Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday's Rich Television Pageant

At the risk of repeating ourselves for about the hundredth time, Sunday completely rocks on television. Right now we are in the midst of returning seasons for three amazing Sunday night shows that we particularly love, plus a first round of a new series we've fallen for big-time.

On Showtime, the fourth season of Dexter has so far mostly avoided the dreaded domestic life doldrums -- he's now a suburban husband with a new baby -- though by a mile any scenes at home are a drag compared to the workplace goings-on. We long for more screen time for Keith Carradine as retired FBI man Frank Lundy, former amour of Dex's sister Debra, and we're totally creeped out -- deeply so -- by John Lithgow's chameleonic, hypnotic and horribly vicious Trinity Killer. (I think we're in for an awful Trinity kill very soon; last episode didn't Lundy mention something about a man being one of his victims? I've got a really bad feeling about this...Yikes. I think you know what I'm getting at.) If the show isn't perhaps quite as riveting as previous seasons, I'm blaming the homelife angle.

AMC continues the sublime television spectacle that is Mad Men. More a work of art than a traditional TV show, more suited to contemplation than mere consumption, this is one series that unfortunately suffers by its airing on a channel with commercials. They are intrusive and annoying, period. We realize many folks are recording and watching later, presumably whizzing through the breaks, but the exquisite and studied ambience of Mad Men deserves better than that.

However, we salute AMC for bringing us two of the very best series out there, the other one being Breaking Bad which they are replaying on Sunday nights, too. Breaking Bad has the most amazing generation-crossing friendship between its characters Walter and Jesse (Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul), second only to the considerably lighter but no less fascinating relationship between Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) and George (Ted Danson) on HBO's Bored to Death.

Bored to Death has become one of our favorites around here, with every performance a gem and with a charmingly off-kilter sensibility that pulls you in without fail. The friendship we referred to is a lynchpin of the series, with Danson's overly-rich, amazingly vulnerable and ultimately totally likeable George the magazine publisher a perfect match for Schwartman's nerdish and earnest neurotic Jonathan, based on the real-life author Jonathan Ames' works and life. (Jane wrote early praise for the series here.) Along with Zach Galfianakis as Jonathan's comic artist pal, the trio copes with their combined neuroses, girl troubles and outlandish predicaments with unique aplomb and considerable imagination. Bored to Death is highly recommended, as is the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm which immediately precedes BtD on Sunday evenings on HBO.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is back to basics with Larry David preoccupied with a Seinfeld reunion show, trying to get back together with his ex-wife Cheryl, and the usual collection of phobias, behavioral tics and unusual beliefs which combine into a bewilderingly hilarious farce. (I've been immersing myself lately in Seinfeld reruns -- usually three a day -- and though I love some new sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory, everything else seems just a little one note after the Rube Goldberg-like perfection of the average Seinfeld episode.)

We were sad to see Entourage end their current run a few weeks ago, and especially so since Kevin Dillon was absolutely brilliant and moving in the last couple of segments as he faced crippling audition anxiety. Equally wonderful was Rex Lee as assistant-turned-agent Lloyd, as was Jeremy Piven spectacularly desperate as Ari Gold particularly in the last episodes, but once again I'm not sure I'd even call the best of this series anywhere near comedy. What Entourage gave us was skillfully nuanced drama with some savage comedy thrown in. Seems weird to have something like this show, and the actors on it, competing a Emmy time with things like The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men. We really need a "Traditional Comedy" category and another for these more complicated hybrids -- think also Californication and Nurse Jackie.

Four great series, one super evening! Get set for the best night on television, coming up in a few hours! We can't wait!

1 comment:

Jane said...

Great summary of our beloved Sunday night TV fare! I agree with all your main points, although need to point out that AMC does try to make the commercial blocks a bit more palatable by throwing in some classic commercial trivia now and then. They could do more however. They could look for sponsors who want to really play into the Mad Men theme. Actually, I wish they would just sell it to one or two clients and then do some super creative arcs, old vs. new.

I can't believe Entourage is over again already. That show is greased lightening. I wish its season was longer. Kevin Dillon is a genius.