What I Did on My Summer Vacation – Part I – TV on DVD

September 5, 2007

After close to 200 blog postings last TV season I decided to take the summer off and recuperate. To all my regular readers who sent me notes wondering where I went, I’m sorry for the hiatus. It could have been worse – I could have been like Lost and taken a 9 month break or even worse like The Sopranos.

Now I’m back and raring to go for the new TV season. In the next couple of weeks I will unveil my Fall TV Preview Edition with my picks from the new crop of shows and my viewing schedule. In the meantime, here’s what I watched on DVD during my Summer Vacation.

Spooks/ MI5 : Seasons 1 & 2 – This is a series that has sat on my shelf for a long time now. As year after year went by and I got further and further behind I found it hard to dive right in but this summer I decided to take the plunge. I’m happy I did. It’s a great series even if it doesn’t exactly conform to my typical TV viewing habits specifically my general avoidance of procedural dramas where the episodes are stand alone. Spooks isn’t quite as stand alone as say a Law & Order or CSI as it has a number of subplots that continue from show to show but still the core plots are new each episode. What I think distinguishes it is the complexity of the stories where they seem to cram loads of story into each show and the flawed nature of almost all the characters which creates the feeling that anything can happen to them even if to date it hasn’t (I have 1 episode left in season 2). It was also kind of neat to see recognizable guest stars, particularly in the first season with Giles from Buffy and House himself. As much as I enjoyed the show the lack of continuity from episode to episode is still a factor that prevents me from feeling compelled to watch season 3 anytime in the immediate future.

Avi’s DVD Rating: B

Rome – Season 1 – I watched the first couple of episodes of Rome when it first aired a couple of years ago but the show was so dense that at a time when the new fall season was launching I didn’t have the stamina to watch it week to week. I recorded all of them and it went up on the shelf. Then over the last year I read and very much enjoyed the Emperor series by Conn Iggulden (yes, I don’t just watch TV) which made me crave more Caesar so this summer I decided it was time to finally watch Rome. The show definitely was as dense as I remember and at times was a little slow in the way its plots moved along. But just like The Wire about which I had a similar feeling years ago the show grew on me and watching the show episodes in a row only made me appreciate the richness of the storytelling and characters even more. I still haven’t started season 2 but may try and attack it before we get too far into the new season.

Avi’s DVD Rating: A-

Dexter: Season 1 – I read the first novel that the show is based on a couple of years ago, long before the show was announced, and enjoyed it. It was a quick light read and a unique concept – a serial killer hunting serial killers. Unlike some others who were concerned how David from Six Feet Under would handle the role, I knew he was going to be great and I wasn’t wrong. Him not receiving an emmy nomination is kind of disappointing. He really made what could have been an unlikable character, very sympathetic. The cliffhanger endings and the plot twists were excellent and I burned through the entire series in less than 48 hours. The supporting characters really enhanced the show. The only character I wasn’t crazy about was the sister but she grew on me as the show progressed. Bottom line is if you haven’t seen the show yet, you still have a few weeks to get caught up before season 2 starts and I highly recommend that you do.

Avi’s DVD Rating – A

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 5 – Last week I was browsing the September pay TV guide and saw that Season 6 starts next week. Usually I’m so on top of TV news that I can’t believe I didn’t know. Let me start by telling you I’m a huge CYE fan. I still remember watching the first episode and not getting it. I just didn’t find it funny so I never watched it until about season 3. I’m not sure what clicked but it’s like all of a sudden I got it. It was like Seinfeld in terms of unlikable characters in painfully awkward situations but amped up to 11. I don’t remember why but I realized upon seeing the listing that I never watched Season 5. This weekend I popped in the DVDs and went through the first six episodes. That’s a lot of pain for one weekend (the kidney episode in particular was hard to watch) but I plan to finish off in the next week. I’m definitely enjoying it but not as much as season 4. I’m going to give the show a preliminary rating but reserve the right to make a change when I finish the series.

Avi’s DVD Rating: B

The Muppet Show: Season 2 – I picked up this set for my son and watched about half a dozen episodes already and it was definitely as great as a I remember.  Elton John, John Cleese, Steve Martin, Low Rawls and even the amazing Julie Andrews all hit it out of the park as they perform alongside the Muppet clan.  As a father of young kids I have always pushed them to watch shows that I like or at least can tolerate instead of Barney, The Wiggles or any of the other shows that are pushed at kids.  Parents, if you’ve had enough of bad kids TV here’s the set for you.  Definitely fun for the whole family and a true show for the ages.

Avi’s DVD Rating:  A

Well that’s it for my return posting.  Tomorrow stay tuned for part 2 of What I Did on My Summer Vacation – the new TV edition where I’ll talk about shows great (Greek, Damages, Big Love, Entourage, Mad Men), shows less good (Rescue Me,  4400), shows horrible (Californication, John from Cincinnati) and reality TV (Canadian Idol, Big Brother).

It’s great to be back.  Hope you all had a great summer.