The Dead Zone – TV in the Summer

July 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Summertime was traditionally down time for the major networks. Afterall, who wants to stay inside in the warm weather? (we get so little anyway) But TV has its own pleasures  regardless of the time of year, and thanks to cable and the shifting perceptions of TV execs, the summer is a little more interesting now.

I guess, if none of this appeals to you, and you can’t find anything else to do, you could always go outside.

1. Mad Men

Season four  starts on Sunday on AMC. If you’ve never watched Mad Men, it’s a remarkable but jarring experience. Set in the early 1960s (season four opens Thanksgiving Weekend 1964), the show not only uses the historical events of the era but recreates the attitudes and morales: Men smoke nad drink with abandon, women are subordinate, African-Americans are invisible etc.  At the end of the last season, the lead characters of Sterling-Cooper had fled the firm to create a new one. At the same time Dan Draper’s marriage had crumbled as Betty finally left him. For a man whose entire life has been an act of recreation, Draper must start again.      

2. Dr. Who  

I grew up watching Doctor Who (the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker versions) . Like many people, I was extremely nervous about Matt Smith. I loved David Tennant as the Doctor, and my only previous experience of Smith had been in the adaptations of the Sally Lockhart mysteries The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow of the North.  Not that he was bad, but I just wasn’t sure. Wrong. He’s great. Quirky, cynical, slightly madcap, irreverent, lovely. And who doesn’t love Amy Pond? Season finale in Canada tomorrow night.

3. Haven

Based on a Stephen King crime story, the Colorado Kid, Haven is the story of an FBI officer who comes to this small New England town in search of an escaped criminal, but stays for the mystery. And there are many, not least a newspaper photo from three decades ago of a woman who looks exactly like her. I have to admit, so far I’ve been disappointed. THe characters seem a little stiff, and the  story lines have been resolved a little too quickly. Still, only two episodes have aired so far, so there’s still time. On Syfy in the US, Showcase in Canada)

4. Midsomer Murders

Who ever said the countryside was peaceful? Midsomer Murders is the story of Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby of the fictional Midsomer county. Midsomer, and Causton, the main town, has an extremely high crime rate averaging at least two murders per episode. Not mentally taxing, but the crimes are interesting, the characters well written, and unlike some police dramas, I don’t feel insulted watching it. There’s a certain human quality that makes it appealing. The most recent episode aired in 2010 in the UK, but TVO is only up to 2007.

5. Misfits

A  nod to Inveresk Street Ingrate for bringing this UK show to my attention. A group of teenagers on community service are caught in a mysterious storm which gives them all super powers, just not very useful ones: Selective telepathy, sex pheromone  acceleration (?), limited time manipulation, invisibility and immortality. (OK, that last one might come in handy). Thing in, none of the characters are very likeable. They all have massive chips on their shoulders, a huge sense of self entitlement, and a general lack of responsibility for any of their actions. The first season was only six episodes, and a second will be filmed later in the year.

6. Hex

Another UK show. Set in a fancy school, it’s the story of possession, demons, witchcraft, ghosts and fallen angels. Sometimes spooky, sometimes silly.  Owing more than a little to Buffy, the outsider as powerful  savior and school is hell motifs are employed here, but it’s not all derivative. The mystery is engaging, even though the chief demon is not particularly frightening. Worth more than a casual glance.  

7. Billy the Exterminator

I mentioned this one in a previous post. Billy, the titular exterminator, is a pest control officer. He lives nad works in Louisiana for his family’s firm, and is possessed of an incredible punk-mullet. Each week, Billy controls pests which run to the difficult: Snakes, alligators, wasp infestations etc. I guess the charming part of the show, is that Billy’s goal for the most part is not extermination, but re-location (this is not usually true for inspects). He;s also honest. There’s a an episode where they’re searching for a snake in a waterlogged boat. When they come across the snake in a corner of the boat, they turn and run. So much TV of this sort is forced and unnatural; this one has na authentic note (my daughter loves this show too, but she’ll only watch it with me)  

8. The Sweeney

Sweeney Todd, Flying Squad. Remember John Thaw as the cultured, cerebral Inspector Morse, not this one. Thaw, as Jack Regan, is gritty and violent. Loved this show when I was a kids. Now you can get it on DVD (well, Tuesday). The review in the Globe this morning, quotes Regan’s first words on the show, spoken to a criminal: “Get your trousers on, you’re nicked.”  

9. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I don’t usually have time to watch this for most of the year, but occasionally in the summer, I manage to squeeze it into my busy schedule. Nice to see after all these years, Stewart is still on top of things and is still vert funny.

10 Rome

OK, this one is old. My parents lent me the DVD for Season 1 of Rome about three years ago. We finally got around to watching it last week, and devoured it in a couple of days. The first season covers the years from Caesar’s defeat of Gaul in 52 BC to his assassination in 44 BC. Blending real characters and events with a fictional narrative, Rome is a bit like the Sopranos in togas (and that’s a compliment)  Sex, murder, foul language, intrigue, philosophy, betrayal, class struggle, and much much more. The best thing I’ve seen this year. Now I have to borrow season two. (HBO)

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