Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

CSI: A Retrospective September 26, 2015

Filed under: Memories — Emily @ 5:53 pm
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Fifteen years ago, I was a first year graduate student at the University of Alabama. It was my first time living on my own (all my family and friends lived 5+ hours away), and when I moved to Tuscaloosa, I only knew one person there. That first year, I was attending school on a fellowship, which meant that I was given a monthly stipend to live on while I was working on my Masters in English.

Since I barely knew anyone in town, and since I didn’t have a job, I spent a lot of time alone in my little apartment those first few months. I used my free AOL dial-up to connect to the Internet and chat with friends on ICQ, or download music on Napster. But my constant companion during the fall of 2000 was television. Every night, I would sit down with my bowl of cereal or bagged spinach salad or Lipton noodles, and see what my favorite characters were up to. While I was firmly entrenched in the WB at that time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell, and Dawson’s Creek were all appointment tv), there was one new show that intrigued me.

CSI

The original cast of CSI. These were my people!

What I remember about the pilot episode is a lot of blue lighting and an unusual amount of screen time for a pair of shoes. I was skeptical of this show about unusually attractive crime scene investigators because it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who, at the time, I only associated with over the top explosions, dramatic electric guitar background music, and slow motion shots of groups of people walking forward (think Con Air and Armageddon). Despite my reservations, I just couldn’t seem to look away when the case of the week was revealed in the opening segment. And so began my on-again, off-again relationship with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Over the next few seasons, I enjoyed getting to know the characters just as much as trying to solve the crime. Would Warrick ever overcome his gambling addiction? Would Catherine ever get the respect she deserved? How was Nick such a nice guy when so many bad things happened to him? What made Grissom see the world so differently than everyone else? During that first solitary year of graduate school, and especially during the uncertain, dark days after 9/11, I took comfort in escaping into these characters’ lives and the fictional cases they investigated.

Fast forward a few years, and I was introduced to the wonders of Tivo! No longer confined to the limitations of live tv and one VCR, I expanded my list of shows. Somehow, when compared to Lost, Alias, 24, and Veronica Mars, Grissom and company were no longer appointment tv. And so, for a few years, I parted ways with this band of crafty crime solvers.

Fast forward to 2008. My life had changed a lot since the days of eating meager dinners in front of the tv in my 400 sq. ft. apartment in Tuscaloosa. I’d gotten married, finished graduate school, moved to Dallas, started teaching college writing courses, bought a house… And on March 1, 2008, Brad and I became parents!

One day as I sat in the living room nursing newborn Benjamin and flipping channels, I stumbled across an old episode of CSI on Spike TV. I was quickly drawn back into that world, and I wanted to catch up on what I’d been missing the last few seasons. Much to my delight, I discovered that Spike TV had nothing better to do than air several episodes of CSI everyday. Anyone who has experienced the challenges of breastfeeding knows that it’s not unusual to spend hours a day (or night) confined to a chair while feeding your baby. And so, in a different stage of life than my grad school days, CSI had resumed its place as my companion in a time of solitude. For the next few months, I became reacquainted with Grissom, Catherine, Nick, and the whole gang. I watched multiple episodes a day, and before I knew it, I was all caught up. I have vivid memories of watching episodes in the middle of the night, when our house was totally quiet and it was just me, the baby, and my pals in the crime lab. (I wouldn’t join Facebook until later that year, so I didn’t yet have my NewsFeed as a source of round the clock community.)

I guess now I could dub my marathon viewing of the first eight seasons “the great CSI binge watch of 2008.” Binge watching is easy these days, with a Netflix or Hulu subscription and some time to spare, but I had to get creative to record all the episodes, even with Tivo’s help. There were highs and lows in this batch of episodes: I was fascinated by the miniature killer story arc, and I was devastated by Warrick’s untimely death. Eventually, my rekindled fascination with the show waned, when I decided that the more gruesome or tragic episodes were too much for my newfound maternal feelings to handle.

While I was intrigued by Laurence Fishburne’s addition to the cast, his presence wasn’t enough to carry the show after William Petersen’s departure. My last exposure to CSI was probably in 2010. I’ve only heard bits and pieces about Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue being on the show, and that never seemed right to me. I still think of him as a bartender on Cheers and of her as Daniel’s girlfriend in The Karate Kid. Why are they now the leads on a crime drama? I hadn’t really thought about CSI at all for a few years until I saw a headline this morning about its series finale, which will air as a tv movie tomorrow night. When I read that Grissom, Catherine, and many of the other former characters would be returning, I knew that I had to watch it. It will be nice to revisit these old “friends” who I spent time with off and on over the last decade and a half of my life. Not even Jerry Bruckheimer and his cliched production values could ruin this highly stylized, clever, engaging show. While it might have gone on a few seasons too long, and while I could do without the comical number of spin-offs it has led to, CSI has earned its place in television history as a crime procedural with likable characters and clever execution. Thanks for the memories!

 

Retro Weekend: Best TV Show Theme Songs (with Lyrics) July 25, 2009

To wrap up my look back at the best tv show theme songs, I’ll list the ten best theme songs with lyrics. Again, I am limiting myself to the post-1980 tv world, but this time I managed to fit all the sitcoms and dramas into one list, unlike the instrumental theme songs. I hope you enjoy listening to and reminiscing about these songs as much as I did!

  • The Dukes of Hazzard – I mostly associate this show with the house of a lady who babysat me in the early 80s. It was an old, creepy (to a kid, at least), isolated house, with lots of mysterious steps and closed doors. The main living room is the only place that I and my siblings were allowed to go, and the one constant about the room is that, at least in my memory, The Dukes of Hazzard was always on the television! Maybe my parents happened to drop us off there on the same weeknight every time, or maybe there was some channel that always showed Bo and Luke joy riding in their General Lee, but whatever the case, this theme song’s laid back, country tone was an appropriate soundtrack for that house. “Just two good ole’ boys, never meanin’ no harm…” As for the song making this list, it is a classic tune that was perfectly suited for the show. Too bad that the show itself hasn’t held up well over time. I tried to stomach an episode awhile ago, and it was just awful – pure campiness, horrible acting, and very little plot.
  • Diff’rent Strokes – I have a vague memory of using this theme song as my answering machine greeting my freshman year of college. That’s about the time I bought a couple of “TV’s Greatest Hits” CDs and started reminiscing about the best theme songs. I love the end of the bridge with the harmonized “and together we’ll be fine.” This song has a funky beat and catchy lyrics. Fun times.
  • Growing Pains – “Show me that smile again, don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.” I love the sentimental, heartfelt lyrics of this song, and it is so singalongable. Whether it was the original version or the later version with the barbershop quartet singing, this may be my favorite tv theme song. It helps that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron in the ’80s.
  • The Golden Girls – Um, I just claimed that Growing Pains was my favorite theme song. Scratch that. Golden Girls takes that title hands down. What other theme song do I still spontaneously sing at random times – something I’ve done for almost 20 years now! What a wonderfully nostalgic song about lasting friendship. Sing it with me now: “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant. And if you through a party, and invited everyone you ever knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.”


  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air“Now this is a story, all about how, my life got flipped – turned upside down…” Back in the day, kids at school (myself included!) would pride themselves on being able to recite this tv theme rap from beginning to end. It really is fun, and was certainly an appropriate style for star Will Smith. His career as a rapper sure seems like a distant memory now that he’s a full-fledged movie star. I’ve seen reruns of this show from time to time, and it is quite dated, super cheesy, but still fun to watch.
  • Gilmore Girls – This theme song took some time to grow on me. At first it was too cutesy, sappy, and sweet, but after I had made my way through the first season or two of this mother-daughter dynamic duo show, I was singing right along with Carole King and her daughter Louise Goffin, as they sing about being there for each other – “all you have to do is call my name, and I’ll be there on the next train.” The song really is perfect for the show’s quirky tone and themes of sisterhood, family, and friendship.
  • CSI – From the opening chords to the dramatic closing chorus of “you, you, you, you…,” this song is very memorable. The song, “Who Are You” by the Who, may have been around long before this show began, but the crime show was my introduction to it, and so I will always associate it with those opening credit images of Warrick examining a shoe string, Grissom smashing a fake human head with a sledgehammer, and the other CSIs doing similar things looking equally attractive and stylish. The spin-offs, Miami and New York, are cheap imitations of the original, and though their theme songs are also by The Who, they lack the punch of “Who Are You.”
  • Smallville “Somebody SAVE me!” With that emotionally charged opening line, Remy Zero introduced us to the trials and adventures of a teen Clark Kent and his band of unsuspecting classmates. This show has lost a lot of its quality over the years, but the first couple of seasons were outstanding and fascinating. I still love the song, and it fit the show perfectly. The fairly recent trend of using pop songs as tv themes doesn’t bother me. If the song is well suited for the show, then why not use it? Another show and song that almost made this list are Dawson’s Creek’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole. I guess you could say that the WB perfected the art of choosing pop songs to represent tv shows.
  • FireflyWe move now from a couple of pop song themes, to one that is entirely original. Joss Whedon wrote the theme song, and Sonny Rhodes performed it, and it is about as close to theme song and musical perfection as you can get. It has a Western sound, and a mysterious melody, perfect for a sci fi space western, and its lyrics are very poetic and closely related to the show’s themes:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me…

  • Veronica Mars – “A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all.” I’ll close out the list with one more pop song, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” This edgy, unusual song perfectly represents this edgy, unusual show and its edgy, unusual heroine, teen PI Veronica Mars. As the show began, we learned that Veronica had once been popular but was now at the bottom of the totem pole, so the “used to be friends” lyrics are appropriate. Here is a character who channels her anger and sadness over what has happened into solving crimes and righting wrongs, all while trying to keep herself and her dad afloat in the social waters of Neptune. Can you tell that I was a big fan of this show? I didn’t even mind the new version of the theme song for season three. The slower, jazzier style seemed appropriate for Veronica’s new life in college, as she faced a slightly more grown up set of concerns and problems.

This wraps up my series of posts about the best tv show theme songs, unless I get around to making a list of the best “classic” (read: old) tv show theme songs. So which of your favorites did I leave off?

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TV Season Midterm Review December 4, 2008

It’s that time of year again. And I’m not talking about presents, cookies, and Salvation Army bell ringers. I’m referring to the absence of new tv to watch. About the time many of us put up a Christmas tree and hang some garland, the world of television takes a winter break. As a college professor, I am used to giving my students a midterm assessment of how they are doing in my class, so I’d like to take this opportunity to evaluate my tv shows as they reach the mid-season mark. I’ve done my best to list these shows in order from most disappointing to most satisfying:

  • Heroes – What a disappointment Heroes was this season, and I’m not alone in feeling this way, based on other people’s comments. I had been a cautious viewer since last season, but I decided to jump ship around the time that they killed off Adam, Mohinder was climbing up walls like Spider Man, and everyone else was speaking in cryptic language when they weren’t jumping back and forth between the present and future. I haven’t missed it one tiny bit since I stopped watching. Grade: D
  • CSI – I spent the last six months watching every episode of CSI in syndication, including those from the last three seasons that I had never seen (I quit watching when other shows I watched started airing at the same time). So I was excited that I would be watching this season’s episodes in first run. But now the luster of this smoothly produced show has worn off. Maybe I miss Warrick, who was one of my favorite characters, or maybe the gloominess that his death left in the lab is too much of a downer. Whatever it is, the episodes are piling up on my DVR, and I’m in no hurry to watch them. I’ve deleted a couple without even watching them. Maybe after so many seasons, this show has simply run out of new ideas. They are really grasping at straws some weeks. For example, what was the deal with the hypno-therapist that supposedly killed one of her patients? That story didn’t even make sense, and there was no resolution. I wonder if Lawrence Fishburne will have a positive or negative effect on this waning show. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Grade: C
  • My Own Worst Enemy – I’m not so much disappointed in the show as I am in NBC’s decision to cancel it. There was a time, a few weeks ago, when I would have called this my favorite show of the moment. That’s about the time I heard about its cancellation, and just like that I lost interest. This show had a fascinating premise, which kept it afloat even when the execution wasn’t the best. I guess Christian Slater will have to go back to making movies, but please no more video game adaptations or campy B movies! Grade: B-
  • How I Met Your Mother – This “best comedy on CBS” has vastly improved this season compared to last. I hated seeing Ted as a Barney wannabe last year, so it was nice to see him in a somewhat stable relationship with Stella the first part of this season. Marshall and Lily’s subplots haven’t been very interesting, though. The best thing about this season has been Barney’s newfound love for Robin. I like Robin so much better when she’s not with Ted, and it has been nice to see a softer side of the normally self-centered Barney. However, this show has never been appointment television for me. These days I watch it over dinner, while feeding my 9 month old sweet potatoes and rice cereal, so it hardly has my undivided attention. Grade: B-
  • The Mentalist – I’m never too excited about this CBS procedural, but Simon Baker keeps drawing me back week after week. The show always features a “where have you seen them before” guest star. A couple of weeks ago it was Terri Bauer from 24 as a psychic, and Chrissy from Growing Pains as the suspect daughter of a murdered woman. There are two things that make this show stand out from its CBS procedural brethren: Patrick Jane’s powers of observation, and the mostly light-hearted tone. I can only handle so much doom and gloom, so I find this show refreshing. Grade: B
  • Bones – I feel slightly better about this show than The Mentalist. It isn’t as predictable, the characters are more developed, and it actually makes me laugh in addition to being light-hearted. I haven’t been crazy about the decision to break up Angela and Hodgins, nor the revelation that Angela is bisexual and is now in a relationship with her college flame. The writers really wanted to keep her and Hodgins apart, I guess! This whole story has been very forced and unbelievable. But, there are many positives to make up for this. Brennan and Booth’s interaction continues to be a good balance of flirting and friendship, Sweets has been a great addition to the team, and Dr. Saroyan doesn’t even annoy me anymore. Grade: B+
  • The Office – This season The Office has had its ups and downs. Some episodes fall flat (the one where Michael and Holly broke up was hard to watch), while others are hilarious (the one where Oscar and Andy hang out together in Canada comes to mind). I’ve mostly enjoyed the sweet moments, like when Jim showed Pam the house he bought for her, or when Phyllis’ hug was the most popular auction item when they were raising money to replace stolen office items. The continuing saga of Dwight, Angela, and Andy is also amusing. The show doesn’t have me laughing constantly every week, but it never fails to put a smile on my face. Grade: A-
  • Life on Mars – I am loving this show so much, that I was angry when I found out there would be no new episodes until the end of January. They left it on quite a cliffhanger, with Sam listening to a creepy voice on a telephone in an abandoned house telling him to go down to the basement. And as if that weren’t enough, he found this house by deciphering codes at the bottom corner of all the files of cases he’s been working on since waking up in 1973. I like a little sci-fi in my tv, so I am more than willing to go along for this bizarre ride through time. This show’s best feature is, no surprise, its 1970s cultural touches. The clothes, the hair, the music, the cars, the references to movies and tv shows of that era. Also entertaining are the modern day cultural references that Sam makes without thinking, such as “high fives” or his impromptu performance of “Ice Ice Baby.” Sam Tyler is a very likable character. He’s cute, he’s determined to figure out what’s going on in his life and the cases he’s working, and he sometimes has a childlike wonder for the things he experiences in 1973, since he was only 5 the first time around in that year. This show seems like the type that needs to be wrapped up in two or three seasons, but I hope it can survive long enough to provide resolution. I’ll miss seeing it for the next several weeks. Grade: A
  • Fringe – This is my favorite new show of the season. I have been very impressed by every aspect of it: the casting, the acting, the writing, the character development, the strange plots, the special effects, etc. Kudos to Fox for developing this and a handful of other top notch one-hour shows. No one can say they put all their eggs in the American Idol basket anymore. My one concern at the beginning of the season was about whether or not Anna Torv would be convincing in the role of Agent Olivia Dunham, and whether her character would be likable. Well, Torv has done an excellent job, and the writers have given her rich material to work with. I now care about Dunham, as she deals with her disturbing visions of John Scott, and feel sorry for her, as she can’t find time for a personal life due to her demanding job investigating The Pattern. My favorite aspect of the show remains the interaction between borderline crazy Dr. Walter Bishop and his intelligent but troubled son Peter. This show’s premise goes a long way in making it entertaining to watch, but without its distinct characters and the ways they are being developed, I wouldn’t be so excited about watching it every week. This is the one show that I always watch the night that it airs. Grade: A+
  • 30 Rock – While How I Met Your Mother only makes me chuckle occasionally, and The Office keeps me smiling, 30 Rock has me laughing out loud constantly. I love its quirky characters, its ridiculous storylines, and all the little details that hold it all together (the music, the props, the fast-paced camera work, etc.). My favorite episode this season has been the one with the Night Court reunion. How random and fantastic was that? Not only did we see Harry, Christine, and Mac back together again, hear the familiar Night Court music, and end the episode with the freeze frame editing, but this episode brought us Jenna’s Were-Lawyer, Kenneth’s frozen fist pump, and Jack’s colleague Mi Au (pronounced Meow). It’s satisfying the Jennifer Aniston’s guest starring role wasn’t the only reason to watch. But I thought she did a great job as Crazy Claire. The guest stars are never gimmicky on 30 Rock. The writers always give them something funny to work with. Just one more reason that I love this show. Grade: A+

Now that most of these shows are going into holiday hibernation, it’s time for me to dust off my Netflix queue and catch up with my reading. It won’t be long until we welcome back 24, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Friday Night Lights. I may let go of a few more shows to make room for those favorites.

What shows have impressed or disappointed you this season?

 

TV Week in Review: October 13-17 October 18, 2008

Like last week, this week supplied plenty of new episodic television to watch. Read on for my thoughts, posted in chronological order, about the shows I tuned in to. Scroll down for the first ever poll on Eclaire Fare, and look for more to come. (This is a new feature that WordPress just added.)

  • How I Met Your Mother – I thought last week’s episode (in which the gang went to see Stella in New Jersey) was one of the best in awhile, so this one was mediocre by comparison. The variety of interventions that Ted, Lily, Marshall, et al have staged over the years was slightly amusing, but I was left a little confused by the end of the episode about what everyone had decided to do. Maybe that was the point. Based on the “one year later” ending, it looks like Robin didn’t take the job in Japan, and Ted didn’t move to New Jersey. Barney dressing up as “old man Barney” to pick up girls was pretty funny, only because Neil Patrick Harris is so great at portraying his character’s shameless manipulation and seeming lack of a conscious. (In real life people like that make me sad, so I wonder why it is funny on this show.)
  • Heroes – After last week’s lackluster episode, I was about ready to cancel my Season Pass to this show. However, I must say that this week’s installment has compelled me to keep watching. It was, by far, the best episode of the season. We didn’t have any of that nonsense with Peter jumping around in the future, or Matt wandering around in the desert. I found both of those stories, with Matt’s visions and Peter’s experiences in the future, very distracting, and felt that they convoluted the plot too much (i.e., at what point does the future change when something else happens in the present, and then what happens to the future versions of the characters). I am intrigued by the revelation that Daphne and Nathan’s spirit guide is not Linderman, but is in fact Matt Parkman’s father. (If you don’t remember, Mr. Parkman’s ability is that he can make people experience things that aren’t really there, as well as read their minds.) And I was further intrigued by the twist that followed – that Mr. Parkman is working for Mr. Petrelli, Nathan and Peter’s supposedly deceased father. He doesn’t look like he is in very good health, judging from his inability to speak (verbally at least) and his being bedridden. But he must be of sound mind since he is rounding up an army of formidable heroes, including Daphne, Matt, Hiro, and Adam (yay!). To what end? And who will they be fighting against? Perhaps Mr. Petrelli isn’t too happy with the way things ended between him and Mrs. Petrelli, or maybe he wants to regain control of The Company. That’s what her vision of the future suggested. I could say more, but suffice to say there is suddenly plenty of rich material for the writers to develop, and even better, it’s starting to make sense! Now if we could just bypass the silly puppet man story. I’d imagine that will only serve as a time filler next week, when we could be learning more information about the more interesting characters: Mohinder going all “Dr. Frankenstein meets mutant spider man,” Hiro stabbing Ando with a sword (I’m guessing he’ll teleport back in time to right that wrong), and Sylar trying to rehabilitate.
  • My Own Worst Enemy – I’ve already devote a separate post to this new show. To read my (mostly) positive review of it, click here.
  • The Mentalist – This was only the second episode of this show that I have seen. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the pilot. Mostly my waning interest was due to the clan of teenage suspects in the murder investigation of a surfer girl who washed ashore. (Didn’t that happen on Bones just a couple of weeks ago?) I tend to roll my eyes whenever television writers decide to make honor roll, Ivy League bound teenagers into (surprise!) remorseless killers. There is usually very little explanation for why the kids turn suddenly violent and psychotic. In this case, “she was gonna tell it” doesn’t cut it for me. So, my problem was with the particular case of the week, but I was still interested in Simon Baker’s character and his powers of observation. Patrick Jane is a quirky, very likable character. It was fun to watch him hang around the beach and draw everyone’s attention with his elaborate sand castle. What appeared to some to be him avoiding work was actually his way of collecting evidence. His trick of finding his co-worker’s hidden car keys was also entertaining. Is Baker enough reason to watch the show? For now he is. I’m interested to see if the supporting characters will be developed anymore. This week we learned that Teresa (Robin Tunney) dealt with her mother’s death and her father’s alcoholism as a child, and she had to deal with her emotions when the case they were working on involved a similar situation. So far, though, the other characters are little more than one-dimensional stereotypes whose sole purpose is to give Patrick Jane someone to impress and, at times, annoy. I’ll reserve my verdict until the show has had a chance to establish itself.
  • Fringe – This episode began with a frightening scene of a falling elevator (hmmm, that happened on Bones recently, too), caused by the electromagnetically charged guy who was riding on it. Agent Dunham and team commenced figuring out who was responsible and finding him before mad scientist Dr. Fisher could do more painful experiments on him. I felt sorry for this guy. He only responded to the ad because he needed more self confidence (that was certainly true), and he ended up unconsciously controlling all the electronics around him. I loved that we heard R.E.O. Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” not once, but twice, in this episode. Great ’80s song, and very appropriate for setting the tone here. We also received some answers about why Agent Dunham keeps seeing the presumed dead John Scott. According to Walter, during their previous experimental procedure, part of John’s consciousness crossed over into her’s, and the visions are her mind’s way of making sense of the “intruder,” since there is only room for one set of thoughts in her brain. Like all the “explanations” on this show, this one is a little hokie, but I’ll take it. I must say that I like Dunham more after this episode. Her interactions with John, her discovery of the engagement ring he had planned to give her, and her working through her grief and confusion all humanized her – something that had been lacking in previous episodes, in which she seemed too mechanical and stoic. I continue to be impressed by this show’s unique mix of humor, horror, conspiracy, and suspense. I loved the scene in which Walter rubbed his wool slippers on the carpet so he could shock Peter. At first I thought he was dancing to some music in his head, so when I saw that he was revving up for a demonstration of electromagnetic charge, I was surprised and amused. I only wish we had seen more of Peter in this episode. Maybe next week.
  • The Office – This was one of those downer episodes for me, with its focus on Michael’s sad personal life. (He wants to be a father, but Jan keeps pushing him away from his involvement with her child, and meanwhile his attachment to Jan is a deterrent to him moving on with a new relationship). But it did have its moments. Let me break it down a little. Funny: Andy mistakingly pegging Phyllis’ baby picture as Angela’s, and then telling Angela she was “being mean” (thinking she was being sarcastic) when she pointed out the funny looking picture that was actually hers. Awkward: Jan showing up for the baby shower with Astrid, when Michael had assumed she would call him to attend the birth. This was classic Michael/Jan dysfunction. Not funny: The “Dwight tests the $1200 stroller” story. It was too over the top, even by this show’s standards. Maybe it just pains me to see someone destroying brand new baby gear since it wasn’t too long ago that I went through that stressful buying process. Realistic: Jim and Pam having an “off day.” Of course this couple would have some hard times while they are doing the long distance thing. It was sweet to see their voice mail conversation at the end, though, when they might as well have been chatting with each other, they were so in sync. Sweet: The big hug that Michael gave Holly after Jan left. Holly’s tears were understandable, after how mean Michael was to her so as “to not offend” Jan. Good for him, though, for ignoring Jan’s out of place request that he not date Holly, and asking her out anyway.
  • Life on Mars – I am loving this show, particularly the clothing, the music, and the whimsical tone. Maybe not whimsical like Pushing Daisies, but it definitely has a more carefree, cheerful feel than other cop shows. Instead of everything being edgy and grimy, we get a suspect running out of a swimming club in a speedo, with Sam Tyler and his colleages chasing him down while decked out in similar swim gear, while fun and funky 70s music plays in the background. My favorite song this week was Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock,” which is both era-appropriate and thematically relevant, since Sam is trying to process everything on his own while everyone he knows is far away in another time and place. So it was nice to see him befriended by his hippie neighbor, who brought him lasagna sprinkled with her special ingredient (a little mary jane), and insisted that he dance with her. I am also surprised that I like Harvey Keitel in this show, since I have been disturbed by the very sight of him ever since I saw him in The Piano (picture him polishing a piano, completely naked – enough said). His character is a nice blend of political incorrectness, father figure in the department, and wise cracking tough guy. I’m not sure what to think of the little robot gizmo that kept showing up and giving Sam flashes of his life in 2008. That’s pretty bizarre, but I like that about this show.

The only show I haven’t watched yet this week is CSI. Well, I am also three episodes behind on Pushing Daisies. I’m not sure if I’ll ever catch up with it.

* If you answer the poll question below and choose “other,” please post which show was your favorite in the comments section so I’ll know what else I should be watching.

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TV Week in Review: October 6-10 October 12, 2008

It took me until Saturday night, but I managed to catch up on all my tv viewing before the week ended. To celebrate this accomplishment, I’ve decided to rank the shows I watched (the individual episodes, not the show overall) in order from best to worst, followed by my assessment of the episodes.

1. The Office – Best show of the week. This was another great episode of my second favorite comedy (only 30 Rock can beat it), and I was glad to welcome back the half hour time frame. Best moments: Jim recording Dwight’s personal time with a stop watch, Jim taunting Dwight with a horribly ill-informed discussion of Battlestar Galactica with Andy, Dwight looking knowingly at the camera when Jim concluded that Dwight does take personal time during office hours (as the audience and Phyllis know too well, Dwight steals company time with Angela in the supply room). I also enjoyed the staff’s confessions of ethically questionable workday activities, and Michael’s continued awkward flirtation with Holly. Could anything have been more uncomfortable than when he was trying to talk to her about chastity belts during their lobster lunch? She handles his social faux pas better than anyone else.

2. Life on Mars – I was pleasantly surprised by this new show. The music, the acting, the cultural markers, the story. All of it was very well done. I’m not sure how long this show can continue its “trapped in a time warp/trapped in my head” motif, but for now I am happy to go along for the ride. I am also unfamiliar with the British version from two years ago. A brief summary: Detective Sam Tyler is on his way to rescue his girlfriend from a serial killer when he gets hit by a car. When he wakes up, he is in the same neighborhood, but it is 35 years earlier, in 1973. His clothes, his car, and his surroundings are all 70s style. He doesn’t know if he has time traveled or if this is all in his head, but he decides to play along and solve crimes as long as he is there. It was refreshing to see this new, “old” spin on a crime show. The show runners have done an excellent job invoking the 70s through music, hair, clothing, furniture, etc. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the time difference is the treatment of women. Annie Norris, of the female police squad, is ostracized and not taken seriously by the rest of the police force, despite having a psychology degree and a keen sense of observation. I am interested to see how the show will evolve, or if it will even be given the chance to finish out its season. Based on what I’ve seen, I hope so!

3. CSI – This episode played out as a “requiem for Warrick,” as well as a hunt for his killer. I would have preferred for it to take longer than one episode for the team to discover that the undersheriff was the guilty higher up mole in the department who murdered Warrick to protect himself, but instead they solved the case and tracked him down in a tidy 45 minutes. Stretching the investigation and/or manhunt out over two or three episodes would have given Warrick’s sudden death more impact. As it is now, I feel like “what was the point” since the case was solved so quickly. Perhaps, though, it would have been too painful to watch his teammates mourn his loss and search for justice for more than one episode. Warrick was always one of my favorite characters, and I must admit I teared up (along with Nick, my other favorite) a bit as Grissom eulogized him at the funeral. In this episode we learned that Grissom was like the father that Warrick never had, and that Warrick was fighting for custody of his son, so his son could have someone to look up to the way he looked up to Grissom. It was all strangely touching for a show that’s normally about guns, guts, and guilt. I’d imagine we’ll continue to feel the ramifications of Warrick’s death in the coming weeks, but we’ll also see the team move forward without him. I wonder how Lawrence Fishburne will be introduced onto the show. Maybe Grissom will turn his back on this dark and difficult job and join Sarah in a happier, less stressful life. I’ll be watching to find out.

4. Bones – While I was still entertained, this was my least favorite Bones episode of the season so far. The lab tech of the week was not very interesting (there are already plenty of characters with an overabundance of trivial knowledge on tv, most notably Grissom on CSI). As for the case of the week, I didn’t even recognize the “prodigal son/turned suspect/turned following in his father’s he-she footsteps” until I read it somewhere else. That was David Gallagher, little Simon Camden from that “thank goodness it’s not on anymore” show, 7th Heaven. He was convincing here as the minister to misfits who became part of the investigation into his father’s death. The he/she gender reassignment angle of the episode made for an intriguing mystery as Brennan and Booth put the pieces together. All that to say, there wasn’t anything wrong with this episode – it just wasn’t as outstanding as some of this season has been. I will miss this show very much until it returns later in November. It is my Wednesday night escape!

5. How I Met Your Mother – The “New York is so much better than New Jersey” bit has been done so much on tv that I rolled my eyes when it became clear that was where this episode was going, with the gang throwing a fit about having to go to New Jersey to hang out with Ted’s fiancee Stella. However, the writers did the running joke justice in this case. Marshall’s rant about how he’s a giant man in a city full of small spaces, and how New Jersey is full of mega stores and cup holders and dog t-shirts, was pretty classic. And despite being a suburb dweller myself, I can appreciate the humor in a New Yorker’s distaste for manicured lawns and discount store membership cards. However, it was nice that the episode ended with Ted reading a story to Stella’s daughter in the comfort of her suburban home. There are different benefits for different people to living in the city vs. the suburb. The subplots of Barney begging for a fist bump and Robin quitting her job/riding a bike to get it back/quitting for real were entertaining as well. So overall, this was one of the better episodes of this show lately.

6. Heroes – I’m still not seeing much that makes me want to continue tuning in. The best part of the episode came at the very end when Hiro and Ando freed Adam (David Anders) from the coffin where he had been trapped since the end of last season. How refreshing it was to see David Anders’ beautiful face – not even tainted by his underground captivity – after an episode full of ludicrous developments. Too bad his appearance only lasted a few seconds. Sadly, these few seconds will have me returning next week to see him again.

7. Kath and Kim – It wasn’t like I was awaiting the premiere of this show with fevered anticipation or great expectations, but what an utter disappointment! One word I could use to sum it up: AWKWARD. And not in the good Office way. Molly Shannon and Selma Blair are well cast in their roles as Kath and Kim, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that there are no likable characters on this show, save for perhaps Kim’s on again, off again husband. Kath and Kim are a materialistic, celebrity gossip-obsessed, self-centered mother and daughter. What’s to love there? Kath’s boyfriend, played by mockumentary favorite John Michael Higgins, is funny at times, but mostly – here’s that word again – awkward. I don’t find humor in Kim giving up on her marriage so flippantly, over having to microwave dinner instead of eating out. I’m not expecting a comedy to be a social commentary, but with the disintegration of marriage in American society, it’s not humorous to have Kim’s broken relationship be a running gag. The scenes at the mall were a nice change of pace from a studio lot set, but mall scenes have been done better by a much better comedy: Arrested Development. I don’t think there’s enough story here to keep this mother/daughter duo afloat for very long. Perhaps this type of humor played better for an Australian audience (the current version is a remake of one from that country that lasted for four seasons). Some may find similarities between the type of humor found in Kath and Kim, and that of The Office. The difference: the audience cares about most of the characters on The Office. We want Jim and Pam to get engaged. We want Phyllis to feel good about herself. We want Michael to finally fulfill his dream of being a father. I just don’t care about Kath, Kim, and their men. I don’t plan to watch this one again.
Next week, I look forward to the return of Fringe. So far it is my favorite new show this fall.

 

From Sesame Street to 30 Rock: A TV Viewing Timeline June 1, 2007

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My earliest memories of watching TV include images of Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and Snuffleupagus (back when he was Big Bird’s “invisible” friend). I’ve waded through many shows since then, of varying degrees of quality and appeal. Here’s a glimpse into what my TV viewing was like at various stages of my life. I am sure I will leave some things out, but these are the shows that left the biggest mark in my mind. And a special thanks goes to wikipedia for having such clear and detailed information about every U.S. network television primetime schedule since 1946. Craziness!

Click here to peruse Wikipedia’s Primetime TV Schedule Pages

Early 1980s

  • Sesame Street – I loved the time I spent on Sesame Street with The Count, Oscar the Grouch, Maria, Bob, and the whole gang.
  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – The Land of Make-Believe. The trolley. The fish tank. Need I say more? Mister Rogers was a great tv neighbor for kids everywhere. There is no one like him for today’s kids.
  • Today’s Special – Remember this one? The concept sounds disturbing, but somehow I loved it as a pre-schooler: a mannequin in a department store comes to life at night when a magical hat is put on his head. He is joined by a store employee named Jodie, a puppet security guard, a giant mouse, and a talking computer, and together they have fun and learn new things. If you would like to do some more reminiscing, check out this very thorough fan site devoted to the show: Today’s Special Fan Website

Mid-1980s

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  • The Cosby Show – I watched the Huxtables through most of their tv lives, and enjoyed watching all the kids grow up while I did.
  • Who’s the Boss – This was one of my favorites during the ’80s. Who didn’t love Sam, played by cute little Alyssa Milano? I even had a poster of the cast hanging up in my room!
  • The Dukes of Hazard – Ah, the Duke boys. I don’t remember much about this show except for the General Lee (someone in my hometown had an exact replica that they proudly parked in front of their house) and the winding roads of the chase scenes. There was a winding, dirt road (at least that’s how I remember it) that we would take as a shortcut to my babysitter’s house, and often as we drove on it, I imagined that I was being chased by Boss Hogg. Based on what I have seen of this show in reruns, there wasn’t much more than cars and chase scenes to remember.
  • The Love Boat/Fantasy Island – I had to keep these two together here because they have always been linked in my memory. That makes sense, since they aired back-to-back on Saturday nights. As a 6 or 7 year old, I really didn’t know what was going on, yet I remember the opening sequence of each show very well: “The Love Boat” theme song playing while a cruise ship sails across the ocean, and Fantasy Island’s Tattoo shouting “the plane! the plane!” while ringing a bell. These were some of my very first television dramas, along with Simon and Simon, and Knight Rider. 24 and Lost seem so far removed from all of those – and so much better!

The Late 1980s

By the late ’80s, I was almost exclusively watching sitcoms – there were so many to choose from! I think I can safely say that I watched more tv during this phase of my life than I have at any time since, which is why I had to divide shows by days of the week. In my quest to jog my memory, I found a tribute to a fantastic collection of primetime sitcoms, with links to their opening sequences on YouTube. Enjoy!:

Click here for classic sitcom fun

Monday nights: ALF, The Hogan Family, Murphy Brown, Designing Women

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  • ALF – We watched a show about an alien who was played by a puppet? Maybe there’s hope for the new Cavemen sitcom after all…
  • The Hogan Family – My favorite thing about this show, besides the fact that it starred Jason Bateman (future star of Arrested Development), was that its name was changed so much. It went from Valerie to Valerie’s Family before settling on The Hogan Family for the rest of its run.
  • Murphy Brown and Designing Women – These shows marked the beginning of my viewing of a string of shows geared toward an older audience. I think the funny, distinctive characters drew me in. I even watched Newhart sometimes, for the same reason.

Wednesday night: Growing Pains, Head of the Class, The Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, M.D.

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  • Growing Pains and the Wonder Years have the two best theme songs of all time, in my opinion. They were both so catchy, and so in tune with the feel of the show. Growing Pains was another show where I enjoyed watching the actors grow up. And I still remember Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss on The Wonder Years. As for Doogie Howser – the adventures of a brilliant teenage doctor – there’s another ridiculous show concept that actually worked. It’s nice that after so many years, Neil Patrick Harris has finally found another memorable sitcom character to play. Now when I see him, all I think is “Barney” – not even a trace of Doogie is left.

Thursday night: The Cosby Show and A Different World

  • Of course I watched the Cosby Show spin-off!

Friday night: And so began TGIF – Perfect Strangers, Full House, Mr. Belvedere, Just the Ten of Us

  • And the catchy theme songs/opening sequences just kept on coming. I’m pretty sure now that none of these shows was really very funny, but those Olsen twins sure were cute, and I always found it a challenge to keep all eight of Coach Lubbock’s kids straight on Just the Ten of Us.

Saturday night: More “old people” sitcoms! – 227, Amen, The Golden Girls, Empty Nest

  • More catchy theme songs! To this day, I still break out in “Thank you for being a friend, travel down the road and back again…” from time to time. We are really going to miss those theme songs when we look back on today’s shows in 20 years. Theme songs and opening sequences are becoming obsolete.

The Early 1990s

As I moved into my pre-teen years, I moved away from sitcoms and toward hour long shows. I still watched some of my old favorites, and added a couple of new ones, like Night Court, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Blossom, but the early 90s shows I have the fondest memories of are the dramas.

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  • The Young Riders – Lots of cute guys riding around on horses delivering packages to people. I’m sure I wasn’t the only tween girl who watched this show.
  • The Commish – How interesting it is that when I watched this, I thought that Michael Chiklis, who played the title character, was like 45. In fact, he was only 28! He looks younger now, 15 years later, playing Vic Mackey on The Shield. The most upsetting thing that happened on The Commish is when my favorite character, police officer Stan, was killed in a car bombing. 😦
  • Quantum Leap – My clearest memory of this show is the last image of the series finale: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” That caption appeared on an otherwise black screen, and I cried. That seemed like such a hopeless, sad ending.
  • Twin Peaks – My family being the strange people that we are, we would all sit down and watch this strangest show EVER together. Log Lady, One-armed Man, Dancing Dwarf, no problem. We were all fascinated by the bizarre characters, storylines, and mysteries.

The Mid-1990s

In theory, my tv-viewing should have become drastically reduced during this time period, because this is when I got my driver’s license, which would have enabled me to find other diversions besides tv. Let’s have a look at what kept me glued to the tube:

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  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – Dean Cain was so cute as Clark Kent and Superman!
  • Party of Five – a pre-Lost Matthew Fox, and a cute teenaged Scott Wolf. Plus, this show made me cry every week. What more could a teenage girl ask for?
  • Friends and Seinfeld – It took me a couple of seasons to catch on to both of these classic shows. I preferred Seinfeld over Friends, and still think it is the superior show. But, during my high school years, they both gave me lots to laugh about.

The Late 1990s

By fall 1996, I was in college, which meant I had my very own TV and VCR on which to record my favorite shows while I was off studying or enjoying my newfound independence. So what shows were worthy of my VCR’s recording capabilities?

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  • The X-Files – This sci-fi procedural remains one of my all-time favorite shows. Mulder and Scully’s investigations into the paranormal were interesting, sometimes creepy, and always entertaining.
  • Ally McBeal – I was lured in by dancing babies, toilet flush remotes, and pet frogs – in other words, by the quirkiness of this show.
  • Dawson’s Creek and Roswell – And so began my love affair with the WB. Finally, a channel had arrived that catered to people my age! I would no longer have to depend on geriatric entertainment like Golden Girls and Empty Nest. Now I had shows about high school students. Sure, some of them were aliens, but I could still relate to them more than the previous characters I had been watching for so many years. Wednesday nights meant heading over to my friend Leah’s house to watch these two shows with a group of friends – a vanilla cream soda and popcorn in hand – with follow-up discussion of the episode always a given.

The Early 2000s

Now I had graduated from college and moved to Alabama to go to graduate school. I didn’t know anyone in my new city, so my tv kept me company. I added a few new show to ones like Dawson’s Creek and the X-Files that I was still watching.

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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel – I actually started watching Angel about two seasons before I started watching Buffy, which is unusual, since Angel was a spin-off of Buffy. In the end, they both captured my heart, and I still enjoy watching them in reruns even now.
  • CSI – This original version is the only CSI I have ever enjoyed watching. And although I started watching it with an extreme case of skepticism (due to my dislike of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s formulaic action movies), I quickly had to admit that Jerry had uncovered a gem with this one.
  • Smallville – The first season of this show was really interesting, but after the first few seasons I lost interest amidst the continuous “Lana in peril” storylines.

The Mid-2000s
And then came 2004, which as I recall, is when I received my very own TiVo for Christmas! With that gift came a golden ticket to any tv show I wanted to watch, and I took advantage of it.

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  • Arrested Development – There are so many classic moments on this show about the dysfunctional Bluth family, but one of my favorites is a scene where they give their various impersonations of a chicken. Who knew there were so many ways to do that?
  • Alias – This show was highly entertaining and had several likeable characters, including Francie and Will, Syd’s closest pals. The later seasons suffered from them not being there anymore, but I still watched to the lackluster end.
  • Everwood – I loved this show and still miss it.
  • Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars – Two shows focusing on young female heroines, and they both got cancelled this year. I enjoyed them while they lasted!
  • 24 – It’s like a rollercoaster that lasts for 5 months!
  • Battlestar Galactica – It’s not just for sci-fi geeks! It’s an excellent character drama that happens to take place on a space ship. The upcoming season will be its last, and I will savor every moment of it.
  • The Office and 30 Rock – I can’t think of any other comedies like them. They are both unique, quirky, and hilarious.
  • Heroes – Very epic. And I like the comic book touches.
  • Friday Night Lights – Love it. The characters seem so real, the story lines so touching. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!
  • Grey’s Anatomy – I have thoroughly enjoyed it until now, but it has gotten too soapy and annoying, so my plan is to not rejoin it in the fall.
  • Lost – The best show on television. It will be tough waiting until February ’08 for new episodes.

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So there you have it. Nearly 30 years of tv viewing. Some of it better or more memorable than others. Although this is an extensive list, it doesn’t even mention the after school and Saturday morning tv shows that I watched growing up. I’ll save those for another day. At some point I will also make a list of the best and worst shows I have watched over the years, but until then, I hope you have as much fun checking out the wikipedia primetime schedule pages as I did!

Click here to peruse Wikipedia’s Primetime TV Schedule Pages

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