My New Addiction: Degrassi – The Next Generation

October 24, 2007

I was lying in bed one Sunday morning a month or so ago and saw that one of the Superstations was airing 5 episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation in a row.  Now as a proud Canadian and someone who grew up during the airing of the original Degrassi, I’m a little disappointed in myself that I never watched the show since its original pilot six or seven years ago.  I still remember watching the original Degrassi finale movie “School’s Out” with the shocking line (at least for TV at that time) “I f***ed Tessa Kappaneli” and the truly horrifying finale where one of our beloved characters was driving drunk and killed a kid.

Over the past few years I have heard many times how great the new show is but never indulged.  Yet, this one Sunday morning where the kids were out and I was just hanging out with nothing to do I decided to give it a try.  The shows they were airing were from the beginning of the third season and after 2 episodes I was hooked.  All I know is that now, from nowhere this show is at the top of my viewing schedule each day.

With the show airing in syndication it’s now been added to my daily recording schedule and I can’t get enough of Spinner, Paige, Marco, Emma, Ashley, Craig and the rest.  The only thing that is a little irksome is what is clearly the chopping of a few minutes from the show as originally aired.  I know it’s standard in syndication and I don’t think it’s drastically changing the show but I don’t want anything to hurt my Degrassi viewing experience.

Here’s a show that (like the original in its time) just feels real in its portrayal of high school.  The actors look like high school kids (unlike Gossip Girl or even Friday Night Lights), the storylines are straight out of the high school play book and the characters are likable, well-drawn and flawed.  I understand season 7 is kicking off soon and that the characters have moved on to university and I hope to be along for the ride by the time it starts.   I might even go get the DVDs just so I can stop watching 1/2 hour at a time.


Private Practice Renewed for the a Full Season

October 24, 2007

Ironically this is also one of the first shows I’ve dropped from my viewing schedule.  I really, really wanted to like this show.  Despite cherrypicking the best character from Grey’s and adding some of the best character actors on television this show is just terrible.  So I didn’t like last season’s pilot or this season’s premiere for that matter.  But still I wanted to give this show the benefit of the doubt.  Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, even Addison deserve the benefit of the doubt.

I’m sorry though.  Three episodes (plus last year’s pilot) and a preview of the fourth were more than enough to tell me that this show isn’t happening.  I’m truly embarrassed for these talented actors with their underdeveloped, childish characters, forced to spew bad dialogue that makes Gossip Girl seem like Shakespeare and stuck dealing with boring storylines (can anyone say “blue children”).

Although I am dropping this show I do need to put in a caveat that I am willing to revisit at a later date if my fellow TV Lovers tell me to give it a try.  I had dropped Grey’s Anatomy after the first couple of episodes and midway through the second season my wife convinced me to give it another try and I found a completely different and strangely enjoyable show.  I hope the same happens with Private Practice but for now, it’s off the list.


Viva Laughlin Cancelled by CBS after 2 Episodes

October 24, 2007

With all of the bad buzz on this show I wasn’t going to waste my time even recording it but then I saw the New York Times article which had this great quote:

“Viva Laughlin” on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television?

How could a true TV Lover like me pass up a show that might be the worst in the history of television? Well I’ve been a little too busy and haven’t yet got around to watching but now that it’s cancelled after only airing 2 episodes I’m not sure it’s even worth the bother.

I’m asking you my fellow TV viewers, is it even worth checking it out just to say I saw it?  Will there be any value in watching to use as a point of comparison the next time I want to give a show a scathing review so I can say… “At least it’s not Viva Laughlin”.


The Office – Season 4, Episode 4 – Money

October 19, 2007

Let me first say this: Toby’s so cool – writing and directing this week’s episode. Well, it’s the final 1 hour episode of The Office and unfortunately I’m going to have to call the experiment a failure. As I said last week – the show just doesn’t work in hour increments. Again, 40 minutes would have been the optimal length for this episode. The whole Pam and Jim going to Dwight’s bed and breakfast had some funny moments but as with the pizza boy story last week, it could have been completely pulled out and the episode would have been much tighter.

Still, here’s what I learned from this week’s The Office:

Read the rest of this entry »


Samantha Who? – Season 1, Episode 1 – Pilot

October 19, 2007

I heard mixed reviews of this show but I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed the show and even laughed out loud multiple times.

Samantha Who? is the story of a woman who spends 8 days in a coma after a hit and run accident.   She wakes up without any memories of her life to find that she wasn’t a very nice person and decides to change.

What makes the show work is the cast starting with Christina Applegate.  I’ve always liked her as an actress.  She’s one of those people who can simultaneously be sympathetic and kind of bitchy but most of all likable – all of which are necessary for this role.  They’ve also surrounded her with some fantastic TV actors – Jean Smart, Barry Watson, Jennifer Esposito and Sookie from Gilmore Girls.  The pilot was a little too crammed to give the supporting characters much room to shine but I don’t think they brought on a cast of this caliber to have them sit on the sidelines.

The concept is also kind of fun especially as it mixes the present with flashbacks to mean Sam.  There’s lots of good potential and unlike many of the shows this season, there should be plenty of good comedy situations to keep the show running for a while.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B+


The New Yorker Profiles David Simon and The Wire

October 17, 2007

You still have some time to get caught up before the final season of The Wire starts in January.  When the series concludes I have no doubt it will be the finest piece of television as literature to ever air.

Looking for a quick summary of the series to get you interested:

“The Wire,” Simon often says, is a show about how contemporary American society—and, particularly, “raw, unencumbered capitalism”—devalues human beings. He told me, “Every single moment on the planet, from here on out, human beings are worth less. We are in a post-industrial age. We don’t need as many of us as we once did. So, if the first season was about devaluing the cops who knew their beats and the corner boys slinging drugs, then the second was about devaluing the longshoremen and their labor, the third about people who wanted to make changes in the city, and the fourth was about kids who were being prepared, badly, for an economy that no longer really needs them. And the fifth? It’s about the people who are supposed to be monitoring all this and sounding the alarm—the journalists. The newsroom I worked in had four hundred and fifty people. Now it’s got three hundred. Management says, ‘We have to do more with less.’ That’s the bullshit of bean counters who care only about the bottom line. You do less with less.”

Need more?  Here are some great quotes from the article that may help convince you:

The show’s departure from Hollywood formulas may be nowhere more palpable than in its routine use of nonactors to fill the minor roles. No other television drama, it seems safe to say, features an actor whom one of the show’s lead writers helped put in prison with a thirty-four-year sentence. That is Melvin Williams, a Baltimore drug kingpin whom Ed Burns nabbed in a wiretap investigation in 1984; Simon reported on the case for the Sun. Williams plays the part of the Deacon, a community leader both savvy and wise.

‘The Wire’ is dissent,” he says. “It is perhaps the only storytelling on television that overtly suggests that our political and economic and social constructs are no longer viable, that our leadership has failed us relentlessly, and that no, we are not going to be all right.” He also likes to say that “The Wire” is a story about the “decline of the American empire.”

Critics, meanwhile, have compared the show to a great Victorian novel. The Chicago Tribune, Salon, and the San Francisco Chronicle have called it the best show on television. Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate, went even further, declaring that “The Wire” was the best American television series that had ever been broadcast: “No other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature.” Sometimes the fan base of “The Wire” seems like the demographics of many American cities—mainly the urban poor and the affluent élite, with the middle class hollowed out.

Read the whole article here and if you’re still not convinced, just trust me.  It is like no other show or movie I’ve seen or even comparable to any book I’ve read in terms of the canvas it paints with a sweeping story arc, complex and flawed characters and a mix of hope and tragedy that weaves its way through every episode of every season to date.


How I Met Your Mother – Season 3, Episode 4 – Little Boys

October 17, 2007

I didn’t love last week but this week the show was back in fine form.  More and more I see the comparisons in tone to Friends in its prime and am truly mystified why this show isn’t as huge a hit.

The show started great with a fun group scene discussing the “but” related to the blind fix-up and highlighted one of the real truisms in life – we all have a “but”, although in this case it focused on Robin’s issues.  I’m still amazed what this show gets away with at 8:00, on CBS of all networks, with one of the best uses of the “shotgun” call ever.  I’m still laughing.

For Robin the “but” with her fix-up was that her date has a son and as we fans know, Robin never wants to have kids.  In her own words she preferred to be the cougar chasing the son later in life than meet him as a little kid.  She also didn’t seem to realize that getting full custody is a win.  As much as it was entertaining watching Robin make friends with a kid, try to break up with a kid and ultimately get dumped by a kid, the best part was the flash forward conclusion.  There isn’t another show that so deftly balances the humour with the “warm and fuzzy” moments and this week’s look at Aunt Robin’s ultimate success with Ted’s kids did so successfully.

The parallel story had Ted and Barney competing for who has the best “game” with Marshall excluded because he won the woman’s league version of the dating game by getting married.  The competition to get the girl started feeling a little too familiar but definitely had some good twists.  Barney pretending that he had slept with her and using the image of him as Sir Edmund Hilary with Ted as the second guy up Everest was pure genius.  Ted was so freaked about going where Barney has been that he ultimately had to dump her leaving her wide open for Barney could move in.  Unfortunately for Barney she wanted to take it slow leaving him with her mean Reggae skills, a dancing Ted and a bet that neither of them won.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B+