Waiting sucks

Last week was an especially lame week for TV. It seemed like just about every show on every network took a break. And while FOX can blame it all on American Idol, there is just no excuse for the other networks.

At least Big Love was on. And boy was it good. I’m not sure how the writers are going to wrap all of the drama in just a few more episodes, but I’m excited to see them try. It’s nice to know that when the other networks are off, HBO is on.

Thinking about the end of Big Love, and anticipating Game of Thrones (more on that later), makes me even more excited for True Blood in June. And to be quite honest, the shirtless Eric promo that HBO posted this week doesn’t hurt either. Very nice. You’re welcome.

The fourth book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series has always been my favorite (a consensus among fans). Without spoiling anything, let me just say that everything changes. The storylines that began at the end of last year (Sookie’s troubles with Bill, witches in Bon Temps, werewolf politics, Jason’s relationship with Crystal, werepanthers in Hotshot, and more) will likely all be important plots in season four. 

The anticipation is killing me. Perhaps a True Blood seasons past marathon is in order. With HBO Go, a new service for  cable subscribers, you can watch any episode of any HBO show online. It’s not available for Time Warner yet, but if you have another cable provider, you should look into it. It sounds pretty cool. For my part, I think I’ll queue up the DVDs on Netflix old school style, and try to ease my True Blood withdrawal symptoms.

Lots of love for Big Love

Last season, Big Love took a few too many leaps, so many, in fact, that it came dangerously close to jumping the shark.  There was the weak subplot with Sissy Spacek, the bizarre standoff in Mexico, and Margene’s marriage to Goran. It all felt a bit crazy, and off track from the not-so-simple family dynamics that make this show great.

I’m pleased to report that a few episodes into its fifth and final season, the show is back on track and as good ever. In their own way, all of the characters are being forced to confront their core beliefs, making each hour interesting and surprising.

Barb, typically the bulwark of this family, is undergoing a heartwrenching struggle with her faith, as Margene is only just discovering her spiritual side. Nicki, on the other hand, seems to have worked out some of her issues, only to discover that raising a daughter is a lot more difficult than she expected.

As the wives are struggling, so is their priestholder, Bill. His political reputation is in shambles and his convictions have been continuously tested. Kudos to Bill Paxton for pulling off some very tough emotional scenes without over-acting.

Perhaps most intriguing of all is the new development with Lois Henrickson, Bill’s mother, played by Grace Zebriskie.  Lois has long been one of my favorite characters on Big Love, due in large part to Zebriskie’s ability to portray her as stubborn and sassy, but not contrived. Her dementia diagnosis comes as a huge surprise, and it should be fascinating to watch the family manage.

As it unfolds, I am increasingly bummed that it is the final season. Although they have gained some much-needed direction from the deadline, the quality of the new episodes is so good that I am not looking forward to the end.

Been a long time since I blog and rolled

Let me get back…the months of December and January are pretty slow in the TV world, and pretty busy in the real world. So I’m sorry for the prolonged blog absence. I’m still here, though, with a short post as I get back in the swing of things.

I’ve been watching The Vampire Dairies, 30 Rock, The Office, Big Love, Bone, Fringe and Jersey Shore, all of which have been awesome as usual (more on those later).

I recently added Parks and Recreation after a weekend-long Netflix marathon in which I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

Watching this season of Parks and Rec with the eternally good-looking and surprisingly funny Rob Lowe has only confirmed my love for this show. I even have the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness hanging in my cubicle at work. I especially enjoy the blocks for weapons, woodworking and welfare avoidance. My favorite thing about this show is the flawed, yet lovable, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler. Even when she’s screwing up, she always means well and she legitimately loves the bizarre cross-section of Pawneeans (Or is it Pawneeites?) who turn out for her city forums.

Does anyone else watch Parks and Rec? If not, check it out. Leslie is like a better, more likeable version of Michael Scott. In fact, the show reminds me of early episodes of The Office, when the writing was still fresh and the cast was still fun.

10 girl crushes: My favorite ladies of TV

I just love the wit and wisdom of Dr. Temperance Brennan.

                                                                         

On the way to work this morning, I was thinking about Bones. That got me thinking about Dr. Brennan, and how much I love her character, which got me thinking about some of the other cool ladies on TV right now.

My co-blogger, Mark, has said that we are in a Golden Age of TV. I tend to agree – there are so many good things to watch right now. Part of the appeal of many of the shows I watch is the strong leading lady. It used to be that such strong women on TV were few and far between. Of course, the ‘90s gave us Dana Scully and Buffy Summers, two monoliths of TV womanhood. But to my knowledge there has never been a time when so many women dominated the tube. And the great thing about these leading ladies is that they are such diverse characters – gone are the days of the token strong-willed woman trying to eke out a living among the boys. Here are some ladies of note.

  • Dr. Temperance Brennan (aka Bones, of Bones) – Leader of squints and lover of guns, she’s a highly objective scientist who blows away the stereotype of the overly emotional woman.
  • Annie Walker (of Covert Affairs) – This rookie CIA agent doesn’t need a partner to take down the bad guys in her way. She’s spunky and fresh, not your typical tough girl, and she’s a one-woman wolf pack.
  • Fiona Glenanne (of Burn Notice) – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You build bombs. You rescue boys. You kill bad guys. You have impeccable style. You have such a sharp sense of humor.  And I love the way you say, “Shall we shoot them?”
  • Debra Morgan (of Dexter) – She’s hot mess when it comes to the opposite sex, and she’s got a mouth like a sailor. In seasons past, her vulnerability bordered on annoying, but this year she has really come into her own.
  • Liz Lemon (of 30 Rock) – LL is the funniest woman on TV, simply put. She’s a proud nerd who’s not afraid to admit to wearing a bathing suit as underwear. Need I say more?
  • Margene Heffman, Nicki Grant and Barb Henrickson (of Big Love) – Three very different women (who I am counting as one, polygamist girl crush), married to one man. In four seasons, each has shown strength of character and vulnerability. The complexities of their relationships to one another go beyond the challenges of polygamy, and delve into the differences between each one’s ideas of what it means to be a woman, wife and mother.
  • Caroline Forbes (of Vampire Diaries) – Not the obvious choice from this show (that would be the main star, Elena), but I really like Caroline. And what’s more, I think she’s a good example for young ladies. Last year, she was shallow and mean. But over time, her character grew (and changed into a vampire) into a much deeper person capable of true friendship, love and compassion. This season, she has weathered her change with grace, and even stepped up to the plate to help Tyler handle his own change. She’s a nice example of how a young woman can transcend the cliques, gossip and stereotyping of high school.
  • Olivia Dunham (of Fringe) ­ – Olivia is a smart agent who follows her instincts. She not only solves mysteries in our world, she crosses to other universes as well. She is a fascinating character, capable of great emotional depth as well as detachment.   
  • Myka Bering (of Warehouse 13) – Myka left her gig with the Warehouse at the end of last season following the debacle with H.G. Wells. But if you ask me, the empathy she showed for H.G.’s loss added a new dimension to her previously businesslike demeanor. But don’t get me wrong – I have always appreciated her focus on being the best agent she can be, and putting that before her personal feelings.
  • Pam Swynford De Beaufort (of True Blood) – Again, not the obvious choice, which would be Sookie Stackhouse. However, I just love Pam. Classy and ruthless, she is equally commanding in the pleather Fangtasia costumes as she is in her two-piece pink suits.

Top 10 moments from True Blood season 3 season finale

We’ll miss you until next season, Sook.

Even with a full line-up of fall TV shows about to start, I am mourning the passing of True Blood season three. Unlike past top 10 lists, I have left my comments brief, as I have a few concluding remarks on this season. As I move on to Vampire Diaries (what a great first episode that was last week!), here’s what I’ll remember from the True Blood finale.

  1. Maniacal laughter from Sookie as she disposed of Talbot’s remains
  2. Russell Edgington, extra crispy recipe – Kudos to the makeup team.
  3. Russell Edgington, encased in cement for at least 100 years
  4. Bill vs. Sophie Ann – She’s old, but he has nothing to lose.
  5. Bill vs. Eric – I didn’t see that one coming.
  6. Sookie vs. Bill – Invitation revoked.
  7. Jesus is a man-witch.
  8. Tara’s new haircut is super cute, even if she is still annoying.
  9. Sookie’s close encounters of the Fae kind
  10. Alcide is still gorgeous, dreams of Sookie, and is quite eligible now that Debbie is missing.

Before I move on to other remotely entertaining shows, I have a few thoughts on season three. Even for devoted Truebies such as myself, there were times during last season when my interest in Marianne waned. And, truth be told, the season finale was lacking – it felt more like a prelude to season three than a wrap up of season two.

Despite some less than thrilling sub-plots (ahem, Sam’s dog-fighting biological family), this year’s story arc was awesome, and Russell stole the show as the primary villain. A quick look back at my top 10 lists reveals so many great moments that it’s hard to believe this wasn’t a network show with 22 episodes.

What’s a girl to do over the next few months without True Blood? Well, there should be a new book in Charlaine Harris’s series. And there is no shortage of good TV – I’ll be watching Vampire Diaries, Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound and Down, Big Love, Dexter, Fringe, 30 Rock, The Office, as well as trying a few other shows including Detroit 1-8-7, Blue Bloods, and The Walking Dead. So stay tuned, dear readers, as we deal with this nine-month fangover.

The rewatchability of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

There are some shows that are great, but you can only watch them once. A good example of this would be Big Love, a show I love but probably would not watch repeatedly.

Then there are shows that have a little something I like to call “rewatchability.” This is a term coined by me and the husband. Essentially, whenever we watch a show or a movie we rate it on its quality (using the Netflix five-star system), but we also rate it on its potential to be watched again.

Currently, I am watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on DVD. This show has classic rewatchability – it’s hilarious, the plots are simple and there is always some comic gem waiting to be discovered in an episode watched while, say, you are writing a blog post. I love Charlie Day. Five stars of rewatchability, hands down, for his comedic stylings alone.

Some other shows that have great rewatchability for me are The Office, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. What shows do you find yourself rewatching?

Big Love: It’s like Parenthood, if Parenthood was awesome

I really like Big Love. I’ve been watching it on DVD through Netflix, and yesterday I watched episodes nine and 10 from the first season.

The strength of this show lies in the actors’ talent (Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin) and the character development of Bill Henrickson and his three wives. Somehow, with a concept that is foreign to most people – polygamy – the writers and actors have managed to make a show that is, at its heart, about family.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an HBO production without plenty of crazy drama, but that is what makes the show interesting. The storylines that involve The Prophet and the compound are really gripping, even if they can be a bit off-the-wall at times. And that’s what keeps me coming back for more, because let’s face it – who wants to watch a show that’s just like real life? It’s like this – if NBC’s Parenthood was actually a compelling show it would be Big Love.

I, like Bill, am fond of each of the wives for a different reason – Barb for being the sensible anchor of the family; Nicki for being the crazy and stubborn, but tough-as-nails second wife; and Margene for the silly, but sweet, personality she brings into the mix. And I love Bill’s parents – Frank played by Bruce Dern (you might know him as Rumsfeld from The ‘burbs) and Lois played by Grace Zabriskie. These two play off each other so well. The Easter episode, in which Frank peed in the sink all weekend long to the horror of the wives, had me in stitches.

Do any of you watch Big Love? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ode to Netflix

While most of my posts up to this point have focused on what I watch on TV, I haven’t taken any time to wax poetic on how I watch TV. Mark and I have both praised the DVR, but for me Netflix trumps the DVR as the most innovative way to watch TV.

Specifically, I’m talking about the Netflix Instant Watch service, which comes with the mail plans. In case you aren’t familiar with it, Netflix Instant Watch allows you to stream movies and TV shows from the Internet to your TV. There are a variety of devices you can use – Roku box (that’s what we have), Nintendo Wii, X-box, and others. You can also stream on your computer.

The Instant Watch catalog is impressive – with tens of thousands of movie choices and past seasons of shows from nearly all the major networks. In fact, there have been numerous shows that I started watching on Netflix. Given my rave reviews of Lost, you would probably assume I’ve been watching from day one, but I actually watched the first five seasons from December 2009 to February 2010. Warning: this can become quite addictive and often results in a sleep-deprived, zombie-like state that your friends and family may assume is related to drug use. I also started watching The Office, Dexter, The Tudors and 30 Rock on Netflix.

Of course, for those shows not available on the Instant Watch, there is always the old-school, DVD-in-the-mail option. We have the three-movie-at-a-time plan, and have watched several great shows this way including Deadwood and The X-Files. Right now, I’m catching up with Big Love through the mail. Sometime I’ll talk about these shows.

What prompted this Ode to Netflix? Twas the night before last, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for my two cats. My husband in his boxers, and I in my PJs, had just settled down to watch nothing on TV. When I pulled up the Instant queue and realized The X-Files was added, I arose from my couch and shouted “Yippee!” I browsed to see what else was added, when what to my wondering eyes should appear – Bones, 24 and Arrested Development. I spoke not a word, just frantically clicked “Add.” And as the night waned, I watched 24 with bloodshot, tired eyes. As I dragged myself to bed at an all-too-late hour, I arose from the couch and said with a tired stammer, “Happy viewing to all and to all a good Netflix night!”