Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Belated Part Two of What I Watch

So, the last time we were talking about TV, I was writing about what I watched on Sunday night. There were a few shows that I failed to mention.

One is “King of the Hill”, which has been renewed for its 11th season. That ties the show with “Married … With Children” as the second longest running program on FOX. That blows me away, mainly because I thought when it was first introduced FOX was just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle by getting the guy who wrote “Bevis and Butthead” to do a show for them.

And when I watched the first episode, I thought it was country-fried version of Anderson, the slow-witted neighbor that B and B used to torment. Turns out I was completely wrong. You don’t see the kind of sustained character growth that occurs in KOTH in many sitcoms, much less cartoon ones, but this show has it in spades. And the good thing about it is, it’s not cheesy character growth either.

For example, in “The Simpsons” one can argue that Homer has actually devolved over the years instead of evolving. Not so with the KOTH characters, they have done something that is extremely difficult to quantify, but it’s there. Namely they’ve changed without changing. What I mean by that is that the characters are recognizable from the first season to the tenth, but they aren’t stagnant.

One example is Bobby. From the first couple of seasons he was a fat, lazy kid with no real motivation. Now he is still fat and sort of lazy, but he has a motivation. He sort of found himself and his calling in life. I know that it sounds really dopey to be waxing philosophical about a show such as this, but I really feel that it is the subtleties and nuances of this program that makes it special and has kept it going for more than a decade.

And another thing about this show is that even though it is set in a boring, Walmartesque town that could be anywhere in the Red States, all of the problems and plots are handled with a certain amount of gravity that while it doesn’t take itself too seriously, doesn’t short change the audience either. The writers care about these characters and in turn, the audience does too.

I just started watching this other show, which is why I didn’t really talk about it in the previous entry. The show is called “Big Love” and it’s on after “The Sopranos” on HBO. Aly was the one that got me into this program and for awhile I wasn’t really liking it. There are too many characters, too many over-the-top plots, too much crap going on and Bill Paxton’s naked ass.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically about a dude with three wives living in Utah. One of his father-in-laws is the head of a polygamous Mormon cult (that HBO is very careful to say aren’t typical Mormons) that hides in the Utah desert, his wives constantly bicker with each other over trivial jealousies and he owns a chain of Home Depot-like stores (in which his FIL is trying to take a 20% tithe). He also has a gang of kids, one of which I think that one of Paxton’s wife has a crush on and another is the really dumb chick from “Mean Girls” (so that’s not too bad). Oh yeah, George Costanza’s mother-in-law plays Paxton’s whacked-out mom, so that’s funny just to see her.

There’s a lot of shit going on and I think the first couple of episodes were done at a frantic pace because they had to set the groundwork for the upcoming season. Since then, it has slowed down a bit and the plots are beginning to unfold at a more leisurely pace. And since that has occurred, it has been a more enjoyable show to follow. Though there aren’t a lot of characters I’m rooting for, or that I particularly like, I’m going to continue to watch.

The only show that I watch on Mondays, is by far one of the best show on television right now. “24”. If you aren’t watching this show, then you are missing out big time on what has proven to be a weekly mini-movie. I was reading some comments on the show and someone hit the nail right on the head when they wrote that we (as an audience) sometimes take the effects for granted week in and week out. For example, last week an entire gas plant exploded. When was the last you saw that on television? That’s like the last scene of a summer block buster. And on “24” it was 15th hour.

Yes, the twists can be cheesy and there are some plot holes that you can drive a Mack truck through, but it’s an enjoyable show made even more so by the commitment of the actors. While easy to camp up and make kitschy, each actor plays their role with such sincerity and believability, that as a viewer, you have to take it seriously.

And Kiefer Sutherland is Jack Bauer for now until the day he dies, that’s all there is to it. And Mary Lynn Rajskub is going to be Chloe, Louis Lombardi is going to be Edgar and Dennis Haybert has shed his Pedro Serano character from “Major Leagues” and will always be the greatest President of all time, David Palmer.

Each week I am on the edge of my seat wondering what the hell is going to happen next and each week, the show delivers. Eventually, it’s going to wane … I know that, but for now, it’s a hell of a ride. And there are plans to release a “24” movie in 2008. Maybe I’ll start waiting in line now.