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Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday Night T.V. Round-Up

It's summer in t.v. land, which means there's a lot of second-rate crap on the tube. But on Sunday nights, at least, there are three shows which catch our attention, HBO's "True Blood", AMC's "Mad Men" and HGTV's "Design Star". But after watching last night's line-up, we might have to resort to drastic measures to entertain ourselves, like reading a book.
First up last night was "True Blood", and we're happy to know that Alan Ball must be reading our blog. Last week we complained that we'd have to wait forever to find out what Tommy Micken's father meant when he said "he owned Tommy", but not so, we found out last night what it meant. The father was forcing Tommy to shape-shift into a dog to make money in dog fighting competitions. Got it. But now that we know, do we care? Hmmm. Probably not. We also desperately pleaded for Mr. Ball to let two men on the show get it on, and lo and behold, Lafayette and Jesus started making out last night in Lafayette's pimped out ride. Predictably, though, the man-on-man mash-up ended right after some very brief kisses, and then the relationship ended for good when Jesus found out that Lafayette was dealing drugs. Meanwhile, while the men on "True Blood" only get to exchange a brief brushing of the lips, the straights on the show get to fuck like rabbits, butts cheeks blaring, in a red mustang in the parking lot of Merlotte's. Thanks a lot, Alan Ball. And while we're on the sex thing, please, oh god, please, would you please let Eric have sex with anyone, man, woman, whatever? That boy has danced around more C&P, (rooster and kitty), this season without ever getting any than anyone we've ever seen. No one deserves that much abuse. On another note, we got to see Alcide the Werewolf naked for about 2.4 seconds, not enough time, and the show ended with Sookie and Bill in real trouble. But then, just a few seconds later, HBO gave it away that Bill and Sookie survive their near-death situations because HBO showed clips from upcoming episodes in which Sookie and Bill are prominently featured. Way to go, HBO, way to negate your own cliff-hanger. Sometimes the networks just can't get out of their own way, can they?
Next up last night was HGTV's competition show to find the next great HGTV design show host, "Design Star". We love reality competition shows, and we normally like "Design Star", but there's a big problem with this year's HGTV offering; a big elephant in the room. The designers suck! These are the worst designers we've ever seen. They have no sense of color, how to conceptualize a room plan, how to build anything, how to select furniture; they seemingly have no design skills. Seriously. It's like watching a baseball game where none of the batters can hit the ball. It doesn't make for interesting television, to say the least. HGTV is not helping the show any; they're evidently so bent on saving production money that they're not letting the designers compete in individual challenges, in every episode they force the designers to compete in teams. This doesn't work; you can't really make them be on a team and then complain when one designer doesn't "fight to have his own design plan implemented". Are you listening, Vern Yip? You're a mean, little man, and we wish you'd relax a bit.
And finally, we made it over to AMC to watch the season premiere of the two-time Emmy winner for Best Drama, "Mad Men". We had never watched the show until a few weeks ago, when we caught up by watching several marathon runnings of the show. Sorry, but we were reluctant to believe that anything on the AMC network, (a second-rate network which runs third-rate movies), could be any good. And we had always suspected that "Mad Men" was just an excuse to make a show around cool costumes and the Kennedy era as opposed to making it around interesting storylines. We were wrong, sort of, but we were right, too. The writing is just good enough to make one interested in the characters, but there's a feeling that the tone is somehow off. It's almost like the writers are writing about something they've heard about instead of experiencing. There's so much emphasis on drinking and smoking, and unbelievably stilted formality, it's almost as if the show is saying, "Hey, look, we're smoking and drinking and being really formal around each other. Isn't that interesting?" No. It's not. We remember those days, and we don't remember anyone behaving that way. If people had really drunk that much at work, their livers would have fallen out by their third week on the job. The storylines are set up in each episode, but then don't really go anywhere. In other words, the show's writing premises are modeled after the much more successful HBO show, "Eight Feet Under" in which a particular death each week presaged and framed a bigger crises and bigger story within the family which ran the funeral home. "Mad Men" attempts to follow this story structure by introducing a new "ad campaign" each week, but then the writers don't know how to relate it to something bigger going on at the agency or within the characters' lives. You always get the feeling when watching "Mad Men" that nothing meaningful's really going to happen, and it doesn't. As we said, there's just enough interesting characterizations to keep us watching, but at the end of each episode, we always get the old Peggy Lee feeling of, "Is that all there is?". If you'd like to test our theory, take away the 1960's costumes and the cool drinking and smoking, and then decide if the show would still be as interesting. We think it wouldn't be. We will admit, though, that we like the Don Draper storyline; it's probably the only thing that's saved the show, but sadly, again, we have to be honest. As handsome and appealing as Jon Hamm is, we're not sure if he really has the acting chops to pull off such a complicated characterization. If you don't agree, then please let us know the last time Jon Hamm had an expression other than tight lips and cold, dark eyes. He's like watching a wax dummy each week; his face never changes, nor the emotional range of his acting. We'll keep watching "Mad Men", but we're not expecting much to improve at this point.

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