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On the 4th day of Festivus, TV gave to me...

by Richard Keller, posted Dec 16th 2007 6:01PM

'Samantha Who' is one of four shows you should be watching...Four TV shows you should be watching

Let's not beat around the bush -- television is a humongous, bloated wasteland. Granted, it's a humongous, bloated wasteland that I adore and worship any chance I get, but it is a humongous, bloated wasteland nonetheless. Due to the copious amount of crap that is placed on the airwaves many good shows are pushed aside, waiting for an unknowing viewer to tune into them and get hooked. Sometimes, these shows grab a few people, develop a following, and become a hit. Other times, they disappear down the television toilet, never to be seen again.

So, in order to save them from the Great Flush, here are four (plus a few more) shows that you should be watching.

Life -- Yes, I am partial to this show because I review it on a weekly basis. However, I wouldn't be watching and reviewing it week-after-week if I really didn't enjoy the show. And, I'm not alone. There have been very few negative comments about this NBC drama, which stars Steve McQueen lookalike Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews -- a cop wrongly convicted of a murder and given another chance.

On its face the show is just another criminal procedural. But, when you dig deeper Life is a character study of broken people who are trying to put their lives together. In addition to that, there is a very interesting sub-plot involving Charlie and his investigations to determine who set him up for the false murder conviction. In other words, it isn't Law & Order:SVU. As the show is currently on its winter break, now would be a good time to watch a few episodes at NBC's website.

Samantha Who? -- The best word to describe the ABC comedy Samantha Who? would be 'cute'. Sure, 'thought-provoking' would be another word, 'funny' would be a third, 'charming' would be another. But, I think 'cute' really encompasses the feeling of this show, which stars Christina Applegate as a woman with amnesia who is trying to make a better life for herself.

Applegate really makes the show, as she can do both verbal and physical (almost slapstick) comedy, and she is just cute as the dickens. What also helps is that she has a cast of television veterans, including Jean Smart, Melissa McCarthy, Jennifer Esposito, and Barry Watson, who work well with her in the ensemble. And, even though you wouldn't think that the whole 'amnesia' concept could be stretched to work on a series, it actually does. The producers are doling out all of her memories slowly enough to have the show last for awhile, if needed.

The Wire -- True, HBO is currently in a free fall when it comes to original programming (John From Cincinnati, anyone?), but there is still one show on its schedule that is worth watching. That is The Wire. This crime drama that really isn't a crime drama has been named one of the best shows on television by some pretty prominent people and publications. It also has a very avid, and verbal, fan following that extols everything about the program.

Like The Shield, The Wire explores all facets of crime in a gritty urban setting (can't get much grittier than Baltimore, Maryland). While at first exploring the battle between police and a drug dealing organization, the show has expanded its look into the city to include blue-collar workers, the school system, and politicians. In this last season, which will premiere in January of 2008, the show will focus on the media and media consumption.

The Unit -- With shows like CSI, CIS, Without a Trace, and Numb3rs gracing its weeknight schedule you could call CBS the Criminal Procedural Broadcasting System. However, there are a few shows on its schedule that don't involve examining a dead body under UV lights or pulling hairs from a leather jacket found in a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant. One of these is The Unit.

The Unit has a good bit going for it. Not only does it show the top secret military unit (modeled after Delta Force) going on missions, but it also reflects on the soldiers' lives at home and how the lack of information about their missions affects the people around them. The show also has a pretty strong cast, including former President of the United States Dennis Haysbert, Regina Taylor, and Scott Foley. In addition to that, it still has some original episodes up its sleeve. So, it's certainly something to watch while your other favorites are in repeat mode.

Two more shows to watch from across the pond...

Torchwood -- If you like your British science fiction a bit grittier than Doctor Who then Torchwood is the show for you. Currently airing on BBC America this Doctor Who spin-off features Captain Jack Harkness as the leader of the mysterious organization Torchwood -- a group that vows to guard humanity against alien threats.

Rather than span time and the universe like Doctor Who, the show remains in present day Cardiff (the Sunnydale of the United Kingdom, it seems) and features characters that sort of like, sort of hate each other. There's swearing, nudity, and a bit of girl-on-girl, kissy-kissy action to catch the attention of non-science fiction watching viewers.

Jekyll -- If this show pops up again on BBC America make sure you set your DVR to record it. If you see a DVD of the complete first series of the show at your local dealer pick it up. It's one great friggin show!

Jekyll is the story of Dr. Tom Jackman, a modern day descendant of Dr. Jekyll. Tom has all of his distant relative's quirks, including the annoying habit of turning into someone with a bit of a murderous streak. The show mixes horror, science fiction, secret government organizations, and a bit of super-heroism all into one. Hopefully we will see a second series of the program in the not too distant future.

Ten reality television nuggets
Nine Writers' Strike supporting sites
Eight seasons to look forward to
Seven sites worth linking
Six welcome returns
Five canceled shows

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WE LOVE "LIFE"... and no one else we know watches it!! Ever since the first episode where Charlie told the dying junkie kid "This is all just a bad dream... close your eyes and go back to sleep" I have been totally under this show's spell. Yeah, it's weird and quirky, and that's what makes it so great. It nice to see a cop show with a sense of humor and playfulness that still manages to be a serious and compelling drama. YAY LIFE!!

December 18 2007 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Unit is amazing. I also enjoy Samantha Who?. Great list.

December 17 2007 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The biggest disappointment was not "John from Cincinnati" the show, but the reaction it elicited from all so-called professional TV critics. JFC is the philosophical work of the Master (David Milch), who dared and aspired and was predictably crucified for it, just like the Master in the "Master and Margarita" novel. That novel was called one of the most profound literary masterpieces of the 20th century, but you probably never even heard of it, right? Well, that qualifies you to be a TV critic. "John from Cincinnati" is a work of genius, that’s why it will probably never make it to the top lists populated by the likes of "The Shields" and "Samantha Whos ". To quote from one of its character it does not define itself by the number, so other dipshits can compare it with other numbers, so the other dipshits know who to pay to wear their sunglasses, so other dipshits in the malls know which ones to buy. So yeah, here is this years top TV show lists and there is infinity. “Manuscripts don’t burn.” Master and Margarita. “The sun does not go down” John from Cincinnati.

December 17 2007 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alex's comment

Alex, you're my hero. That JFC comment Richard made totally negated everything else he had to say for me. John From Cincinnati is the work of a genius, and if anyone had stuck around long enough to realize that, it wouldn't get all the undeserved shit it does now.

December 18 2007 at 1:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

BTW I would really love to see The Unit reviews return!

December 17 2007 at 8:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Life is an excellent show and I'm glad it got picked up. It has a great cast and compelling stories with the underlying conspiracy subplot.

The Unit is a show I didn't start watching until the last few episodes of the second season and then went out and watched all the preceding episodes. I think it strikes a good balance between the action of the team and life back on the base. I know the show does tend to have some slow scenes when they are not in the middle of a firefight, however those different elements of the story give weight to the action scenes.

The story arc from the end of the 2nd to the beginning of the 3rd seasons and the events later in the season demonstrate that.

December 17 2007 at 8:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

'Jeckyll'? Try 'Jekyll'.

December 16 2007 at 11:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I still have not seen Samantha Who but Life is by far my favorite new show this year, and I despise police procedurals. Life has clever writers and always puts a different spin on what typically happens in regular police procedurals.

I also think Dirty Sexy Money (despite the annoyingly trashy title) is a great show well worth watching.

December 16 2007 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

"bit of girl-on-girl"

You left out the boy-on-boy. I'm still trying to figure out Ianto's deal--he was in love with the cyberchick and tried to save her, but he doesn't seem averse to occasionally making out with Cap'n Jack.

December 16 2007 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BC McKinney's comment

To paraphrase Margaret Cho, Ianto's not gay, not straight, he's just slutty....


December 16 2007 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agree completely with Samantha Who?, Life, and Torchwood. Samantha Who? and Life are simply the two best new American tv series this fall. Both shows are existential at their core: both Samantha and Charlie Crews are trying to re-integrate with the world after the lives they knew were taken away from them.

It's no surprise that Torchwood has become BBC America's biggest hit. Torchwood is more "American" in style than Doctor Who. John Barrowman's Jack Harkness is more akin to Indiana Jones or Fox Mulder than the Doctor in Doctor Who. I expect Torchwood to really take off here this winter in the wake of the Writers' strike.

I would add Journeyman to my list, but NBC cancelled it.

I don't know when the second season of Robin Hood is going to air on BBC America, but when it does return, I would advise people to check it out. It's not "great", but it's diverting enough.

December 16 2007 at 7:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I might watch the Wire eventually, but the Unit?!? I always thought the wives aspect of the show brought it down and because of it I lost interest pretty quickly. The only CBS shows I regularly watch are How I Met Your Mother and Amazing Race.

The problem with picking up any new show midseason is really that the websites don't even have all the episodes up. Until they do, I won't bother trying to watch these new shows.

December 16 2007 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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