Sunday, June 18, 2006

TV: Summer Viewing

Now that the TV season is over, that means I bid the idiot box farewell for the hot months, and skip and cavort and frolic in the great outdoors until the new season starts in September. Right?

Seriously, who here thinks that little of my TV devotion? I'm ashamed of you. Of course I've got more TV to watch during the summer! I'm no casual, untrained, amateur TV watcher. I'm a professional, baby, I'm an athlete in a year-round sport. Also, I hate the great outdoors. It burns my tender Irish skin and makes me sneeze.

So! Here are a few of my choicest picks for summer television.

Do I even have to mention all the brilliant stuff on HBO? Okay, well, two brilliant things, at the very least: Deadwood and Entourage, both of which premiered last Sunday. Would you believe, after all the fuss I've made over Deadwood, I still haven't watched the first episode yet? I'm waiting for a friend -- who's an even bigger fan, but doesn't have HBO -- to come over and watch it with me. You know what? Screw that. I'm watching it tonight, along with the new episode. I can't wait any longer.

I did watch the first episode of Entourage, and if anything it's only getting better. Mercedes Ruehl as Vincent's mother was inspired casting. James Woods was hilarious as a probably not-too-exaggerated version of himself, hyper and angry and borderline psychotic. Awesome. And the usual cast was great as always -- Jeremy Piven is the high point of every episode, but Kevin Dillon is establishing himself as the #2 funny man on the show.

Other new stuff on HBO includes Louis C.K.'s Lucky Louie and Dane Cook's Tourgasm. I've got them both recorded, but am not highly anticipating either; Lucky Louie has gotten some truly hate-filled reviews, and Dane Cook is, well, Dane Cook. He can be entertaining in small doses, but even a small dose of Dane Cook feels like a really big dose.

On TNT, we have The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick. I heard a lot of good buzz about this show's first season, but managed to completely miss it. TNT ran a marathon of most of season one recently, which I TiVoed. I've watched four episodes so far, and I like it. For a crime procedural, a genre of which I am not a huge fan, it's very entertaining, owing mainly to the winning personality of Sedgwick, and of course the eternal awesomeness of J.K. Simmons, who plays her boss. The new season started last Monday; I've got the first episode recorded, but haven't watched it yet.

Same with TNT's other new show, Saved, which has the same title as a Mandy Moore movie and looks like a ripoff of both Rounders and Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead. That's, like, three strikes before I even watch the show. But actually, I have high hopes for it, because it stars Tom Everett Scott, whom I've liked ever since That Thing You Do! I'll let you know once I actually check the damn thing out.

Starting July 7 on USA is the new season of Monk, which used to be a very good show. For the past couple of years, though, it's really, really sucked. I might watch the first episode to see if it's made a recovery or not. Immediately after Monk will be a brand new series, Psych. It's about a detective who pretends to be a psychic to get cases. Looks like it has some humor potential; anything that makes psychics look like the fools and cons they are, I'm in favor of. It features Dule Hill, formerly of The West Wing, as the detective's best friend/sidekick, so it's got that going for it, at least.

Celebrity Poker Showdown has already begun its latest season on Bravo. This season, it's set in New Orleans instead of Vegas, with all charities relating to Katrina relief. The first three games have been fairly entertaining, with a lot of contestants I really like (Greg Behrendt, Michael Ian Black, and Jorge Garcia in game 2 alone), and nobody I really hate. (So far -- game 4 will have Mario Cantone, who is a shrill, shrieking caricature, and Rocco DiSpirito, who is some idiot who has something to do with a bunch of reality shows, apparently -- I may not know who he is, but that doesn't mean I can't hate him in advance.) Game 3 has been the highlight so far, with World Series of Poker bracelet-winner Jennifer Tilly, among others, losing out to Ida Siconolfi, an amateur who won her place at the table via a tournament. Cool.

And then there's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, returning to FX on June 29. I didn't like this show on first viewing, but I gave it a chance and it quickly became one of my favorite shows of last year. Outrageously offensive, and riotously hilarious, in its takes on such touchy topics as abortion, cancer, racism, and even Nazis. The addition of Danny DeVito to the cast this year gives me pause -- new characters are always an iffy proposition in TV -- but from the previews I've seen, it looks like he's fitting in perfectly with this very funny ensemble cast. Fans of The Office, and anyone still missing Arrested Development, owe it to themselves to check out this very smart (even when it's being stupid), very different, very funny comedy.

Also on FX: Rescue Me. I haven't watched the show since halfway through its first season, and I'm not watching it now. I've been led to believe I'm missing out on some very good TV with this show. I say, I deserve to give at least one program a miss. My summer viewing schedule is overloaded as is, even for a pro like me.

What do you think? Too much? Or am I still missing out on something I need to see?

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