Thursday, January 04, 2007

yeah i'm calm, yeah i'm kicking television

my television vices are few. staples in the tv diet, beyond baseball, soccer, hockey and football are movies (netflix, ifc, sundance or hbo {when i subscribe}), and just a handful of shows -- meet the press, daily show, colbert report, pardon the interruption, and the sopranos (the reason i'll pick up hbo). over the years i've had things come and go...seinfeld of course (but not friends) went the long haul, from beginning to end, same with nypd blue (when on his game, bochco could write with real verve). i came a bit late to west wing but when i got it i loved it (ditto re: sorkin and writing).

some things are more ephemeral -- lost lost me after the first season. for a while i was with survivor, but the bloom wore off that rose in fall of 2005. i did watch the amazing race this past season -- mostly it's because jp's into it (gotta be a good boyfriend) but it was worth watching on its own, if only to laugh at rob and kimberly and imagine what that household will be like in 15 years.

anyway, every year i check stuff out, to see if anything is worth the investment. this year i went with studio 60 on the sunset strip (i'm a sorkin fan, you know), 30 rock (tina fey and tracy morgan were the best thing about snl save for will ferrell) and friday night lights (not sure why).

studio 60 and 30 rock are each set behind the scenes of late night sketch comedy shows, but that's where the similarity pretty much ends. 30 rock is actually set at nbc, and studio 60 at a fictional network. studio 60 is a one-hour drama, 30 rock a 30 minute sitcom. studio 60 is shot all dark and shadowy and takes itself seriously, 30 rock is bright and shiny and farcical.

initially studio 60 disappointed me. it was a show about a comedy and it wasn't funny. the characters took themselves waaaaay too seriously. but i stuck with it because well, sorkin usually delivers, from sports night to a few good men to west wing. after 4 or 5 episodes in it hit a good stride -- things are a bit lighter and sorkin's started to draw out the characters a bit more, and they're getting to be likeable. though matthew perry has pretty much put chandler behind him playing matt albie, it's hard not to look at and hear bradley whitford and not see/hear josh lyman -- his danny tripp character here is too close in style and the organizational hierarchy to the west wing senior staffer lyman. there are trademark sorkinisms -- the "walking and talking", the fast-paced and specifically timed screwball comedy dialogue, the male buddy tandem (jed &leo:josh & sam:danny & matt:simon & tom {d.l. hughley and nate corddry}). i hope nbc gives it some room to breathe and grow. though west wing was good almost immediately, it was the second season where it really took off and absent sorkin's drug meltdown who knows...the 4th and 5th seasons might have been better.

30 rock is sharp and funny. tina fey can act just well enough for the character (c.f. jerry seinfeld), tracy morgan is hysterical and alec baldwin is fantastic. there are throw-away lines that's sometimes a bit obvious but it works. give some credit to exec producer lorne michaels for skewering his own golden goose.

friday night lights looks like a one-season wonder for me. the first episode was fun -- in a football crazy texas town a high school football team with big expectations loses its star qb and pulls out a stirring last-minute victory. the football scenes are very well done and realistic, kyle chandler is very good as the head coach, connie britton is not just hot but plays a great coach's wife. but the team has pulled out three improbable last minute wins and the scenarios are already heading into "hit me over the head" obvious territory. it's fun and fluff and melodrama but it's going to get old very fast. then there's the big problem with doing a show about high school sports -- the kids do have to move on with their lives. so you can't get too attached to the student characters. new ones may come, but you know some character situations will either get recycled or outlandish. i'll also lay even money that either/or/both the coach and wife end up with an infidelity thing that resolves with everyting more or less ok. there's already lots of drinking, lots of sex...there'll be a student death soon (hell, there was a paralysis in the first episode). i'm in the middle of the buzz bisinger book that inspired the show (the town and characters are not at all like in the book - all it shares is that it's set in west texas and revolves around high school football) and the film (starring billy bob thornton as the coach) is high up in my netflix queue. but the show goes soon.

this is already long, so i'll save disucssion of the office and comparisons between the brit and us versions for another time.

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