Summer TV 2008.

The weather is beautiful and how seriously television-obsessed am I that good weather gets me all excited for good summer TV?

I saw a commercial for TNT’s The Closer (July) and Kyra is just as cute as a button. Now here’s a show I think I’ll end up buying on DVD. I’ve actually never watched the first season, so I’d like to see it, and I love the characters so much, I wouldn’t mind watching seasons 2 and 3 again.

HBO’s Big Love has been in the news because of the real-life raid of a polygamist sect in Texas. No info about when the new season begins, but I’m starting to look forward to it.

Tonight, the season 1 encore of Burn Notice begins (every Thursday at 11 p.m. on USA). I missed Burn Notice last summer, but I’ve only read terrific things about it. Usually, that means a show is pretty decent. I actually did try to watch the first episode online several months ago. I was only slightly entertained until about twenty minutes in when the lead, Michael Weston, takes a call from his mother. I don’t remember what she said, but his reaction to that call hooked me. Nothing like an international spy with mother issues. Unfortunately, my connection failed after that. So I’m giving it another go by taping it every Thursday night. Of course, I can just buy the DVD set in June, but my concern about buying a DVD set for a show I haven’t watched is that this could easily be a great show I just don’t get (coughTheSopranoscough). I like shows about spies, but what if this turns out to be really male-oriented? (Internet Movie Database has a bunch of quotes from Burn Notice I find amusing.)

I have the same concern about Mad Men. What interests male reviewers may not interest me, no matter how great it is. A show about advertising executives in the 60s “when guys wore narrow-lapelled suits, guzzled bourbon before and after meetings, and smoked like a Neil Young guitar solo” just doesn’t scream Must-See TV for me. Mad Men is another show everyone is raving about, but the rave reviews seem almost nostalgic (even though the reviewers are probably in their twenties and thirties) for the days when white men ran Madison Avenue without fear of sexual harrassment lawsuits and lung cancer. 

I’ll have to take a look to see if any female reviewers love this show… Here we go: Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times – I assume Alessandra is a woman – says of Mad Men “Everybody read Reader’s Digest. Jews worked in Jewish advertising agencies, blacks were waiters and careful not to seem too uppity, and doctors smoked during gynecological exams. Women were called ‘girls.’ Men who loved men kept it to themselves. The magic of “Mad Men” is that it softly spoofs those cruel, antiquated mores without draining away the romance of that era: the amber-lit bars and indigo nightclubs, soaring skyscrapers, smoky railway cars and the brash confidence that comes with winning a war and owning the world. It’s a sardonic love letter to the era that wrought ‘The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit’ and ‘The Best of Everything,’ but homage is paid with more affection than satire.”

I don’t believe I’ll see the “magic” or “romance” in this show, but I’m willing to try. The season 1 encore of Mad Men begins this Sunday (every Sunday at midnight on AMC). The encore has actually been airing for a while, but it starts at episode 1 again this Sunday.

(A review from LA Weekly in which the reviewer says Mad Men gave him the creeps. Parts of the review, however, raised my interest.)

I’m mildly looking forward to the return of Entourage. After diligently taping every episode last season, I missed the season finale and didn’t care. I realized I’m only watching for Jeremy Piven and his assistant. (I loved Jeremy Piven when he had a two minute scene in Singles and when he starred in PCU. It’s a pleasure to watch his wacky self in a role that was made for him.) But I do enjoy the inside look at the life of a newly successful actor and his coattail-riding crew.

WGA Strike is Over.

Members of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East went on strike in November. Today, the three-month-long strike is over. I’m happy people in the industry can get back to work and that Jon Stewart will have a script when he hosts the Academy Awards February 24th. He does a great job when he improvises, but an awards show needs a script.

The strike gave me a much needed break from scripted television, but I’m looking forward to new episodes of Life when the fall 2008 season begins.

You can learn more about why the strike happened here.

Summer Television

I used to watch so much television it was like a second job. I blamed it on my friend in London who taught me, while he lived in New York, that one should never be ashamed of loving television. (This weekend he innocently got me hooked on UK Big Brother by sending a clip of houseguest Charley. Like a train wreck, she is so deliciously neurotic and egotistical you can’t look away even though you know you should.)

Summers have always been a welcome break from television for me. Lately, however, the smaller cable channels have become competitive players in this game of original programming, so I find myself looking out for new shows like Damages on FX (starring Glenn Close) and Saving Grace on TNT (starring Holly Hunter).

Right now, I’m watching three shows: The Closer, Big Love & Entourage.

Of the three, The Closer is my favorite. I’ve been a Kyra Sedgwick fan since I saw the movie Singles. In The Closer, Kyra plays Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, a CIA-trained interrogator with a weakness for junk food. When I saw a couple of repeats of season 1 earlier this year, it was Brenda’s penchant for Ding Dongs (or whatever those cakes are she eats) at the end of a long day that made the show (and character) a true winner for me. (Yes, sometimes that’s all it takes.) Not that I have a love for Ding Dongs. It was Brenda pulling open her desk drawer and biting into a chocolate cake as all the stress from the day eased off her face that did it for me.

The day after Father’s Day, I sat back and watched TNT’s The Closer marathon – every episode of season 2 leading into the 9PM season 3 premiere – and I figured out what else I love about Brenda. She’s hysterically funny without meaning to be. I really do adore people with huge, quirky personalities that are so natural they look baffled or embarrassed when you laugh at something quirky they’ve done. The rest of the cast is also pretty fantastic. The show airs Monday nights at 9pm on TNT.

Honestly? I don’t know why I tune into Big Love on a regular basis. I like Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Mary Kay Place a lot, so I knew I’d tune in when I heard about it. But it’s about a polygamist family of Mormon fundamentalists in Utah

Actually, that is precisely why I tune in on a regular basis. Doesn’t that sound disturbingly intriguing? I hate to be narrow-minded about it, but I’ve always believed polygamists use religion as a cover to be able to have sex with, and dominate, several women without consequences. I can’t say Big Love has changed my mind about that since it’s fiction, but I have learned that Bill Paxton’s character, Bill Henrickson, truly believes plural marriage is the way to get into Heaven. People who choose to live and dress a certain way because they believe it will give them passage into Heaven fascinate me. I don’t go out of my way to understand them, but I do wonder what kind of mind follows a word that says you must marry many women to be righteous, or whatever.

After watching the entire first season and what has already aired of the second, I still have no clear idea what the difference is between Mormon fudamentalists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One group (or both?) believes black people are inferior. I think about that when I watch the show, but I keep it far back in my mind. (Like when I watch the 1996 version of Pride & Prejudice and Colin Firth as Darcy says “Every savage can dance.” As much as I love Darcy, that moment brings me back to earth and reminds me Darcy would whip a black girl, not kiss her.) This week’s episode addressed Nicki’s (Bill’s second wife) loathing of Catholicism when her son brings home a rosary from his Catholic school. She dumps the cross in the garbage and visits the school to chastise the nun for protheletizing. Obviously, I have absolutely no understanding of Mormon fundamentalists since I was shocked by Nicki’s behavior. I just assumed the cross symbolized the same thing for Mormons as it does for Catholics. Nicki asks the nun what, exactly, they believe and it was at that moment I spaced out and missed the nun’s answer. Big Love airs Monday nights at 9pm.

I sat through the entire first season of Entourage before I decided I liked it. I want to say it’s Sex and the City with boys, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is different, despite being about four single best friends. The boys have different goals than the girls of SaTC, though they do share the desire to get laid on a consistent basis. The one thing that keeps me coming back to Entourage is Jeremy Piven. I’ve loved Jeremy since his small parts in Singles and Grosse Point Blank, and his big part in PCU. In Entourage, his talent really shines and I’m often tempted to buy the DVDs just to be able to watch all of his scenes over and over again. I do like the overall story of a New York kid making it big in Hollywood and taking his two best friends and brother along for the ride. It’s a fantasy a lot of us have. Vince is way too cavalier about his money and popularity – he leaves everything for his best friend/manager, Eric, to handle. That really gets on my nerves and diminshes his character for me. But I assume many young celebrities are like that. The other big draw (besides Jeremy Piven) is that, like Sex and the City, Entourage shows me a side of LA I don’t think I’ll ever experience. I don’t enjoy nightlife the way I used to and I certainly can’t afford to party the way the boys do. Oh, and I’m not as fabulous. So it’s really cool to watch that lifestyle on the small screen knowing I won’t have a hangover in the morning.

Next up: Damages and Saving Grace. It’s small things that make these decisions for me. Like the angel who looks like he needs a bath in Saving Grace and this exchange (an homage to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor?) between Glenn Close and a guy in the Damages trailer:

Man: If you were a man, I’d kick the living crap out of you.

Close: If you were a man, I’d be worried.