times) truly shines. Right out of the blocks is 24, which premieres Sunday (and then moves immediately to Monday, where it will stay). You’ve probably heard of 24: the premise is that something awful is going to happen to the world and Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has 24 hours to stop it. The gimmick is that each show is in “real time,” and takes one hour of the day. The hell that man goes through (and puts others through) is harrowing. At times my mother thinks she’s going to have a heart-attack, but she’s still addicted. What I love about the show—more than the quality acting, strong plots, or adrenaline rush—is that 24 is willing to go where most shows won’t dream of, dramatically speaking. They will pull that trigger on what you thought the boundaries of television were. I don’t mean in a bad-taste way. It’s just…you know how you’re watching a show, and there’s some tension, but you know that Character A will survive because it’s TV and that’s what happens? Well, 24 doesn’t work that way. They will not only kill any character off that serves the plot, but will put their characters into situations that dramatically you’ve just never seen before. If you’ve never watched 24, now’s the chance to jump in.
ALIAS, on ABC is another show that is well worth the plunge. The series premiere was delayed until this last Wednesday, but if you missed that (or the three previous seasons), don’t be scared: they producers have gone out of their way to reinvent the show for new fans to jump in. ALIAS is admittedly more complicated than most shows, with a labyrinthine back-story, but just go with it. The fun of ALIAS is watching the cool spy stuff, the heart-breaking emotional drama (which, in its own way, can be as brutal as 24), and of course there’s the main star Jennifer Garner, whom the producers have take off her clothes on just about every episode. This is of course, all required for the “plot,” but I’m not complaining.
ALIAS is on Wednesdays, right after LOST, my favorite show of last year. The program follows forty-some survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island. It’s both a character study and a gas of an action show. I haven’t had one moment where I felt cheated. I’m not sure how you’d catch up if you’ve missed them so far, but go to tvtome.com and read the plot summaries for the first few episodes, and then come aboard. It’s so much fun. One of the best things is that nobody is sure what the island really is (there have been weird things going on, like polar bears and cripples able to walk). Is the island
The last show I wanted to mention was DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. This show won’t be for everyone, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s sort of a send-up of both soap operas, and also all those shows we’ve seen over the years with suburbia portrayed as nice and perfect. The best way to watch DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is to not take it seriously and just laugh. The night time soap has made a come-back, with THE O.C. also quite popular (I watch as a guilty pleasure, but couldn’t honestly recommend it to anyone). DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES isn’t in the same league as LOST, ALIAS, or 24, but it may be easier for some to take, since the tension is more melo-dramatic and not as suspenseful. Look for it on Sundays on ABC.
You’ll notice I didn’t recommend any “Reality” TV. I have never gotten into that. A year ago I would have railed against it. However, I watch hours and hours of sports, and what is that but reality programming? I say to each their own, and would only make an appeal that not a single reality show can compare to a fabulously written drama. But, it’s up to you.
That’s the list for now. I’ll have some movie reviews out soon, and get back to regular columns early next week (including a Mail Bag, so get those questions in). It’s great to be back and see you all again, and I hope this information helps you. Write and let me know.
Thanks to Laureate for Editing
Thanks to Jerrica