1. "Worst Week"
I've said it before and I'll say it again: single camera sitcoms just don't work. Not as well as traditional three-camera ones, anyway, and especially if they're not stylized like, say, "The Office," or shot similar to a three-camera one like "How I Met Your Mother" (people hate on phony laugh tracks, but they work better with some kinds of joke writing than awkward silences). They really just tend to look (and especially feel) like crappy, low-budget film comedies. I've seen maybe one lately that actually works and is funny, and it was "Samantha Who?" This has some potential, but is still problematic. J.G. compared the commercials for this to Meet The Parents
and said she hates watching comedies where the protagonist just goes through one uncomfortable situation after another until you just feel horribly embarrassed for them, and I thought maybe she was just jumping to conclusions about what this show would be like, but she was totally right. And this is even worse than those movies because it just jumps right into these increasingly terrible, increasingly implausible situations without even letting you know the characters; the guy is just a boilerplate pathetic but not quite sympathetic straight man, and the people around him exist to be appalled at what he does or force him into appalling situations.
2. "Spaceballs: The Animated Series"
I grew up on Spaceballs
(among several other Mel Brooks films), and have probably seen it more times than any Star Wars
movie, so when I heard Brooks was doing a cartoon series based on it a few years ago, I was mildly excited. Now that it's finally hit a US cable channel, G4, however, I am almost amazed at how terrible it is. With Brooks overseeing the whole thing and doing voices, along with a couple other original cast members, Joan Rivers and Daphne Zuniga, I thought it'd be at least respectable if not great, but it's really just a laughless travesty (and I mean, his last couple movies were a little weak, but never this bad). The animation is some cheap Flash shit, the dialogue is completely stilted and strangely paced (and the patter in Brooks movies has always depended on the snappy rhythms the actors gave it), and the jokes that aren't eye-rollingly obvious are few and far between. But the worst part is that it doesn't even do much with all the potential humor left in the original premise and characters; virtually every episode is just a parody of a different movie franchise, and while the Phantom Menace
one at least stays within the Star Wars
theme, the Lord Of The Rings
and Jurassic Park
episodes are just nonsensical sub-"Drawn Together" bullshit. It really sucks to see one of my comedy heroes wasting his autumn years on a project like this. Even just signing off on more Broadway musical versions of his movies but having no creative input would be more dignified than this.
3. "True Blood"
I kind of assumed I'd want to avoid this, given my aversion to Alan Ball and my general lack of interest in vampire movies, but since I have HBO I feel like I might as well at least give whatever they throw on the air a shot for a couple episodes. And as it turned out, I'm getting kinda pulled into this, mainly because I realized that cheesy vampire stories are a lot more watchable in a situation like this that allows for a lot of sex and violence, shot with more handsome cinematography and (slightly) better acting than you'd get in a straight-to-video horror flick. It's still kind of feels more unintentionally campy than it is intentionally campy, and it might wear thin as the plot winds around more, but right now I'm enjoying it. Even though the author of the books and the writer adapting the material are both Southern, it kind of gives me the feel the same icky feeling as "My Name Is Earl" where noone involved has any idea of what the Southern U.S. is actually like, and it doesn't help that the 3 lead actors are Canadian, British and Australian. But then, Rutina Wesley is American and probably has the worst accent, but she's also probably the most likable character on the show so far.
J.G.'s gotten pretty into this British show now that it's being shown on BBC America, and I haven't totally caught up with it yet but it's pretty good -- definitely much more impressive special effects and production values than I thought was possible on British TV even now; I thought it was all some cheap-looking "Dr. Who" shit still. In fact, the character design on some of othe dinosaurs and beasts is pretty great, and the format of the show is, in the most literal terms possible, a 'monster of the week' deal, with a kind of "Sliders"-esque alternate universe angle.
The fact that this is getting all the "best new show of the season" hype so far is pretty depressing. It looks nice and expensive, and there's occasionally a cool idea or scene or comedic moment, but for the most part it falls flat and has no real legs to become a good series, and the biggest problem is the casting. And surprise surprise, the vacuously dull lead actress Anna Torv is the niece of Rupert Murdoch. Which is a shame, because the show might work with someone with personality in her place. Pacey is decent and the guy who plays his father wrings some good dry humor out of the script. Kirk Acevedo is a weirdly compelling Nic Cage clone, and it's hilarious though somewhat depressing to watch Lt. Daniels from The Wire go through the motions with hardass boss dialogue so hackneyed that I half expect him to shout "you're a loose cannon, McBain!"
6. "MTV's Top Pop Group"
If we're going to use simple math to describe a talent competition reality show, and given the total lack of creativity, we might as well, this can be summed up pretty completely as "American Idol" + "Making The Band," with little prefab vocal quartets and trios and quintets all jumping onstage and doing even worse versions of Danity Kane songs. But shit, at least it's music, so it's inherently more interesting to me than similar stuff like "America's Best Dance Crew."
7. "The Big Bang Theory"
This is a pretty consistently funny show, I've warmed up to it a bit since it began a year ago. It's kind of a bad sign, though, that in the 2nd season premiere they're already retreading past gags (Sheldon's friends shuffling him from one to another when he moved out of his apartment, the same way they did last year when he was sick), and Sheldon is in danger of becoming a little too cartoonish already.
8. "How I Met Your Mother"
The Barney-in-love-with-Robin thing almost took a bad turn this week but they found a way to make it funny and not screw up the characters. Sarah Chalke is fitting in nicely with the cast here, I kinda wish they could have her just stay instead of getting passed back and forth with the slowly dying "Scrubs." This is still the best sitcom on television that isn't "30 Rock."
Now here's a show that feels like it's running on fumes and just throwing shit at the wall to keep the drama interesting. Last season they got rid of House's team, then brought them back one by one. This season is looks like Wilson is leaving, I'm sure next year it'll be Cuddy. Meanwhile, the medical mysteries are just getting more ludicrous.
This show was good for one season, and near-great for the second season, but now we're on season five, and the milk has gone so far sour that now we're just hoping it'll turn into some accidentally tasty bleu cheese. Some funny bits in the first couple episodes, and it's nice to finally start putting Medellin
in the rearview, plus bringing back Carla Gugino and Leighton Meester almost makes up for introducing Bow Wow as a regular. I think the biggest problem now, though, is that they forgot how to write Johnny Drama, and lost the delicate balance of pathetic and prideful, of farcical and sympathetic, that he used to embody when he was the funniest character on the show. Sheldon, this is your future.
11. "Two And A Half Men"
Amazingly, this stupid show is still as moderately but dependably funny as it's always been. Plus, I think it might be the rare show with a kid in the cast that doesn't lose any appeal as he gets old and less cute, since he wasn't cute to begin with and that's kind of the source of most of the humor in his scenes.