Sunday, September 26, 2010

Everything Good Is On Sunday Nights!

Your DVR is going to be smokin' tonight. How is it possible, what conjunction of the moon and stars makes it so, that Sunday nights bring forth such an abdundance of television riches? It's preposterous, it's counter-productive, but it's the way programming is done around these parts.

Tonight, Showtime brings back its hit serial killer Dexter for a fifth season, at 9pm. We've been big Dexter fans since the beginning, loving Michael C. Hall's cool and collected performance in the title role, Jennifer Carpenter as his sister (and Mrs. Hall in real life), and the great ensemble cast at the police department, including David Zayas, Lauren Velez (whose characters got married on the show last season and honestly were a little too cloying), C.S. Lee, Desmond Harrington and of course James Remar as Dexter's late father. Actress Julia Stiles (The Bourne Identity, Mona Lisa Smile, The Omen) joins the cast, and we are also promised several appearances, by some means, of Juliette Benz, as Dexter's slain wife Rita.

After last season's bravura freak-out of a performance by John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer, there doesn't seem to be one Big Bad this time around. Sounds more like it'll be Dexter Morgan integrating his monster into his new role as widower and single parent. We fervently hope that the show doesn't dwell too much on the kid angle; we're not looking for another domestic drama here. We want some of the thrilling Dexter-esque edge-of-the-seat action that we loved from previous seasons. We shall see!

So, Dexter is up against HBO's just-launched Boardwalk Empire, the Atlantic City-set gangster drama set in the vo-do-de-o times of Prohibition when the U.S. went dry but nobody stopped drinking. Boardwalk Empire is a must-watch, as is Dexter. As much as Dexter is a product of today's neurotic times, so Boardwalk Empire is a perfect representation of the 1920s, when traces of the 19th century still abounded but the vicious pace of the 20th was speeding up and crowding out the last vestiges of gentility. Highly recommended and of course you get the chance to see the wonderful Steve Buscemi fleshing out a conflicted Nucky Thompson on his rise to infamy.

If you stay with HBO you'll be treated to the return of two wonderful comedies in their sophomore seasons. Bored to Death, starring Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis (who thank goodness didn't bail after his movie The Hangover was a big hit) is up at 10pm. We loved this last year; it's an absurd, addled and delightfully silly comedy adventure of three guys -- an author, a magazine publisher, and a struggling cartoonist -- who are friends and get involved in detective capers, liberally aided by liquor and pot. It's got Brooklyn running through its veins, and the heart and soul of writer and show creator Jonathan Ames beating loudly within. Bored to Death is wonderful.

Back at 10:30pm is Danny McBride as washed-up baseball player Kenny Powers in Eastbound & Down, which this season finds Kenny working in the Mexican leagues south of the border. The comedy here is rough, tough, profane, and of course hilarious, and McBride is a great physical comedian which is used to perfection in Eastbound & Down. Powers is also a rabid womanizer and all-around crazy man, so expect the insane with this new season.

Of course, you're probably already watching AMC at 10pm as Mad Men continues its 4th season, where we're still grieving from the death of the precocious and hilarious secretary Miss Blankenship in last week's show. I think it presages a dark and ominous turn in the whole show -- enough of the laughter, now things are going to get serious. Don's daughter is seriously freaking out, Don himself is trying to turn over a new leaf but seems to me just as cagey as before, Joan and Roger are secret lovers doomed to unhappiness, and all the rest, including the not-so-ideal marriage of Betty and Henry. What a mess, and what a treat to watch!

Fire up your DVRs or arrange your viewing during the various encores of each show. There are plenty of opportunities to watch these great series -- not as many with Mad Men, though -- so no excuses for missing them. Five terrific series, so much talent and entertainment!

Sunday nights rock!

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