Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall Television Preview

With the return of football to the airwaves and our lives, also comes the return of new television programming. Other than a few cable networks (USA comes to mind), most networks coincide their new programming with the fall so that they run into sweeps (where as I'm sure you know, the ratings really matter to the network suits). This is obviously not a revelation, if you've been watching any amount of television over the past few weeks you should be well aware that Heroes, Lost, House, The Office, Terminator, Law & Order, and The Shield are all returning (unless you've perfected Tivo-ing through commercials) along with a boatload of other shows-you can't help but notice as the networks cram it down our collective throats.

But with the return of these staples, always comes the debut of new series' like this year's redux of Beverly Hills: 90210. Most of these series will end up being complete and total failures (see: Cavemen), but occasionally you will get something of quality. Think of it as the networks wielding one giant shotgun and firing blindly and just praying something hits the target.

After football on Sunday I watched one of Fox's new offerings, Hole In The Wall. It's a spin-off from an Australian gameshow that was originally ripped off from a Japanese gameshow. The premise is that theres this wall coming at contestants and they have to contort themselves to get through the wall lest they get pushed into water. Or for more television gold, if they're really fat they'll just fall through the wall. Yes folks, this is primetime television. And yes, it's as stupid and mindless as it sounds.

Will it survive? Probably, atleast for a little while. I'd imagine the slapstick spectacle humor will fade with time and the show will fade with it (think: Man Getting Hit In Crotch With Football from that episode of The Simpsons), but in a country that's given Jeff Foxworthy multiple fifteen minute sets of fame and is somehow enamored with Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? when American Idol is off-season, well let's just say I'm not convinced the American public won't suck up just about any show. If you want my take on the shows, it's this: if you're really, really fucked up-I'm talking absolutely hammered-and don't have any friends who will talk to you and your internet isn't working, well then by all means give it 30m of your time. Now that's a ringing endorsement.

Which isn't to say that all the television this fall will be terrible. Heroes returns in a couple weeks, House returns next tuesday, and we've got two more weeks of the very, very under-rated Burn Notice on USA. And I guess I should mention Lost for those of you into that (I personally just can't get into it). And there are a couple new shows that I've got interest in.

The pilot episode of Sons Of Anarchy on FX showed a lot of promise, I'm interested in seeing the second episode this week. It's a show about a California biker gang (think: Hell's Angels but smaller) and the ebb and flow of the criminal landscape, where the black gangs, Mexican gangs, white gangs, and the smaller players all compete for a piece of the pie running guns, selling drugs, etc. It's like Oz on motorcycles and not in prison. And without the anal rape. Knowing FX they're running that pilot into the ground, so give it a shot if you've got a spare evening.

And finally, there's Fringe which debuted tonite on Fox. It seems to be the most critically hyped show of this fall season, with most critics comparing it favorably to the X-Files. As far as I can tell the only real similarity it has to the X-Files is that both deal with the paranormal and/or strange government experiments to mimic the paranormal. Fringe doesn't have the acting of the X-Files or the great duo that was Mulder & Scully. It also appears that it will delve far into the character's personal lives (and sadly, love stories) and be much more morally black and white whereas the X-Files usually dealt in shades of grey. Then again, they could surprise me and take the show in another direction-the plot twist at the end of the pilot episode was enough to atleast get me back in front of my TV to watch next week's episode (along with the fact that House immediately follows it, hehe). It's not bad, I don't want to make it sound that way-it's just that it's not the X-Files as they are trying to make you believe, atleast not yet. The pilot episode ran just over 90m with very limited commercials and will be re-airing Sunday night after football if you're interested in giving it a try.

And finally, the Max Payne movie starring Mark Wahlberg is set for an October 17 release and looks as though it's going to live up to the film noir with John Woo style action of it's namesake. Yes I'm a sucker for video game spin-off movies, especially for games I like (see: Hitman), but this looks really good. As does Burn After Reading.

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