Reasons Public Television is Ballin’

When was the last time you watched Public Television?  PBS is home to a lot more really great television than most people realize.  It’s not the biggest network, and it certainly has it’s oddities.  Things like some one trying to convince me that Merlin built Stonehenge using the power of sound.  Umm, what?

But there’s a lot of gems in there too.  Awesome nature programs, kids shows that tend to have new meaning as after years away, and…  I’m giving away all my reasons.  I have them numbered and everything.  Okay, ok, so public television is awesome and I’m going to tell you why.

  1. Variety.  As I was beginning to say before, nearly every genre imaginable can be found on public television at some point in the day.  Kids shows, talks shows, drama, reality, comedy, musical, cooking, you name it.  If they don’t have it specifically, they’ll probably run a documentary of it sometime.
  2. Groudbreaking.  Delving into some TV history here, PBS was the first station to air political satire in the 1970’s, a particular risk because it is partially government funded.  These days cable channels produce shows like the Daily Show and The Colbert Report in a similar fashion.
  3. Downton Abbey.  Because Downton needs it’s own reason.  Not to mention the many, many foreign imports that find a home for their US debut on PBS.  Things like Keeping Up Appearances, Inspector Lewis, and Sherlock.  Some more famous than others, but all impactful in their own way.  Related: Julian Fellows on Improvisation.  Just watch it.
  4. Learn Something.  Always even if you don’t want to.  Besides teaching 6-year-olds math (CyberChase anyone?), public television has been on the forefront of educational television.  Home improvements and cooking lessons need look no further than your local PBS station.  Not that I will ever have a need to make perfect strawberry poke cake, but at least now I can insult it using the right terminology.
  5. It’s free!  I mean, honestly.  So maybe Antiques Roadshow isn’t your jam.  It’s not really mine either, but how many times have you been to an event solely on the promise of free food?  I’ll guess at least a few times, if not lots.  So why not watch some strange television program you’ve never heard of before?

So, you know.  Watch public television.  You have my permission to fast forward through the pledge drives, at least for now.  This is fairly United States focused, so sorry if any of you Brits stumbled upon this today.  Don’t even get me started on the British television system… Actually, do, I would love to have that chat.

Do you watch PBS or any other form of public television?  What are your favorite shows?  Anything to add to the list?

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My Year in Television

I considered a summary of just the season so far (starting in August/September/October), but realized that since I’ve been going on about the new format that television has taken of not having a strict season, I figured it would be more with the times to do an overview of the whole year.  This one may be a bit long, so I apologize in advance.

I started the year in a downtown apartment with glorious cable access including BBC America, and all the cable channels a girl could ever dream of.  My roommate and I would record everything on out DVR and then watch shows together.  Comedies like Modern Family, and The Middle; New Girl and Psych.

Watching things together made sure that I was caught up with everything that was going on in the world of sitcoms and dramadies.  We also watched all the BBC shows we could manage to record.  Doctor Who and The Hour being two of my favorites.  I would also watch anything with Chef Gordon Ramsey (and still will) which for the winter slump mostly includes Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

When my shows started up again I watched Once Upon A Time, Fringe, and Chuck, which I had caught up with again for it’s final season.  A bit into the semester I watched Downton Abbey as it premiered as PBS’s masterpiece series, loving every minute of it.

In fact, I loved it so much that I incorporated it into a ten page paper about how historical fiction is more a reflection of our times than the times it portrays  using Downton Abbey as a case study.  In another class I worked on a Once Upon A Time spec script that will likely never see more than my parent’s living room.  I got an A, and my mom displays it proudly, but the material was outdated as soon as I was finished with the outline.

Through school I was introduced to Husbands the Series, season one of which I gobbled up in a few hours.  As Chuck ended I turned to web series such as Husbands and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to keep me afloat before finals season struck.

When it did I was awash in emotion.  Saddness over Sherlock, questions for Fringe and Once, shock over NCIS which i had only watched a handful of episodes of all season.

Once the shock wore off I dove into summer television with a vengeance.  The full arsenal of Ramsey shows were family entertainment.  MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen, Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, and the new Hotel Hell.  I also powered through the final season of Buffy the Vamipre Slayer, finishing what wound up being a nearly ten year watching in progress.  I had a lot to say about it.  Yeah.

Meanwhile, a friend gave me a call asking me if I was free to be somebody’s coffee bitch in LA.  Let me check m–YES.  The experience not only gave me a chance to talk with some awesome people, it also gave me a whole list of things to watch as the summer continued.

But there was no time for that as I began a period of travel induced, television watching stasis.  While I watched no TV for nearly seven weeks I did manage to catch the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Berlin, and then the closing two weeks later in Rome.  The trip also included breaking into Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Once More, With Feeling songs often, which was quite amusing to Germans who only understood half the words I sang.

Upon my return I set myself up with very basic cable (without recording!) and settled in for premiere season.  In the process I accidentally watched the summer finale for Leverage while waiting for the premieres of Fringe and Once Upon A Time.  I tried a handful of new shows including 666 Park Avenue, Revolution, Last Resort, and Elementary, but Elementary was the only one that stuck.  I haven’t missed an episode.

I trooped over to a friends building to watch Doctor Who and try out Copper (didn’t stick, but I plan to try again).  I waited patiently for Community to return (still waiting).  I worked through Angel quickly with minimal emotional breakdown and sat down loyally to watch my three loyal shows (Once, Elementary, and Fringe) live due to lack of recording.  Awesome.

As the year ends I am beginning a regemene of British shows and random mini series.  I watched Neverland in a weekend, and have Luther, Copper, The Hour, Downton, and a few others on my list (any suggestions?).  Granted I seem to be ignoring the list for a borrowed copy of Band of Brothers and Lost Girl on Netflix.  Hmm.  This year has been filled with wonderful television and I couldn’t be more excited to see what 2013 has to bring.

Cancelled

As I’ve said before, television these days is a much different world than it used to be.  We are now in a time when there would never have been new episodes airing of any show, meanwhile Leverage just started up again, and the majority of CBS shows will be airing new episodes for at lest another week or so.

Another thing that’s changed is how quickly the turn over has become.  While networks used to give struggling shows a chance to find their feet, now it’s a bit more of a sink or swim mentality.  While that can be okay, it’s also very wasteful and a bit sad.

So far a good handful of show shave been announced as cancelled.  I’ve seen some of them enough to have an opinion, but not all.  I just wanted to give a shout out to the shows so far this season that have already been announced as cancelled.  This includes Last Resort, 666 Park Avenue, Made in Jersey, The Mob Doctor, and Partners.

I’ve seen bits and pieces of all but Made in Jersey, and some I’m sadder to see go than others.  Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue are the saddest to me as I think both of them had good premises and had been doing well for their genre/style.  I’m disappointed that The Mob Doctor hasn’t made it further almost solely on the fact that it was a Chicago based production providing creative, industry jobs to one of my favorite cities.

On a similar Chicago production note, Boss was also canceled.  The same disappointment, with a different situation (Boss was on Starz! and has been running for a few seasons already).

There are also a handful of shows that I don’t understand how they’ve made it this far, but for now I’ll keep those opinions to myself.

Providing Leverage to a Fantastic Show

Can I talk about a show when I’ve only watched a handful of episodes of it?  I’m going to say yes, because even with such a short time episodes I love Leverage like no other.  I watched the Summer finale in September when it was on and then caught a part of a marathon a few weeks later.  I have season one courtesy of my friend Laura, and I’m still trying to find time to watch more than the 2 episodes that I’ve seen so far.

I’m a new convert, but I can’t even describe how awesome this show is.  The greatest part is that even though I’ve only been watching it for a few months I feel like I’ve been at it since the beginning.  It’s such a simple show to catch up with unlike a lot of the more serialized TV I watch that’s difficult to follow if you miss more than two episodes.

Reasons you should absolutely watch Leverage

1. The Cast.  The show has a fantastic cast of recognizable faces, and they all do a terrific job with their characters.  Personally I recognize Gina Bellman from Coupling and Jeykel and Chris from his role in Angel oh way back when.  The rest of the cast is equally awesome.

2. The team kicks ass.  The basic premise of the show is that these people are the best criminals in the business and they are now up for hire for pretty much anyone who needs them. In nearly every episode it starts out with a simple job, but Nate turns it into a greater than mission. Borderline annoying, but it’s hard to argue as they are usually good causes.

3. Relationships that don’t detract from the story.  It’s a common complaint in television that when characters get together in a story it detracts from the main story.  This is not the case with Leverage at all.  There are currently two couples on the team and they are both relatively low profile sub-plots to the main story in each episode.

4. They film in Portland.  I know, my nerdy hipster is showing, but you guys, it’s still really cool that they film in Portland.  Especially since it’s currently set in Portland.  They don’t have to worry about making it feel like another city, it looks like Portland and it’s supposed to be Portland.  Done.

Yesterday was the first day of new episodes on TNT.  Do you watch Leverage?  What do you think?

The Season So Far

The problem with the title of this post is that the season of television as we used to know it no longer exists.  Starting with the writer’s strike in 2008, and evolving from there, an examination of series that have premiered since show that television series are much less likely to premiere on a set schedule.

To be fair, this has been happening since the launch of cable television in the 80’s.  Networks can choose when series go on the air, and often choose based on when is convenient for the production schedule and in correlation with other shows finishing their run.  Upfronts (a big party for advertisers that traditionally happens in the spring) still exist, but have been scaled back in recent years.

TV series don’t just premiere during on week in the fall anymore.  Premiere season starts in late August and doesn’t end until the end of October.  Even after that some shows still have late premieres and mid-seasons replacements are a grab-bag of whenever they need a replacement.  TV is changing, and I’d venture to say that it’s changing for the better.

Oh Cable Television, How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

So, it seems to be that this month is the month of TV schedules here on the blog, and while that wasn’t necessarily the original plan, I think I like it slightly better.  It is impractical to talk about cable shows by the day they are on the air, so instead I will be talking about these under the slightly broader heading of networks.  In Reverse alphabetical order:

USA has consistently served up shows that I don’t think are going to work and then manage to prove me wrong to the tune of five or six seasons.  It’s one of those cases where I love being wrong.  Seriously though, a football psychiatrist (Necessary Roughness)?  A doctor who only makes house calls (Royal Pains)?  Do those exist?  Couples therapy for cops (Common Law)?  And of course, a fake psychic detective (Psych).

Okay, I’ll admit that the only one of these shows that I consistently watch is Psych, but still, USA has so many cool concepts, and so many great characters.  Bonus, all the people who work on these shows seem to be the chillest people ever.  Proof?  They Psych cast at Comic Con this year.  Okay, even I’m seeing that this is a little pineapple heavy, time to move on.  I’ll watch: Psych.

TNT is the network that I would most like to work for someday.  Well, I’d like to work for anyone who would hire me, but I feel like I would really get along with the people at TNT (in my head everyone who works there is somewhat serious with a dark sense of humor; they wear a lot of black).  Their shows include The Closer and it’s step-child Major Crimes, as well as Leverage, Rizzoli & Isles, a reboot of Dallas, and a show called Perception.

Of most note to me here is Leverage.  You guys. I have seen a grand total of three episodes of this show and I’m already in love.  Gina Bellman!  Christian Kane!  Crime!  I’m overwhelmed by how much I love this show, and I know it’s only going to get better when I, you know, watch more of it.

I’ve also seen bits of Major Crimes, and so many ads for Perception I may as well have seen the whole show.  Both seem good, if not quite my usual style.  I love that Sasha Alexandra is in Rizzoli and Isles.  I missed her when she left NCIS oh way back when.  Overall TNT is pretty awesome.  Because when they aren’t showing their own content they’re playing repeats of The Mentalist, which is also awesome.  I’ll watch: Leverage when it comes back and Major Crimes when I’m at my parents house.

HBO is… heavy.  Everything they do is a huge production, and everything is well done.  The production value on everything they come out with is through the roof and that in and of itself is noteworthy (so here I am taking note).  Comedy and Drama, HBO is the real deal.  Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, and Veep are only the beginnings of comedy; and Boardwalk Empire, Entourage, Game of Thrones, and The Newsroom are all fabulous.

As previously discussed, I have mixed feelings on Girls.  It’s a working relationship.  Game of Thrones is one of the most talked about shows in the TV department and I can’t even start with my frustration over having been away while The Newsroom was airing this summer.  I still haven’t seen all of it.  Terrible television student, I know.  I’ll watch: The Newsroom.  And probably Girls.

The Discovery Channel is where I get my “reality” TV.  While I love scripted TV the most, there is a special place in my heart for shows that are unscripted and are actually able to teach me something in the process.  Or at least be wonderfully interesting and full of fun facts to spout out to strangers at a later point in time.

My favorites are most definitely Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.  Teaching me randoms stuff and being wildly entertaining.  I also think I saw Grant once on the street in San Francisco.  NBD.  I’ll watch Deadliest Catch in a pinch every once in a while too, but for the most part, I’ll watch: Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs (on repeat, forever).

BBCAmerica.  I love the BBC.  I love that they exist and use government funding to make cool shows.  I love that it’s British.  I just love it.  I don’t know that I can actually explain why.  I just do.  I love Doctor Who and Torchwood and The Hour and Sherlock and anything staring Gordon Ramsey.  Really.

At the moment Dramaville includes Luther and Copper, both of which have landed themselves on my too watch list.  I was underwhelmed with Copper upon first viewing, but I feel like I need to give it a second shot.  In the meantime, I’ll watch Doctor Who and Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

AMC is here so that it doesn’t feel neglected.  Though, with all the talk of their shows (especially Mad Men), I doubt that will happen.  I don’t actually watch any AMC shows for reasons that may or may not be legitimate, but I won’t know how much so until I get around to watching The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad or Mad Men.  Until then, I can’t make much of a judgement call other than to say that they all come fabulously recommended from people who’s taste in television I trust explicitly.

And that’s it.  I think, all cards on the table, I have to say that I don’t actually have cable.  I get TNT for now, though I’m not sure I’m supposed to (not complaining).  I go to my friend’s place and we rent out the media center to watch Doctor Who on BBCA every Saturday.  I get snippets of these shows from classes, loaned DVD’s, friends houses, Netflix, and the shows that are on Hulu or a network’s web player.  What can I tell you, I’m in college.  I can’t afford cable right now as sad as that is to me.  One day.

Cable provides an awesome place for creators to play.  There are less limits and bigger budgets which allows things to happen on a larger scale with more raunchiness or violence.  Neither of those things are elements that I’m always in favor of, but I do think that there is a place for it and in this world, that place is cable TV.