Saturday, June 26, 2010

But I can't stop eating peanuts...

Lost has been over for about a month now. It's a bummer, since my Tuesday nights were pretty much built around it (that's not sad, damn it. It's Tuesday. What do you do on Tuesday nights? Yeah, thought so. And occasionally, I get to do it on a Tuesday night, so, you know, nyah nyah.). But, for better or worse, the creative team behind it got to end things on their own terms, and I was reasonably satisfied. I may have had a few problems with the final season leading into it, and the end had more saccharine than substance, perhaps, but it was still better than a lot of stories out there. My thanks to the talent both in front of and behind the camera for one hell of a fun ride.

The end of Lost has left my TV-time kind of up in the air. I watch a lot of movies and read a book or two a week; I'm not really big on television for the most part, though, beyond The Simpsons and an occasional Law and Order: SVU marathon. I watch a few shows semi-regularly, but there's nothing that I pursue with the damn near religious fervor with which I devoured Lost every week. But I've come to an interesting realization lately, given a mind now clear of the Smoke Monster: Television is damn good again.

You know, not if you're speaking in percentages. If we're talking parts of the whole, the good stuff is like the two Wonka bars that Charlie got to open during the contest, and the thousands that all the other kids in his class plowed through like greasy, irritating, inexplicably multinational locusts (seriously, were they in England or America or what? The Buckets were American, but all Charlie's teachers seemed to be British, that Slugworth guy was clearly Heinrich Himmler without the moustache, the architecture looked post-Chernobyl Soviet, and Willy Wonka...well, he was Gene Wilder, and that's just awesome.) is, say, anything with Jim Belushi. Most of the stuff on channels (son of a bitch, cable had 60 channels when I was kid and that was impressive. And my parents only had like 4. And no internet. It's a wonder I wasn't brought up by wolves.) I get on my overpriced digital cable package is still dreck at best and has made me actively dummer (see, I misspelled "dumber." Fact.)  at worst (anything on MTV -with the exception of one show that I'll get to in a minute, any and all network sitcoms, America's Next Top Whatever, you get the picture), but there are a few really awesome shows out there. Shows that are smart, funny, disturbing, deliciously creamy and filled with nougat. Here are a few I've been catching up with lately, and why I've allowed them to rot my brain and ruin my eyes (according to my grandmother, anyway. Nana was a swell lady who'd do anything for us grandkids, but dang,  if it wasn't The Commish, she didn't want anything to do with it). You may enjoy them as well.

Dexter.  I can't say enough good things about Dexter. It's funny, creepy, tense, gross, thrilling, weird, and other adjectives as well. I read and enjoyed the first book in the series by Jeff Lindsay (the first season of the show is more or less the plot of the first novel) a few years ago, but I didn't really give the show a shot until recently. I watched the first four seasons over the course of a week or two, and now I can't fucking wait for the season premiere. Michael C. Hall rocked the house on Six Feet Under with his subdued portrayal of David, a character you could just feel waiting to explode at any given moment, but Dexter Morgan is a role he absolutely owns. A serial killer with severe sociopathy is a character that would be almost impossible to like, but Hall has us rooting for this guy every step of the way. And season four's Big Bad, a seemingly loving, suburban father whose killer exploits hold a cracked mirror to Dexter's own (or maybe it's the other way around) gives us John Lithgow in what may be the finest performance of his career. I know the dude was the bad guy in Buckaroo Bonzai, and that's fantastic in its own right, but Lithgow is absolutely chilling as Trinity here. Way to hit the mark, Dick Solomon. (heh. Dick. Whew, I didn't think I was going to be able to fit one in this post. Heh. Fit one in. Two for two!) Also, you get to see Julie Benz's boobies a couple of times. So, you know, that's pretty great, too.

Mad Men. This is a show I watched a few times on the first go around, and while I dug it, it didn't really hook me. I picked up the first two seasons super cheap when my store closed down, so I gave it another watch. This show is fantastic, full of macho bravura and old school femme fatales  from a cast of characters as twisted and dysfunctional as anyone on the Sopranos, and steeped in a history close enough to our own time for us to be able to recognize the things that would shape the late-20th and early-21st centuries emerge and begin to take hold. It's like the first Back to the Future, if they showed you all the fucking that you totally knew was going on behind those damn hoop skirts.  Also, it made me not hate Vincent Kartheiser. Well, yeah, I still do, but I hate his character, which you're supposed to. So, mission accomplished, Angel's kid. Back when he was on Angel, his character was so damned whiny, I wanted to actively make the actor's life uncomfortable. Not in a legally culpable way, mind you. Just, you know, give the dude a wet willy on the bus or shit in his mailbox or something. And two words: Don Draper. That is all.

MTV gets one prop from me for Warren the Ape. I loved Greg the Bunny for the month it was actually on, I bought the series on DVD and still watch it pretty regularly, and the IFC film parodies with Greg are hilarious, so thank you, MTV, for bringing back my favorite degenerate-ego maniacal-drunken-sex addicted-Shakespeare-quoting-helmet-wearing monkey puppet. Also, since it's on basic cable this time, they've been able to bring back some of the edginess and raunchiness that made the original shorts so damn funny. Watch it, please, so it'll stick around for more than 12 episodes this time. Also, I miss Tardy Turtle. Fox has the rights to him, and some bastard stole the puppet, so we'll probably never see him again. Crayons do indeed taste like purple. Bonne chance, my special green friend. >squeak<.

Also, Comedy Central has become my new hero for two separate reasons: 1. Tosh.0, a show which, while basically a youtube comments section with a few less "lolz fag"s, is one of the damned funniest half hours I've seen in a while. 2. They brought Futurama back last week! And not in the uncomfortable, kinda funny but still mostly unsettling direct to video movie format it's been rocking lately, but in an honest to crap, weekly half hour format. And it's funny again!  WHOOOOOO!!!!  I've been a Futurama fan since it came out a decade ago, and it wasn't fair that it got shafted, shuffled around, and basically just buried by Fox time and again. On its best days, Futurama rivals The Simpsons  in its prime for sheer funny per ounce, and on its worst, it's still got an alcoholic robot with a taste for hookers and a freaky, kinda Jewish lobster monster whose abject loserish-ness  makes me feel better about that one time I threw half a meatball sub away, changed my mind half an hour later, pulled it out of the trash, microwaved it and ate it since, come on, man it was pretty well wrapped up and it was still totally good, shut up.

There are a few other shows on tap for me, too. I'm finally getting into Breaking Bad, which is excellent (did you know that the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, who is the main character on Breaking Bad, was also in two episodes of the Power Rangers? And not the hip, flashy Power Rangers they've got now, but the cheesy, freaked out, unsettlingly Japanese Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. True story, man. That makes him OK by me), and I'm also working my way through some stuff I always meant to watch but never got around to, like Deadwood and The Tudors. Bottom line: I'll never be Lost again, and that makes my eyes rain (Simple Jack! Goddamn I love me some Tropic Thunder), but there are some really talented folks telling some really great stories on the idiot box these days. Television as a medium is slowly, sometimes painfully, but finally beginning to reach the level of art form that until now (save a few notable exceptions) had been reserved for film. Hell, one of the last episodes of Lost was even directed by Mario Van Peebles. That's right, Mario Van Peebles  as in Solo. That shiver you felt just now was your brain having an orgy of awesome with the rest of your body.

Today's title, by the way, comes from a quote by Orson Welles: "I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts."  Orson Welles was a huge dude, so to be fair, you could probably change "peanuts" to "cake" or "honey glazed ham" or "fistfuls of cookie dough" or "whole goats, raw." and the sentiment would be the same.

Rosebud out.

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