I suppose most of the new series have now premiered, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of which ones I plan to watch. I did this last year and also calculated how much television per week I actually watch. That won’t happen this year, as it takes too long and, this early in the season, time slots are moving and baseball gets in the way.
The apparent best new show so far is Heroes (NBC). An ensemble, serialized drama of a group of seemingly unconnected people who exhibit superhuman powers. Only two episodes in and it’s looking very promising. I’ve heard comparisons to Lost, The 4400, and X-Men, though it’s not like those are very original ideas anyway. The problem occurs when Heroes is criticized as a rip-off without the speaker even watching the show. Highly recommended.
On paper, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is the surefire hit of the new season. Aaron Sorkin is back to writing after giving us the best years of The West Wing and the vastly underrated Sports Night. All three programs give a behind the scenes view of something: a late night sketch comedy show, the White House, or a third place sports news program. All three feature talented actors and the sharpest writing you will ever hear. I suggest activating the closed captioning on your television so you don’t miss any dialogue. Following Heroes on NBC Monday night, it’s the new “Best new night of television” since the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel pairing. In case you were wondering about the real “Best night of television,” that begins tonight with the combination of Doctor Who and the return of Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi Channel (and since NBC and Sci-Fi are owned by the same company, Heroes gets an encore airing before Doctor Who).
Even though I was excited by the return of Sorkin, the pilot was excellent, but the second episode really dragged. It was very unexpected and uncharacteristic. People have been catching on that he likes to rant in the guise of character personality traits. Whether the rants are his personal beliefs or just a rant to get the audience talking, most of them tend to be one-sided. I hope the next episodes get back to the comedy-drama that is his skillset.
Ugly Betty is Thursday night on ABC. The buzz gave this one of the best new shows also. I don’t listen to those reviewers, preferring to watch everything at least once to give it a chance. That isn’t always enough, as a show can get better with more episodes (like The Office). This show only needed one episode to show promise. More funny than dramatic, it is based on a very popular Spanish-language telenovela, but those who watched the recent film The Devil Wears Prada may see more similarities (that film was also good). The title character, played by America Ferrera, takes a career risk by “uglying up” to play Betty. This isn’t the “girl plus glasses minus hair products equals unattractive” formula (well, it does describe her), but she’s not also the normal loser archetype. She’s not an outcast or clumsy girl with no friends. Give this one a look.
The Nine is another serialized drama that is very popular these days, what with the success of 24 and Lost. The pilot episode (only one episode so far) explained that after a bank robbery, nine hostages are the last to leave, with bonds formed during their ordeal. Like Lost, it will make use of flashbacks to show us what happened during the 52-hour standoff. We also know that some of the many hostages didn’t make it out alive, and that these particular nine people’s jobs/skills played a part (one is a cop, another a doctor, a couple of bank employees, etc.) in what went on inside. Hopefully it will explain things faster than Lost, which seems to be trying to lengthen its lifespan by giving very little information each episode.
Smith is another heist caper, and two of them failed last year (granted, one was a miniseries, but it didn’t grab huge ratings), so this one has a tough road. Three episodes in and it looks like they always steal what they intended to steal by the end of the episode. Are all these items meant to fit into a larger plan, or just small hits to keep the cash flow coming? It’s pretty slick-looking, but getting repetitive. I was going to give it a couple more shows to get going, but I read today that CBS is already pulling it off the fall schedule, with the possibility of burning off the remaining episodes later (usually after November sweeps or early summer), after all, they are already filmed and paid for.
The Class is a Monday night CBS comedy. Another ensemble cast of former classmates that reunite and form new relationships. Like Friends, the cast is split evenly among gender lines, but unlike Friends, the show is steering them into exclusive relationships, meaning all eight main characters won’t interact with each other like the Friends characters. If the show wants to live longer, it will have to find a funny way to mix up the pairings.
That’s it for the recommended network shows. There are a couple of cable shows I’d like to bring to your attention.
Food Network: Sunday afternoon – Nigella Feasts. This is pretty similar to Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites. Not having seen every episode of that series, this may even just be a re-branding, but it’s still fun to watch. She gives an intimate look into food manipulation and offers a homey feel to the camera angles. Some fans have called her show “gastroporn.” Watch it to see what that means.
Being a travel blog, I must point out the following two programs, one new and one returning:
On Discovery Channel Sunday night is the new “Discovery Atlas,” an insanely ambitious documentary series taking you to 30 countries over five years. The first one “China Revealed” displayed the reputation of Discovery Channel’s unparalleled production values. Fortunately, this is replayed many times during the week if you miss the premiere, but the premiere is always on the Discovery HD channel, which is truly the best way to view this series. The next three episodes feature Italy, Brazil, and Australia (guess which one I’m hyped about?).
5 Takes is the Travel Channel program (Travel Channel, like Discovery Channel, is under the Discovery Communications Inc label) that inspired me to create travel blogs. The new airdate is Saturday nights. If you check out the website, you can interact with the Travel Journalists and maybe even join a live chat during the show. This series flips it around from the last one. Series 2 took five Americans to the western Pacific Rim. The new Series 3 takes five western Pacific Rim travelers and sends them to eight cities in the United States, so now we can suggest even more things for them to see and do.