Spike’s Idiot Box: Let’s Get Serious

Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I’ve noticed that the current crop of television dramas is infinitely better than the current crop of comedies. I love a good comedy, but almost all of the ones I’ve watched this season are formulaic and a bit dull. That’s not to say they’re completely bad, but they’re largely unremarkable. In plots, characters and settings, we’ve seen them all before. I can’t believe all the good ideas have been used up. The vast majority could use a serious injection of creativity. Some examples include ‘The Big Bang Theory’, ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’, ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘The Millers’. None are without charm, but none reinvent the wheel either. On the other hand, when it comes to drama, my cup runneth over.

The Walking Dead‘ returned to television last week to the fevered excitement of its legions of fans, evidenced by its record-breaking ratings. It was kind of an unusual season premiere for the show, in that the plot unfolded at a relatively slow pace. I’m fairly certain that this is deliberate, showing how the group has fallen into a comfortable routine in a pastoral, bucolic setting, only to rip it all to shreds later. I noticed that there’s more putrification in the zombies; they’re more gray and decayed. Apparently, a virus is causing zombification in people before they die! I’m sure that the show has plenty of shock and gore to come.

In ‘The Good Wife‘, the partners at Lockhart/Gardner are trying their best to force Diane out after she gave an interview casting Will in a negative light. Meanwhile, Diane is doing her best to stay put, and it looks like the fight could be epic. Alicia’s alliance with Cary is put to the test, because Will wants her to take over Diane’s position as a managing partner. But Alicia is fed up with all the maneuvering and chaos at the firm, and ended the episode by telling Cary that they need to leave post-haste!

Kenny Powers is back in fine form in ‘Eastbound & Down‘. In the latest episode, Kenny takes his family and friends to a water park for some hedonism and fun. After a night of bingeing on booze and cocaine, he turns away a woman who was flirting with him after telling her he wants to stay faithful to his wife. You almost start to admire the man, but then he tries to take her up on the offer later. He’s shot down, but clearly, fidelity will be problematic.

The Blacklist‘ had an impressive episode and its first truly excellent villain. The Stewmaker is a creepy dentist who’s also the go-to man for powerful criminals when they need a body disposed of. His technique is to strip naked, extract a tooth from his victim as a trophy, don a gas mask, and chemically dissolve their bodies in a bathtub. Hairless, scarred and soft-spoken, he’s also clinical and quite deliberate. After the Stewmaker kidnaps Elizabeth and prepares her for disposal, Red saves the day and subsequently dispatches of the villain in his own disturbing fashion.

I’m still euphoric about the return of ‘American Horror Story: Coven‘. In last week’s episode, Zoe and Madison created their own Frankenstein’s Monster of sorts from the remains of the frat boys (including Kyle’s head) killed in the premiere. Zoe seeks the help of a Fleetwood Mac-loving swamp witch to reanimate him. Meanwhile, Mme. LaLaurie adjusts to modern times. We learn that Marie Laveau has cursed her to live forever, and LaLaurie almost evokes sympathy in her bewilderment at her predicament. This show is wild and elegant. It never disappoints me.

Sons of Anarchy‘ slowed its momentum down a little bit, for better or worse. After destroying their clubhouse in an act of vengeance, the Irish move their gun-running business to Clay. Jax and his crew attend a big SoA summit, where he tells the other chapters in attendance that they’re transitioning to legitimate business only, and that he would be happy to help them do the same. Which begs the question: What need does anyone have for the club if they’re all above-board businessmen?

HBO aired a trio of Academy Award-nominated short documentaries. ‘Mondays at Racine’ features two Long Island sisters who open up their hair salon to women with cancer. ‘Open Heart’ is about the plight of Rwandan children who travel to a cardiac hospital for surgery that might save their lives. The best of the three was ‘Redemption’, which takes a look at struggling New Yorkers who try to make ends meet by collecting bottles and cans for cash. They have their own community of sorts on the city streets, and you can almost smell the city as we follow them.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘ pulled off its best episode to date with ‘The Vulture’. Dean Winters (‘Oz’, ’30 Rock’) plays the arrogant, condescending Major Crimes detective Pembroke, who’s notorious for swooping in on cases that are almost solved to take credit for the arrest. The gang comes together to outmaneuver him, and the results are hilarious.

Against all odds, the Robin Williams comedy ‘The Crazy Ones‘ is kind of growing on me. A little. In the last episode, the gang procrastinates instead of doing the brainstorming needed for marketing a breakfast burrito. This is a throwaway plot, to be sure, but as I get to care a bit more about Simon, Sydney, Lauren, Zach and Andrew, my resistance is starting to melt and it’s getting less and less likely that I’ll axe the show.

I kind of enjoyed the ‘Walking Dead’ recap show, ‘The Talking Dead‘, when it was a brief 30 minutes. At a long, bloated 60 minutes, however, it’s full of boring bits and details that keep my finger on the fast forward button.

NBC has thankfully canceled ‘Ironside’ and ‘Welcome to the Family’. I don’t believe either will be missed. This network introduces ‘Dracula’ to its schedule this week, and I’m hoping that’s good. However, I noticed that the show is scheduled for Friday night, which doesn’t bode well for its future. I’ll check it out, but scheduling like this is certainly not a vote of confidence.

Which shows are your current favorites? Which do you find unbearable? Join the conversation below!

11 comments

  1. I enjoy The Michael J. Fox Show. It’s much better than I expected. Although it certainly doesn’t break any new ground, the characters are all likable and the show is consistently funny without talking down to the audience or straining to be “edgy.” The bit in the last episode where the sister read her trashy romance novel to the high school class was hilarious.

    The Talking Dead should not be an hour. It’s way too strained at that length. I like watching it after The Walking Dead, but it needs to go back to 30 minutes again.

  2. I also discovered this week that I’d missed almost half a season of Haven. I lost all of my series recording settings when I moved, and didn’t even realize this show had come back (since I don’t watch anything else on Syfy currently). So I spent the last couple of days catching up via On Demand.

    The show pretty much bungled its last season finale with a nonsensical cliffhanger, and this season has mostly been about the writers trying to get out of the corner they’d painted themselves into. It’s taking a long time to do that, but I feel like it’s finally starting to get there in the most recent episode.

    Burning through six episodes in a marathon helps a bit. I’d probably be a lot more frustrated with this if I’d watched the episodes week-to-week.

    That said, I still like the show, and I like the new girl who was added to the cast this season.

  3. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    I agree with your takes on the MJF show and Talking. I end up fast forwarding through most of the latter…it makes it better.
    I’ve never seen Haven, but I’ve heard good things.
    This week I’ve been catching up on Hello Ladies and the last season of Web Therapy. I’m enjoying both!

  4. NJScorpio

    I’m still liking the direction SoA is headding. To answer your question about what purpose there is for the club if they aren’t doing illegal business…it’s to be part of an MC! The brother hood, the bikes, the marginally legal business…they are still badass types, even if they aren’t running illegal business. Still, it would be less interesting to watch.

    I’m totally addicted to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I turn it on and just laaaaaaugh! GREAT stuff!

  5. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    I see your point about SoA. But I prefer my bikers outlaw!

    B99 is definitely my favorite of the new network comedies.

  6. William Henley

    I am trying to get caught up with all my shows. I normally let a show go for several months, and then watch a few episodes in a day over the course of a week or two. I was halfway through season 2 of Once Upon a Time when suddenly Hulu went and removed everything older than the current season (it seems they did this with a couple of other shows as well, but I was caught up on them). Luckily, seasons 1 and 2 are now on Netflix.

    Also been waiting for Netflix to get season 7 of Doctor Who, then it finally occured to me to check and see if it was on Hulu.

    It sucks having to have multiple VOD services to watch a single show (like Vudu has seasons 1 and 3 of Dance Moms, but not 2 – only service who has that is Amazon, and you can’t buy season 2 in a bundle, only episode to episode, which comes out to costing $80 or so to get all the episodes in HD, so I bought the DVDs). Still, its cheaper than paying for cable, and streaming HD is sadly way higher quality than cable or satelite in my area.

    • William Henley

      BTW, the reason season 2 of Dance Moms isn’t available as a complete season is that there is an episode that aired once in its original run, but hasn’t been aired again (that I know of), and wasn’t included in the DVD set, and isn’t available individually on Amazon (every other episode is). It could be a licensing issue, but I am more willing to bet that, because of the content of this episode, the parents decided not to sign off on a home video or VOD release.

  7. Very fun episode of Castle this week. Special guest star Morgan from ‘Chuck’, who thinks he’s a time traveler from the future. I’m so glad that the show dispensed with the Washington, D.C. storyline so quickly. No one bought for a second that Beckett would stay there.

  8. Michael Spike Steinbacher
    Author

    William…Do you have a Roku? All of the services you mention have Roku apps. And there are countless others. You can arrange your Roku channels however you like. It’s not really the same as having a single place to stream everything, but it’s close. The layout can be customized however you like it and the ease of navigation is impressive.
    I would have given up cable a long time ago. Unfortunately, my apartment complex has some terrible deal with Time Warner where I pay for it as part of my rent, whether I want it or not. So I’m stuck with them.

    • William Henley

      I have a Roku and a PS3 and have all those apps installed on both of them. The point wasn’t switching from one app to another, but rather having to pay for multiple services to watch a single television show.

      It’s an annoyance to find a show you are in the middle of to have a season suddenly pulled, to turn up a week or two later on another service.

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