Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
Trimming the Monday Fat
2006-10-09 08:00
by Jon Weisman

Over the past few months, I've gotten in the habit of eating Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms as a post-dinner snack a couple nights a week. No good can come of this, really, except that I suppose it somehow keeps me from doing something worse, like, say, eating rocket fuel.

Much the same can be said about my Monday night television watching: at least it keeps me from stealing cars. I've sat through three episodes of The Class, which is thoroughly mediocre. I was all set to dump it for good last week, when my wife happened to sit down in the living room mid-show with me and laughed, despite herself, at a couple of lines – which is two more laughs than she ever gave something like Joey, for example. That probably bought the show another viewing tonight, against my better judgment.

How I Met Your Mother was a show I abandoned early last season. I truly wanted to like it, having been a fan of Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris and finding I had nothing against Cobie Smulders or Josh Radnor. But I found the show pretty inane and dumped it, feeling that the material was beneath them. I never really bought Harris in the role of Barney – it always felt like a put-on to me, someone forcing Harris into trying to be an upscale Kramer. Wacky neighbor and all that. But truly the worst were the voiceovers by Bob Saget at the show's opening and closing: so tedious and hackneyed, I felt that I couldn't trust the showrunning skills of anyone who thought those came close to being a good idea.

I did catch the end of the season finale this spring, and I was in a romantic mood I guess, because it spurred me to give the show another shot. For the most part, I have felt the show has many of the same problems – although Saget seems to be used more sporadically. But the characters are ingratiating themselves with me a bit, the writing seems to have a tad more substance, and I am curious to see how Ted and Robin's romance plays out. Mother is still week-to-week for me, but it has better prospects than Class. (By the way, CBS is flipping the order of the two shows in its lineup, so if you're a fan of one and not the other, make sure you watch for that.)

Tonight could also be a make-or-break night for me with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I wouldn't call this a polarizing show, but it does seem to be the case that people are either buying into its formula or not. Studio 60 asks us to be invested in the fate of NBS' Studio 60, its creative talent and its executives. If you feel, as I do, that the people and their output are for the most part deadly dull, it's a tough sell. Each of the first three episodes of NBC's Studio 60 has had moments that have swept me into the show and made me forget about its problems, but I don't know if that's enough.

Now, some people are loving the Matt Albie-influenced writing on NBS' Studio 60, and some people are loving NBC's Studio 60 despite being unimpressed by the NBS portion. But not me. I need the NBS stuff to be credible, to be entertaining. Put it this way: I watch Lost for the character stories more than the island mystery, but if that island mystery was dull and simplistic, I'd find some other characters to get hooked on.

The big surprise on Mondays this season is that with about a tenth of the promotion that Studio 60 got from NBC, Heroes is outperforming it. Based on its positive reviews and groundswell of support, I recorded the pilot after it reran for something like the third time in its first week. By tonight, I will have three episodes backlogged to watch, but at some point I will give it its shot. I just haven't yet. In not that much time, it's possible that Heroes could become my only Monday night show, if I show just a little bit of discipline on some of the others.

Or maybe Monday will become a catch-up-on-other-things night (like stealing cars). It can happen. Having dropped Brothers and Sisters early in its second episode, having avoided ever latching onto Desperate Housewives and having found The Simpsons for the past several years to be occasionally amusing but no longer essential, Sunday already has.

2006-10-09 11:57:03
1.   scooplew
Of the first three epsidoes of Studio 60, last week's was the weakest, but there is still something to be said about the Whitford-Perry dynamic. I'd like to see the show succeed, but it has not yet reached the drama of "The West Wing" or the humor of "Friends," not that it is necessarily intending to do either. I don't watch a lot of TV shows (except for sports, news and movies), but I thought that the "Friday Night Lights" debut was oustanding. Having started as a journalist covering a lot of high school football, I got a small taste of that environment.
2006-10-09 12:13:10
2.   Jon Weisman
You know, I didn't even bother to record FNL. I just kept hearing the movie's not as good as the book, the show's not as good as the movie. I'm not dead opposed to giving it a try, but I didn't feel the pull.
2006-10-09 12:16:13
3.   Linkmeister
There's always that other football-related show, new to ESPN on Monday nights this year. Stars Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Tirico. It's actually had a couple of fairly good episodes this year, which is far different from the past four or five seasons.

I mean, stealing cars?

2006-10-09 12:17:47
4.   Bluebleeder87
i don't really fallow any show, exept for The Sopranos, Lost is a show i really wanna watch but haven't even mustard out the curiasity of checking what time it comes out.
2006-10-09 12:34:15
5.   Jon Weisman
3 - Nah, can't work up the interest lately in those procedural dramas.
2006-10-09 12:39:07
6.   Voxter
"I watch Lost for the character stories more than the island mystery, but if that island mystery was dull and simplistic, I'd find some other characters to get hooked on."

That pretty much captures why I abandoned "Six Degrees" after two episodes. There was nothing credible tying the characters together, and despite some great actors in the cast, I ultimately found it uncompelling.

"Heroes" has been pretty good; the dialogue isn't terribly sharp and stuff, but the people are pretty, the characters are credible and it's beautifully shot. After the ultimate disappointment that has been "Smallville" (talk about a show that could have been great if only the people running it had the foggiest clue), I was reluctant to bother with another superhero show. But I caught part of it on one of its umpteen reruns and discovered that Nora Zehetner (who I knew as Laura from "Brick") was in it, so I watched it, and was surprised by its quality. I certainly like it better than "Studio 60", which I grow more disappointed with every time I watch -- other than Matthew Perry, everybody seems to be either egregiously miscast (Sarah Paulson, ick) or playing the same part they've been playing on my television for the last seven years already (I'm looking at you, Bradley Whitford). (I've also grown tired of the fact that every Sorkin show has a grown man named Danny on it. I have known a good 10 people named Daniel in my life, and they'd all grown out of being called Danny by the time they were 12. Why not just one new name, Aaron? A Linus? An Abe? A Neal? C'mon, you know you can do it.)

2006-10-09 12:42:05
7.   Linkmeister
5 Snort.

There was a lot of angst out here when it was switched to ESPN, because it would be shown live in mid-afternoon. For as long as I've lived here (27+ years) it's been on tape-delay, starting right after the local evening news at 6:30pm. Sports bar owners were concerned, the local ABC TV affiliate was concerned (what are we gonna show for that 3 1/2 hour block of time??), and fans who work during the day were concerned.

Turns out, at least so far, that ESPN shows a replay in full (none of the "due to time constraints, we're moving ahead in the action" editing the network does with college football replays) starting at 7:00pm. I'd imagine that resolved two of the three concerns mentioned above; I haven't checked to see what KITV is doing for that time slot.

2006-10-09 12:43:26
8.   Voxter
5 - Lost is on Wednesdays at 9 on ABC, for what it's worth, but I suspect if you jump in now you'll be sorely confused. A good way to catch up is the DVDs, which you can probably find at your local Hollywood Video or whatever. I watched the entirety of the first season in one long weekend, and though I'm not sure I'd be able to do that with season two, it's worth a try.
2006-10-09 12:44:37
9.   Voxter
Oops, 8 was supposed to be directed at 4. Sorry.

3 - Man. Pro football. Is there anything less compelling in the world?

2006-10-09 12:50:34
10.   Jon Weisman
6 - Later this week, I'm going to champion Six Degrees more. It's losing audience every week, which can't be ignored, but I think people are giving up too soon on that. The stories, for the most part, are unpretentious but nicely dramatic. Last week's episode made me very eager to see the next one.
2006-10-09 12:51:09
11.   Bluebleeder87
8 good to know specialy because i'm off thursday's most of the time, i'll make sure to tune in & by the DVD's many a people tell me that show rocks.
2006-10-09 13:43:00
12.   aloofman
I agree with a lot of what's been said about "Studio 60." With each episode comes something encouraging and discouraging. I like that Hughley is getting more lines; hate that Paulson has such a central role. I like that the dialogue (especially for Perry and Whitford) is consistently interesting; annoyed that it seems like a continuation of the dialogue on "The West Wing." I like that the production value is so high and the interesting use of that huge and meandering set; and I'm getting more irritated that the show within the show is so crappy.

Most of all -- and this could be my imagination -- it feels a lot more preachy and blatantly self-aware than WW did. On WW that kind of liberal idealism could speak to you in a sort of nonpartisan way because you WANT there to be smart, patriotic people as our leaders. But who thinks that way about TV? With "Studio60," I'm getting a consistent vibe that seems to be telling me that I'm watching something better than television deserves and aren't I glad that Sorkin showed it to me? I'm probably overreacting to that, but I'm sure that there's more self-awareness than on WW, a show I really liked.

Anyway, I'll still give it a few more episodes because there's enough to like that I don't want to abandon it. But I don't like the direction it's going.

2006-10-09 13:57:48
13.   Ladderkite
12 - The "show within the show" is becoming a serious concern of mine as well. I can dig the walking and talking dialogue inherent in Sorkinland, but the comdedy show part....uhh, it's awful. It is a real wart on that show. I will stick it out for at least a week or two more, but it better pick up.

I wanted to also say that I'm suprised that Heroes is getting an ok review here. I only saw the premiere, but that flying scene just about made me spit my lucky charms across the room it was so fake looking. I don't care how tight they try to shoot it, it looks like a guys on wires. That is something that needs a remedy. Flying is way too cool to look that bad.

2006-10-09 14:05:25
14.   Marty
I enjoyed the debut of "The Nine". It showed a lot of promise. Plus, I always like Tim Daly.
2006-10-09 14:06:20
15.   JJoeScott
I had a similar HIMYM experience as you last year, Jon, abandoning it after the first couple of episodes, but after watching it again later in the season, it grabbed me.

I'm tending to like Studio 60 more than not, mostly due to the Whitford-Perry pairing.

I gave FNL about 10 minutes and then hit delete.

3 - ESPN's new Monday night reality series isn't unwatchable, though it IS unlistenable ...

2006-10-09 14:13:17
16.   overkill94
"Studio 60" is one of the few new shows that I've watched, mostly because a friend of mine showed me the pilot on DVD (from Netflix). I thought it was interesting enough, so I've watched all three episodes. It seems okay, but there's not a whole lot of excitement from week to week. "24" is pretty much my only relgiously-watched show these days.

As for "FNL", I thought the movie kinda sucked, so I have no interest in watching the show. I grew up in a town fairly similar to Odessa in terms of high school football fanaticism, so seeing it on film doesn't do much for me. I actually thought "Varsity Blues" was a much more enjoyable movie because it didn't take itself nearly as serious. Plus, there was the whole whipped cream bikini thing...

2006-10-09 15:00:57
17.   dzzrtRatt
I was watching the agonizingly bad "Brothers and Sisters" last night -- which I finally gave up on at about 10:35 in favor of a "Criminal Intent" rerun -- and it hit me what's wrong with the show. You have all these adult children who are in various stages of discovering that their father was a philandering embezzler, and not the kindly businessman they had thought he was.

So why kill him off? Wouldn't it be far more interesting for the next generation to find out the awful truth and then have to deal with him, directly? Rachel Griffith's character was on her way to figuring out that something was fishy with the finances before he died. It would have been much more dramatic if there had been a power struggle, with the mistress and the wife playing into it.

What the producers THINK the main plot is -- Ally McBeal's TV career -- is being handled so dreadfully on every level, it's embarassing.

2006-10-09 15:01:07
18.   Stu
I find I'm enjoying the banter between the cast of "Studio 60" more than between the execs. The Amanda Peet-Steven Weber confrontations every week are getting a bit wearisome. And the believability factor is grating as well... ratings don't come in a half-hour after a show goes off the air.... and a network president wouldn't be waiting around for a fax at the front desk of a hotel. I'll watch it til it dies but that's only because I often watch business-related series, even if there teetering on half-truths.

As for "HIMYM," I feel the same way. It's far from a great show -- average at best -- but there's something comforting about it. Maybe it's the cuteness of Cobie Smulders but, despite my better judgment, I tune in week after week.

Agreed on "The Class." I thought the pilot had potential but now it's quickly falling into sitcom mediocrity.

If you're looking for some Monday chuckles, "The New Adventures of Old Christine" is more than decent, with a couple of out-loud laughs most weeks.

2006-10-09 15:52:42
19.   Jon Weisman
I watch Christine the way I should watch those other sitcoms. If I just happen to be in front of a TV when it's on, I give it a few minutes. Julia is good, but it's not a laugh-out-loud show for me.

Guest star Scott Bakula's hair was out of control last week.

2006-10-09 16:03:58
20.   Bluebleeder87
i just yahoo'ed him, who the hell took those pictures!!?? if i were Scott Bakula i'd sue no questions asked.
2006-10-09 17:13:54
21.   Bluebleeder87
other shows i like from HBO are curb your enthusiam & Lucky Louie (my 2 cents)
2006-10-10 05:25:59
22.   scarface
I think pretty much everyone who watches How I Met Your Mother had the same experience, 'cos it took a while to get the actors comfortable and get enough goof-factor and self-created-catchphrase laughs in each show. I also thought that everyone would agree with me that "Barney" CARRIES the show - but interestingly, Jon disagrees while still liking the show. I suspect it's kinda related to whether you liked "Harold and Kumar..." or not :)
2006-10-10 07:10:48
23.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I was going to be a devoted "How I Met Your Mother" viewer from birth to death whether it was any good or not because of my much-discussed Alyson Hannigan obsession, but it certainly has been a nice surprise that after the first handful of episodes it's evolved into a fairly harmless sitcom that's good for a few laughs every week. I was worried about the start to the new season but the one last night was better than the first few.

I think Barney carries the show, too. So much to the degree that I made a point of seeing "Harold and Kumar." Which I also enjoyed.

2006-10-10 07:58:05
24.   Jake Luft
My wife watches How I met your Mother but I can't get into it. Some of the episodes are OK, and the American Pie girl is cute, but I have to agree with Jon on this one.

Also, MNF? I'd rather jam a crayon up my nose than watch Theismann for 3-plus hours.

2006-10-10 09:05:28
25.   Jon Weisman
I think Barney may well carry the show, but I think that would signify a problem with the show. Who carries "The Office?" Who carries "Scrubs?" Who carried "Arrested Development?" Not just one person - a supporting character at that.
2006-10-10 09:40:00
26.   Vishal
harold and kumar is one of my favorite movies. of course, i also happen to be a twentysomething indian american slacker with a best friend of east asian descent.
2006-10-10 09:41:04
27.   Vishal
and, i also have the hots for alyson hannigan.
2006-10-10 09:54:13
28.   overkill94
I thought Harold and Kumar was a mediocre comedy at best. I don't understand why that movie gets so much hype.
2006-10-10 13:42:32
29.   Voxter
"Some of the episodes are OK, and the American Pie girl is cute, but I have to agree with Jon on this one."

Ahem. You're calling Willow "The American Pie girl"? Sheesh.

2006-10-10 20:28:10
30.   Underbruin
25 - What's your opinion on Entourage? Many of my friends watch the show largely because of Jeremy Piven's scenery-chewing Ari (and the pretty girls... lots and lots of pretty girls...).

Not that I disagree on the weakness of the show - I actually find it rather hard to watch, though I didn't give it much of a chance when it first came on. I'm just curious if perhaps Entourage either fits into your mold (i.e. you don't enjoy the show) or it's an exception to it (you do) - or you disagree that Ari drives the show.

2006-10-11 09:04:01
31.   Jon Weisman
30 - I like Entourage, though I don't think it's worthy of the hype it got going into last season. I think Ari is a big strength of the show, but I think basically all the characters work, though Vincent is the weakest link. Turtle came on after they gave him a story line. Drama does make me laugh, and Eric is the flawed stabilizer.

I think Entourage is dimensionally better as an industry show than Studio 60 - though neither hold a candle to Larry Sanders.

2006-10-11 14:04:52
32.   Underbruin
Ok, thanks. Was just curious what your take was. :)
2006-10-11 22:42:08
33.   scarface
Agreed that neither "How I Met Your Mother" nor "Harold and Kumar" are great - but they have this quality which is NOT easy to find nowadays: they do NOT pain the hell out of the viewer (well, me, anyway), and are good for a few goofy somewhat-original laughs every 30 min. And there's a certain level of casual comfort provided from these shows, and Entourage too. Also, expectations were NOT high, in my recollection, for "Harold and Kumar", so it worked for me.

But hey, I also sorta watch Two and a Half Men for its somewhat heartless humor too, so I don't really expect too many people to agree :)

As for Entourage, I've wondered if the concept and acting of the "Vincent" character is deliberately weak - you know, show him as a Mimbo...naah, I guess that's giving them too much credit. I thought Eric had a lot of potential as "the real, unexpected protagonist", but I thought that line was under-developed.

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