My current TV viewing habits

Here’s a brief description of my current TV viewing habits. When I was in graduate school, I had HBO, a DVR, and a broadband internet connection. In those days, I was on top of my TV game. Since then I’ve moved back home, and had to adjust. My movie mission has necessitated a drastic cutback in the amount of TV I watch.

SUNDAY

The Venture Bros. (Midnight, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim) I’m not feeling this season as much as I did S3, but I’ve also been missing out on, I’m guessing, about half of the jokes because I’m not recording and re-viewing. Hank and Dean Venture, the sons of former boy adventurer Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture, are going through typical growing pains: rebellion, body hair, adjusting to their father’s new bodyguard. Their old bodyguard, Brock Samson, has left them for mysterious reasons. Their archnemesis, The Monarch, has become listless in his pursuit. But it’s the Monarch’s henchman No. 21 who’s undergone the most shocking transformation and become the most interesting character. After his friend No. 24 perished last season, 21 has remade his body, packing pounds of muscle onto his stout frame. He’s also upped his ambition by taking over the henchmen training, selling his old comics, and taking pains to appear violent and cruel. Recently, he’s begun talking to 24’s skull . . .

MONDAY

How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8 PM) This show finds its groove whenever it forgets about the main premise (how Ted Mosby met the mother of his children) and focuses on the interaction between Ted and his friends. It’s an extremely fast-paced show, constantly jumping back and forth in time. Unlike other shows that make a heavy use of crosscutting (30 Rock and Family Guy spring to mind), this show does everything in service of character, which makes the experience enjoyable even when it isn’t very funny. Most of this fall’s episodes have centered on a budding relationship between Robin (Ted’s ex) and Barney, a habitual womanizer. The result was a series of plotlines revolving around pretty banal relationship issues, given a light charge thanks to Barney’s cartoony understanding of the world. Luckily, the show seems to have axed this approach, so it’s free to focus on smaller, more amusing character quirks.

House (FOX, 8 PM) I only watch the second half of House, which has its advantages. Nothing important ever happens in the first half hour; Gregory House’s diagnostic team just chooses the wrong solution over and over again. If you start watching at the half hour mark, they’re usually just one or two diagnoses away from the final solution, you’ll have to do some energizing mental legwork to figure out what you’ve already missed, and you’ll get one or two short scenes in which House does something disturbing or hilarious.

Gossip Girl (CW, 9 PM) Manhattan’s social elite go to college, sort of. The college subplot hasn’t lived up to my expectations. The show has become simultaneously more boring and more poignant, as that rake Chuck Bass now resembles a good man, and Serena and Blair struggle to redefine themselves in new environments. Their efforts to find a purpose illuminate New York’s elite social world, revealing it to be more of a refuge than anything else.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 930 PM) I flip back and forth between this and Gossip Girl. GG repeats so much information from scene to scene that it’s pretty easy to guess what I missed, and I’m only interested in about half of the BBT’s episodes anyway. That half is whichever part involves Sheldon, the breakout star of this comedy about socially maladjusted scientists. Sheldon’s exploits had always been the focus of attention–one persistent point of fan discussion is how closely his behavoir resembles that of people with Asperger’s. But this season he’s been the beneficiary of added dimensions. At least three episodes have highlighted his difficult upbringing, while he’s also become more aware of his social limitations and endeavored to read interactions better.

TUESDAY

I’m skipping critical darling Sons of Anarchy because I missed the first episodes, and I think the impact of what happens next would be dulled without them.

30 for 30 (ESPN, 8 PM) I missed the Jimmy the Greek episode, which was supposedly the best yet, but I’ve been underwhelmed by this series of documentaries on minor subjects in recent sports history. Maybe they’ve been overhyped by television critics. I still eagerly await the Bill James doc on Allen Iverson.

V (ABC, 8 PM) There’s not a whole lot to this remake of the 80s miniseries. I like the general sense of unease that Monica Baccarin, as the lead alien, creates whenever she appears. I’m a fan of byzantine plots that really don’t obey any kind of logic. But I’m pretty ok with just hearing what happens, instead of actually taking the time to view them. And at least in November, V is moving at a pace I’d welcome more in a regular series.

WEDNESDAY

Glee (FOX, 9 PM) I find this musical about a high school glee club more enjoyable than I thought I would. They’ve even managed to turn a secret pregnancy plot into something worth being emotionally invested in. The songs are auto-tuned to death, which sounds like how microwaved food tastes. But I’m scratching my head trying to think of the last longform musical comedy. I want to see what it would take to work over the course of a season or longer. The opportunities for character development on a musical tv show are intriguing.

Modern Family (ABC, 9 PM) I sometimes catch this online the next day. I don’t think it’s the next great comedy or anything but its structurally sound. It’s a family comedy though, and you have to fight pretty hard to keep those from sucking outright. Families are just not funny.

The Ruins (MTV, 10 PM) It’s the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, yet again. This show is comfort food for me. Remember all those attractive douchebags from high school? This is your chance to catch their faded (or ruined) beauty on display as they prove they really are even dumber than you suspected. When they turn their knives on each other (breaking inept alliances, getting in fights, conducting merciless teasing) you can rest easy knowing that every single one of them deserves it.

THURSDAY

It breaks my heart to give up Fringe, but I think I’ll enjoy it better as a DVD marathon anyway. My Thursday viewing habits are predicated on keeping mom happy right now, which currently means EXHAUSTING COMEDY SCHEDULE.

NBC block 8-10 pm

Community Every week, the plot is exactly the same. Disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger, who is getting a real degree to make up for the one he forged, must learn to use his talents for good by helping out his classmates. Why is it worth watching? The dialogue is superb, featuring rapid-fire bursts of banter that you can’t really find anywhere else. Plus, the characters are repetitive in a comforting way. They’re reliable.

Parks and Recreation Just like its brother The Office, the key to finding comedy gold was fleshing out the supporting cast. In particular it slays me whenever someone puts down Jerry. What’s more, the show has gotten very skilled at presenting the perils of politics in a nonjudgmental way.

The Office I think the show’s on its last legs, creatively. Last year’s Michael Scott Paper Company was a breath of fresh air, but it may have been a last gasp. I can already see a killer final episode though: identical story as the first episode, with Jim in Michael’s role, Erin in Pam’s role, and Andy in Jim’s role.

30 Rock Zany as ever, but too predictable. I don’t know if there was a single plot point you couldn’t see coming a mile away. My feeling is this blunts the humor.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Every episode only gains in hilarity in retrospect, and I think season 4 has episodes that match the quality of anything they’ve done before. My favorite so far was the World Series episode, in which the gang tries to sneak their way, by hook or by crook, to see the Phillies play. After a slow start, Charlie has really picked up speed. He’s already racked up several classic moments (milksteak, impersonating a lawyer, kitten mittons, being followed by cats). I do wish they’d try do to something with the bar more often.

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1 Response to “My current TV viewing habits”


  1. 1 Matt Thomas November 25, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    3 things: 1) You watch a lot of TV. 2) I don’t watch Gossip Girl, but these pictures of Leighton Meester have made me rethink my position. 3) Other than myself, you’re the only person I know – save for Bill Simmons, but of course I don’t really know him – who admits to watching the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. You’re right, it is like chicken soup for the soul, isn’t it?


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