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Week One TV Contest Results

As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every TV show suggested to him during one weekend. He’ll watch 2-3 episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Saturday on The Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV-related prizes.

“Sex and the City”

Previous Relationship: Yes, I’ve seen the first season of this show. It was high school. I was young. Crazy times. Really, it was because my library had some HBO shows. I was amazed by “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under,” so the network had earned a special level of quality with me. I knew this was one of the network’s hits, so I tried out the first season. I didn’t like it very much. Too many boring conversations without any wit.

I watched: Season Two, Episodes 1-3: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “The Awful Truth” and “The Freak Show.”

And…? If there was any doubt in my mind about why I quit the show, boy, did this first episode remind me. This was one of the most annoying half hours I’ve had to experience. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is recovering over her break up with Mr. Big (Chris North), so she picks up a New York Yankee. There are roughly a billion baseball metaphors in this episode’s voiceover — all of them cheesy and one making no sense.

The next two were a big improvement. I even laughed during “The Awful Truth”! Once. Every once in awhile, this show reveals why people are so in love with these four characters. They sometimes can be fun to be around when they aren’t obsessing over clichéd topics or contrived storylines.

Will I continue watching? Nope.

Grade: 2 Yaps

 

“Skins”


Previous Relationship: I already really like this show. I watched the first two seasons on Netflix Instant last year. It’s not a perfect show, but it was a smarter show than I expected. It captures a high school life rarely seen in shows because it’s more honest. Sure, there is sensationalism, but it works more than it doesn’t. I just hadn’t gotten around to the third season yet.

I watched Season Three, Episodes 1-3 “Everyone,” “Cook” and “Thomas.”

And…? I was nervous going into this season. Almost the entire cast graduated at the end of the last episode, so this was the introduction to a whole new cast (sans Effy and Pandora). That introduction is a bit awkward as new groups of friends are established. It still seems like too many characters to pull this off, but by the end of the first hour, I felt I understood most of them.

What I like about this show is the complexity of the teenage romance. Characters do things that are very truthful to the contradictions of their age. It almost breaks TV logic for the obvious couple to be sleeping with the wrong people. They try something very impressive by having this really unlikable character, Cook. Aside from premieres and finales, most of the episodes of “Skins” are devoted to one character. Giving Cook his own episode as the second could have been a good way to redeem this obnoxious kid, but instead they amped it up while showing just a glimpse of vulnerability. It was risky and it may have surprisingly worked on me.

The third episode introduced a new character of Thomas, an immigrant from the Congo who accidentally needs to raise a lot of money. He is so insanely likable and ended up really flowing into the group well. I’m really curious to see where his storyline is going.

These new guys will have a tough time beating the charming characters of the first two seasons, but they have piqued my interest more than I imagined.

Will I continue watching? Yes, and soon.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

 

“The Tick” (Animated)

Previous relationship: I really only know of “The Tick” as a bystander. I could identify what the Tick looks like through pop culture and having seen the live-action pilot years ago. As for this show, this was a ’90s cartoon I missed as a kid.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “The Tick vs. the Idea Men,” “The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale” and “The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil.”

And…? Well, this was goofier than I expected. With all of the superhero movies feeling the same lately, this was nice to avoid all of the clichés. It doesn’t appear that the Tick even has an alter ego and same with Arthur, who dresses in a moth costume. They all just seem to be a part of this city with ridiculous villains and plenty of people who don silly costumes and fight crime.

The humor that really works in the show is how much confidence the Tick has. It’s Superman’s grand statements with Homer Simpson’s content. There is originality with its concepts, like the Tick fighting a dinosaur’s tongue so he can throw the Asprin elixir. This is probably just because it’s early on in the show, but sometimes the pacing feels a bit weird and the jokes aren’t as strong as they could be. I only laughed a few times during the three episodes, but smiled a lot more. Most animated shows find their groove a year in, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Will I continue watching? No. It’s a fun show, but there’s not much to search for in more episodes. It’s the perfect thing to show someone when I’m babysitting, though.

Grade: 3 Yaps

 

“The Closer”

Previous Relationship: I had known of the show’s popularity. It has crazy-high cable ratings, and Kyra Sedgwick has won a ton of awards. I saw one random episode when I helped my Memaw with her VCR.

I watched Season 1, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot,” “About Face” and “The Big Picture.”

And…? I don’t know if it can keep this up for seven seasons, but these three episodes are really good. The characters are strong, there’s a nice style to the show, and it already avoids being caught in a structure. I’m sure the rest of the series will have a murder, Sedgwick will investigate it, there will be conflict within the team and eventually there will be an impressive cat-and-mouse argument that will lead to a confession.

Having that as your outline can lead lots of room to play with the genre. I’m not saying there’s going to be a musical episode, but within these three, they organically change where and how things happened. It helps that Sedgwick’s Brenda Johnson is a delightful character. She is trying to be respected in the new squad, which is often boring. Yet she’s very good at her job — which is different from the show repeatedly telling you she’s good at her job — and her battle with food is very fun. She’s at her best when she’s up against J.K. Simmons because those are two very strong actors who can make any dialogue dynamic.

In episodic shows like this, it’s often the mysteries that are forgettable. In these three, the only one I could really tell you a lot about was “The Big Picture.” That was mostly because the twists were actually pretty good.

Will I continue watching? No, but I still kinda want to. I typically don’t watch episodic TV because I prefer longer stories with character arcs, but this does the episodic thing very well. I doubt I’d go past the first season, but maybe I’ll pick up the rest of the DVDs. Probably not though.

Grade: 4 Yaps

 

“ER”


Previous relationship: My mom was a big fan throughout most of the years. I knew Michael Crichton created it and George Clooney got his start on it. Yet this was one of the big TV shows of which I had never seen a full episode. Because I finally saw an episode of “Law and Order” (although it was the UK version, so I cheated), this was now the biggest series from which I’d never even watched a full scene.

I watched Season 1, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot,” “Day One” and “Going Home.”

And…? Immediately, there’s a feel of ’90s-era TV  from the show. Dr. Greene is woken up, and the look of the show and the music feels so early ’90s. The sense of realism and professionalism reminded me a lot of another show from this time, “Homicide: Life on the Street.” They both have a clear understanding of the job, and things will move without the use of a rigid structure. Patients will come and go; it’s not a case of the week. Things will carry over or be dropped.

The real constant is the setting and the characters. They have their personal problems but those will always be secondary to the patients. That is rare for doctor shows! Luckily, they are interesting characters. I liked how hard-shelled they were toward their patients because of how much they’ve seen the worst. There is the wide-eyed John Carter (Noah Wyle), who is the new guy in the pilot. (All pilots have a new guy; it’s the easiest way to introduce a new world.) He serves as a nice comparison to people like Dr. Benton.

What I really liked was the ongoing story between the episodes. Carol Hathaway (Julianna Marguilies) tries to commit suicide, and the first three episodes deal with that aftermath and her return to the hospital. I really enjoyed the difficulties Dr. Ross (Clooney) felt about this and how everyone responded with humor and warmth instead of awkwardness. Does that mean this is more commonplace in a hospital or did they know what to do?

Will I continue watching? Sure. I’ll at least finish this season because people go nuts over “Love’s Labor Lost” even more than the original Shakespeare play. Beyond that, it’s up in the air.

Grade 4.5 Yaps

 

“Futurama”

Previous relationship: I have some friends who adore this show. They’ve seen every episode and bug me every few months to do the same. During my sophomore year, I had a guy living in my dorm insist that I watch his DVDs, and I enjoyed the first two seasons. Then I got Netflix and saw it was on Instant. “I’ll definitely catch up on this soon!” Then I was distracted. Until now …

I watched Season 3, Episodes 1-3 “Amazon Women in the Mood,” “Parasites Lost” and “A Tale of Two Santas.” I decided to go with the production order instead of the TV-aired order because I don’t trust Fox. Ever.

And…? I know why I never keep up with the show. I laugh several times an episode, so it’s already kicking “Sex and the City’s” tush, and there are plenty of great characters like Bender and Dr. Zoidberg. Yet it’s hard to actually believe in the world. Obviously it’s ridiculous and allows for unlimited possibilities in terms of stories. Yet it feels grounded in 2001. They’re in the 31st century and characters are making references about the 1990s. It feels like I’m nitpicking or “not getting it,” but it’s distracting.

The show works best when it’s rooted in character humor. Bender interacting with anyone is fantastic, especially because he’s doing awful things. I like Fry’s complete cluelessness about everything, which makes him one of the oddest protagonists. I like how they play with Fry’s and Leela relationship, especially in “Parasites Lost” when Fry becomes a nicer guy. This is where the show was the closest to “The Simpsons’ “ level of heart because it reversed Fry’s romanticism but it did it in a sweet way. He’s still stupid, but he is trying.

Will I continue watching? Yeah, but it’ll probably take some more pestering.

Grade: 3.5 Yaps

Next week, I’ll be venturing into “Cheers,” “The Prisoner” and whatever the hell “The Doodlebops” is.

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7 Responses to “Week One TV Contest Results”

  1. […] Wow, that pilot is something. Weeks ago, I compared “ER” to “Homicide” because I was impressed at how real the second-to-second lifestyle was in their […]

  2. Austin Lugar says:

    Worse. I want them to make 31st century references. We mock I, Robot for its "vintage" shoes but we let Furturama get by. I love how the show is flexible in so many ways with characters and continuity, but those things always bring me out. I’ll leave in Nixon’s head just because that works for me.

  3. Peter Wood says:

    Would it be better or worse if you skipped to the relaunch of Futurama and had the characters making current pop culture references?

  4. Austin Lugar says:

    No worries, Michelle. I am obsessed with Breaking Bad.

    Everything Joe just typed in that comment is why The Tick is so much fun. Great creative ideas.

  5. Joe Shearer says:

    Great job here. For The Tick, I’ll say the show reaches its apex with the episode "The Tick vs. The Tick," where The Tick barfights a wannabe hero named Barry with anger management issues over the name "The Tick," while Arthur and some of his buddies are relegated to the "Sidekick Lounge," all the while a bad guy named The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight plots to blow up the superhero bar.

    Also the Tick fights villains like El Seed (a guy with a sunflower head who controls honey bees), Thrakkorzog (where the joke is the Tick can’t say his name right), and a snot version of himself when he gets a bad cold.

  6. michelle hahn says:

    You should be watching "breaking bad" — awesome series!!