Sunday, March 26, 2006

Popping Off About Television

Here's a special edition of the Pop Culture report. Why is it a special edition, because I'm doing it on a Sunday. For the next two weeks, I'm going to write a bit about the prime time shows that I watch religiously. And since, we're talking about religion, let's start on Sunday nights.

Like most people my age, I begin the TV week with an old-standby, the Simpsons. Now in it's 17th season, the Simpsons have been on television since 1989. Nineteen fucking eighty-nine. Think about that for a second. There are a generation of kids in high school who have never known a time where new episodes of the Simpsons weren't on. I was a sophomore at Amesbury High School in 1989. I couldn't drive a car, I never had a sip of booze, sex? that was something that adults had. So much shit has happened to every person since 1989.

But the one consistent is that the Simpsons keep rolling on and on and on and on. Year in and year out, they keep producing episodes. Are they still the best show on television? No, if you do something for 17 years, you're going to ebb and flow. That's just the way things go. For a fan to even try and hold them to the seasons 3-8 is completely insane. That was pinnacle television. The satire was sharp, the plots were both plausible and interesting, the character development was second to none.

Now, well, things are a bit slower. They aren't as bad as it used to be and I think that, aside from the beaten to death episodes where Homer takes a different job or Homer and Marge's marriage is in trouble, the show is experiencing a renaissance. The last two weeks, the writing has been top notch and things aren't happening just to happen. What does that mean? Well, the writers aren't just throwing shit against the wall and hoping that it will stick. It seems that each episode is more thought out as to how it will affect the Simpsons lore.

Tonight's episode, the BBC Office creator, Ricky Gervais has crafted an episode, so it should be a sarcastically biting episode. This is one that I am really looking forward to.

At 8:30, I watch nothing. FOX has the dreadful, "The War at Home" which is like a dumbed-down version of "Married ... With Children". And while I used to really enjoy MWC, it wasn't exactly the Algonquin Round Table. Usually I just flip around for the half hour or watch part of a game. Beginning next week, Sunday Night Baseball is back, so that will be cool ... although that means Joe Morgan also comes back.

Why can't there be Death Cage matches between announcers. Would anyone be pissed if Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver fought to the death? How would anyone lose in that?

Anyway, at 9:00 I watch "The Sopranos". This is the first season that I've actually watched the show, which begs the question, "What rock have you been hiding under?" Actually, I watched the first two episodes when it first came on, thought that no one would ever watch the series (because it was so slow) and dropped it. Of course, it completely blows up and I'm on the outside looking in as Soprano mania runs wild.

Aly is a die-hard though and has gotten me into it and I have to say, it is a decent show. Very well written and as one blogger put it this week, "(the show) is more about words than about guns." Last week's episode seemed to plod along, but there was definitely a few layers to the hour that you don't get in most television shows. And the weird thing was, even though I am not familiar with the intracies of the characters, I was thinking about the episode all week. Just trying to figure out what Tony's dream meant, whether any of his guys are going to make a power play, what's going to happen with Uncle Junior.

There aren't many shows on television where you can do that.

And the last show I watch on Sundays, and it's because it's usually TiVoed is "The Family Guy". I have to admit, this show grew on me. A lot of people, namely most of "the Simpsons", "Ren and Stimpy" and "South Park" writers, hate this show because they feel it's lazy television. And to be honest, they're correct. Creator Seth MacFarlane seems to create a rudimentary plot around short sequences that usually have nothing to do with the story. The other shows actually construct plots that have a traditional beginning, middle and end.

In other words, you can walk into a Family Guy episode not seeing the first 10 minutes and being ok with the last 20. Not so on the other shows listed above. Does that make for lazy writing? I'm not sure. But it makes it easier. If you have 15 good ideas that don't need to have a common thread, that's a bit less tougher than having the same 15 good ideas and trying to weave them through a plot and making each of those ideas relevant to the story at hand.

Keeping on this idea, I've noticed that a majority of people, when talking about FG cite scenes as their favorites. On other shows, it's usuaally the episode.

That being said, it's still a pretty damn funny show no matter how they write or produce the show. Yes, it's different, but that doesn't necessarily make it bad. Peter is an obvious copy of Homer Simpson, except much dumber, but in my view he's not the star of the show. Most shows are based around him, but the rest of his family, notably Stewie and Bryan have the better lines and better subplots. Not coincidentally, they are the most fleshed out and strongest characters.

One note, it has been cancelled twice, hopefully FOX won't make that mistake again.