Thursday, October 12, 2006

Too Much TV For My Own Good

As the TV critic for the people (or at least the five or so that read this blog) I try to watch as many programs as I can to steer you toward good shows and away from bad ones. (At least in my taste, which is the only one that counts).

Unless it's something that I have a serious interest in, it's usually one-and-done, such as with "20 Good Years."

But every so often, there comes along a show that I have no prior interest in, but manages to hook me. This year, there are two.

I finally got to see the first two episodes of "Ugly Betty," (ABC, 8 p.m.) and I can easily see why critics fell in love with this show over the summer. It has charm and wit. I can't think of a subject I'm less interested in than fashion magazines, yet I feel compelled to tune in.

That's great credit to the cast, most notably America Ferrera as the title heroine, and the clever writing. The scene where Betty tries to dress for success for her first day of work and what she chooses was laugh-out-loud funny.

The other show that grabbed my attention after I watched it was "Friday Night Lights." (NBC, Tuesday, 8 p.m.) While the show does have some holes to it, it rings true with anyone who has ever had ties to high school football, and the writing has been clever enough to leave every episode open-ended, so you feel compelled to tune in next week to see what's next. (Also a trend with NBC's "Heroes.")

I have had people comment about both shows, liking them well enough and wondering about their sustainability (particularly "Lights" - what are they going to do when the football season ends but the school year continues?), but you can make that argument about any show. Right now, I'm just enjoying the ride.

MCNIGHTMARE: In case you "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) fans hadn't heard, stars Isiah Washington and Patrick Dempsey got into an on-set scuffle earlier this week. Washington reportedly grabbed Dempsey by the throat and shoved him during a heated exchange. Washington probably heard the phrase "McDreamy" one too many times and finally snapped.

DVD PICKS OF THE WEEK: This is a shout-out to my brother, Alex, who is a big fan of two series that are being released this week, neither of which I watch myself.

Coming out is the first season of "Everybody Loves Chris" a UPN show that survived the merger and now runs on the CW. It's the semi-true adventures of a young Chris Rock. The other show, which also had its debut season, was "Big Love" from HBO, starring Bill Paxton as a man with three wives.

I never watched "Chris," because of its timeslot, and I gave up on "Big Love" midway through the first episode. I find HBO shows to be a bit hit or miss. Some shows, like "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under" and "Rome," are terrific. But some of their other offerings I've never really gotten into.

Also out is "South Park: The Hits: Volume 1," in which show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone select their 10 favorite episodes of the Comedy Central hit. Also included is the original short that launched the phenomenon, "The Spirit of Christmas."

I try to stick with TV on DVD here, but I do want to mention that my favorite movie of 2006, "Thank You For Smoking," came out last week. Writer/director Jason Reitman is perfect in his adaptation of Christopher Buckley's satirical novel, and Aaron Eckhart deserves an Oscar nomination for his note-perfect performance as Nick Naylor, the spokesman for big tobacco.

THURSDAY'S BEST BET: If you haven't given "Ugly Betty" a try, now might be the time. Also, "Supernatural," (CW, 9 p.m.) has built on a strong freshman season. And, for those into guest appearances, Green Arrow makes his first appearance on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.), a week after his alter ego, Oliver Queen, was introduced.

Also, the Mets and Cardinals try again in Game 1 of the NLCS (Fox, 8 p.m.)


Zodin2008 said...

Wow, a lot of territory to cover with your Blog today. Good post.

First, "Big Love" and "Everybody Hates Chris" are both highly entertaining shows. You are the only person I have heard who watched "Big Love" and didn't get completely hooked (same with "Invasion" which was my favorite new show of last Fall season), but I find "Love" completely addicting.

"Chris" is a funny and surprisingly edgy sitcom because you have the 'real' Chris Rock (always hilarious) doing voiceovers on his young self going through all the pains, embarrassments and strife a young African American kid had to go through in a poor neighborhood in the 1980's. Very funny and poignant.

The knockout performance on the show taht deserves Emmy attention is Terry Crews as Julius Rock, the Patriarch of the family. Crew is an ex NFL player who's amazingly adept at comedy after seeing some of his laugh out loud scenes in silly movies like "The Longest Yard" and "White Chicks". Crews steals every scene he's in as Chris's penny pinching dad.

As for "Ugly Betty", I couldn't agree more. I also have zero interest in the subject matter but I got hooked instantly. Ferrera is excellent (in a star making turn) and also the rest of the cast works great--Eric Mabius as her rich and confused new boss, Tony Plana as her sweet, blue collar dad, and stealing the show potentially is Vanessa Willims in a Cruella de Ville type role that will get her lots of attention come Emmy time.

In fact, Thursdays at 8 pm is my buesiest hour of the week since I watch "Smallville", "Betty" and the NBC Comedies. Thank Goodness I own 2 DVR's.

As for "Friday Night Lights", it has had 2 excellent first two episodes and I will just 'enjoy the ride' also...especially with the low ratings the show may not last the year, a shame. It's amazing to me some of the fabulously written shows like this get no ratings love, but complete dreck like Reality TV and the dull "CSI" series are all top 10 hits. There really is no Justice.

ryang said...

Don't apologize for plugging 'Thank You for Smoking.' Brilliant stuff, and packed with laugh-out-loud-at-the-godlessly-crass-corporate-sharks punchlines. Even the presence of Katie Holmes, post-Cruise brainwashing, barely slowed this one down.

And I missed the second episode of Ugly Betty, but the first was great. They even made the titles stark and ugly, which I thought was great stuff.

Phillip Ramati said...

Ryang, don't forget, you can watch re-runs of Ugly Betty and other shows at

Zod, thanks for pointing out the performance of Terry Crews. I've heard a lot of good stuff about the actress who plays Rock's mom, but nothing about Crews.

And, if I'm the only person who hasn't liked Big Love, I'm apparently the only person who hasn't liked 30 Rock, so I guess I'm in good company.

Zodin2008 said...

"Big Love" is very good.

Tichina Arnold is excellent as the mom on "Chris" and like Crews, a worthy emmy nominee.

I forgot to add my enthusiastic thumbs up for "Thank Your for Smoking" and though the Oscars will ignore him, Aaron Eckart's performance was easily one of the best of the year---great flick.