Thanks to FOX, who like to start their shows early because they spend October ruining the Baseball Playoffs, the fall television season is starting this week. Which means, finally, rescue from the summer TV doldrums, right?
If you think that there hasn’t good stuff on the tube this summer, you haven’t been paying attention. Or you don’t have cable, which is where these half-dozen good-to-all-time-classic shows live.
- Deadwood (HBO) – With the last show ever coming up this week, words fail me at describing how amazing this show continues to be, week in and week out. Among the the best of all of the tricks that David Milch’s mighty pen has pulled off is the total transformation of Al Swearengen from 1st Season villian to 3rd Season hero, and Al is using pretty much the same strategies he’s always used. The beautiful thing is that by making this season’s Big Bad — George Hearst — a historical figure who didn’t die in Deadwood the camp, as much as we all root for it, we know that it can’t happen.
Look, as amazing as Battlestar Galactica and The Sopranos are, this just might be the best-written, best-acted, cocksucking smartest show to ever exist. Period. Everybody responsible for letting this show die, especially with so many plot threads dangling — I’ll believe the movies exist when I see them — is not just letting the audience down, but the entire medium.
- Rescue Me (F/X) – I’ve always kinda watched Rescue Me with a combination of anticipation and dread. Denis Leary & Peter Tolan are as fearless as anybody out there, but Leary’s strong suit is dark comedy, which is why so many of the straight dramatic elements in their wholly original show sometimes fall flat.
It can sometimes be taxing to watch a show where every single person is an irredeemable fuck-up, and it seems like nobody ever tries to do the right thing. Except, of course, when there is a fire, which is where the core group of firemen — and the writing and acting — shine hardest. The women — especially this season — don’t get these scenes, and every time they introduce a female character, you wonder in what way she’s going to be a crazy evil bitch. It would be kinda cool if one wasn’t.
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (F/X) – It’s can sometimes be cleansing to watch a show where every single person is an irredeemable fuck-up, and it never occurs to anybody to do the right thing. Except, of course, when the right thing is done only because all of the wrong options have been tried and failed. Usually, at the end of the show.
Extra kudos for bringing in Danny DeVito, whose comic timing and delight at playing shrewd bastards hasn’t dimmed even a skosh, two decades after time, Alex Reiger and most likely, the networks, softened Louie DePalma’s edges. Not so much Frank Reynolds, who would have eaten later-season Louie for lunch, and DeVito knocks every line reading out of the park.
- Life on Mars (BBC America) — Surreal, trippy import about a modern-day detective hit by a car and suddenly transported to 1973, which means great music, but not great policework. The question is, of course, whether or not he time-traveled or is living this through a coma in 2006. Either way, lotsa old-old-old-school screeching tire cop action stuff, shot through with a mysterious sci-fi angle. It’s also fun to spot the musical anachronisms — a couple of times, they’ve had songs from 1974 or 1975 on the soundtrack.
Either way, it’s going to be fun to see where this is going, and how badly David E. Kelley is going to ruin the U.S. remake.
- Eureka (Sci-Fi) – Great premise: what if there was a city, located in the Pacific Northwest, natch, where all of America’s geniuses lived? And pretty much all of our technological breakthroughs came from that city? And had been coming from that city for decades? And suddenly,
Dr. Joel FleSheriff Jack Carter was brought to this town to be a fish out of water.
So far, so good. And it could be great if they stop the geek-of-the-week-run-amok storylines and go more with the story arc they’ve been setting up (what is that mysterious object? I hope that the writers know), this could be something. It also could be Smallville 2.0 — a show that only occasionally comes close to being as great as it should be.
- Entourage (HBO) — After a very slight first season, and a great second season, HBO’s male fantasy comedy seems to be treading water this year. It’s always easy on the eyes, fun to imagine being that young, rich and good-looking (see that bit about the male fantasy) and Jeremy Piven is great in anything. But. It just seems like the stakes are too low this season. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure what the stakes are this season.
It’s a comedy, so the stakes don’t have to be end-of-the-world high, but I would just like it, occasionally, if a bad choice had some actual dramatic as well as comedic consequences. Can it rebound? Of course. Just give the characters things to actually care about again.
That’s my list. What have I missed?