Thursday, December 03, 2009

What We Watch

As the year comes to a close, and critics and bloggers posting their Top 10 lists, we're thinking about what we enjoy. Undoubtedly, there are fans who'll argue over a "list" or anything deemed "best," simply if for the fact that they don't agree.

That said, we thought of compiling our own list and claim it as our opinion only. We're not holding our choices out as the best made or most acclaimed, we're simply noting what we enjoy watching.

In no particular order, here's what we can recommend

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: At least, in its previous incarnations. We've heard all kinds of rumors about how Vincent D'Onofrrio, Julianne Nicholson, and Kathryn Erbe will be leaving the show for all intents and purposes, and that Saffron Burrows (shudder) will be joining the show. We plan on continuing to watch, simply for the reason that Jeff Goldblum will still be on. This franchise is the bible for police procedurals. Every other week, the stories follow an alternating pair detectives of the major case squad of NYC. These episodes don't rely on a continuing major plot points -- there are ties (mostly concerning the personal and professional situations of the leads, but often they are very cursory references). We've always found this show to be very well written, easy to follow and almost always compelling.

Bones: One of the best things about this series, loosely based on the life of real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, is how it seamlessly tells its grim, scientifically-ladened stories, while maintaining a credible and entertaining romantic tension between the two leads, played by the beautiful Emily Deschanel and the beautiful David Boreanaz (seen in image above). The bones supporting cast, the "squints" of The Jeffersonian (standing in for the actual Smithsonian), are a quirky group that manages to defy the conventions of the usual supporting cast.

Psych: This is probably our Chairman of the Board's very favorite show. USA, with the exception of the awful Royal Pains, has consistently produced top TV fare. Psych concerns the adventures of two childhood best friends who run a "psychic detective agency." The conceit is that lead detective Shawn is not actually psychic, but keenly observant. James Roday's lines and his delivery of them actually makes us laugh out loud. Very funny and clever and he and on-screen partner Dule Hill (as Burton Guster) have tremendous chemistry.

Burn Notice: Another big favorite with our Chairman of the Board (he also loves White Collar), this Miami-set series centers on a "burned" super-spy, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his attempts to find out the source of his termination from "the agency," as well as his episodic adventures as he tries to help locals in trouble. Donovan and co-star Gabrielle Anwar (as Fiona) have very sweetly steamy tension and Bruce Campbell is hilarious as an ex-FBI agent Sam Axe who's remained friends with Westen despite the fact that Axe has ratted him out in the past.

In Plain Sight: If you're seeing a trend towards USA series, we know -- that's why we mentioned it in the Psych entry, above. In Plain Sight is actually a spin-off of Law & Order Criminal Intent. Mary McCormack plays Witness Protection Federal Agent Mary Shannon, and Fred Weller plays her Deputy U.S. Marshall partner, Marshall Mann. We just heard that the upcoming season of In Plain Sight will reflect the shifts in show runners (producers) and will reduce story lines regarding Mary's personal life (she has an alcoholic mother, Jinx, played by Lesley Ann Warren and a troublesome sister, Brandi, played by Nichole Hiltz, as well as a minor league baseball player fiance, played by Christian de la Fuente). Even so, we're still enthusiastic about this well-written series with a flawed, but still likable lead.

HBO has consistently delivered excellent series - we never missed Deadwood, Carnivale or Six-Feet-Under.

Showtime, despite its considerably smaller audience, has given us Dexter, which is so precise and perfect, it's a reflection of the way the lead character cleans up (his own) crime scenes. Michael C. Hall is amazing as Dexter Morgan who works for the Miami police department as a blood spatter analyst who's been carefully trained by his late, adopted cop-father to channel his killer instincts into justice -- he's learned only to go after and do away with certifiably proven bad guys.

We've always favored comedies and DVRs have made our world oh-so-much easier. In a compact 22 or so minutes (we forward through all commercials on fast) we're guaranteed to get a laugh when we tune into Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, 30 Rock, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation (boy, do we hope it survives) and The Middle. Sometimes we get a laugh out of Community. Even though its ended it first season, if you have On Demand you might be able to catch the fun and edgy Bored to Death -- Ted Danson is freakin' brilliant in it (and yes, in Curb, too). Although it can be often cringe-worthy, Alexandra Wentworth's Head Case definitely has it's laugh-out-loud moments.

Glee, which many immediately claim a favorite after a single viewing, can be very fun, but for us, it's almost solely due to the presence of the absolutely brilliant Jane Lynch and her portrayal of Sue Sylvester. The musical numbers, however ludicrous, can be fun, too. Accept it as a fantasy, wait for Lynch to be on screen and you might enjoy it, too.

While we're not huge reality-TV fans, we do regularly watch (when they're in season, of course) Bravo's Flipping Out and My Life on the D-List. We've found the now-Lifetime series Project Runway to be uneven, and we're debating about committing to another season. We've watched, in the past, and enjoyed, Top Chef and Top Design.

When we can remember, we love the Food Network's Alton Brown's Good Eats and tune into Unwrapped and Paula Deen occasionally. Even though our detestable Time Warner pulled the Fine Living Network (or whatever it was called) from our line-up, whenever we're around a TV that has it, we watch Whatever, Martha. Ditto for the Green Network and Life With Ed.

Although its run was brief, we really enjoyed the seasons BBC aired of Life on Mars and hope they bring it back, soon. BeansTalk's Chairman and CFO are enthusiastic about the final David Tennant movies of Doctor Who.

We're quite excited about the upcoming Masterpiece Theater Classics coming to PBS this winter. They've remade Emma again, this time with Romola Garai, and will be airing the sequel to Cranford. Hooray!

Finally, we do still enjoy our real-life crime or news magazines, and often tune into 48 Hours Mystery and just bear with the annoying cadence of Keith Morrison (did you know that he is actor Matthew Perry's stepfather?). We did used to also watch 20/20, but was so put off by John Stossel and his libertarian agenda, we stopped.

And, finally, a tribute to a show we've never missed a single episode of (in its entire eight-year run), Monk. Lively, clever and entertaining, Tony Shaloub is fantastic as the obsessive-compulsive contract detective and Traylor Howard, as his long-suffering assistant, is excellent as well. This, the final season, has had a miss or two along the way (the scout camp out being the most notable disappointment), but the series remains so charming and fun, its loss will be felt greatly.

(We know we're forgetting something we like...but it will soon come to us)