Good TV: NOT an oxymoron

I love TV. Seriously. Well, let me qualify that: I love good TV, and luckily, there’s a surprising amount of it out there. My aim is to point some of that out.

Note: you will find few “network” shows on this list. Why? Because I despise 92% of “reality TV” (and the other 8% are cooking shows and the marvelous Deadliest Catch) and that’s about all that the networks feel like giving us these days. I like thoughtful dramas with a splash of smart sitcom. Hold the “reality” shows.

The list is after the jump:

  • Dexter: is a SHOWTIME series about a serial killer who only kills serial killers. Yep. He’s the good guy in the story. It’s really well written and acted. It’s a bit gruesome at times, but even The Wife (who has almost zero tolerance for watching violence) got sucked in to Dexter, though she cringed a lot. The second season starts September 30th. Also, I just discovered that the show is based on a series of novels. The first season is the first novel, and the second season is the second novel. Since there’s a third novel coming out in September, I hope that bodes well for it to be made into season 3 of the show.
  • Weeds: Also not new, but I just watched season 2 recently (and season 3 begins August 13th), and also from SHOWTIME. You know the plot: suburban widow takes up selling weed to make ends meet after her husband dies. It’s that and so much more. It’s surprisingly over the top and surreal at times, but also very real and moving at others. Plus, Mary-Louise Parker. Need I say more? I wish each episode weren’t just 30 minutes and the seasons only 12 episodes long (though I’ve heard that Season 3 is 18 episodes).
  • Entourage: Rounding out the subscription cable channel portion of our show (Entourage is on HBO) is Jeremy Piven’s tour de force as Ari Gold, agent from Hell. Sure, it’s not ostensibly about Ari all the time, but he’s the best part of a really good ensemble cast. The show that makes Hollywood (and all its attendant star bullshit) enjoyable.
  • The Closer: now to basic cable’s offerings ,we start with the best cop drama on TV. Kyra Sedgewick plays one heck of a mixed-up complex character as the transplanted Southern leader of the LAPD Priority Homicide squad. It’s more than worth it to tune in just to watch her each week. A solid supporting cast and consistently good writing makes it a must see.
  • Psych: USA’s Psych did not appeal to me in previews. I thought it would be stupid and farcical. The reality is that it’s smart and (sometimes) farcical, and, unlike most shows, has been getting better each season (we just started Season 3). Dulé Hill shines as the faux-psychic’s sidekick and straight man, Gus. Light? Sure. Funny? You bet. Better than 99% of what’s on the networks? Absolutely. Psych follows Monk on Friday nights. Monk’s maybe past its prime (though this season’s opener was good), but still better than most of the crap that’s on tv.
  • My Boys: Also on the light end of the scale from USA, a nice ensemble comedy that returns later in July. This show has a good spirit, and I love Jim Gaffigan, who reins it in and does a great job as a fairly-bewildered relunctant yuppie. This is exactly the sort of “small” (in scale, not in value) sort of show that could never make it on a network right now. It would take too long to find and build an audience and would get yanked after the second episode.
  • Burn Notice: Again, from USA and a little lightweight (though not as much as the above shows), is this sortof weird mix of the A-Team and Ludlum’s Bourne series. Ex-spy gets burned and becomes a sorta private eye in Miami while he tries to figure out who burned him. Has Bruce Campbell, which is always a plus in my book. Major drawback: the main actor sounds just exactly like Jerry Seinfeld and it drives me nuts. Otherwise, he does a great job.

So, there’s the list of the good stuff that I’ve been watching lately.

Some other good stuff that’s been lauded elsewhere:

  • Numb3rs (CBS)
  • Lost (ABC) (though I’m not always happy with it, but I’m stuck)
  • Battlestar Galactica (SciFi) (one of the best — if not the best drama on TV; returns in Jan ’08)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip RIP (Fuck you, NBC, you pussies, for canceling this amazing show)
  • Heroes (NBC) (worthy of all the hype; it’s good stuff)
  • How I Met Your Mother (CBS) (surprisingly funny sitcom, but would be nothing without the amazing comeback of Neil Patrick Harris)
  • The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS) (surprisingly funny Julia Louis-Dreyfuss vehicle)

Again, I would like to reiterate that I hate (almost) all “reality TV” (especially what it’s done to MTV and VH1 — remember when they were about music?), so that limits the networks’ watchability right there.

Check out some of these shows, especially the “summer” shows like The Closer, or Psych, or Burn Notice (and My Boys, which I imagine needs every last viewer it can get!). Then, pay for your SHOWTIME (or try iTunes) for Weeds and Dexter.

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