Saturday, November 20, 2004

What I'm Watching

Since the introduction of M's new TiVo, we've been recording programs like fiends. The TiVo is mostly overloaded with exercise programs from FitTV (we're trying to work off that after-vacation flab), but other than the occasional football game and movies we want to re-watch or catch up on (The Maltese Falcon, Into the Void, Camp, Aileen - Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Paris is Burning and the camp classic 70s version of Flash Gordon), a definite pattern of our current most-watched programs has emerged. Certain changes may come into play when shows like Six Feet Under, The L Word and Carnivàle return from hiatus, but here are my recent top picks:

1. The Amazing Race - Flat out the best "reality TV" show ever and the one we most fantasize about appearing on. Basically a haul-ass race around the world with 11 couples in various relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, father/daughter, best friends) competing for a million dollars. With a bunch of exhausting extreme sport and brain teaser challenges thrown in, it never fails to be entertaining, frustrating, enlightening and superbly edited. The recent up-tick in selecting model/actors for the teams is irritating, and the Brooklyn team lost in the first round this season, but I highly recommend it. You can also find awesome recaps by the inimitable Miss Alli at Television Without Pity here.

2. The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart - Just what is all the media hub-bub about? Comedy gold, my friend. A satirical fake news show with just a dose more reality than The Onion, Stewart and his cohorts hit just the right note of humour mixed with actually useful political information, often with more than a soupçon of "can you believe what those numskulls are up to now?" incredulity and resignation thrown in. I tell you, my friends, I have been long known for my immunity to television comedy, but this one gets me laughing every time. How much do we love this show? M & I once waited in line in a NYC blizzard to sit in the audience. Just watch it.

3. Lost - An interesting take on the stuck-on-a-desert island scenario, wherein a group of plane crash survivors try to stay alive and understand the mysteries of the possibly magical jungle island they crashed on. While it has its faults, such as the usually too-pretty leads, horde of unnecessary line-less extras and sometimes ill-used and too frequent flashbacks, at it's best it can be almost as intriguing and foreboding as Carnivàle (only replace Anti-Christ-Sorcerous-Geek heebies with Creepy-Island- of-Dr. Moreau-type jeebies). This past week's episode was particularly riveting, as a former Iraqi Republican Guard officer faced a mysterious torturer. (Shiver...)

4. The West Wing - I know, I had actually given up on this show a while ago. Just as quality suffered when Joss Whedon went bye-bye from Buffy and Angel, TWW started a descent into awfulness with Aaron Sorkin's departure. But you know what? It seems to be back. The latest storyline, with former Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (played by smart-talkin' hottie Allison Janney) becoming the first female Chief of Staff, has been great fun. I don't have absolute faith in the show, but it is a bit of a balm to at least see a fictional president with humane, liberal values.

5. CBS News Sunday Morning - watching this is a venerable tradition I picked up from my dad. The rare television show that explores a range of stories from art exhibits to personal portraits to hard news with a deft and lyrical touch, it's almost as good as listening to NPR - and it's not even on PBS! Plus, the end portion nature scenes are so soothing...

6. Dead Like Me - technically, this isn't on our TiVo, as we've been watching it on Showtime On Demand, but it's one we really like. It's had some bumps in quality and continuity (what happened to gravelings being hard to see, the alternate faces of our reaper friends and only handling accidental deaths?), but this quirky, often snide dramedy with a heart of gold about people who die and have to stay on Earth helping other souls cross over is engaging and thought-provoking.

And that's the top 6. I'm not including Queer as Folk because M programmed that in, and I actually find it rather atrocious.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

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