14 June 2011

Camera Obscura

There are enough articles out there lamenting the return of summer as it pertains to the television watching experience. It should be noted that the rise in reality TV during a time when people should be outdoors doing exactly what they are watching is ironic, but not really problematic. Reality TV is all around us, 365 days a year. Personally, it is during the summer that I find some of the most interesting shows that would normally not get a spot in the line up are shown. Here is what I am currently obsessing over on TV this summer:

"Oddities"- I didn't even know there was a Science Channel, but a friend of mine turned me on to it and was shocked when he discovered I had never heard of this show before. Even more strange, I have been familiar with the cast and concept for some time. "Oddities" focuses on Obscura Antiques & Oddities in Manhattan's East Village. Specializing in the strange and unusual, Lydia Deets would certainly be a regular there, they have exactly what you're looking for. That is, if what floats your boat is anything from a human skull, to turn of the century medical equipment, to a taxidermied two-headed calf. Yep, it's that kind of place. I heard about it a couple years ago when actress Chloe Sevigny made a video tour/introduction to the neighborhood for Bust magazine. It's pretty cool and worth checking out. New episodes air Saturday and there is a mini-marathon on the 18th. Check local listings.

"Auction Hunters"- I got sucked into this show a few months ago at a friends house. Seriously, I have the best friends. How do they know about these things?! The show follows the Laurel and Hardy of storage auctions, Allen Haff and Ton Jones as they scouer California, and sometimes the whole country, in search of forgotten treasure. I love the enthusiasm both have for what they do, as well as the value of many of the items they find. There has been some chatter on the web that the whole show is fake and both Haff and Jones are actors. Personally, I wouldn't call a few appearances as Thug #1 or Bouncer or Detective #2 an acting career. Heaven forbid they try to supplement their income with extra and day player work. Isn't that what southern California is all about? Both say that about 80% of their purchased units are "busts", so doesn't it make sense to have some easy work on the side? Regardless, the show is pretty entertaining and airs on Spike TV throughout the week.

"My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding"- This one my sister turned me on to. If you've never seen it, it's worth checking out one episode just to squelch your curiosity. I don't recommend watching too many in too short a space, as they narrator repeats herself a lot as if the premise is impossible to comprehend or our brains may have leaked out our ears since last week and we forgot all about what we were watching. Seriously TLC, it's not rocket science. What it is, is a big hot mess. The show focuses on Gypsy's and Irish Travellers in England as they embark on their big day. Oddly, the most shocking thing isn't that most of the brides are 18 or under, it's the outrageous wedding dresses they were. Many are so heavy and cumbersome that they cut into the girls and permanently scare them. It's a fascinating look at a usually camera shy culture.

"The Killing"- If you missed out on this series, it's a bit late to jump in now. The season finale is this Sunday but it has been picked up for a second season (yea!!) and I'm sure AMC will re-run the whole thing after the season ends. Set your DVRs now! Based on a popular Danish TV series, the story follows the disappearance of a young woman in Seattle and the possible connections she may have to the changing political climate there. Detective Sarah Linden thinks it's her last day on the job when the body turns up and she's forced to stay on and partner up with her replacement, former NARC detective Steven Holder who may have a past of his own. The show is moody and dark and calmly paced. Each episode offers a clue into the disappearance and murder of Rosie Larsen or into the surviving characters. The pace can seem languid at times, but it all works to build suspense week to week. Those viewers who think "Mad Men" is like watching paint dry should probably avoid this series as well. Of course, you should probably avoid life all around. Just kidding. Kinda. Some of my best friends can't get into either show. Check listings for repeat showings.

NBC Thursdays- During the fall, there is so much competition for space on the schedule that often, shows I like get pushed aside. Case in point- NBC. I love "Community" and "30 Rock", but I know they will re-run in the summer so I set them aside while I watch other crap. This is the best thing about summer! Network TV is in re-runs and now you can catch up. My favourite new show of the mid season was "Happy Endings" on ABC. I totally forgot when it was premiering so I missed the first few, but you can watch them on Hulu or on abc.com. This is the new "Friends" for the 20-30 something set. The episode on hipsters and zombies alone is enough to get you obsessed with this show!

"SYTYCD" - My all time favourite reality show. Say what you will about some of the judges (poor Mary Murphy), but this is a show were the contestants have to have actual talent. Talent and drive they have perfected since they were very young. It showcases all forms of dance from the street performer to the classically trained ballerina, though the contemporary dancers do seem heavily favoured. It's not their fault really, just the name of the game. You need to be amazing at your style of dance as well as be able to learn choreography and a basic understanding of other styles. Cat Deely is the most enigmatic host on TV and it is an outrage that she has not been nominated for an Emmy.

Cable Rocks- Covert Affairs, White Collar, The Closer, The Glades, Eureka, In Plain Sight, and True Blood (#waitingsucks) all return this summer. I just got into "White Collar" and already am hooked on the story lines. The best part is, with the exception of "True Blood", you can jump right into any of these shows. Okay, okay; you can jump into "True Blood" as well, although by now you would be well advised to watch the Season 3 recap (playing constantly) or just set  your DVR for 7 PM Central time when the Season 3 finale followed by a series refresher airs before the new episode.

Two words: The Inbetweeners. The boys are back for the third and final season. If you're not watching, you're an idiot. Or, you don't have cable.

Of course, there are several new shows still upcoming that have my attention peaked:

Falling Skies on TNT- Can Steven Spielberg lead us wrong? If this show were on network television, I would be more worried the answer might be yes. Instead, basic cable outlets like TNT seem to stand behind their projects a lot more than network. Fingers crossed, this show following the aftermath of an alien invasion 6 months later has the chops. Noah Wylie in the lead role certainly helps.

Suits on USA- This show could really fall on it's face. The premise alone makes me cringe, but the charismatic Gabriel Macht will pull me in every time. Here, he plays a lawyer tasked with hiring the firms latest rookie pawn. Instead, he's charmed by a con man (sort of?) who knows everything there is to know about the law, just without the degree. I'm predicting I'm over this show in three weeks.

Wilfred on FX- Possibly the weirdest show coming to a TV near you. Ryan, suicidally down on his luck, begins to see his attractive neighbors dog in a new light. Specifically, as a man in a dog costume. Elijah Wood, as the lead, should bring the right mix of angst and humour. My understanding is this show is best watched after many cocktails or other enjoyments.

Alphas on Syfy- Kind of like "X-Men" if the mutants were getting pay check and health benefits. The always amazing David Strathairn could be the new Professor X. Well, not really. How could he be replaced? Still, my little geek heart is all over this one.

Whisker Wars on IFC- Was there any doubt the founder of Moustache Tuesday would not watch this show? this semi-mini-series follows Team USA as they travel the country competing in beard competitions in preparation for the world event. I love to see the winners every year and wonder, "What the hell do you do for a living?"

The Hour on BBC America- No info as of yet on the site, but Variety ran a nice article. The 6-part mini-series follows the adolescents of broadcast journalism during the Cold War. May sound boring, but there's a great cast and an espionage story line that should make it must watch TV.

What are you excited about watching this summer?


  1. I rarely watch TV anymore since I'm hardly ever home, and when I am home I try to make time for movies instead. I prefer watching shows on DVD when they come out so I can just have marathons and not be in suspense for a whole week in the event of a cliffhanger ending. That being said, I can't wait to see the latest seasons of Dexter and Sons Of Anarchy when they hit DVD! When I get done with catching up on Supernatural, I plan on checking out True Blood seasons 1-3 next. I tried watching the show a while back and gave it the 2-episode test run and I wasn't impressed.

  2. I'm really picky on what goes on my DVR, as I need to leave a lot of space for movies. You will love the latest season of SoA. It blew me away! True Blood is one that may need a few episodes to get into, depending on your taste (or gender- ha!). However, it really blossums in season 2 and you need the base of season 1 to enjoy it more fully. Good luck and keep me posted!

  3. Yeah, I do notice that a lot of the friends and acquaintances of mine who praise TRUE BLOOD are women!

  4. I tried to watch a couple episodes of Falling Skies... what a bore. Surprised that they renewed for a second season. It has a nice cast but very little happening.

    Wilfred looks intriguing but it wasn't as funny as I thought it would be.

  5. Totally agree Castor! I stopped watching Falling Skies after two episodes. The characters keep doing stupid things and it drives me crazy! As for Wilfred, I love a good black comedy; but this one is missing something. It's kind of interesting though so I'll give it a few more tries.