I almost fell off my treadmill…

Michelle Fairley’s performance as the tragic Catelyn was unforgettable.
Michelle Fairley’s performance as the tragic Catelyn was unforgettable.

…a few times this year.

First a little background. Ever since I had my daughter 18 months ago, I don’t have as much time. I know – it’s the story of every parent’s life. I’m not complaining, but it means less time for TV, writing and running, three of my personal passions.

I bought a treadmill last fall and managed to combine two of my loves, TV and running into a one-hour time slot every morning at about 5 a.m. I haven’t figured out a way to run, watch and write, so the blog has suffered. My apologies.

Watching TV while running is an experience. Those of you who do it often know what I mean. An exciting show with a lot of action, like Arrow, means you are pumped up and running strong. Slow-burner dramas like The Americans or Justified mean you might be slogging along through a lot of good dialogue, constantly turning the TV up so you can hear the characters over your breathing and the sound of your feet hitting the deck.

And then there are those jaw-dropping moments when right in the middle of a run, a show comes out of left field, my mouth gapes open, and I scramble to avoid falling off the treadmill. There were a few of those this year. You know the ones – the real gut punchers. Like the episode of The Walking Dead where Laurie died. Or the episode of Sons of Anarchy where Opie got killed in prison.

Then on Sunday you had Game of Thrones and the now-infamous Red Wedding. I haven’t read the books, so I wasn’t expecting the massacre, and once again, I nearly fell off the treadmill when I watched it on Monday morning. I’m not going to recap – there are plenty of blogs out there that have already done so (here’s a good one. It should suffice to say that I was deeply moved and emotionally disturbed by the entire scene, especially Michelle Fairley’s performance as the tragic Catelyn.

The one drawback to watching TV at 5 a.m. on the treadmill is that it is a solitary venture. So I’m lucky on days like Monday that I have my co-blogger, Mark, to talk to. It’s like a water cooler therapy session. And I have you too, people of the Internet. Thanks for being there.

What makes a show great?

In the last year, the way I watch TV has changed a lot. Having a baby tends to shift your schedule around. So, instead of watching NCIS re-runs while I do my run at the gym, I now get up at 5 a.m. every morning and watch a lot of great TV on my home treadmill while The Husband and The Babe are snoozing.

And obviously, there just isn’t as much time to watch TV. So I’m pickier than ever about what fills up the DVR.

This morning I got to thinking about what makes a TV show great while I was watching Sons of Anarchy (probably in my top 3 favorite shows right now).

I came up with a bottom line answer that works for me. A show has to be truly believable. No matter how fantastic the premise (take The Walking Dead, for instance), a show has to be so true to its universe that you never question it.

This might seem simple enough. But to be believable, a show has to have excellent writing, talented actors and superior production value. Take just one of these factors out of the equation and you can forget about it.

In a lesser show, I might raise an eyebrow over the fact that a bunch of rival criminal organizations could exist in one small area. But Sons of Anarchy sells it. And every week, I keep coming back, because I just can’t wait to see what these characters are going to endure next. How they will survive. What they will have to compromise to keep going. Who they will become. And that’s how you know its good TV.

It’s bleak, baby

Ah, Sunday. Relaxing before the work week with these cheery programs.

Sunday is supposed to be a restful day. The last bastion of a carefree weekend, in which you recoup for the work week ahead.

So why is there so much heavy (albeit good) TV on this night? My lineup for Sunday consists of The Walking Dead, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire. Does this sound like a restful evening?

To preserve my glass-half-full outlook on life, I spread these three shows out and watch them on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from my DVR. Otherwise, I lie awake Sunday night, with dreams of gangsters scalping cronies, religious zealots dismembering runners, and nice people getting torn apart by walkers, dancing in my head.

It’s bleak baby. Does anyone else watch all of these shows? If so, do you have the stones to watch all three on Sunday night?

Blogging for two

Don’t forget to tune in for True Blood Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

It’s been a busy few months for me, so forgive my absence. Never fear, I’m still watching TV and talking TV, although blogging about TV has taken a backseat to another very important adventure: Baby Rogers.

My friends and family already know what I am just now announcing on Remotely Entertaining (and to the world). I am 16 weeks pregnant with my first little one. The husband and I are super-excited.

In between eating for two, running for two, and sleeping for two; I found time over the last four months to watch The Killing, Game of Thrones and Borgias, which were all pretty great. I also caught up with the first two seasons of Sons of Anarchy, an awesome, gritty, over-the-top show that I was instantly addicted to.

Now, I’m watching Teen Wolf, Covert Affairs and Burn Notice. Most importantly, this Sunday I’ll be watching episode one of True Blood season four. Stay tuned for Monday updates, as I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say.

Aren't they cute? Scott and Allison get up close and personal in MTV’s Teen Wolf.

The big surprise for me has been Teen Wolf. If you haven’t checked it out, and you are a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’d highly recommend you give it a whirl. I think it comes the closest to striking the Buffy chord of any show I’ve seen in recent memory – humor, supernatural elements, teen angst, good special effects and best of all, strong acting and writing.

Is anyone else loving Teen Wolf? Who’s going to watch True Blood this Sunday?

Three shows that you simply must watch

  1. Dexter, Showtime, 9 p.m.
  2. Boardwalk Empire, HBO, 9 p.m.
  3. The Walking Dead, AMC, 10 p.m.

I’ve blogged of my admiration for Dexter and Boardwalk Empire before, so I won’t belabor the point with a long review of each one, but if you aren’t already, you should definitely be watching. And yes, I realize that they are on premium channels (not a recession-proof commodity, to be sure) but I would argue that they are well worth the money. One way to look at it – for about the price of two movie tickets, you can get a month of both Showtime and HBO, and hours of excellent original programming, documentaries and blockbuster movies. This is starting to sound like a commercial.

Rick, played by Andrew Lincoln, is a true hero. While anti-heroes abound on other networks, he’s a breath of fresh, honest-to-goodness air.

I haven’t devoted any blog space to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Trust me it’s not for lack of interest. The show is completely amazing. I think I’ve mentioned before that the husband and I are avid horror fans, so I was prepared for disappointment. What I got was quite surprise. Here are some reasons why I like The Walking Dead.

  • The zombies are slow. Thank the gods – in recent years zombies have been fast and fierce, with super strength, and people have had little to no chance of escape. Boring rubbish if you ask me. These zombies are dead, rotting, walking corpses – slow and dumb but deadly in packs. Just like I like them.
  • Andrew Lincoln, who plays the lead character, Rick Grimes. What’s not to love in this protagonist? If you’re tired of anti-heroes, look no further for a bona-fide good guy. Rick is a nice guy, family man, good cop – you get the picture. He’s the type of guy you want to mow your lawn and then come in the house for a nice, cool lemonade.
  • It’s not all CGI. Kudos to the make-up team. The zombies look better than most of those that have graced the silver screen in the last decade.
  • It’s gory. Human entrails? Check. Horse guts? Check. Splattered brains? Check.  Even on the premium channels, you won’t find a gorier show.
  • The tragedy hits home. This is what I like the most about the show, and it’s really a culmination of all the preceding points. Zombie films of recent years lost this sense of deep melancholy in their hurried edits, metal soundtracks and CGI effects. Because of the slow pace, the superior effects, the excellent characters and stark realism, this show does something remarkable – it makes you feel.

Gasp! A TV-free weekend (almost)

L to R: Me, my husband's brother, and my husband, in costume.
On Friday after work, I met my husband and his colleagues for drinks. Before I knew it, the night was nearly over, and I was headed home in a food coma, induced by a ½ pound Louie’s burger and Guinness (fellow Akronites, you’ve been there). I had every intention of settling down in front of the TV to watch Jersey Shore and It’s Always Sunny on DVR, but I fell into a deep slumber.

The next morning, I ate my standard breakfast of yogurt and All Bran, and hit the gym for my daily 3.5 mile run and 30 minutes of cross training. From there, it was on to the grocery store, and home to make chocolate chip cookies for a bonfire on Saturday night. I promised myself, “I’ll get home early so I can relax and watch a little TV.” That didn’t happen.

Enter Sunday morning, and preparations for Sunday supper (pot roast, in case you were wondering) with my parents, grandparents, and in-laws. After everyone left at 5:30, the husband and I donned our costumes (mad scientists) and passed out candy for trick-or-treat, which lasted until 8 p.m.

After two completely TV-free days, I hardly knew what to do with myself on Sunday at 9 p.m., when I finally had a chance to plop down in front of the boob tube.  

What luck! I was rewarded with the first solid Dexter episode of the season. In addition to some exciting developments in Lumen’s storyline, Dexter finally gave fans a bite-sized, one-off kill. Albeit a sloppy kill, the episode was a winner – a perfect blend of Dexter’s sardonic humor, dark passenger and sincere effort to be a loving father.

After Dexter, I tuned into Boardwalk Empire on my DVR, and was treated to a stellar installment of this series. The writers peeled back another layer of Nucky’s character — revealing a childhood tainted by an abusive father. As Nucky and Margaret wrestle his demons and try to find a comfortable level of intimacy, on the Chicago front, Jimmy becomes friends with a disfigured war veteran and exacts final revenge on the man who cut Pearl. This is TV at its best.

This morning, I realized I forgot to watch the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. After such a busy weekend of friends, family and food, topped off by two great shows, I can’t say I’m too disappointed.