Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Tube

Well, 2011 is coming to a close. And I'm sure you know what that means! Yep, it means it's time for me (and you!) to start producing an obscene amount of lists. I know, I hate it too, but end-of-the-year listmaking is tradition, and I'll be darned if you try to mess with tradition. Especially around Christmastime. Do you want to make the Baby Santa cry?

I didn't think so.

So here's my first list to commemorate the ending of 2011: TV Shows I Watched This Year. This includes broadcast, cable, and on-demand shows, as well as stuff I gleaned from Netflix. 

TV Shows I Watched This Year

Community - The quirkiest, savviest, goofiest, most absurd TV show on the air right now. Says I. It cracks me up week after week. Thursday nights, NBC, 8pm. Except NBC has just put it on hiatus. Meanwhile, Whitney lives on. And there is no justice in the world, etc. etc.

Raising Hope - This is made by the same people who brought us My Name Is Earl, a show I also enjoyed. Martha Plimpton (THE GOONIES!) plays a grandmother. If that doesn't set you up for what kind of wackiness abounds here, well... just watch it and see. It's a clever little half-hour gem.

Castle - Okay, so it's formulaic to the max, but somehow I don't mind watching Nathan Fillion do roughly the same thing week after week.

Burn Notice - Jeffrey Donovan, who I've been crushing on for the past 14 years, plays an ex-spy who, along with Bruce Campbell (!) kicks some bootie in Florida. It's a fun romp. I'm only into, like, season two and there are five or more now... but I'll get caught up eventually!

Parking Wars - Who knew that watching the daily rituals of meter maids, booters, and towing company employees could be so fascinating? But really, this show makes the job seem kinda fun -- so long as you can avoid being beaten up by angry Philadelphians.

America's Next Top Model - In the past, I've really enjoyed this show. It's utterly ridiculous and hypocritical, but also entertaining. But this past season was an All-Stars season, and A) I'm really tired of reality shows doing all-star versions. Enough with the people we've seen before. And B) The focus of the show changed. And then one day, mid-season, they took things far, far down Ridiculousness Road. We're talking "past the point of no return." They forced the contestants to write their own pop song and do a music video for it. AND they made a rule that the song had to have the phrase "Pot Ledom - That's Top Model backwards!" in it.


And that's when my soul left for Barcelona.

Toddlers & Tiaras - Another utterly ridiculous guilty pleasure. If you've only ever heard of the show, you may think it's about a bunch of bratty kids and their overindulgent parents. Yeah, some episodes are about those types. But there are actually a lot of perfectly normal kids involved, and plenty of INSANE PARENTS. If you can even call them parents. I saw one ep recently where the pageant mom cheerfully admitted that she had children in the first place so she'd have someone to enter in pageants. Lord help us all.

Cash & Cari - A self-proclaimed "treasure broker", Cari from Michigan runs estate sales and repurposes old furniture and other items. I love going to estate sales, so it makes sense I would also like watching a show about them. It's cool taking a peek into other people's homes and seeing what they collected. And no, it's not creepy at all... why, does it sound like it is?

Auction Hunters - There are a lot of auction shows out there right now, but my favorite is Auction Hunters, in which two guys go to storage locker auctions and bid on ones that look good at a minutes' glance. Then they get to dig through the units they've won and see what kind of treasures are lurking. While the show generally only covers the units in which they score big (which they admit are rare), it's fun to watch. I live vicariously through those two!

Pawn Stars - Another "treasure" show, this one mostly focuses on people coming into the pawn shop to sell their supposedly valuable items. Half the time the items turn out to be genuine, the rest of the time, the patrons leave swearing up a storm. It's neat.

American Pickers - Mike and Frank drive across America with a van, picking up junk and goodies out of backroad barns and backyards. It's as much a "treasure" show as it is a show about people. I wish I had the guts and gusto to do that sort of thing.

Switched at Birth - Two teenage girls -- one, a rich brat (Bay), the other, a ghetto-dwelling deaf girl (Daphne) -- discover that they were switched at birth. Daphne and her mother and grandmother end up moving into the guest house of Bay's family. Complications ensue. It's really a neat show that raises a lot of questions and deals with family and friendship issues. It's surprisingly well-done -- except for the acting. In true ABC Family tradition, you kind of want to strangle 70% of the actors. Even Lea Thompson, who I love from the Back to the Future films, grates on my last nerve. But it's still worth watching.

Drop Dead Diva - I've barely gotten into this show, but I like what I've seen so far. Two women die on the same day, and one comes back to life in the other's body. Only it's a much larger body than she's used to. Cool concept, and I love the main actress.

Pan Am - This is actually a brand-new show on ABC, and I really enjoy it. It's about a group of Pan Am stewardesses and pilots, and is set in the 60s. At first I thought it couldn't be very interesting if every episode is about a plane ride, but I was pleased to discover they spend only part of the time on the plane and the rest in exotic locations. I love the time period; I wasn't around in the 60s, but it feels authentic.

7 Up - 49 Up - This is an older show that is now available on Netflix. Back in the 60's, a filmmaker interviewed a dozen or so children, asking them questions about their lives, families, friends, wishes, and dreams. Seven years later, he talked to them again. Then seven years later. With each episode, we watch the "children" age and change. Some get married, some get divorced, some have children, some spiral downhill, some make a comeback, some leave the project altogether. But the ones that stick around become like old friends. It's a fascinating series.

Portlandia - My first thought upon hearing about this was: "A show about Portland?! What do THEY know about my hometown?" I didn't know it was going to be a sketch comedy show reminiscent of Kids In The Hall. I found it highly amusing -- not because it satirizes PDX (one could argue it satirizes artsy, booksy hipsters everywhere) -- but because it's just plain funny.

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