Summer TV Viewing

As some of you may know, I've been contributing a little bit to the science fiction television site Television Zombies. They do a weekly podcast with news and discussion covering the world of science fiction in visual entertainment. It's mostly TV, but I know they've done a little about movies and one regular is a wrestling fan. I've been covering the 3am summer filler Charlie Jade. Unfortunately, CJ was made three years ago and never had a second season. Hopefully when the fall starts I'll be able to pick up a show that won't get shoved into a drawer. Still, I'm helping out by providing summer content, and that's cool in itself.

By the way, TVZ is having it's one year anniversary show this coming weekend and all the contributors will be on the podcast. So come Sunday night/Monday morning, make sure to check it out.

Which brought up the idea for this post. I started thinking about the shows that I watch and I realized it's a bit eclectic. See, I only have a few staples in my viewing diet. The rest of the time I'm surfing Discovery or History or Discovery Science for something concerning string theory or quantum mechanics or space travel or the history of ancient civilizations. I don't watch reality shows, I don't even watch shows mocking reality shows. To me that's like watching scientists experiment on rats and that's not much fun. The last reality show I watched with any frequency was the second season of The Real World on MTV.

So here are my current viewing choices. Keep in mind I have kids.

First and foremost, Doctor Who. This has been my favorite show of the past decade, easily. And it's a personal, inner AND outer geek love for this show. Other shows may be better written and produced but Doctor Who has been around longer than any other science fiction show and nearly every other TV show in history. It started in 1963 and ran until 1989. In 1996 there was a movie and then the series was revived in 2005 and is currently in its forth season. Doctor Who is campy, mysterious, funny, dramatic, action packed - it's just fun.

Another science fiction show, Battlestar: Galactica. Now I was a big fan of the original show as a child and it's held up moderately well, but nothing compared to the production value, dramatic tension and grown up writing that is the new run. Galactica is easily one of the best dramas on cable. Take out the vipers and Cylons and you really do have a well put together hour long drama. On sheer pathos alone I'd stack it up to any other prime time network show. Sadly the show is in the midst of its last season, a graceful four tours of high caliber entertainment.

Lost has always been a household favorite. Since its inception, Lost has grabbed our attention and never let up. There have been lags with characters and people will agree that some characters should have never been put on screen, but I think it's safe to say this show did to TV what The Matrix did to movies. Everyone wants to make a show like Lost now.

While Heroes has had its problems, I know I'll continue to watch the show until someone figures out how to properly do a super hero show for prime time network TV. Heroes always leaves me wanting more, but not in a cliffhanging, well written kind of way. It leaves me wanting more in the middle of the shows. More acting, more writing, more displays of awesome super powers. There's a lot of posturing and posing, not a lot of doing.

Charlie Jade makes me sad to think about. If you ever watched shows like Nowhere Man you'll appreciate the sense of dismay. This is a show that was set to fill in for Galactica during the summer and was instantly moved from the wonderful Friday night slot to Tuesday at 3am. It's a product of several international production companies, notably Canada and South Africa, and if nothing else, shows us what a decent show could be like without having to be handled by American studios. Charlie Jade is very noir, very slow and thoughtful and I believe that's why it never got a second season picked up. So, like Firefly, it'll have to live as an unfulfilled single season.

Rounding out the sci-fi stuff, Torchwood is a bit of a guilty pleasure to me. It catches a lot of flak for being both too serious and not serious enough. No one seems to like the characters but they also want more character interaction. They don't like the science fiction aspect but they want more plausible science. Personally, I like the characters immensely more than the idea of a time rift in Cardiff, England. It follows the same pattern as X-Files used to; some monster stories, some big story arc episodes. Plus its tie-in to Doctor Who makes it infinitely enjoyable to me.

The Closer is probably the only non-science fiction drama I've watched regularly. After so many Law & Order's, I couldn't see getting into another crime drama, but Sedgewick's performances and the rest of the cast's interactions are very human and very real without being forced. It's a pleasant show usually about very unpleasant situations.

If you haven't seen Psych, you're missing out. I don't know of many other hour long comedies and I actually wonder if they're really out there. Psych's two main characters are absolutely wonderful and completely make the show worth watching. It's charming and sweet and comical, all wrapped up in an old time WhoDunnit style mystery.

Staying with comedy for a second, Scrubs used to be my absolute favorite show. Over the years it got a little repetitive, but it's definitely a very unique show filled with fantastic characters and really well written stories. Hell, even the music they pick is good.

I honestly know people who have seen Futurama and have not liked it. I don't talk to those people any more. There are two kinds of people in this world; smart, funny people who love Futurama and stupid idiots that don't. It's that simple. You can have your Family Guy and Simpsons all you want. Neither holds a candle to the genius that is Futurama.

Moving now to unscripted and non-fiction, Mythbusters ranks among the top of my reality science shows. I'll watch any documentary at the drop of a hat, but how often do you get a show where they just blow stuff up if it doesn't work. However, the explosions aren't my favorite part of the show but rather it's the unexpected result that always gets me. An exploding beer keg, bulls not knocking over china, being able to see better at night by wearing an eye-patch. As long as they keep doing what they're doing, I'll watch for a long, long time.

Dirty Jobs has the best host in television history. Mike Rowe is the most personable, charming men I've ever seen. He makes the show what it is and I know that if they had any other host, the show would have been canceled already. My first viewing of Dirty Jobs was probably right as it started several years ago when Mike was sexing a baby chick. You have to squeeze it, make it poop, then check for the boy or girl parts. I was instantly addicted to the humor he brought to the show and the noble portrayal displayed toward these unheralded jobs.

Ok, I'm a fighter jet nut. Top Gun is one of my favorites, but just for the planes dammit! I have a poster of fighter jets that has traveled to many homes. I have a book about them that I read semi seriously. I can usually tell the type of fighter jet even from several thousand feet. So when I found Dogfights on the History Channel, I about wet myself. CG reconstructions of actual historical dogfights with narration and interviews by the pilots who flew them. I knew all the outcomes but it didn't keep me from holding my breath.

I sort of missed out on the big push by Discovery Channel for The NASA Missions: When We Left Earth. I haven't seen all (four?) of them, but I've seen a couple and I'm honestly considering a DVD purchase. I love our beleaguered space agency and this miniseries reminded me of why. Buzz Aldren may be off his trolley blaming science fiction entertainment for the failings NASA, but I know he's not talking to me. I love this shit.

Both Brian Greene and Michio Kaku have a few things in common; they're both theoretical physicists, they've both hosted television shows and I've read books by both of them. Kaku turned me onto the theory of superstrings with his book "Hyperspace" which is more about wormholes but touches briefly on the topic. He also hosted two of my favorite science shows, 2057 and Time. Brian Greene's "Elegant Universe" is one of my favorite science books ever AND one of my favorite PBS documentaries.

But hey, you're a dad. Don't you have watch any good kids shows? To tell you the truth, I don't. Most kid shows are just painfully banal or so beyond any semblance of normalcy that it hurts a couple of my cortices to watch them. I try to keep the kids on either Noggin or Discovery Kids, but lately LMA has been drifting to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network - the later I don't want a 4 or 7 year old anywhere near. That said, I have my favorites among the clutter.

Chowder is a truly odd show. It has no real endearing plots or moral tales and it usually follows the general sitcom rule of people trying to clean up a mess and not interacting like regular people would so the tension just builds until something explodes. The reason I like the show is because John Dimaggio is in it as the voice of Schnitzle, a character that speaks like the Hamburglar. I was listen to Dimaggio read the instructions on a Pop-Tart box.

The perennial favorite is of course Spongebob Squarepants and I'll tell you why it's gone on this long. The writing is genius. I don't mean Tolstoy genius, but if you can recall anything about comedy, cartoons, farce or variety shows of the last half century, you'll appreciate this show more and more. This is the current youth's Looney Toons. Where Bugs Bunny always seemed like worldly and wise-cracking, you got the sense that most of the jokes were only for adults who lived in New York. Spongebob really does broaden that horizon and fills the show with so many references that you'd be hard pressed not to find something worth watching. Plus, anything that uses the voice talents of Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway has got to be watched.

The Mighty B is a new show and Ms. A isn't too fond of it, but I love it. I like it more than the kids to I think. Amy Poehler voices the main character who has a hellacious lisp but also a depth of character you can't really find in other cartoons. For a 10 year old girl, she's smart and funny but more than a little off center. Poehler alone makes the show worth watching.

And finally, a show even Ms. A likes, Peep and the Big Wide World. Joan Cusack narrates this adorable little show about three friends; Peep, Chirp and Quack. They do the typical innocent exploration of the world around them discovering things like their reflections and shadows. Quack, the duck, is the highlight of the show. He's a know-it-all blow-hard but brings a level of humor to those traits I wouldn't think possible.

I'm sure all this will change once fall starts. There are a host of new shows coming out I'd like to at least give a chance. I mean, had I written this last year, I'd have included Grey's Anatomy which now makes me want to punch people when I see it.

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