Being a student at a pretty rowdy party school, I go out fairly often, and though Thursday is generally a very busy night, I didn't feel like putting in the effort yesterday. However, I wasn't abandoning a big party on the penultimate weekend before finals because I was planning on studying or something (pshaw)...it was primarily because I had a date with my television. A few yards away from my dorm, girls were wrestling in jello with little people who'd been hired for the occasion (I shit you not - disgusting), while I curled up in bed with primetime.
Some may scoff at the third parent of America's children, but I think television's value is ineffable. So without even attempting to explain why I carve so much time out of my schedule to watch tune in, here's a brief overview of my must-see TV shows. One small disclaimer - there are quite a few quality TV shows on cable, but I just don't have that at college. Some, like Showtime's Dexter, I find a way to watch "on demand" when visiting my parents' house, but for the most part, my cable TV viewing is on hiatus until I move out of the dorms.
Mondays at 9pm on NBC
My appreciation for this show could be described as sinusoidal. I started watching it because it had gotten so much hype, and at first I was unimpressed. The first few episodes, however, got me telling people about how it was at least much better than most of the crap that gets picked up for networks nowadays, and isn't that really the best endorsement a fledgling series can get? As the season went on, I got more and more hooked. Some of the characters, like Hiro and Claire and Matt, are pretty interesting. Hiro, of course, is the most original, but those three capture my attention far more than the others. Peter's powers are, frankly, bitchin', but as a character he's kind of boring. Then there's someone like Niki/Jessica whose storyline has taken too long to be explained, and as such I lost interest in figuring her out or paying much attention after a few episodes. In terms of the storyline, though, Heroes wins at creating suspense and adrenaline for a series which, at first, stole too much from X-Men to be that exciting. At times there are a few too many things going on and an episode will thin out too much, but there is almost always a great cliffhanger at the end of each one, and it keeps me tuning in every week! The mid-season hiatus isn't something I'm pleased about when it comes to a show's first season, however, and I admit I've been a little forgetful by the time these last couple of episodes have aired, but I look forward to the new developments of season two.
America's Next Top Model
Wednesdays at 8pm on The CW
When ANTM came out, I never would have expected to want to see it once, let alone weekly, year after year. I started watching about halfway through Cycle 2, then forgot about it for a couple of years. But Yoanna's great face, and Shandi's boyfriend drama were better than a lot of scripted TV (yeah, I get that "reality" TV is as scripted as anything else, but I plan to devote a whole post to that eventually...). When I got to college, I finally had less homework and more free time, eventually found a group of Top Model Enthusiasts, and I am more than glad to have reentered their ranks. You see...the "skinny bitches show," as my dad calls it, is completely addictive. Though I generally couldn't care less about the modeling industry, somehow this show sucks me in. I can't really explain it. I went to all girls' school for nine years, so you'd think I'd have had my fill of girl-drama, but these hungry women make me nostalgic, I guess. And when the judges critique their posing or walking, I just eat it up. "Oh yeah," I'll say, "she needs to be a lot more fierce. She's hiding her neck, and has dead eyes." Perhaps it's because I'm waaaay too short to ever entertain the possibility of modeling, but I get such a feral kick out of criticizing these poor girls. I think if I were a fashion photographer and a model was being too timid on set, I'd pull out a conch and yell, "Sucks to your ass-mar!" Perhaps most importantly, though, I really don't like Tyra Banks. I am far too tired of the girls squealing every time they see her, I hate how "helpful" she is all the time, and 75% of the time she makes herself look like shit even though she's gorgeous. I love this show in spite of Tyra. That's a pretty big deal.
Wednesdays at 10pm on ABC
Last summer I rented season 1 of this show, in the wake of The Lost Experience, which made me feel as if I'd missed out. Having been in some sort of bubble, I really didn't know what to expect at all. But I specifically remember being completely surprised by the tense mood that the pilot put me in. It was pretty damn cool. I ate up the entire season on DVD, and spent way too many hours during my boring summer office job scouring the internet for LOST theories, explanations, and recaps. Season 2 came out on DVD right before the premiere of season 3, and it was a very tense race to the finish line for me, but thank god I made it. Season 2 was really spectacular, and though the current season has not exceeded it in suspense, I don't think it's gone that far downhill. The only characters I actually care about are Hurley, Jin, Sun, and Sawyer, but dammit I want to know the WHY of the island! This is where the show's creators really did it right. They had a good formula with flashbacks, and a good concept, but in the first few episodes they set up a system whereby they can always keep the audience waiting for answers. And I will keep watching until it gets explained. For the record, the episodes since the mid-season hiatus this year have been far superior to the first few of the season (barring the excellent premiere).
Thursdays at 8:30pm on NBC
For far too long, I was determined to dislike this show. Mostly, the advertising just never drew me in, and I have too many traces of Anglophilia holding over from my days as a teenage Janeite to want to buy into the Americanization of what I'd heard to be superb British comedy. So, I set some time aside within one of my favorite pastimes - watching whole seasons of TV shows on DVD in one or two sittings - to watch the entire UK version, followed by the first two seasons of the US show, which were available on DVD at the time. By the end of the Christmas special of the UK version, tears of joy in my eyes, my resolve to hate the US version was firmly in place. What Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Martin Freeman, Lucy Davis, and Mackenzie Crook did was magical. And I can still watch the show on DVD over and over again and be entertained. Then I watched season one of the US version, and was disgusted. Frankly, I still feel like the first season is entirely not worth watching for fans of the original. I've come to realize this is because the humor and energy of the writers and actors was being stifled by their unreasonable attempt to poorly imitate the dry genius of their predecessors. Seasons 2 and 3, however, have completely won my respect and admiration. I feel that the actors have finally been given an opportunity to breathe life into their quirky characters, and I am very glad that Steve Carell is not in a show that I at first thought was below him. There is only one thing about this new iteration of the WernhamDunder-HoggMifflin universe that irks me, which is that the pacing of the original is incompatible with the US version's desire to stay on as long as is financially possible. Let's face it - Tim and Dawn only worked as a couple because we had to wait until the last possible moment for them to get together. The Jim and Pam relationship has already gotten stagnant and recycled too many times, and I just hope the show doesn't go too far, too fast.
Thursdays at 9pm on ABC
This was another show that I didn't watch during its time slot until having rented the first two seasons on DVD. To be honest, I don't have too much to say about this show's substance. I think Shonda Rimes & co. do a fantastic job of unrealistically witty banter that women love, and I'm okay with buying into it. I got obsessed with this show as soon as I started watching it, and it's nice to have a show which has made me cry (heart-wrenching medical emergencies), laugh (oh, that droll Cristina Yang!), and think (ew, I hope I'm not too much like Meredith). Plus, there's a ton of hot hot hotties on it. I suppose on a slightly deeper level, I appreciate the show's treatment of multiracial coupling and families - not making a big deal or very special episode out of a Jewish Korean-American dating an African-American, or portraying a Hispanic woman as being the more powerful, wealthy, and intelligent in her marriage with a white man. I attribute this to the impressive diversity among the writing team, and as an aspiring screenwriter myself, it's nice to see a minority female doing so well in this field. I know the blind casting on this show is unrealistic, but I'm willing to suspend disbelief for a show like this. Also, Sara Ramirez, Katherine Heigl, and Kate Walsh are just goooorgeous. I'd watch them sitting around making quilts for an hour... I mean, come on!
Thursdays at 9pm on NBC
I only just started watching the episodes of this show which were on the network's website, so I can't really say anything comprehensive, except that the absurdist comedy works so perfectly to balance the outlandishness of the Tracy Jordan and Jack Donaghy characters with the awkward realism of Liz Lemon. I am very much looking forward to watching the whole 1st season on DVD, as I've had to relegate my viewership to catching up online as a result of my previously existing appointment with Grey's. Also, it's nice to have a Tracy Morgan fix that isn't watching Brian Fellow clips on the internet. For the record, Tina Fey is also my idol. She's funnier than I could hope to be, and she champions hotness for bespectacled brunettes everywhere!
ETA: Since the season finale, NBC has put the entire series of 30 Rock online. I totally watched the whole thing when I was procrastinating, and I recommend it as a way to put off doing anything useful!