Summertime TV Blues: Sifting Through the Junk That You’ll be Seeing on TV Over the Next Three Months

Do you hate the summer TV schedule as much as I do?  Are you confused by why the best TV shows all take their hiatus from June – September?  I actually tried to research why all the TV stations give their best shows the summer off, but I couldn’t find any legit info.  My best guess is that back in the times before DVRs, TiVo and On Demand, these networks realized that summer is when families take vacations and spend a lot of time outside…meaning that’s when people are least likely to be sitting in front of their TVs every night.  But now with so many different options to tape your favorite shows, doesn’t it make sense that the schedule would adjust and there would actually be decent shows on during the summer months?  Apparently not.

I took the trouble of monitoring Entertainment Weekly’s “What to Watch” section for three weeks in May to see what new summer shows they were promoting.  Sadly, here they are:

United Stats of America – Twin comics make statistics about the USA interesting (doubt it) – History Channel, Tuesdays

The Devils Ride – Inside look at the conflicts and drama of a motorcycle club in San Diego (there was already a show like this that I didn’t bother to watch, wasn’t there?  Sons of Anarchy?) – Discovery Channel, Tuesdays

Around the World in 80 Plates – Competing chefs travel the world and learn about international cuisines, then try to cook the local flavors (sounds like every other cooking show) -Bravo, Wednesdays

Common Law – Cop partners have a problem—with each other.  So their captain sends them to couples’ therapy (what an incredible twist on the typical cop show!   Two men that have to go to couples’ therapy!  Groundbreaking stuff!). – USA, Fridays

Mom Caves – An attempt to show the world that moms need their private spaces for relaxation just like men need their man caves (every woman I know relaxes by watching trashy TV and reading gossip magazines.  So this show is about a room with one TV and a bunch of magazines?  Boom, show over) – HGTV, Saturdays

Pregnant in Heels – A “pregnancy guru” helps expecting moms through the joys and perils of having a baby (I’m not sure I even have a comment here.  This woman apparently helps pregnant women deal with major dilemmas…like how to go on a date when you’re eight months pregnant.  Sounds awesome) – Bravo, Tuesdays

Duets – A play on those other singing competition shows…only this time the judges actually sing with the contestants (I don’t listen to Kelly Clarkson or John Legend sing regularly, and I don’t even know who Jennifer Nettles or Robin Thicke are.  So it’s doubtful I wanna hear them sing with wannabe singers) – ABC, Thursdays

I Cloned My Pet – This might have been just a one-episode show, but basically it follows people who had an obsession with their pets, and those pets died, and now they’re trying to clone the dead pet, or something.

Hip Hop Squares – A hip hop take on the old Hollywood Squares show (seems like it’s geared towards a specific viewer, and it’s not me) – MTV, almost every day

Men At Work  – Four men navigate work, friendship and women (I’ve actually watched a couple episodes of this show as it’s the only sitcom on this list.  It’s pretty terrible…recycled jokes about one of the guy’s girlfriends wanting to have sex too often…there’s the stereotypical ladies’ man, the nerd, the guy who just got dumped and is depressed, and the normal guy.  Don’t waste your time) – TBS, Thursdays

It’s a sad list of shows.  But do me a favor and let me know if there are any shows on this summer that are actually worth watching.  And do yourself a favor and go see some movies instead of watching Pregnant in Heels.  Specifically go see The Avengers in 3D.  You won’t be sorry.

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Reviewing Three New TV Shows: The Bitch in Apt 23, Girls, Veep

Apparently female-led TV shows are all the rage these days.  When the new TV schedule launched last fall, people were praising all the shows that suddenly focused on women.  There are three shows in particular that women seem to have gravitated towards, but the only problem is that they are all differing levels of horrible.  There’s Whitney (Colossal Disaster), 2 Broke Girls (Regular-sized Disaster), and New Girl (Whatever one step below a disaster is).

I know what you’re thinking…how do I know so much about these “TV shows for women,” right?  Well, on my most unlucky nights, I’m sometimes forced to watch TV with women.  Unfortunately they don’t pick to watch the same NHL Network highlights over and over.  They pick the three shows mentioned above.  Whitney is so horrible that on one episode, you could actually hear boo’s coming from the automated laugh track.  2 Broke Girls is possibly the least funny sitcom anyone’s ever created.  And the only redeeming quality of New Girl is the hotness of its lead actress, Zooey Deschanel.  But even that isn’t enough to give the show any staying power in my mind.

I take most of my cues on what new shows to watch from Entertainment Weekly.  The magazine reminds you of every new show coming out on a weekly basis, and they make solid recommendations most of the time.  But I was naturally a little skeptical when I saw three more female-led shows hitting the TV within a couple weeks of each other.  EW gave all three solid reviews so I thought I’d try them all out and report back on my experience.

Here are my reviews and rankings of the three new shows in question:

3. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (Three episodes aired, Wednesdays at 9:30pm on ABC)

Terrible name.  Terrible show.

This sitcom is about June, a 26-year-old woman whose job as a mortgage broker transfers her from Indiana to New York.  The opening episode jams the theme of “naive midwesterner in a big, scary city” down our throats.  June’s life plan is to be married with a steady job by 26, have two kids by 30, blah blah blah…  All of that goes to shit when her office and apartment are seized by the feds because her boss is accused of embezzling money.  From there her life spirals out of control when she catches her fiance cheating on her with her new roommate, Chloe.

Chloe is the “bitch” from the title.  She’s apparently a con artist that does whatever necessary to drive her roommates crazy (walk around naked, have loud parties on a Tuesday night, go to the bathroom while her roommate is in the bath tub).  These roommates inevitably get fed up and leave, and Chloe gets to keep their rent money and security deposit.

This premise seems halfway decent if the show was centered around Chloe and a revolving door of roommates, but instead it seems like June is the center of this show.  That’s unfortunate because it means we’re in for 10 more episodes of her bouncing back and forth between, “I’m 26 and my life plan isn’t on track anymore, poor me,” and, “You’re right, why do I care about my life plan so much?  Let’s be spontaneous.”

After watching all three episodes, I can confidently tell you not to bother with it.  The plots are horrible and all over the place; the characters haven’t been developed very well; the funny parts that are supposed to be centered around the outrageous Chloe and her antics fall more than flat (as an example, in episode 2, the “humor” was centered around Chloe calling her dad “Scott” and treating him like a friend instead of a dad).  And somehow, these two women who were ready to rip each other’s throats out in episode one are suddenly chummy and happy to coexist in episodes two and three.  It’s also beyond unbelievable that June would stay in this apartment with the stuff Chloe puts her through.

Best minor character: James Van Der Beek…played by James Van Der Beek.  I’d watch a show based purely on this guy looking for acting jobs, but unfortunately Don’t Trust the B only gives us three minutes of him per episode.

Status on my DVR: Cancelled effective immediately

2. Girls (Three episodes aired, Sundays at 10:30pm on HBO)

Go ahead.  Laugh at me for thinking I might enjoy a show titled “Girls.”  But I like HBO original programming, and I usually give most of their new shows a try.  I understood the premise to be, “young adult trying to find her niche in life struggles to get by in a recession-era New York City.”  I thought it would be a show that all young adults could relate to as they try to find their place in the world.  I was hoping for universal themes and plots.  Unfortunately, after three episodes, it seems like this is a show for women only.  Here are some of the main topics and issues the characters have dealt with so far:

-Unwanted pregnancy and the subsequent abortion

-Getting your period when you think you’re pregnant

-Getting tested for STD’s because the guy who you have sex with regularly may or may not always use a condom, and may or may not be sleeping with other women

-Being a virgin at the age of 20-something

And for the most part, these things weren’t dealt with in a humorous way.  I could maybe get on board with that.  It’s a particularly heavy show, and while it’s extremely well done, I just don’t think it’s for me (call me immature, but I really do need some laughs with my daily dose of abortion, periods, and STDs).  The reason I haven’t ditched the show entirely is because I’m amazed by Lena Dunham (not in a “she’s hot” kind of way like Zooey).  She plays the lead character, Hannah, but also is the creator/executive producer of the show, and she writes and directs the episodes too.  That’s pretty friggen amazing for a 25-year-old.

Best line so far: “There is seriously nothing flakier in this world than not showing up to your own abortion.”  See, now that’s abortion with a humorous twist!  If only more of the show could be that funny.

Status on my DVR: Not cancelled yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

1). Veep (Two episodes aired, Sundays at 10pm on HBO)

Brilliant.  The idea to create a show focused on the Vice President of the United States isn’t brilliant itself.  But the combination of the genre (comedy), the tone (hapless satire with just the right amount of subtlety) and the lead actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) make it extremely promising.

You could almost describe Veep as “Parks and Recreation in the White House.”  It has the politician who means well but tends to put her foot in her mouth far too often. And it has her surrounding staff of misfits who can simultaneously get her out of a jam while creating a whole new problem.  If you like Parks and Rec, The Office or Arrested Development, give this show a chance and I promise you won’t regret it.

Best Minor Character: Speaking of Arrested Development, Tony Hale, who plays Buster on that show, is cast as Gary, the VP’s body man.  I have no idea what a body man really does, but it apparently includes taking a “sneeze bullet” for the VP.  And while we’re talking about the minor characters, I have a feeling that if you watch Veep, you’ll enjoy the VP’s staff more than the VP herself.  They are all amazing in their own way.

Best line so far: “Did the President call? No?”  It’s a running question from the VP to her receptionist, and you have to watch to appreciate it.

Status on my DVR: Taping all episodes, on the rise as one of my favorite comedies.