Sunday, July 26, 2009
Summer Television Disappointment
The summer television season is here. And it stinks.
Every fall when the network television season starts, it’s a frenzied thrill ride of plotline twists and turns, great characters and stellar shows. Whether it’s who is going to win the Amazing Race on CBS, or will Liz Lemon find true love (or something close to it without stalkers being involved) on 30 Rock on NBC, or can Mike and Susan every really stay together on Desperate Housewives on ABC? One thing is an assured constant: each week brings a steady stream of good, and sometimes great, television.
Spring is when the television schedule starts to sputter. Some shows take two weeks off, which the networks coyly call a “hiatus” starting in February, or the networks aggravatingly space the rest of the season schedule in between insipid and pedestrian specials, or pompous, navel-gazing awards shows. And before you know it, season finales come way too soon in mid-April, or, (if a series can pace itself longer than 13 original eps) the show wraps up in May leaving a TV addict like myself to wander the desolate arid wasteland that is network and basic cable throughout the summer.
But this particular summer has been brutal. Not just because I live in Phoenix and the temperatures like to hover around 100 degrees at night, (see my Five Stages of Summer Heat blog posted on 7/21/09) but the shows that the networks have held off because of last year’s writer strike and waited to dump them on the airwaves over the summer, (a pathetic link to what was great in the spring and an optimistically looking fall) have been poor. Really poor.
Rescue Me has been on a roller coaster ride of late. The show that has been critically acclaimed and well received by the public has fallen on hard times lately. Denis Leary has been the creator, the driving force and the main character since its debut on F/X five seasons ago, but it lost its way last year, ultimately ending up with a WTF ending that left you scratching your head and questioning why you were watching the show in the first place. This season has been like the monsoon season here in the Valley: hailed as one of the biggest and the best, but actually being spotty, all wind and dust, no lightning and thunder, no torrential downpours flooding viewers with great plot lines and emotionally sweeping viewers like myself away, looking forward to next week.
Entourage is all about fluff. But it’s good, not always clean, fluff on HBO. Unfortunately this season, we are left without any kind of compelling story lines because the show has become formulaic, grinding itself into a predictable story arc every episode. E.g.: The boys get into some kind of trouble, Ari yells, Vinnie sleeps with a gorgeous woman, Drama kvetches, Turtle is…Turtle, and E desperately wants to be taken seriously. At the end, trouble is averted and all is good in Hollywood. Yawn. Roll credits.
Because of my utterly crippling disappointment and strained relationships with the new but uninspired summer season of shows, I have been put in an awkward position. I have been looking elsewhere for summer escapes. That’s right, I’ve been cheating on my TV shows. And I am not proud.
I have been watching Next Food Network Star on Food Network and ashamed to admit that it’s got more drama and more unexpected twists and turns than Entourage, while packing more passion and hubris (without the alcoholism) than Rescue Me. I have also been absolutely hooked (no pun intended) on Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel. Watching one episode of these fishermen makes any guy with a desk job and an expensive car look like a teat-sucking, sissy-Mary.
I’ve also rekindled my interest in Major League Baseball, watching games on ESPN and Fox Sports. Too bad the Diamondbacks are finding ways to lose instead of winning games. Note to Arizona Diamondback President Derrick Hall: this makes it incredibly hard to root for the home team. Enough said.
So where does that leave me for this summer? I have been patiently, almost forbearingly waiting for one of the best dramas on television to start on August 16th on AMC. Mad Men is on its third season with Don Draper at a crossroads. Season two was one of the best culminations of style, substance, and plot I’ve seen since The Wire.
Unfortunately, the way my summer’s been going, I am hesitant to get overly excited. The summer malaise has hit so many of the shows I used to watch. But something tells me that creator and producer Matt Weiner isn’t going to rest on his laurels and shouldn’t let Don or anyone at Sterling Cooper coast on their retro good looks and suave (and sometimes lurid) behavior.
I just want my summer malaise to be washed away like a good monsoon storm in the middle of a hot summer in Phoenix. So, I am putting my trust into a guy who drinks like a fish, smokes like a fiend, recklessly cheats on his wife while always looks dashingly dapper in a grey flannel suit. I guess there’s a first time for everything.
I hope it’s not too much pressure.