Monday, September 12, 2011

What I watched this summer, 2011 Edition

Since the Five-Spots took the summer off and thus I didn't talk a whole lot about my actual watching of the TV, I thought it'd be fun to do this again this year to keep a record of my summer viewings.

Regulars: The surprise of the summer for me was Switched at Birth (ABC Family), which I basically just tried out because there was so little else early in the summer on Mondays, but I really enjoyed it. It's a premise that really allows for two worlds to collide, and this show created two worlds full of characters and relationships old and new to explore. And having one of the two switched daughters be deaf has just added a few more layers. Lots of drama, but pretty good drama.

I also watched Syfy's Warehouse 13, which I've watched from the beginning but in my opinion has had a fairly weak and directionless season. I struggled with Syfy's newbie Alphas also, but I think ultimately I've decided that I like it. I think it could use a little more levity, and a couple of the Alphas (the "alpha" males, specifically) are a little bland, but the Professor X of the group David Straithairn is great, and Gary has his moments too.

Samples: Tried the successor to Switched at Birth in the timeslot, The Lying Game. Despite liking the lead, I felt pretty "meh" and was out after a couple eps. It was definitely no Switched at Birth. Some of these shows annoyingly go forever without revealing any answers. I felt like this show wasn't even really revealing any questions.

Regulars: I stuck out ABC Family guilty pleasure Pretty Little Liars, a show that has at times seemed convinced it could run ad nauseam without ever revealing anything. So it was nice to see some stuff sorta-revealed in the finale.

I also finished up season one of The Voice, which I loved initially, almost completely turned on, but then by the end (after a lot of the terrible singers were out) I had kinda turned back. I still think the real hook of the show is the blind auditions, and I'm not sure they can really do anything special beyond that. But I'll probably check out season two this winter to see.

On USA, I watched season two of Covert Affairs, which I think I like better than a lot of the Internet. The Internet loves Christopher Gorham, but I think Piper Perabo's quite good too. The writing's only OK, and Anne Dudek is unthinkably underused, but... it's fine.

Samples: Nine Lives of Chloe King (ABC Family), one episode. Didn't really catch my attention. Take the Money and Run (ABC), a couple eps. I think it would be tough to produce an episode of this show in which you feel like both sides played a good game. Either the people hiding the money are hugely stupid for breaking or the investigators are stupid for not making any progress. It's Worth WHAT? (NBC), one episode. Negative. Yes, Cedric, I'm sure sure. I tried an episode of Combat Hospital (ABC) but was not compelled back. It was one of those shows that premiered while I was at the beach in late June, and those always seem to have an uphill battle when I come back to a week's worth of regular recordings to catch up on.

Regulars: My favorite show on Wednesday was TNT's Men of a Certain Age. This show's dry sense of humor was right up my alley, and I really enjoyed this one from the beginning. Sorry to see it go.

Also pretty good was USA's Royal Pains. It's a show I've always said has much better guest stars than actual main cast, but I think that gap is narrowing as Evan and Divya had good seasons. Still, the show does a really surprisingly good job of creating likable guest characters and Hank has great chemistry with a lot of them.

Samples: I gave Necessary Roughness (USA) the Season Pass treatment, but I've got quite a backlog developing, so it's probably closer to "sample" than "regular." Like Royal Pains, I think it's a very good show for guest stars potentially, but that potential is not as realized here. Callie Thorne is a strong lead, but the other supporting characters don't bring much to the cable. Football problem case T.K. doesn't need a story every week. I think they ought to have several different recurring patients kinda like Royal Pains does. It'd actually be more organic on this show.

I found myself catching TV Land's Hot in Cleveland and Happily Divorced sometimes despite finding them rather lame. Not nearly as often with ABC Family's Melissa & Joey (maybe a couple eps) and even less often with the terrible State of Georgia (not even one full ep). I gave Franklin & Bash (TNT) just one episode. I loved the similar Boston Legal, but this one seemed way too zany even for me.

Regulars: My summer Thursday mainstay for several years has been Burn Notice, which I thought was really good early in the summer as Michael Westen made his return to the CIA, but the serialized stuff has kinda petered out (as usual) so the show is back to its usual "good" level of the last few years.

I got into FX's comedies this summer. I've struggled a bit with Wilfred, which I like at times and find kind of painful and obnoxious at other times. I'm still not really sure how I feel about it. Mostly it's just an appetizer for...

Louie, which was in the conversation with Breaking Bad for best show of the summer. I don't think it won, but being in the conversation is huge. I gave up on this show early last season, and in rewatching season 1 via Saturday night DVR recordings this summer, I don't really regret that. I think the show has made huge strides this season and is now usually very strong. Much of season 1 seemed to be "Louie has a conversation with a humorously mean person." This season, there are actual stories. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that's good. The show's biggest asset is its unpredictability. It does a lot of different things, and many of them quite well.

I also watched all of NBC's Love Bites, which was hit-or-miss and probably mostly miss, but I'm kinda a sucker for anthology series and I'd consider it ultimately an enjoyable experience. Lots of recognizable faces to this particular TV addict.

Samples: I gave a few episodes to USA's Suits but just couldn't get on board. I really liked the pilot and the premise set up therein, but from there it mostly became a generic legal show. It reminds me a lot of White Collar in that it seems to try to skate by on its "classiness" without having much energy, but that's not something for me that really makes a show. A lot of the Internet disagrees with me on both of those shows, so there ya go.

Samples: No regulars (except the tail end of the excellent Friday Night Lights). Usually had leftovers from Thursday (if not before) so I didn't need to pick anything up. I did try Haven (Syfy) again but still found it a little dull. I also gave NBC's Friends with Benefits (NBC) a shot for the first week (two episodes). It did not work for me. The only thing I really remember was that it every episode (at least of those two) has a scene in which they show each character getting dressed. If it'd been just 22 minutes of that, maybe I'd still be watching...!

Regulars: Of course there was the best show on TV, Breaking Bad, turning in yet another exceptional season. It continues to amaze what great characters the lunkhead DEA agent Hank and the chicken man Gus have become, and the performances of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul remain consistently amazing.

I also liked both shows in TNT's Sunday block of Leverage and Falling Skies. Leverage is a show I frequently fall multiple weeks behind on but always enjoy catching up on in bunches. I don't think Falling Skies was anything special and at times seemed to bring out the worst in the very recognizable Steven Spielberg style, but it was watchable enough, and I like having a show like this around.

I also stuck with Army Wives on Lifetime and am probably in till the end (since it would appear the end is coming after next season; this season's finale actually felt much like a series finale).

Samples: I tried an episode of Lifetime newbies The Protector and Against the Wall and found both pretty uninteresting.

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